Saturday, September 21, 2013

Memories from Merkato - Part Three

We asked the team who traveled to Merkato to share a story about their time with the children that particularly impacted them.  Here is what Koelle had to say about a moment that she will never forget:

Koelle painting nails at Merkato
My favorite thing about the trip was the total lack of personal space -- that constant press of happy, excited little bodies, and the warmth of a greeting exchanged with my Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ. I myself, am a very 'huggy' person by nature, so I just loved how affectionate the culture is there. No matter what I was doing - face painting, nail polish, participating in a coffee ceremony, and even just walking around - some happy little person would be grabbing for my hand to hold or my lap to sit on. If those were occupied, an arm would get slung over my shoulders. One day I even ended up covered in kisses from the top of my shirt collar to the top of my head. It was so great! And it wasn't just the kids, either. The adults were just as warm and welcoming. They were always greeting with an embrace and a series of cheek-to-cheek kisses. I enjoyed the welcoming, loving spirits of the people so much while I was in Ethiopia.

Koelle painting faces at Merkato
My absolute favorite 'lack of space' was during the church service at Merkato. It took place in a tiny room, stuffed with people in rickety plastic chairs. You could feel the warmth of the people on either side of you and behind you. The sheer joy of worshiping together (no matter that we didn't know the words), and closing my eyes, listening to the exotic sounds of worship in a foreign tongue, and hearing God whisper, "This is a glimpse of eternity". The entire room literally bounced in worship, and I could not help but think of Revelation 7:9-10:

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Memories from Merkato - Part Two

We asked the team who traveled to Merkato to share a story about their time with the children that particularly impacted them.  Here is what Jennifer had to say about a moment that she will never forget:

Jennifer with one of the kids she sponsors at Merkato

It was a tremendous blessing to be invited into the homes of some of the sponsored children, but it was also one of the hardest parts of the whole trip. On one of these visits we were taken into a home that was smaller than my bathroom back home. The walls were made of dirt and straw, and it was quite dark. There was a mother with three children living there, and they also had relatives visiting and staying with them. 

At first, I was grieved to see how these people lived. But then I noticed the mother smiling, the children giggling, and everyone seeming to be content. We learned that this mother worked in the church and had a vibrant relationship with the Lord. She had big dreams for her children and was so thankful for the sponsorship program, which had provided her child with the opportunity to go to school and with food for the whole family. 

We talked to her for a while, and then one of our team prayed for the family. As we were getting up to leave, the mother asked us if she could pray for us. She prayed a very long and passionate prayer over us in Amharic. I was very curious about the words and asked the translator what she had prayed. She explained that this woman had asked God to bless our homes, our jobs, and our families and to give us prosperity. She had also asked God to bless us with spiritual growth. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I considered the way that God was using us to help this sweet daughter of His have the things she needed, and He was also using her to show us that the richness of knowing Jesus can make even the darkest places shine with hope. I left challenged to be more content in my circumstances and with the knowledge that God has not left these poor people of His without hope. In His great wisdom, God had brought brothers and sisters in Christ together from across the world to minister to one another.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Memories from Merkato - Part One

We asked the team who traveled to Merkato to share a story about their time with the children that particularly impacted them. Here is what Dana had to say about a moment that she will never forget:

Dana with one of the kids that she sponsors at Merkato

It took about 15 minutes to get to Merkato from the Wellspring Guest Home where we were staying. First we went into the town hall where the kids would be coming later that week, and we went to the church to see the office. We saw a chart on the wall that showed the tremendous growth of the church since the sponsorship program began. 

Team meeting at the Wellspring Guest Home
Chart on the wall of the church office at Merkato
showing the growth of the sponsorship program
(Note: 2005 in Ethiopia is 2012 in America)

After that we went in to see the children. They were lined up around the inside walls. As we walked in, they began clapping and cheering for us. It was such a touching moment – several us had tears welling up. It was a moment I will never forget! 

Merkato kids at the town hall

God is certainly working there among the church leaders, HopeChest staff, and Merkato. We feel God has placed us there to partner with them. We had confirmation with all the clapping and cheers from the children - they all wanted to hug, shake hands, and get to know us right away. You could see and feel joy in them. It was impressive to see how hard the staff of the church and HopeChest are all working to help the people there.

The streets outside the church in the Merkato neighborhood

Handsome boys - don't you love the ski suit? :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 5

Care package day!!!!!  I have studied every one of these photos, grinning from ear to ear as I take in the expressions on each of the children's faces.  Oh how I wish that I could have been there to be a part of this.

Every one of the 155 children received a care package lovingly prepared by their sponsor.  Each one received his or her care package individually with the help of a translator.

Enjoy the happiness on these sweet faces:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Days 3 & 4

I have more photos from the field to share.  I wish that I could narrate these, but that will have to wait until I can get the stories to go with the pictures after the team is back home.  I did find out from Daniel that several from the team have been experiencing tummy troubles.  Please pray that they heal quickly!

Doesn't this little guy look happy?

View from the Wellsprings Guest House, Addis Ababa

Streets of Merkato

Going to visit this little guy's home and family

Eating dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.