Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Follower

Traveling to Africa changed my life. I expected to see and feel things that would awaken me but I did not expect what came about. You could say that my eyes were opened when I was 35 years old. I spent the years leading up to that time in contented complacency. My life was good. I was good. I tried to fill my time doing good things. But something was missing.

You would never call me a risk-taker. I was more of a follower. I always wanted someone else to try something first. I would watch carefully and then could make a good decision about my next actions. It worked when I decided to jump out of a tree when I was 8 and it worked when I bought my first car. I was cautious and very proud of it. So, I was shocked when I heard my voice say yes when my sister asked me to go on a mission trip to Africa. I
didn’t know anyone who had been before and I didn’t pause at the thought.

Our mission was to go and serve orphans. We would work in orphanages and love on the orphans and their caretakers. I knew there was an orphan crisis. I knew that disease and poverty had taken its toll on the country of Ethiopia. Visions of famine and Michael Jackson singing We Are the World ran through my head. My logical side
didn’t know how going and working in orphanages would help. It seemed that it would just be a drop in the bucket of what was really needed. Thankfully, my doubts did not deter me as I felt the gentle nudge to go anyway.

Like any selfish traveler, I worried about myself as I prepared to go. I had to find just the right shoes, clothes, and gear to spend two weeks in Ethiopia. I also knew that I had to prepare mentally and emotionally as I read and learned about the things I would see. I got the correct shots and malaria medication. I felt prepared. Little did I know….

The 15-hour plane ride was long and filled with anticipation. We met other people going to Africa. As they told about their missions, I was humbled. Some were heading to Sudan on medical teams. One college student was spending his summer teaching English in a remote African village. I was amazed that people were traveling so far to meet the needs of others.

As we arrived in
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, my senses were awakened. The air smelled of smoke and stung my eyes. The rain was a surprising departure from the hot Texas sun. I loved that the nights were noisy. You could hear roosters crowing, calls to prayer and animals on the street. Oh so different from home. The land was fertile and green. Each cup of coffee was full of warmth and hospitality.

I quickly discovered that the people of Ethiopia were as warm as the coffee they served. They were beautiful people and many had to endure difficult circumstances. They work hard, very hard. It did not take long to learn that God was at work in Ethiopia. I got to see that first hand.

We spent time in an AIDS orphanage. The kids were happy and full of energy. I was struck that the kids looked like the kids in my school. They laughed like them. They played like them. The difference was that they had AIDS or HIV. Another stark difference was that they had no parents. That was sobering. I carefully watched the nannies that took care of them. Some of the women shared that they
couldn’t tell their families where they worked because they would be shunned. The work that the nannies did was pure and good. The women who served these kids were making a difference.

We visited another orphanage and I was halted by what I saw. As we were given a tour of the facility, we briefly stopped by the infant room. It held nine newborn babies. They were swaddled three to a bed, in a room the size of my very own closet. Ouch. They were cared for by sweet nannies that stood by them ready to answer their cries. I saw angels in aprons serving those babies.

Wherever we went in Ethiopia, we met amazing people. When asked what they needed, they would simply ask for prayer. I learned most about Ethiopia by loving on kids in orphanages, playing soccer with street boys in the rain, and by observing how God can use one person to make a difference in another person's life. Believe me, I was humbled by all that I saw and experienced.

All the experiences left me very emotional and with a heavy heart. I observed individuals making a difference in Ethiopia. I met selfless people who were caring for others. I
couldn’t escape thinking about my own responsibility. Now that I have seen the need, what was my part to play? What drop do I put in the bucket?

In typical fashion, I looked for someone to follow. I decided to follow the tug I felt when I decided to go to Ethiopia. That tug was to follow Jesus and the example He gave us. I must tell you that the last few years have been an incredible whirlwind and adventure. God has guided me to go back twice. I have been blessed to work with street children, teachers, and wonderful ministries there. I am still a follower. That’s just who I am. I thank God for the amazing journey He continues to take me on.

what drop do i put in the bucket?


Kev said...

Katybo, That was awesome!

Sharyl said...

Agreed. Wonderful story, Katy.

teffanie said...

Fabulous 'tell'!

Anonymous said...

Moving and inspiring.

Tracy Keeney said...

I don't think anyone in America, even the poor of America, could possibly understand how blessed they are to be here. Not until they witness the lives of those in less developed countries will they (or any of us) realize how blessed we are.
Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your experiences!