Parenting is the most challenging job on the planet. When to say yes and when to say no. There are no online courses or roadmaps to prepare you for the choices you will be forced to make for and with your children and every day I am aware of how much responsibility it takes to help them walk in the light, seeking God and making good choices for themselves and for others they connect with throughout the day. As the mother to one little toddler home from Ethiopia two years ago and now a teenager who joined us this summer, there is not a day that goes by that I do not see all the many faces I have met in Ethiopia in the gorgeous brown eyes of my children. I think about how every child needs a protector, confidant and an advocate yet for much of the world that is not the case. Children exist on pennies a day and things like clean water and education are luxuries. This is true for many children I met during my visits to Ethiopia. Many children are alone, orphaned or estranged from someone who might care for he ir she. Many take to the streets with the all too true realization that there is no hope and they must live for today. As I sat last night listening to my teenage Ethiopian son open up about his past, one thing truly hit home. “Mom I always knew there was a God,” he told me, ” but it was difficult to follow God’s ways when I did not know exactly what they were.” How true that statement must be for so many hurting children in the USA and beyond. Many have never had the exposure to the story of Jesus, a man who walked the earth teaching us by example, showering love and teachings on the all he encountered. Tadesse also shared that while he grew up without a parent or anyone to care for him, it was impossible to trust anyone. “In Ethiopia Mom, you cannot trust anyone to tell you the truth when you are a kid who is all alone.” I listened and agreed knowing all too well that much of the poverty I have witnessed in Ethiopia could force any person into deceptive behavior. The fight to survive generally trumps everything. The lesson behind his words is this. We need to keep sharing the gospel in the unreached places of the earth. We need to personally be the hands and feet of Jesus every moment we can and we must spread hope in the dark, dangerous and difficult places that exist far and wide. We need to be the conduits of peace, showering whoever we can with love and perhaps an opportunity.
I am asked almost daily how all of this happened to our family. I am asked why Ethiopia and I am complimented so often that we are amazing for all that we are doing. The questions are expected especially when you see our whole crew together and although the compliment kind, my response is the same. We are not superheros. We are just an imperfect family that said yes. We said yes to the nudging that all that we have should be shared with others in need. We said yes to the idea of educating ourselves on the plight of those living in unspeakable poverty throughout the world. We said yes to adoption from a country where the unthinkable all too often happens to children and especially girls growing up with nobody to protect them. We said yes to the journey to give up on the expected so that we might experience the unexpected. We are not superheros I can assure you of that. It was saying yes and nothing more. God really did do the rest as we looked away from our fears and relied more on his perfect grace. I wish I could better explain it as it has been a journey like no other and one that I wish for others if they so choose. We are passionate about adoption, paying our blessings forward and providing opportunities to those in need. We love tolerance and acceptance of all that embracing another country has taught us and our children. We love to share our hearts and all that has happened since saying yes and we certainly love knowing that what we have seen firsthand, both the beauty and tragedy that is Ethiopia deeply compelled us to act. There is a hunger inside all of us to stare injustice in the face, to fight for another, to advocate for a cause. Where does your heart lie? What pulls you in and calls you to action?
I will return to Ethiopia this February 2013 to visit the Chapa Carepoint where many little ones are educated and discipled each day in rural Ethiopia. With the help of One Child Campaign, we are currently building a team to come along. Chapa is located outside of Awassa and as we drove through lush tropical forest I simply could not believe the beauty and the smiles. The road was very narrow. Kids darted from their chores of collecting wood or tending flocks to run alongside our van. They hollered and gestured for our water bottles, a luxury in a place where water can only be found hours away and plastic containers are sparse. They ran barefoot until they could run no more and they waved us on with wild and happy abandon. Some held a notebook but most did not. Chapa is a place where some 300 children wearing the tattered blue uniform sweater go each day for schooling in classrooms without walls and mud rooms that are sunk down into the ground. While it is wonderful that 300 children have a place to go each day for learning, fellowship and care the reality is that many children will never have the means to attend school. Many do not have basics such as food, water or shoes and many children become the workers of the family, tending goats in the field or walking for hours to carry home one large yellow jug of unsanitary water. Education, mentorship and faith is crucial to those developing and growing up in the harsh conditions of the third world. I saw what I saw and forgetting it is impossible. Now more than ever we can make an impact one life at a time. We can be the change by partnering with people and communities in need. We can go and love on Ethiopia’s people, showing them an example of God’s perfect love. We can sponsor a child and make he or she like one of our very own, loving and praying for them, writing to them and even visiting them to develop lifelong connection. Ethiopia is so rich in history, faith and culture and yet you will marvel at how people have survived for so many years. It is a place like no other and I invite you to join me. Perhaps, you are complimented on your hard work, wonderful family and kind heart and while there is such pride in that, there is also a call to go deeper and experience more. Maybe we could all use a little less time on the merry go round of life and a little more time giving our lives away? Sometimes seeing the other side radically changes the very side you are on. I know that is the case for me and mine. We are not Superheros and never will be. We are simply seekers of wisdom and grace whose hearts lie in the promise that changing the life of even one will make the world a better and more tolerable place. Maybe a trip to Ethiopia is just what you need. We love on people, especially children, We play and worship, we break bread and celebrate leadership at various organizations both in the capital city and beyond, we listen to the testimony of children and adults who have been broken and redeemed, we learn from other Americans who have moved to Ethiopia to open Children’s homes and daycare centers. We humbly walk alongside the lonely, the lost and the destitute doing whatever we can to show them love even if it is only a smile. Come away to Ethiopia and you will see for yourself just what it is that keeps calling me back.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39
Peace and Grace,