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On Mission to Invest in the Lives of Others

This week I would like to share with you an interview with Steadman and Alyssa Harrison. The Harrisons are CHBC members. CHBC is also their home church in their current and recent missionary capacity.  They lived in Greensboro for a number of years where Alyssa taught and was a principal at Caldwell Academy; Steadman worked at The Center for Creative Leadership.

Steadman & Alyssa Harrison

In early 2010 the Harrison family (Steadman, Alyssa, and their three sons – Miles, Liam, and Ethan) moved to Ethiopia where Steadman assumed the position of a CCL director focusing on leadership development in Africa. They settled nicely into a community in Addis Ababa with good relationships at church and a Christian school at Bingham Academy where the boys continued their education and Alyssa assumed a teaching position. 

In 2015, Steadman resigned from his position at CCL and the Harrison family moved to Tupelo, Mississippi for Steadman to move into the position of CEO of Global Outreach, a mission organization based in Tupelo. Once again the family settled in nicely in Tupelo. Alyssa, after a year of transition, was offered and accepted a position for grammar principal at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School where the boys attended  also. 

In the Spring of 2019, the Harrison family felt God’s call for them to return to Ethiopia. Steadman was given an opportunity to work with the European Union and Ethiopian government on a project involving the future national elections in Ethiopia. They said their good-byes to friends and family in Tupelo and in the US and headed to Jordan for a few weeks of interlude before heading back to Ethiopia on July 15. Liam and Ethan are returning with them to Addis Ababa, and Miles is remaining in the US as a second year student at the Naval Academy. 

Now that I have shared with you the framework of the Harrison family over the past nearly ten years, I’d like to focus specifically on how God has used their family to impact the lives of others.  In their late teens/early adulthood both Steadman and Alyssa experienced a unique form of hospitality during extended stays at a L’Abri branch in England.  When I asked about the people who came to stay with them during their first experience in Ethiopia, Steadman responded,

All in all, my best ‘back of the napkin’ numbers suggest that we had upward of 70 people stay with us between our start with communal living (L’Abri influenced) and our closure to our first chapter of life in Ethiopia. Upon return to the US the numbers grew very quickly as we had people living with us all 4 years and visitors in and out of a 7 bedroom house up until the day we departed for Ethiopia, round 2.

From Alyssa: We started our hospitality of having people live with us while we were still in Greensboro through church connections….and then Steadman’s cousins.  Other short termers from Stead’s travels: Chandler, Kwazi, Lars to name a few.

Also from Alyssa: Youththe first was Megan Whinna. She was still in high school being homeschooled. Her younger siblings were adopted from Ethiopia and she was looking for a family to stay with for a few months as she sought to connect with her siblings’ home country and seek ministry opportunities. We really didn’t know what opportunities the Lord would provide, but she ended up tutoring students in music at Bingham and helping out in local schools as well. Then we had David Robinson, Rajan Singh, and Heather Gillespie at different times from 3 months to a full gap year (Heather stayed three months to work on a tuberculosis project through a friend of ours with Mission to the World, and I think Rajan and David both stayed between 6 months and a year.) They have all had the chance to bring others back to Ethiopia since then. They were such blessings to our kids, swinging them around, taking them on public transport with them, being like brothers and sisters.

Then we had various Ethiopians stay with us. We took in Ashenafi who stayed with us four of our five and a half years in Addis. When he turned 17, we found a job and an apartment for him and helped him move towards independence. He is now married with two children and living in Maryland and we are still in touch. Then a woman working with CCL, stayed with us for some time. This situation ended poorly, as she did not want to build true relationship, but only wanted to find a way to more money and passage to the US. We had to confront her about dishonesty many times, finally asking her to move out, which she did. The last Ethiopian to stay with us was Dawit. He was in the process of getting engaged to a friend of ours, and we offered a room as they made travel plans to the US.

Many family and friends small groups came through Global Outreach. My dad Jerry brought teams from his church five times, once a year for five years. They brought all kinds of evangelism tools, cubes, dolls, soccer balls, and would travel anywhere that agreed to receive a gift and hear the gospel. We would employ four translators each time he came and helped him connect with the ministries of ours and of our Ethiopian friends.

More from Steadman: CCL colleagues made journeys from across the US, Belgium, India, South Africa, and Singapore. We hosted our CEO, COO, VPs including having many of them stay at our home. Thought leaders and leadership experts came to test models and pioneer new approaches that would span across the developed world and developing world contexts. In 2014 and 2015 the number of volunteers and interns grew so quickly that we opened a second guest house and eventually a third guest house! Humphries Fellows, Fulbright Scholars, Peace Corp Volunteers, Interns for Desert Rose and Ayanna Publishing (our partners) as well as our own CCL interns came from the US and other African nations as undergraduates and Master students. It was a joy to see many of them go on to advanced degrees at London School of Business, Oxford, Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton, and UNC Chapel Hill! At one point we started a Facebook Page just to keep track of visitors as our memories simply couldn’t hold on to all of them. For me, the extrovert, this was energizing and exciting. We did have our family challenges at times! Alyssa needed a space to rest and have quiet and we eventually set some norms like a 9:00 pm end of our family day where we would retreat and catch up privately.

I hope that you can see  that Steadman and Alyssa extended hospitality in a multitude of ways as God gave them opportunity to do so.  Not only were they extending hospitality, but other character shaping events were occurring in their home. Steadman expresses this so appropriately in his final comment, 

My sincere hope is that we will see eternal fruit from these investments. I think back on the many marriages, expanded families, and church relationships which were fostered under our roof and I do believe that we lived in a glass house in such a way as to demonstrate the love of Christ as well as the challenges of following in the Narrow Way. God certainly used all these visitors to shape our world view and to broaden our perspective as a family.

Please join me in praying for the Harrison family during their time in Ethiopia.  They will be in Addis Ababa along with Scott and Tina Lawrence and their boys.  Both families are involved in leadership at Bingham Academy.  The Harrisons have made provisions to be able to facilitate further hospitality: 

Steadman: As regards short-term mission trips from CHBC with students that would visit us in Ethiopia, here are a few thoughts:

  •  We have suggested a 2 week minimum visit based on our experience. The cost of tickets and jet lag involved as well as the culture shock really require 2 full weeks in order to make the most of a trip to Eastern Africa.
  • The market place mission work that I lead is really easy for students to plug into at any time. We have placed students in short-term internships with local NGOs like World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Food for the Hungry, and ChildFund in the past and would love to introduce students to both the government and non-government development needs where their presence as Christians would be an incredible investment. 
  • We are a part of an amazing international Christian missions environment and there are opportunities to serve with partner teams working with orphans and vulnerable children, in local Christian schools, in public health, water, and economic development projects. I love to play match-maker and pair students with the right organizations depending on their interests. We could create a simple survey to help identify best fit. 
  • Our team shares offices with Desert Rose Consulting and Ayaana Publishing – the office is a large villa where students can come to work from housing that is in safe walking distance. We want students to stay with local families who are working with our team and would likely split the girls and guys up and have them in 2 to 4 locations depending on the size of the group. These families would be center of the target for their mission trip investment… get to know young married couples, love on our Missionary Kids, lead us in worship, come teach Bible studies and give us a fresh perspective! Come and ask lots of questions and let us tell you all about our part of the world and the work God has called us to.
  • International Evangelical Church, Beza Church, and a growing group of House Churches that are serving as Church Plants in Addis Ababa (including upcoming church plants in partnership with CHBC) will provide for a great space for fellowship and worship during the visit.

They have graciously extended an invitation to, not only students, but to any who would like to come and be a part of their work.