Four years ago I boarded a plane headed to Ethiopia with my 9-year-old son and my 8-year-old daughter. It was only their second time on an airplane and the first time we needed passports to travel. For me, it was a dream come true. At the time, I served as the director of children’s ministry at our church and had worked to teach all of our kids that God’s mission is to make His name great so that people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will know and worship Him. Every Sunday, we shared about cultures around the world with toddlers through 5th graders, helping them see how beautiful and diverse all God’s people are.
Eight months earlier, while having lunch with my dear friend who trains internationally, I threw out a crazy question that would lead to one of the most transformational experiences of our lives. I asked, “Do you ever let people travel with you?” Then I posed a related question, a hypothetical dream, about my young children joining us. My friend’s answer was a surprising: “Yes, I think we could work something out.” On January 5, 2015, we sent out trip support letters and I read Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” This verse set the stage. God showed up big in every detail from that moment forward.
In mid March, we left my husband and two small daughters behind at home and we missed them! There was an initial fear – what have we done. Without Wi-Fi access, I had no way of letting them know we had made it safely to Ethiopia that first night. But when I woke up in the darkness from jet lag, and listened to the Muslim call to prayer and watched the sun rise, I was so thankful we had taken the risk. We were together, immersed in a culture unlike anything we had ever experienced. What an incredible gift! What better way to teach my children how to be a part of God’s mission and for us to understand first-hand what people from another tribe, nation, and tongue were really like?
The Ethiopian people were welcoming and loved sharing their lives with us. I remember driving through the markets and the across the city. Everything was different – seemingly optional traffic laws, the presence of security guards, new methods of flushing toilets, eating with fingers instead of silverware, electrical outlet configurations, and so much more. Yet the people were living their lives and caring for their families just the same as we did.
We met believers who loved Jesus and were passionate about sharing Him with their children, their countrymen, and the world. They worshipped in church on Sundays like us, but kept right on singing when the power went off, as it often did. When there was extra time before our training sessions began, the participants sang worship songs and prayed together. There was a simplicity to life and a devotion to God that we had never experienced at home.
Every day I thank God for the incredible experience I shared with my children on the other side of the world. Now they are 14 and 12 years old. They occasionally ask if we will return to Ethiopia and I always respond that I hope so. We left a piece of our hearts there. I hope our journey to Ethiopia laid a foundation for their love of adventure and the world that God loves.
About the Author: Lynette Washington is currently in graduate school completing a master’s degree in Community Health Promotion. She also works part-time for a non-profit organization in Fayetteville, AR where she has lived with her family for nearly 8 years. Connect with Lynette at firstname.lastname@example.org.