Being Sheep

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."John 10:14-15

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 9

Ethiopia, Day 9

Today was our last day in Ethiopia! Our plane left at 10pm, and though we've had a great trip we are so ready to go home!

We spent the morning packing (which was not nearly so difficult as packing to come here!), giving N a bath, and we had traditional Ethiopian food for lunch at the guest house. (N just loved his bath!!) After lunch there was a traditional coffee ceremony for us and the new guests that had arrived last night. (They are a family here to adopt a 15 year old boy.)

N was definitely the center of attention during the coffee ceremony as he kept trying to get into the coffee cups, the popcorn, etc—anything he could see!

After the coffee ceremony we went with Birtukan to Yezelalem Minch once again to give a gift to our sponsor children. When our van pulled into YM, our little girl jumped up and down pointing and yelling, “It's J! It's J!”

We hopped out of the van (N was asleep in the carrier) and gave a small bag of goodies to each of the children; it was some snacks, a bit of candy, and a picture of our family. We then gave the blankets and bed sheets to them that the social worker had purchased for them on our behalf.

We had wanted to leave them with a gift since it was unlikely we'd be back to Ethiopia in the very near future, so Birtukan asked their social worker for us what their biggest need was. And it was sheets and a blanket.

Here in the United States we have “Toys for Tots” and we provide school bags to children, etc. etc. And those things are wonderful! But in Ethiopia a sheet and blanket make a little girl say “This is the happiest day of my life.” For real, people. For real. For these children and their extended family, knowing that they will be financially provided for each month changes their lives entirely. Knowing that there will be food, clothing and school supplies gives them a chance at life.

Our little boy says that he wants to be a doctor someday. May the Lord allow his dream to come true!

I do not post about our sponsoring these kids in order to pat myself on the back or make myself look good. In reality, I so very much struggle with having so many luxuries in life... and not wanting to give them up. But when I meet these children who became so excited to have a warm blanket, my heart aches and I want to do more and more to help other children like them.

As S put it when the social worker was expressing his thanks, “You guys are being the hands and feet of Jesus. We're, like, the stomach.”

They were thanking us over and over for sponsoring these kids ($30 a month/child), and for giving them a blanket.

Can you spare $30 a month, or even $30 as a one-time donation? You can donate


You can also read more about the ministry at this blog:

Yezelalem Minch currently has 680 children waiting for sponsors. Waiting for someone who can spare $30 a month to give them hope for a future. That's it—your $30 a month could literally save the life of a child.

I know that some think I should stop going on and on about “those African orphans” or wonder why I'm so passionate about them. God has truly given me a love for these children and a desire to serve them and help them to know Christ's love. You may not be in any financial place to sponsor a child right now, or maybe you already sponsor a child through another organization. But can you spare $30 a month? If so, you will not regret it—and neither will your sponsored child.

It was so emotional meeting with these kids. We hugged each other, and tried to talk to each other (difficult since we spoke different languages!), kissed each other, and eventually said good-bye. We knew we had to leave, but a part of our hearts stayed.

Afterwards we asked ourselves, “What if God called us to move to Ethiopia (or any other African country) to work with orphans? Could we handle it? Could we live without clean running water, without many of the conveniences we have now? Could we?”

Could you? If God said “Go”, would you? It's a difficult thing to ponder, isn't it? It's easy to say yes, but another to say yes and actually mean it! I don't know what exactly God has for our future, but I know it involves these children in Ethiopia and throughout Africa, who mean so much to him, but are forgotten by so many who have the means to help them.

When we arrived back at the guest house, we relaxed for a while and finished up our last-minute preparations to go. After an early dinner, it was time to load up into the van and head to the airport!

I will write about our trip home and homecoming in the next post!

N's first bath with us: he loved it!

An indoor coffee ceremony

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 8

Ethiopia, Day 8

It's almost time to go home—we leave tomorrow night! It has been so wonderful to be here, but we are ready to get home, try to get into a routine, and most of all see our boys!!

This morning we all piled into the van to head to the agency's office to pick up our visa information. While we were on the way there, we found out that the director was held up at the embassy, so Abel decided to take us to a small park/playground to pass the time while we waited.

The older kids ran around and played while those of us with babies walked around enjoying the sights and taking pictures.

We finally headed to the office where we received our visa packets. We were NOT ALLOWED TO OPEN THEM! I don't know what would happen if we opened them, but we don't want to find out! We are to bring them to the U.S. Immigration once we arrive in the U.S.

We then went out for a nice lunch. It was once again difficult to keep N happy during lunch; it's his fussy time where he really needs a nap, but is not very willing to go to sleep. But after lunch we got to deliver the boxes of formula and diapers to the orphanage that our church donated money for before we left. The workers there were so happy to receive the donations, they said they had almost been out of formula.

Since N was asleep in my carrier, I hopped out of the van with him to take some pictures. Several nannies came up to us asking if it was him, and they kissed him and prayed over him. It was so sweet, and thankfully he slept through the whole thing. I don't know how he would have reacted if he woke up.

Back at the guest house the families who were leaving that night got ready to leave. We got a bit of rest and then enjoyed an early pizza dinner before everyone left. After saying good-bye it seemed really quiet, but we headed to bed early so we could pack up in the morning—our plane leaves tomorrow night!

At the Park

The View

The Donations--this was bought with money donated from our church

Back at the guest house--this kid is seriously cute!

N is officially done being happy!

Well, that was fast

Ethiopia Journal, Day 7

Ethiopia, Day 7

Today nothing was scheduled with our agency except dinner, so we spent some time relaxing at the guest house in the morning. We had traditional Ethiopian food for lunch (Yum!) and a coffee ceremony afterwards.

Once the coffee ceremony was done, we went to visit Yezelalem Minch. Yezelalem Minch is a wonderful ministry that our guest house host, Birtukan, started. They work very hard to care for the orphans in their community, as well as their caregivers. There are so many, many orphans in Ethiopia. Many of them have nowhere to go. Others have extended family or friends who would take them, but can't afford another mouth to feed.

That's where Yezelalem Minch comes in. They have a sponsorship program for these children so that their basic needs (food, clothing, education, medical care, etc) can be taken care of and they can stay with their family members. They also have a boys' home and a girls' home to care for children who have nowhere else to go.

Each Saturday they run a feeding program and feed over 200 children; they also have Bible classes and games for them.

S and I decided to sponsor two children through Yezelalem Minch. It is $30 a month, but provides so much for these children. After seeing poverty up close and personally, it is hard to justify having all the stuff we have. It's hard to justify going on expensive vacations, buying video games, eating 3 meals a day plus snacks.

When we mentioned to Birtukan that we wanted to sponsor two children, she was so excited! She hugged me and thanked me over and over again. But (and I'm trying to just be honest here) I didn't like it. It's such a very small thing that we can do. $60 a month? Not really that big of a deal. We wish we could do so very much more, and are working to be in a financial place where we can.

I think we're supposed to struggle with this. I don't think we're supposed to ever be satisfied with the fact that we have so much more than so many others in the world. When faced with children who live in abject poverty, who've lost their parents, who don't know if they're going to eat the next day, how can we not take action? How can we not struggle with this knowledge?

Anyway, back to this post instead of my sermon...

We went to Yezelalem Minch, which is quite close to the guest house. They told us about the ministry and what they are doing in the community, and then we met our sponsor children. A little girl who is 8 years old, and a boy who is 7. (For privacy reasons we won't be posting their pictures on the blog.) The little girl is living with a relative; her father has passed away and her mother is very ill. She had a very sad expression on her face the whole time we were there.

The little boy lost both parents and is also living with a relative. He is HIV positive, can't hear out of one ear, and one of his eyes doesn't work properly.

They were both so sweet, though it was difficult to really say what was on our hearts, since we couldn't speak their language. We met their caregivers, who were so happy to know that their children would be provided for each month. We were able to spend a bit of time with them, but then it was time to say good-bye.

Back at the guest house, we got ready to go out to a traditional cultural dinner at a restaurant. We weren't supposed to take the babies with us, and the guest house staff was planning to watch them. It was quite nerve-wracking for me to leave Nathan! I knew he'd be fine, and it would be good for him to see that we left, but we came back. But I still was uncomfortable with it.

But I got all of his things ready, fed him and put him in PJ's. All the staff would need to do was give him a bottle and put him to bed about an hour after we left. No biggie, right? That's what I kept telling myself, anyway!

I brought Nathan down in his pajamas; a short-sleeve shirt, pants, and socks. Very cute. But apparently not warm enough! In Ethiopian culture, it is very common to bundle up the babies very warmly. So Birtukan insisted that I bring a sweatshirt down for him! (I was wearing a cotton skirt, sandals, and a short sleeve shirt and was very comfortable, but she thought it was quite cold!) Anyway, I brought the sweatshirt down for him, and we left.

The cultural dinner was nice, though some of the food was rather... interesting. Did you know you can make a “cheese” out of the center of the trunk from a banana tree? Yeah, I didn't know either. But apparently you can.

There was also traditional Ethiopian dancing and singing. It was a nice time, but we were ready to get back to the guest house and get to bed!

Playing in our room

Coffee Ceremony

Dinner at the restaurant

Dancing at the restaurant

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 6

Ethiopia, Day 6

(The rest of the journal entries are coming soon... it's been quite the busy two weeks so far around here!)

Today was not overly interesting. We stopped at the market on our way to lunch at a restaurant. S bought a few things. We also were able to buy coffee, tea, and spices from people at the guest house this morning. Birtukan helps different groups in the community start a business and allows them to sell to guests at the guest house. It's a great way to get some souvenirs and also help people earn a living!

We had lunch at a nice restaurant before heading to the embassy. Cameras are not allowed at the embassy, so we don't have any pictures of this stop. But, we were granted a visa that allows N to enter the U.S.! Yay! That's the last “official” thing we need!

We went back to the guest house to relax, and spend the evening. It was a very nice day, but not very exciting to write about. We were able to get a few cute pics of N, though!

Trying to keep a whiny baby happy at the restaurant

Waiting in the back of the bus

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 5

Ethiopia, Day 5

Today is the day we pick up N!

We first headed to the Bethany office to fill out our forms for the embassy date and meet with the social worker and nurse. On the way, Abel received a very shocking phone call. He came over to us and said,

“Well, I have a surprise. Your birthmom has been found and will be at the Bethany office today!”

We were shocked! We had hoped to travel to meet N's birth mom, but the social workers were unable to locate her, so we didn't go. We were very disappointed, but resigned to the fact that we would not meet her. And now we find out she's already in the city to meet us!

We were so nervous. What do you say to the woman who gave birth to your son? Who cared for him for several months? Who obviously loves him?

What words are there to say thank you, but we're so very sorry for the circumstances that forced you to relinquish him for adoption?

After filling out our forms and meeting with the social worker, it was time.

We were brought out to the lawn surrounded by flowers and sat on small stools.

And then she came. We stood and hugged her, and tried to convey how much we love N through that hug.

We all sat down and the social worker asked us what questions we had. And my mind went blank. We were not expecting to meet her that day, and we found we didn't know what to say!

She asked about us and our family, and she told us her hopes and dreams for N, which include him having lots of toys and learning to play soccer. She said that when he grows up she hopes he will help other children like him.

We told her how much we already love him, and she also reaffirmed how much she loves him. (This boy is very loved!) She wants him to know of her love and that she just isn't able to care for him. (For privacy reasons, we won't go into the reasons she is unable to care for him, but suffice it to say it's poverty beyond what we can imagine, along with several other factors.)

It was such an emotional meeting, and yet none of us cried. (That came later for me... and then the tears wouldn't stop.) We promised to send pictures to her as soon as we are able, and we said goodbye.

I don't know if we will ever meet again, but our hearts are connected forever.

After that very emotional meeting, we went out to lunch. Thankfully my stomach was feeling much better, so I was able to eat a bit.

We then went to pick up our children!

We crammed ourselves into a room where there were some chairs set up. One of the workers brought in some more chairs, then a table, cake and a large knife.

The children from the orphanage filed in. Each child being adopted that day was brought in one at a time while the other children clapped in rhythm. Once the child was placed in his parent's arms, applause broke out! After the kids were all with their parents, the other children from the orphanage sang songs for us.

It was then time to cut the enormous cake! Each child had a turn to cut (with parent's help!). Everyone then enjoyed their cake and soda.

I gave N a few tiny bites and he wasn't too sure he liked it. He did really want my Coke, though! That of course did not happen—haha!

We all piled back into the van (it was much more full this time!) and drove to the guest house. N watched everything out his window. He didn't want to miss out on anything! I could tell he was getting tired, but hoped he would wait to fall asleep until we got there. He did.

Once we arrived we made a bottle for him. To our surprise, he seemed to know exactly what to do with it! (At his orphanage babies are fed with small cups rather than bottles.) He only drank about an ounce before he was asleep.

Is there anything better than holding a sleeping baby?!

After his nap we went down for dinner. We fed him another bottle, and this time he drank the entire thing! He then proceeded to spit up the entire thing—all over me, the chair, and the floor. He only got a little bit on himself, of course. (I think this officially makes me his mom?)

But after that he was such a happy guy! He played and laughed and we had so much fun. When he started to get cranky, we headed upstairs and Steve rocked him to sleep. He's now just as cute as a button fast asleep in his crib. I'd better get some sleep, too!

Daddy's Note:

We met your birth mother today. How shall I describe her? Very quiet, soft-spoken. (To us, at least.) She is short, a little shorter than your mom, with long hair wrapped into a bun.

We didn't know what to say to her, what to tell her, what to ask her. We were so nervous!

I think you weren't so sure of Mom and I when we first got you. You preferred to look around at whoever was loudest or moving the most. After your first nap was another story entirely! You were laughing with us, playing with us, and we finally heard you get loud! Dadadada!

After playing for a while, it was time for supper. Mom fed you first, then I got to. For some odd reason, Mom thought I might want to give you to her after she finished eating. Ha! As if I would want my turn holding you to be shortened, silly.

Some of the other parents thought it was only because we had just gotten you today. Ha! Just ask Mom, I like holding my boys. If 7 isn't too old for snuggling, then 8 months is certainly fair game! (By the way, A is 7 now, and I still don't ever really want to let go, though I am occasionally willing.)

I got to rock you to sleep tonight. It was marvelous!

Oh my son, you are so cute and I love you. So you know: Mom will say that you snore.


Waiting for the ceremony to begin...

The cake!

I think I remember this guy...

Hi, Mama!

I'll take some Coke, please.

Back to the guest house for my first bottle and a nap!

And now, bed.

Ethiopia Journal, Day 4

Ethiopia, Day 4

This morning we went to an international evangelical church. The service was all in English, and very much like any American evangelical service. It was nice, but unfortunately one member of our group had her camera bag stolen during the service. We weren't able to find it, which was so upsetting for them as it had the pictures of their first meeting with their son on it.

After lunch we went to a golf club restaurant for lunch. Apparently it has the only golf course in Addis.

We came back to the guest house and there was a coffee ceremony happening for Birtukan and Nesibu. It was their 14th anniversary!

Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are all about spending time together with your friends and family. The coffee beans are roasted over a small fire while incense is burned. The coffee beans are ground and made into coffee. The first pot is very strong, the second less, and the third very mild. Served along with the coffee is lightly sweetened popcorn. While all of this is happening, everyone is visiting and enjoying being together. Even though I don't care for coffee, I enjoyed the coffee ceremonies!

While at the coffee ceremonies, we met Birtukan and Nesibu's four children who sang songs for us. It was adorable!

Afterwards I took a nap and then ended up sick to my stomach, so I stayed in bed for the rest of the evening.

Here's a picture of the ceremony set-up. You can see the coffee beans roasting, the incense burning, and the popcorn ready to be passed around.

This is Nesibu and Birtukan--two very hard workers who love the Lord and have a passion for caring for orphans.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 3

Ethiopia, Day 3

I had a difficult time sleeping last night, which was very frustrating since I was quite tired. Over breakfast, Abel called and said we had left our camera in the van the night before. Oh my! I was so thankful we were able to get it back.

Breakfast was... interesting. It was tuna fish mixed with some sort of reddish sauce and some vegetables, and very spicy. I tried very hard to eat it—really, I did. But I only took a nibble and then ate a granola bar in my room later. I just couldn't do it.

We then went to Entoto, which is a mountain from which you can see much of the city. There were many donkeys running down the mountain with wood strapped to their back. We also saw several women carrying as much as the donkeys were.

When we stopped to get out, a little boy (maybe 9?) came right up to us and kept a very close eye on one lady who was getting a camera out of her purse. He was certainly hoping for some money! He followed us for a while...

We walked around a bit to see the beautiful mountain, then drove o the old palace and museum.

It cost 30 Birr for foreigners to enter (one USD = about 13 Birr). A guide took us around and explained all of the different items to us. It was very interesting, but because I was so tired, it was difficult to concentrate.

We then walked through the palace. It was very old and it was neat to see and learn more about Ethiopia's history.

We went to a restaurant for lunch that served a variety of things. The waitress recommended the pizza, so we all decided to try that. It was pretty good!

The afternoon was just for relaxing. I took a much-needed nap, and Steve and some others played cards.

Dinner was traditional Ethiopian food at the guest house—yum!

Bitrtukan told us more about the ministry Yezelalam Minch that she works with. I will write more on that later. Birtukan has amazing faith and it is so neat to hear about the work she and others are doing here. The church is quite involved in helping the poor and orphaned, which is also awesome to hear about.

The poverty here is absolutely devastating. Just everywhere, and it affects so many. Being here makes you want to do so much more than what you are already doing.

A common sight while driving around Addis: women roasting corn on the sidewalk and trying to make a living.

Views from the guest house:

The outside of the guest house:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 2

Ethiopia, Day 2

We had breakfast at the guest house this morning—french toast, bananas, juice and coffee/tea. I don't usually like tea, but this was delicious! I must buy some to take home with us!

At 9:30 Abel (our guide) came to pick us up to go visit the orphanages. We went to N's first. We had to wait a little while so that the camera crew that does the lifebooks could get there. They wanted to film our first meeting with N!

It was almost like a dream. We had to take off our shoes, then climb the stairs to the baby room—the camera man filming us the whole time. We looked into the doorway and could see N on his hands and knees on a blanket on the floor, holding a toy.

We walked over to him and sat down next to him. I rubbed his back a little and then slowly picked him up. He didn't seem to be too scared or sad, but he was curious!

He like Steve's beard and my necklace. We just talked to him and played with him for quite some time. It was wonderful to be able to kiss his cheeks and run our hands through his beautiful curly hair!

There were 8 other babies in his room, all about the same age. The very young infants were in the room next door. N was definitely the most active of them all!

N did not want to let go of a toy once he had it—he has a very tight grip! He loved playing on the floor with toys and crawling around. He even crawled on the other babies! (None of them appreciated this!)

All the babies started to get just a bit fussy, and about 10 minutes later a big bowl of some sort of cereal was brought in. I held N on my lap and fed him. Part way through he became quite fussy, and then just fell asleep. They seem to have the babies on a pretty tight schedule! All of the others began to fall asleep one by one.

Holding my precious sleeping baby was amazing. So very sweet! After a while I passed him on to Steve, and then later he woke up pretty cranky. We're pretty sure he normally would have slept longer, but I guess we'll find out in a few days how long he usually sleeps...

It was difficult trying to care for N with the nannies watching. Due to the language barrier, we couldn't ask questions, and they couldn't give explanations. I kept questioning whether or not I was doing the right thing in the right way, but everyone seemed reasonable happy so we went with it.

Finally, it was time to leave. It was very difficult to go, but knowing we would come to get him on Monday made it much easier.

We went to lunch at a restaurant that served mostly Mexican food, and we met two more families who had just arrived that morning.

After lunch we went to the market. We were able to buy some things, including shirts for the boys and a pretty table cloth for our dining room.

Several boys followed us very closely the whole time, in the hopes that we would offer them something. After we got back in the van and were driving, more people came up to the van asking for hand-outs. We were wishing we could give them something, but also didn't want to have tons of people coming to the van—very, very difficult. (It's also illegal to give to beggars from vehicles in Addis.)

Back at the guest house we had fried chicken, vegetables, and rice for dinner. It was very good! I especially liked the rice. After dinner we were able to send an email to our family, which was so nice.

We all headed to bed quite early after a tiring day.

Daddy's Note:

We got to meet you and hold you today! Oh my, but you are an active boy! You wanted to stand, crawl, grab toys and see the rain.

Mom fed you, then she held you while I got to feed you. (rice cereal of some sort.) Then you fell asleep in Mom's arms. Ah, so cute! I got to hold you too, then a bad dream woke you.

But, that did give us a chance to hold and play with you more before we had to go. I so loved holding you watching the rain together. We'll have to do that on the porch at home.

Our first meeting:

The Orphanage (check out all the laundry--that's washed by hand!)