YWAM DTS Youth With a Mission discipleship training school madison ethiopia outreach mission trip ethiopian girl

Our feet keep going, but my heart wants to stay where I am

by Alicia, Children at Risk DTS student

YWAM DTS Madison Youth With a Mission Ethiopia outreach mission trip

Each sponsored family completes a bi-weekly questionnaire to check up on their family, health, schooling, and other needs

I get out of the taxi in front of the village and take a moment to let it all in. The village is built around a garbage dump. Animals run through the streets. Vendors line up, anxious to sell us their treasures. Children chase each other around the corners with shrieks of laughter. There is so much life all around me!

My team and I set out to meet a family that YWAM Ethiopia’s Adoption Ministry 1:27 sponsors. The families we’re going to interview have been identified as high risk — disabled and either single-parent families on the verge of collapse, or guardian families who care for orphans or sibling groups. Each sponsored family completes a bi-weekly questionnaire to check up on their family, health, schooling, and other needs.

We make our way into the compound and the air gets thicker. Smoke from cooking fires and rubber burns my nose. A woman, half-blind with cataracts that cloud her eyes, steps forward and greets us while Hannah pulls out our first evaluation form.

ethiopian woman - YWAM Madison DTS Ethiopia Outreach

A woman carries goods on her back.

We go from home to home, getting closer to the heart of the garbage dump. Our feet keep going, but my heart wants to stay where I am. Moving forward means seeing a side of poverty I never imagined could exist. The people who live here are considered the lowest of the low: the lepers, the disabled.

YWAM DTS Madison Youth With a Mission Ethiopia outreach mission trip Ethiopian boys

“So many of the children have no hope in their eyes. Some I could get a smile out of after trying for a while, but others just look at us with blank expressions on their faces. The look in their eyes will haunt me forever.” — Bethany

We walk up the hill, passing men and women with bundles of plastic and trash wrapped on their backs. They’re coming from the landfill. Now I know where some of those vendors outside our taxi found their wares. We crest the hill and as far as I can see are mountains of trash. And clustered along the periphery of this mountain range are tarps, wind-frayed and sun-bleached, held up by sticks.

In other words, home.

Three children, half-clothed and covered in grime, peek out from under a tarp roof. My eyes prick with tears as I realize more concretely that these are people, living here, working here, sleeping here. Whole families have lived here for generations. “Throwaways” surviving on what’s thrown away.

YWAM DTS Madison Youth With a Mission Ethiopia outreach mission trip Ethiopian boy

Coaxing some smiles out of the kids

My mind races to find a way to relieve their pain, to change their lives, to bring them out of poverty, especially these three little ones in front of me. I need some hope and I’ve only been here a few minutes. Then I think about the people we’re working with.┬áSome of them were throwaways, too. They came out of these communities in the garbage dump and now live and work side by side those they minister to.

When I think about individuals, I know there is hope because God is here among the least. With God, there is hope to change one person, to change one family’s living conditions. And from there, a community. And then, a nation.