My latest Outreach journey has lead me to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, along with seven other students. This outreach, while only a week in, has already shown to be one of both challenge and harvest. Upon arriving in Ethiopia we were greeted by a wonderful couple from India, now living and working in Ethiopia. They have been our first contacts here and have provided great knowledge about the culture, area, and spiritual atmosphere. Ethiopia is made up with a religious majority of Ethiopian Orthodox, followed closely by Muslims, which has created a very skewed version of who the True God is. Our heart in being here is never to debate those of different beliefs, or judge the way they live, rather to love them into the Kingdom of God as we carry His Spirit with us.
While we have only been here a week we have already been able to dive right into various ministry opportunities ranging from preaching and sharing testimonies in local Christian churches, to working with children and leading Sunday school, to sharing the Jesus Film with the locals in their own native tongue. This week we will continue to share, as well as spend time in the local prisons, and travel to nearby villages helping bring fresh water.
Africa is a place unlike any other and Ethiopia has proved to have many new challenges that the team has continued to trust themselves, me and most importantly God through. While Outreach is an amazing time to share with others God has continued to remind me that His heart is just as much for my students as those we speak to. Giving them opportunities to share, see new cultures, try new food, and live a little more simply is much more than a good story for this group of guys and girls. It is an opportunity to have their eyes open to Gods love here, as well as to see the value of people in new ways.
Outreach is that beautiful time where you watch students shift, as they look outside of themselves, their culture, their comfort zone and truly begin to understand what loving others is all about. That it’s not about providing new clothes or shoes, it’s not about giving money to those less fortunate; while all that is good it’s about so much more. It’s about living in the present, looking around us where ever we are and asking ourselves what we can do to serve, to love, and to encourage.
While traveling to Ethiopia with seven students my assistant lead, Jaymie Poage fell ill in Washington DC and because of it was rushed to a local hospital. Time seemed to operate at a completely different pace as I called local paramedics, had to request her bags to be taken off the plane, and ran through the options in my head of what to do with my team, Jaymie, and myself. Quickly, after talking to my base director, I asked two students to stay behind with Jaymie, and as they walked off with her, I boarded the plane with the remaining students, all of us confused, heart broken and overwhelmed.
As I sat on the plane and looked out the window I thought of the two girls who had so easily volunteered to stay behind. As great as it may sound to be heading to Africa to help poor children, it couldn’t even compare to the love those girls had shown for Jaymie. They sacrificed their time, their comfort, and their Outreach for a girl they had known only a few weeks, because that is what people in love with Jesus do.
Jaymie is special to me for many reasons but one of the first is that she is my girlfriend and because of that having to leave her behind didn’t make sense in my head one bit, but then again I think love rarely makes much sense. My job, my call, my purpose is to love the students, to keep them safe and to do whats highest and best for them and in that moment God gave me the strength to do just that. And on top of giving me the strength to do that, He blessed me, Jaymie and many others by loving so well through two amazing students that choose to listen and obey. I thank you in advance for your prayers both for this team and Jaymie.
Will Richardson – YWAM DP Staff (Outreach Lead)