Ethiopia Smile

His Light

I had been following along the Alexander’s blog for a few years after meeting them briefly in California at an Ethiopian adoptive family get-together right before Abe came home.

I was incredibly inspired with all that they were helping to do in Ethiopia both with Ethiopia Smile and Dube Bute. Since adopting our youngest daughter from Ethiopia in 2007, I had been wanting to go back on some sort of mission trip. Since I was turning 40 in October of 2011, I thought that was the perfect “excuse” to go back and serve. When I found out that Ethiopia Smile 2011 was coinciding with Emily’s 40th birthday and was just a few weeks before my own, I knew that God was hinting to me that this was the trip meant for me. I was a little hesitant to contact the Alexanders for fear of looking like a blog stalker and inviting myself on a trip with them, but if you know them, you can imagine how they welcomed me with open arms and hearts! I brought my 11 year-old son, Matt and I think that Matt would agree that we could not have found a better group of people with whom to share such a life-changing experience. Little did I know then what God actually had in store for me on this trip, and really, forever more!

To say that I have been struggling with my faith in recent years would be too strong, because I have never doubted that God existed.

I did however struggle with how my life relates to Him and how I fit into the bigger picture. On the very first night we were all together for dinner, Moody spoke to the group and encouraged sharing a little bit about each other since we were a large group with people coming from all over – some dentists from California, some Connect church members, some close family members and friends, as well as “some random people”. As soon as he said it I thought – “Oh no, they’ve figured it out. I am the random one! They think I’m weird for having invited myself on this trip and I’m going to have to admit it to everyone out loud!!” Well, as it turns out, I now know that it wasn’t random at all. Of course, being the hands and feet of God in a country as beautiful, yet heart-wrenching as Ethiopia does not allow you to close your eyes to God. I knew going into this trip that it was going to be very hard to see the poverty and illness and especially the widows and orphans. What I had no idea about, was how a group of 40 or so people from America were going to be the ones to change my life. In every interaction, every prayer, every laugh or cry shared, I saw God talking to me and teaching me what it means to be His child. Not only did was impossible not to see the Lord’s goodness in every single one of the Ethiopian people, but He also shone through every single volunteer. At the international church service that we attended on our first Sunday, Matt and I both sat in awe of the community of Ethiopians joined together with our group with the common purpose in thanking God and praising all that He has done, rather than feeling sorry for what they may be lacking in their lives.

One night after serving an extremely poor part of the community, a group of us had a long discussion about our relationship with God and how I can better understand mine and open my heart to Him.

Through that discussion, I spiritually felt a HUGE burden lifted from my heart and actually felt physically lighter the next day. Rather than worry about being judged for not knowing my way or not understanding how to find it up to this point, I knew by everyone’s supportive hugs and comments that everyone was actually encouraging me and praying for me. I think Yasmin, a dentist from California, said it best when she told me the next morning, “You know, there’s a great big party going on up there right now – just for YOU!”

I could go down the list and say specific things that certain people did that week to help me find God, but then I realize that the list would be long and would literally include every person on the trip with us as well as every Ethiopian we met.

The most important thing that I can say about Ethiopia Smile 2011 is to thank everyone who helped me to realize how brightly God was shining His light right on ME!

Heidi Daileader