From Checklist to Changed: [117 Trip Chronicles]

As someone who loves and has been on many mission trips, one of my lifelong goals has been to serve God on every continent (except for Antarctica I guess…since they don’t have a ton of people there). Sounds like an awesome life goal, right? I planned for this trip to be checking off another box, the Africa box, toward that goal. However, while I was in Ethiopia on the 117 Trip, my mind and heart were shifted completely by the things I noticed and experienced. When we arrived in Korah on our first day in Ethiopia, we walked right up to the edge of the trash dump we’d heard so much about. It was charred and smoking, and one side was completely barren. I could make out the lonely forms of people picking through someone else’s garbage, even though the slope looked too dangerous to even navigate. After hearing so much about it from people who had been there prior to this trip, seeing people depend on the trash dump for their survival in front of my very own eyes made it real for me.

As we stood there looking at the massive pile of trash, a woman named Alem who I have heard so much about and recognized from pictures, walked around the corner towards our team, and our team members erupted with joy simultaneously, as she did as well. They ran to each other and hugged. It was like the picture of desolation before us was all of a sudden drowned out by joy.

We walked over to the compound and I noticed the relationships that were already developed between our teammates who had previously been to Ethiopia and the women at Carry 117.  It wasn't just one woman, it was all the women at the Carry 117 compound, they greeted each other with so much joy. It literally made me reevaluate how I greet people in my life. I’ve personally never been as excited to see someone as our teammates were to see the women (and as excited as the women were to see them). How could people who live so far apart, love each other that much? It was beautiful to watch, and was an experience I hadn't yet observed on any of the mission trips I had previously been on. What was it about this place, this ministry, these people, that was different than anything I had every experienced?  I wanted to experience that same joy in my life, and I wanted to find out why my teammates felt so strongly about these women.

In contrast to observing the intense joy, I also noticed the overwhelming amount of extreme need. I have been to some very poor countries, but this was truly the poorest (materially) of any of them. There were beggars on every street, many children wandering by themselves, and dirt was the main color I saw. Trying to find words to describe such extreme contrasts was difficult.

Honestly, I didn't really know why I was specifically on this trip, but I had been keeping an open mind and heart and asking God to show me. And he did. For all the reasons I wrote above. But also, God provided me with an opportunity to use my hands. When our teammate and resident expert carpenter was unable to come on the trip with us, I realized there would be an opportunity for me to use my experience and skills on a project at the Carry 117 compound. We had been planning to build planter boxes and several shelves as a team. Having completed several wood-working projects before, I knew I would be able to help get this project underway and finished. While it didn’t feel like a huge thing, that was one of the many ways God worked through me. Who knew I would use those skills I learned so long ago to help the ladies of Carry 117 plant and grow their own vegetables!

God used this experience on the 117 Trip to change my life and my life goals.  He taught me that short-term missions isn't about checking off boxes on a bucket list or about going to new places (although this is thrilling). I guess the fact that I thought that shows my own poverty. So I am thankful... that I was obedient to going. And in the process of showing me more of who He is through the women in Korah, He could also show me a glimpse of my own poverty. And He reminded me that He can use me in both big and small ways if I just remain open and willing.

On the 117 Trip, I got to see firsthand that God is using Carry 117 to do amazing things in Korah.

And I want to be part of it.