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Beautiful

Beautiful

As we begin our journey home, it is hard to put into words and describe to you all that has happened over the past two weeks. This trip has taken months of planning, fundraising, team meetings, preparation with vaccines, planning to leave family and work…its hard to believe it’s all about over. This experience will be something we will never forget and has changed our hearts forever… in the best of ways. The trip started with some bumps but it was all in God’s plan and ended up better than I could’ve ever imagined. This team of people was the perfect group to be surrounded around for the past two weeks; to serve with, support one another, worship together, cry together, laugh together and most importantly grow together. When I think of this trip the word that keeps coming to my heart is “beautiful.” This entire trip has been a display of love, grace, compassion, chaos, joy, hospitality and kindness… it’s been beautiful. Ethiopia itself probably isn’t a place most would describe as beautiful… it may not be our Montana beauty… but it definitely is beautiful in so many ways. The people and especially the children are beautiful, inside and out. Even with next to nothing there is so much joy even through the poverty. We came to help and serve them but in return they went above and beyond each day to show us how much they appreciated us. The way they are so proud of their culture, the way they instantly step up to help without even being asked, the sacrifices they make for the greater good, the way they love each-other, their endless hospitality…. it is beautiful. I am so thankful I was able to see it all and be a part of it!

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14

– Brittany

Faith Alive

Faith Alive

Throughout this trip I have felt a multitude of emotions. I knew that by coming to Ethiopia and participating in my first missions trip I would get to have once in a lifetime experiences and make incredible relationships. But, while I focused on all of the positive aspects of this work I disregarded the challenges that I would see and feel. 

When we first got to Addis and met the kids at Bring Love In, I was overwhelmed by the instantaneous amount of love and joy that was offered to 15 strangers. We were greeted with hugs, flowers and songs. It was incredible to see how much love and happiness the kids had after coming from such rough backgrounds. As we continued to spend time with the kids in our individuals classes, relationships blossomed.

Each time I talked with one of the kids I was amazed by their willingness to share their stories. Every one of these kids has been through so much heartache and pain and I can not even begin to fathom the depth. And despite their past circumstances every single person exclaimed the power of Gods love and how it has transformed their lives. 

I led the painting/arts and crafts class. Every day was filled with so much laughter and joking. Even when we didn’t have enough paints, or bracelet thread or all of the materials to create the perfect Pinterest craft, our class was perfect. There was so much connection and utter joy that I forgot where I was and who I was with. I realized that the girls in my group were just wanting to have a good time creating, in a fun and loving environment. 

Having conversations with girls in my class and asking normal questions about what they like to do for fun, their favorite subject, or favorite music to listen to every topic turned back to God and their undeniable faith. Even the artwork that the girls made in our class showcased their love for the BLI ministry and Gods grace with little sayings of “I love Jesus” or “God saves” in English and Amharic. 

It’s funny talking with the team about our expectations for the trip and our preconceived notions and I realized I had many. I expected that our team would make a huge difference in the lives of these kids, and while that may be true, they had the biggest impact on me. They showed me what unconditional praise and love for God does even in the darkest of times. It is one thing to hear in church about the power of the Holy Spirit but a whole different thing to feel and see it in the midst of some of the hardest circumstances. We talk about leaning in to God’s power and I often forget what that looks like, but seeing the kids at Bring Love In fully embrace their faith can only be described as ‘faith alive’.  A phrase my mom explained to me where you feel the Holy Spirit with your entire mind body and soul. It isn’t just something that you think about, faith is a part of every aspect of your life and is interconnected with your very being. 

And then to go to other ministries across Addis like AHope and Embracing hope and see the power and impact of the Holy Spirit. The kids at Embracing Hope, who live right next to Korah the dump in Addis, despite their circumstances of living in the deepest poverty had so much laughter and love for Christ. 

To see how all of these people are so connected with God and continue to praise him and all that he does, is and has been the most incredible experience of my life. This was a testament to the power of God and the joy that he brings even the darkest of times. 

– Samantha

Friendship

Friendship

When we were in Bozeman and we left there were high hopes we would be Dubai by the end of the day but that got sidetracked due to not having visas. Which then we were stuck in Seattle for 3 days which may have been a blessing in disguise because we got to bond with our team and make a family that we would be with for 2 weeks. When we finally got our visas we were off to Dubai and were ready for the big adventure ahead. After the 14 hour plane flight to Dubai we had a 16 hour layover till our flight to Addis Ababa. 

When we arrived in Addis my first thought was this is gonna be a long week but as we met the people and how kind and happy they are it changed my opinion on that. When our driver Isshy arrived to pick us up it was really cool to see the relationship Brandon Jordon Chuck and Logan had with Isshy, it was very strong and you could tell that they were very happy to see each other. After little talk and catching up we were off to the orphanage/ Bring Love In.

When we got there we were greeted right at the door with roses and songs which was really special because they didn’t know a lot of us but treated us as if we were family. The second day we started to make friends and interact with the kids even from on the start they were all loving and loved to hug. And here are some things about the kids that I made close relationships with:

◦ Adebe, a 11 year old girl that was super sweet and kind to everyone she interacted with. Every morning I walked into vbs which is the English class that we taught me and her would just look at each other and smile which was really special to me even though we both speak different languages. It was super fun to play games and color and was fun to get to know her a little bit. I am so glad I was able to meet her.

◦ Bereket, an 8 year old boy that is very energetic and nice boy that was super fun to interact with and play games with. It was funny he would always argue with the other boys to sit in my lap. And it was really special how he would normally be the first one to meet me at the door and said TAIDEN.

◦ Satota, a 13 year old girl who is very sweet and nice and is the “Boss” over the kids. It was super fun to talk to satota snd get to know her she was also really helpful because she could help translate sometimes. It was also funny  because if someone hit satota then she would hit them back a lot harder.

◦ Eyob, a 7 year old boy who is nice and super funny. While I was at bring love in it was super fun to play games and interact with him. When I got to bring love in Eyob was the first one to want to sit on my lap while in vps and overall was super fun to interact with.

I also was able to talk to and get to know the older boys which was really cool because even though there is a little bit of a language barrier we were still able to play sports and have a good relationship with one on other.

I am so glad I was able to come on this trip and be able to make friends even though we were not here for a very long time. And I hope to be able to come again in the future. Thank you everyone back home for your generosity to make this trip possible.

– Taiden

Sowing Seeds

Sowing Seeds

There were many things that I was anticipating when coming to visit the ministry in Addis Abba, and many more questions.

What will the food be like?  What will the culture be like?   What will we be doing each day?  Will the kids like it?   Where will we be staying?

The first step off the plane was the beginning of sensory overload.   The sights, the sounds, the people (so many people).  And it wouldn’t be right not mentioning the insane driving skills and endless undisciplined vehicle traffic.   Or maybe it was the goats, cows or occasional horse drawn cart that was intermixed with all of those people and vehicles that seemed like utter chaos (until you realize it is more like a orchestra).   I realized early on there is simply no way to try and describe Addis Abba.  If they say a picture is worth a thousand words then I would say a thousand words would not describe the picture.

I’m  not sure if it was the prolonged delay and wondering if we would even get our visas?  Maybe the thousands of miles and hours of flight time?  Was it the lack of sleeping or the clouds of diesel smoke?  I’m not sure because it didn’t anticipate what was coming next. 

Day two; my head was spinning in a fog when we sat down to teach the youngest children about Jesus and various Bible stories. With all the commotion of the first day, I seemed to miss that which was most important, the bond between those on the Journey team who had been here before and the older children.  

The long hugs, the smiles that only connect long lasting friendships, the occasional tear of joy, the stories, and all of the laughter.  It was apparent that, that kind of connection began a long time ago. 

It’s not that I took teaching the younger kids lightly, it’s that I didn’t grasp the significance of it.   I realized the longer term Journey team members also once taught the younger kids and they were now seeing those younger children turn into teenagers, and even young adults.  Then I began connecting with Thomas and all of the wonderful people who have been around since the beginning. All of those postage stamp images I saw during the Elevate Orphan Sunday services were now the faces sitting next to me.  They were the faces connected to the arms wrapped around me and the hands that were holding mine.  Random curiosity, me in them, and them in me. 

I was experiencing what Paul was speaking in Galatians.

Galatians 5:6. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

5:13. “Rather serve one another humbly in love.”

5:14. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I was seeing the fruit  And I was also learning how to plant seeds. 

– Jon

Ordinary, Together

Ordinary, Together

Brennan Manning says in his book Abba’s Child, “We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.” Sitting in the living rooms of the families that have been created by obedience to God and through His love for all people, I have encountered the most beautiful “ordinary”. My new friends here give themselves over to a fullness of absolute joy in moments of gathering, deepening relationships, and celebration. 

A theme I have experienced since coming to Jesus is that this life with him is not easy. It is simple, but not always easy. That theme continues and is abundantly clear here – life here, for these people, has not been easy. But they rejoice in the simplicity of their love for each other and of their love for God and His unending love for them. 

The most overwhelming moments of connection with God I have felt since I’ve known Him have been in the realization of the ordinary. Being here brings an overwhelming “dose” of that realization… He is the same God here, there, and everywhere. We, his most prized of all creations, are the same everywhere – designed, loved, and saved by the same grace. There is a “filter” that seems to cover all of life… that screen is set aside when you are ignoring the complexities of life and embracing the ordinariness of life… afternoon coffee and conversation, laughing, sharing with ordinary people on ordinary days. Worshipping together, learning together, and just sitting and resting in the realization that we belong to a God who loves us. All of us, everywhere, we are His people and He is our God. He tells us in John 14:18 – He will not leave us as orphans, He will come to us. And He has. 

For Him, for all of this, for this understanding – my heart is overflowing with gratitude I can’t contain. 

If the “rest of my life” was only today… Encountering Him in the ordinariness of life would be enough. Jesus is more than enough. 

– Mindy

Friendship

Friendship

I came to Addis Ababa thinking we were coming to help and love on all the kids at bring love in. But no, we created friendships that will last a lifetime.

There were two girls in our arts and crafts class, named China and Kal. They both really kept to themselves at the beginning of the week. I think this is because they knew it was going to be heart breaking to see us leave if they connected with us.

After a few days they started showing their love for us. They called my mom (Charity) “mom”, and me their sister.

To be honest I didn’t think I would create strong friendships and relationships with the kids. I made lifelong friends that mean the world to me only in one week.

Seeing other teammates create strong bonds with other kids. It was so cool seeing how they bonded and interacted with each other.

It was heartbreaking for me when I saw all the kids crying because we were leaving. One of the girls started crying into my shirt because she didn’t want us to go. It is so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

– Brya

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

We are sitting at a high school boys soccer game, watching them play on a dirt field without cleets, with mismatched shorts and no shin guards. But these boys play with such passion and a love for the game that none of that matters to them. They have the most enthusiastic cheering section, filled with their brothers and sisters from Bring Love In. It is in this moment that I experience a different kind of joy than I do at home. Laughing and cheering with the girls on the sidelines was so special. Salem taps me on the shoulder, looks me in the eye, and says, “I love Kevin Durant.” I start to tell her how cool that is and she grins and says, “when you come back, bring me his jersey.” I am kind of caught of guard by her request, but then I giggle a little bit and tell her that I will absolutely bring her a jersey. She then goes, “no, no, no. Write it down so you won’t forget”. 

It’s moments like these that make this trip so incredible. Moments giggling in the kitchen with kids who are beyond eager to learn. Or sitting in a tiny living room of a home filled with kids who want to invite you in. To serve you coffee and popcorn and share their time and talents with you. It is hard for me to express the things that I experience and feel here. No matter what I say, I know that I can not do this place justice. I can never accurately paint a picture of its beauty. I know that the Lord is teaching me so much, but to be honest I’m not sure what all of it is yet. I am leaving this place humbled because the people here have given me more than I could ever give them. I have created real friendships that make it hard to say goodbye. Goodbye at least for now. I pray that I can come back and give these kids another hug. Come back and laugh with them again. Come back and give sweet Salem her Kevin Durant jersey. 

– Sara

Beloved

Beloved

My heart has broken into a million pieces. But each time it has been put back together piece by piece as I see and hear the stories of the children.

A calm, most gentle, loving soul sat next to me the other day and told me his story. His life is one I cannot fathom. But to be trusted to listen and share his story is such an honor.

David was born in a village where at 3 years old he was tasked with being a Shepherd. He would protect the family’s sheep and cows from Hyenas. Fighting off hyenas was less scary for him than getting whipped by his father, if one of the animals was hurt.

At 5 years old his father got into a fight with the neighboring tribe. They told him that they would kill his son. His father left David at a monastery. He described it as “a place that old people go to wait to die”. When he arrived there, they asked him his name. He had a tribal name, but when they asked he knew he wouldn’t be seeing his family again so he said “David”. He had never heard the name before, but it came to him at that moment. 

A year later he ran away. He hid in a semi-truck and travelled to the city, where he lived on the streets for over a year. At 7 the police found him and he was deposited into a government orphanage. He was there a year when his name was called. He was adopted by Elevate Orphan.

In his short life, he had fought a lot. One day he remembers having a horrible headache and waking up in the street. He still suffers from migraines. Now at 17 he is going to be a senior in high school. When he reads he gets a migraine, which has made school a challenge. Despite the migraines he has applied himself and received good grades.

David has met his father and learned that his dad told his mother that he died the day he took him to the monastery. His parents are divorced and David has not yet met his mother. When she got word that he was with Elevate Orphan, she didn’t believe it, she still believes he’s dead. David is hoping to finally meet his mother when he graduates from the university and is independent.

As an orphan the children do not know their true ages or birthdays. Elevate Orphan applies for birth certificates for the children. David can’t wait to get his, because then he will be able to apply for a passport and be able to travel. His first stop will be Miami and then Bozeman to visit Journey Church.

He hopes one day to write a book about his life. I told him I would love to read it!

All 70 children at Elevate Orphan have a story to tell. The ache of being abandoned never leaves, yet the unconditional love at Elevate Orphan is prevalent. David means “Beloved”. Every child at Elevate Orphan is beloved, dear to the heart.

– Charity

Roadblocks

Roadblocks

Look up – always.

Too often when things don’t go as I planned I get frustrated, angry and impatient; in a word, selfish. My plans are the best for me. What this trip has reminded – yet again – is that God has plans for us his children that may not be what we would would choose but are far better then we could know. There are lessons and plans for us that He will reveal in His time when we stop, listen and surrender.

This is my fourth trip to Ethiopia and it got off to a rocky start. We faced several roadblocks getting here and more than once before we finally arrived I thought about turning around and heading home. What joy I would have missed had I followed my plan!

We’ve been working these incredible kids for 7 years and have watched them grow from young children into young adults thriving in God’s love. Some have graduated high school and left for university with futures they never could have imagined before being a part of their new forever families in Bring Love In. Many of these beautiful children had pasts we could never imagine and trauma that only God could heal. This trip we began to hear some of those stories, told by the kids themselves, and it touched me in ways that are profound and transformational. They are not my stories to tell, but theirs, and a few willingly shared those with us on video. I know it will be a blessing to all who hear. Stand by Journey family!

So as our time here continues, I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that God is in control and that is enough. Thank you, Lord, for you hand in our lives and your love in our hearts. In this crazy and chaotic world, it is all we need.

– Chuck

Miracle cookies

Miracle cookies

July 13, 2023
How do you explain chocolate chips to someone?

I love cooking! I’ve learned that it’s my creative expression that allows me to disconnect from my stress and make a gift for others to enjoy. I admit that I also love to hear people say how good it is. I have the ability to follow a recipe well enough to make it taste good. So it made sense to me to volunteer to lead cooking with the kids in Ethiopia.

The challenges that arose in Ethiopia around cooking pushed me outside of my “recipe following box” and gave me the opportunity to really consider why I am here. It’s not about the perfect recipe or the skill of cooking or even the English teaching – it’s about so much more.

From the moment we entered Bring Love In, in the rain, the kids all lined up, smiling, hugging and handing us roses, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance. It’s so much and even though we prepared as much as possible in our team meetings – feeling it in that moment is hard to put words.

I was partnered with 7 teenagers and a small kitchen with unknown ingredients and tools. I knew it would be different but I was not feeling super confident in my own abilities in a new and different place. I quickly learned it really didn’t matter. This really isn’t about me. The energy of the kids, their laughter, questions and how they shared with me – the sound of how they pronounce Kate, ‘Kuh-Kate’ it’s beautiful. Learning about them, their favorite foods, Shewa is a cook, he’s quiet and more reserved then the other kids. He listens closely and I notice him reading through the cookbook. Ruth loves Will Smith and Fresh Prince of Belair and we talk about our favorite movies. Akele is an outgoing leader. He charms one of the other girls to write his recipe in English for him and tells me with a smile, he’ll do it later because he’s washing dishes now.
All of these kids are beautiful, smart, talented, accepting and loving people with fantastic senses of humor! They tease each other, connect and play just like teenagers at home. Their actions and body language understandable to me beyond any language barriers.

As I spent my first full day in the small kitchen filled with kids, mixing and laughing, I paused and soaked it in. “I’m in Ethiopia right now. I’m making chocolate chip cookies with these kids.” My body filled with tingles and I felt tears of joy welling inside. I don’t ever want to forget this moment.

The cookies turned out beautifully! The smell of Ethiopian crushed chocolate and sugar filled the three floors of Bring Love In and the kids and other members of our group swarmed our window and door asking what smelled SO good and wanting a taste. Ruth, one of the ‘master chefs’ as we call each other, tells me in a sly conspiratorial tone and pointing to the biggest batch, “Kate we will keep all these for us and then eat them all!” We laughed.

One little girl stuck her tiny hand through the kitchen window and almost grabbed the hot pan with cookies on them. She cried out in the most heartfelt Amharic and Ayda, another ‘Master Chef’ spoke to her and translated to me that she “NEEDED the cookie soooo bad she did not care if it burnt her!” It was a beautiful moment, I felt privileged to be in the presence of it all.

At the end of the day I felt God was telling me, again, to let go, remember who is in control and be present. My continual prayer to Him, I am willing to go. Use me.

He is the One who made those cookies taste so good!

Kate aka katie

Ready or Not?

Ready or Not?

In preparing for our venture to Ethiopia, I have been asked over and over again how I’m feeing about the trip. The truth? I’ve been conflicted and feel as if I am caught between two worlds. On one hand, I know what traveling to Ethiopia holds. It’s my Kingdom Come. It’s where I feel the tangible presence of the Lord and His love. On the other hand, I am comfortable at home because I am in control of everything. I’m in control of my marathon training, my grad school courses, my daily rhythms with my two-year-old and husband. So when people ask if I’m ready, my answer is, “No, absolutely not.” Why? Because I’m caught between two worlds. I’m caught between the comfortable, idle life I live in the bubble of Bozeman, Montana and going to Ethiopia disrupts that. I lose control, and I immediately feel uncomfortable. This is so so good. 

There’s a song by Hillsong UNITED called “Ready or Not”. The song repetitively asks, “Are you Ready or Not?” Not only does the repetition of that question force me to sit with it, but it helps me realize that God will do His work whether I’m ready or not. “Take your time, if nothing else, just come/Are you ready?/Come now, bring your hopes/Your dreams, your doubts/Your scars…There’s no place like His presence/There’s no time like the now.” I have been listening to this on repeat, holding fast and faithful that there’s no time like the now; there’s not place like His presence. So here I am, taking my time and trusting that He will do His work with the kids at Elevate Orphan and in me…ready or not.

– Jourdan

Love so freely given.

Love so freely given.

Words don’t usually escape me when I put them to paper. I have been struggling for days as to what I need to express publicly about the remainder of my time here in Addis.

Last week, the energy in the classroom was always palpable. The kids were so excited that at times, it could be difficult to get them to focus on their studies. But the love they choose to so freely give was a breath of fresh air. How can you turn down love so freely given? (A question I often ask in regards to Jesus). 

Fast forward to this week, and the older teenagers are quieter and more reserved while in class; the main reason is because they don’t want to make mistakes while speaking English. But the deep thoughts and beliefs that they have already established in their identity as God’s children will blow you away! We come to teach them English but they teach us so much more in return. 

These are future movers and shakers within Addis, Ethiopia and the Heavenly kingdom! I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to see it in action. 

Bring Love In is an organization that has so many moving parts:  Counselors to help guide these kids through traumas, widows to help raise the children in a strong Christian home, and hundreds of volunteers. The concept that Jessie and Levi came to is amazing and so well thought-out. An organization that is lead by Ethiopian Christian professionals that know the culture and can help make changes will be a ripple effect for many generations to come. 

See you at home!