Sunday, October 14, 2012

School Supplies

School supplies were recently purchased for the kids at Merkato using sponsorship money.  All of the kids received exercise books, pens, pencils, erasers, and paper to start the new school year.  What fun to see these photos of their happy faces!  Thank you, sponsors, for making this possible.

Monday, July 23, 2012

45 New Sponsors!

It has been an exciting month!  God has heard our pleas to bring more sponsors for the children at Merkato, and he has answered our prayers.  Currently 106 of the 152 have sponsors to love them, pray for them, and help provide for them.  Praise God!

Let me back up...  Shortly after our kick-off event in March, the "K Family" from Virginia traveled to Ethiopia with Children's HopeChest on a Vision Trip.  They visited several different CHC care points on the trip and saw many needy and hurting children.  However, their hearts were most moved by what they witnessed at Merkato.  The poverty and desperation was more extreme than anywhere else they visited in Ethiopia.

When the "K Family" returned home, they sensed that God was leading them to help the children from Merkato.  They agreed to take on the same role that we have and are helping to coordinate more sponsorships for the kids there.  In June they hosted a kick-off event and have gathered about 45 more sponsors!

Joy, relief, and thankfulness are just a few of the emotions that we have right now.  We still hope and pray that every single child will soon have a sponsors (46 more to go!), but we are overjoyed to be 2/3 of the way there.

By the way, congratulations to Cameron - the winner of our giveaway last month.  Thank you for sponsoring one of the kids at Merkato!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


60 of the children at Merkato now have sponsors!  This is great news, but we want to see ALL of the 150 kids sponsored.  Sooooo.... From now until June 15th, for every child that you sign up to sponsor you will be entered into a drawing for a gift basket that contains the following:

Pretty cool, huh?  We will announce the winner here the week of June 25th.  Head over to the Children's HopeChest website now to check out the profiles and sign up.  

Also, please help us to spread the word about this giveaway by sharing links on Facebook telling your friends.  We need to find sponsors for every one of our kids!  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meet Pastor Getahun

This is Pastor Getahun Shume and his family.  The sponsorship program at Merkato is the product of his passion, prayer, and hard work over the last several years.  He and his wife are rock stars in my book.  Here is a little bit more about his story:

17 years ago he began attending a small Ethiopian Orthodox church (the predominant religion in Ethiopia).  Gradually Getahun began taking on increasing leadership roles, eventually coming to lead the church.  Over the next couple of years the church grew.  However, as they prayed and studied together they became increasingly devoted to Jesus and less devoted to the traditional theology of the Orthodox church.  Because of this, the church came under sharp criticism and persecution from other Orthodox churches.  Eventually, they were completely cut off from the Orthodox church.

Undeterred and driven by passion for the Word and for orphans and widows, Getahun and his wife planted an Evangelical church in the middle of the roughest part of Addis Ababa - the Merkato area.  The church there is comprised of some of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia.  The economic hardships that they face are indescribable, and the church, compelled by Jesus' love, has a burden to care for the many orphans in that area.

We first met Pastor Getahun two years ago.  He told us how his church members, though in poverty themselves, were giving to fund the care of 25 orphans.  They were providing food, clothing, and education to these kids.  They were also personally involved in their lives, mentoring them and teaching them about Jesus.  Getahun saw the difference that they were able to make in the lives of these 25 children, and he desperately wanted to expand the program to include more children.

Pastor G and several of the sponsored children

Now, because of sponsors here in America, 60 more children are being helped.  They now have a regular source of food and medical care and are receiving an education to help break the cycle of poverty.  60 more kids are being taught about Jesus!  For that we praise God and thank all of the sponsors for their support.

Would you consider making a difference in the life of a child today?  Click here to view the profiles of children who are waiting to be sponsored.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Rein Family Visits Merkato

One of the things that we love about the Children's HopeChest sponsorship program is that they encourage you to meet the children that you sponsor and even help to provide the opportunity for you to do so.  This can be done through an organized mission trip to Ethiopia (more on this to come!).  Occasionally, however, sponsors find themselves in Ethiopia for other reasons (like adoption) and take advantage of the opportunity to visit their sponsored children.  This was the case for Clay and Neely Rein.  About a month ago they traveled to Addis Ababa to complete the adoption of their daughter.  Children's HopeChest made arrangements for them to visit Kidist and Liya, the children that they sponsor from Merkato.

Neely said:

"It was so exciting to meet Kidist and Liya and to be able to see these precious children who desperately need our help.  It is indescribable to see the conditions they live in but exciting to see the hope in their eyes. We also got to meet Liya's mom.  She was so sweet and very appreciative....The Children's HopeChest liaison was very kind and helpful too."

How exciting for all of us!  Clay and Neely, thanks for sharing your experience and helping to give Kidist and Liya a hope and a future.

You can visit the Rein family's blog at: 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wil visits Merkato!

Wil Crooks, a partner with Children's HopeChest, led a Vision Trip to Ethiopia a few weeks ago. (Vision Trips are for church leaders who are eager to learn more about the needs of kids around the world how their congregations can get involved.) If you were at the kick-off reception we held in March, you will remember Wil as the all-around-cool-guy who so eloquently spoke to us about CHC's work in Ethiopia.

While in Ethoipia, the team visited our care point - the Merkato slum area! Wil got to spend the afternoon loving on and playing with about 20 kids from the sponsorship program. He and the team witnessed crushing desperation. The children in that area are particularly vulnerable to violence, neglect, and prostitution. Despite these incomprehensible hardships, their smiles are eager and eyes hopeful.

Would you consider making a difference in the life of one of them through sponsorship? Real change happens one child at a time. You can be the catalyst for that change.

Click here to see photos of children who are in need of a sponsor.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Where Does Your Money Go?

We are so excited to be launching this sponsorship program. About 50 kids have been sponsored so far from the Merkato community in Addis Ababa. It is so exciting to know that many lives have been drastically changed already. Thank you sponsors!

We still have about 100 children who need sponsors. If you are interested in sponsorship, click on the link below and take a look at their profiles. We need your help!

You may be wondering exactly where the $34/month sponsorship fee goes. 20% of the money is used to pay administrative costs for Children's HopeChest here in the U.S. They take seriously the responsibility of being good stewards of your money, and they use a lot of volunteer work to keep these costs at a minimum.

80% of every dollar goes to Ethoipia and is directly used to pay for the needs of the individual children.

Here is how the 80% breaks down:

In coming weeks we will be sharing more about what each of the individual components look like.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Madeline is 4

Is it possible that my baby girl is really four years old??? It has been a long time since I have written about my family, so I thought I would take this opportunity share a little update about my sweetie pie.

  • Madeline amazes me by how quickly she picks things up and how eager she is to learn new things. She can write her name (and the whole alphabet!), she is starting to sound out words, and she understands simple math and can do problems using her fingers. Her memory and ability to learn impresses me.
  • She loves to draw, and she and her daddy bond through his frequent drawing lessons.
  • She is ALL GIRL - she loves all things pink and fluffy, loves to dress up, loves playing with her doll house, princesses, and ballet stuff.
  • She has an adventurous spirit that nicely balances out her girliness. She loves climbing, running, and being outside.
  • She is independent, self motivated, and a little on the shy side. I see myself in her in so many ways every day.
We had a Princess Party on Saturday, and she loved every minute of it. I have never been a girly girl myself, and I used to roll my eyes at things like tea parties, dress up clothes, and princess obsession. A few years ago I never would have dreamed that I would be joyfully arranging for a couple of the REAL Disney princesses to make an appearance at our house. I adore my girly girl, and it was such fun to see her eyes light up at the surprise of Sleeping and Beauty and Snow White pulling into our drive way. "So that's their car...." she whispered to herself in amazement as she watched them get out of their beige Volvo. :)

The cousins with the princesses - truly a "magical" experience :)

My Sleeping Beauty with the REAL Sleeping Beauty

Princess cake pops :)

A few family shots:

And, of course, birthday breakfast at Waffle House

Saturday, March 10, 2012

We Need Sponsors!

Have you been thinking about sponsoring a child? We have 105 more children who are waiting for sponsors. Is God asking you to be one of them? Let me tell you a little bit more about the program….

All of the kids live in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – a slum area near the Merkato (market). The area is densely populated, and there is a high rate of HIV/AIDS. Prostitution is rampant – this area has the largest “red light district” in all Ethiopia. Many children are forced to work, prostitute, themselves, or live on the streets at an early age. The average income per day is less than 50 cents!

The children who have been enrolled for sponsorship range in age from three years old to fifteen years old. All of them who have sponsors will be given the life-changing opportunity to receive an education, receive daily feeding, and have access to health care. In addition, they will receive school uniforms and supplies every year. But most importantly, they will learn about Jesus Christ through discipleship groups at the local Protestant church.

Sponsors will have the opportunity to write to your child (via email that will be translated and given to them). We would also love for you to join us on a future mission trip to Ethiopia to meet your child and show them the love of Jesus in person. We will be helping to lead several trips over coming years.

Take a look at the photos of the kids who need sponsors by clicking on the link below.

I have spent so much time looking at all of the photos. I love each one of these precious kids. This handsome guy is named Minase, and he is 7 years old.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Praise the Lord! We had a wonderfully successful kick off event on Sunday evening. It was such an indescribable blessing to see a room filled with 50-60 people who were eager to hear about Children's HopeChest and the kids in Ethiopia who need our help.

We are thrilled that about 45 children have been sponsored so far. BUT we still have 105 more who still need sponsors! It is a huge task, but we trust that God knows who each one will be.

The food table

A couple of my awesome helpers getting food ready

Love this couple!

Door prizes and Go Seek Love T-shirts

A beautiful sight - child profiles disappearing from the wall as families choose the children that they will sponsor. This brings tears to my eyes.

A few of the beautiful ladies from my community group

Benjamin and his best buds - twin boys from Ethiopia who are just like him - Crazy!

More info to come soon about how you can sign up to sponsor a child in Ethiopia through Children's HopeChest.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tomorrow is the Day!

Don't forget - tomorrow is the Children's HopeChest reception! If you want to see better lives for disadvantaged children in Ethiopia, please join us and find out what you can do. You can make a huge difference in the life of a child.

Where: Grace Community Church (follow the signs to the Pine Room upstairs)
When: Sunday March 4th, 4pm-5pm

See you there!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Door Prizes!

Don’t forget about our reception on March 4th at Grace Community Church from 4 pm-5pm. You will have the opportunity to learn about how you can make a huge difference in an Ethiopian child’s life. We will be talking about mission trips planned to visit our sponsored children too!

There will be great door prizes!

- A Tom’s Shoes gift card

- Ethiopian coffee

- Books written by Tom Davis (CEO of Children’s HopeChest)

- Africa related T-shirts

Also, everyone who signs up to sponsor a child at the reception will receive a Go. Seek. Love. T-shirt!

Your chances for winning will be great, so come join us

Where: Grace Community Church (5711 Granny White Pike, Brentwood, TN 37027)

When: Sunday March 4th, 4pm-5pm

Friday, February 17, 2012

More About Merkato

In June of 2010, I wrote the following blog post about our first visit to the slum area in Addis Ababa. It's the same area that we are now seeking sponsors for. It makes me excited to re-read this. We saw difficult things this day, but we knew that God was touching our hearts for a purpose. We knew he had a plan. Now the lives of 150 kids are going to be radically changed. The entire community will be touched by the work of Children's HopeChest. Praise God!

This afternoon we met our driver Dawit for a difficult and eye-opening excursion. I'm so thankful that God put us together with Dawit. Earlier in the week we had a conversation with him over macchiato's at Kaldi's about what life is really like in Ethiopia. Dawit is an Evangelical Christian, and he has been involved with orphan ministry in several different capacities. We were very interested to hear his insights. He offered to take us to his church and to show us how many people "really live" in Ethiopia. We were very excited to take him up on this.

Us with Dawit at the Guest House

We didn't realize it, but he had made an appointment for us to meet the pastor of his church. He drove us to the slums of the city where the church is located. To say that we went to the slums is saying a lot. The poverty all over Addis is overwhelming. But this was where the poorest of the poor people live. This church was planted there several years ago to reach out to the people who live there. They were going to have a fellowship meeting later that evening, and already people were starting to gather. We stuck out big time. All eyes were on us as we walked through the church. But we were used to that by this point. All eyes were on us the entire time we were in Ethiopia.

The pastor started out by telling us how happy he was that we had come and that he had been praying that God would send us. Then he began to tell us about the work of the church and the huge task they have to reach out to the people all around them who have nothing. Literally nothing. In America we really can't understand what it means to have nothing. We have no context for that. We've never known anyone who really has nothing. Many of the homeless in our cities have more than these people.

Earlier this year the church began a program to raise money from their members to send orphans that live in the surrounding neighborhood to school. There is no such thing as free education in Ethiopia. School is very cheap by our standards, but it is not free. Most of these orphans are living with extended family members, but in Ethiopia the culture dictates that a child who is not your own is treated as a servant. Even if it is your niece or nephew who has lost his parents, still he will never be treated as a full-fledged member of the family. There is no hope for these kids to be able to go to school unless someone outside the family pays their way.

So this pastor has rallied his congregation of people who have almost nothing so that these children can go to school. The individual Christians of this church are paying each month for the education of twenty-five children. One month of school costs 50 Birr - $3.50. Yep that's right, the cost of a latte at Starbucks. Actually I think a latte costs more than that. The cost of (less than) a latte is all that stands between orphaned children having a chance to get an education rather than ending up on the street someday with no way to make a living for themselves.

However for the people of this church who give each month, 50 Birr is a very big deal. To put it in perspective, our driver confided that his monthly salary is 1300 Birr - roughly $100. He sponsors FOUR CHILDREN. He gives 200 of his 1300 Birr, 15% of his income, to those who are poorer than he is.

II Corinthians chapter 8 comes to mind when Paul told a wealthier church about the generosity displayed in a poor church in order to both reprimand them and encourage them:

"Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more in their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift to the poor believers in Jerusalem. They even gave more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord..... Since you excel in so many ways...I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches."

It would be no problem for almost anyone reading this to gather enough money to sponsor the education of 25 children singlehandedly each month. $87.50. That's all it would take to educate all of them.

Now the church is trying to raise money to pay so that each of the 25 kids will have at least one meal per day. One meal. They are going to feed the children while they are at school because if they give the food or the money to the household where they live, there is a good chance that the child that it is intended for will never receive it. It takes about $1/day to do this, so it will take a lot more than the cost of sending a child to school.

We had $200 with us that several friends and family had given us to use as we saw fit while we were in Ethiopia. I had prayed that God would make it clear what he wanted us to do with the money. It couldn't have been any clearer. It seemed like a huge gift to this pastor, but it was so small for us. I want to do more. I can't wait to do more.

We exchanged information with the pastor so that we can keep in touch, and then Daniel went out with a couple of men to visit the households of some of the people who benefit from this program. I was sad to miss it, but I felt it was best to stay behind with Benjamin. Here is what he saw:

The street outside the church

A family receiving support from the church. Ten people live in a home roughly 10 ft. x 10 ft.

This lady was cooking over an wood fire in her tiny hut while Daniel was there.

I'm not sure exactly what the future of our relationship with Emmanuel United Church of Ethiopia Merkato will look like, but I know that it will not end because we have come back to the United States.

Friday, February 10, 2012

HopeChest Kick Off Event

Come one, come all!

Please join us for a kick off reception for the Children's HopeChest sponsorship program. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about Children's HopeChest, child sponsorship, and Ethiopia and the needs there. A representative from Children's HopeChest will be traveling to Nashville to offer a presentation at the reception.

Where: Grace Community Church (5711 Granny White Pike, Brentwood, TN 37027)
When: Sunday March 4th 4 pm-5pm

We will be serving some yummy snacks and coffee, and childcare will be provided for the little ones in the church nursery.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Children's HopeChest

We realized when we adopted Benjamin that it was only a first step of a new journey that we were going to be on - a journey of serving and advocating for orphans. Throughout the adoption process all of our passion and energy was consumed by the adoption itself. God had moved us and convicted us and we sought to be obedient by adopting one of his children. However, after seeing and experiencing all that we did during our trip to Ethiopia, it was clear that our adoption was just the beginning. The adoption was a compass that directed us toward a path of loving and helping orphans.

The last year and a half since the adoption has been about getting our feet under us. It has been a hard transition for everybody. Benjamin has had a lot of healing to do. I have had a more difficult time than I anticipated managing the chaos of a larger household. Madeline struggled being knocked off the Only Child Throne by an extremely needy little brother. But we are all doing better now. More than better -- Better Than Ever. The Lord has grown us, healed us, sanctified us. Now it is time to take the next step on our journey.

I’m beyond excited to announce that we are Sponsorship Coordinators for Children’s Hopechest, and we are seeking to find sponsors for 150 children.

We are working with a care point in Addis Ababa that we have a personal history with. While we were in Ethiopia to get Benjamin, our driver took us to visit his mission-focused protestant church in a desperately poor slum area of Addis. We met his pastor, and he was eager to tell us about the small but ambitious sponsorship program that the church had begun. The members were ministering to the orphaned and needy children who lived nearby by paying for their school tuition, uniforms, and supplies. They wanted to expand the program to pay for one meal per day for these kids, but the additional pennies that this would cost was beyond what these church members were able to do. He humbly asked if we could help. After seeing the area and hearing his stories, we were deeply moved and eager to do all that we could.

Us with our driver, Dawit, who took us to his church

We have been sponsoring six children ever since then, and we have stayed in contact with Pastor Getahun (we call him Pastor G). His love for the kids and his courage to dream big constantly encourages and challenges us. Ever since our trip, we have really wanted to help get more kids sponsored by asking our American friends and family to help out, but we needed accountability and the help of an established organization to pull this off.

The street right outside the church

For many months now, we have been working with Children’s HopeChest toward making this happen. It is a dream come true to be able to share that the sponsorship program details have been finalized and all of the child packets are ready to go. What remains is to connect the sponsors that God has called with the children he has called them to invest in.

Inside the church

So here’s the scoop:

  • 150 children have been profiled and are waiting for sponsors. (Yikes! Yes, Pastor G dreams big!) We are personally responsible for 75 of them.
  • Sponsorship costs $34/month.
  • Sponsorship pays for the children’s education fees, school supplies, books, and uniforms, meals, and regular checkups
  • The kids will be receiving regular mentoring and spiritual training through the local Protestant church
  • They will also receive the help and intervention of a trained social worker.

Children’s HopeChest invests in and seeks to transform entire communities, not just individual children. The goal is to break the cycle. If these kids receive an education only to graduate into a reality where there is no employment, opportunity, or even healthcare, the long-term prospects for their lives are just not good.

Over the next several years plans are already being made to:

  • Dig a well and build proper latrines for this community.
  • Develop new job opportunities for adult residents to help break the cycle of poverty.
  • Provide education about HIV/AIDS prevention and santitation.

One of many super cool things about Children’s HopeChest is that they want American sponsors to be personally involved in the lives of the kids that they sponsor and to personally invest in the communities they live in. They not only encourage you to write letters to your kids, they orchestrate opportunities for you to go visit them. Lord willing, we will be helping to lead multiple mission trips over the next several years to get to know our children and to work to help their communities.

Within a couple more weeks, there will be a CHC website ready for our care point where sponsorship signups will begin. For now, can I ask ever person reading this to please pray?

  • Pray God’s blessing and protection for Pastor G.
  • Pray for the 150 kids in this program.
  • Pray that God will lead us to the families that he is calling to sponsor these kids.
  • Pray for an event we will be holding at our church on March 4th to spread the word. (More about that later.)

I will share lots more details about sponsorship and the kick off event on March 4th later. We are so excited about this, and we ask for your prayers.

Monday, January 30, 2012

News Coming Soon

I am amazed that you are reading this! The three or four of you who actually still check my blog are incredibly loyal. Thank you! I will be writing a family update soon, but for tonight I just wanted to throw a teaser out.

We are going to have some exciting news soon!

We have a new season of ministry for our family that is about to begin. It has been in process ever since we came back from Ethiopia (Can you believe it has been over a year and a half now?!), and after a lot of planning, corresponding, praying, and waiting everything is almost ready. We aren’t quite ready to make the Big Announcement yet, but we will be within a week or so.

Check back for details soon!