Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something Momentous was Happening!

I never fully realized the full ramifactions of being an orphan until we adopted two orphaned boys from Ethiopia.  Other than the obvious and devastating loss of their parents, an orphaned child quickly spirals down an abyss of loss; loss of opportunity, loss of family inheritance, loss of status within their community, loss of protection, loss of ... everything. 

In Ethiopia, an education requires monthly fees, school books and a school uniform.  Without money to pay for school fees, that child cannot attend school, and the opportunity to get an education and "make something of themselves" is lost.  Any family property, livestock or land is lost.  Anything passed down from parent to child, from mother to daughter, from father to son ... is lost. 



It's a parent's most valuable legacy ... the things we teach our children.  The wisdom gained through hardship and experience, that we attempt to pass down to our children to (hopefully) lessen their mistakes.  The advice and counsel we try to give as they navigate through childhood into their turbulent teens.  But for an orphaned child ... their is no such legacy.

This last weekend, my parents came to help us with some house painting and to build a new railing for a deck.  My dad's construction background comes in very handy on these types of projects and Jay and I are very willing to take instruction and learn from his expertise.  This time, we had a new little helper that was extremely curious about all the tools that were suddenly appearing and the fresh load of wood that arrived with Grandpa.






Jayden (9 years old) ended up working alongside his grandpa all day, and well into the next day.  Little boys are sometimes known for their short attention span, easy distraction, and quickness to boredom - but there were tools involved, and measuring tapes to learn how to use, and levels to hold in place until the bubble reached just the right spot!  A dream come true for a curious (and mechanically inclined) little boy!

Jayden tucked himself along his Grandpa's side, and Grandpa was happy to have such an attentive helper and hard worker.  And amid the hustle and bustle of all the projects, I had one of those moments where it suddenly dawns on me that something momentous is happening. 

Planets are alligning, 

broken cogs are suddenly meshing perfectly 

and a little boy who was once an orphan, was in the process of gaining a birthright ... a new heritage ... a legacy, right before my eyes.

I stopped to watch (and take a few pictures) as Grandpa patiently explained to Jayden how to hold the deck spindle in place so he could screw it securely in place.  How to check it to make sure it was plumb and straight.  After a few, Jayden caught on and I watched my Dad smile approvingly and Jayden's face break into a brilliant smile. 

Pretty soon they had their own rhythm going and they were working together in perfect harmony with few words needing to be exchanged.  When grandpa needed a different drill bit, Jayden anticipated it and presented the right one.  When a new railing section was ready to be placed, Jayden was ready with the platforms and jigs to help with the placement.  When the drill started to lose power, Jayden walked over to the charger to bring a fresh battery.


Later on, I watched as Jayden demonstrated to his little brother, some of the finer points of the tools.  Pointing out the different drill bits and the various screw heads. 




Pretty soon, Wesley was trying his hand at the hammer and drill, and sitting patiently while handing deck screws to his Daddy right when he needed them.







Later, I thought about what Jayden's birth mother had told me about his birth father.  "That's no child of mine," he had said, disclaiming him as his son, and setting Jayden on a path of despair, starvation and bitter poverty. 

And now ... this little boy not only has a Daddy that claims him, he has a Mommy, a brother, 2 sisters, 2 grandpas, 2 grandmas, and more cousins, aunts and uncles than he can count.  And little by little, knowledge and wisdom and experience are being handed down to him within the birthright of his new family.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How a Bottle Cap can Change Lives!!!

In less than 2 months, I will be in Ethiopia with a team of 16 people, to spend time with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory care-points.  152 orphaned children that I met last year for the first time, and who are eagerly awaiting our arrival.  A few days ago, I posted here about the construction projects that part of our team will be working on while we are there.

One of our sponsor families, The Davidsons, has created these super-cute bottle cap necklaces and will be donating ALL proceeds for sales of the bottle cap necklaces to the construction projects.  I have posted about Samantha before (click here) because she is a what I call a "starfish thrower".  A person who makes a difference in the life of ONE, and ends up changing the lives of many.  She is only 11 years old, and with her bottle cap necklaces she has provided shoes for over 100 orphans who have never owned a pair of shoes!  Now she is donating ALL of the proceed from any bottle-cap necklace purchase (between now and November 13) so that we can purchase construction supplies and materials and get a roof and a fresh coat of paint on classrooms for these kids!







Would you consider purchasing a bottle cap necklace for yourself, your friends and your family to support the kids at the care-points?  (Go to Samantha's blog and purchase securely using PayPal.)  http://www.littlegoody2-shoes.blogspot.com/
Would you help us spread the word? 

And even after you have purchased a bottle cap necklace, would you consider making a donation directly to the Construction Fund? 

Go to http://www.hopechest.org/

Click on "GIVE"

Enter your donation amount and then clearly specify in the notes "ET101101T - PROJECTS".


There are 4 members of our travel team that will be spending their time in Ethiopia working on construction projects at the care-points. Everything from painting classrooms, building classroom benches, repairing roofs and windows, creating an irrigation dam for a vegetable garden, replacing locks on doors, etc. For the kids at Trees of Glory, our construction crew will be helping to turn a raw cement-block building into a bright and cheerful classroom!!

We need to raise $3,500+ in order to purchase constuction supplies and materials for these projects. Our construction crew will travel with the entire team out to the care-point and will then "rough it" for 3-4 days, living at the care-point with no running water and no electricity, so they can work on these construction projects. The rest of the travel team will return to Addis Ababa each night.

Your financial help is critical for these projects. We need to purchase the construction materials before we arrive so that our construction team can spend the entire 3-4 days working! If you have been interested in helping the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory care-points, please make a donation to this project - and help us spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers and church family.

Email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com if you make a donation so I can track our progress.  Be sure to specify account code "ET101101T-PROJECTS" so that the funds get allocated correctly.

THANK YOU on behalf of the kids at Kind Heart and Trees of Glory!! I will be blogging and photographing our experiences in Ethiopia so that you can see first-hand the life-changing impact you are having for these kids.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Could See a Flicker of Hope in their Eyes

I'll be looking into their eyes and holding their little hands again in less than 2 months.  These are just a few of the sweet kids I met last year in Ethiopia, and who I will be spending time with again in November. 


Most of these kids are orphans, they have nothing ... no mom or dad to love them, provide for them, or protect them. They have been through much more sadness and grief and loneliness and fear than I can fathom.

They do have a sponsor family here in the U.S. that for the past many months has been providing for their basic needs. Making sure they have nutritious meals every day, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship.

Their sponsor families have been writing letters to them. Words on a page filled with hope and encouragement ... "we love you" ... "you are special to us" ... "we are praying for you" ... "work hard in school" ... "God loves you" ...



I looked into these sweet, beautiful faces last year in Ethiopia through my camera lens.  Despite everything these kids have been through, when I look into their eyes, I can still glimpse hope.  In some, it shines brightly, and in others it barely flickers ... but it is there and I can see it.



Some of the kids were tentative at first.  Watching us from a distance, or shyly extending a hand to meet mine in a greeting.  Others were exhuberant and almost pushy, desperate for a touch and a hug. 



Those that stood at a distance were the ones that slid into your lap later, like it was an accident. "Oh look ... how did I end up here?" Hoping you wouldn't notice they were there and wouldn't push them away. And pretty soon, their little bodies would relax and they would press themselves against my body and savor the feeling of a mommy's arms around them once again.

My eyes fill with tears at the remembering.





I am especially concerned for the young girls, poised on the edge of adulthood.  I have 12 & 13 year old daughters that have their entire future to look forward to, full of opportunities and adventure. 

The 12 & 13 year old orphaned girls in Ethiopia are fighting for their very survival against starvation, disease and human predators.  Many of these girls will be raped or will prostitute themselves for food.  Some will be married soon and having children if it wasn't for the intervention of the care-point and their sponsor family.



One of the most important provisions made at the care-points is EDUCATION.  Without an education, these kids would be destined to repeat the vicious cycle of poverty.  In Ethiopia, an education costs money. 

No parents = No money = No education.

At Trees of Glory care-point, 84 orphaned children will have the privilege of attending school this fall.  For many of them, it will be their first time in a classroom!



I will be travelling to Ethiopia on Nov 13, leading a team of 16 people from across the United States. Many of our team members are sponsors, and they will be meeting their sponsor child for the first time. I can't wait to be there - to witness that first meeting and to take pictures.

For those sponsor families that can't be there, I will be delivering a care-package for each and every child. All 68 kids at Kind Hearts and all 84 kids at Trees of Glory care-points will receive a small package of supplies and gifts that were thoughtfully and lovingly picked just for them from their sponsor family, along with photos and a letter.  A steady stream of packages has been arriving at my front door this week in preparation for our trip in November!




There are 4 members of our travel team that will be spending their time in Ethiopia working on construction projects at the care-points.  Everything from painting classrooms, building classroom benches, repairing roofs and windows, creating an irrigation dam for a vegetable garden, replacing locks on doors, etc.  For the kids at Trees of Glory, our construction crew will be helping to turn a raw cement-block building into a bright and cheerful classroom!!

We need to raise $3,500+ in order to purchase constuction supplies and materials for these projects.  Our construction crew will travel with the entire team out to the care-point and will then "rough it" for 3-4 days, living at the care-point with no running water and no electricity, so they can work on these construction projects.  The rest of the travel team will return to Addis Ababa each night.

Your financial help is critical for these projects. We need to purchase the construction materials before we arrive so that our construction team can spend the entire 3-4 days working!  If you have been interested in helping the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory care-points, please make a donation to this project - and help us spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers and church family. 

Email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com if you make a donation so I can track our progress. 


click on GIVE,

specify your donation amount,

and clearly specify ET101101T-PROJECTS


Be sure to specify the account code so that the funds get allocated to the November Ethiopia Trip Construction Projects.

THANK YOU on behalf of the kids at Kind Heart and Trees of Glory!!  I will be blogging and photographing our experiences in Ethiopia so that you can see first-hand the life-changing impact you are having for these kids. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why "First Days" are so Hard on Moms

He was grinning and wiggling with excitement as I brushed his teeth this morning.  "Mom?", he asked, "Today I go pre-school?".  "Yes! Today is your first day and it will be so much fun!", I told him, trying to convince myself as much as him.  He ran off to locate his "pack-pack" and he wore it for the next two hours.

As I worried about his first day and all the little details that I hadn't thought to explain yet, I kept wondering what exactly I was so worried about.  After all, this isn't the first child I had sent off to the big, brave world of "first day of school".  It was my fourth!  And then it dawned on me - I was worried about him coming across something that he didn't understand yet - and being scared and confused.  His eyes searching for me in the room, and not finding me there. 

Going to the lunch room and not knowing that he had to stop at his locker and get his lunch.  Or not knowing where the bathroom is and waiting too long to ask.  Or getting separated from his class and getting lost.  Or not knowing how to open a milk carton.  Or getting on the wrong bus and .... you know the nightmare. 

It's the worse-case scenario that moms naturally worry about - it's our genetic mom makeup.  Protecting and nurturing, gently guiding and teaching, being able to look at your child and instinctively know what the need is - those are our mommy trademarks.  And suddenly - they are "on their own" navigating these uncharted waters by themselves, and getting occasional bumps and bruises in the process.

The week before school started - I started to think through the little day-to-day details in a whole new way.  I showed him how to open his lunch box, and how to pop the straw through the little hole in the top of his juice box.  "Don't squeeze it," I explained.  "If you squeeze it the juice will come out and you'll get wet." 

I took him to school and showed him where the bathrooms are.  He walked in by himself and I heard his little feet pause.  "Mom,"  he called to me.  "Come in with me."    I called back to him, "I have to wait for you out here, Wesley.  You can do it." 

I could hear that his feet hadn't started moving, and there were no kids nearby so I peeked into the bathroom to see what his concern was.  He was standing facing a wall of pint-sized urinals, a look of confusion on his face.  Oh great - something we don't have at home.  Just then, a little boy rounded the corner, walked up to a urinal, dropped his pants all the way to his ankles and stood there bare-bottomed and using the urinal.  He finished, pulled up his drawers, and exited without a glance at us.  Wesley looked at me and said "He's silly.  He peed on that!" and marched into the stall, closed and locked the door, and did his business.

Upon exiting, he looked around for a sink.  I showed him the big half-circle trough where you step on the bar at the bottom and a sprinkler turns on to wash hands.  He was mesmerized, and I had visions of the entire class sitting at their little desks learning their letters, while Wesley played in the bathroom, repeatedly stepping on the bar to turn on the hand-sprinklers.

Later at home, when he used the bathroom and then yelled, "Moooooooooommm!" and we went through the merry-go-round of "Emme - can you go wipe Wesley?" "Maea?, Jay? Somebody???"  I walked into the bathroom and announced.  "Wesley, you are big boy now.  You have to wipe your own butt.  Your teachers won't do that for you."  He looked at me - appalled that he would be asked to do such a thing.  Again, I was having visions of the entire class diligently working at their desks, while Wesley sat in the bathroom, swinging his feet and calling for someone.  Well - he's a big boy now. :)  So with that out of the way, he should be ready, right?  Nothing to worry about!












He was all smiles when I picked him up.  A good first day!  He chattered all the way home, told me all the details about his day and proudly showed me one of his projects.  Then he opened his lunch box to show me that he had eaten everything - and he pointed to the juice box and said triumphantly, "I didn't squeeze it!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Get to be the Arms that Hug Them!!

In about 2 months, I'll leave home once again to fly to Ethiopia.  A country and a people that I have not been able to forget since we first laid eyes on our sons there almost 2 years ago.  This will be my 3rd trip to Ethiopia in about 2 years, and in a way, each trip is somewhat of a homecoming - familiar places and familiar faces. 

This time I will be returning with 17 people from across the United States  17 people who I cannot wait to introduce to the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory.  Most of us have never met face-to-face and yet we share the same heart when it comes to these kids!

Last year, I returned to Ethiopia with Children's Hopechest, and met the kids at "Kind Hearts" care-point for the first time.  I'll be returning to see my friends there - 68 sweet kids who have come to know the comfort of food in their tummies, the sustenance of learning for their minds, and the knowledge of the Gospel for their hearts. 

Last year, these kids could barely raise their heads from their desks when we arrived.  They were starving.  The care-point could only feed them one cup of rice, ONE DAY each week. 

Oh what a difference their sponsor families have made for them.  Not only in the physical needs of their bodies, but in their sweet, lonely, despairing hearts where they have since learned that ... They. Are. Loved!

At "Trees of Glory" care-point, which is 2 hours North of Addis Ababa, and rarely seen by Americans, travellers and tourists, there are 84 orphaned children living in desperate poverty.  That is until sponsor families in the United States came alongside them to love them, protect them, and provide for them.

Tummies are satisfied now, and young minds are hungering for education!  With the generous giving of several sponsor families, salaries have been secured for 2 teachers and a school will be opened at the care-point this fall.

One of the things I am looking forward to the most with this upcoming trip, is that I will have the honor of personally delivering a care-package to each and every child at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory, from their sponsor family - all 152 kids! 


Care-packages are starting to arrive at our front door for the kids at the
care-points in Ethiopia!  My luggage will be filled with these care-packages
when I travel to Ethiopia in November.



Many of the kids have already received letters and words of encouragement from their sponsor family, and I am looking forward to having them snuggle into my lap, as we go through their package, and watching their eyebrows lift in question as they look at the gifts that were brought over the ocean, just for them.  Little gifts that were lovingly and carefully selected just for them.  And then seeing that shy smile as it flits across their face and the wonder in their eyes when they ask, "For me?" and I can say, "Yes, for you, because your family in America LOVES YOU!" 

I get to be the arms that hug these precious kids, for families here, that love them and pray for them from the other side of the world!


Every child at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts is sponsored, and every sponsor family is sending a care-package for their sponsor child.  If YOU are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.  As soon as we have more children enrolling at the care-points, I will contact you to match you with a child.  If you are interested in sending a financial donation for emergency needs for the kids while we are in Ethiopia, please contact me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Goodbye Summer ...

As the first day of school approaches, I always feel a sadness for another summer gone by ... too quickly.  After all, in Minnesota we only have 3 months of summer (and we live it to the fullest) and the rest of the year is ... winter.  Sigh ...

The alarm went off painfully early.  It was cold and blustery.  55 degrees.  So much for the cute capris, shorts, and layers of tanks and t's that were carefully laid out last night in anticipation.  A decidedly resounding end to the summer.  Before the clock struck 7 am ... the girls headed off to school.


An hour later, the scene was repeated for the littler kids, as moms and dads took shelter from the cold rain and wind in our garage to see their littles off on the first day of school.


Wesley and I headed to the coffee shop.  Me for a grande mocha with skim and whip, and him for a hot chocolate, skim and whip :)  We watched the rain come down and we swung our feet from the high stools.  We savored the quietness for a few minutes ... the rain seems to put a hush on everything.






"Mmmmmmm ... it's good," he said.  "Let's go, Mom". 

And he's right.  It is good. 

It's a strange melancholy feeling to watch time slip away and the kids growing up and away.  But at the same time - we are truly savoring every moment, living life to the fullest ... and IT. IS. GOOD.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Everyday is an Adventure!

Last Friday, I took a rare day off from work, and we all went to the zoo.  It also happened to be the opening day of the MN State Fair, so I figured, "That's a great day to go to the ZOO!" :)

At some of the exhibits, it was almost like we were the only ones there.  Just us ... and the animals ... up close and personal. 

And in one case, a little too up close and personal. :) 

I don't have a picture of the rooster that attacked me (because I was busy rescuing Wesley), but I have the puncture wound and the big bruise on my leg to show for it. 

OK - now that I mentioned it ... here's the story.  The zoo has a little farm area where you can pet the goats and see cows getting milked. In the cow barn, there was a very large and very majestic rooster sitting on a fence.  As we walked into the barn, Wesley and the rooster locked eyes, and the rooster proceeded to stalk him.  Wesley started doing a dance .. trying to keep my body betweeen him and the rooster.  Somehow, Wesley knew that rooster was bad news.

The rooster jumped down from his perch and started advancing on us.  Wesley was nearly frantic, and so I turned around to pick him up and get him out of pecking distance.  And at that moment - I felt a searing pain in my calf.  I whirled around to see the rooster's tail feathers as he made a quick exit.  We all looked down at my leg in shock as blood seeped  from a puncture wound and an angry bruise started to appear around the spot where the rooster placed his pick-axe of a beak in my leg. 

Lesson:  City girls should not interact with country roosters.  And never make eye contact with a rooster! :)

But other than that ... it was a very enjoyable and relaxing day at the zoo!




"Russia's Grizzly Coast" was a great exhibit as one of the bears splashed
around in the water and playfully pressed his nose against the glass
right in front of the kids' faces!


Prairie dogs are always entertaining as they stretch out in the sun
and pretend to be pelts.


Whenever we see goats, Jayden starts telling us stories of how he watched them
being slaughtered and eaten in Ethiopia.  He can tell you just how to tie the feet
and where to put the knife. (Nice!)

This picture was taken seconds before my run in with the rooster. :)




Despite all of the great animal exhibits, we spent the most time in the
butterfly enclosure.  The kids loved watching them and identifying
all of the different kinds.  They eventually figured out that when a butterfly
lands on a flower, you can put your finger under their legs and they
will perch on your finger for awhile.




And since we were near the Twin Cities, it's only a short drive to our favorite
Ethiopian restaurant (Fasika) in St. Paul.  As soon as we walked in the door,
we could smell the delicious spices and my mouth started to water. 
Jayden sniffed the air and then broke into a wide smile, "mmmmmm,
it smells good!" he exclaimed.  We ordered enough to have
leftovers for lunch the next day.

Even though Wesley is too young to remember his life or experiences in Ethiopia,
he instinctively knows how to tear off pieces of injera (a pancake-like
bread that you use instead of silverware) and scoop up the
sauces and stews (wot).  A couple of times he looked at me
with a big smile and said, "spicy!" as his nose ran from the berbere spices. 
If you have never tried Ethiopian food, we highly recommend it!!