Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last days in Ethiopia

The University of Kentucky service team finished up their time in Ethiopia on Tuesday and boarded a plane to head for home.  But they take away a rich experience.


There was serving and giving…


There was playing…




A little shopping…



And a little eating…




But of course it is the people they met and served that they’ll remember.






This was an awesome trio of young men… strong, humble, giving and gracious.  They represented what’s really good about their generation. 

Many thanks to the University of Kentucky athletic department for their commitment to raising up athletes who are leaders!

Mark and Jeff welcome a team from the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation on Thursday and they're getting ready for another great group of young adults!

You can read more about the trip here, here and here on the UK Athletics blog.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Visiting prisoners

On Saturday, the University of Kentucky service team traveled to the city of Debra Zeit, about 30 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.  Samy and Ruth have a YWAM work in that area that includes ministry to at least two prisons.  This day, the three football players got a first-hand look at a very different penal system than ours in the U.S. and had the privilege of providing some comfort to the men who were imprisoned there.

IMG_9785 hi large
This particular prison appeared to be a rather minimum security facility!  These men have all been charged with a crime and will stay here until they are either convicted or cleared.  Guilty until proven innocent. 

Prisons, much the same as most hospitals in Ethiopia, do not provide food or any comfort items.  Family and friends have to bring these things to the men living there.  But many have been imprisoned far from home and don’t have anyone to supply their needs.  Samy, Ruth and their ministry partner, Raji, have a heart to share the love of Christ with these men and regularly prepare and deliver hot meals.  On this day, they had butchered a goat and made up a fresh wat (Ethiopian stew) along with injera to serve.

The players handed out a tin of warm food, some fruit, a bag of toiletries and a copy of the Bible to each man.

Some men opened and read from their new bibles before diving into their much-appreciated lunches. 

Later in the day, they stopped at another prison that Samy and Ruth regularly visit.

Mark Wolbert briefly shared about YWAM’s ministry and how Christ’s love is the reason they were there.



It was a privilege to come alongside Samy and Ruth and the vital ministry they provide to these prisoners.  Jeff said that there was much appreciation expressed - by those who received but also by those who gave – for greatly different reasons.  The team reflected on how much we have and take for granted and were grateful for the opportunity to give to these men.



Saturday, May 25, 2013

A day at Korah

Here is a photo diary of the day on Friday that the UK football players spent at Korah - the community by the dump in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  This incredibly impoverished area is home to many who eke out a ‘living’ by begging or selling whatever they can find to earn a little money for food.  Jeff said these three guys did an amazing job of serving and loving on the families in our Adoption Ministry 1:27 program who received food and charcoal.

Avery, Jonathan and Kevin

A view of the garbage heap at Korah

Dividing up the coal which will be used for cooking fuel.

With AM 1:27 and Korah church staff 

With one of the families suffering from leprosy who is sponsored through AM 1:27

Mark Wolbert holding Dino’s newest family member

A stop at Sole Rebel for shoes!

And we’ll end with some of the beautiful children who live in Korah…


Friday, May 24, 2013

Working for change

If you are an adoptive parent whose child has been ‘stuck’ in an orphanage while you wait (and wait and wait) for the Embassy to clear your case, you know that something needs to be done to bring change to the current adoption system in the country.  You are not alone.

Two YWAM/CHI moms recently traveled from their homes in Indiana and Illinois to attend the Both Ends Burning campaign’s ‘Step Forward for Orphans March’ in Washington D.C. on Friday May 17th and to meet with their state representatives and senators.   Both Becky and Brandy have first-hand experience with an international adoption process that left their children temporarily ‘stuck’ in red tape and very frustrating bureaucracy.  They finally were able to bring their daughters home but waited almost four and five months respectively after passing court to receive their clearance from the U.S. Embassy to do so.  Several of our families have waited even longer.
The passion they’ve felt about the need for change to this broken system has not faded even after being home.  Though some of the emotion may have abated as their focus turned to nurturing their new family dynamic, they have continued to work with other families whose adoptions were held up in similar ways, determined to bring this issue to the attention of those who can bring change.  (I almost wrote that they worked tirelessly but I am sure they did get tired!  Yet they kept pressing forward!)
Becky and Brandy drove to the capital with Brandy’s youngest daughter, arriving on Wednesday.  On Thursday, they met up with another friend who was in their group of Ethiopia adoptive families who, in 2011, all received the dreaded RFE (request for information – to prove the child’s status as adoptable) from USCIS.  This friend used to work for President Bush on Capital Hill, which proved to be very helpful as she gave them some good pointers and got them to the right buildings – all with two 2 year olds from Ethiopia and a newborn in tow! 
Their first meeting was with Congresswoman Brooks from Indiana.  They talked to her about the importance of international adoption and asked her to sign the new bill in congress “Children in Families First” drafted by Senators Mary Landreui of Louisiana, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Trent Franks of Arizona. This bill would establish and fund an inter-governmental agency dedicated to examining the current problems and fixing them.  

They also visited the offices of Senators Donnelly and Coats, sharing their experience and affidavits, asking them to sign the bill and even inviting them to view the movie ‘Stuck’ that evening.  There is nothing quite as effective as being face to face and hearing a firsthand account of bureaucratic errors and indifference that unnecessarily keep children from their families.  The families got to hear from some in these offices that they do genuinely care about adoption and one promised to contact the US ambassador in Ethiopia to discuss the issue.

At the showing of ‘Stuck’ that night, they got to meet Senator Landreui and also Duni Zenaye of EthioStork whose organization researches child family histories and assists families who hire her with international document issues.  Duni is also featured in the ‘Stuck’ documentary.

If you haven't yet seen this excellent film, you can watch it online or purchase it on dvd here.  It is a 'must see' for every person who believes that every child deserves a family and that orphanages are not an acceptable substitute.

The next day was the Step Forward for Orphans March, where over 500 moms, dads and children walked for a mile and a half to make a statement about the importance of adoption reform. 

There were many people carrying signs with pictures of their children who are still "stuck" – a very sobering reminder that this issue is extremely important and personal. 
Marching together with other parents who are committed to press for change brought a kind of closure for Becky.  She said “I don’t know if God will have me finally be done with it all but I feel 100 pounds lighter!”   
Thanks to all of you who have continued to press your state representatives to support the Children in Families First bill, who have signed the petition, and supported the Both Ends Burning effort.  Special thanks to Becky and Brandy who went to the time and expense of attending the march and pushing for reform.  We love you!

Here are some helpful tips to contact your state officials:

Go to these sites to find out the names of your senators and representatives and their phone numbers:
o Senate: (use the pull down menu at the top right to choose your state)
o House: (use your zip code and address if necessary)

Here is a great script to use as a guideline when calling: 

A few minutes of your time, multiplied by hundreds of calls, can have a big impact!!  Thank you!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

On a mission to serve

Three UK football players and Agegnhu (second from left) our driver,
all decked out in UK apparel!
For the third year in a row, the athletic department at the University of Kentucky has sent a few of their football players, along with the assistant athletic director (and Ethiopia adoptive dad) to spend a week serving the very poor in Ethiopia.  These young men are identified for their leadership qualities and potential, and are given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with so many who are living lives very different than their own.

The four men arrived on Thursday morning and jumped immediately into service!  What’s a little jet lag?  There was work to be done!  Mark Wolbert, our missions director, and Jeff Burns (have camera, will travel) led the team to one of the communities in Addis Ababa where YWAM has an Adoption Ministry 1:27 program, Bole Bulbula.  This is one of the poorest sections of the capital city, located in a rural area behind the airport. 

Homes in this very poor area often have walls with lots of spaces and gaps (can you tell?) for wind and weather to come in.  The team lined the inside walls of two homes with plastic sheeting to keep out the rain.  Any more sturdy improvements are considered by the government to be ‘upgrades’ and reason to raise the rent, so tarps provide the needed protection and allow these dear folks to stay in their homes.

We can hardly imagine the difference this makes and the gratitude the recipients feel.  Just look at that smile!  Her name is Ethiopia!

Here is the team in front of another home they worked on.  The woman in pink lives there with her young baby.  On the far right is Demiss, the AM 1:27 Case Manager.  He has a degree in accounting and is a blessing to our ministry as he faithfully serves the people in our program.

Next the team helped to distribute food in that same community to the widows and children in the 1:27 program.  If these women have jobs at all, it is usually selling cow dung or firewood for fuel, working as a daily laborer or washing clothes.  Many beg for the food they feed their families.  They live a very day-to-day existence and food is not a guaranteed commodity. 

I’m hoping Jeff is able to keep sending me photos and updates as this team of guys experience the ‘real’ Ethiopia.  Won’t you join us in praying for them?

You can find out more about Adoption Ministry 1:27 on our website here.  There you'll be able to read about this program designed to preserve families and prevent orphans.  You'll also be able to see pictures and bios of some of the families who you can 'adopt' and we're always adding more!

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