Sunday, March 23, 2008

We're HOME!

It's so good to be home! I'll write more about the 20 hour journey'll get a kick out of it ;)
Thankfully it was less... well... eventful than the trip there.

Email or call us we'd love to hear from you -

Love to all!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mr. Rogers was right

I’m trying to type with Tariku sleeping in the crease of my and Sasha is yearning for lunch, so this won't be long... Sasha and Kenni both are ready to get on the plane to watch the seemingly endless selection of Disney movies as well. Soon enough. I think we're all ready to come home.
Do you remember Mr Roger's song he sang when he closed his show everyday?I think the song was: "It's Such a Good Feeling" or something like that ... remember?
I was just thinking about a couple lines he sang everyday at the end of his show..."It's such a good feeling to know you're alive.",,, then later he sings..."I'll be back when the day is newAnd I'll have more ideas for you.And you'll have things you'll want to talk about.I will too."Being here in this wondrous country makes you feel good to be alive - not because we feel like we're "missing comforts of home" but because the Ethiopian country and her people are beautiful. Yes there is a lot of problems and literally millions in deep despair, but when you walk down the street, even though the beggars you meet would love to be as rich as the panhandlers on the streets of Philly or NYC – the people here are… well they’re neighbors. This is a great place to be "in community"... because being "in community here is natural. ...
Today I met with Pastor Gizatu. A few days ago, I emailed a close friend of mine, Jerry who is the Global Outreach Coordinator for CURE ( I’ve known Jerry now for more than 15 years. Several weeks ago when he and I were chatting about our trip to Ethiopia he offered to connect me with the local CURE office here.

So, today I met Mr Gizatu who is the Spiritual Life Director for CURE here in Ethiopia. He picked me up about 9 and we quickly got acquainted. We talked about the social and spiritual culture here, the differences between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical Christianity (For those of you that are curious, there are FEW differences, but the way Pastor Gizatu explained it to me is that the Eth. Orthodox teaches giving alms to the poor is part of obtaining salvation.)

Before we arrived at the CURE Hospital – which is probably about five or six months from completion – we chatted more about our visit here. Mr Gizatu asked how I was connected with CURE and shared that the first mission trip I was ever on, was to Monterrey, Mexico in 1990 with Jerry when he was my Youth Pastor, and we talked about that trip too.

We had a great time sharing about the things God is doing here in Ethiopia but the car ride question that was a bit more difficult to answer was, “So how does your church work with other churches in your area at home?” I diddn’t have a hard time answering it because of a language barrier… I had a hard time answering it because to be honest. US Churches typically have their own agenda. They (We) typically have our own cliques’ and church culture to “worry about.” I could write pages more on my thoughts surrounding this issue as you may concur with too… but I wish that the body of Christ in the US… the most “civilized or developed” country in the world would take more lessons from the humble people in “developing” countries like Ethiopia.

Mr Gizatu said The Church is growing very quickly here in Addis and all over the country. So many people we’ve met here have made an incredible impact on our lives, and we know that God did not connect us to Ethiopia without a specific purpose in mind for us, and I believe for our Church. We’ll see what that looks like, but I believe there are great things in store for our Church family and prayerfully… other Churches in our East Hampton area too. We live in an area of ridiculous wealth, and with the resources that God has provided we WILL make a difference in this world. So what if it raises eyebrows, turn heads, makes people gasp, or makes their sphincters pucker.

We are being picked up to head to the Airport in about 30 minutes so this is likely the last post before we get home, but I will continue this blog as a vehicle to keep you abreast of the lives of our family, and what God unfolds to us in our community as well.

Until we connect again…
[we'll] have things you'll want to talk about.I will too."

No Reserve, No Retreat, No Regret

Pete… for our PARTY of 5.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Zipfs...Party of 5!

Tuesday morning we went over to the Care Center to pick up Tariku and bring him with us permanently. First we toured the facility with the head CHSFS Physician. She is the perfect Doctor for all the children and she and the whole staff provide an excellent standard of care. She is the onsite Physician there all week, and then during the night and weekends there are nurses attending round the clock. During the tour we learned that from the time a child is brought to the orphanage they are cared for in an isolated area for 15 days to make sure they are not sick. During that time they are monitored, and provided the best attention. Once the 15 days are up, they are brought in with the rest of the children permanently. CHSFS is also in the process of adding additional full ICU care capabilities on site as well. As of now, they can do a lot, but with the addition of more medical equipment, they will be able to care for the sick children even more effectively. We got a chance to see several children’s pictures and progress from the time some of them arrived at the Care Center many were very gaunt and malnourished (Tariku was pretty weak when he arrived too) and those same children we interacted with during our time there were totally healthy, and very active children.
After the tour, all of us headed downstairs for the ceremony. A group of older children (3-5yrs old) sang some songs, and then Tariku and the other 6 children who are being adopted this week with our group were brought in one last time and given to each family in our group. Each of us was also given a booklet created by the nannies that took care of our children. The booklets had personal stories and memories that we will treasure always. Then one by one, we brought up our kids and they did a hand print for a booklet that stays here at the Care Center. After that we were invited to share our adoption experience with the entire group. To wrap it all up, we all gathered around in a circle and a few staff ladies prayed for the children, and invited anyone of us to pray as well. We could not have been more impressed with the transition, and all of the ceremony is included in a video story we get to keep.
When we finished the ceremony, we all said tearful goodbyes – especially the nannies who were responsible for each child – and we headed off to go to the American Embassy. Everything we did for the last 15 months leads up to this moment. We got to the Embassy sometime about 2 or 3pm and we only waited for about an hour and a half before we all sailed through the final stamps of approval to bring our children home! Again, this is another area where CHSFS has done an incredible job making sure that all the details in the paperwork are completed properly and according to US and Ethiopian Government standards.
We’ve met some families this week in our journeys around Addis who have not been so fortunate. The ones we’ve met that have had some issue with a legal document of some kind that was not processed - or just not processed correctly - still have been able to take their kids home within a day or two, but our agency had us prepared with everything we needed. We felt like some of the things we were asked to do may have been a bit ‘overkill’ but now we understand why CHSFS will be able to do over 600 adoptions this year alone. They know what they’re doing, and are helping to save hundreds of kids’ lives a year because of the program and the processes they’ve developed.
Today we just kinda chilled out. It was great to recap the special moments of the week with many from our group throughout the day. We’ve all bonded well with each other and with each others’ children. We’re all thinking about ways that we can reconnect soon because of the special relationships that were developed this week.
I might have a chance to write more tomorrow… maybe I’ll at very least try to post some more pics… but everyone else leaves tomorrow afternoon because they’re all flying different airlines, and Air Emirates doesn’t fly out on Thursdays from Addis. So, we’ll head back to the SIM Guesthouse to stay the night tomorrow (Thurs) because our flight doesn’t leave until Friday evening at 19:30 local time. We don’t have net access at the SIM Guesthouse so after tomorrow; maybe I’ll be able to post something here during our short layover in Dubai… in the middle of the night on Friday.
PS… please pray for our travel back home. We’ll have less luggage coming home, and hopefully less carry-on bags too, but we’ll have not two but THREE tired little ones and we’ll be a bit worn out… and worn thin too.

Love to all.. until next time…
Zipf, Party of Five

Monday, March 17, 2008

CHFS invests in eternity

It’s Monday late night March 17th.
I’ll tell you all about the events of today… but let me first fill in some of the gaps from the last couple days. Honestly, after writing until almost 3am on Saturday … that whole day is kind of a blur… but it was a good day. After breakfast we headed over to the CHFS Office and met with the social worker who’s been assigned to Tariku from the time he was brought there on Nov. 21st. During that meeting, went over a few other details about the transition for Tariku, and then we were shown a video produced by CHFS staff and the CHFS Journalist. The video included every detail that they could find about our son. We are so thankful and very impressed at the thoroughness of the CHFS team to get the most accurate information possible for not just our son, but also for all the other orphans in their care as well. The Journalist went to Butajira and interviewed the Farmer who first found Tariku. They even played out a reenactment of the events from the time the farmer heard Tariku crying to the time the police got involved. The journalist did a great job with the filmed interviews and helping us understand as many of the missing pieces as possible. Through those interviews and documentary account of the first few days of Tariku’s life, we were given more information than we thought was available. We are so incredibly thankful for the intentional effort by the whole CHFS team to better prepare us as a family to help Tariku learn the details of his story as he grows up. We learned a little about the farmer who found him, and that he dropped everything he was doing and got in touch with the Butajira police. Two police officers, Genet and Alemayue came back to the site where Tariku was found to do some additional investigation and it was quickly determined that until they found the birth mother or decided what to do with the little guy that Genet, one of the two officers would take care of him temporarily.
ON a short side note: Amy and I are still processing –with the help of our agency – how to best communicate Tariku’s story to our close friends and family… please be patient with us as we learn what to say… and how much to share about his story before he knows his own entire story.
Genet took care of Tariku like one of her own children. We are so grateful for the farmer and for Genet and Alemayue who made sure Tariku was safe and placed in the hands of folks who could and would care for him.
After that meeting, we all went out to the local open markets to pick up a few things… can’t wait to see how much our suitcases are gonna weigh now?! …lol… they just can’t weigh over 50lbs. After we had a good time haggling for goods, we went to a famous Coffee Shop here in Addis. Starbucks…eat your heart out. I promise you’ve never had real coffee until you’ve come to Ethiopia! There’s long told story that Coffee was first discovered and developed here into a drink. More details on that later… The Coffee show put us at almost 7pm that night so Amy and the girls and I opted to remain at the Guesthouse and eat there instead of heading out to a local hotel for dinner and dancing.
When we talked later about Saturday nights activities, most everyone was thankful for the opportunity to learn a few other Ethiopian traditions, but wished they were able to rest more because we all headed out in a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers at 5am Sunday morning for the three hour ride south to Hosanna. Sunday morning had been carved out for everyone to meet our children’s birth families if they were able to be there.
Most of us thought we were going to be in for a very bumpy slow going ride over rough roads all the way to Hosanna, but over the last few years the Ethiopian government has worked with international contractors and their own government contractors to begin building major roads throughout the most traveled areas of the country. Maybe picture the equivalent to a wide 2 lane country highway in the US and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the road we sped south on from Addis to Hosanna. It was obvious though that even though the roads were newly paved, they were established roads from long ago because every several miles we’d have to dodge crossing sheep and goats or wait for livestock ‘driven’ by children - literally kids, most between the ages of 4-16yrs old - to readjust the herd as they guided the animals from one village to the next along the highway. It was kinda chilly on the way there. It was really dark when we left from Addis and was probably about 60 degrees, but is cold when used to dry 80+ degree weather. We didn’t see much except an incredible sky of countless stars as we sped along the desert mountain road, however, as the sun came up we did manage to catch a baboon headed into a treeline. I got a picture and some video of him just before he disappeared. It was a great experience too - heading south – because we got a better idea of how MOST of the country lives as Addis and other larger cities are just a small proportion of the people in the country. We got a chance to see small towns and rural areas and areas pretty isolated from towns it was a way to see how most of the rest of the country lives.
Of the 7 families in our group, all but two made the trip to Hosanna. We all knew it was going to be a very special but difficult time for us. We arrived at the Hosanna CHFS Office about 8:30 on Sunday morning and two or three families at a time got to meet their birth families for almost 30 minutes. Amy and I didn’t know if anyone would be there to meet us until Saturday night when we learned that they were able to get in contact with Genet, the policewoman who cared for Tariku for the first two and a half days of his life.
When we walked into the small plain room with our translator, we introduced ourselves and shared a little about us and our family. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked with Genet about the first few days of Tariku’s life, her family, and her hopes and dreams for Tariku. Genet is a police officer and her husband works in a local bank and they have two children. She explained that when the farmer brought her and a fellow police officer, Alemayue to Tariku, the three of them determined the next course of action for him. Genet readily agreed to care for him temporarily until they could bring him to someone that would provide permanent care. She gave him her child’s clothes to wear, bought milk and water for him, and made sure he felt safe and loved. She and her husband already had a six month old little girl and another small child and even though she wished they could care for Tariku permanently, they knew they could not afford to properly care for him too. It would have been too much for them, and they knew that he could be adopted and cared for by a family that would provide a caring and loving home for him. The meeting time with Genet was very special, and we will always treasure it. After we met with Genet we gave her recent pictures of our family, and of Tariku along with a map of the world showing the areas we both lived so she had an idea where we were from too. We able to get a picture of our family with Genet too.
After meeting with Genet, all of the birth parents’ met together with all of we adopting parents for a short ceremony. We read a prayer to each other that was translated for both of us to read and understand. When the prayer was finished each of the birth parents lit a candle and gave it to each of the corresponding adoptive parents as they kind of spiritually gave over their children to us.
We’ve learned recently that everything from the video that we’re provided, to the connection that we’ve shared with birth parents, along with the very special ceremony we shared on Sunday – that that is all very unique to our agency and to Ethiopia. Evidently, no other agency goes into this much detail. We have all been more impressed with CHFS as the days have passed. Now we know why this agency is so highly regarded and respected by not just folks in the US trying to adopt from Ethiopia and other countries, but their reputation precedes them as children are brought to their care centers from all over the county because families know that as difficult as it is to give up their own children or a member of their extended family, they will be provided the best love and care available! After that time together we were all pretty ‘drained’ but just before the ride back to Addis from Hosanna we were able to visit another satellite orphanage run by CHFS. Again, everyone of the children there were loved and cared for in a special and individual way.
You know, when Amy and I first looked at CHFS, we were a little bit hesitant because there was some additional costs associated with working with them. However, after seeing how they not only care and provide for our children, but SO many more… I don’t know if I’ll ever recommend working with a different organization!
We got back Sunday evening and most went to bed early to prepare to pick up our kids on Monday morning to spend half the day with them here at the guesthouse!
Today - Monday (3/17) was a great experience… at least for most of us. I’m really glad that the agency only allows us a half day at first to spend alone with our kids because especially the older kids can have an incredibly difficult time adjusting. For us, we had a great morning with little Tariku. He was a little baffled by the idea of leaving the familiar sights and sounds and smells of the orphanage, but his wimper died down in a short while as we held him close. He is really enamored with his big sisters, and he loves the carrier we got for him too. We all went up to our room and laughed and played together. We even got to feed him a bottle and put him to sleep for a little bit before we left to bring him back.
Most of us had a great experiences this morning, but I’m sure the parents with older children would really appreciate your extra prayer. For older children the transition is many times much more difficult, especially if the older child remembers their birth family. Can you imagine… consider a child almost 3 years old, Mom (or Dad) finally admits to herself and the rest of the family that the only way she can love her child the best is to give it up for adoption. That is not uncommon here. It is hardly ever a quick or easy decision. Sure there are some parents who die young from various reasons, or some moms who die during childbirth (that almost always would not if in the US, Europe or Canada). Many times parents come to the point that they love their kids so much that they want them to have a better life so desperately; their prayer becomes: God please provide a loving home for my child to have the life that I wished I could provide. I wish it didn’t happen either but it does… what can we… what can you do about it?!
After we dropped off our kids back at the care center, we headed off to visit two places. First a womens’ and baby’s hospital and then a school – both funded and operated by CHFS sponsored staff. This hospital was not completely up to Western Standards in many ways, but it is the most state of the art facility in the area right now, and they are raising the standard of care as they bring on more trained staff and doctors. The Supervising Doctor that gave us the tour of the hospital was so excited that we were there and was so glad to show us the entire facility and its capabilities. It was a huge privilege to see how far they’ve come in a short time. They’ve only been open since October 2007!
After the hospital tour we headed over to an elementary school funded largely by CHFS. More and more there are individual investors and companies that fund it as well. The great thing is that they are able to keep the tuition about a third of what other comparable schools charge with the same level of education that other schools like them provide. As I said, I am even further impressed with CHFS for not just caring for our children in the care centers but investing into their communities in such orchestrated and intentional ways!
After that hospital visit we went to visit the Ethiopian National museum. One of the premiere exhibits there is this skeleton they call “Lucy” don’t ask me why they call it Lucy … maybe it was named after the archeologist… I donno. Anyway “Lucy” is supposed to be the oldest known homo sapien skeleton on the planet. You know you’d think that the silly thing would be behind more than a sheet of plexi glass in the basement of a museum in a country that struggles with their own security. I guess the real skeleton is in Houston, TX …”on tour” – I guess they’re trying to find similarities in early humans, in Texans. … who knows. I guess “lucy” will come back to Ethiopia some time. We had fun taking all kinds of pictures of Ethiopian history and archeology stuff. I must admit… T’was kinda cool.

When we got back from another long day, a few of us took a walk over to a local pizza joint… yeah it WAS good pizza. It was good to decompress some too….
The next couple days will be jammed packed for us, so I’ll write as soon as I’m able. Tomorrow, all of us go pick up our kids from the orphanage, and go to the local court to finalize the final Ethiopian documents releasing them into our permanent care. It will be a long day, and depending on a few things, it could be a stressful day. CHFS does an incredible job, but sometimes things change it seems almost at the drop of a hat in this court system. We’d appreciate your prayer for all of us as we get through court tomorrow. I’ll try to post something soon so you know at least we all got through court ok.
Wednesday will be kind of a chill day for us, and Thursday apparently we have a final meeting with CHFS. Then as most of the other families head to the Airport to fly out with Ethioain Airlines, our family will actually head back to the SIM guesthouse because we don’t fly out until Friday evening the 21st. with Air Emirates. We would love to hear from you via email… let us know if you’re enjoying following this crazy story.
Until next time…Pete for the girls and Tariku !

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Orphanage Visit and… Life Lessons in the strangest of places

It’s Friday night… well, I started writing this on Friday night, and now it’s almost 2:30am Sat 3/15. I’ve written about our first visit with Tariku today, and then wrote some about the last several days experiences.
We are now here at the Guesthouse operated by our agency, Children’s Home and Family Services. We arrived here on Thurs (3/13) night after a great dinner with friends at Bingham Academy where I taught this past week. We finally met the rest of the travel group that came in Thurs night from all over the US to pick up their children too. Steve and Devin from Hawaii, Brian and Jill from WI, Rosemary from Brooklyn NY, Erwin and Heidy from NM, Lindsey and his wife Cindy from NV, Selia and her teen daughter from NC, and then us. A few couples have one or two other of their own children but the rest do not… regardless this is an incredible journey for all of us. It’s funny how one of the most personal times in your entire life you go through with folks you just met. These are some great folks though and we’re getting along really well.
So, we got up this morning (Friday am) to a great pancake breakfast. Kenni and Sasha loved it too. About 10a or so we all piled into the mini bus and drove the rough 10 mins over to the CHFS Orphanage Office. We had a short meeting, and then we were all brought over to the other facility a 5 min walk away. Steve and Devin’s son was in a different facility so they were brought over to meet their son. We were not allowed any cameras at all into the orphanage where our children were but they have 2 camera men who capture those first precious moments on HI FI digital video cams so we’ll get a chance to save those memories forever. We sat with Kenni and Sasha in the waiting room… which seemed like forever… and then they called us. Amy was pretty choked up and the girls were just giddy all over… when they opened up the door to the room that Tariku was in I think we all recognized him right away. He was even more adorable and precious than we imagined! Honestly, my first thought was boy he’s still pretty tiny! Ha ha… He is after all, just shy of four months old… I outta give the kid some credit. Maybe since his nannies are a bit smaller in stature he looked a little larger in the pictures we have next to the smaller women that have taken such good care of him. Shoulda got them to take a pic with him next to a yard stick or something…J That said he’s absolutely beautiful. He looked up at Amy right away when she picked him up… he liked looking around and was probably a little taken back by his smothering big sisters. I think Amy forgot I was there for a sec… as I waited for her to let him go for a minute or two before I held him. He grabbed on to my finger right away, he grabbed my gotee a few times and then loved it when he sat with Sasha in my lap. Awesome stuff. We were able to then take him outside in the courtyard play area in the sun. When I was playing with him, his little finger caught the loop in my right ear… and he gave a little grin. I think he’ll be a handful. Maybe he can teach me how to play basketball someday. ;)
You know though… even as I write this…this is all still a bit surreal… but I’m sure as we spend more time with him tomorrow and the rest of the week we’ll become even more attached. I’ll try to write more in the next coming days since we have a little bit better net connection here in this guesthouse. Our court date with everyone else in our group here is on Tuesday and we’ve got a full schedule all weekend and the rest of the week until we come home. Thank you for all of your prayer and support for us as you are a part of this journey with us!
Thursday 3/6/08 - We arrived here in Addis around lunchtime and Haille, the driver employed by Bingham Academy picked us up at the Addis Airport. I took some video during the drive … we’ll see how well it edits later. We headed over to the SIM guesthouse on Thursday afternoon then went over to Bingham Academy and met the Principal and the Director.
Bingham Academy was established in the 1930s by SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) originally as a mission school and currently has about 250 students in grades K-12. Bingham has become one of the most prestigious schools in Africa so there are kids from all over Ethiopia, and from over 20 additional countries. Some of the kids live on campus but many of the kids live with their families around Addis. About 40 percent of the students are from Missionary families, but since Bingham is so well respected there are kids there whose parents work in local businesses in Addis, the UN, international businesses, and foreign Embassies based in Addis.
Most of the reason we came several days early was to get to know the Ethiopian culture so we could share this life experience with Kenni and Sasha, but we also wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to be able to serve with some folks who know and love this country and the people here. So together we worked out an opportunity for me to teach HS Bible Classes Monday – Wednesday and then do their two Chapel services on Thursday and they planned to put Amy to work filling in where they could use her in some of the other classes substituting. That way, Kenni and Sasha got the chance to attend 1st Grade and kindergarten with the rest of the other kids! What an experience that was! When we got closer to our travel date, we began investigating ways we could come to serve in some capacity. It was through that investigation we learned about BA. Originally we got connected to Bingham through our good friends from our church in Connecticut, the Blackwells, that put us in touch with friends of theirs (the VanGorkums) who have served with Christian Veterinary Mission for the last 25 years.
Over the last several days we’ve had the chance to interact with many of the teachers and staff at BA. We’ve been so impressed to hear so many stories from the teachers that have come from mostly the US, but also from many other countries to Bingham. In every single story, you can clearly see where God’s spirit nudged the hearts of each teacher and clearly carved out a divinely orchestrated path that they followed.
Teaching in a school like Bingham is an incredible privilege. Right in their midst there are ‘World Changers’. Think about it, every one of those kids come from families with an incredible amount of influence – whether they work in foreign business, embassies and government offices, or on the mission field. These kids are exposed to things that their peers in their home countries might never experience. The worldview that they are forming from being in that environment is fertile ground for them to grow into decision makers that could affect not just a way a company might do business, but to influence the decisions of world leaders someday!
It’s great that those kids have such great examples in their teachers too. The teachers at Bingham are incredible examples of humility and faith. God is clearly using them in to impact the lives of the students they teach and their own families.
Friday 3/7 – We spent the morning at SIM Compound in the AM and then relaxed and headed over to the Addis Hilton Hotel. We swam all day and chilled out with Kenni and Sasha - it was the best move we made that week. We got some sun, and we all had a great time relaxing and getting adjusted. Amy and the girls loved the pool water too. We learned that there are hot springs that run hundreds of feet underground so the pool water is naturally heated to something like 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I dealt with it, but would have liked it about 10-12 degrees cooler. It was already over 80 degrees outside. Very nice weather though because it’s so dry here, and there’s pleasant breeze often as well… the weather has been gorgeous.
Saturday 3/8 – Chilled out at SIM compound in the AM, then I went over to visit meet with some teachers to finalize my teaching strategy for the HS kids for the week. Amy and the girls ventured out with a friend we met at the SIM Guesthouse… she could share more about her adventures on Saturday, but she and the girls did some errands with Mary from the UK.
I think now might be a good time to pause to share a bit about the folks we’ve met at the SIM Guesthouse. SIM has been in Africa for many many years and we’ve met the most incredible people there.
Mary has given her entire life to serving the Ethiopian people and she’s been teaching Bible to grad students at the seminary here in Addis for many years. She’s on the SIM Board and left a couple days ago with a team to do an evaluation on another seminary I think in Uganda. In Mary’s spare time, she also edits and writes Bible Commentaries for Tyndale House Publishing. Whodaknown.
Judith is originally from New Zealand but she’s been a missionary in Pakistan for over 15 years. She’s working with mostly women in her little rural home. She does hand crafts with women in her community who come to be with her for love and tender care. Women in Pakistan are treated in many cases worse than dogs. Just thinking about it, it’s really hard for me to imagine, but as she has earned the trust and credibility of the people in her area God has done miraculous things. She’s seen people healed from all kinds of physical and spiritual ailments and many have come to know and love Jesus in deep ways… things that can ONLY be attributed to our Almighty God. Judith arrived at the SIM Guesthouse shortly before we did, and I believe she’s going to stay for another week or so. She said that when she first got to Pakistan there were almost 30 other missionaries in her area, but for the last eight years, she’s been the only one. God has blessed Judith’s faithfulness and her commitment - to especially the women there - but she’s been very lonely and discouraged lately. I know she would appreciate additional prayer for God’s strength and endurance for her.
Paul and Laila Biloski are originally from a farming family in Alberta Canada, but have been in Ethiopia for 39 years. They came to do Church planting and then later teach African seminary students who are now impacting and teaching in places all over the continent! In 1974 the Biloski family was driving back to their home somewhere around Addis, and as they drove into their driveway there were military vehicles outside their house, and their door was sealed off, and all of their possessions were confiscated by the Communist Government that overthrew the prior government. At that time there were over 300 SIM Missionaries in Ethiopia that dwindled to 28 that year. With not one thing but the clothes on their backs, they were able to live at the SIM Guesthouse and finish out the seminary year teaching some remaining grad students. They left Addis after the school year was done, and thought they’d never come back, but God had other plans. Now that Seminary here in Addis, is one of the best on the continent!
The Launders family from Cortaline, ID. were only at the Guesthouse for a few days before they left for a family get-a-way to Zanzibar in Tanzania. They are waiting for their resident visas to get through the court system here, so they have to leave the country every 6 mos. Mark told me that he turned 50 a short time ago, and he and his wife Sydney started to take a hard look at their lives and what they were doing, and what God might have them do. Mark and Sydney have two teenagers… whose names I’ll have to mention when I can recall them. Mark had a well established home building business and the Lord led their family to the rural Ethiopian town of Sodo. Apparently Sodo has a population of about 55 thousand, but has few places with clean water, sporadic electricity and incredible needs for business infrastructure. Mark and Sydney are currently spending most of their time working in a local hospital with a Doctor friend of theirs that led them to Sodo from Idaho about 6 months ago. Mark is using his gifts in construction, management, and love of people to create some infrastructure first in that hospital and then outward in the community. They have focused their efforts there in Sodo because it is the last hospital between the Ethiopian and Sudanese boarder so there are people that come there from all over along with Sudanese refugees.
Rowan looks like he just dried off after catching a few waves on the coast near his home. About 3 months ago, he came to Ethiopia from a prestigious hospital near where he grew up in New Zealand -- to work in a needy, rural hospital in the southern area of Ethiopia. I think it’s near Sodo… but I don’t recall exactly. Now 28, Rowan told me he feels like this few-month investigative journey will bring him here for a long time. He was at the guesthouse here in Addis with Dan and Kim who’ve been serving in the same area for about 30 years or so. Dan does Church work, and Kim helps run the hospital where Rowan is working now. The three of them were leading a group of Baylor nursing students from Texas through their clinical work that is required to complete their nursing degrees. Several of the 7 or 8 nursing students we met plan to return to Africa – many to Ethiopia to serve.
Sunday 3/9 – The girls internal clocks weren’t quite adjusted yet so they woke at 4am so we were all in and out of sleep until about 6:30 when we all got up to get ready for breakfast. The international evangelical church is across town and is right next to the Addis Seminary here that is training about _??_ students for ministry all over Ethiopia and other parts of Africa. We came out to another gorgeous sunny day and hailed Abraham across the street and he drove his cab quickly over to us as the girls and I piled in his little Russian taxi.
Allow me to deviate here as I talk a bit about Addis Roadways… you’ll enjoy it. ;) All the taxi drivers have the same little Russian four door compact cars.. and they all look like they’ve been through a war: Missing handles, missing hinges on some doors, cracked mirriors and windows, dents in various places, limited interior and never any seatbelts to be found. Doesn’t really matter though cause you never seem to get above about 15 – 20 mph in Addis. Imagine driving through a State Fair… all the time. Or… for those of you that have been to a HUGE concert festival… kinda like that. Only with hundreds of thousands of more people. It seems like all 5 million people in Addis are all out at the same time on the streets and in the open markets. The driving is even crazier here than in Senegal in W. Africa. NO street signs, NO street lights.. oh wait, I saw one the other day that worked. I was astonished. Actually I was more surprised people actually paid attention to the lights since it’s the only one in town I’ve ever seen at least. Crazy stuff. You might be asking… how in the world does any one get to and from their destination in any motorized vehicle with conditions like that. I think I’ve realized that as frustrated as some Ethiopian drivers can get… this is a pretty selfless culture. Sure they try to take care of themselves, but this is a culture in which families bring in other family members and care for them when the need arises. This is a culture that gives guests the BEST of what they have to offer…and it’s a culture that is generally speaking content with who they are and what they have. For the ones that are more selfish and impatient, I’m convinced it’s the self-centeredness of the western “civilized world” that have created a desire to have more stuff and to have a higher status.
Now kinda take that culture idea toward driving and you begin to realize that when there’s literally 15 cars in the middle of the intersection everyone gets to where they’re going… eventually. Even though every driver has to be aggressive to get anywhere, they all just continue to honk and point and let each other get by when it’s their turn… and speed up on the straight-a-ways. Another significant thing to note is that no one really owns property here in Ethiopia. I’m not entirely sure how all that works, but evidently you can just kinda set up a house wherever you want. Literally thousands of people live on the street. Some create beds for themselves from things they find lying around… stuff that others throw out, or things that fall off of trucks or taxis driving by. For the people that do have homes it’s all pretty basic. Often a few walls of corrugated sheet metal and a roof to match. There’s really no sanitation organization either. So, on the roads with thousands of people walking or lying around on the streets all day and all night…you run into some very uh… interesting sights. Goats, Chickens … if you live in an urban area consider a well traveled city road with drivers as I described, Police officers trying to direct the traffic making it worse, people sleeping on the medians, pedestrians creating non-crosswalks anywhere they feel like crossing, others reading the newspaper as they wait for a friend using the community pit to relieve themselves on the end of one of the medians (pick a gender), and then instead of a traffic jam in the opposite lane due to an accident, it’s just a local dude driving his few donkeys up the street with loads weighing more than the animal carrying it.
So… back to Sunday morning…we arrived at the beautiful facility of the International Evangelical Church and were greeted by two pastors or staff of the church from different countries. The Worship band started up shortly thereafter and even though I can’t sing well at all, I typically really enjoy making a joyful noise… but that Sunday I couldn’t. I’ve never felt the spirit come over me like he did that Sunday morning. I couldn’t sing a word without choking up. I was totally overwhelmed. I think it had to do with realizing that that environment was what Heaven was gonna be like someday. I was so humbled… When we were done singing the kids were released to attend Sunday School and Kenni and Sasha were SO excited to go with all the kids. Funny thing about that though… that particular service was ONLY in the Ethiopian language of Amharic. We got Sasha into the nursery since she was only going to be there that Sunday… and I tried to explain to Kenni that she would not understand anything that was being said in the class with other 1st graders, but she said that she wanted to be with the rest of the kids and meet some new friends. She stayed the entire service and I found her still in her class interacting with a bunch of the other kids when the class was over. She had a great time.
Monday 3/10– Can’t believe my ‘baby’ brother is 22! Happy Birthday Ben. God’s got some great things in store for you just around the corner. We’re so proud of you bud! Since all of our internal clocks were all still a bit off kilter… we all woke around 5am and had breakfast. We went over to Bingham and I taught 9th Grade Bible Class in the morning, and then after lunch we took Kenni and Sasha to AHope Orphanage to bring all the donations we had for them. As I wrote before- it was an amazing experience. That didn’t just help me put my life and all God’s gifts he’s blessed me with in perspective, but if we ever felt like we were serving the Lord in some way and that what we do in The States is significant… did we ever feel small and insignificant that afternoon. We were around some of the most selfless, humble, spiritual ‘giants’ I’ve ever met. They serve those special Orphans in an extraordinary way… for the rest of those children’s lives.
Not long after we finished playing with the orphans, we headed over to have dinner with the Johnson family. Most all of the teachers and staff at Bingham actually live right on campus and the apartment as ‘fishbowl’ as they are, are very nice and spacious for the families that live there. After sharing late into the evening, we drove back to our Guesthouse across town and got a great nights sleep!
Tuesday thru Thursday 3/11–13 Were pretty similar days as our mornings at Breakfast discussing world events, and my Bible Classes with the HS Students and dinners with BA Families in the eves.
Tuesday afternoon we met up with Fred and Vicky VanGorkum. They are awesome people. I think they’ve spent some significant time out in “the bush” helping villagers care for their animals that is their livelihood and helping them understand what it means to care for their animals, but also to make sure their children don’t get neglected in the process as they try to keep their animals healthy to provide for themselves. I think now Fred and Vicky both are doing more admin and support type work as their three great kids (Jesse, Aaron, and Jodi) are in school. From what I understand Fred still travels to support other missionaries and help them care for animals to help livestock owners begin to understand the message of Jesus in the process. Tuesday night we were with the Emery Family from VA. Beach, VA. (traditional Ethiopian Injira, beef, Chicken, Hot Sauce, Greens, etc) Scott, Janet, Jared and Allison – they’re headed back to the US this summer since their time is up. Scott taught Bible, and some Sciences and became a great help and friend the week we shared at Bingham.
Wednesday was another day of teaching for me, but Wednesday afternoon I decided to head out of the Campus area to get to meet some of the locals, and maybe even get some pictures. I walked down to the end of the street past some shops and ran into a couple of teen guys about 14-16 years old. They only knew a little bit of English and I only knew a couple Amharic words but we struggled through a short talk by the time a couple other guys started to gather round… and then there were more questions about America, and I asked more and more about Addis, and their families… pretty soon there must have been about 15 or 20 guys just hanging around chatting in broken English and Amharic along with a lot of hand motions. They were all fascinated by the camera and loved being able to see all their images on the camera as soon as we took the picture. In the middle of our conversation, one of the guys invites me to come visit his shop… I assume he wants me to buy some things and I was prepared to, but didn’t find anything I wanted or needed… as we were talking more a midst this gagle of teen guys, one of them asks me more about what I do and teach. So I am able to get across that I teach Bible to teenagers so they ask me if I have my Bible… I take it out of my backpack and then they insist on me reading some… you would have been amazed at the silence as those 15 guys crowed around Daniel Chapter 4 as I read it. I’ve got some great pictures to take back of those guys and the memories attached to those pictures. I also had a few snack food items that I gave some of them while I was there on Wednesday afternoon – but promised to return on Thursday with more fun American junk food. Later on Wednesday night we had dinner with Allie and Carey (vegetarian spaghetti and Salad). Carey is from North Carolina and she’s been in a couple different countries in Africa. She’s also served in an AIDS orphanage in South Africa too. Her step dad was the president of Columbia International University… I think his name is Robertson. Anyhow, Allie is recently from the Washington DC area and she found out about this opportunity at Bingham via the relationship that one of her pastors at National Church has with the pastor of her Church here in Addis. They’ve got a great vision here in the area to help with local economic development and care for the needy in the process. Very cool stuff. Another teacher that works here at Bingham this year Ann Faulkner that also attends the same church as Allie, will be working with that church full time next year, and there sounds like some great short term mission opportunities could surface from the work that this church will be doing soon!
Thursday 3/13 –
Thursday I taught Bible class again returned to bring my new friends -down the street from BA -some good ol’ American snack food and to say goodbye… then later we had Dinner with Cara, Amanda, Summer and Cara’s fiancĂ© Rob Bustin. Cara and Rob are from Canada, Summer is from … I forget where, and Amanda is from South Central Illinois. Cara is doing her student teaching in Canada and she came to teach at Bingham because Rob has been working with Food for the Hungry in Addis and the surrounding area. Rob explained that he finished his engineering degree in Canada and came to work with Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia. When he first arrived he was out in the bush I think helping get water to villages, and now he’s doing some with Food for the Hungry Canada, and the Ethiopian Govt working on various projects to establish long term results to get food and water to those in need. I plan to contact Rob’s Director (…his name escapes me for the moment but he’s a fellow Penn St. Football fan) to see what kind of short term/long term projects we might be able to help with later on. After dinner we left for the Agency Guesthouse!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3/12 update

It's now Wed alm, and the girls and I have acclimated and adjusted very well over the last several days... and we are taking in all we can. Both of the girls are in much better health now too. The last couple days, I have been teaching a bible class to the HS Students that lasted until this morning. (Wed.) Since we arrived last Thurs night, we've been staying at the SIM Missionary guesthouse... and that has been an incredible in itself! I'll share more later about all the people we've met this week that have come through the guest house. There are so many doing incredible things for God in Africa and in many other parts of the world.
On Monday afternoon the girls and I brought over many of the donations to AHope Orphanage. Many of those donated medical supplies and clothes came from you and other friends in our East Hampton area. There are about 70 kids there between the ages of 9-11mos old. We laughed, danced, played, threw around, wrestled with, tickled and kissed the kids for half of the afternoon. It was a precious beautiful time. I would have to say that that experience had to be one of the most impactful times in my life. You see, the orphans there at AHope, all have HIV/AIDS. I don't know if I can adequately describe how special that experience was... it's not something I'll ever forget. We're also learning about ways EHBC may be able to continue to help the people here and the orphans in some ongoing ways too. We'll see where God might lead us down the road.
Tomorrow night (Thursday) we will head over to our Adopion Agency's Guest House on the other side of Addis ... then on Friday am, we will meet Tariku for the first time...

Monday, March 10, 2008

What should life be all about?

Written by Amy, Thurs afternoon March 6 …sometime in Ethiopia, Dubai

While in Dubai all the tourists make a go at an authentic “desert safari.” Not wanting to miss out, we decided to do the same. *After spending the morning on Wednesday wandering around, doing some shopping, we all took a much needed nap. We had to drag the girls out of bed a couple hours later to head off on our safari into the desert.Okay … so the safari started off with a Land Cruiser “Sand Bashing” through the desert. Sand Bashing basically means you are hauling you know what through the desert and over the sand dunes. I have no idea how we didn’t get sick. Kendalyn was shrieking the whole time because she thought it was great … Sasha was asking when we could go back home. She’s asked that question a lot over the past few days. *After we finished bashing through the desert, we were able to try our hand at Sand boarding, which is basically snowboarding on the sand. Pete tried … I’m not as adventurous. The girls sat in the sand and played. It was hard to believe we were actually in the middle of the desert in the Middle East. The sand is beautiful, about the color of terra cotta pots. After sand boarding we headed off to the camp for camel riding (we’ll try to post pictures) and a BBQ dinner. Kendalyn was even able to belly dance on stage … her current favorite part of the trip. Overall, it was a great day. Full, but great. Dubai is a huge place … we were not able to even see a fraction of it in the time we had, but we’re glad we were able to be there. I (Amy) had a huge moment when Kenni was on stage dancing. This journey of following God has really allowed us to live some major dreams. It really is true that God gives you the desire of your heart when you follow Him. There we were, with our daughters in the middle of the Emirate desert. I pray every day that our girls will be globally minded … and I pray that this trip is only a piece of that.Plane ride to EthiopiaWell, the plane ride to Ethiopia from Dubai was not quite as good as the first one. We had to be at the airport at 6 am … but our driver was running kind of late. The rest of the world does not run on American time! *Because we were late, we had to run all the way across the airport (like 15 miles, I think) in order to get our plane. Arriving at the gate, with not much time to spare (and having not eaten anything that day so far) we spend the rest of our Durham (Emirate money) at Starbucks on breakfast. Yes … Starbucks is in Dubai.Sasha caught some sort of cold the last couple days, so she spent the first half of the trip coughing up a lung. We were the Airborne commercial. * I could just see the people around us cringing as she is coughing and coughing.About the time Sasha fell asleep, Kendalyn threw up all over herself (and her seat, and the seat in front of her and the floor and all her bags). I can honestly say, I have never seen that much vomit in all my life. So, now the guy across from us that was glaring about the coughing is only wishing the coughing was his biggest worry. So, with antibacterial wipes and the help of the very gracious airline staff, we cleaned up Kendalyn (and her surroundings), stripped her of her clothes and wrapped her in a blanket (note to self … bring extra clothes next time!). She was fine after that … watched some tv and got annoyed when I would not let her eat anything. * Kids. She had no idea about what was going on around her. Nor did she care really. We would all be better off if we didn’t care so much about people around us. So, here we are …getting off the plane… with Kendalyn wrapped in 2 Emirate Airlines blankets and Sasha crying about how she wants to go home. We apply for our visas and wait for our luggage. Our driver (thank you Bingham for arranging a great driver) picks us up and takes us to the SIM guesthouse for our first weeks’ stay. ------------------------------

Saturday March 8, 2008 –

Pete is somewhere in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaAs most of you know, our family is here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to pick up our son Tariku Daniel Zipf. We flew out of JFK last Monday and had an uneventful flight into Dubai United Arab Emirates. I think Sasha had the best of the 12 hour flight as her 4 yr old self stretched out nicely into the chair that reclined a half inch. We were just a tad groggy as we stumbled off the plane to locate our luggage. When our bags piled up, I started looking around for a couple camels to load up... but the carts had to do while we searched for our very gracious driver from our hotel... We had a hard time finding him at first - I don't know if it was because I couldn't see over the luggage I was rolling, or that I couldn't read 'Zipf' in Arabic. We ventured around Dubai on Wednesday via a sand-dune-blasting Jeep and on Camels... and then on Thursday morning took off for Addis Ababa. Since the first flight went so smoothly, we expected an even better flight to Ethiopia... it was --except that Sasha woke up with a hacking cough she's still trying to kick... and for Kendalyn's projectile expelling of the entire contents of her stomach all over the isle and the seat in front of her in a matter of seconds - all at 35000 ft...However the Emirates flight crew were so helpful ... even helping us wrap up Kenni in a couple blankets and cleaning off the crevasses of the dinner tray in front of her. Shortly after Kenni's things were plastic bagged, we touched down in Addis Ababa and were brought here to the Missionary Guest house where we will stay for a few days while we serve at an international school, and bring donations to A Hope Orphanage - for Children with AIDS. Next Thursday night we will meet Tariku for the first time, then on Friday morning we will start our journey back home to CT, and arrive via Air Emirates at JFK Airport on Saturday March 22 at 0745 EST.The last few days have been good to get acclimated and adventure out a bit around the Guest House. I wish every one of you could see, hear and experience this. This environment forces you to put your life into perspective. Your whole life. -- What is most important? What should life be all about? How should we communicate that? How should we live that out? I think I could speak for the EHBC Leadership team in this... God has big things in store for all of us at EHBC... what are we willing to do to accomplish His mission? I know I have some more assessing to do. To those of you that have helped us in SO many ways to get to this stage... We don't have the adequate words to express our gratitude. The dinner that was put together for us last Sunday night was incredibly powerful and so special - that, and the cards and notes have further confirmed our desire for Tariku to grow up with you as a special part of his life. This journey would never be the same with out you!We love you and we'll see you soon! PS -- For those of you that are attempting to stay current with our adventures via our blog site ( ) I've had to find a creative way of getting around the block that the Ethiopian Govt puts on blog sites... just stay tuned and it'll be updated as we are able. ;)No Reserve, No Retreat, No Regret...Pete for the Girls… and Tariku!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Beef Jerky at 5 am

Here we sit in our room, 5:45 am local time ... waiting for someone else in our hotel to wake up. :) We're pretty sure breakfast is included in our room, but we're not quite sure what time that is offered. Since our internal clocks are obviously not in line with the local time, we were up at 4 am, wide awake. The girls were sitting on their bed, eating beef jerky by 5 am.

Our motel is really sweet. We have a family room, so the girls each have their own twin bed. The doors are all like castles ... with wood beams that come down to lock them. The lights are lanterns and it took us a half hour to find google in English instead of Arabic. :)

We have heard the call to prayer twice already ... we'll have to do some research to find out the significance of the times. It's very similiar to Senegal in that regard. The call to prayer is a regular part of everyday.

This morning we are going out exploring in the city. We'll have chwarmas for lunch (local sandwiches, like gyros) and hopefully take a nap before we head out for our safari in the dessert.

Interesting side note ... the first thing Sasha said when we got off the plane: "Where are the sand and camels? This is not Dubai, mama." :)

en route... Dubai

Reporter Amy here, from the plane. 8428 km from JFK (how far is that anyway?) to Dubai

What do we currently know about Dubai? Well, one things for sure … it’s really far away. The good news is that we were wrong … the flight from JFK to Dubai is only 12.5 hours (not the 14 we thought).
The girls have been amazing. Kendalyn stayed up for a while last night, watching movies (she had her choice of 100’s via the screen on the seat in front of her) … ate some dinner, then slept for about 7 or 8 hours. Sasha, on the other hand, was asleep within minutes of taking off (it was 11 pm) and just woke up now to watch a movie. Regretfully, I was unable to find Sleeping Beauty, but they did have Cinderella. J
I’m starting to worry about how this flight will be with a baby. I guess it’s too late for that now, eh? J
The food’s been great … last night it was a big spicy for me, but I just gave some of mine to Pete. The girls had kid meals, which was great. Chicken nugget, mashed potatoes, veggies. We had a snack sometime in the middle of the night (what do you call that) … sandwiches, fruit. There is a brunch before we land … that should be soon.
When we land in Dubai it will be 8pm their time. I’m hoping that since we didn’t have much sleep (Pete and I are arguing about who got less), then we’ll be able to go right to bed even with the time zone difference. Strange thinking we missed half a day basically. We sort of just skipped over it I guess.
A huge thank you to all our friends and family who were a part of our going away surprise fundraiser event Sunday night. Seriously, we were surprised. We knew something was up maybe 45 minutes before, but we had no idea at what it would be … or how amazing it would be.
We love CT. We love our church ( We love our friends. Thank you for all the hard work and time you put into our event. You have blessed us beyond measure … words cannot even say how loved we felt. We miss you already and can’t wait to see all of you on Easter Sunday.
Thanks mom and dad (Zipf and Westcoat) for coming out … we both have amazing famlies and would never be on this plane without them behind us.
I have watched all the flight episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (season 1, I think … it was fun to flash back) … so now I’m off to see what other mindless show I can use to fill my way over tired mind for the next 2 hours. 10.5 hours down. The rest should be easy, right?
Until next time …

Saturday, March 1, 2008

2 days and counting

Today was spent packing. Packing, packing, packing!

At latest count, I (Amy) have packed 5 of our 8 suitcases ... each weighing in at the maximum 50 pound limit.

Thank you to all who donated items that we will bring to Ethiopia. They are going to the AHOPE for children orphanage. Check out their website for more information about these amazing orphanages that care for HIV+ children.

It's hard to believe that we will be on our way to JFK in only 48 hours. Only 2 more nights in my bed ... then Monday night will be spent sleeping in a plane! 14 hours from JFK to Dubai ... the girls are excited now, we'll see how they feel after they've been sitting in the same seat all night long. :)

We'll spend 2 nights in Dubai, then off to Ethiopia. We'll be spending the first week volunteering at a school ... and then we'll meet Tariku on Friday, March 14. :) We're turning inside out these days ... the wait is finally almost over.

Well, I am off to more packing. We'll keep you posted along the journey. Stop by often.