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Month: July 2024

Having Nothing And Yet Possessing Everything

Having Nothing And Yet Possessing Everything

As I reflect on 9 days in Addis Ababa, one lesson I’ve learned from the Ethiopian believers stands out:

A simple life benefits relationships.

One living a simple life has the time and energy to press into relationships. Relationships with people and with God. This was the Eden experience we see in Genesis.

When our time and energy are primarily concerned with relationships, the fruits of the Spirit – love-peace- patience- kindness- gentleness – fill our heart and the soul.

The orphans at Bring Live In lack materially from an American perspective. In one home visit I saw into one teenagers bedroom. Everything he owns is on a 1’ by 1’ shelf. But he doesn’t lack. He has a loving place to live, adopted brothers and sisters to laugh and play with. Food to eat. A great school to attend and medical care. What else does he need? Paul talks about his life in Jesus and it reminds me of these kids.

“known, yet regarded as unknown;
dying, and yet we live on;
beaten, and yet not killed;
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
poor, yet making many rich;
having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
2 Cor 6:9-10 NIV

In the midst of a tiny fraction of our wealth, these people have a peace most Americans can only dream of. Frankly we ought to be jealous of the relationships that result from their way of life.

Think about your relationship with God. When is the last time you prayed, “Give me this day my daily bread” and you meant it? We don’t worry about daily food, so we don’t need God in that. We don’t worry for shelter or clothes or much of anything that actually matters. The result is often an attitude that we don’t really need God.

Those living the simple life in Addis need God every day. That dependence grows faith and is reflected by the fruits of the Spirit so evident among the believers here.

Think about your relationships with people. How often are you distracted by your phone? How often is the to do list (at work or home) prioritized over time with people?

Even as a team here in Ethiopia we have been somewhat forced to adopt this simple life. If we are not with the kids we are together with no agenda, no things to watch over – so our energies go into one another. The results are laughs, stories, conversations all of which give life. We seem to display the fruits of the Spirit a lot here… maybe more than we did when we left.

Just one example – patience. Back home we all hurry to and fro. We get angered by people cutting us off driving or stepping in front of us in line. Our focus is on what I want and what’s best for me.

In Addis, driving around is crazy. No lanes, no turn signals, seemingly no rules and yet just a wave or a smile moves people along. No angry scowls or clenched fists. People happily let someone in.

A few nights ago, we had a 90 minute drive to dinner, probably covering just a couple of miles, in brutal traffic. If we were at home we’d be out of our minds frustrated. Here, just conversation, laughter and enjoying being together.

The fruit of the Spirit of patience displayed because of a simpler life where relationships are paramount.

And that makes me wonder if the simple life can have that big of an impact in such a short time on the eight of us, can those of us here carry that back to life in the U.S.? Can people who haven’t experienced Addis live that simple life in our culture?

I hope so… but if I’m being honest I really don’t know.

In Christ,
Brian Priebe

PS – Happy 29th Anniversary Kristen! See you soon.

The Smell of Addis

The Smell of Addis

The smell of the rain, the incense, the coffee, and the diesel fumes are all familiar. They overwhelm my senses in the best way because they ARE Ethiopia. They warm my heart because all of these smells mean I get to spend time with some of my very favorite people. Every second I get to spend with the kids and staff at Bring Love In is so precious. The kids here have become great friends. It makes it hard to say goodbye, but I know that no matter the distance the love we have for each other will not fade.

The kids a part of Bring Love In (elevate orphan) embody the name and mission of this beautiful organization. Their intentionality, joy, laughter, generosity, and pursuit of Jesus are doing exactly that… bringing love in. They teach me how I can be a better listener, friend, sister, daughter, and disciple. When I’m in Ethiopia surrounded by people who emulate Jesus and the redemption that He brings it is easy to be intentional and generous and kind. But the real challenge is carrying these things thousands of miles back home. I pray that leaving Addis, my heart will be changed. That I will not leave what I learned here. Rather that I can love my friends, classmates, coworkers, and even strangers as if they are Christ Himself. I pray I can bring Ethiopia home with me. And I pray that as a church we can deepen our impact here in Ethiopia. That we have hearts of generosity that allow us to further the reach of elevate orphan so that more kids, more orphans, have the opportunity to experience the love of a family like Bring Love In and of a God who has created them perfectly in His image.


coming back

coming back

This is my second time in Addis. My senses are still overloaded, but they are familiar this time. I am able to focus a bit more this trip. Then be overwhelmed. We were greeted by Ishy & Thomas the first day, the love that I have for both of them was surprising to me. To have just met them last year and to have learned the true meaning of intentional conversation I feel known and loved here in Ethiopia. But what was really surprising was that the hotel staff even recognized me. The smiles and “I remember” were so incredibly heart felt. They have told me that it means so much when someone comes back.

Last year at Bring Love In they had just adopted 8 girls from the government orphanage just 3 days before we came. The girls were quiet and very observant, never smiling. But we’re not ready to engage in the Firenge (white people). This year has been completely opposite. They have been the first to run out and greet us as we arrive every morning. Smiles lighting up their faces. The love and confidence that they exude is beyond what I can describe. To have seen them last year, and the pain and trauma that they had to endure. To the complete reversal of healthy young girls this year, just shows how remarkable Bring Love In staff is. How they emulate Jesus to these orphans. They are truly God’s hands and feet.

I have been honored to talk with the director, Thomas a lot more this trip and to hear his heart for this ministry. He has said that funding is down and they have a home that will be empty coming up this fall because 8 students will be leaving for University. But they are not sure if they will be able to adopt more children to fill the home with where their funding is at currently. My heart breaks, knowing the lives that have been changed and children that have been loved back to health through Bring Love In. Most striking the 8 girls that have been transformed since last year. How can we not help?

I pray that we all can feel known and seen like the children at Bring Love In. Because they have been given a gift, and we can help more children feel unconditional love.

Charity (aka mom)

Intentional Interactions

Intentional Interactions

As we were sitting on the last flight headed to Ethiopia I began to think about meeting the friends and family my mom had talked so much about following her trip the year before. After arriving in Ethiopia we started walking as we were trying to find our driver Ishy. Ishy has driven the cab for journey missions ever since they began to partner with elevate orphan. We were soon greeted by his warm smile as he went around to each group member giving them a long-awaited hug, quick to follow him was Thomas, the director of elevate orphan. The love these two exerted was incredible, as each team member had a huge smile stretched across their face. The next morning we sat down to eat breakfast at our hotel as the server came over and was delighted to see familiar faces from the previous year. Following breakfast we loaded up into Ishy’s van and began the short drive to elevate orphan. We were greeted by the kids each holding an individual rose that they were so excited to hand over to us. The kids began to hug us as most of the team was meeting them for the very first time. We sat down as we were presented a song from some of the newly adopted young girls followed by a popular Ethiopian coffee ceremony that represented love and appreciation. Each day we planned out activities to do with the older kids as the younger kids attended VBS. That day I chose to do cooking with a few of the older kids and Sara, a team member on the journey missions team. Wengel, the operations director at elevate orphan grabbed me by the hand and began to escort me to the kitchen. In those few hours I spent with the kids I was able to admire the relationship between Sara and many of the older kids. Sara had been in the cooking class the year before for the entire week they were visiting. The bonds that were able to be made in such a short period of time was truly a blessing of gods grace. Many people living in Ethiopia want to make you the most comfortable you could possibly be as they never want you standing up. They will grab your hand and bring you to a chair so that you may have a very intentional conversation. Each day we are greeted by many warm smiles and hugs from the staff and kids at bring love in, many kids quickly making their way to a team member they have made close relationships with. These kids already feel like closely knit family even in such a short time as this. I will forever love the kids and staff here at elevate orphan.


Finding Pleasure in Small Things

Finding Pleasure in Small Things

Often in the US, life seems full only when big things are happening. It takes a great deal to stir big emotions, especially emotions related to Joy.

But here in Addis Ababa, it’s different. Smiles and laughter are quick to happen. A raised eyebrow can elicit peels of laughter from strangers.

At Bring Love In, time between lessons is filled with games; hand games, language games, games with rocks. Time is there, it seems, only to create connection. And in any moment, something small will happen, sending a teenager rolling on the ground (literally) with laughter. The first day I experienced this here, all I could think was, “When was the last time I have seen this”? Unadulterated joy, so freely given and shared.

Today in VBS we were talking about emotions with the littles. And when we asked how they were feeling today, most of the 17 children said “happy”. But their “why” is what captured me. One little girl, Adebe, said “Happy, because I get to pray with my sisters today”. Another said, “Happy, because I get to learn about God”. Yet another said, “Happy because I am here at Bring Love In”.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; In your presence there is fullness and Joy; At your right hand are pleasures forever more.”

Here in Addis and more specifically at Bring Love In, is a fullness of joy that can only come from the presence of our Lord.  It is a great reminder and a true gift to remember the beauty and pleasure found in small things.

Hillari Ladd

Don’t Be Deceived

Don’t Be Deceived

I don’t have a lot to say about Addis Ababa.  I think, for the most part, that I am still trying to take it all in. Everything here is different. Some things are similar to the US, but nothing is quite the same. Everywhere you look, there is something new to understand, or process, or laugh at. It’s really quite difficult to put it into words. I could tell you about the smells, or the sounds, or the people that stare into our van full of “firenge” (white people). But none of it would really be able to sum up the full experience. The pace of life is different, the rules of life are different. It’s so easy for me to see American culture as the only one, or the best way of life. But the people here have a different type of joy than us. They live an unworried, unrushed life. As we drive through the city streets, surrounded by cars inches from us on every side, our driver Ishy spends more time conversing with us than he does looking at the road. The first time he was cut off by another car, I expected him to become angry as I would. I asked him if it bothered him and he said, “Sometimes I am angry on the inside but I just smile and wave”. (Now that’s some wisdom). As we continued through the busy, smoky, bumpy roads, he never got upset about other cars coming into our lane. It’s accepted that signs, lights, and lanes are just a suggestion and honking is only for saying hi to the car 6 inches from your own.

Our time with the kids at Bring Love In has been simple. I expected to feel like a savior to them, but the truth is that they just want to be with us. Due to the hard work of the staff at Bring Love In and the generosity of many people in America, they have most of their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met. Their joy and excitement for life is inspiring. These kids were once orphans, most of them left in the dirt somewhere in Ethiopia, with hopes that they would be found and brought to an overcrowded government orphanage. Here, they have a family. They have a mom and an aunt and brothers and sisters. Their stories are so far removed from what we could even imagine. How do you respond when three seven year old boys come up to you yelling, “Josh! Josh! Josh!” in their thick Amharic accents, hugging your legs and holding both hands? What do you have to offer them besides sitting with them? What can you bring them that would change their situation or their scarred past? We are not here to fix them or be their savior. Don’t be deceived. We have a lot more in common with them than you might think. They want to be known and loved, same as the rest of us. Do not be deceived.

The people of Addis Ababa and Bring Love In have shown us so much love, kindness, and hospitality. They treat us like royalty. What an honor to be able to spend time with them.

I am grateful for the chance I’ve had to love and cherish God’s children here, and am better for the love I’ve been shown.


“Sit, Sit”

“Sit, Sit”

Today is our second day working with the kids at Bring Love In and it already feels like it’s going by too quick! I got to play soccer with all the boys in the morning (which they were very skeptical of at first because girls do not play soccer here) and then, as a whole team, we visited 3 homes in the afternoon. In all of it – the soccer, conversations, exhaustion, diesel fumes, long car rides – God has been at work in me. He has been using the people of Addis Ababa to gently remind me of His truths. I have felt Him saying “just be, don’t do”.

If you know me, you know I’m a “do-er”. I am Type-A – always prepared, always organized, always doing something productive. Within the first few hours here, I began to see that Addis is not a place for Type-A people. Time is very flexible and plans are always changing.

Our first full day here, we sat down at 7am to talk about the morning activities that would take place with the kids only 2 hours later (at 9am). I had a general idea of what we would be doing, but felt so unprepared and nervous. Everyone else seemed to be totally okay with a loose plan and few instructions, but I was struggling on the inside. I wanted to know more so I could be more helpful – be able to do more. However, I felt like I was struggling to even comprehend how the hours of the day would sort of play out.

We arrived at Bring Love In and I was scared – scared to meet the kids, scared to not be able to help them, scared that I had nothing to offer. They welcomed us with songs and flowers, coffee and popcorn, hugs and eyebrow raises. But in the back of my mind I was still thinking about what I had to do next. How I had to somehow help them with their english while teaching them a tie-dye craft.

After the welcome ceremony, we headed upstairs to our craft. I stumbled through some shirt folding patterns with unsteady hands and a flushed face. They smiled and nodded along as I did my best to explain. At the end of my demonstration, I offered to help all of them fold and rubber band their shirts. After I finished talking, they got right to work, folding the shirts near perfectly. I wandered around waiting for girls to ask me for help, but they never did. I wanted to help, to be useful, but they didn’t need me. So I just kept wandering around in the circle. That’s when I heard the “sit, sit” from Wenge. She didn’t want me to work, she wanted me to visit. After the girls were done, I saw an opportunity to do something useful so I started picking up trash and used dye bottles and Charity started to mop. Again, Wenge said “no, sit, sit”. That’s when I realized that the staff and kids at Bring Love In don’t need anything from me. They don’t want me to do stuff for them. They just want me to be with them. To “sit, sit” and talk. To build relationship.

I feel like this is what Jesus wanted to remind me of in my relationship with Him too. Stop doing and just be with Him. He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him – after all he is the big ‘G’ God of this world with all power and authority.

My prayer for this trip was that God would “DO immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV). My time here in Addis so far has shown me that maybe I should put to rest my efforts to “do”, and leave that to God for a while. Instead, I should just focus on “being” – with Him, with the kids here, and with the team. And I bet that through this time “being”, He will begin to use me in ways that won’t really feel like “doing” or striving at all. Rather, the things He calls me to do will be able to be done out of overflow of a life-giving relationship with Him. This relationship that enables me to do can only be formed when I learn to be with Him fully.

I want to learn to “sit, sit” more with Jesus and others. I think the people here will continue to teach me that and it makes me excited for the next week.

Olivia Bierma



Sleep is such a docile predator. A necessary component of life that preys upon all of us. Whether we resist sleep like toddlers do with a plethora of excuses and counters or succumb to its attack by snuggling and cocooning into blankets for extra comfort. Thus one’s sleep is so drastically altered when traveling internationally.

Ours for example has been cut short the night of the July 4th, extended on a fourteen hour plane ride, and roughly attempted in a time zone of heat and dust.
Then when landing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; with the sun shining and the the air surprisingly fresher than anticipated we put off thoughts of exhaustion and global distance to be there in the presence of our friend and driver Ishy. With bags stowed and hotel rooms on a bustling and noisy street ensured, we decided to go to a dinner early knowing that tiredness would catch up, as it always does, and no amount of natural cane sugar Coca Cola could defy it. Thus after dinner, the gentle rocking of Ishy’s stick shift van through the blockade of traffic made most of us nap in a jerky fashion not unlike being on a fishing trolly rolling with the tide.

Night fell in Addis, distant lightening clouds look ominous but were ineffective. The group decided, or allowed themselves to go to bed right away before our debrief in the morning when we see the Bring Love In children and workers.

Like I mentioned above, sleep is a docile predator. For now in writing this it is 3:30 AM in Addis Ababa or 6:30 PM of the day before in Montana.

And I am awake.

The sounds of the city outside are finally quieted. Only the alley cats are hissing loud enough to be heard. Yet there begins to be another sound which is echoing through the floors of our hotel, the morning baker, I can only assume. With a random pot clang and shuffling of feet on the cold marble steps. I lay in my rented bed wondering where does this Ethiopian man or woman sleep. In a space that allows for sleep to be accepted or if it is a difficult process from the external forces within this city. From there, how did this baker get here, was there walking involved (as many Ethiopians do) for kilometers or crammed into a late night taxi van overloaded with people. Is it a pilgrimage to work for this baker that is constrained by time or carefully planned out? Don’t you ever wonder what all the other people around you are doing?

That’s what my mind is wrestling with instead of sleeping now at 3:50 AM.

Yet, here is what I do know. Jesus slept. In pivotal moments when he succumbed to it. As well in times of rest after holy excursions and messages.
Jesus slept, maybe not in hotel room floors after fourteen hour flights across the world, but he slept so that he could be present with the people he knew and the ones who knew him.

So here is my ask to all of you who will follow our trip: blog post by blog post, intermittent text through faulty WiFi, or picture sent from afar.

That while you sleep you would subconsciously and deeply of the personal connections you have with the eight team members of this trip. For when we will sleep half a world away your daily prayers will sustain us and encourage us to be there for the people we know here in Ethiopia and the one we will know.

It is now 4:00 AM. I am going to try to fall back asleep as the city begins to stir so I can be there on this first Monday in Addis that will be so life-giving with our friends and family of Bring Love In.

Keep following this blog space to hear the rest of the teams thoughts, emotions, and experiences for the rest of our time here. Good night and good morning.

– Carl