I felt God pulling at my heart to travel with Children’s HopeChest and my church community from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we sponsor a child. Honestly, I tried to talk God out of the trip at first, claiming it was bad timing. I couldn’t leave my family, work obligations…. God didn’t listen to my excuses and soon I was headed to the airport preparing for an extremely long flight. I must admit I was terrified of all the unknowns but I knew this was exactly where God wanted me.
The next ten days my heart was torn, and filled, and broken, and filled again. I don’t know if I can even describe it in words, but here are four of the most memorable moments.
- Spending time at the CarePoints
We danced, told stories, played games, painted nails, did crafts and sang. My favorite part was just BEING present with the kids. I have never been kissed and hugged and held hands with so many of God’s perfect children. My cup runneth over. The love the kids have for their sponsors surprised me. They were so excited to see notes and pictures and hear more about who is loving and praying for them from afar!
- Visiting homes
Being welcomed into a home and offered food and drink was overwhelming and humbling, one of the most emotional things I have ever experienced. We asked the families their struggles, as well as their hopes and dreams and every single story broke my heart, yet these beautiful people had hope because we serve a good and mighty God. We prayed with them and for them, for their children, for healing and better-living conditions. I must say, these families are very thankful for their sponsors, and through tears, they expressed their gratitude.
- Meeting our sponsored child
I was overcome with emotion seeing his adorable face, as he was no longer just a picture on our refrigerator. I felt fortunate to meet his family and I had the opportunity to tell his mom that we pray for her little boy daily and she expressed that she considers me his “other mom.” She could have never known that my husband and I have been through years of heartbreak and exhausted every option trying to have a second child, but God knew, and paired us with a precious boy born into poverty. I cannot put into words what this experience meant to me. I loved seeing that the HopeChest model goes beyond sponsorship – but pours into the community that our sponsored child is a part of.
- Building relationships
I knew that’s what this trip was supposed to be about. I even wrote it in the letter to my supporters. “The purpose of this trip is to build strong relationships with the leaders and children in the community.” What an honor and a privilege to meet and know so many amazing people. I miss the sweetest and most beautiful children, I miss them by my side and kissing my face, and I miss the HopeChest Ethiopian staff who are the most enthusiastic, kind and loving people I have ever met. I miss our interpreters who have incredible stories of perseverance and God’s love, I miss experiencing Ethiopia with my amazing travel team, but mostly I miss the vulnerability of being God’s hands and feet.
This is just a tiny piece of what took place on my spiritual, emotional, and physical journey to Ethiopia. I’m simply a mom who was obedient and willing and was honored to witness God’s love happening halfway around the world. My heart is forever changed and I need to let everyone know that Children’s HopeChest is changing lives, families, and whole communities through partnerships, one sponsored child at a time.