On a pleasant spring afternoon, I drove from my home in Dallas to Southwest Arlington to attend the bridal shower for my friend’s daughter. Katye and I shared a deep and lengthy friendship and I knew some but not all of her extended family. The shower nearing its end, I was searching the room for my purse when Katye’s sister, Julie, pulled a stool in front of me, introduced herself, and began asking questions. Katye had told Julie I was an educator, a tutor, a high school English teacher, and a doctoral student. Julie listened as I expressed my love for teaching and my ardent belief that my work in education fulfilled one of God’s callings in my life.
I taught, I told Julie, because I desired to help people of all ages realize the meaning and purpose God has for their lives. “Tell me about your teaching experiences,” asked Julie. I told her about teaching English in a large public high school, about my work as a tutor with international students from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ethiopia, places I had “visited” on a map.
I told Julie how much I loved sitting with these young women in my tutoring sessions each day, discussing books and writing essays. I marveled at their openness and their eagerness to grow intellectually. I was drawn to what God was clearly showing me: His image in them. I was continuing my own education, I explained, for reasons I couldn’t yet express. But my research was on the power of education in helping people lead flourishing lives.
What I didn’t realize about Julie then, but over time have come to understand, was that the things I was sharing from my heart stirred her imagination – and new ideas were churning in her mind! She was imagining how God could use my calling for the Adera Foundation.
Within a few days I received a text from Julie, asking me to consider joining her along with Katye and a group of women on a trip to Addis Ababa on behalf of Adera. Past conversations with Katye had prompted me to explore Adera’s website, but this was an invitation to “come and see.” In fact, Julie’s words were, “You can’t even begin to understand without seeing!”
Adera’s purpose fit so well with my vision of being a part of helping to educate young women towards a flourishing life. Adera’s mission,” to walk alongside and empower those who cannot bear to walk alone,” speaks to the truth of God as the ultimate source of that power. Adera sees education as a valuable resource that God’s people can effectively share, so that those finding themselves in near impossible situations can experience the possible – a life that flourishes through education, community and friendship, economic sustainability, and most importantly, through being a child of God.
It was July 2023, and having once had the experience of sharing a table in an American classroom with young African women, I now found myself sitting in a classroom in Adera’s headquarters, sharing with seven or eight young Adera educators my perspective on teaching: the joys and the struggles and the incalculable reasons why what educators do matters. For two days I partnered with Katye, a veteran educator and master teacher, as we were entrusted with leading workshops for educators from all over the city. Their eagerness to grow in their profession humbled me over and over.
I returned to the US with my heart full and my mind reeling. My experiences at Adera and around the city widened my imagination for how I could play a part in Adera’s Kingdom work. Yet, here I was, back home and thousands of miles away. What could I do in Dallas,Texas? The answer materialized as quickly as my recent trip to Ethiopia! Upon the mere suggestion that my heart was willing, Julie began offering me opportunities to roll up my sleeves. I put my writing skills to work by editing newsletters and stories. My husband and I attended the annual Adera Banquet and sponsored a young woman who works at Adera’s bead house, and whose child is loved and supported by Adera’s daycare. And this year I’ve been invited to enter into a mentoring relationship with Tsion, a new Adera staff member who leads the daycare. Tsion and I talk on the phone regularly. She asks me questions about leadership and curriculum and shares news of the daycare and of the work she and the teachers are doing to provide a safe, secure, and rich educational environment for the children whose mothers work in the bead house. Tsion is enthusiastic and eager to learn better ways to serve the children and staff. As for me, I’m eager to walk alongside her. This is not a one-way relationship, as I already see a friendship growing. When Tsion answers my call and I hear her voice – and hear children giggling and chatting in the background – my heart is filled in the same way it was last July, as I sat amidst staff members and teachers in Adera’s meeting room.
As long as I make myself available, there will be something I can do to be a part of Adera’s mission. And God blesses me by bringing to mind the faces of children I hugged and danced with in the Adera courtyard. I am blessed when I hear Tsion’s voice on the other end of the line, telling me, “Things are really really good, Michelle! The children are so wonderful.” Just before we finished our conversation this morning, Tsion asked me, “Will you be coming back to Ethiopia, Michelle?” My answer was “Yes, Tsion!! You can bet I will return very soon!”
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
February 6th was a lovely day for 105 women coming together to consider the story behind the beads, and our personal impact.
Pray with us!
- Pray for Adera’s new board members and the vision for Adera’s expansion.
- Pray for the Lord’s perfect will and timing for the Adera Academy.
- Pray for 16 travelers going to Addis Ababa to serve alongside the Adera staff.