Greetings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace! After a delay in travel plans and overnight stay in Washington DC, our team of 6 made it to Ethiopia on January 29, 2017. We spent the mornings working with both the youth and parents/guardians at Compassion Family International, doing a Bible study in Gideon, having a time of crafts, and games. Each afternoon we served in a variety of other ways, with time at the government orphanage standing out as the most intense. Let me share about that first.
There is something that strikes a sense of injustice, unfairness, and anger when you walk through the orphanage, seeing 3 babies in each crib-29 babies in one room with not nearly the number of caregivers needed, though those women do their best in such dismal circumstances. For me, it strikes at the desires of my own heart-to someday marry and have a family and wonder when God will grant those desires. It is a battle daily for me in this regards as I have so much more freedom and flexibility to serve Him as a single person. But still, there is something about holding a baby and praying over her and wondering what God will do in her life, especially given the place she is currently at, that stirs up those desires even more fiercely. The director of the orphanage, Membare, is a Godly woman but she looked weary from the battle. Please pray for this situation, for strength and hope for Membare, for grace to be upon the children there, and for Light to shine in the darkness. It is difficult to express in words what you see and what your heart grieves unless you have been there yourself. I am thankful for God’s word. In Psalms 10:14, “But you see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in you. You defend the orphans.” That is my prayer for these children-that God, our Father, defends them. And in that I take comfort in Psalms 68:5-6a that says “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” In God’s eyes, He has adopted these children and sometimes the traditional sense we have of ‘family’ is not always what we see.
The highlight of my week in serving is the opportunity I had to share with the parents and guardians one morning. I tied in some of the lessons we had this week: Joseph, Gideon, Ruth, and Naomi, shared the story of Rahab and related pieces of each story to 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 where Paul is talking about how God's Grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness. I shared my thoughts on how relevant this Scripture was to not only each Biblical lesson but to pieces of my life too, offering some of my own story with them, and how it is also applicable to their lives. We spent a lot of time talking about God's love (1st Corinthians 13). We discussed that becoming a Christian does not mean life gets easy but that in those dark moments and trials of life we can have hope, we know God’s power is available to us, that He promises to never leave us, and how His power shines through our weakness, hardships, sufferings, etc. There were about 43 women and 3 men in attendance that morning. Sometimes we do not have a chance to see the impact or difference we can make in someone’s life. Sometimes the Lord gives us a small glimpse of that. For me, it was very sweet as the next day we were saying our goodbyes to the families, one mom hugged me and sobbed in my arms. She then found our translator and shared how our stories were similar and that she did not know someone from a developed country like the states could have a story like hers. She gave testimony of how she came to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior and how He is the one who sustains her and it was an encouragement to her to be reminded of His Grace and Love. It was an emotional exchange! It is also very humbling to realize the Lord can use you, in your messiness and brokenness, to offer encouragement to someone else. What a mighty God we serve!
One more small reminder for me this week is never underestimate just being present and available for someone. In crisis care, we talk about Ministry of Presence where emphasis is placed on being present with people. One definition is as follows: "Becoming the channel through which God's presence is manifested in interpersonal relationships." (Christian Business Leaders, www.cblw.org)
Some of those who have provided the best spiritual and emotional care in a crisis are those who, though they lack professional training, respond with compassionate care. Being present with people is really more about "being" than "doing." Being fully present is to be a fellow journeyer, a compassionate companion through the unexpected trauma and loss that life has dealt. "Ministry of presence," primarily means "showing up." Being present with someone in need is sometimes 90% of what is needed. A person's response and words can make things better or worse and it is better to remain silent at times than fill time with empty words. Ministry of Presence can be applied in a variety of situations, not just in a crisis.
On Monday I was waiting for the kids to finish snack so we could begin the shoe process and one teen girl was sitting by herself on a tire outside. It was apparent she had been crying. I went and sat down beside her. We exchanged a few basic pieces of information. Her name is Marta but we did not have a lot to talk about due to language barriers. We sat in silence, eating our kolo, while tears would roll down her face. When snack was finished, I asked her if she was ready to join the group. She agreed, I gave her a hug, and she went inside. She was subdued when I saw her through the week, which from what I understand, she is a very quiet and has a lot of struggles at home. But twice she sought me out and gave me a hug. Just being present with someone in their pain, sadness, whatever they are battling, can be a huge gift. Sometimes we do not need words, we just need to sit in silence. I challenge you this next month to see who the Lord will put in your path that you can serve as a "Ministry of Presence."
My other vital role with a fellow teammate was to hand out new shoes to each of the kids…about 70 kids in total. Here are the top 10 things I learned through that process:
Prayer requests for the next month:
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Misty Bodkins has a Master's degree in clinical psychology. She has worked both stateside and internationally doing counseling, training, teaching, and research. Her passion is working with people who are in crisis.