How Great the Father’s Love for Us… How Vast Beyond all Measure, That He would give His only Son, To make the WORLD His Treasure.
The extent of Our Father’s love has overwhelmed me in these last few days. I have seen more pain, more death, more suffering and more joy just in these last weeks since moving to Soddo. BUT what I see as I look back over our days, is not sorrow, or hopelessness, but a deeper level of understanding the love of God. I know I cannot comprehend Him. I cannot grasp His ways, His choosing. I can’t claim I even like all of the consequences I see day to day. BUT, His love, I see afresh.
I boarded a helicopter on Friday morning (some things with Jesus, are so much more amazing than we ever imagine!) with my awesome husband, and American gone Ethiopian evangelist, a Woillaitta evangelist and the best helicopter pilot in the world (I’m sure of it!) I arose early…took my nice, hot shower, put on clean clothes, left the comfort of my big cement house and literally flew to a different world. It felt a bit like time traveling…I sensed I was going back one thousand years—over those one thousands hills.
I had the re-occurring thought throughout my 2 day mission—“Is this really my life? I’m a house-wife, mom, pregnant, home-schooler…what in the world am I doing on this helicopter?” I think to be transformed, was the answer. I really possess nothing in me other than Jesus Himself that made me eligible to fly South and see what I saw and do what I did. But I will be forever impacted, and forever so grateful for what Jesus gave me on this trip.
We flew one hour South…over the mountains, deep valleys, and the Omo River. One hour in the sky, but days and days and lives and lives below on the land. We came to two high ridges resting under the vast Africa sky…Markus said, “There is T’ara.”
The helicopter gently rested on the hillside next to their church—the one that had, many years ago, been the home of the witch doctor. Precious men, smiles so big, hopped into the helicopter to greet Ben and the other evangelist…there was a sense of brotherhood, of a deep connection. One hundred children gathered around the helicopter—eyes wide, smiles spread across their faces. Can you imagine living in huts—working day in and day out to survive…and then once a month a helicopter landed in your village bringing someone to teach you the Word of God for 4 days, and a doctor to give compassion and medicine? It is beyond what I can imagine.
I stepped out into a sea of children staring at my blond hair, my round belly…searching my face. I greeted them—they all giggled. We walked to the clinic and our T’ara adventure began. We sat around in a house made of eucalypturs…little faces peered in all around us. The men were oozing with joy, with passion. I could only understand pieces of their meeting, but they were eager, excited about SENDING some into unreached villages nearby. I haven’t witnessed such determination about sharing the Life Giving News than I did that day. They were strategizing and focused…how could they make it work—that day. I loved seeing this—a people so newly in love with their Savior now with a fire lit to GO. What an absolute inspiration. They prayed together fervently before setting out in the helicopter.
We sat around together—three languages being spoken, translated—eating Shuro and injera, drinking salted coffee (please don’t think Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks..) It tasted like a very horrible combination of cigarette and alcohol—that’s the only description I can give…Dave was able to get mine down for me!
Dave and I went into another room of the eucalyptus house that was built for Ben and the medical outreaches. Our amazing translator, Workene, followed…we set up our clinic along the hay and dirt…all our pharmacy sitting in plastic bags. We set up a cot for the patients and two triangles seats for the Doctor and I ☺…the faces were already lining the outside walls…curious eyes peered through bars of eucalyptus. A chicken walked through. We prayed. We used some hand sanitizer and passed out cards with the numbers 1 to 20 on them to the waiting.
We began seeing sweet patients, some so ill, some with elbow or back pain. The compassion of Jesus overwhelmed me. I had no fear. A woman came in with so much pain that she couldn’t even sit down…she had an open wound on her back side the size of a half dollar. I didn’t look as Dave scrubbed and she cried. These people never cry. She was in such pain. Then, I just touched her arm and asked Jesus to help her, and help me get over my inability to look at blood and wounds. He did.
We saw little one after little one with scabies, with pneumonia, with malaria…with worms—bellies distended. We handed out medicines into little hands, into big hands—hands marked with the difficulty of life in the bush. Somehow, God had called just a man out of a small town in Washington and put him on a helicopter to fly to this place at this time to show HIS love—to show the extent He goes to heal not only bodies, but souls.
The day went so fast…I loved watching Dave…he would ask two or three questions..start thinking, look at something on his Ipod ☺ and then say, “Ok, Jewels, find the medicine for….” He was precious to watch.
When we arrived to Ethiopia, our commitment was to work and pour out at Soddo. My heart has always been for the very poor and orphan, the widows, the unreached, but I really had no idea how God would fit all that into our picture and calling here. Dave said YES to Jesus, he said YES to working and training and discipling in this amazing hospital here, but I felt we were still placing our own perameters around our call here. I prayed with a dear mentor who had lived and ministered in Africa for 15 years…we prayed that we would lay our professions, our skills, our very lives on the altar of ministry. Not focusing on boundaries, but on surrender. I prayed that Dave would just surrender his very giftings to Jesus-however He desired they be used. I never imagined this. Sitting next to the man I love most in this world, in the middle of the mountains of Southern Ethiopia…doing something like what I’ve dreamed for 15 years, but then like nothing I’ve ever dreamed!! God’s plans unfolding in my life are so different than I ever imagined, but I’m recognizing that HE created me. He knows the inter-workings of my hearts, my desires, my hopes and my dreams. He knows what He can do with me and what He hasn’t asked of me. I have more and more peace as I learn that too. The giftings He’s given Dave, myself and our kids can be our offering to Him—our song of praise—our stewardship of the Grace we’ve been given.
So, I sat and loved sick people with my eyes and my hands…in a new way. I sort of loved being at Dave’s right hand and helping him in his work. I’ve never been able to watch him that closely before. It was amazing to see what God has put in this man who has chosen to lay his gift of medicine on the altar of ministry…look what God has done!
That night, we gathered in the mud-walled church in the black black night…only a solar powered light lit the small mud stage where Ben, Workene, and Dawit were teaching…it was so amazing. From Amharic/English to Woilatta to T’ara!! The translation itself was miraculous to me, but watching God’s Word fall on hungry hearts was so beautiful. In this village there are maybe 200 believers, and on the second T’ara ridge the same is true. There were no Bibles as far as I saw. There were hungry, faith-filled hearts that BELIEVE and love the God that reached to the ends of the earth to show that love for them.
We slept that night in the eucalyptus hut, under a blanket of stars that I have been under my whole life, but never seen shining so brightly! We slept under a net, next to the evangelists. I was awakened many times in the night by new sounds, by an hour of fervent prayer from Jengo, the first believer in this village, and by the anticipation of what God was doing in this place.
We awoke in the morning to a soft pink sky and many faces awaiting us—really just standing and staring at us as we rose. I thought of privacy and comfort. I thought of our comforts and rules around social things….like not staring at people while they’re waking up…but I was in their world—they should stare. I brushed my teeth, they stared…I walked to use the ‘toilet’…they stared. Ben sat outside the door reading His Word, he had a crowd around him, just watching.
This new day brought a freshness to all of us. We gathered quickly to eat goat and injera, peanut butter and bread…and pray.
We hopped into the Helicopter to FLY. We landed in the third known village of T’ara and I experienced a welcome like I’ve never experienced before. There was dancing and a white flag being flown…as we flew over the ridge to ‘announce’ our arrival, women, children and men, ran from their huts up the hills…as we landed there were already about 200 gathered around the church building watching in wonder as the bird descended. They dove to the ground covering their heads as the wind from the helicopter was so strong! And then the greetings!! “Ownsa, ownsa…ownsa!!” I just started saying this over and over, and smiles erupted, hands were extended and shoulders were bumping!! It was so fun and so full of life and love. God’s spirit was alive in this place…I could feel the longing and the readiness here. Something was happening.
We wasted no time, but walked to the hillside…it transported me to the stories of Jesus teaching on a hillside and a crowd gathered. Ben, Workene and Dawit, quickly began explaining that we have brought the Word which can heal their souls and also medicine and a doctor to help heal their bodies and illnesses…the clinic would begin after the teaching.
The teaching that day was passion-filled—Holy Spirit anointed and so FUN to watch. I watched the crowds sitting beneath the big trees…their eyes were wide! Women were breast-feeding, the men were listening…children continued to gather and sit around wherever they could find room…people continued to appear, sweat running down their faces…they had heard the helicopter and RAN with eagerness to hear the Word of God…I thought of the places I’ve worshipped…had I ever seen anyone RUN to hear? Had I ever seen such eagerness and hunger for the Word? Had I ever been greeted in this way and watched the Word fall for the first time on hearts that were ready? Why was I allowed to see this passion and this readiness for the Gospel? I saw God’s love for the people He created in a new way. I saw how He has created hearts to love and worship Him even when they know so little about Him. I saw a hunger—like people who had never been fed before. I saw a thirst like they were receiving water—the Living Water for their souls! As the translation went through 3 languages, the crowds’ eyes bounced from the tall white man, to the Woilaitta evangelist, to the T’ara evangelist…it looked like they were watching a tennis match—the intensity of their focus and the understanding across their faces was incredible to watch. God was in this place…HE was reaching down into their hearts. They were ready and receptive. This was only the 4th time they had heard the TRUTH of God’s love…and they could not wait to be fed this day on the mountainside! They responded, they laughed, they cheered, they jeered when they heard about Satan…they rose their hands…they prayed. It was a gift I felt unworthy to be unwrapping with my eyes and my heart.
God wanted these people who had lived on this ridge for so many years. He is saying the time is now…My Harvest is ready…and some have said “Yes” to go and to take His Word to them. This passion I see…this hunger…this longing for Truth, for LIFE—eternal…God, place it deep in all our hearts. Lord, give us a hunger for YOU. Give us a passion for all these precious people living on the ridges, in the valleys, along rivers…among the trees…on the islands—to the ends of the earth. God, let us hear them saying , “Yes,” to You…let us HEAR their cries…let us SEE their need, let us FEEL your very heart beat for them to know and worship You.
Oh, His love is so very great—extending to the ends of this earth. Know He loves you this deeply that He reached down right where you are–today…and He desires to reach to the farthest tribes—the farthest places of His creation to be known and loved….
Why did I see what I saw?? I know it is changing me…it is exploding in me my small grasp of the LOVE of JESUS…but maybe my eyes got to see it for you too—so I could write words, take pictures…move your heart as He is moving mine…is He asking you to love someone for His Kingdom—or to GO…, to say ‘yes’ to something you’ve always dreamed of…to fly for Jesus? Isn’t it amazing today that wherever you are—His Name can be praised…on this ridge in Southern Ethiopia, His praise is reaching and lifting—let it be Lord, to the ends of this earth!
‘We have thought on your ysteadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. 10 As your zname, O God, so your praise reaches to athe ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Ps 48:9–10)