My Third Visit to Ethiopia

My trip to Ethiopia this July with Storytellers Missions was such a good trip.  I want to tell you about it. 

When I got home from Ethiopia mid-July, all I wanted to do was sit by the pool, watch my kids swim, and read.  Now that the kids are back in school, it seems ridiculous that I haven’t written and posted this yet.  I’ve been home for over a month, but I still want to let you in on God’s goodness that I witnessed on this trip.  I especially want those of you that prayed for me and my daughter Lucy and/or supported our trip to know how God was glorified.

This is my third summer in a row to visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with AWAA Storyteller Missions.  The last two years, I have written very thoroughly about my week, including highlights of each day of the trip.  I believe doing that in this blog post would just be redundant.  There are things about my trip that don’t vary greatly from the last two years, traveling, from Amarillo to Addis was largely a similar experience.  I don’t have anything interesting to add.  Instead of giving my report in daily reflections, I’m just going to give you the most interesting observations.


1. Encouraging Reports of Domestic Adoption


This is something I observed last year, but I continued to see positive improvements in this area.  Socially, adoption has not been accepted by Ethiopian people.  That opinion is beginning to change.  America World Adoption has taken a proactive role in changing that social norm, even though it doesn’t benefit them financially at all.  In fact, one of the nannies employed by America World’s transition home was proud to share with us that she was pursuing adoption of a beautiful orphaned girl in her care as a nanny.  This sweet nanny has no children of her own, and a very modest income.  The fact that she was willing to sacrifice financially and personally to add a child to her family through adoption was really beautiful.  The ripple effects of her adoption is helping change the social norm of her country.  Please pray that adoption becomes more accepted in Ethiopia.  If children can be cared for and loved by a family in Ethiopia, that is so, so much better than a life in an orphanage.

(Photo by Traci Judd)


2.  Traveling With Adoptees


I had the great privilege of traveling with the Heckart family.  Ryan and Karmyn Heckart adopted two brothers through AWAA’s Ethiopia program two years ago.  The boys they adopted are named Jackson and James.  This was their first time traveling back to their birth country since their adoption, and getting to see their reactions to Ethiopia was worth billions to me.  Our first day at the guesthouse, they served us a very typical lunch, penne pasta with veggies (carrots, cabbage, zucchini), oil, and basil.  It was quite good, but watching James devour it was hilarious.  At one point he said, “I’ve had dreams of this pasta.”  It was adorable.  Karmyn was able to arrange visitation with the boys’ birth family.  Our fourth day there, Karmyn, the boys, and Karmyn’s other two children went to the boys’ aunt’s home.  About 15 members of their birth family came to visit, including their sister and a living grandfather.  By all reports, it was a very lovely visit that had some heart-wrenchingly touching moments as they bonded over the love that everyone had for the two boys.  Honestly, thinking of ever visiting a birth family of the child we will hopefully be allowed to adopt seems pretty scary to me.  It is not any kind of social situation I have ever been involved with, and the feelings all sound very, very big.  Hearing Karmyn talk about that meeting made me wish that I had been there.  It didn’t sound scary; it sounded precious.  We were able to take the boys’ aunt and sister out to dinner with us during the week and also have them visit our guesthouse one night.  Jackson was able to remember all of the language.  He was able to converse in Amharic with his family, the nannies at the orphanage the boys lived in, and the driver we had all week.  In fact, he made great friends with the driver, as they bonded over “the raps music” (as our diver called it.)  James, who is two years younger, could recognize some Amharic, remembered a lot of words, but he couldn’t converse at all.  He was however an excellent dancer.  Ethiopian traditional dances all include some amazing shoulder movements, and everyone was impressed with his moves.


3. The Kids Presented the Gospel


Since we had mainly children on our team, we empowered them to share the gospel on our trip.  Karmyn found a great idea of sharing major points from the creation to Jesus.  Two of the adults held a clothes line, and the 7 kids (my daughter Lucy being the oldest and 8 year old Dawson being the youngest) hung a picture on the clothes line as they shared their piece of the story.  The kids were able to share that presentation at each of the orphanages we visited, as well as the ministries Hope for Korah and Make Your Mark.  Oftentimes children are underestimated by adults.  They are not often given opportunities to share their faith or participate in ministry to others.  Since we were doing the presentation to children, I believe letting children share with children was the most powerful presentation of Jesus we could have offered.  The children were really listening as those seven children, two of which were Ethiopian, share about the story of the Bible.  Karmyn did something else really smart.  She made mini-coloring books with the pictures the kids had placed on the clothes lines.  She also added Bible verses in Amharic.  We were able to hand out hundreds of these to the children we shared with.  I am so proud of the kids.  So many adults will never have the opportunity to stand on foreign soil and proclaim Jesus to a crowd of people while having a translator share their words in a foreign language.  These kids have already done that at their age of 8 to 17.  God used them mightily.

(Photo by Traci Judd)

(Photo by Traci Judd)


4. Communion


I had the joy of taking communion at one of the churches we attended in Addis.  It was such a special moment, sharing that with believers in Ethiopia.  I will cherish that memory.


5. Small Improvements


My favorite thing about going back to the same mission field three years in a row is seeing the small improvements in the children’s lives each year.  The smallest thing can give me so much hope that the Church is making a difference for orphans and marginalized families.  The biggest improvement I saw in the large baby orphanage we visit each year was that they had new playground equipment.  That is something the kids hadn’t had before.  Honestly, the soccer ball is still their favorite form of entertainment, but it was getting a lot of use from the handful of kids who had physical disabilities.

There were also big improvements in one of my favorite ministries in Addis, Hope for Korah.  Their ministry has grown year after year, and it is obvious God is blessing their efforts.  They had a new program for families to join that included classes in money management and a group savings account to be used for business start-ups within the group.  Hope for Korah and the groups rally around each other’s entrepreneurial ideas and help make those dreams into a solid business plan.  Since jobs are so hard to come by in their tough economy, starting a business can be life-changing for a family in extreme poverty. 

The children’s ministry in Hope for Korah had grown as well.  They had Bible studies in the evening for the older children, and they had begun renting a soccer field once a week for soccer clinics that included Bible teaching.  If you don’t follow Hope for Korah on Facebook, I would encourage you to do so.  It is a very worthy cause if you are looking for a ministry in Ethiopia to support. 


6. Testimony


One of the team members from Karmyn’s church in Perryton was Justin Thompson.  Justin was able to share with about 20 older boys after our team helped with a soccer clinic at Hope for Korah.  He shared his testimony of losing his brother-in-law to suicide, his life before meeting Jesus, and how God had changed his life.  Sitting in that little room in Korah, the economically poorest community in Addis, was on of the most spiritually deep experiences I have ever had on mission.  It was clear to me that his testimony was sinking into the hearts of those boys in a deep and profound way.  The air was thick with the Holy Spirit’s movement.  I know the pain of losing a loved one to suicide, and I knew in my heart that most of the boys in that room had suffered some type of deep loss in their short lives.  Hearing hope come from such pain and despair was an unbelievable experience.  Justin was not planning on coming on our trip to Ethiopia until unexpected circumstances caused him to join our team at the last minute.  I know God had Justin go to share that night, and I know his testimony was used to further the Kingdom.


7. Sponsor Family Reunion


America World Adoptions has a sponsorship program that allows about 100 families who are in danger of losing their children be supported through sponsorship.  Sponsor children are given a better chance to stay with their family as they face the difficulties of poverty.  This year we met five mothers who’s children are sponsored through this program, and we heard their stories.  Their stories were extremely hard.  All of them had lost their husbands, one because of war and the others because their husband had chosen to abandon their families.  Two of the children we met were products of rape.  They were loved and their mothers expressed that they were thankful to God to have that child.  That was a humbling story, and it was a little shocking to hear it more than once.  It was beautifully redeeming to see how much these children were loved by their mothers.  


This was the third time to get to meet sponsor families, and one of the women, "M," was a family I had visited on my first trip to Ethiopia with my friends Barry and Shelly.  We had visited her modest home two years ago and met her lovely son "S."  "S" had grown a few feet since we met him two years ago.  "M" remembered having us to visit her home, and was glad to see me.  When our visit was over, she gave me such a long, hard hug.  It was such a dear moment for me.  Pray for "M" and "S" with me.  Their small family of two has faced such hardship, but they love Jesus and they love each other.  Pray God keeps them healthy and encouraged in their faith.

(If you want to read more about first meeting "M" & "S", scroll down to "Day 8" on this link:

This year.

This year.

2 years ago.

2 years ago.


8. State of Adoptions


It was clear during my trip that less and less international adoptions are being processed from Ethiopia to any other country, including the US.  This is the first time that I did not see any adoptive families at the airport in Ethiopia.  Our agency’s transition home has downsized their property, and had very few children.  Adoptions have not stopped, but they are on a very slow trickle.  The large orphanage we have visited year after year still is busting at the seams with children, but the government has no interest in allowing a large quantity of adoptions to continue.  Ethiopia is broken into nine regions (kind of like states.)  Many of those regions have closed adoptions completely.  God keeps giving me a hope that doesn’t seem logical that we will still adopt a son, even in these dire prospects.  The logical part of my brain wants to point out the facts, but there is still a flicker of hope in my heart.  God is not finished with our adoption story.

(Photo by Traci   Judd)

(Photo by Traci Judd)

If you'd like to read about my other visits to Ethiopia, here are links to the blog posts.


My first trip to Ethiopia.

My second trip to Ethiopia.



With my blog posts, I always like to share a song.  This song really speaks to my "try-hard, good-girl" heart.  I especially love the lyric, "I'm realizing that all my striving is just chasing wind.  But you freed me so I can just be.  Nothing to prove.  Nothing to loose."  That is a lesson I had to learn the hard way this year, and laying in my bed each night in Africa, I'm not ashamed to admit that I listened to this song on repeat.

Day 14: Ethiopia



Christmas of 2013, our dossier for our adoption had been mailed to our agency, and we were waiting for it to be translated and mailed to Ethiopia.  A few of our new adoption friends, including my Target Friend Shelly, were talking about joining one of the mission trips our agency was sending to Ethiopia in the summer.

The money was my biggest worry in signing up for the trip, but God confirmed that I should not worry.  The way this was confirmed for me was kind of funny.  We were sitting in church on Christmas Eve, and I leaned over to James before the service started and said, “Is it crazy to spend money on a mission trip when we are trying to save money for our adoption?”  That service, the preacher specifically said these words, in sermon that had really nothing to do with missions, "It is never wasted money to send someone overseas."  I knew I was suppose to go.  The next night I submitted my online application to join the mission team.

Raising money was actually pretty easy for that trip.  We did some fundraisers, and some extremely generous people donated money to help cover my cost.  I have some very sweet friends and family members.

It was my very first trip overseas, and my very first organized mission trip.  The church I attended after I became a Christian as a teenager was extremely small, there weren’t any opportunities for missions.  And the church I’ve been at my whole adult life is Citychurch.  Our motto at Citychurch is living the mission.  We treat our city as a mission, and we reach out to the neighborhoods downtown in many different ways.

It turns out missional living is good training for mission trips.  I felt right at home meeting the kids and adults we encountered that week in Ethiopia.

Before going on that trip to Ethiopia, I had always looked at the verses in the Bible about caring for the fatherless as something I was already doing.  The neighborhoods that Citychurch ministers in are full of fatherless children.  But as I met parentless children in Ethiopia, I knew I had not been fulfilling that call that every Christian is commanded to carry out of caring for the fatherless.

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
— Deuteronomy 10:18 ESV
Learn to do good! Seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
— Isaiah 1:17 ESV

Everything about that trip required faith: the fundraising, worries about flying on a plane that far, overcoming worries about the food and sanitation, overcoming worries about getting to know a whole group of ladies from North Carolina, worries about homesickness, worries about how my daughter was doing getting ready for public school without me there, and worries about how useful I would even be on the trip.

Maybe I should finally start listening to Jesus’s words about not worrying, because God was faithful on that trip.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
— Matthew 6:25 ESV
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
— Matthew 6:34 ESV

I wrote about my first week in Ethiopia extensively.  Here is the post that covers that week.

As the next summer was approaching, James and I were considering the idea that both he and I would go on the summer mission trip to Ethiopia with our adoption agency.  At this point, James had been to Africa 5 times (but never to Ethiopia), and I had been the one time.  We had never gone at the same time.

There were two things that immediately concerned me:  1.  Would our children be ok without us for almost two weeks?  2.  Would we be able to pay for the trip when it would cost double the amount of one of us going?

Going on the first trip had built my faith.  I had saw how God had provided everything physically and emotionally that I had needed to accomplish His work.

We took the leap and signed both of us up for the trip.  I’m so glad we did.  It was a little bit of a sacrifice financially for both of us to go, and being away from our kids wasn’t easy.  But it was worth it.  That trip was such an amazing time of learning about orphan care and learning about where our son would come from.

I wrote a long blog post about this week as well.  If you would like to read it, here is the link.

I would just encourage you to be open to new missions and ministries that God may want to involve you in.  I was sure that I was checking off all the boxes of commands to ministry in the Great Commission and in commands to care for the fatherless by being active in ministry at Citychurch.  God allowed me to see those commands in a new light when I was able to GO and offer love, compassion, and care for orphans on the other side of the globe from me.

Always be willing to allow God to show you His work and His commission in a fresh way.

Day 10: More Trips



Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’
— Matthew 28:18-20 The Message

Yesterday I wrote about my calling to reach children in the inner-city of Amarillo, Texas at Citychurch.

When I read the Great Commission, I thought and heard those words as being about the place where we were at.  I saw our family fulfilling this commission completely in our lives building the church in the place that God had planted us.

Rarely did I think about Africa before James’s trip in 2010.  But after that first trip, more opportunities arose for him to go.  In the last 5 years, he has traveled to Africa 5 times.

It was much easier to send him after we went through the faith-growing-pains of that first trip.

God NEVER stops building our faith. The day is coming when the things that scare you today will seem like no big deal.
— Christine Caine

I’m going to summarize four of these trips for you, quickly.  Because I want to show you how our heart was changed and show how God invited us into another faith adventure.

October 2011 - Chad

A year after his first trip, James was able to go back to Chad again.  This time he was able to take his brother Donnie and a kid from Citychurch’s youth group.  They traveled with David Timm’s organization Lost But Not Forgotten.  This trip, the team was able to fly directly into the country of Chad.  They then hired an interpreter and 4x4ed into several villages to carry out their medical mission to children and show the Jesus film.  Hundreds of people responded to the invitation to accept Christ in those villages.

January 2013 - South Sudan

There is a big population of South Sudanese refugees in Amarillo.  Citychurch had been letting a group of those refugees use our building for church services for about 7 years.  This was the first foreign mission trip that was led by Citychurch.  The connection that Amarillo’s Sudanese congregation had with the orphanage James stayed at and ministered to in South Sudan made it possible to continue this work beyond just a short term mission trip.  That idea was important for Citychurch’s leadership.  They started a ministry that Citychurch is still building on today.  James, his brother Donnie, and friend Jordan Henderson served on this trip from Citychurch.  They were also able to take one member of the Citychurch Sudanese congregation, Simon Garong.

March 2014 - Burkina Faso / Ivory Coast

Citychurch had a plan to return to South Sudan in January of 2014, but because of political turbulence beginning in December of 2013, that was impossible.

Christmas Eve, James got a phone call from David Timm, our friend who has the organization Lost But Not Forgotten.  He had heard that Citychurch would be unable to make a trip to South Sudan in the coming months and wanted to invite James to go on his upcoming trip to Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.

James told him that he would probably not go.  In the car the next day, James told me about his conversation with David.  I encouraged him to go.  I had caught the love Jesus had for the African people, and if there was anything I could do to make a difference in Africa, I wanted to do it.  I encouraged him to call David and volunteer to go.

This trip the most fruitful short term mission trip I’ve ever witnessed.  Every text from James included good news of so many people accepting the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  I am still blown away by how many lives were changed on that trip.

I transcribed the text messages that James sent me during his time in Africa.  If you are interested in reading those, they are at the bottom of this day’s post, just bellow the song video box.

January 2015 - South Sudan

James was able to return to South Sudan along with his brother Donnie and the pastor of the South Sudanese Citychurch congregation, Lual Majak.

The young country had not made progress from his trip two years prior.  Evidence of the near civil war during the political unrest was all over the city of Juba.  Every infrastructure was damaged or affected.

The group was able to fund physical improvements to the orphanage and spend some time building the orphanage workers’ knowledge of the Bible.  Relationships were built between the men and women caring for the orphans in South Sudan and the men from Citychurch.  We can see God working as Citychurch continues to build upon this ministry to South Sudan and it’s congregation of South Sudanese in Amarillo.

Another call...

James’s first trip to South Sudan in 2013 was a turning point for our family.  It was the trip God used to call our family to adoption.  I’ll be sharing about that faith adventure Monday.

I love music.  Something I do on my blog is share a song with each blog post.  I love this song by Cody ChesnuTT.  I love that whole album, Landing On a Hundred.


Text Messages & FaceBook Posts from husband James's trip to BURKINA FASO and Ivory Coast in 2014

March 17th

James/text message:  “Air France found my bag and it was just in time because tomorrow we are leaving Ouagadougou in the morning. I know now why God caused the delay. Tonight we met a Muslim man named Issika at the airport. We were there to pick up the bag. We got a chance to witness to Issika. After about 30 min he prayed for salvation through Jesus. After this 26 year old Muslim man finished praying he looked up and began to praise God. He said ‘I'll never forget this day that Jesus found me.’”


March 19th

James/text message:  “In the Ivory Coast. had smooth passage through all the borders. We even had a chance to witness to the guards at the border. Praising God!”


March 19th

Me on FaceBook:  I talked to James this morning. He was at a hospital in the Ivory Coast. The hospital's waiting room was set up like a chapel. He and David were going to share with those in the waiting room, and then they were going to pray with the waiting. I could here a sick baby crying in the background. He said the baby was a cutie, but in African style - had no pants. The hospital was also going to allow James and David to go room to room and pray with the patients.  Their travel this morning was eventful. They were able to give the head of the border security a Bible. He insisted on having one before they passed, and James happen to have one in his language. Just across the border, James and David witnessed to a group of Muslim men. James said they were prideful, and they laughed at them.  They were also getting ready for a meeting today with the Prefecture in charge of giving them permission to visit several villages. Pray that meeting goes well.  And pray for the contacts they will make at the hospital. Our God is mighty.


March 20th

James/text message: “I tried to call but the service is down. Today was a hard day. We started at the hospital at 7:00 they wanted to make sure that what we were preaching was going to be sound. Then after we proved ourselves to the staff the head nurse came and showed us where all the wards were. She wanted us to know who was in each room. She is a dear American woman that has been serving God for many years here. She explained that even though they see a lot of patients they receive no government funds. She said that it was ok because they can't tell her what to do:). Visiting in the hospital was very hard. I was broken hearted the whole time. I got to pray with 17 people and 3 infants. The team prayed for about 30 in all. I cried the whole time. It is hard to explain the desperation that the people were in. In one room there were a group of people with their babies. The babies were asleep with fever. I prayed for them and we witnessed to the moms and dads. They all received Jesus after we talked to them. In another room there was a young girl that had damaged herself by being in labor for over 3 days. The nurse said that she finally pushed the baby out with her hands. There was a young man that had been in an accident with multiple wounds they were just trying to help him be conformable. He was crying in his bed. I believe that he will walk again. He said he had faith in Jesus. God has done so much more today we also met with the Under Prefect and he was a Christian man. He gave us our letter so we went to meet the chief of the village. We are ready to go to the first village tomorrow. God has given us everything that we need.”


March 20th

James/text message:  “We found another village to go to so now we have three. Also on Monday I will be preaching to 300 students at a primary school. Please pray.”


March 21st

James/text message:  “Today we had a great start in the hospital. We prayed with 24 more of the hospitalized. Most of these were babies so the families were in the rooms. It gave us a great opportunity to witness. We met several that did not know anything about Jesus. Each one ended up coming to Christ! We also prayed with their baby's. It is so sad to see the little ones there. Most of them were just anemic or malnourished. There was one girl just about 3 years old that was so thin you could see every bone. Her parents said that she finally lost her strength to stand when they brought her in. The father looked so scared. He was just doing everything he could to make her happy but I could tell he was worried. When we left the hospital we witnessed to some Muslim men at the gate after about 30 min they came to Christ. The pastor here watched so he came and encouraged them in their new faith and invited them to his church. Just now we were getting our stuff together to go to the village and I noticed a large group of children coming from school. I gathered them up and preached to them. Over 30 of them clapped when I gave them the opportunity to receive Jesus. After I finished we all clapped and worshipped Jesus together. After hearing the children worship the pastor invited me to come and teach Sunday school to all the children on Sunday morning. Please pray tonight we are in the village.”


March 21st

James/text message:  “Just preached in the first village. Over 100 children were saved. Praise God.”


March 22nd

Me on FaceBook:  James said that their generator broke showing the Jesus film in the village last night. He sent this text: "I'm trying to fix our generator and they have found an electrical supply pray I can find the parts I need. Everything is hard to find. ". 


I'm editing this post because right after I posted it, James Lane texted me this, "Found the parts and got it fixed. I even made new wires for the lights. We are ready for the next village. Praise The Lord!"


March 22nd

James/text message:  “Preached to 200 children in the village tonight.  So many are coming to Christ!  Our God is great and mighty to save!”


March 22nd

James/text message:  “Please pray.  Over 700 people are watching the Jesus film right now.  The crowd is still growing.  Praying for a great harvest.”


March 23rd

James/text message: "Just played soccer with the kids from the village and shared the Gospel. 32 came to Christ!" "About 300 have showed up in the second village to watch the Jesus film. And more and more keep showing up as the movie plays. The whole crowd cheers when the movie shows Jesus performing a miracle."


March 23rd

James/text message: "The chief of the village came and watched the whole film and stayed for the invitation. We are leaving him with a Proclaimer in Jula. He is very excited to have The Word he was just too prideful to accept Jesus. Many others were saved! Praise God!"


March 24th

James/text message: "Just had the opportunity to speak at the primary school. They let me go into every class and share with each grade. 320 children and youth. I shared THE GREATEST STORY The Story of JESUS! The school has over 200 Muslim students. Praise God!"


March 24th

James/text message: "The chief of the village we are going to has just died today. They still want us to come. I'm not sure what is going to happen or what we are walking into. Please pray."


March 24th

James/text message: "Wow that was crazy. We showed up at the feast of the dead. This is a Muslim tradition where all of the men in the village gather in one place and eat. They let us come into the meeting but they would not let our interpreter speak because she is a woman. There was a Christian man that translated for David and they allowed David to speak for 5 min. David shared The Gospel with all of the men. 25 accepted salvation through Christ. The Christian Africans that are with us are amazed at the Power Of God. God showed Himself Strong when we Lifted up His Son in this place. Praise God He is Great!"


March 25th

James/text message: "Today we are waiting to go home. We just have to drive across Africa to do it. We noticed a college in the city of Ferka where we are staying. The students were letting out so I had the driver pull over so I could speak to them. We wanted to get one more shot on the way out of town. I preached six times in the place that the students waited for the bus and even unloaded one bus full. They were all happy to hear about Jesus. When we were done over 70 students came to Christ! Praise God!"


March 26th

James/text message: "We made it through all of the border checks and we are on our way to Bobo. It's funny all of the drivers music is American pop music. So right now we are bouncing around in the back of the 4x4, through the African bush listening to 1 Direction. LOL! This morning we went to the hospital to say goodbye. The pastor there said that his daughter goes to the school I spoke at. He said that she came home telling him all about the story of Jesus. He said that is how he knew we were sharing the pure Gospel. He said even his own child understood. Praise God we are on our way home!"


March 27th

James/text message: "Still on my way home. On the bus to Ouagadougou. We have about 5 hours to go. I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself a minute ago because this bus is pretty hot and smelly. Then I looked over and there was a bus with people riding on top with a goat. Needless to say my pity party has ended. Praise God I have a seat and it is not on top. Thanks for praying. I'm on my way!"

Day 8: Chad



It was 2010, James and I finished up our yurt faith adventure.  We had moved to a real house right after our youngest Gabriel was born in May.

When loss is fresh, life seems exposed and delicate.

July 21, 2010 my perspective on the fragility of life changed.  I lost my little brother.

It was a sudden death.  My brother had taken his own life.  Having that experience, the now he’s here and now he’s gone experience, made me tentative.  Everything about life felt unsettled.

So when James started planning a trip to the country of Chad in the middle of the Sahara desert, I wasn’t sure how to feel.

My first instincts of “trust God” spoke before my fears could silence the word “yes.”  He began planning his trip to accompany David Timm of Lost But Not Forgotten to visit villages in Chad.

I have this habit, or maybe it is a coping mechanism, to ignore things that aren’t on the forefront, not requiring my immediate attention.  I focus on what’s near.  Some might call that procrastination, and I wouldn’t disagree with them.

James would tell me details about his trip, and I would only half-listen.  It didn’t require action of me, and I didn’t want to have feelings of fear to bubble to the surface.

Here’s an example of such a time in our life back then.  We were on a date.  Spending alone time together is important to us, and when we don’t do it, our whole life seems more like a rushing commuter train rather than a loving relationship.

We were getting coffee and looking at books at the bookstore.  I’m not sure what I was looking at.  I love the kids’ section and the biographies, so I probably was browsing one of those.

James walked up holding a travel book and said, “Guess what is says about the country of Chad in this travel book?  It says ‘We recommend that you not travel there.  The infrastructure and security is very weak.  A trip to the country of Chad would ultimately be unsafe.’”

He said all of this in a nonchalant, bragging tone with a smile on his face.

I didn’t know how to respond.  He wasn’t suppose to bring that pot to the front burner.  I was busy pretending that he wasn’t going.  I didn’t want to think about the person I love the very most on this Earth being put at risk.

You can imagine that my ignoring technique caught up to me.  Time doesn’t like to cooperate in our mind games.

The weekend before his trip, we were having another date.  We got home from dinner and sat in our room and really talked.

I told him how terrified I was to let him go.  I had seen how death could sneak up on you when my brother died so suddenly.  It felt so out of my hands, and I wanted to hold onto it tightly.

James told me a sentence he had told me a dozen times before, “If you don’t want me to go, I will stay here.  I don’t want to go if you need me here.”

The truth was we had a dozen reasons why I would have been completely justified in keeping him home.  We had a 4 month old baby boy and two recent deaths in the family.  Not only had I lost my brother two months prior, but we had lost James’s dad 10 months earlier as well.  We were home schooling our other two kids; we had a busy schedule at church and home.  And grieving doesn’t follow schedules.  We were in the thick of it.

I searched my heart.

As much as I wanted him to stay home with me, even more, I didn’t want to disobey God.

I answered him this way, “I am so afraid letting you go, but I know God wants you to go.  I am more afraid to not let you go.  I know God will take care of me.  I know that even if you die on this trip, God has a plan.  You have to go because I know in my heart that God has called you to go.”

The night before his trip I made him an amazing dinner and dessert.  We put the kids to bed, and I didn’t help pack at all.  I just watched him move stuff around from bag to bag about a billion times while I fell into an emotionally exhausted sleep.

James was gone 18 days.


I would like to say that his phone calls calmed my nerves, but I don’t think one of them did.  Every call drove me to immediate prayer.

I’m pretty sure God was ok with that arrangement.

One afternoon he called me from Maiduguri, Nigeria to tell me they were in the city getting ready to drive across Cameroon the next day on their way to Chad.  As we were talking, James gave a nervous laugh.  I asked, “What?”  And James answered, “This man across the street from me is shaking his machine gun in the air and yelling at me, ...but it sounds friendly.  He’s smiling.”

Another time he called me while the kids and I were on the back porch reading a book for their school, he called to tell me to pray.  They were 4x4ing across the dessert, and some traffic piled up.  Someone ahead of them on the road had let them know that there is a bandit robbing travelers.  The trucks had to wait for it to be safe to continue driving.

My most prayer inducing call came after he had reached their first village in Chad.  I even recruited people to pray on my FaceBook page.

Pray for James. The Muslim people said they were over stepping their bounds, and the police threatened to arrest them. They were not able to go to two different villages that was on their plan. They are going to travel to the last village they had promised to visit and ask government permission to medically treat the people and show the video [Jesus film.] Pray they are allowed, and pray for James & David’s safety.
— FaceBook October 11, 2010
I talked to James again. Their drivers are Muslim too, and they are refusing to drive them. They said that they will drive them in the morning. I think their only plan is to waste time. They are mad because OVER 100 PEOPLE came to know the Lord last night! It is dark and someone offered a home to stay in. Pray he is safe and that the next village says yes. I know God will guide them and keep them safe!
— FaceBook October 11, 2010

Later that day I posted this, “Andrew's Bible lesson today was Daniel and the lion's den. I think I needed to hear that message too."

My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.
— Daniel 6:22 ESV

The next day I was able to let everyone know God had answered our prayers.

I just talked to James. The Lord answered our prayers, and they were well received in the next village. He also had a hippo adventure on Lake Chad.
— FaceBook October 12, 2010

The funny thing is that the only time I felt good about where James was at was the night he slept in Cameroon.  He called to let me know he was in a courtyard sleeping in a yurt.  I guess God had proven to me that he could keep us safe in a yurt.  Unconsciously I felt he was safe in that yurt, even if the yurt was sitting in the desert of Africa.

I had a week left until James would be home.  My plan was distraction.  My mother-in-law Diana and a few friends were going on a road trip to Austin, TX for the Texas Book Festival.  That little trip made the time go by much faster.

                              Three kids piled up in my bed the night before James got home.

                              Three kids piled up in my bed the night before James got home.

Once James got home safely, I saw that my faith in God had been tested.  I kind of imagine my faith being like a bit of pizza dough.  I had started out with a small ball of dough.  I had put it out on the counter and let it rise.  From time to time God had gotten me on my knees as he kneaded the dough.  At the end of those 18 days, my faith had risen.  The dough was bursting out of the bowl.

He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.’
— Matthew 13:33 ESV

I didn’t make the flour or the yeast or the chemical reaction that would cause it to rise.  All I had done was allowed God to work.  I hadn’t stopped Him from working, in Africa or in my heart.

Now I have the hindsight to see that James’s trip changed the course of our lives.  God had plans.  God always has plans.



I usually post a song with each of my blog posts.  Today I’m doing something different.  I’m posting this video from 4 years ago of my husband James giving a report of his trip to Chad.  It is amazing what God accomplished on this trip.