Greetings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace! This has been a very challenging newsletter to write. Let me hit a few highlights and then share why it was so tough. I spent 5 days in training with the Onesimus staff. We spent several of those days talking about attachment in relationship with street kids. Working with street kids is one of the more challenging ministries I have seen. There are many struggles the kids face on the streets: abuse, drugs, violence from the police, from one another, etc. Attachment is just one facet of behavior and is not the only explanation for difficulties with the kids. Trauma, brain development, abandonment, addiction, etc. are other pieces of the puzzle in working with street kids. But the focus for the week was in attachment. We discussed an overview of attachment theory, with an emphasis on the practical points of attachment. The primary focus was looking at security, significance, and boundaries, in particular on setting limits and boundaries. Ultimately, I wanted to help the staff see the need to focus on helping the kids find their foundation and worth in their identity in Christ.
One goal in working with children with attachment problems is not merely to change children’s behavior, but rather to change their negative core beliefs. This is quite challenging, because core beliefs are rigid, automatic, and associated with self-protection and survival. The hope to the staff is that their relationship with these kids can become the pathway to change and healing. Without change, negative core beliefs formed early in life remain fixed into adulthood, with severe social and emotional consequences. The good news is new experiences can change a person’s belief about self, others, and life. The training goal was to equip and empower the staff in gaining a better understanding of where these kids are coming from and provide some practical tools for them to intervene and help change their behaviors. The ultimate goal for the week was to lay the foundation as we discussed specifically the rules at the drop-in center and halfway homes, and establish code of conducts for both, which we were able to do.
A final thought on identity: this is not just relevant for street kids but for all of us as children of God-do we find our worth, our value, our significance because of Him? I love Ephesians 2:10 that states, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT) I am a big fan of the impressionism era of art and when I think about stunning masterpieces created by Monet, Degas, etc. and I think about me being a masterpiece by God, it blows me away and is a solid visual reminder for me of being God’s beloved. What reminds you of your identity?
I also spent some time in Southern Ethiopia, in Soddo. The highlight for me during that week was the opportunity to lead a small group discussion with 5 General Practitioner Doctor’s, 1 Surgeon, and 1 Internist on trauma and practical ways they can cope with the daily trauma they see. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories of patient loss. We spent some time talking about the importance of self-care and each had the chance to share what works best for them to have a time of renewal. We also spent some time discussing suicide and some intervention tips. I was pleased with the openness of the group. They wanted to know if I would be around longer as they shared in their culture it is hard to have some open conversations like this and receive support for what they face-several wanted to meet with me individually to process further some of the challenges. We ended our discussion by talking about the warning signs of burn out and what to do if you recognize those signs. I also spent some time with Compassion Family International (CFI, where I started the first week I was here with the team), serving in multiple ways. The kids were sweet with their questions about where the team was, did I go to America and come back, had I been there all along?
Finally, I spent time with 10 different missionary units (these could be couples, families, or singles). This is where my newsletter gets tough. There is so much I want to share but I cannot due to respect for those units as well as confidentiality established. What I will say is missions is hard and it is vital to have support, not just financial support, but emotional and spiritual support in place for missionaries to not just survive ministry but to thrive in ministry and ultimately in spreading the Gospel. Please pray for your missionaries, reach out to them and see how they are doing, be a safe person for your missionary to share some of their challenges and encourage them in whatever way you can. Missionaries sacrifice and give up a lot to serve where God has called them. Spiritual warfare is serious and intense business as the devil would love nothing more than to deceive and divide ministries. Isolation and a lack of community is a common theme I hear in various countries I have been in. The need for Ministry Care is great and again, sometimes the best thing you can do is just be present and available and a trustworthy person for your missionary. I leave you with this verse as this is where my heart is and these are the burdens I have seen all month:
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
This speaks volumes to me and I am thankful for Jesus who can be the One to carry our burdens and give us rest. This is a verse we know all too well but I wonder how frequently we put it into practice?
Please pray for your missionaries! Ask the Lord to reveal to you what Scripture is relevant for those you know and pray that verse or verses over them. And remember to pray for one another too, not just for your missionaries. The battle is fierce but ultimately, in the end, victory will be ours because of Jesus!
Oswald Chambers says, “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” This is my prayer for those missionary units who are facing many challenges-that they keep their eyes on God as He is the one who can sustain them and walk with them through those difficulties! Will you take a moment right now to pray for those you know?
Thank you for partnering with me in this ministry!
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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.