“I read within a poet’s book
A word that starred the page:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage!
Yes, that is true; and something more
You’ll find, where’er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.
But every house where Love abides,
And Friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home-sweet-home:
For there the heart can rest.”
| Henry Van Dyke |
In life, it is said that home is a place where you feel most restored and authentic in your soul. This, at least for me, seems to ring true whenever I visit my families’ home in Charleston, South Carolina. Our home is a place of warmth, laughter, and restfulness for whenever I am in need of a reminder of who I am and the intricacy of God’s perfect plan in putting our sweet family together–flaws and all. However, this summer I had the opportunity to create a sort of second family on the other side of the world, with people whom I never even knew existed until God intertwined our paths together.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A place with incomparable layers and depth.
This is the place where I found an indescribably vulnerable and gracious community of people, who demonstrate Christ’s love and compassion for others in an unrelenting manner.
When you travel to different corners of our world you tend to have a preconceived vision of the experiences and people you assume to encounter. Oftentimes these thoughts are deconstructed simply due to the fact that everyone in the world is simply human.
In all my expectations going into the trip consisted of feverish excitement and contented trust in God’s provision over the trip; however, along with these feelings came mixed emotions of worry and doubt concerning my interactions with others throughout the entirety of the trip. I was immensely caught in my own thoughts debating with how I should present myself, share stories, and interact with these people who lived so differently than me.
Should I be more extroverted?
Should I talk openly about my perception of the trip throughout our time?
Will I need to filter everyday discussion to better tailor them to be relevant to the lives of the people there?
The funny thing about worry and doubt is that God’s grace is consistently sufficient enough for His power and glory to be perfected within our strife and weaknesses.
This was the fierce and bold love I was met with that very first day at the I Care for the Nations CarePoint. Our translators, the staff, and Ayni truly made myself and the other team members feel valued and welcomed, as if we were family finally reconnecting after an elongated separation. Even more astounding in our time there was the way the children and women at the CarePoint loved and appreciated those around them. There was such a remarkable tenderness in hearing the low rumbles of early morning capers as we pulled up to the care point everyday. Knowing this was merely a precursor to the endless smiles, games, and indescribable interactions with the children, women, and staff whom God quickly and preciously stitched close to my heart. Their vulnerability and intentionality with their time, stories, and emotions was a gift that far surpassed my every hope for the trip, and showed God’s glory and fruitfulness in the gathering of His children.
Now, being back in the States it is easy to settle back into regular routines and take for granted these wonderful encounters and people. However, after being home for a few weeks now I am learning that once you find a place where love abides so deeply and friendship is a guest, that is where your heart will truly find rest and solace. It is a place where life, while still having a basis of normalcy when you return, is much more fulfilling and gratifying. I absolutely love my sweet Ethiopian family and their beautiful hearts which cling so intensely to Jesus, and I cannot thank God enough for the opportunity of getting to know His heart more because of these inspiring people.
Finding a piece of home in my heart with this community was due solidly to the fact that God asked me to seek Him outside of myself and essentially lose sight of the shore.
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it;
but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”