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Thursday, October 28, 2010

How do you fit LOVE in a Ziplock?

We leave in two weeks for Ethiopia - to see the kids that I first met last year, and whose lives have been completely transformed in the last year.  So many hungry and lonely children at these two care-points, who were so weak with hunger last year they could barely react to our arrival.  Children without a mommy or daddy to care for them and provide for them.

During the last year, every single child was matched with a sponsor family ... all 152 children!!!  Not only have they learned to trust and rely on having their tummies filled each day with nutritous food and clean water, but they have come to know the love and provision of a family in America.  And through them and the ministry of the care-point, they have come to know the love and provision of their heavenly Father.

All of the sponsor families have witnessed the transformation ... from hopeless and weak, to hopeful and full of joy and energy.

Last year at Kind Hearts care-point.

The same little girl (lower left corner) as she tries on
her new school uniform for the first time!

For many of these kids, they cannot fully comprehend that a family in America loves them and prays for them every day.  Yes - they have gotten letters filled with encouraging words.  Yes - they know that those families are providing for their basic needs and education.  But it's so hard for them to fully understand and believe that these families find them so love-able and so worthy.

When we travel to Ethiopia in two weeks, I am bringing a care-package from each sponsor family to every single child at the care-points.  I asked each family to limit their care-package to fit within a gallon ziplock bag and I too struggled with that limitation. 

As I stood there in Target with my kids, picking out a shirt for Mulunesh, the little girl my family sponsors, I wondered ...  "Would she like purple or pink?  What about these pencils - should we get the ones with hearts or balloons?  I know how precious paper is, so we need to find a pretty notebook that will fit in the bag.  Don't you think she would love these little hair ribbons?"  And then sitting down to write her a letter.  How do you fit love into a gallon ziplock bag?

I wish you all could be there to see the looks on their faces as they pour through the gifts and absorb every word from their letter and every detail in the photos of the family in America that they have never met.  My luggage is more than overflowing with care-packages, and I have loved seeing the special gifts that were so thoughtfully chosen, and the photos and letters written with such love.  I can't wait to sit with each child and tell them about their sponsor family, and read them their letter, and watch their face as they realize ... that these gifts are for them.  As their little fingers explore the treasures that were carefully and lovingly picked just for them.  It's going to be a very special day at the care-point! 

In just a few weeks - each family will see the gifts they carefully pondered and selected in their local Target or Walmart ... in the hands of a special little girl or boy on the other side of the world.  And suddenly ... it won't feel like they are so very far away.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Anniversary Day Approaches!

Two years ago, on November 7, we FINALLY received word that a judge in Ethiopia had declared two orphaned boys in Ethiopia - Wistroms.  And at the same time, that judge declared two orphaned girls - Hutchinsons.  At that moment, all the frustrating and tearful delays melted away .... and we were making plane reservations to bring our children home!  (We received our referral for our boys in June, and were not able to travel until early December!!)

Of all the families across the United States that were in the adoption process with Amercia World at that moment ... everything suddenly narrowed down to two families who by amazing coincidence - lived about 30 miles apart from each other.  Both of us failed court date after court date after court date - due to a missing signature here, a change of rules there, until the annual court closure approached and all of the other families travelled to Ethiopia without us.  Oh the waiting was so hard.

After court re-opened 2 months later, our two families were first on the docket - only to discover that the rules had changed once again, and we faced more delays.  Frustration and sadness again - because we knew our kids were watching family after family arrive to bring their children home.

Finally, our court date came again - and this time, it was good news.  All of the frustration and sadness instantly vanished when we got the "YOU PASSED COURT!!!!" phone call from our agency! 

The Wistroms now had two sons waiting for them in Ethiopia, and the Hutchinsons had two daughters waiting for them.  Two families from Minnesota made the trek to Ethiopia together to bring our children home - and our two families are forever bonded after that.  The highs and lows of adoption are so intense and at times, unexplainable, and our two families travelled that road together ... and we still do.

Here's all of our kids - taken this weekend when the Hutchinsons came to see us!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

That's My Girl!

Three weeks from now (Sunday) we'll be landing in Ethiopia to spend nine intense days with orphaned children at two care-points that we began working with about one year ago. 

My 13 year old daughter is going with me.  She has been there once before, when we adopted her little brothers from Ethiopia two years ago.

She understands the seriousness of the work we are doing there ... and what it means to the kids at the care-points.  She also brings a light-hearted joy to the gravity of the situation as she connects with these kids. 

There were many times when we were there two years ago, when the kids at the orphanages were a little cautious and somewhat frightened of the adults.  But they warmed up instantly to my daughters because kids instantly connect with kids!

Despite the desperate need and the heart-breaking situations she will experience there (and has experienced before) she's still just a 13 year old girl ... and everything that goes along with that.  All the intensity, drama, joy and silliness that's part of being a teen.

This is what it took to get the simple photo shown above.  (Those of you that know her think that she's so quiet and calm and serious.  And she is ... but here's the silliness she shares with her family.  :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Fish Aren't Laughing Anymore!

We spent a lot of time at the lake this summer. 
In Minnesota, we have 10,000 or so lakes to choose from. :)

Wesley LOVES to fish and he'll ask nearly every day, "Today we go fishing?"

And if you're going fishing, that means someone has to put the worm on the hook ... and someone has to take the fish off the hook. 

Anyone that knows me personally, knows that I'm not squeamish.  I've waded into murky, dangerous-looking water to catch a tiny turtle for the kids.  And I've been known to catch a few snakes with my hands if the kids want to see one up close, or if our neighbor is tired of being surprised by one in her hose box.

But after awhile, I got kindof yucked out about the sticky meal-worm juice on my fingers after piercing countless of their plump, squirmy little bodies with a hook ... only to have the fish slurp it off the hook without even touching the hook.  I was pretty certain I could hear the fish laughing at me from below the dock.

So I went looking for something else in the refigerator and discovered another type of bait that they couldn't slurp off the hook with ease. 

 (frozen corn)

Then Wesley caught fish after fish after fish after fish ... and lived happily ever after.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Special Place in the Rolling Hills of Ethiopia ...

Stephanie Anderson recently returned from Ethiopia with a team from Children's Hopechest and I asked her to write about a few of the experiences that had the greatest impact on her during her trip.  After returning home from a trip like this, it takes a few weeks to process what you just experienced and to reconcile the daily realities there ... with the daily realities here.  Stephanie did a beautiful job helping us to see Ethiopia and the kids at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts through her eyes.  Here are Stephanie's words ...

"My trip to Ethiopia is hard to compile into one blog post. Africa is full of hope, promise, energy, smiles, sadness, poverty, sickness and hardships. I do not think that I can adequately explain all that Africa is. Our team with Children's Hopechest consisted of 16 different individuals from all over the United States and Canada . We visited five different schools and orphanages including Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts.

Trees of Glory is beautiful. It feels like it is tucked into a special nook that God placed in the rolling hills of Ethiopia . A beautiful, small yellow flower, called Addi Ababa (the capital city is named after this flower), is scattered across the hills at this care-point.

There is a river at one end of the property. Although Trees of Glory is close to a water source, the water in the stream is not clean. The staff and teachers have to walk one kilometer carrying water jugs to bring back water to the school. On their journeys they also take a donkey to help carry as much water as possible. While the facilities are sparse and rustic compared to American standards, everything was well kept with the utmost care. These hard working women take pride in their home and school, and you can tell.

The director at Trees of Glory is a woman named Simret. She radiates warmth and compassion. If you ask any of the children at Trees of Glory about Simret, they will tell you that she loves each one of them as her own. Her love of Christ shines in her face and shows in her servant's heart.

She shares a bed and a single room home with a young boy she has named Moses. Throughout their living quarters there are Bible verses placed all over the walls.

Our team didn't get to spend much time at Trees of Glory. That day was a National Ethiopian holiday and most of the children were with family members or care-givers. This was disappointing for me personally because the child I sponsor through Children's Hopechest was one of the children who was not there that day. Although I selfishly missed getting to meet her, I was happy that she was able to spend a special day with the family that she has.

We also visited Kind Hearts which is close to the capital city of Addis Ababa . When we first arrived the children were enjoying a special meal of sheep wat and injera (this is a stew placed on top of a flat bread then eaten with the hands) for the Ethiopian holiday. All you could hear were the many mouths chewing their hearty meal! We stayed briefly and then returned the next morning. 

The children at Kind Hearts range in age from little ones who were around 4 or 5 to older children of around 12. We brought things to play with like bubbles and balls and then later gathered all of the children to learn the story of "Daniel and the Lions Den". Some of the team played with the kids while others worked on painting some of the buildings. 

A boy named Yilbeltal will forever be etched into my memory. I first noticed Yilbeltal when we were in one of the classrooms sorting clothing for the kids. He was sitting in the classroom with a towel draped over his head. You could see that one side of his face was extremely swollen. The swelling had nearly closed one eye and seemed to be moving further up his head.  While we were sorting the clothes we realized that we had a pair of tennis shoes that fit him! We traded him the new tennis shoes for the raggedy and broken sandals he was wearing.  Even through the excitement he had over his new pair of shoes, we could tell that he was still in alot of pain.

Later, when all of the children were gathered together coloring, Yilbeltal sat in the back with his head in his hands. My heart broke for him. I knew he was in pain and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to give him some pain medication be we were not sure if he would have a reaction. We didn't want to cause more problems than he already had.

We learned that his father worked at the school and wanted to take his son to the doctor but did not have enough money. That made my heart ache more than anything; the thought of Yilbeltal's father seeing his son in pain and not being able to do anything about it. I can not imagine what that would feel like as a parent.

While we were coloring, I laid my hands on him and prayed that God would provide him relief from his pain and comfort to know that He is in control. We provided money so that Yilbeltal could be taken to a dentist and a few days later we got pictures of his amazing recovery! 

I can not wait to hear all that God continues to do at Tree's of Glory, Kind Hearts and all the other wonderful places in Africa!"  - Stephanie Anderson

I will be leading a team of 18 people from across the United States to Ethiopia in Mid-November and we will be spending 3 full days at each care-point with the kids.  All of the children at the 2 care-points are sponsored, but more children are being enrolled at Kind Hearts.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

To sponsor families here in the United States that think about, and pray about, and worry about a child on the other side of the world ... a picture speaks a thousand words!!

A team from Children's Hopechest was in Ethiopia at the end of September and were able to spend some time with the kids at Kind Hearts.  Last December, these kids were so weak with hunger, they could barely acknowledge us as we arrived.  Today - after nearly a year of being matched with a sponsor family who provides for all of their basic needs .. the kids are doing great and are eagerly awaiting our arrival in less than 4 weeks!!

Here are a few photos for sponsor families!!!  Enjoy!!

(If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please email me at  There will be more children enrolling at the care-points soon and I will contact you as soon as a child enrolls and needs to be matched with a sponsor family!)