Sunday, December 21, 2008

Prayer Changes Everything!

Tezera Kebede - Orphanage Director
Orphans and Widows' Home

We had a great question from one of our blog readers:

I just read a little on your blog page (great blog and website, btw!!!). If you get a moment, what happened with the baby boy? Sweet little thing, I am praying that he is alright. Blessings, Cathy

So glad that you asked, Cathy! Here is Joy's response, retelling in more detail the story of this sweet baby boy.

Three months ago an older, very poor woman gave birth to a baby boy. She simply had no resources or strength to care for him, so she brought him to our orphanage wrapped in rags. We cleaned him up, fed him and tenderly cared for him, but he was in a weakened condition and became quite sick. Our nurse took him to the doctor who placed him in the local hospital on antibiotics for his pneumonia. Pneumonia in Ethiopia can be, and quite often is, fatal. Over the next month or so, this tiny baby was in and out of the hospital struggling for survival. He was not gaining weight. When I went to see him in October nothing could have prepared me for the condition of this extremely poor, crowded and dirty hospital. A nanny stayed with our baby around the clock providing full care including his bedding, food, diapers and clothing. I was alarmed at this tiny patient’s condition and obvious deterioration, so we made the decision to pack him up and take him to Addis Ababa where more sophisticated care could be provided.

A very capable pediatrician examined him in the Korean Christian Hospital in the capital city, and he immediately hospitalized him and put him on a broad spectrum antibiotic. This hospital was clean and well staffed. His nanny at his side, our precious boy received good care. The doctor also was concerned about his heart and ordered an echocardiogram and EKG. The results of those tests showed he has a ventricular septal defect which is a small hole in his heart. This can be corrected with surgery, or many times it closes by itself over time.

Now Baby M is back in our nursery and is doing very well! With his pneumonia finally cleared up, he is gaining weight and is a happy boy. Every month our staff takes him back to the cardiologist in Addis Ababa and the doctors feel confident that his heart problem will resolve on its own. And now he is available for adoption!

Many, many people have lifted this fragile little one up before the Lord and we know that God’s hand is on him. One of our orphanage directors has a prayer room in her compound. Tezera is a prayer warrior of the first order, and once a week her prayer team meets for 24 hours of prayer. While we were in Addis with the baby, Tezera called me and said, “Joy, Baby M’s heart is okay. During our prayer time last night, God said he will have no trouble with his heart.” That news came at a time when I wasn’t all that sure of the prognosis! What an encouragement to know that this godly woman prays for the children.

If any of you reading this has a heart to pray, would you consider praying for one of our children until he (or she) is given a permanent family to love, care for and guide him? My goal is to have every child in our adoption program matched with a prayer partner here in the U.S. who will commit to diligently pray for that child. When a family has chosen a particular child, then we ask that you continue to pray for the child and his family until the adoption is finalized.

What an honor we have to stand boldly before the Lord of all holding the hand of one child. John 15:5 says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing,” and we know that is absolutely true!

Joy Casey

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Know Our Kids

by Joy Casey

When we started our adoption thrust in Ethiopia, we knew one of the strengths of our ministry was our relationship with the children in our orphanages. I rely on the directors to identify children for our adoption program, but because I am the point person for the adoptive families here in the U.S., I also needed to meet and get to know the children myself.
I traveled to Ethiopia with the express purpose of exploring the backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses of the children. I talked to the orphanage staff who were very forthcoming about the children, but I also wanted to get an assessment of how they were doing in school academically as well as socially.
So, I set about visiting every child’s school and speaking with their teachers. Not only did I get a chance to talk to the person who spends the majority of every day with the child, but I was able to see the school setting and assess their teachers and quality of education. I am happy to say that the educators I met and spoke with were dedicated professionals wanting to bring out the best in their students. Class size is extremely large and many schools teach in shifts, but still the teachers knew the children and candidly shared with me about them. I asked how they could be better supported academically, and over and over the teachers said that if they had consistent help at “home” most of them would be good, if not exceptional, students. To that end, Adoption Ministry hired a tutor to come to the orphanage every afternoon and spend several hours helping the children with their homework with an emphasis on their English studies.
I also had time to just hang out with the children. We took long walks together, they showed me their homework, and loved combing my hair and marveling over my freckles! The older children had a fairly good handle on English and talked to me about their hopes and dreams. I played peek-a-boo with the toddlers giving them big hugs and spent hours holding and feeding the babies.
It was during these precious times with the children that the Lord impressed on my heart His incredible love for each child. Yes, I need to do my part as well as I can, but this ministry is in His hands and we will move ahead under the anointing of the Father of the fatherless.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Time To Listen - A Time To Pray

By Mark Wolbert

My wife Liane and I led a missions team to Ethiopia this past July bringing encouragement to orphans and widows, teaching children in a VBS setting, giving medical check-ups to street children, and building relationships with YWAM leadership in Ethiopia. A busy time! My trip this past October was much more relaxed and I was able to devote longer periods of time to listen to the children’s testimonies and to minister to the spiritual needs of the YWAM Children’s Director as well. This was a great privilege.

I stayed in a small wooden building in the YWAM Children’s Home compound. My makeshift room soon became known as a prayer chapel. The young people came one by one eager to tell the amazing stories of their life experiences. Through tears, they recollected their parents’ death from complications due to AIDS and the terror of being turned out onto the streets by relatives, some as young as 5 or 6 years of age. They laid bare their souls as they told about begging for food to stave off starvation. Some of the children had formed pseudo-family groups for protection and then watched as these “family members” over-dosed on street drugs or were killed in gang violence.

When the leader of YWAM’s Children’s Home showed up with bread and tea to give to the hungry children on the streets, it was hard for these throwaway children to believe Abdissa was genuine and had pure motives. Abdissa did not push children to come in from the streets right away; he spent time getting to know them. He fed them, befriended them and introduced them to Jesus. He reached out as a father to these fatherless children and they slowly began to trust Abdissa. Because of this young man’s consistent love, one by one, 25 children moved into the sanctuary of the Children’s Home where security, regular food, education and reassuring boundaries awaited them. I was able to pray with each young person who came to me and I especially loved the end of their stories when they told about finding the saving grace of Jesus and how He healed them and brought them into a good place.

For several nights I sat and listened to the pain of these young people. I listened to their hopes and fears of the future. My heart began to break like a father for every one of them. I had no solutions to offer. I could only reflect the Father’s love to these children as I prayed for each one, broken but now on the path to wholeness.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Let's Hear From YOU!

We want so much for this blog to truly be a 'community!' We'd love to hear about your own experience with adopting from Ethiopia. Or maybe you have a question about international adoption that we might be able to answer. Just leave a comment at the end of this post and we'll try to address your questions in an upcoming post.

Joy (our Adoption Ministry Director) and Mark (our mission/service team coordinator) are both back from their trip to Ethiopia in October and are planning to share many of their experiences and pictures in this blog. Stay tuned!

In His faithful love,


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Joy's Last Update From Ethiopia


Hello! Today is October 23rd and I will try to make this short. If I can get this out, it will be the last email I send. It is very, very difficult finding good internet service ….
Today we left the precious children in Adama and headed for Addis. We brought two babies who are going to be adopted to the transition home and we brought the baby boy I told you about to have an echocardiogram. I am also going to try to get him in to see a really good pediatrician we heard about to see what is going on with this little boy.
It was very hard to leave the children and babies …. very hard. In the five days I have been with them, I have grown to love each of them … big and small … The older children have drawn me so many pictures and written love notes to me that are a treasure.
I am happy to say that I accomplished everything I set out to do in Adama: all the children are processed through the Adama court (thus, are ready for adoption) and I got much more information on almost every child. We hung mosquito netting over every crib in the nursery and set up sanitary procedures. The nannies working with the babies are very lovely, caring women who love on the babies and take the best care of them. They were sad to see two babies leave today … and yet happy they will have their very own family. Another baby boy will soon leave for the transitional home.
Yesterday we spent time with all the widows in the community as well as the ones living in the Orphans and Widows’ Home. We bought flour to distribute to the community women and it was fun to watch them patiently wait their turn as the flour was measured into their bag and then hoist it on their back tied with a cloth. It was fun to play with the children …
I am extremely tired and have a busy day tomorrow. I will meet with the YWAM Children’s Director and see what we can do for the sick little baby boy. We have an appointment to have the results of the echo explained to us.

Only two more days and I head home. I am anxious to see my hubby and to have a couple of days to sleep before Monday rolls around.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Joy Checks In From Ethiopia

Salome! (That is Ethiopian for “howdy!”)
It is Friday evening (Oct 23) rather late and I am bushed. Today was packed full! After sending emails this morning (which is a trial of your patience), we headed out for the Orphans and Widows’ Home that we started early this summer. It is a beautiful facility with 8 children (all adoptable) and 6 widows (who are precious). There was a newcomer - a 5-year-old girl. The rest are all boys that have been there awhile. It was so fun to watch them play. The little boy who is HIV positive looks so good! He has energy and has definitely put on weight … and he is a charmer! Tezera is the director of this wonderful haven, and I always feel invigorated and strengthened just being around her. She is unique in every sense of the word.
I spent time with the nurse that Adoption Ministry has hired to work at both orphanages compiling a list of meds and other nursing paraphernalia as well as talking about sanitary procedures, etc. Then we met the lawyer who is processing our kids, getting them ready for adoption. (Ethiopia definitely moves at a much s-l-o-w-e-r pace than we do! Again, my patience was tested to the max.) The lawyer was a very kind, patient man who I really liked. He joined us for a delicious lunch Tezera’s staff prepared for us. I loved all the old ladies and reveled in watching the children’s enthusiasm over every little thing. They are so happy …. and they have absolutely nothing to play with except each other!
After time with the Joseph Children’s Director …. we visited one little 5-year-old boy in his home. It is the poorest hovel I have yet to set foot in. His mother is very pretty and young and what with rent at $1.00 a month and the price of food …. her hit and miss servant jobs cannot sustain her and her mother and her son. The little boy is being supported in school by the orphanage and is doing well. Monday, we are going to visit all the children’s schools and get a teacher’s report on their progress academically as well as how they do socially.
Then came the saddest part of our day. We visited one of our orphanage babies in the hospital where he was hooked up to an IV. He is a very sick little baby. Mark and I wanted to take him and run! Each child has a caretaker with them 24 hours a day and you provide your own everything and there are 4 cribs in a small room. This baby has a wonderful nanny who is like a mother to him and she tenderly stays by his bed and feeds and changes him. She is very sweet. Please, all who are reading this, please pray for this little baby boy. The doctors think it is his heart and want him to have an echocardiogram. In order to do that, he has to be transported to Addis. I honestly am afraid he will not last long. He needs a divine touch … or wisdom to know what to do for him. We have an appointment to talk with his pediatrician tomorrow afternoon.
I will close this very busy day. It is hot and dusty, but I am loving this warm weather! We drive about in little 3 wheel glorified motor cycles, but I like them because they have no doors or windows and the breeze is refreshing, plus they are a lot cheaper than a taxi. It’s an adventure!!
God’s blessings on each of you …

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mark Checks In From Ethiopia


I've been busy my first week here in Ethiopia. I spent one night in Addis Ababa and left for Adama where we've been dividing our time between the Joseph's Children's Home and The Orphan's and Widows Home where Tezera is the director. Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the greater part of the day with Tezera. As much as I DISLIKE shopping, I did LIKE getting to hear her story as she shared about her life. She talked to me about what life had been like living in Ethiopia before during and after the Dirg, the hardships she encountered studying in Cuba for a degree and the early years of her work in Compassion International... I see now how God used such hardships to create strength in Tezera - it produced fruit and it shaped her into a strong resilient person, a leader that God is using among the widows and orphans in her own country.
While shopping, school let out and it was fun seeing all the kids walking home in their uniforms with stainless steel lunch pails. I was approached at LEAST 30 times by children wanting to practice their English: "Hello, How are you?" "My name is Mabucu." "What is your name, please?" "I am 10 years old." "I am in grade 4." " How old are you and what grade are you in school?" "Hello!!" My name is Jerusalem!" I am so very glad to meet you!" You are the first white man I have ever met!! May I touch your hair please?" Thank you!" That was fun!! Such great little people.
At Joseph's Children's Home we've stocked the nursery with diaper pails, installed mosquito nets over each crib, purchased bottles, nipples, bottle brushes and pans to boil bottles in and the material that diapers are made from. As you can guess, every item is purchased from a separate shop.. a shop for pails, a shop for pans, another for brushes. The idea of "ONE STOP SHOPPING" hasn't caught on yet... :---) Which is great - it means I get to meet that many more people! Tezera, like my wife Liane, seems to know everyone, everywhere... People come out of the woodwork when she walks down the street!
In Ethiopa a greeting takes time; "hello" kissing, talking a bit and then "goodbye" kissing. You repeat that a few times and then it's lunch time already. You throw in a little bit of good-natured haggling over prices and a few more kisses and then it's dinner!!

Mark Wolbert
Please be praying for Mark as he travels to several small villages in Ethiopia.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Second Update from Joy


Greetings from Ethiopia!
Today we traveled from Addis Ababa to Adama. Adama is about two hours from Addis and is much hotter than Addis with flowers blooming enthusiastically everywhere. I really like Adama. After we checked into our hotel and had lunch, Mark, Abebe and I went to the Joseph’s Children’s Home. This is the orphanage where we have opened up a nursery. Two new babies and one new toddler have been brought within the last week. The two babies were abandoned …. and they are precious! The Young family (who is adopting a 2-year-old from our other orphanage) sent a suitcase full of baby clothes. The nannies were delighted to get them and immediately put new clothes on all the babies! We lined all seven of them up and took their picture. I was in my height of glory holding babies …. they are soooo adorable!
There was a meeting set up by the orphanage director for me to meet their board. The board president spoke for a long time and then I addressed the group and then we had coffee ceremony. Yes, I drank a cup of coffee! It wasn’t too bad with sugar. Then we got to do what we really wanted to do … interact with the children. I wish each of you could come and see these lovely, gentle children … they are a treasure. A young girl, probably 12, prepared the coffee ceremony and served us. She was so poised and truly gifted in hospitality … you could tell she was honored to serve.
Tomorrow we are visiting several of the community children’s homes, will spend time at the Orphans and Widows’ Home, and we have a meeting set up with our attorney who will give us a status on all the children’s court proceedings and explain to me in more detail just how orphans need to be prepared for adoption. Every day is chocked full and my only wish is that I would have more time here. Ah, well …. I will do the best I can with the time allotted.
I love the balmy breezes, blue skies, and sunshine! It is such a joy to be doing what I am here …. Even though we are working many long hours, I feel like I am on vacation! For those of you who are praying for me, I thank you! There are many decisions that are expected of me, and I certainly need wisdom from above! I am thankful He put Abebe at my side, and I glean from his wise counsel. I also have had a wonderful time with Mark Wolbert and am taking full advantage of his insights. He is a gifted man and it has been so good to receive his “take” on situations. Isn’t God so good to put these two amazing men alongside me?
I send my best to each of you!

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Joy in Ethiopia!

Greetings from the land of 13 months of sunshine! Yes, Ethiopia has 13 months and yes, it is sunshine most every day. I have certainly enjoyed the mild weather of Addis Ababa … in the 70’s during the day with blue skies and warm, not hot, weather.
As always, the sights and sounds of this city of 75 million people bring me face to face with the stark realities of poverty. On the other hand, the general buoyancy of the people amaze me. I spent the last two afternoons with Abdissa, the YWAM children’s director, and was warmly greeted by his 25 children whom I have grown to love so much. Yesterday afternoon after school, they came in and gave me great huge hugs. The older girls especially enjoy the company of a woman and I have such a heart for them! A part of me just wants to stay and be their mother.

As I sat and visited in the livingroom of the home, the children had their after school snack and then, without being told … it is an expectation, got out their homework and began doing it. They all have homework every day and I looked at their work and was quite impressed with the education they are getting. (In Ethiopia, you do not pass to the next grade simply because of your age.) When the children finished their assigned homework, they brought it to Abdissa to look over and he had to sign on their page. From the young kindergarteners to the older boys who were in upper level math and biology, Abdissa took the time to help them, correct and encourage them. He is so proud of the development of his kids.
I also met with the country representative of Children’s House International … the agency we are partnering with to complete adoptions. The adoption procedure here in Ethiopia is much, much different from America with many more steps. Also, things move at a much slower pace than in America.

One of “our” little guys, KBB, is staying at the CHI facility in Addis. KBB is almost 1 ½ years old. We spent time with him and took a bunch of pictures, but he wouldn’t smile for anything! He didn’t cry, though, when I held him … although when I put him down he toddled gladly into the waiting arms of a nanny! He has beautiful eyes and is quite hefty! He is adorable, and I know the family who gets him will have a treasure.
We visited a guest house that the CHI director wanted us to see as we are gathering information on places for our families to stay while they are here getting their child. It was a very nice guest house, but Abebe (our country representative) agreed with me that it was expensive for what you get. One thing about Abebe, he is out to get the best for a good price! I so appreciate him and we are blessed beyond measure to have him representing us.
While I was at the YWAM Children’s Home, Abdissa and I looked at three adjoining compounds. Abdissa would like to have one compound for the boys and one for the girls. Of course, he will need more staff, specifically a woman for the girls. There is a young man from India, Sammy, who is YWAM and married with a baby … he is visiting to see about possibly joining YWAM Ethiopia. He was an absolutely delightful young man … I really liked him. He and his wife could possibly be the houseparents in the girls compound. Abebe and I have also decided that we need to have a nursery under the auspices of YWAM. There are many children Abdissa has identified for adoption, but they need a place to stay until they are adopted. Something has to be done with these children … most of them very young and from poverty the likes of which it is impossible to imagine.
Today Abebe and I will visit with Nega who is the director of the street kids’ drop-in shelter. We will also visit another orphanage. This evening Mark Wolbert will arrive from the U.S. This very gifted man is going to head up and coordinate the missions thrust that several churches have expressed interest in doing over here. It is important that things be planned well and people utilized optimally to the advantage of the ministries we are involved with. I so appreciate Mark’s heart for missions! He will also be checking out some possible connections with other schools and ministries for vocational training for the older children as they complete school.
I must get ready for this day. I am loving every minute of my time here! Last night the lights were out at the guest house (electricity is iffy all over Addis) … so I turned on my computer for its glow as I washed my face and got ready for bed. I was in bed by 8:40 because there was nothing else to do! I had a wonderful night’s sleep and woke up with the wailing from the minaret and had the joy of watching the day unfold with the bright moon receding as the day dawned. Every day is a testament to God’s faithfulness.
I send my love,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Welcome to our blog!

We hope this blog becomes a place for many to learn about international adoption, share their stories of adopting from Ethiopia and spark the interest of many to adopt one or more of these precious children who are in desperate need of a family. I am the Adoption Ministry/Ethiopia administrator and work on keeping our website up to date, communicating with families interested in adopting and learning as much as I can about the process. Joy Casey is our Adoption Ministry director and a wonderful source of help and information. Liane Wolbert is one of our social workers who does many of our homestudies in Washington state, where our ministry is located. Both Joy and Liane will be contributors to this blog. The three of us traveled together to Ethiopia in April where we spent time at both of the orphanages we're working with - one in Addis Ababa and one in Adama. We now have another orphanage in Adama, the Orphan and Widow's Home, which we've helped to start with the help of some very generous donors. We've begun a sponsorship program as well, which is a part of our humanitarian work in Ethiopia. Please do check out our website for lots of great information, pictures and opportunities to get involved.
Becky Burns

Here's a little slideshow of our April trip to Ethiopia!
Click to play Ethiopia 2008
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