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.