“How was your trip?” is a standard question that can be challenging to answer after a mission trip. That was my experience after traveling to Ethiopia in June of 2022 with America World Adoption Agency (AWAA). While I loved seeing the country and spending time with the three other women who went, answers like, “Oh, it was fun!” or “It was awesome!” didn’t explain the gravity of what I had encountered.
The primary purpose of our trip was to spend time at Bete Hosanna, an AWAA home for teenage girls aging out of the government orphanage. We also visited a couple orphanages to deliver donations, met women and children receiving support through the organization’s Family Empowerment Program, and heard their stories.
I had visited developing countries before and had been involved in foster care in the United States. But I had never glimpsed life at an orphanage in a third-world country.
While the work at Bete Hosanna was amazing, the circumstances these girls had come from broke my heart. I also grieved for the women in the Family Empowerment Program. Several had lost their husbands to HIV, were positive themselves, and were now trying to raise children alone in dire circumstances.
One afternoon after returning to our guest house, my roommate Kelly and I stood in the middle of our room, hugging and crying into each other’s shoulders. I was overwhelmed. What was I going to do with my new knowledge?
About a month later, I talked with Jodi McCall, Pastor of Seacoast Missions, who connected me to Scoggins Berg with an organization called ONE that Seacoast has been involved with for many years. Scoggins was looking for people willing to meet with Senator Lindsey Graham’s office in my hometown of Greenville, SC, to advocate for funding to fight malaria, tuberculosis (TB), and AIDS worldwide.
I was in! I had been on a medical mission trip to Togo, West Africa with Seacoast in 2018, so I saw how malaria plagued West Africa. I also had my new knowledge of the devastation of AIDS in Ethiopia. This meeting was the perfect opportunity to try to do something positive with what I had learned on my trips.
I invited others to join me. My father came to share about poverty he had seen traveling in the Marines during Vietnam, and my friend Temi came to talk about growing up in Nigeria. Two ONE volunteers also came to the meeting.
We met with Angie Omer, Upstate Regional Director for Senator Graham, and I was struck by how much I related to her. She was a working mom, just like me, and she listened compassionately to what we shared.
The week after, Scoggins contacted me to ask if I would like to go to Washington, D.C., for a Faith Leader Fly-In in November. I wasn’t sure if I qualified as a “faith leader,” but I wasn’t going to mention my misgivings to Scoggins. I said yes!
In D.C., I joined 34 other people, many of them pastors from around the country, to tell our representatives how our faith motivated us to care about worldwide poverty, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. ONE staff trained us on the issues, and we visited the offices of our own state’s congressional members and senators. Jodi McCall and I met with Senator Lindsey Graham’s office, Senator Tim Scott’s office, and Representative William Timmons. Everyone was professional, courteous, and knowledgeable about the issues—more knowledgeable than I was for sure!
I know the government gets a bad rap. Usually, I vacillate between being frustrated by it and ignoring it. However, my recent experience advocating to alleviate world poverty left me feeling hopeful. I think it was because ONE is bipartisan, and their approach is positive. They encouraged us to connect to the humanity of others rather than argue with them. It made me feel like it was possible to work together for the common good.
I believe that fighting for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed is something that God desires of Christians…
I was inspired to advocate about issues I truly care about. I believe that fighting for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed is something that God desires of Christians, and I am grateful to live in a country where I have the freedom to speak up and to try to make a tangible difference.
As our church’s 21 days of fasting and prayer came to a close in January, God brought to my attention Isaiah 58, where he rebukes the Israelites for fasting without allowing the fast to change how they lived.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
– Isaiah 58:6-9 (NIV)
May we all find a renewed purpose in what God calls us to do.