Saturday, June 25, 2011

Amazing Nannies

by Joy Casey

Our nannies are the best.  Wanna know how I know?  We have content, well cared for babies who receive loads of loves, hugs and kisses.  Families attest when they get their little ones home that their babies and toddlers respond in ways that let them know that their emotional needs have been met.  I am continually impressed with these women who raise the children in our Widows and Orphans Homes, and I have had a lot of opportunity to observe. The nannies are so proud when a child first rolls over or gets his first tooth.  They love to make the children laugh and delight in their individual personalities.

The nannies in our centers work twelve hour shifts and they are in constant motion.  There is one nanny per three children and to watch the three work together to care for nine babies is similar to watching a beautifully choreographed dance.  While one is changing a baby and washing a little bottom, another is holding and feeding a two-month-old with an eight-month-old trying to crawl on her lap.  The third nanny is preparing the next round of bottles while rolling balls to toddlers.  At one point in the morning after breakfast and baths, all the children are on a mat on the floor and the nannies sit with them and sing and play and comfort.  They encourage them to sit up, to begin crawling, or steady the one who is on the verge of walking.  It is play time and the children love the attention.

All the centers have a woman who washes all the clothes by hand.  Yes, even all the diapers!  She scrubs outside in a wash basin and hangs everything on the line to dry.  We are hoping we can eventually buy a  washing machine for our largest home in Adama... it is needed!  Just think how much laundry you have with just one baby and multiply that by ten!  Whew!

The shift change in any of our Widows and Orphans Homes is one of my favorite times. It is a time of worship and celebration and very often is a prayer time as well as a time for one to share from the word. The day shift and the night shift all together sing and pray with the little ones in and out between their legs or this one or that one gathered up in loving arms without missing a beat of the song. The children and their needs are brought before God's throne as well as the needs of each other. The day shift changes from their uniform (scrubs) and puts on their street clothes for the walk to their homes while three other nannies pick up seamlessly with the evening routine of dinner, bath and bedtime.

Here's a little video clip from one of the worship times at a change in shifts...

I wish I could introduce you to all the wonderful women who take care of our children.  Since that is not possible, I am going to brag on two of the nannies so you can get an idea of the character we look for when we hire women for the most important position in our orphanages.


Bezuia is one of our angels.  She has been with us from the beginning and her heart for children is remarkable.  But what sets her apart is the loving care she gives to those who are sick... sometimes really sick.  We had one fragile baby boy who was born with a heart disorder.  He was constantly in the hospital with pneumonia and couldn't gain weight.  Bezuia stayed at his bedside 24/7.  We tried to get her to go home, but she would have none of it.  This little guy was constantly poked and probed and his big eyes followed her every move and he found comfort only in her arms.  We had a little girl who was brought to us when she was very sick.  Who was the nanny who diapered her, bathed her and made sure she was cuddled and loved?  Bezuia was her special nanny.  Just recently, one of our little ones got pneumonia and was hospitalized.  Bezuia would work her twelve hour day shift and then volunteer to spend the night with Miss "C" in the hospital.  You can see how this woman has won a permanent place of honor in my heart.


Tiny Tigist is another woman that is a rock.  I call her tiny because she maybe is five feet tall, but her energy is huge.  The children adore her!  Her calm, gentle spirit permeates the nursery and things just seem to be happier when she is about.  Tigist is not married and lives with her brother and his family and by her admission says caring for the orphaned children in her community is what God has called her to do.

She takes her calling seriously.  Tigist is a woman of hospitality, too, and she loves to greet visitors with a coffee ceremony and popcorn or roasted corn-on-the-cob and it is not unusual to be invited to her and her brother's house for dinner.  The other nannies rely on her organization and Tigist exemplifies what I call servant leadership.  Others just naturally want to follow her lead.  She is a jewel.

One of the ways our families have shown their great appreciation for the care they know their children received when they were in our orphanages is by sending pictures to the nannies of the children now in the US.  Imagine what a blessing it is to see pictures of the children they loved and cared for - and often tearfully said good-bye to!

Next month a women's mission team is traveling to Ethiopia and they'll be having a blessing party for the nannies in our Adama orphanage.  We're so excited to shower our love and appreciation of these beautiful women!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Formula Auction

There is a wonderful family in Portland, Oregon who met Kara Portilla (of Into the Streets of Ethiopia) at an adoptive moms retreat in Atlanta who are right now having an online auction to raise money for YWAM's formula budget!

The Williamson family adopted their son from Ethiopia (you can meet them here) and their hearts are tender towards the great need for formula and its life-giving results.  To raise money for formula, they are auctioning some pretty wonderful items...

A two-night stay at the beautiful Oregon coast
A gorgeous hand-made quilt
Wall stencil
Christmas ornaments
Into the Streets of Ethiopia t-shirts
Worship CD
Ethiopian coffee
and lots more!!

100% of the proceeds of this auction go to Into the Streets of Ethiopia to purchase formula for our orphanages!  How is that for amazing?  One family among many who are responding to the call to support orphaned children in a very tangible way. 

Be sure to go to the Formula Is Life blog and lend your support!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father to the Fatherless

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
Psalm 65:8

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Food for thought

A variety of posts found in adoption-blog land:

@We Have Room
"God has been gently showing me that we can very subtly pervert this miraculous movement of God into a ministry that misses both the point (serving Jesus) and the target (the lost world)."

"My husband is a youth pastor, and there have been a lot of things said to him over the years. But one thing nobody has ever said is, 'Why do you work with high school students when so many adults need Jesus?'"

@vita familiae
“Which airport are they at?”

by Kai Krause
Hint: It's BIG.

@A Bushel and A Peck
"I just can’t even imagine what that first meeting is going to be like for her. While we are so excited to meet her and love her, what will be going on in her mind seems like it would be so scary...  I just don’t know what is the best way for us to behave."

@Babe of My Heart
"I do NOT want my life to be merely vacation... or what the the latest and greatest things our kids can have or get lost in... I do not want to raise them in ignorance not KNOWING what the rest of the world is REALLY like." 

@Ordinary Hero
"This is the #1 issue with adoption that I hear more than any other. There are many people that have a heart for adoption, but they simply don't have the 20-30 grand sitting around to pay for it...therefore, they opt not to even try."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

If You Think It Is Easy... Think Again Part 2

Life in Ethiopia through an American lens

By Joy Casey in Ethiopia
(Be sure to read Part 1 here.)

There is another line for this?
Ethiopians learn to stand in long lines. This is an anathema to Americans unless we are at Disneyland. You stand in one line to get this part of a transaction done and then move to another for the next part, and another until you are successful. There are a lot of people who need employment and I tell myself that by doing it this way, four people have a job as opposed to just one who could have done it. Because food prices have tripled in just the last several months, there are shortages of coal, sugar, oil and berbere (a common spice used in just about everything). To get these staples, our orphanage director spends hours standing in line to get bulk items provided by the government and similar lines are repeated all over Ethiopia.

You can’t just “overnight” it?
I was incredulous when I found out that the hold-up to get our children’s lab work done was because the laboratory couldn’t get the chemicals to process the HIV test that is required for all children considered for adoption. What? A laboratory without the proper tools to do their work? Unbelievable. We have waited two weeks-plus for them to get this precious chemical so we can get the lab results on our kids.

How much time should I allow to say good-bye?
Ethiopians take time to greet people and to say good-bye. This, of course, can be a very pleasant ritual and has become very dear to me …. unless I am in a hurry. When you enter a room, you greet everyone with hugs and kisses (3 to 4 times on the cheek) and sometimes the hugs and kisses can be prolonged, depending on how long you have been away. The same procedure is repeated on departure (and sometimes several times if they say good-bye to you in the house and then walk you to your car) until finally you drive away waving again and again out the rear window. I always allot more time for saying good-bye than I ever would in America. Relationships are of primary importance in Ethiopia.

I guess Ethiopian society is used to waiting and that breeds patience. While I might stew and stomp around, my colleagues will say, “What can we do? Let’s go have coffee.” And they are right, of course. There is nothing that you can do to make the electricity come on, the rain to stop, the network to work or a shop to open. As an “efficient” American, I saw patience as not caring, laziness, backwardness, and I won’t even tell you some other names I have called it. But patience is a virtue. “Love is patient…”

I think the people in Ethiopia are actually more efficient than I am. They don’t spend time fretting and stewing about things they have no control over. When the electricity comes back on, they print the document. When they are at the head of the line, they gratefully accept what they came to get. They allow more time to do things than I am used to so their frustration level is much lower. It is much more important to greet someone and spend time asking about their life than it is to file a document “on time”. Meanwhile, their family is the core of their life and friendships are paramount.

God gave me a rare Type A personality to work with in Ethiopia. Abebe likes results and he is on time. Delays can frustrate him and he is always looking for a better way to do things. I am blessed beyond blessed to have him at my side.  I am sure that God put me with him to teach him patience!

When adopting from Ethiopia, waiting throughout the paperwork process is almost always guaranteed to test your patience and give you repeated, daily opportunities to put your trust in God alone and not in timelines, people or government agencies.  Joy's post gives a good look at how different life and business is in this beautiful culture.  We are so grateful for how hard our in-country staff work to get everything done for our families.  They truly are amazing people and we've been blessed abundantly to work with them!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Once Was Blind

by Joy Casey in Ethiopia

In the Bible, care of orphans and widows are constantly linked together. This is because these two people groups have been marginalized in society for centuries. In America, we have social services that offer shelter, food and care for children who do not have parents to care for them and there is help for older people, too, whose families do not take the responsibility for their care. However, Ethiopia’s society is more like the culture of the Bible times. The only social service net for orphans and widows is what is provided by Non-Government Organizations (referred to as NGOs). YWAM’s Widow and Orphans Homes are licensed NGOs in Ethiopia whose primary goal is to provide care for children who do not have parents and to give care and support for widows who have no one to care for them. The prerequisite to qualify? Complete destitution.

I love the elderly widows in our Widows and Orphans Home in Adama, Ethiopia. They are precious! We have buried three over the last two years who have died of AIDS or a stroke. They were given gentle care during their last days and dignity in death. Each has a compelling story and their lives are different from anything that would be familiar to us in the U.S. From time to time I will share about one of the women - let me introduce you to one right now.

Her name is Amina Date (Ah-meen'-a Dah'-tay) and she is around 75-years-old, by her estimation. Amina was raised in the M*l*m religion, married very young and suffered many years with the shame of not having children, but finally gave birth to a daughter. By the time her husband died she was completely blind and she went to live with her daughter. Unfortunately, her daughter died and Amina’s son-in-law kicked her out of the house and locked the door. Amina had no resources and absolutely no way to take care of herself. Neighbors gave her bits of food but none wanted the burden of taking care of a blind old lady, so for twelve days she lived on the road close to her previous home, existing on people’s charity.

Now I will introduce you to a central figure in Amina’s story. This lady’s name is Tezera (Teh-zair'-uh) and she is the director of YWAM's Widows and Orphans Homes. She is quite a commanding personality - she lives and breathes Christ. He permeates everything she does and everything she says. Tezera has become a close sister to me. She said once, “Joy, I see how your heart breaks when a child is abused or is without proper care. In the same way, when I see an old widow dirty and sitting beside a building begging, I want to gather her in my arms, wash her, feed her, and clothe her just like you want to do for children.”

One night, Tezera had a dream about an old lady sleeping on the sidewalk. The next day she could not get rid of the dream and began searching for this woman she believed God put on her heart. She found Amina sleeping outdoors, just as pictured in her dream, and she brought her to the Widows and Orphans Home.  She bathed her, fed her, bought her a clean dress and gave her a bed of her own.

Tezera, as is her lifestyle, began to witness Jesus to her and prayed for her in Jesus' name. Amina became angry and said, “No! In ____'s name!” Tezera kept witnessing to her, referring to John 3:16 and every Monday Amina would go to Bible study with the other widows. She was plagued by bad dreams of religious gatherings calling to her and accusing her because she was in a Christian setting. Little by little and with much intense prayer, she was released from the bad dreams and spiritual attacks.  One evening at the Monday Bible study, Amina committed her life to the Savior. Her first prayer was, “Jesus, others can see what they eat and I cannot.  You opened the eyes of many people. Please make a way so I can see.”

There were three other widows who were either completely blind like Amina or had reduced vision. Tezera took the four women to an ophthalmologist who said the women needed cataract surgery. It would cost $200 each. Tezera did not have the money, so she took the ladies home and they prayed. A pastor from America came to visit the Widows and Orphans Home and when he found out about the need, gave $800 on the spot to have the surgery.

It was quite a day when the bandages were removed from Amina’s eyes and she could see! It was the first time she saw Tezera and both started to cry and rejoice. She had been blind for 17 years and now she can see clearly! Amina is one of the sweetest people I know. Her spirit is so tender toward Jesus and her life is lived full of gratitude for every little thing. The beginning of her life was very hard, but thanks to the supporters of the Widows and Orphans Home in Adama, Amina and the other elderly women living there experience love, care and peace during the autumn of their lives.

Thank you to all who give, either monthly or with one-time gifts, to support our Widows and Orphans Homes.  We rely on your generosity to provide food, shelter and discipleship to the widows and children in our care.  If you are interested in finding out how you can help, please contact us at:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A New Partnership - Adoption Ministry 1:27

by Joy Casey in Ethiopia
written on 5-30-11

Jeff Burns and I just returned from a week’s adventure to the three Widows and Orphans Homes in the western part of Ethiopia.  It is always a joy to go to these orphanages and see the progress of the children, meet the new arrivals, and see the nannies and other staff that have become so dear to me.  The wet season has begun here in Ethiopia and we experienced some wonderful thunder and lightning storms with torrential rains, causing the streets to become small rivers of red mud.  One morning in Dembidollo we couldn’t even step out of the hotel and go anywhere until the sun came out for a couple of hours and dried up the streets!

Three years ago God clearly called Adoption Ministry of YWAM to reach out to poor women and children in Ethiopia.  I didn’t know quite what that meant and certainly did not foresee what it would entail, but I and our Board of Directors said “yes” to His call and thus began a ministry that has gone far beyond anything I could ever have imagined.  Am I up to this calling?  Absolutely not!  But God will use anyone who says “yes” and He can use even me and the incredible staff He has brought around me to do this work.

Adoption Ministry is launching a new work with the poorest people in Ethiopian society and we are calling this new thrust Adoption Ministry 1:27 (after James 1:27).  We are partnering with churches in Ethiopia who are already a) adopting children within the church, b) raising up guardian families (like foster families) within the church, and c) helping at-risk families to stay intact by providing for some of their physical needs.  These churches are doing a marvelous work but desperately need financial support to meet the identified needs in their community.

Let me tell you about Dembidollo.  Dembidollo is close to the Sudan border and is very far from the urban capital of Ethiopia.  It is a 17 hour car ride over hideous roads.  The church of Jesus Christ is alive and well in this town of 50,000, and over the past two years the leaders of three large churches have identified 1,000 full or half orphans in their town that they want to see put in strong Christian families either through adoption or guardian families.  So... taking a deep breath, I interviewed 60 desperate families that we want to find sponsors for.  Their stories challenge me and break my heart.  I met some men and women who have given up their own dreams and ambitions to raise the children of their children or the children of their sister, brother or neighbor.

Our sponsorship program will help the family of a little 12-year-old girl named Gadise.  Her mother and father are divorced and her mother works as a laborer on a farm far away.  Gadise is left to care for herself, her 7-year-old brother and 6-year-old sister.  Her mother sends them 10 birr (about 80 cents) to live on for one week.  Even in Ethiopia this is impossible and the family is on the brink of starvation and disruption.

Then I met a grandmother who stole my heart!  This wonderful lady has certainly encountered tragedy in her life, experiencing the deaths of three of her children to AIDS.  She is now adopting 9-year-old Obsa and 8-year-old Latu along with three other grandchildren!  Her face radiates her love of Jesus and she is meeting the challenge of her family situation with confidence that her Lord will help her.  I want Adopton Ministry 1:27 to be a part of her solution!

How can we be so blessed to have God ask us to help the poor?  What an opportunity!  What a privilege!  If you want to learn more about our Adopt-A-Family project or if you would like your church or ministry group to become involved in Adoption Ministry 1:27, please contact us!

Jeff Butler - Adoption Ministry 1:27

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