A Dream Bigger Than I Could Ask or Imagine
Growing up, like most kids in the world, my focus was mostly on what I could achieve for myself, and what I could get for myself. And although this seems to be true for most kids… it’s especially true when you come from a background of a less fortunate place. It’s about how you can change your life and escape from poverty by becoming a pilot, or doctor, or scientist. That’s what every kid around me dreamed about, including myself.
My dreams of becoming a pilot, or doctor, or scientist didn’t exactly pan out the way I had dreamed they would. And I found myself in a place where I wanted to challenge this idea that I had grown up with… that I had to fight to get out of poverty by making myself uber successful. I started to learn that to escape poverty, you actually have to do the opposite of what I had always thought. Instead of making myself greater, I’ve learned it actually feels better to make other people greater.
When I started Carry 117, I started it because I wanted to help women in Korah, specifically single moms, provide for their children. Why? Because I had a front row seat to what it looked like for a single mother to raise a child in a 3rd world country. It’s anything but easy.
I had no idea that through helping these ladies and their kids, God would use it to help change so many more people than I could have ever imagined.
Here’s what I mean…
Carry 117 is changing the lives of our employees.
Holistic change. It’s not just about them having enough money to provide, although that is very important. It’s not just about the paycheck they earn. Their life is changing simply because they have an income… But. It’s more than that. We have seen them transform from being a person that receives handouts to a person who wants to give generously in order to help empower others. We’ve seen people who have lived life for so long feeling they have nowhere to belong, transform to having a sense of belonging in their community. They have come to believe they can truly make a difference, not just in their life, but in someone else’s too.
Carry 117 is changing the lives of our leadership staff.
I was having a conversation with Habtam, our office manager in Ethiopia, about being 32 and where I am in life. She encouraged me about how I am constantly giving to others or pouring out myself for others and how happy I am and how she thinks it’s in my blood. And she made the comment about how much she has learned in the year she has worked here. That when you get a taste of giving and life change, money becomes less important. I’ve learned I need to be chasing generosity and selflessness, not chasing opportunity and money. She reminded me that my heroes aren’t the richest people in the world, they are people who have given their life for others, and who lived for the happiness and freedom for others. Mandela. Mother Teresa. Jesus. Habtam relayed to me that she wakes up every day excited for the job because she is excited to be part of this and how she compared it to her other job where she felt like she wasn’t doing anything significant. She just did that job for the money. And this job at Carry 117 is the total opposite of that.
Carry 117 is changing my circle of friends and family.
I have had a major change in attitude. That life is not just about accumulating wealth and what you can take for yourself and building your own kingdom, but for empowering people and giving yourself to others. In many cultures, it’s easy to love your family and friends. But it’s different when it’s strangers or people you don’t know - when you are giving without expecting. It is expected that you love your friend’s spouse or family… But it’s different when you help people that have nothing to do with your family or with you.
Carry 117 is changing the guests who are visiting Ethiopia.
I have hundreds of guests every year at the Light House Guest House. I get a chance to sit down and have conversations about Carry 117 often. Usually people are amazed that a local, me, is doing what I am doing. I’m just guessing, but they are usually thinking it’s a person from a better background, maybe a non-Ethiopian, who sees the need and comes and helps. I guess it’s surprising that I could see the need and address the need and step up and help my own people. I think missionaries are heroic… I have learned a lot from them. But I also think there is something really special about being a hero for your own people.
Carry 117 is changing the lives of people who have never set foot in Ethiopia.
I never imagined this would happen. Many times, I am speechless when I realize what is happening. For example, when I was visiting Sandals Church in California, I went to dinner with some of my friends, and another pastor from Sandals that I was just getting to know for the first time. I got to tell him the whole story of Carry 117 and what my heart is. The “why” behind it. The next day when the pastor was preaching, I was sitting there listening to him, and he said in his sermon, “my friend from Ethiopia….” And he mentioned Carry 117 and talked about being selfless. I didn’t even know he was teaching the next day, and then he was up there talking to hundreds or thousands of people about what God is doing through Carry 117… and it’s just amazing how the story is changing people… not just in Ethiopia, but all over.
Carry 117 is changing me.
Life is short. I don’t really want to be remembered for what I have. But I really want to be remembered for the difference I made. That’s what Carry 117 has taught me. Because what I have invested in will live beyond me. It will continue even when I am gone. I might not be alive to make the differences, but at least I had a part in paving the way. I think of what I get to do like a 4 x 100 relay race. I am just one of the runners in the race, and one day I will hand the baton off and they will keep running with it.
Here’s what I have learned…
You think you need money.
You think you need wealth.
You think you need platforms.
You think you need the educational background to make a difference.
But you just need to have the right heart. If you have that, you can do anything. Be the person who starts the relay race, or jumps into a race that’s already being run… Don’t just sit in the stands and watch.
I’m not sure what God has in store for the future of Carry 117, but I know He is dreaming bigger for it than I ever could. I pray He continues to use it to change me and teach me, while simultaneously using Carry 117 as a way to make all of us a little more like Him.