There are so many enriching benefits of a short-term mission experience! It is not just about the work you do or the shared experience itself; mostly it is about the relationships you develop.
For two weeks, we’ve sat together, eaten together, prayed together, worked together, struggled with language and cultural barriers together, hurt together, failed together, laughed together and learned together. Quickly and powerfully friendships form, barriers decrease and love grows!
It’s also these same things that make farewells so hard! These past two days the team has been saying their farewells to our Ethiopian friends. On Wednesday Pastor James and I (Pastor Lee) said good-bye to seventy-two pastors and church leaders. Over the course of the past week we have encouraged these servants of Christ to prioritize and model disciple-making in their ministries. We have instructed them about the importance and necessity of deepening their spiritual lives through daily interaction with the Word of God.
During our concluding session we reminded the pastors of the Apostle Paul’s words from Romans 10:14-15 and John 13:1-15. We then had them gather in small groups to wash one another’s feet as a way of symbolizing, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Pastor James and I then gave each pastor a pair of socks that had been sent by one of our donors, along with a copy of the book, How to Understand the Bible (translated into Amharic). Pastors in this part of the world seldom have access to solid theological resources, and it was quite moving to both of us to see their joy receiving a book in their own language! Then the pastors gathered around us, showered us with gifts and prayed over us—one of my more memorable moments of our time here!
Thursday was our last day in the medical clinic. While the docs examined the few remaining patients, the rest of us helped pack up remaining supplies, hugged people and said our goodbyes.
In Ethiopia, like most African cultures, there are customs and cultural traditions that are important to observe and honor. One of those is the final farewell. And no farewell is complete without Ethiopian coffee! Our entire team gathered in a tiny office along with our cousins—district administrators, medical personnel, government employees, grateful patients and giddy children. A sea of faces peered through windows and doors to say their thanks and send us off! We exchanged comments, testimonies of the week and gratitude between us. The District Administrator thanked us on behalf of the hundreds of people who were seen at the clinic throughout these two weeks. And then in the true spirit of African friendship we all gathered under the hot African sun for a final photo.
One of our translators commented yesterday that he has never been around a team of people with greater passion, love and joy for Jesus than this GHO Team! I’m equally grateful for the privilege of serving with these dedicated servants of Christ. The team is now back in Addis Ababa. We will spend part of the day in debrief and do a bit of shopping before heading to airport to fly back to the States tonight. We are truly grateful for your prayers throughout this two-week experience. We are tired to say the least, but it is a good tired. In both word and deed God has used each of us in unique ways to be, “Jesus with skin on!”