Sometimes, when God says "Go!", it's not so much about the destination. Sometimes, when God says "Go!", it's simply about whether or not you'll actually go. It's simply about obedience. When God told us to go to Ethiopia it was simply about obedience. While He has so much for Freedom Gate to do in Ethiopia, the time for doing is not now. This time was always and only about whether we would go. Whether we would actually pick up our cross to follow Him. And whether we would trust Him with everything.
When the disciples were freaking out in their boat that was being slapped around on tempest-tossed waves, Jesus asked them to "Come!" He asked them to trust Him with everything and just step out of that boat. Only Peter was crazy enough to take Him at His word. And even though Peter never made it to his destination--Jesus--he went, he obeyed and he walked on water. Jesus rewards our obedience and sometimes obedience is just one step. (Matthew 14:22-31)
When God called us to go to Ethiopia, we took Him up on the challenge. We (thought we) knew that the longest we could go was for six months. And every time we prayed about how long to go, we got silence. So we decided to go for six months so that we wouldn't cut off anything He wanted to do through Freedom Gate. And we prayed that if six months wasn't His timing, then He would bring us home when the time was right. While we knew that six months was a long time, especially with the kids, we were committed to going for that time. We would miss celebrating Christmas with our families and celebrating Violet's 2nd birthday. We would miss our families and friends and the intimacy we shared. But we knew that no one would be blessed by our disobedience. And we couldn't wait to go.
The first month of our trip to Ethiopia was one of the most difficult months of our lives. Satan's attacks were pretty predictable before we left but the game changed once we got on to the front lines. There were times of confusion, disappointment, waiting and frustration. There were times we wondered why in the world God asked us to go and times when we thought He'd forsaken us. But even during those times, we were marveling at the work of His hands and seeing His hand in our lives. The Ethiopian countryside is breathtaking, the people we met were so warm and inviting. And even while under attack, we knew God had a very big reason for sending us. And we kept going even until breaking.
And then, in our weakness, God overwhelmed us with His presence and poured out on us fresh vision, hope and excitement for all that He has for us through Freedom Gate. When we looked into the faces of the beggars on the street, we saw familiar faces from home. When we saw the injustices, the poverty, the outcasts, we saw those same things in our own community, in our own country, in the faces that we knew. As our heart broke for the women forced into prostitution and for the beggars on the street, our heart broke also for the people in our own community whose hope has been lost and whose lives are in chaos. And as He sharpened our vision for our work in Ethiopia, He poured into us so much vision for our work in York County as well.
And then, being a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His kids (Matthew 7:11), He gave back to us all that we gave up for Him. We found out that the embassy issued us the wrong visa, which meant that we had to leave the country after 3 months instead of 6. And when we called the airlines to change our return flight, we found out that we needed to leave in 3 days or pay thousands of dollars for new tickets. And so now we find ourselves safely home with our families in time to celebrate Violet's birthday, Christmas and even to comfort family in a time of loss.
We will return to Ethiopia and the vision He gave us--to help bring freedom through sustainable farming and artisanal trades--will become a reality. But for now, until He calls us again, we will be pouring ourselves into the work He's called us to in York County. We have a lot of work to be done here and we are so excited to get busy. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We are so thankful for you!