South Harbor Church

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1907 64th Street SW
Byron Center, Michigan 49315
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SH Staff Blog: 10 Days in Ethiopia

April 20, 2017

Staff Blog, Uncategorized

this week we hear from Jared Heddens…


A couple of weeks ago, I had the awesome privilege of traveling with a team from the Harbor Churches to Ethiopia. The HC’s have been partnered with Compassion INTL for many years now, and we were able to spend some time at our two partner sites in Cheka, and Awassa.

I just wanted to share two things from our trip.

You may have heard this before but I simply can’t stress enough the importance of the letters sponsors write to their sponsor children.

All of these kids have incredible challenges to their lives. Many have only one parent, and more than a few live with a grand parent or aunt or uncle or neighbor because their parents are gone, or passed away. They all experience material poverty in ways that are hard to put in words. While the staff at the Compassion Development Centers do their best to pass the hope of the Gospel and their love for the children, the words of a sponsor can represent hope in ways that are hard to understand. I have seen a child pull out a stack of letters from their sponsor (or sponsors). They will keep them for years, just to be reminded of the good words a sponsor sends them. With the new digital system that Compassion is using, it’s easier than ever to customize the stationary and include pictures. In fact the Compassion app for Android and iPhone is a great tool for keeping up with a sponsor child.

Second, I want to give a shout out to our team.

They engaged in 12 pre-trip meetings where we studied everything from how to pack, to what makes a good gift for a home visit, to what modern long term poverty alleviation work looks like. The entire time they showed a great spirit of willingness to both learn, and to prepare to “go with the flow”. After back to back 9 hour flights the team arrived in Ethiopia with smiles on their faces. Although we all felt the weariness that comes from traveling to the other side of the world, they dove right in to our interactions with the children, staff, and church leaders of our partner sites. They showed great attitudes the entire time.

A bonus for me, was to watch the amazing transformation that happens when coming into personal contact with such amazing people. I saw a mom and daughter reconnect with children that have come to mean so much to them. I was able to see another mom and her two daughters form a special family bond with their sponsor child. I saw what seems like a quiet, shy, and somewhat anxious teenager, conquer her fears and really work to engage on a deep level. I saw a young married couple, get just a taste, of what parenthood might be like, all the while developing a new love for their sponsor child. This is really just a short list of all the incredible things we experienced, it would take a book to recount everything 🙂

Most of all, I was able to see the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in all of our hearts, to show us just a glimpse of the Kingdom outside of our usual daily life. None of us will see the world quite the same again, and while we realize that our week of presence in country, will not do much to change the challenges of poverty in Ethiopia, we can trust that by God’s grace, the hard work of the Compassion Ethiopia staff, and the faithful sponsoring of children by willing sponsors here at home, there will be a groundswell of hope found in Jesus.

I’m always willing to connect about the great work that Compassion is doing. The Harbor Churches are also involved in Uganda, and soon in Nicaragua, and I would be happy to connect you with the folks who maintain those relationships. In the meantime, check out for more information on holistic child development, and child sponsorship.

To see some pictures from our trip you can find us on Facebook or on Instagram @HCET2017