Their suits were not tailored in the American style, and they were not men of impressive stature or appearance. But when they stood before a small group of interested people, what they shared moved me. They passed around their treasured Bible and spoke plainly about the hardships of the people in their region. There was no powerpoint slides or emotional music to move the soul. They just spoke simply, and it was enough.
Inside I knew I wanted to take action. I even held back tears. I nudged my wife, chiding her about me going this summer, and whispering, " I wonder if they need teachers this summer". To my surprise she gave a positive response. As a teacher, I have a substantial amount of time off, including those lovely summers; days of sleeping in, gardening, fixing up the house, attending conferences and workshops to climb up the pay scale, and taking care of things that the busy school year deprives me of. To give all of that up is a big sacrifice, but not so much on my part.
We have three children: A nine-year old girl, a six-year old girl, and a two-year old boy. My wife is homeschooling the children and relies on my support to run the household. Her saying "yes" to the trip meant that she will parent and run the household by herself for a whole month.
Being a woman of faith she understood immediately, and in fact, helped me to see that it was clear that I should go. At the time it was hard for me to commit to actually going to Ethiopia, even though my spirit, or the Spirit, was nudging me to go. To me there were some very real obstacles. I did not have the money, knew nothing about Ethiopian culture, and questioned my own physical, intellectual and emotional abilities.
When I first expressed interest, one of the elderly team members nearly broke down in tears. She told me I did not have to worry about money. She was right. At this point in time, fundraising has been the least of my problems. Several people in church have provided funds, a co-worker has made a sizable donation, and even one of my student's parents has promised a donation. Best of all my friend Asher Styrsky of Styrsky Insurance sent out a mass email to clients. The email promised to match funds for each donation received. At this writing my trip is nearly paid for because of Asher's generosity.
So now I am doing all I can amidst a busy school year to learn about Ethiopia. This experience will require a whole other post, as Ethiopian culture is very complex. I will share that I am writing this post while listening to Azmari Bet.com. I have no idea what they are singing about, but the music is very beautiful. Although learning about Ethiopia is a grand endeavor overcoming my own sense of inadequacy is monumental. But I am not alone in this work.
As a christian I take great confidence in gospel, and trust that " . . . he who began a good work in you will complete it." Even though I worry that my passport might take too long to arrive, or that the trip might get canceled, or that once in Ethiopia I might get seriously sick, or won't adjust well to the culture, or won't get along well with teammates, or blah, blah, blah . . . I go to Ethiopia, with this in mind: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."