A Birthday Wish { for 17 kids}

Everything about her is changing.  Like the newly emerging flowers and budding trees ready to burst this spring,  she is beginning to blossom into a little lady. We can see it as she searches for independence and boldly professes her ideas and opinions. It’s a miracle to watch happen right before our eyes.

Today she turns seven and marks for us all a new season, a fresh start if you will. I think it’s what I love about birthdays. It’s a day to reset,  reflect, to explore and dream of what is next.  Tonight we will celebrate the gift that this child is not only to our family but to all who know her.  We’ll celebrate her birthplace and pray for the woman who gave her life in spite of harsh circumstances.  We will embrace all the changes we see on her horizon and discuss the ways we see God working in and through her little life.

With spring sports and two of our kids in lead roles in a musical (Footloose) opening next week we have been a tad busy and frankly planning a bday bash fell off the radar.  When we finally dug in she insisted all the girls she knows be invited.  She is a wee bit social so you can imagine the list.    We love hosting birthday parties but all those gifts?  We have grown to wish birthdays could be less of a lavish affair.     “Ava for your birthday what if we shared the story of the Chapa children who need sponsors in order to grow up strong and educated just like you?”  I said,  thinking aloud.  ” We could ask friends to consider sponsoring a child from Chapa or making a donation toward new uniforms or shoes instead of gifting something to you.”    Ava did not hesitate.

So this weekend when we host our two hour basement dance party birthday bash we have asked that kids (parents… thank you)  do not bring a gift.  Instead we are spreading the word about these 17 children of Chapa, Ethiopia who long to be part of our sponsorship program.

Click here to see their profiles:

The children of Chapa long to have someone walk alongside them.  To bless them with letters, prayers and loving support.   We are asking you consider giving to them in honor of Ava. Give to them in honor of your own child and the growth you see as you are watching them bloom this spring season.

Peace on the journey,

Melanie

 

 

 

Monkey Business

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We took an early morning walk through the Awassa fish market and surrounding park where the monkey’s (or at least a few) are under training by a few locals. Traveling with kids is such a gift and I pray every day for the eyes of my children to be opened to our belief that most on planet earth are seeking the same things.  Our mission is to accept and love, to show mercy and interest in other cultures and to invest where we can with who we can along the way.  Grateful for the journey back to Ethiopia this summer.  It is a splendid land filled with wonder.

Peace on the journey…

Melanie

Empower a Woman… Change a Village

Empower a woman and change a village…

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We have BIG NEWS!

Join us as an answer to prayer begins. This week four of us travel back to Ethiopia for a 24 hour impact fundraiser for women we have grown to love throughout the years within the Chapa village. We are being joined by @Mallory Brown of Worldclothesline and Crowdrise to be on the ground in Ethiopia ready to share the plight of women. We hope you will all be following Begin With One as we share how you can encourage and empower a woman in Ethiopia. Mallory Brown is seeking to raise 30K to allow us to work directly with Children’s Hopechest staff on the ground to implement a job plan which will employ 30 women. Many of you know this is a dream come true and has been on my heart for several years. We know that generating skills and jobs for women directly impacts families remaining in tact, children attedning school and the overall effect of an entire village rising! Thanks to so many of you who have prayed, visited and contributed to the beautiful and ever welcoming people fo Chapa in southern Ethiopia.

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From Classrooms to Jobs:
Our Chapa community classrooms are fully funded and we are eager to move into the next phase of development. The women of Chapa are so deserving and have prayed for nine plus years for help with educating their children as well as opportunity to learn new skills that would allow them to have jobs that provide for their families.

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Why Ethiopia:
The second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa at 85 million people, Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest nations. Some 29.6 percent of the population lives on less than US$1.25/day. Life as a woman in Ethiopia is very difficult as many live in rural areas with no opportunity, medical care, education or way to earn a living to support families.
We adopted our daughter from Ethiopia in 2010 and felt an immediate connection and call to provide a voice and mercy wherever we could throughout the country. We later brought a teenager home to us on a student Visa to help him obtain his education and grow within our family. The effects of poverty and lack of education gripped our hearts, inspiring us to be the voice wherever possible.

Visit Begin With One to learn more and
go here to donate directly to jobs for women in Ethiopia.

Woven Dignity 2016 {making an impact in the Chapa Village}

There is no talk of menstrual cycles or the glorious wonder of a women’s body as the giver of life. There is no understanding of what to do when a young lady begins menstruating and many girls suffer in silence and despair missing up to a week of life’s opportunities every month. That is three months of life a year.

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No wonder the room of young girls sat wide-eyed as we unpacked supplies and began educating them with simple drawings on the blackboard.

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They are young yet old enough to be curious about the changes happening to their maturing bodies, and for many they are statistically speaking already experiencing exploitation or gestures of sex in exchange for hygiene materials or permission to remain in school while menstruating. According to the World Health Organization as many as 74% of African girls are exploited by the age of 12 and many are “taken” to become child brides before their 14th birthday. Educationin remote areas in non-existent and so are the solutions to the problem of girls missing out on education and opportunities and eventually work days when they become young ladies.  The Chapa Village is no exception. Until we were granted permission to begin educating women and girls, there was no hygiene or health training, no safe menstrual supplies and no unity among the women of dignity and strength surrounding menstruation.  At the Begin With One Chapa Community Carepoint we are working to change silence and provide women with deserved dignity and hope. Through our Woven Dignity education and the delivery of hand-made menstrual kits we are seeing tremendous change and we know from the feedback of the girls that they are less likely to avoid school or drop out of school altogether due to infection and or lack of proper menstrual supplies.

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This year we were able to bring 75 reusable/washable menstrual kits to the women and girls of Chapa and each person who received a kit was trained on her body, what a menstrual cycle is and how to properly use the kits.

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A heartfelt thank you to Board Member, Kristi Herstein and her daughter Hannah for serving the women of Chapa so well through excellent hands on education.  What an honor it was to see the women and girls leaving the Chapa Carepoint clinging to the small token of love, education and restored dignity wrapped in a brightly colored cloth bag. Thank you to the many hands who generously donated materials, sewed pads and bags and to those who prayed for our journey to empower the women we have grown to love in Chapa. We look forward to next steps and we are dreaming big about teaching the women to teach other women not only about their health but also about how kits can be made.

To learn more about ways to get involved in empowering women visit: www.daysforgirls.org and take a look at this startling video:

 

Sponsorship {a bridge to change}

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Working through the on the ground staff of Children’s Hopechest here in Ethiopia we have been blessed to see the fruit of child sponsorship in the village of Chapa. Children are selected and profiled based on vulnerability, risk of not being able to attend school and overall lack of family stability without basic intervention. This is determined by local church leaders who know the families and the children and are highly aware of needs.  If a child is profiled he or she is available for sponsorship which includes the uniform, shoes and learning materials needed to attend school. They become part of the Chapa Carepoint in conjunction with the small village church and the children are carefully monitored and discipled in order to improve success rates in school and so that families might more easily remain together.

Being in school in most developing countries represents protection and gives children a purpose and a place to be each day. While to many this may not sound important it is a vital piece of the overall health and wellness of a child and in many village communities the sponsored child who attends school is protected from early child marriage (often as young as 14). We have been told that those children in school are far less likely to stray from family, become hard laborers at a very early age which often stunts growth or perhaps even leave the family in search of a better opportunity which leads to thousands of street children who ultimately endure years of abuse simply trying to survive. In Ethiopia once a child migrates from the countryside into the large metropolis of Addis Ababa he or she is extremely vulnerable to those who trick children into indentured servitude and prostitution.  In Addis Ababa millions of children live in absolute squalor never able to return to family unless they end up in the hands of someone willing to help.

There is hope in breaking the cycles of extreme poverty and abuse. During our visit to Ethiopia this week our team has been able to see firsthand the models of ministry that work to equip and empower those who so often only need a little hand to become empowered. It is beyond humbling to see the light among the darkness and meet those who are building bridges to allow God’s grace and mercy to shine.  At the Chapa School/Carepoint these are the children still available for sponsorship and we are dreaming big as a team that they will all be sponsored before we leave Ethiopia in just a few days. Sponsorship is just $38 a month and this week it was so evident just how life-giving your gift is to the children and the overall community of Chapa.

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This is Zenabua. She is playful and very smiley, always laughing with her friends.

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Meet Habtamu. He loved the sport portion of our fun together and of course enjoys soccer.

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Could Mesafante have a more engaging smile? He is delightful and spunky.

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This is Yordanose. He is always with his pack of friends and tried several times to speak to me in English. He is eager to learn.

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This is Tilahun. He seems very sweet and has a sparkle in his eyes.

Please visit:

to sponsor a child today.

Thank you!

Weaving Dignity throughout the Chapa Village…

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

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The night was still and all was calm in my home.  I sat peacefully and prayerfully thinking about the stunning work God has done in and through our connection to and love of the Chapa community in Ethiopia. Tonight I am beyond humbled to share the story of three sisters who spend their days sowing by sewing for women throughout the developing and hurting world. I wish all of you could have the honor of meeting the one and only Jean.  In fact after one afternoon of being welcomed into her home where she and her husband have collected many animals her husband has hunted (and I do not just mean the usual white tailed deer), her prized antique collection and her sewing space, I am craving another time when we gather to share stories and many more laughs.  There is much I could share about the day my dear friend and board member, Kristi and I spent laughing and crying with Jean. She is a scream, passionately filling her days with activities that fill up others in so many meaningful ways.

After my first trip to Chapa almost five years ago we as a family felt a clear mandate to lead others back to see what I saw in the people of the nation where human remains were first discovered and coffee was born in the 18th century. When in Ethiopia it is challenging not to see through the lens of poverty and despair. There are people in need everywhere,  yet I choose to see resilience, strength and abundant resourcefulness at every turn.  Much of the culture smiles from ear to ear, worships with great fervor and welcomes us with multiple kisses on the cheek and tiny piping hot cups of coffee. They are a people so deserving of dignity obtained through education.

The Chapa surroundings were stunning, the church grounds lined with banana leaves, where I stood with only a translator,  singing alone in front of hundreds of students in need of sponsors to support them in school.  That day is forever etched, a perfect blend of fear and complete joy filling my heart and deeply rooting me to the Chapa village. After the first visit I was eager to begin working with Children’s Hopechest and One Child Campaign to plan the next visit where we would invite sponsors and those looking to enter into the needs of those within the margins with the hope of providing basic support and sustainable solutions.  As that planning began to unfold the idea was born that the women and young girls of the Chapa village needed to be educated about the changes that take place as they mature into young ladies.  We learned that many remote areas of Ethiopia and beyond still consider menstruation to be taboo, the girls toxic. Menstruation is something girls must experience in silence, often shamed into staying away from family or school or forced to menstruate over a hole in the ground due to lack of supplies. Even owning a pair of underwear for many is a luxury so it is nearly impossible to utilize feminine hygiene products.  Here is what a girl living in rural Nepal endures.  We have been told that the same is true in Ethiopia.  As educated women it sickens me to learn that young girls endure such fear or shame, but the unknown creates fear and fear results in girls being treated as nothing more than commodities. Their fear is my burden.

What we have helped to accomplish so far within the Chapa village we have done by first building relationships with locals.  We have begun to see small changes in the health and motivation of the children and we have understood emergent needs through our relationship with the local church and village leaders. No matter what our desires we do not want to make things worse for a girl entering puberty. So far the kits have been wildly accepted and the women and teenage girls are beyond grateful. We hold classes with the young ladies, wide-eyed and giggling. We use drawings and demonstrations to explain their anatomy and how to use the kit so that they should be allowed to remain in school and among society. We teach them that their maturity is not a curse but rather a perfect science allowing for women to reproduce. Their wide eyes speak a thousand words and we can only imagine what they are really thinking. We hope to do more to educate men that women should not be devalued or suffer from social stigma.

This year we thought we would be starting from the ground up creating or collecting kits. The kits have become a vital part of our outreach to the women and children of Chapa and we do not want to return {February 2016} without new kits and educational materials. Several weeks back I sat chatting this through with my in-laws, now highly involved in Haiti working with the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty, and they mention a woman living nearby who sews kits with her sisters to give to others who will deliver them to women in need. WHAAAT? So I make a call to someone who makes another call and the connection is made.  I give Jean a call and after an hour of sharing our similar hearts for women throughout the world, I am squealing in delight that Jean wants to help us continue the work we have begun at Chapa and beyond.  Just another connection to a woman who will invest in the women of Chapa. Partnership is what it is all about.   Last week Kristi and I had the privilege of traveling only forty-five minutes to meet the one and only Jean. 2015-10-13_0002

She is a jack(ie) of all trades, lover of missions, caretaker of her sisters, collector,  famous pie maker, mother, grandmother and social activist.  She will make you laugh and cry simultaneously as she shares the calling laid on her heart to sew with her sisters, ages 79 and 84. One of her sisters struggles with her memory so the sewing has become an exercise in helping her to remain sharp and focused. They call themselves Three old ladies who sew and sew for others.” As we entered her bright sewing space Jean pulled up two chairs, plopped down atop a box and said, “Ok girls let’s talk.” She asked us what we really needed. I began explaining our journey in taking slow steps to connect with the village women. Then I simply asked for her help with providing us the kits. Could we buy them from her?  Within seconds tears were streaming down all of our faces as Jean stood up, began shifting boxes and started counting and loading the most beautiful menstrual kits created in bold patterns and colors.  Kristi and I sat with jaws hung and tears flowing. The menstrual kit ministry will be called Woven Dignity  and it will continue at Chapa and beyond as many other ministries are also interested in how sexual education can empower women and young ladies, perhaps protecting them from the horrors of child pregnancy, trafficking, forced labor and beyond. Education equals critical thinking and empowerment and empowerment equals standing up to change and the rise out of poverty.

The women of Chapa and Ethiopia in general AMAZE me. They are the backbone of the village, working as gatherers, nuturers, selling at the local markets, rasing children and they do so in conditions many of us cannot begin to imagine. During our visit last year the women shared about their daily lives and how challenging it is to be without skills and resources and that they often have to choose between children when it comes to education or food. Many talked of husbands who have fled or died and they are left to care for and protect large families on their own. During that hour my heart was ripped wide open for their plight.  How could I hear their plea as they humbly asked us to lay hands on them and pray and not be called to action?  How could I not carry their burden back to my community? We have a dream in the works… We want to collaboratively bring skills training to the women of Chapa. What might such women accomplish if they were given an opportunity? Dream with me…

WE NEED YOUR HELP:

Donate Here

Share this post with your community. Maybe you have a way you wish to serve the women of Chapa. We are open to hearing any and all ideas and look forward to creating a retreat for them and teaching them basic skills when we are on the ground in February. This is only the beginning!

Peace and Grace on your Journey,

Melanie

 

Why We Go… {reflections of my time in Ethiopia 2015}

Every year I am overwhelmed by wonderful friends and family, followers of Begin With One and curious others asking, “So how was your trip?” Legitimate question of course but never easy to give a simple answer. Every trip in many ways is fantastic and life altering and every trip in many other ways is filled with moments where I feel like my chest is caving in and I cannot breathe.

For me Ethiopia creates a contrast in my very soul.

While on one hand it is refreshing to be immersed in a very spiritual culture I adore, where we are treated with great kindness and hospitality by generous and grateful people, yet our team journeys into the hard places where the stories of hardship are raw and often without resolve. We see tremendous struggle and suffering, people lost without families, healthcare, justice or their next meal.

We meet many longing for hope.

But still I attempt to answer the questions often wishing I could take those asking on the journey beside me to see what I see.   I am honored and grateful to go, to serve, to learn, to embrace, to mourn, to listen, to support, to create, to laugh, to engage, to avoid, to worship, to partner, to stretch, to cringe, to comfort and most of all to SEE with eyes that dream of solutions, protection, unification and education.  For it is in the going and experiencing not just the breathtaking beauty,warm climate and deep history, but the pain of loss, no resources, survival choices and more. It is the painful moments myself and our team are witness to that lead us to drive change and action.

This year I have returned home burdened in a whole new way. I am burdened to help with the tremendous work I see in several of the organizations and mission families we partner with who have given their lives to serving in Ethiopia and beyond. They are praying and listening for the right direction and the right people to be brought into their fold to allow them to help the last and the least from street children, trafficking victims, prostituted women and the child abandoned due to unimaginable circumstances and or beliefs. I’ve returned burdened to help generate the resources they need to get to the root of the problem and to rescue and restore one child and one women at a time.  Now more than ever I am convinced that God delivers myself and a willing team back to Ethiopia, to further convict us so that I {we} will return home, grateful for the gifts we have been given and ready to be the voice.

Once our eyes have been opened we must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

This year I returned home to a challenging health condition with one of my kids which of course we are all struggling to make sense of. And while there is sometimes nothing gained in comparing our story with the story of another, I will tell you that when the Chapa village women joined us for community time and several shared their stories of raising up to ten children alone due to the death of husbands,  I nearly gasped. Perspective.  As the women shared and then humbly lowered themselves to the ground and our group of women prayed over them individually, I could not help but feel deep gratitude for the sisterhood connection with those women.  So many of us wonder if God sees us in those hard moments. And while it is easy to see our lives as radically different they are really so much the same. We are all just believers wrestling with the story of our lives, searching for purpose and hope.  What happened in those moments of confession of fears and sorrows was a deep connection and as strange as it was to compare a few personal stories of hardship, it felt as if God used some of the words a few of us shared to break the barriers, allowing the women into the daily loss and burdens of our lives.  We were able to begin to express just how much we desire their connection and their prayers. The partnership that began last year was strengthened and we ended our time together committing to pray community to community. The transparency in those moments has carried me this past two weeks and I continue to think back to the raw faith those women shared even while fighting deep and winding battles. They are willing to be filled up, poured back out and filled up again by the light only God can deliver. They have so much to teach us.

I invite you to take a look at what the Holy Spirit did the day we were brought together. After worshipping and sharing they broke out in song and raw celebration.  This is just a glimpse into our journey back to Chapa. I hope it helps explain why we go and why we feel committed to return.   For nine years the community of Chapa began to pray that someone would be sent to help them with education in their village. For nine years they were faithful in their plea. To see the fruit of the Begin With One Children’s Hopechest School/Carepoint is nothing short of a miracle. So thank you for asking, thank you for partnering and thank you for believing with us that listening, learning and engaging with those most vulnerable in Ethiopia will bring solutions, hope and a future.

Now turn up your volume cause this is good stuff! Wish we had captured more.

 

 

 

 

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Providing Strength and Dignity… {orgs you should know}

It’s been weeks since I have had the chance to share and update. There’s always so much I want to share.  I’ve attempted this post for days but all last weekend fought a vicious stomach bug with what appears to be a good five to six days between victims. I’m the third in our home to be hit and thank God is was the weekend so my husband was here to help, and I don’t mean our kids. I spent 30 hours thinking of the film Unbroken and realizing that I am simply a whimp. I think I might have gone swimming with the sharks rather than doing even one more day on that life raft. Stay well people. There is no shame in walking around with dry cracked hands. This bug is worth washing often.

Last week I promised to update the blog to reflect the main ministries our team will be supporting while in Ethiopia very soon.  Last Thursday I shared a special morning with the awesome women of my Moms In Mission group. This group of women are such an encouragement to me and to many they surround themselves with! They are beacons of light and hope in our community.

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We meet twice a month and this year we have focused on encouragement. Every meeting another member of the steering committee shares her story of where or how she was encouraged and it always has me walking away feeling like we can never underestimate the power of the “atta girl” or “job well done sister.”  We need to say it and mean it. We need to say it loudly and often. Women posses such power in their ability  to craft their words to build up another women often struggling with similar daily battles.   And so it was fitting that we created women’s encouragement kits  to take with us on our journey to Ethiopia in just a few weeks, our sisters here in Grand Rapids reaching out to their sisters in Ethiopia. Thank you all for your donations, interest and prayers and I do hope you will follow our journey and learn more about the following organizations we support.

No Ordinary Love is a ministry very near to our hearts. Wait until you read how many children have ended up at NOLM to be restored and eventually reunited with their families who once thought they were sending their young children into the big city to hold down a job. The blog and photos speak for themselves and NOLM has become a beacon of light in a very impoverished area where many women and children are supported weekly with community services.

Next I would invite you to the learn more about Children’s Hopechest and the wonderful connect community model they have successfully implemented in several nations to allow resourced sponsors to fully engage in the lives of children in need of education, prayer and community development. As a Sponsorship Coordinator I love advocating for and visiting the children of the Chapa community. Connecting with the Chapa village, especially the women and children has been one of the great joys of my life. We see the influence of Jesus among the people and we see more women and children feeling honored and empowered through the connections that have been formed and sustained.

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Another ministry very dear to me in Addis Ababa is Women at Risk Ethiopia. What a deserving group of women we spent time with last year and take a quick look at their stunning works of art. The program exists to assist prostituted women ( in Addis Ababa, the capital city it is estimated that 150,00 women end up in prostitution with 74 % becoming HIV positive. ) in getting off the streets and into a holistic environment where they learn how loved and valuable they are in the eyes of God. The program is generally a year of teaching, skills training, nurturing and ministering to the women to aid in keeping them for returning to the streets. The program works and what I understand more fully in the last several years is that all women want to have value and worth. They want to feel respected, chosen and healthy in their life’s purpose.

Lastly, I discussed the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. There is a beautiful film called, A Walk To Beautiful that documents the health risk of fistulas obtained by laboring for many hours even days without any medical help. The film will open your eyes to the plight of many young women who have not been educated to understand their physical selves. They deliver a baby only to soon discover they are leaking urine with no hope of medical attention. They are then shunned by family or villagers who also do not understand, thinking perhaps the condition is a curse. In 1974 the wonderful Dr. Catherine Hamlin founded the hospital to reach the poorest of the poor suffering from labor injuries and you must see what they are doing throughout Africa to educate medical providers and women of child-bearing age about the often repairable condition of the fistula and more.

I can’t wait to share this image of the women here praying for the kits as they enter the hands and hearts of the women we will serve in Ethiopia.

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Of course we do not pretend that such a token is a means to changing much of their pain or challenging circumstance, but we visit and we engage as messengers of peace, hope and dignity restored. We connect because we are called to fight for the health and wellbeing of women everywhere. We are called to the widow and the orphan and we are told to do whatever we can to reach out to the least of these and remind them that in the eyes of God they always matter. Each woman has a story and a voice just waiting to be validated and heard. The world is blessed, people are set free and transformed when they find the courage to tell.

What you do in the present- by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself will last into God’s future. These ways are not simply ways of making life more bearable until the day we leave it behind altogether… They are part of what can be called building for God’s kingdom.     -N.T. Wright-Surprised by Hope 

A bold thanks for all who partner in the work we are doing. We are together on the journey of loving, leading, advocating and connecting.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Making Christmas Matter… Get Involved With Us!

5650869a-6a9f-4be1-bd26-e061b3339d22One of our goals with Begin With One is to encourage all communities toward acts of giving or getting involved in simple grassroots efforts toward big change. Whether you are part of a book group or the corporate world your influence and your giving matters and we all have the power to encourage one another to action.  Here is one way we hope to help you and yours make Christmas matter.

Do you ever find yourself looking for ways to make Christmas really matter? I know we do. With all the celebrations, goodies and get together there is no other month quite a special as December yet we find ourselves always searching for ways to weave the true meaning of Christmas into the hustle and bustle.   It’s not easy. This year our family is celebrating the birth of Jesus by raising support for classrooms desperately needed for thousands of children in Chapa, Ethiopia where our Children’s Hopechest Carepoint is located.  I return there in just two months with a team of fifteen from all across the country.

This year we are reaching out to family, friends, church and work family and current Chapa sponsors to ask you to donate to our Change Your Story campaign

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We have set a lofty goal of 25,000 to bring at least three more classrooms to Chapa along with desks, blackboards, supplies and perhaps tutoring, all sustainable projects that provide a hand to a hard working and deserving community.

This year our family would like to challenge your family to GET INVOLVED. It’s easy and fun and the kids will love seeing the smiles faces in this video as you explain the project. My children walk around quoting the smiling children in this video, “You can change my story.” It will make you smile.

Don’t Let Another Story Go Unchanged || Change Their Story 2014 from Children’s HopeChest on Vimeo.

Perhaps you could honor a teacher or a special sitter with a donation made to the Chapa children in their honor. Have your children make a card with a quote or a link to photos of the Chapa community  here. What about honoring a grandparent, pastor or coworker with a donation made in their honor. So often we are purchasing gifts with far less meaning and as a family we have found that people really cherish supporting children desperate to rise out of poverty through education.

So please take a step with us. Together we can change their stories and live out the good news this Christmas. Please share this and encourage others. Change begins with one… one dream, one voice and one action. Thank you for your generous support and please share any and all ideas you might have.

Peace and Grace,

The Strobel Family

Trust Without Borders… { The Making of Something New}

The words of the song speak to me so deeply…

“Spirit lead me where your trust is without borders.”

Thank you Hillsong United.

In just a few days the One Child Campaign July team will be on the ground in Ethiopia. This year I am feeling more deeply connected than ever to the mission of the team and watching how God will make something new from the trust and obedience of those going.10555242_10203469983143304_1822386174_n

Just yesterday I ran into a woman I admire who will soon leave her comforts of home and two of her children to lead a team to Guatemala with her husband and two sons. Her words stuck with me, “We are just so unsure about what God is gonna do with this random group.” I smiled and tried to reassure her, realizing how similar I have felt on each mission trip and team I have been a part of.

My conclusion is this. Mission trips are so much more than we can envision before we go and for those of you in question they are far from a vacation.  Mission trips are those uniting to action and learning to take leaps of faith, hope and trust. For me mission trips offer a way to lose myself in order to find myself and allow something new to be revealed. I have watched over and over again as the something new happens to both the one who serves and the one who is served. There is just such beauty and power in it even in the challenging and the unknown.

Afterall it was Jesus who pulled those from broken stories and injected himself into their shoes.  In many ways the same is accomplished as we venture out to the place and the people to whom we are called, to the fields of  the marginalized and those gripped by injustice and needing to survive. We are then injected into their stories,  so that we might connect on a deep and spirit filled level.

Going and inviting others to go is an invitation to experience the stretching required to walk, albeit briefly, in another’s shoes. It is then we might be opened in a rare and contemplative way. Prehaps our own brokenness or our own great strengths and calling are revealed in glorious and life changing new ways. Perhaps we see the Father as He invites us to see Him and maybe we are forced to rely more deeply on Him. Maybe too we see the rare beauty of having less or the total reliance breath after breath on a merciful God.

When we face and really open our eyes to see the brutal and often unending injustice and marginalization we find all over the world are we not forced to reconcile our own freedoms, resources and power of influence? Will we dig deeper and pray for the ways in which we might stand in the gap? This is exactly what Jesus does own our broken behalf and it is an honor to do the same.

God pursues us in so many exciting and unique ways. We are all called to a different mission. Maybe it is a hurting child in your community, your neighbor in need of a listening ear. Maybe you are being pursued to bear the burden of children in need of families through our local foster care system. For us God’s pursuit includes the children and the ministries we have grown to know and trust in Ethiopia. For us it is being their voice and developing lasting relationships by investing in their pain and their stories.  For us it is using their stories to invite others in and asking them to transcend all borders with great hope and trust.  For us it is encouraging others to return home changed and ready to share how we all can change the world one life at a time.

We partner with One Child Campaign and look forward to their big week ahead as 25 people step out and head to Ethiopia for a week of learning and growth.  Follow along as they seek to learn and connect with many organizations and people we love. Here are a few:

Chapa Carepoint- Children’s Hopechest

No Ordinary Love Ministries

Women At Risk Ethiopia

What can we learn by watching them engage, love, honor and serve? What will be the something new?

Grace and Peace in the week ahead,

Melanie