Athletes in Action has made it to Ethiopia! We packed our bags and left training camp at 2 AM Friday morning. We made it to the Cincinnati airport and took of to Canada and then from there we began our flight to Ethiopia. Travel took mostly all day with a total of around 15 hours of fly time. Because there is a 7 hour time difference in Ethiopia, most of us were pretty exhausted by the time we landed. The first day we arrived we got to catch up on some lost sleep, but we also spent the day touring Addis Abba. The culture shock many of us experienced was eye opening and life changing.
Life on the streets of Addis Abba is busy. People were everywhere, selling goods, asking for money, or simply just walking from one place to another. I think it really hit a lot of us very hard experiencing children and adults coming up to us asking for money. It hurt our hearts to see people in such need. We also saw kids in the streets finding so much joy in kicking an old soccer ball, or pushing a beat up rubber hoop for entertainment. It really made us reflect on our own childhoods, and how many of us truly didn’t understand how we could find joy aside from our fancier toys. Not only was the city crowded with people and children, but also with cattle, dogs, donkeys and many other animals that roamed the streets freely. Many of us were amazed at how free roaming animals in a city could be portrayed as normal every day life. The first day of our city tour we also got to stop by a church that was praising Jesus with a worship band. It was amazing to see how even from one culture to the next, we ultimately still love and can praise the same God.
The following day we got to play our first basketball game against an Ethiopian University team. What an incredible experience that was. The gym was old, the courts were wide and not properly marked, and the bathrooms were practically unusable! But none of that seemed to matter after the game when we got to interact with the team. We got to experience an amazing group of girls, who value friendship and relationships with others. Some of them already followed Jesus, but others simply believed he existed. We were all fascinated by the way they already showed loved and wondered how much stronger their love could grow by accepting Jesus into their lives. We were also fascinated by the level of education many of the girls had. Several were studying difficult subjects such as engineering, architecture and law. I think all of us were able to gain a new perspective on how we viewed Ethiopian culture from interacting with such an amazing group of girls.
Overall, our experience has been absolutely life changing. We are all growing significantly in our walks with the Lord and learning how to share our love for Christ with others. Even though their is a language barrier, we are still planting a seed for those who may never encounter another Christian. We are learning that simply through kindness and loving those around us, we can be a witness for Christ.