Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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
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
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.
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 http://strh.binghamacademy.net/index.htm
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
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
Tonight we gave the Hope of the Future, Jesus Christ!! Praise God!
For the 9 team members who have never been here before their eyes where wide open as we traveled to the Guest House, Zi answered the many questions that arose. Once at the guest house, we sorted out the donations and personal items, giving those going to Les and Maine’s a chance to shower up and have a quick lunch. Right after lunch, we went to Les and Maxine’s and filled their living room with the many blessings that so many had donated. So exciting!
Lisa had about 20 minutes to start her “Purity Talk,” which you could see kind of through her, but when we pick her up later, you could see that relationships had begun with all who were there.
The rest of us had a wonderful dinner with the two missionaries who work in Soddo. He is a medical eye doctor, and she runs the orphanage there, where my 3 latest daughters came from. What a wonderful and informative evening listening to how God is using them, but on the same hand how difficult it is for them to see infant death in the morning, and a new sick, burned or abandoned child at their door in the evening. The decisions that they make are so very, very, difficult, and hit them every day. They were so pleased to see the condition of 3 my girls that they had rescued over a year ago, knowing that they had made the right decisions. They were so happy to see all of the donations, and definitely touched to see all the Soy Formula. They also commented on the fact that everything went through customs, but we assured them that our prayer warriors took care of that! They planned to dress all the babies in the outfits that Shandelle and Jessica’s grandmother made and send us a picture. We called it a night as John S, I and a few others were literally falling asleep on our feet.
We dropped John S off at the Williams’ and the rest of us went to Strong Hearts International to work with the Pre teen group. That went very well with them asking Jessica and Kayla to show a little Ty Kwon Do sparing, which they did. They were impressed. Lisa and Kayla were asked to sing and play the Ukulele. Bryan was asked how fast he could run, which of course he explained it depended who was chasing him. And finally, I was asked to do pushups.(they only wanted 10, but I gave them 12. This evening we will be there for movie night and follow the Spirit for direction.
Oh yes, and how could I forget? Gedinet ask for me to give a message at which God instantly gave me the verse in Jeremiah Chapter 3 verse 5.”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” I got a little nervous but as I was reading further, I discovered Verse 8 says “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” declares the Lord. So I shared with them that each one of them was specially made by God and had a specific reason and purpose for their life. That it doesn’t matter whether you are American, Korean, or Ethiopian; you are special to God and he has a plan for your life, and He can use you if you are obedient. Mmmmm…….. That is the same message for all of us isn’t it???? Obedience, that’s why we are here and God is using us!
That’s all for now.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
About Me: I am 49 years old, soon to turn the big “50”, although I feel like 29 and very often are found acting younger than that. I am the husband to a most beautiful woman Elizabeth, who has a heart for God made of gold. We have been married for 20½ and have 9 children, 4 homemade and 5 adopted, (2 from S. Korea and 3 from Ethiopia) ages 16, 14, 12, 11, 8, 6, 5, 4, and 2. The trip to Ethiopia to adopt our last 3 children is when God truly broke my heart for those less fortunate than us which is about 99% of the world’s population. He has shown me how much I have and how selfish I have been all my life and now is the time change, before it is too late.
Favorite Scripture: Revelation 3:16 – “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Ministry Involvement: Currently besides being this Missions Team Leader, I am a Home Group Leader and Family Ministries Director. In the past I have served several years as a Church Board Member, and taught Sunday School many times as well. Ethiopia Missions trip August 2009.
Current Status, Occupation: Automotive Technology Instructor for 24 years.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? The Changed Lives, both of our Team members and all the people we come in contact with. I am excited to see whose prayers we will be answering. To see how God will use me, as I love being used if it is by God.
Bryan – Co-Leader
About Me: I am a 35 year husband to my lovely and currently glowing, expecting wife, Carrie. We have 4 children Gabriella (8), Rebecca (7), Garrett (4), Lydia (1) and one with a “womb of its own” due in June.” I am a New York Yankees fan and a baseball fan in general. I love the outdoors and rough housing with my children.
Favorite Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Ministry Involvement: Ethiopia Missions trip August 2009, Children’s Ministries leader, Sunday School teacher, Missions Committee and Finance Committee member of the Buena Vista Wesleyan Church.
Current Status, Occupation: Independent Financial Advisor
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? The unknown -> The miraculous unplanned opportunities [God Moments], to serve and impact people’s lives.
About Me: I am a 31 year husband to a beautiful woman (Tami) and have 5 “Blessings”. I am a “Maple Syrup Making Maniac” and love being in the woods. I am an avid sportsman, and love to help people!
Favorite Scripture: Ephesians 6:19-20 – Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ministry Involvement: I am currently an Evangelism Explosion (EE) Trainer. I have served several terms as a Church Board member. I have been the Director of the Men’s ministry and the Family ministry.
Current Status, Occupation: Automotive Technology Instructor
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Being free from structure and seeing the love of Jesus move.
About Me: I felt a very clear calling to travel to Africa several years ago when missionaries from Tanzania visited our church. I was excited to spend the summer helping out in any way I could, but for some reason God closed that door. In retrospect, I realize that He was preparing my heart for Ethiopia. Last March I had two new additions to my 5th and 6th Grade Girls Sunday School class, Mandy and Abby, two beautiful young ladies from Ethiopia. In my ten years as a teacher (and even more as a Sunday School teacher), I have never prepared more for a lesson than for those first few months with Mandy and Abby. It was my responsibility to make Sunday School appealing and memorable to these beautiful young ladies that understood very little of what was being taught while at the same time reaching the ten other students that had attending church their entire life! But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way! Mandy and Abby have helped me to see the Scriptures through new ears and the world in which I live through new eyes. They, along with their adorable little sister Maria, have shown me a trusting, unconditional love that we as Americans have somehow lost in the midst of our cynicism and self-preservationist attitude. When John’s family shared with our congregation their experiences in travelling to Addis Ababa to meet their beautiful new daughters, John mentioned that he would like to go again, this time with a short-term team from our church. I knew without a doubt that this was the experience that God had been preparing me for. I'm excited to use the gifts that God has blessed me with to interact with the precious children of Ethiopia! I know that He will continue to open my eyes to the need around me and break my heart for the things that break His!
Favorite Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
And Psalm 139
Ministry Involvement: I am currently the Sunday School Superintendent of our church, 5th and 6th grade girls Sunday School Teacher, Local Church Board Member, and the VBS Music Director.
Current Status, Occupation: Single and ready mingle :-) , Employed as a K–12th grades Vocal Music Teacher.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Singing with the children, and sharing the love of Christ with those I meet.
About Me: I'm Nicole :) I grew up in Conhocton, NY and am the youngest of 3 daughters. I graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2006 and am currently employed by Pathways, Inc. as a speech therapist for preschoolers with disabilities. I became a Christian in September 2006 and am continually amazed by how awesome and patient God truly is!
I felt compelled to go on this mission’s trip after John shared a video about needs of people in Ethiopia. My knee-jerk reaction was to block out their suffering because it didn't immediately affect me. I had become apathetic to stories of poverty/hunger/disease, how horrible?! God made it clear that I needed a LARGE lesson in demonstrating compassion for people who face devastating circumstances. Soon I will be putting names to those faces, listening to their stories of despair, and seeing life through their eyes. My prayer is that I am able to share Christ with all of the people that I encounter and respond with the love, concern, mercy, and hope that He has shown me.
Favorite Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Ministry Involvement: 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School Teacher, No previous Missions experience.
Current Status, Occupation: Single; Employed as a Speech Therapist.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Seeing how God is going to use all of us in our group during the course of our trip and beyond this trip, and making new friends.
About Me: My name is Sarah; I am a 16 year old high school student. I am really into Photography, Horses and Culinary. I also love to knit, crochet and spin. I am the oldest of 9 siblings, we are home schooled by my wonderful Mom and my wonderful Dad is the leader of our trip.
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Matthew 17:20 - "You do not have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to the mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."
Ephesians 2:4-5 - " But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!)"
Ministry Involvement: I help in our Church's children's ministry, I have taught a few Sunday school classes and I regularly help with Wesleyan Kids for Missions (WKFM). All of the WKFM kids are really excited about me going on this trip because I used to be one of the kids in that class. They are seeing that their dream of becoming a missionary could really be a possibility.
Current Status, Occupation: I am currently single and in high school, trying to decide if I want to go to college.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? I am really looking forward to meeting the girls at Hope for Youth Ethiopia and being able to teach them something while building relationships will be amazing! I am just really looking forward to be the answer to someone’s prayer.
About Me: I am a 45 year old Homeschooling mother of 6 beautiful children. We live on a farm raising corn for seed purposes and boarding heifers for area farmers. I have been married for 22 years to the greatest man on the Earth (Vaughn). I love to cook for anyone who loves to eat.
Favorite Scripture: Proverbs 31
Ministry Involvement: I am busy raising Missionaries at home, as well as being involved with the Children’s Church Ministries at our church. I also spent time serving at the Hephzibah Children’s Home in Macon Georgia.
Current Status, Occupation: Married Homemaker
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Loving on all the people with all my heart, and holding all the motherless Children to show them how valuable they are.
About Me: I am 18 years old and was raised as a Beverly Hillbilly, on a farm in rural upstate New York. I enjoy playing my ukulele, which will accompany me to Ethiopia. I interpretively sign to songs that minister Gods love and holiness.
Favorite Scripture: Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord, my Strength, and my Redeemer.
Ministry Involvement:I have been involved in the following mission’s trips:
Alaska – Camp work and drama ministry.
Hephzibah Children’s Home, Macon Georgia – Construction and Children’s ministries.
The Pittsburgh Project, Pittsburgh PA – Construction, repairs, and community ministries.
Guatemala, South America (summer of 2009) – Construction of a church, Medical Clinic, and Children’s ministries.
Current Status, Occupation: I am single and currently attending college to attain my Registered Nursing Degree, and ultimately to become a medical missionary in a foreign county.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? To hold the orphaned children, in the Leper community especially; and tell them by words and demonstration about the love of Jesus Christ for them.
About Me: I am 22 years old, born and raised on my family’s dairy cow farm where I still currently reside. Someday I would love to have my own farm of dairy goats. I love to work with animals and spending time outdoors. I enjoy spinning wool and knitting.
Favorite Scripture: Isaiah 6
Ministry Involvement: I help with crafts at our local church’s Wednesday night children’s program.
Current Status, Occupation: Single; I am a Veterinary Technician
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Meeting the Ethiopian people, and just seeing everything for the first time.
About Me: I am a 17 year old senior in high school. I enjoy playing sports and having a good time with family and friends.
Favorite Scripture: Philippians 4:13 (NLT) - For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
Ministry Involvement: Missions trip to the Hephzibah Children’s Home in Macon Georgia.
Current Status, Occupation: Single; Part time employed.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Answering someone’s prayer, and making a difference.
About Me: I am a 15 year old high school student. I have always had an interest in music and sports. I love teaching and spending time with children.
Favorite Scripture: Psalm 139
Ministry Involvement: None currently.
Current Status, Occupation: Single; Part time employed.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? Knowing that something I do, or I myself could be an answer to someone’s prayer.
About Me: I am currently 15 years old, turning 16 in April. My lifelong passion is to live my life at the center of God’s will, in full term ministry.
Favorite Scripture: 1Timithy 4:12 Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
Ministry Involvement: This will be my 2nd trip to Ethiopia. Last February I traveled with John F. and his wife when they adopted their 3 Ethiopian daughters. For the past 4 months, God has allowed me to direct a pre-teen girl’s bible study. Last summer my Dad and I had the opportunity to help with the Vacation Bible School at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC. Lastly, when I was 13, Kayla and I were able to participate in Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Current Status, Occupation: Single; 10th grade student enrolled in Abeka Academy’s homeschooling program.
What Are You Looking Forward to The Most On This Trip? I’m just looking forward to being in Ethiopia; Africa is my dream and passion! On top of that I will have the opportunity to teach English to young adult girls that are being given a second chance by “Hope for Youth Ethiopia”. I believe that God has and is calling me to be a teacher in Africa, so you can see how the pieces are falling perfectly into place.