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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"... Shook me to my core"

Each year, as our team of volunteers assembles, I love watching this group of separate and very different people, from all areas of the country, merge into a solid, hard-working team that feels like family within a few days (or even a few hours).  It is with remarkable bravery that many individuals embark on this trip all by themselves, with a group of people they have never met before.

For many of us, we meet for the first time in Washington DC as we get ready for our overseas flight.  But we have a common goal and a common passion and that is all it takes to forge friendships that last a lifetime - here and in Ethiopia!

Danielle's family has sponsored 2 children at Trees of Glory for a few years. She contacted me about joining the team and I was looking forward to meeting her! We ended up being room-mates, and I was immediately impressed with her depth, uwavering cheerfulness and steady, solid personality.

 Danielle with Shashitu and Ashenafi, giving them a care package, letters
and photos from her family!

Each night, Danielle wrote in her journal (I can still see her in my mind, on the top bunk, sweatshirt hoody over her head, writing and writing) - afraid that without putting words to paper, she would forget the events from the day, the small and important details, the emotions, the experiences.

When our team arrives home after a very intense 10 days in Ethiopia, there is much to process.  We leave behind a land and people of incredible beauty and fortitude - and unbelievable poverty - and we arrive home to Thanksgiving and Christmas in the land of plenty.  And it's hard to process ... it's not fair ... it's easy to become angry at the disparity and unfairness.

I ask each team-member to write a blogpost about their experiences in Ethiopia and many are still processing that information. I was thankful to hear from Danielle and not only did she share a journal entry with me about her home-visit with her sponsor kids, but she shared some heartfelt thoughts with me as well.

THIS is what makes these trips so important and eye-opening and life changing ....  We oftentimes think we are changing lives through sponsorship (and we are), and we come home changed by them.  These children bless us as much (if not more) than we bless them.  Danielle is barely 20 years old and she saw that first-hand and it has changed her forever!!

A small bit of what Danielle shared with me in her email ...

"After returning home I felt very angry and confused. I think I emailed you a bit about this already. It took me weeks, ok a couple months, to get past the negative emotions. I am confused as to why we are so "blessed" with material things and they suffer in poverty. Why can't we do more? Why is the world unfair? How can people allow this to continue without doing ANYTHING? ... I also recognize that they are rich and abundant in love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. and they deeply trust in God.

A part of me is envious of that and I wouldn't want to taint that in any way. Then I think that there HAS to be a way we can make MORE of a difference. A large scale change... Wrestling with my own feelings/emotions about everything AND with God about my experience was a bit of tough love.

I believe I have come full circle back to a clear-minded me. This experience has been truly wonderful and really shook me to my core. I am grateful to be more aware of what actually goes on in other parts of the globe, and in the third world. I hope my story here will help others to become aware and encouraged about the difference their sponsorship makes. Thank-you for allowing me to be a part of the team in November. Ethiopia will forever be in my thoughts and prayers."

Danielle - I can't wait to see the difference you are going to make in this world!

From Danielle's journal:

Home visits today!

I met Shashitu and Ashenafi. They are adorable! When I shook Ashenafi’s hand he didn’t want to let it go. He must have known I was from his sponsor family before being told… 

We took the two minute walk to their house as a small group with two translators. We brought sugar coffee and a scarf for their mother.

They’ve lived there for 12 years and it took 8 to build the house they are currently living in! One room, one bed. Some family photos were on the wall.

We sat and asked a few questions about their family and the house and the kids. They said thank you so much for the love, gifts and sponsorship. Their gratitude was almost overwhelming. I fought back tears of joy as their joy overflowed.

The father used to work and live in Addis but he can now live at home because the kids have a sponsor. To know that my family is able to help bring another family closer together is a wonderful feeling.

They have animals and a barn with a half wall to their kitchen. It seems as though they are quite blessed, not every family has land, livestock and a roof over their heads.

At one point during the visit little Ashenafi pulled something plastic out of his pocket, and looked up at me with a smile. It was our family photo! They said he carries it with him all the time and shows his friends!! Yet another time when I fought tears. It became all too real when our worlds collided like that.

We learned that he wants to be a doctor and his sister wants to be a teacher. I was able to pray before leaving the house. I prayed love and blessings, growth and gratitude over our entire group and Trees of Glory.

This family is abundantly blessed to be together again and have the opportunity for their children to attend school. It is a truly humbling experience to see what few material things they have in comparison with my own family, but even more so I am humbled by the strength of character and the abundance of love they have for one another.

They are a true inspiration and beautiful example to me. Hope is revived when we see what might be considered small ($34 per month for sponsorship) can translate to an impact beyond imagination when we trust in the provision and grace of God.

Danielle and her family are now sponsoring 2 more children at Trees of Glory care-point!  Twin boys Yared and Yakobe are now being sponsored by Danielle and her sister (in addition to Sashitu and Ashenafi)!

There are still a few children at Trees of Glory care-point waiting for a sponsor family.  If you are interested in sponsorship, ($34 per month provides nutritious food, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship for one child) please contact me at

1 comment:

Jenny said...

What an amazing first hand account. It is just hard to comprehend a life so different from your own with such a depth of poverty that is graced with love, patience, peace and utter dependence on God. It is a level of communion with God that many can or will ever know in our land of surplus.