A JOURNAL OF ETHIOPIA

When a number of our Mars Hill leaders went on a trip to Ethiopia in March this year, we asked a few of them to keep journals of their experiences. This is the journal of Pastor Ryan Williams, the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church Everett.

I became a Christian in my home country of Australia at the age of 22. After a couple of years I began to sense the Lord might be calling me into vocational ministry. It was during this season, as I was trying to discern this call to ministry, that I served at an event and asked God during worship, “What do you want me to do with my life?

The very distinct reply that was impressed upon me was, “Preach my word to the nations.” This moment has stayed with me for many years.

The fulfillment of this calling began when I moved from my hometown of Adelaide, Australia to undertake an unpaid internship at Mars Hill Church. During my time as an intern I was challenged, loved, and discipled. Towards the end of my internship I was encouraged to apply for the Lead Pastor Residency, and after being accepted and undertaking the residency, I became the Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Church Everett. Preaching for the first time to my church, I really felt that the Lord was allowing me to fulfill this promise of preaching his word to the nations.

During my time in Ethiopia I was able to continue to fulfill the call that the Lord placed on my life in those early years of my Christian journey, by preaching to the Ethiopian church. The Lord has used Mars Hill Church to allow me to fulfill what he has called me to.

What follows is Pastor Ryan’s day-by-day account of his recent trip to Ethiopia, with the practical ways that God continues in faithfulness to accomplish what he called Pastor Ryan to do.

DAYS 1 AND 2

The flight from Seattle was good. I sat next to Mike from Lake Stevens, WA and after I told him what we were doing in Ethiopia, he felt compelled to support our trip. He gave me $200 USD to use to serve and bless someone in need. I gave the cash to our trip leader. It’s always better to get funding like that into the hands of locals who know how to make it go the furthest and to the right people.

Getting into Addis Ababa was an experience. It has been 10 years since I was last in Africa and about five years since I was in the third world. How quickly the memories, smells, and need for cultural sensitivity come back.

The hotel is nice, clean, and tidy. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight to get used to the new time zone. We are almost on the other side of the world with a 12-hour difference between Seattle and us.

DAY 3

Huge day. I was up at 4:30 a.m. for breakfast and to get ready for our trip to Dilla. It took about 10 hours to go 220 miles. The roads were really bad.

Then we went to the church where the conference was being held. The elders of the hosting church greeted us, and then we went back to the hotel before kicking off the conference with a pretty cool couple of hours. These Ethiopians know how to worship. They would be a good addition to our services at Mars Hill Everett 🙂

Everyone is wrecked, super tired, but we don’t need to be up until 8 a.m. tomorrow so I think everyone is going to catch up on some well deserved sleep tonight.

DAY 4

Huge day at the pastors’ conference. There were over 2,000 people in attendance. We heard amazing stories of how Jesus is saving people all over Ethiopia, how the Holy Spirit is at work and how people who once hated the living God are being adopted into the family of God.

I don’t speak until Sunday, when I will preach to a local church. So I got to enjoy listening to our Mars Hill leaders teach and preach on various parts of the great commission.

Some of us are sick and very tired, so we are paying for healing and refreshing from the Lord.

DAY 5

We finished up the pastor’s conference today, with another amazing turnout over 2,000.

We had an incredibly moving time of prayer to end the conference. It has been a humbling and encouraging time. I am preparing to preach tomorrow and will be preaching from Psalm 23.

Many of us are sick. There are only two out of the whole team who have not become ill. The third world may take its toll on our bodies, but our souls and hearts are filled with joy in Christ.

DAY 6

After a decent night’s sleep we packed our bags to begin our trip back to Addis Ababa, but first we had church services to attend.

We split the group into halves and I preached at a local church in the mountains just outside Dilla. The other group went to the church whose building was used as a prison to hold the elders during Communism in Ethiopia.

A couple hundred children greeted us with flowers as we arrived at the church. The building was packed to overflowing. They had speakers in the trees so those outside could hear. There must have been close to 1,500 people in attendance.

I preached on Jesus the Good Shepherd, the only hope for the lost peoples of the world and for Ethiopia. It went well, I think.

After that we were able to spend some time getting photos with the kids and eating some locally prepared food.

Back on the bus and, five hours later, we arrived at a resort on a lake. It was really nice and everyone slept really well (mostly due to the fact that there were mattresses on the beds—a luxury the hotel in Dilla did not offer).

DAY 7

A debrief in the morning over breakfast was very helpful as everyone shared their two biggest takeaways from our time.

Back on the bus for a four-hour ride to the airport in Addis. The bus will not be missed. We were able to buy souvenirs at the airport and have a coffee together before our flight to Dubai.

Arrived in Dubai and ate salad and vegetables for the first time in six days. We went to bed early in preparation for our flight to Seattle tomorrow.

DAY 8

I was sick in the morning so flying did not have great appeal. We picked up souvenirs in Dubai, including the obligatory Starbucks coffee mug.

Hopped on a completely full 14.5-hour flight home, cleared customs, hugged my wife, and then slept. Good to be home.


This post is republished material from Mars Hill Church for teaching and archive purposes only.

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