Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Heavy Heart

"im missing the kids in ET :( i've had a heavy heart the last few days thinking about them... i just keep praying for the littles ones by name and praying that God will meet all their needs each day. if i didn't have wes, i'd say im ready to go back tomorrow :)"
This was a post I made to my friend, Rachel's, facebook wall today. I feel it pretty much sums up how I've been feeling the last few days.  People have asked me if I miss Ethiopia, and I say "yes". But since coming back from Ethiopia, I've enjoyed just being home with my little man. I missed him so much while I was gone, and was just so happy to have him in my arms again. But with each passing day, I miss ET more and more. I miss the smiles on those kids faces. I miss seeing the kids running alongside the vehicle with hands full of candy and clothes. I miss the special bond with Kasshun and Danal. I miss the feeling of knowing I was doing exactly what God wanted me to be doing. I miss it ...
When I think of returning, I think about Wes. If it wasn't for Wes, I'd be signed up for the next trip! So, I pray that the Lord will continue to work in my heart, and Jeremy's heart, until He shows us His will. Until then, I will continue to pray for those kiddos by name. I will pray that God will meet every need that I am unaware of and that only He can meet. And, I will continue to thank God for blessing me so richly. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It CAN get worse ...

As I came back home from ET, I didn't know what God was wanting me to do with what I'd seen. And I still don't. But I have a new reassurance after spending a lot of time in prayer and in His Word. Maybe we aren't expected to know our next step before we take it. Maybe He simply wants us to TRUST. Trust that He is sovereign. Trust that He knows. Trust that we don't have to have all the answers. Trust that He will be with us every step of the way. Trust that He will show us our next step at precisely the right time. If nothing else, God has shown me during this trip that He is worthy to be trusted.

I have learned so much from this trip to Ethiopia. As I reflect, I think about what is important in this lifetime. Family, of course, is important. It's important to build relationships with the people around us. It's important to provide for our families. It's important to help those in need. It's important to travel around the world to love on some orphans. These are all great things that I KNOW the Lord calls us to do. These are things that I KNOW can be done in a way that brings honor and glory to our Savior. But when I think about my next step since visiting Ethiopia, the only thing that I KNOW for sure is that I want whatever I do to count for all of eternity. I don' want to just meet a temporal need. I think about those people in Ethiopia. How horrendous their life circumstances are, and how many temporal needs they have. I think about how heart wrenching it was to see them with no shoes or clothing. How painful it was to walk away from so many hundreds of people still sitting alongside the fence with still no food or clothing as we drove away. How saddening it was to see moms begging for just a little food to provide for her children. How awful it was to know that those fifteen year old boys would never have a forever home because they're just "too old". Those things break you.

But something even more sickening is to think about those people in a world one hundred times worse. Imagine ... it actually CAN get worse than that. They could spend ETERNITY in hell. A place where sin reigns. Imagine ... all the sin in this world that I saw first hand ... poverty, sickness, disease, deceit, selfishness, etc, etc, etc, all in one place. You thought those people's lives couldn't get any worse. This world is temporary. Some day, this world will end. And there's a choice for everyone. To spend eternity in a world where sin continues to take place on a level so much higher than we can even fathom. Or to spend eternity with a Father who loves us so much more than we can imagine. A world where there is no more sin, pain, or suffering. A world where there are no more Fatherless. Because we can have a heavenly Father, who loved us SO much that He wanted us to enjoy an eternity where we don't have to suffer from sin anymore. I want that for the people I met in ET. I want that for those little children in those orphanages. I want that for my friends.  I want that for my family. I want that for me.

Because of the suffering I saw in Ethiopia, it changes my outlook now. I don't know what the Lord will do what with my heart. I don't know where the Lord will guide my family's steps. But I do know this ... I need to have a boldness with my life. I need to remember the suffering and pain I saw in Ethiopia. And every time I think of ignoring the Holy Spirit's voice that says to have courage and talk to that person about my Father, or every time I decide to live a little more in this temporal world and focus on how much money we have or what my body looks like or buying just one more cute outfit, I hope I remember that what I'm doing needs to count for all eternity. No more living in the temporal.

 Lord, help me to meet the needs of eternity. Help me to listen to your voice, and be a light for You. Help me to build relationships that will lead to eternity spent with You. Lord, help people to see that even though this world is full of sin and sadness, it actually can get worse. Help me, Lord, to have boldness because You live in me. Help me to always remember what I saw and felt. Above all, Lord, help me to trust in the Father to the fatherless, the Comforter to the comfortless,  and the Provider to the needy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ethiopia Day Eight ... A little late :)

Hey all! Forgive me for being a few days late on this post.  I am home now, and it has taken a few days to feel like a human again! Just when I feel like I'm over the jet lag, five o'clock in the afternoon rolls around and I am ready for bed! But I do feel like every day it's getting better!

So, it's time for an update on Day Eight! Friday was our last day in Addis. We started the day back at Korah. Thursday night we had plans to go back to some villages, and just let the Lord lead us as far as who needing a blessing. But, we got the news Friday morning that we could go back to Korah. It was such a blessing to many of us to hear that news because many of us had told our sponsor children we would be back on Friday. Just envisioning those kids waiting all day for us and then never arriving just broke my heart to think about. But the Lord was gracious and paved the way for us to go back. So, we arrived back at Korah to find the children waiting for us. As the vans pulled in, the children piled around us! You could see the looks on the children's faces as they searched the vans and the crowd for that one special person they had bonded with on the last visit. My little person was Kasshun. I'm sure my face lit up just as much as Kasshun's when we laid eyes on each other. :) This relationship with Kasshun was the highlight of my trip. The time spent building this relationship with him will stay with me throughout my lifetime. We basically spent the morning continuing to build bonds with these children while the cooks prepared the sheep we had brought them. Many of us were given the opportunity to do home visits to our sponsor child's home. I was one of them. As we walked to Kasshun's house, I thought about what I might see and who I might meet. We walked through a little pathway that lead to a house made of mud and had steel sheets for roofing. I walked into the house to find two mattresses on the floor, a tv in the corner, and a few pictures hanging on the wall. I was visiting with Kasshun, when Amy asked me if that was my picture hanging on the wall. There on the wall, in a frame,was the picture of my family I had given him just 3 days ago. Immediately, my eyes filled with tears. This precious boy! To think that this relationship with him that had just been build a few days prior was important enough to him to hang a picture of my family on his wall. It spoke volumes to me. 

Sorry this is a blurry, but I wanted to show you our photo hanging on the wall. We are on the bottom. It is a photo of Kasshun's relative above us. 

Kasshun and his new blanket

Kasshun's uncle was not home at the time. So, I was a little disappointed that I would not be given the chance to meet the man who is obviously doing such a fine job raising this polite, sweet, kind-hearted young boy. But it was good to see where he lived with his uncle and cousin. The translator explained to me that Kasshun has been living with his uncle since he was 6. This is when his parents died, and his uncle was willing to take him in. So, this is where Kasshun now lives in Korah. As we were walking back to the church, Kasshun showed me his uncle out digging a ditch. I did get the chance to stop and introduce myself to him, and had the translator explain to him that he was doing an amazing job with Kasshun. I also told him I would be praying for him. I was grateful to meet the man who is obviously working hard to raise this young boy.

There was another little boy, Danal, who seemed to be attached to my hip those two days. He was not nearly as talkative, but seemed to be drawn to me for whatever reason. He followed along as we did a visit to Kasshun's house. As we finished with Kasshun's, Danal kept asking if I'd come to his house now. The anticipation was so pure on his face, that I couldn't deny him that. So, we went to visit his house. Evidently, he lives with his cousin and two younger siblings that are about 1 and 2. His cousin looks like she could be his 15 year old sister. So, I'm not sure if there is more to the story about Danal's living situation or if he indeed does live with his 15 year old cousin, and she really is the caretaker for a 10 year old boy and two small children. Danal's home was pretty much the same as Kasshun's. Very small, dirty, and bare. I had saved a quilt along the trip to give to Kasshun, but was feeling grateful to the Lord that I had also saved another. I didn't really know where that quilt would end up by the end of our day, but as I looked at Danal's bed and saw a tarp ... yes, really a tarp ... as his blanket, I knew exactly why the Lord had me save two quilts for that day. The smile that Danal had on his face as we laid the blanket on his bed will be forever etched on my heart. To see that bright, warm blanket in that bare, colorless room seemed to make that house a home. Who knows how long those two young boys will have those quilts I brought them. But I can imagine those quilts will be forever treasured by those boys. As we were walking back to the church, I also gave Danal a picture of my family. I knew that I couldn't go back to the States without peace that someone would be sponsoring this little boy. As I handed him the picture, the translator explained to him who everyone was in the picture. Another smile lit his face as he took off running back to his house. The translator told me, "Look. He is so happy. He is running those pictures back to his house where they will be safe."
Danal's bed before ..
Danal's bed after along with a big grin!
I had spent the whole day thinking about everything I had given these boys, and how much I would mean to them. But as the day progressed, I was left thinking about how much these boys had done for me. Even now as I write this, I can't help but be filled with emotion. I pray that the Lord will always bring to mind these two small boys when I think about a grateful heart. If nothing else comes from my trip, I can rest assured that the Lord is using these two boys to work in my heart, and He is using me to work in their hearts. I pray that the Bibles I left them will be even more treasured than the quilts. I pray that the Lord will use the relationships I have with them to build an eternal relationship so we can one day be reunited in heaven. 

If you ever think about these boys, please pray for them. Please, pray for the children of Korah.  I pray that if nothing else comes from this trip, my friends and family will become aware of the lasting affect they can have on a child in Ethiopia if they sponsor them. Not only are they providing the opportunity to go to school so they can have a better life, but they are providing the opportunity to tell a child about Jesus' love. Your family literally becomes their family. I'd love to show you some more pictures of little ones that need sponsoring!!!! :)
Kasshun, Me, and Danal
When it was time to serve lunch, there were a few of us who were not needed with the children. So, we were asked to go help serve some men from the community. As we walked across the road, the man explained to us that we would be feeding men in the community who had leprosy. There were about 10 men sitting alongside the building. Many of them had no fingers, some were partially paralyzed, one was mostly blind, and a few were able to feed themselves. There were three men who needed to be completely fed. So, Vanessa, Lisa, and Amy sat down in front of them and began feeding them Ingeria.   Holli and I helped pass out the food and water. I was asked to feed the men the water. I had literally raise the cup and put the water in their mouth for them. This was the most humbling experience of my life. To see these men in complete need. They couldn't even feed themselves. This is where they came and got one meal a day because they had no one to help them. It gave a new understanding of Jesus' love for beggars and men with leprosy. It was such a humbling act to be able to sit in front of these men and feed them. What a pure example of Jesus' servanthood.
Amy feeding the man with leprosy
Giving water to a man with leprosy 
After our goodbyes, we spent the remainder of the day at the market, packing, and dinner before we headed to the airport for our flight. Thankfully, the trip home felt much shorter than the trip to ET. We were able to get a couple hours of rest. Also, the Lord blessed me with an earlier flight back to Chicago. It was such a huge blessing to meet my hubby at the airport with Wes that much earlier than anticipated. The Lord knew I needed that. Just another example of how the Lord blessed me on this trip!

You will hear more from me about what God taught me along this trip, and where He may be leading!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ethiopia Day Seven

A day of admiring God’s beautiful creation! We left this morning to travel about three hours north to Hope Ethiopia. If you could have seen the beautiful countryside of mountains in the background, and wide-open fields. The three-hour trip seemed manageable because of the beautiful views!

A man from Canada founded Hope Ethiopia. He purchased land about 60 miles out on a dirt road, and started a reforestation program to help sustain the people in the community. There were many orphans in the community, but these orphans live amongst the community people. I have never seen so many flies in one area. They were all over the children. This was, yet again, another poor community. The children were need of shoes and clothing. We played with the children, but so many of the children didn’t know what to think of us. According to the director, they have had fourteen different groups come to the area, but none of them have come specifically to be with the children. No wonder they didn’t know what to think! Thirty Caucasian people show up and start throwing candy at them, trying to play games and crafts, and hugging them! Poor kids J

After enjoying the kids for a while, we went back down the road a few miles to the Hope Ethiopia office. This is where we lined up, and started bringing children through the gates to clothe them.  It was rewarding to see a child walk in with literally no shoes, and the rattiest clothes just to see them walk around completely clothed with new shoes, pants, undies, and sweatshirt. Not to mention, seeing some pretty big smiles! J This is also where we handed out the book bags people purchased from the Ordinary Hero website.  Unfortunately, we were unable to clothe the whole community, and it is sad to drive away knowing there were so many people still standing there with nothing. Especially, when people sit there and follow the directions just as you asked. It breaks your heart. But, we must focus on the people we WERE able to help.

The highlight of the day is driving down the road and just throwing out candy, toys, clothes, raincoats, and shoes to people as we pass. To see these smiles break out on their face, just fills you with a sense of joy. We just made that person’s day. We possibly made that person’s year. We possibly made that person’s life. I pray that they were able to see the love of Jesus just shining through us as we did it. The girls in our van had planned to give out our sneakers today. It was so fun to drive down the road, see a lady walking down the road without shoes, stopping, and handing her a pair of sneakers. What a joy! Also, I had some raincoats left from my brother and sister-in-law. I saw two little boys working out in a field, and asked our driver to stop so I could give them some raincoats. The boys just stood there and didn’t know what to do. So, our driver got out and actually helped them put their coats on. You should have seen the smiles! J Makes me want to cry to think about those little boys going home and showing their family their brand new, shiny coats! J

Tomorrow we had planned to go back to Korah. However, we got a call tonight that we would be unable to do that. Literally, we were sitting in the room, and planning our day tomorrow when we got the phone call. It’s unbelievable to see how we have made plans this entire trip, just to have God change them. We have seen so much deceit and selfish ambition among people during this trip, and it seems that the Lord is revealing that. He knows we have pure intention, and He is helping us to bless exactly the people He wants us to bless. SO!!! Tomorrow, we have planned to just go bless people. We have money we want to give, clothes we want to share, and the Word of God to bring forth. We plan to let GOD lead us. We pray that the Lord will continue to guide us to the people. 

The biggest blessing seems to come when you have not planned it. Driving down the road, seeing someone you can bless, and then acting on it. This is God’s hands and feet.

Isaiah 58:7-9 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break froth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; and then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

Ethiopia Day Six

We’ve accomplished the most important thing today on day six! We were able to hand out tracts and Bibles in the Amharic language.  It’s amazing how God’s will provides, and He leads! In the morning, we were set out for a town about two hours north. We drove for about two hours before our translator, Busy, called to get directions again from the director because we couldn’t find the orphanage. After many conversations, the director told us to not come if we weren’t going to bring a lot of money. He only wanted money, and no donations for the children. He apparently was rude, and made us a little skeptical that he only wanted money. So, change in plans. We turned around, and headed back to Addis with no idea what the day now held.

With vans packed full of donations, we knew we had to give someone these donations! The Lord lead us to stop along side of the road somewhere outside of a village, and we were able to cloth these people, give them food packets, and give them the Word. The three most important needs! As we climbed back in the fan we were all smiles and already feeling like God knew exactly where we needed to be. He knew that we would have the opportunity to share these tracts and Bibles with more people. Made me teary-eyed thinking we were able to share this, and Busy was able to tell these people of God’s love as he handed them a Bible.

Busy then suggested we headed to a town at the top of a hill. I believe the town is Endota. He thought this would be the perfect place to hand out the rest of these donations, and fellowship with these people. As we drove to the top of the hill, Busy shared how women carry back loads of wood up and down the hill all day. These bundles of wood weigh about 70 pounds. We drove up the hill, and saw women carrying these bundles. I couldn’t believe the burden these women carried. We handed out blankets, shoes, shirts, food packets, and Bibles to these people. It’s a blessing to be able to do that. But the biggest blessing of the day was when we drove down the hill and picked up four women who were carrying these bundles.  We put their bundles on top of the van, gave them a ride, handed them each a Bible, and a pair of shoes. Busy translated for us, as he told them that only Jesus can carry their burden like we have done for them today. As he told us what he shared with them, it brought tears to my eyes. Of course, this was the perfect analogy for these women to understand why we did what we did for them. It was a memory I will always carry with me, and make an impact on me for life. Imagine what a difference a donkey would make in their life. The sad thing is …  donkeys cost $60 US dollars. Needless to say, many of us have plans to bless these women with a donkey to lessen their burden. One of these women was sixty years old, and makes that trip 3 times a day up those steep, windy hills. 

It was a major “God day”. I’m in awe of how God continues to guide our steps, and place us exactly where we need to be. 

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me,  all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Ethiopia Day Five

We've been without internet for the last few days. So, here are the posts I had typed ready to go :) This was from Tuesday!

"An awesome day today at Korah! Korah is a village that literally means, “cursed”.  This is where the people with leprosy are sent when discovered they are “demon possessed”. The homes are made of sheets of metal, trash, and mud. It is typical to have a small pathway that leads to a small one room house. Homes are one right after another with no yard. We delivered sheep yesterday to families that were considered “land owners” even though Americans would consider their land to be able the size of our small front yard. We had the priveledge of experiencing buying 45 sheep to feed the children at Korah, and to deliver to families that could use 2 sheep to start reproducing. While purchasing the sheep, we asked how we would get these sheep to Korah. Much to our surprise, these sheep were hauled on top of our vans! All 45 of them were bound by their feet, and tied to the top of the vans. I asked Busy if he had ever been driving down the road, had a sheep fall off a van, and fly through his windshield. This was all in good humor, but Busy said, “No, they will not fall off the van. I don’t think. I’ve never thought of that. Now, I’m scared.” ☺

Upon arrival at Korah, we went to the church of Korah where the children attend summer school. We were divided into groups and I was in the fourth and fifth grade group. We were asked to work on teaching them how to communicate in English in a social context. Many of these children knew how to say, “Hi. How are you. My name is …” and many of the other main sentences in English. So, trying to teach them other questions or sentences when you don’t speak their language was a little difficult. Ultimately, we broke into groups where we sang songs, played uno, and taught them how to say, “I like to….” where they filled in the blank. It was a great time to spend some small group time getting to individually know 5-6 kids.

We then had the opportunity to help feed them lunch. Their lunch consisted of rice, and a half  of a loaf of bread. I was amazed how well these children sat, listened, and obeyed their  leaders. They were very well behaved children, and I thoroughly enjoyed them!

After lunch, the children left the church to mingle with us in the yard. This is when we really got to individually get to see some of these children’s personalities. I became extremely attached to a 13 year old boy named, Kasshun. From the moment we went to the church to work with them, Kasshun was there being polite, considerate, and helpful. He wanted to know everything there was to know about my family, and learned their names as I showed him pictures. Kasshun lives by himself with his uncle in Korah. He has no parents, siblings, or cousins. It is him and his uncle. To my understanding, his uncle works are a laborer doing construction. Kasshun will be in eighth grade this coming year, and is one of 65 children who still needs sponsors so he can attend high school. I knew Kasshun was a boy I wanted to help have a future. When I told him that I would sponsor him, he looked at me and smiled. He said, “You sponsor me? Thank you!” I gave him a picture of my family to have, and he asked if I was going to come back. I told him I’d be back on Friday. He held my hand and said, “Okay. I see you Friday. I love you.” And went off to school. I was touched by how well this uncle is obviously doing with this young boy. I couldn’t have been more impressed with his manners, sweet smile, and happy disposition. I’m praying that Friday I will have the chance to see Kasshun again, and maybe be given a glimpse into what his home is like.

To end the day, we went to the restaurant, Island Breeze. When we got home from dinner, we worked for over 2 hours sorting the donations into more manageable and organized groups. We’ve learned throughout the week many things that need to be changed on a daily basis to help us be more efficient.

We will be visiting an orphanage two hours out of town today. This orphanage is run by an elderly man that had a heart to bring in the orphans in his village. From my understanding, this is a very poor orphanage. We are looking forward to clothing all of these children, providing a meal, and telling them about Jesus. It’ll be a good day."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ethiopia Day Four

Another overwhelming day in Ethiopia. I almost didn't blog tonight because I don't even know where to begin or what to share. We drove about 2 1/2 hours out in the country to the town of Wosilo. This is where the Amanuel Orphanage. There where15 girls and 25 boys ranging from about 1 to 15. This is probably just a naive thought, but I had this concept in my head that because these kids were at an orphanage than they'd be better cared for. They would at least have decent clothing and decent living. Much to my surprise,  half of these kids were without shoes, they had flies and bugs crawling around their eyes, and they were dressed in rags. One baby had no diaper, shoes, or pants. My first mission after we had a tour was to get those two babies in a diaper and give them a little wet wipe bath. These were the saddest two babies I'd never seen. But what reason would they have to smile? They were attached to a couple of 13 year old girl's hips. With some reading of books, coloring, and lollipops I finally got "Beruche" to sit on my lap. I did get a small smile, some waves, a "chow", and an "i wuv you" when i was leaving. Makes it worth the hard work of trying to earn a smile :)

I had brought a ball from home with "Love, Wes" written on it to give a little boy I found at one of the orphanages. As I stood there looking at the boys, I saw a young boy about 7 or 8 who seemed very shy and stood back. I pulled out my pictures I had taken of Wes with the ball, and showed him. I asked him is name, and he said "Abel". He was very soft spoken, and seemed very sweet. I had our translator, Busy, tell him that this ball was from my little boy and it was for him. I snapped a few pictures, and look forward to the day when I can show Wes the pictures of the ball we gave a little boy in Africa.

We then decided to go out into the village and make some home visits. We visited with 3 different families with life circumstances that ranged from a  widow with 5 kids with no work to mom with 3 kids who shares a room with her husband with low mental capabilities and the grandma. I can't explain to you the following that we got as we walked through the village. Just so many children and adults following along beside us. We saw little girls with babies strapped to their back to kids with no pants or underwear.  We had brought bags upon bags filled with clothes and shoes we wanted to give to the community. Complete chaos erupted when we tried to organize a way to get these things to the people. But immediately people wanted what you were giving. There really was no good way for handing these donations out, but eventually we went back to the gated orphanage where we brought kids in dressed them, and sent them back out. People lined the fence reaching their hands, and shouting for anything you were willing to give. Eventually we had to leave the orphanage because the crowd was getting mad, and continued to be pushy. As we conversed over lunch at a nice lodge, we talked about how we leave those situations and feel like we did nothing instead of feeling like we helped someone. There were so many people left without getting help. But I guess that is why they say you can't change the world, but you can change the world for ONE!

On a positive note, and something that brings joy to your heart is a young 13 or 14 year old boy was told at the orphanage today that there is a family who is going to adopt him! Imagine the joy that this boy felt knowing he was going to have a family! I wish I could have seen his reaction when he was told. :)

We are headed to the Korah Dump tomorrow. I can't imagine circumstances being much worse for these children, but I'm sure I'll have, yet again, another rude awakening waiting for me. Pray for these little ones, and pray for the team as we try to reach as many people as possible in an organized way.

Stepping out ...