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Wednesday Ethiopia update- God is on the move

A small bathroom break turned into a huge blessing.

We started the day at the same church as yesterday, worshiping with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, breaking out our best dance moves and trying our best to sing songs in their language (emphasis on trying). Regardless, we had so much fun and enjoyed worshiping God unashamed with reckless abandonment. Many members of our team were excited to see what God was going to do today. We were praying for big things and expecting God to continue to move in the hearts of the Ethiopian people.

After the service, small team 3 started their morning in the same area that they shared the Gospel on Tuesday. Many of the people were not receptive to the Gospel message so we were getting a little discouraged, but reminded that the Lord can use anything for His glory. It was a joy getting to see and meet so many Ethiopians who were excited to meet us. We felt like celebrities! The Lord used this to open up doors for us to share the gospel! Up to this point it was evident that the Ethiopian people have a deep love for “foreigners” so much to the point that they will drop what they are doing to spend time listening eagerly waiting to ask questions. The speed of life compared to the typical American hustle is vastly different.

Praise God for the miracle of many people having the freedom to know him today!

After lunch, we hiked to a more remote village. On our way up, we were wondering where the people were and only saw cows and fields of grass. After about a 15 minute hike, we approached a small village and were greeted by a few women and children who were in the middle of working. After getting to know each other, one of our team members began to share the gospel. A minute into the story, the couple of people gathered around began to call more people from their village over to come a listen to the gospel. Soon the group grew from 4 people to about 15. The people were receptive of the message, but had some hesitation on whether or not they believed it. There was a lot of discussion between the people and the disciple-makers and translators. After much discussion, the people said they needed to discuss this with their families and others in the village.

We left the conversation feeling a little discouraged again. We began to head back to the van, but the girls needed to find a bathroom. A small bathroom break turned into a huge blessing.

While the girls were at the restroom, the men on our team began engaging with the leader of the village. In Ethiopia, the leader of the village is the one that is responsible for the physical and sometimes spiritual health of the village. The leader had asked for us to leave his land. The disciple makers and translators engaged this man and found out that other members of our team had shared the gospel with him earlier in the day. He said he believed the message was true but had requested that he needed time to think about the message, due to his Ethiopian Orthodox faith. The Orthodox in Ethiopia believe in Jesus death burial & resurrection but they believe that is insufficient as you also have to do good works. After speaking to the leader of the village using Scripture the disciple makers & translators and our team were able to help him see the flaws of his beliefs and how they do not align with God’s word. The leader, still skeptical, was very encouraged that we shared with him this truth from God’s word. He immediately asked if he could read the same bible we were using to share this truth with his village. We provided the bible and the disciple makers asked if they can come and share more about how to grow in Christ. He agreed to this and stated that he would now allow those who are living in his village to have the freedom to decide whether or not they decide to follow Jesus.

Shortly after he said this, our disciple makers/translator asked us to pray over this village and thank God for opening hearts. After the prayer, the Ethiopians busted out in song and praise, singing Galatmia Galatmia mal ya, Galatmia Galmia mal ya. Which means Thank you Jesus, Thank you.

Small Team 3 Members – Abby Hare, Matt Robison, Caroline Brooks, Katy Hammond, Forest Pinkerton

Team Update
Ethiopia team is feeling great. Team is in good health & the person with the spider bite is doing much better & the sick person from yesterday was well enough to go out & share. Thanks so much for your prayers. The weather in this part of Ethiopia is AWESOME!!!! The high is in the mid-70’s & the low is in the 50’s. The elevation in Assela is 8,000 feet above sea level & the mission site is around 9,500 feet above sea level. What a nice break from the Texas heat. Please continue to pray for:
• Unity between our North American & Ethiopian partners
• Open hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ
• Continued good health
• New believers would be discipled & growth in their new faith

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Tuesday Ethiopia update- Our God is mighty to save

You never know when you’re going to get called on to lead worship in Ethiopia! Day two consisted of all the teams loading up in the vans and making the first stop at a local church to meet our Ethiopian translators & disciple-makers. Cat and Kellie were handed the microphones and led the worship song “Our God is an Awesome God.” We then got to sing along to some Ethiopian worship songs & had so much fun. For many of us, we got to experience worship in new and exciting ways by singing and dancing and shouting praise to God. We might have to bring some of these worship dance moves back to Dallas!

Small Team 4 hit the streets close in a local village that was busy. We split up and shared for a few hours, got to visit one of our disciple maker’s homes to have lunch, and went back out to the streets to share for the remainder of the afternoon.

In one of our first conversations we shared our testimony and 5-7 people professed that they believed the gospel story. One of the men said he had lived there his entire life and only heard about the Muslin and Ethiopian Orthodox faith. He was confused and asked us, “ Why has no one ever shared this story with us?” We told him that because God loves him, He sent us to come share with him. It is becoming more normal for us to hear this response, that although they have heard the name of Jesus they did not know the saving grace that He has to offer them through the cross.

One of the memorable parts of our day was getting to spend time having lunch with our ministry partners. They are always extremely hospitable and invited us into their home and made us fresh coffee. We got to have fellowship together eating and drinking buna (coffee), worshipping Jesus, and dancing in their yard! Seeing the joy of the Lord in their lives has encouraged and strengthened our faith!

One of our prayers for the day was to get the opportunity to get to speak to women in the village! Many times as crowds grow large, the women would get pushed to the side and wouldn’t hear the full story we had to share. After praying, we stumbled upon a grandmother who had her teenage granddaughters with her. I got to share about struggles in my life trying to find satisfaction in relationships with men and alcohol and how it left me broken and sad. After sharing the love I have found in Christ and how he alone fulfills my desires, I shared the gospel and the grandmother was moved and said she believed. As more people came up to listen I shared with them, and she began to shout. Our translator said that she was yelling at the teens to listen to me because everything we shared was true from beginning to end and that they should listen and believe. It was an answered prayer to speak to this woman, as she will be a pillar of truth for the younger women in her village!

Many times when we were in large crowds we had to be very flexible and move locations when it became too chaotic to manage. At one point we were sharing with a young man and needed to leave mid- conversation, so we briefly said that if he believed in Jesus then his life could be different just like ours. He immediately believed and prayed with our translator to accept Christ as his Lord. It showed us that God is revealing himself to His people and our words are only a tool- but not always required. Praise God for the miracle of many people coming to know him today!
Small Team 4 Members – Cat Raegan, Tommy Christoffel, Jonathan Dickerson, Kellie Long

Health of the team
The Ethiopia team is doing a great job sharing their faith. They are physically healthy & strong except 1 person had some stomach issues last night & had to stay at the hotel today to rest. Another person got some kind of insect or spider bite but we were able to get them started on an antibiotic right away. Please continue to pray for:
• Rest & good health for the North Americans. Pray that our bodies would be strengthened & we would have the energy to climb into remote areas & share of the freedom we have in Christ
• Unity between the North Americans & our Ethiopian partners
• Open hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Ethiopian Orthodox & Muslims
• Safety as we drive on the Ethiopian mountain roads

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Ethiopia Monday update- God is moving in people’s hearts

What an awesome 1st day of ministry. We started the day at 7:00AM with an Ethiopian breakfast of eggs, spaghetti, and some mystery meat followed by a team devotional. We then hopped in the vans & took the hour drive to our mission area & had a great church service with our Ethiopian partners where we sang & worshipped Jesus. What an awesome time worshipping with our Ethiopian brothers & sisters.

After our church service we jumped into the vans with our Ethiopian translators & disciple-makers & drove to our mission site. Our van drove a short distance & then we got out to share. We didn’t walk 25 steps until we were surrounded by Ethiopians asking why we were there. We started sharing our testimonies about how Jesus Christ has changed our lives & then shared the story of God’s grace with the evangecube. People were coming & going during the conversations but it was clear that multiple people accepted Christ & said they believed this message is true. I was talking with a different group of people 1 hour later & an old man came up to me with a huge smile on his face. He said “I am a Christian!” I asked him how long he has been a christian & he said “Today!”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing & the power of Jesus name to change the hearts of people & draw them to himself is an awesome & amazing mystery.

The team is healthy & safe & everyone had a chance to share today which was very encouraging to everyone. Please continue to pray for:
• Unity between the North Americans & our Ethiopian partners
• Open hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Ethiopian Orthodox & Muslims
• Continued safety & good health for the North Americans

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Ethiopia 2019 teams headed back to Africa

In a few short days (Friday, 12th) the 1st Ethiopia 2019 team will get on an airplane for the long flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia going to share how Jesus Christ has changed our lives. The “journey” to Ethiopia started early this year since our first training meeting was in February over 5 months ago. Our training and preparation for Ethiopia has consisted of support raising (learning how to share the financial need in healthy ways), immunizations (shots) party and cultural awareness training, team building day, practice sharing the gospel with the evangecube, roleplaying sharing our testimonies, and giving biblical defense for the gospel for common Orthodox and Muslim arguments.
As I think about these next week 2 weeks, I can’t help but think about the people who will hear about God’s saving grace for the 1st time. Pray that God will move in people’s hearts, not just the Ethiopians, but also the North Americans. This is a unique opportunity to “unplug” for a week and think about what is most important, how much God loves us, and the opportunity to share that love with others. The team is together all week as they get up early and eat breakfast together, share a devotion together of what God is teaching them, load up in vans and share Christ with Ethiopian brothers and sisters, come back to hotel and share meal together, share evening debrief time where they sing, pray and talk about all that God did during the day, and then collapse from exhaustion.
Check back regularly for prayer requests and stories from the mission field.

Please pray that:
• flights would be on time and connections would go well

• bags would make it to Addis Ababa on time

• Ethiopian hearts would be receptive to the message of the Gospel

• Unity between the North Americans and Ethiopian partners
* Safety & health for North American family members at home

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Small Big Ways God Revealed His Goodness

How could I possibly put a trip like this into words? Nothing I say could possibly do it justice, but I guess I will try. It was such a sweet trip, and the Lord showed up in so many unexpected ways.  Many of them small – but so very powerful. This is how He spoke to me:

  • The mighty way in which he chose to use broken and redeemed vessels to carry his message of love and forgiveness to remote parts of this world
  • The privilege of teaching on the subject of marriage to a room full of men who live in a culture that does not give honor and dignity to women. And getting to see small changes in the way they think.
  • Mattias’s message. One of the pastors at the conference spoke to the room full of men and women. He honored the women, telling them what a huge job they have and how well they have done that job. Beautiful smiles and looks of gratitude flooded their faces. This was possibly the first time they have ever been praised or thanked for what they do.
  • The testimony of a couple who responded to the teaching on marriage by taking action and washing one another’s feet that night when they went home. I’m praying that the Lord will use this to encourage other men to serve their wives with the same degree of humility and love.
  • My signature on a certificate, given to these women, that will be treasured by them for years to come. Who am I to sign something so valuable? God chose to use us, and I am humbled by that thought.
  • In the way God put together this team. Through all kinds of uncertainty and changes along the way, this was the team He chose to go, and it was fun to see Him work it all out according to His plan and His timing.
  • The way a simple “thank you” made the hotel staff feel loved and appreciated. I think they will always remember being pulled up-front, and I want to always remember to give honor and respect to those who serve.
  • Being reminded through the Africans’ worship of the joy that we should exude as those who have been saved by Jesus! How beautiful that joy truly is!
  • The beauty of a mountainside that He spoke into existence with a single word. Being in awe of it and knowing that he created it all for our enjoyment!
  • A small conversation on the side of the road, with a young boy who spoke perfect English. This conversation led me to give away my Bible of the last 5 years… a treasured possession. I get to rejoice in the fact that I know God will use any act of obedience – no matter how big or small – for his glory. I am praying that this copy of God’s Word will transform the life of that child and eventually many more in that small village situated on the side of the road in Kayanza, Burundi. It might not sound like much, but that moment will always be precious to me.

I’m so thankful for each of those “small” ways the Lord made Himself known to me on our trip. He is so so good! And I am sure we are surrounded by those “small” moments every single day here in America as well…

I just need to be looking for them!

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My Heart Caught Up

From the moment that I said yes to Africa, my prayer had been, “God please allow my heart to catch up with my obedience.” I was distracted by my life, my circumstances, my world. I never truly believed that I could be ALL IN for what God wanted from me in Burundi, and in my heart I knew I would betray Him on this mission.

He is so faithful in the midst of my unfaithfulness. I remember at the packing party our campus pastor, Tyler Briggs, reminding and encouraging us that all we were doing in Burundi was simply sharing our stories of God’s grace in our lives, just like we do here on mission in Fort Worth. God used this truth to begin a surrender of my sin of people-pleasing and a need to “perform” while preparing to teach the Africans.

Embracing this truth, I found that by sharing my pain, my depraved sin nature, and my deep need for healing in Jesus, I could relate to the women in Africa the way that God wanted me to. He designed my story before time began to help the Burundi women see the freedom I experienced in confession and forgiveness. He sets the captives free! And He uses our stories and our mess to make His message clear and to glorify Him. HE IS WORTHY!

As much as God used my story to minister to the African ladies, He used the stories of our team members to minister to my heart. Spending time with these 10 precious brothers and sisters was life-giving. They became my family for that week, as we depended on one another for encouragement, safety, direction, love, and guidance. Deep bonds of friendship were created. Deep conversations of truth and reflection were begun. Deep reflection and awareness of areas in my heart that still need Jesus’ healing were revealed. Deep love and gratitude for Christ and His loving kindness and mercy over my life are still being celebrated. I’m still processing my heart.

Yes , God allowed my heart to catch up with His mission. I’m grateful for this invitation He extended to me – an invitation to depend on Him and trust Him with my heart. He is faithful to answer prayers as they align with His will.

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Impacting One, Impacting Many

Written by Tyler Kelly

This trip has seemed quite long, but also so short. We’ve built deep friendships with each other and with the ALARM staff in such a small amount of time. From awkward situations to moments of raw emotion (and so many other experiences), we have had a chance to see how the Lord has grown and continues to grow each one of us. While the conference was only four days long, so much was accomplished, so much was learned, and so many memories were made.

Early on in the trip, we talked about what success would look like. This would help us not lose sight of what our true purpose was. We knew that our job was to prepare well, share our message to the best of our ability, love on the people, and let God do the real work. Even though the conference was quite successful, we knew that not every participant would be ready to confess, repent of sin, and commit every area of their life to Christ. But what about those who did? Even one heart that fully turns and commits to follow the Lord could impact so many people. That one person can go back and share the truth of the Word to their congregation. They can show their spouse and kids love like Christ shows us and alter the trajectory of their family for generations.

Jesus talks about how the good shepherd would leave the ninety-nine to go find the one. But what does the life of the one look like once the good shepherd finds him? I would imagine that life would be radically changed, full of gratefulness, ready to share about how good of a shepherd he has. This one act by the shepherd has a much longer impact than the action of saving him. I hope this conference showed and reminded everyone how good of a shepherd we have.

So while the travel home is long and arduous, I am reminded of the one – and the many – that were impacted from this trip. While Christ could have used anyone to share this week, He allowed us to be a part of what He is already doing in Burundi. I am thankful for that and for the people of ALARM who will stay and continue to be apart of the Lord’s work in Burundi.

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Reflection on Departure

Written by Ben Aguilar

The journey to and from Burundi has been a gift. These folks I’m with, they know how to travel! And our leaders have done a great job making it fun. I have had to adjust to some things: seeking out clean areas to sleep and eat, cold showers, and the use of hand sanitizer (first time I have ever used up hand sanitizer bottle in my life).

The food has been good but different, different enough that seeing a Hardee’s burger restaurant in the airport brought a weird sense of joy never felt before.

I thank God for the ALARM people and those who attended the conference, who, no matter their circumstances, taught me about being joyful in the Lord and showed me how true worship is sincere and exciting. The people were great. Giving them a thumb up would always bring about a smile and a wave in return. These people live out the definition of hospitality, something I will take home with me.

This trip has been one of surrender – surrendering myself for the sake of my brothers and sisters in Christ who live 8600 miles from me. What makes a trip like this work? It’s just Jesus. He has been the beginning of this and has held it together.

I leave with a thankful heart, and I am reminded that when I think of my self less and God and others more, a true sense of contentment and thankfulness is created. God is at work all the time, so keep your eyes open! I also encourage you to take a trip around the world and visit His church. You will see what I mean.

Thanks for letting me share.

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God Does So Much

Written by Heather Thomas

I cannot describe how full my heart is right now!

The people of Kayanza are the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met. All the women here carry their babies on their backs by wrapping a blanket around themselves and tucking it in, so they can be hands-free. It’s their very creative version of the BabyBjorn carrier that we use in America. I think I have become known around here as the “baby lover” and have held or played with every single baby here. I am filled with so much love for these moms and feel such a sweet bond. I could have talked to them all day, and I wish there wasn’t a language barrier slowing us down. They are so gracious and love any effort (no matter how ridiculous) made to communicate with them.

I guarantee I have learned way more from them than they have from me. They are so submissive and servant-hearted toward their husbands and families and live in way harder conditions than I do. Their husbands do not always lead out in sacrificial love, yet they persevere as godly wives in daily humble submission and service, much better than I do with a husband who leads well.

I have heard so much wisdom from these ladies and seen so much gentleness in their natures, with joy and peace in spite of their difficult situations. I can’t believe I’ve had the honor and privilege to come halfway across the world to teach these amazing women of God. I praise God for this and how He has humbled me and opened my eyes to how much I can still grow in Biblical submission. He has also shown me how I need to repent of my entitlement, expecting so much in return for my service to the Lord. “I deserve a break.” “I deserve credit and gratitude.” “It’s my turn for Zac to serve me now.” What a harsh reality to realize about myself! Ouch! Lord, help me! I know He is faithful and powerful enough to continue His work in me.

I don’t think I have a big enough journal for this trip. God is doing so much. Teaching with Betsy, Katie, Karen, and Valerie has been such a sweet treat. The Holy Spirit has been at work and has used us to do His bidding. How blessed are we? The women have been so receptive and interactive during the teachings. I taught on Bible Study Methods yesterday, and they were in the middle of an exercise where they were observing the passage on The Good Samaritan. The room was buzzing. I could see that they had so much they wanted to talk about and were so interested. Then that thought was reinforced when Darcene, one of our amazing translators, leaned over and said, “Let’s let them keep talking; they are so eager!” I was so encouraged seeing their love for God’s Word.

This place is BEAUTIFUL and SO ARE THE PEOPLE. The Spirit is so evident here. Betsy and Graham spoke on marriage yesterday for two hours, and IT.WAS.AMAZING. Everything that could have been said to these Burundians was said. How does that happen? Only God could do this. It was powerful and just so cool to see. Likewise, teaching was such a good opportunity for me to practice trust. I am not a teacher. But the Lord showed up! All glory and honor be to HIM!

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A Mission Bigger Than Imagined

Written by Cameron Cushman

Though I have been a believer since I was seven years old, this is the first time I have taken the opportunity to go on a short-term discipleship trip. God brought me halfway around the world to the small, central African country of Burundi after more than 30 years of walking with Him (admittedly off-and-on). Even though I had been preparing for months to make this trip, I had to get here and experience the culture and meet the people to truly understand why God brought me here and why God brought our team here.

Before I left, I understood that our mission was to follow the Great Commission, as Jesus described in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). While this is exactly what we are doing here, it’s being done in a much more comprehensive way than I imagined.

We are here to communicate God’s Word so a country can be changed through the pastors and leaders in the church.

Governments can bring change. The military can force change. Corporations can make changes. But only God can change hearts. Our goal is to equip the church leaders here so that they can help change the hearts of this country that has seen so much poverty, war, killing, death, and strife. Our hope is that we can inspire these local pastors in Kayanza Province to grow in God’s Word, so that they can share God’s love with their congregations in their hometowns and villages. We know that only God can change hearts and that through changed hearts this country, and in fact this entire region, can be changed.

It has been incredible to see how we are so different from our Burundian brothers and sisters, and are yet so much alike. Our life experiences couldn’t be more varied, and yet we are united by our belief in Jesus and his capability to change lives. Our desire to improve our communities through spreading the love of Jesus is just the same. Their Bible, though in their local language of Kurundi, teaches the same lessons as our English Bible does. Their worship songs, though sung mostly a capella, worship the same God we do. Their conflicts at home and in their lives are just the same, and the solutions to resolving these conflicts are the same ones that God’s Word teaches. Though we are so different, our God and his Word are the same. I see now why God brought me halfway around the world to see his Church in action.

Our travels have also transcended boundaries and, in some small way, have created mutual understanding between believers. One local pastor, Oscar, told me yesterday that he had harbored bad impressions of white people (or as we are called here, “Muzungu”). After we talked for several minutes and enjoyed a meal together, he said his opinion had changed. All Muzungu weren’t bad, he said. All it took was spending some time together, talking to each other and sharing our love for Jesus. Mission accomplished.

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