my heart & my pen in ethiopia with your help

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Image: Alyssa Sieb

Have you ever sat around thinking about your life? Trying to figure out what your purpose is and what the heck you’re good at. Scrolling through social media at the filtered highlights of other people’s lives trying to understand why everyone around you seems to be killing it at all of the things and you’re just merp merp’ing around faking it. You start to feel like you haven’t accomplished crap and have nothing interesting at all to offer the world. The weight of those feelings are so heavy that it’s counterproductive because then you’re just paralyzed and insecure and discouraged and have no idea where to begin at this point. Nor do you have the energy to think about it anymore because thinking is hard. Around this phase is when a timer goes off and your frozen pizza is ready so it’s time to watch like 8 episodes of something on Netflix and tell yourself that everything will be fine. And “Oh, I’ll just watch this, eat a whole pizza tonight and then tomorrow I’ll eat a salad and do something creative and brave, I swear. I will.” Anyone been here? Ever? No? Just me?

I’ve talked to enough people and read enough memoirs to know that at least some of you have felt parts of this before. If not you, it’s fine. Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler have felt unsure a couple of times so I’m still in good company. By now you’re probably confused because you thought this was a post about Africa and meaningful opportunities to serve and you’re like “Cobes, wtf, chill out on the personal stuff.” The point of me telling you all of that is to be honest about a process/cycle I find myself in a lot. And although this is hard to feel in the midst of it, feeling it led me to one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve ever had.

Turning 30 was a big deal for me, guys. It felt right and strange all at once and it put these cycles into a new perspective. (Because we only take goals really seriously on January 1st or a scary-ass birthday, right?) As I considered all of the unexpected things that had already happened and all that had yet to be done, I started wondering where I had been afraid. I took a realistic and open-hearted look at all of my hopes, dreams and priorities. Then I paid attention to what I actually did every day. (Do this when you have a chance. But beware. It was what I imagine being kicked in the nuts feels like.) Anyway, I noticed a lot of discrepancies between who I said I was and what I was actually doing. But more so, I used the conviction I felt as an opportunity to dream with more action. There were two things on the list that I had neglected in a huge way that I deemed priorities. They were: 1. Writing. 2. Servanthood. With the new awareness I had, I started making both of these things enough of a priority to schedule them into my day and allot times towards them, intentionally, in any form. It’s funny how when you decide to give something more space in your life, it seems as though opportunities were quietly there waiting for you all along or present themselves to you in a new way. Ya know? Enter at this perfect moment: a text from my pal at One Child Campaign.

I’ve known about One Child Campaign for a while because of the friendship I had with its founder, Caleb. Every time I spoke to Caleb I felt hope. Not only hope that good, passionate, driven people exist that are doing the important work that I’m not, but also that there are organizations facilitating this work and doing so honestly. One Child Campaign came to fruition by having a new view and mindset towards “mission trips”. They wanted to make sure that anyone who was going to serve was doing so with integrity, intention and had a chance to participate in vision that had actual, long-term impact. They partnered with organizations and ministries to get an understanding of the population they were serving and what they needed. Like, what they really needed. Through these relationships and honest conversations, One Child Campaign began to mobilize and facilitate short-term mission trips that were longevity-minded and strategic. They connected individuals, families, and churches with ministries that are solution-oriented and changing the game.

As these relationships grew and with years of experience behind them, One Child Campaign learned that something necessary to these organizations’ success were things that they didn’t have access to like professional photos, videos, testimonials, and solid websites that would extend their reach. When every resource you have is going towards the work at hand, things like that are not a priority. But with even a few of these simple luxuries they could raise awareness and let people know what work is being done and how to be a part of it.  Because they need people like me and people like you – good, gifted people, stitched together with the best intentions and accidental ignorance. That is where this short-term mission trip begins.

Caleb and the rest of the team at One Child Campaign decided that the next short-term mission trip with a long-term vision would be this one: a trip of creatives with enough experience to build the print and digital collateral that these organizations need to recruit more soldiers and support. And so that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to Ethiopia February 12-22. Our goal is to work alongside these organizations and collect as much content as we can in 8 days. We’ll tell stories of triumph and stories of empowerment. We’ll showcase what these ministries are doing to change lives and what challenges still exist. A list of the organizations we’ll serve and provide materials to is below along with a short description of what it is they do. Please read through them and educate yourself if nothing else.

The truth behind this story and all of my over-sharing is this: I need help getting there, guys. I need help while I’m there. I need so much help because I’m a mess and I’m working on giving of myself in a vulnerable way to a meaningful cause. I’ll be going on this trip as the team’s only writer. My words. My voice telling these stories. It’s terrifying as f-word. But I’ve never felt more sure about anything I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. The fear shuts up a little when it’s in the towering shadow being cast by something I believe in so strongly. And so…

If you feel remotely called to support me and this mission there are a few things you can do. The first thing would help the most and is always the hardest to ask for.

  1. Donate. This trip will cost me $1,745 plus airfare. (It looks like flights are around $1,300) To give money you can visit the “Give” portion of One Child Campaign’s website. When you donate, just make sure to put “Cobes: February Creatives 2016” in the comments section or put that same thing on your check memo and mail it to the address listed. (It’s tax deductible and charitable.) If you want to help pay for the pricy airfare portion, you’ll have to talk to me and give to me directly because One Child Campaign can’t legally accept money for things like that. If you want to send money to me for airfare, use the contact information below to get ahold of me. I PROMISE I won’t spend the money on a gym membership. We all know I don’t exercise.
  2. Follow. If you can’t give, I understand. I rarely have extra myself. The other thing you can do is just stay tuned. Read about One Child Campaign and keep following me to learn more about the organizations we’re serving. Share my posts on Facebook. Retweet them on Twitter. Getting the word out is so helpful in itself.
  3. Pray. If you don’t pray, please think of me a couple of times. I don’t mean to be selfish, but I ask that you pray that the resources would come together and that we’d all be safe and do our best work for a worthy cause. I really want to. And if I’ve learned nothing else it’s that I can’t do anything by myself, pretending to be brave and confident. I need your support. We need each other, guys.

I can’t thank you enough for making it this far. Seriously. If you read to this point you’re probably my mom or grandma and that’s okay. If you aren’t, please let me know. I want to thank you personally. It means more than you could ever know. If you have any questions or need more information, please email me, text me, Facebook message me, call me. Whatever.

Email: thorntoncoby@gmail.com

Phone: 503-308-0838 (Stay away from me, though, you political campaign callers.)

I’m hopeful and inspired. And I love you so much for your consideration and support.

xo,

Cobes

List of organizations we’ll work with and create for:

Ebenezer Grace Children’s Home: ESMA’s motivation is to share the love of Christ with the people of Africa by providing housing, food, education, spiritual encouragement and love for orphans and vulnerable children, and establishing sustainable programs to assist poverty-stricken families to be self-supporting.

Chapa School: Chapa School is located in the Awassa region and is governed by Hiwot Brihan Church, a large Christian denomination in Ethiopia. The school currently helps to provide education to over 400 students who attend KG1 and KG2 classes. This part of the children’s education is vital, as these children are required to complete KG2 prior to entering Grade 1 at another school within the region. Church elders select the kids who attend the school, and the church helps to fund what they can for school supplies.

Chapa School is over populated; children are crowded into classrooms and sent home over the lunch hour because they do not have the funds to provide food. Many of their parents are poor farmers who cannot adequately feed or care for their families. While the local church provides strong leadership and assistance wherever they can, the need is great and they are unable meet the needs of the children with the little they have.

With your support, the children of Chapa School will have the opportunity to grow physically, educationally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Mercy Ministries: Mercy Ministries focuses on improving the lives of street kids, poor children, orphans and people living with HIV / AIDS in Ethiopia.

Make Your Mark: Empowers street and abused children through education, counsel, encouragement and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Using these tools we will prepare children to be adopted locally. Train and equip local families to adopt, as this is what must take place in order to make a drastic impact in the street kid/orphan population.

Embracing Hope Ethiopia: Mission is to partner with God, individuals and the local church in ministering with the poor, orphans and vulnerable children (and their families) of Ethiopia using compassionate, holistic practices that promote sustainability, transformation, community, and Christian discipleship which invades all areas of life for this and future generations.

No Ordinary Love Ministries: No Ordinary Love Ministries mission is to bless and serve people living in extreme poverty in Ethiopia, and beyond. Our ultimate desire is for those whom we are serving to experience the tangible love of God through acts of justice and mercy. We also hope to encourage and inspire others as they hear about our journey.

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