Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adoption-Centered Home Team


Aaron and Stacy Reeves are one of our wonderful YWAM families adopting a little baby boy from Ethiopia.  They've begun a small home adoption group that meets regularly for fellowship, great input from Empowered to Connect and discussion of many of the issues surrounding adopting internationally.  What a great idea for any family who is in process of adopting or who have already brought their children home!  I asked Stacy if she would write a post about their group - how it started, what they're doing and how it's been a benefit to those involved.   We really encourage you to consider something similar!  Stacy's blog is:  Fun Times With The Reeves Family 

A Team of Support
by Stacy Reeves

Throughout this whole journey of adoption, Aaron and I have felt that God wasn't going to stop there with this passion He has laid on our hearts. We have always felt as though there is something more that God wants us to do, in addition to adopting our son. Thoughts of starting an orphan-centered ministry within our church always seemed to pop up in our minds, until we heard one day...."why don't you do something with that?" So we talked and we prayed about what it was that God was wanting us to do, and Aaron felt as though starting an adoption-centered home team would be the best place to start. This way we are in community with other family's with the same passion as us, and we can establish relationship with them on a weekly basis.

And so that is what we did - we put the information out there and had 3 families who were willing to jump in with us. So for this last year, we have met every Wednesday night in our home, and discussed and prayed and have gotten to know each other's stories and hearts and visions, and have really learned so much from each other. We have in our group me and Aaron who are in process of our first adoption from Ethiopia; Trent and Stephanie, who adopted Evie from Russia, and are now praying for their next step in pursuing adoption again; Jason and Kendra, who brought home sweet Eleni from Ethiopia in July of 2010, and Bruce and Patty who adopted Sarah from India, and have been YWAM missionaries and orphan advocates for many years now.

At the beginning of our meeting times, we really didn't know where to start. We honestly didn't feel as though we knew what we were doing, but also knew that was ok. God knows exactly what He's doing and that was enough for us.

Not too long after starting, Kerri and Dan (some leaders in our church, who also happen to be in the process of adopting 13 year-old, Sasha, from Russia) gave us a DVD and study guide that they suggested we start watching as a group. The DVD/study guide was "Empowered to Connect" by Dr. Karen Purvis. "Empowered to Connect" has been a great learning tool for our group.

With their permission to share, when we first started the study, Kendra and Jason were struggling with their adjustment to bringing 2 year-old Eleni home. Eleni didn't want anything to do with Jason, and wouldn't let Kendra leave her side. Jason took a month off from work to help with bonding to Eleni, and struggled having an understanding of why Eleni wouldn't give him the time of day. It was heartbreaking for him as a dad, and strenuous on Kendra and Jason's marriage. To top it off, Kendra and Jason also have 2 biological sons and their youngest son, was also having a hard time adjusting to his new sister. It was a hard time for them, but they pressed on and today Eleni is well-adjusted, has 2 brothers that adore her, and has a strong bond with both her mom and dad. Kendra and Jason enjoyed "Empowered to Connect" and mentioned that they wish it was something that their agency would have suggested as a tool for them. Kendra mentioned that while you are in the process of adopting, you do all this reading and preparing for your child to come home and you think you are ready. But then when reality sets in, and you are in the midst of a difficult adjustment time, she feels that Empowered to Connect could serve as a great time of learning and walking you through those first months of adjustment.

For Aaron and myself, this time for us has been a huge time of growth and learning. Before meeting with this group I guess you could say we were oblivious to the realities of the possible difficulties we could face with our adoption. We weren't really prepared. Listening to everyone else's testimonies and difficulties they faced, at times scared us half to death. There were moments, when we would hear something from someone in the group, or Dr. Purvis would start discussing a hard reality, and I, more so than Aaron, would freak out, and say..."Oh my gosh, what are we doing? Are we really up for this?"

This is when I realized that adoption is for sure a calling. Caring for the orphan and the widow is something all of us as followers of Jesus are called to do, and that can come in MANY forms. Adopting a child, however, is a specific calling. Aaron and I would always have to remind ourselves of the clear call we received, and the many confirmations we received along the journey to keep us moving forward.

Without our group and without having "Empowered to Connect" as a learning tool, I don't think Aaron and I would be ready to bring our son home. I can say with confidence that we are for sure called, we are prepared, and with the help of this team of wonderful people around us to pray for us and lean on for support, we are ready to go get our son. We can't wait! We are so grateful that God led us to do this. I am convinced that without it, we wouldn't be in the place where we are now, this place of growth, and peace and pure excitement. Community is so important.

(Eleni and Aubrey, little buddies, and...Kendra and I joke...future
sisters-in-law, because Eleni and our son are going to get

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kids Blow Me Away!

by Joy Casey
A 10-year-old boy galvanized me to action. He heard of a need in Ethiopia and immediately demanded that his friends join him in doing something about it. In just a few weeks, Matthew has raised $1500 (yes, one-thousand five-hundred dollars!) for bio sand filters. It was incomprehensible to Matthew that children his age spent most days digging in the dirt for ground water and then had to haul the dirty water back to their village only to get sick drinking it! His dad is going on a missions trip the end of March to install 16 bio sand filters in a remote village and Matthew wants to do his part. Wahoo for Matthew!

Another group of kids in Arizona saved their nickels, dimes and quarters and sent Adoption Ministry $400 to build a house in a rural village! They heard about the poverty and desperate needs in this village and then and there decided they wanted to be part of a solution. Today, a family has a house with a cement floor and tin roof …. a far better house than they could ever have without the help of these kids.

I got a check from some children in California in the amount of $160.32 to be used to feed orphans. What an honor! Of course we will use that money for food. Babies need formula, toddlers and children need three meals a day, and the grannies (widows) also need nutritious food. Food prices are exorbitant in Ethiopia right now, and how grateful I was to receive this donation from little children (K – 2nd grade) who have huge hearts for those less fortunate. Elementary students from another church saved their money to buy four goats to economically boost poor families in Ethiopia. I can only guess at the joy these children bring to God’s heart.

Then there are high school kids who did a formula drive at their public school. Those that couldn’t afford a can of formula chipped in with a buddy to bring a can. The end result? In two weeks they gathered 300 pounds of infant milk formula worth $4,000! Don’t tell me that kids don’t care for anything but shopping at the mall. Teens desperately want to make a difference in their world … they just need a vision and something tangible to do.

I asked for computers for some of the teen orphans in Ethiopia, and a young boy told his mother he wanted to give away his brand new computer, and she wisely applauded his generosity and let him.

“Come to me as a little child…” Jesus knew the capacity of a child’s heart. They are so innocent and idealistic and think that they “can do.” A can-do spirit?  Do I have one? I admit that many times I shirk from a project because it is “too big” or “too expensive” or “I have asked people for so much.”  But I am reminded over and over that there is always enough in God’s economy. I should never hold back from giving my little bit and I am challenged to give out of my need.  Matthew and the other children mentioned above are my heroes. They are also going to be the leaders of our churches and humanitarian organizations in the not too distant future. I want to join them in never saying no to a need, but will allow God to use me (if He so chooses) to impart vision and allow others to receive the blessings of giving.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Their Own Communities

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news...”  

       Isaiah 52:7

by Joy Casey, Adoption Ministry Director

There has been a heightened awareness within many churches in the U.S. about the global plight of the orphan, and many churches are addressing the needs of local children as well as marginalized children in other countries.  My good friend Jeff Butler (who is Adoption Ministry’s Church Liaison and has six adopted children) and I have talked about getting better acquainted with church leadership in Ethiopia and understanding better what their response is to the orphan crisis in their own country.  International adoptions help a small fraction of the children orphaned in Ethiopia due to poverty, AIDS and disease.  What is the local Ethiopian church doing for the desperately poor children in their communities?
Perhaps if you read this blog consistently you might have heard about a town in Ethiopia called Dembidollo.  It is 17 hard, dusty, bone-jarring hours from the capital city of Addis Ababa located close to the Sudan border.  The area around Dembidollo comprises about 50,000 people and there has been an influx of immigrants relocated there from the famine area of Harar in the east.  Once I am in Dembidollo (after 652 kilometers of hard travel!), I thoroughly enjoy the people and the quaintness of the town.
One of my friends in Dembidollo casually mentioned she wanted me to meet a pastor that she has a lot of respect for and she thought I would be interested to hear his heart for children.  Later in the day she introduced me to Pastor Garamu who is the leader of 235 Full Gospel churches in the area surrounding Dembidollo called Kelem Wollega (kind of like a county within a state). 

There are about one million people living in Kelem Wollega Zone. The church under Pastor Garamu’s leadership is active in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these poor settlers, but the three Full Gospel churches in Dembidollo proper have also taken up the cause of the orphan.

Over the course of two years, the church In Dembidollo town has identified 1,000 full or half orphans that are desperately poor and in dire need of help.  God has grabbed Pastor Garamu’s heart to galvanize the local church to take care of these children through adoption, sponsorship and/or guardianship.  He himself has adopted a little girl as have several of the pastors serving in the area. 

The roads in Dembidollo are for walking and not for vehicle traffic, so come with me as we have the pleasure on this most beautiful afternoon to walk to the first church.  It is a large church building and I could hear the praise and worship music long before I actually got to the church compound. 

Pastor Waga's church

It was youth night and the place was packed with teenagers worshiping God with youthful exuberance.  Pastor Waga, the senior pastor, was there and I also met the associate pastor and the children’s coordinator. 

The church ministers to about 1,500 people, most of whom are poor, but five families have adopted children, ten families have taken children in to be their guardians and the church sponsors twenty-two poor children.

The next church was quite a ways away and we traversed down a very rocky road. All the time I kept thinking... what goes down must go up - be ready for a hike back!  Pastor Samuel met us and I immediately liked this delightful man who has adopted an 8-year-old girl. 

His big heart was evident in every word spoken and his congregation of 900 has 55 people pooling their resources to sponsor fifteen children (about $25 a month per child), three families have become guardians and three families have adopted.

Pastor Samuel's church

Overflow seating area

They are at the tail end of adding on to their present building to accommodate more people.
Are you with me?  I am out of breath by the time we hike back up the hill we just went down.  Our driver can drive us most of the way to the next church and the walk to it is very pleasant.  This church is the largest and has a Bible college with about 60 students.  Pastor Nega shepherds about 2,000 people, three families have adopted and the church sponsors 18 poor children.

Pastor Nega's church

I was greatly encouraged to meet the staff of these three churches and to hear their heart for youth and children.  Their evangelistic outreach coupled with practical help for the most at-risk children in their midst was just what Jeff and I were hoping to hear.  I want to see local church families adopt and be the answer to others' needs through guardianship (what I might call foster care) and providing money for widowed heads-of-households to be able to keep their children with them.

Pastor Garamu has approached World Vision and Compassion International to start projects in this remote area.  Neither organization’s parameters allow them to come to such a far away place.  Does God’s arm only reach to easily accessible areas?  No, of course not, but I completely understand why these two organizations could not do a traditional sponsorship program in Dembidollo. 

As I am praying about this, I would like to see three American churches, also with a heart for orphans, link arms with these three churches in Dembidollo and become sister churches. 

Perhaps they could commit to help expand the aid given to the identified poor children. 

Perhaps a few hearty souls could come on a missions trip to help with child or youth evangelism.

Perhaps pastor to pastor encouragement could be facilitated.

I will see how God leads, but I do not think it was accidental to meet these good men already doing the work that God has been speaking to my heart about.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Summer 2011 Women's Mission Trip

YWAM Ethiopia Mission Trip

Child Evangelism & Women 2 Women
July 31 - August 11, 2011

Can you see yourself in these pictures? 

Women 2 Women Team 2009

Part of a team of women reaching out
to the children and women of Ethiopia?

A love for God and a love for people are the only prerequisites!

This team will reach out to the children in the village of T'ede using a carnival to bring the Good News.

You will partner with a local church in the Leper Colony in Addis Ababa to provide VBS for the children in this poverty-stricken community.

You'll be part of distributing food in YWAM's widows feeding program, as well as giving shoes for sponsored widows and children.

You will love on teen girls who have been rescued
from the streets of Addis Ababa.

Could this be the trip God is calling you to be a part of??

The cost for this trip is $3,200 which covers airfare,
in-country transportation, food and lodging. 

For more information, please contact

Mark Wolbert, Missions Director

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Enat" means Mother

Written by Katja Starkey, an adopting mom, after she and her husband Jonathan traveled to Ethiopia for their court date to meet their son.

There is no way to describe our first encounter with sweet Gadisa. I felt like I was walking into a dream world. This day of meeting Gadisa had finally come! We waited in a front room and one of the nannies brought him to us. My heart leapt when I saw his familiar dazzling eyes and natural smile, which we had seen in pictures. Our boy is ALWAYS SMILING!

with Joy Casey, Adoption Ministry Director

I nudged Jonathan to pick him up first. Gadisa went straight to him. It was a swirl of emotion. I’m sure I held him soon after, but I was just drinking him in—looking at him, being in the same room with him, seeing his personality— joy was bursting out of my heart.

I had learned how to say two things to him in Amharic: “I love you” and “Don’t cry.” I never needed to say “Don’t cry.”  He never did!  Jonathan and I took turns holding Gadisa or holding the camera. We took much video as well as photos to remember that initial day of meeting… knowing we would only have those videos and photos for many weeks before he came home.

The loving atmosphere where he is staying is incredible. It was not even hard to leave him because he is in such a warm, friendly place. He is getting a LOT of attention from everyone. Meseret was crying, thinking he was leaving that day and she loves him. I actually cried for Meseret when we got back to the guesthouse. I have been a nanny and I know how you really grow to love the kids.

A precious moment for me was holding Gadisa’s little hands and having him take a few steps. I have grieved missing out on so many little stages of his development, but I got to be there for that and we have it on video. This was the first day I actually felt like a real mom. This was my son. He is a treasure and a joy.

Many times in the months and years of waiting, I had sung a favorite song over my future child:

Don’t you know that I formed you
Before you were born I knew you
Can’t you see that my plans for you are good?
Don’t you know that I formed you
Before you were born I knew you
Can’t you see that my plans for you are good?
Look and see
I’ve engraved you on the palms of my hands
Child look and see
I’ve engraved you on my hands

I sang this song to Gadisa and rocked him. My precious baby boy fell asleep in my arms. This was a cherished moment.

Gadisa came and went easily to everyone—widows, nannies and to both of us. They said his disposition is very unique and that he is always in good spirits. He looked up and saw Abebe (YWAM's in-country representative) and started crawling fast over to him. It was precious to see him crawling and also to see how he was very happy to see Abebe. Our son is well loved!

Before we left, one of the grandmas grabbed Abebe to translate for her. She was determined to say something to me. "You really are Gadisa's mother," she said. "From now on I am going to call you that." What precious words - I felt so validated. They saw my mother heart. She kissed me on the neck on the left and on the right. I didn't know if this was cultural or if she just couldn't reach any higher, but I kissed her neck the same way anyhow. She said, "Enat" as she held me, which is the Ethiopian word for mother. These moments are like treasure of gold to me.

We are truly, truly honored to be his parents. We love you, sweet son…Gadisa Moses Starkey.
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