Welp, let me first warn you that this post might be semi bitter because I am currently chillin at the hotel by myself due to the fact that I woke up with pink eye and the rest of my team is playing with precious children at an orphanage here in Addis… So yeah, there’s that.
I seriously can’t believe that my time here in Ethiopia is already halfway over. I’ve loved every second of living here so far, even during the hard times. Last Monday (July 2nd), we started our first official day of ministry. I was sick along with 3 other girls, but so thankful that I was healed in about 24 hours so I could go out with the team on Tuesday. A typical day for us here in Addis is to wake up and pray as a team at 8 AM (aka 2 in the morning- for you Ethiopian experts), have individual time with the Lord for about an hour, team meetings until lunch, and then head out to the different college campuses for evangelism from about 2-5 PM. At night, we either have off to relax and renew for the next day or we have some sort of team social to go out and explore and hang out with our wonderful team. My favorite times so far has been going out and evangelizing to students. I could go on and on about how welcoming and open Ethiopians are. Most are very nice and love that I’m American and are so willing to talk about their view of God. In just the 2 short weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve seen about 27 people come to know the Lord… HOW AWESOME IS OUR GOD! Everyday, I am becoming more and more amazed by my precious Savior and how He is allowing me to be apart of this opportunity.
To be honest though, things have been hard recently. I’m a little nervous to be blunt, but I’m willing to share my heart and my struggles with you all so that you know exactly how to pray. I’m not sure if it’s culture shock or just always feeling completely out of my comfort zone, but every other day I switch from being either super happy or super upset. For example, last Wednesday I had an awesome day with my ministry partner, Blen and my translator, Eyob. We saw 3 people come to Christ that day and one was a girl, which we’ve been praying for! The very next day, we had appointments set up with all 3 of those people and none of them showed up. I was pretty bummed and let it ruin my entire day. Then, Friday, I went out with Eyob again and another girl, Lauren and we prayed withTWELVE people to receive Christ! I was so blown away. I felt so inadequate at the beginning of the day to even be here in Africa and by the end, I had twelve more brothers in Christ.
Yesterday, we started our second week of ministry and I was so fearful of all the follow up appointments I made for that day since all my appointments didn’t show up last week. Thank God that my discipler/mentor for this summer, Megan wanted to meet at lunch because I was bottling so many emotions and fears inside. We read through the story about Elijah standing up to King Ahab and hundreds of “prophets” of Baal in 1st Kings 18 at Mount Carmel. Elijah was so confident in the power of the Lord that He would turn the hearts of the people of Israel back to Him. We prayed for Elijah’s boldness and confidence in Christ, since I was definitely lacking that. Yet again, God answered my prayer and all my appointments showed up! Why is it that I’m so surprised when this happens? I found that I am just as frustrating as the fickle people of Israel, always “limping between two opinions.” I am learning so much about not being so reliant on my inconsistent feelings, but more so on the Lord who is always so consistent and faithful. I am so thankful that in spite of my doubts and flakiness, He cares enough about me to remind me of how much He loves me.
There’s a song called The Desert Song by Hillsong United and the ends with the lyrics,
“I know I’m filled to be emptied again,
The seed I’ve received I will sow.”
That’s my prayer for the duration of my time in Ethiopia. I know that the Lord if filling me up to empty me again, so that He can love on these beautiful Ethiopians. I am blessed so that I can be a blessing to others.
1) We can continue making follow up appointments to connect the new believers to the international Cru organization that we’re working with called GCM (Great Commission Ministry) before we leave to come back to the states
2) For health. Something seems to always be wrong with someone. I know this is a normal part of international trips, but it’s still a pain to be sick and missing out on things.
3) Unity among our team. We are separated into 2 different “tracks” during the day. We have our campus track, what I’m involved in, and then a film track, where they are working with Ethiopian film students to make 3 shorts films to show at the end of our trip to start many gospel conversations. It’s hard to be separated during day and still feel united at night.
4) Our personal relationships with the Lord would continue to grow deeper and deeper. If this doesn’t happen, we can’t be as fruitful as we need to be.
5) For the city of Addis Ababe in general. Most are very lost and poverty is becoming worse every year. Pray that they can find the hope of Christ.
Thanks for bearing with me through this update. God is still good, no matter what I’m feeling. Knowing that I have so many people supporting me, praying for this team, and this city, is so encouraging and means more to me than you could ever know. Love you guys!
Salaam! So sorry it’s taken me almost a week to blog. So much has happened already! If I could, I could probably blog for hours with how much the Lord has already done but I know no one wants to read that much. First, I just want to explain how much I am in love with this country already and how loving the people are here. They are literally the most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve ever met. From the first day I have been here, I’ve loved soaking up the culture and how much the Lord is clearly at work here. Addis Ababa is kind of like an African New York City. It’s so crazy how diverse it is. An example is, I saw a huge, beautiful African castle and then right next to it I saw a “one bedroom house” that was made out of tin that 5 family members live in it. I’ll see men walking in really nice business suits and then there’s hundreds of homeless people laying on the streets and begging for money at the same time. It’s hard to process and explain all that’s happening so far, so I’ll just entertain you with some interesting cultural differences that we’ve either learned about through people who have been here before or we’ve embarrassingly learned ourselves.
1) Christians here don’t drink or dance. The dancing part has been very hard not to do since music is played at a lot of restaurants. Ethiopian music is very upbeat! We got our dancing fix last night actually when we all went to an Ethiopian culture night where we had authentic food (including cow stomach…), a live band, and dancing. It was so fun! Ethiopian Christians are definitely missing out, but I understand why since most are very conservative.
2) Ethiopians are very passionate about their culture. Aka when someone asks us how we like the country so far, we say “GOOD!” If you’re not overly excited, they get offended. This also includes trying their food and telling them how tasty it is, even though it is very spicy (I’m a big wimp when it comes to spicy things.. and yes I know I’m from Texas) and I have found that my stomach definitely doesn’t agree with the food here… so that’s been fun. Injera is what Ethiopia is known for actually. It’s bread that is spongy and sour and you eat it with spicy meats and sauces and use it like utensils. It’s interesting. Oh and a bonus is that they love to feed each other and you can’t really turn it down. This happened to me for the first time today and it was hard not to gag. I’m learning though :)
3) Even though Addis Ababa is a huge urban city, crime is very rare. However, pick pocketing is very common. I’ve only seen kids do it so far, but we’ve already had some little things stolen from us. The kids here mainly stay on the streets and sell things like gum or tissues. They are so crafty and sneaky, it’s almost unreal.
4) Not only is there a big time difference here (8 hours from central time zone) but they tell time here differently. For example, 7 AM is the 1st hour, 8 AM is the 2nd, 9 AM is the 3rd… and so on. It’s kind of confusing but it makes sense here since the days are always the same here. The sun always rises at 6 AM, so that’s why 7 AM is the first hour, since it’s the first hour of daylight. It’s kind of confusing, but we’re getting used to it.
5) Little facts that I’ve learned:
-They’re not afraid to describe someone as fat. It’s like describing someone with brown hair. So that’s been… fun. I haven’t been called fat yet though! Haha but I’m sure it’ll come since Americans are a lot bigger than Ethiopians.
-Pants = underwear. Trousers = pants. We’ve had some fun encounters telling random people we liked their pants and then received some very confused looks before we knew what it meant.
-Persecution still happens here. It’s not very severe, but some people are kicked out of cafe’s for sharing the gospel and some are even sent to jail but only for a night or two. The worse thing that could happen to us is we could be deported, but it probably won’t happen.
-It’s common for men that are close friends to hold hands or wrap their arms around each other while walking. It’s still hard not to do a double take, but it doesn’t mean anything when they do it. In fact, homosexuality is illegal here.
-The driving here is NUTS. I’ve almost gotten hit by a car while walking on the side of the street 3 times already. They don’t really have traffic laws or anything and they like to honk.. a lot. Surprisingly, there are very few wrecks here. Maybe us Americans are the ones doing it wrong?
-It is very common and acceptable to be late to things here. It stresses most of my team out, but if you know me at all, you know that this is one of my flaws so I’m completely okay with it :)
Okay, so now that you know a lot about the Ethiopian culture, I would love to update you on the amazing things the Lord has been doing. There are so many things I could tell you, but I’ll just stick to one main story. I’ve been praying so much about the Ethiopians I was going to meet and the spiritual conversations I was going to have since I knew I was coming in January. Yesterday, Friday, we went and explored the city and ate lunch at this cafe called Five Zone. A lot of Protestant Christians meet there, so we thought it’d be good. I sat at a different table from our big group with 3 other girls and 2 men immediately approached us and starting talking about how they love America and asked us how much we like Addis so far. We talked with them for a while, but nothing really deep spiritually. They left but we got their contact information and invited them to hang out with us on Saturday at the same cafe and then go to the Lion Zoo! I was so glad they accepted before they left, which gave me a lot of hope. 30 seconds after those 2 men left, 2 other men came and sat down and approached us as well. They asked the same questions but we decided to transition to a spiritual conversation. They were both Orthadox Christians, which is kind of like Catholicism. They believe that Jesus came and died for our sins, but that we have to work to get into Heaven instead of receiving the grace that Jesus gave us. They don’t have the assurance that if they died today, they would go to Heaven. It makes me so sad, because that is the best part of the gospel!! We explained all of this, but he didn’t agree but made it clear he wanted to meet again to talk. I gave him a track that has the 4 spiritual laws on it and he said he would read it and meet us on Monday to talk more. So if I wasn’t already excited enough about all of that, we went back to the cafe today to meet Isaac and he was there! We sat down and had coffee with him and immediately dove into the gospel and the 4 spiritual laws. It took about an hour and a half of explaining but, he accepted!! Once we read Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” All he replied with is, “Oh, that is good!” It was so wonderful to see the light bulb go off and him fully understand that he can have the Holy Spirit inside of him and be confident that he is going to Heaven. I’ve never been so happy. I even cried! If you know me, that’s a big deal and doesn’t happen often. While this conversation with Isaac was happening, 4 other conversations were going on at the same time. So, all before noon, Isaac, Mykas, James, and Abraham were all believers :) Saying God is good is just an understatement. We all kept saying how full of joy we were. And to top it off, we got to spend the day with these wonderful men. We went to the Lion Zoo, had lunch, and then bought them their first bibles! I am so incredibly pumped for the next month that I have here. God is already giving me such a big heart for Ethiopia :)
-One of the boys that we’ve all hung out with a lot that we met on the street randomly, has HIV :( He’s only 12 years old and is one of the sweetest boys I’ve ever met. Please pray for his health, for his mom that has it too, and for Tarkue (pronounced like Tedakue) to continue hanging out with us and to eventually come to know the Lord.
-For all the men that became believers today! For their growth, for doubts that will probably happen, and for consistent follow ups with us.
-For next week, as we start officially evangelizing. For all of the conversations we are going to have and for many more people to come to know the Lord!
-For good health for my team. Many people have already gotten sick trying to get used to the food and the time difference and other things.
-Only 33.5% of the people here are Muslim, but it’s been increasing like crazy recently. Muslim’s are trying to make it look like they are taking over Ethiopia by building mosques everywhere and therefore converting more people to the Muslim faith. Pray that more people are converted to Christianity and find out about the love of Christ!
I can’t thank you enough for praying for my team and I. We need prayer like crazy so I really appreciate all of you. Love and miss all of you!
Isaac with his first Amharic Protestant bible!! He literally jumped for joy when I gave it to him :)
3 of the 4 new believers from today!! From the left is James, Mykas, and Isaac. These men are so full of joy and I can’t wait to learn more about our Savior with them as I help disciple them :)
This past Saturday we had our second outreach, but this time it was downtown. I was super hesitant about going to evangelize on the crazy party street on a weekend night, but I sucked it up and went away. I partnered up with one of my roommates, Natalyn to go find a good spot to set up the Soularium cards and ask people if they wanted to take a “spiritual art survey” that only involved 5 questions. Once we set all our pictures up on a bench, this very interesting man named Reshi approached us and wanted to know what we were doing. Very quickly I realized he was not… completely sober and that the conversation wasn’t going to go the way I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried to keep the conversation centered on the gospel, he kept talking about how God needs to be a female and then went off on a tangent about Hillary Clinton…. It was super weird. We decided to just end the conversation and let him go on his way. Natalyn and I immediately prayed for him as he walked away and before we could even finish, another man named Derek walked up to us and asked us what we were doing. He was probably the most polite person I’ve ever met in my life! He said he goes to a university that’s close to Santa Cruz and he was very interested in learning more about different religions. I was so excited to talk to him, but the more in depth we went into the survey, the more I realized that this conversation was quickly going over my head. Derek was super intellectual and liked to over analyze everything. He answered all the questions on the survey and then I asked him if we could go through the KGP with him and he actually got really excited! Once we were done going through the booklet and I was able to share the gospel with him, he started to ask some really hard questions. For example: he asked, “What happens to the people in places like Africa who have never heard the name of Jesus? Do they go to hell even though it’s not their fault?” My first thought was, Oh crap… I am so not prepared to answer these questions. I panicked and kind of answered the question, but not really. I completely forgot about the verse in Romans 1:20 which says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” I somehow got the conversation to go back to the gospel but he wasn’t really interested. He basically believed that his good deeds outweighed his bad so IF there actually is a heaven, then he thinks he’s good enough to go. It was frustrating because I wanted to change his mind so bad but I didn’t want to force anything. He was really nice but didn’t want to take the KGP with him. As soon as he walked away, I was overwhelmed with many emotions and completely mentally exhausted from the hour conversation we had with him. Please please please pray for Derek and that our conversation will stick with him and that he will realize he’s missing something in his life and accepts Jesus.
The next day, Sunday, we had church early in the morning and I got to help out with the 2nd graders- which I absolutely loved J The church we go to is called Twin Lakes Baptist and I’ve really enjoyed it! The worship is great and the pastor sounds like a game show host, so who wouldn’t love it?! Afterwards we came back and had an afternoon full of meetings so we could plan our first theme party, which will be a barn party! I’m beyond excited. I had time for a quick nap and then my action group (which is my roommates and our 2 disciplers) went out for dinner together and then had bible study at a coffee shop. We had to cut ours short because of course being girls, we got a little sidetracked and didn’t finish the lesson. Woops! We had to come back to the Pan in time for a girl’s night. I thought it was going to be a fun night but we were asked to fill out an anonymous survey of some pretty serious questions about many things that girls struggle with. I’ve never experienced something so intense yet so freeing and that night made all of the girls on project so much closer with each other and more importantly the Lord. I’m so thankful to have a Father who provided me with such amazing women here in Santa Cruz and I will never forget that night.
Monday, I was blessed to have the day off! I was able to run along the coast with one of my roommates, Natalyn and we even got to stop and chill on a cliff and look out into the ocean as we talked about all that the Lord is doing. I also got to spend some quality discipleship time with my discipler, Melissa! I absolutely love her- she’s been such a blessing and someone I can talk to about anything. We went downtown to talk and once we got back, we saw a homeless woman in front of the Pan looking at the free books we have out on display and so we decided to go talk to her. She seemed very interested in the bible because she was in such a low place in her life, but she revealed shortly into the conversation all she was really looking for was some food and water. I didn’t have the heart to say no even though we aren’t allowed to feed homeless people, so I snuck her some water. When I came back to give her a bottle, a guy around my age walked over to us from across the street and said he was interested in the free book too! I was so surprised that these complete strangers came to us and that the Lord made it so easy to talk to people. I ended up swapping numbers with him and he’s coming to the barn party on Saturday! I feel like most of the times I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people about Him is because people have come and approached me first. God is just so good.
Okay so, prayer requests:
1) Derek! He would wonder what’s missing in His life and think back from the conversation I had with him so he can accept Jesus one day.
2) My coworkers and managers would continue to find favor with me so I can keep building friendships with them to hopefully lead them to the Lord.
3) The barn party on Saturday! The sole purpose of this party is for us to invite our coworkers. Pray that many will show up and have a blast and be able to experience the awesome community of believers here at the Pan.
4) Also, I’ve invited my coworker Jessica (refer to last blog for info about her) and Dominic (the guy I randomly met while talking to the homeless woman) and they both said they’re coming! I’m super pumped and hope they will want to keep coming to our events after this weekend.
5) Lastly, everything is happening so fast here in Santa Cruz and it’s hard to even process all of it. The Lord is really moving and I want to make sure I don’t miss any of it. Please pray that He can continue to fill me so that I can be used to glorify and spread His name.
Thanks again for all the support. It’s so encouraging to know that I have family and friends that are praying for God’s will to be done in this city. I miss and love each and every one of you!
Remember that time I promised I wouldn’t post another long blog? Welp… I lied. So sorry that it’s taking me so long to update this. I really hope to be more consistent, but it’s hard because of the busy schedule and the poor internet connection we have here at the Peter Pan. I do promise to do better next week though! :)
Oh gosh, where to start… so we arrived last Monday (so crazy that it’s already been a week!) and everyone was so welcoming. The community here is just amazing. All of the students and most of the staff live here at a motel called The Peter Pan. It’s less than 5 minutes walking distance to the boardwalk and the beach which is right where we all work, but the street we’re on is a very bad part of town. They even arranged for a police officer to come talk to us so he could give us the low down on Santa Cruz and how to stay safe. We obviously don’t go anywhere by ourselves, especially at night and were told not to wear red because of the gangs around here (of course I brought mostly red clothing due to the fact it’s my favorite color and to rep the razorbacks). All of this information scared me at first but Santa Cruz really is a beautiful place. I love how quirky and random it is. It’s pretty small so you run into people you’ve met before which I think is pretty cool because it’s easy to build relationships. Plus, there’s really nothing like running along the gorgeous coast and being overwhelmed with how great God’s creation is.
Basically, the past week we have had a LOT of training sessions and bonding time. The staff is training us on how to use evangelism tools like a booklet called Knowing God Personally (AKA the KGP) which explains the 4 spiritual laws and how to become a Christian, surveys called Soularium (which is an awesome picture survey that helps you get into spiritual conversations easily) and Perspective Cards that give us insight on what the spiritual perspective is of the people in Santa Cruz. It’s been a bit overwhelming learning everything but luckily I’ve been introduced to all of these tools over the past year. We’ve also done “Soul to Souls” with our roommates and 2 staff leaders which is basically giving your life story. It’s pretty intense! We each talk about 30-45ish minutes (mine of course was over an hour… woops). This was such an awesome way to get to know each of the 4 girls I’m living with and our 2 staff leaders who are discipling us because it forces you to open up and become vulnerable so your room can grow closer together. Aside from all the serious stuff, we’ve been able to do fun bonding things as well like scavenger hunts, sandcastle competitions, watching movies, an awesome worship night at a gorgeous winery up in the mountains, and most importantly praying together as a community of believers.
In addition to the training and the bonding, we’ve just started our jobs this past weekend. I’m working at a souvenir/clothing store called Miller’s Sun Shops and I absolutely love it so far! Yesterday, Monday, was my first day and I was a little bit nervous because I found out I was the only one from the project not working on the boardwalk (they have several stores they own that are on and off the boardwalk). It is seriously awesome though because it’s just me and my manager named Jessica, who is only 19, in a store together for 7 hours. I mean, how can you not become friends with someone you’re stuck in a small store with for that long? The Lord definitely gave me plenty of opportunities to talk with her about what I’m doing this summer and things I’ve gone through in the past. Jessica is very open and I was able to pretty much hear her life story- she is very lost but seems totally open to talking about God. She is super friendly so I can’t wait to get to know her better throughout the summer! Today, I worked at a different store and got the chance to get to know another one of my managers named Chanel. She is 21 and is so, so sweet. She’s also not a believer but knows all about who the “campus crusaders” are and has even come to hangout with the people on the project in the past couple of years. I can’t wait to get to know her as well as I get to work with her 4 days in a row next week!
Okay so I know this was again super long, but I have some things that you can be praying for:
1) My friendship with Jessica continues to grow! There is a free pancake breakfast at the boardwalk tomorrow that all of the people on project are going to and I’ve invited her- she is going to come and is really excited about it! I’m so thankful that she wants to be friends and hopefully be apart of this amazing community.
2) My friendship with my other manager, Chanel continues to grow as well. Especially because I’ll have many opportunities to spend time with her as we work together next week.
3) Everyone on project goes to “outreach” to the community every Saturday/Sunday. So just pray that the people we come in contact with this weekend will be receptive to what we have to say and open to the gospel. This past weekend was kind of a bummer for my group because everyone we tried to talk to turned us down on the spot :/
I miss you all so much! I feel like I’m in this small Santa Cruz bubble and know nothing of what’s going on in the rest of the world but it’s been such an amazing first weeks. I am beyond pumped to see what the Lord is going to do in these next 9 weeks!
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
In January of this year, the Lord really laid it on my heart that He deserves more from me. I really felt like He was telling me to do something different with my summer. During this time, I went to a retreat with Campus Crusade for Christ, called Winter Conference, in Forth Worth, TX. This was one of the most amazing weeks of my life as I was challenged and stretched in many different ways. After one of the worship services, they had a ministry fair set up with hundreds of different ways to get involved and to take that next step in completely giving my life to Christ- something they had been talking about all week. One of the tables I saw was an opportunity to be a missionary teacher in Africa… my first thought was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Sign me up right now, please!” I was so excited! I’m sure I annoyed the woman working the table with my millions of questions. Once she got me to breathe and really think about how serious this decision was, she started asking me questions that really got me thinking. Am I really prepared to go out on my own completely? HECK no. I don’t even like staying at home by myself, let alone going off into another country by myself. Now, I know that God is capable of doing anything and I truly believe that if it was His will for me to be a missionary teacher in Africa right now then He would get it done- and I would be content doing it, but I know for a fact that He has placed me at the University of Arkansas for a reason. He has taught me so much in just my first 9 months there and I can’t wait to see what His plans are in the fall.
So, after stressing about what I was supposed to do next for quite a while.. I remembered CRU has several different summer projects that I could go on. They had been promoting them all year and I have heard from several people about how their lives were completely changed because of just one summer. I decided to go to a meeting on the Santa Cruz SP in California that was 10 weeks long. Once I got to hear some of the testimonies of a couple people who went last year, I couldn’t wait to apply. This was one of the few moments in my life that I felt completely confident that this is what the Lord wanted me to do. The night I got home from Winter Conference, I applied as quickly as I could. It took about a month and a half (it seriously felt like FOREVER to me) to hear back from them that I had been accepted! Saying that I was excited is definitely an understatement. I was ready for the best summer of my life! The catch? Oh yeah, I have to raise over $4,000 in less than two months. No big deal, right?
A week after I sent out letters, I had received a little over $300. My first reaction was “Yay! That’s awesome!” Which is true! I was so blessed for the people who decided to support me so quickly, but it soon sank in that it wasn’t even a dent into what I still needed to raise. Now, if you know me well, you know that I stress pretty easily. The devil found this out a long time ago and has used it against me ever since. Because of this, raising support has been one of the most stressful things ever. My saving grace was Phillipians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I knew that it was His will for me to go on this trip, therefore I was learning to trust that He would provide the money. And He did!! As of yesterday, I have received $1500 OVER the amount of what I needed to go to Santa Cruz. He never ceases to amaze me.
With that said, I am now financially ready to go! This is a huge blessing and a big burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I am beyond pumped to spend my summer in freaking CALIFORNIA, sharing the gospel with others and growing spiritually with the friends I’ll make and, as I’ve heard, will have for a lifetime. The only thing I’m afraid of is that I’m not going to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. So, I’m in need of your prayers. I will be leaving exactly 2 weeks from today and I will be praying that the Lord fully prepare my heart for all that He is going to do in Santa Cruz. I will also be praying for each and every conversation I have while I’m there- pray that the Lord will completely fill me so that it is only Him that the people I come in contact with see. Your support during this whole process has made it even more evident that this is the Lord’s will, so thank you for that! You guys are such a blessing. The way you all have invested in me either spiritually or financially has been a huge answer to prayer. I really want to keep everyone updated so I’ll be posting things on here hopefully quite often so you know how to pray :) Let me know if you have any questions!
PS- so sorry that this turned into a novel… I promise to not write this much the rest of the summer :)