Relational Missions

Yesterday as I reflected on our trip to Ethiopia, or perhaps more accurately reflected on our futures now that we have been to Ethiopia, there is one key aspect of mission trips, especially this one, that I failed to mention.

This trip wasn’t about producing a product, and it wasn’t even primarily about building relationships with the boys, although that was a huge part.

A large part of the reason we went, and an especially large part of the reason I went, was to support and encourage Adam. He’s a thirty-something Philly boy living in a foreign culture with fifteen former street boys.  Visitors from home can help soothe the homesickness and provide a much-needed infusion of energy and enthusiasm.

I had also mentioned that we spent most of a day on the trip simply continuing to build the relationship between NCC and Beza. There’s a Kingdom connection there that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Mission trips have the potential to accomplish something that cannot be counted by simple utilitarian measurements.  There’s something powerful about the Body of Christ spread across continents but united in heart and mission.

It was Christ himself who told us that the world would know we are His disciples because of our love for one another.

Hanging with Some Folks from Beza – Ethiopia Day 5

Post written at the end of the fifth day of the trip, August 17

Whew! Long day.

I was up at 6:20 AM for early morning prayer with the Beza staff and didn’t get home from dinner until 11 PM.

I’m having trouble trying to pick a highlight for today. It was a great day focused on continuing to build the relationship between NCC and Beza. For me this included…

  • Having breakfast with Dr. Betta, the head of Beza International Ministries and an incredible man with an incredible story.
  • Giving a homily at Beza’s staff prayer service.
  • Visiting one of Beza’s small groups. In fact, it was the same one I went to last year when I was here.
  • Eating an incredible hamburger for lunch.
  • Walking through the back streets of Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa.
  • Buying furniture.

Okay, so those last three weren’t really about relationship building so much as fun.

Tomorrow we head out to a camp near Debrezayit with the Change boys. I expect spending two and a half days living with the boys will be both challenging and rewarding. We’ll likely be writing some reflections each day while we are there, but it is less likely that we’ll actually be able to post them until we get back.

Until then, ciao!

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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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!

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.)

Ethiopia Here We Come!

Long time blog readers will remember that about a year and a half ago I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a team of around 20 NCCers to work with an outreach to a community of AIDS victims called the Entoto Project, which was started by some folks at NCC’s sister church, Beza International Ministries.  In the time since Adam Taylor, another NCCer who went to Ethiopia on a short-term mission trip, has relocated to Addis to work with a different Beza outreach called Change Ministry.

Adam and the other folks from Change Ministry were instrumental in getting 22 adolescent boys off the streets and into school.  They also provide teaching and tutoring for the boys.  Basically, the Change Ministry staff and volunteers are their surrogate parents.

I’ve been acquainted with Adam for a few years and have the priveledge of leading another team of seven people from NCC to Addis for eight days to work with and support him.  In fact, I’m writing this from the plane on the way there.

The trip came together on pretty short notice.  NCC’s missions year runs from August to August, meaning that the trip was announced in August, our commitment meeting took place in mid-September, and here we are on the plane at the end of October.

It was a bit hectic getting things together in six weeks, but then, the last trip I was on seemed hectic and we had six months to prepare.  In fact, I kinda like the shorter time frame.  I’m convinced preparation for something like this will fill all of the time you have, be it six weeks or six months, and I don’t think you’re necessarily more prepared if you take six months.

Anyway, I’m excited about the team God has brought together for this trip.  We’ve got an Air Force logistics officer, a consular officer from New Zealand, a culinary expert, a child psychologist, a social worker, a youth worker, and a pastor (that’s me).  Each of these people has very different reasons for coming on this trip, and I think God has them here for very unique reasons.  I’m looking forward to hearing the stories of how he moves in the lives of this team.

I plan to post updates here throughout the week, so be sure to check back often!

Shopping and More – Day 2

Sunday began with church at Beza. It was a great experience. At NCC we hear a lot about Beza, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear Pastor Zeb (Beza’s head pastor) speak before. So it was great to be able to actually experience a Beza worship service.

Pastor Sale spoke on “Go.” It was a great message about how we need to just go, to go do what God is telling us to do or to take a step forward in faith, trusting God to meet us on the way.

After service we went to lunch. On the way there a guy came up to the van and wanted me to buy a pair of sunglasses. This type of street vending is very common in Addis Ababa. Usually people aren’t selling something I want, but I knew I’d appreciate having sungalsses while in Addis. The guy asked 75 birr. (A bit more than $7, the exchange rate is around 11 to 1). We haggled over the price and settled on 40 or 50 birr, at which point I realized that I only had 29 birr on me. I figured I was out of luck, but he was happy to sell them to me for 29. I think this made me the first person to haggle for something on the trip. (Well, not including John who had already been here for over two weeks.)

At lunch Rachel and I sat with Melissa and Anna, the Beza staffer who coordinated and led our trip. Afterwards half of the team went to the pool and the other half went to the Ethnological Museum. I headed to the museum which was located in the former palace of former king Haile Selassie. It was a good opportunity to learn a bit more about the history and culture of Ethiopia.

After that we went to the Shiro Meda market, which we we had driven through the day before. It’s an interesting place. Tamara, one of the Entoto Project staffers, was with us and helped us bargain for better prices, but the best find of the day was the Ethiopian coffee pots. I don’t think we even had to haggle over the price. They offered them to us for 10 birr (less than a dollar). Coffee is a staple of Ethiopia, and even those who are very poor have a coffee pot and small stove to prepare coffee, so a pot makes for an authentic souvenir.

The group split up a bit going through the market, leaving me on my own, which is pretty much how I like it in situations like that. I walked down a few shops and saw a belt that I was interested in. Once again, the guy started the price at 75 birr. I said 25. I don’t remember what his “final” price was, but I walked away from it. He called me back and agreed to give me the belt for 40, but when I gave him a 50, he gave me back five ones. I had walked away again by the time I realized it, so I went back to the shop to get five more. He was reluctant, but after some arguing I got my five birr. As I walked away, one of the guys standing around said “Good” to me. I was pretty pround of myself. My second day in Ethiopia on my first trip out of the U.S., and I was already haggling like a pro!

After shopping was dinner at Yod Abyssinia. Yod serves traditional Ethiopian food and has live music and dancing in the traditional Ethiopian style to entertain you while you eat. There’s a good story here, but it’s better accompanied by video, so I’ll leave that for another time…

I know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t sound like much of a mission trip, but let me assure you, the real work began on Monday morning, although for me that meant more shopping. (More on that in my next post.)

And Done

We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support for our trip. After my last post about our fundraising, we’ve had a $10 donation, a $200 check put in the mail, and a $200 check handed to us. God has provided all of the money that we need for our trip and then some. The extra will go to help out others on the trip or to Beza.

I don’t yet have a final list of the folks who have donated, but I want to recognize all of them by name when I get it. I’ll just be posting the names, not the amounts, but if you’ve given something and you don’t want that fact to be made public, please let me know. However, I really would like to honor you in this way. You’ve been a huge blessing to us, and we are very grateful.

Please feel free to celebrate with us in the comments!

A Successful Fundraiser

Tonight we held a fundraiser for Beza, the church that we are partnering with in Ethiopia. It was a good time to hang out and sample some great food, and we were able to raise nearly $2,000!

A huge thanks to Min Kim and Mary Evans for doing most of the prep work for the event and of course thanks are owed to John Hasler, our fearless leader.

The first team leaves on Friday, and our team leaves in two weeks. I’m starting to get excited! Please be in prayer for all of us, especially for the team leaving this week. I’ll be posting some more specific prayer requests later.