At Browncroft we love to send out teams of short-termers to help our missionary friends around the globe. Our partners are there because they’re longing to see the good news about Jesus touch and revolutionize lives in their host countries. What inevitably happens, however, is that the people we send out also come back changed. Here is Jeanna’s story from a trip she took just a few weeks ago.
There was political unrest in Ethiopia when I was there this summer. I had feared something like this might happen. I love to travel, but lately I have struggled with being afraid. Even though I have traveled a lot overseas, I am afraid of flying. I have had a few scary dreams about flying and I am nervous that something bad might happen. I like staying in the US, thousands of miles from Syria and the heart of the Muslim world, too. But in March 2016 God put it on my heart to travel again. I looked into several overseas summer opportunities and decided to go to Ethiopia with a short term missions team from my church for ten days in August.
When Bryan, our Sports Friends International leader through SIM, told my teammates and me the news about the widespread political demonstrations planned for the weekend, it was minutes before our final evening session with our kids at the Sports Friends camp in Langano, Ethiopia. We said a quick prayer together about it and then started the service with a slow song, “Amazing Grace,” as the kids walked into the meeting room. This final night was crucial for the kids. It was the night we presented the Gospel. We wanted to make it count despite the news we’d just heard. We sang the four verses of “Amazing Grace” twice while camp leaders quietly told the Ethiopian staff about the potential for a coup.
As the staff joined us, I saw looks of worry and fear on my new Ethiopian friends’ faces. I had naively thought that strong Ethiopian Christians were immune to fear. I think I had put my foreign brothers and sisters who experience religious persecution around the world on some sort of a pedestal. I realized in that moment that they were no different from me. They did not want violence in their countries’ streets, or to see their communities crumble before their eyes. My heart broke for them.
I had a chance that night to talk with one of the long-term workers in the area named Thomas. Thomas and his wife, Daniella, and their four daughters joined us for camp that week. Apparently this type of thing has happened before in Ethiopia. Thomas said, “These things are like an avalanche warning; it may be bad, or maybe nothing will happen at all.” He asked me if I was worried. Answering him honestly while struggling to hold back tears, I said that I was. He asked me what I worried about the most. I told him that I feared not being able to have control over my safety. Looking me in the eye with love and understanding he tenderly told me that whatever control we think we have, we really do not have. It is truly all in God’s hands. “We need to trust him,” he said.
Back home friends were praying for me. Many knew about my fears involving this trip. Before the trip I had come to the conclusion that it was better to be in the will of God than to not be. I had decided that the alternative to attempting to isolate myself from evil was to trust God. I determined that the safest place for me was right where the Lord led me. And the Lord had led me to Ethiopia.
Forty-eight hours later my teammates and I were on our originally scheduled flight home. Other than leaving for the capital a day earlier than planned so that we could catch our flight without any complications, the experience with the demonstrations did not affect us much. Nevertheless, this experience did confirm what God had already been teaching me. I feel surer now that the safest place is where God leads me. Ultimately, my safety truly is not in my hands. It is out of my control and in the hands of God. My struggle with fears of flying may not be over, but after going on this trip to Ethiopia I want to travel again. I think that is a sign of progress.
God is at work everywhere! He is surely changing lives here in Rochester, and he might also like to do some big work in you 7000 miles away from home. If you’re a Browncrofter who would like to reach further — both experiencing and being a catalyst for lifechange– be sure to get in touch with me. I’d love to help you take that next step.