A Feast… {Celebrating with the Children of Chapa}

One of my fondest memories of my recent trip to Ethiopia was the day a feast was prepared for the children of Chapa. It was quite the production and I won’t soon forget the joy on the faces of the community women and the church/school leaders who were so eager to make the event happen. The faces of the children were priceless and our team cracked up as the big gulps of soda caused funny faces of wonder and delight. Most children have never tasted soda so it was a big and yes sugary treat!

It all began with someone from the Chapa village delivering this big guy…

the hump on the back of this ox is considered a delicacy- just ask my teammates...

then many hands got to work...

the art of rolling injera...

 

these charming women worked through the night to prepare the feast...

 

these two ladies loved seeing their own image in the camera...

 

and then 325 meals needed to be plated and delivered into the church...

 

here is one of the Children's Hopechest staff who joined us at Chapa...

 

in Ethiopia soda comes only in bottles...

 

here are a few happy faces...

love this one...

 

filling their little bellies with ox stew and injera...

In Ethiopia many cannot afford to eat meat. In fact many may only have meat once a year for Christmas. So needless to say bringing a feast to the Chapa Carepoint was a big deal.  Thank you to the Shine Foundation and close friends for the contribution to the Chapa feast. What amazes me most is the gratitude and the hard work we watched in making the event special and meaningful for us and for the children. Sharing food is truly a universal language. Breaking bread together shows respect and love. Each of the villagers who helped prepare the meat and cook the meal were so proud to do so.  They worked through the night as there is no refrigeration, no gas stove, no cutting boards, no running water. The meat was cut on a log and the fire was created in one of the classrooms, yes Chapa needs a kitchen. The plates were washed by hand and set out in the grassy field to dry.  It was a gift to the kids but also a gift to our team to see the beauty in their labor and excitement. I look forward to our next feast at Chapa. Plans are in the works for our visit next February and once again I will be planning my trip with One Child Campaign. There is so much to learn and love in Ethiopia. Please consider joining me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the big gulps of soda caused fun faces of wonder and delight. Most children have never tasted soda so it was a big and yes sugary treat!

 

Jesus Loves them…

Every child has the ability to capture us in ways that take our breath away. They suck us right in and we are smitten for life. Our daughter is no exception. The love we have for her is so fierce and she is constantly bringing smiles to all of our faces. She oozes charm and sweetness. In fact I never want to forget the moments where Ava greets the boys after a long school day. The smiles on the boys take my breath away and make everything about Ava’s adoption into our lives so right. So often I just stare at her and nearly weep with gratitude for the courage we were granted to answer the call to adopt. What a gift we have been given in our daughter and sister, our little one from Ethiopia, who now runs around the house shouting, ” go to Ethiopia Mommy!” She wonders when I am headed back and already we find ourselves wanting her to be proud of her identity both here at home but also in the land of Ethiopia where she was born.

So do I call it irony that while I was half way round the globe teaching little ones the words and hand motions to Jesus Loves Me, our  little girl was here at home being loved and nurtured and beginning to pick up the words of the very same song? Amazing! It’s her new favorite song and since I have returned home we sing it many times a day. When she is old enough I cannot wait to share with her the following images of me standing before several hundred little children of the Chapa Carepoint and singing the words we all know and love. They responded with such sweetness and within moments we were all conversing in the same language of hand motions, music and worshiping.

It was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip and I will forever be reminded that getting children sponsored in order to provide mental, spiritual and physical nourishment is the very least I can do. I live with a little girl from Ethiopia who did not have a hope and a future as a new baby. She could have ended up in so many challenging situations just as many of the children of Ethiopia do. In the eyes of the little girls at Chapa I saw my daughter. Today when I listen to Ava’s beautiful song of worship, I will again raise my hands and my voice to the children who still need us both in adoption and sponsorship.

If you have even the slightest little tug on your heart to adopt, I would love to talk with and encourage you.   I am also happy to discuss the possibility that perhaps you are meant to go and see for yourself.  Take a look at the One Child Campaign website to see how a mission/vision trip may just be the next step in your life.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Thank you Mike Ellis for your stunning images. Visit Breath of Life Photography to learn more about Mike’s work.

 

 

Two weeks later… {why mission trips matter}

I have been home from Ethiopia just two weeks and save for the part about being with my family, the reentry has not been easy this time. Instead I go through my days with frustration, questions, crazy thoughts and a feeling of uneasiness that is different than I have experienced before. I go through my days feeling like I have been torn down layer by layer. I go through my days wishing I could give more of myself and more of our “stuff” away. I am certain these feelings are normal and as I type I am able to feel gratitude as I know that God has created a stirring and He is making way for more changes in my heart.

Each time I visit Ethiopia I am brought to my knees by the struggles I see women and children endure. I am wrecked and broken by my absolute lack of gratitude for all the protection and luxuries in my life. I am humbled by the freedoms and the voice I  am openly able to share. I return to the land of plenty asking what are we doing all this for and what really matters when I have now seen the life and death plight of so many. Why do I get to live with every opportunity when many who we spent time with would do anything for just one? I can imagine by now I am annoying anyone still reading with my questions but I know the questions are valid and I dare say that God expects those of us who encounter life changing moments to ask the tough questions not only of ourselves but also of others.  It’s the questions that drive me .

My personal story of doing all of this afraid in my forties as a busy mother of four is certainly not everyone’s dream. Frankly I never knew it would be mine. I love the call, but the mission feels so big and often I wonder if I will ever truly make a difference. That of course is the wrong question as this journey is not about me. My life has been radically changed by my journeys to Ethiopia, the adoption of our daughter and certainly through the sponsorship of a son who will soon graduate high school and seeks a future plan.

It is about the changes God has started in me so that my choices and my actions can better align with His needs. Some may think I am a bit nuts, lost if you will. Maybe I just need to get over it and get back on the ole American grid, the roller coaster of speed and doing it all no matter the cost, but oddly enough for the first time in my life I feel a sense of awakening and purpose that I never saw coming. I think I need a bumper sticker that says “Africa changes everything.” The brokenness, the tear down, the challenging things I witnessed. They all have purpose.  They are relevant to the changes God is asking for me to make in my life. These are the very reasons more of us should go and see.  Maybe more of us could stand to have our layers pealed away. There is a place for short term missions and for many, one trip may just turn into a lifetime of connections and a lifetime of trips. Only God knows what is next, but in the midst of my processing and the turmoil in my head I do know this for certain…  All of my Africa days have been given as a gift. Each ministry we visited, each child we watched fall to her knees in worship, each story we heard from the mouths of young children, each family or young person we met who has designated their lives to the call,  each child we held who waits for a parent to call his or her own. each beggar or prostitute we saw on the streets,  their stories matter and their lives are valuable. This is true because to Jesus they were the very people He would have spent time with and they were the very people he sought to know, love and redeem. They are the very people near and dear to His heart. The Africa we saw was just where Jesus might have gone. It is where He would have found beauty and hope. We did too.

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him? James 2:5

 

So as I continue to dig through so many images and notes I took while viewing both the beauty and the sadness of Ethiopia, I would invite you to journey with me. It is my hope that I might be able to use the awareness I have found to encourage others to engage and connect. Maybe more of us can partner to help right here at home and also in Ethiopia. Before heading to Ethiopia for the very first time I can remember asking God to break my heart for what breaks His. He has done just that and answered my prayers in so many bountiful and challenging ways. Maybe you wonder what going and serving might look and feel like in your life. It’s a valid question but I would invite you to look at it from another direction. What might it feel like for God to see you going and serving, be it in Africa or in your own needy community? What might it feel like for God to see more of us step outside our fears, schedules and safety nets to give ourselves away?  We are the solution and we have been given the mandate to be His hands and his feet. Take it one step further and remind yourself that to that one woman, one child, one leader or one organization you may be the very person they have been waiting to meet. I will be headed back to Ethiopia soon through One Child Campaign and I would be delighted to have you join me to learn, serve, love and dream with those who need it most. You just never know what could be waiting for you around the corner when you take that first step. Like I said, for me, Africa changed everything!

Please contact me at strobels@mac.com or to learn more about upcoming trips go to the One Child Campaign website.

Peace and Grace to you,

Melanie

 

 

The Chapa Carepoint {What a difference sponsorship makes}

All week I have been settling into home and wondering where to begin with sharing the days I had with the children and staff of Chapa in Ethiopia. This trip was one of the best of my life yet I find myself speechless when it comes to sharing all the emotion and the details. Processing all that we saw has been slow this time as I was touched in a deeper more profound way. The need in Ethiopia is without a doubt some of the greatest in the world yet the people are so rich in spirit, kindness, affection and love. It is a country and her people I yearn for within minutes of leaving.

The narrow road leading to the school/church compound was stunning and smiles were seen from most of those in the community as our van rolled in. There was an original Vision team from the US who went in a few years back to identify and create the school of Chapa as a Children’s Hopechest Carepoint but since then Chapa has not seen white visitors. The children were all in their various classrooms when we arrived and they peered a bit nervously from the simple room built up on stilts.

 

On the blackboards were English words and basic math equations and the teachers, dressed in lab coats, were eager to have the children recite words and sing to us. We moved from classroom to classroom and I was amazed how many children were being educated at Chapa. There were at least 320 children and their greetings brought a lump to my throat each time I needed to speak. Each comment I made had to be translated from English to Amharic and then to Sidamo. Chapa is outside of Hawassa in the Sidamo region nearly five hours outside of the capital city, Addis Ababa.

After introductions we walked with the leaders of Chapa and Children’s Hopechest and created a list of needs for the compound. There are many needs. The children need better classrooms with ventilation and light. A plan is in place to create more classrooms and potentially add teachers once more children are sponsored and the funding in place. They compound needs a sanitation system and a kitchen area. There are many more ideas… better uniforms, shoes for all, a library, etc. The ideas are endless, but in spite of the need I still saw hope and hard work.  The children of Chapa spend their day with a purpose and there is hope in children growing up with education and basic necessities of life.  They were learning and playing and interacting with others their age. They were being children and spending their days with purpose. That for me was a powerful realization wherever we were. Children in school are able to thrive. Our standards of thriving might all look different but one essential take away from my days in Ethiopia was this. People do not need all that we have., but rather they need a place to learn and a place to feel valued and secure. It is critical to breaking the pattern of children who take to the streets searching for something more. Education is key to building up the future generation. Sponsorship through programs such as CHidlren’s Hope Chest is vital to providing children with value and purpose through education. They have a place to be each day in spite of hardship, hunger, poverty, illness and other extreme situations that they endure on a regular and very real basis.

Chapa was a beautiful place of refuge and hope and we were grateful to spend two days interacting with the children, staff and Hopechest leaders to better understand what monthly sponsorship dollars can do to generate better conditions at the school and beyond. Many children we not sure about our big cameras but it did not take long for a few to warm up with smiles.

 

After play and teaching bible songs…

we began the huge task of separating all the kids who have sponsors into one large group. That way we could begin to pass out care packages and take photos to share with sponsor families. It was a challenging task among 300 students and it felt funny to know that all the other children had to sit and watch us go through the process. It was motivation to me to come home advocating even harder for each child who attends Chapa to have a sponsor. I want every child to receive a care package during our next trip. I want every Chapa child to be receiving letters and specific prayers. We can do this and please if you sponsor a child… please tell someone you know and encourage he or she to sponsor a child. Sponsorship does make a difference and in desperate communities we saw children thriving within the sponsorship environment. I am still processing individual photos for sponsorship families so please be patient. I will be getting them emailed out soon. Needless to say there were many faces that looked like this… filled with joy!

One of the best parts of our journey to Chapa was the feast we were able to provide. We had this guy

for lunch after the women in the community worked all night to prepare our amazing FEAST. I’ll be blogging about the feast soon…

Until then please know that the children of Chapa need our continued prayers. They are all precious in His sight and deserve to be reminded of  His love through the relationship and support of a sponsor.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processing {My first days home from Ethiopia}…

I have been home all of 48 hours and I am just beginning to catch up with family and friends who ask the kindest questions. “So how was your trip,”  is the most common question and one that is a great challenge to answer in a phone call or a grocery store chat. I am just beginning to process all that I saw while visiting Ethiopia for the fourth time but the most important conclusion for me has been this. Going to see and serve is essential. The journey is priceless and the changes in my heart and soul were so needed. I wish we could all see what I saw and I am grateful for the awareness I now have and the burning desire to take the stories of those met to the world. There is much to tell…

So why did I return to Ethiopia and what did we do? Here is my best explanation. I was part of a small team who visited Ethiopia through the help and planning of One Child Campaign. One Child founder, Caleb David, specializes in creating short term mission trips to facilitate long term relationships and change. We were visiting Uganda and Ethiopia to become immersed in the ministries already making a difference in the lives of orphans and widows. Some of the organizations and missionary families have been in place for some time and some are just getting started, but meeting and seeing firsthand gave me a clear picture as to where myself and my family can further plug in. Yes it is possible to learn from afar but there is something life altering about traveling thousands of miles to immerse yourself into the daily challenges, the beauty and rich culture and faith of Ethiopia. The ministries we visited need our voice and they need our support and I look forward to sharing the various models of redemption and change we witnessed firsthand. Now that I have seen many of the organizations doing great works I can come alongside to advocate and support their cause from afar. That is why I went back to Ethiopia.

Each trip to Ethiopia I am changed, but this trip was a more intense and authentic (if you will) look into the crisis I have been called to share, the plight of woman, orphans and the destitute. If you would like to better understand how you can be the change one orphan or one marginalized woman at a time please consider signing on with a an upcoming trip with One Child Campaign. You will be changed and rearranged in ways you never saw coming. Our journey was deep, raw, thought provoking and fun and I look forward to sharing more in the days to come.  I have much to share about the children of Chapa, the Children’s Hopechest Carepoint we are involved in championing and also sharing stories from the children we met who impacted us deeply. Processing it all takes time…

Below is one example of what One Child Campaign is working on,  The Alem House.  In this video you wil see a beautiful girl named Meron.  I met Meron while in Addis Ababa. We spent only one hour together and she clung to me smiling and laughing. She is one story of redemption. She was recused from abuse on the streets and is currently living at a children’s home we visited called Hope for the Hopeless. She is going to school and being discipled and loved. Her life is one of restoration and just being near her made me want to know her more deeply. Take a look into her story and the stories of many like her and see how One Child Campaign is answering the call.

The Alem House from One Child Campaign on Vimeo.

So check out the opportunities with One Child Campaign and get ready to for a journey of a lifetime. I cannot say enough good about the work One Child Campaign is doing on the ground through strategic ministry partnerships.  I am blessed to have traveled with Caleb David to a land we both have come to love and honor so much. I already long to return…

Peace and Grace and stay tuned for more photos and stories from my trip,

Melanie

 

 

 

A long way home {the journey to Chapa}

We drove out of Awassa toward the community of Chapa. As we neared the small road that would lead us to the school and the church we began to notice how close the homes were to the narrow road. The lushness of banana leaves surrounded mud huts… We had passed many miles of dry dusty plains so it was a welcome site to see green. We made the winding turns toward the church/school compound. The Chapa community rarely sees visitors and the response from children as we have traveled around the rural areas has been the same. First there is the stop and stare, next you see the children process and then they break into a full on run chasing our van in bare feet on rocky roads/ Their smiles are contagious and in some ares the children yell, money money or give me. In Chapa they were so eager to follow us…

Getting out of the van felt so surreal… the beauty of the land, the classroom up on stilts, the unsure faces of children I had only seen in profile pictures on sponsorship cards, it was all right in front of me and I held back powerful tears of thanksgiving. You see this journey has been all about trust. Trust me to use you in the way I see fit. Trust me in the connecting your heart to children in Ethiopia who need a voice. That is what God has been whispering to my heart from the very moment I came face to face with the needs here in Ethiopia. So there I was in front of the very lives God has called me to advocate for. It was awesome and I am humbled that God chose me!

How can I go back to life as usual and how can I return to who I once was? Being here in Ethiopia I have seen what it means to love and certainly what it means to worship and look up to God even in the most horrific conditions. The street children who have been befriended and redeemed, the woman who now has a job making scarves or beads to make a fair wage. I have watched them give all the glory and honor directly back to God and it is encouraging beyond words. This place has once again stolen a large piece of my heart. There are many beautiful images and stories to share in the days ahead. The words are so clear. Help me God to live and share loud enough for others to hear.

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Africa bound… {Sixty feet in Uganda}

I keep waiting for someone to pinch me… Ever since my first trip to Ethiopia I must say I have spent so much time dreaming about visiting several other African nations that have called to my heart. My eyes were opened to the children’s crisis in Uganda back seven plus years ago when I watched  the film Invisible Children. The film depicted the horror of children who had become night commuters, walking miles outside of their villages into city streets. Once in the city they would make their way into the gutter and drainage systems underground in order to remain safe each night from the LRA soldiers who entered villages, killed elders, abducted children to become child soldiers and then burned the village to the ground. No child was safe and the children of Uganda were then drugged and trained to become killers. They killed their own people in order to remain alive themselves. This civil war lasted over 20 years and in some areas in Northern Uganda members of the LRA are still at work today.
Out team will not be visiting this Northern region,  but rather the Southern region of Uganda and I wanted to share with you one of the organizations I am eager to visit. I actually met one of the women who she and her husband started the ministry Sixty Feet and I am thrilled to now be going to see first hand the plight of the children who have been ravaged, forgotten, displaced and even now remain imprisoned due to the history of a country in war. Below you  can learn more about Sixty Feet and I hope you will take the time to visit the Sixty Feet website to better understand how God chose people just like you and me to go to Uganda to “be the change,” one remote prison and one child at a time. Please keep this ministry in your prayers and I would ask that you pray for my team as we visit the children, young children who have been left behind due to HIV, abandonment, death of parents, or perhaps accused of something in a country where there is little hope of justice. Please pray that we are able to be light through their darkness. Pray that we can love and minister BIG! Pray that we might capture images and learn stories that will change not only our own hearts but the hearts of so many others we will share with when we return home. Pray for us to be His hands and feet.

Here is the story taken from the Sixty Feet website…

According to the most recent estimates, there are approximately 2.5 million orphans in Uganda, over a million of whom are a direct result of AIDS. In a country where the median age is only 15, as many as 1 in 6 children under the age of 17 is an orphan.

Outside Kampala there is a place where some of these abandoned, unloved and neglected children are kept. And this is where our story begins…

Not long ago a woman was on her way out of Kampala and drove past a dilapidated old sign that read “M”: Rehabilitation Center for Children. She was drawn to learn more about the place so she turned down a long, winding dirt road until she came to the end. To her horror, she found rooms of children locked up, young kids chained to windows, and even a 10 day old, malnourished and living in her own urine. She saw hundreds of children with little food and no supervision. As horrific as this was, on that day God began a glorious story of redemption for these children.

Eight thousand miles away, word of “M” made its way to the shores of America. Several families in Atlanta heard about “M” and their hearts were completely broken. Living amidst a sea of abundance and well cared for families, they could not begin to fathom the pain and suffering that these children endured on a daily basis.  The thought of orphaned children held in these circumstances with no one to advocate or care for them was too much.

So in early 2010, the men began to pray that God would send someone to help. They quickly realized God was planning to send them. It was clear they were being called step up and do something, so they responded and went. They wanted to see first hand how God was at work, and how they could serve.

The experience was life changing.  After witnessing the gospel in action and the heart of God poured out on orphans and imprisoned children, these men realized that God was calling them to not only proclaim the gospel but to live it.

Sixty Feet was born out of a desire to participate in God’s work at “M.” It was born out of a yearning to share the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible and meaningful way. To care for and minister to orphans who are otherwise treated as common prisoners. In short, Sixty Feet is a response to the gospel.

Unfortunately, we soon realized that “M” was not unique. There are other facilities around Uganda where children are held. So far we know of seven. The mission expanded quickly and our hearts grew exponentially. Within months of that first trip, God assembled an amazing team on the ground and He continues to equip us to minister to the children.

God has not only moved in our hearts but in the hearts of so many back in the U.S.  The response from people around the country (and the world) has been tremendous. The outpouring of prayers and support for imprisoned children half way across the world has been awe-inspiring. It leaves us humbled and encouraged to see the body of Christ rise up to share the love of Jesus with the least of our brothers and sisters suffering under horrendous conditions.

When all is said and done, Sixty Feet is made up of regular people who responded to a call God placed on our lives. We are fully submitted to the authority of Christ and to His will for this ministry. We exist for His glory and to serve His purposes as long as He would have us do so.

This is our story, and we pray that soon…. it may be your story too.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

 

Connections… {a roadmap to Uganda and Ethiopia}

 

Around here we are all preparing for my trip back to Africa. It’s a family affair of planning. In two weeks I will be headed across the globe to embrace a new country, Uganda, in all her hardship and splendor, and the country where a piece of my heart resides, Ethiopia.

Of course our story is long and there is rarely a day that we do not get questions about how all of this came to be. “You are doing what?” is the most common question and then we struggle to give a short answer. It’s really a tale of cool connections and many people being placed in our lives at just the right time.  I thought I would write it all out for those of you who might just like the long answer and for our dear friend Eric who really needs a flow chart of all the details and the many players. This one’s for you Eric!  So here we go…

I will start with the adoption agency we were lead to at least five years ago… All God’s Children International. It was there we began to connect with so many exceptional families from all around the country with big hearts for adoption, fostering children and orphan care. Many of us began communicating via email and FB and words cannot explain how inspired and encouraged we felt as we were going through the adoption process.   Our agency was exceptional and the faith it took and the courage we saw in others was life changing for us. We met several families who traveled  ahead of us to pick up their children, several of whom generously helped make our wait tolerable as they loved on our little girl who we had not yet met in person.  There are too many to name but the Rogers family met Ava when they were at Hannah’s Hope meeting their baby girl and now many months later the Rogers family has been incredibly helpful to us in advocating for the same children we are advocating for at the Chapa Carepoint in Awassa, Ethiopia. Cheri shared her passion for adoption and orphan care with her church community and within a short time had nearly twenty children connected to generous sponsors. She is awesome and continues to be so supportive of all our efforts in Ethiopia.

Last February was not the ideal time to head back to Ethiopia for a mission trip. All I can say is that it felt like I needed to return to make sure that what I was feeling was in fact real. We had only been home with Ava for six months but both my husband I knew we needed to dig in to figure out what was next for us with regard to Ethiopia and the call to do mission work.  During our adoption process I had been very drawn to the wonderful blog of Kari Gibson. She and her husband are also adoptive parents with quite a story to tell. I knew Kari and her husband were teaming up to lead people to Ethiopia in February 2011 and it seemed a perfect fit for myself and our son. I was nervous but elated to be returning to learn more about the need and the work of several organizations on the ground in Ethiopia. The trip was wonderful albeit very challenging as I got strep throat a few days in. My team was supportive and took excellent care of Hayden. We did all we could not to miss much and fortunately I still felt the same love and pull to do more in Ethiopia. Our big group was such a blessing to me and I learned so much as I watched them pour out their hearts to the vulnerable and fatherless. I did make a new friend by the name of Nancie Joy and her name so defines her character. She is a quiet light with great strength and insight and we were immediately drawn to one another as she is also a friend of the Rogers family I mentioned above. Birds of a feather I guess…  I can distinctly recall Nancie Joy telling me over and over while we were in Ethiopia that I needed to connect with her pals, Caleb and Becca David.  I am glad I listened to her heart and her sage advice. My connection to Caleb happened easily and he was so supportive of the emotions as I was feeling about being called to take on more responsibility to raise awareness about the plight of the orphan and the vulnerable specifically in Ethiopia. My eyes had been opened and I knew my life could not go back to simple business as usual. Caleb is the founder of One Child Campaign, he and has wife also have hearts that beat for the voiceless and have had many years experience leading groups on mission trips. His work in Ethiopia is exciting and his passion contagious. He has been helpful in our choices leading up to today and I now see more than ever that our connection was so meant to be.

After returning home from the February 2011 trip I began to pray for direction.  For some time I had been in touch with the people of Children’s Hopechest and just as One Child Campaign was inviting me on their fall trip to Ethiopia, Bob and I met and began discussions with Wil Crooks of Children’s Hopechest. We took a giant leap and signed on as Sponsorship Coordinators for a Carepoint in a large rural community called Chapa in Awassa, Ethiopia. I say “we” because Bob has been right by my side in all of this and we have made all the decisons together with careful and prayerful consideration. I could never be doing all of this without him by my side.   This meant I would not be going with Caleb and his team to Ethiopia in October but instead would need to create my own team and my own trip to visit the Chapa Carepoint. So next came the challenge of spreading the word about all the precious faces {up to 400 children} I received on the profile cards. It was a special day when the box arrived from Hopechest with 150 cards all describing a child in need. It all became very real as I saw their faces on the cards and began to read about their lives and all the many activities they enjoy doing. They are dear children, like yours and mine, who desire an education. They have big dreams but lack resources. One child at a time we are working through the community to community model to make a difference in their lives. Next the idea and planning of a sponsorhip launch party was born and we invited everyone to come take a look at who and what we would be championing in Ethiopia. It was a fabulous night of friends, fellowship and education. We were thrilled with the idea of working through Hopechest and I was quickly becoming eager to make my way back to Ethiopia to meet the children and the staff at the Carepoint.  Today I am just two weeks from departing to meet all the many faces who are real children waiting for real opportunities and real reminders that they are loved and cherished and certainly not forgotten. I can hardly wait to embrace them all!

Of course great passion loves company and I have felt for some time that bringing others along on the journey of seeing Ethiopia for themselves is exactly what I was built to do. It was a such a feeling of relief and absolute fear at the same time. I had waited patiently for the calling in my life yet planning a trip to nearby , kidding of course,  Ethiopia would not be easy or doable for many. This lead me back to Caleb David and his trip expertise. We would work together to promote the trip to visit the children of Chapa among other thriving ministries in Ethiopia. As I said in the beginning the connections have been miraculous and I could not have made it this far without the support and kindness of Caleb David. Lead time was short for many so now our trip is planned for our small team of six. What began as a trip to Ethiopia has now morphed into an opportunity for us to all visit another African nation that has been on my heart for some time, Uganda.  Our team will be supporting and learning all we can about the ministries of 60 feet and My Father’s House Missions in Uganda.  Oddly enough exactly one year ago, I sat in a room at an adoption retreat and met several of the American families who started 60 feet after learning about the tragedy of many imprisoned children in Uganda. Several of the families fought diligently to adopt children from the excruciating circumstances of growing up in a prison. I am absolutely honored we will soon be there to love children and learn how we might further support their ministry.

So what do you think? Is it not divine grace that God has helped us to seek out such a wonderful community? Needless to say we feel richly blessed and I am so eager to be on the ground with Caleb David and our wonderful team in just two weeks. There are many more organizations doing good work on behalf of adoption, orphan care, human trafickking, etc and today I am honored and humbled by the deep desires of my heart to make a difference alongside them. I look forward to the others I will meet who have been called to the same fight,  and I hope we can all be the hands and feet and give voice to the voiceless together. I go as a beacon of light knowing that my contribution may only impact one but to that one I just might make a valuable difference.  I just know that God continues to beckon me to be willing to lose my life on behalf of others in order to find it.

One thing is for sure… The connections throughout the past five years have been no accident. Every step of the way God has shown me a friend, a confidant or a person of great faith.  He has helped me to dare to dream! There have been many to emmulate and much to learn along the way. I feel blessed to be a blessing wherever I go and I hope my passion for photography that has grown this past decade, will help me bring many stories back home to you. I cannot wait to share all that I am blessed to learn and I hope you will stay connected in thought and prayer as the journey to Uganda and Ethiopia unfolds. The preparations are underway…

my little love helping me pack up goodies...

Come along and embrace with me the WORLD!

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Change 10 Lives in 10 Days… {I’m Dreaming BIG!!!!}

In just four weeks I will be on the ground in Ethiopia visiting the Chapa Carepoint in Awassa ,Ethiopia. I will meet hundreds of children who seek out the Carepoint daily as a place of refuge and sustenance. The Carepoint for many is the ony hope of a daily meal or a warm smiling adult who will teach and pray with the child. The children of Chapa are downright adorable and so in need of sponsors. Many are vulnerable or orphaned with little hope,  but in you and with your support as a community we can bring HOPE and JOY and even a FUTURE .  For $34 a month Children’s Hopechest can match you with a child and that child will become like family through letters, prayers and even visits. Children’s Hopechest does a wonderful job with a staff on the ground in Ethiopia who work tirelessly on behalf of the Chapa kids.

Perhaps you have adopted from Ethiopia and wish to do more in your child’s birth country or maybe you have been struggling with a call you feel to live more purposefully in helping others to thrive. Sponsoring a child is a wonderful gift and Children’s Hopechest is a wonderful organization to be a part of. I can tell you from first hand experience that the child you sponsor will know very well all of the details of who you and your family are and within moments of my arrival at Chapa they will be surrounding me and asking if you are there with the team. The connection through sponsorship is strong and the bond is like no other. So here is my pryer and my plea… I am hoping to get 10 children sponsored within 10 days and I need your help! Can you share this post on your blog or FB page? Could you ask a friend who you know might be interested in sponsoring a child and lastly would you yourself consider sponsorship as an option for you and your family?  It would be so dreamy to show up at the Carepoint with small care packages for each of the children from his or her own sponsor. Just wait until you see their faces all aglow. Providing them with such joy and the promise of food, mentor ship and an education is simply priceless.

Let’s do this!

Contact me or click here to reach Juree Wilson of Children’s Hopechest and specify which child pictured below you wish to sponsor and we will help you get signed up. You may also call 719.487.7800.  I am dreaming BIG…  but together we can do this… changing 10 little lives in just 10 days!

Yakobe ET 3003011

Yohannes ET 3003017

Tehitna ET3003055

Edegete ET3003044

Anteneh ET3003038

Engito ET3003124

Agireso ET3003141

Meisfen ET3003037

Yoel ET3003145

Ekemo ET3003019

Pass it on and spread the word!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Melanie Strobel