COKATO, MN A recent mission trip to Ethiopia not only allowed Lloyd Heaver of Cokato the opportunity to reflect on his own faith, but also to gain a new perspective on life.
“It was my first mission trip, and it was amazing,” said Heaver, a member of Oak Heights Covenant of Hutchinson. The trip was part of an ambassador program to visit Oak Heights’s sister church, Courgang Covenant Church in Ethiopia.
For Heaver, the trip was something he has wanted to do for 10 years, after meeting Simon, the pastor of Courgang Covenant Church, who was visiting in Hutchinson.
“He and I just clicked, almost instantly,” Heaver said, explaining how he found Simon to be friendly and trustworthy.
Though Heaver had hoped to visit sooner, it didn’t work out until now.
“It just fell together right,” he said.
Heaver spent 12 days in Ethiopia, getting to know the members of the sister church, teaching Bible lessons, and learning the culture.
The most humbling experience for him was when church members washed his feet, and those of his fellow church members, as part of a welcome to their first church service.
“Just the fact that they were so happy to do it . . . they were so glad someone from the United States was there to experience their culture,” Heaver said.
As part of their visit, Heaver and his travel mates brought gifts including choir robes, bottles of pain reliever, and clothing for the children. He also brought with him wind-up Bibles, which don’t require batteries and can be converted to the native language. “They just loved it,” he said.
One of the most surprising aspects of his trip was “the fact that for a people that have so little, [they] are always happy,” Heaver said. He described the Ethiopians as being very positive, cordial, and welcoming.
They are also a people of unwavering faith. “They have a faith in God that is just amazing,” Heaver said.
In an impoverished land where people have to walk miles for water, Ethiopians won’t let distance keep them from attending church. Heaver explained that while it took them an hour to get to church by motor vehicle, people will walk the same distance for the five-hour weekly service.
Seeing their faithfulness allowed Heaver to look inward. He made a commitment to be more focused in church and “leave the wolf out the door, so to speak, and just focus on God,” he said.
As its sister church, Oak Heights Covenant financially supports the church in Courgang with projects, including the building of a church. The previous church building was nothing more than a lean-to with a roof that leaked whenever it rained. With funds raised in the US, the congregation in Courgang was able to purchase a brick-making machine to cast bricks out of mud, Heaver explained.
Heaver brought with him a suitcase full of children’s clothing, which he then filled with his own clothing at the end of the trip.
“I flew out very heavy, and flew back very, very light,” he said.
Heaver also plans to start a clothing drive at his church called Case for Courgang, which will encourage members to fill a suitcase with clothing. Once filled, it will be sent to Ethiopia to assist refugees who are fleeing from South Sudan, which is experiencing a civil war, severe hunger, and unfavorable rainfall.
The entire experience compelled Heaver to look inward. “It taught me to appreciate what I have and not take anything for granted, ever,” he said. “It taught me to wake up and be mindful of what God has given me.”
“It was just an amazing thing,” Heaver said of his trip, which allowed him to gain a new perspective on life. “I think everyone, at one point in life, should do this,” Heaver commented.