Located in Soddo, Ethiopia, Soddo Christian Hospital is dedicated to providing the highest level of care that can be provided in rural Africa. The hospital’s vision is to provide excellent medical services, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to make disciples. They take care of patients of all backgrounds and religions, while demonstrating the Gospel through compassionate, loving care, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We're told they're invitations for disappointment.
This world tells us not to have them.
Try as we may to encourage each other to label them as 'dreams' and encourage one another to hold tightly to them, we can't stop the voices in our head from snickering softly and reminding us to tread carefully towards those dreams, towards those expectations, because surely even WE aren't immune to 'missing it.'
But regardless of those voices, we all have expectations, dreams, growing in our hearts.
The very first night we came to Soddo, we were asked to think about those expectations.
The ones we had for ourselves on this trip about what we would do and accomplish we were reminded to walk carefully towards, knowing that they might change.The ones we had for the Lord to do in our lives, we were asked to write down on a piece of paper that only our eyes would see again at the end of the trip. At 8am on Wednesday morning, before we loaded the van to start the long trip back home to our families, we gathered together again for the last team meeting we would have on this trip.
Tony passed out the pieces of paper we'd written on that very first night in Soddo.
I'm not sure what was running through the minds of the others around me, but I remembered what was on that paper before I began to unfold it. The Lord had put that expectation on my heart long before I ever even stepped foot on the plane to come to Africa, and I hadn't been able to get it out of my head all week long.
What do you do when your expectations don't line up with what you see in front of you?
The world tells you, "I told you so."But as I sat there reading those words I'd written less than 2 weeks before, as I began to feel them reach up and try to crush my heart and steal the work God had done this week, the Lord opened my eyes to see it as He sees it. When we look at our lives through purely human eyes and the human disappointments seem to line up with missed expectations, we miss it. We miss Him. 9 days earlier, on the first night I ever spent in Soddo, Ethiopia, I'd written down the expectations He'd put on my heart. Two people, Lisa. Two people are going to be raised from the dead. Sounds like a beautiful dream, doesn't it? All week I'd been watching for it. I'd even gotten up the courage to share what He'd impressed on my heart with the team. But there I was, only minutes away from loading up and leaving this place, and I found myself walking the tightrope between what He told me to write down and what my eyes saw. Thank the Lord He didn't leave me there or I would've fallen flat on my face. Over the next 39 hours as we traveled from the hospital to our own beds back home, He walked me through room after room after room where He'd raised the dead in front of me even though I'd missed it. Remember, Lisa. Remember.
Remember that young pregnant girl who was close to losing her baby because of where her placenta was. I put you in that room as the doctor examined her and gave you the courage to ask to pray for her. Remember when you went back to visit her and she was gone? Life from the dead.
Remember that young married couple that had been trying for years to get pregnant only to come to the walk-in clinic the hospital holds and find out that, due to a birth 'defect' in the man's body they would never be able to get pregnant ever? I put you in that room as the doctor told them it was hopeless and I prompted that doctor to ask YOU to speak life where he couldn't see any. I could've brought that couple into any hospital in the country but I brought them to Soddo, just when I brought you there, because I knew you'd let me speak through you. And I knew you wouldn't take 'never' for an answer. Life, from the dead.
Remember that baby boy who was barely moving in his hospital bed because of pneumonia and malaria? Remember how his momma wouldn't let you leave the room without praying for him when she realized that's what you were there for? Remember how you never saw him again - because the nurse released him to go home after he improved so much? Life from the dead.Remember that midwife that came and grabbed your arm on the very last day you spent in the hospital? Remember how you didn't know what was going on but she dragged you to that vacant delivery room and asked you to pray for her with tears in her eyes? Remember how she said "God would know why?" Remember how she fell to the floor as you prayed? You didn't know who I wanted to wrap up in my arms through your heart on this trip, but I did. Life from the dead. "Remember MY expectations, Lisa. Remember MY heart. And if your eyes don't see what I'm doing through your life, ask me for MY eyes to see it."
I almost missed it. I almost caved to the lie that expectations are meant to be broken.I almost got stuck on what my human eyes could see in front of me.
And although getting stuck in disappointment wouldn't have changed the reality that God DID do some amazing things through the time He gave me at Soddo, it would've stopped my own heart from being able to reap the benefits of SEEING it.
Of seeing HIM.
The world thinks we need to lower them.
"2 people, Lisa. I prompted you to ask for life from the dead for 2 people. Look how I blew that out of the water."
Maybe we need to quit believing what the world tells us, and start looking to what God says.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly ABOVE all that we dare ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work inside of us." Ephesians 3:20.
Well, we have less than 15 hours before we depart Soddo Christian Hospital for home. I have had the privilege to serve with the most amazing group of people I could ever imagine. In God’s infinite wisdom Heassembled an incredible team that has served the missionaries and this hospital in the most sincere and humble fashion.
This team heard God’s voice and obediently followed His call to leave their homes, their children, their spouses as well as all the safety and comfort known to them. They followed God’s leading to go half way around the world to a place that is impossible to describe.
Though each member of the team came with a sense of focusing on a particular area of service, they were willing to help in whatever area of service was needed. Our T-Shirts said, “SERVE SODDO”, and that is what the team did. It didn’t matter in what they did. They just jumped in to serve…doing whatever, whenever.
Tony, who also co-lead the team with me, and Bud, came primarily to use their incredible skills to assist in leading the many projects needed throughout the compound. They began by focusing on fixing the badly needed generator,which supplies electricity to the hospital and missionary residences when the municipal electricity cuts out (about 50% of the time). However, they also went on rounds with the physicians, observing and ministering to the patients as well as develop a close relationship with their new Ethiopian friend Temesgen, the compounds Electrician. Last night Bud, led the team in prayer, laying hands on Temesgen praying down God’s goodness and blessing on him.Others on the team came to Soddo with a burden to pray. Much of the team spent hours praying for patients, praying for missionaries and for praying each other. We heard many say that Lakeland is a church that prays. This was so evident throughout out time here. Though we prayed much, we also served in digging holes, painting poles and cementing lights in place. We fixed badly broken doors in OR, which now help prevent germs from entering into the surgical rooms, as well as installed toilet seats.
Though Lisa spent much of the week in prayer for patients and hospital staff using her tremendously to pray life, faith and healing into dozens, she also helped Kym hang posterswith scripture verses throughout the hospital as well as along with Susan, set up a spreadsheet organizing oxygen, masks and tubing for the hospital. On top of all this, Lisa saw to the constant updating of our blog.This morning, Sue, Kym, Susan and I spent it praying throughout the hospital. We prayed for God’s healing and comfort and ministered to many. In fact, we just came from ICU praying for a young girl and her mom and dad. This little girl was screaming in pain from extensive burns over much of her body. We just learned the girl is resting peaceably.
Though we saw Josh, a physician, assist in rounds and surgery, formally a children’s pastor, he also spent time entertaining the children of missionaries, doing prayer walks in and outside the compound, fixing doors or installing badly needed toilet seats.
Though Susan, a surgical nurse came to use her nursing skills, which she did during the week, also spent time praying healing over many. God not only used her nursing skills, but is also used her gift of healing.
My incredible wife, Sue came to pray, serve and support me in anyway possible. She has prayed, spoke words of encouragement and prophesy to the many she ministered to. On the other hand, she spent a day scrubbed in assisting in surgery, (no, she is not a nurse). She also organized times with missionaries, organized meals, painted, baked and cooked. This afternoon we will be meeting with Alison, who has started a business producing badly needed washable, reusable sanitary napkins. These are for girls in Ethiopia who are not able to attend school during times of menstruation. We are helping her with a marketing and sales strategy for her business.Ken Amstutz, Pastor Josh’s father and president of the foundation overseeing SCH, has been going non-stop. Ken has been in meetings with his executive team, coordinating strategy sessions, spending hours encouraging the missionaries, as well as jumping in and helping when able.Ken has been instrumental helping to launch Lakeland’s first, of what I believe will be many trips to Africa. As I said earlier, I have had the privilege to serve with the most amazing group of people I could ever imagine. God has assembled a humble and spirit-filled team that has served well the missionaries, patients and hospital staff. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
There is no doubt in my mind that God sent TEAM SODDO to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. No matter what the task, TEAM SODDO was there, ready to serve.
P.S. Today the generator powering the hospital campus has over-heated due to a coolant leak. At this point the electricity has been out for 7 hours. As I write this, Bud is working feverishly trying to restore to power desperately needed at the hospital. As we have seen throughout the week, as God has used Team Soddo over and over again doing His work, He will use Bud again and his amazing gifts to restore Soddo’s electricity.
P.P.S. Electricity just came on! Thank you, Bud. Thank you Team. Thank you, Soddo Christian Hospital…and thank you, Lord for allowing us the opportunity to serve You and Your precious people in Ethiopia.
While the Lakeland Team was at Soddo Christian Hospital, the hospital had a surprise visit by a team of 4 Zonal inspectors from the national hospital inspection team. They evaluated Soddo Christian Hospital against 27 different service Standards over three days of intense inspections.
They commended SCH on our equipment and services which were well above the standards set and said that they would like to come and learn from us... They also realized that they need to revise their check lists as they have not accommodated for our EMR and digital radiological service.
We are the first of the 24 hospitals in the southern region to have scored the “green zone”.
The Regional Head of Zonal Medical Evaluations joined us for morning tea, he promised that he will personally ensure the renewal of the hospital’s license and he will offer written support for visiting medical professionals. This is a huge issue for the hospital and was an answer to our prayers.
All glory to God our Father, as He turns up every time we are in need , He Never fails!!!! Shalom
This being my second Lakeland Missions trip, of the many things I have learned to expect is the unexpected. As we endeavor to serve in whatever capacity we can, what starts out to be a task that serves others, invariably turns out to be a divine appointment that challenges, blesses and encourages.
Let me tell you two stories of Hope. First, there is the story of Melis. While painting the handcrafted metal poles to support the lights requested by the missionary physicians so they have light when called to the hospital at night, I met Melis. As Melis walked down the sidewalk beside my makeshift work stand, I saw a young man walking with crutches, wearing not only a white medical coat, but also a broad beautiful smile. We greeted each other with the Ethiopian greeting of Salam and traditional double pat of the shoulders and began to chat.
Melis was introduced to the hospital 10 years ago when he developed polio, which left him in his words “handicapped”. I learned that when a child becomes handicapped in anyway, they are rejected and abandoned by their friends and family. At about 15, where he had no control of his circumstances, he went from being accepted by both family and friends to being rejected and cast aside in every way. Soddo Christian Hospital changed that by showing Christ’s love and unconditional acceptance toward him in spite of his disease. Melis grew, but stayed close to his new hospital family. They encouraged his new walk with Christ as well as his personal development and education.
When I met Melis, he was on his way to the metal shop after his shift as a translator, where he translates 5 different languages. He was on his to the metal shop where he produces custom crutches that are distributed to patients where needed. These crutches are based on his own design developed from his own personal experience. Melis also invited me to his office in Soddo where he founded a business employing handicapped people throughout the city. Melis said the name of his company is Immanuel, which he quickly translated for me means “God is with us”. He was also eager to show me his new wheel chair design with only a single wheel in front so that disabled users could maneuver easier on Soddo’s dirt and stone roads.In spite of the adversity and challenges Melis faced and putting His faith in Christ, his life and attitude characterized hope. Little by little, language-by-language, crutch-by-crutch and labored step by step, Melis radiates hope. I will never forget Melis and his radiant smile of joy that day outside the metal shop. The second story is that of Leman. I was asked to help Leman, who is Soddo Christian Hospital’s electrical technician. Leman had injured his foot falling off a ladder, so my job was mostly to hold a ladder while he climbed up light poles replacing fluorescent bulbs, starters and ballasts where needed. As is usual among the amazing staff here at Soddo, Leman greeted me with a broad smile and warm hug. As we worked together that morning, I heard the story of my new friend. As a young boy, he lost both his parents in a very short time to a terrible disease similar to Ebola. This left little Leman alone where eventually an uncle took him in. Through the influence of his uncle, Leman came to know Jesus personally. Most of his life was spent alone, finding odd jobs, getting an education at a local technical school and ultimately serving at repairing many of the broken things at SCH. Leman is the father of 3 wonderful children, and was proud to tell me they each attend a Christian school. He is a leader in his church and is heading up a building program expanding his church to accommodate 600 to 1000 people.
Again, in spite of the incredible challenges Leman faced and putting his faith in Christ, his life and attitude characterized hope. In spite of the challenges of losing his parents, fending much of his life for himself, today Leman too radiates hope. Like Melis, I will never forget that day working with Leman as we walked in the field with arms around each other, assuring each other we will stay in contact.
As I said earlier, on our mission trips, I have learned to expect the unexpected. As in the examples of Melis and Leman, what began as tasks to serve the missionaries and hospital here at Soddo, turned out to be unexpected experiences. This type of story is repeated over and over by our Soddo Team. I will not forget these two stories of hope, where I trust that when I am faced with adversity and challenges that appear insurmountable, I remember my two Ethiopian friends and the hope and courage they displayed.
Missions trips are an interesting phenomenon. (Usually) you spend months planning for them. Talking about what you'll see. Working through emotions you might feel. Assigning tasks to be accomplished when you get to where you're going.
On this trip, a common theme I've heard amongst the team as we talk is a wondering of what it is we actually accomplished here. We look at each other through eyes of "wow, I wish *I* could be doing what *you're* doing here," and then we look back at ourselves and feel like our contribution isn't clear, it isn't what we thought. And we wonder, is this all the mark we have to leave behind?
Today is the first day that most of us have had to really breathe. We took a 2 hour drive yesterday to visit Arba Minch for our overnight 'vacation' of sorts. We walked along a rickety handmade 'bridge' of branches to get to the small boat that we would take to come alongside huge crocodiles and hippos and flamingos, and we made it out alive. We had some time together to swim and relax and eat an awesome dinner together. We sat alongside this breathtaking view together and tried to find words for the beauty that we get to sit on the edge of for 24 hours.
But this morning, this morning is ours. Alone. To breathe. To pray. To read. To listen.
And as I sit here staring out at the sea of trees and mountains in front of us, I can't take my eyes off of this one tree in the middle of the millions in front of me. I've tried. I've looked away, read, prayed, looked back. Tried to write a little, had some coffee, and looked out again. The beauty in front of me is so spectacular it has me in tears, but my eyes, they keep coming back to this one solitary tree in the middle of the sea of them in front of me.
And I can't help but come to realize, that's what He's been trying to show me.
In front of me is a sea of trees. All different heights. All different shapes. All different shades of green and brown and yellow. But all I can see is that one.
I think I originally came here to find that one. That one thing that I was supposed to accomplish. That one thing that I could make my mark on. That one thing that I could touch. And I've been wondering what it is.
This morning, as I'm staring out at the beauty that's literally on every side of me, I'm realizing, He didn't bring me here to accomplish anything.
He brought me here to realize what *He's* accomplished.
He didn't bring me here to *look* for that one thing I could put my touch on, He brought me here to *be* touched, by Him.
He lured me 7,500 miles away with a heart for His people because of His heart for *me*, knowing that this trip was so much more about Him and me than it ever was about anyone I prayed to be able to reach.
For years I've had John 3:16 memorized, rolling off my tongue if the moment presented itself: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." It's easy to look out at the world in front of me and think, "Yeah, of course He loves me. He loves the whole world!"
But this morning, I was reminded so clearly that I *am* that one tree.
When He looks at me, He doesn't see the billions of people around me that He sent His son for...although He did. When He looks at the beauty He created, He sees ME. He can't take His eyes OFF of me.
It took leaving my family and traveling around the world for Him to remind me of that.
For Him to remind me that this world isn't about what I can do for Him, but it's about what He did for ME. For each of us.
People have commented on how cool it is to watch how God is using us here. There've been comments about how brave we are to be here, doing what we're doing.
You guys, this life we live - wherEVER we spend each of the moments we're given- I believe the bravest thing we can do is to wake up each day and try to wrap our hearts around how crazy much our Daddy loves us. Individually. Like that one tree in the sea of the millions.
And as we do, we'll suddenly find ourselves standing up taller and stronger, and without even realizing it our branches will reach out even wider, naturally bringing shade and shelter to the smaller ones alongside us that are just starting to figure out who they are in this world.
This week, some of our 'branches' reached out to those in Ethiopia. And by the end of the week, they'll be spread back out over our families as we head back home.
But my prayer today is less about how wide each of our 'branches' can reach out, and more about where our trees are planted. May each of us be rooted so deeply in the soil of the amazing Love that our Daddy has for each of us that we can't help but grow to be the tallest, strongest, most beautiful trees in the forest. Not because we long to stand out, but because as we grow in His love for us, we point taller and straighter to the Author of that love for the whole world to see.
“...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV
I'm pretty sure that according to our calendar we just passed the one week mark since we arrived in Ethiopia. But don't quote me on that.
The new day starts at 6am here instead of midnight, so the clocks don't line up even with our calculations of trying to figure out when to reach out to family that's supposed to be only 8 hours behind us.
The calendar here isn't in the month of October. Heck, it isn't even 2015 here. It's only 2008. Try to wrap your head around THAT.
To say that there's been quite a bit to adjust to on this trip would be like saying that the Green Bay Packers and the Bears have a little bit of a rivalry going on over the years. It would be the UNDERSTATEMENT of the century.
Case in point - Friday's trip to the market. Whoa.
How do you describe something that you can't even wrap your head around yourself yet? How do you help others experience what you've never even known was possible yourself? Thanks to Susan's sleuth-worthy photography skills she was able to take a handful of pics without drawing (any more) attention to us, but even those couldn't even BEGIN to share exactly what it was like.
Apparently Ferenges (pronounced 'Fah-ren-gees' - the local word for us white folk) are a novelty here. Especially 4 white ferenge women with purses ready to go to market.
And 4 white ferenge women about to walk into the market, now that i've SEEN the market, I understand why it was probably even more reason for them to follow along.
Our minds were blown and our hearts were overwhelmed in a way that I know we'll be trying to process long after we get home from this trip.
Poverty isn't easy to be in the midst of, but going to the market to do what we thought would be pretty 'everyday' added a level of awe to our already culture shocked minds. Thank goodness for Tony and Josh who agreed to come along with us, and for the young local boy that our guide, Kidist, hired along the way to help clear the way for us and protect us from the ones that were following us a little too closely.
Built into the hillside, rows upon rows of men, women, and children - selling everything that they're able to sell - set up their shops for about 1-2 burr/day rent. We had to keep our eyes glued to the ground in front of us as we walked so we wouldn't trip over rocks and garbage and piles of what donkeys so lovingly leave behind as they walk through the market around us. And if you didn't walk carefully you'd lose your footing on the constant incline you had to navigate as you made it to the top.
As we walked and stared cautiously at the terrain in front of us, trying to not smell what we were smelling and trying to follow the guidelines we were given not to make eye contact with the young children that were following us and asking for money, something grabbed all of our attention. To the left of us was a group of people in the middle of the market road, singing, while a young girl danced and twirled around. It was in SUCH stark contrast to the world we were walking amongst. Or was it?
Music and dancing. Hope in the midst of hopelessness. Joy in the middle of struggle. If that's not proof that our God lives, I don't know what is.
We may be worlds apart in just about every single cultural nuance we witnessed on Friday, but we share one thing that transcends everything:
We are children of the Most High King.
And the joy of the Lord transcends color, transcends social status, transcends education.
Now, no matter where we are, no matter what we're struggling with, no matter how overwhelming the circumstances around us look like to the outside world, we have the Only true reason to run around singing and DANCING because our Daddy sent His Son to suffer in our place....and He WON. For us!!!
Because of Jesus, none of us are really that different after all.
Thanking God this morning for that sweet little girl and her beautiful dancing, and for the reminder that no matter what circumstances we're in the middle of today, we can throw our hands up in praise because off Who we belong to, together.
We are a very results orientated culture. Heck, a very “results” orientated WORLD.
Fix this. Help with that. Put that up over there. Drive here and pick that up for me. Operate on that.
Good things. SUCH good things. Needed things for sure.
But what happens when God awakens something inside of you so deep and so clear that you know that you know that you KNOW where He wants you, and yet it doesn’t fit nicely into a box of accomplishment that the eyes always see instantaneously?
Over the last 36 years I’ve been around a lot of Christians. Maybe even more than non-Christians, if I’m honest.
I grew up in ‘the church.’ I went to discipleship classes when that was the thing to do. I went on every mission’s trip my church offered, both local and out of the country, when I was in high school. I lead a bible study on a few occasions. We prayed. Lots. But it was part of the project. It was how we “closed it out,” or sometimes even how we “opened,” but it was never THE reasonwe went where we went.
As I began to realize more and more clearly the heart God put inside of me – one that sometimes aches so badly for the hurts and the struggles and the confusion I see when He opens up my heart to someone – I realized I was different. Or maybe, rather, I realized what He wanted from me was different.
So when a friend calls and says her sister is in a horrible place and no one seems to be able to help her shake it - I go.
When another friend’s mother’s friend is dying in the hospital and they have no hope left – I go.
When my own family is struggling or hurting or sick – I go.
A little history on this trip – over 5 months ago when it was first presented to Lakeland, the team they were hoping for was to be made up of a bunch of skilled plumbers, electricians, construction workers, medical staff, etc. The Do-ers.
And yet, I couldn’t shake the knowing in my soul -from the moment the video that first played introducing the hospital – that THIS what where I was being told to ‘go’ next.
So I applied. And I prayed. And I let it go.
And by the grace of God, a short time later, I received the call inviting me to be a part of the trip.
Let me be clear, although I can hang a mean picture, and attach a mean toilet seat, and possibly even sew a mean skin graft should the need arise, I am not to be listed amongst the normal “skilled” that they were looking for.
People would ask me, “Lisa, what are you going to do there?”
“And then what?”
Pray. And watch God work.
“Oh, cool. Yeah. Everyone needs prayer. Awesome. Are other people going to be working?”
One brave person asked “Can’t you just pray from home?”
I imagine if that sentence would’ve played out, it would’ve finished with “….so other ‘skilled’ people could go and help?”
The funny thing is -if Jesus had intended for us to spend all of our time praying for the world from the confines of our safe bedroom walls - I don't think he would have looked at the disciples and said, "Go."
Go, heal the sick. Go, raise the dead. Go, cast off demons. Go, cleanse the lepors. Go, preach that the kingdom of God is at hand!
The Lord has blessed this team with an abundance of awesome ‘skill.’ We have a couple ridiculously skilled ‘fix it all’ guys that are doing wonders on the hospital compound. We have those with medical backgrounds that are rocking it on surgical rounds and in the operating room.
And in my heart, as I walk out the door each morning, walking to the wards to visit staff and the patients, I hear those voices in my head reminding me that I’m not “doing” anything. That maybe I should get to work. That maybe I COULD have stayed home to make way for those that have "actual jobs."
And then, I make my way to the walkways around the hospital and I see face after face, smiling back at me, nodding a greeting, reaching out a hand, and even stopping for a quick hug with those that I've come to get to know...and I realize, I AM at work. THIS is my work. THIS is my place.
And then I make a quick stop through the doors of the OB/GYN ward in search of that one little girl that's off to surgery, hoping to give her a hug and a smile and maybe hold her hand for a minute, and suddenly all of the doubt trying to hold onto my heart melts and I know where I am, I'm home.
I left my real home, never realizing that I would find another temporary one.
I may not be doing a job that accomplishes big things, things that will have pictures posted all over the blog alongside the team, but the pictures I have of my time here are so etched in my heart that I may just be able to draw them freehand one day when I need to remember this trip.
The time I followed the work He gave me. Even if many of the immediate results consisted mainly of human connection, shared smiles, tears, and comfort. Even if the only thing I leave behind is a thought in the heart of the nurses and the doctors that they can take the limits off of God and ask BIGGER and bolder prayers, then every second was worth it. I believe in my heart that the impact He’s making from everyone of us on this team will last for years to come – even if the footprint of that work lives in hearts instead of the physical ground of the compound.
Thank you to all of those that are praying for us, and for this hospital. Soddo Christian Hospital is doing a phenomenal work in this country, and people who would never have been given the chance to hear the true gospel are open to it in a way that you’d have to see to believe.
He is definitely here among us.
Signing off for now. It’s time for me to “go.”
Imagine yourself being a young lady in Ethiopia. You have worked all your life alongside your family and you want to go to school. An opportunity arises and you are able to go! An education.... Something our children grumble and complain about every day about 6:30 am. And then again post dinner when it is homework time. But here in Ethiopia, it is a privilege to be able to participate in an eduction. It is a way out of their impoverished lives. It gives them an opportunity to provide for their families. It is a way to raise up the next generation. Schooling is not something everyone can take advantage of when the family's needs require all hands on deck just to survive.
Put yourself in that young lady's shoes. They are worn. Her clothes are a simple covering and undergarments are almost unheard of. She knows that an education will provide for her family and later allow her to be a more effective wife and mother. She is on her way to school! But, she must miss a quarter of her education. Because she is a young lady. A young lady who begins menstruating. A young lady without under garments. There is no way to conceal her cycle. Therefore, she must remain home as she is unclean. Do you remember the biblical testimonies describing the isolation of those who were unclean? These young ladies still live that life. And as a result, they are not able to fully engage in the very thing that will leverage them out of these conditions. Their education. Something our children take on as a chore in their lives, these children cleave to as hope for a more promising future.
Two of the missionary's wives, Allison and Ingi, had a heart tug to push through that barrier. God called them to make a way for these young ladies to be able to participate in their education at all times. Two years ago they began, through trial and error, assembling a solution: WRAPs. Washable, Reusable, Affordable Pads. They spent this time teaching 4 local woman a new craft. Sewing. 4 women are now working to help provide for their families. And they are working to raise up the next generation to have the ability to be educated and also go to work to provide for their families. They spend their days cutting, assembling, pinning and sewing these reusable pads for all the ladies in Soddo. As of last week, the government finally gave them a permit to begin selling them!
Yesterday, we went to Wolaytta Village to see what God has provided for this vision to continue to unfold! They had received a grant of $6000 American dollars to construct a factory for the expansion of this ministry. These four ladies have been sewing in a large shipping container similar to that of a box car from a train. They will be moved in the next week or so to this beautiful building overlooking Soddo! Their vision is to have 30 women working to make this product in the very near future! This will be such a blessing for all ladies!
The next phase is to sell the product now that they have their license. They can offer a package of 8 pads and a waterproof bag to hold them until washing. Also the instructions for care. One of these packages costs $8 American dollars. The average laborer makes $1 US dollar a day. Perspective......
God is moving here. Progress is being chased with a vengeance. The culture does not embrace technologies or advancements easily. But God moves in every area they are willing to receive. In all the areas of lack and darkness that attempt to cover this country, His light shines brighter than I have ever witnessed! Seek, and ye shall find! Knock, and His doors open!
So it's just been decided tonight by the authorities that be (which would be 'us') that this blog is just going to be FULL. We have so much to share about what this trip has been for all of us that we're just gonna spill it out here as much as we can, and let whoever happens upon this wade through the overflow. No apologies. (or trust me, they'll make you put a quarter in the "I'm sorry" jar. The struggle is real folks).
It's Wednesday evening on this side of the world. Literally only DAY TWO of our work time here at the hospital, and yet it feels like we've been here - in this community, walking these halls, with these AMAZING people - for SO much longer.
If yesterday was our "get our feet" wet day, today would be the day we dove in head first and swam full speed towards the other end of the ocean in front of us.
Today, we watched Susan participate in SURGERY people. SURGERY. With Sue at her side the whole time.
Today, we watched Tony and Bud travel through the town alongside Temesgen, this man they only met yesterday and with whom they've built such a strong camaraderie that you'd swear they've worked side by side for years.Today, we watched Josh find his sweet spot, loving on the missionary kids that spend all their days in this place, bringing joy to their hearts in a way that only Josh ever could. Today, we watched Tim dig in and serve like a true leader, painting and assembling and doing every single thing that was put in front of him all the while building relationships with every person that couldn't help but stop and talk as they passed by. Today, we watched Kym spend time with some of the young orphan girls from the area and share the love of Jesus with them. This place can't help but bring out the best of who God made us to be. It's an absolute HONOR for each of us to have been given the chance to be the first team sent here from Lakeland, because we're absolutely CERTAIN that this place not only captured our hearts, but that it will capture the heart of each and every person who is able to listen to any of our stories. I would like to introduce you to one of my stories.
I would love to tell you the names of these precious hearts we're meeting everyday, but I can't pronounce most of them, let alone begin to figure out how to spell them.
While I went in and out of rooms during the OB and Pediatric rotation this morning, I was introduced to a little 11 year old girl who was on a fold out bed in the hallway because there was no vacant beds in any of the rooms in the ward.
She laid there, staring at the wall, listening to the head nurse translate the doctor's words, telling her that the huge mass they just removed from her abdomen is quite possibly malignant.Her mother was visibly broken, but trying so very hard to stay strong.
She was only the 3rd patient I was introduced to on rounds, and the OB had softly prayed for each patient on his own as we moved to each case. Since this was my first time EVER on 'rounds' with a doctor, I didn't want to interrupt and say 'excuse me sir, may I pray?" even though everything in me wanted to wrap this aching momma in my arms and pray for her right on the spot. So I kept following.Thankfully it only took me 1 more patient to get up the courage to ask if I could pray. As soon as rounds were finished, I grabbed the head nurse that spoke amazing English and had an equally amazing heart, and headed to the hallway to meet that scared momma and the little girl that was laying there so bravely. The mom thought I had come to pray for her daughter, but I felt this overwhelming urge to pray first for HER, the momma that was watching her little girl and feeling completely, totally helpless. As I kneeled down beside her daughter and reached for the mothers hands, the strong face I'd watched on rounds crumbled before me. Tears flowed from one momma heart to another, and I was given the gift of being able to pray strength and courage and fearlessness into this woman's heart before turning to her daughter and speaking life into every ounce of this little body that's struggled for so long. Not every prayer we pray here is translated because of time or just plain translation ability. But I wanted her to hear this. I felt like her heart needed to hear that she wasn't alone. Holding hands on the floor of this dimly lit hospital ward hallway, I watched the Lord hold this woman in His hands by using mine. I watched Him melt some of the fear she'd been holding in so tightly and watched her realize she's never really alone when she's part of the body of Christ. I watched what can happen when you step out in faith and trust the call God has on your life and just say "I'm in."
I walked out of that hallway and into room after room after room for the entire rest of the morning, praying and talking and laughing and crying...doing the exact thing that I always dreamed I'd be able to do on this trip. As I walked from one patient to the next this morning, I asked my sweet new friend, the head nurse Lakech, how *I* could ask someone if I could pray for them instead of always relying on her.
"Lees - sa- lee" she says."No, my name's 'Lisa'" I said. "No no no. 'Lees-sa-lee.' That's how you ask "may I pray for you?" Lees-sa-lee. Can you believe that????
7,500 hundred miles on the other side of the world from where God first grew this passion in my heart to pray for His people and watch Him work, here is a group of people speaking a language so foreign that I can clearly not even ATTEMPT to spell correctly, and I find out that their language has MY NAME smack dab in the middle of the phrase asking if someone wants prayer.
I'm not sure anything has ever made me feel more special in my whole life.
And to think, if I didn't step out and trust this call that I felt on my life to come to Soddo, I would have NEVER seen this amazing gift He'd been planning loooong before I was even a thought in my mom and dad's heart.
Whatever He's calling you to today, trust Him. And take that first step. It will blow your mind just how riDICulous His love for you really is. He's already gone before you anyways, and He's promised you, "It's good." Don't miss a second of the beauty He has in front of you. And pack a lunch. 'Cause once you see His heart for you, you'll be running after Him the rest of your life, too.
He Pushed Me on the Swing Today…..
Jesus loves me this I know… For the Bible tells me so. This song is something we all know so well. Every child has had it sung over them, to them or around them. As a little girl, I believed it to be true. Seasons change. Challenges arise. Truth is drowned out by noises of life.
Jesus Loves Me: The noises of world took over that truth in my life. Too many voices, lies, challenges, mistakes, and condemnation made that truth less real in my life. Eventually, I came around by the overwhelming grace of my Father to the knowledge once again that Jesus Loves me! But, that is where it stayed. Knowledge. I knew it in my head all day long and I could tell you over and over again how His mercy and love reigned over my life. Restoration, healing, peace, wisdom… I could share of His love for me over and over because I saw His hand in all the places that were once dark and scary. Over all the places that I did not know had holes in, He revealed to me and patched my cracks with his Love. I make no apologies for sharing of His grace over my life in hopes to show others how amazing my God is. I held tightly with all my might to the fact that I knew in my head that the love of my Father was real for everyone. Never once did I allow Him to become tangible in my heart. And never once did I believe that I was worthy of it.
Today, in a very tangible, raw visit from the Holy Spirit, I was held. I was LOVED by Him. I found rest in Him. I allowed the Holy Spirit to be trusted with my whole heart. And He filled it with His relentless love. Jesus Loves ME, this I KNOW!
Yet in His goodness and faithfulness, He did not move. He stayed with me.
As I was walking and talking with Him later in the afternoon, I was drawn to the playground and began to walk excitedly to the swing. As a little girl, that was my favorite place. I could touch the sky there and there were no limits for that moment. It was a safe place to escape. As an adult (for those who know me) I am extremely sensitive to motion and get sick very easily. I haven’t swung on a swing in years! I just had to sit down on it. All of a sudden, I was swinging so high on that swing that the landscape of the mountaintops was all I could embrace. This was such a precious gift from a Father’s loving heart. While I was learning how to hear the voice of the Lord, I was taught to close my eyes and picture myself in the most special place I could find sitting and talking with my Father. When I close my eyes to meet my Father, He is sitting on a swing and I am at His feet. That is my special place to meet with my Daddy. Today, He pushed me on that swing. He pushed me for over 30 minutes without one moment of nausea. And the lyrics of a beautiful heart cry came on through my earbuds. Jesus Loves Me this I know was replaced with He’s a Good Good Father. Over and over it played in my ears and my heart overflowed with sobs of joy!
My Daddy came here to swing with me. He is God and He doesn’t miss a thing! HE LOVES ME!
I’ve been sitting here tonight, trying to wait patiently for the internet signal to last more than 3 minutes at a pop, trying to wrap my head around what I’m feeling after our first full day of ‘work’ at the hospital so I can make something coherent out of all these emotions that made up our first Tuesday on site.
It’s one thing to send in an application for a missions trip, praying that this call God placed on your heart aligns with the heart of the trip itself.
It’s one thing to start planning and fundraising and dreaming about what it will be like.
It’s one thing to step on a plane and head around the world.
But to wake-up this morning alongside a team of people that have been praying for the Lord to use them, and to realize that today’s the day…and then to watch each of them go out, one after the other, and follow His lead?? It’s awe inspiring.
Today our team reached just about every corner of the property for one reason or another.
Some went on surgical rounds first thing this morning, learning about each patient and even stopping to pray for some of them.
Others tackled the repair of the hospitals main generator that’s been in desperate need of repair for a very long time.
Others joined together to dig 16 post holes around the property where tomorrow they’ll be cementing in solar post lights to help make the hospital safer for the docs and the patients.
Others walked alongside chaplains into room after room after room, learning stories of how the patients came to Soddo and praying over them.
Others stepped in the operating room and watched first-hand how surgeries really happen in the middle of rural Ethiopia.
Others captured amazing photographs of the team and the people at the hospital so we would never ever forget a moment.
While others sorted all the donated supplies and helped distribute them to the local missionary families.
Today, each person on this team took the opportunities placed before them to go out and BE the hands and feet of Jesus in this place. And although we may never truly know how far He was able to reach through each of us, we can lay our heads down tonight knowing that when tomorrow comes, all we have to do after breakfast is get our shoes back on, walk out that door, and say “yes.” The rest of it is up to Him.
Good night from Ethiopia!
It's a word medical staff use when discussing the patient in front of them.
There's about 9 Million people in Ethiopia, and on the 6 hour drive from Addis Ababa to Soddo Christian Hospital, it feels to me like we must have seen at least 8 million walking on either side of the street as we passed by, surrounded by tin roofs, roaming donkeys, and dust. Lots and lots of dust.
I'm not gonna lie. The need here, although we've heard about it through tv commercials and the mouths of our parents reminding us to clean our plates, it's overwhelming. Walking through the sea of patients and their families as we toured the hospital for the first time yesterday, watching all the eyes focused on each one of us, wondering why we were here, it was hard to not feel, well, helpless. Small. Like 1 in a sea of millions.
On our way back to the guest house, I could feel that one word echoing in my heart - presenting - reminding me that I have a choice.
I have a choice during the 9 days that the Lord has planted us here to either focus on the fact that I am 1 in the sea of a million with huge, HUGE needs that I can't possibly do anything about. Or, I can choose to remember that I am 1, in the sea of a million, with the Spirit of the LIVING GOD inside of me, longing to use my hands and my feet to reach out and bring healing, hope, and freedom to the people in front of me.
The people that have 'presented' themselves.
We came to Soddo Christian Hospital knowing that Ethiopia has about 9 million people. But at this 120 bed hospital today, we're coming face to face with some that chose to present themselves. And for THOSE people, HE IS ENOUGH. For those people, because we have Him, WE have enough.
So today, we jump in. Today, we walk out these doors together and watch the Lord do what He does. In us and through us. It's gonna take our breath away at every turn. I can't wait.
We ate breakfast at the SIM guest house in Addis Ababa. Several of the team members had woken up at 8 AM Wisconsin time only to discover it was still midnight in Ethiopia.
I got to watch their wide open, starring eyes at the 1000’s of new images: donkeys walking down the middle of the road carrying water jugs, hay, or pulling carts, children running alongside a busy highway while children younger than those left in Williams Bay, tended and herded the family cattle, the ear splitting cries of straining diesel engines belching out almost over powering fumes, thousands of construction projects, and cattle drawn plowing. They each took hundreds of picture which will no doubt bore you, but which have changed them forever.
Several of them commented that they had been thrust back 150 years of technology in one day. Lakeland, they represented you very well. They weep with those who were weeping and rejoiced with those who rejoiced and were your hands and feet here in Soddo Ethiopia.
Please pray for them as they see dozens of things that should be changed for the better, while trying to observe in this vastly different culture.
17 hours, 2 planes, 23 bags, and one loooooooooooong 13 hour flight from Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia....and we're here!!!
Africa. The other side of the WORLD. We're all still trying to wrap our heads around what we're in the middle of.
We saw God's favor literally SURROUND us from the moment we arrived in Chicago for our first flight to the moment we loaded our bags into the two vans that were ready to take us to the SIM guesthouse in Addis Ababa where we'd sleep for the very first night.
When we arrived in Chicago O'Hare, we weren't told to stand in a huge long line, we were ushered into a special area where we had a team of people checking us in and tagging every piece of luggage we brought to donate.
Yes, EVERY PIECE of the 23 bags of donated food and supplies that we hoped to bring, we were able to bring without even a second glance!
Then, we made it through security (almost) untouched (you'll have to ask Tim about that story!) The endoscope that Ken assumed would raise some red flags wasn't even LOOKED at, and passed through with zero issues.
Then, as we arrived in Addis and made our way towards customs with 23 bags overloading the baggage carts and trying not to look suspicious, we were able to bring EVERY. SINGLE. THING thru with almost zero resistance. In the end Ken did need to pay a "tax" on one of the items that amounted to $30 US dollars - so for about $30,000 in medical equipment, food and donated supplies, we were THRILLED to have made it so smoothly!
This place is unlike any most of us have ever been to. It's beautiful, and awesome, and overwhelming all at the same time.
Tonight, we get to spend the night in the SIM guesthouse with other missionaries that are passing through Addis on the way to some of the many places across the continent that the Lord has called them to. It's such an honor to walk alongside those that we have been able to talk to, knowing that we might be on this journey for only 13 days, but they are giving their LIVES to share the love of Christ.
What an awesomely special place this is, and what a gift to be a part of His story, together.
"Really? Africa? I HOPE you know what you're doing."
"Wow. You're trying to bring HOW many bags of donated supplies with you? Gosh. I HOPE they have enough room on the plane!"
"Have you forgotten about Ebola?? Man, I HOPE you don't find yourself anywhere near it."
Our modern dictionary defines "hoping" for something as: Wanting it to happen. Intending, if possible, for it to happen.
If we're honest, what most of us really mean when we use the word hope is this:
Well, if possible, it would be AWESOME if xyz happened, but I'm not so sure that it IS possible.
Did you know that God gives hope a very different meaning in His word?
Both the Greek word used in the New Testament and the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for hope are defined with the same words: Expectation. Confidence.
In about 36 hours, our team will meet to load up about 21 or so bags of donated supplies and medical equipment to take to the staff and missionaries on-site at Soddo Christian Hospital. We'll say good-bye to our families and hop on a plane that will travel for a combined total of almost 15 hours in the air alone just to get to the capital of Ethiopia. We'll travel through customs and pray that our bags not only make it on the plane, but that they go safely and without hassle past the eyes of those that have the authority to delay that process. We'll hop in a commuter van and ride 6 more hours over rough back country roads to finally make it to the hospital itself.
With every detail involved, there's more than enough room for our brains to pray in our modern day kind of hope, "intending, if possible, for things to go well."
But the prayer on my heart today is that the Lord fill us with HIS kind of Hope.
That the 9 of us that will be physically traveling to Soddo as well as the hundreds of friends, family and fellow Lakelanders that will be holding us up in prayer, will be filled with the Confident Expectation that HIS favor and HIS blessings and HIS hand will be guiding and leading and smoothing out all the details that need to happen on this journey, because of HIS faithfulness.
We can't WAIT to share all the stories of how He does just exactly that over the next 2 weeks with each of you.
Thank you for sharing in this journey with us!!!
Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
In just over 3 days, we'll be leaving everything we know and flying 7,500+ miles away to follow the call God has placed on each of our hearts.
Excited doesn't even BEGIN to describe what that feels like.
What exactly will we be doing there?
Although we do know a few of the things that we hope to repair and install for the hospital, much of the answer to that question is truly: "we'll find out what God has planned when we get there!"
The best part is, because we know that He's the one working behind the scenes already, we know it's gonna be good.
And to be given the opportunity to be His hands and feet as He opens doors only He can, well, I'm pretty sure there's no greater job description this side of heaven.
Ethiopia, here we come!!!