Saved by Grace (Part III) A New Way to Support Adoption

There is an orphan crisis in our world, but I feel like it is not as extreme as some organizations portray it to be.  There are certainly an enormous amount of “single orphans”, children living with only one parent, but when you think only about children that have literally no known family, or no family member able or willing to care for them, the number is significantly smaller. The crazy thing is, especially where we are, and I assume many places in our world, that local govt’s have no way (or a very poor way) to care for these handfuls of true “double orphans” in need.  That leaves them dependent on an NGO to care for the child.  But what if no such NGO exists?

There is no shortage of NGO’s; our small city alone has 50 of them.  But we are the only one who is willing and able to take in abandoned children or children who have no other means of support.  Isn’t that nuts?  I constantly think to myself, what would happen if Grace Center did not exist in our city? Where would all of these kids we have cared for, and are caring for, be at today?  Disturbingly, they would likely be living on the streets, a deplorable shelter, or maybe not even alive.

If you have the means and ability to adopt a child, please do it.  More than likely though, for most people, adopting a child is not feasible.  It is an emotionally difficult process, very expensive, stressful, and time consuming. Trust me, I know.  We spent 2.5 years going through it.

For the majority of you who can not or should not adopt, please support a project that is working to support single orphans and caring for abandoned children.  The ultimate goal is for all of these precious children to have a loving forever family, but how we work towards that goal is where things get complicated.

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Two Grace boys who have been adopted locally

What we are discovering in our work here, is that solving the problem locally is far better and more efficient than trying to solve the problem by pushing for international adoptions.  There are exceptions to this, as many people here fear to take in a child with HIV, who is disabled or mentally impaired, who is older, or who has a living parent who is mentally unstable (blood relation or not).  There is a great amount of education and walls of ignorance to break down before we get to the point where families are willing to locally adopt children who fall into one of these circumstances.

In the mean time, this population of kids may very well be “stuck” unless they become eligible for international adoption.  However, for the other children who are the majority, we are seeing that local adoption has been the solution for so many abandoned children.  If they were to wait for international adoption, they likely would have been stuck in an institution until they were 18.

Any organization that has gifted local leaders (and the desire) can facilitate many reunifications of children with blood family.  Also, many local people here are beginning to understand that it is their responsibility to help alleviate the orphan crisis by adopting a child or two as well.

So this blog is a promotion of local adoption.  If you are an American I am sure you have heard of doing a local adoption or an international adoption.  I am sure that some of you get really passionate about doing and/or promoting one or the other.  But have we ever considered “doing local adoption” as in supporting a national family in a third world to adopt a local child within their own country?  Think about that for a second…

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A baby and mother reunifed with family

Many people are passionate about adopting children, and we all should be, it is after all, according to God’s will.  But there are different ways to do this which are outside the means we would conventionally think of, to help solve the world wide orphan crisis.

One huge and very understandable reason I think that people give up on or don’t even explore the possibility of adoption at all, is the financial demands.  It is an expensive and burdensome process that can go on and on for years.

But what if we could support brothers and sisters around the world who are willing and able to adopt but are only hindered by the same problem…a lack of finances…but at a very different living standard?

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A child previously in Grace care: reunified with his birth father in 2015

We as westerners support other westerners to raise thousands upon thousands of dollars towards international adoption funds. This is an amazing and wonderful way to support orphans and adoptive families, but what if we also supported brothers and sisters around the world as well?  What if you gave $5000 to an Ethiopian mother so that she could build herself a 3 room house and then be able to adopt two children?  Does that seem fiscally responsible?   What if we could find a family for many more children by donating to locals?  A family gets a new house; and two children who will otherwise be raised in an institution, now have a loving forever family.  Tell me what is bad about that?

Yes there are many factors to consider, and we have to be extremely careful that people are not motivated by financial gain.  However even now, where I am living, I know brothers and sisters in Chr*st who are in this kind of a situation, and I can find others as well.  They would love to adopt a child, but they live in one tiny room or small mud compound and cannot financially care for a child.  I also know over 20 kids who are growing up in an institution and need a loving forever family.

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A few of the Grace kids who are waiting for forever families

So let’s start a new trend, or rather let’s join something that is already happening and needs to become a trend all around the world.  Let’s promote and support a new kind of local adoption.  Let’s do an “international adoption” by supporting a “local adoption”.  In other words, let’s encourage and support Ethiopians to solve the orphan crisis amongst themselves.  Let’s support an Ethiopian mother and father, so that an Ethiopian orphaned child can have a family.

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Saved by Grace (Part II) – Local Adoption in Ethiopia?

We face a battle on many fronts with our work here in our city as we strive to keep families together and to save the lives of abandoned children. There is nothing more frustrating than having conflict with local authorities when our organization’s goal is to save lives and support families. You would assume that people would not only appreciate the work of Grace, but also support our ideas. Instead, we have to constantly battle with local gov’t officials in order to help them understand the importance of doing child care well.

Technically, the local gov’t here is responsible to protect and care for the lives of abandoned children. Practically, I have no idea what they would do if a place like Grace Center did not exist. I speculate that they would maybe have no regard for orphaned children, but that is a thought which is too sensitive and frightening to entertain here.

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Grace Reunification Officer with a recently reunited mother and child

It is heartbreaking that the local gov’t does not have any mechanism to care for these children well, but it fills my heart with joy to think about how God began Grace Center 10 years ago and how God has sustained it with countless donors from all over the world.

I know of a few other places like Grace Center in Ethiopia, and a few in other countries. The fact of the matter is, the lives of many precious children depend on these organizations. I strongly appeal to you to find an organization like Grace Center and support it.

Despite our struggles with local authorities, God’s providence is always with us. Something very amazing seems to always occur when new children are placed in the care of Grace children’s home; other children go out (under good circumstances; maybe being reunified with blood family or being adopted by a local family). Such was the case last month. In part 1 of this blog the story of the abandoned child is actually the second child Grace Center received in March. Another baby in a different situation came a couple of weeks before. But, on Friday, March 25th, two dearly loved kids, ages 4 and 1.5, left our children’s home with their new adoptive mother.IMG_6255

This is something that I would normally think is highly improbable. Adopting a child within this country is a very novel concept. Adoption is not a new concept; thousands of Ethiopian children have been adopted by foreigners. But an Ethiopian citizen living here, adopting a child here, and raising the child here; up until the past few years it was nearly unheard of. Maybe not amongst extended family members, but to take a totally unknown child who has no known blood ties to your own family is radical in this culture. I am still baffled as to why some have come forward to do this. Miraculously though, God is bringing them, and now 2 more children will have a loving forever family.

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The work of reunifying children with blood family and facilitating local adoptions is no easy task though. We should not only pray for willing adoptive families to come, but we should fervently pray for local authorities and the social work team at Grace Center to work tirelessly and courageously for this cause. It has been a pleasure to work alongside some of these amazing people this past year. We have experienced a huge learning curve as 2015 was the first year for Grace Center to help facilitate local adoptions, but things are progressing. By God’s Grace we have a newfound hope for the “double orphan” children that we care for. We are dreaming of one day having no children in the care of Grace Children’s home because we believe it is possible to find a loving forever family for all of them.

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Grace Social Work team with new adoptive mother and children  

 

 

 

Saved by Grace (Part I)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

-Ephesians 2:4-10

I am sure I have read this passage of Scripture a few hundred times, maybe even more than a thousand times.  I never tire of it, and I will gladly read it thousands of more times and forever be in awe of these words and this promise.  How can the creator of the universe do such a thing?  How can we sinful humans believe such a thing?  How can we not?  What a great state of depression I would be in if I did not believe these words.

This blog however is not an exegesis of this passage, but rather a promotion of something happening that God has ordained and sustained;
that something is the work of Grace Center in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia…

So, I have entitled this blog saved by Grace (pun intended).

image-def93bfd21097e5e23c40c5c15de0c55201b4a296c5b78083b8f635535ef618a-VIt is with a heavy heart that I write this because just a few days ago yet another new born baby came into the care of the Grace Center children’s home.  And by new born baby, I mean a baby with its umbilical cord still attached, so probably 2-4 days old.

This baby, like many others before, was abandoned by its mother.  According to what local police have told us, the baby was found in a box in an open field where people dump trash.  This can only imply that the mother of this child intended to leave this baby for dead.

 
pause…

 

 

That is the implication.  image-3b43cf9e2bcf46b1cae0c4e452ee4ef0500eb4089419b66434b104a26a448e63-VAnd that is an unbelievably heartbreaking reality we have been set apart by God to deal with.

It is not unusual for a mother in the 3rd world to want to give away her child.  I understand all too well that extreme poverty makes child rearing an unbelievably difficult task to handle.  I understand why many women here in Ethiopia feel unable to care for their child and why they feel it is better to give the child away to an organization.  But to leave your new born baby in a box in a field???  I do not understand that.  It makes me want to scream and curse Satan.  For me, only demonic forces, can explain why a mother would to do such a thing.

Fortunately, for these precious children of God, places like Grace Center exist.  Fortunately, for these precious creations of God, made in His image, wherever you are in Ethiopia, someone will show up, usually within a hour.  The place where this baby was abandoned was an open field that is actually a flood plain.  It is on the outskirts of our city, but somewhat secluded.  However, there are farmers and shepherds that roam around this area daily.  One of them must have heard and found the baby and took it to the local police.  The police where able to get the baby to the hospital, and then contact Grace Center, which is now the only place in our city that will take in an abandoned child.  This child has been saved by Grace.  Grace Center that is.  But our heart and prayer is that this life that was thrown in the trash and left for dead will become a life that is truly saved; by God’s grace.

I am so thankful to be a part of something that God has built in order to save the lives of His children.

 

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Death and a Robbery

A few Fridays ago, we encountered one of the hardest days we have ever faced in our work here in the Horn.

I must begin this story with enormous praise of the Father.  Most “normal” people try their best to not think of a worst-case scenario, such as a spouse or child suddenly dying.  But after the events of this particular Friday, we were _MG_2344somewhat forced to consider what that might be like.  I begin with praise because the Father was watching over us as something traumatic occurred.  He was keeping us safe in the midst of something that could have been life-threatening.

On Friday I left our house headed for Grace Centre around 8:20am, as I do most days.  Before I made it to the end of our road, just minutes later, a friend called and told me that another friend in my neighborhood had suddenly died the previous afternoon.  This was a shock that shook me. This friend was only around 30 years old and has a wife and 2 small girls almost the same age as Esther and Ruth.  It is a friend that I have had here ever since 2008 when I first came to this country, and is also a local restaurant owner and well known in the community.

I was stunned and immediately turned back to my house to tell Carrie, drop my bike, and head to where the funeral was gathering.  That was about 8:25 am.

_MG_1407As I sat at the back of the gathering, crouched down and praying and wondering how to make sense of this tragedy, my phone rang at 8:44 am.  It was an American friend that lives near to us.
My first reaction was to ignore the phone call, but I thought this friend was maybe wanting to ask about the funeral.  I decided to answer.

The words that I heard from the end of the line gave me yet another shock,  “Go home now, someone broke into your house with knives and Carrie needs you.”  My immediate response,  “Are you serious?”  (as this friend is often a jokester and prankster) was countered by, “Go to your house now!”  Completely in disbelief, I had to ask if again if he was serious, and again he said, “Yes, go!”

Finally convinced of the reality of what I’d just heard, I took off running as fast as I could.  My friend had informed that Carrie and the kids were ok, and that the thieves were gone, but even with this information, I knew I needed to get there asap. I was maybe about a mile away from my house, and shamefully I could only sprint for maybe two minutes.

As I arrived on our street,  Andreas came running to me still hysterically crying, a large crowd of neighbors had already gathered by our front gate, and Carrie with the other kids were standing there still in shock.

At approximately 8:34 am, just 10 minutes after I had left my house, 3 young men came into my compound casually.  Carrie, nursing Ruth at the time and inclined to ignore the knock on the gate, allowed our oldest son to answer.  The men led him to believe that they were relatives of the house owner, so he let them in our main gate.  In the meantime, Carrie had gotten up to greet them at the door of the house, but as they pushed passed her and entered, their only response was, “sit down, sit down”.  Assuming they were being polite, telling her to sit because she was still nursing Ruth, she continued to question them and greet them culturally, originally thinking that these men just had a simple question about our house or the house owner.

When she did not comply to their demand, each of the three men pulled out a knife.  Once the image that she was seeing registered in her mind, her gut reaction was to scream and yell at the kids to run.

We assume the men’s motive was to have Carrie simply sit and be calm while they took what they wanted.  However, she genuinely thought they were there to harm or kill.  Had only our houseworker been present, they very well may have killed her.  Had Carrie not screamed, alerting the neighbors and everyone in a 50 ft radius, they may have done something more.

Carrie (still holding Ruth) and the boys did run out the back door.  We actually have two back doors and Carrie immediately realized that Esther was still sitting at the dining table which is part of the same room where the thieves had come in.  Carrie came back in the other back door to get Esther, but in complete terror not knowing what she might see the men doing, and what she might face in the moments to come.  As she came back in the men were on their way back out of the compound.   Still screaming for Andreas, thinking they had taken him (she did not know that he had followed her running out of the room).  He came running and screaming into the room behind her.  Praise God!  Esther was still sitting at the dining table and the boys were both safe as well.

We learned later that the men had grabbed my computer, but had not had time to take anything else, as surely the neighbors would be gathering to see what the commotion was in a few short moments.

I can not imagine a day that could top the events and emotions of this day.  As I sat grieving the loss of my friend, and for this new widow and 2 new orphans, some punk kids were trying to steal my things and terrifying my family.  In broad daylight. At 8 in the morning!

We will not forget this day.  It will haunt Carrie for some time.

  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

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Another Miracle at Grace

The Grace Center in our city is an amazing project that although has many imperfections, the Father has continuously worked miracles through this place.

The Grace project’s main focus is what I would call “orphan prevention”.  I guess if we were to get super technical, that might not be the most applicable term to use.  One thing that I never realized until a few years ago is that if you are a child with just one living parent then you are considered an orphan.  I had always thought that orphan meant both your mother and father have passed away.  That is actually called a “double orphan” as I have now learned.

So perhaps to be extremely technical we should say that Grace Centre supports orphans in order to prevent double orphans, in other words, to prevent single mothers from abandoning their children.

In the places of our world where people live in extreme poverty, making $1 or $2 _MG_1375a day if they are lucky, you can simply imagine how extremely difficult it would be to care for a child, especially if you are a single parent. Family and community is everything here.  To be cut off from either of these bodies is imminent of complete loss, failure, and even death.  Many single mothers are ousted by their family after having a child out of wedlock or conceiving by rape.  Many moved to the city from the countryside to find work, only to become pregnant, and for years have feared returning to their family for fear of what they might think, do, or say. For over 8 years now, Grace has provided women in such circumstances with free day care service so that they are able to work and support themselves as well as their child(ren).

It has been amazing to personally witness so many different women benefit from the service that Grace Centre provides in order to keep their child.  I would argue that because of Grace Centre  the “orphan crisis”, at least in this regional capital city, is not really a crisis at all.

In addition, Grace has managed a “temporary care” facility in which they care for children that are double orphans, have been abandoned, or have a living

Forever Family

Forever Family

parent that is unable to care for them.  For example, our sons have a living birth mother, but she has not been able to care for them for more than 7 years now.

Grace Centre has never been an orphanage, although our children’s home has most definitely functioned as an orphanage should.

The crazy thing about “temporary care” is that the government here has had an ever changing and ever evolving outlook on how they want to handle orphan children.  From 10 or 15 years ago up until about 2 years ago, this country was very open to international adoption and thousands of children were being adopted out to foreigners.  In one sense this is good, and in another it is not.

The hard reality to grasp about orphans is that most of the time parents or relatives can care for these children, they simply need a little bit of assistance or education.  The other hard reality to accept about poverty stricken places like this, is that when the doors are wide open for adoption, there are many children that get thrown into orphanages who may not necessarily need to have been.  As I have witnessed here, the result of such a system only leads to adoption becoming a profitable venture to take on by some.

This has changed though, and is changing.

Being a “temporary care” facility technically means that the local government can place children in our care temporarily until they find another solution for that child.  The problem is, the local government does not have enough workers to actually find other solutions.  So “temporary care” (by definition is 6 months or less) turns into “long-term” care.

In the past, the easy and quick solution was to send the child to an orphanage so that they would then be available for an international adoption.  At one point in time Grace Centre was partnered with an orphanage where our temporary care children would often be sent, and then adopted, but the government stopped allowing this solution about 6 years ago.  So over the past 6 years, Grace has had to be creative themselves about finding solutions for these kids in our temporary care center.

Funny enough, the local government has known in theory what they want to see happen, but practically Grace has been the one to reunify children with birth families, place children in foster care homes, and help see domestic adoption become possible.

Never has this been more of a reality than what we witnessed just a couple of weeks ago.
At the end of April, six children under the age of one year were sent to the Grace Centre home from another child care organization that was closing.  That particular center’s intention was to care for children for 6 months and then send them to a partner orphanage to be adopted internationally.  You make money doing this.  But the government is now strongly against this, and because more kids were not placed in their care, this center was forced to close due to lack of funding.

Those 6 children had all been abandoned, but one of them had a somewhat mysterious file.  It had his birth parents’ names and had information about where they lived.  The Grace Center reunification officer was able to find them and discover that they had not purposefully abandoned their child.

This 10 month old boy had [has] a twin sister in fact who was with the mother and father.  After giving birth to twins, this mother and the one baby boy became quite sick about 1 month after the birth.  So they returned to the city hospital to

Baby Yohannes

Baby Yohannes

get treatment.  While there at the hospital, mother and baby were in separate rooms for treatment.  Once the mother was feeling better, someone came to them with their baby son’s clothing and said that they could go.  Being from the countryside, this mother and father simply assumed that meant their child had died.  (Sadly enough, this happens often and most people do not think much of it.)  Nine months later, this baby came into Grace Center care, we found the birth parents, and they came to Grace Center to take their child that they thought had died 9 months earlier!  Can you imagine?

Another set of twins, "separated at birth"

Another set of twins, “separated at birth”

As you may be assuming, there was likely some shady activity occurring at some point in that story.  This forces me to believe that many national children have ended up in a orphanage that may have been in a similar circumstance.  My point is not to say that it is a shame so many kids have been adopted internationally.  That is not my feeling at all, and in fact I praise the Father that so many kids have been adopted and are with a loving family somewhere that cares for and supports them.
My point is, as Believers of the Word, we are commanded to care for the orphan, but we have to be smart and realize that 90 percent of the time, there is an easier and better solution for the 5 million orphans, in this particular country alone, than an international adoption.
If more places like Grace Center exist, then many more children will have a better chance to remain in the care of their blood family, which should always be the priority if it is a safe situation.

The troubling reality, is that there will always be children that are true double orphans and have no known family.  In the country we serve in,

Grace Nanny loving on a kiddo

Grace Nanny loving on a kiddo

the mood is shifting, and the government is working hard to get citizens to adopt their national orphans.  This is good!  But it requires wisdom and a process.  This is a new concept for nationals, and 80 percent of the people simply can not adopt anyways because of their own poverty status.

However, we must pray that godly nationals will step up to the plate and adopt.  Just last week, 5 children in the care of Grace Centre went to live with their new family, two different national couples making this bold choice to adopt.  We are excited about this and excited that for the first time ever, there are legitimate new pathways for our orphans to have family.

There is so much that I am leaving out in this blog, but my goal is to simply try and explain the real situation on the field.  In America, we get bombarded with statistics about orphans in order to burden our hearts to care for them. We are naturally drawn to fancy flyers, presentations, and heart wrenching ads that guilt you into sending money their way.  While large organizations do many wonderful things, lots of money is thrown around on things like fancy cars and buildings, thousands of overly-paid foreign staff members, or other unnecessary assets.  My advice…forget about the statistics. Grass roots is the way to go…find a small project that you know is legitimately caring for orphans in the best ways possible, and support it.

I am working at Grace Centre, and I handle the finances that come in.  We employ 105 locals to run our day care and children’s home.  It costs us $20,000 USD every month to keep the center running.  Roughly 200 kids and their mothers directly benefit every day from the services Grace provides.

Over 60 kids have temporarily lived at the Grace Children’s Home and are now with a forever family because of the hard work our social work team does every day.

Yohannes, being re-united with his mother and father

IMG_1458 Yohannes, being re-united with his mother and father

 

IT IS A MIRACLE that baby Yohannes is back with his family.  And that is just one of many miracles we are privileged to have witnessed at Grace Centre.

 

Gray Hairs

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Just the other day, Carrie told me that she is starting to see gray hairs in my beard.  We laughed.  But the laughter came with the mutual acknowledgement that life has been stressful.  I don’t want to write a long blog about all the different stressful things that have burdened us recently, but today felt like a victorious day, so we wanted to share good news.  After a stressful week concerning our adoption process, trying to get one last paper we need from the local ministry of women and children’s affairs, we finally got the paper, which allowed us to complete the regional court process, making the boys our legal children as declared by Ethiopia!

The two boys we are adopting have a living mother with a mental disability.  The father of our older son passed away years ago, but the father of our younger son has been “missing” his entire life.  For many years, the children’s birth mother claimed to be raped.  A couple of years ago however, she admitted that she did know who the father was.  The center where the children had been living asked him to come visit his son, but he never did.  The center was also informed by the local authorities, that siblings should never be split up, so they continued to care for Habtamu and Andreas, assuming that it was impossible to reunify them with Andreas’ father.  In all reality, it would be impossible for them to live with him as he has another wife and kids, destitute, and not to mention that the simple fact that he never showed up to see his son for 5 years.

All this to say, we knew this would potential be an issue in our adoption process because new laws nearly force kids to be with their parent, no matter what the situation.

On more than one occasion, including this week, we were scared/threatened that the local authorities may want to force Andreas to live with his father.  Perhaps we stressed ourselves out more than was necessary, but our whole process has felt like some twisted chess game, never knowing what move to make next.  Never knowing who to listen to or who to trust.  Being told different things from different people.  Being led to believe things that turned out to be untrue.  Being frustrated by people we thought had our best interest in mind but then do things that seem ridiculous and unnecessary.

However, we are extremely thankful for, and indebted to, several national partners who stood by us and fought for our case and for our children.  Without them, we would still be battling for our children.

Currently, we must wait on the US to issue us a letter of approval to adopt, which the embassy in Addis Ababa is working on right now.  Then we must take our case to the federal court before we can apply for visas to America.  We are praying these last steps will all happen before the beginning of August, when our baby is due.  We have a long way to go still, but this week has been an encouragement of victories.

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Please pray for the Grace Center we work for as well.  On top of all the adoption craziness, work at the center has been tough.  Helping manage a huge center with 120 employees and over 1000 beneficiaries is no easy task.  Day to day work is filled with putting “fires” out, trying to navigate all the local laws, trying to make wise decisions for the future, helping oversee facility changes, managing finances (6 million worth in local currency.  That is about $300,000 USD per year), and so on.  There have been tragedies of unexpected deaths, but there have also been lives saved and lives changed which always reminds us of why we are here.

Even just the other day on my way to work, a woman with a young child was laying in the street sick.  It was an unusual place for someone like this so a worker from grace center talked to her and found out that she had come from another area a few hours drive away from our city to come to the big hospital here.  She had received medicines but nothing helped her feel better and she was now out of money.   Being out of money meant that she could no longer get any treatment anywhere nor could she get back to her home.  Grace Center was able to have her rest at our clinic and we will be able to get her more medical care so that she can get well enough to return home.  If all goes well, Grace will probably spend around $40 to help her out and get her back home.  Without Grace’s assistance, who knows what would have happen to someone like this.

Beneficiaries of a project can often be troublesome as many times that have bad attitudes and unwillingness to change.  It is easy to become angry towards people when they don’t seem to appreciate assistance they receive, but then days like that come along, when you know God appointed you to come across a person in need, in legitimate need, and we can provide her some simple help to get her back home.

The center struggles financially, but what I love about Grace is that we are always trying to wise with every dollar that is spent.  I love that the directors are always willing to help someone in need even, if when uncertain where the money will come from.  Please consider supporting the Grace Center as they strive to help those in need who would otherwise have no where to go for help.

Matthew 25: 31-40

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Joy In the Little Things

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Christmas time is probably one of the hardest times to be away from home, but we are trying to find joy in the little things.

We love sitting outside our compound watching the big trucks doing road work.  Even though this construction caused us to not have water for the past month (at least not water flowing in from the city.  We do have water, but it has become a great task of my very fine house workers hauling jerry cans from a nearby water source.)

We love singing with our team here on Friday nights.  They are a lively bunch and one even sings opera style.  We also occasionally break out in pearl jam versions and gospel versions and Johnny Cash versions of many Classic Christian choruses.

We love watching Esther enjoy playing in dirt and being awe struck by all the animals that roam the streets.  We love that Esther’s favorite words are kaka and fassa (that means poop and fart in amharic).

We love that every time my phone rings, no matter who is crying or fighting, everyone drops what they’re doing to break out in dance until the tune stops.

We love that Jordyn B. a friend from Indiana is here with us now, and that she is a good artist which means we now have paintings of a fire place and a Christmas tree hanging on our wall.  She is supposed to be doing an entire winter wonderland.  We will see.

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We love that there is now one hotel in our town providing free high speed internet.  It is so nice to actually download something every now and then.
We also love that another hotel in town has a nice swimming pool that we can enjoy.  Yes, even though it is “winter” here it is still warm enough to swim.

We love having 3 children now, and love sharing advent stories with them each evening.  We love that they look forward to this and take great joy in coloring a picture each day that goes with the story.

We love the work that God has provided us with, and we are so thankful and grateful for our supporters.

To be honest, it has been a difficult month for us.  It is the most homesick we have been since being here.  Our hearts have been heavy for our co-workers who are battling with government offices concerning their adoptions, which has delayed their plans to be back in Australia.  Our adoption process has yet to begin as the process has become a mystery.  Different offices saying different things about the proper way to do a local adoption.  We are fairly convinced that corruption (people wanting “tips”) has a lot to do with the confusion.  In addition, apparently what people say is law is greater than what the written law says.
And Carrie has been battling sickness, causing her to be able to work very little.

So often it seems like the holiday season (which we expect to be full of joy) becomes a season of suffering or grief.  Death and sickness are always crouching at our door, but is it possible that God knows exactly what we truly need at all times, even if it is a sickness or loss.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior can only be a celebration if we know why He came.  To suffer and die a gruesome death in order to atone for our sins and bring forgiveness to anyone who believes.  But although His death was absolutely necessary, His resurrection is what brings us life and hope.  Joy to the world, The Lord has come!

So even though we may be suffering this season, for various reasons for each of us, we are praying that the Prince of Peace will lead us through the times of suffering and we are confident that the final outcome will be glorious and perfect.

Merry Christmas!

Revelation 1:4-8

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and fromthe seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”