Lessons Learned

Ethiopia….Uganda….USA…. Where to Begin?

Psalm 103 says; “Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me Bless His holy name……the Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed.”

Wow! Where do I even begin? The last 17 days have been some of the most emotional days I’ve experienced. Extreme highs and extreme lows at any given moment.

My feet have walked in places that have left a deep imprint on my heart.

Yet…. I will bless the Lord who is at work in it all!

One of the extreme highs was taking this journey with two very special friends! My dear friend and first mentor Jeanette who actually inspired me and loved me to Jesus when I was seemingly “unlovable” and Emily my exercise buddy and compassionate listener of all my “deep” thoughts during our four mile walks!

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Jeanette is behind me and Emily is on her left. True beauties!!

(Brushing our teeth Ethiopian Style….with twigs!)

I made a promise to blog while I was away….not a promise I was able to keep. I could blame it on the lack of or very limited internet connections we had. Or I could blame it on how challenging it is to write a blog using a smart phone.

The reality is my brain was not able to process and keep up with what I was experiencing.

This was not an easy trip physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. It was not what’s been deemed a “Missi-cation” (derogatory term for short-term mission trips used as vacations). Honestly, this trip was hard all the way around.

**Warning** Content below is raw processing and may contain unfiltered statements.

Physically I struggled. 

I struggled keeping up with the busy schedule to serve each day in conditions that are, let’s just say not compared to our every day comfortable american life.

I knew what I was getting into having been to Uganda last year so it was no surprise that we would need to avoid drinking the water, watch the foods we ate carefully, carry our own toilet paper to use “outhouse latrines”, take cold showers or bucket showers, travel by mini bus on pot-hole ridden dirt roads, sleep in non air-conditioned rooms under mosquito nets, live out of a suitcase, change schedules hour by hour, ok you probably get the drift by now.

What I wasn’t prepared for was two bouts of flu-like sickness, extreme fatigue almost daily and a cold. I just couldn’t figure it out….I mean last time I went to Uganda I felt physically good the entire time.

I tried to chalk it up to being “over 50” or not in the best physical shape… thank God I’d been walking regularly and went to the gym a few times this year or who know’s how much worse it could have been!

Maybe my physical struggles were because we traveled to two countries or that I didn’t use essential oils as religiously this time as I did last time or maybe it was a spiritual attack?

I suppose the answer is “yes” to all the above and more. I just wasn’t ready to struggle physically and frankly I don’t do well when I’m physically challenged.

Emotionally and mentally I struggled. Another surprise to me.

Again I knew what I was getting into having seen the poverty, suffering and underdeveloped society when I visited Uganda last year. I quickly realized I will never be emotionally or mentally prepared to absorb such suffering of others.

This year we began the trip in Ethiopia. We served at what’s known as “Trash Mountain” located just outside of Addis Ababa in the community of Korah.

There are absolutely no words to describe what it feels like to stand at the base of a mountain made of 75 years worth of trash with all your senses fully engaged and reeling.

The stench literally took my breath away and responsively my hand moved to cover my mouth and nose.

Smoke signals come from various areas on the mountain signifying methane gas explosions from decomposed garbage.

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Wild packs of dogs roam the streets with the children, each looking for someone….anyone to pay attention to them.

As I scanned the mountain I blinked in disbelief and struggled to focus on movement atop the sky-high mountain. At first I thought it might be wild animals or large scavenger birds.

But then in horror I realized the movement before my eyes was people….hungry people waiting for the daily dump from the garbage trucks.

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People so desperate to survive, they’re looking for food to feed their children and themselves.

Over 100,000 lepers, HIV/AIDS patients, widows and orphans live in Korah. 

They dig in the trash hoping to find scraps of metal, plastics, or other seemingly valuable items to sell for rent money for their homes made of cardboard, tarp, plastic or other material they’ve found to use for shelter.

Righteous anger began to overtake me as I looked to the sides of the mountain and in front of the mountain, actually all around the mountain and seen the rows and rows of “tent” homes barely large enough for a twin size mattress made of grass clippings.

A lump the size of a boulder formed in my throat and tears streamed from my eyes as I gasped for breath, not because of the stench but because of the sheer pain of my heart breaking at the injustice of it all.

These precious people have been banished from their community and forgotten.

All I could think is “Why? Why is this happening? How? How does something like this happen?”

Spiritually I struggled…..I think God intends for us to wrestle with Him over the things we see and experience. Check out David in the Psalms.

When we wrestle with our God two things happen;

1. We release the emotions we’re feeling that threaten to overtake us in the presence of a safe Counselor.

2. Our Counselor, God the Father, helps us put these feelings and thoughts in perspective….His perspective. Without His perspective we fall to despair.

In Korah, just when you’re ready to fall into utter hopelessness and despair, you hear the sounds of children singing and laughing and find it’s coming from organizations such as Brook Hills Development (BHD).

Such organizations purposefully move into the area to let the people know God has not forgotten them! They are there to help provide a way out. To help meet their physical, medical, and spiritual needs.

Righteous anger moved to ACTION!

Man Up and Go the organization I went on the trip with partners with BHD. We spent time with them learning about their mission and meeting the beautiful people. We went with the Doula’s making home visits to the women in their Pregnant Women’s program. We also sponsored a soccer tournament and did VBS with children of Korah in BHD’s after school programs.

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Workhe and her new daughter Sarah

(Soccer Tournament complete with Man Up jerseys and a trophy!)

(Vacation Bible School Fun)

So there it is….the answer for “Where to begin?”  Just start where you are! There are needs all around us and certainly we can’t meet them all, nor is God asking us to meet them all.

It seems right in line with the discipline theme He’s had me looking at all year. To really begin we must “show up” and keep our eye on the Master!

4 thoughts on “Ethiopia….Uganda….USA…. Where to Begin?”

  1. What a life changing journey you have just returned from. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I live in such a sheltered little world and have no idea how things are in other places.

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    1. It really is a wake up call for us as Americans. Though when we go and tell our stories of struggles here with our friends in Uganda they all are comforted in knowing as they say; “In america you suffer too and God is faithful to all!” You are a testimony of that Terry!

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  2. Tina, Wow, what an experience you had. How are you since coming home? I know there is such a culture shock. We have so much here.

    I am certain the love you gave will be your legacy there.

    Blessings, Janet

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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