Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Christmas Miracle part 2

Here is an edited version of an article that appeared in today's edition of the Arizona Republic newspaper about the other YWAM family who was on the Christmas flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Tober-Halvorsons. Their faith in God's sovereignty is a great testimony, as you'll see in this article.

Please continue to pray for each of these dear family members and for all of the people affected by that incident.

Buckeye family aboard terror flight is safe, adjusting to new members
by Jackee Coe The Arizona Republic

The Halvorson family was taking three newly adopted children to their home in Buckeye on Christmas Day, minutes away from the plane touching down in Detroit. The soft hum of the engine suddenly was disrupted by a loud pop. It was the sound of a terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

"I saw a stewardess . . . turn around and kind of ask herself, 'What was that pop?' She was looking around, and then she started sprinting into action," said Tim Halvorson, 26. "Then I saw people on the right side of the middle section start to stand up and that's when I stood up. Then, we started hearing all the commotion, the screaming, shouting. It was like a movie. It really was."

As the sounds grew louder, the family, which was in the back of the plane, became even more frightened. "You're hearing stuff and you can't really see it," Halvorson's stepmother, Kristen Tober-Halvorson, 47, said in an exclusive interview with The Republic. "It was as if you heard babies screaming in the distance, and it was like a wave of sound coming closer to us and we didn't know what was coming at us."

A flight attendant ran to the back of the plane, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprinted back to the front. The family smelled smoke.

"We thought maybe it was an electrical problem. We still didn't know someone had done anything," Tim Halvorson said. "We just knew there was a fire and there was smoke that we were smelling, and that pop. We didn't know what (was going on)."

Minutes later, panic turned to calm and the plane made an emergency landing at the Detroit airport. The Halvorson family, with the three young children they were bringing home from Ethiopia, was safe on Christmas Day...

The Halvorsons had spent the last week in Ethiopia, where they picked up the children whom Kristen and her husband, Glen, were adopting: Asher Bilisuma, 6, Grace Mihret, 7, and Benjamin Tesfaye, 8. Glen Halvorson, 62, stayed behind to care for the couple's two biological children, daughter Taylor, 13, and son Dustin, 11, and another adopted daughter, Blanca, 7, from Guatemala.

Kristen, stepson Tim Halvorson, and 15-year-old T.J., the couple's third biological child, were excited about bringing home their expanded family as they left Ethiopia on Christmas Eve.
They also were exhausted. The trip had been filled with excitement, and their journey home had kept them awake for about 35 hours. They'd stopped in Sudan, Amsterdam and were on their third leg to Detroit, their final stop before flying into Phoenix... The children, who still are learning English, didn't know anything was wrong, something Tober-Halvorson is "unbelievably grateful" for.

As the incident was happening, Tober-Halvorson said she wrestled with God. She and her husband felt God led them to adopt the three children, but it seemed their life with their new family was going to be cut short. "I was arguing with God, saying I don't quite get that, and I just prayed that he would have mercy on my family," she said. "But I (also) felt total peace. I really didn't think anything was going to happen to us."

...The five-hour delay caused the Halvorson family to miss their flight back to Phoenix. They had to spend the rest of their Christmas in a hotel room in Detroit, tired but grateful. They arrived in Phoenix the next afternoon, and were greeted by Glen Halvorson with hugs and kisses.

There has been little negative impact on the family. Tober-Halvorson, a stay-at-home mom who home-schools her children, said she has had trouble sleeping, but otherwise hasn't been dwelling on it. Neither has the family. The new children have bonded with the family and spend the days playing with their new siblings. They wrestle, ride bikes and scooters and play games. Laughter and squeals of joy echo throughout the family's Verrado home, where they have lived for 18 months.

Glen Halvorson, a doctor, said the family hasn't been shaken thanks to their faith and the support network they have in their church. The family attends Desert Springs Community Church in Goodyear. "It's more of a positive thing of just praising God that we're safe. It just makes me appreciate my family more and just not (want) to waste any time with them," Tober-Halvorson said. "God is in control of everything. Honestly, nobody knows how long they have."
(Here is a link to the complete article. You can also read another article about the Keepmans' faith in the midst of this ordeal published here.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas Miracle

Most of you have heard or read about the attempted terrorist attack on the NW Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit last Friday. Two of Adoption Ministry's families were on that flight, bringing their children home from Ethiopia. Both of these families are very aware of God's presence and protection on that airplane and both were able to keep their children calm and virtually unaware of the situation unfolding on the flight. We're praising God for their safe return!

I'm reminded again of the spiritual battle we enter when we're 'defending the fatherless and the oppressed' - which is really what adoption from Ethiopia is all about. Please be praying for these two families - and all the others who were on that flight - that God's peace would rule in their hearts and minds.

Below is a story about one of the families that appeared in the Milwaukie press:

Local Family Survives Terrorist Flight
By Jay Olstad - TMJ4 News Milwaukie

OCONOMOWOC - An Oconomowoc family is grateful to be alive after flying on a plane that a terrorist allegedly tried to blow up. At the Keepman family house in Oconomowoc, the mood was much different Saturday than it was on Christmas Day.

"God was protecting us, it was a true miracle," said Richelle Keepman. Keepman along with her parents, Charlie and Scotti were flying home, about to land in Detroit when they heard what sounded like a balloon pop.

"And all of a sudden we heard screams from the front of the plane because we were in the way back," she said. A partition blocked their view, but they began to smell smoke and continued to hear people screaming. That's when they saw flight attendants running to the front of the plane.
"It was when they ran to get the fire extinguishers. I think we all saw the terror in their eyes and knew this is it," she said.

So they all held hands and began to pray. Moments later, they landed unharmed. "It really is a Christmas miracle. I think this man's true intent was to blow up the plane," said Richelle.

The Keepmans are happy to be home not only because they avoided this apparent terrorist attack but they brought home two very special Christmas gifts. Their names are 8-year-old Ytbarek and his 6-year-old sister Arsema. They were on the plane too. The Keepman's had just adopted them from Ethiopia and were bringing them home for the first time.

"If something was going to happen I was not going to let them know it was going to happen. When the flight attendant was running by I told them it was a joke and laughed and they thought it was funny," said Scotti Keepman. And they were still laughing Saturday as they played in the snow for the first time in their lives making snow angels.

Now that their home safe and sound, their family believes they all had an angel of their own.
"It's a dream. I could cry because this is what I hoped and prayed for," said Scotti.

(Here is the link to the tv station webpage and a video.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day in Ethiopia

Kelly Bigham and her daughter Kenli are living at our Widows and Orphans Home in Adama. Kelly serves Christ by serving the women and children who have found their way to YWAM's orphanage.

A Day Like Any Other

I’ve spent Christmas away from home before. But I’ve never been in this small room, in this house, inside these four stone walls, along this dirt road, just off the beaten path, in a third world country in Africa. A country that celebrates Christmas on a different date and in a much different way.

When you take away the trees, the stockings, the lights, the plastic yard figures, the music, the candy, the reindeer, the jolly man in red, the huge amounts of food, the family gatherings, the egg nog, the gifts, the plays, the traditions and the count down calendars…..yes, all the STUFF that we add to make it Christmas….well, it becomes a day like any other. I would have never known it was Christmas except I have a ten year old who wouldn’t let me forget! I love Christmas…maybe a bit too much…which is no doubt one of the many reasons I’m here.

I awoke to a strange sound…

(Continue reading here at Kelly's blog Adama Diaries)

Friday, December 25, 2009

For unto us...

Christmas Blessings
in His Wonderful Name!!

From all of us at Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kids Changing the Lives of Kids

One of our adopting moms sent me this email today:

My friend Linda is going strong selling cookies with her grandkids to buy gifts for Ethiopia: laying hens, soccer balls, a bio-sand filter and a goat. Those kids are boldly approaching everyone about it with your little paper you sent out (YWAM's Gift Catalog). Today they are going door-to-door around the neighborhood.

Linda was in the car with the grandkids, explaining why it was so important to do what they were doing... some people don't have enough food and so hens lay eggs which can be eaten or sold to buy more food... water that's not clean can get people very sick, etc...

From the back seat, the 5 year old, Ollie, burst out laughing. Linda was upset at first, thinking he was being very rude. She said, "Why are you laughing?" He replied, "That's so FUNNY!" Linda asked what was so funny.


It's not too late to order a gift from our Gift Catalog in someone's name for Christmas! Go here to find out how you can change a life!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary Christmas

I thought I'd wrap up a few great articles for you to read as you're sitting around with nothing to do! (JK - I know you're quite busy!) Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Help for the Holidays:
Lisa, over at A Bushel and A Peck, is always a wonderful source of encouragement and help to adoptive families. She's mom to eleven (four adopted from Ethiopia) and is project Coordinator for From HIV to Home. She's the one who linked to these handouts written by Deborah Gray for parents raising kids affected by histories of neglect, trauma and anxiety. There are two slightly different versions - one for parenting kids with trauma histories and one for children with anxiety. Good stuff to think about as a particularly stressful holiday season is upon us!

David and Daniel look like they're enjoying Christmas very much!

Why A True Christmas May Hurt:
Stretch marks of a different kind.

It is inside of the family that the seed of redemption has been planted by God. And it began in Mary and Joseph's family!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowed In

***Dec. 22nd update: She's home, safe and sound!

**Dec. 21st update: Joy should be on a flight that arrives in Seattle this afternoon at 5:30! She had to buy a whole new ticket in order to get out before Christmas Eve. Bless their hearts, she and Ben spent 27 hours on that plane between Ethiopia and the US with two sick little ones.

photo courtesy of WABC-TV New York

Obviously that's not Ethiopia. Nope, it's a snapshot of the snowstorm that hit the east coast right before Joy's plane was to land at Dulles in Washington D.C. this morning. They diverted to Newark where she is 'stuck' for an unknown length of time! Please pray that she can get caught up on some sleep and get home as soon as possible!

Clearing the runways photo courtesy of WABC-TV New York

One surprise is that Joy got to fly back to the States on the same flight as one of our adopting dads who was traveling alone to get his two children from Ethiopia. This wonderful dad had prepared to bring an 18-month old and an almost-three year old back by himself! The flight attendants on Ethiopian Airlines are famously helpful with adopting families and their needs but even so, who wouldn't appreciate the help I know Joy must have been? Ben's wife is very anxious to get her husband and two little ones home to join her and their very young son for Christmas!

photo courtesy of WABC-TV New York

We have three families traveling to Ethiopia for Dec. 22nd Embassy Dates - please pray also for their safe (and weather-free) travel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nekemte - Our newest Widows & Orphans Home

Eight hours of either construction or potholes made me think what it must have been like going West in a covered wagon! Abebe, Tezera and I left with our sturdy van sitting a little lower because of all the stuff we packed on top of it and in it. As I climbed in, I sort of felt like the Clampits heading to Californy - minus the rocking chair. We had clothes, blankets, diapers and bottles for two centers. We had disparate items to set up a kitchen for two centers (Gimbie is already mostly furnished), water tubs, stoves, injera keepers, potty chairs, mats and baby scales. But here we were in a good sized town called Nekemte. We had already rented a compound and this would be our first stop.

I was dismayed when we entered because the work we thought had been done, wasn’t. It definitely needed paint and a good cleaning! The only things in the room were five freshly constructed cribs. We drove to the Ministry of Finance office and collected the woman who has agreed to help our adoption project in Nekemte. Then we set out to find paint and a painter.

Because I don’t speak the language and can’t understand all the phone calls and conversations, I was surprised when a tall, good-looking man with a radiant smile showed up and said he could start to paint immediately. We bought creamy-yellow paint for the walls, white for the ceilings and bright blue for the windows and doors and met him at the center where he and his assistant began painting. The girl next door was hired to wash the windows and doors in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.

Our Project Coordinator for the Wollega area of Ethiopia (where our new orphanages are planted) came from Gimbie where he lives and together we visited the Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA). Without their goodwill, we cannot process children for adoption. Our Widows and Orphans Home has already submitted a project proposal which has been accepted, but Tezera was ready with all her paperwork, complete with the correct stamps and letters attached. The three women in this office welcomed us to their “zone” with open arms. At the moment they can only process abandoned children but within a few weeks their office will be opened to assign children and process all adoptions and they assure us they will help us however they can.

Next we visited the 'city MoWA' and had a similar reception. They, too, promised to use our services for the children who have been abandoned and have nowhere to go. We met the Mayor of Nekemte and some other officials and I was overwhelmed with their hospitality and warm greeting, as well as their assurances that we are welcome and needed in their town.

The painting was coming along splendidly, we hired a social worker and our team assembled at the hotel for a nice dinner where the MoWA ladies also joined us. It was a long and very busy day and I was ready for a good night’s sleep!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shop 'Til You Drop

Joy Casey, ministry director for Adoption Ministry, is in Ethiopia. She writes about preparations to drive into the countryside where 3 of YWAM's newest orphanages are located.

Shopping, like so many other things in Ethiopia, takes on new meaning. The Mercado, one of the largest open markets in the world, is our destination. Our country rep Abebe, orphanage director Tezera and I slowly drive into this massive area of shops early on a bright, sunny morning to purchase a long list of needed items for the three new orphanages we are starting in the western part of Ethiopia.

The Mercado is a beehive of activity. Loaded donkeys, men carrying loads of various kinds on their heads or shoulders and children in clothes and shoes past their prime are fetching and carrying. One man has crates of Coca Cola stacked six high on his head going down the street. Women squat beside sellers of potatoes, carrots and onions and load their bags and then stroll to the next booth to buy the fragrant spices for the wat that is commonly prepared for most meals. Along with her veggies and spices, many women have live chickens tucked casually under their arm …. the chickens seemingly resigned to the fact that they most likely will be added to the spices and vegetables to become doro wat for dinner. There is a woman cranking cooking oil out of a huge drum and people bring their recycled containers for her to pump into. Her oil drum sits next to a shop selling flags, t-shirts and various grades of steel wool. A few booths over a man is selling bundles of green rushes that people spread on their floor for the traditional coffee ceremony. Hawkers go up and down the street selling clothespins, sponges and crosses.

I had the dubious pleasure of spending seven long hours among this teeming mass of people and animals, listening to Tezera barter for blankets, teapots, fabric, plastic tubs, water tanks, baby baths…. anything you can think of to set up an orphanage in the outer limits of Ethiopia. An occasional truck rumbles slowly through the throng loaded with barrels, construction materials and bundles and bags of this and that. One truck was loaded with round metal strainers with "USA" boldly printed on their sides. The blankets we bought were from Korea. Some items were from Arabia and, of course, China was soundly represented.

It is hot today. Is it really the middle of December? Sweat is trickling down my back and I lean against a pole holding up an awning (yes, my feet hurt!) but quickly abandon that solution as the stick is wobbly and the awning almost falls down. The proprietor of the store is nice and laughs and then offers me a bundle of peas for a snack which I pick off one by one and gratefully eat. During the entire day at the Mercado, I do not see one other white face. It is not a place for tourist shopping, that is for sure. I have been warned about pickpockets and chose to not carry anything with me.

For the most part, the smells are fresh spices and herbs mixed with the more earthy smell of donkeys. The sounds are a pleasant babble of voices and the sights are uncommon and colorful. Mini van buses load up with people and wares and I am fascinated how they all fit. As we slowly inch away from our parking spot, our van is also loaded to the gills. The last purchase is two large cardboard boxes that we will pack up tonight and load on top of our van for the long journey to Nekemte, Gimbie and Dembidolo where we will set up Widows and Orphans Homes to address some of the needs of the poorest and most helpless. I am hot, tired and hungry. At the same time I realize I have been privileged to experience the unique sights, sounds and smells of a slice of Addis Ababa.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

She's Always Standing There

Shaun Groves - musician, husband, father, blogger, Christ-follower - regularly spends his life seeking sponsors through Compassion International for children living in poverty. He travels all over the world so he can 'be a voice' for those in need. I love his blog because it's honest and because it makes me uncomfortable - that's a good thing.

There’s a little girl from Ethiopia who goes everywhere with me.

She just stands there expressionless, her skin ashen, her hair falling out, her feet missing toe nails, her tongue swollen, her two fingers pointing into her mouth in a silent plea for food.

When I want. When I say “I need,” “I’m poor” or “I’m starving.” When I’m tempted to buy something for someone this Christmas who already has everything. She stands there. She always stands there.

She represents the almost 30,000 kids under the age of five who will die today from poverty...

(Continue reading here at Shaun's blog)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sweet Little Boy

I wanted to share with you the pictures I received from Ethiopia of the little two year old boy that Joy met at the beginning of the month.

His name is Shifera and he has myelomeningocele - a form of spina bifida. His little backbone and spinal canal did not close before he was born. He is suffering from all the complications of this disease and is also challenged cognitively.

Little Shifera has a very loving father who has had sole care of his little boy since his wife died of breast cancer a year ago. This father is a strong Christian man who is struggling to provide and care for his son. He tries to balance making a living and meeting the physical needs of his little boy.

YWAM hopes to find one or two families who will sponsor this man and his son. He needs to hire a caregiver and get him to physical therapy and medical appointments.

Please pray for Shifera and his father!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Helping the poor and needy

Joy Casey, director of Adoption Ministry, is in the Gimbie area of Ethiopia where she is working at our newest Widows and Orphans Home. Monica, a missionary mom who is living near the orphanage, assists YWAM in many ways and has cared for many of the babies now available for adoption. Monica sent us the following glimpse into her daily life.

As I watched the chaplain and a young woman with a baby walk to our house, I knew that there was a problem. Is there something that draws them to me, these women with unwanted pregnancies, widows or those trapped in poverty? I answered my door, knowing an issue bigger than what I could resolve was just on the other side.

Her story was sad - seventeen with two babies, one a little over a year old, this new one in her arms only 3 weeks old. From her tattered clothes, I knew money was a problem. She said that her work over a bar would not allow for the baby, so he had to go. In her desperation, she had brought this child back to the hospital where he had been born, hoping that someone could help her. She hadn’t heard about me, she was just seeking help from a Christian hospital. Since the orphanage is up and running, I walked with her to the Women’s Affairs office, to get their permission to get the orphanage involved.

All this happened on Monday, so by today (Wednesday), I was feeling like I had done my job getting the ball rolling to help her. But today, I got another knock at the door. This time it was from the official who runs the orphanage. He had brought this same young woman with the baby back to my house for me to get her HIV tested and then have me take the baby to the orphanage. I agreed to help, figuring that this would not take but maybe an hour (most of that time would be spent on the 1 ½ mile walk to and from the orphanage). Unfortunately, though, this did not end up being an easy task.

At the ART clinic, I found out that this 17 year old, who should have most of her life ahead of her, was indeed HIV+. Now we needed to test the baby, but the type of HIV test available at our hospital is not accurate until the baby is 18 months old and the PCR test available in Addis is not accurate until the baby is 6 weeks old. So what can this stressed out GIRL do for at least 3 more weeks? She can’t handle having to live on the streets with 2 children, but what are her alternatives?

I have been told that the HIV virus can be transmitted by breast milk, but I have also heard the contrary. So after talking to the nurse at the clinic, we both felt that with the baby’s best interest in mind, we should start him on formula until the PCR test could be completed. Luckily, I am well stocked with formula because of some wonderful people in the States, so giving up a precious large can of formula was not as devastating as before. Two bottles and a scrubby for cleaning them was also distributed to her, along with instructions on cleaning and preparation. This little baby boy was literally in sewn together rags, so four outfits and a couple blankets were given (these were just received by our friend Corie last week, providentially).

As this young woman left our home, my mind kept wondering what the outcome is for this little family. If the little boy doesn’t have HIV, I think his chances to be adopted are great but what if he isn’t that lucky? What if he, too, has the dreaded virus? Will no one accept him? Will he turn out like one of our street kids, who have been orphaned by HIV?

My eyes welled up with tears for the future for him, his sibling and his mother. How did I find myself in a better place than them? My mother is well, married and still kicking after 72 years (her birthday was just a week ago). This little baby did nothing to deserve the life he was handed.

Now most would say, "We can’t help everyone" or "You did the best you could." But as I looked at his perfect little body, I wanted to scream, “This is UNFAIR!!” My parents always told me life wasn’t fair, but today I saw the proof.

So I have two choices: to forget the situation or get involved. Plain and simple, I am at a fork in the road and I can choose to ignore him and his family’s needs or try to lighten their load.

My oldest daughter quizzed me the other day and asked, “Mom, what was the sin that made God destroy Sodom?” I said confidently, “Their sexual sins.” She told me to look up a scripture - Ezekiel 16:49. “Now, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

Wow, I don’t know about you, but I am not wanting fire to come down from heaven because I knew that I should help but I was too arrogant, overfed (Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so that hit home) or unconcerned. So pray for me, that I will help this family in the way that Christ would have helped them. Pray that I do nothing more or less than I would want done to help my own family.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday in Ethiopia

The day yesterday was one of those exquisite days. The sun overshadowed the full moon as the day dawned and we headed out of Adama to T'ede in a Land Cruiser loaded with flour. T'ede is off the main road and the Cruiser followed a "kind of" path past Acacia trees, goats and donkeys and a few stray children until we got to the big haystack. We stopped and two people hefted the four huge bags of flour to the side of the road and we trekked to Pastor Zerahun's house where we fetched the donkeys to cart the flour back for us. The sponsored children and widows were scheduled to come to the church at 11:30. Meanwhile we loaded back up in the Land Cruiser and headed out for another village, Karro.

It is hot, but there is a nice breeze as we bounce along a kind of road. For about a half hour we go over rock piles and ruts and I think I got a small insight to how it might have been for the pioneer wagontrains as they rolled west over uneven terrain! We went about as fast as a wagontrain, too! I loved it! The vistas were breathtaking. We were headed to call on several families who were the recipients of bio sand filters (see our gift catalog on our website!). The people in Karro have a very difficult time with water. There is no water nearby and they spend a good share of every day walking long distances to dig trenches to find water, loading up their plastic water jugs and then walking back home. It's a good thing the families have lots of kids because they send their children out for water in shifts in order to supply the house with enough water for the day. The only problem is, the water is very, very dirty and the villagers suffer with giardia and typhoid, among other problems because of the water.

The first home we entered proudly displayed their BSF (bio sand filter) and poured some precious water in it .... and it came out clear and clean! I drank a glass of it and hoped I wouldn't keel over with agonizing stomach pains ... but I didn't! Good water! They are so grateful for this miracle. We visited two more homes where the owners gratefully displayed their gift of life. One woman said the new water cured her constant headaches!

After having such a good time with these wonderful village people, we went back to T'ede where the widows and children gathered in the tiny church. The widows brought their bags which were loaded with flour and each received some money from the feeding program we have there. For these families, the flour and birr (Ethiopian money) tips them from too little to eat to enough to eat. All of the sponsored children were there with their mothers (most of whom were recipients of the flour) and they shyly took the gifts that their sponsors sent them and then pretty soon I saw lollipops sticking out of most of their mouths and big chocolate eyes sparkling with the novelty of candy. They sat patiently until their mothers had their flour and then, tightly clutching their bags, followed them home. I am always amazed at how well-behaved the children are. I took a walk through the village afterwards and enjoyed the "Saloms" and other greetings from the friendly villagers. Some of the children, of course, were quite in awe of my white face and I knew not to approach the very littlest children because they would cry.

I am loving the weather here in Adama..... sunshine and very, very warm. I really do love it here. Today we broke ground for the new W&OH. I will send you some pictures of that, too. A very different construction scene that you would see in America!!

Tomorrow we head back to Addis early as we have a lot of shopping for the orphanages to do. Many things we cannot get in Adama. The nursery here at Tezera's needs fans. It is very stuffy in there and no way to allow airflow ... but you cannot get fans in Adama. Isn't that funny? It is hot here most of the time. We were able to buy four baby scales and that was quite the production! First Tezera had to write a letter outlining the need and then it had to be approved by the pharmacy and then we had to take the approval (with the pharmacist who is a Christian brother) to the supplier who had to draw up papers in duplicate and everything had to be stamped and then they don't have them and so they are on order in Addis and hopefully we can pick up tomorrow!! Whew!

Wednesday we leave for the West and our first stop will be Nekemte. Abebe says we probably can use the internet there but not Gimbie. I have learned soooooooo much about the governmental setup and control of things and how things have to be done. It is very much about relationships. We will be flooded with children, that I can promise you!

Love you ....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

From Joy

Joy Casey, Director of Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia, is in Ethiopia right now visiting one of our orphanages in Adama.

When I open the door to the Widows and Orphans Home, I am hit with little bodies and receive big hugs and kisses from many children. How can I be so blessed? As Tezera, the orphanage director says, I am very rich. The beautiful faces, the dirty knees, the sparkling eyes and the eager voices make it a grand day to be alive. I am never happier than being with the children.

After walking several steps with both arms full of beautiful children, the old widows greet me with, "Dehna Aderu!" and several kisses. Their dear faces have become so precious to me. Four of them used to be almost blind, but a kind donor paid for them to have cataract surgery and now ... they can see!

The families who are going to adopt several of the children sent gifts for me to give to them. How excited everyone is! They look at the pictures and listen as their letter is interpreted and then we have such fun putting on the new clothes and perhaps playing with a new toy. The ones that do not yet have a family, I always bring a bag of something fun to do and to eat for them. Two brothers, ages 7 and 8, were hoping I would bring them some pants and I managed to scrounge up something for them that wasn't too, too short.

Let me tell you about three children who have been in our Widows and Orphan Home for going on three months now. They are complete orphans and were brought by their grandfather for he and his wife simply did not have enough to eat. The children were stick thin. Now, after good food and loads of hugs, they are energetic and their bones are not sticking out quite so prominantly. I have fallen in love with all three of them. Big sister is around 12-years-old and she does laundry, holds babies and helps the cook. She seems to enjoy being busy with domestic things, although she can also join in a game the children have made up with bottle caps. The boys are sweet and are constantly at my side. They are learning English words almost daily. Older sister is more reserved and won't try a word until she knows it is right, but she is learning, too. One of the little boys loves music. Kelly, the YWAM missionary working at the orphanage, bought a keyboard and I think his life will be forever changed! He is so excited and hopeful that Kelly will let him learn music. He is always singing and drumming on things and playing a pretend guitar. It is such fun to see their little personalities break forth. Oh, I could go on and on .....

I also had the privilege of introducing a little girl to her family today. Last time I was in Ethiopia this 9-year-old girl cried and cried because she so badly wanted her own mommy and daddy -and I cried right along with her. Then we prayed. Today when I met her, I asked her if she remembered what she prayed for. "Yes, I prayed for my own family." What joy to tell her that God answered her prayer and to show her pictures of the incredible family that is to adopt her. It doesn't get much better than that, unless it is the day when the family will come to get her and take her home.

Like I said, I am very, very rich. Each tiny baby, each grubby little hand in mine and each sweet kiss will be the memories that will cheer me on a hard day. They are what will keep me pressing forward in this oftentimes frustrating work. They are also my reward. "Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to be here now, this day, to bring a hope and future for the sweet souls entrusted into my care."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More Little Ones!

Joy is in Adama (or Nazaret) now, visiting our Widows and Orphans Home where we have a new nursery and several new arrivals! We also have new children coming in Addis Ababa - a sibling group of three and three others, including a two year old. We are so excited because we know of the overwhelming numbers of orphaned children there are in all of Ethiopia and we are getting more families who want to adopt. What a great privilege and huge responsibility it is to find loving homes for these precious ones!

While Joy is in Adama, she will be meeting the newest children, getting pictures and biographical information. Joy writes, "Today I bought a changing table/washtub (you lift up the changing table and there is a tub underneath). I used to have a play one like that for my dolls when I was little! We are getting a new nursery set up at the Widows and Orphans Home and the government told us to have at least 8 cribs."

There are three siblings (7, 8 and 11) who were recently brought to the Widows and Orphans Home - very thin, with thread-bare clothes - who are wonderful children and who desperately need a family. There is a beautiful 9 year old girl living with her aunt who is unable to provide for her. Adoption Ministry has been paying tuition so she can attend school, where she is doing extremely well. Joy visited her at school and was so impressed with her progress. "She is a beautiful girl with no learning problems and she won't have attachment issues - we really need to find her a home!"

On December 8th, Joy and Abebe will travel to Gimbie. We most likely won't hear from her for a week or so, as there aren't many internet connections available. The plan is to spend 4 days in Gimbie at our newest Widows and Orphans Home, 1 day in Dembidollo and 2 days in Nekemte. Please continue to pray for Joy and Abebe - there is much to be accomplished! And pray for the children in Ethiopia.

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me." Mark 9:37

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No news from Joy today but...

here are a few links you might enjoy...

Celebrating Christmas with Newly Adopted Children

Ethiopia Decals: Show your heart for Ethiopia, adoption and orphan advocacy

Adoption is Huge Loss and Huge Gain

O Praise Him! Welcoming a Little One Home from Ethiopia

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wonderful News from Joy

Here is the latest email from Joy - Day 2 in Ethiopia:

Salom! It has been a long day and I admit I am tired. It is a good tired, though. Hugging some of the most delightful children on the planet is invigorating and knowing that many of them are close to meeting the family who will love them forever is satisfying in a deep, emotional way that I can't put into words.

So much happens in the course of a day that, looking back on it, I am amazed at what God allowed to happen! I met a little 2-year-old boy today who has myelomeningiocele and has all the complications associated with the most severe form of spina bifida. He is also cognitively challenged. But! He has a very loving father who is a strong Christian. His wife died of breast cancer one year ago and he is left to care for his son. It is obvious he is the best dad ever to this little boy, but it is also obvious that he cannot manage the care for him due to finances and time. It is a heartbreaking situation and I ached for this father. I hope I can find one or two sponsors for this little boy so he can get the physical therapy he needs and his father can hire some help. At the end of our time together, he asked me to pray for him and the words just tumbled out of me and I knew God was there and heard every petition and caught every tear. To me .... it seems such an impossible situation. For God .... He will redeem. I even prayed for a wife for this man! Yikes!
(picture to come soon!)

Did you know that we are starting construction on a new Widows and Orphans Home in Nazaret (Adama)? I met with the architect today (now that is a whole other story about how God put him in this project!!) and he shared more about the building and timelines and cost projections, etc.. Afterward, he asked if I would pray for him - what an honor to bring this godly man before the throne of God!

Speaking of the W&OH, we have had three new children brought in .... a 3-month-old boy, a 1-month-old boy and a 2-year-old (not sure if a boy or girl). They were brought just today. Our YWAM team in Addis is working on getting six children paper ready ranging from ages 9 months to six years, and two more children have been brought to our orphanage in Gimbie but I don't know a thing about them yet. We are busy and indications from the government officials are that we better gear up for more! I ask God only for the assignments He knows we can handle and have families for ..... so .....

Caio for now,

Monday, November 30, 2009

An email from Joy!

Joy has arrived safely in Ethiopia and spent her first full day in the capital of Addis Ababa. And it was a full day! She had a lovely lunch with Pastor Abdissa, who runs Children's House International's program in Ethiopia. He is a man of God with great integrity.

Abdissa Benti Leye

Seven of our children who have already 'passed court' and are living at the transitional house, The Thomas Center, that CHI has in Addis got to spend time with Joy today. She showed them pictures of their families here in the U.S. and helped them try on the new clothes their families sent. She said, "My heart swelled as they excitedly pointed to 'Papa!' and 'Mama!' and their new brothers and sisters, trying to remember their names that must sound so strange to them. They were all so patient waiting their turn. I guess I am a little prejudiced and will sound like the doting grandma I am, but I am thankful beyond words that God assigned these precious children to our orphanage and brought the perfect family for each one of them. Not only are every one of these children beautiful to look at (and they are that!), but they are exceptionally bright as well as loving and affectionate. I could eat them up with a spoon!"

Joy has asked for prayer for divine wisdom and ability to communicate clearly to those she is meeting with. Her plan is to try to get daily emails sent while she is in Addis - electricity permitting!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Fearless Leader travels to Ethiopia!

Joy Casey, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting her, is the director of Adoption Ministry of Youth With A Mission. Joy not only heads up the domestic side of the ministry, but in 2007 she answered God's call to begin an international adoption ministry in Ethiopia. Joy had no idea what God had in mind but it has been immeasurably more than she could have asked or imagined!

Today Joy begins a three week working visit to Ethiopia. She will do quite a bit of traveling as she visits YWAM works in Addis Ababa, Adama, T'ede, Gimbie and Nekemte - all cities where Adoption Ministry is helping to meet the physical and spiritual needs of widows and orphans. As she is able (electricity being extremely unreliable), she'll be emailing me with updates.

Please join with me in praying for Joy for the following:

  • physical strength and protection
  • ability to meet with every contact she needs to make
  • favor with those in leadership positions
  • insight into what is needed in each location
  • wisdom in decision-making
  • opportunity for taking pictures and video of new and current children for our 'Waiting Children' list and those already matched with families
  • fellowship and encouragement between Joy and our staff in Ethiopia
  • good sleep and rest - then energy for each day's work!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For these gifts we give You thanks!

From them will come songs of thanksgiving
and the sound of rejoicing.
I will add to their numbers
and they will not be decreased.
Jeremiah 30:19

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beat the Drum - see this movie!

With his father's last gift - a tribal drum - in hand, a young boy orphaned by a "mysterious plague" travels to Johannesburg to find his uncle who he hopes will help him and what's left of his rural village, which is being wiped out by the same "plague." But instead his journey leads him to new friends, the truth about the plague and unexpected hope. He returns to his village to teach his people about what is killing their loved ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Africa Adoption Necklaces

Aren't these just beautiful??

Tracy at Junk Posse donates some of the proceeds of her necklace sales to help families who are adopting. Be sure to check out her website - you'll love it!

If you visit the blog Ethiopia or Bust you'll find all the details for ordering! And Amy is even giving away a free necklace...

It's this one:

Did you ever notice that Ethiopia is shaped just like an angel wing? Me either!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Links You'll Love

We'll start off linking you up with two different sites about African hair! Be sure to browse around on both as they have several other links you'll find really helpful. These will need to be added to your 'Favorites' for sure!

Happy Girl Hair: Here is a wonderful site for hair styling tips, products, the 'politics' of African hair, links to other haircare blogs, and more - all written by the mom of twin girls adopted from Ethiopia.

Beautiful African Hair: This blog, written by the biological mother of three and adoptive mother of seven, shares a wonderful post with tons of pictures and great suggestions for books and videos on caring for and styling your child's hair! Awesome!

Meet Abarash, a mother of two who tells why having safe drinking water is important to her and her daughters. This video clip is a peek into the daily lives of so many in Ethiopia, who must trek many miles to find and carry water back to their homes. Adoption Ministry is working to provide water filters and clean water to many in villages near our orphanages. One way you can be part of this vital and life-saving work is by purchasing a bio-sand water filter for a family in Ethiopia. Please visit the gift catalog page of our website to find out how!

Growing In My Heart, Not Under It: Adoptive moms experience many of the stages of pregnancy while they wait for their child's arrival. Thanks, Rachel, for sharing this wonderful article written by Andrea Kidd.

Celebrating Gotcha Day: One family's joyful celebration of the day they 'got' their little girl from Ethiopia! Love these ideas!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pass It Forward Adoption Fund

I found this wonderful idea over at Amy's blog - Building The Blocks. It's called the "Pass It Forward Adoption Fund." Amy and her husband have 4 biological children, 2 adopted from Guatamala and 1 adopted through the foster system. So you know their hearts are tender towards adoption. Now they are adopting a child (or children) from Africa.

As you know, international adoption is not cheap. For a family of any size, the prospect of funding an adoption can seem overwhelming. So when someone anonymously donated the money to completely fund their latest adoption, the Blocks decided to "Pass It Forward."

Please go here to read their incredible story. I'm not sure what you'll do with this or how you might make it happen in your sphere of influence but I think this is God's desire. In Amy's words:

It’s about living for a purpose greater than ourselves, our needs, far greater than something we can accomplish on our own - but knowing that through us, Christ can. It's about seeing someone else in need- and meeting that need, even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, even when it makes us uncomfortable, even when it’s work - because when we follow Jesus our life is no longer our own. There are 147 million orphans in this world - NONE OF US CAN DO THIS ALONE, but together I truly believe we can start to be the change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Links You'll Love

Do You Treat Them Different? Joy Portis answers the Target cashier.

Destiny: From the journal of an adopting mom-to-be.

Tension: Living in the interim.

Christmas in Ethiopia: In case you're thinking it's the same as here!

The Joy of Shoes! Such a simple gift - such a happy boy!

Jeremiah Comes Home: A sweet story in pictures of one family bringing their son home from Ethiopia.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

"Defend the cause of the fatherless..." Isaiah 1:17

Today is Orphan Sunday. All over the nation churches, small groups and prayer gatherings are meeting with one goal: that God's great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well.

You can be a part of a live webcast today from 4 - 6 pm central standard time. Steven Curtis Chapman, Geoff Moore, the Children of the World Choir and several speakers will "give a megaphone to the cries of the millions of orphans around the world."

Millions of orphans.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

National Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! The main focus is on the adoption of children currently in our foster care system, while increasing awareness of adoption in general.

All during the month of November, states, communities, public and private organizations, businesses, families and individuals celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families. There are so many opportunities to educate ourselves and those around us about adoption. Every time a family adopts, it's a loud-and-clear message to their community that adoption is a wonderful way to complete a family. Just this morning in my church, a young couple dedicated their three children to God - all adopted through the foster-care system. I wanted to lead a standing ovation!

Adoption was God's idea and He showed us by example the great value He places on it.

"God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." Eph 1:5 NLT

In a recent adoption attitudes survey, the majority of people stated that their primary source of information about adoption comes from friends and family and the media. What has been your experience with people's perception of adoption? How have you been able to share God's wonderful plan for your own family through adoption? Your comments posted below will be a great kick-off to our month of Adoption Awareness. Just click on "Post A Comment."

Be sure to check out for some resources to help and encourage you!
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