Sunday, March 14, 2010

Visiting Korah -The Leper Colony

Wednesday Afternoon
As we drove passed Strong Hearts, we soon entered the area known as “Korah.” Sammy took us to the Great Hope Church for our first stop. The first thing that caught our attention was seeing some of the children that we worked with at Strong Hearts. We were warmly greeted as it seems like that’s all you receive in Ethiopia is warm greetings. We visited the sanctuary and when they told us that they seated around 300 here I thought that we could get about 3000 in our church if people would just scorch together a little. This is one of those things that we as Americans could learn from the Ethiopians. We need to remember why we enter the sanctuary. It is not about comfort zones, personal space bubbles, but about worshiping the Lord!
After leaving the church, we walked the streets and had the privilege to meet some of the “Forgotten People.” Just as in biblical times, these people have been isolated from the rest of the masses. What joy came across their faces as we entered what they called their home. I had the opportunity to be able to pray for several of them and was blessed by the chance to do so.
From shanty to shanty, face to face, I prayed that we were bringing some hope and encouragement to them even if just for this day. We stepped into structures that that these people born in the image of God were living in that we wouldn’t put animals in at home. Pieces of steel and plastic salvaged from the landfill just like some of their meals. How sad!
I think of how our worst hardened criminals in America are treated like royalty compared to these forgotten ones who are living like rats or moles in their dark, damp shanties. One thought just keeps repeating itself, over and over; IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT! IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT!
We must ask what we can do to help. How can we help, How can we help??????
We spent time at the Alert Hospital Rehab Center, where people were embroidering, crocheting, weaving, and spinning cotton. Cotton????? Yes cotton! We brought a spinning wheel with us to teach them how to spin wool, to replace their method of using drop spindles, or at least help them to do it more efficiently; but Anna had never spun cotton.
It was great to see the expressions on their faces as we entered the dimly lit room; Some of excitement, some of wonder, and those of skepticism. As Anna tried to spin the cotton, she quickly had an Ethiopian woman trying her hand at. After a few fail attempts, it looked like it might catch on. [Upon returning the next day, the one woman seemed to be able to spin on her own! How exciting!]
The Rehab center has a store where the beautiful products they produce can be purchased for a tiny amount of money compared to all the work and time that goes into them. If you are ever in Ethiopia, you must visit the rehab center and Korah!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts from Lisa

I have spent the last five days surrounded by some of the neediest children in the world.
I have spent the last five days surrounded by some of the most loving children in the world.
I have spent the last five days surrounded by some of the most precious children in His sight, and I will never, ever be the same. I don’t want to ever be the same. My time at Strong Hearts has changed my life forever.
As a teacher, I knew that I would love the children of Ethiopia. I told myself that “children are children”, no matter where they are from. While this is true to some degree, I have found that the children of Ethiopia are so much more. Their trusting eyes look up at me in eager anticipation, and my heart melts. Their toes peek through the ends of battered, dirty shoes, and my heart breaks. What do I have to offer these priceless little lives? The songs I sing with them do not even come close to meeting their most basic needs of food, shelter, water and clean, well-fitting clothing. Why do they seem to adore me so, when all I can give them is a few hours distraction from their bleak lives?
And yet…they greet me with an enthusiastic, “Good morning, Teacher” (spoken proudly in broken English, which is MUCH better than my feeble attempts at Amharic), and say goodbye with an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek. And even though the kisses are a mix of unwashed faces and runny noses, I don’t mind because I know their love is unconditional. And their love challenges mine. They have nothing, yet they offer everything. I have everything…yet what do I offer?
I have been told that I sometimes “wear my heart on my sleeve”. This week I met a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, his pant leg, his shoe, his hands and his face. His passion is inspiring. His vision is contagious. His work is life-changing. And despite all this, he is one of the most humble men I have ever met. And though he may never read this, I want to say a big “Amesegenalehu” to Dundee for letting me be a part of the Strong Hearts family. It has definitely changed me forever.
Last night I came across a Scripture that at any other time in my life I may have simply skimmed over:
“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4
I feel like my short time here in Ethiopia has only been a drop of water in an ocean of desperate need. But even a small drop causes a ripple that grows and changes. My prayer is that the time I have spent here will not end with my departure from the Bole airport, but that what I have seen, heard and experienced will grow me, mould me and make me more like Christ.

Lisa (“Consecrated to God”)

“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.” –St. Teresa of Avila


From Kayla:

Fellow Ferenges (white people),

This morning was our last VBS at Strong Hearts. We once again enjoyed our time with the children. I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes when it came time to say good bye to them. Dundee and all the teachers thanked our whole team for everything that we’d done. They had been so blessed. It felt like we should be thanking them. We may have been more blessed than they were. He gifted each of us with a beautiful scarf that was made here. It was a mixed feeling accepting a gift from he who has so little. After lunch we finally drove out to Korah, where the leper colony is. Each day, we thought we might go there, and each day God had something different in mind. His plan is ‘generally’ better than ours, so we praise him for redirecting us. Our tour guide was Samuel. He’d grown up in the despair of Korah, rejected by most of society. One day when he was a teenager, a white missionary waved, smiled, and conversed with him. This behavior so intrigued him that he inquired about that missionary, and finding the difference was Jesus, became a follower of Christ himself. He is now part of a growing church in the colony. They have approximately 300 people that attend on a Sunday morning. The people pack into a small building constructed mostly by tarps. The men we met were so passionate about telling these people about Jesus. They also try to educate them in a small school, but are limited by facilities. He led us through the muddy, stony “streets” and even into some people’s homes. The homes were dark, some partially underground. We were told that during the rainy season water runs right into the homes, and the people sleep practically in the water. Samuel said that many people live together in these dwellings; 6-8 people per room. Some houses were adjoined inside, sharing among several families. We saw many leprosy victims: people that had one or no legs, stubs for arms, no fingers, and infectious skin. It is very difficult to get wheel chairs, and to push them on the streets if they get them. Therefore, the crippled drag themselves along the ground if they wish to move. We met one such senior citizen. He sat in front of his make-shift house, with one leg and a half. He played an old cracked pipe for us. Then I pulled out my ukulele, and we all sang him “This Is the Day” in Amharic. He loved it. We were led into a building, which Samuel said was the first ever built in Korah. There were women spinning wool on drop spindles with incredible skill. They had been spinning for 35 years, and were earning a mere $7 a month. Anna brought in a spinning wheel we brought from America, and proceeded to teach the women how it works. They were apprehensive at first, but took to it eventually. Anna claimed it was the best time she’d had all week. We also saw women sewing lace tablecloths, which had taken 3 months to complete what they had sewn thus far. An elderly man on the porch was weaving a foot mat. He had no fingers and hardly palms, eaten by leprosy. Yet he wove and wove with a large toothless smile. Another man inside was weaving on a huge loom at an impressive speed. Upstairs, people were designing intricate patterns and embroidering them on shirts, blankets, table runners, etc… Finally, we were taken into a room where their products are for sale. They were absolutely beautiful, and so under-priced for the work put into it. We are going to purchase many of our souvenirs there. Tomorrow, the rest of the team is going to the drop-in center to minister to street children. I am getting dropped off in the morning to shadow the doctor at the Alert Hospital. The nurse said they have cases of leprosy, HIV, and tuberculosis to name a few. I may encounter them all.

This has been such a great adventure. It has been a heart-wrenching, somber adventure, which has changed our lives and perspectives. But it is so good.

Please continue to pray,


Tuesday, February 16, 2010


From Kayla:


Today was another full and rewarding day. At 5:30 this morning, Getcho drove me, mom, and John Forenz to Soddo. Although it is a five hour drive, I much enjoyed watching the scenery go by. Squiggly, flat-topped trees and gnarled shrubs dotted the savannah. I expected Bagiera the panther to jump from any of the branches. ;) Once, a hyena ran across the road. He was big and ugly. Suddenly, I appreciated the graceful deer that interrupt our driving at home. We passed many mud coated houses and grass thatched huts. They looked just like the pictures. The country villages that we passed were very impoverished, more so than in Addis Ababa where we are staying. Many of the roads were wet and the red soil badly eroded. The people passing on the road looked weary under the burdens they carried on their backs or their heads. I felt especially sorry for them when it started to rain. Getcho dropped us off at the hospital where Harry Bower works as an optometrist. He took us over to his house where his wife Stephane made us the best cups of tea in the world, with two lumps of sugar and heated milk. Stephane is the operator of the orphanage in Soddo. This is where the Forenz family adopted their three daughters last year. John showed recent pictures of the girls to their caretakers there. Stephane gave us a tour of their orphanage. The children, of course, were smiling and adorable. And oh, the babies! Melt my heart till it can be poured from a jug! Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take pictures of the children. So all of you should come, see them for yourselves, and take one or six home with you. We were told that there are at least 200 children on a waiting list to come into the orphanage. We couldn’t stay long because we had a five hour drive home, (although it might have taken less time going 110 km/h.) My poor terrified mother.

For those of you who went to Guatemala, Getcho is much like Manuel. He doesn’t text, but he talks on his phone. There are not 11,000 ft. drops, but there are NO traffic rules. None. Guatemala driving was more structured, if you can imagine.

As for the other groups, well, I don’t know. But reports say they are doing well. Love to all.




Today we started our Vacation Bible School with 29 of the most adorable little 3-5 year old kids at Strong Hearts International. They were loads of fun. We had bible story time, Craft time, Music and Gym.
These precious little ones are from the Leper community. We did meet an adorable little girl whose parents are dead due to HIV/Aides. She is staying with her grandmother. This little girl is HIV positive also and even if she can get the medication, she needs food to take the medicine with. To hold this little girls in your arms and realize that she may have a death sentence in just heart breaking. Kayla spent a lot of time with her just letting her know what love is. It was wonderful listening to them sing along with Lisa and the Snazzy CD. You should be able to see pictures at
After lunch we rest for a short bit and then headed out to the area up in the city where the millennium celebration was held, to play soccer with Ephram’s boys. Jessie played great! Bryan, Anna, and I played hard, and I tripped Zi (who works for the Guest House) and drew blood. It really was an accident! Really! We had a great time and boy oh boy those guys can play. This was the first time I felt the elevation change.
Everything seems to be going well with all those over at Les and Maxine’s teaching English and building relationships.
God is working throughout the team as conversations such as “when I come back” are taking place on a regular schedule. How exciting to see lives transformed before your very eyes. I am truly blessed by the Lord to be here with this team! Thank you Lord, and thank you to all those praying for us!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sundays Highlights

WOW! I guess that is the only way to sum up our Sunday. We started the day with an Ethiopian church service that lasted 2 ½ hours, but what an energy charged service with the blessing of a double wedding ceremony! Our whole team was together for this experience or should I say blessing. The one bride was blind and there was a whole blind choir that sang beautifully for them. The pastor told us that because these two couples were poor that they have their ceremony during the regular church service. This is a very effective way to help encourage other poor people to do the same. The one thing that we weren’t so keen on was the fact that after the vows are given a hand shake is done between the bride and groom. We Americans love our kisses!
After the service we broke into 3 groups with me, Sarah, Kayla, and Jessica, going to The Mothers House; Bryan, Alesia, Lisa, and Anna, going to Tesfa’s house; and Shandelle, Lindsay, John S. and Nicole going to Hannah’s house. We all ate too much authentic Ethiopian food, but had a wonderful time with all the girls, learning Amharic, getting our hair braided (of course they tried my arms, and even eyeballed my chest but one must draw the line somewhere.) It seems as though at every house was great fellowship, friendships, singing and dancing. No one wanted to leave, and this was proven by us being a little late for Strong Hearts 2nd movie night. I must say that Anna was taken right in by one of the girls, and didn’t want to leave. Every one of us has experienced a love and acceptance from all we have come in contact with, and it is wonderful.
The Spirit of God is certainly moving here and we watch in awe. Jessica stepped forward tonight (Lisa spoke last night and was equally as awesome) to speak to the children after the movie, as God lead her. She was awesome in her presentation. Totally stepping out of her comfort zone! But what she said was wonderful and it was so cool that the girl who told me hours before that she didn’t really feel as though she should speak, was moved by the Spirit of God, and used by Him beautifully!
Lisa, Kayla and Jessica also warmed up the crowd before the movie with singing and dancing! The children, young and old loved it! Older guys were dancing and singing which was so cool because that same age group in America never would have moved an inch. But these guys were getting down tonight. John S, Anna, and I shook many hands and took lots of pictures.
At the end of the evening God brought forth 18 children to ask Jesus in their hearts. How Awesome is that! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Keep praying for more souls to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. The teams’ hearts are being broken for the things that break the heart of God. Hallelujah!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ethiopia- Saturday Evening

Tonight we headed back to Strong Hearts International, for movie night. The movie theater was awesome, once the rain stopped and the sheet dried. Showing the movie outside was nice but the damp wood didn’t let the bonfire really get hot enough. I was blessed to have an adorable little girl who was probably 3 years old sit next to me and hold my hand all movie long. Every time I looked down at her, I pictured my little girl about the same age. I had tears flowing out of my eyes when I thought of her future here in Ethiopia. Would she be raped or pregnant before 14 years old? Would she be destined to carry wood for the rest of her life? Would she contract HIV/Aids? Or will she be dead before any of these things could happen to her because of starvation or malnutrition? As I reflect on just how precious she was to me, I can only imagine how God sees her. Then I’m reminded that He sees all of us the same, Beautiful, Precious, Created in his own image. Priceless! Yes Priceless; that’s how he sees each and every one of us even as sinners. Yet he loves us! We let Him down, but He still loves us. This is the true Agape’ love that we see in the bible; and perhaps I was feeling for this little girl, and all those watching the film tonight. Oh yes, I remember praying that God would break my heart for the things that break His, and once again it has happened. But not just to me this time. In walks Lisa, Jessica, and Kayla. Tonight Lisa, Jessica, and Kayla had their hearts broken for the Ethiopian children as they watched the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work during the viewing of the “Jesus Film.” At the end of the film, Lisa address the audience and poured out God’s passion for them to know the True and Living God. I followed asking them not to deny Christ 3 times as Peter did, but to except him now. Through Gedinet, we asked all who wanted to make a change in their lives forever and have the hope of and future of Christ, to come forward and we would pray with them. From the crowd of 205 children, about 12 came forward to receive Christ as Lord.
Tonight we gave the Hope of the Future, Jesus Christ!! Praise God!