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.

Our Leaders Love our City

I love the small group leaders at National Community Church.  They’re passionate individuals who are making a difference in our city.

For the past few semesters we’ve had a group called Living in the Tension led by Jill Carmichael and Carmel Pryor that’s focused not just on study but also on service.  Right now they’re gearing up for their second HIV/AIDS related event.

They’re screening The Other City to raise awareness about the epidemic that is HIV/AIDS in Washington DC.  You might be surprised to learn that somewhere between 3-5% of the population of DC has HIV/AIDS, rivaling some African countries.

They’re also actively working to combat the epidemic by offering free HIV/AIDS testing.

They’ll be at Harriet Tubman Elementary School (3101 13th St. NW DC) starting at 8 PM this Saturday.  Come on by and check it out.  Questions about the event?  Take a look at their Facebook page.

Up the Mountain – Day 1 Part 2

I have been struggling to find words to describe our visit with Sara. More accurately, I have many words, I am having trouble finding the right ones to adequately convey the experience. Please note that the names have been changed for privacy reasons.

We walked through a grassy field and by a shanty shop down a path of loose stones the size of bricks. Making a left and passing through a gate we entered Sara’s neighborhood. To the right stood her home. As we entered a baby was crying. His wails filled the seven by eight foot room. Sara tried but failed to quiet her son. It was not until she took him out into the afternoon sun that his tears ceased.

Sara returned and as we talked, Jonam, her son, played with his noisemaker, two small ceramic cups that he bangs together. We learned many things about Sara’s life, but these short bursts of conversation are punctuated by long periods of silence. It was difficult to ask Sara questions. It was not for lack of interest on our part nor an unwillingness to respond on her part, but prying into her obviously difficult life seemed inappropriate. Questions such as “How did you contract HIV/AIDS?” were ones that riddled my brain, but I could not muster courage to ask them.

While I cannot share many of the Sara works with the Entoto Project’s job creation program where she makes jewelry from coffee beans, one of Ethiopia’s staples and an integral part of Ethiopian culture. She told us that she would like to move down off the mountain but that she cannot. Her rent would triple from approximately six dollars per month to nearly twenty. While the Entoto Project pays Sara very well on an hourly basis, the number of hours that they can provide are limited.

Eventually Sara stepped outside and passed her son, her greatest joy, to a neighbor. She began to prepare tea for us, a surprise in a culture that nearly always serves coffee to guests. She would step outside and come back with something needed, cups, water to wash dishes, and so on, each thing borrowed from a neighbor. One time she came back with a loaf of bread which she served us along with the tea. The hospitality shown in the face of such dire circumstances and the willingness of neighbors to share with one another when each has so little of his own is amazing.

I still haven’t processed this experience, what it was like to sit and talk with a woman who owns so few worldly goods that I could have bought them all with the cash in my pocket. I don’t really understand this yet. Before we left we prayed for Sara and Jonam. We prayed for healing for her, for protection for Jonam, and that he would become a strong man of God.

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AIDS in Ethiopia

In preparation for our trip, we had Dr. Cynthia Calla, founder of LifeRise AIDS Resources, come speak to our group at our January 4 meeting. (Like I mentioned before, I’m behind on updates!)

Here are a few facts on AIDS:

  • Nearly 8500 people die from AIDS every day.1
  • That is like having more than 13 Indian Ocean Tsunami’s per year.1
  • 2.2 million of the 3.1 million deaths that occur each year are in Africa.1
  • Washington DC has one of the highest incidences of AIDS in the United States.

Sometimes it’s easier to go help “those people over there” than the ones in our backyard. I have a heart for people suffering in third world countries and want to (and do) take steps to care for them, but I don’t want to forget about the people who are right here either.

1. Yale AIDS Watch

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Group Life 2008 – HIV/AIDS Crisis – John Volinsky

A former pastor who works for World Vision.

Nothing can bring lasting change in the world except the Church of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 2 it says that the people sold their possessions and gave to those in need.

World Vision is the largest Christian relief organization responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

If you talk to the experts, they’re going to say we’re not doing so well in the fight against AIDS. There are over 11 million children who have been orphaned as a result of AIDS in the world.

But there are some encouraging things. World Vision has raised up 60,000 workers in Africa to help them.

We have the army; they need training and supplies.

It would be incredible if every church, small group, and individual who is listening today would get involved. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Willow Creek Association.

For about $700/year, you can supply the needs of a caregiver in Africa.