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.
Guy Bergstrom, MN
From Guy: When I was first approached about going to Ethiopia I was resistant. Not because I didn’t want to go, but the issues of time and money seemed insurmountable at the time. But, once again, God revealed that when He wants you to do something, no obstacle is too big for Him. ;) I’m excited to be going to Ethiopia with the team for several reasons. Having done mission trips before, I look forward to seeing God use the team to be a blessing to others, while at the same time leaving us feeling as though we were the ones who were most blessed! I can’t wait to meet my sponsor child, Hailemichael, face to face and to build a closer relationship with him! And I look forward to learning more about the country & people, as my Sister & Brother-in-law are working to adopt two kids from Ethiopia. I trust God has plans to do incredible things in and through the lives of the team as we step out in faith and obedience to serve Him.
Karisa Vander Kooi, MN
From Karisa: I feel so blessed to be going with this group! This trip has been on my heart and in my path for years. I'm so inspired and excited about all Children's HopeChest is doing! My original perspective on why God had me going on this trip was to "love on our sponsor child and just experience it" so I could come home and make a bigger difference in helping, fund raising, etc. I've teased Karen that since the day I met her, I was just positive she was going to be my mentor...whether she knew it or not! The closer the trip gets, I feel God pursuing me to just press in even harder to his plan and his purpose for this trip. I can just sense that he is doing a work in my life that's bigger than I could have ever imagined! I feel this deep love and compassion for the marginalized and lost here, as well in Ethiopia and just know that is God changing my perspective and has much better plans than I could have dreamed up! Thank you for your prayers!
Dana Lyver, MN
My journey to Ethiopia started in April with a dream, a strange dream where I was rescuing and "purchasing" children so I could reunite them with their families or even raise them as my own if they had no family. Within days of this bizarre dream, Pastor Max taught from Ephesians 1:7-14. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding...” I emphasize the word redemption because there are 3 Greek words used in the Bible for redemption. The Greek word, apolutrosis means "to liberate by paying a ransom in order to set a person free". As soon as I heard Pastor Max go through the definitions, I looked at my husband Joe and said, “That is what I was doing in my dream! I was redeeming those kids.” Processing this mentally and verbally, I wondered where and how God wanted to use me in this way. Within a couple weeks it was pressed upon my heart that I should go with the Children’s HopeChest team to Ethiopia – though there was a waiting list. Then on the early morning of the 16th of July, I read an e-mail from Karen Wistrom that there was a spot for me on the team! I dropped to me knees as tears revealed the depth of my longing to go that had built-up during the waiting – God provided an opening for me! This is part of how God through the Lord Jesus Christ prepared me to choose to be obedient to work with Him in caring for these orphaned/destitute children.
Stephanie Anderson, MN
From Stephanie: I've always had a place in my heart for this type of mission work overseas, but it wasn't until last April when Karen spoke on a Sunday morning that the Lord tugged my heart just a little harder. The pictures of the children that morning stayed in the back of my mind in the months ahead and I look forward to meeting each and every one of them! I feel that the Lord has not only called me to go on this trip to spread his great news to these children but also to strengthen my walk with him. I want to share my joy and my love for the Lord with these children and I am sure they will forever change my life in return. I am excited to see what the Lord has planned for this trip!
Michael Schaefer, MN
From Michael: It is with great excitement and anticipation that I embark on this journey. I want to share the Word of God and the love of Christ with as many kids and families as possible. Especially I want to see our sponsored child, Yikram, again. It is such a privelege to partner with Karen and the rest of the team to be the 'hands and feet of Jesus' to this group of children who so desperately need love.
Janine Kruger, MN
From Janine: For several years, the Lord has laid the word "Africa" on my heart. For a long time He just let it sit there, but when the time was right I heard Him say, "Go." And so with an amazing and indescribable peace (which isn't always prevalent in my crazy life), I'm listening and obeying (which again, doesn't always happen in my crazy life!). I know what our team is going to Ethiopia to do. However, I'm not totally certain why He has me going, but He told me I don't need to know, and that's all I need to know!
Rich Dixon and Bailey Johnson, MN
From Rich and Bailey: Now is the time! For years I have heard about this trip and the work being done on behalf of these kids and now is the time for Bailey and I to travel with this amazing team. We feel that sharing the word of God and the hope that can be achieved through Him is our primary purpose in life. The second reason is that I truly have a heart for kids and it hurts me when I hear their heartbreaking stories and gllimpse their amazing resilience in the face of these struggles that we can barely comprehend. I want to be able to be a voice for them, to spread the word of how we can make a difference for their lives now and in the future. I want to see their hopes met and their dreams grow! I would love to say that this is all for others and about giving/sacrificing everything, but I must admit that to some degree I am seeking to stifle my own ignorance about poverty. I know our lives will be forever changed with this experience and I pray that we may be able to positively change the life of at least one child.
Monty Mellman, MO
Wendy Ling, MN
From Wendy: My husband and I and our two sons age 22 and 16 have been on a roller coaster adoption journey for years. 2 1/2 yrs ago I began searching for a mission trip related to orphans that I could go on to love and serve these precious babes during my waiting period. God connected me with Karen, and here we lived right in the same town! I went on the trip that November and had just an incredible experience. We started the paperwork to adopt 2 girls from Ethiopia two months later in January. I didn't go last year as I was concerned about timing with the adoption. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been on the trip! I am excited to be going again this year and see our sponsor children along with our new ones I didn't get to meet on the last trip! So many things have happened at the care points since I was there. I can't wait to reunite with the staff and children and see all that God has been up to! It is such a beautiful time of fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world and being blessed and refined by God's grace as we serve one another in love!
Trisha Rivers, MN
From Trisha: I have always admired those who have travelled to many different countries to serve and minister to children and families. I see the needs and my heart just sinks. The Sunday that hit me the most was when the Adoption Sunday School was being held and Karen had spoke about Ethiopia. Seeing that passion tugged on my heart even more and really wanted to experience a journey that could change lives in Ethiopia and to change my life. We serve a very big God and he made it clear that I was chosen to be part of this journey with Him along with many other Christian members. I have chosen to travel to Ethiopia to share the love of Jesus! I look forward to spending time with the kids and loving them like Jesus loves us.
Tammi Dorion, MN
From Tammi: Why am I going to Ethiopia? This picture says it all. I am so in love with these beauties that it took me 1 day to know I would be going back. I plan on getting back every year that I can. I feel like I was so much more blessed from them than they were from me, but I want to do anything and everything I can for these kids.
Nick and Elias Uecker, MN
From Nick: My first prayers about going to Ethiopia began when my wife Stacy went 2 years ago. At first my prayers led me to take this trip so I could be a better steward for the care points back at my family, church and friends. I saw that with some great planning and willing hearts, amazing things can be accomplished. After spending more time praying and realizing the dream of taking my son with, I came to realize something more. I began to see how truly God blessed the care points are. From photos we get to see the smiling faces, the welcoming arms, the laughter, God’s love and I get to be a part of that. We are only a small part of his plan, but a vital one. God has many more amazing things planned.
From Elias: I want to go to Ethiopia because I want to see what we’ve changed as a church. I also would like to minister to the kids about God and last but not least to see all the joy that people have regardless of their situation.
Linda Hegdal, FL
From Linda: I am so excited to be making my third trip to Ethiopia. I love all of the improvements that I see at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory. It is amazing the projects that have been accomplished in three years. I look forward to seeing the all the people that I have gotten to know during my last two visits. Best of all I will get to see Tadesse, the child I sponsor at Kind Hearts!
Chris and Isabel Swartzmiller, MI
From Chris: It was almost one year ago that the children of Ethiopia gave me that last big hug before we said goodbye. I think it was then, that I realized that they had given me something that couldn't be quantified. This amazing gift was a sense of purpose and insight that I'm not sure I thought was possible and yet they have nothing. They lack food, clothing and shelter but have an abundance of smiles, laughter and conviction. They are diligent in their work and their faith but are caught in a trap of poverty and despair. To see these people struggle to survive with sometimes only their faith in God, well, thats simply inspiring. I'm very proud that I'm able to travel with Karen's team and not only witness the amazing impact and accomplishments that continue to flourish, but I'm allowed to contribute. Again, what a special gift!
From Isabel: It is hard to put into words specifically why I'm going to Ethiopia for a second time. There are just so many reasons. My dad, Chris works with Ms Karen and one day, two summers ago he came home and showed me her blog. From the moment I laid my eyes on the kids, my mind was set that I needed to go on this trip. Last year's trip was life changing and I hope this year’s will have the same effect on me. I fell in love with the kids and the people in Ethiopia and cannot wait to see them again (especially my family's sponsor children) in November. Counting down the days!
Amy Crowell, MN
From Amy: I want to go back to Ethiopia because I feel God calling me back to continue to help make a positive difference in each child's life. I am so excited and counting down the days.
Jessica Dooley, CA
From Jessica: I wanted to go on the trip to see firsthand what Children's Hopechest is doing in Ethiopia. I've dreamt of visiting Africa since I was a little girl and I've wanted to go on this trip since I started sponsoring my little girl four years ago. It's mind boggling to me that in two weeks I will get to meet her.
Karen, Emmelyn and Maea Wistrom, MN
From Karen: We are going back to Ethiopia because we are committed to these kids and our dear friends at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory and Children's HopeChest who serve these kids daily. The transformation we have seen over the years, from hopeless to hope-filled, is miraculous and my daughters have learned first-hand that all it takes to make a difference in the life of a child is choosing to do so! We want to see these kids grow up to become the future Godly and bold leaders of their country and we want to walk alongside them as they reach their God-given potential!