Joshua 1:9

I wish I could tell you singing or playing music is one of my gifts, but it’s not. Yet by default I have led church school music for many years. Thankfully, where I may lack music skills 3, 4, and 5 year olds think I’m pretty funny. Which is good, because over the years, I only have 15-20 songs I know really well, and five are Christmas carols. One of my “go to” songs has been Joshua 1:9Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God, will be with you, where ever you go.

I think the words are comforting and the actions help kids easily catch on. During our time in Ethiopia, I had no idea this song would take on a whole new meaning. On the first day we headed to Beza church and it was alive with signing and praise. After that, on to Korah. I did not know what to expect, or, that Korah would translate to mean Holy place…to myself, and many others on the team.

beza church

Beza Church

We drove for a while and then turning onto a road full of people, more people, merchants, and animals. I remember thinking, can a car even drive on this road? (Side note: In Ethiopia a car can drive anywhere it really wants too. Even on the wrong side of the road. I learned that what is more important to a car, then a road, is the horn.) Yep, the van turned down the “road” and slowly Gecho beeped the horn to alert the people on the path. We met Bira on the way, and he jumped in the van. We drove up to the church in Korah and we were greeted with smiles and hugs. We gathered on plastic chairs and wood benches, a blue tarp served as part of the roof. We listening to the Pastor talk in Amharic and Bissy translate into English. Kelly from Ordinary Hero prayed over us and Bissy again translated, this time from English into Amharic. Tears rolled down my cheeks, simply moved by it all. I listened through my heart taking in the entire moment. Kelly’s prayer included the words…Thank you God for going before us, above us, behind us, along side of us. The very same prayer I used in my pre-trip blog. I giggle at the connection. I didn’t need any proof, or, reminder of God’s presence there. But, it was shone anyway…and that makes me giggle! It is an example of the very reason why this blog is called spiritual lighting bolt. (I imagine it like Emeril Lagasse adding garlic to his special dishes, Bam!)

After the prayer, we broke into groups and headed out into the community to visit homes. Many we visited had leprosy or aids. I have to be honest and tell you, I thought  leprosy was a disease of Jesus’ time. It was something the people in Bible times had, I did not know it still exists today.

Korah homes  Korah 9

After visiting church members in their homes our smaller group was hanging out waiting to be picked up by the van. Some members of our group were talking with a lady, who was sitting alone on the corner. She was also afflicted with  leprosy. I know the group that was attending to her experienced their own specail moments. I can not share much of that story because, while they were visiting the rest of us stood off to the side. Many of us were still holding hands and playing with the children. Soon we began to draw a large crowd. Some of the people gathered around looked as if the were not sure what to make of our group. I didn’t want to appear nervous or scared, so I distracted myself and others by singing, “Ring around the Rosy”. When that ran its course, I turned to my “go to” song. The tune translated well and the children started to copy the actions. More of our team joined in to sing along. On the third round of singing my eyes began to look directly into the eyes of the children standing before us. Then something happened, which I am not sure I can even explain…I began to see the flies, and dirt, their feet without shoes, their ages much too young to be walking the streets alone…then I heard the words of the song in a whole new way. Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God is with you where ever you go. These beautiful children ARE the words, they LIVE the words. There before us stood these children with faith filled eyes, strong and courageous, hope filled hearts, and joy filled spirits. Souls I felt connect directly with God, in only what I can describe as a Holy moment.

Korah 5

This picture was taking as we ended our home visits and we began to gather to wait for the van. This is where we sang with the children.

korah 4

The picture needs no caption..LOVE in Korah!

faces

Beautiful faces of the children in Korah!

Korah 2

Shane

A “Mom” moment when I realize that is my son, Shane, walking ahead of me.

       Thank you to my OH Teamates for sharing your photos. Sorry that I can not give you direct credit for your personal photos. I gathered some of them from our the group picutre page. Thanks for your willingness to share as your photos help tell God’s story.

Live like that!

I am always intrigued by people who know how to ask really good questions. You know what I mean, those insightful and thought provoking questions that open up a person’s heart and soul. I have noticed, I am not good at asking those kind of questions and it’s something I’m trying to learn to do.

While in Ethiopia one of our days was spent riding from the capitol city of Addis to the country. It was about two hours and we were planning to visit a place called Hope for the Hopeless. On the ride I had the gift of sitting next to Bira, a 16 year boy who serves as a Jr. Guide for Ordinary Hero. It’s not an official position as much as it is because of his special connection to Ordinary Hero founder Kelly. He has become family to her and the OH organization. (And now he is family to me and many others from our team.)

As we traveled along I began to ask him a ton of questions. Most of them pertained to the scenery we passed on the drive. I also asked him about his school, and siblings. As the miles passed on I racked my brain for a “good” question. (I imagine those people who ask thought proving questions never have to rack their brain.) Finally, something came to mind, it wasn’t great by any means, but, it was a start. Bira, I said, “Tell me how you spend your time, I mean how would you spend your time on your favorite day?” No sooner had the question left my mouth that he replied, “My favorite day is when I help people.”

I didn’t need to ask another question after that, I just sat with his answer. For awhile my brain was actually quiet…it was like my heart finally got my head to hush! Just the beautiful Ethiopian countryside, the chatter of my team mates riding in the van, and Bira, God’s love by my side in the form of this sweet teenager.

It did not take long to learn that Bira lives his life as an Ordinary Hero, each day striving to change the world for one! I asked Bira if i could write about him in this blog and he gave me permission and a special request. He asked that I make sure to share with you where he came from, and where he is now.

Bira lived in the trash dump right alongside Korah, a leper community of around 100,000. Kelly met him. They made a specail connection, and she helped him to find a home in Korah. That was three years ago. Through their bond, God took that simple moment, blessed it, and turned it into something more. Now in turn, Bria lives his life to help and serve others.

Bira Bira Trash Dump

Before I left our guest house, I gave him a pair of my tennis shoes to deliver to a girl I had met in Korah. A few short days later pictures appeared in my Facebook of the special delivery. Each day he posts picture, after picture, of the people he reaches out too. Just this past Sunday he took some shoe shine boys to church.

Bira today Bira

Shoes Shoe Delivery

Bira, I want to thank you for your bravery, your faith, your smile, your kindness, and your heart like Jesus. As I reflected on preparing this blog I was reminded of the words from one of my favorite songs by Sidewalk Prophets called “Live like that”. I dedicate this song to you my friend!

John 15:9-17 - As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Love from the center of who you are

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Romans 12:9-10 (The Message) Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply.

In these recent days since returning from Ethiopia I have been met with the question, “How was your trip?”. While I appreciate this question, I struggle as the responses “great” or “fun” do not seem to fit. When I pause to answer this question a flood of words comes into mind. Sure it was fun, but it was also challenging, beautiful, spirit-filled, and Holy. What I really want to say when asked that question is…It was LOVE.

Love stirred in our hearts in preparation for this journey. Love was shown through our churches, family, friends, and community as they helped us raise thousands of dollars in three short months. Love was packed in our suitcases and our mission was to pour out love to all the people we would meet. From the minute our feet hit the ground, love was overwhelmingly given, shown, and showered upon us, through the people we met and the partner organizations we visited and served. Each day was filled with examples of God’s amazing love. In the weeks and months ahead I hope to honor that love by introducing you to some amazing Ordinary heroes who love from the center of who they are!

Imagine if you can landing in Ethiopia after a 17 hour plane ride, a few hours in the customs lines, a bit of confusion, and anxiety picking up our 55 plus suitcases from baggage claim. Hoping our group would not draw attention and have our bags of baby formula, diapers, and clothing searched. It plain left me with a nervous twitch! Of course I worked hard in those first few hours not to let others know that I was a bit of a “Nervous Nelly”. I was one of the last people through the line and the final step to leave the airport was to send your own suitcases through a security screening. You loaded them on the conveyer belt yourself and it moved quickly so your bags piled on top of one another on the other side. I could sense the adventure had begun. I was clumsy, nervous, and had no idea what I was doing. I searched the crowd before me looking to join back up with our team. Only unfamiliar faces stood before me. I continued to scan the crowd until I noticed the smiles on the faces of these two beautiful men wearing Ordinary Hero shirts waving at me. I began to cry, jump with excitement, and run towards them. (Writing this now I wonder what a sight I must have been to them?) Here they were…our Ordinary Hero Guides, Bissy and Gecho. They soon calmed my nerves and we were off to load our bags and continue on. I rode much of the trip with Gecho. His presence father like, strong, compassionate, and protective. He made me and I am sure many others feel safe and loved. I giggle thinking about all the written pages I could fill with Gecho stories. Later in the week I shared with Gecho and Bissy what that first moment at the airport meant to me. I am forever grateful and blessed to call them friends!

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

My son Shane at the Addis Airport

 

Shane & Gecho

Shane & Gecho

 

Bissy

Bissy

Loading the Bus

Loading the Bus

 

Unpacking my suitcases…

Just days before I left for Africa I had moments when I paced back and forth in my bedroom trying to figure out what to pack in my suitcase. I felt frozen at times overwhelmed by my own anxieties to pack the “right” amount of clothing and snacks. In those final days, sharing my thoughts through this blog was comforting. I had visions of blogging daily and I thought that would be part of the journey. However, once my feet hit the ground in Ethiopia, it soon became apparent to me that I would not be able to blog, nor process the journey in the moment. There were times I thought I might be letting others down by not blogging. However, I can not force thoughts and one of my goals for this blog is that you would find it to be authentic and real. What I did not anticipate was that I would need time and prayer to unpack this experience before I was ever going to be able to write about it.

Here I am on my frist day home…having a full circle moment, this time I found myself overwhelmed with the thought of unpacking. Not just my actual suitcase but unpacking the suitcase in my heart that holds all the memories of this life altering trip. I am still protecting myself from experiencing the raw emotions of all that we saw. I’m also so tired that I can’t think straight. (This girl knows better not to write from a place of exhaustion!) And finally the pace of the trip, and all the crazy travel has not allowed time to be still and prayerful.  I thank you for your patience and I ask for your forgiveness if I let you down. I hope you hang in the with me…for I know in the coming days and months ahead the unpacking will begin.

The Ethiopian sky on the frist day we arrived in the capital city of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Sky

Ecclesiastes 7:8“Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out.”

Let your faith be bigger than your fear

I love The Lord of the Rings movies so I was excited to see The Hobbit. Little did I know that I would find an interesting connection to the character Bilbo Baggins. The movie opens with Bilbo being invited to go with the dwarves and Gandalf to help them gain back their land. Bilbo wants nothing to do with their quest and the dwarfs don’t really want or trust Bilbo either. It’s Gandalf that believes in Bilbo. Gandalf firmly states that he has chosen Bilbo as the hobbit for this quest. But Bilbo has no desire to leave. Especially after he reads the trip description in the form of a waiver for the danger he will face. Repeatedly Bilbo states no, no, no, I do not want to go. However, after a night of rest we see Bilbo running out the door with his backpack shaking the waver about. One of his neighbors enquires, “Where are you going?” Bilbo replies…”I’m going on an adventure”.

Just one day away from departing to Ethiopia with Ordinary Hero and a team of amazing mission trip companions, I can’t help but feel like Bilbo…packing my bag, shouting out loud in my room in what I think is my best british accent, “I’m going on an adventure.”

My how things have changed from just a couple of months ago. For like Bilbo I too tried to say “no” to this trip. More than once I questioned whether I should go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go share God’s love with the people in Africa, I did. It was the time frame, the amount of money to raise, and the short time we had to raise the funds. The timing was just all wrong. Lenten meals and two other summer youth mission trips were hanging over my head. Yet every “no” I stated was met with the reminder that God’s call doesn’t come at a time when it works or is convenient for us.

Many on this mission trip team have shared similar stories. Some are in the middle of moving, school, farming, tax time, and more. I am grateful to trip leader Kim Adams who encouraged me, helped me see God’s story, and was confident that I had a role in this journey. She was my Gandalf. (I might only be able to get away with calling her that this one time, for the sake of the story, lol.) Kim’s encouragement had a ripple effect. The very same day I surrendered to going I found myself sitting across from Bailey a high school youth who was experiencing the very same reservations. I faithfully and boldly told her…we are in this together! She put up a good argument but unfortunately little did she know, I had already been down this road. No was not an option. I was going…she was going! Our faith had to be bigger then our fear.

We have not had a moment to look back since. Last night I gathered with a few of the youth who are part of this awesome team. Our heads just swimming from the pace of what has led up to this night. We chatted about trip details, odds and ends. We also shared in the overwhelming sense of just how big God is…and we know, we are just days away from encountering Him again, and again, through this journey. Bailey summed it up like this, “It’s not that I’m not excited it’s just that I’m umm…”? Her words hanging in the air. I don’t think Bilbo quiet knew what it meant when he said he was setting out on an adventure. Nor do we. What we do know, and have discovered time and time again in our trip preparations is…this is God’s story. He is bigger then all our fear and He goes before us, beside us, above us, and behind us, each step of the way! Thank you friends, family, and our church communities. We take each of you with us. All your love will be poured out into all who we encounter all the way.

You can also watch and see our OH Mission Trip story unfold at the following links:

Ordinary Hero on Facebook

Calvary Lutheran Church, GF

Ordinary Hero Blog

Prayer itinerary link

Story behind the name of this Blog

After working in congregational ministry for 15 years I have been blessed to witness God’s amazing, powerful, and overwhelming Holy Spirit. That spirit is bold, and many times it hits me like a bolt of lighting - sometimes right at the moment it is happening. Other times it is days, weeks or even years later. The youth I work with call it God sightings. I have heard Oprah call it an “A-ha” moment. I call it…a Spiritual Lighting bolt.

For some time now I have felt God tugging at me to not keep these stories to myself, but to start sharing them with others. They have had an impact on my faith journey, and I pray they will on your journey too! That is where the blog tag line…”Where my faith journey meets yours” comes from. I am not sure what God is up to yet…I just know that I need to listen to the call on my heart to provide a place for people of faith to meet. There are lots of great blogs, and maybe one like this already exists and I missed it, or I will discover it along the way. None the less, I am taking the leap into the blogosphere. I have actually had this blog in place for almost a year. Throughout that year God has tugged, prodded, and pushed at me to write. I have written numerous blogs in my head, only to sit in front of my computer and be frozen with fear… fear that I would not be able to articulate these God moments with honor and justice. For I am a natural speaker, but writer I am not. I am sure you will see in the days I blog ahead. Even with the gift of spell check, words will be spelled incorrectly. If you’re a grammar buff you may just want to stop reading at this moment for I am known for incorrectly using words. I get close, but not quite the right word. When fear and lack of gifts stop me I remember that God does not call the equipped, He equips the called. So I rest in my faith - my faith that this blog will translate the faith-filled moments, connecting people on various roads of their own faith journey.

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