ethiopia with #fhbloggers

the best gift

I thought nothing could be more incredible than meeting the kids I sponsor through Food for the Hungry. In July, I had the incredible privilege of traveling to Ethiopia with FH to see firsthand the work they are doing there. The whole trip was amazing and insightful — truly mind-blowing to see the depth and breadth of the transformative work FH is engaged in.

And the icing on the cake was getting to meet my kidlets.

Chaltu was so shy. I think the barrage of "whiteys" intimidated her a bit — understandably.

But she warmed up when se opened the small gifts I brought her. Nothing like Lip Smackers and pink sunglasses to get a girl to open up.

Chaltu's mom was overjoyed by the visit, and continually expressed how thankful she is for the support of Food for the Hungry.

Nathinael was playing in the street when I met him. After quick, tight hugs, he led me inside his home. He showed me which bed mat was his and which was his grandma's.

Nathinael was vibrant and engaging — he has such a sweet and joyful disposition, which stood in stark contrast to the drab one-room mud hut he calls home. Our visit went by far too quickly. I could've talked with that kid for ages.

And then there was Akliku.

I had chosen to sponsor him because of his cautious smile and inquisitive eyes — and also because of his age. At 16, I figured he was typically overlooked for younger, "cuter" kids. He had already been waiting for sponsorship for almost 2 years.

Because of his education level, Akliku's English allowed us to fully engage in conversation in a way I hadn't been able to with my younger kids. He told me about his love of soccer, his favorite subject at school (math), and about the impact FH is having in his life. It was my favorite visit simply because of how easily, naturally, and comfortably we were able to interact.

Fast forward 5 months.

I got Christmas cards from each of my sponsored kids. And when I read Akliku's, my breath caught in my throat.


Did you catch that? "I learned about Jesus in Bible."

My heart was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and I was more humbled and proud than ever to support the work of Food for the Hungry.

They gave me the best gift I could imagine by sharing Jesus with my sweet Ethiopian kidlets... And Aklilu got to hear the Good News before he aged out of sponsorship eligibility. My heart is full!

Join me in sponsoring a child >>

What's the best gift you've received lately?

{All photos by David Molnar}

bringing hope to the hard places

I sponsor three children in Ethiopia through Food for the Hungry. I had a vague idea of what child sponsorship meant, but if I'm honest, I really had no clue how it worked. Until I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Ethiopia in July to see it all firsthand.

Food for the Hungry believes in child-focused community transformation. They measure the health of a community by the health of its children—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. Then by meeting the children’s needs, they empower and build entire families and communities.

They focus on people, meet needs holistically, do things with excellence, and bring lasting change. And they do it all without fostering dependence. They go in to each region with an end-goal and an exit strategy. They aren’t there to be a crutch or even to provide hand-outs. They are there to build capacity and sustainability in both people and communities.

And this all happens through child sponsorship.

I discovered that my monthly support does more than directly impact the beautiful children I sponsor. Yes, it provides Chaltu, Nathinael, and Aklilu with food, medical care, and education. But as if that isn't enough, it also helps to fund the ongoing development of the communities in which they live.

Food for the Hungry works with parents, pastors, and local leaders to address the needs of the community as a whole, not just the individual sponsored children. They build schools, teach effective farming techniques, construct water and sanitation systems, train teachers, provide supplies, and develop child mentorship programs.

And as a result, children all over the world are having their lives transformed. Just like my three precious Ethiopian kids.

One of Food for the Hungry's slogans is “We go to the hard places”. And they definitely do. They took me to visit some remote villages that face seemingly insurmountable challenges. But Food for the Hungry is there, making a difference and working with the most vulnerable of children who live in inescapable poverty.

Ultimately, the greatest gift they offer is hope. Their very presence and the development work they do communicates worth, value, and significance to those who have felt long forgotten. It opens their eyes and their hearts to the love of God, and gives them hope for the future.

I feel honored and humbled to be able to play even a tiny part in the incredible work Food for the Hungry is doing around the world. Partnering with them inspires me to purposefully seek out ways I can join them in bringing hope to the hard places.

Originally published on

pleading not guilty

I was worried I'd grown numb to it. Maybe I'd become calloused. Hardened. Immune. Because poverty wasn't affecting me like it used to.

When I faced it as a teenager—on mission trips to places like Nicaragua and Botswana—my eyes and my heart were opened to things I never knew existed in the world. I was wrecked to discover such unimaginable and inescapable poverty, and it messed with me at a deep level.

I'd return home and make all kinds of extreme commitments. I vowed to be less materialistic. I took radical stances with my "self-absorbed" Christian friends. I soapboxed about America's obsession with excess. I volunteered more, and served wherever and whenever I could.

But as the aftershocks of my experiences with poverty wore off, so did my radical life changes. Until my next mission trip.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It was a vicious cycle of the best intentions that did nothing more than fuel my need to continually strive to be better, do more, and—somehow, hopefully—be enough.

I'm not saying I didn't genuinely have compassion and conviction and passion to live a life that makes a difference. I did. But it translated into a guilt-driven reaction to the extremes I saw and experienced.

It was a nauseating roller coaster ride as I tried—and failed—to reconcile the poverty I witnessed with the life I lived everyday and to bridge the disparity between my abundance and their lack.

It was years after I moved to South Africa to serve in the poorest region of the country that I finally realized that those things can't be reconciled or bridged. The contrasts will never make sense.

And I mustn't allow my guilt to force-feed my insatiable striving complex. Nor must I allow it to paralyze me into inactivity or apathy.

I had finally learned to step off the roller coaster and actually engage in doing something that would truly make a difference. Not fueled by guilt, but by hope.

I realized that it isn't about being apologetic for what I have, giving everything away, or looking down on how much people spend at Starbucks. It is about stewarding what I have well, using it to serve, strengthen, and love others.

People often ask me how I could live and work for so long in a community of such dire poverty. "Do you just get used to it?" What they are really asking is the same thing I've asked myself: "Did you grow numb?"

And I see now that I didn't. But somewhere in my 13 years of living in Africa, something did change in me.

I stopped feeling guilty about what I had and the "luck" of being born an American, and I started to feel grateful to be part of the solution.

The problems and challenges are enormous, but we can all do something that makes a difference. In our own unique ways, with our own individual passions and talents, we can bring hope into places and hearts that gave up a long time ago.

Not because we feel guilty, but because we are compelled by the hope we ourselves have been given.

What's been your experience with responding to poverty? How can we move past guilt into being part of the solution?

{photos by Daniel White}

more than money

Bona is 17. When I met him in Ethiopia last week, I was immediately caught up in his handsome face and soul-stirring smile. Hearing his story and heart only endeared him to me even more.

His mom passed away when he was in first grade, and his dad died last year. There was a visible sadness in his eyes as he talked about loneliness, his older brother living several hundred kilometers away.

The social worker bragged on Bona for a bit. He is first in his class. In fact, he's been first in his class throughout his entire school career. Bona smiled, and I know his heart must have swelled in that moment, hearing all of us say how proud we are of him.

He's been sponsored through Food for the Hungry for five years. With their help and the grace of God, he's pressed on with perseverance and hope in the face of countless difficulties.

Next year, Bona ages out of the sponsorship program. All kids do at age 18. Food for the Hungry will continue to help him with his educational costs and supplies as he goes on to university. He wants to be a doctor, and he has the grades and the drive to actually do it.

I asked Bona how he feels about his sponsorship coming to an end next year. He told me that he really appreciates the tangible benefits of his sponsorship, but wishes he felt more connected to his sponsors. He said he feels as though he's missed out on the relationship aspect of sponsorship. "I wish they would write to me more. And even send me pictures of themselves. I don't even know what they look like."

Man, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Up front, we think the biggest commitment is the $32 a month. But ultimately, writing the monthly check is the easy part. And that's not even what the child is most hoping for. They want to feel connected—like they belong.{Don't we all?}

They don't just want our money. They also want our love and affection. They care more about the letters, notes, and pictures we send because those make them feel loved, cared about, and valued.

I felt so challenged and inspired in that moment to write to my sponsored kids more frequently, and to send pictures of myself, my family, my city, and things I enjoy. That takes more time and effort than writing a check, but these kids are worth it.

If you have sponsored children—through any organization—make some time this week to strengthen your relationship with them. Write a letter. Print some photos. Have your kids draw some pictures. And put a reminder on your calendar to do it again next month. And the month after that.

Let's not just be generous with our finances. Let's be generous with our hearts and our time.

For that's the most life-changing sacrifice we can make.

Originally posted on Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

give hope

My trip to Ethiopia was my first opportunity to experience a Christian relief and development organization working in a Muslim region. I wondered how those dynamics would play out, and my questions got answered when I visited three kids who live by themselves in the village of Abossa.

Sixteen-year-old Mehiret cares for her sister Lidia (age 14) and brother Bedilu (11). Their dad died ten years ago; their mom, 4 years ago. Both passed away from AIDS, and all three kids are HIV+. At age 12, Mehiret was left alone to raise her siblings.

In the Muslim community in which they live, the children were treated as outcasts. The stigma of HIV is still strong: the kids weren't permitted to share community bathroom facilities. People refused to share meals or even household utensils and supplies with them.

These beautiful children battled not only the loss of both parents and the need to fend for themselves, but also the rejection of the very community in which they lived.

At one point, Lidia couldn't take it any more. She stopped going to school and refused to take her ARVs (HIV medication). She just wanted to die.

Then Food for the Hungry entered the scene.

Two years ago, FH launched their child-headed household program, stepping in to meet the unique needs of orphans left to live on their own. In addition to providing their food, medical care, and education, FH also takes care of their clothing needs and living expenses. They stand in as family, taking the kids on vacations over holidays and school breaks. They provide legal support to ensure the children receive the inheritance and government funding available to them. They even built them a more adequate house—with its very own bathroom facility.

The community couldn't help but notice all that FH was doing. They saw physical needs being met, but also that FH staff weren't afraid to hug and love these children.

The evangelical response of Food for the Hungry stood in stark contrast to the community's, and it entirely transformed the Muslim village's approach toward the children.

These days, the kids are doing amazingly well. They are excelling at school, and dreaming for the future. The two girls want to become teachers, and Bedilu hopes to get his pilot's license.

Lidia shared that because of the love and support of FH, she is a completely different person today than the hopeless girl who wanted to die two years ago.

Because sometimes hope comes in the form of "forbidden" hugs, adopted-family vacations, and the construction of a bathroom.

Give hope >

{Thank you, David Molnar, for the amazing photographs and a lifetime worth of puns crammed into one week.}

pure & genuine religion

I already loved Food for the Hungry. But seeing their work firsthand only made me respect and admire them even more. FH believes in child-focused community transformation. They measure the health of a community by the health of its children (I'm talking about physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological health). And then by meeting the children's needs, they empower and build entire families and communities.

Seeing what that actually means—meeting their staff, talking with children and families they impact, and hearing from leaders in the communities they serve—left a lasting impression on me.

FH does things right.

They focus on people, meet needs holistically, do things with excellence, and bring lasting change. And they do it all without fostering dependence.

They go in to each community with an end-goal and an exit strategy. They aren't there to be a crutch or even to provide hand-outs. They build capacity in both people and communities, leaving them self-sustaining and thriving.

I really was astounded to see the depth of Food for the Hungry's work. They have over 430 staff members in Ethiopia alone. Oh—and only two of them are American. Their staff are so loved in the communities where they work. Countless children and families raved to us about their FH social workers.

One woman, who cares for her orphaned niece, said, "God has brought Food for the Hungry to us. I have brothers and sisters, none of whom even gave a pen to help this child. But FH provides her school fees and supplies. Glory be to God, FH has helped us a lot."

FH runs as deep as it is wide, leaving a life-changing impact on individuals and communities.

One of their slogans is "We go to the hard places". And they definitely do.

We visited some remote villages that face seemingly insurmountable challenges. But FH is there, making a difference and working with the most vulnerable of children who live in inescapable poverty.

They are living out James 1:27—

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress..."

Let's live it out with them.

{Pictures by David Molnar, photographer extraordinaire and pun-master.}

a heart full

I'm sitting here staring at this blank screen, shaking my head. The task of finding intelligible and adequate words to describe this amazing day is an impossible one. My heart is fuller than the day was.

Filled with beautiful faces...

hugs with countless children...

...and heart-stopping moments.

The highlight of today was my time with Chaltu, Nathinael, and Aklilu (my sponsored children). You guys, my heart felt like it was going to burst! I need to save those stories and pics for when I have time to process a bit more, but believe me, I am anxious to share them with you! Suffice it to say... my kidlets are even more incredible than I already knew them to be.

{Prayer point: I had another minor gall bladder attack this afternoon. Thankfully, the emergency meds kicked in fast and kept it from getting too bad. I'm feeling tired and tender from it, but otherwise okay. Thank you for continuing to talk to Him about me and my lovely gall bladder.}

I wish I could bottle up all the sights and sounds and experiences of today so you could just uncork it and share in all of it with me.

Every single moment dripped with wonder, hope, and joy. God is doing amazing things in Ethiopia, and I feel incredibly humbled to be here to catch glimpses of His handiwork.

My heart aches to know that over 1,000 children in these communities are still waiting to be sponsored. Praying for hearts to be stirred to help...

Sponsor a kidlet in these communities >

hope. strength. resolve.

Teresa is 13.

We visited her today at her tiny, windowless home in the village of Adami Tulu, where she lives with her mom and younger sister.

Her eyes are bright and animated, and she has a beautifully shy smile, always glancing her eyes downward and bringing her fingers to her face.

Her clothes are tattered; the red scarf wrapped around her hair is worn and weathered. Her home is simple... dreary even. But Teresa and her mom exude such hope. Strength. Resolve.

It's evident in their eyes and in their words.

Teresa's mom shared about the challenges she faces—like paying rent for their home—but also about the support she receives from Food for the Hungry. She talked about Abraham, their FH social worker, and what a gift he has been to her. She described him as being like a father figure in her life. She finally feels as though she has someone who cares about her and looks out for her, and that is a priceless gift. Hope. Strength. Resolve.

Teresa has been in the Food for the Hungry sponsorship program for 5 years.

When we asked her about her sponsor, she ran into her house and came back out with pictures, cards, and notes she's received over the years. She proudly showed us her sponsor family and told us how grateful she is for the education she receives because of them. She said when she finishes her schooling she'd like to become a doctor and build her mom a new house. Hope. Strength. Resolve.

When we asked Teresa what she might want to say to people in America, she didn't hesitate.

"There are so many children in my village who have never even seen the inside of a classroom. I want them to have the same help and support I've received, the same opportunity to get an education."

Hope. Strength. Resolve. I love seeing the ways sponsorship infuses those life-changing gifts into children and their entire families. Makes me want to be more intentional in my relationships, because I want my life to always build hope, strength, and resolve in others. I've seen what a difference it can make.

If you feel like Teresa was talking right to you, take a look at some of the kids you can sponsor in her community.

{Photos by the amazing David Molnar}


I recently had a great conversation with some friends about the difference between living with expectations and living with expectancy. And this trip thus far has been a clear and candid object lesson in exactly that.


Prior to coming, I had to purposefully choose to let go of any expectations I may have had in terms of preconceived ideas about Ethiopia and what I would experience here. And since I headed to the Nashville airport around noon on Monday, I've had to let go of any expectations that may have lingered in terms of that ever-taunting illusion of control. As if our well-mapped-out plan was more important than whatever journey God wanted to take us on.

We've gotta drop expectations and embrace expectancy.


The six of us travelling from Nashville became very adapt at rolling with the punches. We even managed to do so with good attitudes despite being deliriously tired. I really think it was because we were able to let go of that clenched-fist grip on what we thought would and should happen. We knew deep down that God was up to something, even when it made no sense to us, and we were able to cling with joyful hope and expectancy to Him. Not to a schedule. Or to an itinerary. Or to an airline agent. But to Him.


Mechanical failures, delayed flights, and airline errors derailed our simple travel plans and turned them into an epic few days of country-hopping. And tonight, the adventurous journey finally had us touching down in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


A day late, with unexpected stops in Ghana and South Africa, we finally made it. Exhausted. Dirty. Even a bit sick. But we are here. I am pretty excited about the shower I'm about to take and the bed I'm gonna sleep in after two nights on airplanes. And my heart just keeps swirling with that word expectancy.


I'm choosing to lay down any expectations I may have about my tomorrow and to place my expectant hope in Him.

Because He is in control.

And He is good.

And that is all the expectancy I need to live each moment with.

do justice

I've been in Africa for 24 hours, but I still haven't touched down in Ethiopia. Airline debacles had half our group rerouted to Ghana and then to South Africa. We're in Johannesburg for the next 6 or so hours, and then—finallyLord willing—we will board our final flight for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (I'm borrowing someone's laptop and wifi to send out this quick update.) Sidebar: I'm really glad that I got my first trip back to South Africa under my belt in April/May. I'm not sure my heart could have handled the rawness of those emotions on top of the exhaustion I'm feeling right now. Because, seriously, I'm more tired than I've been in a long time. The past two nights have been spent on overnight flights, so I haven't seen a bed since Sunday night. My bloodshot, teary eyes are selling me out right now; it's impossible to hide how ridiculously tired I feel.

Now, more than ever, I just can't wait to get to Ethiopia. And not just because a shower and good night's rest await me. I've been "teased" with Ghana and now South Africa, and I'm ready to embrace the beautiful people and culture of Ethiopia. I want to meet and hug my sponsored kidlets. I'm anxious to see and experience the work of Food for the Hungry (FH) firsthand. I want to see it with my own eyes and feel it with my own heart.

The other half of our group is already there. Kristen, Emily, and Alysa made it into Ethiopia yesterday as originally planned, and are spending today visiting communities with FH staff. I'm so eager to finally meet them and hear about their experiences so far.

The Joburg airport is a little chilly (a welcomed reprieve at the moment), and I've got my FH hoodie on. "Do justice." That's what's written across the front of my sweatshirt. Do justice. That's from one of my favorite passages. Micah 6:8 says, "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

I'm ready to get out to the communities of Zeway, Ethiopia to discover how FH puts that passage into action. And to be challenged in new and unique ways to embrace and live out that verse in my own life.

… … …

Ways You Can Help:

meeting my kidlets

Well, today's the day! Nashville to Atlanta to Amsterdam to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!

The thing I'm most looking forward to on this trip is meeting my kidlets: the children I sponsor through Food for the Hungry. I get to see where they live and visit with them and their families.

I. Can't. Wait!

There's Nathinael, who won me over with his smiling eyes. He's in first grade and doesn't like hot weather. (He would not have enjoyed Nashville last week, that's for sure.)

Then there's sweet Chaltu. She's in Kindergarten and loves to play jump rope. (Her rogue braid is almost as adorable as her squishable cheeks!)

And 16-year-old Aklilu loves to play soccer. His favorite color is red and he has an amazing smile! (Seriously. Look at that smile!)

I'm really excited to meet and hug my kidlets! I can't wait for them to move from my fridge into my arms, and even deeper into my heart.

You want a kidlet now too, don't you?!

Sponsor a child in one of the communities I'll be visiting this week!

Don't forget to join us for the live Twitter chat on Thursday. It'll be at 2 PM Eastern / 1 PM Central, using the hashtag #FHBloggers.

beautiful redemption

Back when I was living in South Africa, leading a ministry there, I had dreamed of hosting a Blogger Mission Trip. I wanted to make it possible for this amazing Gritty community to come be a part of what we were doing. In fact, we'd already solidified the dates and details, I'd announced it on my blog, and people were signing up. Then when the bottom started falling out of my world, I had to push pause on pretty much everything, including the Blogger Trip.

So the opportunity to help plan and participate in a Blogger Mission Trip with Food for the Hungry is a slice of beautiful redemption.

In something so personal where I've mourned the death of yet another dream, God has gone and made beauty out of the ashes. He really does redeem all things.

And you, my Gritty family, still get to be a part of it all.

Travel with me by following my updates on Facebook, Twitter, and The Grit.

Track along with the #FHBloggers hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, and join us for the live Twitter chat this Thursday.

Sponsor a child in the communities I'll be visiting this week.

Go with me in prayer — for safety, health, and a heart that stays open to all God wants to do.

I leave tomorrow. Please come along with me in every way you can.

gallstones & ethiopia: an update

Some of you probably saw my updates on Twitter and Facebook last week, but I ended up in the ER early Thursday morning. With gallstones. Over 40 of them. o_O I didn't even know it was possible to accrue such a huge collection, but apparently it is. (And it's confirmed: I'm an overachiever.)

I took it easy for a few days until all the pain subsided, and I'm now back to normal. (Well, my normal). Surgery is scheduled for a few weeks from now and I've got meds to bring with me to Ethiopia in case I have another attack there. (Pray with me for that not to happen?)

We leave in a week. A week!

Oh, we are going to host a live Twitter Chat while we're in Ethiopia, and I don't want you to miss it. I figured I'd tell you now so you can mark it down on your calendar or sticky-note or whatever you do to try to remember stuff. Because this you need to remember!

1-Hour Live Twitter Chat with the FH Bloggers Thursday, July 12th 2 PM Eastern / 1 PM Central #FHBloggers

We're going to be answering your questions, sharing our experiences, and giving away local Ethiopian crafts. It's gonna be fun! Help us spread the word on Twitter and Facebook??

Click the text below to tweet it out:

Join the #FHBloggers in Ethiopia for a live Twitter Chat on July 12th! More info:

... ... ...

This video is a great introduction to Food for the Hungry. It's less than two minutes long, so push pause on life and watch this real quick:


... ... ...

Click here to see some of the beautiful children up for sponsorship in the communities I'll be visiting. For just $1 a day, you can make sure an Ethiopian child will receive meals, clean water, medical care, and education. More importantly, you can make sure a child knows he or she is loved, valued, and believed in.

Will you join me for the Twitter Chat on July 12th?

turning fears into prayers

When it hits me that I leave for Ethiopia in just two weeks, my eyes widen.

My mind starts spinning, generating all kinds of to-do lists that I'll hopefully write down at some point: things I need to buy, things I need to pack, things I need to do before I leave. And my heart? My heart does a somersault or two.

Anticipation and anxiety have been vying for equal space in my heart. I've gotta be honest... I've really been battling with my insecurity BIG time the past few weeks. The other bloggers going on this trip are incredible, strong, amazing women, and I am so looking forward to getting to know them. But I feel way out of my league here.

I worry about stupid things like being liked, fitting in, and making friends (Middle School Syndrome?). I fear not being able to write anything of value as we blog from the field, especially compared to the artful, gifted prose of the other writers. (Comparison is a soul killer.)

I am trying to be more intentional about turning each fear into a prayer, surrendering all my What-Ifs to the One who knows all.

Because this trip isn't at all about me. It's not about fitting in or writing something that measures up to someone else. It's about God and the amazing work He's already doing. And I'm on this journey to see what He's up to.

In Ethiopia. And in me.

I hope you'll journey with me so we can experience God at work together.

You can help by sharing about the trip on Twitter, Facebook, and your blog. Follow the #fhbloggers hashtag. Get to know the other bloggers and follow their Twitter feeds/blogs. (Meet them here.)

Please also keep me and my travel companions in your prayers: for health and safety, and for our hearts to be open to embracing all God has for us. And pray for the beautiful people of Ethiopia and the FH staff who serve tirelessly there.

How can I be praying for you?

fresh eyes

When I got the list of immunizations I would need to travel to Ethiopia, I didn't even read them. I skimmed right past that section and moved on to the rest of the informaiton in my prep packet. I don't need to get shots... I've lived in Africa. I haven't gotten travel immunizations since I lived in America and made short-term trips around the globe. Oh wait.

Sometimes I seemingly forget. I'm once again living in America, taking short-term trips around the globe. So I promptly scheduled my appointment. (It's today at 10:30, by the way.) {EDIT: It's been rescheduled for next Tuesday afternoon.}

I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, this is just a surfacey reminder of how I've been approaching not only this trip, but this entire season of my life. And of how I need to start looking at things differently. Or rather start seeing things the way they actually are.

This Ethiopia trip isn't old hat. This isn't "been there, done that, got the T-shirt".

My life experiences up to this point make me who I am, but they don't negate the current and future experiences on my journey. And they certainly don't trump them.

The faces I'll see in Ethiopia, the villages I'll visit, the poverty I'll witness, the unshakable pains my heart will feel... they will all be new. Familiar maybe, but still new.

I don't want to glance over poverty because I've seen it before. I don't want to overlook those I encounter because I think I already understand. I don't want to ignore what's right in front of my face because I feel like it holds lessons I've already learned before.

Each person I meet has a story I haven't yet heard, dreams I haven't even imagined, and a present-day reality that is just as real as mine is.

Each person has more to give me than I could ever give them.

I want to listen with new ears, see with fresh eyes, feel with a still-tender heart.

So I am choosing to go as a learner, not a teacher. As a listener, not a speaker. As one who holds closely, not at arms' length.

With eyes and heart wide open.

So I don't miss a thing.

Right now, look at what's around you with fresh eyes. What do you see?

on ethiopia

I have vivid childhood memories of being captivated by the glimpses of Ethiopia I saw on TV. I remember the long, emotional commercials with the graphic images of starving children. I recall feeling a deep sense of tension in my inability to reconcile the fact that I was watching these emaciated, dying people while sitting on my carpeted floor, eating cereal in my pajamas in front of the TV.

I knew something was wrong with that picture, but I didn't understand it.

I still don't.

Even though I've experienced it the world over.

I had that same sense of unreconcilable tension when I flew to Nicaragua at 14 for my first mission trip. I felt it in Amsterdam when I spoke with people at coffee houses, hearing their stories of love and loss. I couldn't shake it in the rural villages of Botswana. And it lived with me in South Africa, ever present, ever pressing.

And still, I have no answers. I don't understand the disparity in the world. The extremes of affluence and poverty found practically on each other's doorsteps.

That deep place in my heart, affected so strongly by Ethiopia as just a young girl, is about to get wrecked by Ethiopia once again. I'm traveling there next month with Food for the Hungry.

FH is an amazing organization, engaging in community development through child sponsorships all around the globe. I've had the incredible opportunity to work with them for the past six months, helping them set up their first-ever Blogger Mission Trip. It has been such a joy to work with my friend Daniel on the planning and preparation for this inaugural trip. And I feel even more blessed that I get to travel with them as part of the team.

There are 6 of us bloggers going, along with a photographer and several FH staff members. I am blown away by my teammates, and am really looking forward to getting to know them more on the trip. I know I have a lot to learn from each one of them. Meet the whole team on the FH Bloggers website.

I know I'll experience the same no-answers, only-questions unreconcilable contradictions in Ethiopia. I know. And I want to embrace them. To wrestle in that space—with myself, with my heart, with culture, with my questions, with Him...

Some things will just never make sense, but that doesn't mean they are to be avoided. Ignored. Disregarded.

No, they are meant to be run headlong into. Embracing the tension to find the Only One Who Makes Sense in the midst of everything that doesn't.

Will you go there with me? Travel with me by following my journey here, on Twitter, and with the rest of my team... And wrestle with me through the stuff that just doesn't make sense?

Let's look for Him together...