336 Hours :: A Mission Trip Experience by Courtney Robyn
“Dogs barking, roosters crowing, bajajs honking—I’m actually in Ethiopia!” This was the thought that resonated with me for most of my two weeks in Debre Zeyit.
As I write this, I am on my way back home to Canada, and as I sit here in the Frankfurt airport, it’s hard to discern if the last 14 days actually happened, or if it was all just a dream. The green, yellow, and red bracelet with the Ethiopian flag that adorns my wrist quickly reminds me that it was, indeed, reality.
So how do I begin to explain my life-changing trip? Incredible. Heartbreaking. Incredibly heartbreaking. Heartbreakingly incredible. I have seen so much in the past 336 hours (is that all?!) that it seems that I have to have been there for a month at the very least, but, of course, I haven’t been. I was just submersed in a culture so unlike my own that I can scarcely believe I could be in two such opposite places in less than 24 hours of travel time. From dirt roads and farm animals milling the streets to pavement and skyscrapers. Have I only crossed continents, or time periods, too?
To pass some time, I just walked through a few stores and was bombarded with high-end names like Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Swarovski, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., and more. I’ve never been one to be frivolous with my money, but while these names used to leave me drooling, they now leave me utterly disgusted. The people hustling through the stores with their big bags of purchases seem like personal attackers. We live in a society that all too often chooses to ignore the problems that it can’t see. We egotistically focus on ourselves (and maybe even on our families, too) and try to forget about the hurting, hungering, world out there. So why do the excessive Christmas decorations trimming the stores and hallways of the airport now leave me so unsettled when they would have brought me happiness and comfort before?
Could it be that I have been exposed to a country where some children have protruding bellies not because of over-indulgence, but because of severe hunger? Or perhaps it has something to do with the many people I saw on the streets with no other option… the many children I saw on the streets with no other option. How many could I feed with just one of those designer handbags or diamond watches I walked past? How many could I feed with just the pocket change of one shopper?
And then there’s the fact that I will go home to the people around me complaining of such trivial things. But who am I kidding, I’m sure I will catch myself doing the same. The ironic part is that I saw the poorest of the poor, and I never heard a single complaint. In fact, it was the opposite—they were so full of praise, and counted each and every blessing. I suppose that when you don’t have many other options, it becomes a lot easier to keep God as the main focus.
Maybe we’re not the ones who have it best, after all… at least not in that regard. We have so many more ‘things’ that we allow (sometimes unknowingly) to come between us and our Maker. Whether these things are technological, materialistic, media-related, etc., they make it much more difficult to focus on what’s most important. Even living in their sparsely furnished mud huts, it was not bitterness and resentment towards God that was in the people’s hearts. No, it was trust, hope, and praise! And how fast the individuals I met were to give all they had—offering popcorn and coffee, and even hoping to share treats brought by us for them. It leaves me speechless. When I think back to the many people I met at the school, foster home, or on social visits, I remember huge smiles and welcoming embraces. I arranged my mission trip with B.C.I. in the hopes of helping to make a difference in the lives of the people and children of Ethiopia, but I think that the biggest difference made was the one they made in my life.