Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Going Back for More

This is the text of a guest post I did for the Frazer OneFamily blog. I thought this would be a good time to post it here, as we have a little less than ten days to get new sign ups for this year's Visiting Orphans trip to Ethiopia (details here). If you're even thinking about it (or even if you're not), this is why we go:

It was a normal December day less than four years ago. My phone rang at work and I recognized the number. It was my niece Brooke. 

I had promised to take her on a trip for graduation. She was calling to tell me that she wanted to go on a mission trip. 

To Africa.

Africa? Umm, ok. 

I’ve got to confess that in my 50 years I had never once had a thought that I wanted to set foot on African soil. I was so proud of her for wanting to do this, but this was intimidating. Maybe her mom would tell us she couldn’t go.  

I am so glad she didn’t. 

Through the wisdom and heart of this teenager, God moved my heart and gave me an incredible love for the children of a community on the west side of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  A place called Korah.  Out of a two-week trip, we only spent two days in Korah. But God spoke to me and I knew I would be back. 

We spent time with a ministry that was doing a summer camp (VBS-like) program for the children, and setting up a programs that would allow many of them to break the cycle and get an education while hearing the Good News. 

This summer I will be going back for the fourth time.  I can’t stay away. 

There are some who would say, why? 

Why keep going back to visit the same children? 

Why not donate money rather than spend it going over there? 

What good are you doing by seeing them one week a year?

Fair questions.  I could probably write a book about why I believe God is leading me to travel across the world to see these people again and again. Or I could just quote James 1:27. But here are just a few reasons I keep going back:

Well, James 1:27…and dozens of other passages about God’s heart for the oppressed. Actually, not just dozens of isolated passages, but a theme – a thread – running through the entire Bible. Jesus came to rescue us when we were most helpless, just as the God of Israel had done throughout the Old Testament. He didn’t just send us provisions to meet our needs; he came in person. We are called to do the same. There is no substitute for a smile, a kind word, a touch, and time spent with someone. I don’t know about you, but my greatest need is to know I’m loved. There’s nothing that says, “I love you” like a personal visit.

I think we have fallen into the trap of believing that money solves all problems. We believe it about our own lives – if I just had a little more, I’d be happy. Well, it’s not true for us and it’s not true for them. Yes, financial support is important. But it is no substitute for what happens when they see a bus roll down their street full of Christ-followers who cared enough to come spend time with them and share not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

I can’t share my life with them without ever seeing them. I love my friends who are investing their lives in these children full time. This is so important, because I’m fooling myself if I think one week a year is going to change the lives of the people in Addis.  Right? 

Wrong..... if my visits encourage the hearts of those God is using there 365/24/7, then yes, it is making a difference. I’m talking about both the leaders who were born in Addis and devoted their lives to changing their community and those from other countries who have been called to live there full time. I go each year praying that something about my visit will help my friends there lift up Jesus and change the lives of the children. It’s not hit-and-run ministry; it’s a small part in a bigger plan. 

To the extent that I remember that, I can get excited about how God is using me without getting a false sense that I have to save everyone because I have limited time. I am there to serve the people God has placed there.

It changes me. 

God has worked through my Africa experience to give me heart for orphans in our community. My eyes have been opened to needs all around me, and it began when he opened my eyes to the needs of children 8,000 miles away. 

I have a much greater view of how big God is and his plan for the nations because I’ve seen his work among the people of Addis. If you want to really see the heart of God, spend time with the people he has a heart for.

Those are just a few reasons – well, looking back maybe I did write a book! But there’s just so much to say. God is more awesome, merciful, loving, powerful, and wise than I ever imagined before July 2010.  And I owe that to my dear friends in Ethiopia.

And so I keep going back for more.

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