I have traveled. I have seen hardship. But nothing prepared me for what I was about to see, hear and feel as the wheels thumped against the blacktop and squealed to a stop as I landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – a place I have traveled many times before. The city named “new flower” was anything but in bloom this time.
Prayer is part of my life. It’s part of who I am. It’s a lifeline. As we were landing I had a talk with God, right there in my cramped airplane seat. I tell him I am open. I want him to show me something. I want to see these people as He sees them. I ask him to break me open, to pour me out. I ask him to make me aware of the needs, hopes and aspirations of His people. That, I will learn, and that it will be nothing short of powerful. As the ding of the seat belt sign went off, I opened my eyes and knew that I was walking into something holy.
The second I walked out of the airport, I was met with women and children begging, “hey you, hey you”, “money, money”, “help me, help me”! This is a sight and sound I have heard many times. These children are skilled, they are trained, charming even. But I have done my research, I know the harsh reality of what their begging means. They are likely owned by someone who released them to find foreigners who have money. As my mind begins to swirl with thoughts about these children, “but who will hold them when they cry?” “what kind of abuse will they endure today?”. The questions begin to close in on me as I try to absorb this reality.
I make it to my hotel room and land on my bed with those same little voices ringing in my head, “money, money” and “hey you, hey you”! I splash water on my face to try to awaken myself to the reality in which I have found myself.
A few days later, I find myself on a drive to the country side, the poverty doesn’t end in the city. The starkness of their reality and mine is far too great for me to understand. As we are driving and my team on the ground is briefing me with the situational hand; war zones, famine, no water. Everyone has pulled out of this area because it is far too dangerous. The people here do not have access to resources, education, any political voice, and no hope of life changing. My translator then says “until you and your people come, we have no hope”. “We have lost this generation, but with the hope of you and your people, there is hope for the next generation. A new generation is coming, the children”.
About that time, we pulled into the compound where just a week earlier, bullets where flying around. We were greeted by children chattering and singing. He said “They see you as hope.” I was greeted as if I was a celebrity, of which I am not. I am one person longing for justice and a hope for these people.
He began to explain the depths of this project and what would be needed, my head begin to spin. How in the world was this going to happen and where would the funds come from? He stopped me and said, ” we need you and your people.” The words that followed and came from my lips were words I felt deep in my soul, “I’m all in”.
This is the way it is with God. The picture is never clear, the “how to” never seems possible. The vision is compelling, it touches you deep within your heart and there is only one choice; the way of obedience. I am willing to move forward, believing God and His Word about faith. I am not willing to sit on the sidelines until all the questions are answered, all the doubts are cleared up all the risks are eliminated.
The answer was clear, I have no choice but to lead and to trust God with the results. I will be obedient and I will believe He will be faithful. My faith and passion would soon be tested. A few days later, I would find myself surrounded by rebel soldiers and I found myself standing there in complete peace knowing this is a vision worth dying for.
To redeem, restore, empower and equip a forgotten people; to leave this world a better place. Now that is a Legacy and vision worth living and dying for.