Picking up on week 5, our team was in Adama for a few days to do home, church and business visits. One of my most memorable experiences in this town was seeing the Green School Project, where LIA invested in planting over 350 trees on the school property. We were blessed to be able to plant trees in memory of our trip there but what was even more impactful was our interaction with the kids. In Ethiopia, a way to show that you are friends with someone is holding their hand, so to my surprise, one sweet girl was attached at my hip the whole visit. Although the language barrier made it difficult to communicate, God was teaching me that He is my friend and that He wants to hold my hand much like this girl was.
Following our time there, our team traveled to Jimma, where only about 1% of the population are Christians. After hearing this, our team had a powerful prayer walk through the streets of this town. We got to engage with the Savings and Credit Association and see how God was working through this program to empower the community, especially the pastors and their families. Another opportunity we had was to see LIA’s spring water project in the middle of a field in a rural community. It was encouraging to see how many people had easy access to clean water, but it was even more significant to witness our LIA staff be servant leaders. One of my team members got muddy on our hike down the hill and our leader humbly cleaned off her shoes using the fresh water spout. This is just a small example of how incredible and hospitable the LIA staff is. They were truly leading by example and teaching us how to serve one another. Also in this town we taught a Sunday School session through the Compassion Project. Although this was not a LIA project, it was encouraging to see the partnership and connections between both organizations. With the kids, it powerful to see how singing and worship breaks down barriers of communication. Once our team started playing the guitar and dancing, the kids were very excited to join in and sing with us. We had such a busy time in Jimma, but our team moved on to the next stop on our journey.
In our final days of the trip, we traveled to Debre Birhan where we got to visit another Compassion Project. There were about 250 kids who are supported in this program and it was so encouraging to hear all the success stories of how God was working in the community. As you know, my heart and desire for kids overflowed as we visited a church to encourage and play with the littles ones. After a time of prayer we taught them the classic game of duck, duck, goose and then proceeded to the playground were our group got to be little kids again. Another memorable moment is this town was to hear about the unity of all 11 churches and their pastors. Although we did not get to meet them all, it was powerful to hear the impact of LIA’s Saving and Credit Association.
Following our time there, our team started our travels home. We spent another night in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), before we flew back to the LIA base in Kenya. It was so special how God ended out trip surrounded by other teams who had also been on a mission trip with LIA. We heard success stories of how my teams work on a bridge in Kisumu, prompted the government to build a more stable bridge right next to the one we moved. It’s amazing how God works through people and time to impact not only the churches but the whole communities.
During the fellowship with the other teams, we spent time sharing all our stories and singing all the songs we had learned when we were in the field. After a word of encouragement from our LIA staff, we loaded up the busses for a bittersweet journey to the airport. It was hard to say our goodbyes to a country and a team that made an impact on our lives forever. We had smooth travels home and landed in the states for our post trip retreat. This was an intentional time to reflect on our experiences in the country and get some much needed rest.
We were surrounded by LIA staff who wanted to hear our stories and listen to how God moved in us throughout the trip. My transition back to ‘normal life’ has been easy-going so far. I’ve been challenged by how materialistic our culture is and taken steps to free my life of consuming more things. I’ve also evaluated all the distractions in my life, like social media, that are keeping me from living my life to the fullest. God has been moving in my heart so much throughout this summer internship and it’s been catalytic to my faith journey as I’ve been able to see God’s kingdom from a different perspective. I’ve been renewed in so many ways and am reminded of Colossians 3: 9-10, “since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Growing in knowledge of God and awareness of a greater world has given me so much insight into how I can make an impact for Christ.
I’m so blessed and quite frankly honored that each of you have followed along on this journey. It’s meant so much to me to have people believe in me even though I’m halfway around the world. All the prayers and financial gifts have made this experience a reality for me and I’m so thankful for each and every one of you.