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Month: July 2016

Our Sunday Experience

Our Sunday Experience

There is nothing more exciting then stepping on a plane and going to a country you’ve never experienced. The sights, the sounds, and all the people you meet along the way have all been a blessing from God.

Today we got to experience our first church service in Africa. We went to a church called Beza International Church in Addis. It was an amazing experience. The service was spoken in English and lasted around two hours.

The church service was a bit similar to our regular Sunday worship at Journey Church. The music was a treat because the band had an African soulful kind of touch that incorporates saxophones and trumpets into their band. The energy of the crowd was a bit more interactive than I’m normally used to. The pastor liked to hear feedback from the crowd by asking “Do you feel me?” or “You know what I mean?” I definitely heard the word “hallelujah” praised a handful of times both from the audience and from the pastor himself. It was a fun new experience to be in such an interactive crowd. I really enjoy seeing how people in different cultures praise and serve God in their own individual ways.

– Steven Shiplet






Montana Boy Meets Crayola

Montana Boy Meets Crayola

The kids like to color, oh boy do they like to color. Today I had the privilege of coloring Jesus saving Peter from drowning with an incredible little girl named Kalkidan. Kalkidan is a precocious 8 year old who is more adept in the proper use of Crayola crayons than I’ll ever hope to be. She knows about shading, color variations, and how to properly store each instrument back in the box before removing another. In short this young lady knows how to color. I watched in awe as she deftly brought the page to life while her tongue danced on the side of her face in concentration. Near the end, she looked up at me and said “Mr. Chuck, when I get done you tell me it is good and amazing.”

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It hit me on the flight over that I was halfway to 104 years of age (oh how the youngin’s in the class like to remind me I’m the oldest) and had never really traveled. Oh sure, I had roughed it once or twice on a cruise ship and even stepped out of my comfort zone at a 5-Star all-inclusive on a Mexican beach. I’ve been to sunny California, Florida, New England, and a lot of places in between but, I never really traveled. “Traveled” in my context means going somewhere where you are not the focus of attention; not the gringo with American dollars, not the tourist, not the guest.

Today, however, I am beginning to see what I’ve been missing all these years. I’m bummed it took so long to do this, but I am thankful it didn’t take longer, or that it never happened at all.

I came to Ethiopia with a pretty pathetic view of what a short term mission trip meant. I was going to help the kids, do good work, show them hope, and help them pick themselves up by their boot straps all with an eye to a better future. Well, this afternoon, 5 days into the trip I realize that maybe I’m the one who needs some help.

One of my primary concerns planning for the big adventure, other than finding the elusive yellow fever vaccine, was making sure I had the right adaptor to charge my iPhone. Heaven forbid I go without an instant connection to Bozeman happenings for two weeks! Sure, I knew to drink (and brush my teeth) with bottled water, but wasn’t sure what happened when instant access to Facebook or worse yet, Instagram, was severed. I was loathe to contemplate such a future. Thankfully however, I’m not addicted to my phone like some of those poor Pokemon Go folks. I only check it a few times a minute for life-safety alerts, critical emails and important texts. But, it was only 16 days so, Africa, here I come.

The main purpose of our trip is to help teach a vacation bible school-type English class to the children of Bring Love In (BLI). BLI is an incredible organization that finds kids in need and works to support those needs by creating forever families. BLI knows the importance of families in a child’s development and that a loving parent/child relationship, too often missing in their lives, is critical as they face the future. New families are made by placing orphans with widows. BLI provides the extra assistance needed (clothing, housing, social services, schooling, etc.) to help while the families provide the love and acceptance so many of these children have missed out on. It’s quite the operation to behold and God’s hand is everywhere.

We do our little part at Safari Academy which is a good hour plus drive from the Well Springs guest house where we’re staying. We do this twice a day through the bustling streets of Addis Ababa. Logan tells me it’s 25 kilometers but I think he’s just trying to make me feel better about the traffic; I’m positive it’s only 5 miles away. Google Addis Ababa traffic and you’ll see what I mean.

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But, back to Safari School. Like most other buildings here it is made from concrete and cinder blocks covered with stucco applied smooth as plaster. Its classrooms are brightly painted but fading, and like typical elementary schools back home, their walls are covered with the visual implements of learning; the alphabet in both Amharic and English, colored cutouts of animals, common household objects, parts of the body, and titles of family members (mother, aunt, brothers and sisters). Family means everything here – everything. The layout is simple and utilitarian and ingenious; nothing goes to waste. There is no insulation in the block walls or ceiling, no computer center, the classroom doors are made from repurposed shipping containers with no knobs, and the restrooms are quite different from what our kids are used to back home… I’ll leave it at that. But, no one notices and no one cares; it all works and it all works well. Watching the entire operation hum along fills me with respect for how they operate, watching the kids learn and interact fills me with love for the people that make this happen, and watching the staff and families work together to love and learn together here, now, in this place, fills me with hope.

Concrete is limited to building construction, not walkways, and asphalt is non-existent. The small courtyard is surfaced with red stamped tiles and the larger courtyard, which doubles as a playing field, is covered in a type of ubiquitous crushed gray gravel seen all over Addis. Spontaneous games of football (I called it soccer, but not any more!) break out every time they find something that passes for a ball, and the sounds of laughter fill the air during lunch and game time. It is a wonderful thing to watch: joy and love are everywhere and it is obvious that being at school is a privilege and not to be taken for granted. I wished I had felt a bit more like that growing up.

All our arts and craft supplies, including the Jesus and Peter coloring pages, arrived unscathed and perfectly organized (thank you, Jenn!!). We worked hard to carefully follow the lesson plans within the time allotted, keep the kids focused on the tasks at hand and be ‘good’ teachers. Very quickly however we came to realize that time and presence and love, not a clock, are what’s most important here and now.

So, as our first week of class came to an end, and Kalkidan put the finishing touches on her masterpiece, she looked up at me so proud of what she had created. As the tears welled and I worked to keep my composure, I looked at her and said “Your picture is wonderful, but you, little Kalkidan, are what’s good and amazing”.

My life is forever changed.

Mr. Chuck

Giggles and Gut Checks

Giggles and Gut Checks

Snickers and giggles come from a group of boys as Brandon introduced me to the class. I guess some part of my name was funny to them, but I have yet to find out why.
I currently teach the younger 14 kids (5-10 years old) with Jourdan, Chuck, and Steven. I am surprised by their eagerness to learn. My favorite moments (which have been caught on camera) are when the children share the memory verse of the day.

Day 1 – “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:3

Day 2 – “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you cannot take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” – Ephesians 2:8

Day 3 – “God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, so whoever believes in him will never die but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (We sang this one)

Day 4 – “But God showed his love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” – Romans 5:8

Everyone wants to try, even if there is no candy involved. The level of English known in our class varies from those only speaking english for a few weeks, to those who can perfectly recite the memory verse. I have personally enjoyed working with Aysema. She has only been a part of Bring Love In for 2 weeks. She knows her numbers and her alphabet, but struggles with the rest of English. Earlier this week I worked with her on colors, and the joy the both of us shared through her success is incomparable. Yesterday, she was doing so good and I could see the confidence she had as she asked “May I borrow your brown crayon?” (Which is a common phrase in our room). Working with these children has changed my heart in so many ways. Today we said goodbye to the younger kids, and there were hugs and kisses all around. We will see them again next Friday as the older kids perform a play and I am so excited for that moment. Within 4 short, fast, and long days, my heart has grown so much. They have filled it with love, hurt, and patience.

The love has shown me that there really is no limit to God’s love. I have received numerous hugs, kisses on the cheek, and learned many new handshakes. All of these moments are engrained into my brain and stamped on my heart. The children have taught me how to love education more than I have ever known. Each morning their smiles and excitement fill the room. Their bulging beautiful eyes lock on “Mr. Chuck” as he shares the bible story of the day. The love I have learned from these children is more than earthly love. It has to be coming from God. I know that each of these previously orphaned children have experienced much more hurt and pain that I have, yet they still live on and love Jesus. I know this because of a song they sing, “I love Jesus, yes I do. I love Jesus, yes I do. I love Jesus, how ’bout you, how ’bout you?” Of course as I sing this song in my head I hear their sweet accents, but I also picture the numerous children that point at me in those moments. As they ask, “how ’bout you?” They lock eye contact with me and I can’t help but want to shout that I do, because they show the true love of Jesus and their faith is an inspiration to me. Today we decided to bring a guitar that was at our guest house and play it for the younger children. Brandon played Beautiful Things and Only You. Hearing them sing Beautiful Things brought joy and love to my heart!

Along with the love, I have experienced hurt. Honestly, I thought that this would hurt a lot more. But I have a feeling that the hurt will come when I am back in America. The hurt I have experienced here has been from seeing how little the children have, yet how much they want to give. Speaking with Nazarwit, she shared a general description of what some of the children have gone through and it breaks my heart. I cannot imagine my life without my parents and all they provide for me, and these children spent time in orphanages where all of their relationships were shared with only peers. The other hurt that I have felt tug on my heart has been how much the children want to give. Each and every day, during snack/lunch, they ask for us to join them, and they always offer what they have, which most of the time is injera, rice, or pasta. Along with giving food, they have given prayers. During the first day we did a prayer activity and many of the kids said that they were going to pray for us. This really spoke to my heart, because the kids have so many more needs than I do, yet they are praying for us.

Lastly, I have learned patience. Patience with our team, the children, me, even those around us every day. It has been so amazing to work with such God-loving people and I am so glad that we all share that in common and can get along and share what is in our hearts. The patience I have learned from the children has forever changed me. Trying to communicate with those speaking in another language can be very difficult on both ends, and the patience I have seen from the children has helped me. Lastly, the patience with traffic has been amazing to see. There seems to be four lanes of traffic where in America there would be two. At one point in traffic I reached my hand out and touched the car next to me easily. I am surprised by the mutual respect of everyone. We have only seen two car wrecks so far. The best moment was when we drove past the little kids as they drove home on the bus. They were so excited and shouting our names.

The biggest thing God has taught me on this trip is the importance of being open to others – that creating relationship is the most important thing you can do in this life.

– Josie

Oh My Heart.

Oh My Heart.

Oh my heart. This place. It keeps you on your toes and teaches you so much about yourself. The kids are everything I had hoped for and more. They have a joy so contagious and outrageous that it infects you even if you’re tired and your patience has worn thin.

The day (yesterday) started with some DELICIOUS cinnamon rolls; I unashamedly had two. Breakfast was not as uneasy as the day prior because we knew what to expect for the day as we had already been to the school and met the kids. In fact, I was so excited to go back just to hear their voices and see their smiles. They exhibit pure joy. We piled into the van, and traffic was insane like always, complete with honking and the aroma of diesel floating around. As the headache builds from the fumes trickling in, I look out the window at the chaos outside our little van. I’m amazed by the Ethiopian way of life. It’s so relaxed and content compared to our American hustle bustle, must-get-to-where-I’m-going lifestyle. They casually stroll alongside the street with no worries about time. Rarely do you see someone running to get somewhere or a driver huffing and puffing behind the wheel. Time doesn’t feel constricting here like it does in America. They will simply get there when they get there. I’m convicted about how consumed my life is by busyness back home and I make a mental note to slow down when I make it back. I have to take the time to slow down, build relationships, and be okay with the fact that I do not have to complete every single thing on my mental checklist for the day. Heck, I need to get rid of my mental checklists altogether and just be. Be focused on the relationships. Be focused on the people around me. Be focused on the people who are in need in the Gallatin Valley.

That has been one of the most humbling aspects for me. The streets are lined with elaborate buildings followed by shacks that are barely holding on. I oftentimes catch myself thinking, how is it that there so much wealth and poverty in one place, on one street, right next to each other? Then I immediately recognize that there is extreme wealth and extreme poverty in Bozeman as well. There is a need everywhere, not just here in Africa, and I have to be more intentional about doing what I can do to alleviate those needs.

I wish I could put in a box the emotions that circulate when you walk into the classroom for the day so I could give it to you and you could feel what we feel. The kids immediately start shouting our names–they sure do love saying Chuck’s– and we start off the day. Unlike my own classroom at home, the kids here are so eager to please that when asked a question, so many little hands pop up. I struggle to pick just one kid to answer. Thankfully, we have Abhi to help us out in the classroom and keep it under control. Abhi oversees “Keep One Home” where he organizes support for 156 kids who live in extreme poverty so they can continue to live with their single mothers at home. I don’t know what we would do without him. He’s so helpful and so willing to help us out and to be there. I absolutely and unconditionally love the people who are helping us and serving us, all while loving us at the same time. They have meek and humble spirits. I’m also so thankful for the team. Despite our varying personalities (all beautiful personalities, of course), we get along and they are quickly becoming family.

I can’t figure out if the days are going by slowly or if they are passing by in the blink of an eye but I do know that I am cherishing every single moment I witness, every taste I experience with the local food, and every word I hear from the children’s mouth.

Until next time,

Jourdan (or as the kids say it, “Jour-dahn”)

Varying Energy Levels

Varying Energy Levels

Our second morning started out much earlier than the first. For some reason, half our team, myself included, individually woke up around 3am and could not get back to sleep. Logan, who is staying in the bunk below me, saw this as a opportune time to get some work done. (Who doesn’t want to send emails at 4:30 in the morning?)

We all gathered around seven to do team devotionals which was when we all found out about the shared night of bad sleep. Someone even decided to spill coffee to illustrate the fact we were sleep deprived…that was me. Spilling coffee in the morning is one of the greatest atrocities known to man. During the devotional, one of us mentioned how much they are effected by the poverty and general welfare around us: the people begging in the street, the mistreated animals running around. It was then I realized how emotionally unengaged I was from the whole scene. This might sound bad, but I haven’t been that moved by what I have seen  the level I anticipated. I think it is because I feel so powerless in my surroundings. I feel there is nothing I can do to help the all the abused animals, the millions living in poverty, all those people sitting on the street side, shovels at their sides.  “Why should I even emotionally invest?” ‘Thats not even why we are here.” Is what I tell myself. That is probably a cynical view. But I just feel so powerless from it all.

Ishy arrived at around 8, we packed up some of the supplies we brought and headed out to the school. The ride took a little longer than expected and we were a little late to class. (Teachers late for school? how fantastically ironic.) But the ride through town was not without intrigue. At one traffic jam we encountered, a little three wheeled buggy decided to hop the curb and drive on the side walk. It was followed by another, and another, then a full size van. They were driving on the side walk like it was just another Tuesday. No one honked angrily or flipped them the bird, it was just business as usual. In fact, honking is almost incessant on the streets, rarely ever as road rage. It is more a form of communication with really no negative stigma attached. The patients of the locals while driving amazes me!

Ok, now to the school. Brandon mentioned last night the students might be a little scared by us since we come once and year…and they were anything but. The kids were all smiles and giggles for the moment we walked in the room. I guess they found our names funny because during our introductions, a few generated laughter amount a group of eleven year old boys.

After introductions and a reading of Noah’s ark, we split into older and younger groups. The kids were ages 5-8 and were lead by Chuck, Jourdan, Steven and Josie. Myself, Brandon, Rachel and Heather were with the older kids ages 9-12.

A second thing we did not anticipate was the education level of the students. The older groups english was very impressive. Many could speak complete sentences in English, something we thought would be a challenge for them. In one activity, we had the students piece together the noah ark story. Lets just say that went quick because they found the numbers on the back on the cards. Apparently we thought they wouldn’t check there.

The whole scene was beautiful to see. None of these kids has smartphones, or video games, or high tech toys, but there as a happy as can be. They have an energy I cannot wrap my head around. Chuck commented on how amazed he was that one boy, Darik, could get so much fun out of pushing a tire around the playground. It made contrast the middle schoolers I work with back at Journey, some very close in age to these kids. They come to youth group with their iPhones out and cruise around the Commons on hover boards. (Yep that actually happens.)

Ishy picked us up at 3:20 and took us for a quick tour of the Bring Love In headquarters ten minutes away. On the ride home Chuck and myself fell asleep in the back seat. I am like five-for-five for sleeping on car rides. But most everyone else was pretty talkative.

We closed the night with dinner back home and a meeting on the day tomorrow. Brandon lost it when the idea was presented we do a “how old are you” song to the tunes of “Carol of the Bells.” That was awesome.

This is only a quick overview of what this day had instore with us. I could go into so much more detail about each of the students and how full of life they are. But we have time and I’m sure you will hear much more in the days to come.


(“Now you’ve been Philled in” -Logan)


Photo from left to right: Mikias (in the background), Akele, Biruk, and Darik








Humid Air

Humid Air


5:15pm in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia / 9:15am Bozeman, Montana

As we, a group of 9, follow God’s plan and head to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we can’t help but to take in all of the diversities that surround us throughout our travels. What an opportunity this going to be! With God’s hands at work in all that we do, I can’t do much but anticipate what it is exactly that he has in store for each and every one of us, including the new friends we’re about to make! As for now, we have yet to arrive in Addis Ababa. 

Currently we are all sitting in a very HOT and HUMID airplane in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia waiting to fuel up and let some passengers off. We’re on the last stretch of our travels… Finally! 

Whoop, whoop! We’re moving again. Hello air flow. Let me tell you, stagnant, hot and humid air in a large aircraft is so not ideal.

While we all sit in this crowded aircraft annoyed by someone down the isle, unsatisfied by the food that is served and uncomfortable with the hot, humid stagnant air, I can’t help but to think where my priorities lay and what exactly my priorities are in general. Knowing the little I know about the Ethiopian culture (from our previous group meetings) their lifestyle is completely driven by valued relationships. Even when they have nothing, they give…TO GIVE. They are looking for nothing in return but connection and building relationships. To them that IS everything. So as I sit here in need of fresh air, a good meal and a comfortable bed I can’t help but to feel humbled just by the idea of getting to know these people and their culture. I hope that, like them, I am able to bring just as much of an impact to their lives as they already have to mine.

11:45pm Addis Ababa, Ethiopia / 2:45pm Bozeman, Montana

WE MADE IT! It’s about midnight here in Addis Ababa. The three girls (Jourdan, Rachel, and Josie) and I just got unpacked, organized and all settled into bed. The guys are in a room next to us. Our living arrangement is nothing that any of us had anticipated. It’s all very nice and we are being well taken care of. Two wonderful locals, Ishy and Ephrim, met us at the airport and helped transport our luggage and all of Journey Church’s gracious donations to the guest house where we are staying. Tomorrow, Monday the 25th we’ll be able to recover from our trip, settle in, meet our host family and prepare for the two weeks to come.


8:00am Addis Ababa / 11:00pm Bozeman, Montana

Good Morning! Today when I woke up the house was overwhelmed with the smell of something similar to a sweet bakery with a hint of pizza. Weird I know but I swear that’s what I smelt! Once we all headed downstairs we were welcomed by many friendly faces. Young children were running freely throughout the living room while Yashi, Ephrim’s wife, prepared breakfast. Coffee was available right away. Yum! There’s nothing like Ethiopian coffee! So far my favorite beverage… Of course! Once breakfast was ready we all lined up in somewhat of a buffet style and began to dish out our own plates. Our options consisted of scrambled eggs, a creamy oatmeal, homemade fried donuts, banana pancakes and a mango juice. 

10:00am Addis Ababa / 1:00pm Bozeman, Montana

We’re headed out on the town today! It’s tourist-y day! Currently we’re at a bank exchanging some money for local purchasing and bartering. 

Good thing we have Ishy here to help guide us. I already don’t know what we would do without him! He is truly a blessing. Everyone we’ve met so far has been. We just went to a local store called “Safeway Market” to stock up on some snacks for part of the trip. No it’s not anything like the “Safeway” back home. 

All ten of us (our group of 9 and Ishy) are piled into a van-like vehicle headed to the Lucy Museum. The traffic here is intense! There are street lines, but it seems that they’re more of a suggestion than an actual way of driving. The bigger the vehicle the higher the right of way. I just saw my first stoplight since we got here! Still have yet to see a police officer. All around us there are standing federal police officers, both men and women. Some of them carry AK47s and some kind of baton with them. 

Between driving around from destination to destination I’m consumed by the wide range of smells that continue to fill the air. Car exhaust fills our van, meat butchers line the streets, debris covers parts of the roads and every local walks with ease and a sense of confidence that I can’t seem to find at the moment. Instantly I’m taken back to our time where I felt trapped on the airplane in Saudi Arabia during the refueling. The humidity was overwhelming. Situations that seem to be the easiest to handle can surprise you by being the most difficult.

5:00pm Addis Ababa, Ethiopia / 8:00am Bozeman, Montana

It’s about 5pm here and we’re just getting back to the guest house. It’s been a very adventurous and somewhat overwhelming day. There is still just so much that continues to shock me. After we explored the Lucy Museum we ate at the Lucy Restaurant right next door. It was one of the pre approved places for us to eat by Ishy! The food was amazing! Some of us even tried the traditional Ethiopian dish Ingera, which is a flat bread that could be described as a sourdough like pancake. The dish is served with a choice of meat, lentils (beans) and some kinds of vegetables. On our way back we also stopped by a local coffee shop, which we all desperately needed. Now that we’re all back at the guest house were kind of doing our own things and getting settled back in. Dinner is at 6:30 and then we’ll review what is to come tomorrow. What an opportunity that lies ahead of us. I can’t even express the amount of emotions going on throughout me right now. And we’re off to dinner!! Talk to you all soon! 

God bless,

Heather Wall

2016 Trip

2016 Trip

We’re on the final countdown to our 2016 trip to Addis! Check back in the coming days for updates from team members about their experiences.

Our team

(as pictured L-R): Logan Schelvan, Jourdan Bridwell, Josie D’Agostino, Phill Catlin, Rachel Holler, Chuck Winn, Steven Shiplet, Brandon Edwards and Heather Wall.