Each year - I ask each volunteer to email me a photo and a few sentences about why they are going to Ethiopia. For many of us on the team, this is the first glimpse we will have of each other, before we meet face to face in Washington DC to begin our journey to Ethiopia. It gives me a glimpse into the heart and mind of each person that by the end of the trip, I will know and love like family.
Apryl Harbaugh, OH
The trip this November will be the third time I've joined Karen to visit the CarePoints in Ethiopia. I never thought that I would be able to return to Ethiopia three times. The trip itself seems like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Each year, I've prayed for guidance and resources to be made available. Each year, God provides the resources and the encouragement to join the team again. In November, I approach the week in Ethiopia planning for it to be the last time I visit our sponsor children. For the past two years, summer began with Karen asking for interest in the trip. I take pleasure in watching God's plan emerging and sending her my response of "Yes, I can go!". I'm delighted to realize that I have another opportunity to hug the children I haven't seen for a year, laugh with the amazing Hopechest staff, and serve with a wonderful group of volunteers.
I vividly remember the scene at Kind Hearts last year. Children welcomed us with songs and soon after, began panning the crowd searching for the familiar faces of their sponsors. I saw pictures of families I recognized, as their sponsor children ran from adult to adult, sharing their pictures. Jirigna's little sister running up to me and protectively grabbing my hand declaring, "Jirigna! Jirigna!" I know one day, Jirigna will scan the faces and not see mine. This year, our sponsor children will scan the faces and smile in recognition. Like them, I will be scanning the faces and smile in recognition. I go to Ethiopia, because this year, God has provided a way for me to go.
Amy Crowell, MN
I am going to Ethiopia because I feel this is a calling from God. I am totally committed to children's ministry and believe that this includes any and all children that I can reach. I am fortunate and blessed to be able to travel to Ethiopia to interact with the children and spread the Word of God. I believe if I can help change the life of just one child than I will feel I have fullfilled my calling. I praise God for this opportunity!
Becky Dunkle, OH
I have had a heart for missions for many years. This will be my third trip to Ethiopia. My eyes have been opened to the need there but I am the one blessed when I get to visit. My husband and I sponsor 2 children and have close friends or family that sponsor 9 others. I am priveleged to be able to take their care packages and give their children a special hug. The translators and staff at the care points are like family. I am looking forward to joining my daughter (Apryl) on our trip again this year.
Brook Moberly, IL
Over the last few years, God has been continually calling me out of my comfort zones - or maybe, I'm just learning to be obedient. Either way, I took a HUGE step of faith last year by going and was so incredibly glad I did! Returning home to my husband and two little girls was awesome, but I think deep down, I knew I'd be making the journey again. As the months passed, I kept thinking of reasons not to go and found myself more and more uncomfortable with leaving again. But with lots of prayer and lots more faith, I am making the trip again. It is still very difficult for me to leave my children but I know this is an incredible opportunity to serve and be served. Not to mention getting to see my sponsor child AGAIN and seeing some friends from last year!!
Chris and Isabel Swartzmiller, MI
Isabel and I are honored to be included in this wonderful effort of selflessness. As a father, I struggle to instill values and convey messages to my children that not only empower but enable them to look beyond their visual boundaries. Today, we find ourselves in an environment where people are judged based on their possessions. We are pressured and rewarded to strive for more, more of everything... unfortunately this is also mostly centered on material things. My hope is that this will expose Isabel to a different environment and allow us to experience the reality that joy is not found in those possessions but what we give. "We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give".
Isabel and I feel very fortunate that we will be surrounded by people who give so much and we hope to learn and grow from this experience so that we can make a difference for many years to come.
"Many small people, in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the face of the world".
Danielle Babb, NH
I have decided to go to Ethiopia this year because I believe that we are called to "go into the world and preach the good news" so I have always wanted to go on a missions trip. I wasn't sure how or when but my family sponsors two children and when I heard about the trip through my step-mother I knew this was an amazing opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I am very excited to go and though I don't know what to expect, I do know that I can expect change and for God to work in an amazing way both in my life and the lives of those I meet.
Libby Gallop, MN
When I think about why I am going to Ethiopia it's such an overwhelming swirl of emotions, but to state it simply- I am going to begin finding and fulfilling my purpose in this life. I have always known that Africa is meant to be apart of my life, and I decided about a year ago that its time to start planning how I am going to make that happen. I am pursuing a second degree in nursing so that I can leave corporate management and travel throughout Africa to find my place- a place where I'll feel at home and happy knowing that I am making a difference in someone's life and leaving this life a better place. I have researched a few organizations throughout Africa, but as soon as I found out about Children's HopeChest I knew that this was an experience I truly wanted to be apart of.
Linda Hegdal, FL
I am very excited to be returning to Ethiopia this November. I look forward to visiting the carepoints and seeing the wonderful progress that has been made at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts. I can't wait to see how Tadesse (my sponsor child) has grown since last year, it was amazing getting to meet him. As a teacher, I am delighted that both facilities are trying to expand to help more children and I am proud to help with those fundraising efforts.
Monica Campos, Italy
For the past 2 years I have traveled to Ethiopia with Karen's team. I love Ethiopia! The children, the staff, and the country are amazing. I look forward to visiting the care points and loving on (and being loved on) by the children. My family sponsors one child at each care point and it is such a blessing for me to be able to spend quality time with them. As a sponsor, the time I get to share with my girls is such a joy to me. As November creeps closer I'm making my final trip preparations and beginning my official countdown to see Tadelech and Kalkidan!
Naomi Fisher, MO
This will be my first trip both to Ethiopia and to Africa. I have wanted to go to meet my sponsor child at Kind Hearts, but always had schedule conflicts with the trips in the past. This year, God opened the door wide and cleared the way to be able to go. I'm excited and scared at the same time, but really looking forward to seeing what Children's HopeChest is doing and being a part of it in some small way.
Paul Cooper, NE
After bringing our son home from Ethiopia in early 2011 we wanted to maintain a connection to the country both for him and for us. We have been involved with HopeChest through child sponsorship and this will be my second visit to the Kind Hearts school. The warmth and excitement the kids have when people visit is overwhelming and it's exciting to have an opportunity to impact their lives in this small way. We love the rich heritage and spirit of Ethiopia and want to continue making it an important part of our family's life.
Susan and Georgia Gorr, MN
Susan: Africa is calling out to me! I go for the life adventure, but most importantly for the chance to meet the little boy who has captured my heart. I want to show the children and the people involved in the carepoints that I appreciate, support and care for them all.
Georgia: I want to experience what the children there experience. I want to learn the games they play. And I really want to meet Asrat (our sponsor child)!
Tammi Dorion, MN
I have felt a tug on my heart for these precious children ever since I saw Karen's presentation at our church in Buffalo a few years ago. I started sponsoring a child last year and I am so thankful for an organization that has such personal care and consideration for these beautiful children. I feel so blessed that God is providing the means to be a part of this trip this year. In a time when it shouldn't make financial sense to be able to go, I know he will provide richly. I am so excited to meet my sponsor child, Temsgen. I am very excited to have the opportunity to be part of "the hands and feet" of our precious savior Jesus.
Abby Wasson, MO
It is somewhat difficult to put into words all the reasons why I'm going on this trip. There are many. But ultimately it is because my two children are Ethiopian, and it really only feels right in my heart and my mind to continue to give back to Ethiopia, especially the children. I also have fallen in love with the country, the people, the culture, and I want to always be connected to Ethiopia in a very real way.
Karen Wistrom, Emme & Maea, MN
Karen: My two sons are Ethiopian and ever since we first travelled to Ethiopia to bring them home, I could not stop thinking about all the children we met who would not know the love, protection and provision of a family. Our volunteer work with Children's HopeChest has touched and changed the lives of nearly 350 children who now attend our Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints and have come to know the love, provision and prayers of their sponsor family (and the love of their heavenly Father). My two daughters are joining me again this year in Ethiopia and it has been a joy to watch them forge long-term relationships with the kids we serve, the other volunteers on the team and the dedicated HopeChest staff members we work with.
Please keep the entire team in your prayers when we travel to Ethiopia Nov 8 - 19. To all the KH and TOG Sponsor Families - we will hug and love each and every child and tell them all about you when we deliver your package to them!