One reason I love sending out orphan awareness mission teams is what I call "the ripple effect". The impact that a mission trip can have one one person is incredible. The spiritual vibrations that reverberate from that person's experience on their trip to those around them in their family and community, cause so many others to become involved.
Here is one such story. My husband, Simon, led a mission team to Uganda and Ethiopia last holiday season for Visiting Orphans. As led by the Spirit, they ended up on Christmas day in Ethiopia at the city dump called Korah. (you can read about this day on one of my previous blog entries here.) A young woman and mother named Sumer Yates, from suburban metro Nashville was a part of this team who visit the children living and working in the dump. From that one trip, she now lives in Ethiopia with her three small blonde boys and husband running a ministry called Project 61. Her entire church body at Thompson Station Church has been rocked and they have all fell in love with Ethiopia and their people and this church is now a shiny example of what God said when He called His people to care for orphans.
So, here is her story, written by the one and only, Sumer Yates!:
I stood on my balcony last night, and smelled the African air. Since moving to Ethiopia in June, life has been very busy. I had grown used to the smell and forgotten how very much I love it. The smell reminded of what brought me here in the first place. Looking back, I realize that my journey really began over 20 years ago. In 1989 my parents were both killed in a plane crash, leaving my brother and I as orphans. Although we were never wanting for food and shelter like so many orphans in the world, I do understand the inner hurt that comes along with losing the two people in the world who love you best.
This inner hurt is like a wound that never completely heals, and the major events of life rip away the scab. For me, having my own children made me miss my mother in a way that I never had before. I was so angry with God for taking her away from me, He knew that I would need her help, that I would have questions only she could answer. He is a Father to the fatherless, but I needed a mother. It was during this time that God began to speak plainly to me, not in the audible sense, but more in a straightforward manner. It was a time of maturing where He no longer coddled, but gently started to shove me along. “My Grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.” That was the only answer I ever got, until one day He opened my eyes to His provision. I realized that not all churches are like mine, and not all new moms are literally surrounded by so many people in the same life phase. I did not have a mother to ask questions, but I had more friends with answers than I could ever need. God met my need, not in the way I wanted or expected, but He met it just the same and I am humbled and grateful for His provision.
Three healthy kids later, a great marriage, a large circle of great friends, a job I love, a nice house, and a husband with job security, I was content. I was enjoying my abundant life. Until one night at a Beth Moore Bible study, she began to talk about Esther and about the fact that Esther was an orphan. Beth was relentless on the gravity of her circumstances, saying repeatedly “can you imagine what it would be like to lose not one but both of your parents?” I was a mess by the end, and once again angry with God. “Why would You beat me over the head with that hurt in a room full of people, some who know my story and some who do not? What was that all about?” That was my reminder that God is more concerned with my character than my comfort, and He was about to call me from contentment to a Holy discontent with the plight of orphans around the world. A few months later I was sitting in my quiet time chair feeling discontented and knowing that I was supposed to do something, but not sure what that something was supposed to be. I was frustrated, and said “God, I have put my yes on the table, I have told You that we are ready to do whatever You want us to do, but You have not given me any directions.” He replied, “Really? Because you are sitting in something really big and in the way.” We had always discounted the idea of selling our house, because we had such a great mortgage. We bought at a good time and had a low interest rate, we could not rent anything cheaper…at least not in this country. We began to make plans to put our house on the market, with really no idea why.
Around that same time, I began to read Katie Davis’s blog about her life in Uganda, and a friend found us a trip to Africa to visit Amazima Ministries. The trip was through Visiting Orphans and it was set for Uganda and Ethiopia. For me, I had absolutely no desire to go to Ethiopia, but it was the only trip offered that included meeting Katie. Corey and I both knew that I would come home with some direction for us about our next step, and I was sure it would be found in Uganda.
I loved Uganda. It is a beautiful country with beautiful children who have dark chocolate skin that fit with my idea of Africa. I wanted God to call us to Uganda, but while I was there I did not feel the way I expected to feel. I did not have any strong pulls or any overwhelming sense of purpose. I felt heartbroken, and sad for all of the children we visited. I was also worried that I had someone completely missed God’s leading in my life and the life of my family. I cried when I got on the plane to head to Ethiopia, I wanted to stay in Uganda, but really had no idea what type of ministry I would even do there.
Surprisingly though, on Christmas Day in Ethiopia I fell in love. I had not wanted to go to Ethiopia, and of all the stops on our itinerary, the trash dump was the one I dreaded most. And yet, standing in the trash dump, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be. I knew that I had found our place. I did not feel heartbroken or sad, I felt hopeful, and I knew that God was telling me “this is it.” Together, we can help them. Together, we can change their lives. In Ethiopia I saw God’s vision for this people so clearly, and I immediately thought of so many ways to minister to these people. I saw immeasurable needs while in Africa, but only one calling for my life.
In the trash dump, there are fires burning and ash covers everything including the children. After leaving, God reminded me that in Isaiah 61 he says that he will bring beauty from the ashes. Those verses go on to say “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor.” That is my vision for these children who spend most of their time in the trash dump, and for the 100,000 plus people living in the adjacent community, that their lives would glorify God. That they would be a testament to his promise that He will not leave us as orphans, and that this generation would be a planting of the Lord.
Since visiting the trash dump that day, my life has been a whirlwind of activity and preparation. It has been God relentlessly calling us to go all the way. When I try to pull back, He pushes harder. God has been very plain with me that this was our crossroads. This is where as a family we decide what our story will be. We can choose to lay it all down, put it all on the line, and follow where He has called; or we could stay and choose what is easier, and what seemed to make more sense. I knew that God would never stop loving me, no matter what I chose; but I also knew that my time on this earth is short and opportunities like this do not come around very often. I pray that it is all for the display of His splendor- Sumer Yates 9/10/10 (with permission from Kari Gibson's blog.)
Follow along as I take this mission seriously and minister to the orphans in this world.
Visiting Orphans...It pretty much speaks for itself. Our lives are made to give away to others and I love it that helping orphans is pure and undefiled religion! Follow along as I take God seriously about this mission and minister to the orphans in this world. He is constantly at work in our lives..we just sometimes have to shift our perspective to notice Him. I pray you will hopefully see Him in the words and pictures below..through my perspective.
This blogpage follows the mission trips I lead to minister to orphans in this world. I am the Executive Director of a mission sending agency called Visiting Orphans. (www.visitingorphans.org) I believe my mission in life is similar to the President of Compassion International, Dr. Wes Stafford. In his book, "Too Small to Ignore" he says, "On one side of this international bridge, my role is to minister to the poor, to the orphans, to "comfort the afflicted." And then I cross the bridge, coming back to the Western, more affluent world, where my job is to speak and write and to "affict the comfortable" to call them to action." Loving people on both sides of the spectrum...
I pray that something in my words or pictures will inspire you to reach out beyond yourself...to GO and help the "least of these".