A Long Road {the end and the beginning}

He had studied English less than two years total when he set foot in America.

It would not take long to see him grow weary during conversations and for a solid year he would nod yes to something and truly have no idea what we were asking him to do. We laugh about it now but at the time well you can imagine the challenge. Yesterday marked one of his final high school celebrations. We arrived at school early as the night before I had gone to bed in tears when I could not locate his senior presentation that just hours before had been changed to fit the fifteen minute timeline requested. So many people had asked Tadesse to please share his testimony with the entire student body and the parents of the Seniors during their final chapel at Northpointe Christian High School. For weeks he declined the offer but after sharing the opportunity with us we began to push and pray that he might reconsider. “Maybe it’s time to have your class know who you are and the circumstances you have endured through faith and hard work, ” we reminded him.

He would speak using his new language to tell of his harrowing years of living moment by moment trying to survive in his native country, Ethiopia.  He had to leave an abusive Uncle in order to honor that somewhere down deep God had gotten ahold of his heart, and like many other children he waited for his circumstances to change fixing his eyes on God and wondering where God was in such times of hunger and pain. In his testimony he describes that he knew he was a Christian after hearing the story of Jesus from missionaries who came to Ethiopia years ago. Yes a firsthand account of God using everyday people like you and me to share the gospel and the very answer to why we are called to go out into all nations. Tadesse’s story is one that should stick to our ribs when we wonder down deep if going to unreached people matters.

We arrived at school early with the hope that someone had the skills to find our lost file and his cap and gown that in spite of purchasing it weeks ago had not arrived for the awards celebration. It was just another day of realizing that the enemy does not want the story of the orphan crisis shared and he does not want solutions to helping hurting children to inspire other families to act. We have felt this many times throughout the last few years and yesterday morning was one of those times. Instead of folding I woke up early,  I tightened my armor and declared God to be greater. I let so much go and basked in the glory of Tadesse’s yes no matter the challenges or the fear. He was going to open his heart and share the plight of so many around the world with his peers and also their families. It was another act of healing and certainly a way to encourage others to seek to know more about ways to engage and ways to help.

I made my way into the chapel and watched as baby pictures and senior pictures of all the graduates flashed across the screen. Just weeks before I had to answer an email saying I am sorry but there are no pictures of Tadesse when he was young. That is something that gets me every time as photography is such a treasure and a way to recall the adventures and most cherished times of one’s life.  I have nearly every day of my other children’s lives documented and oh how I wish I had the luxury of recreating at least a few photos for Tadesse. I sat down and I waited just praying that behind the scenes the staff was getting him all set up. Next the seniors all entered the chapel to a spunky song doing a dance filled with such enthusiasm and confidence. They were all seated and still there was no Tadesse.

And then a moment that literally stopped my breath. He entered the chapel wearing the traditional  cap and gown complete with a gold stole and blue and gold tassel.  My heart raced and chest heaved. Perhaps it was relief but I breathed out as if I had not properly breathed for nearly two years. The sight of him drew me even closer to God who had given me the mandate on Ethiopian soil that we were to be his family. The direction was clear but we would not be privilege to knowing what it would look like needing to strengthen our faith and obey in spite of the sacrifice and endless hours of work on days when we longed to return to easy.

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During the year we planned for Tadesse to come to the USA, every door opened after hours and months of hard work and many questions. Two years later I look back to see where God gave us blind love, so raw, so pure to connect us to this child in need. It’s indescribable even now but we gave it all to God trusting that he would use us to change a life. Often people compliment us on being so amazing and what I wish I could say is this. We are far short of amazing. Instead I would love for others to see us as obedient, answering the call to adopt which lead us to Ethiopia, our daughter, Tadesse, engaging others in the needs of vulnerable children and now to dedicate our voice to the least of these.  This all happened and is still happening at a time where God was breaking us all the way down in order to build us back up to be His. We are far from amazing and in fact in managing five little lives all so unique in their needs, has shown us every mole, scrape and stretch mark others would care never to see. Truth be told we wonder daily if we can stay the course to see all this through. On the days when we have felt like we can’t we trust that God can.

There are few words to express the exhuberent joy I felt as I listened to those in the audience sniffle as he talked. The computer failed at one point and he pressed on making everyone laugh about how they would be OK. His gold stoll slid off his gown and the microphone, all new to him, began to give feedback, and still he pushed on. He is a survivor and a servant and after the talk a woman walked up and said, ” Are you his family? ” I nodded as I was wiping tears and then she said. ” he has no idea how much he just blessed everyone in this room today.”  I smiled and nodded. “And that is exactly what all of this the last few years has been about. We are called to bless the one so he or she may bless another, ” I said. Funny thing is that saying yes to the hard richly blesses us more than we can know until God carries us through it and sees His plan through to the end or perhaps a stunning new beginning…

When I met Tadesse just four years ago I could have never dreamed that he would be sharing God’s great work in his life in front of hundreds of people at his high school chapel ceremony in the USA. In just two weeks he will wear his cap and gown again to walk across the stage to accept his degree. This chapter is nearly over with the new and intriguing road of college just ahead.

 

On the Eve of Her Birthday {Ava Turns Four…}

I tucked her into bed tonight with hugs and prayers. I thanked God for who she is in our family and for the preservation and protection of her life. I thanked Him for allowing her to be my daughter and our sweet yet sassy girl always curious and confident.

This morning I was able to spend time photographing who she is as she moves from three to four. It feels like a big milestone and as I look at the images captured I am aware just how much she is changing and how much she has grown. She is clever, witty and forever social no matter the scene.  Ava is a special gift to our family in more ways than I can ever share here.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the day she was born. Her life is a big deal. It was four years ago that her life hung in the balance and circumstances were such that Ava would be placed up for adoption. Yes she did come home to a family who has fallen deeply in love with her but our gain came out of someone elses or perhaps several people’s pain. I never want to forget that.

As I return to Ethiopia and dig deeper into the hardships of vulnerable families in developing nations I have become very mindful of the life or death situations that women and children are often pushed into. I understand more acutely that often there is no alternative or back up plan. Life is just as precious but lack of resources, trust and protection cause people to do things that to you and me might seem unthinkable. I guess what I mean is that adoption has humbled me and taught me such respect for families who struggle. There can be so much pain in the choices they feel forced to make.

Tonight I am praying for the woman across the world who had to do the unthinkable. She carried a precious baby to term, likely delivered her with little or no care, fought to feed her and then realized that relinquishment was perhaps her only option. For me there is still great debate there even though I love and am raising our amazing daughter who came into our lives through the miracle of adoption.

Adoption is a message of hope just as birthdays are a message of renewal. Happy Birthday to our baby girl!

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A Walk to Extraordinary {home visits in the village of Chapa}

The local leaders, Children’s Hopechest national staff and our wonderful translators were ready to head out. Only half of our group decided to journey along while the other half of our team committed to finishing all the foot care for the children. Arrangements had been made to meet several of the sponsored children’s families and or caregivers and while we had little idea what we were getting ourselves into we were ready. It turned out to be a journey of a lifetime.

Starting our three hour hike...

Starting our three hour hike…

Cactus and false banana leaves line many of the homes in the Chapa village. While the huts are meager they are very well kept and it is obvious that each person does their part to keep the land and the home in the best shape possible. We began to climb and with the altitude it was not long before we were all breathing heavy and realizing we were heading into the stunning mountain range that surrounds Chapa. Many of the children ran alongside us so excited to share their village. Children giggled and held our heads, assisting us up rocky terrain. All I could do was focus on my breathing and further surrender to God who had delivered me to such a place of spectacular beauty.  All I did was say yes a few years ago and from there all of the research, exploration and threads were woven to steer us in the direction of returning to Ethiopia and specifically the village of Chapa.

There are few words to describe the feeling of villagers running out of their huts to greet you shake your hand and smile.  It was clear that they were so flattered that we would come such a great distance, returning for a third time, to further invest in their community. The hugs, the handshakes, the broken communication of mutual love, adoration and respect. It was extraordinary. A few of us were able to see the homes and meet the caregivers of the children we sponsor at Chapa. Tears flowed and the gratitude given to the one who needs no translation as parents and caregivers waved their hands in the air shouting “Jesus” over and over.  We shared how honored we are to sponsor their children and how we look to the future where all the children in the village will be able to be educated and grow to become whatever it is they are called to be. We expressed the privilege we share to support them as a community and that we all serve an amazing God who would connect the threads of so many in the USA with their extraordinary village in rural Ethiopia.

Solomon... our sponsored boy (how do you like the knock off poloshirts that were donated?)

Solomon… our sponsored boy

 

Darling Miserret.. our sponsored girl

Darling Miserete.. our sponsored girl

 

My favorite photo of the entire trip. Misheret with her Grandmother so grateful for the opportunity of education.

My favorite photo of the entire trip. Miserete with her Grandmother so grateful for the opportunity of education.

 

So many hugs and photos were needed for such a special moment...

So many hugs and photos were needed for such a special moment…

The typical home in the village of Chapa...

The typical home in the village of Chapa…

 

 

They asked for nothing but instead thanked us for returning and advocating for them. They thanked us for believing in their children and loving them right where they are. In those moments there was no distance between us, no language barriers and no difference in purpose.

One of our team members meeting her sponsored child and family...

One of our team members meeting her sponsored child and family…

Experiencing the entire trip with my thirteen year old son will forever be a highlight in my life. For him the hike through the hills of Chapa is a highlight in his life and we often refer to it as the day we felt like we were in a National Geographic film in a community we have grown to love. Hayden’s generous heart was further opened and watching him die to himself and let go of barriers and fears was so special. A trip to Ethiopia is not easy. The conditions are difficult,  the smells, the food, the language and cultural barriers and the overall poverty hits hard yet the exposure and the stretching is so needed.  While living easy lives filled with opportunity and privilege is not wrong, it is my deep calling to help my children to know that not everyone has the same protection, education and support that they have been born into. I long for my children not to simple be happy but rather to seek out ways to surrender their lives to help those who struggle.

"Best day ever Mom." Those were his words upon completing our walk...

“Best day ever Mom.” Those were his words upon completing our walk…

 One visit to the Chapa community and anyone would be all in, wondering how to help to fulfill their dreams and ideas, protect and educate the women and children and more importantly how to go deeper into who they are as a community. I already long to return…

If you wish to sponsor a Chapa child please go to:

http://www.hopechest.org/community/chapa/sponsor/

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Beauty beyond skin color… {a message to my daughter}

I can only hope that women such as Miss Lupita Nyong’o and others will positively influence my daughter as she matures. Miss A is nearly four and she is already aware of her brown skin. She mentions it often and asks to look like me. She strokes my hair and some days I catch her pulling at her own locks and asking when they will be longer like mine. My responsibility to her runs deep. She is my daughter and we are uniquely close. Her shared thoughts are similar to when my boys were young yet with MIss A I am forced to examine the notion of color and difference not because I want to but because she was born on another continent where God created her perfectly and wonderfully.  We want her to know her heritage and we want her to embrace her inner beauty and how what is on the inside is often what is shown to others on the outside. I want her to love and admire her uniqueness without believing that a fair complexion or long straight hair makes life more fulfilling or easy. I want nothing more than to know the very best way to honor every person for the gifts and character he or she possess. It is my passion that Miss A be reminded often that her value and self-worth comes from something so much more than the pigment of her skin. I thought I would perhaps have many more years before Miss A began to see herself through the lens of color but she has surprised us with a self awareness far beyond her years. So here is an eloquent speech that might be over her little head for now but someday very soon she might need to listen and I look forward to our discussion.  Like it or not we all stare, we all wonder, we all compare and we certainly judge. It seems to be a built-in part of being human yet I am most interested in what happens immediately after the look or the awareness. Can we embrace the person who might look different from ourselves? Can we see beauty without judgemental eyes.? Can we tolerate differences and be grateful that the world does not all look the same? This is the hope for my children and all children around our ever-changing world.  I will fight to show my daughter various examples of character, compassion and intelligence in both men and women of all ethnicities and every day I will remind her that beauty is always fleeting. It is only heart and soul that remain…

Love Never Fails {a family and a ministry you need to know}

This little one is only eight years old. Today she is safe. 

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I want to tell you about No Ordinary Love Ministries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. NOLM has become a haven and a beacon of hope for many at risk woman and children and my recent visit was confirmation that I should be doing more to help others understand their great works.

NOLM was started by Jimmy and Rachel Gross who moved to Ethiopia with their children nearly four years ago with open hearts and hands.

Jimmy and Rachel Gross

Jimmy and Rachel Gross

After spending time listening and learning it was clear that there calling was working with local authorities to serve, protect and reunify at risk or displaced children. NOLM was born and the Emmanuel House is now a refuge for destitute, vulnerable, displaced and or trafficked children and/or young women.

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In Ethiopia poverty leads to children migrating from the very rural regions into the capital city of Addis Ababa in order to find jobs or make a better life with the hope of sending funds home to assist family members. Often children are lured by others into jobs that are nothing more than a front. These children become servants, are often abused physically and emotionally and cannot exit this life without escape. While this may be challenging for us to understand, the intense poverty of some families leads to desperate measures and most families are unaware of the dangers of trafficking or slavery. Poverty dictates lack of education and protection and that is why places such as NOLM are so vital within Ethiopia and specifically Addis Ababa.  The Emmanuel Community House is located within a neighborhood where up to 20 children can be housed until reunification can take place. The Gross family and the NOLM staff literally spend days searching for the families after the displaced children go through the counseling and support needed to reunite with their families.  In addition Emmanuel House exists to support neighborhood women and children in need. Again poverty often generates abuse and or neglect and many need assistance to remove themselves from such pain.

I could go on and on about the importance of NOLM but I would rather you see for yourself by visiting their website to learn about the other ways they continue to minister to those in Ethiopia. There reunification success rate is astounding but the need for sponsorship is great.

No Ordinary Love Ministries

It is very apparent during our visits to NOLM that the Gross family seeks to have every woman or child to have an encounter with God. They are such tender and kind people, able to see God in all things great and small and it is obvious they are being used to spread honor, dignity and protection over the Ethiopian people.  On Saturdays the Community Center is open for worship and fun for those in the surrounding community. Our team was able to participate in the fun last week. What a difference the bible stories, face paint, games and feast make in building trust between the women and children and NOLM.

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I also want to share another way we have recently become involved with NOLM.

This is little Kalkidan. She is so sweet and her eyes sparkle much like my daughter’s eyes. She is a real person with unimaginable hardship. Here is her story…

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Kalkidan is just 8 and recently joined the Emmanuel House family. Although she is from a neighborhood nearby it is doubtful her reunification will be easy. At such a young age, her mother has kicked her out of the house several times. Kalkidan has also been given her up for employment in order to support the family. Kalkidan was discovered by the police and brought to NOLM for support and guidance. Kalkidan does not understand why her mother is not caring for her and it appears she has been through a great deal in the last year. Her parents are no longer together and her older siblings are living with grandparents in the rural countryside. More details about her story are just now surfacing and we wanted to help NOLM make a difference in the life of this little girl. We were able to provide a donation that will help NOLM in counseling and caring for Kalkidan in the weeks and maybe even months ahead with the hope of reuniting her with family if it is in her best interest.  Meeting Kalkidan and sharing a few smiles and hugs was amazing! We look forward to following Kalkidan’s progress and we rest knowing that Emmanuel House is the best place for her to feel safe and to gain back her confidence and ability to function as the little child she is.

Kalkidan is one child but her story and her future matter and there are many other little children like her. In Ethiopia there are many  in need of support  but we know that God calls us to stop for the one, to love and serve the one. It begins with one… one idea, one prayer, one step and then God takes it from there. Do yourself a favor and learn more about NOLM. Maybe God will use you to help one with a similar need to little Kalkidan.

Where to Begin? {so what did you do in Ethiopia?}

I’m home and happy to return to the joy and chaos of family.  Stepping out of my role as Mom for nearly two weeks is a challenging feat yet I am always amazed how God equips and provides even when the days leading up to departure make me wonder what I am doing. Returning is never easy and neither is the question, “So what did you do in Ethiopia?” I warned my teammates that the question would come often and that there is generally little time to give the long answer that is etched on my heart.

What did I do in Ethiopia?  I wrestled. I wrestled with the poverty and sheer hardship I witnessed. I wrestled with the injustice of mere children who everyday are drawn into cycles of servanthood, marriage, pregnancy and prostitution. I wrestled with the issues and lack of education, voice and equality faced by women.  I wrestled with the idea that millions do not have clean water, proper sanitation,  health or dental care to keep them comfortable or extend their lives.   I wrestled with exhaust, crowded crazy traffic, livestock running wild, no telephone service and many angry chigger bites. I wrestled. I wrestled with real people and their stories of survival, difficult daily life and how their faith and perseverance carries them through.

So why do I go? Of course that is the follow-up question.  I go because I have literally been transformed by God’s call in my life and I am supposed to champion the solutions to injustice, poverty, violence and pain He has shown me through the organizations I am now deeply connected to. It may sound like crazy talk but it’s the only way I explain why going matters and why I believe others should experience the same feeling of wrestling and tension.   You see deep inside I am always loaded with fear and many unanswered questions. It is likely you are too. Aren’t we all? Will we hear the right call and is it God’s call or will we instead do what we want to do and miss the challenge set before us? It’s easy to be gripped by such thoughts and even easier to say no in response to fear. But we do what is asked in order to glorify the one who calls us. I am a work in progress but beginning to get right with that notion. Sometimes it is not about being correct or perfect in our understanding but instead it is all about obedience to get to the point of understanding and radical trust.  We can be weak in ourselves yet rest in the understanding that God’s got it. I also go because I find Ethiopia to now feel like a home away from home. I see regal beauty and I continue to be inspired by the people who seek God is absolutely everything, their next meal and certainly in any opportunity bestowed upon them. This reliance and gratitude has taught me so much and shown me where I lack.  I go because there is so much for me to learn from a people I have so grown to love.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

I go because I have been connected to such beautiful people and stunning places of refuge for those in need and I’ve been asked to share their challenges and successes with others. I have been asked to engage others in the fight and show them the on the ground people, ministries and safe places where God reigns and redeems.  As I scroll through the hundreds of photos I see poverty and brokeness but the overall theme is one of beauty, deep faith and the people who long to have someone come alongside to provide a hand, not a handout but a hand.  In less than three years I see so many changes with the people we partner with in Addis Ababa and beyond. I long to share their stories with the hope of reminding us that God chooses ordinary people like you and like me to be his messangers of hope and his deliverers of support, prayers and ethical solutions.    My eyes have been opened and I cannot pretend that I have not seen.

Let’s begin with the Chapa Carepoint…

This is the Chapa Carepoint. Here young children begin school and receive uniforms, education, food allocations, community connection and discipleship for local leaders as well as the Children's Hopechest staff who visit the Carepoint monthly. Chapa is growing in the number of children they can educate and serve due to monthly sponsors. More kids are waiting and sponsorship is $34 per month.

This is the Chapa Carepoint. Here young children begin school and receive uniforms, education, food allocations, community connection and discipleship for local leaders as well as the Children’s Hopechest staff who visit the Carepoint monthly. Chapa is growing in the number of children they can educate and serve due to monthly sponsors. More kids are waiting and sponsorship is $38 per month.

 

Her name is Semirete and she is so precious. Her eyes just sparkle and she is a smart student. Semirete might not be in school were it not for sponsorship. In Ethiopia there are schools in place but all studetns are required to have a uniform, shoes and school supplies that must be supplied by family or caregivers. We sponsor Semirete and we are eager to see her become a strong and faithful woman in her community.

Her name is Semirete and she is so precious. Her eyes just sparkle and she is a smart student. Semirete might not be in school were it not for sponsorship. In Ethiopia there are schools in place but all students are required to have a uniform, shoes and school supplies that must be supplied by family or caregivers.This is not possible for many or the boys in the family are sent to school while the girls remain at home to work. We sponsor Semirete and we are eager to see her become a strong and faithful woman in her community. Looking forward to sharing more details about her and meeting her family in the rural countryside.

 

This is Soloman and he attends school at Chapa due to sponsorship. We have watched him grow and remain healthy over ht epast couple of years due to the Chapa Carepoint and all that is provided for him and his family. It is likely he will stayin school and mature into a leader in his community.

This is Soloman and he attends school at Chapa due to sponsorship. We have watched him grow and remain healthy over the past couple of years due to the Chapa Carepoint and all that is provided for him and his family. It is likely he will stay in school and mature into a leader in his community.

 

These little charmers followed me around on our first morning while I snapped photos of the clean water stations and latrines now installed at Chapa. He was so proud to sit atop the water ing station and have his picture taken. HIs smile is radiant and he is another example of how pouring into the children through education and protection creates healthy children with a hope for a future.

These little charmers followed me around on our first morning while I snapped photos of the clean water stations and latrines now installed at Chapa. He was so proud to sit atop the water ing station and have his picture taken. HIs smile is radiant and he is another example of how pouring into the children through education and protection creates healthy children with a hope for a future.

 

The children begin their day lining up and singing the national anthem. It is obvious that they are so filled with pride about their country, their school and their opportunity to attend school thanks in part to sponsorship dollars and the annual visits we make to connect and help the Children's Hopechest leadership to further dream about what is next for this rural and needy community. These children have such a bright future!

The children begin their day lining up and singing the national anthem. It is obvious that they are so filled with pride about their country, their school and their opportunity to attend school thanks in part to sponsorship dollars and the annual visits we make to connect and help the Children’s Hopechest leadership to further dream about what is next for this rural and needy community.
These children have such a bright future!

 

Perhaps you too are wrestling with a call in your heart. Whatever it is I want to encourage you to go deeper and ask for clarity. God is the great provider of truth and purpose. Thank you for reading and please if you are inspired by the hope and promise of all God is doing in the small rural village of Chapa in the southern region of Ethiopia please share their story.  To learn more about children in need of sponsorship and next steps for the Chapa community please click here. Stay tuned as I have so much more to share.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in the Family… {a night with friends}

We topped off the night with two games of All in the Family. You all start by choosing a person or character that you wish to be. You write it down, the names are collected and read aloud. From there we travel around the circle to guess who is who. If you guess a person correctly that person becomes a member of your family ot team. The last person to not be guessed it the winner. Tonight we had Sharkboy and Piers Morgan who ended up stumping is all and winning the game.  Play it over Thanksgiving and I promise you and yours will be cracking up. It’s a hoot.

We were so blessed to have our friends here this evening and between two families we had 10 kids all hanging out, playing ping pong, sharing high schools stories and college dreams and more.  Our families share many similarities from a passion for changing children’s lives through sponsorship with Children’s Hopechest and the redemption we have all experienced firsthand through the gift of adoption. We had four nations represented… Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and America and it was super cool to watch all the kids interact. They are all here in America through different means, adoption, student visa and parents who immigrated and it was so awesome to see their lives and their hearts today.

I was reminded again tonight just how much Africa has changed our hearts. The last six weeks have been so eye opening and we have seen so many signs of the direction we are to head as a family and I feel such deep gratitude for the awareness that Africa has brought to our lives.  I am grateful God chose us to shepard two African children in need of family and I am grateful for the connections to similar families living with diversity of backgrounds, race, cultures and more. It is not always easy but without a doubt it is always interesting. All the strength needed to endure and trust the unknown has come directly from God and our family is so much stronger for constantly relying on His grace and His peace.

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Our amazing Crew!

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Three African Beauties…

Abraham LIncoln, Michael Jackson or Yelvis...

Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson or Yelvis?

Fast friends...

Fast friends…

 

 

Praying for the Orphan

It’s Adoption Awareness Month. November… a time to gather and give thanks for so many blessings and a time to celebrate and honor the gift of adoption. Adoption is nothing short of a miracle when we consider all the sacrifice, challenge, logistics, expense and courage that all involved endure. It is a journey with many ups and downs but in the end it is a gift so worth giving and receiving.

I love her more than I could have known. I love her enthusiastic charm and just how close she sits, often invading my personal space, to get a little closer. I love both her baby talk voice and her big girl voice and the chatter I hear when she is talking to her pretend friends on her little dollhouse phone. I love how tighlty she grips her markers to make “wild people” and already a few three letter words. I love how she holds my face when I bend down to kiss her as she stares into my eyes and giggles. I love her dinnertime prayers and her tightly closed eyes when we pray together. She is my daughter and while all of my children have been giant blessings, Ava is a blessing beyond words not only to myself and my husband but also to our sons. Ava came home to us via adoption and adoption has proved to be one of the greatest gifts of our life!

Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.
Two different lives shaped to make your one.
One became your guiding star; the other became your sun.
The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality; the other gave you a name.
One gave you a talent; the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions; the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.
One sought for you a home that she could not provide,
The other prayed for a child – and her hopes were not denied.
And now you ask me through your tears,
The age-old question unanswered through the years:
Heredity or environment – which are you a product of?
Neither my darling.
Just two different kinds of love.
– Author Unknown

Our adoption agency, All God’s Children International,  shared a wonderful message asking for us to pray specifically this month for the orphan and the global orphan crisis. Today and everyday approx 5700 children will be orphaned. Children everywhere long for a family, for security and for love. We were lead to Ethiopia where four million children are orphaned and or abandoned often from preventable disease. Where will you be called to change the life of a child in need? Perhaps you feel called to the foster care system or domestice adoption. Maybe sponsorship is the right journey for you. Come one and all. Partner with a child. While we are not all called to adopt, anyone can love and minister to child in a meaningful way.  If nothing else please pray. Pray for the orphan to know the power and hope of the gospel. Pray for hearts to be stirred to open their homes to a waiting child. Pray for birthparrents to feel supported as they wrestle with a painful choice, pray for governements to do what is just on behalf of so many children in need.  The time is now to show mercy, love and justice to the orphan.

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Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Get Your Tshirt On and Help Us Help in Haiti and Ethiopia!

Hello:
We wanted to share BIG news with those of you who have been so supportive over the years about the work we as a family continue to be called to…
 
In January Bob will be headed to Haiti to serve as a Dentist with his father and a small team of people hoping to help those who live with tremendous pain every day from unresolved dental issues. We have become closely connected to the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty and we are honored to join their organization on the ground to serve as many patients as time will permit. 
 
Then in February I will be leading another team on a Vision Trip to Ethiopia. My team is filling up fast and we are hopeful that perhaps a couple of our children might be joining the team this year.  To learn more about the trip message me or visit www.onechildcampaign.com.  We will spend the majority of our time in the beautiful village of Chapa, teaching, learning and planning with the children and the community. You have heard me say this before but Chapa is a very special little corner of the world and we feel very blessed to be carefully and slowly helping to relieve poverty through sustainable education. The Chapa child sponsorship program is off to a great start with a big need for growth and we will soon be fundraising for a fully functioning school for hundreds of children in need. 
 
We are reaching out to friends and family not only to share what has been placed on our hearts but also to encourage you to join in on the fun and the mission. We are so encouraged by the call to go and serve but even more excited about involving our community to Be The Change in whatever way possible both here at home and abroad. We have designed tshirts to help spread our message but also to help us fund the mission of blessing others in these areas of tremendous need. This journey is not our own. We are a work in progress and just doing our best to follow God’s leading. Thank you for being a supporter of our story and thank you for partnering with us in whatever way you might feel lead. 
 
See the easy tshirt order info below or follow this link to place an order.
You may also wish to donate by clicking below.

Thank you all so much for your generosity and support.
Peace and Grace,
 
Melanie and Bob 
www.beginwithone.com

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A Chapa Update {Join Us} Chapa needs you!

We are home and honestly as much as I love family time and vacation, being home feels good. I’ll share more about our time away soon but for now I have so much to share about Chapa. My One Child Campaign Partner and dear friend, Caleb David, visited Chapa with a team in July and I am grateful for the time he was able to spend listening and learning.

My One Child Campaign Partners, Zelalem and Caleb, hard at work in Ethiopia July 2013 *photo credit Alyssa Sieb*

If this is your first time reading my blog I want to tell you a bit about a beautiful village outside of Awassa in Sidamo region of Ethiopia. It’s a place I wish all of you could see and hear. I wish you could witness the hope we see in the children we have come to know at the Chapa Carepoint and also the tenacity and smiles we see in  the women, church elders and village leaders.

Although we do not share the same language I had great fun communicating with this man.

The lush grounds of the Chapa Compound

 

The women of Chapa work all through the night to prepare a giant feast for all the children.

those smiles!

Children’s Hopechest partnered with what was orginally a small village church and they have been working over the past three years to develop a school where the most vulnerable children in the community can become educated.  Chapa was born. This November will mark two years since our family signed on to become Carepoint Coordinators for the Children’s Hopechest Carepoint of Chapa. We truly had no idea exactly what we were getting into but we knew after our first adoption visit to meet our daughter that we were being called to advicate for the protection and education of children in Ethiopia.  So many in Ethiopia hunger not only for food but also for purpose, hope, security and an education. Partnering with Children’s Hopechest has been a wonderful fit and we are thrilled to see the progress that continues thanks to many who sponsor children on a monthly basis and also to those of you who have given BIG toward new water pipelines and access points, a water sanitation system and new latrines and showers for the children. We must also thank the outstanding on the ground CHC staff who work tirelessly to develop the community into what will be best for the children. Their intentions are so authentic and their leadership true. They join us when we make our way to the Carepoint each trip and their relationships and input are always so vital to furthering our connection.

I’ll not soon forget my first trip to Chapa, joining the children in song in their classroom on stilts.

The original Chapa classroom 18 months ago

 

showing us how they learn through song

You can read about my first trip here but the second trip to Chapa was like nothing else I have experienced. Our team was welcomed with open arms. The children were eager and receptive and what were told on our last day of our visit was how thankful they were for our return visit and our committment to the spirtutal and and physical health and wellbeing of their children. Can you even imagine? It was not the celebration, the learning or the feast but instead the connection through visiting and worshipping together  that made our time in Chapa so darn sweet. The CHC model of sponsorship is based on a Connect Community (that’s us ) partnering with a community in need in Ethiopia (that’s Chapa). By consistently returning to Ethiopia we are building sustainable relationships and a solid trust.  During the trip last February our team was blessed to wash the feet of the Chapa kids.

Washing the feet of the precious Chapa children

Precious moments

It was a very spiritual and humbling experience and by the end of day one we felt a deeper connection to the children as they relaxed, allowing us to pamper and clean their soiled feet. We heard giggles and saw smiles. During Caleb’s recent July visit the elders and  leaders expressed profound gratitude for  the footcare we provided the children. They even asked us to invite the extended families and church members during our upcoming February trip to join in our days of ministry. There words were. “We want you to teach us how to better love and care for our children and we also want you to be one of us. ”  These words brought me to tears.  I cannot think of a more pleasing and beautiful goal than for all of us to be connecting and respecting one another with our eyes and actions fixed on God.

During the July meeting their was high praise for CLEAN WATER not only for the children but also for the community.

I love the little girl splashing her face with WATER!

One of two new water access points at Chapa

Now the Water Access points at Chapa are clean and the villagers wanted to learn all about the sanitation system

One villager even donated the land next to Chapa for the community water access point. Chapa is a community willing to help themsleves and we continue to see this over and over again both in their dialogue and through their actions. The latest project, the latrine buildout, is 60% complete and it is critical that I share that the men of Chapa pitched in and did most of the labor for the project themselves saving funds for other dire needs within the Chapa compound. They told Caleb that they are willing and able to work and while they do not have much they do have their strength to work. This is what we continue to see as a positive partnership.

The Latrine project nearly complete.

  The Carepoint is surviving and so are the young children in the Chapa community thanks to CHC and to you. Survival in a place like Ethiopia is of course challenging but our hope and prayer is to begin to see the Chapa Carepoint truly thriving. Currently, the most critical need is to get the classrooms completed. The governement is very strict with schools and this classroom must have cement floors complete with desks, chairs and blackboards in order  for the community to keep the land.

This classroom is half way complete

Proper ventilation and a less hostile environment of sun, dirt and inclimate weather along with access to clean water now will help the children to thrive. Please join me in the fight for the protection and education of the children in Chapa. We only need $5000 to complete the classrooms. Would you consider helping us meet our goal? We would love for you to be a part of the growth and promise we see at Chapa. Click here to donate. 

There are many to thank and from the bottom of my heart thank you. It has been such a blessing to advocate for children in Ethiopia and I hope that you will consider joining our community of believers. We believe all children are worth the love of Christ and we beleive that all children are made in His image just waiting for the opportunity to grow, learn and shine. Come see for yourself this beautiful village and the children of Chapa next February 2014 and message me should you have the desire to get connected to a Chapa child or Capital project. Together we can do so much and believe me when I tell you that God continues to deliver BIG ideas and the right people…

40 more children are waiting to be sponsored and we have a classroom to complete soon.

Join me.

Pray for Chapa and please dream big alongside me.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie