I first came to Dessie five years ago.  This marks my seventh trip to Ethiopia and my fifth trip to Dessie.

What a privilege!

To see the former sixth and seventh graders – Mikias, Wegun and Wasihun – now graduates from HOPE and serving as our translators

What a privilege!

To receive visits from our Ethiopian friends and family, including my visit to the home of Selam, Helen and Wondameggegn, of Haimonote and of Massaiye, all children we help support at the Dessie school.

What a privilege!

To witness the passion of each team member, pouring forth their giftedness into the lives of these children and their teachers. The teachers on our team helped assess the skills from prior teacher training trips that have been used and found useful by the HOPE teachers. Amanda developed an amazing flow-chart questionnaire for developing the data necessary to assess how to alter the planned training program for next year. Stacey conducted a training for the teachers. And each of them (with Catherine) served to encourage the teachers through demonstration sessions. What incredible continuity for this education ministry.

What a privilege!

To have a long-term view of both the work of HOPE Enterprises (and MPPC’s 38 years of support), of MPPC’s other ministries supporting various ministries in Ethiopia, and of the lives of these children who, during the time MPPC teams have been visiting Dessie (since 2004) have grown and matured remarkably.

And all the while, I’ve had a front row seat to witness what God is doing through the prism of time. There are certain ways in which that has provided tangible evidence of the power of this ministry.

Ahmet comes to mind first. Befriended by Scott Peterson on our first trip, loved by Tom Arrington on our second trip (Tom gave Ahmet his shoes so that Ahmet could play soccer without the soles of his old shoes flopping around and tripping him) and to hear Ahmet’s story the following year of how he accepted Christ, but can’t dare tell his family because they are Muslim and would disown him, is humbling and encouraging.

Wondemegegn and his sisters (Selam and Helen, who were 15 and 12 the first year we met them – the same age at Sara and Emily) have grown tremendously since our first trip. This little family (without parents, both of whom were dead by the time “Wonde” was two) has poured itself into helping Wonde in school and helping him grow in every way. On this trip, our family continued to help them, not only by providing financial assistance to HOPE Enterprises to support these three orphans, but also by understanding their other needs and by encouraging them. As I left Dessie, I made Wonde promise that when I next return, his English will be good enough so that he and I can have a conversation without an interpreter.

And sometimes, the stories of how God works through us are less tangible. Take for example our driver and his assistant – Bebe and Amhara. They have now driven for us three times and have been with us to Dessie twice. And they have made close, dear and personal friends as a result. For example, Amhara has become very close with Mikias, one of our favorite HOPE Dessie school graduates who now interprets for us.  And to think they met because we came to Ethiopia (and we keep coming back).

Perhaps God’s work is done most often through the simple relationships we make, the way that encourages each other, the community that results, and the ways in which that reaches out beyond our sphere of influence, in ways known and unknown, to help build His Kingdom, “on earth as it is in heaven.”