This past June, I went to Ethiopia as a ministry assessment intern for Young Life Africa. This experience was one I will never forget – not only did it open my eyes for the Lord to work in my life in many ways, but it also taught me much about my own Young Life ministry back at home. As an intern, I was partnered with my good friend Meg, and we were able to dive into the specific ministries Young Life Ethiopia offers and assess them. Through interviews with staff members, Developing Global Leaders, senior leadership, and other impromptu conversations, we observed methods of Young Life ministry in Ethiopia.
This trip was challenging. It was absolutely beautiful, but it was also very challenging. We saw a lot of brokenness. Specifically, through our time in the prison ministry and the ministry with women in prostitution. There was a lot of political tension during our time in Ethiopia, which was unnerving and a bit scary. However, it helped us with our overall assessment, because we were able to see how many of the barriers that Young Life in Ethiopia faces are out of their own control. There were also many parts of this internship that were exciting. Having been to Ethiopia the year prior, it was a reunion with many dear friends I had made last year. Also, since we stayed for five weeks, we really began to feel like we lived there. We were immersed in the culture for the whole month instead of only staying for a week.
Based on what we saw, Young Life in Ethiopia is thriving. Their club numbers are growing significantly, more kids are coming to meet Jesus and more leaders are getting involved. Although that pretty much defines a healthy ministry from the Young Life point of view, that is not really what we think makes it healthy. What makes Young Life in Ethiopia different from any other ministry I have ever seen is the people. The staff they have hired are simply amazing, and I don’t say that lightly. These people have laid down their lives for this ministry and more importantly for Jesus. They have sacrificed so much of their time, energy and knowledge to build up these kids. One woman we interviewed said that she spends six days doing Young Life a week and one day of rest. And this does not mean that she spends those six days running one club, one Campaigners and one discipleship meeting. This woman continually finds kids, pursues relationships with them and draws them to Jesus, simply by the way she carries herself. The power of the Spirit is so present in Ethiopia because these leaders know Jesus. They know the sound of His voice and the touch of His hand. They will go to any end so that these kids meet Jesus. Having the privilege to watch this happen with a front row seat for a month is the most beautiful and humbling thing I have ever been a part of.
Interning in Ethiopia for Young Life Africa was a blessing and an experience I will never forget. My role as the ministry assessment intern was to observe different methods of ministry in Ethiopia. This was accomplished by interviewing volunteers and staff members along with personal observation. I learned what serving in Ethiopia means, and saw how each individual is dedicated to the ministry of Young Life, striving for the absolute best. They seek personal improvement along with improvement within the ministry. These men and women serve full-heartedly with very little complaints. They are truly touching hundreds of kids and bringing them to know the name of Jesus. This is the mark of a healthy ministry.
One of the biggest challenges to our assessment was the language barrier. It created a lack of personal connection with the people we were interviewing and interacting with. This was not the case all the time, but a lot of the time. There was a fear of awkwardness from Ethiopians who felt their English was not good enough, and we felt uncomfortable because we did not speak Amharic. Although this caused issues, it also allowed for a lot of fun and laughter. When we were at one of the outreach camps, there was a 16-year-old boy who knew maybe three English words. However, he made every effort to say hi to us and pull us into the dance circle at club. When working at a camp for women in the prostitution industry, they invited us to come sit with them. We laughed and drank coffee with them. We could barely understand each other, but our time together was still so sweet.
Based on our observations, Ethiopia is doing Young Life right. That was seen throughout our interviews along with talking to individuals. These leaders truly reach the farthest out kids. Sarone Ayalew, we call her Hanna, does Capernaum. She saw the need for ministry within the deaf school in Addis Ababa. She went into the schools, used a translator, and within a year fluently signed and brought kids to camp. Sentayehu Desalegn was born and raised in the Korah, where the city trash dump is located. Over half a million people live at the trash dump. They dig through the trash in hopes to find something to sell on the streets, and at least one person dies a day because of being buried under the trash. Sentayehu has started ministry there. When he is not doing ministry there, he is visiting elderly men and women with leprosy or helping serve other kids. Sam is another leader who lives in a region that is predominantly Muslim. As a Christian, this is dangerous. He risks his own life each day serving the Kingdom.
Young Life Africa is my inspiration each and every day when pursuing ministry. I want to embody the boldness these leaders have when talking to strangers about Christ and standing up for what they believe in. I want to remain fearless and faithful in the Lord and what he is doing in my ministry, my life, and my friends. I want to walk each and every day worshipping the Lord and spreading his word. These men and women are a perfect example of what “fishers of humans” look like and they are doing wonderful things for the Kingdom. My biggest takeaway is to be more like these men and women in my day-to-day life.