The Beautiful Lake Awassa, Ethiopia
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (-1 John 1:5)
(This blog post is to share Dustin's experience with Starved 4 Hope's vision trip to Awassa, Ethiopia):
The experience I had while on the vision trip for Starved 4 Hope with Children’s Hope Chest is one that will forever be in my heart. As we approached this trip I really did not know what to expect. I have been to numerous 3rd world countries before, to include Ethiopia, but not in this capacity. I was terribly excited but scared at the same time, and so I prayed.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
We prayed constantly to God that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit to deliver His message as He would want it delivered, and that God would prepare the community for His message. We prayed that God would use us for His glory. We prayed that God would make His presence known while we were there, and He answered those prayer on more than one occasion.
After making the five and a half hour drive to Awassa from Addis Ababa, we arrived at the Tullo Kebele School. As we approached the school in the van, there were children running down the road to greet us with the warmest welcome anyone could imagine.
There were about 100-150 kids and families there to meet us. Most of them had ripped up rags on for clothes and no shoes, but they welcomed us.
The first thing I noticed was how skinny the children were with their bellies sticking-out from malnutrition. The teeth in the mouths of many of these children were almost black.
Ironically, my heart ached as I witnessed their happiness. I know it sounds kind of crazy, but these wonderful people appear to have nothing! No technology, no food, no fancy clothes or toys, but they were genuinely happy because they had one thing: they had faith in the Lord!
Wow, it put life in perspective. How often we get focused on what we “need”; consumed with materialism and consumerism. How frequently we focus on the negative in our life even pitying ourselves with our “hardships.” But here, when it would be almost justifiable misery and pity, these people were filled with joy and happiness. It broke my heart because they have been forgotten ; they live in the worst conditions imaginable, yet they are so filled with love.
Immediately I thought of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 as these men, women, and children were an embodiment of those verses: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Their unconditional love for the Lord made me question my own integrity. Would my faith be so strong and unwavering if my family lived as these people did? Would I continue to praise God and thank Him if I had no food, shelter, clothing or hope?
My thoughts were momentarily interrupted as the van parked, and we were met with the staff of Tullo Kebele. We were given a tour of the school grounds which only took a minute as there was only one structure with 2 classrooms the size of an average American living room.
For school, the staff would pack about 80 kids per classroom with standing room only. The building was made entirely of twigs and mud. The floor was covered in large rocks that we would use to help complete with concrete during the trip. However, the water source for the concrete was 2 miles away and the wheel barrow was 2 sticks with a piece of tin in the middle. Everything was done by hand. It took a long time to say the least.
The following day, when we turned down the dirt road, the kids started coming from everywhere!
The children that were registered at the school were lined up in front of their classrooms awaiting our arrival.
But, more kids were coming.
Once again, they were all so happy to see us. They are starving for food and to be cared for. We began to play with the children, just sharing the love of Christ with them. As we played we witnessed multiple families on the road that were unable to register their children because there was no room for them.
It was truly a sobering moment for me. These parents love their kids so much, and they want better for them; but, there is no hope for them. They have no resources to provide for their families. It was apparent, this community needed our help to even more than just the 168 students.
Most of the women were widows and just barely surviving. I could not help but see the face of my own children while I was there, and it brought me to tears. I dropped my sun glasses down over my eyes as they filled with tears; they remained that way for a majority of the trip.
The children on the road make hand gestures to their mouth indicating their hunger and their hope for food. I can’t imagine when the last time they ate was. I wanted to empty my pockets and give everything.
As the day progressed, we were able to bring additional children onto the grounds to play. They may not be registered, but they still deserve love.
We began to question the staff as to estimates on constructing more classrooms (mud huts) in place so we can get the other children registered and sponsored.
They ask us, “Can you really raise the money for the buildings and get the sponsors?” We respond without hesitation, “YES!” With God on our side we can achieve anything. These children deserve to go to school and to be fed. Some how, we will find a way! As the school day came to its conclusion, we began the process of leaving which was very time-consuming because the children didn’t want the day to end, and neither did we.
The following morning, just as the previous day, the children were ecstatic to see us with a joy in their faces that is contagious.
There are children hanging in the window of the van:
It made me think about the fact that all the time people ask me, "Why Ethiopia?"
I wish I could capture these faces and capture the love because that would answer the question!
As we approach the school we begin to pray in the van. We pray aloud for the Holy Spirit to reveal itself and fill the school with love and joy. I pray silently for strength as it was so hard to stay composed!
“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (-Matthew 18:20)
During the day’s events, we continued to work on the concrete floor and play with the beautiful children.
We also spent the day singing and dancing-a-fool.
At lunch time, we surprised the kids with a feast! We took a count the previous day and projected around 300 mouths to feed. The team pooled money together to purchase 336 plates and drinks.
As the Ethiopian staff lined the children up for the meal, Don and I begin to walk the lines of children counting. I stopped counting at 418! They were still coming!
By the time it was said and done, there were over 500 kids in line. They were sharing plates, and the amazing thing was: these children are STARVING, yet they stood in line in a very civilized fashion and were happy to share their food. We looked at each other and exclaimed, “There is no way we can feed all these mouths.”
We began to pray! We prayed to God confidently; “You fed 5,000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread; You can do this also.” (-Matthew 14:13-21).
"And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (-Matthew 21:22)
And God answered our prayers. Would you believe that we actually had enough to feed every mouth and the workers on site; plus, there were some leftovers?! Praise God!
We sat back and just enjoyed watching the kids with their food.
As we watched, I witness several children wrapping there fist around some food and carrying it to their parents standing on the outside. Such love, so selfless, and so compassionate; it brought me to my knees! The maturity of these children at such a young age was amazing.
In the street, we witnessed young children walking their goats down the road in front of the school, and they peak through the bushes at the events going on. It was obvious they want to join so badly, but they reluctantly yet obediently walked back to the goats and completed their chore of herding their goats. They have responsibilities that most Americans cannot fathom even as an adult.
There were a couple of us that got all the children to sit in a circle so we could show them the Evanga-cubes and teach them about salvation through Jesus Christ. Keeping in mind, these are the same kids that were so excited on a daily basis that we could barely keep control over them. They would climb on us, run around screaming, and they could not sit still for a second.
However, as we began to tell the story, it was apparent that the Spirit was at work. We were telling the story through a translator who translated it to Amharic; then it had to be translated again into the local language of the village. Nevertheless, these children sat completely quiet and listened. They stared at the pictures on the cube mesmerized.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in
him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (-Romans 15:13)
At the end of the story, we prayed through the 3 separate languages. I just know in my heart that there were many that day that prayed to accept Christ! At the end of the prayer, the children stood to their feet and started singing and clapping all together in-tune. It was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard! The translators explained that they were singing, “God is enough for me!” Ironically Don said, “Even though I don’t speak or understand their language, I already knew what they were saying.” There was no holding back the tears.
“…all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;” (–Psalm 98:4)
WOW! Truly one of the most amazing moments in my life! We prayed for the Spirit and He answered. The children’s song brought us to our knees, and I started to pray thanking God for everything, for every experience we had, for the children and their families, and for His will to be done in this wonderful village in Awassa, Ethiopia.
Now, I am a believer, and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I have been able to look through my life and see where the Holy Spirit has touched my life, but I have never witnessed such rock-solid evidence, right before my eyes, of the power of the Spirit, until this day: the food being enough to feed over 500, and the children singing praises to God spontaneously, simultaneously, and in unison! It was a moment that I wish I could capture for every person that has never accepted Christ and replay the day over and over again. What an amazing day it was!
As we wrapped up for the day, we prepared to say good-bye to the children and the community. We all prayed together again. Once again as we were leaving they burst into song: “God is enough for me” again and again. There was not a dry eye in that community! God showed himself! He showed just how great and big He really is!
The director of the school spoke to use in the van and conveyed his appreciation for the team coming there. He expressed that these children have no hope, but God’s great love showed through us and was what they needed. It reminded them that they are not forgotten by the world. It reminded them that we loved them, and God loves them.
It was evident God's presence. While we were able to provide them with food and discipleship, through the grace of God; we also were given something; the people of the Awassa community provided an example to us of pure love and joy teaching us that circumstances and situations should have no bearing on our happiness.
The students and families of the Tullo Kebele School need our assistance. Can you help them?
The children at Tullo need and deserve hope! Could you be the hope for one? Could you provide hope for one child through sponsorship? Could you spare $34 a month to provide that hope through sponsorship? That $34 a month gives a child education, care for minor medical needs, food, and most importantly…discipleship!
Could you donate to a capital project? Any amount? Capital projects on the horizon, as of now, are: 2 new buildings, access to clean water (either well or piped), a compound fence, school uniforms, shoes, medications, teacher salary, pastor on staff, community feeding programs and more to come.
Maybe you would like to give of your time to go on a trip? There is no amount of money that you could donate that would ever replace the pure joy these children get out of you showing up and sharing the love of Christ with them!
For more information on how you can get involved, please visit our website: www.Starved4Hope.org and/or contact Dustin@starved4hope.org .
“In his name the nations will put their hope." (-Matthew 12:21)