Monday, February 22, 2010

chase it down...

Here's a few thoughts... and I will write more soon as I process the last couple weeks.

Life happens and it WILL pass you by...most of us only pay attention to ourselves.  If you see a need to change that, what are you waiting for?  Stop making excuses.

if you want big things out of life, you must be willing to make big sacrifies - and it's not a sacrifice if it doesn't hurt.

Nothing that is truly significant happens it down.  It's worth it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Hey, everybody.  :)

I finally was able to talk to Pete today for about 20 minutes.  He has now been with Ashebir twice and it is going great.  Pete is going to send me updates when he can and I will post them!

Only 6 days and they'll be home ...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Long post, but here's this week's news!

Feb. 3, 2010
The Grandeur of the Alps, the tease in Rome and a welcomed bed.
I feel like I’ve been watching my life from a sort of out-of-body experience these last few months… especially the last few weeks leading up to arriving at Bradley Airport this morning. I have been in tremendous anticipation of this trip as the months and weeks have led up to this moment, and now that it’s “here” I almost feel like it’s not real…like I’m watching some other guys’ life from over his shoulder. I guess I feel that way because I’ve had several other responsibilities in the few months leading up to this trip so I kinda kept this entire experience in the back of my mind and heart – compartmentalized - so the anticipation wouldn’t completely overwhelm me. I think I’ve also talked so much about the trip and going to bring home Ashebir for so long, that it made it seem and feel like it would be years before we’d go.

It wasn’t until I saw the sign next to the walkway entrance at Gate 23 at Dulles Airport in D.C. that read, Flight 500 Addis Ababa that it registered in my heart “I’m going to get Ashebir and I’m bringing him home!”

The flight here was overall uneventful, but it was somewhat of a letdown because although Air Ethiopia is a nice airline- and even though the flight attendant staff was great at making our journey as pleasant as possible, it left something to be desired after flying with Air Emirates in 2008. Not that it was critical to the flight, but instead of multiple channels of movies ranging from action/thrillers to romantic comedies and an entire channel dedicated to children’s feature films and video games – Air Ethiopia had four films to choose from… wait… two films to choose from because one film - Matt Damon’s, The Informant - appeared as if the VCR Tape that it was playing from had completely lost the “tracking control.” The second movie The Endgame, must have had a cracked or frayed audio wire because the sound didn’t work at all. The third film was Sean Connery in the late-sixty’s classic, James Bond 007: From Russia with Love – that was ok, but I honestly can’t recall a more slowly moving 007 film.

So that left Gamer, about a not-too-distant future United States Software-Mogul, who overtook Bill Gates income status times three by producing an implantable micro-chip-like cell, that could be voluntarily injected into one’s brain to reproduce and ultimately sync with a Video Gaming system, where subscribers would “play” a real person as if they were playing the SIMS game online, but only with real people controlled by the actions of the joystick. As the Gamer “played out”, the same technology was implemented in a similar first-person game very similar to a game like Call of Duty Modern Warfare. As you may guess, the plot “took off” from there. Long story short, don’t waste your time or your Netflix queue. I didn’t even bother finishing the film, and I’m sure glad we got Kenni an Mp3 player since her choices for video were even more limited than mine – the comedy channel had old episodes of Two and-a-half Men that should have never been aired in the first place either.

Honestly, the best part of the trip was flying over the French Alps as we headed toward Rome- ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT- but then the refuel stop in Rome was but a tease because we never even caught a glimpse of the Coliseum from the tarmac. Oh well, we arrived safely in Addis, and we’ll just have a good excuse to return to Italy some other time.

We arrived at Bole Airport in Addis right on time, and all of our friendly seat-mates clapped raucously when we braked to a stop. Josh Shook was sitting in front of me and I asked him if he also thought that the applause may be due to the passengers’ surprise at the successful landing ;) – When we deboarded, we got in line with the other foreigners to obtain a temporary visa which only took about 30 minutes of waiting and 20.00 USD to purchase. After we got the visa, we had to take all our bags through Ethiopian Customs control. Since we had many bags filled with medical donations for AHOPE, the Customs Officer questioned us and reluctantly allowed us through, but reinforced that we should have additional paperwork from the Ethiopian Customs office along with an official letter from the Ethiopian Organization that was the recipient of the medical supplies. Even though we had an official letter and documentation from the source of the donations, he asked that we get the additional documentation if we bring those kinds of donations again.

As the rest of the team reloaded the 12 large bags onto the carts I went to find the representative from Abba Travel that was to pick us up to transport us to the SIM Guesthouse. Thankfully, my phone call on Wednesday afternoon to confirm our pick-up was successful, and we loaded in all our bags and tired bodies into two minibuses and took the circuitous route from Bole, to the SIM Guesthouse. It was so good to return to the Guesthouse. I was anxious to share that experience with the rest of our team, and as I thought, they appreciated the time there as I thought they would. Too bad we were only there Thursday and Friday night.

Friday Feb. 5th

LOST: Feb. 4th… Found: Bingham and AHOPE

Well, we lost Thursday Feb. 4th completely in jet lag and the overnight… We arrived at Bole at 19:30 local time - but 11:30 EST – Needless to say; it was a rough sleep as our bodies had a hard time acclimating to the time change. I know all four of us in our room woke around 3 or 4am local time –about 20:00 EST – so we began to look forward to an early bedtime when we headed to breakfast at 07:10 at the guesthouse. Breakfast however started off right with some good chats with Amy, Kate and Susie from The Church at Charlotte. Amy Rogers had returned to Addis to go get her family’s belongings that they had left in storage in Addis after returning from the mission field last August. Susie and Kate were good friends that were waiting for other friends from their church to do some work at the guesthouse to give it a bit of an aesthetic upgrade with décor and new coats of paint. At breakfast we also met Sarah from Ireland who had been working in northern Ethiopia in a youth center (I think near Lellebella?) doing some sports coaching and discipleship with the local teens in that area. Sarah had supposed to leave the day before, but was too sick to travel with the rest of her team that had already gone. She rearranged her travel schedule and was planning to leave that day.

After breakfast we tried again to use the phones, but they still weren’t working from the night before so we contracted a taxi, and sped off to Bingham Academy. How sweet!... We got to Bingham and got a chance to meet some of the teachers and staff that had been there the last time we’d visited and were able to attend the Elementary Chapel service. It was such a blessing to see so many kids growing to know God in such a special way. I’m convinced those kids will be world-changers because of the environment and atmosphere that they’re in. They will likely have spheres of influence and connections with others that most elementary kids will not ever experience. It’s awesome just thinking about the places they’ll go and serve as they mature because of the real-world view they’re growing up with. I only hope Amy and I can provide our own kids with the kind of exposure, life-experience, teaching and encouragement that will provide the tools they need to be sensitive to do what God calls them to do, whenever He calls them to do it.

After hanging out with many of the teachers and staff at Bingham, we got into a price-bidding war with a couple of taxi drivers and sped… or.. sputted off back to the SIM Guesthouse. After lunch we got a couple more taxis and loaded up all of the donation suitcases to bring over to AHOPE. We arrived at AHOPE right about the time the children were ready to get up from their naps.

This was one of the main events of our trip, I was anticipating for our team. I knew this was going to be one of the most, if not the most - impactful experience of our trip. Our whole team was just taking everything in. Soon after we entered the children’s care center, Trent just stood in the doorway… I just watched him for a few moments… and I could only guess that he was thinking about his own children sleeping safely and healthily in their own beds – almost 10 thousand miles away. I supposed Trent’s mind’s eye seeing these beautiful children just like his own, living in much different conditions through NO FAULT of their own.

AHOPE for Children is a phenomenal place and they are providing beautifully, for the children they have been blessed to care for. We count it a huge privilege for the opportunity to share some additional blessings we have, to bless the children there. The staff at AHOPE Ethiopia are wonderful and full of compassion and genuine tenderness for the children. When you are preparing to visit Addis, please contact AHOPE to learn more about what they do, and how you could support them.

For the next four hours or so we laughed, cried, ate lollipops, sang, wrestled, tickled, and played with some of the most beautiful children you could ever meet. Even if we were able to take pictures, they would not do justice to the experience. You would have had to have been there. When you get the opportunity, go be blessed by AHOPE and the children there – it will change your life.

Saturday Feb. 6th

The kind of day we had yesterday will wear you out, but it was well worth it. When we got back from AHOPE last night we had another delicious meal at SIM. Then, in the middle of our second hand of Phase Ten, John Connelly came in and introduced himself and explained that he was the FH Country Director in Ethiopia and proceeded to share his appreciation for our team and the ministry we would be doing over the next several days. John left, making us a little jealous when he told us that he planned to get up at 2am to watch the Superbowl on Sunday night, but honestly we figured we were doing more important things, and would need our rest in the middle of the night on Sunday. After enjoying a few hands of our card game we phased OUT for the night. Saturday morning we felt a little more rested, and packed up all the rest of our stuff, had breakfast, took some pictures with the SIM Staff, and Marc arrived in the rented van to head to Ziway. By the time we tied all the bags on top of the rack of the van it was 0900, and we started off through Addis heading South East. For the next few hours we learned a little more about Mark’s story and how he grew up in Ethiopia in a semi-religious home with a Czech mom and an Ethiopian Dad who occasionally attended church. He’s also a Czech citizen, but his family moved to Ethiopia when he was two. When he was seventeen, the Eritrea/Ethiopian conflict was beginng to escalate and recruiting more older teenage boys, so his parents thought it would be best to send him to the US to finish high school and college. He moved to Stoney Brook, NY and upon graduating from a private HS there, he attended a community college then Baruch Business college in Queens. Later, Mark had begun attending Times Square Church through the invitation of some friends, and then surrendered his life to Christ and began serving in various ministries while he went to school. When he was finished with School he felt God’s call to return to Ethiopia and found work in various NGO’s, met his wife and began working with FH in July of 2009. Mark shared a little about FH and its history in Ethiopia along with a few things that he felt we could expect for the coming week. We learned that FH takes a very strategic approach to help people really help themselves and their community. Some organizations have that desire, but rarely implement it well. FH seems to be doing this consistently because of the make-up of the organization from the local leadership to the head leadership team.

We pulled into Ziway about noon, and Dawit (the local FH Director in Ziway) met us for lunch at a restaurant owned by a funny little lady named Jazzi who named her restaurant after herself. She explained that even though she was Ethiopian she had grown up in the US, and her husband wanted to return to Ethiopia because they loved the country so much.

We finished lunch and drove over to the new FH Offices nearby, and Dawit proceeded to share the overall FH Vision for Ziway to-date, and discussed some needs in the near and long term.

We discussed…

That time together was informative, but we were all slapping ourselves to push through our weariness magnified by the heat and breezeless office. When we finished the last of our copious notes about the incredible work that FH is doing in Ziway and the potential opportunities that we may be led toward, we continued our discussion toward the van to head across town toward Lake Ziway.

On the way to the lake, we encountered one of the most pungent fish smells, I’ve ever had, but I have to admit it was only that strong until we hung out for a while with the fisherman and the kids around the beach area cleaning fish.

It took a few minutes, but we finally landed on a price with one of the fisherman that agreed to cart us all out toward the middle of the lake where the Hippos hung out. You’ll see pictures soon enough. Now I really know why they are called “water horse.” We took a ton of pictures and video of the hippos, and trolled over toward a nearby island to take some more pictures of exotic birds. I thought the birds were ok, but the Ethiopian sunset on the darkening horizon returning to the beach was gorgeous.

We got back to the beach and loaded up in the van… Kenni gave out some more lollipops because there were only a few kids left at the beach at that time. I’m sure they would have gladly accepted the entire bag of 300+ lollipops, but she jumped back in the van, and we headed to dinner at the newer Universal Restaurant. I decided NOT to order fish.

Feb. 7, 2010 - Sunday

Sharing the Light of Life

As we entered Hiwot Berhan church in Ziway on Sunday morning, we were welcomed as if we were close family friends from the neighborhood. We were so blessed to worship with such a passionate and spirit-filled people. As the worship and singing progressed, more and more people filled the little church until it was almost standing room only. When the worship leader finished our singing with prayer, one of the elders got up to read from The Word and introduce another brother who shared a powerful song just before our team was introduced to the congregation. We felt so welcomed and appreciated – it was so humbling. The translated name of their church is: Light of Life, and they certainly fit that title.

We got the chance to thank them and share a few words about the purpose of our visit, and that our hearts were bonding with them for their community. After we shared a few words they asked us to share a few worship songs with them as well. We sang a couple songs together for them… but in the middle of experiencing that worship time with watching Kendalyn sing her heart out when Rachel played, “You Are My King”. In front of us and the whole church Kenni was belting out, “Amazing Love, how can it be that You, my King would die for me, Amazing Love, I know it’s true, it’s my joy to honor you, in all I do… I honor you… “

I was listening in awe and incredible pride. Not only did she sing on key, she blessed us and the entire church as she led us in that beautiful song of surrender to Jesus.

When we returned from Church we grabbed lunch at one of the local restaurants and headed off to our first home visit to meet Mihiret (17yrs old), Lydia (14yrs old) and Bendalu (9yrs old). All three of these children are part of the Child Development Program that FH has, but they are also in the Child Headed Household Program because their parents both died AIDS complications. Their father died ten years ago, and their mother died two years ago. This little family has neighbor friends that live in the next home just a walkway apart, but even though this close neighbor friend helps to support their needs, she has her own children to care for and cannot afford to help much. Mihiret not only cares for herself and her two siblings, but she has to work extra hard at school to get her school work done before she has to do laundry, get water, firewood, clean their one-room mud floor home, make dinner, along with making sure her siblings are working on their own schoolwork. Additionally, Mihiret is often weak from the side effects of taking her own ARV Medication.

See, Mihiret, Lydia and Bendalu are all HIV+ and Mihiret is caring for her sister and little brother as best as she is able. Their lives are improving with the help of FH, but this is likely the most difficult life journey I have ever personally seen. In our time with them, Mihiret also shared that even their neighbors wouldn’t allow the three children to use any of their latrines because the neighbors are afraid that they would catch the disease from the children.

My heart broke for them… All I wanted to do was grab a shovel, and organize the local people to go get the crushed stone, sand and bricks to build a latrine for them immediately… but that will have to wait for now. The FH Staff have a great relationship with them and their neighbors and I’m confident that after learning of this need, they will be cared for. I plan to follow up with Dawit to see how the kids are being taken care of.

After leaving the three children, we visited Emebit. We met with her just outside her home to discuss her situation, and how FH is helping her. She lives alone and is supported by FH with their Food Support Program, but she cannot work right now because her hand is crippled. When she was living in the country, she was working in the field and her hand was stuck with a thorn. The wound from the thorn got infected and since she didn’t have any way of getting to or paying for a visit to the health center, she went to go see a “witch-doctor” and he used some traditional medicine concoction on her hand, that made her hand become so infected it swelled up and became unusable. She used to work, but now cannot work at all, and appreciates the assistance FH provides her to support her, but she is in real need of a long term resolution. We prayed with her before we left and felt her respond in a powerful way when we were praying. Before we left she asked that we pray for her that she would be able to get the food she needed. I remembered that I had a pear and two oranges – she joyously accepted them, and treated them like gold. I felt helpless… I wish I could have given her more, but FH is working closely with her so I am confident that they will help her get what she needs.

We left Emebit’s home and headed over to dinner at Jazzi’s – Trent and I got some time to chat, and it is clear that he is ready to respond in big ways to what God’s next steps are for he and his family… I’m anxious to see what that looks like.

We still haven’t gotten a chance to post any information online… I hope we can soon. There is internet here in Ziway, but our schedules have been so full, that by the time we have time to go to an internet café it is dark, and not as safe to go out, or the café is closed.

Consistent electricity here in Ziway… for that matter the entire country… is rare, and we had a big thunderstorm that caused a power outage late Sunday night and into Monday morning.

Feb. 8, 2010 - Monday

We have an obligation.

Before we met for breakfast Rog and Rachel got a chance to go for a short walk and took advantage of just being around the local folks, I wish we could have done more walking around together, but I’m really glad they took advantage of that time together. I think this has been a very special experience for them. We decided to try breakfast at the hotel we were staying at this morning, but the food wasn’t as good, so we’ll try the Universal Restaurant tomorrow.

After breakfast we went over to the FH office for prayer and devotions, and since Dawit had gone to Addis yesterday afternoon to get a visa to the US so Malaku (Messenger) led our Devotional time this morning.

After our devotional time, we left for our first trip to Jido. The small rural town of Jido has about 5,000 people (with a total of about 9k people including the surrounding rural area) and is approximately 47 kilometers from Ziway. Jido was established about 70 years old, and up until about 2-3 years ago, Jido was lush with trees and agricultural life, but in the last few years the rains have not been as consistent and as frequent, and due to the fact that so many acacia trees have had to be cut down for firewood for the growing population, but there have been only a small percentage of those trees that have been replanted. Therefore, the land is not a fertile watershed area any longer. The salty and sandy soil has compounded the problem, and made it extremely difficult to plant the maize, which at one time had been much easier to grow there.

This severe agricultural problem now has greatly affected the entire community, and because Jido is remote, it is “out of sight, out of mind” for even the regional government. Thankfully, FH has been working in Jido for over two years, and they are trying to help the community begin to assess the needs there, and focus on making the necessary changes for long term results, that will positively affect that area long term.

Our first trip to Jido included two home visits.

Beshenana is about 8 years old, and he has three brothers who are 13yrs old, 6yrs old, 3yrs old and one two week old baby sister. We met he and his mother who was holding his baby sister. We learned that his Father has two additional wives, and was with his other wife at the time of our visit, but Beshenana’s mother said he typically comes to spend time with them on Thursdays when it’s “Market Day” and helps out with the little bit of vegetables they have in their small garden in back of their home.

The mother used to make and sell a local alcoholic drink, but cannot now due to needing to care for the baby. Due to the support that FH provides their family, Beshenana is able to attend school, and their family is also being strongly considered for the FSP (The Food Support Program) because the mother cannot work, and their garden is not at all adequate for their food needs.

The second home visit we made was to meet another beautiful and shy little girl I hope I can get her name from FH staff later on – She was precious. She was abandoned by her family when she was three, and a family friend took her in, and has treated her as his own, along with his additional children. We learned later on that her “adopted father” is an elder at the Foundation of Christ Church – how awesome to see the hand of Jesus through the Church in their own community, reach out to orphans there! FH has come along side that family, and is supporting them through paying for her education so the parents can focus on providing the food and other necessities they need to live. That entire family has benefitted through the FH support of just the one little girl!

After we left her home, Lunch with Lydia, an FH Social Worker who lives right in Jido. She had us all in her home, and made some of the best injira and beef tibs we’ve had so far. We finished lunch with another beautiful coffee ceremony.

Every one of the FH “family” members has exuded service and selfless humility to us. I just treasure these times together with them. I can only pray that more of our own community back home will be able to experience for themselves as well.

For those of you reading list… get prepared to make some major sacrifices to come to Ethiopia to serve. Get prepared to give generously, so you can bless others in an exponential way, and experience a depth of blessing-return, more abundantly than you’ll EVER experience remaining in your comfortable boring world in the US. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

After lunch we made the short ½ mile trip across the little town to meet with the local leaders of the Foundation of Christ Church (~150 people), and those from the Living Word Church (~70people). It would be hard to encapsulate all the needs that they unpacked for us, so I will attempt to summarize as well as I can. However, the most encouraging aspect about that discussion together is that none of them expected or assumed we should come in to solve all their problems. They love their community deeply – even those that mock and persecute them from the Muslim community in their area. The churches were birthed from the same heart and motivation for their town.

When we with the leaders from the two churches they shared the following results that FH has had in their community:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->FH supports children so they are able attend school, and provides Parents the abilty to focus their income on their families, so their children can go to school.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The Church is SO thankful for the FH Social Workers that pour their lives personally into the children of Jido, which ultimately helps the entire family as well.

Then, they shared about some things that they would like to be able to see come to fruition in the months to come:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Agricultural support – Jido is dependent on its agricultural success. If maze or other fruits or vegetables don’t grow, they don’t have a source of food, and they have little options for income.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->A local High School – The Jido community has 5 elementary schools all about the same size. Jido’s elementary school includes grades 1-8. Grades 1-4 meet in the morning shift, and grades 5-8 meet in the afternoon session. Each grade has two sections of about 80-100 students each, so in their best estimation they have about 1400 students in that small elementary school. Many of those students live right in Jido, but many students come from the surrounding rural areas, as far as 7km away… and those kids all walk to school… every day. (Take a moment to consider what would happen if American kids had to walk 7km to school every day – would they go? I’ve seen parents get upset about Bus stop locations.) Currently they graduate about 400, 8th graders every year – from EACH of the 5 local elementary schools. Do the math. There are at least a few thousand students that could take advantage of a high school - IMMEDIATELY - they just need a place to go. Currently, a few of them have enough money to travel the 47km to the High School in Ziway, but most all of the kids in Jido do not have that luxury. They either stay home and get by with an 8th Grade education and try to eke out some kind of living, or they leave the area for more education and a better life. The desire of the Church leaders as well as many other leaders in the community, desperately want to invest in their future but they need help.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Financial support for local evangelists – As of the very day we met, the church leaders had just come from a meeting with two men who have been involved in their local church for a few years. They are grounded in the Word, and they are from the community they have a deep desire to reach. At this time the church is struggling financially, and if they had additional support to provide a spiritual leader like that, they could help especially the more rural parts of their area who are in even more desperate living conditions than inside the town of Jido. They shared that there are people over 30km away that a local Evangelist visited, who had NEVER heard the name of Jesus. Just consider the impact a messenger like that could have with others in the most remote areas. It would cost about $500Birr/month to support a Trained Evangelist that would work for the local church who would work with them, and hold them accountable. To support just one Evangelist would be less than $40.00/month US!

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Bible Teachers to disciple children and their families - They took some real steps of faith, and expanded their facilities and build two additional classrooms separate from the sanctuary they’ve had. However, they are in real need of teachers to help teach, train, and disciple children and families within their church.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Ministering to the Muslim Community – 95% of the Jido community is Muslim and many are adamantly opposed to the work of these churches. There are several mosques in their town, and even though some nominal Muslims have decided to accept Jesus as their savior, some of them expected to receive some kind of immediate financial gain – as they had been promised from some of the Muslim leaders.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->They need Bibles and small Gospel Tracts to help others understand the freedom in Christ. I was asked more than once about getting additional Bibles to the people in that community. We could make a huge impact by providing Bibles and Christian literature in their local language.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Furnishings – They have build three additional classrooms, but have no desks, chairs or tables or cement floors to keep the mud out.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Fence – They explained that livestock eat the fence they constructed around their church facility, and it would be very helpful to have a more secure fence, and if they had the funds to purchase the materials locally, they could build it.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->They need a PA system – They have over 150 people in their church and they are excited about what God is doing in their church. They need a clear way to communicate the Good News and it will also help connect with people in their area.

We took in a lot today… it will be interesting to see how God leads us to respond in partnership with these Churches in Jido. We finished the night with Dinner at Universal Restaurant.

Tuesday Feb. 9, 2010

Restoring Real Life.

We met for Breakfast at the Universal Restaurant again and had eggs, toast, cheese and fried beef. I risked a Mango Juice as well –SO GOOD - puréed Mangos. I’m thinking everyone else will have one tomorrow, after realizing I didn’t get sick. After breakfast we headed over to the FH office to meet up for morning devotions with the rest of the staff. Man, can they pray- such intense communion with the Lord as they declare their surrender and dependence on Him. It was such a blessing to be with them in God’s presence. Roger shared a short devotional from Matt. 13, relating the difficult planting seasons in this area – especially in Jido – but encouraging them that they are bearing fruit in so many things that we have experienced together even in the last few days.

Honestly, I don’t think we still have an entire understanding of what today brought for some time to come. We left the FH office about 0900 and headed back to Jido for some home visits and meet with the Local Jido Community Leaders, and the Elementary School leaders.

Our first home visit was with Rachel’s Sponsor-Child, Bedatu. She is about 12yrs old, and she has 2 brothers and six sisters. I missed what exact birth order she is, but I think she is 4 of the nine kids in their family. Her father and Mother seemed to be very sincere and appreciative people. They just needed some extra support for Bedatu to have the financial support and supplies she requires for school. Rachel gave Bedatu a hand drawn picture she’d done of Bedatu, some art supplies and a photo album she’d made for her and her family. What an honor it was for Rachel –and the rest of us for that matter – to see Bedatu readily pick up her new sketch pad and colored pencils and proceed to draw a picture of her home and surrounding neighborhood.

After we took pictures with Bedatu and her family, we walked out in the refreshing rain shower toward Makeeya’s home to meet with her family. She has a baby sister who appeared about 6 months old, and an older sister. She has not been sponsored directly yet, but it was a blessing to see how her mom encouraged her diligence in school. Frankly, I don’t recall one conversation with a parent or community member that DIDN’T center around stronger education support for their community – along with their own children.

Every parent or guardian we met was focused on preparing the youth of their community to help them all progress. They never talked about selfish desires for personal gain, it was all about their friends and neighbors and the kids of their friends and neighbors. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised that they were the ones to have a clear understanding of the REAL needs in their town that would benefit their whole area. -- They never suggested new paved parking spaces or lower student to teacher ratios, or the color of the uniforms for the varsity sports teams, or splitting hairs on line items on the local School Budget or refusing to pay more to support their education system. They never discussed pursuing anything frivolous – they want their community to survive, and flourish long-term.

We had lunch again at Lydia’s home and w hen we finished, we went to meet with the Town Leaders at their Town Center building. I was so encouraged to see that many of that leader team was made up of some of the leadership of the local church as well. They are all commonly dedicated to the guidance and future of their town. It was awesome to see leaders sitting next to each other with different spiritual perspectives, yet the same goal for their community.

The issues they raised were the same agricultural and educational problems they face, but in the same breath showed immense appreciation for FH and the work they have done, and continue to do in Jido. The Community Leaders love FH and want to work together even more closely. They’ve already raised 50,000.00 BIRR all by themselves thorough canvassing the community. Considering that there are only about 5000 people in the town, and they may make only 0.50 or LESS per day… that’s OUTSTANDING. That’s real sacrifice and dedication. I wish we could have that kind of response in Connecticut. The community is single-minded, and focused on building a High School, and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

It will take some time to research what the actual cost of building and equipping a high school, but rough estimates range from 1-3 Million BIRR… Currently, that’s approximately $100-250K USD. With those kinds of dollars, they could properly construct and adequately operate a local high school for thousands of students that would transform that entire area.

From the meeting with the Community Leaders, we were able to go meet with the Elementary School leaders. Their school is only 3.5 years old, but they have extraordinary teaching team. They too were unified in heart and vision. Additionally to the issues that were raised in the two previous meetings, the Elementary School staff shared these burdens with us:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->For the roughly 1400 students they have, they have 19 teachers -- 11 men, and 8 women. Even though there are only about 700 at the school at a time, they still need more teachers.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Those 19 teachers are extremely dedicated and use their own money to pay for supplies and decorate their classrooms, but often the teachers burn out, and go to better teaching positions in better areas.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->They do not have a library in Jido at all.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->They would like to help the Special Needs students more effectively, but because of their small staff and lack of resources they are not able to segregate them, so they need another social worker to help with those children.

They also mentioned some incidentals that should be taken care of …Yesterday!:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The teachers need a secure area for their supplies and personal belongings.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->A fridge for cold, clean water

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Teacher desks and tables

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Computers for students and teachers to use with internet access.

At the same location on the Elementary School grounds we met with about 30 youth workers that are going through training to help their friends and peers understand the prevention of HIV/AIDS. They are learning about abstinence and marital faithfulness. The thing that amazed me, was that most of the Youth Workers I met were as young as 15years old, who had the responsibility of meeting with and training another 14-16 teens in their area. Then those 14-16 teens were challenged to teach and train their own families and friends. I was drawn to them, and inspired by their deep passion to help their friends have healthy relationships that honor and respect God, and each other. I asked them why they do what they, and several responded because they know the affects that HIV/AIDS can have from their own experience through a family member of their own. God is working powerfully in this group of World Changers – I hope we can meet again.

When we finished meeting with the Youth Workers, it started to rain some but we had a bunch of saplings to plant so everyone got to be a part of that together. I pray that the rains that come are adequate and that the soil will remain fertile to help the trees grow strong and healthy to provide shade and begin to restore the soil around them for years to come.

We said our goodbyes to Jido when we cleaned up and took some more pictures. Tomorrow we will be visiting some homes in Bebula, and heading out to Sabana Beach for some R and R.

It was hard leaving… we’ll be back.

PS… Rog told me that the Elem. School Principal leaned over to him as he got in the van and said, “Don’t forget us.”

Wednesday Feb 10, 2010

Processing it all

After Breakfast we had Devotions together and Trent shared a little about how he got here, and shared Ps. 139 and talked about he has begun to see how God created him intricately and intentionally for a purpose. He also shared some insights he’d picked up this week from the book Dawn gave him before he left, The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.

After we left the office we headed to the little town of Babula just south of Ziway. The first family we visited lived in a home that built on a sandy hillside and was literally collapsing in on itself because of where it was built and what it was made of.

The mother, Mulu lived there with her three children. Kalkedan 14yr. (Covenant); Besuskah 2.5yrs(In His Will); and Mahlet 9yrs old. The three children are being supported by FH in the CDP for their education and Mulu is receiving support in the Income Generation Program.

We learned that when she and the father divorced the local Govt in Babula allowed her to rent the home she lives in now, but the home is collapsing and she is required to keep the house in good condition or she will lose the privilege of renting it – for only 2.5BIRR/month. She explained that she is very afraid of what would happen if the house did collapse because she doesn’t have any other family in the area, and they would be out on the street. Mulu has propped up thorn bush branches and a tarp over the area of the back of the house that collapsed, but it is not enough, and she is concerned that the home will be taken from her. When she was sharing this story through Mark translating her words to me, I also asked her how old her little boy was that she was holding – She told me that Bususka is 2.5 years old – That is the same age as my son, Tariku.

She created a way to earn her money by bringing a portable coffee ceremony set out to the street to prepare and sell coffee for anyone that will buy it from her. That is her sole source of income.

This is another family I want to follow up with, to find out how FH is able to continue to help her. I’m confident they will stay close to her, to help her meet her own needs.

The second home we went to on Wednesday morning was a woman with three children: Chaltu 14yrs, Chala 9yrs, Bieftu 6yrs. They live right next to a water point that the British Government completed just two weeks before. The mother’s brother died 12yrs ago and left her the home and property the four of them currently live in – her only source of income is filling “jerry cans” of clean water from the water spigot for people. She earns a portion of what people pay her to get the water for them. She explained that her oldest daughter Chaltu and youngest son attend school, but Chala had a falling out with his uncle and was discouraged with school for some reason so he quit, and stays home with his mom.

It was good to get a chance to meet Chala and encourage him to go back to school. It sounded like he might, but I plan to follow up with FH to see if he actually does. As we were getting ready to leave, I was talking with Kassim, and a few neighbor kids gathered around us and one of the older ones began asking who we were, and why we came. So, since he understood some English, Kassim was able to translate into Amharic what he didn’t understand, and he asked about my tattoo – probably about the 5th or 6th time the kids asked about it… but this time a captive and curious audience literally surrounded me and kassim as we shared the story of how we are all like Peter the Apostle, and that we have to get out of the boat if we want to follow Jesus, but we are desperate for him, and it is through He alone that we can accomplish the impossible. I shared the story, and Kassim preached it to almost 40 children, teens and parents surrounding us. I think Mark snapped some pictures of that experience – That will be another one of the memories I’ll treasure most.

We left there and headed to Sabana Beach for some R and R…

Sabana was an awesome time, but it was hard being in such a lush and beautiful experience, knowing what was just minutes away from us.

We left Sabana around 5:15p and got back to eat some dinner at Jazzy’s Restaurant one last time. Kenni took some more pictures at Jazzy’s – we’ll see how many of them are keepers.

Thursday Feb. 11, 2010

Determination goes a long way

So it’s our last day with FH. In many ways I can’t believe it’s been a week already, but in so many other ways, I feel like we’ve been here an entire month from all we’ve experienced. I was asked to share during the devotion time this morning. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been studying 1 Peter and Paul’s letter to his friends in the Philippian church… and over the last few days, Phil. 1:2(and 1Peter 4has never been so real for me. Check this out:

“Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God upon all the remembrance of you, always, in every supplication of mine for you all, with joy making the supplication, for your contribution to the good news from the first day till now, having been confident of this very thing, that He who did begin in you a good work, will perform it till a day of Jesus Christ” Phil. 1:2-6

“Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray. Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins. Welcome people into your home and don't grumble about it.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. If you have the gift of speaking, preach God's message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen. Dear friends, don't be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire. Be glad for the chance to suffer as Christ suffered. It will prepare you for even greater happiness when he makes his glorious return.” 1Peter 4:7-13

I guess you’d have to be here to understand what I’ve experienced in seeing these two passages come alive here - in and through – the FH staff here in Ethiopia so just trust me, they’re for real.

I don’t think I could explain this experience any clearer than what Paul and Peter shared in those passages.

After devotions we headed across town, not far from the FH Office for our final two home visits of our week. We met a beautiful lady named Kabubush… she might have been between 25-30years old, and she was HIV+, but she got connected with FH soon after she learned she had the disease and they were able to help her get proper medical attention so neither of her two girls are HIV+. What an incredible blessing. I couldn’t take my eyes off the little 2year old Sitota, and her 6yr old sister Titina. We had some time to spend with Kabubush and as she shared her story she explained that she used to beg for money near a local hotel, when one day she asked herself how long she would have to beg decided to change her life, and with her own creativity and initiative she started selling coffee in the market area, and is now supporting herself and her children. She has incredible determination and tenacity for a full life. We had a special time of prayer with her, and then went to the last home and met a lady with three sons. She explained that several years earlier she and her husband lived in the rural area near his family, but her husband got sick and died… then something happened and the relationship she had with her in-laws got ugly, and she had to leave. She fled that area with her sons to addis, and some friends and new neighbors helped her build her home that they still live in, and she started making baskets to sell in the market. She has three sons: Tamisken 15yrs, Beyene 14yrs, and Dejene 12yrs. FH is helping her pay for two of her sons to go to school, which enables her to take care of her other food and shelter expenses, and to finance sending her youngest son to school on her own. All three of her sons work around the house and do the chores so she can dedicate her time to making georgeous hand made baskets. She said that one of the largest baskets she makes took her two months, and she sells it for 130-140BIRR each. She has done an incredible job raising her sons. They are polite, and hard working, and I’m sure they will impact their community for Jesus too, as they clearly recognize what He’s done in their lives.

After we left their home, we headed back to the FH office one final time for a debriefing with Melaku and several other staff we worked with all week.

Debriefing on Thursday at 11:30a –

Everyone on our team expressed how incredible the week was, and that the FH organization and results they are achieving are phenomenal. Rog and I shared how much we appreciated their hearts to completely integrate the saving messge of Jesus into helping the poor and helpless, help themselves and their community in significant ways, for life-long transformation.

Josh said that even though he didn’t have any idea what to expect, he has been so blown away by the needs that are being met. He’s so excited to go home to tell everyone he knows what they can do to help us help the people we’ve grown to know and love here in Ziway/Jido. His only concern is how to share the experience he had in the best way with everyone at home.

Roger - Well organized, loved the connection and reputation in the community, mobilizing the churches and community leaders to lead their communities for lasting growth both physically and spiritually. We all love that all the staff in Ethiopia are from this area of the country and sees that funds being used well. He also appreciated the sensitivity that Dawit had to be close to the community, and has the desire to have their offices NEAR the families.

Roger doesn’t want to leave.

He said that he also loved the fact that we aren’t just giving money to people… but FH is providing tools, training, encouragement and Jesus! That allows them to create income that builds their lives and builds the community. He sees that FH is pursuing long term and sustainable goals…and fulfilling them.

Roger: “Almost every organization has gaps, but I don’t see any with FH.”

Trent – We experienced a small amount, but it was overly obvious that FH is having a great impacvt in the community. Just a small amount of interaction, but we’ve been amazed to see how much love is pouring out of this organization… and it excites him to see how we can go home and share what we’ve experienced with FH.

Mark’s comments: “Many try to connect, but to have firsthand experience is the best way to bring that back to Hope Church. May God help you to help bridge that gap of a desire, to reality.”

Now we’re off to the Bole Airport to meet CHSFS, and meet Ashebir tomorrow!