The opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with my church this year was something that I deeply desired from the moment I heard about the school we were building there, but it was not something I was sure I was prepared for. Although I’ve traveled most of my life and have been in countries both peaceful and in unrest, I’ve never been in a foreign land with the sole intention to share God’s love.
This was my first mission and prior to this trip I could have imagined myself as a missionary in Africa. But our goals were simple: build a team, gather supplies, and bring them both to the kids at On the Move Academy. This, I thought, was something I could do. This would be our pioneer team, the first of many to support the teachers and directors who are working so hard daily to make a difference in the lives of the young students in their new school. Not only did I get to be a part of an amazing team, with a beautiful mission, but I am so blessed to have documented it all from behind a very familiar place, my camera lens.
Along the way we had the amazing opportunity to attend the Wara Crusade, an annual christian worship conference in the city of Awasa, where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or Ethiopians drive, walk and ride mules to from all over the country in order to hear the word of God during the course of this three day crusade. Many feel the conviction to be baptized and we were given the opportunity to witness several baptisms on the third day of the conference. On the way to Nazareth, the location of our school, we made a stop at a national park to see some of the wildlife of Ethiopia, and many hours of travel provided ample opportunity to witness the incredible diversity between rural and more urban parts of the country. One thing we witnessed in just about every location, however, was the amazing hospitality and everyone had for us when we spoke a word or two of greeting in their Amharic language, which, even though we all butchered so very badly, was appreciated and kindly returned each time.
When we finally made it to our final destination at On the Move Academy, we were greeted with more smiling faces of the sweetest kids and teachers you could ever meet. They sang us songs and welcomed us into their classrooms and made us feel at home. Above anything else on our trip I will never forget the joyful faces and the expressions of gratitude from the teachers and kids as we unpacked all the donated supplies we traveled to Ethiopia with. The outpouring of love and support from our community here in Woodbridge, VA made a world of difference in the hearts of those who received it. while not everyone who helped to build and support this beautiful school could not be on the trip and meet the student’s first hand, we as a team pray we represented our brother’s and sisters in the best light, glorified God in every step of the way, and that we are able to bring a piece of Ethiopia back through our stories and photos and videos. With the images I was so blessed to capture, I hope to share all that we experienced and to inspire any would be missionaries for the next team, as well as the community who will support them in prayer and giving.