While growing up, I feared that God might someday make me go to Africa as a missionary. You have to understand, I grew up a pastor’s daughter and that was strange enough. To me, at that time, the worst thing I could think of was God forcing me to go to Africa. It scared me.
Two years ago, in November 2009, I went to Africa on a missions trip.
God heard my childhood prayers. Thankfully, he knew better than I what my future held. We had a lot of friends support and pray for us as we took this leaping adventure, and this is my follow-up letter to them.
I’m sharing it here because I want to say this: God wants us to share in the great things he is doing — he doesn’t care if we have a plan or all the questions answered, because he does. He simply wants us to delight in the process and reward of living a life following his lead.
Two years ago, Angelo and I were preparing for our trip to Ethiopia and included all of you in the journey. Wasn’t it fun?
We felt the support and prayers and love from so many of you as we embarked upon an adventure into our future, and adventure into discovering our big God and how to best serve him.
Yes, Africa changed us, just as everyone said it would. But the initial stirrings of change began a few years earlier so that by the time we stepped foot in Addis Ababa, we were already changing people: our values, our relationships, our family goals. We’d like to encourage you to listen to the stirrings and the nudges–see where it takes you. We spent hours reading about social injustice, from the chocolate industry to the international sex industry. We watched videos and read blogs by people who were out there in the field.
We began to ask ourselves,”How can an average American family, living on an average income, with average abilities and resources and connections, make any kind of difference?” All our studying caused us to ask a more foundational question, “What kind of difference do we want to make?” Our answer: A lasting difference; a difference bigger than ourselves; a difference for the family of God and the kingdom of Jesus.
That led us to New Covenant Foundation, the ministry partnership organization that we ultimately travelled to Ethiopia with in 2009. We weren’t sure exactly what God had in mind to show us, or how he wanted to use us regular folk, but we believed it was time to find out. With the support and help of many people, we went and found Jesus anew in an ancient nation, in a different language, in the sparse, unembellished village churches of Ethiopia.
We found Jesus in the songs of the coffee farmers and in the songs of the children at the
Aerie Children’s home in Soddo,
we found Jesus in the prayers uttered in Amharic, the Heavenly Language.
And we came home and told people what we saw.
Many of you read my journal that I shared with you and I hope saw God differently through my lens and through my words.
In the two years since we came home, hearts full and heads bleary from a twenty-two hour day of traveling, God has revealed some reasons that he wanted us involved:
* Our church, Life Center Church in Spokane, began serving Dominion Trading Coffee in all the offices and in the coffee bar. Then, they researched the ministry of NCF and decided that it melded perfectly with the mission of the newly launching of LC’s Love 360 program for partnership ministry (both local and foreign).
* In 2010, the November NCF vision trip included several people from our church, including staff members. The partnership became official and Life Center chose to give NCF part of their offering overages. Because of the Life Center/New Covenant Partnership, the sustainable ministry initiatives of NCF were able to go forward with a boost in financing not previously experienced.
* Our dear friend, Sharon Abebe, an Ethiopian national who emigrated from Ethiopia twelve years ago and returned to minister with LifeWind International (another of NCF’s partners) to women in Ethiopia, only had a few years’ support; because of the gift from Life Center, Sharon can continue to minister to women in her home country and generations of women and girls will come to know the freedom, love and acceptance available to them through Jesus Christ. (Click to read a newsletter from the LifeWind East Africa missionaries)
* One of last fall’s team, Jim Van Gundy, a photographer, participated in a city-wide art show called First Night, and displayed his beautifully captured scenes and people of Ethiopia.
* A physical therapist traveled to Soddo, Ethiopia and a spark ignited — with the pervasive physical implications of polio and other diseases, the need for physical therapy is tremendous in developing nations. She shared her knowledge and assisted many physically disabled people.
* Another man chose to donate the money for a well, for an orphanage, and he chose the future site of Wolaitta Village.
* The kindergarten class at Life Center gathered change for several weeks to help raise money for the Mittin food supplement for orphans and the sick. Hundreds of kids learned about Tsayenish, a young lady whose life was changed dramatically through NCF, at Life Center’s Music Drama Daycamp 2010.
I have had the opportunity to tell a little story of my time in Ethiopia in Gary Chapman’s book, Love is A Verb Devotional, published by Bethany House Publishers this October. I am also regularly writing on my blog: www.alyssasantos.com.
I am also helping New Covenant Foundation build a better communication system through web-based media and social networking. I maintain the NCF facebook page and blog. I’m excited to corroborate with my friend Theresa Laher to write the stories of the Ethiopian church planters. If you would like to receive information about the church planters or how to support these amazing men and women, please hit the reply button and simply say “Church Planters“.
Thank you so much, friends and family, for caring about our journey to Ethiopia and back. We appreciate you.
May God Bless you!
Angelo and Alyssa Santos
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I’m taking the Not About Me November challenge: