Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday August 19, 2009

Strong Hearts International
CWAE and Acacia Village
Wednesday August 19, 2009

Today we started are day with heart shaped waffles, which was only appropriate as we were on our way to Strong Hearts International. As we pulled up outside the compound, the doorway open and you could hear the voices of many children having fun inside. As we entered the compound we were warmly greeted by Gedinet, The Executive Director of Strong Hearts International. The ministry at Strong Hearts is one where they believe that it is not just food, clothing, shelter and money that can solve poverty, but by building relationships and then freeing the people from the bondage of sin with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Strong Hearts has a Street Ministry, Child Care and Youth Development Ministry, Soccer Ministry, Drug Rehab Ministry, Bible Study Cell groups, and let’s not forget the Leper Colony Ministry which is a community of over 10,000 people that live around Addis Ababa’s Garbage Dump. At the Learning Center where we were, there were about 60 children which about 75% of them were from the Leper Colony. Gedinet stated that at one point they asked the children “Not” from the Colony what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answers were like doctors, and other respectable jobs. When they asked the Children from the Leper colony, their answer was a “Garbage Scratcher”. See this is what their parents do. They spend all day scratching the ground to find something to eat. Nice huh? Remember this is a Leper colony so many of them don’t even have fingers do to the leprosy.

We also met with Bisrat tonight who works with the children at the “Drop In Center” or CHE (Children’s Home Ethiopia). It turns out that he grew up in the Orthodox Monastery and became a monk. Then someone came into the Monastery and told him about Jesus. He then on his own he read the Scriptures to see what they said to him and he asked Jesus to be his Savior. We the Monastery found out that he was a follower of Jesus; they kicked him out of the Monastery and thru him in jail for three days with no food. After 3 days they took him from Jail and put him on the roof of a vehicle and took him 5 km away and dumped him. He was age 18 at the time. They would not let him ride in the vehicle because he would make the demons posses it. I learned a wealth of knowledge about the Orthodox church which anyone adopting an older child that’s been raised that way may want to know, especially if they are Christians.(e-mail me) Bisrat now belong to a church that feeds the lepers once a week and share the Gospel with them. The lepers believe that the sins of their forefathers have brought this on them. The reason the USA does see this is because we were founded by Godly men, and even today we have “In God We Trust” on our money. They also believe that Ethiopia is a demon possessed country and that is why it has such rich and fertile ground but its people are so poor. After all look at the Middle East, it has nothing but sand, but is so wealthy. Apparently the people have not heard that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”! This gives you an idea of how many years of false teaching has hardened the hearts of some. But on the other hand, those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior are radically transformed. Praise God! And their testimonies are so powerful to here!

Besides the visit with Gedinet and Bisrat, we also visited CWAE (Christian World Adoption Ethiopia) where our girls came from. I delivered letters and gifts from the girls to the Staff and Nannies. It was a very emotional time for me just re-walking the steps of 6 months ago as well as seeing Zewdu, Robel, Baza, Helen and Huddush. I also got to see Danna’s (from Beth’s message board) 3 children who are just waiting for their Embassy date so they can go home. (which Robel said should happen very soon) They are doing great and if they have any cavities when they come home you can blame me as we gave them all lollipops. I also delivered a few notes and “lots” of lollipops to Degnesh, and gave her a “Huge” hug for my 11 year old daughter.

After shaking hands and handing out lots of suckers we traveled out of Addis to the location of the new CWAE “Acacia Village”, which is under construction, and will house 200 children when complete. We even got the grand tour from Huddush, the Director himself. They hope to be moving children in by the end of the calendar year. I guess their construction crews work a little faster than ours, but with the equipment they use I can’t see how.
We did have a little unplanned excitement today. As we were on our way to CWAE, when Joseph ran over something in the road and got a flat tire. The poor guy felt so bad and Bryan and I made sure we picked on him the rest of the day about it. He is such a good sport and just a great guy and can take our American humor pretty good. I’m not sure if any of them will ever want to see us again, but we have had a lot of fun with Joseph and the staff. They gave us their Facebook addresses, but we keep asking them if they will “really” accept us as friends or if they are just being nice. But we told them that they better accept us or we could jump on a plane and be here in 22 hours to settle it with them. Anyway we left Joseph with the flat tire even after I offered to change it for him. So Bryan, Matadel (Mat tea) from the guest house, and I started walking. It wasn’t very far and we soon arrived at CWAE, and Joseph caught up within a half an hour.

The other exciting thing that happened was when we were visiting Strong Hearts International and the children requested Bryan, myself, Joseph and Ephraem to either sing or dance for them. Oh yeah you got that right! So naturally I had to start. I guess its part of being a leader. Anyway, I sang He is the “King of Kings”, Bryan sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, Joseph did about a 5 second dance, and Ephraem sang “This is the Day the Lord Has Made” in Amharic. This was the first request of the children. After this they started to ask us questions, like what size shoes we wear, how many children in our families, what did we want to be when we were younger, how old we were and a few more. They also sang for us and told us a few jokes. I videotaped a lot of it, but sorry; Not Bryan and I singing! A man has to know his limitations! I’m surprised you couldn’t hear the dogs howling all the way in America!
That’s all for today, and only one more to go. Keep praying for us and our families as we miss them so dearly.
Thank you and God Bless!
The Power of Good and Evil
Wednesday August 18, 2009

As many of you know, scripture tells us the world is not about flesh and blood, but about the powers of good and evil. From conversations with the many Christians we meet and the more we learn about Ethiopia, we see that this is so very true here. The battle is over souls. The battle is won by Satin with every child that is not adopted, every street child that is starving and receives no love, every HIV/AIDS victim and doesn’t get help, and every soul that perishes without the Love of Jesus. As Bryan and I go about Gods business here, we can see this battle more than perhaps we see it at home and maybe this is because we are so busy at home to pay attention. Or maybe it is because we are a “Christian” Nation. Perhaps Satin is targeting the weaker because the victory is easier for him. Last night we learned that this country is slowly turning more Muslim because of the fact that people are allowed to travel to the Middle East for job opportunities. As they leave here as an Orthodox or perhaps even with no faith at all, they return to Ethiopia as Muslims.
As I left the States, I could see the battle in my family so clearly as Satin would want nothing more than Bryan and I to stay home. With 9 children the strife increase to high levels with some of the children to the point where if I didn’t have spent so much money I easily could of stayed home. Many of you know that when you are a Sunday school teacher, or going to witness the Gospels love for mankind, that Satin will cause trouble or place doubt in your mind that you’re doing the wrong thing. A great example would be how every morning during the week, your children get up, get dress, and may go through all the so called “Normal” activities with no problems. But what kind of Chaos breaks out on Sunday morning when you’re try to get them out to church.
With all this said, please pray for Bryan and I even harder than before. Please pray for our family’s even more than that as we don’t want Satin to win any battles. Please pray specifically against the powers of evil, and for our children, and our wives, as with our absence every tear that’s cried every disagreement or fight that breaks out, or even just any problem big or small, just makes everything more difficult for everyone.
For those of you who have been faithfully praying I ask of you to please step it up a notch, as the battle belongs to the Lord!
Thank you for every prayer lifted to Heaven for our Families, ourselves, and the lost and dying world that is all around us.
May God richly bless you today!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meeting with Les, Pastor Abdissa, and SIM

Meeting with Les, Pastor Abdissa, and SIM
Tuesday August 18, 2009

Today’s day started at 8:30 AM and finished at 5:30 PM, almost a normal day, well I did say almost normal. As my beautiful wife warned me, “You should be careful how much you schedule in one day”, she is a very wise women. Although Bryan and I met all of our appointments, we keep showing up late for lunch and dinner. Tonight I thought we could sneak in a little shopping but Bryan warned me that we would be late for dinner. That wouldn’t be so bad except we, I mean “I” messed up lunch. Our Guest House was expecting us, we show up a half hour late, and then realize that we were supposed to have lunch with Pastor Abdissa. So with many apologies we skip the lunch at the Guest House and travel 45 minutes to meet with Pastor Abdissa. Now get this, not knowing anything about this Pastor, we arrive at this place called Children’s House International. The Pastor met us at the car warmly welcoming these two “LATE” Americans. (Only 15 minutes, but still late) He then ushered us inside and up the stairs to a room filled with small children and 5 American Families that were there getting their children. They were all eating a wonderful lunch which we got to join in on. But here’s the killer… two of the families are staying in the other guest house, one of the families is staying with us, and another family was a man and his son who we met at the airport flying into Addis. What a surprise! It turns out that Pastor Abdissa pastors a church of his own, is Vice President of a the Denominational Church here in Ethiopia that has a half a million members, and in his spare time is the Director of Children’s House International Adoption Agency. (And I thought I had a lot to do) He let us visit the Foster home which was loaded with the beautiful little girls and boys you’d ever want to see. (If only we had big suitcases; and it were that easy.) The girl children outnumbered the boys by probably 2:1. Most of them were sleeping as it was the after lunch nap time, and that made them all the more precious.

Our morning visit was with Les who has been retired from SIM (Serving in Missions) for 6 years now. He and his wife Maxine now have their own ministries with 4 girl homes with almost 10 girls in each one. One of them showed up at his door yesterday, 15 years old and 9 months pregnant. All of their girls are orphaned street kids. They are giving them the Gospel and have several receive Christ as Savior. Besides these girls they are sponsoring 185 kids in schools. They do bible studies, feed others that come to them for food and even have paid rent for a few that come to them as they are being thrown out on the street. They have some strict rules for the girls in their homes such as; no one leaves without permission, they must go to church and attend all church programs appropriate for their age, and one that Bryan and I liked was NO BOYFRIENDS. They do not believe that it is the Christian way of doing things, and it will only get them into more trouble. If and when they are ready to settle down, they will pray seeking Gods will for their mate and Les and his wife will even help them find Mr. Right if they would like. Which some have done.

They also provide medical help, and our driver delivered the 15 year old pregnant girl to the clinic while we were there. It seem as though they are working on the whole picture of poverty. Food, water, health care, medicine, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, relationships, Teaching the Gospel and even helping the girl’s children find homes though adoption if and when they are ready. Unbelievable! The one girl has not chosen to put her little boy up for adoption yet, and as you can see in the pictures he came to me and then after I gave him back, he wouldn’t let go.

Les runs a tight ship, but it is one that floats on water and is handling the crashing waves. Oh yeah, Les also has a soccer team of 30 boys who need a bible study. Any takers???
Our last stop before we rushed back (if you can do that in Addis) to the Guest House for Dinner was with SIM. We spoke with Donek and Brian and they shared all that they are doing and have been for many, many years. A lot of great information from them, and another cool thing was they ask me if I had ever heard of John Ortberg because he has brought people here. Isn’t it funny that he is the author of the book “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat?” The book that I am currently teaching a Sunday school class on.
Before I finish up today we had a visitor tonight after dinner from Ephram. He was a street orphan whose life has been transformed by the love of Christ, and is now working with 100 street kids ranging in age from 6-14 with a soccer ministry besides keeping a job. He is using soccer to build the relationship and try to get the children into schools with sponsorships of around $100/ kid. He is trying to rescue so many as he knows where they are at, as he has been there himself.
To finish up, I must tell you that our driver and interpreter today was Joseph. Another one of Ethiopia’s success stories as he also was a street orphan, and now has a wife, son, job, and home and gives all the credit to Jesus Christ who has transformed his life forever! Amen and Amen

Monday, August 17, 2009

World Vision Ethiopia

World Vision Ethiopia
Monday August 17th 2009

Today was our visit with World Vision Ethiopia and what a day it was! Amazing, Miraculous, Fascinating are only a few words to describe what they are doing here. First I would like to say that they treated us in the most wonderful way that any visitor could be treated, from giving us 15 extra minutes for us to get our breakfast to spending a whole 11 hours with us. Everyone we met with and spoke to were absolutely wonderful people.
Our day started with being picked up right at the guest house we are staying at by Yemane and Wondwossen. We then traveled 123 km or about 77 miles to the Wonche ADP (Area Development Program). I must say that until you’ve been here you can’t comprehend traveling the roads. First of all if your vehicle doesn’t have a horn you better not drive. Once you are sure that the horn is in excellent condition you proceed to dodge the following; cows, goats, oxen, donkeys, dogs, horses, 3 wheeled vehicles, big trucks, small trucks, SUV’s, and let’s not forget the thousands of people including children as small as 3 years old. By the way, you can talk on the phone here at the same time. It’s Great! Really, our driver John, was great and we never felt unsafe the entire day.
When we arrived at the Wonche ADP, we were greeted by the manager Zewde. With another warm greeting he shared that this area program was serving 113,000 people, 2200 households, and contained 5000 “Sponsored Children”. 97% of the people are and speak Oromo. He continued to share all of the areas that World Vision felt need to address in the 5 year plan. With 96.8% of the people farmers, animal care, disease and production were a major concern. Needs of the community were the following, Malaria, Typhoid, Pneumonia, STD’s Maternal Death, HIV/AIDS, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), low education, child abuse, the low status of women, education of women, concern of the women carrying water very long distances, Lack of health services, child malnutrition, and low child rights and protection.
In the past 8 years they have made HUGE accomplishments like developing 8 springs, drilled 3 wells, built 3 schools, started 215 modern bee hives, started 39,000 seedlings, Started and Apple orchard, planted over 5000 kg of seeds, started a Vet clinic, provided gender training for the status of women, trained 1666 community members in health issues to name a few.
They shared with us that when they started in 2001 that there was only 3 Christians living there and they were worshiping underground with no church. Today there are 4 churches and 1000 Christians! Praise God.
They also have free AIDS/HIV testing for those who are willing to go and free medication for those who test positive.
We visited the home of a girl who lost her parents to AIDS and she was left to care for her Grandfather and her siblings. Because of a sponsorship, she was given 2 sheep for breeding, she sold one and bought clothes; the other multiplied and became 3. She was also given a cow and school material and attends school and has passed the 8th grade. If not for her sponsorship she would not been able to attend school and would have been left to just take care of her Grandfather. Without education we can only imagine the frightful outcome of her life.
We also visited two successful farms that were graduates of the Ag programs with one of them now earning enough that he could built his own house which he proudly showed us and invited us in for roasted chick peas and barley. The other farmer has done so well that he received the Prime Minister Award for outstanding Agriculture. He proudly put on his robe, medallion, and brought out his wife and children so we could take pictures. He picked us each an avocado to show his appreciation of us visiting.
We were treated to a lovely lunch by the World Vision staff and offered to have lunch with the girl who lost her parents, and the “Honored” farmer.
Bryan and I both agreed that anyone who sponsors a child should know just how much and how well World Vision is doing for the whole community as well as the individual that we see on the internet when we decide to start a sponsorship. We are still crushed by the conditions that so many are living in. We have animals in the states living in better conditions then these who Christ died for. What a shame. Forgive us Lord.
We can’t believe how many women and children we saw carrying loads (some for as long as 5-6 miles) that were way too heavy for even a man to carry. Very sad!
What a day! This only scratches the surface of all we saw and information we received. Perhaps I can post more after we are home.
May we truly be thankful for every blessing that God has sent our way, and may we remember that to those that much has been given, much will be expected.
God Bless.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Meeting with Joe
Sunday August 16, 2009

Today we were picked up by Joe who is connected with the Children’s Home Ethiopia (CHE) and The Forsaken Children (TFC) The Forsaken Children can be searched online and you can learn more about Joe and what he’s doing. Anyway, Joe took us to worship at The International Evangelical Church, which I believe was started by the NGO (Non Government Organization) SIM (Serving in Missions) Enough with the acronyms. IHOP – ok I couldn’t resist!
The church and the service were just like what we would go to at home except for the many different nationalities that were in the congregation. The Pastor was originally from North Carolina, the music was contemporary and all songs were ones that we knew. The people were very inviting and we had a great time praising God with so many from all different countries. The message was about Leadership, and the importance of truly walking like Jesus ALL the time and not just on Sunday! After church I was telling Joe about a man named Les that we are going to meet up with later in the week, and guess who was standing about 10 feet away. Yup, Les. How cool is that. So we set up Wednesday morning to visit what Les and his wife are doing. He retired from SIM 6 years ago, and has been in missions work for I think he said 42 years, 35 in Africa. When I asked him where he was from he said the states so I said which one in which he replied that he has lived in 14 of them! He is one of 10 siblings, one that lives in Utica. But now they have set up 4 girl’s homes for orphans. Anyway more on Les after we meet (Ha Ha, More on Les! Get it? No pun intended but still funny anyway, or maybe just sleep deprivation)
Alright then, It seem as though working with CHE will work with and for us as a church, so it’s time to go home and see my beautiful wife and kids! Hold it, not so fast, I remind all of you, the week is still young and no decisions will be made until all people have been met with and prayed over. So that is all I’m saying now.
Bryan and I are both doing quite well except for missing our wives and children and other than this slow dial up internet service things are great.(But Praise God it is up and running)
We have met 3 adoptive families and have swapped adoption stories with each other. The Coolest thing is that each story is unique, except for the fact that God has truly moved his hand in each one to make them the same and perfect!
As you can tell from my writing, I need some sleep! So God bless you all, keep up the prayers, and for all the Red Sox fans – Would you look at those Yankees GO!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Greetings From Ethiopia!

Saturday Night 11:59 PM Ethiopian Time

Greetings everyone!

Bryan and I have safely arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with touchdown time around 8:50 PM.

A few of our flights were delayed (starting w/Elmira to Detroit) but all connections were made with no difficulty. Every piece of luggage made it through with no problems, PRAISE GOD!

We were greeted at the airport by the staff of the Ethiopian Guest House and the delivered us to our rooms.

The weather here tonight is cool and damp. Around 50 F.

Bryan and I have only gotten about 3 hour sleep each since Thursday night. And now with it past Midnight, we need to get some sleep as we are being picked up at 8:00 AM for church at the International Evangelical Church.

Please be in prayer for us and our families as we miss each other deeply.

All Glory To God!