No Ordinary Love Ministries Ethiopia {the story of Adanech}

No Ordinary Love Ministries is just one of the reasons we love returning to Ethiopia over and over again . To see children removed from the horrors of the world, restored through intense counseling and education and eventually returned to their families whenever possible, is truly the best way to protect and serve children in Ethiopia. During the team trip last February @Angela Wu was able to capture this beautiful story of a child returned back to the life of being a child.

no ordinary love ministries // adanech from Angela Wu on Vimeo.

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

When Mountains are Moved… {saying yes even in our mess}

As we drifted off to sleep we were both recalling the last twenty two months and marveling at just how hard it was. There were hurdles,  decisions, paperwork and heartache.  There were outside influences we never considered and the fitting of a round peg into a square hole. Some days {often} we were weak in our faith and feeling so inadequate to handle everything that came along with saying yes! Yet through all the many challenges God was quietly delivering connections and healing . God was there ever so patient, guiding us with unending love. The months of hard clicked by and then just like that the pieces began to fit together like the most gorgeous puzzle you have ever completed. We just keep witnessing one miracle after another and where I struggled with doubt lately God has blown the doors wide open to increasing my faith in ways I could have never imagined.  I could not be more grateful to be a part of such a bold testament to God’s perfect grace through Tadesse’s story.

We were just ordinary people directed to Ethiopia to adopt a little girl who needed a family.  What we could never have predicted was how one yes would lead to another and another and yet another.

God says to ordinary people like me and you that instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes we need to keep our eyes open for people in need, do something about it and bow our whole lives to Him instead.

-Bob Goff

Nearly four years ago we met a 15 year old child in Ethiopia who needed someone to believe in him and to trust that his needs could be helped through sponsorship.  We helped send him to school through sponsorship, lifting him out of the extreme suffering he had known for years and allowing him basic comforts of food, shelter, meals and an education. He took the opportunity by storm and let me just give a little plug here… Sponsorship changes the world literally one child at a time. Sending a child to school provides a purpose and a hope that is lasting. Sponsoring a child is a simple way to share the great resources we have been given with those living in significant poverty. Sponsoring a child shows God’s mandate to serve the least of these through you.

I’m not sure I’ll ever truly understand the connection to this one specific child as I opened the van doors to a sea of needy children. It is still a feeling I cannot truly describe but was very similar to the feeling of our daughter being placed in our arms and realizing that while she did not come from my body she was being given to us to protect and raise her to become a strong citizen of the world. I would return to Ethiopia and spend time with him only to realize he was very special in his integrity, his grit and his drive to climb out of the circumstances he had been dealt. Our connection was instant and deep.

And then the unthinkable happened. I stood watching him serve in Ethiopia and realized that perhaps he could be educated in the USA.  From there it is a long and sordid story of many questions, opinions and doubts. There was the endless paperchase and yes more questions and doubts. Of course I knew the idea was crazy but I was trusting God that having been broken for the orphan and the vulnerable child had brought me to the place of saying yes in a radicial way. We took him on as a student, coming to America to be educated.  What we could not have known was how deeply God was sowing the seeds in our hearts to care for him as our very own child. We became his and he became ours.

There was excitement and beauty but almost imeediately there was also great hardship.  There were misunderstandings, rules he did not know how to follow, educational challenges, many cultural differences and days we all wanted to give up. We made so many mistakes, overwhelming ourselves to the point of shutdown. We pushed hard in times when perhaps we should have been patiently listening and trusting that God was literally lighting the path in times of darkness. It was a wild ride through his first year here in the USA. We pressed on and I can remember hundreds of times asking God why helping a child needed to be so hard for him and for our family. Had I not heard properly back in Ethiopia when God delivered the idea of the student Visa?  Now there was safety and he was living with the basic needs such as clean water, medical care, clothes, three meals a day, an education and a family, but the days were difficult and we were exhausted through it all.  Looking back I can now see God’s plan was to teach me more than to assume that these things were enough, and after all these months I think we are finally starting to get it. The aha moments are flowing and I now see that coming to America, to all the choices, the consumerism, the me attitudes, the constant next best thing and stimulation can create the perfect storm for one who needs calm, community, their native toungue and of course Jesus as their everything. Two cultures and burdened hearts were colliding and the storm needed to rage in order for us to look upward.

So here we are today watching God transform and move mountains in this boy’s life.  Soon Tadesse will graduate from two years at a fabulous high school where he has touched lives and changed hearts. In fact today is his last day of classes. Yahoo!  Recently he needed to create a senior project sharing his testimony and life story. Not an easy thing to do when you have a harrowing history of pain and loss. We prayed and we talked and we prayed some more and then one day while on vacation we watched the words flow as he put his story on paper and came to us ready to share his words along with pictures of his years spent surviving in Ethiopia.  As you might imagine his project was difficult to share but he did it. He presented in front of a few classmates,  family and friends and has been asked to present on the last day of school to his entire graduating class. And there my freinds is where I find God using this boy to open eyes. Tadesse wanted to decline the offer and move on to the next opportunity of a small Christian college where he was recently accepted but as a family we know this is all part of the journey. He will speak to his entire class during chapel just days before he will become a high school graduate. Then there will be a well deserved summer break complete with his first ever job.  Yes he now has a job, another miracle and another mountain moved through tremendous faith and obedience.

Are you inspired yet by the idea that God will give you what you need after you are called to the radical and the hard? The timing will likely not look like the timing I know we were searching for each day but never give up hope.

Say yes to something or someone that needs you. Start small but dream and pray BIG. Don’t wait for the perfect time or the day when your mess is perfectly tucked away. Frnakly that day might never come. Think about it… is there ever really a perfect time for radical change?  Fortunately we are not all called to serve the same people in the same places so think of the impact we could have as a community who says yes with intention and radical faith. For one boy who had nobody our yes mattered. Yes changed his world and certainly ours.  Who might be waiting for you to say yes?

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I’m eager to see what mountains God moves next… Have a wonderful spring weekend.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s next? {an upcoming adventure}

Our dining table is filled with supplies such as bug spray, batteries, sunscreen and protein bars. This time the preparation is for my amazing and steadfast husband. In just one week he will be headed to Haiti for a completely new mission experience. He will join his Father and several others as they team up to provide dental relief to those in need. The needs are great and the hours of safety and light will be few so we are praying fervently that God gives them the strength, wisdom and courage to do any and all they can to help as many as they can with pain relief.

Just imagine a toothache that will not relent. Imagine a rotten area of your mouth that feels so foul and gives you shooting pain when you try to chew whatever food you have. Imagine a broken smile or an infection that continues to persist.  Some of the infections might even go systemic and cause further health problems. The needs in Haiti are many and last year Bob’s Father and step mother embarked on a journey to Haiti to partner with the wonderful Mallery and Frentz  Neptune who founded Haiti Foundation Against Poverty.  Find out more about what Mallery has been called to in Haiti and learn about how she and her Haitian husband work to provide love and protection for the Haitian people, especially children. Mallery and our family started to cris cross paths a couple of years ago as the Mallery’s have a close friend who is of course from Ethiopia and the Neptunes have several supporters right here in Grand Rapids as she graduated Cornerstone University. We have felt a pull toward Haiti for sometime and especially as we have become aware of how long children are waiting to be adopted and how much despair and hardship the Haitian people continue to endure.

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Bob is a third generation dentist who will be teaming up with his second generation dentist and Father to meet whatever dental needs they can with the time they are granted. They will focus specifically on the orphanage and school run by the Neptune’s and also conduct community outreach. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for them to work together, giving of themselves and the skills they have honed throughout their careers.

I can tell you that all of this, the connections, our extended family being lead and the timing are certainly not our own. In fact for many months we have been struggling with a very anxious child who for most of his life has been more than average in the challenging department at home. He is oppositional, needs constant attention and often argumentative as a result of his own lack of developed coping skills. Over the past few months these daily battles have brought us to our knees. We are breaking with this child some days and fearful of what is to come if we cannot find the proper help he needs. It’s often gut wrenching and not what you planned as the relationship and closeness you hope for with your child. Again God’s timing is never our own. but we are trusting the calling. We know that Haiti is where Bob needs to be for one weeks time and frankly we all  hope that we are clearly reminded that even the harshest family challenges do not involve life or death.  We are not faced with the need to sell our daughter to feed our other remaining children and we do not face the threat of disease and the horrors of abduction, rape, starvation and loss that many in Haiti are facing every moment of every day. In fact we have specialists to call, therapists who guide us, a church family to confide in, cell phones that allow us to stay connected to loved ones and the web to help us search for the latest and greatest methods of parenting and supporting our son.  So you see God’s timing is one of perfection and mercy and He will allow Bob to be changed and rearranged in exactly the way He sees fit so as to place him back in our home to deal with the hardships we face right here each and every day.

One could argue I have said too much and if that is the case then so be it but I am striving ( and believe me sometimes even struggling)  to accept the timing of all of this in our lives. My trips to Ethiopia to lead others to Chapa and various ministry partners doing great works always happens in mid February. Months ago we thought the trip to Haiti meant I should not bring a team to Chapa and Ethiopia this year but again the super miracle happened and God showed us a way. My husband so deserves this journey to Haiti to learn what it is he is supposed to learn and to give of himself like he does each and every day right here in his dental office and also at home with five kiddos. He needs to work hard, to worship with the Haitian people, to be challenged both mentally and physically in different ways. He needs to give back and to change a life, maybe removing pain or fear even if the outcome is not perfect and the fix is fleeting. He needs to minister to others with his quiet example of strength, humility and wisdom.  Please join usin prayer asking for Bob and his entire team to be the hands and the feet while on the ground in Haiti. Stay tuned as I share more of their journey right here….

Just Say Yes… {The One Child Campaign Experience}

Having been home just one week, I find myself looking through my photos over and over again trying to process all that we did and saw while In Ethiopia. I am always grateful that I get a bit crazy about needing to document our adventures through photos. As I comb through all the images I see the answer to the most common question I am asked before and after my trips, so what do you guys do when you are in Ethiopia? It’s a fair question but a tough one to answer without people’s eyes glazing over.  So instead of searching for the words to explain what we do I thought I would let the images do the talking. The images show just a few of the many reasons why I continue to say yes. I have been called to come alongside the hurting and the broken in Ethiopia and I am deeply passionate about sharing the plight of women and children with you. Join me and see for yourself how God will use you to be His hands and feet.

My trips are organized and run by my dear friend, Caleb David of One Child Campaign. Like me, he believes that short term mission trips help to create awareness and build relationships, funnel resources and develop partnerships for long term sustainable solutions.  Caleb and I both feel that being part of a mission team, listening and learning first hand, is vital, yet the real work begins when individuals return home. From there we have watched congregations or networks become inspired to act, sponsorship programs started, missionaries supported and so much more. Who knows why God is calling you to Ethiopia but no matter the reason I encourage you to say yes. Say yes to stepping outside of your comforts. Say yes to being vulnerable to the pain of the destitute and the orphan.

Please take a look at upcoming trips by visiting the One Child Campaign website. Caleb’s gift is the way in which he allows team members to view the need in Ethiopia while deeply respecting and honoring culture, ministry partners and the human spirit. Your One Child trip will be an authentic look at Ethiopia and her needs as well as where you can engage to become part of the solution.

And now a glimpse into what it is we do while in Ethiopia…

caring…

 

creating…

 

Engaging…

 

praying…

 

teaching…

 

 

feasting…

 

honoring…

 

reuniting…

 

returning…

 

laughing…

 

listening…

 

advocating…

 

loving…

 

delighting…

 

playing…

observing…

 

Looking forward to sharing more soon…

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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,

Melanie

 

Shine Your Light for the Glory of a Risen King…

I sat in church this morning moving back and forth between smiles and tears.

 The tears fell hard as we sang this song:

Shine your light and let the whole world sing… the lyrics just speak to me and all I could think about

was the deep love and rich changes that have happened in my life since my first trip to Ethiopia.

Take me as you find me all my fears and failures

I give my  life to follow everything I beleive in. Now I surrender.

I sat in awe worshipping a God who has shouldered my pain and given me a life I  never dreamed of. I sat thinking that in giving my life to others I have never felt so much has unexpectantly been given to me in return.  The tears fell because God continues to strip away my comforts so that I might see and know those whose needs are far greater. It is God’s doing and the passion I have to lead others to Ethiopia runs deep. Consider joining me to care for orphans and needy people in Ethiopia. Come alongside as we worship alongside those who need to good news of the cross. In additon you will be fillied by the deep faith and warmth of the Ethiopian people and the specatcular nuances of a very rich culture.

God is the author of salvation and for me that is more than enough proof that we must be doing more to reach all people who need love, compassion, dignity and respect. So many men, women and children wait for us to act. This Easter why not consider a radicial journey for yourself or someone else in your life?

 I was so encouraged as I listened to our pastor end his sermon almost shouring to us to go out into the world and to share the story.  Get out into our neighborhoods, workplaces, homes and city streets,  but do not forget that in many parts of the world the numbers of orphans, widowed and hurting people are staggering. Maybe you are being called to do more… I will be leading a team back to Ethiopia in February of 2013 and I would love to have you come along side me to shine your light for the wole world to see and hear. We are called to defend the poor and the fatherless  and why not make Easter Sunday the day you say yes! I partner with both One Child Campaign and Children’s Hopechest and the trip will be an authentic look into the tabgible ways to serve those in need in Ethiopia.

What are you waiting for? Message me with any questions at

Strobels@mac.com

Shine your light and let the whole world sing… For the glory of the risen KING!