By: Dr. Cherie Igielski, CVM Long-term Associate
Landing at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa at the beginning of July, my body and mind sensed relief at being “home”. I know I’ve moved back to the U.S. for the tangible future, but part of my heart will always be in Ethiopia. Even after landing, I knew how to hit the ground running and start accomplishing the goals of our trip. This is a very different story from when I landed 3 years ago and especially since the very first time I arrived in Ethiopia almost 6 years prior. This trip was rather a whirlwind, but we were able to complete the work needed to officially close down the Gumuz Education project.
Being back was quick but it also gave me time to reflect on my time there the past 3 years and how I got started on this journey with CVM in the first place. Entering vet school, I was quite the ‘baby’ Christian. I knew God had transformed my heart and that I wanted to have a relationship with Him, but I didn’t know how or even why, necessarily. I had heard about a group at school called Christian Veterinary Fellowship, but had missed the first month of meetings. I went with my friend one day to check it out. Though all the vocabulary was over my head and though I was uncomfortable watching people profess faith and pray aloud, something compelled me to keep attending. Before long, one of the leaders of the group became a good friend. She took me under her wing and I felt comfortable asking her all the stupid questions about Christianity and the things I didn’t understand. At the meetings, I kept hearing about mission trips and what they were like, and I found myself wanting to go. The summer between my second and third years, I went on my very first mission trip (ever) to Honduras with CVM. The men and women vets who led the trip were unbelievable examples of what it looked like to live out your faith in clinical settings and also while we were on our trip. I came back having learned so much from them and having a better idea what a Christian vet might look like.
After Honduras, I went on a couple more short-term trips with CVM to Haiti and Uganda. In October 2010, I arrived for the first time in Ethiopia on a month-long vision trip, staying with Barry and Colette Schwenk. It was here that I caught a vision for what God might have me do and here where I knew He had broken my heart for the Gumuz people. Without CVM, I never would have experienced any of these things. CVM is a tiny but mighty organization fighting to spread Christ’s love among the unreached people groups of this world. It has been a lovely and unique experience to be among Christian vets, who are quite a subset of the population. I feel so privileged to know so many who are out serving Christ with CVM, whether it’s on the frontlines or back in the offices where all the magic and organization happens. CVM isn’t just an organization that treats you like another number; they become family and have been that for me.