Empower a Woman… Change a Village

Empower a woman and change a village…


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.

bwo (8 of 9)

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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…

After the Verdict {thoughts I needed to share}…



I have sat with the news for nearly a week and yet I still feel the constant need to dissect the Martin case.  There are many in the “can we just get over it and let it go camp” and while I understand the constant media fury is annoying, I wonder if those complaining have ever felt personally touched by the issues?  Perhaps now is a good time to turn off the opinions of media and instead do some personal searching.  Educate yourself on the factual information, the behavior of jurors and the various people who are leading others to stand up for a changed system of justice. Dig deep and ask yourself how what stereotypes or judgements you might harbor and why. I know I am and encouraging my family to do the same. For me it’s the only way to squelch the pain I feel over the horror of this case.  Of course emotions fly and it is easy to pick a side and run with it, but should the legacy of this case become that of choosing a side?   Justice and social change will never be learned if we just stop there.  There will be nothing learned from the loss of a young life, a boy who was doing nothing wrong at the time he was shot (and yes I know I was not there so please do not email me). For me it is not about what side of the issue we are on but instead it’s the dialogue created that may incite action or change. It’s about learning what’s needed to spare the loss of life in the future. It’s about understanding that being different from one another is OK. It’s about educating ourselves and getting right with the idea that not everyone needs to look or act a certain way to be valued. Afterall we are all valued in God’s eyes and we all come to this earth with gifts and purpose that should be honored. I promise I am not naive or sporting rose colored glasses but what troubles me most in the case is the judgement that reared its ugly head that night in the dark. Initially it seems a neighborhood watchman was doing his job. I guess that makes sense and I am all for proper security and rules that maintain order. But should protection and security be based solely on presumption, stereotypes or suspicion? Who wants to live in a world where you are guilty based on your look In this case it seems crystal clear that suspicion created fear and fear then lead to asserting power and force where power and force were not needed.  All week I have replayed what I might have done if followed, frightened or provoked in the dark? Maybe I would have fought and I would advise my children in the same circustances to do the same. Sad thing is black men in this country know the statistics and they have heard the stories and they know they are targets. What could we have expected a scared Martin to do? Walking down any public street should be the right of all people not just the right of those who have a proper look. Believe me I am checking my own heart this week and examining where my mind goes when I see someone different from myself in my daily travels. It is only through the lens of careful self critique that we can begin to make changes and changing, one person at a time, is the only justice for a young black boy headed home that night who was shot to death.

The last few days I have been answering questions from my children. “How can someone shoot another person if they are just walking and they do not have a gun,” my little guy asked. Then there was Tadesse. He grew up until the age of 17 in Ethiopia in very challenging conditions and even after being here in the USA for  a year he still has no idea how to process the news of last weekend’s verdict. He had little to say until a couple of days ago and then out of the blue he muttered, “I am scared.”  With a lump in my throat I looked at him,  quite sure I knew what he was referring to. I could see the tension on his face as he went on to share his fear of having to return to Africa if things become more and more difficult between the various races of our country. “Would you send me back to protect me?” My heart sank and I had no words. Tadesse is Ethiopian but this week in this country it feels more like he is just a black boy who might not know he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.   He loves to walk to our nearby grocery store and sometimes pulls up the hood of his sweatshirt to shield his face from sun and wind. Of course all we can think of is how out of place he may appear to some who do not know him or how he made his way to our family living in an American suburb. He is an eighteen year old child of color who has been brought into a culture where sadly to some the color of his skin matters. There are few words to help him to understand and the pain runs deep.

So this week my responsibility as a mother of three biological and two African children became a bit more challenging.

I must teach them all tolerance and equality. I must teach them history and social responsibility. I must teach them awareness of their surroundings in a way I never hoped to have to explain. All the while my hope and prayer is that God is using our family as an example of love that extends far beyond the color of skin, the age of a child , beyond adopted of biological or the behavioral challenges each child might bring to our life.  My hope is that our transracial family will be a beacon of hope to many who need to admit to their deep distrust of other races.  I’m overwhelmed yet hopeful that the more we educate ourselves and carefully open the eyes of our children to racial inequalities, the harder we will fight against ridiculous stereotypes. Not all Muslims are dangerous. Not all  living in impoverished neighborhoods are lazy. Not all who wear certain clothes to fit in are uneducated or criminals. The girl with tattoos, multiple earrings and dark black eye makeup what do we think of her?   Our journey is a slippery slope when we judge before knowing anything about who and what a person is, instead we should look at each person as an individual in need of love, attention, an opportunity and more than anything else grace.  Can you imagine how freeing it would be to live with fewer suspicions and a greater love for that which makes us all unique?   Fight with me. Dissect the issues with careful words, do your digging and check your heart next time that fear grips you.

Peace and Grace,


Join the Movement {STUCK via Both Ends Burning}

I’m always inspired by those willing to take on a cause. I mean to really take on a cause and not only dig into the whys but also the ways in which we can all work to make change possible. That is exactly what Craig Juunten did when he realized the overhwhelming number of children, how about 10 million who wait to be adopted throughout the world.  After entering the world of adoption and bringing home three children for Haiti Craig began to uncover the harrowing statistics  that prove how many children and families willing to adopt children are being held hostage by governmental red tape.  Juntunen went on to create a documentary and is currently touring 80 cities in order to share the film and edcate those willing to stand up for changes to the declining and suffering international adoption system.

It should not matter where a child is born. Every child deserves the right to have a family to call his or her own and while rules and policies must apply, it is senseless and cruel that so many children around the world are growing up in institutions of worse on the streets.  Adoption is one big solution to the orphan crisis but we must use education to create a movement that showcases the awareess and hopelessness many children face if intercountry adoptions do not continue. We need government officials to make adoption a priority so that children can come home to families who have been waiting often for several grueling years.

After meeting our daughter nearly three years ago during our first trip to Ethiopia I can vividly recall the fear I had that our connection was in the hands of many who did not know the love we had for her the instant we saw her precious picture. Adoption must be closely monitored and of course we do not want children to end up in the wrong hands but the idea that so many people are willing to adopt if the process, expense and wait times were easier should tell us all that something needs to change. This week our little one turns three and I cannot bear the thought of her having been STUCK on the other side of the world waiting for us to come to her. This is the reality for many willing parents adopting from countries such as Guatemala and Russia. Both the children and the families are STUCK in the cogs of a broken down system.

Learn more about the documentary STUCK here. Take a look at when STUCK might be playing in your city and see how you can spread the word to help fill the theatres. I am doing my part here in Michigan and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or insight as to how to get more people signing the petition and also how to make more people aware that this tragedy exisits today in such huge numbers all around the world.

STUCK is coming to Grand Rapids, MI

Tuesday, April 30th at 7:00 to the AMC Grand Rapids 18.

Please consider purchasing tickets early by clicking here.

Message me if you will be attending. I’ll be there helping out where needed. No matter your connection to adoption would you consider standing up this week and using your voice to spread the message of the waiting child. Please sign the STUCK petition here and also share it anywhere and everywhere. It is true that alone we can do so little but together we can do so much. Thanks for spreading the word!

Take a listen to this beautiful tune that so fits the mission of the STUCK documentary:

How will you use your voice this week?

Our return to Chapa… {an invitation to join the Chapa family}

As we made our long journey to Ethiopia I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. After a couple of days in the bustling city of Addis Ababa we would head south toward Awassa and then on to the small village of Chapa. It had been a  year since visiting Chapa for the first time and the beauty I saw then in the faces of the children and the people of the Chapa community was enough to make me long to return with others to share in the wonder and joy I saw.

We traveled in vans, luggage piled on top, looking as conspicuous as ever as we turned down the narrow side road that would lead to the Chapa school. The area was a tropical paradise.

making our way with our three awesome drivers… Randy rules!

The children began running alongside, chanting, cheering and smiling from ear to ear.  Those who were walking, working outside or peeking out from their home would stop to wave and even bow with gratitude.  Their joyous welcome was contagious and the drive toward the school was one we won’t soon forget.

Our welcome…


four little onlookers…


As we entered the Chapa compound we were greeted with a warm welcome of kisses, hugs and songs from the children. I stood for a moment feeling as I did last year, thinking that only God could have delivered me to such a stunning place. It is true. God will deliver and use you if you are willing to say YES. He is the creator of healing and maker of dreams and He uses everyday people to be His hands and feet if you are willing. There is so much to share about the days we spent soaking up the children of Chapa that it will likely take some time to process and share.  Often we GO believing we will be ministering to the destitute and the broken, but without a doubt it was the community of Chapa that ministered to each of us. Their needs are great. The village is rural and very poor. Children’s Hopechest discovered Chapa a few years back and came alongside the community church to create a school.  The Chapa Carepoint was born. From there a sponsorship program was created. Sponsoring a child at Chapa means that the children have access to discipleship, healthcare, uniforms, school supplies and monthly food to share with family. Sponsorship works and from what I witnessed during this visit the entire school is starting to do more than just survive. I saw children who look healthier and more full of life.  I witnessed HOPE.

This is what HOPE looks like as these three children rock their blue uniform sweaters. Attending school provides a future!


It was in this church that the children raised the roof with their praise!


 The Chapa community is so worthy of His great love and support. In one year sponsorship has grown but we are not done yet. Now it is very personal and we are on a mission to share the vision we saw for the children of the Chapa village.  Even with language as a barrier,  it was clear that the children have BIG dreams and we feel convicted about coming alongside them, community to community,  in order for them to become the children God intends.  Their future is bright! Join me in spreading the word about the faith and hope we witnessed at Chapa. Sponsor a child or share this link with others who might. God delivered us to the small remote village of Chapa so that we might see Him more clearly through the eyes of His children and I already yearn to return.

Stay tuned for more updates on our visit to Chapa.There is much more beauty to share.

Peace and Grace,




I must admit I am already missing Ethiopia. Never thought I would say that so soon after enduring that grueling flight but I already long for the day I return. One thing is certain… I am feeling so happy to be home in the arms of my family and friends. We returned last Saturday evening after 30 hours of travel. Our dear son had never been on a plane, through security check points, in front of immigration officials and so much more. His courage was inspiring and as we walked off the plane arm in arm he was visibly eager/nervous to meet his new family. Ava ran toward us and up into my arms. I dropped his arm and he went straight into the arms of my husband., a father and son bond that began over two years ago although they had never met. Yes my husband too has incredible faith and courage. We all embraced and I felt like I was beaming as I introduced all of my children to their new brother. All the while I just kept repeating in my head,  thank you Lord for this precious and divine opportunity. Tadesse is a gift and as much as he needed us it is already clear just how much we all need him.

We made our way home from the airport and the boys were so excited to show him his new room and his home. They were calm and soothing, gracious and helpful in their words and actions and my heart continues to sing as I watch the four of them interact playing soccer, sharing meals, cleaning the kitchen and more. I think it is clear that Tadesse coming home to three brothers was all part of the plan. From his early days in Korah to his days at the boarding school Tadesse is very used to hanging with many boys so coming home to brothers has been a natural fit. Ava is already warming up to him and his gentle heart makes every one feel very comfortable in his presence. He is just so dear.

Tadesse has been granted little time to rest although we are trying to give him breaks. All the kids who gather for soccer in our front yard love the new challenge of his skills and of course the first thing all the men in this house thought he needed was a pair of soccer cleats. That was his first outing on Sunday afternoon.  Yesterday Hayden and I worked at teaching him to ride a bike and he did well trying swimming at the pool. We have tried bagels with cream cheese and bagels with peanut butter. Cream cheese wins. We discovered a spicy bean dip that brought great delight since it was similar to shiro. We pulled through our first drive through this morning and as I was ordering my skim latte I heard him ask from the backseat, “Mom to whom are you speaking?” It took me a minute to make the connection that I was talking to a screen and yes it would look terribly silly had you never been through a drivethrough.  That made us all burst into laughter. “Amazing,” is his favorite response to the water that flows from the refrigerator and the spinning of the washing machine. It is all new and so far I am amazed how well he is adjusting to his new life here with us.

Our days spent together in Ethiopia were such a gift and I will say that I miss learning his history and all that is Ethiopian culture through his eyes. He taught me so much during our week together and the many people we shared our days with were so encouraging and helpful as we went through not only the Visa process but also the process of making some peace with his past and finding some closure with family and friends. I will never be able to get over this boy’s unfailing courage and his unshakable faith. “All things are possible with God,” were the words he spoke daily while we were togther in Ethiopia. If you knew his story and you watched him in his day to day actions today, you would know that his words are so true. This amazing boy was protected as he endured years of hardship and pain. God touched his heart at a very young age and His light shined bright even in the darkest night, carrying Tadesse through hunger, fear, doubt and loss.  Today as he rests on our couch and shares life with us we are filled with excitement and gratitude. Thank you Lord for carrying him home to us.

tadesse exiting plane0195 from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.



A movement that says we won’t rest {every child needs a home}

This Sunday is Superbowl Sunday and millions of people will be tuned in to watch the biggest game of the year. Awesome yes, but the coolest thing is that Coach Tony Dungy and his wife will appear before millions during the halftime show to share their story of how adoption has touched their lives. You will hear how this winning head coach of the 2007 Super Bowl is driving the cause of orphan. He will be encouraging and coaching us all into action. Every child deserves a parent and a home. We know millions will be watching so let’s pray for many hearts to be stirred…

Super Bowl Winning Coach Tony Dungy Featured In Free Halftime Video Kit for Game Watching Parties
January 22, 2012 – AdoptionJourney.org

This year’s football fans gathering at various watch parties will have access to one Super Bowl coach’s personal thoughts during halftime. A free downloadable video kit is available to local game watching party organizers which features Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren.

The video message includes a personal appeal to Americans on the subject of the current orphan crisis and adoption. Dungy is involved with The Adoption Journey Project (www.adoptionjourney.org) to help influence more couples to consider adoption.

“The big win on Super Sunday would be to raise awareness about the millions of children who need a family. I would love to see thousands of local community groups and circles of friends gathering together to stop and consider how they can help,” said Dungy, the winning head coach of the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts.

“With more than 100,000 children in need of a stable and loving family in the US, if just a fraction of groups gathering to watch the Big Game influence just one family to adopt, we would make a huge dent in this social crisis,” said Marc Andreas, Vice President of Marketing at Bethany Christian Services, the largest adoption agency in the country.


CLICK HERE to download the PDF document


CLICK HERE to download the PDF document


You can find various versions of the Tony Dungy video message so you can play it during your watch party on the day of the Big Game

CLICK HERE to download high resolution video file (300MB MP4 file)

CLICK HERE to download lower resolution video file (100MB M4V file)


Copy/Paste the following HTML snippet of code into your webpage file or blog editor using the “SOURCE” view option.


Apple TV: Search YouTube videos for “Tony Dungy Halftime Video”

Tivo (Series 3, HD, HD XL, Premiere): Instructions to search YouTube // Search for “Tony Dungy Halftime Video”


Once you download the video file, you will be able to show it on any computer monitor or connected digital television. But you may also want to burn it to a playable DVD for convenience. Here are suggestions on how to burn the video to DVD.

MAC USERS: Click here for instructions

PC USERS: Click here for instructions


If you’re considering using the Halftime Video, would you leave a comment in the COMMENTS SECTION RIGHT BELOW? We’d love to hear about where you are and what context you’ll be using it or how you will be spreading word about it.

Super Bowl Winning Coach Tony Dungy Halftime Video for AdoptionJourney.org from Adoption Journey on Vimeo.

Orphan Sunday {One day. One voice. One purpose}

Last night I was restless. I tossed and turned and found myself awake a few times with children on my mind. The images of children hungry for security, justice, food, shelter and true love were racing through my mind. Today is Orphan Sunday, a day dedicated to the millions of orphans around the world who are in need of so much. What I found myself doing during my times of waking was praying. This morning I pray for mercy for the little one who is defenseless in a harsh world. I pray for the street children who feel they have no where else to turn. I pray for the mothers who must leave behind children in worlds where perhaps they will be scorned or where they simply cannot feed them. I pray for fatherless in this country and far beyond, the innocent little ones who wait…

This morning I also say a deep prayer of gratitude for those who work tirelessly on behalf of the orphan… You inspire and encourage me and help me to know that pressing on is so important as there is a long way to go in a broken world. The Christian Alliance for Orphans has been an incredible wealth of information and I invite you to visit their website to learn more about how to support the cause on this important day, Orphan Sunday.

Please join me today to defend the cause of the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17) with one voice, one hope , one purpose…

Invest in a Girl {The Girl Effect}

The idea is powerful… invest in a girl. In the developing world many women are forced to marry at very tender ages. Girls are not able to be educated and they work many long hours for survival. Girls throughout the world need our voice to raise awareness. We need to show the world that education is key to changing poverty, slavery, prostitution and the spread of disease. By changing the life of a girl you begin to change a family, a community and eventually the world. How do we do this? I would love to hear your solutions. Begin with one girl and change her life forever. For more information go to http://www.taramohr.com/girleffectposts/

Spread the word…

Change the World!

*you will need to pause the music at the bottom of the page*