Seen and Heard

May 20, 2016

Lives are changing right under this tree.

There’s nothing like hearing first hand the stories of transformed lives. Last month, Discovering Light sent a team to Southeast Ethiopia to see how our programs are impacting Arsi Oromo families. The team spent time with people in several savings groups, visited Discovery Bible Studies, attended morning chapel at Selam Awassa Vocational and Technical College and toured the campus, and met a three of our nine post-harvest thresher small-business owners. Rick Perez from Tacoma and John Evans from San Diego share their experience.

John had his understanding of serving and missions altered by what he experienced:

It was Sunday and time to head for home. But our flight was leaving late at night, so we had time to stop at a small village church on the way back to the Addis Ababa airport.  Our schedule didn’t allow us to stay for the whole service, but we were blessed to be in worship with our brothers and sisters; to hear their wonderful choir sing; and for Daniel and I to share briefly with the congregation. Pastor Joe prayed blessings over them and we were off to Addis.

So now after a week back at home and with the jet lag finally over, what do I think about it all?  I’m still processing things and expect to be for some time, but here is what I believe this trip has taught me. Not every foreign mission to unreached people has to be led by westerners going in person to tell the Gospel story.  In some cultures that works great, but in West Arsi, Ethiopia, the numbers show that church planting by the local believers works better there. And seeking to bring God’s kingdom in every way includes not only winning souls, but improving their lives by teaching them ways to grow out of poverty and a fatalistic mindset that binds them to lives at the bottom of their society. Discovering Light is doing a fantastic job of funding the training and giving guidance and encouragement to an extremely capable and spirit-led group of Ethiopian leaders who are daily seeing gains for God’s kingdom.

For Rick, this trip was a long time coming as several years earlier he envisioned himself and his family traveling to Africa to serve. Here are some reflections on his first visit to Ethiopia.

What surprised you or was not something you expected about your trip to Ethiopia?

The only expectation I had going into the trip was for God to minister and change my heart.  I want to be open to what God wanted to show me and teach me.

What did surprise me was how quick my heart connected to the Arsi Oromo/Ethiopian people. I prayed before the trip that God would give his heart for his people and he did. They will always be a part of my family.

The smiles are infectious.
The smiles are infectious.

What was the highlight of your trip?

There were so many highlights from the trip but three stood out. The first were the baptisms in Dodola. Second, was the savings groups and the testimonies of how they have provided for one another and restored families and marriages. Third, was all the children in the villages.

How were your ideas about God, people, or the world changed during the trip?

My idea about God did not change but I have fell more in love with him which has made obedience really sweet. I don’t feel like I have to do, I desire and want to do. My perspective on my life and family did change. Being back home has been hard, meaning that we have it all living in the U.S. but I witnessed something different. I noticed when we were in the villages and I had interaction with the Oromo people they seemed to be relaxed, content, and very generous.  I know they experience hardship and struggles daily but they don’t show it.

My interactions here with co-workers, non believing friends, retail workers and even family members are filled with anxiety, hurt, insignificance, anger, bitterness etc. are what I see, hear and feel.  The picture that I see is a vacuum constantly sucking us into muddy waters. Clouding our spiritual vision and heart. The muddy water is distractions, selfishness and just darkness.  Sure, there are a lot of things that we do that are good things, work/career, ministry, kids sports, hobbies, family vacations and spending time with friends but am I really doing what God is asking of me or doing what makes me feel good?

What did you enjoy most about your time in Ethiopia?

What I enjoyed the most was the incredible Macchiato and coffee! Although the coffee was awesome it was not enjoyed more than the time getting to know the amazing men I spent the week with. I didn’t know any of the men and just a brief meeting prior to the trip.  It was great to spend time sharing families, testimonies, passions and hearts for Gods plans and purposes in/for their lives. The question I heard the Lord ask me is: Who are you going to serve?  I do serve God,  but I think he is trying to get my attention and take notice.  He wants me to draw closer to him.  He is a jealous God that way!  

When we see how God is working in other places and how people are taking hold of abundant life together, we are humbled realizing the part we play is partnership rather than co-savior. Our hearts are changed when we see the potential in others and we learn to see the brokenness in their lives as a reflection of brokenness in our own hearts. What these men witnessed is an inspiration for us to continue serving alongside our brothers and sisters in Southeast Ethiopia, as we watch their empowerment take place.