Over the next week or two, I want to share my Ethiopia experience with you. We just returned from spending 9 days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My life is changed from the trip, in every wonderful way possible. Let me begin by giving a little background about where my interest in Ethiopia began.
My heart has been in Ethiopia since I was a teenager. In the mid 1980’s Ethiopia was heavy in the news relating to the refugee camps filled with children who had fled the Sudan during the heavy battles of civil war taking place just across the Ethiopian border. (Sudan lies just west of Ethiopia and has been ravaged with civil war over at least the last 30 years). Children – mostly (if not all) boys from ages 5-15 – fled their native country homes in the Sudan when militants attacked their villages and killed their families in the name of the Muslim attack on Christians. This war has been raging over all the years even since the 1980’s and continues even today. Those young boys lost everything – their families, their homes – and they ran literally hundreds of miles in search of a safe place to live, to survive. Many of these very young boys escaped attacks on their villages in the middle of night, with literally no clothes on their backs, and nothing to eat or drink. Boys as young as 5 years old wandered through the wilderness of Sudan and miraculously survived to be protected and saved by older boys who were also themselves fleeing the countryside of civil war. Probably half or more of these boys did not survive and would ultimately die of starvation or illness. The land throughout the region suffered droughts and so many children perished in such harsh conditions. The boys finally made their way to the safe border of the neighboring country of Ethiopia where refugee camps were set up for shelter and food. Thousands of people found a safe haven there. But the conditions were still impoverished and many would still perish from starvation or disease.
During those years, I can remember the news broadcasting the completely disturbing images of children starving in that place. I remember feeling so hollow inside as I lived in such comfortable accommodations with a home, and food, and a family….looking at these images and feeling as though I did not really believe that they were living like they appeared to be living in the news reports. Ultimately these boys – who became known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan” became displaced once again as the refugee camps in Ethiopia became unstable, forcing the boys to once again set out on a journey through the Sudan again to reach the refugee camps in Kenya.
The story of this land, and these people, has been imprinted on my heart all these years. I wanted to go there – since high school – to see this place, to know these people and to invest my time and heart to the place on this planet where God’s children have been suffering for so long. I have felt pulled to that place on the other side of the world where I have felt The Lord telling me to see how His children are living on this earth. With all of our luxuries here, and all the blessings we have in this country, I have known that I have much to see and experience in that place. I had to go to know what exactly The Lord has wanted me to see all this time. Finally – nearly 25 years later – the opportunity arose and I made my first trip to Ethiopia on a mission trip organized and led by my church family here in Greenville. We left Greenville on October 18 for the journey.
The purpose of our mission was and is complex. On the surface, our agenda was fairly straight forward: we went to work in the Kidane Meheret Orphanage doing some cleaning, painting and minor repairs at the orphanage. Later in the week, we spent time working with residents in Korah, a very impoverished section of Addis Ababa (the capital city in Ethiopia), providing instruction and installation of roof top bottle lights which will provide lighting to houses and workplaces that otherwise have no electricity.
The reality or the mission was much more than this, however. I traveled with my son Ethan (11 years old), my husband Jule, and 6 other friends and church family members. The experience was life changing. The true “mountain top experience” is the best description I have for my trip to the mountains of Ethiopia. I hope you will take the journey with me, and enjoy the chronicle of our trip. Feel free to send me questions or comments…I read every one of the emails and notes I get and I love them all. I truly believe that we are all on this one small planet together, to love and support one another as we journey through this beautiful and wonderful life God has given us.
* If you are interested in learning more about the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, I would recommend reading GOD GREW TIRED OF US by John Dau. This is the amazing and inspiring account of how he survived the attack on his village when he was just a young boy and how he traveled to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He has now started the John Dau foundation for missions to Sudan and has built an operational medical clinic in what used to be his childhood homeland.