“Shocked” is the way most of the youth described their first view of the Ethiopian village recreated in the courtyard of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise.
“Authentic” is what adults who had participated in a church mission to the country said. “The people who have been to Ethiopia—seeing this village brought tears to their eyes because it was an authentic replica,” said one.
Saturday morning some of the 25 Hillcrest Baptist Church youth who spent most of Friday night
in the recreated Ethiopian village gathered to share breakfast and their thoughts about the project.
“All this was Miss Annette’s idea,” said HBC Minister of Life Groups and Missions Travis Dunham, crediting HBC Director of Children’s Ministries Annette Whitton.
Whitton was part of an HBC team that went on a mission trip to Ethiopia in May. Others on the team were Aaron Rascoe, Keni Mitchell, Ashley Gunn, Sara Mitchell, Emily Ramsey, Virginia Collins, Jennifer Amlong and Brian Duhaime.
Whitton returned with “a passion to teach our children about missions,” Dunham said. That is how the idea was born.
“We wanted to make it more real for the children,” Whitton said. “We wanted to make our experience more real for them than just sharing photos.”
Rascoe volunteered to recreate the village, which was built outside in the church’s courtyard.
The original plan had been for the children to eat and sleep in the huts made of mud, rusted tin and twigs. The inclement weather prevented that but the group did stay in their huts until nearly midnight.
The group cooked dinner over a campfire and enjoyed an Ethiopian treat of popped corn.
Upon their arrival Friday, the children who participated had trekked around the church campus in order to replicate the actual trek of the mission team through the African bush. Twenty-five started the event, 17 spent the night.
The children were divided into “family” groups. The sixth graders acted the part of parent and each family was given a scenario for their life.
Some had older children left to care for their younger siblings while the parent went out to beg. Some families had to learn to scavenge for scraps.
Mia Carter, 11, was the designated “mother” in a family of five. The Holly Hill School sixth grader was “shocked” when she saw the village. “It really did look like we were in Ethiopia,” she said as she surveyed her family comprised of Lilly Anne Windham, Rilee Reeves, Adeline Scott, Paige McNeal and Abbie Hanson. “I didn’t get to pick my own family but it worked out good.”
Reeves, 10, was the oldest sibling and as such was left to care for the younger children. That wasn’t too much fun, she said.
The most fun part, all agreed, was playing authentic Ethiopian games. The worst part was learning how to dig in dumpsters.
The village was left up for the church’s Sunday services. Dunham said a goal is to have the church members sponsor 100 Ethiopian children. “We want to be disciples, be a blessing and share the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Members of the mission team plan to return to their village in Ethiopia. “The return visits make a huge impact,” Dunham said. “We know people’s names, we know their stories—and they know we are there to share the gospel.
“The area we go to (on mission trips) are out in the bush,” Dunham said. “Through the grace of God, Christianity is starting to grow out there.
“Our hope is to be a blessing to the local pastors in Ethiopia so they can disciple the people who come to the church,” Dunham said adding that happens through pastors’ conferences and a pastors’ college there.
“We do medical clinics through the church,” he added. “So people in that community see that the church cares about them.
“We want to be disciples, to be a blessing and share the good news of Jesus Christ,” Dunham said. “We go back to have a greater voice.”