Category Archives: Missions

A Birthday Wish { for 17 kids}

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

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

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

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

Click here to see their profiles:

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

Peace on the journey,

Melanie

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Providing Strength and Dignity… {orgs you should know}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Grace,

Melanie