Countdown to Ethiopia: 40 Days, 40 Nights

And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him… And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:5, 10-12)

Several months ago, my campus pastor approached me with news of an upcoming trip to Ethiopia and informed me I needed to look into it. By now, I am sure you know that I get a little bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about any and all things African, so I went to the interest meeting. I had a missed call from my dad as I was walking back to my dorm, so I called him back and apologized for being in the meeting, and told him, I think I need to go to Ethiopia this summer. His response: Okay. I think that’s a good idea. 

I wish I could divulge more information prior to the trip. Here is what I can tell you: I am going to a region of Ethiopia that could potentially be extremely hostile, as it is almost entirely 100% Muslim, making it an unreached people group. Just a month ago, 30 Ethiopian Christians were captured and beheaded by ISIS. We were instructed not to mention the name of the villages or even the direction of the region; to scrub our social media accounts of comments or remarks that were blatantly Christian, for fear of not having our visas cleared by the Ethiopian government. We will not be having many spiritual conversations, nor will we be carrying bibles around with us. We are going to build a special needs complex in an area with an unusually high concentration mental, emotional and physical handicaps in need of additional care.

When I was told I can’t talk about the Jesus that I am so madly in love with, my jaw physically dropped. How on earth am I supposed to do that? I think about my Swazi babies and how we tell them over and over,  schleke kuhle, nokwanda Jesu uyaku tsadza kakhulu. Smile, beautiful. Jesus loves you very much. The older kids often ask why we travel so far from home to see them. I tell them that my Jesus loves me so very much that my heart cannot contain his great love, so he sent me to Njojane to share the love with each of them. How do I communicate through not only a language barrier in Ethiopia, but without the mutual understanding that I am here on Christ’s behalf? How else do I explain why on earth I’ve traveled halfway around the world just to love on some kids and build them a building?

Because the Lord commanded me.

My floodwaters have come–I have seen the graphic beheading of my brothers and sisters. I have gone through all my social media accounts, as far back as the sites will allow, and edited the Jesus right out of my life. If it weren’t for the fact that I am taking a team with me, I would not have edited the Jesus out of my life. This makes my heart hurt–I have been given this miraculous, life-giving, life-changing love and grace that goes so far above and beyond what I deserve, and I can’t even shout about it from the mountain tops of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And why?

Because my Lord commanded me.

It is a hard pill to swallow. This whole trip is a lesson in frustration. I have to sleep in a bug-netted hammock to ward of yellow fever and malaria. Because of my health, I cannot get the yellow fever vaccine, because it is a live virus vaccine and would likely hospitalize me. Rumor has it we only get to shower 2-3 times the whole trip, and that our diet will be of the goat and ramen noodle persuasion. It’s going to be a million degrees. And yet, I find myself counting down the days.

Because my Lord commanded me.

40 days, and 40 nights. 40 days, and the floodgates of heaven spring open, and the Living Water will rain down over our nondescript village and deeply thirsting region–the land without Christ. My heart is heavy, but still I rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-6)

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