The Stars, Life Tiger Danger, and BYSAF – Ethiopia Day 3

Guest post by Geoff Yeowell – Post written at the end of the third day of the trip, August 15

Monday was another rain-free day – somewhat of a miracle in August in Addis Ababa – and the locals are thanking us for bringing the sunshine with us from Washington.

This was our first day interacting with the Change for Change boys in a learning environment. After dividing them into teams by their English ability, we asked them to come up with a team name, a flag, and a cheer. They love competition, and this got them pumped up and ready for action. The Stars, Life Tiger Danger (can anyone explain that one?), and BYSAF (the team members’ initials) spent the next couple of hours rotating between three learning stations to earn points.

At one, they sat at computers and typed their answers to questions such as “What do you wear on your feet?” Points were given both for the correct answer and for spelling.

At another station, they played memory games, one in which they had to match a picture of a word on an upside-down card to the spelled-out word on another (remembering which card was where) and one in which they had 30 seconds to look at a number of items on a table, then write down as many as they could from memory.

At the last station, we showed clips from the movie “Transformers” and asked them questions about what they’d seen.

The boys loved the activities and really wanted to do their best. Our goals were to help improve both their English and teamwork skills. Tomorrow will tell which team will reign victorious!

After an Ethiopian-style lunch we headed to another part of town to hear about some amazing outreach God is doing through Beza. It was exciting to hear how He is working through the body of Christ here to transform their neighbors’ present lives and eternal futures.

We ended our Monday activities with a visit to the “Red Terror” Martyrs Memorial Museum where a gentleman who had been tortured and imprisoned for eight years gave us a tour and recounted the horrors Ethiopia suffered during the Communist Derg Regime in the 1970s and 1980s. Torture, summary executions, mass graves, and famine were all part of that period. We were all sobered by what we saw and heard.

After a great Monday, the team is excited to see what God has in store for the rest of our time here. It’s going quickly.

One Year Anniversary Celebration – Ethiopia Day 2

Guest post by Brad Meyer – Post written at the end of the second day of the trip, August 14

The day started out like the last with a breakfast that included pancakes and a type of oatmeal. In Ethiopia this is not a normal breakfast but for us “white visitors” it was a great way to start off the day. A big plus is the very strong coffee, which was created in Ethiopia for us coffee drinkers. After this we all piled into the van and headed to the Beza church service.

Some of us were wondering how the 6 hour church service was going to fare but it ended up to be a blessing. Crazy how we question the way God works sometimes when we should just simply allow him to do the hard work. We decided to attend the Amharek Service first which is then followed by the Int’l Service. We listened to Pastor Sahle and to our fortune he speaks English so we did not need a translator. We really enjoyed both Worship times even if we didn’t understand the first one it was quite an experience. We then left before the beginning of the second service to go back to the guesthouse and change before the celebration.

This was the first time that we were going to meet the kids and interact with them one on one. The kids were not shy and they came right up and introduced themselves. We spent some of our time just goofing around with them and playing ping-pong along with having them show off their self made workout items (dumbbells, dip-bar). Some of the kids gave personal tours of the house and we all took notice of the great size of the property and how much room they had to spread out (garden, driveway, patch of grass).

After about 2 hours of playtime we ate some great authentic food followed up by two types of cake. The highlight of the afternoon was the award presentation. It was great to see how accomplished some of them have become and how much others have improved. When a couple of kids have skipped 5 grades in one years span or when a couple boys go from 39 to 5 or 6 in the class, it shows the degree of dedication at which Adam and his staff have put in. Obviously all the credit goes to the kids as without them nothing can be possible but Adam, Betty, Masre, Mule and the staff deserve a credit that is seldom given for a volunteer job. All of us felt very moved and saw what the Change for Change ministry has done for each of them. We all excused them to their movie and finished the evening with a couple of smaller logistical items.

The team is slowly getting over the jet lag now and we are ready to really dive in and help to teach the kids some of our incredible English skills.

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Jesus’ Mission Trip – Ethiopia Day 1

Guest post by Bill Stevens – Post written at the end of the first day of the trip, August 13

So, what will I do on my first day in Ethiopia on a missions trip? I have no idea…maybe we’ll build an orphanage, or go to a church service conducted in another language, or perhaps conduct a street drama….

The day is over and I’m looking down at the dirt and knee scrapes I got from getting burned by trying to play soccer with some teenagers who are clearly part of some select junior national team, the “mud” or something that is splattered on my legs and shorts from walking through the neighborhood we are staying in, picking the popcorn kernels out of my teeth that was given to me by a local couple in their rented room in an HIV/AIDS colony, and trying not to inhale the smell left by a kid with suspiciously brown pants who climbed on my shoulders while playing some kind of chase game, where I was the prey. Whoa…I think this is what you do on a missions trip to Ethiopia. You hang out with Ethiopians. I guess this is what Jesus did on his mission trip to Earth… he hung out with people; he hung out with us.

Ethiopia or Bust

Well, the time is upon us.  I’m headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a team of seven guys to work with Beza International Church and Adam Taylor’s ministry to a group of street boys.

There’s a lot I’m excited about, but one of the biggest things is the team of guys I get to go with.  I’m looking forward to seeing how God grows us as a team and changes the trajectory of our lives through this experience.

We’ll be posting updates here when we can.  You’ll get the opportunity to read about the trip through the lens of each one of the guys on the team.

Your prayers are coveted.  See you in Addis!

Meditating on the Beatitudes

In nine days I leave for my third trip to Ethiopia.  I’m leading a team of eight men to work with sixteen former street boys.  Andrew, one of the guys on my team, asked me what Scriptures would be helpful to meditate on to prepare spiritually for the trip, an insightful question if ever there was one.

I’m encouraging the team to spend some time in Matthew 5, especially in the beatitudes.  I think we often miss the profundity of what Jesus is saying here.  We tend to think the ambitious, the cunning, and the powerful are blessed.  But he says it’s the meek, the mourners, the merciful.  He then moves on to address apathy, anger, lust, divorce, lying, pride, and love, and while his teachings apply equally to everyone, I think many of these are areas that men in particular wrestle with.

Each day I’ll be spending time meditating on one beatitude and one section of Jesus’ teaching on the aforementioned issues.

With the beatitudes, I’ll be asking myself three questions:

  • When has this beatitude been evident in my life?
  • Am I currently demonstrating this beatitude?
  • How can I make it more a part of my life?

The questions for the teachings are similar:

  • When have I handled this issue well?
  • When have I handled this issue poorly?
  • What steps to I need to take to grow in this area?

Just Say Hello

Lily’s father was an alcoholic who beat his mother, and so one day his mother took his sisters and moved back in with her parents, leaving Lily and his older brother with their father.

Mom was the breadwinner so when dad ran out of money he sold their house for cash to purchase booze. At seven years old Lily was homeless, left to fend for himself on the streets.

Eventually, Lily and his brother made their way from their hometown of Dessie to Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia.  There Lily connected with a group of street boys who begged, sold, borrowed, and stole to survive.

When Lily was around 13 a young woman began saying “hello” to he and his friends as she walked by.  A simple “hello” led to conversations and conversations led to shared meals.  Birukti, the young woman, began to take them to dinner nearly every week.

One day she brought a group of Ferengi, white people, with her to dinner.  Lily took one of them to see the place where he slept, a drainage sewer in the middle of a busy road.

A few months later that man, Adam, would relocate from America to Ethiopia and help Lily and his friends get off the streets.

Adam is famous around our church. He sold his belongings, left a job with a six-figure income and moved half-way around the globe to serve 20 boys, but he’s not who this story is about.  In fact, this story is not even really about Lily.  This is the story of Birukti.

Birukti felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to say hello to the street boys she walked by every day on her way home from work.  And hello turned into conversations and conversations turned into meals and meals turned into changed lives.

I think so often we hear stories like Adam’s, and we feel like he’s in a totally different world.  He inspires us for a moment, but the thought of moving to Africa or Asia or the inner-city seems so far beyond us. And so instead of moving, we just move on.  We go back to our everyday lives, failing to see the connection between our lives and the life of this incredible person.

But you see, Birukti didn’t move anywhere.  She wasn’t even the one who got the boys off the streets and into homes and schools.  Her first step wasn’t all that remarkable. She began simply by saying “Hello.”  She said hello to the people who no one else had time for.  She said hello to the people society failed to value.

She took small steps and started relationships.

At my church we take a lot of missions trips and we have a monthly day of service where we go out and bless the community. These are great things. They help us understand the issues facing our city and our world and teach us how we can practically love others.

They are great, but they are not enough. If our engagement with the people whom Jesus commanded us to serve is limited to nine days a year or three hours a month, then our impact will be limited as well.

Change happens through relationships and small steps.

The next time you think about someone like Adam Taylor and think, “That could never be me,” remember Birukti and ask yourself, “Who do I need to share a meal with?” “Who do I need to have a conversation with?” or even just, “To whom should I say hello?”

If Birukti hadn’t said “Hello,” there would be no story of Adam Taylor. If Birukti hadn’t said “Hello,” Lily would still be living on the street.

That’s my challenge to you.

Just say “hello.”

The Weirdest Bus in Africa

We’re just a couple of hours away from landing in Washington DC.  We spent the last two days of our trip outside of Addis Ababa at a camp/retreat center.  Adam wanted to get the boys out of the city for a night, so we packed up a bus with with nine Americans, a New Zealander, four Ethiopian adults, and twenty street boys from Addis.  It was the weirdest bus in Africa.

I must say, I was variously excited and apprehensive about the trip.  It sounded like a lot of fun, and then I thought about a two-and-a-half hour bus ride with those twenty boys.  At times I was a bit reticent to engage them, but ultimately doing so was well worth it.

One of my most meaningful times on the trip was giving piano lessons to Gurum.  Those who know me well are astonished to hear I was teaching anyone to play the piano.  In my lifetime, I’ve probably taken a grand total of eight lessons, but between those and a basic music theory course from college, I knew enough to cover finger exercises, chords, and octaves.  It was quite an experience.  One I’m not sure I can do it justice in a few words.

That’s just one of the stories from the night away.  Some of the boys learned to fish and were thrilled with each small catch.  We heard amazing testimonies from two of our team members, and we had the chance to swim in an African lake.

The trip back was less than smooth and provided a bit of worry about missing our flight, but we arrived in Addis in plenty of time to have dinner and have a cake for Jack, our team member who turned twenty-eight on Saturday.

Man, what a trip.  There’s a lot to think about and process, including how to use what we’ve learned and experienced in our lives back home.  Hopefully I’ll find some time to do just that in the next few days.  Until then, ciao!

An Exciting Update from Addis

Salam, just wanted to catch you up on how things are going in Addis.

After spending a day (me) or two (Tanya) sick, the team is back in action.  It’s amazing to see how God works through even things like illness.  It allowed some of us to spend more time together just talking, which in turn helped the team break down walls and share very personal parts of our lives.

Yesterday, we spent some time with the Beza staff, and I had the chance to share Andy Stanley’s message from Catalyst about controlling our appetites and preserving the things we hold most dear.  It was good for the team to be able to meet the folks from our sister church and for me to be able to reconnect with people I had met previously.  People like Pastor Z are beginning to feel like old friends.

While others were souvenir shopping in the afternoon, I spent some time walking through a neighborhood where I was the only ferengi.  I was supposedly helping an elderly gentleman buy some medicine, but the pharmacy was "just ahead" one too many times, so I left and rejoined the group.

We also visited home care groups (Beza’s small groups) last night, which is always a cool experience.  Unfortunately, I had stayed up half the night before preparing my talk, and I could hardly stay awake.  I felt myself starting to fall over during the opening prayer, and realized I was falling asleep standing up!

Today we visited Hope for Ethiopia, an organization that works with people who have been enslaved: street kids, firewood gatherers, and prostitutes.  Among other things, they help provide people with fair employment, so it was cool to be able to pick up some of their wares as souvenirs and support a great cause.

In the afternoon, the team finally got the chance to visit the Entoto Project and hear a better explanation of what Entoto (the project and the mountain) is all about.  It was amazing to hear how God had blessed them in the year and a half since I had been there.  Their ministry has expanded dramatically.  They’re now employing around 100 women and are exporting their jewelry to a few American companies, including 10,000 Villages.  They’re also paying for tuition and supplies for 40 kids to go to school.

One of their big needs/prayer requests was for a coffee roaster which would allow them to purchase unroasted coffee beans directly from a farmer, ensuring the farmer is paid fairly for his crop and saving them money.  They would need about $3k-4k to buy one.

Sometimes God answers pretty immediately.  A few minutes after they told us about it and we were thinking of some ways we could raise the funds, Tanya agreed to buy it for them, which was amazing.  The Entoto staff weren’t quite sure how to process that!  Tanya is one of two people who God had told me were supposed to be on this trip, and the only one of those two who actually went.  I think this might be one of the reasons (and yes, there are definitely others).

That pretty much brings you up to date.  It was an exciting end to the afternoon!  Tomorrow we head out to Debrazet to get the Change boys out of the city for a little while.  We’re staying at a place with some canoes, sports, etc.  I think it’s a summer-camp style thing.  Should be a great time.

This will probably be my last update at least until Saturday.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get online again before we head to the airport, which I believe (and hope) has wifi.

Day Two in Ethiopia

Today seems like it lasted almost as long as yesterday. We started the day with some delicious oatmeal before heading to church services at Beza. Pastor Zeb preached about the tongue, telling us that it is a rudder that controls the direction of our lives, that when combined with faith, the words we speak are powerful and truly determine our course.

In the afternoon we met with some folks from Youth Impact, an organization that serves orphans and street boys.  We had a great opportunity to hear both from the leaders of the organization as well as some of the people it serves.

Afterwards we had our first opportunity to visit the Change house where Adam, some of his team, and the street boys that they serve are living.  We had gotten the chance to interact with the boys a bit previously, but this was our first opportunity to really begin to engage them in a significant way.  It was a great time of dancing, horseplay, and more importantly, relationship building

At dinner we had the opportunity to hear from Adam about some of the challenges he’s facing, and at night we debriefed and strategized about some ways that we can use the skills God has given us to support Change Ministry.

I apologize for the brevity and lack of insightfulness.  The day is pretty busy around here.  There’s not as much time or energy to write as I would like.

(Written at the end of the day on October 31, 2010.)

A Very Long Day

It’s the end of a very long day.  This morning, really yesterday morning, we left DC for a 15 hour plane ride, winding up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around 9 AM the next day.  Most of us were only able to grab an hour or two of sleep on the plane, and we had a full day in front of us.

After the team got the chance to meet Adam, Camden, Pastor Z, Pastor Sale, and some others on the Change Ministry team, we got some preparatory info from Adam and unpacked before heading to lunch and then up Entoto mountain to meet the Change Ministry boys and the Entoto kids.

Shortly after we arrived in Addis, I encouraged the team to spend the first couple of days observing, to really notice their surroundings.  We spent the debrief tonight dicussing what the team noticed.  Here are some of the things the team picked up on:

  • There’s a one for all and all for one mentality among Ethiopians.
  • The kids we met had a vibrant, excited attitude in spite of their circumstances, many of whom lacked a meaningful family.
  • The kids competed just to hold your hand.
  • The Change boys don’t know a world other than street life.
  • Some buildings are in such bad shape that it’s hard to tell if they’re being built or being torn down.
  • Ethiopian men were frisked when entering the bank, while women and a white man weren’t.
  • The Entoto kids are a lot like inner-city American kids.
  • There are a lot of government-related problems in Ethiopia.

(This post was written around 10 PM Addis time on Saturday, October 30, but wasn’t published until later due to a lack of Internet access.)