Short-term missions

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Nine

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Cathy on Saturday, the ninth and final day of the trip. Today is our last day here!! I can’t even believe how quickly the time has gone, but, at the same time, it seems like forever ago since we saw that first soccer match the day we got here.

Today was another day of sports and recreation! It was also another beautiful morning full of sunshine and breezes! God is good. We have had overcast days everyday until yesterday, and today was just more blessing with the beautiful sunshine.

We started the day intending to do a street race with the kids, but the traffic police wouldn’t allow us to close the streets for the hour or so that it would take to do the race. But, never fear, we improvised and did the race at the soccer field.

100_1261Before we started the race, Joe told all of the kids about the people in America that did the Run Your Street 5K in honor of this race. Then our race began. Four laps around the soccer field was enough to get my lungs burning!! Meme, Lana, Liz, and I all did the race with the kids. I finished 2nd to last and Liz finished last. But hey, we did our first race in Ethiopia!!


Following the race, we did the “real” soccer match of the staff against the kids (apparently, yesterday was practice). Candice and I played, and Candice scored a goal! I was on defense and just followed one of the staff member's lead because I don’t know anything about soccer! But I will say they did not score on me! Liz was back up for the goalie, but Fikadu did a good job as our goalie, so Liz was never subbed in (credit elaine). The staff won 2-1! The sniper that Kelly McGugan sent fulfilled their duty and doused Candice with water after the game. They also got me with one bottle, but I was definitely not soaked like Candice!


After that the kids played their soccer match. We were all yelling like crazy as each team scored points. Lauren got her hair done by a couple of the girls during the game, and it looked really cute. The game with the kids was wild!! The teams were tied 5-5, and then they went into a sudden death shootout! Each team scored 2 goals. The last player to shoot was an Onesimus player, and he SCORED!!

DSC_0089aBen, Kelly and Joyce were excellent fans of the soccer games and, of course, went WILD every time Onesimus scored. The whole crowd went wild when Onesimus won the game!

Katie took some fantastic pictures during the game today, and Natalie spent her time on the sidelines with the kids. We have all really grown to love these children in the short time we have been with them.


Unfortunately, Howard wasn’t feeling that great today, so he rested on the sidelines and in the car for a little while. But so far so good with him. Pray he is completely healed during the flight home.

A few of us tried our hand at bargaining at the shops to buy a few gifts and souvenirs. It is always a joy to haggle with the locals. Luckily, we had our trusty translator and driver with us to help us!

Pray for safe travels, no delays, no bag misplacements on our trip home. Also pray for our connection in Germany to go smoothly, customs to go quickly and easily, and that everyone stays well on the flights home!

We are all exhausted after this wonderful week. Thank you ALL for reading, supporting, commenting and praying for us during this journey of ours! You are all a part of it with us!

We are loading up the van as I type this, so I will sign off. We will see you Sunday night!!

Love from Team Ethiopia and Cathy

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Eight

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Cathy on Friday, day eight of the trip. Today was a FULL day of fun-filled activities, rain, a visit to the lake and TRAFFIC, lots and lots of traffic.

We started the day by getting up an hour earlier than usual so we could head out to Debre Zeit, a city outside of Addis Ababa, for a field day with the kids. We hit rush hour traffic in the morning and witnessed “fast food”, Ethiopian style - people on the side of the road were selling bread and waffles during traffic. It was definitely different.

On the road to Debre Zeit, we passed the dump. The dump is not only a dump, but also a community of people. They use the trash and trash bags to build little houses for themselves and their families. It was smelly and disgusting, but God reminded me that He loves those people the same as He loves us.

Once arriving in Debre Zeit, we made about 4 u-turns before heading to the correct location. Imagine 3 city busses full of city kids and a van full of a bunch of “forengees” (that’s what the Ethiopians call us foreigners) making u-turns on a 2-lane road that runs in the middle of a bunch of shops. It was quite comical, I’m sure.

We had around 130 kids come today, and they were beyond ecstatic. Imagine telling your kids you are going to Disney World, and that is what this field trip was for these kids. We planned a field day for them with games like volleyball, baseball, soccer and three-legged races. Ben, Joyce, Howard and I (Cathy) tried to teach the kids to play baseball. They seemed to get the concept after about 30 or so minutes, but all they wanted to do was bat, so we base coached and played the field positions to let the kids bat. We definitely each got a turn at bat, though.

DSC_0151a-smallJoe joined in on the baseball after awhile, but first he and Kelly started a round of volleyball with the kids. Apparently, volleyball is really big here in Ethiopia, so all of the kids really enjoyed that as well as the staff. Lana quickly joined in on the volleyball game and had a lot of fun scoring points for the other team! Kidding! She did great.

DSC_0287-smallNatalie, Lauren, Candice and Katie all played soccer with the kids, and I can only imagine how much fun they had with them. Katie continued to take fabulous pictures throughout the day as well. Liz played goalie during the staff vs. kids soccer match and was faithful to watch all of our stuff during all of the other games.

We have to give a huge shout out to Meme for planning the fabulous field day and being flexible when it didn’t go quite how she planned it, but it was the best day ever for those kids, the staff and all of us.

DSC_0041a-smallWe had another Ethiopian lunch at the compound and ate with the kids. It was our last traditional Ethiopian meal of injera (the big tortilla-like bread that Ethiopians eat with every meal) and tibs (meat in sauce). We played soccer with the staff against the kids for about 30 minutes after lunch and then right on cue it started raining around 2 PM.

Then we all loaded up on the busses and van and headed to the lake, which was another special treat for the kids. I am not sure what lake it was, but it was the most beautiful view with the mountains in the background of the lake.

JZ4A7775 copyWe played more games with the kids there, including a piñata type of game where the kids were blindfolded, spun around seven times, and then tried to hit the pot that has chalk dust in it with a big stick. The first one was broken by one of the kids, but our very own Meme broke the second one!

DSC_0038-smallWe had a wonderful send off from the kids and staff, all of them thanking us for taking the time out to come and serve and love on the kids. We were all very moved by the words the staff had to say to us. Then we got a special treat: the testimony of Fikadu, one of the boys who has successfully been through the program from life on the street to living in the halfway house. It was so amazing to hear the story of one whose life has truly been changed by the work that Onesimus does.

I know I am way over on the blog, but I have to give a huge shout out to our driver for the week, Tess. He has been phenomenal, but nothing compares to tonight. We hit traffic jam after traffic jam! And when I say traffic jam, it’s not an American traffic jam. There are technically lane markers, but no one follows them, so there are about 5-6 cars wide on a 2-3 lane road all honking and trying to get around each other. What should have been about an hour or so ride home was just short of 2 ½ hours. Exhausted from such a long day and stuck in traffic, we could have been jumping down each others' throats. But, instead, for the last 30-45 minutes of the drive, we sang praise and worship songs a cappella in the middle of the traffic jam. As much fun as I had with the kids today, that was the highlight of the day for me, imagining God’s smile as He listened to us singing praises to Him.

We finally made it home. Praise the Lord, the staff here at the guesthouse kept our dinner warm for us! Tomorrow is another early day, so I’m off to bed (and possibly to shower if we get the water tanks refilled). Thanks for reading and commenting! We read your comments every morning and love love love to hear the comments from you all!!


Team Ethiopia and Cathy

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Seven

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Meme on Thursday, day seven of the trip.  Hello from Ethiopia!

Today was the last day for our program and sports camp.  We still have two days of fun planned with the kids, but we finished our structured program with a bang!

The program began with a welcome from Howard and enthusiastic music.  It felt like Camp Tsungani as 135 kids jumped and sang, pumping their fists in the air. Ben presented an amazing gospel presentation focused on forgiveness.  Each activity picked up where that left off and pressed the total understanding of the forgiveness of God over and over.

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In arts and crafts Lana and Lauren had the kids make Salvation bracelets.  The materials had been put together in individual baggies by the campers at Camp Tsungani.  They even had the meaning of each bead written in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia.

Joe, Joyce and Anna (one of our interns) had letters written asking God for forgiveness. Joe explained that in order to be accepted by God, we must ask for forgiveness for our sins. He drew a cross on the chalkboard and put a garbage can under the cross (credit evans). He had the students tear up their letters with their sins and put them in the trash, representing how God sees our sin when we have asked for forgiveness.

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During devotional Cathy knocked it out of the ballpark, with Liz fielding questions, applying the principal of forgiveness to their salvation.

JZ4A7350_1 copyCandice and Natalie had the kids playing with a beach ball, playing soccer and jumping rope.

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We did get rained out of our sports camp in the afternoon, but we still had a chance for some personal and loving interaction as we walked to the soccer field with the kids holding our hands as they flocked around us, soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of Ethiopia!

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Our debriefing periods have been very inspiring, encouraging and always full of laughter and tears. This has been our true bonding time. Our group is so diverse, but we have molded together as one body, serving God as a unit, incorporating each gift that we have been blessed with.

Thank you so much for all of the cards, letters, and notes. We absorb them and read them over and over, laughing, crying (we do a lot of both) and sharing your meaningful words of encouragement. Joe reads the blog and all of the comments to us every morning at breakfast. You will never know how moving your comments are. They are the best way to start the day.

We miss all of you and can’t wait to see you, but God is not finished with us here yet!

Love love, love, Team Ethiopia/Meme

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Six

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Natalie on Wednesday, day six of the trip. We have passed the halfway point of our trip, and we are consumed with mixed emotions.  Today was a fantastic day full of laughter and tears.

We started the day with Liz leading us in a powerful devotion about how Christ is giving us the ability to truly influence the lives of the children we are here to serve.  Together we sang the song “Thank You”, and it really put it into perspective for us that we might not always see the reward of our influence here on earth.  Everyone - from the ones who are sent, to the ones who financially support, to the ones who pray - will reap the reward in Heaven. Howard then made us all laugh at by wearing his ponytail hat.

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After a filling breakfast, we headed to the church for another day of activities and worship.  Candice continued to do an outstanding job leading the kids in songs.  It continues to amaze me that the kids know every English lyric and hand motion to each song.

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Following music Meme gave a devotion that captured everyone’s attention (including us).  She read the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and taught the kids the importance of praying for themselves.  Three of the kids even got up and said what in their life they wanted to pray for.  It was definitely an emotional moment for many of the team members.

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The kids divided into their groups again and went from station to station.  Candice and I (Natalie) took the kids outside for jump rope games.  Lauren and Lana helped the boys make shakers out of plastic eggs and rocks.  They also truly exemplified Jesus by getting on their knees and washing all of the girls’ feet and painting their toenails. Kelly also got the chance to help with this. Liz led a lesson to the children about praying for themselves where she opened the door to the presentation of the Gospel (credit elaine). At Joyce’s and Joe’s station they had the opportunity to write letters to God filled with their prayer requests.

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Sadly, we were unable to play soccer after lunch because of the rain.  We headed back to the guesthouse for quick showers and debriefing.  I am not kidding when I say quick showers… Liz, Joyce, Lana, Katie, and I literally raced to take the fastest showers so we would all be able to have warm water and be ready in 25 minutes.  It was a close race but Joyce was the winner.

After debriefing we loaded up the vans and headed to an Ethiopian culture restaurant.  We did “buffet style”, which means we ordered 3 large platters that we were able to share.  The food was delicious, but our plates did have some things that were not familiar to us. Lana, Joyce, and Cathy were brave enough to try the intestines. Dinner was served with a show.  We all watched and danced in our seats while a group of performers danced cultural dances.  There are no words to explain it; you must simply watch one of the many videos we took.

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Exhausted and full we headed home for a good night’s rest before another busy day tomorrow.  It’s past midnight and technically the next day, so it is no longer my job to blog!  Stay tuned!

Team Ethiopia and Natalie

Team Ethiopia 2014 Day Four

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! Here is an update from Lauren on Monday, day four of the trip. We kicked off an amazing day with a wonderful pancake breakfast and headed to Emanuel Church where we were welcomed by all the Oneisimus children and staff. We were greeted with both signs and balloons. They also served us some authentic Ethiopian coffee and some interesting milk along with delightful treats and cake.

After the welcoming ceremony, we drove to the Lutheran church where we are hosting the program for the children here in Ethiopia. Candice and Natalie started off the program by pumping up the kids with music and corresponding dances. Afterwards, Howard spoke to the kids about the many things we can thank God for.


Then we broke the kids off into groups and our team leaders - Ben, Howard, Katie, and Misty - rotated the kids between four different stations to enjoy many different activities filled with fun and learning.

Candice and Natalie  led music and games at one station. The kids learned how to worship the Lord through song and had lots of fun dancing to the cha-cha slide.


Another station was arts and crafts. There Elana, little Liz, and I (Lauren) showed the kids how to make a bookmark in hopes that one day  they would be able to place it in their very own Bible.

At another station Liz and Kathy helped teach the children again about the importance of thanksgiving.

And at the last station, Joe, Joyce, and Anna taught the children how to directly communicate with God through love letters. Today they specifically asked the kids to tell God what they are most thankful for.


Overall, the team had a wonderful day, and everyone enjoyed playing and loving on the children. Some were even able to catch up with old friends. Also, special thanks to Meme and Kelly for helping the program run as smoothly and efficiently as possible!

Team Ethiopia 2014 Days One and Two

Team Ethiopia, a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN, is now on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ready to serve! whole team

They've spent the past two days getting to their destination and adjusting to their home for the next 10 days. Here is a report from Cathy on how they're doing.


Day 1: Friday

Travel went beyond smoothly!! Although we had short connections and our flight out of Memphis was delayed about 30 minutes, we prayed and ended up in Houston with time to spare for everyone to go to the bathroom and get some food. Our flight to Frankfurt was smooth sailing, and we arrived with time plenty of time to make our connection. We got a surprise on our way to Addis Ababa: we all got to check Saudi Arabia off of our list of countries to visit! We stopped there to let off about 90% of the passengers, and then we all got to spread out with entire rows all to ourselves for the last 2 hours of our flight. We began to bond more as a team during each flight.

When we arrived in Addis, we got 2 surprises: 1) None of our 26 checked bags made it to Ethiopia, and 2) we were greeted by a wonderful welcome committee of Nega, some of his staff and several of the girls from Onesimus! It was a joy to see their faces and their excitement upon our arrival. We were each given a rose by the girls and hugged (credit elaine). They offered to carry some of our carry-on luggage for us, and we were happy to get them out of our hands after 30 hours of traveling! We took some cold showers and were happy to be clean despite not having all of our toiletries.


Day 2: Saturday

We had a pretty relaxing day getting adjusted to the time change and newness of Ethiopia. Some of us were woken up by a call to prayer from the Muslim mosque in the neighborhood. After we all got up, we had a fantastic breakfast – it was so good it was the highlight of some people’s day!! We had french toast, eggs and fruit.

We also attended a soccer tournament this morning between some of the local teams, and one of the teams was comprised of street children from Onesimus, the drop-in center The Forsaken Children works with. We got to see so many of the kids that are beneficiaries of The Forsaken Children, Onesimus and our Central Church team. They were a joy to watch.


Natalie, along with another couple of Team Ethiopia members, enjoyed playing a little bit of soccer with some of the boys before the game started. Katie and Lauren now have a couple of new boyfriends in the group of Onesimus boys. We also learned that Liz has an extreme love of the game of soccer.

Many people recognize and remember the returning members of our team, like Candice, Joe, Ben and Kelly. And Howard had fun facts for us at every turn, whether it was about Ethiopia or translating a phrase for us.


We enjoyed rest time after the soccer games along with a game of Fish Bowl. Lana did an excellent charade of “photosynthesis”, which Meme put into the bowl! We celebrated Meme’s birthday today!! We had a wonderful cake in her honor. The Freys joined us for dinner, which was another nice surprise!

During our debrief at the end of the day, Joyce told us the highlight of her day was waking up in Ethiopia. My (Cathy’s) highlight goes along with that: walking upstairs this morning and looking out the window at the beautiful view of the mountains and seeing God’s handy work was so peaceful. Despite the poverty and sadness that we see with the street children and so many of the people here, God really is in this place and He sees the beauty that we aren’t always able to see. I was so thankful that was my first daytime view of the city.


As I am writing this blog, the leaders returned with our bags – good news is that Candice’s, mine and Howard’s bags made it, but the bad news is we are still missing 24 bags! Please continue to pray for the bags to arrive along with our team to be effective for God this week! And don’t forget to comment so we can read them in the morning as our “mail”! Thank you for praying for us!

Love you all,

Team Ethiopia!!