Short Term Missions


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Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by Meme Alleman

Today Team Ethiopia was able to spend a fun and gosh, spiritual day in a small town outside of Addis called Debre Libano, which included a small hike to a bridge built of limestone that had been built in the 16th century.  It actually crossed a small river that flowed into a magnificent waterfall.

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We were surrounded by incredible mountains and cliffs, dotted with caves where baboons lived. To say we were all overwhelmed is an understatement. 

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During debriefing at the end of the day we discussed how we forget how powerful God and His creation is until we see something like that. As Kelly pointed out, we saw eagles flying below where we were standing!  This was an amazing way to end an incredible week.  We worked so hard to tell over 100 kids in as many ways that we could how powerful and wonderful God is and He let us see an example of just what He was talking about.  It was like He was blessing us with this picture of His majesty.

The Bridges family went with us and we were able to have a picnic lunch when we hiked back to where we had parked the vans. This was a sweet and memorable time of fellowship with them. It has been so uplifting to visit, talk and laugh with them.  Please continue to pray for this missionary family as they serve God and His children in Ethiopia.

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The drive to and from Debre Libano was an eye-opening adventure in itself. We saw horse drawn carriages going down the road, waited for cows to amble across,  saw houses made of sticks and straw, and went through other small towns with life just going on.  We have talked about how we miss our homes and families, but we will all miss the new things that we are seeing and experiencing.

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The day ended with a coffee ceremony at the Drop-In Center with The Forsaken Children's Ethiopian team, Onesimus staff.  It is hard to believe we have been here over a week. 

They brought in this huge, delicious cake, homemade kettle corn and our freshly made coffee.  Some of the staff members shared their thoughts for the week.  Kanu, the administrative assistant, sent us home with some very encouraging and affirming words.  He told us that we had touched every single child there this week and that each child whether they were Muslim, or Orthodox Christian, or an Evangelical Christian had had to sing, talk, write or listen to the stories of our God.  He thanked us over and over, recognizing the time we take to not only come to Ethiopia, but the time to prepare, the expense, the hardship of adjusting to another country, etc.  He Told us we were examples of walking in obedience to God. It was very helpful to hear that we truly had done God’s work and served our purpose for this trip. We spent the remaining time with hugs and farewells and promises of our return. We let them know that they are not forgotten about when we leave and how much they are loved and prayed for.

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This will be our last blog from Team Ethiopia 2017.  We plan to be home on Sunday about 2:30.  Please pray for our smooth and safe return.  Thank you for all of your support rather financially, your prayers, your cards and letters, and the comments on our blog.  We will be home soon!!!

Team Ethiopia 2017: The Universal Language

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Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by Karen Miehe

As I reflect on our team’s last day with the kids, I’m experiencing mixed emotions of joy and sadness. It was stated in an earlier blog by Aiyat (Howard) that everything was going perfectly. Truly it has been an amazing experience. I’m so thankful that we have remained relatively healthy, except for some allergy issues. The comradery amongst the team has been wonderful and encouraging. God has shown up in a big way. It’s very humbling to think that He would allow me to be a part of it. The sadness comes from leaving the children.

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We all have gained so many wonderful memories. If I had to sum up the major theme this week, it would be the universal language of LOVE. We didn’t have to learn Amharic to love on these children. We didn’t have to wear the right clothes or have everything perfectly planned. All we needed was a willing heart for God to use us. We needed to be the hands and feet of God to these children. All they needed was to know that we came to see them and to love them. Love in any language is still love. Our job was to show these kids love which was to show them God’s love.

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Last night we held our nightly team debrief at Joe and Karyn Bridge’s house. They made us a wonderful meal and we were able to bring some of our Habesha (Ethiopian) friends as well. The debrief with our Habesha friends was a first and it was a rich blessing. Some of our questions were, “What made you laugh/cry?” , “Do you have a quote-worthy saying from the day?” , “What was the best part /hardest part of your day?” , and “Who do you appreciate?” Every night at debrief, at least one person said how they appreciated Joe and Karyn. We’re seeing what they see. We’re feeling what they feel. They are truly walking in the way of the Lord. Last night was no exception. It was wonderful to hear from the Habeshas and their perspective on everything, especially the last question. Let’s just say that we had to go through several Kleenex’s!

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I appreciate how everyone went above and beyond to love the children. Aiyat (Howard) continued to do an amazing job with communicating the stories for each day. The way he tries to speak to everyone in Amharic is wonderful to experience. Liz is in her natural element of digging through the story and explaining it on a deeper level. What a gift! Starr and her teaching skills really shined as she worked with the kids on their Love Letters. Diane was my assistant and I don’t want to think about this trip without her! I appreciated her every night even though she told me I didn’t have to. (I didn’t listen to her!) This trip would not have gone as smoothly without the organizational skills and prep work from Meme. Kelly is our veteran team leader. The trip would not have been as amazing without her! She has such a passion and a heart for this ministry, that it encourages us to be our best for the kids. Vicki (Karyn’s mom) helped with crafts and was such a big help. I’m so glad that she could join us on the trip.  I (Karen) loved dancing with the kids, making them laugh and reiterated the story through crafts.

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God can use anyone who is willing and open to His adventures. It doesn’t have to be halfway across the world. It can be as close as serving your family or neighbor. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and see how God can use you. Everyone needs/craves/looks for the universal language of love. Will you be willing to love?

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Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by Howard Avery [ Hayat, my Ethiopian name ]

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Well, today is Wednesday.  It is our half-way point in the trip.  So far everything has been absolutely perfect; our flight to Addis, a day of recovery, Sunday morning at IEC (International Evangelical Church), and then 3 days of VBS with “the children”.  Today our Bible hero was Moses.  We had an opening lesson covering his life, then Liz did a deeper look at his crime of murder and God’s forgiveness in spite of our sin. The children again are very receptive to what we are teaching them. One of the children asked how he could know that God has forgiven him.  One of the staff will be speaking with him further about his question – a real life example of Paul planting, Apollos watering, but it is God who gives the increase. The crafts included a facemask of Moses, and other items that I could tell they enjoyed.  In years past, sometimes if they don’t really care about the crafts, they end up on the ground, but not today.    

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At this point in the trip, I tend to get somber because I know the time is getting short.  And while our stay is going well, we do get tired, sometimes sleep is not as restful as home, and our minds go 1000 miles an hour, wanting to do and get so much in our lessons, songs and efforts.  I think also the children sense it, they seem to hold on longer as we say “ciao” as the bus arrives to return them to their area of Addis.  They don’t want to let go. 

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In one of today’s photos there is a shot of Kelly and Fikado (pronounced just like it is spelled), arm in arm; this so typifies how we are feeling today.  One of the great let downs of “the fall” in the garden of Eden is the limits time and space put on us.  Sometimes we might want to stay here as we see The LORD pouring out blessing upon blessing in the relationships we make and grow in.  Kelly has been here 10 times in 8 years, and this is my 6th trip and we both feel much the same emotions daily in spite of our differences in life.  She is a great team leader but even greater is her love for her Habisha family.

One of the things we are saying constantly as we enter our van, regardless of where we are going, we ask “is everyone here”?  There is the sensation that “someone is missing”.  Could it be you?  This season of our church's short term missions is almost over; however, unless Jesus comes back before then, there is always next year.  While I’m not saying you must come to Ethiopia, surely there is “SOMEPLACE” where you might use your talents, and gifts that our great God has given you, in the fields of His harvest?  Whether local or international, as you read these words, prayerfully consider going somewhere next year with us or some other mission team from a local church body near you.  All of us on Team Ethiopia 2017 from Central Church concur YOU WILL BE BLESSED BEYOND YOUR WIDLEST IMAGINATION!!!

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Thank you for your prayers, comments and letters. We love the encouragement!

Team Ethiopia 2017: God's Masterpieces

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Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by Karen Miehe

Day 2 started with rain showers and we all seemed just a little tired. We made it downstairs and had breakfast. However, today we did our devotional in the car because somehow the time just seemed to be flying by. Nevertheless , when we made it to The Forsaken Children's Ethiopian team, Onesimus headquarters, even through the clouds and the light showers, we were reminded of the beauty beyond the metal gates when we pulled in and and got right to it.

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Due to the rain, we moved the activity stations indoors. The team came together and transformed one room into two. Starr's station was moved inside the building and she shared a space with Karen and Diane. Howard's sports were also moved inside and Liz had to switch buildings. We basically flew to our new spaces in order to prepare the classroom before the children came in.

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It was amazing actually. On the right side of the room, there was Starr and Meme pulling out chairs and shuffling them under tables. While on the left side of the room, Diane and Karen were counting popsicle sticks and pulling off masking tape. It was amazing to see the team come together to prepare for the kids.

The gates opened again and the bus transporting God's masterpieces (our kids) pulls in. We watched the kids run with joy into the building where the main session would be. And their excitement confirmed again that we are supposed to be here. . .

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This morning, as I looked around the room full of children, I realized that children are all the same. No matter what country or culture or economic situation, they all desire to be loved. This is Jesus' commandment for us as His children, to love others.

Howard started the day with an engaging story about Joseph! And the kids were thrilled by the use of puppets! There were 'old' faces in the group today. The team was excited to see former students in the rotations because it brought a special zeal to the group. And by God's grace the stations were wonderful. Students were engaged and interested to learn about Joseph. The students went more in-depth about Joseph in Liz's station, created a craft that was Joseph's colorful coat when they were with Diane and Karen, played indoor games with Howard, and wrote love letters to God in Starr's station.

During Starr's station, the kids quickly reviewed Joseph's relationship with his brothers. And evaluated Joseph's response. However, when the question dealing with Joseph's response was asked, there was utter silence. So it was a chance to share that through everything Joseph went through (the abandonment of his family, the stress of slavery, the despair of false witness and accusation, etc), Joseph realized God's hand over his life and Joseph forgave. And we all need to forgive because God forgave us and we did not deserve it.

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So the kids were given a piece of paper to write letters to God, thanking Him, and asking Him for forgiveness for things in their own lives. Wow. The letters were mostly written in Amharic but occasionally, you'd see someone writing in English and it would blow your mind away. The confessions and the questions followed by praise. I mean it was absolutely beautiful.

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Diane mentioned that it was evident that many of these kids know Jesus. The message of Jesus Christ is clearly shared with The Forsaken Children beneficiaries and we are excited to be able to be a part of continuing that Gospel message provision. The children were able to communicate His attributes and His scripture. During their craft, one of the boys wrote John 3:16 on his popsicle stick. And that was a sweet reminder that we are here to love on these kids. Another kid made an American flag on his popsicle sticks which is also a sweet reminder to us that they love having us here.

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Once the stations were over, it was time for music! We made sure to sing an all time favorite song, "Today is the Day" that the kids loved! It was beautiful to see the kids enjoying praising God! But, when we played "Mighty to Save" there was something wonderful about declaring the truths of God while using hand gestures. Each time we stretched our hands out like Jesus did on the cross, something in my heart was activated and my eyes began to fill with tears while reflecting on His truths! And to see the kids declare these things out loud and dance with us was special. God was praised and glorified in that moment! Amen!

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After that, we were able to join the kids during and after lunch. The sun peaked through the clouds and smiled on us.

And once lunch was complete, we had a great time focusing on building relationships with staff and kids. At one point, Kelly stole the show! She had kids lined up trying to "take her out" with the Karate moves she had taught them. We stayed there until the bus carrying God's masterpieces pulled out the gates . . .  a sad moment until we remembered that we will see them again tomorrow.

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What a delightful day that God has made. Continue to pray for us. We love y'all and we are so grateful for your prayers and love. We feel God's grace and love as we go throughout the day!

Team Ethiopia 2017: A FORETASTE OF HEAVEN

Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by Liz Roberts

“We come this morning from all over the world…  A foretaste of what God is doing all over the world.” Vic Anderson, Visiting Pastor at International Evangelical Church (IEC) in Addis Ababa, today, Sunday, July 09, 2017. 

Worship at IEC this morning was a foretaste of heaven; as it always is.  God’s people, from every continent, in worship! It is always a blessing to experience what worship in heaven is going to look like…  A foretaste of heaven on earth!

Everyone had a good night’s sleep; well, till the Call to Prayer at about 4:00 a.m.  As usual, even if you’ve experienced it in the past, you are still caught off guard by it.  From this day forward, we will consider the Call to Prayer our alarm clock, set just a little before we want to wake up.

Some of you know that it is the Rainy Season here in Ethiopia.  It’s been raining on and off over the past two days, but the temperature is fabulous – in the low 60’s.  We’ll send you some low 60*F temp if you ask nicely.

One of the things we do daily, as a team, is a formal debrief.  Tonight’s debrief was amazing and enriching spiritually.  Everyone was so transparent and just plain REAL – no pretenses.  It is so wonderful serving with our team.  Here are three of the questions that are asked during debrief, in no particular order:

1.       What did you experience that was new and/or different?’

2.       Who did you appreciate the most today and why?

3.       How did you see God work today and what did He teach you?

As a result of this spirit-filled debrief tonight, along with the many times we have seen God work already, we feel ready to start our Bible School tomorrow!  We are prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  God is with us.


There are other members of our team who did not hop on a couple of airplanes and fly 8,000 miles.  They are our Ethiopian teammates, including our tag team drivers, Tess, who picked us up from the airport; and Habti, who will be taking us around from place to place for most of this week.  Then there’s Titi and Nardi, our hosts at the Guesthouse.  Titi, for example, brought us tea upstairs on a bum ankle.  Of course, we were only made aware of her bum ankle when we saw her walking gingerly.  And yesterday, our bathroom flooded completely and Nardi called the plumber who showed up almost immediately.  Another member of our team is Eskender, our translator.  We may be the hands and feet of Jesus, but here in Ethiopia, we wouldn’t get much done without His mouthpiece.  Of course, there are the five Bridges of Addis Ababa, our TFC missionaries.  Generosity, gentleness of spirit and humility are all euphemisms when describing Joe & Karyn (and the three kids).  We had lunch with them at a restaurant called Five Loaves, how fitting. 

A special “Thank You” to each of our family members and our friends.  We love you and we miss you all.    

Team Ethiopia 2017

Team Ethiopia is a short-term missions group from Central Church in Collierville, TN. They partner with our Ethiopian Team on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about a week. Here is their daily update regarding their experience in 2017 and the way God moves in and through this ministry. We thank them for their service!

Written by: Karyn Bridges

As overseas missionaries, there is nothing more exciting than having a little taste of home. Most people would assume that “a little taste of home” means some kind of special food you can only purchase in your passport country. For us, it means PEOPLE! PEOPLE who love us and the kids we minister to! PEOPLE who support us and the work God is doing in and through us in Ethiopia! PEOPLE who know where we’ve been and where we’d like to be! PEOPLE who encourage us and pray for us! PEOPLE from our hometown.

God in his infinite grace has sent us a “little taste of home” from Memphis, Tennessee every year since 2009. Our family prays for team unity, program planning, full funding, and spirit leading from Ethiopia months before the team arrives. This year He has provided again!! We prayed, encouraged, and advised from afar. We even made a colorful countdown of 31 rings to track the days before arrival (and yes our kids did fight a few times over whose turn it was to tear off the ring for that day). AND this morning at 8:15am God’s hands and feet touched the ground of Addis Ababa. He sent 5 returning veterans, Kelly, Meme, Liz, Howard, and Karen, two newbies, Diane and Starr, and one extra special Mimi (grandma) for my third culture kids!

The team spent an afternoon/evening in DC on Thursday night before boarding the 13+ hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We began tracking their flight and realized that they were sitting on the tarmac waiting for take off for over an hour. This was disheartening because we were so ready to see them and we knew they were ready to get here. Finally after an hour and fifteen minute delay they took off and I began to relax a little. I woke up twice during the night to check where they were over that big ocean that usually separates us from them. I awoke at 6am and checked flight aware one more time to see that they were about 45 minutes from landing. We quickly dressed, stopped for a take away macchiato and headed to the airport.

We waited for over an hour in the rain and finally saw the lime green TEAM ETHIOPIA shirts and shouted “THEY ARE HERE!!!” The team headed towards us with their baggage and were met with hugs and Ethiopian greetings from Damtew, Alex, Ali and Tess! (We learned that the team tried the new E-Visa service, an online entry Visa application and issuance. This was successful, for all but two of the team members, and significantly decreased the time involved in customs). Greetings, hugs and laughter abounded as we loaded their luggage into the vans. The team looked surprisingly alert and excited even though many did not sleep much on the flight. The vans were loaded and began the trip to the guesthouse. Upon arriving at the guesthouse and receiving more greetings from familiar faces like Titi and Nardi, the team chatted as they waited for their rooms. Once the rooms were ready, we made plans to meet for dinner, and allowed the team members to settle in, shower, have lunch and take naps.

I sensed a peace and overwhelming unity among the team as we interacted today. This team is as prepared as they can be for this week of ministry and love in action. I also believe they will take any unexpected issues or occurrences in stride and rise to the occasion. Thinking first about the ONE who is worthy and second about the people He created. 

Please continue to keep TEAM ETHIOPIA in your prayers and send words of love and encouragement through the blog as they will be read each day during debrief.

They will spend the week giving it all they’ve got and will need you to stand in the gap.


Team Ethiopia: Second Home

Team Ethiopia: Second Home

Being new to the team, The Forsaken Children's Ethiopian Team, Onesimus seemed like complete strangers when we arrived, but leaving a week later they have all turned into family that we will never forget. One of the final statements made in the closing ceremony was that we were not leaving, but rather returning to our first home and we would be back to our second home, Ethiopia, soon. All the tears and laughter shared on this trip have made it the most unforgettable week.

Team Ethiopia: Welcome Ceremony

Team Ethiopia: Welcome Ceremony

Today was the first day of being with the children and it was such a blessing! From the minute we drove into the Lutheran church the children were there smiling and waving. As soon as we stepped out of the van the children were right there laughing and hugging us. Their smiling faces were enough to make me forget about everything that we had passed on the way in. All the traffic, rain, and gloom were suddenly gone and all we could see were the bright smiling faces that welcomed us. Having the children be so open to hugs and holding hands was something I had never experienced before and it was one of the best feelings in the world. To see the love that they had for us even when they did not know us was something that I will never forget.

Team Ethiopia: Church Day!

Team Ethiopia: Church Day!

Church Day! This is a special day for us because we get to visit the International Evangelical Church (IEC). Most of us have been to this church before and all of us admit that we are able to see what the true Christian church should look like. You would not believe the number of nationalities and ethnic groups that are represented. A true taste of heaven!

Team Ethiopia: Not Ashamed

Team Ethiopia: Not Ashamed

What a day we have had! 24 hours of flying and we are here safe and sound. Thank you to all of you who prayed for safe and smooth travel because those prayers were answered. Every flight, every ticket, every security check, fell right into place with no problems. God didn’t stop at just our physical needs. He allowed us to experience His creative power in a magnificent sunrise at over 35,000 feet, above the clouds.

Team Ethiopia: He Provides

Team Ethiopia: He Provides

As I sit here in the terminal at Dullis International Airport, I have a strange grouping of emotions. I've already seen God's amazing provision even before we have left the country. Our flights were pleasant and on time, or team slept well and we're in good spirits. All 14 of our checking bags are accounted for and ready to go. No one is sick, no one is tired . . . God is amazing.

Team Ethiopia: In Closing


Today was the LAST day in Ethiopia. It was bittersweet with tears and laughter. We headed to Entoto – up the mountain – to do the Street Race associated with the “Run Your Street 5K” with the kids.


We were a little bit ahead of schedule to meet the kids, so we stopped part way up the mountain and took pictures. There was a pedestal there that we all climbed up on and pretended to be Super Man flying through the city! We also prayed over the city with hands held high as we asked God to bless the city and to bring the people of the city to Him and specifically to protect and comfort the street children.


We saw the local women climbing down the mountain with huge loads of sticks/wood on their backs. I don’t know how they do that. It looks like the wood weighs about 3 times as much as them or more. And they walk ALL THE WAY down the mountain to deliver it. Along with the women were also donkeys carrying loads of leaves, hay and sticks. It really is quite surreal to see the delivering of goods in this way but so amazing that they are able to complete those tasks and then climb back up the mountain and do it all again.


When we got to the football (soccer) field, we had to wait for the kids for a little while. They went to an Ethiopian Orthodox Church Museum to tour around while we set up the games. While waiting, we played volleyball with the local kids there. They really had a great time and so did we! But we couldn’t wait to see our kids and play with them for one last day.


When the kids arrived on the buses, they ran off the bus and ran up and hugged each one of us super tight! It was wonderful! We set up the race for the kids around the football (soccer) field and then the kids played a football game also. Then we played a “staff against the kids” game in which we were attempting to beat the rain more than anything else. The kids won!!




Field Director, Joe Bridges (with his son on his back) & Cathy Burk

End of race awards

It was kind of a crazy good bye to the kids. Some of us didn’t quite realize that we were saying goodbye and missed the chance to hug the kids we connected with most one last time. It’s always a sad feeling to leave the kids unsure of when we will see them again.


When we got home, we had a wonderful surprise from the staff waiting for us!! They did a closing coffee ceremony complete with cake, worship in Amharic and gifts. Kanu thanked us each for being a part of their ministry for the week, Alex accompanied the worship song with his guitar, and Taye gave an incredible message on Hebrews 12:1-4. It was a great reminder that the race is not complete and when we fix our eyes on Jesus even as we struggle against sin, He is always with us. Tare also thanked us for doing our part and for continuing to come back each year and bringing our best to the kids and the staff. It was a beautiful, sad celebration as it was time to say goodbye to these wonderful, dedicated, God-fearing people who serve the street kids and at-risk kids on the streets of Ethiopia each and every day.


As we headed to the airport, we were met with no wrinkles in our plans. We made it in plenty of time, got checked in, went through security and then boarded the plane as we all sat reflecting on the week we had just encountered. No matter how many times each of us has gone – first, 4th or 8th – we all took away something new and different from this week.


We all made it back to the states without any issues with flights or luggage, so praise the Lord for that!!


Thank you all so much for your prayers all week, we definitely felt them!

team picture overlooking the city


Cathy and Team Ethiopia