Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Ministry in Addis to take in street kids

Some of you have been following the Drawn From Water story. This is an organization that served in southern Ethiopia rescuing children from tribes where they drown them because of superstitious beliefs that they are cursing the tribe.

This group rescued over 30 children in all, built an orphanage for them and cared for their every need. Then a few months ago, through a tragic set of unexpected circumstances, they lost the orphanage.

We have been coming along side DFW by operating their on-line store, selling and shipping t-shirts. We sold over 400, which gives you an idea of what kind of support system they have behind them.

They looked at options to partner with other groups rescuing mingi children. But for Levi and Jessie, one of the couples involved in DFW, the door shut on this kind of work.

They began talking to government officials in the capital city, Addis and after much prayer and consideration, they are now working on plans to bring in street children. From all that I have learned about caring for the orphan, their vision is right on track.

Please go to and learn more about their vision.

After following their blog, what strikes me the most about Levi's posts is the question, "where are the girls?"

Advocating against human trafficking is something God has been stirring in my heart for several months. Steve and I attended workshops at the summit to learn more. I have been researching the topic and involved in some overseas activities in the fight against trafficking.

So when Levi and Jessie's plans began to take on a new focus, taking street kids into homes, I saw this as human trafficking prevention.

And the answer to the question, "where are the girls?" Many of them, about 20,000 per year out of Ethiopia alone, are trafficked out of the country into the slave trade.

With all that said, there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue on with Levi and Jessie in their efforts to now bring in kids off the street and love on them.

We (those of us involved in running the on-line store for DFW) will be working with much in the same capacity. We are honored and so excited to stay by their sides and assist them with getting this project off the ground. I will share more as more unfolds.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stepping out on faith

I received an urgent phone call this week in regards to a situation that God has pulled me into.

It's very complicated and I can't share details but it involves orphans.

I'm embarrassed to admit that it's a situation that I had asked God to close the door so that I could move on. It's such a messy situation, that it's escalated to something way beyond me.

Although I continued to pray, I thought that I had done all I could. Then the phone call came. It was heavy stuff. As I listened to the details, I was praying that God would give me wisdom and selfishly wanted to run away from this.

After a 1 hour phone conversation, discussing the plan, which at this point, has become plan C, I prayed. I asked God, "Why me?"

And while I was praying, He said, "If not you, then who?"

Before this prayer, I did not have the strength to take the next step. I was feeling unequipped at how to approach this.

But then I realized that God is right. I need to act now. I need to do what I know how to do and let God take it from there.

So, I took the next step, which involved sharing the situation with someone on the field and asking for help.

Then I left it in God's hands. I didn't know whether I would ever hear from this person or not. But I prayed that this person would have an answer, that they would be able to at least guide me to the next step.

I prayed that my message would not fall of deaf ears and that this person will take note and understand the urgency of the situation.

Two days passed, I wasn't ready to give up but I needed to hear soon.

Let me just say, GOD IS AMAZING!!!!  WOW!! WOW!! WOW!!!!

Yesterday, I received a response. This person offered to help in a much bigger way than I even prayed for or expected. We have a lot of details to work through, but WOW!!!

I am so humbled by God's response. This may have been beyond me but it's not beyond God.

Today, I've been thinking about how insecurities keep us from acting. We think the hard work is just for the professionals or experienced people. But I am evidence that all you need on your resume to do God's work, is the right heart.

When we take that leap of faith, God shows up in a BIG way!! He is right there with you! Why does this surprise us when we take a big leap?

There is still much to work through, the work is not done yet. Please pray with me that God will take this to completion and that all the glory will go to Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Conference Recap

Steve and I returned from Louisville Sunday after attending the Orphan Summit. First of all, this was yet another humbling experience for me. We arrived on Wednesday to take in the "FREE TO LIVE" tour with the Desperation Band, Merideth Andrews and an appearance by Children's Hopechest's CEO Tom Davis.

The worship was amazing! The tour is focused on raising awareness for human trafficking - something close to my heart. Midway through the concert, they showed a video of a girl named Sasha from Russia. Through a translator, Sasha told her story of how after aging out of an orphanage, she was lured in by men who did terrible things to her. Sasha was able to escape and was taken in by one of Children's Hopechest's rehabilitation homes for trafficked girls. Through their help, Sasha has been able to hold down a job, is now married and has a beautiful two year old daughter with her husband.

Watching the video of her describing how God transformed her life through people who she could trust, brought on the tears.

Then, guess what? They surprised us all by bringing Sasha out on stage! They flew her from Russia to the US to be part of the tour! This was her first time ever on a plane - beautiful young woman, beautiful two year old daughter, beautiful story of redemption.

Like I said, this was an incredible concert and time of worship but the highlight of this evening was that we GOT TO MEET TOM DAVIS!! He is one of my favorite authors! I'm a HUGE FAN!! I brought his book "Scared", for him to sign for Lauren. She is also a big fan of his. I have had communications with Tom before this conference (advocating for ministries in Haiti and Ethiopia) but this was my first time to meet him in person.

We also met Merideth Andrews and John, the lead singer of the Desperation Band.

The very next morning, Steve and I attended Tom Davis' workshop on human trafficking. We heard more heart wrenching stories and learned of shocking statistics. One that sticks out in my mind is that there are 20,000 children trafficked from Ethiopia alone each year! He talked about how prevention is the KEY! Rescuing is messy and dangerous and rehabilitation is lengthy and costly. The easiest way to help combat human trafficking is through prevention.

The general sessions throughout the conference were loaded with amazing testimonies of how lives have been changed. One testimony that will forever be in my memory is the interview between Dennis Rainey, Bob Lapine and Carolyn Twietmeyer. If you don't already know about Project Hopeful, go take a look and read about this incredible ministry that comes along side parents through HIV adoptions. We also had an opportunity to meet Carolyn and her husband Kiel. Very down to earth, personable couple!

One of the biggest eye openers of the conference was what we learned from speaker and author of "When Helping Hurts", Brian Fikkert. Wow! EVERYTHING he said made sense! The most convicted I have been in a long time! Lots of OUCH moments!

The big picture to understand and come away with is that as Westerners, we often times think that we know the answers to how to fix poverty. We arrive in developing countries with a savior attitude. What we think the problem is impacts how we respond and what we do. But too often we go into a developing community with a superior attitude, thinking we are better because we have the so called resources to "help", not aware that as we get more prideful, they get more shame.
The western culture defines poverty in material terms. Around the world, the answers about poverty are more sociable, such as low self esteem, shame, etc.
But poverty is about broken relationships.

So, the first steps to take towards poverty alleviations are to repent of a material understanding of the world, then repent of our pride and god-complexes. Lastly, repent of the health and wealth or prosperity Gospel.

When we look at poverty as being rooted in relationships, we are all poor. We are all broken. Unless we can admit to our own brokenness and repent, we will be ineffective in the lives of those we try to come along side.
Fikkert also talked about how we can often times be the cause to someones material poverty. He gave the following example to illustrate how we can be enablers instead of helping:
Mary is a woman who has been standing outside the same McDonald's for years asking for money. People  who live in the area are familiar with her and give her money each time they see her. Why has Mary been there for years? It's because people still give her money. But money is not what Mary needs. What she needs is someone to come along side her to help her realize her gifts and give her guidance to find a way to make a living by using her gifts and talents. But this is easier said than done. It's easy to just give money. It's not as easy to give of our time.

He also gave the example of how us Westerners like to bring things like clothing and shoes to hand out to the poor. When we do this, we may be putting local shoe makers and seamstresses out of business.

We can do more harm when we provide relief in a situation that calls for development. Relief is needed only when there are immediate needs and for temporary emergency aid.

For example, after Haiti experienced an earthquake, they needed relief help. This devastation left millions helpless. They needed immediate help and resources to get them back on their feet again, to stop the bleeding.

Once the bleeding stops, then you work towards rehabilitation and then onto development, which promotes an empowering process.

According to Mr. Fikkert, the vast majority of those we serve need development. However the vast majority of the help we provide is relief. So in other words, in many cases, we provide relief where there is a need for development, thus causing more harm than good.

Another key thing to know when working with a developing country is understanding Asset-Based verses Needs-Based.

Asset Based focuses on solutions and resources of the people and bringing in outside resources only when appropriate.

Needs-Based is when the solutions and resources come from outside the community. Thus, causing a dependency.

Avoid paternalism, which is "habitually providing resources or assuming tasks a person can provide or do for themselves.

The best way to approach someones needs or the needs of a developing community is to start with taking inventory of their assets. Write down all the gifts and abilities the community has to offer. Then instead of working for them, walk the journey with them.

With all of this in mind, Fikkert is not a huge fan of Short Term Missions trips. However, in his book, he does offer a scenario where STM trips with a long term goal or commitment can be effective and necessary. In other words, use STM trips as a vision trip to explore a long term relationship opportunity.

There is so much more I can share about Fikkert's perspective but I think I'll end here for now.

We wrapped up the conference with a concert by Sara Grove - also, a huge highlight of the conference for me. She is just so real and so transparent - one of my all time favorite musicians actually.

That's all for now!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day and Referral Anniversary

(I'm so behind on blogging that I decided to combine these two events.)

Two years ago, May 4th, we received Samson's referral. Last week we celebrated with injera and Dora Wat, traditional Ethiopian food. It was yummy!

 Confession: I bought the injera and it was the best!

 My Dora Wat - I don't know if it looks right but it tasted great!

I set the table with traditional Ethiopian decor. Makes me want to go back to Ethiopia!!

Our referral came just days before Mother's Day 2009. It was so surreal. I was the mother of not just three children but now four. I remember being overwhelmed with mixed emotions after knowing my son's story - knowing that neither of his mothers would be spending Mother's Day with him. It really is an overwhelming feeling to think about what could have been.

This Mother's Day the kids each presented a gift and/or card to me. 

Olivia designed my card into a creative game, an origami kind of thing, that when you open it up reveals words of how much she loves me as her mother.

Avery made a picture frame out of noodles with an adorable picture of her on the play ground at school. Her card also expressed her love for me.

Lauren wrote a very nice card to me expressing her love and what she likes most about me.

I would love to share all of these but by the request of my daughter's I am keeping them to myself.

Samson actually presented his gift first. It was in a small white paper bag decorated with puffy stickers on the outside. Inside was pink tissue and this:

On one side is his hand print


On the other side, he drew a red heart, wrote 'LOVE' in yellow, a sun in brown, 'MOMMY' in brown and a picture of me in black. Isn't it beautiful?!

When I pulled out the pot holder and saw his hand print, I had to fight back tears thinking if only his Ethiopian mommy could see his hand print. Why am I so lucky to be the one who receives this gift? Filled with much guilt and mixed emotions of joy and sadness, I retreated to my bedroom upstairs for a good cry. Celebrating Mother's Day is just too overwhelming still. I am overly blessed and undeserving of this.

Wednesday morning Steve and I fly to Kentucky for the Summit. We are so excited for some time away and look forward to networking with others and advocating for orphans around the world. Please keep us in your prayers. I'm hoping to blog about our experiences from Kentucky!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"When were the sisters adopted?"

When Samson talks about his sisters, he refers to them as "the sisters".

The other night when I was putting him to bed, we were talking about the day we met him. He has all kinds of questions about how we became family.

During this conversation, he asked me, "Mommy, when were the sisters adopted?"

I paused and really thought about how to respond. On one hand, I felt sad that he has to be the one not born from my tummy. So much about adoption is about loss, pain, guilt. How do I explain that he is the only one adopted, yet help him discover the beauty of adoption.

Several months ago, when we talked about how he was born in his Ethiopian mommy's tummy, he said, "No, Avery was born in her Ethiopian mommy's tummy." "I was born in YOUR tummy!"

So, you see, this topic has caused some pain for him. He doesn't want to be the different one.

So when he asked when the sisters were adopted, my first thought was this conversation is going to lead to more pain and more grieving.

But I kept thinking positive, thinking about the beautiful side of adoption, specifically, our adoption into Christ's family.

I didn't have to tell him that his sisters were not adopted. And really they weren't adopted in the same sense that he was adopted.

I told him that at this time it doesn't really matter when his sisters were adopted, so much as it matters that they were adopted.

Yes - they have been adopted! Each of my girls have claimed Christ as their Father. They may not fully understand the benefits and the glory that surrounds their adoption but they have each been adopted by Christ.

Samson may not fully understand his adoption into our family either but some day it will make more sense to him. I pray also that some day he has a greater understanding of the Big picture of being adopted by his heavenly Father and all the glory that surrounds our adoptions into His family.