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 ... 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ethiopia Day Three

What a day!!! So many emotions are going through me. We started the day at the Beza International Church, and listened to an amazing service! A little more charismatic (surprise, surprise :) then I'm used to, but was beautiful music and praising. We then listened to a fantastic sermon that addressed evangelism. What else could have spoken to us more?! He talked about how so many of us use the excuse of being timid or shy, and that is why we don't share our faith. But he reminded us that we now have something new living in us. The Spirit living in us is not timid. We are reminded that we cannot use that excuse anymore, because we have a Spirit in us that gives us boldness. No excuses, people! :)

After lunch, we were able to spend some time at the market. We were bombarded with beggars every where you turned. The thing that just broke your heart was when you'd see a mom with a baby or small child on her back. You know that the child is the one who was ultimately suffering. You wish you could just help those poor babies! But the sad part was is that you can barely do anything because immediately you are flocked by so many more people that saw you give something out. Almost to the point of hostile. But the shopping was good, and I was able to pick up a few things for Wes :)

The late afternoon was spent visiting the street kids. They live in an area called the Post Office area. These kids are literally "street kids". They live on the streets, and beg for a living. When you stand in this area and look around at the hundreds of kids, and adults in this area it is very overwhelming. It makes you very tense, when the translator warns of pick pocketers, and the hostility if you give them anything! Therefore, we were unable to give them anything because if you give something to one of the children, the other kids soon find out and will actually fight that child, and beat on them to take the money. It's just so sad that there is such a HUGE need, and you feel so helpless to do anything. I soon started visiting with a couple of boys who were about 5 or 6, and they soon became glued to my side. I started taking pictures of them, and showing them. I soon had them making funny faces and they just brought out some of the most genuine smiles! After a little while, I began thinking of what else we could do. What else other than Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and the Hokey Pokey! So, you guessed it. We began dancing to these songs :) Seriously, it has been the highlight of my trip. There was one young girl about ten that is the most beautiful girl you could imagine. She would follow us around, talking about how hungry she was. But we could do nothing. But as soon as we started taking pictures to show her, and have to making those silly faces the brightest smile lit up her face. One member of the team handed her 100 birr very discreetly as we were pulling out, and she took off at a dead run. This was the first time of the trip I cried. To see such a beautiful young girl, having to beg and live on the street just breaks your heart. And then to see her having to run for her life and get away before anyone realized she had gotten money just tore at you even more. Imagine, knowing you needed to beg in order to survive, but knowing you could be seriously hurt by one of the other kids if you actually do get money! What a hard life for such a young girl. We need to pray that someone is able to come in to this area, and actually start a shelter or SOMETHING to try and get these young kids off the street.

To end the night, we visited an authentic Ethiopian restaurant. The food was ....(in my opinion) gross :) But, it was really neat to experience the culture with unbelievable dancing!

So far, everyone has stayed healthy. PRAISE!!! :)  We are headed to an orphanage 3 hours out of town tomorrow to spend the day. Looking forward to seeing what we experience tomorrow.

And so... I'm stepping out!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ethiopia Day Two

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-19 "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit." As I was doing devotions this morning, I read this verse and it has stuck with me throughout the day. 

The day has been full of rejoicing. It is amazing to see God work in SO many lives here. It is story after story of people showing and telling how God has worked in there life. Ashli told a story of a boy who was abandoned by both of his parents, and sent by his uncle in a taxi to Addis Ababa. He spent 2 days at a bus station before someone took him to the Korah dump where Ashli found him and struck up a conversation. He has been living on the streets for 6 months. She brought him into her home, gave him a bath, and loved him. We watched amazed at how this sweet boy has transpired. He will now start school in the fall, and be sponsored by someone willing to pay $30 a month to keep him in school, and keep him fed. (hint, hint) :) There are just so many more stories like this that you just can't help but stand in awe of our Lord, and rejoice that half way around the world He is working in people's lives here in Africa too. He is not just the God WE know, but He is known by the poor, needy, and desperate. He is just that big!

It has been a day of praying continually. While lying awake at 4:00 in the morning, I can't help but begin praying for the day even before it starts. "Lord, keep us safe today. Lord, use us. Lord, be with the children we come in contact with. Lord, help us to show YOUR love." As the day progresses, I continue to pray for these little lives that the Lord has chosen to take off the streets and put in these orphanages. 

It has been a day of giving thanks. I am amazed at how God has worked and answered prayers this journey. Answered prayer after answered prayer. Safety, communication with our families, clean housing, health, and the list goes on. We have so much to be thankful for every day. Not to mention, giving thanks for these joyful children. We spent time in a circle at El Olam Orphanage today thanking the Lord for these lives, and from saving them off the street. There are 5 young babies in this orphanage that have come from horrible health to full recovery. One little boy was left on church steps, without food for 4 days, and on the brink of death. Ashli spent the night at the hospital with him when she found him, and prayed while the doctor's told her they didn't think this little boy would live. However, God has other plans for this little boy. He not only lived through the night, but now is the HAPPIEST little guy. Ashli said he cried day and night for weeks when he arrived at the orphanage. Today, we couldn't get him to eat his bottle because he wouldn't stop smiling at me. He was the sweetest, happiest little thing. Thank you, Lord for choosing to save this little boy, and find a family in Spain wanting him in their family. Again, a day of giving thanks!

Above all, it has been a day of not quenching the Spirit. This is why we are here. To be filled with the Spirit, and to let that just pour out of us. I pray that I don't ever get enough of the Spirit, and that I am unable to stop the desire for it. 

My day was brightened today by so many little ones. We visited the Yezelalem Minch Orphanage today where we were able to help feed the children during the Saturday School. These children are orphans are  living in the community with friends, widows, and people who were willing to take them into their home. However, they are sponsored by people in the US and are able to go to school. We spent the morning giving them toys and trinkets, painting fingernails, and playing games---simply enjoying their company! The sweetest, prettiest little girl would just raise her hands and want to be held. She was probably 3. But she would just smile and sit in your arms and enjoy the attention! After that we were able to visit the El Olam Orphanage where we could see how Ashli has transformed these kids lives. They just adore her. There were 15 toddlers and older children, and 20 babies. Needless to say, I spent most of my time in the baby room! These babies never fought to get off my lap. A stark contrast to Wes :) But they just needed some loving. They have two nannies to these 20 babies. Cribs lined the wall. When it was time for naptime, the children were all peacefully laying in their cribs. We left the room only to come back 15 minutes later and see 5 of these sweet babies standing and bouncing in their crib with the biggest smiles on their face. It was like they knew they should be sleeping! :) Made me smile! Others in the group spent time decorating t-shirts with the older kids, playing games, and painting finger nails. We ended the afternoon with a little performance by the kids with singing, dancing, and individual solos! I was surprised at how well they each willingly walked to the center of the room, and sang all by themselves! It was very sweet, and they were all smiles. 
We ended the day by going to the restaurant, Bon. This is American food. The excitement was loosing electricity numerous times while eating. It was a little frightening to be eating in a foreign restaurant, and be in complete silence for 30 seconds at a time! :) A little excitement keeps things interesting, I guess :)

We are praying for a little better rest tonight. Thinking of taking a sleeping pill tonight. Between people talking, dogs barking, and cats fighting outside, the night was full of restlessness. However, it does feel good to actually be sleeping in a bed that is clean! 

On a side note, I was able to skype with my hubby and Wes earlier today. It brightened my day, and gave me a new energy. It was good to see that little pale, fair skin with blonde hair :) He smiled at me a few times, and didn't quite know what to think. Jeremy thought maybe he was thinking, "This isn't Baby Einstein!" Miss my boys, but have been blessed by a sense of peace. 

Thank you for your continued support. Tomorrow we are planning to visit a local church, do some shopping at the market, and visit the street kids to do some soccer with them. Please, continue to pray! 

stepping out for another day of looking to see how the Lord is going to use us tomorrow! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

We're in ETHIOPIA!

With a sigh of relief, we can say that we are in ETHIOPIA! It was a good moment when we could finally get off the plane after a 13 hour flight. It is safe to say that none us girls from Morton got more than 3 hours of sleep on the plane ride here. Between a sleepless night in Chicago, and a sleepless night in the air --- we are PLUM tuckered out :) We have been thanking the Lord all day for the safety mercies He has given us all along the road. Everything has been going very smooth for the most part. We did have an issue in customs upon arrival to Ethiopia. Half of the group was able to make it through customs without any hitches. Whereas, several of our group members were detained in customs while they thoroughly searched their bags. After 3 hours of being held in a room, they were released after having to pay $500 worth of taxes on some items. We are just so thankful to be out of the airport and settled into our guest house. However, with being detained at the airport we were late getting to our first orphanage. So, this evening we have taken advantage of organizing NUMEROUS donations, eating dinner, and doing some much needed unwinding. After being able to actually sprawl out in a bed tonight, I'm sure we'll all be anxious to do what we've come here to do - LOVE ON SOME ORPHANS! Already we've come across some little boys playing outside in the street. Someone from our group had given them a frisbee and some lollipops and you could just see their delight. One little boy held up his lollipop, and with his little Ethiopian accent told me what it was ... "a wowipop". Brings a smile to your face, and reminds you why you have gone 2 nights without sleep, and traveled to a strange land!
Another thing I am counting as an answered prayer ---- wifi internet! WOOHOO! The Lord knew I needed that communication with my little (and bigger) man at home :) Check back every day or so for an up to date detailing of our journey :) Thanks for all of your prayers. Continue to pray for safety, health, and the Lord's leading. So anxious for the Lord's work this week!
And so ... I'm stepping out!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In Chicago!

We've safely arrived at the hotel in Chicago with all 13 bags (thanks to Jeremy and the Lord :)  Thanks so much for all your prayers already. It's a blessing to know I have so many friends and family who are offering up constant prayers. I couldn't do it without you. It was hard saying bye to Wes and Jeremy today, but I have the peace that passes all understanding :) Now to pour all of that loving in to another sweet little boy in ET! :)

And so ... I'm stepping out to bed for 4 hours of sleep and then its off to ETHIOPIA!!! :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's here!!!

It's here ... the day of departure! I don't even know how to begin to talk about every emotion that is flowing through me today. There's this part of me that feels like tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life. That if I can follow the Lord's leading in this area, then I can do so much more when I get back! This song has spoke to me so many times in the last few weeks when I think about this trip. I refuse to not be used. I refuse to not be courageous. I refuse to sit by and let life pass me by. I refuse to not step out in faith... This is what we were created to do - show others HIS love!
And so ... tomorrow I'm stepping out and taking the first big step of the rest of my life the Lord has for me. I covet your prayers!

I can hear the least of these, crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet of You, oh God
So if You say move, it's time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
And show them who You are

I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
I could choose not to move
But I refuse

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The First Step

The last few months has been a journey of taking many little steps. I have learned on this journey that the Lord only requires little steps. He doesn't require us to take giant leaps. He gives us His Word, and He gives us His peace when we are wondering whether to take any steps at all. Psalm 27:11 "The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace." 

The first step on this journey happened many months ago after finishing the book, Radical. Jeremy and I had a strong sense of urgency to open our eyes to the fact that the Lord was calling us to do more than just "live the American dream". As I neared the end of the book, I read this quote. "You and I stand on the porch of eternity. Both of us will soon stand before God to give an account for our stewardship of the time, the resources, the gifts, and ultimately the gospel He has entrusted to us. When that day comes, I am convinced we will not wish we had given more of ourselves to living the American dream. We will not wish we had more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably, taken more vacations, watched more television, pursued greater retirement, or been more successful in the eyes of this world. Instead we will wish we had give more of ourselves to living for the day when every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around the throne and sing the praises of the Savior who delights in radical obedience and the God who deserves eternal worship. Are you ready to live for THIS dream? Let's not waver any longer." Now if that doesn't awaken your senses, and make you ask, "Lord, what would you have me to do?" than you're crazy! :) This is where Jeremy and I found ourselves taking the first step of prayer. What would you have us to do, Lord? You've entrusted us with raising Wes, but is there MORE we need to do? Show us how we can further your kingdom. First step. 

The second step on this journey started happening within my heart. The Lord started stirring in me this compassion that I've always had,  but now is a hundred fold stronger because I'm a mommy. Something in my heart started to awaken to the reality that there are over 140 million orphans across this world who are just as sweet, innocent, needy, and wanting as this little baby the Lord has decided to bless by bringing into our family who loves him with HIS great love. But, for whatever reason those babies aren't placed in a family who will love them unconditionally, and show them the love of Christ. This just melts me to think about, but it's a reality. What if something happened to Jeremy and I and for whatever reason, we didn't have an amazing family who would literally fight to take them into their home? What if Wes had no one? Wouldn't I want someone to step up and provide him love? Wouldn't I want someone to tell him about Jesus? Wouldn't I want someone to give him food, shelter, and clothes to wear? That could be MY baby on those streets. Lord, what do you want me to do about it? Second step.

The third step happened when I was enjoying a girl's night out with some of the greatest women! We were casually talking about my friend, Rachel's, upcoming trip to Ethiopia. She was returning to Ethiopia after the Lord did a work in heart last year. Two of my other friends, Holli and Lisa, had just received word that week that they too would be traveling to Ethiopia! WOW! Since Rachel had gone last year, I have had this nagging feeling in my heart that this would be my DREAM mission trip. Are you kidding?! Love on hundreds of orphans?! I would love it! However, the trip was full. Plus, could I really leave Wes for 9 day? BUT! It would be amazing! So, I casually commented that if they heard of any more cancelations on the trip to keep me in mind. Little did I know this may be a reality. I went home that night with a feeling of the Lord beginning to stir something in me. Could I really go? Does the Lord really want me to go? What will Jeremy think? Could I really leave Wes? Is this the very thing we've been asking the Lord for? Is THIS how He would have me to step out of my box and further His kingdom? When I got home that night, I was very anxious to see how my husband would respond. I knew that the Lord would have to work in his heart if there was any possibility of me going. With little hesitation, Jeremy was in full support. He knew that this is something that would use my love of children PLUS show them God's love. We embarked on prayer. However, by the time we were finished and God's peace the trip was full again. We were in perfect peace in knowing that if the Lord wanted me to go, He would provide a way. The prayer continued, but peace took over in knowing the Lord's will would prevail. Third step. 

The fourth step was taken weeks later when we were in Pennsylvania for my brother's wedding. We returned home from a fun evening spent celebrating my brother and his new wife to find an email acknowledging I had been added to the team. Let the roller coaster of emotions begin! Did I mention it was 1 o'clock in the morning?! I don't know about you, but my emotions are a little heightened at 1 o'clock in the morning! Not a good time to find out you are going to AFRICA!!! The emotions set it ... FRIGHTENED, excited, hesitant, and did I mention FRIGHTENED?! Would the Lord really ask me to do this when Wes is such a little boy? Is it silly to even think that I would be a good mom if I left him for nine days at 9 months old? Am I forsaking my duty to him if I left? But in the back of my head, I knew that Lord was providing a way to do exactly what HE wanted me to do. As I sat and listened to the sermon Sunday morning, I felt an overwhelming peace. The Lord sometimes asks us to make human sacrifices in this world in order to show HIS love. Yes, it will be hard to leave Wes for 9 days. Yes, it will be hard to leave your home land to visit a strange land. Yes, there is sickness there. Yes, it's going to take a lot of work to get my shots, paperworks, etc all done in 7 weeks. But God was asking me to do this. So, God will provide a way to do all of these things. So, the answer is YES, Lord. I will go.  Yes, I will make a sacrifice in my temporal world in order to focus on my eternal home. Yes, I will step out in faith. Fourth step.

And, so begins a journey of stepping out. I don't know what the Lord has in store for my little family. I don't know what will be accomplished on this trip to Ethiopia. But, I do have complete faith that if we focus on HIM, His perfect will indeed shall be fulfilled. As the journey to Africa continues and the leaving actually takes place, I rest in this verse. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to HIM be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 My dad always quoted this verse, but it has new meaning to me now. I am a sinner. I am worthless. I can do nothing without Christ. But the Lord can use ME in even some small way.He is going to exceed what I even think is possible for this trip because He lives in me and works in me. All I have to do is keep my eyes on HIM this trip. Give HIM the glory. And He can do more than I even imagined possible! 

And so ... I'm stepping out.