by Joy Casey 

It is always a push to get packed for a trip to Ethiopia.  The only easy, safe and inexpensive way to bring items to the country is through checked baggage, so long before lift-off our team is prioritizing what items are most needed.  A friend from church graciously paid for an extra bag – so now I have a 150-pound capacity!  Wahoo!

Bringing solar charged audio bibles in the languages of the people we are establishing churches among is important.  The ability to read is alarmingly low in rural villages, so hearing God’s Word through a hand-held audio bible is a gift like no other.  They are expensive, though, so I can only bring 12 of them.  Faith Comes by Hearing donated four solar charged Proclaimer bibles loaded with the three Ethiopian languages I requested.  These bibles have a powerful speaker and include both the new and old testaments and are effective in group settings.

One duffle bag is full of unpoppable soccer balls – one ball for each of our literacy centers.  Air-filled soccer balls that can be purchased in Ethiopia last less than a year on the rough terrain.  These blue balls last two years and no pump is needed.  I was able to purchase them through donations to our gift catalog.  Thank you everyone!

In the space between balls, I will put vitamins for the kindergarten kids (10 large bottles and 22 pounds!) padded with donated baby clothes.  The vitamins should last until the end of this school year.

A huge duffle bag full of cute baby shoes was delivered by a friend.  I won’t be able to take all of them, but I will take as many as I can for the little ones in our orphanage.

A clinic donated high-powered formula that will take precedence over anything else.  We are so grateful for this gift!  Our orphanage is at capacity, and it takes many cans of formula to feed hungry, growing babies!  This formula will be earmarked for those who are most fragile.

Pounds are also allocated to the picture books, printed pictures and letters adoptive families are sending to their child’s Ethiopian birth family.  I will be delivering long-awaited news to mothers, fathers, aunts and sisters for 16 adopted children.  Keeping birth families and adopted children connected is a vital component to a healthy adoption.  Our team has facilitated this bridge of communication for 13 years and will continue to do so until all the children with known birth parents are adults.

And then there are eyeglasses that a pastor friend in the Tigray area requested I bring.  The glasses were donated by the same friend who paid for an extra bag.  I could kiss her feet!  You may have heard about the bloody civil war between Tigray forces and Ethiopia’s federal government that began in November 2020.  A peace agreement was negotiated in November 2022 between the two parties, but it took about four months for normal travel and communication services to be restored.  My church is sending me to meet with Pastor Temesgen in Tigray to assess how our church can best help re-build the demolished infrastructure and/or meet the massive humanitarian needs in the aftermath of war.

Whew!   I am ready for take-off!  I want to thank and praise our gracious Lord for all His provision through His people.  I am deeply grateful for those who see needs and step forward to do what they can.  And saying thank you doesn’t even cut it when I think of many of you reading this post who have generously purchased items – like soccer balls, vitamins, and audio bibles (among many other things) – from our gift catalog.  And the gift of Proclaimer bibles from an organization whose sole purpose is to put God’s Word into the hands of people from all nations and tribes is deeply gratifying.

As I travel out to visit the missionaries serving on the frontlines in some pretty difficult places, I will share God-stories with you.  I don’t have a good photographer with me this trip.  Sigh.  I’m the first to admit I am the world’s worst when it comes to capturing a moment on camera … mainly because I get so caught up in what I am experiencing I don’t even think of taking pictures.  Then when I am back to wherever I am staying and I want to share my day with you, I have little in the way of visuals.  Between me and the Ethiopian staff I will be traveling with … we’ll do our best.  Stay tuned!