A First-hand Perspective from West Arsi

May 17, 2013

Here’s a fabulous perspective from Noah Wardrip, who recently joined us in West Arsi. If you haven’t seen some of the photos he captured during the trip, check them out here.

I’ve been back from Ethiopia for a little over a month now. I continually look back on the trip with much gratitude for the opportunity to go and the opportunity to see and understand all that God is doing there through His church and organizations partnering with AWAL. Champ has shared many of the accomplishment and highlights of the trip in the various newsletters and posts in the past month, so I won’t repeat them here. As the photographer, I took about 700 pictures and after post-processing, 440 made the final cut. Champ’s been sharing some of the best images with you on the AWAL website and in newsletters.

In talking with people since returning, three questions arose most often. Here’s my response to each that, as a whole, pretty well summarizes my experience.

Q: What were the most unexpected things I saw/experienced?
A: Four stand out:
1) Traveling all around central and southern Ethiopia in the back of a van for a week and meeting with church leaders and the members of the self-help groups means I saw a lot of people. Although I saw plenty of despair, compared to other third world countries I’ve been to, there was plenty of joy on the faces I saw, even people on the street or in poorer rural areas. In interacting with people there, I sensed that joy, along with a friendly warmth.
2) God’s church is alive and well there! There is nothing like seeing it first-hand. It brought me great joy to hear the testimonies of Ethiopians planting churches and evangelizing others all around Ethiopia. The church leadership there is strong and humble and it is a blessing to have them as partners in accomplishing the mission of AWAL.
3) I was not expecting to use the low-light settings on my camera nearly as much as I did, rather, I was expecting to be outdoors, in the rural villages. Indeed, the nature of AWAL’s relationships with the organizations there means that trips to Ethiopia involve many meetings in dimly lit rooms!
4) Seeing the self-help groups in person and hearing how they have brought unity to villages with different faiths, helped people create income-generating opportunities or businesses, and establish goals was quite an encouragement! The groups are having real, tangible results!

Q: What was the most challenging experience?
A: Physically, the “travel tummy” that came on a few hours before our journey home. Mentally and emotionally, it is difficult to see those who appear to be in desperate need but then not have the means to help them. I was, however, convicted to intercede on their behalf, praying for God’s blessing and grace to be known by them.
Q: Would I go back?
A: Definitely! Whether to update the AWAL photo portfolio, help more directly with the people, or both, my heart has been pricked for the people there. Ethiopian culture is quite different from ours and one trip there hardly scratches the surface in understanding the cultural intricacies of the people. Having such an understanding is key to helping them move from having an attitude of dependency on others or a mindset of helplessness to one of realizing their God-given potential. I would love to continue to play a role in the effort to help the people of Ethiopia experience God’s abundant life through the power of the Holy Spirit living in them!