When we first started to come to the Church at Severn Run, our kids were finally out of infancy and transitioning to early elementary ages. We slowly got involved in some church ministries, ranging from a connect group and volunteering for the children’s ministry, to supporting the church financially. This is also when we started our child sponsoring through Compassion International. We were comfortable being rooted in a local church, living a busy suburban life focused around our family, and feeling the satisfaction of knowing everything was where it should be.
Towards the end of 2016, I was working to finish up my degree. I was trying to find something meaningful to do right after I finished when I heard about a trip to Ethiopia with Compassion International. I remember sitting in the church on Sunday morning hearing about it and thinking this was something I should do.
It was like responding ‘yes’ to an invitation to where God is at work. I was at peace saying yes to that.
As the time progressed, I started to worry about the trip and I was unsure of why I was going there in the first place. I felt like I was in a situation where I did not belong. After one of the meetings leading up to the trip, I had a brief conversation with Pastor Drew. He encouraged me by saying that we are going to Ethiopia to build relationships, making connections with fellow Christians; children, staff, and church members. It did not matter what I could contribute, whom I was with, nor where I was going. I was at peace again.
The trip itself was humbling, yet wonderful. I had a delightful time connecting, fellowshipping, and worshiping God while we purposefully built relationships with Christians on the other side of the earth. And there was no way around building relationships with the people from the church I had gone with. From sharing three meals a day, to traveling together in a tiny little passenger van, there was lots of laughing and crying together, sharing of the Spirit working uniquely through each of our circumstances.
During the visit to the Compassion International office in Addis, we met a humble leader who passionately cares for children in dire need of Christ, watching over young men who grow up in the Compassion program, working in the office translating the letters to and from sponsors.
Witnessing God’s fearful and wonderful works in the children who were a part of the Compassion International program, and seeing how God was at work in a completely different part of the world was humbling, delightful, and comforting.
One of the main parts of the trip is a home visit to a sponsor child. Despite a lack of Western comfort, families are so welcoming and generous in their hospitality. During one of the visits, a father of a sponsor-child who was not a believer thanked us for visiting and he started to ask about church, faith, and God. Our guide, Joseph, led a conversation and eventually invited him to accept Christ and he did as our team gathered around him and prayed together. It was a powerful moment where all of us gathered to witness the Holy Spirit working through this man, old and frail, but with a child-like heart accepting Jesus as his God and Savior. To experience and partake in this work in Ethiopia by connecting with people along the way, you really get a different perspective - the perspective of global citizenship in Christ. Seeing God at work, building relationships with someone whom you don’t speak a same language, yet making connection as a mother, as a sister, as a friend, as someone belonging in Christ, is like a glimpse of heaven. It is like I have moved on to be able to let go little bit of my selfish ambitions, a little bit of my doubts and entitlements, and in doing so I gained a glimpse of life’s perspective into true joy, contentment, faith, and love.
I know I came back as a different person. I know I gained a new perspective into Kingdom work. I know I am more confident to talk about my trip to Ethiopia and why these children matter. I learned a valuable lesson that it really does not matter whether it is an Anne Arundel county, inner city Baltimore, somewhere out in the Dominican Republic, or in Ethiopia. If God is at work, that is the safest place for you to be. That is the place you want to be regardless of your preferences, your reason, your insight, or your knowledge. God will work in and through you regardless.
It was only a year ago that I embarked on this trip to Ethiopia, but I know that I am changed forever. Even though I wake up on the same bed with the same problems in life and it seems like on the surface, nothing may have changed. It’s hard to explain this difference, but it is sort of like when you graduate from high school; you have a whole new perspective in life, so you think in a different way. And then, when you go off to college and graduate from college, you have a whole new perspective in life that is even more different than that of your high school experience.
When you travel to an overseas location and see all the wonderful things that God is doing, it changes your outlook on life. When you first accept Christ as your savior, your way of thinking changes. Then, as you grow more mature in Christ, you strive to live your life pleasing to God, obeying the Holy Spirit, and through that you grow into a newness of life in faith. When you travel to near or far to connect with Gods’ people, it will change you, and you will never be the same again. It is like a glimpse of heaven. You just can’t walk away from something like heaven and return exactly the same as when you left.