What do people do when they go on a mission trip to Ethiopia?  There are many end goals that are on the heart of Mark Wolbert, our Mission Director, as he meets a group of travel-weary Americans spilling through the doors of the Addis Ababa airport. 

For many, this is their first experience with a culture radically different from middle class America.  He understands that the first day or so there most likely will be lots of questions and one’s senses might be overloaded.  It is comforting to meet our Ethiopian friends and allow the warmth of a traditional greeting and the taste of strong, good coffee to reinforce what you already know:  God brought you here for a reason.

You may think you came to serve.  To give to those who are without.  To share Christ’s love.  To learn about another culture.  To play with children or to hold babies.  All of these things probably will be part of your days, but God never wastes an opportunity and He usually has much deeper reasons for bringing you to Africa. 

Each day brings a sense of adventure.   But then you are disappointed because traffic stalls or the person you were to visit is not home, or all of a sudden the sky opens and the rains fall leaving everyone a soggy, muddy mess.  Efficiency is not a value of this culture, and the long way of doing even the most simple of tasks will drive you crazy… but is there a small voice whispering for you to have grace and patience? 

Each team of people traveling together has a different personality and each trip addresses something different.  A group of college football players from the University of Kentucky just returned from Ethiopia.  They had culture shock for sure, but also days packed full of getting their hands dirty while a glimmer of understanding soaked in that 85% of their world does not have the advantages they take for granted.

Days were busy bringing supplies to widows, preparing food for prisoners, building things, and playing with children. 

They supplied obvious physical needs, but more importantly the act of lending a hand touched basic desires that lie at a much deeper level.  The children, the women, the prisoners felt valued and important; they felt loved. 

Thanks for helping, guys!

Small businesses in Ethiopia are the way to go!  Unemployment is high and so relying on a small business to earn money is advantageous.   This group of university guys made 30 shoe shine kits that were given through a local YWAM ministry.  The evening the kits were given, there was a time of worship and sharing that has turned into a regular shoe shiner’s fellowship every Friday.
The prison ministry YWAM has been doing for several years is an excellent place to serve.  Big batches of wat (Ethiopian stew) with injera (Ethiopian cultural bread) were made and brought to the prisoners, and a Bible came with each plate of food.  The prisoners’ smiles said it all.

There are no social services for women who have no husband, brother or son to take care of them.  Their lives are extremely hard.  Genet was orphaned when she was 6-years-old and never learned how a family functions.   She is now struggling to raise her own children without a father.  The team brought her some charcoal and food and talked and prayed with her.  Just that little act of kindness encouraged her.  She said, “I was so relieved getting the food and felt loved.”
The team built the Widow Alem a small outdoor kitchen.  The rainy season is coming and it is very difficult to cook out in the open.  She has a stove to bake injera and plans on selling injera to support her family.
Muzirith was widowed four years ago and cares for her four children plus her niece whose mother died during childbirth.  She was visited by the team who brought her much needed food and supplies.  She has recently become a Christ-follower and humbly gave thanks to the team and to her Lord stating, “Through you, He provided for me.”
Traveling with a group of athletes, there are always opportunities to throw a football or kick a soccer ball.  Pick-up games with community children always provide squeals of laughter and opportunities for the “big guys” to expose their playful side.