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It Is Written’s mission trip to Ethiopia is now in the rearview mirror. Our faithful volunteers are making their way home with lots of photos, memories, a greater appreciation for the simple things of life we take for granted at home, and a renewed passion for the Lord and His mission to save humanity. It was indeed a wonderful and life-changing journey.

Yves Monnier, left, and his translator, Oromo, right, introduce the sermon.

The grand finale of our two-week mission trip took place this past Saturday. That’s when we had an amazing worship service with well over 2,000 people in attendance. Wow! One of my fellow pastors, who had learned quite a bit of the language (Oromo), decided to be my translator for the introduction (we had scripted what I was going to say ahead of time). You should have seen the people smiling and laughing in appreciation. At the end of my sermon I made an altar call. At first very few moved and then the congregation spontaneously started singing. A God-moment, because that’s when people started streaming down. Just amazing. 

As soon as the worship service was completed, the It Is Written team was whisked away to the shores of Lake Langano where hundreds of people had gathered to be baptized. On this day, this picturesque lake surrounded by rolling hills became a giant baptistery. Our pastors joined the local pastors to baptize 440 precious souls. The age of those baptized ranged from children to a one-hundred-year-old lady–a reminder that it’s never too late to make Jesus first in your life. The smiles of all the people coming out of the water said it all. 

When good things are happening, the devil always seems to show up. And he did at one of our nightly preaching sites, the largest preaching site. There was significant political unrest in that city (not caused by our meetings). The military were called in, the internet was shut down in the entire country, and our nightly meetings had to be canceled for safety reasons. Thanks be to God that no one was harmed and our dear pastor was able to get out without problems. However, the very large baptismal service planned for that area had to be postponed. 

On Saturday evening the It Is Written volunteers and the local leaders and pastors had one last meeting together. This was a time to thank our hosts and, above all, praise our Almighty God. During the meeting we gave all the Ethiopian pastors a jacket with the It Is Written logo. This is not something we usually do, but we did in this case for a very particular reason. When I came to Ethiopia in January to plan and organize the mission trip, I quickly realized how poor the people here are. What drove this point home with me was when I saw one of our dear pastors whose only jacket was a hand-me-down with the logo of a cigarette maker. What?! That’s when I determined that he and the other pastors needed It Is Written jackets. The ear-to-ear grins of these guys wearing their new jackets was priceless.

To God be the glory for another successful mission trip. By the way, we’ve got a great line-up of mission trips in 2020. Join us on one of them and experience God in a most powerful way. 

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Click to read the second update from the Ethiopia mission trip.

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This mission trip to Ethiopia has been a difficult one for those of us dependent on things considered luxuries here: electricity, running water, WiFi, traffic rules, etc. Well, you get the picture. Electricity comes and goes. There’s been mornings that we wake up to no running water. Great! And the WiFi… what can I say? It works smoothly for a while, and then suddenly, with no warning, it’s gone just as I’m about to send an important email. The roads are like the wild, wild west. And guess who wins? The donkeys. I’ve never seen so many donkeys in my life. In spite of all these challenges, albeit small ones when I’m reminded of the hard lives people endure here, this has been a most rewarding trip for everyone. 

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Some of the team’s medical professionals gather during a busy day of work.

Two thirds of our team of 30 are health professionals. We have doctors representing diverse specialties (general surgery, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, OB/GYN, anesthesiology, pulmonology, ENT), dentists, a nurse practitioner, a PT, a doctor of public health, nurses, and wonderful support staff. They’ve been working tirelessly and seamlessly to meet the huge health demands of the Negele Arsi region. One thing that’s been so frustrating to our doctors is that so many of the cases that would be very treatable in the United States are not here because of lack of equipment and medication. As an example, one of the patients they saw was a man with a disfiguring growth on his jaw (due to chewing tobacco). After multiple surgeries and the right treatment this man could have a chance at a normal life. Not here. This thing will kill him. And he’s in his 20s. It’s a heartbreak to face these kinds of situations.

A newborn baby girl is admired by her parents and the doctor who saved her life.

On the other hand, our people are having a profound impact on so many people. One of our OB/GYNs stumbled upon a woman in labor. Things were not going well. He quickly assessed her situation and determined that the baby was in distress because something was wrong with the umbilical cord. He ordered the woman to be rushed to the OR for an immediate C-section. A little while later, a healthy and screaming little girl was born. Sure enough, the umbilical cord was in a knot and was tightening with every minute passing. Had they waited any longer the baby would have been stillborn. By God’s grace and mercy, our dear doctor saved the little girl’s life. You can imagine how thankful and joyful the parents were at the turn of events. They came so close to mourning a death instead of celebrating a new life.

There are countless stirring stories like this one. Some of the best come from Dr. Jacob Prabhakar’s (Eyes for India) 1,028 cataract surgeries. He returned this week for a quick follow-up visit on all his patients. Imagine hundreds of patients in line to see him. An amazing sight. The best part of the sight is the fact that they have sight. These people were literally jumping with joy because they could see again. Every consult was accompanied by lots of embraces and smiles. The most astounding thing about it is that all 1,028 surgeries were a complete success. Praise be to God.

Meanwhile, the preachers at our six sites are doing a phenomenal job. In our schedule, they were supposed to have Thursday nights off. Do you think that’s what is happening? Absolutely not! People want to hear the Word, and our preachers are like the Energizer bunny. In health and sickness (yes, we’ve had some sickness), they preach their hearts out. I sit in the back and am so blessed to hear their heartfelt messages. I was there when one of our preachers made an altar call. Stumbling from outside the church came forward a man. He heard the sermon outside because at most sites they not only have speakers inside the church but outside as well so that anyone within 300 yards can clearly hear the presentations. This Muslim man heard it all and came forward. Wow.Minichamps 1 43 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 'STREET' 2011 yellow L.E. 528 pcs.Jada Toys Peterbilt Item No. 23111 Peterbilt 379 76 Oil Tank 1 32 Scale.

It’s the rainy season here in Ethiopia and that means it rains every day. Just when you think it’s going to be a beautiful sunny day with no rain, the rain comes. This muddies up the roads and makes movement very difficult. However, people keep coming. I preached one night at a site where people were under a large canopy and the stage was 30 feet away (also under a canopy) separated by open air (don’t ask me why it was done like that). Anyway, when I was preaching, there was a sheet of rain separating the people from me. No problem. They were there, and I preached away. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that when our preachers are done, the meeting is not quite over. The pastor or lead person stands up, and then here we go for another mini-sermon with a passionate appeal for a decision. Even though I don’t understand a word he says, I know exactly what he’s saying, and people are responding. Last night at least 25 people came forward at the little church I was visiting. God is good. Hongwell 1 43 Scale Model Car TA3-M1 - Gaz 4Dr Saloon - blueeAUTO WORLD 1 18TH SCALE METALIC GREEN 1967 SHELBY GT350 06

I’ve been told that this coming weekend about 600 people will be baptized. 600! Amazing. Although I wish we could take credit for these souls, the credit goes all to Jesus and the faithful brothers and sisters who have been working in their community. God blesses where people witness. These baptisms will take place on the shore of picturesque Lake Langano. It’s going to be wonderful. Our cameras are ready.

Saved lives and saved souls. Yes, this has been a great mission trip. And, without a question the lives most changed have been ours, the missionaries.

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You might think that a young man with money, fame, and the adulation of thousands (or millions) of people would be the happiest person on earth. Living the dream, wealthy beyond imagination, hot and cold running everything… What’s not to love?

Evidently there’s a lot not to love. Earlier this year, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association commented on the mental health of professional basketball players. He said, “What surprises me is that they’re truly unhappy.” He explained that there are “pervasive feelings of loneliness and melancholy across the league” and stated that many players are lonely. “If you’re around a team in this day and age, there are always headphones on,’’ Silver said. “[The players] are isolated, and they have their heads down.’’ He reported that one player said, “From the time I get on the plane to when I show up in the arena for the game, I won’t see a single person.” Mr. Silver’s comments were reported on Ford Capri II 280 Brooklands green Coupe 1978-1986 1 18 Norev Modell Auto mit o..TONKIN 1 53 SCALE PETERBILT 389 MODEL BN 600048

There are several factors at play here. One is that social media and electronics allow people to very easily become isolated. A generation ago it wasn’t possible to put earbuds in and separate yourself from what was going on around you, whereas today it’s not only possible but extremely common. Smart phones allow people to immerse themselves in another world, away from the reality of what’s happening in their presence. For these and other reasons, young men at the height of their professional powers are miserable, not happy.

But this phenomenon isn’t unique to über-successful sports people, at least not according to Mr. Silver. “I don’t think it’s unique to these players,’’ he said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s just going around superstar athletes. I think it’s a generational issue.’’

If he’s right, then loneliness and isolation and melancholy are a “generational issue.” Put another way, mental health challenges are a “generational issue.” But if young adults earning millions of dollars a year can’t find happiness, who can?

Anyone can. It depends on where you’re looking for happiness, and what you prioritize as truly important in your life. Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” While that might sound foreign to someone crowding God out of their life, God’s promise is that when you make room for Him—when you spend time at His “right hand”—you’ll experience “fullness of joy.”1 18 Scale 1936 Mercedes Benz 500k Typ Specialroadster Maisto Premiere EditionMINICHAMPS Williams Martini Racing MC-117150019

What is important to you? Where are you looking for affirmation? From where do you derive your happiness? If your focus is on acquiring money, possessions, and Instagram likes, life will ultimately prove to be a hollow existence. But when you let what is important to God become important to you, life has a way of becoming decidedly more meaningful. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” That’s a very similar thought to the one expressed in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with earning large sums of money and enjoying professional success. But the Bible and society tell us that these things aren’t the key to happiness. They may even be major contributors to unhappiness. Real happiness comes from oneness with God. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The person whose sins are forgiven has peace in his or her heart. The one who understands the love of God experiences a deep-seated joy. The one who knows he or she is living out God’s purpose is a person who has a settled existence.

Be sure you’re taking time for God. The knowledge that God has your heart gives you the certainty you need to live with meaning and hope.

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