Our Last Day in Ethiopia

Our Last Day in Ethiopia
June 28, 2023. This day happened to be Ted's and my 26th anniversary! These roses you see pictured were in the hotel lobby. I just love all the fresh flowers we saw everywhere!

So...our last wake-up in Ethiopia. So bittersweet! I took my Bible downstairs for my last breakfast time, where I visited with some of my teammates while eating and then had my quiet time. I don't have a photo, but I had a lovely conversation (several talks a few minutes at a time) with one of the servers, Abraham. He is a believer and connected with our team members over the course of the time we were there. He would see one of us reading a Bible and ask if we were a Christian...so by the time I met him, he had already had conversations with just about everyone on the team! My heart was so blessed to listen to his testimony and to share the bond of faith. 

After my final walk by the pastry counter to enjoy a second helping of their delicious donuts (!!!), I reluctantly headed back to my hotel room to start the packing process. BUT FIRST!! I had the incredible privilege of meeting a sweet lady whom I've only known of long-distance for years! She and her family spent years in Mexico as missionaries. We learned about them through the church we attended while we were in Iowa, as their extended family attended Common Ground as well. Over the years we've prayed for each other...Mary and her family prayed for Verity when I was pregnant with her and have followed her journey ever since! Anyway...imagine my surprise when our pastor's wife connected us, saying that Mary's family was now in Addis Ababa! Mary and I began messaging, as I eagerly agreed to help transport some homeschool materials and other items from the States for her and her family. Tobin and I only needed one suitcase a piece, so we pretty much packed a 3rd bag just for Mary's family, ha!

With our full schedule, the only time for us to meet up was this last day, and it was just perfect. Mary and I honestly could spend hours talking together, but we made do with just one! She made this darling little dress for Verity...I'll flash forward and show you a photo of Verity wearing it to church the following Sunday...

It was SO wonderful to visit with each other! Mary's husband now has a job with Samaritan's Purse, so she shared a little bit about their work there. He had been busy with the auditor who had come to do an internal audit...the only reason I mention this is because, small world, I sat NEXT TO the auditor on the way from Ethiopia to Virginia! She's a lovely lady, too! Anyway...I connected Mary with our Cru friend Marc so they could make more ministry connections, and then I really had to get to work packing so I could get all my items out of the hotel room. We used Marc and Evangeline's suite as a holding area for all of our baggage, since our flight home wasn't until 10:40pm that night.

Thankfully Tobin was feeling much better this day! We had a lovely lunch at the hotel with the Ethiopian team. It's crazy how you can spend only one week with folks and yet feel like family...that's the bond of Christ! Here are some photos of our lunch fellowship...

The Ethiopians gave each of us gifts...so sweet! I was delighted to take home Ethiopian coffee and a beautiful shawl! The men also received something that I don't know how to name, but I'm guessing "shawl" isn't quite the word, lol. Here's Tobin sporting his!

Our team had a surprise for them as well. We pitched in and contributed a monetary gift for them to put toward an upcoming team retreat-type of event that they have been saving for for quite some time. I don't know how much we raised altogether, but I'm hopeful they will be able to enjoy that retreat sooner rather than later!

Following our lunch and goodbyes, it was time to meet as a team and debrief. This was a wonderful time of sharing and hopefully helpful to Nate and Loree as they plan to make this an annual "thing" for supporters to be able to get an up-close look at these ministries. We shared what we thought went well, what maybe could improve, and what a highlight was from the trip. 

I won't speak for everyone, but for me, I thought so much went well! We joked several times that "nothing went as planned," and yet "everything went as planned." God's plans are the best, and we all came into this experience holding plans and expectations loosely, wanting to be open to God's leading and purposes rather than our own agenda. Despite so many changes, I think communication amongst us went surprisingly well. 

For future trips, I think there are additional items I would recommend putting on the packing list (or even suggested items to bring). Considering we only knew about this trip 3 weeks in advance, honestly, I'm pleased with what I brought! But personally, I would have loved to have brought special treats for the children (such as bubbles or small toys). Thankfully, Loree and Evangeline had extras for us to give out, but still. I may also have chosen to pack more "comfort" items considering all the stomach issues we had...but really, I survived!

And my highlight? Hands down our weekend in rural Ethiopia! It's hard to say whether the Jesus Film Premieres or the church plant visit and fellowship were more of a highlight; they were both so incredibly special and meaningful. But I'm also very thankful for the opportunity we had to learn more about digital missions and how we can be involved. The whole trip was simply incredible.

We had a light dinner and then headed to the airport about 3 1/2 hours before our departure time.

If you think going through security at American airports is annoying, you should try going through THREE security checkpoints at the Addis Ababa airport! First we went through with ALL of our bags...which meant we had to pull out all of the liquids, electronics, etc. Then we checked in and got to offload our checked baggage. Then it was through another security line. Then through the airport to our final security line, which was right before our gate. AND...no place to purchase water after we went through this last security, where we had to empty out our water bottles. SIGH! We were all pretty thirsty and disgruntled as we waited to get on the airplane! I did have a 16-ounce refillable water bottle (which was filled with water) that I had hidden away in one of my bags, and it did not get flagged at all. So...that was nice, but I wish we had all known that and been prepared!

Anyway, we survived and boarded the plane for our 17-hour journey (8 hours to Dublin, then refueling, then 8 more hours to Dulles). I visited with our seatmate, the auditor for Samaritan's purse, for awhile, slept a bit here and there, and watched a couple of new-to-me movies (Luca, Mary Poppins Returns).

Dulles was a disaster. I'll keep this short, but it was a series of unfortunate events that ended up with us on the plane for 6.5 hours past takeoff time. Then we were in a holding pattern over Denver because of weather. Our flight was originally scheduled to land at 2:23pm, June 29. We landed at about 10:15pm and left the airport at 11pm because Ted had thankfully been able to collect our luggage during the time we were stuck on the ground waiting to pull up to the gate. Honestly...it was exhausting and a huge inconvenience, but considering we had spent time with men who have been persecuted for the sake of the gospel, "inconvenience" was about the worst I can say it was. Not fun or enjoyable to be sure, but...perspective.

In fact, now that we've been home for as long as we were in Ethiopia, I pray that I never lose hold of this perspective. I continue to ask the Lord just how He wants me to use this experience, how I can share with others the needs and opportunities for God's kingdom work. I don't want this to just be a trip full of great memories but rather a life-changing experience.

I will keep pondering and praying over all of these things...
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Fellowship with the Body of Christ

Fellowship with the Body of Christ
June 25, 2023. Breakfast at the hotel, then loading up the bus again, this time to a remote location so we could visit a church plant for their worship service. I have no idea how long we drove, but eventually we were no longer on pavement of any kind, passing scenes such as this...

Our destination was inaccessible by bus, so at some point we parked and began walking. It wasn't too long, perhaps 20 minutes. Here are some views from the walk...

When we arrived at the church, we heard more from some of the missionaries about the story of how this church body got started. This group has been in existence just a little over 2 months! It is in a community where only 1-2 families were Christians for some time. Then, after the Jesus film was shown, more people came to Christ, and now there's a church! The building and land were donated by a sweet little lady, whom we got to meet and pray for during the service. Here is my view while listening to the story of the church beginnings:

Tobin and I got a quick picture with the church building behind us. Soon the church members came out, bringing the benches outside with them, so that we could get a photo of everyone. Then we all joined in worship together (an utterly Spirit-filled, emotional experience) and listened to Girma, national director of GCM Ethiopia, give a completely impromptu sermon on Ephesians 4:1-6.

We enjoyed some fellowship for some time afterward, and then we walked to a church member's home (perhaps the pastor's?) because we were of course invited for lunch. This was such a treat! "Eat an authentic Ethiopian meal in a Christian's home where everything you eat and drink was produced on the ground around you" was not on our official agenda, but WOW, are we blessed that God orchestrated our schedule for us! It was truly, in my opinion, the BEST food and the BEST coffee I had during my time in Ethiopia! Sharing the time with our brothers in sisters in Christ undoubtedly made it all the more flavorful and memorable!

The host home

The meal: injera (their bread) with FRESHLY made cheese (on the left) and flavorful lentil dishes. "Kocho" is what the square item is: it's basically a flatbread made of fermented "false banana" (enset plant). Kocho is very dense; I could only eat part of mine. But everything else...well, I happily accepted seconds! It was all amazingly delicious!

I was sitting at about the center along one of the walls, so here is a look to my left and right. You can see Dean getting his hands washed after our meal (no utensils typically used).

Getting ready to drink the BEST cup of coffee EVER! (And yes, I did accept 2 spoonsful of sugar!) This coffee was grown right behind the house!

Before we left, I just HAD to talk to the children! My mama's heart was about to burst! With the help of a translator, I spoke blessings on this next generation, that they will be strong and courageous and grow in Jesus, helping others to know about Him as well. My emotions were definitely brimming over, as I was also missing my own little girls back at home plus the rest of my family. My heart longed for all of the Jacobsons to experience fellowship with these believers, but for the time being, I was just so thankful to have this time with Tobin and our team, who were rapidly becoming more like family than a group of near strangers coming together for the first time. 

We had a long way to travel, with an event to attend in the city of Addis Ababa that evening, so our leaders began ushering us in the direction of the bus. (Remember it was a 20-minute walk to get back to the bus!) As I reluctantly said goodbye to those precious little girls and their mamas, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a young man with distinctive facial features. I nearly stopped, but we were being tugged along, and so I didn't. My heart was already full...and yet...I longed to connect with one more person...did I really just see someone with Down syndrome?!

I walked with Marc back to the bus, weeping with emotion as I tried to express my heartfelt gratitude that he had invited us to consider coming on this trip in the first place. As we reflected on the events of the day, Marc asked me if I had seen that the young man with Down syndrome was sitting right in front of Tobin and myself when we were worshiping and singing during the church service! I had not! At the time we were standing in the back along the wall of the church, and later we were seated on a bench just in front of the preacher. In all of the happy chaos following the service, I had been blowing bubbles with the children and hanging out with the women. So I had not seen him until that moment just before we had to leave the warmth of the hospitality we had been enjoying.

When we got to the bus, I saw that some of the church leaders were there to send us off. I dashed inside the bus to snag a few Verity's Village brochures, which feature pictures of our sweet Verity. With one of the Ethiopian team members to translate for me, I told the men about our special girl and that I had seen the special young man from their community and wanted them to know how much he is loved and valued! And while I knew they wouldn't read the English explanation about our ministry, I wanted them to have the pictures of Verity and know when they see them that my family and I will be praying for THEIR community and for that precious man, who is obviously loved and accepted just as he is (praise God)!

Mistre, the young lady who was helping me communicate, asked me if I wanted to meet the young man. He had come along with the others to the bus to see us off! Sadly, I never did get his name, but I'm so thankful I could at least meet him and share some words of love and encouragement! Isn't God amazing?!

I spent the bus ride back to the city praying, reading God's Word, and thinking...feeling a bit like Mary who "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

Unfortunately, we missed the conference that we had been planning to attend, a massive celebration of the 51 Days of Digital Outreach. Over 10,000 people attended, and we pulled up to the conference center as attendees were pouring out into the streets. I was disappointed for Sami especially. It was a bit like the disappointment we felt for Dean not being able to see the premiere of the Jesus film in the language he had funded. And yet...we were so very grateful for the incredible opportunity to be with the people in the remote little church. I hope and pray they were even half as blessed and encouraged to be with us as we were to be with them!

Although it seemed as if this one day had already lasted far longer than 24 hours, we returned to our hotel in the early evening, with plenty of time to get into cozy clothes and gather in the meeting suite for a room service dinner and time of debriefing. What a precious time it was, sharing our perspectives and experiences. We were more than ready, though, to tumble into bed for a much-needed night of sleep!

This day, this weekend, was one of the most beautiful times in my life. I pray I never forget it.

I returned to my hotel room to find two dozen roses arranged by my sweet housekeeping attendant. 
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Jesus Film Premieres

Jesus Film Premieres
June 24, 2023. This day began with much excitement and a bit of trepidation! A huge event was happening that afternoon: the premiere of the Jesus film in not one but TWO tribal languages. Obviously we ourselves could not be in two places at once! Our team was to go to the village that speaks the language for which one of our team members had provided the financial support for translation and infrastructure work. 

After breakfast we packed overnight bags since we wouldn't be returning to Addis Ababa until the following evening. We would spend quite a bit of time in our bus over the next couple of days, which provided many opportunities for conversations and getting to know others on our team better. Once we were finally loaded up (everything takes longer than scheduled, lol), we drove a couple of hours to a resort, where they had arranged for us to have lunch. Below are a few photos from our stop...some of the ladies changed into traditional dresses in honor of the special occasion.

Two mother-daughter duos! Julianne and Loree, Evangeline and Annada

Nate (works with the Jesus Film Project), myself, and Valerie (a long-time supporter of JFP)

Completely gratuitous photo of my after-lunch coffee. Mmmm!

Following our luxurious lunch, we boarded the bus again. Next stop would be at the Maro village! Two days prior, a nearby church had been burned down with worshippers inside. All precautions were taken. Many prayers went up. Police and military officers, along with many others, met us at the edge of the Maro village to escort us through town to the cultural center. You can see some of our escorts below.

This man is the voice actor for Jesus in the film recorded in his heart language!

It was like being in a major parade! Everyone was out to see the procession...lots of honking and waving and staring and shouting. It felt so strange, being treated like celebrities. The real heroes are those who invested their time, energy, and resources into making all of this happen. It was a true honor to be present at such a momentous event. Though the community is over 99% Muslim, the fact that the Jesus film was made in THEIR tribal language showed honor and respect to them as a people and culture. It is the first and only film thus far to be made in their heart language. It's hard for us to fathom just what a BIG DEAL this is, what it means to them. 

Tobin and I are standing in front of the cultural center, where the film was to premier for the community leaders. I was loaned a scarf to wear, which sweet Etsub had to keep readjusting for me so I could wear it properly! The yellow, green, white, and red that you can see on the railing behind us are the particular colors of this tribe.

Front row: me, Evangeline, Etsub, Valerie
Back row: Mistre, Mary (I think?), Annada, Loree, Julianna

Waiting for the ceremonies to start

Moving the banner so the film can be projected onto the wall. 
(The grasses, by the way, are put out deliberately; it's a traditional welcome.)

So we were in the cultural center maybe a couple of hours altogether. There were many acknowledgements and recognitions, not the least of which was honoring Dean, the man who funded the whole translation! He is a quiet, humble man who likely felt uncomfortable being recognized so publicly. I do think he enjoyed being able to hand out certificates to each of the voice actors who were also in attendance. I can only imagine how emotional all of this was for him, as this was the culmination of a project years in the making.

Not too surprisingly, more time was spent on ceremonial aspects than showing the actual film, though they did show clips! Imagine for these people: for the first time, hearing their own language in a movie! And by the way, if you've never seen the Jesus film, it is a decades-old movie based on the gospel of Luke. As their website states, "Not everyone can read or will read the Bible. Jesus Film Project delivers the story of Jesus on film so all can hear Him speak in their language and see His love play out on screen."

Following this time with the community leaders, some of us went outside and spent time with the children, who were curiously watching the proceedings. I did not take any photos at this time, completely caught up in the experience of interacting with so many precious children as we communicated in the universal language of smiles and laughter. Loree did capture a photo of me as we blew bubbles, which were a huge hit and cause for much amazement.

Marc came out after awhile and regaled everyone with some magic tricks! So fun! In this video he's making the kids' hands "squeak."

Meanwhile, Tobin and Evangeline had the opportunity to interview some key players in this project. Tobin is working on a feature for the World News Group to air on their podcast The World and Everything in It. And Evangeline is on staff with Cru (along with her husband Marc, both of whom we have supported for a number of years). I'll share what Evangeline sent out in her email update that just came out so you can read these amazing details in her own words:

At the premiere I was asked to interview Adelon Uri, 66-year-old man, who had been asking for the Jesus Film in his language and led the translation. Over 30 years ago Adelon saw the Jesus Film while in Bible school in English. Even though Adelon does not speak much English, he very slowly went word-for-word and translated the film into Amharic (the trade language in Ethiopia). THEN he did that again, translating it into his people's language. He went from home to home "under the tree, behind ditches, and under bridges," he said, showing the film by muting the volume and speaking the Gospel of Luke in his language over the film.

This is an extremely Muslim community who persecuted Adelon for talking about Jesus. 5 years ago a militant Muslim group burned down Adelon's home and buildings hoping he would be inside. When he survived they threw him in prison for 3 years.

"I prayed that I would see the Jesus Film in my people's language before I died. And today I have!" Adelon said. By God's grace, within months of getting out of jail Adelon found out the translation of the Bible into his language was funded and he immediately began helping with translation.

Hearing those words, my own fear melted away and I felt humbled. This man did not only face fear - he had endured beatings, the loss of all he owned, years in jail, and yet did not hesitate to lead the few believers in his community.

"We promise you, on behalf of my people, starting tomorrow, we will take this to our villages and we will make sure our people hear the gospel," Adelon vowed. The next day the Ethiopian team tried to contact him... and he was gone! Off taking the film to his people!

Here is one piece I don't want you to miss. Adelon did not take film showing equipment. He took his phone and an SD card. This is a community where most homes cannot be reached by roads. But thanks to your partnership in the gospel, Adelon could take the Gospel of Luke in the form of the Jesus Film on foot and into homes across his community where he can pass the film from his phone to others.

Evangeline and Adelon 

The original plan was to join the people of the community in watching the Jesus film out in the open air. As the sun set, however, storm clouds rolled in. Some of our team sat in the busy, praying that the Lord might stop the rain so that the premiere could go on as planned. At the same time, we prayed that God's will would be done and most of all that His message would go forth and change hearts and lives. Pelting rain slowed, then stopped. We waited. And wondered. Not everyone in our team was back on the bus at this point. Tobin was recording interviews; communications were happening between Jesus film team members. Darkness fell, and a decision was made. Though the rain had stopped, equipment had malfunctioned, forcing the premiere in this village to be postponed. 

However, the language premiere in the other village was still a go! Their film had been paused when the rain came, but they were able to restart it. So we had the opportunity to go to that showing, a "two-for-one," as Dean observed, allowing us the privilege to participate in two different community events. This was indeed a blessing for us, but more importantly, it was encouraging to the local believers, who were bolstered by the fact that we would come to support them despite the burning of a nearby church just two days before. 

It was a bit of a drive to the other premiere, but we quietly joined those in attendance and watched from the triumphal entry through the end of the film. The reality of the gospel message - Jesus's great love for us and willingness to die in our place - is powerful as you watch events unfold on the screen. How much more powerful when you hear and understand the message in your heart language!

The hotel we stayed in that night was very close to this showing. We arrived and had dinner around 10pm. Ironically, though we were in a much more remote location, I had strong enough access to wi-fi that I was able to FaceTime Ted and the kids and share some of the day's incredible events! Granted, the hotel lost power for a time, water pressure in the shower was nonexistent, and I smashed a number of bugs I tried to forget about before going to sleep, but hey, lol. It really was a nice hotel. (Dean took this photo in daylight next morning.)
View from my window when I woke up

What a privilege to be an observer and participant in the events of this day. What a blessing to lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer. How humbling to be in the presence of those who have given their lives to spreading the gospel. 

I will hold these memories in my heart for a long, long time.
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Learning About Digital Strategies in Missions

Learning About Digital Strategies in Missions
June 23, 2023. My first wake-up in Ethiopia (if you don't count my nap after arrival) was a little after 5am after a great night of sleep. I could hear the Muslim call to prayer over a loudspeaker in the distance and spent some time looking out from my 6th floor balcony, talking to God and just taking it all in. (Perhaps you can see a glimpse of the hotel pool, which is actually a natural hot springs? Unfortunately we never had time to try it out!)

I wandered around on the grounds for awhile, sat and journaled a little bit, then met some of our teammates for breakfast. I must say, the breakfast buffet was stellar! I loved the fresh papaya and watermelon plus made-to-order omelet. The kiwi-flavored water was unusual yet delicious. And I'm already missing the opportunity to splurge on Ethiopian coffee with pastries...

Moving on to the more important things...this day was dedicated to meeting the digital strategies team and learning about their work. We spent the day in their office, which occupies the whole 7th floor of a building called the Holy City Center. Digital Strategy Director Samson (Sami) Usmael noted, "Technology is the 'heart language' of this generation." I so appreciated the opportunity to hear about all the GOOD, amazing things God is doing through technology! All too often we only hear about the negative effects of living in the digital age, and while there is certainly much to be concerned about, what a blessing to hear about the many ways believers are redeeming this space for God's purposes.

Sami and Senay (pictured below) gave us a big-picture overview of some of the things the team has been doing.

We were each given a copy of the Annual Digital Strategies Report for 2022. In the report, Sami (the director) wrote:

"The ministry we are in is to empower the church and raise a new breed of missionaries, who can harvest the digital space for the glory of the Lord. We are seeing hundreds of churches and ministries joining the digital mission and thousands of individuals unleashed and empowered to do digital mission. We are overwhelmed with the fruits that we are seeing globally. I believe we are redefining the way to do missions in our generation. Today we are sending missionaries without the need to dislocate. We are helping them to do mission using their skills and tools at hand and the fruits are marvelous and transforming."

The Digital Strategies team is part of the Great Commission Ministry Ethiopia. (Perhaps our American friends are more familiar with Cru...GCM is the global name of this ministry.)

The nature and scope of the work this team does almost defies description. It's absolutely mind-blowing. In 2022 alone:
  • 13,612,476 people were exposed to the gospel through their websites, social media, and applications.
  • 1,965,637 people interacted with the content.
  • 3,944 people connected to mentors via instant messaging platforms and emails.
  • 62,935 people indicated they asked Jesus into their lives.
  • 9,431 people were trained and equipped regarding digital purity and being digital missionaries.
There are many digital tools and platforms run by the Digital Strategies team...I'll just note a few here that might be relevant and helpful for English speakers! 
  • Every Student is a site (available in English, Amharic, and Afaan Oromo) with the same content in different languages helping people explore questions about who God is along with other spiritual concepts.
  • The Jesus Film Project app is a full digital library of more than 200 full-length movies, miniseries, and short films produced to help the world know Jesus. Everything on the app is free to watch, download, and share.
  • The God Tools app is a multilingual app that can help you easily and clearly share your faith with visually engaging presentations. Are you prepared for spiritual conversations? Are you confident in reaching out to others? This tool can help no matter how you feel!
  • The Mentoring Ministry is something I'm personally very excited about, because I signed up as a mentor myself! This is an online mentoring opportunity that provides an easy, safe, and anonymous way to mentor. TMM connects people looking for help with particular struggles with volunteers who take mentorship training. It provides resources and guidance for mentors to journey with hurting people and eventually share the gospel and connect them with a local church. I've gone through the basic training thus far, and I am SUPER impressed with it! I'm excited to start this journey as a "digital missionary" myself! 
All of this was a lot to take in. When I left for Ethiopia, I was under the impression that this team had something to do with a special app for missions, lol! Getting my brain wrapped around their work was vital for my own understanding but also for communicating with others just what these incredible young people are doing and how it is supporting GLOBAL missions! The Ethiopian team is leading the way in digital missions...organizations from all over the world are looking to them for help, training, resources, etc. And they deliver! At no cost to others! I'm so encouraged and inspired by their passion for reaching as many people as possible with the hope of Jesus, using their skills and talents for God's kingdom purposes. 

By the time we left for lunch (probably mid-afternoon), our brains were spinning. We walked a few blocks to a restaurant, where about 2 dozen of us sat, visited, and ate a traditional Ethiopian meal, showcased below with my teammate Julianna, whose mother Loree works for the Jesus Film Project. (Loree is in the photo below this one.)

Probably I should have taken the photo BEFORE we attacked the food, lol, but it gives you an idea! I sampled everything on the plate...including raw meat, which I didn't know was raw until after it was in my system. Julianna's the brave one, since she ate it AFTER knowing it was raw! Tobin and Dean mostly munched through fries, and I confess I snitched some myself. Their French fries are pretty amazing!

After lunch, we went back to the office, where some of us with enough wi-fi coverage signed up as mentors with TMM. (Internet connectivity was often an issue...) Sami shared more information about some of the behind-the-scenes work on their platform: graphics, videos, and other content that users can take, personalize, and share. So believers in China, for example, can utilize these resources to share the gospel in their own circles.

(I hope I'm explaining these things correctly! My 48-year-old brain isn't wired for this level of technology!)

Nate, Loree, and I registered as mentors and worked on the first module of training through The Mentor Ministry. We left the Holy City Center that evening feeling overwhelmed (in a good way) and rather exhausted after our long days of travel plus learning all of this new information. We gladly accepted the suggestion of individually ordering room service for dinner. I think some (maybe all) of us were starting to notice some, er, digestive issues because of the unfamiliar foods...! I had a simple Greek salad with tomato soup from the hotel and then collapsed into bed. My night wasn't quite as restful as the previous one; jet lag kicked in and kept me drowsily awake for almost 3 hours in the middle of the night! But we had a FULL weekend ahead of us, so I was thankful for the couple of chunks of sleep I did get!
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Our Ethiopian Adventure Begins

Our Ethiopian Adventure Begins
On Tuesday evening, June 20, my oldest son Tobin and I began our journey to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Denver airport was unusually quiet, allowing us to check in, pass through security, and get to our gate with 2 hours to spare. The red-eye flight to Dulles departed Denver at 11:59pm and arrived at 5:21am. We made our way to the next gate and settled in, since our international flight didn't depart until 10:45am. Tobin promptly fell asleep, while I finished watching the mini series Shiny, Happy People. (I may do a separate blog post about that at some point...but I'll skip that rabbit trail for now.)

After a Chick-Fil-A breakfast, we met two other travelers on our team, Loree and her daughter Julianna, and began getting to know each other. Loree works for the Jesus Film Project. I was thankful we'd have other people with whom to navigate our arrival in Ethiopia, even though this was the first time any of us had been to Africa.

The 13-hour flight was uneventful. In between naps, I watched the excellent and sobering movie Till (highly recommend) as well as Soul. I blessed my friend MeLissa for her recommendation to wear compression socks, though I was happy to remove them once we got off the plane in Addis! We arrived at 7am, June 22, local time. Ethiopia is 9 hours ahead of Colorado. This means our total travel time (to include the drive to Denver and waiting at the gate for takeoff) was 26 hours. 

This is a glimpse of the line to get through immigration! And when I say "line," I mean something more like "herd" (my friends who have lived in southern Italy will understand completely). Unbelievably, it only took about an hour to pass through. We were thankful our visas had arrived via email without issue a good two weeks before we left the USA. Some of our teammates had visa-related difficulties too complex to detail here. All of our baggage was waiting for us, so our next step was to meet the host team members who were there to greet us and take us to the hotel.

I do not have any photos or video of city traffic...but let me tell you, driving in Naples, Italy, may have only partially prepared me for the chaos that is Addis Ababa driving. I was thankful to NOT have to navigate crazy intersections with NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS! Somehow, though, it all works. There is an ebb and flow, and though I nearly had a heart attack multiple times at seeing people calmly walking across streets jammed with vehicles, clearly they know what they're doing. I never once saw an accident. And jaywalking must not be a thing over there. We arrived safely (and without harming any pedestrians) at the Hilton, where we checked in and settled into our rooms. Aaaahhh! Shower and a one-hour nap!

(Above: Going through security is a must to enter the hotel.)

Next post: Our first day in Ethiopia was really our only time to actually be tourists!
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