A Year Later


By Tess Cassidy, 2013 Study Tour Participant

tess2Two years ago I dreamt of going to Africa to show love to others.

A little over a year ago, I wasn’t dreaming: I was in Ethiopia spreading love in the form of smiles, hugs, and high fives.

The study tour was a whirlwind of happiness and heartbreak. We laughed so hard we cried. We shed tears at the sadness we were now seeing first hand. We were constantly meeting people and constantly travelling by plane and van. Through all of this, I became true friends with the nine other study tour students.

Unfortunately, I went from spending 24/7 with my team to being at least 4 hours away from any of them. Less than two weeks after the study tour, I was thrust into my freshman year of college. Not only was I now in a town where I knew no one, I was trying to wrap my head around the best and most impactful trip of my life.

I kept in contact with a few study tour friends, but it was hard to stay in close communication with our busy lives. No one, not even my best friends and family, would ever understand what I experienced in the gorgeous, lush countryside of Ethiopia. I told a few friends about different experiences as I perfected my verbal summary to give people a concise, fulfilling answer. Although it was wonderful to share, I began to feel like a broken record talking about this incredible life-changing trip. Despite all this, I was still so in love with World Vision, the 30 Hour Famine, and Ethiopia, that I kept talking about it to the select few that enjoyed hearing more.

It might have seemed like I talked about it a lot, but I thought about it all the time. A day hasn’t passed since the trip that I haven’t thought about my time in Ethiopia. The more I thought about it, the more discoveries I made about my experience, God’s kingdom, and life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Even 9 months later, I had epiphanies about certain parts of the trip. A homeowner we met told us, “I will remember you forever, and I hope you will remember me forever.” The children’s smiles and the sparkle of joy in the adults’ eyes are certainly ingrained in my memory forever.

Despite being far away from all of my study tour friends, I was fortunate enough to see a few of them over the past year. Just a few weeks ago, I met up with one other participant. As we talked, she reminded me of a mother and two children we visited that World Vision was helping. They graciously offered our group corn they cooked right in front of us. It was just a small serving for each of us, but added together it was a few ears of corn. The mother lives on a small income and has two children to feed. She has a long walk into town to buy food, and must carry what she buys for her and her children. She wasn’t planning on cooking all of her corn for us, yet she gave all she had to strangers. It took me over a year to realize this wasn’t easy for her to give us all she had, but she did it so cheerfully and graciously I didn’t even realize it until now.

This past year has been a pivotal year, but it has been completely shaped by the study tour. My eyes and heart have been opened for good, and the passion stirring in my heart for people around the world pours out through my words and actions.

My dream I had two years ago of going to Africa was answered. I thought I would go to show love to others. Looking back, I didn’t show love to others in Africa. They were the definition of love. It radiated out of everyone we met. Now, I hope to carry their love into my daily life.