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Thursday, December 9, 2010


She shyly entered the room, looking tentatively from one adult to another.  Her hands were buried in her skirt, where she tried to hide her nervousness by bunching the dirty fabric in her fists.  I knelt down to look into her eyes and gently asked, "Simesh Manoo?"  (What is your name?).  With barely a whisper, she told me her name and I scanned down my list to find her care-package that had been sent by her sponsor family. 

I held my hand out to her and called her by name.  She reached for my hand and we walked over to the colorful packages laid out in numerical order.  Reaching for the one that had her name on it, I lead her to a chair where two adults waited for her with big smiles on their faces - knowing the suprise that was in store for her!

Months before our trip to Ethiopia, to visit Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts care-points, I had invited each sponsor family (for 152 children) to send me a care-package that I would personally deliver to their sponsor child.  I suggested items like a shirt, chapstick, toothbrush, pencils, soap, and granola bars, along with the most important items - a letter and photos - all to be fit into a gallon zip-lock bag.  Packages started arriving in droves at my door, and I marvelled at the care and attention that went into each package and the special gifts that had been picked out for a child on the other side of the world.

Sponsor families emailed me explaining how they had spent hours, some with tears in their eyes and in their throats, as they pondered and wondered and hoped and prayed that this special child would know how much they were loved and how each and every item was picked just for them with such care and thought.  How do you fit LOVE into a gallon zip-lock bag??

With a little over a week before the trip, when every package had been counted, and checked and verified, so that we had a package for every single child.  Children's Hopechest contacted me with news .... 42 MORE KIDS HAVE JUST ENROLLED AT KIND HEARTS!!!!  I gasped with happiness and panic at the same time.

Finally Kind Hearts had become stable and secure enough to enroll more kids - but with barely a week to prepare, we now needed at least 42 more care-packages - and activities and projects for all the new kids too!  I emailed the travel team - and of course everyone immediately responded by gathering as many items (school supplies, chapsticks, pencils, clothing, toothbrushes, etc - and gallon zip-lock bags) as possible so we could create care-packages for each new child once we arrived in Ethiopia.  No child would feel left out or forgotten on that day!

During trip preparations, I advised our travel team to "always expect the unexpected" - and when we arrived at Trees of Glory, we discovered that 21 new children had just enrolled.  So now we had over 60 new children between the two care-points!!  And we were prepared - with enough supplies to create care-packages for each new child!

On the day we planned to give each child their care-package, we set up a room with 3 "stations".  Each station had 3 chairs - one for the child, one for a translator, and one for a Hopechest travel team member.  We were able to spend quality time with each and every child - going through each gift in the care-package, reading the letter, and looking at photos.  The kids were delighted with their gifts - for most of the kids, it was the first time they had received a brand new shirt, or brand new pencils, or brand new anything.

When the letter was being read, I watched as each child became still and motionless, and soaked in every word of love and encouragement that they knew was meant just for them.  But the very best part was when the pictures emerged from the bag.  Each one of us on the travel team had tears in our eyes as we watched these children soak in the faces of their sponsor family, examining every detail and sealing them into their hearts.  We watched later as the children would reach into their bags to look at the photos again and again.

There was something very different about the kids this year, compared to my visit last year.  It was very obvious that the kids were healthier and more energetic.  Nutritious food had filled in the hollow spots in their bodies and provided energy to play and run, and learn in school.  Food and clean water had allowed their immune systems to better fight against illnesses and sickness.  But there was more ... and it took me a day or two before I fully realized what it was. 

It was HOPE.  Laughter filled the schoolyard.  The little boys had swagger and the little girls had confidence.  The children were gushing with affection.  Hugs and kisses were distributed freely.  Confidence and self-esteem enabled them to look directly into our eyes, with big smiles and big hearts, ready to receive our love and affection.  So this is what HOPE looks like!!  Feeding a hungry child fills the stomach, but love and prayer fills the heart.  And these kids have hope overflowing in their hearts.

If you are interested in sponsorsing one of the new children at Kind Hearts or Trees of Glory, please contact me at  We have 60 new children and only about 10 of the kids are still in need of a sponsor family!

I'd like to show you what HOPE looks like ...  These are some of the HOPE-FILLED kids that attend Trees of Glory care-point ...

 This is Dereje's original sponsor photo (above). 
Below - this is Dereje in November as he received his package from his sponsor family!

This is Konjit's original sponsor photo (above). 
Below - This is Konjit showing us a photo of her sponsor family!

This is Cheru's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - We watched this stoic and serious young man,
become giddy with joy as he laid eyes on his sponsor family.

This is Ashene's original sponsor photo (above).
Below- We all watched with tears when Ashene met his sponsor father face-to-face!

This is Adanu's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - This is Adanu as she received gifts from the sponsor family
that she knows loves her and prays for her!

This is Chala's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - Chala is able to attend the care-point because of his sponsor family!

This is Kube's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - Kube hugs the gifts she received from her sponsor family!

This is Dege's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - Dege is all smiles as he sees photos of his sponsor family!

This is Birtukan's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - Birtukan tells me about her sponsor family and shows me their photos!

This is Meseret's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - Meseret with quiet confidence as she looks at photos from her sponsor family.

This is Birtukan's original sponsor photo (above).
Below - This giggly, exuberant little girl was overjoyed at the
gifts and photos from her sponsor family!

Below - Here is a photo of our amazing travel team who made an incredible investment to travel to Ethiopia to demonstrate love and family to our precious kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory!!!  This is the team that made sure that each and every child felt loved and special!!


Deborah said...

Thank all of you in the travel team. What a blessing to be able to witness it. I am so happy to see how my sponsor child, Dege, looks so happy.

Megan said...

What a testimony for sponsorship! Thank you for taking the time to pair up the children's before and after pictures.

The Heeney's said...

You sure can see a difference in their eye's between the before and after picture.Hope and happiness definately go hand in hand.

Becky Lee Burk said...

Karen, great post! the before and after photos are almost unrecognizable! I can't wait to be there next year, we've got a great fundraiser planned already :)

Jackie Sue said...

That was such a special post! Just love it. Thanks for sharing.

Apryl said...

It's amazing to see these pictures! I wouldn't have recognized Birtukan without the second photo--she was such a little diva in person. It's an incredible statement of how much sponsorship changes the lives of these children. Wonderful post, Karen!

Ruthie said...

Do you children who need sponsors? If so, would you please email me at Thanks for the awesome work you're doing!
Adoptive mom to beautiful kiddos from Ethiopia and Vietnam