Connections… {a roadmap to Uganda and Ethiopia}

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my little love helping me pack up goodies...

Come along and embrace with me the WORLD!

Peace and Grace,

Melanie