Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baseball Fan

I know it's only the beginning, but today was the first of many whirlwind spring baseball days. Braeden and Seth both had 5:30 practices. T helps coach Seth so that put him on that field and myself and Addison on the other, watching my little clown. So after having a quick dinner ready at 5, which didn't get eaten as sandwiches were way quicker and eaten on the way to practice (live and learn)... the boys were on their way.

The coach has said that Braeden has one of the best forms that he has seen in someone so young. That he is a natural and will probably make a great pitcher. But my little laid back son - he is hilarious as he stands in ultra-serious form with his little elbow cocked up and hits the ball to the outfield.... and then trots around the bases in what I'm pretty sure is the slowest speed that child has. The boy runs everywhere he goes!! He is still about 2 sizes smaller than what he should be as he runs off the massive amounts of food he ingests. Seriously, I am contemplating saving for future grocery bills vs. a college saving account. When I called him on moving so slowly around the bases, he told me "but these shoes are heavy!" Those skinny chicken legs can only handle so much!

After practice today, we rush home to get the kids baths and then my sweet hubby had arranged for a neighbor to come sit with the sleeping kids so I could go to his church softball game at 8:30. I have no idea what the final score was, but let's just say it was probably triple digits vs. single digits. The women in the stands were concerned that our team would never get the opportunity to bat as the first half of the inning just kept going, and going, and going. I'm just glad the guys took it in stride and were laughing about it. But to brag - my man hit it out too!! I think he was just showing off cause his girl was there.... Too bad I didn't bring out the old letter jacket or I really would have felt at home...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Paying the bills

So on my trip to NC today - I listened to 3 sermons on the iPod to tune out the "mommmmmmie's" and "he hit me's" in the back seat. If you haven't checked out NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC - their pastor Perry Noble is phenomenal.

Short thought - he was talking about how often you ask someone how they are doing and they respond with "just paying the bills...." Yeah, I've heard that one. How about "another day another dollar". Or "Waiting for the weekend"??

His point - now do you think the creator of our universe, in all His glory, chose to send His only son to Earth in human form, have him persecuted, stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross FOR US ... all the time saying, "after all this, I hope they are able to get some bills paid..."

Do we stop short of doing something worthwhile in our lives, something we might even have a passion for doing, because we don't have the time? (I'm scared to say that one - scared that to say I don't have enough time - How easy would it be for God to take away some of the things I do value to spend my time on ?? Job, Computer, Housework, ability to do a hobby ...) "Let's see - you have too much stuff to do to serve others?? Let's just get rid of some of the clutter.."

Do we stop short of going after something we think God is telling us to pursue because of the money, or lack of?

Do we stop short of doing something significant because of fear? Or just contentment with "paying the bills"?

I'm pretty sure the God I serve is a HUGE and awesome God and no amount of anxiety, fear, money, or lack of time can hold him back. So what's holding you and I back from rocking this world and not just existing in it ???

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 10 - His Little Children

Back on track:

Day 10 of our trip was to be our last. I would love to say I cherished every moment of it - but getting out of bed that last day was tough. I was sick and I was tired. I wasn't able to eat much. And I really missed MY babies. BUT... God in his wisdom, took me back to a place of joy and of rest, knowing that we had come for a reason. On that last morning we visited one last Child Survival Program in Addis Abada. At this program were the most beautiful children, the most loving mothers, and a wonderful morning to book-end our time in this beautiful country. Who wouldn't smile when greeted by these little munchkins?? It was here that I met the woman I had spoken of in a previous blog that volunteers with mothers in the community. To hear her talk about "so many disabled babies", and once again, see these beautiful and healthy children - I knew Compassion had made a difference in the lives of these mothers. Just the weight that must be lifted when you know that your child will not starve to death, or die of a preventable disease like diarrhea or malaria, must free these mothers to instead hug their babies every day, without the fear of loosing them. And to know that your baby will have the opportunity to go to school, to learn, to just be a child - is priceless.

It is a gift that we take for granted everyday. Yes, I worry about my children. But my worries are more the "what ifs". Sex. Drugs. Pregnancy. Homosexuality. Atheism. Selfcenteredness. Naivete. Most of those worries are for another day and not the survival in the here and now. (Although Braeden likes to test that theory...)

In that church, we had a wonderful morning playing with those babies and it really put my heart at peace. If it had not been for our ride to the center through the poverty and the dirt, if we had just been placed in the little church compound, you would never know that we were in a place of immense poverty. Now I don't want to brag about the wonderful thing that the great America was able to bring to those mothers and children. It wasn't like us high and mighty Americans were happy to see what great things our money could do in that barren land. Now follow me here: instead - it was mothers meeting mothers. God's children playing with God's children. We were not giving to them, not blessing them with our presence. God had found a way to level the field and bring His blessings to His people in that land. And we were there to be able to witness that and to see the smiles His gifts had born. To remember with humility that those children are healthy, and smiling, and playing - because God gave to us, so we could give to them. And that was my peace. It's not about us. It's all about His children.

Luke 18:16 "But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Please remember, that for more children to be released from poverty, in Jesus' name through Compassion's assistance - the current waiting children need a sponsor. You will not miss the money. You will not regret your decision. You will not be throwing your money to the wind. There is no greater gift than to be able to be a part of God's blessings.

Sponsor today. Partner with Compassion in helping to lead a little child to spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health.

Matthew 25: 34-36,40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'... "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Friday, March 20, 2009

What kind of guts do you have??

First off, let me apologize for side-stepping my last Ethiopia day log - but sometimes, and very often, things just eat at me until I finally give in and write them out. Let me also start off by NOT apologizing for anyone who gets offended by this blog. Uh-oh.

Recently one of my Christian sisters and I were talking about believers vs. unbelievers and about how upset we get and how personal we take it when we are unable to 'talk' an unbeliever out of Hell. And it got my mind racing with all the stories, emails, and quotes I have received in the past that just seem to stick with me.

Let me start with an email I got about 10 years back. At the time, I had a very close friend who I loved dearly, but who also was very worldly. In that, she didn't want to even think about the next world as she had enough to deal with in this one. She believed in a god, but didn't see a real reason to have a close relationship, or a binding relationship, with Christianity. Once in a while church attendance should earn her a few points anyway. She was good, no worries. About that time, I got an email with the following little story which my memory says went something like this:

- "I wanted to tell you about my savior. I wanted to warn you of the price of rejecting him. But I was too scared, too embarrassed, too much of a good friend to beat you over the head with my Bible. We shared laughs, we shared coffee, we shared memories - but I never shared with you the only way to be saved of an eternity of misery."
- "I'm going to tell you today. I'm going to talk about the way to Heaven. I'm going to speak up and try to lead you to the love of Christ and tell you about how He died for YOU. How all you have to do is receive His gift. How your being good is not good enough. I need to be a good friend to you."
- "I couldn't tell you today. Today you were killed on the way over in a car accident. I loved your friendship so much. Why couldn't I tell you? Why did we share coffee, and memories, and laughs - but I didn't care enough to tell you how to escape an eternity of misery."
-" I will always remember how much of a good friend I was not...."

I let that opportunity with MY friend go. We are no longer close so I really don't think she would listen to me now. I had the relationship but I failed when I had the greatest chance of having her listen. I'm hoping that God saw fit to see what little seed I may have lazily planted and is busy watering it..

Another email that sticks out is :

- You are driving down the road and you come upon a truck that is on fire. You run to the truck but the cab is engulfed in flames. The driver inside is screaming for help, dying in pain. You try to get to him but the flames and the heat are just too intense. You stand there in tears and listen to his cries, which eventually are silenced. The couple minutes that he suffered immensely took forever in your mind. Now if you could not bare the thought of seeing a total stranger suffer through several minutes of intense pain, which could be eventually, and mercifully, ended by death - how can you look the other way when your friends or family members are in the cab of that truck and destined for an eternity of the same unbearable pain and anguish with no relief??

Stories and emails like that bother us. We don't want to think about it. Just another Christian wacko trying to scare us into Heaven. But it is not about hell-fire and damnation sermons. It is about love - the love that we profess we have for others but then stop short of. Christ's love is the ONLY thing that can save us from that fire. And yet we don't want to embarrass ourselves, put ourselves in awkward situations, cause friction - so we wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or never - to talk to them. Because life is good, all is well, we're alright. Right??

I also have found some wonderful quotes by men much more spiritual and educated than I:

"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will persih, let them perish with our arms about their knees." C.H. Spurgeon

"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." C.H. Spurgeon

"The Lord often permits Christians to be despised or rejected by the world, that being liberated and cleansed from its pollution, we may cultivate holiness. We must love those who do not love God, but conforming ourselves to their standards for their approval and acceptance is disastrous." John Calvin

"If I do not believe in my heart (how God saved me from hell) – believe them so that they are real in my feelings – then the blessed love of God in Christ will scarcely shine at all. The sweetness of the air of redemption will be hardly detectable. The infinite marvel of my new life will be commonplace. The wonder that to me, a child of hell, all things are given for an inheritance will not strike me speechless with trembling humility and lowly gratitude. The whole affair of salvation will seem ho-hum, and my entrance into paradise will seem as a matter of course. When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to simply news. The intensity of joy is blunted and the heart-spring of love is dried up." John Piper

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Jesus - (Matthew 24).

"You did not chose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." Jesus - (John 15).

This post is as much for me as it is for you. What are we waiting for? The perfect conversation. The perfect day. The perfect person. If God has given you a relationship with a person, He has put you there for a reason and a time, and it is not to share recipes or sports scores with. We do not know what day, what time, what hour Christ may one day chose to say "That's IT!! Enough chances!!" - do we have the guts to speak up, or the guts to do nothing and disobey the Lord we say we belong to??? Just something to make you think...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My struggling artist

Tonight we were "formally" invited to the County Fine Arts Center to view the new Children's exhibit featuring our own favorite artist. Seth's teacher told me that he had been upset he couldn't bring his painting home to show his dad. But how cool is it that I now have an artist with a piece in a real gallery!! What stinks is that he wound himself up to the point of getting sick and chose to go home before the actual reception. Not only does he draw like his mom, he has my nervousness also. Or I use to anyway. That was kind of kicked to the side after a couple years of married life to a social butterfly. So maybe there is hope yet for my little wall-flower. If not, he can always just sit at home and paint for his mom - as I am his biggest fan....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 9: African Tourists

Day 9 we left Nazareth and it's 5 a.m. truck traffic / wake up call, smog, and mosquito netted beds to head back to Addis. This was to be our tourist day and we headed out to a resort and spa called Sodere. I really was excited to be going back to the Ghion hotel and it's pay-by-the-minute dial-up internet service. It was so hard not to be able to communicate with T for 3 days!

Now before all of you who helped to support my missions start calling me and complaining about our spa trip - let me just say - I DID NOT have a massage, I DID NOT have a pedicure, OR EVEN a manicure. But we did have a good time and it really was a neat and interesting place to visit. So thank you for my couple hours spa experience.

Sodere is the home of natural hot springs. I had expected that we would be driving up to a creek or a mini pool of water, bubbling up like a babbling little fountain or something. But instead, Sodere's hot springs looked like this:

On our trip was a family of 6 that was just awesome. The young girls from the trip got in the pool and said, "this is HOT!!". I'm thinking - "it can't be all that hot... Maybe bath-tub water hot?"

Let me digress by mentioning that my roommate Gina was also a microbiologist. Her job is to test water and hunt for protozoans and bacteria. Well, she was NOT getting in that water. But my curiosity got the best of me so I lower myself into really, really, HOT water! Cause, you know, I'm only in Africa once (kind of like when I tried everything on our buffet that first breakfast and puked all day afterward?) I'm not really a fast learner when it comes to new experiences ...

Anyway, the all-natural hot springs pool was actually pretty soothing but like a too-hot jacuzzi, after about 10 min., I was done. So my friend JoAnna and I stroll down the path on a safari for monkey viewing. I figured we would see about 5-10 but those little jokers were everywhere. And they really weren't scared of us at all. We could get within about 3 feet of them to take their pictures. I was a little squeamish that one of them was going to take a flying leap for my face.. But I loaded up on monkey pictures to bring back to my little monkeys. See, mommy WAS in Africa after all?!?

We also wandered down the the adjacent river beside the resort and were treated to pretty scenery ala putrid smell. I joked with JoAnna that I had better not fall in that polluted water or Gina wouldn't allow me to step foot back in our room due to my bacteria count!!

is JoAnna's room at the Ghion. I never took a picture of mine.)

Speaking of bacteria, after a cheeseburger lunch, most of us had sherbet ice cream which was 'probably safe'. Yeah.... I'm thinking not so much, as about 10 min. after eating, I was pretty sick again. Don't I ever learn?!? To make matters that much more pleasant, immediately after eating we board our fun-bus on the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Addis. Let me tell you - it is no fun to have a bacteria wreaking havoc on your stomach with no Exxon's in sight!! Thank goodness for Gina whipping out the Cipro antibiotic or I may have been 12 pounds lighter by the time I touched on American soil again.

When we got back to Addis Abada we were headed to the open air market to buy our souvenirs. **Here is where I could politely skip over the fact of making our bus wait for me (and a friend) outside of an Addis Piano Bar while I run in and praise God for the hugest sign EVER which says "Toilets". I really think I could also hear the angels singing at that point! And yeah, that seemed safe. Two female Americans running into a dark bar in a foreign country? But when a girl's gotta go...** At the market I was really at home, since I am a bargain shopper by nature. I, seriously, spend 4 hours in a huge warehouse twice a year to buy all 3 children the cheapest (but yet stylish) brand name consignment clothes at about $300 for an entire season. So to haggle over a pretty little Ethiopian embroidered dress? Got that $12 bargain for only $8!! In addition to a coffee pot (which the airlines broke) and a little girl bust for my display table, I also bought myself grand-baby #452 for Addison to love on - it is hilarious. His feet are about as big as mine! I really thought customs may give me a hard time about having huge brown baby feet sticking out from the top of my carry-on. But she loves him. And really, how often can you bring a foreign baby into the states for $7.50 without even paying for a passport??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Teachable Moment

My latest "wild hair" actually had a really good result so I wanted to share with you other moms. I'm all for having those 'ah-ha' moments with my kids where you can just see the knowledge seeping in their little brains.

So last night, in honor of Compassion's Global Food Crisis Day, we did the following:

I made baked fish, rice, steamed cabbage, and spiced lentils. I was kind of going for an international theme.

- Addison got her normal plate of a spoonful of each food. Cause who really wants to make a toddler mad on purpose!!
- Braeden got a small spoonful of beans and rice only.
- Tony and I got HUGE platefuls of everything, with 2 pieces of fish each.
- Seth got an empty plate, poor Seth!!

The kids had been complaining for about an hour that they were hungry but I just kept putting them off, not wanting snacks to ruin their dinner experience... So we sit down, join hands and pray (with Tony thanking God for our food and how he takes care of all our needs. And to help us to understand how blessed we are.)

Immediately Seth gets wide eyes and asks, "where's mine?" Me - "well, I'm sorry, but you don't get to have anything tonight." "So I don't have to eat?? Yeah! I'm going to get a cupcake!" Me - "No, no cupcakes either. I'm sorry, you're going to have to go to bed hungry tonight. That's all the food we had for dinner, we just didn't have any for you."

At which time Braeden is piping up, "I didn't get any fish. Can I have some fish?" (My weird child loves fish AND spinach,.. go figure.) "No, sorry bud, Addison, Daddy, and I are the only ones who can have fish."

Addison is just chowing down like she hasn't eaten in days!! Just shoveling it in while the boys look at me with questioning eyes. I really wish I had video of it because she couldn't have shoveled any faster. And lately she has been pretty picky. I was floored she ate the fish and the lentils without whining "I don't liiiiiiike this." Way to make my point little one!

I go on to explain that today is Global Food Crisis Day. And I wanted them to think about God and his children in the rest of the world. That Addison has just enough food to fill her up. Braeden has very basic food, just enough so he wont go hungry, like many children in the world who don't get to have nice foods like hamburger, steak, or chicken every night. And Seth, poor Seth... He doesn't have anything to eat for supper and will have to go to bed very hungry, like many other children this very night. Does that seem fair?

"Mommy and Daddy have sooooooo much. We live in America and God has blessed us with so much food and the money to buy that food. We really, have too much to eat. So what do you think God would want us to do with all this extra?? "

(Now here was where the lesson kind of fell apart a little... The boys decided that they should just come take our food, or steal it. O.k., so save the teachable moment on stealing til another day....)

Bringing them back - "Do you think that God may have given us so much so that we might share it with you? Maybe that is the reason God blessed us in America so much. So that we would share it with his other children that don't have enough." So we feed the boys off of our 'bounty' and lesson is learned. I hope.

Here's the thing - since coming back from my trip to Ethiopia - I have struggled with America a bit. And from what I hear from others who have done missions, it is something that most have to deal with when they come back from seeing the rest of the world. The week after, you feel like you are completely alone in your thoughts and why is it that no one understands what you do?? How can we be so blind and not see? Why is it that the American mind-set is that, "I made this money... I deserve to have this.... or this..... or this..... It never ends, this list of our "needs"

We have SOOOO much. To look in my closet and see my 20 pairs of shoes made me roll my eyes. To look in my children's closet and see 25 long sleeve shirts and about 20 short sleeves each, just made me sad. BUT.. as the head of Compassion's Ethiopia office had told our group, we were not meant to come and see to feel guilty about what we have. God gave us those as gifts. Instead, what we have, we need to remember is a gift and realize that He did not mean for those gifts to line our pockets and cupboards alone. So instead of feeling guilty or feeling sad when looking at what I have, it is my responsibility to not only share with others, but to teach my children to share. And to teach them that we don't have to eat steak every night, or have the newest and latest, or the best and the most. And if I do my job as a mother to help them learn those lessons through little, teachable moments while they are young - then I know my Heavenly Father, the one who gives me every blessing, will be smiling at me and know He has taught me through my very own teachable moment.

** After dinner, as we were cleaning up, my great-sport-husband who had gone along with my madness, whispers - "yeah, those lentils... don't let 'em find their way into this house again..."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 8 : Weak, silly Americans

For those of you complimenting me on my gift of writing and encouragement - this will be a downer for you as I had a really bad day so there's not much meat to this post ....
Day 8 was Sunday. We were still in Nazareth and dressed to attend a local church project's Sunday morning service. So here we go, all 35 of us pearly white Americans (with a couple Ethiopian handlers, haha), marching into a packed church of about oh, 500-600 Ethiopians. The church was kind of like a warehouse with one open wall in back where even MORE members and children were seated on benches out in the sun. They started off with music. Now my dad will tell you, he is not a fan of MY church's worship services. Loud, long, repetitive verses, all while standing and sometimes (gasp) even clapping. Very, very loud. But Daddy, we have really short and reserved services compared to these guys. Not saying that's a bad or a good thing.....

Now please keep in mind that this was a bad day, so my estimations of time, place, and events may be a bit skewed. After what I think was about an hour or more of Ethiopians worshiping God with all their heart - little kids dancing around up front, even a little boy prostrate down on his hands and knees with forehead on the ground - I gave up. I could NOT stand up any more. The weather there was not that hot, maybe 80-85 degrees. But in a warehouse of about 600 people with no real draft, breathing and profuse sweating was becoming an issue for me. So at about hour 1 and a half, my head falls forward, barely missing the pew in front of me and my good friend Mike punches our Ethiopian tour guide Demissee to get me out of there. (Thank you MIKE!!) Propped up on Demissee, I stumble out to his car, weaving through the many benches, members, and kiddos. What a weanie, this little American!! While in the car, Demissee and our Nascar bus driver used their hats to fan me and get my temp. back down. They would then help me drink water as the rest of Nazareth paraded down the street to peer in the window at the weak white girl who couldn't sit through a church service without making a scene...

So for the next one and a half hours, in my semi-conscious state, I'm thinking "we've GOT to get them out of there!" As if my compatriots were on a battle-field. Even Demissee was fretting, "this is too long..... This is too long!.... For Americans, this is too long." Go ahead, read that as "those puny Americans!" Let me add that we had several elderly individuals on our trip. Several. None of them ended up in the back of Demissee's car, hmmmmm??

Anyway, when the white people are finally free to leave, we head back to the hotel. My girls carried me into my friend JoAnna's room where I lay with no energy and a wet washcloth on my forehead the rest of the day, with her and Corinne as my nurses. So thank you, JoAnna and Corinne! I think the rest of our group went sight seeing, shopping, or maybe a 6 hour hike, in Nazareth. The puny one just chilled out and drank lots of really nasty water and snacks my marathon running friends forced on me. No wonder I don't work out! I couldn't take the protein this-or-that or electrolyte liquids. Yuck!!

The really sweet thing was that my buddy Addisu had been at the church and had come to the hotel to check on me. When I came down for our dinner meeting that evening, he and his friends were still there, just hanging out with those sickly, weak Americans.... or maybe it was just me.

I also joked all week about how idiotic we must have looked to the Ethiopians with our incessant picture taking and video taping of every house, tree, cow, chicken, store, and monkey. Especially if they had never seen white people before. Look at the silly Americans! They must have never seen a goat before!!! So in honor of all the other silly Americans, here are some pictures that I took with my incessant picture taking, or that I stole from other silly Americans on our trip... Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 7 : Sugar on Valentine's Day

The morning after our visits with our children, we left out on our speedy yellow bus on the way to Nazareth, a good 2 1/2 hour ride through rural Africa.

While I'm on the subject of our bus ride, let me just take this time to explain that this vehicle and it's driver would give Dale Jarrett a run for his money on a test track! Our driver loved his little musical horn. Any car/truck that happened to venture within his safe zone (about 2 inches radius) was treated to the music of an ice cream truck. Same for any animal that even glanced at the road if we were within eye shot. But really, eye shot didn't matter as our driver was passing 2-3 transfers, other buses, or dumptrucks on the wrong side of the road..... in curves...... and on hills. Let me just say - prayer works!!!

I also have to say that I completely take the blame for my screwing up of this year's Valentine's Day! This was the first V.Day that I didn't spend the late hours explaining to my hubby how I don't care about roses, jewelry, or nice Hallmark cards - but a hand-written note, at the very least, would be great! Anything showing thought or preparation. In his defense, he always says that since he tells me he loves me every day, why does he have to make a big deal about loving me on just one?? To make matters worse, if you remember this post regarding our surprise 4-legged family member, my last written words to him were "you...are....so....dead" - and then I up and leave for 3 days into remote Africa with no internet and no way to even say "Happy Valentine's Love, I was just kidding.." Completely unintended punishment, I promise.

Anyway, once we got to Nazareth we were to spend all day at a project with arts, crafts, and sports activities. I came all prepared with paper bag puppets (which were gone in about 15 minutes!) to make with the little ones.

I was also able to meet the Director and look at the Child Survival Program where the babies are weighed/charted, vaccinated, and their mothers are trained on infant care and how to stimulate their minds and development. In the main office, we were able to look at individual files on children and see their age progression pictures, grades, health tracking and test results, and home visit information. Compassion keeps a great deal of data on each child! In the main office was this artwork which says "The Lord is my Shepherd" in Amharic letters and was made by a Compassion student. Pretty impressive?!?

After lunch we split up to visit some of the senior's homes. I jumped out at our first stop, the home of a boy named Robel (Robert). He lived with his grandmother and little sister as both his parent were dead, although he didn't elaborate on what had happened. He and his friend, Addisu (Addison), were the best hosts! It was here that I learned the majority of my facts about Ethiopia. Both boys plan to go to the university to be engineers. Robel had even had the chance of coming to America as an exchange student for a year but turned it down to stay with his grandmother and friends. The boys had been part of a choir that sang Ethiopian praise songs for us and then broke into "Lord I lift your name on High". Pretty neat to hear on Ethiopian soil! These guys had awesome English and asked great questions about the US and religion. When I asked them if they had ever seen white people before, they answered, "only in the movies..." (I assured them not to believe everything they see.)

Robel's grandmother, like every other hostess, was so gracious. After our coffee, bread, and popcorn, she proceeded to bring out more injera and shuro (a spicy sauce made of beans which I would love to get the recipe for!) Robel's yard had orange, mango, and coffee trees and when he asked me if I had ever tried sugar cane - I told him no, thinking he probably had some growing around the corner! His eyes lit up and he asked excitedly, "do you want to try some??" After I agreed, he ran to his room and brought out several birr which he handed to his sister to run to the market to buy with! I felt awful as this young boy had just spent money which he probably, no definitely, needed - to buy me a treat! When I told him no and insisted on paying, he told me, "I am your host! For you to pay would be insulting!" I tell you what - we had the MOST fun that afternoon socializing with those guys and chewing on our sugar cane. They had to teach us to peel it back with our teeth, grip and tear an inch or so off, and then chew on the cane until it looses it's flavor. My entire face and arms were covered in sticky but it really tasted great! I'm still counting myself lucky that I didn't break a couple teeth off though! So ladylike peeling, chewing, and spitting my cud - but by far one of my most memorable experiences of the trip!

When asked about his sponsor, Robel ran and retrieved his photo album and pointed out each picture of his "family", with a proud smile. He and his friends meet every Saturday, just to pray. He has a 4.0 GPA. Addisu was just the sweetest guy and had such beautiful and caring eyes and smile. He is to be an LDP student after graduation. On Robel's desk, in addition to his textbooks, were an Amharic and an English copy of the Bible. I could go on and on about how great these young men were. They impressed our entire group with their maturity, both spiritually and intellectually. I can only imagine how God will use them in the coming years and feel a little envious that I wasn't able to be their sponsors and be able to claim them as additional sons as they would make any mother proud to call their own!

Friends Zerihun, Addisu, and Robel (Zerihun didn't speak as much English or was very shy! We didn't get to learn as much about him.)

A billboard in Nazareth voted "The Best Billboard EVER" by our crew:
"The only soap that eliminates unpleasant smell of foot."

Friday, March 6, 2009

I stand corrected...

Now usually I can't stand being wrong about anything, but in this case - bring on the corrections!! Remember my addition in regards to the number of people brought to Christ, through the LDP student Jerry, because of her sponsorship by a gentleman in Canada?? My total was 10. Well, I was wrong...

Jerry read my blog and wrote to correct me. For English to be her second language, she does a wonderful job of writing to get a point across! (I did correct a little grammar to make it easier for quicker reading). I asked for her permission to post her comments as I wanted you to all see that Compassion does MAKE a HUGE difference. And you never know how far reaching your little $32 a month, or your little letters, or your small relationship, could make:

Here are the details of our ministry:-
As you said my Canadian sponsor invested just on Jerry, but here is the tree with a root founded on Jesus and with extended branches as follows.
The reason that I decided to write you the details is that to re count the saved ones one more.
The name of our ministry is called, Mori’ah Deliverance of Ethiopian Children. Our mission is to:-
1. Re union family and
2. Help orphans.

I think here is new update for you about the Re union of family.
Most of the street children are out of home just because of silly reasons. I didn’t know this before, but when I experience working in our ministry, I understand that some of these kids, children, and youth can go back to their family and live again peacefully.
Some times it becomes hard for them to go back, because they will be addicted to drugs on the street. We know this very well, so the first thing we do is to tell them how Jesus loves them and we too. And we also tell them Jesus’ mighty power of delivering them from what they are possessed. The second thing we ask them is, from where they came and whether they do have family or not. If they don’t have family they joined our orphan center and if they have family we help them to go back to their family.
Tracy …focus… here is our job right now, we asked them their willingness to accept Jesus and then we go to church with them and pray together. We changed their clothes and shoes. We ask them to drop their bad behavior and when they begun to learn about Jesus they definitely decide by themselves without any effort. So we don’t want to push them. In this way, thirteen boys reunite with their family, all of them accept Jesus and when we help them go back, we cover the transportation, change clothes & shoes, and maybe some money for small expenses too. Most of them are from rural areas, not from Addis Ababa. We do still have contact with them. Amazingly, they are the ones who call, not us, especially their parents called frequently and give us thanks. Some times when I think of their parents I remember my childhood when I accept Jesus at 13, and see forward ahead, of their parents, and dream their salvation too. Amen!!! …..Are you counting or sleeping with my long update?.......
……………………1+2+7+13+wait - read the following too………
In July, my friends who are in the ministry went to the place called Arsi especially name called Bekoji, and preached gospel for street children and the people of the city too. Since it was summer break for all Ethiopian school we all were free. But I was in LDP training, so I didn’t go with them but I also contribute money for transportation and for some expenses. The city is full of Muslims and they hate Christians, but Hallelujah God was with my friends so they preach Jesus’ Gospel so that many heard about Jesus. Among those who decided to follow Jesus, my friends pick nine of them and from these nine they rent house for two boys ( 12 and 15 years old) who have nowhere to go except to sleep on the street. My friends have good relationship with church there so they gave responsibility for them and we send money every month and extra for school, uniform, food, and clothing too. Five of them have parents or single parents but live with deep poverty, so we also send money for them monthly so that they can survive and also the nearby church is helping us a lot by looking and encouraging them to keep walking with Jesus.

My beloved Tracy you can add now nine:- 1+2+7+13+9+ extended branches like their parents, relatives, friends….= 32+branches.

Do you think Mr. Smith in Canada would have ever thought about the impact on at least 32 people he was making 13 years ago when he sponsored Jerry at age 8?? The God we serve is not a small God. And no sacrifice made in His name will come back empty. Speaking of sacrifice - Jerry continues to amaze me - the rest of her note:

Tracy, you may wonder from where we get income to rent house, change their clothes, shoe, school fee, school uniform, transportation for family integration, food, and when they get medication for their pain, and so on….but as the name indicates, God is providing for us and individuals are helping us a lot whom consider that we are students and saw what we did. Even our friends who are out of the ministry are willing just to contribute money. Tracy please, don’t think huge things from us. When we change their clothes they may not be brand new, we often give them our clothes. As you see their age is almost equal with us so they fit our clothes and shoe.
For instance last Christmas, one of our children at home among the orphans doesn’t have shoes, he is good at soccer so that he finished his shorts and shoes frequently. Imagine we couldn’t say; stop playing because you are causing us to have an extra expense… who knows he may be international soccer player tomorrow! So fortunately, one of my friends visited me and gave me brand new, shoes for me, awesome that they were for both boys or girls, I mean it was sport shoe! Then immediately I wrapped it and ran to our kid's home and my family laughed at me, because they thought that I was kidding. Do you know why they laughed at me? The reason is, it is too new, so I should wear it at least for a week! You can think as a young girl, how it is difficult to give brand new shoes with out hesitation. But I knew from how God raised me, I learned this from you Compassion sponsors. I think some times God lets us to pass through difficulties to help the next generation learn. I think you are seeing how God is providing for our kids and youth. We are not giving our money to those beloved ones, rather we are sharing what we are given from family, friends, and from Compassion. I think there is a difference between giving and sharing. For instance, I’m sharing from what my Canadian sponsor sends every month through Compassion. Difficult to realize, students who are sponsored by kind Compassion sponsors and are now sponsoring others……….Does it mean that, I’m a sponsor too, like you guys?...........!

I wrote back to tell Jerry that she reminded me of the story of the widow's mite. That she and her friends have given so much more than we in America. They give sacrificially to those they serve. For in these tough economic times, when we in America may have to eat out at nice restaurants less frequently, wear shoes a little longer, or skip a trip to the theater and instead just rent a movie - There is still so much abundance and waste here and yet no one is ever satisfied. As a lady at church told me Sunday, that in Ethiopia or anywhere in poverty, they can see Christ so much clearer because they don't have the distractions that Satan puts on those in the US. We sacrifice so little. And often from what is left over, after our wants have been met in addition to our needs.
In doing so, we often miss out on the joy and the blessings that are gained by sharing as Jerry and her friends have. Because we will never see how far God's branches can reach until we just plant the seed.

Many have looked at my pictures from the trip of the poor and dirty neighborhood children or have read my blog and have asked, "Why can't they all be helped? How do the staff pick who gets help and who doesn't?" The answer is - that Compassion picks the poorest of the poor. But regretfully, with us in America feeling an 'Economic Flu'. In third world countries, they now have 'Pneumonia'. The prices of food have increased dramatically and projects are having to figure out ways to stretch their sponsorship money. For each child registered and without a sponsor, that Compassion partnership church is still serving that child through school fees, food, medicine - without the monetary assistance from America for that child - until that child is sponsored.

Currently -
Compassion has over a million children registered worldwide.
173,000 children worldwide are registered and still waiting sponsorship
Last year at this time, 2,000 children had been waiting for over a year.
At this time this year, 20,000 children have been waiting more than 12 months.

Children waiting for sponsorship also equals children waiting in poverty who cannot be registered. Please pray and search your heart about giving sacrificially to "the least of these." And if you already sponsor or just cannot find the funds to do so, can you tell others who may be able to?? Eileen in El Salvador, age 9.........Negele in Ethiopi, age 9......Reller in Nicaragua, age 10. All real little faces who may one day bring 32 or more people to Christ because of the love of Christ that you show them. Sponsor Today.

Matthew 25:40 (Christ speaking of the little children):
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 6: My 6 year old Sons

On February 13th, 2003, I gave birth to my second son Braeden.

On February 13th, 2003, a woman thousands of miles away gave birth to her second child, Amanuel. A year later, his father would pass away leaving her with 2 small children, ages 1 and 2.

On February 13th, 2009, I was able to meet that woman and her son. I was able to take her little boy a back-pack full of clothing, household goods, necessities, a signed teddy bear, and a soccer ball.

On February 13th, I was also able to witness to this dear mother and tell her how much my Savior, Jesus Christ, loves her and how it is only by His help that I was able to travel the miles to meet her and tell her how much He loves her and her family. An experience I will never forget. Meeting Amanuel was amazing, kicking the soccer ball back and forth, hearing his little giggles, all wonderful. But to see the difference Compassion makes in one family's life was priceless.

We started out as a crowd of sponsors looking among the faces of a crowd of Ethiopians, each of them also scanning our faces for a match to the picture they held. I immediately saw the little boy up front that looked exactly like his picture, holding a bouquet of peach tipped roses (my favorite by the way!) I didn't even wait for them to call his/my name and introduce us - I just walked up and called out MY little boy's name, Amanuel. Awesome.

After introductions by his project manager, I met his mother and his aunt, who lives in Addis Abada. Amanuel and his family live so far away that they had traveled the night before to stay with his aunt before coming to see me that Friday morning. He lives in one of the highest points of Ethiopia in the mountains. His director told me that only 10% of the population are Christians as most of them are Orthodox.
*Amanuel is just a cutey pie. He was extremely shy and would just smile and ignore the questions of the interpreters. He was never rude, nor mean, nor agitated - he just smiled and giggled.
*His mother and aunt call him by the nickname "Amani".
*He was able to write and name his ABC's in English and could identify ones I wrote for him. The translator said he was very smart to only be six. Yeah, I have one of those too. Sometimes TOO smart.
*He was left-handed; Braeden throws and bats left-handed.
*He stuck on the Atlanta Braves cap I had brought him (A for Amanuel!), cocked over to the side; this is one of my favorite characteristics of Braeden. It ranks right up there with his dimples, on the "Mommy wants to eat you up" scale.
I had a great time playing soccer on the grounds of our hotel. I thought it was sweet that he just smiled and said he didn't care for candy but yet took the lollipop I offered him and immediately popped it in. (He giggled when the translator told him that he told stories.) I felt the pleasure of a parent watching her little one ride a merry-go-round. Snickering to myself as he would let go with "no hands", another thing I'm sure Braeden would have done. Heck, we probably would have been at the ER that afternoon if Braeden had been there. That seems to be his favorite place to visit....
At six years old, Amanuel really didn't realize who I was. He didn't understand, as the translator kept trying to tell him, that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to meet me and know me. He didn't understand, why this white woman kept stroking his cheek or his hair in love. He just wanted to run and play with his ball. So after an hour or so, I told them to just leave him alone, let him be a little boy and play with the other boys, I would rather him have fun than be uncomfortable. I'm a mom! I understand shy little boys!

Looking back, I would have it no other way. I was able to learn about his family from his mother and project coordinator, things I never would have been able to do had I been answering questions about what animal my boys like best or what flavor of ice cream is their favorite. I learned that his mother is very gracious. She was so appreciative of our relationship and praised the Lord for it. I also learned that Evangelical Christians are also persecuted in her region, and that conversion from Orthodox Christianity brings with it difficulties and hate. I learned that they are living in government housing but that she is saving her money to move to a safer, better home. And I was surprised to learn that with a small gift I gave at Christmas, this mother is now renting a small space and has purchased goods to re-sell. She is now completely self-sufficient and is able to provide completely for her family. With only $150.... neither her nor I have to worry about Amanuel finding his next meal or having shoes to wear. And here I thought I was using our American blessings to buy her something like a goat or some blankets.... but a business?? Our provider is amazing!

The project director pulled me to the side late in the day to talk to me about religion in America. He asked many questions and was interested in why I was there and why I had chosen to come so far. As I told him my story of being led to come to Africa, raising the huge amount in such a short period of time, and of wanting to learn more about Compassion to share with others - he said that Amani's mother is not a Christian. "May I call her here so you can tell her about your salvation. Tell her about your Jesus. Tell her about your Bible. You tell her. She respects you. She will listen to you." So we then spent the next 30 min or so, he translating and I witnessing to this widow from the mountains of Ethiopia. Her listening with her head bowed, almost in sadness. Interjecting with "yes" or "God Bless you". When I told her that I was worried to hear she did not know my Jesus, that I think I had come really to talk to her and not to just Amanuel, that I wanted to have the peace of knowing that this would not be the last time we met, but that I would be able to meet her again in eternity, in God's family..... she answered with a low voice that she is so glad Amanuel has us. That she is glad he is going to Sunday School. That she is glad HE is learning about Jesus. But almost as in, "I'm glad HE has that choice as I do not." I told her about the Psalm I had read days before of God working in this land, and I explained the Ephesians verse that Braeden and now also, Amanuel's, teddy bear symbolizes, and she graciously said that she would go and read them both in a Bible. That she would think about all I had said.

Also disturbing was the project director's comments about how special my visit was. That many sponsors do not even write their children. What an opportunity to personally mold a little mind and heart wasted!! The Compassion staff does an unbelievable job of loving and teaching these children, but to forfeit your personal relationship is almost like neglecting a valuable piece of artwork! You never know what it may one day be worth!

As other sponsors and children were weeping and emotional as they said good-bye, I was at peace. MY little boy was very happy. I could tell he was very loved. He was being taken care of, and he was smart. And I know that in the years to come, with more letters, more photos, and more children's drawings, that the relationship I have with that little boy will continue to grow stronger. I can't wait to see how God binds these two little six year old twins from across the ocean. I don't know if I will ever meet him face to face again. Or if I will be able to hug his mother another time. But I do know that, just as we were told the first day here, I WAS in Ethiopia for a reason.

I hope it was to eventually inspire others to form the same kind of relationships with Compassion's waiting children. As these children are not just dirty, sad faces on a packet, but real children with real smiles and real needs.

I hope it was to lend a face to that little six year old memory. A face that he will remember as one that came many miles on an airplane just to hug him and give him a soccer ball.

But most of all, I hope that I was in Ethiopia at that time, in that year, to plant seeds that I may never see yield.... but to know they were planted none the less.

2 Corinthians 9:6-13 (New International Version)

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. "