So, we went to Ethiopia to teach church leaders, to teach prisoners, to teach villagers, to teach teenagers… No. Not really. Those are some of the things that we did while we were in Ethiopia.
We went to Ethiopia to build relationships. We went to Ethiopia so that we could get to know our brothers and sisters better. In the process, we taught. We also learned. And, for a short time, we shared our lives with one another.
We walked together and worked together. We ate injera and wat together and we drank buna (coffee) and chai (tea) together. We shared a bowl of fandisha (popcorn). We sat together and talked about their church and our church, their struggles and our struggles. We talked about evangelism and discipleship and Scripture and missions.
Where we agreed, we encouraged and strengthened one another. Where we disagreed, we loved and accepted one another. We worked together in Christ, not in ourselves and our ability to agree with one another.
It’s true that we probably saw the best of their culture. We did not have to work for a living while we were there. We did not have to worry about where our next meal would come from. We did not have to be concerned about being beaten by our neighbors for proclaiming Christ.
They showed us their best by serving us and showing us hospitality. In the process, we grew to know and love one another. Connections were made that will remain forever, whether or not we see each other again on this old world.
However, those relationships that were built also strengthen the resolve to see and work with one another again. I now know some people who live in Alaba, Ethiopia. Already, I wonder how they are doing. I wonder what is going on in their lives. I wonder what Nigussie is planning. I wonder what Martha is cooking. I wonder how Rani is doing in school.
Because of our personal relationships with them, we’ve also begun to connect the church in Alaba, Ethiopia to our church here in North Carolina. We know the people that we’re praying for. When they need help, we know their names and faces and cares and struggles.
For Danny and me, our number one complaint was that we could not communicate better. We wish that we knew Amharic better or that they knew English together. So, we spend alot of time learning each other’s language. When (If God wills) we go back to Alaba, Ethiopia, it will be that much easier to communicate and get to know one another even better.
We learned that we all had needs and desires. We learned that we all had strengths and weaknesses. We learned that we could learn from one another. And, together, we were able to encourage one another to trust God.
People are important. The people who are part of our church in North Carolina are important. The people who are part of the church in Alaba, Ethiopia are important. The people who live and work and shop next to me are important. God cares about them all.
On this trip, God helped me understand a little better about how much he cares for people, and how important it is for me to build relationships with people – especially people who are different than me.