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Saturday, April 27, 2013

How things had changed here ...

Our footsteps kicked up little puffs of dust as we walked along the fenceline at Trees of Glory CarePoint in Ethiopia. 

I shielded my eyes from the harsh sun and my fingertips grazed my nose and cheekbones to see if I was getting a sunburn.  I felt in my pocket for a tube of chapstick to soothe my dry lips.  My steps jarred sharp stones loose from the dry dirt and they rattled down the slope.

Simret pulled me along by my hand, intent on telling me something important as we stopped to watch women filling large yellow jugs with crystal clear, cold water.  In this hot, arrid terrain, even the sound of splashing water was refreshing.

Women and small children gathered at the water-point, talking animatedly.  We watched as jugs were filled and hoisted on their backs to be carried home.  Water continued to gush from the spigots as toddlers washed their hands and put their mouths under the water.  Where the water hit the ground, it splashed and sprayed creating a cool mist.  I was mesmerized by the sound and the sight of water against this desert backdrop.

We paused in the shade of a building to watch and I marvelled at how things had changed here. 

A few years earlier, Simret had felt a calling to leave her government job, go out into the countryside and start this CarePoint for orphaned and destitute children.  The government provided the land and buildings ... and 84 children were assigned to her care... to feed, clothe and educate.

It wasn't easy.  No electricity, a harsh environment and water for nearly 100 children had to be carried on the backs of donkeys to the CarePoint every day.  A year ago, I could see the worry and the strain on Simret's face.  Today her eyes glistened with tears, a huge smile on her face as she pressed my hands in hers.

She had something important to tell me and I could see the emotion welling up inside her as she swallowed hard and pulled me close. 

To be continued ....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Balancing on a razor thin edge ...

Your prayers and concern and encouraging emails and texts have been very appreciated over the last few days.  Many of your texts simply said ... "I don't know the details of what has happened, but know that I am praying for you."  And we have felt those prayers ...

As of tonight, my mom is no longer in critical condition and is on the road to recovery!

Branches needed trimming. A 7' step ladder would do the trick.  Nobody home but her.  Lean a little too far from too close to the top ... landing on the concrete, on her back, unconscious with a shattered left elbow and a shattered right wrist.  Someone driving by saw the toppled ladder and her crumpled form and stopped to help.

Two nights in the hospital, surgery to rebuild the joints and one tough little woman is feeling broken and weak.  We just didn't yet know how broken.

Her condition continued to decline over the weekend until Monday morning dawned with her too weak to move or even breathe.  In and out of consciousness.  Trying to help her to the car to bring her to the ER only made her gasp for air.  Ambulance called and fear sets in for my dad and my sister who now realize the seriousness.

X-rays, CT scans, lab tests - multiple blood clots throughout her lungs, low platelets, elevated heart enzymes, too low oxygen levels.  Doctors and nurses talking in hushed tones and moving quickly.  She balances on a razor thin edge of life or ...

Prepare for the worst.  How do you prepare for that??  What's wrong? What's happening? Why the clots?  We don't yet know.  It's a mystery.  We're trying to get to the bottom of it ... and then a breakthrough.  And things start to turn around quickly.

I left work abruptly yesterday and drove the 3 hours to be with my family.  By then, things had started to turn. She was barely lucid, barely coherent, still struggling to breathe and suck enough oxygen into her lungs ... but the counts and charts and graphs were steadily improving.

Sitting in a quiet and darkened house last night, after phone calls had been made and everyone updated, my dad looked at me with weary eyes and said "I'm afraid.  I'm afraid to hope." 

I said, "I was there, I heard what you heard and saw what you saw.  We have good reason to hope." 

And he nodded, and slept well for the first time in a week.

This morning, she was sitting up in bed, nurses hovering close checking IVs and chart readings. Her eyes had sparkle and she was already worrying about my drive back home and for everyone to get back to their work and families and how much coffee my dad was drinking. 

Trying to get her to smile, I told her if she was ready for a big burrito or pizza, I would hide one in my purse and sneak it in for her.  She wrinkled her nose at me. 

My brother, dad and I leaned in close around her bed this morning after the doctor consult to share the good news with my mom,  My sister walked in with wide eyes at her obvious progress overnight and I said, "This is nothing, she's already been jogging the halls and dancing in her bed.  Show her your shoulder shimmy, Mom!"  She furrowed her forehead at me in disapproval and then smirked and gave us a shoulder shimmy as we burst out laughing.

She's got a long way to go ... but she's on the mend.

Thank you for your prayers and please keep her and her outstanding team of doctors and nurses in your prayers as she continues her recovery over the next six weeks.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"My heart is encouraged and challenged ..."

Tobi Wright recently travelled to Ethiopia for her adoption and she was able to visit Trees of Glory CarePoint and spend time with the staff and kids.  Here is her update from her recent trip ...
My husband David and I were in Addis a few weeks ago to meet the son we are adopting. We planned a visit to Trees of Glory as part of our time in Ethiopia. We took lots of pencils for the kids (for their schoolwork) and with Hilena's (HopeChest staff member) assistance we also bought 2 lambs and 2 bags of bananas and mangoes for the children.

I've been following Karen Wistrom’s blog, Family From Afar, for several months and wanted to do something to bless Simret because of her service to the precious children in her care.
The drive through the countryside was beautiful. We chatted with Hilena about Simret and the ministry. We saw men farming rocky fields and young children herding sheep and goats.  

Simret and Hilena gave us a tour of Trees of Glory. We were amazed by all God has done! 

This building housed water storage tanks to provide clean water for the children of Trees of Glory and the surrounding community.
This is the spacious library.  Simret is praying for chairs to fill this room and school books.
The church building where Simret teaches the children about Jesus and leads them in worship.
Precious children walked toward us as they made their way to school.
Many chickens provide fresh eggs for the children each morning. Several cows are on site to provide the children with fresh milk.
As we walked, Simret reached out her hand to steady me on the rocky path. There are many words that describe Simret; compassionate, loving, selfless, joyful, gentle, beautiful inside and out.

The Lord truly shines through these obedient women. God has given them their hopes and dreams for the TOG children. They desire to seek out His plans for these precious little ones.

We met a few cooks and teachers. It was a privilege to see them lovingly serve the children, each of them doing their job so well. The children were calm and happy, a picture of well-loved children whose needs are being met. 

Although we had packed a lunch, we were served a delicious traditional meal with injera and enjoyed visiting with Simret and Hilena more as we ate. Several children sat in the dining area to eat their lunch. The children are fed in shifts.
This little darling quietly walked in and stayed with us for awhile. So sweet! We also saw some older girls moving around tending to their responsibilities. Simret acknowledged each child with love and acceptance.
After lunch we were given the treat of Ethiopian coffee with fresh cow's milk, yummy Macchiato.
Many of the children were attending school. They were delightful! They were attentive to their teacher and were obviously happy to be there. The teacher was a kind man and led them in a song for us. It was so nice to see them enjoying their time in school.
My heart is encouraged and challenged by Simret’s willingness to serve selflessly, to pray faithfully, to believe fully and to obey without hesitation. It was a privilege to spend time at Trees of Glory and see how God is pouring out His love and healing power on the children from the community. He is making Himself known to their families. God is using the lives of Simret, Hilena, the staff of TOG and HopeChest, the sponsors and volunteers to see that His children are cared for.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Sanctuary in Ethiopia

Melodie Monberg recently returned from Ethiopia with a Children's HopeChest vision team.  During that trip, her team visited several new CarePoints who are just developing sponsor programs and they also visited Trees of Glory to see an established CarePoint.  Below is Melodie's recap of their visit to Trees of Glory!!

The first few days of our trip were spent in Awasso, visiting potential CarePoints for CHC Ethiopia.  The need seemed overwhelming; from the simple buildings and inadequate latrines to the amount of children desperate for an education and care.

On Day 4 of our trip, we visited Trees of Glory CarePoint.  What a transformed community! This place stood in stark contrast to the places we had just left.   It was evident from the moment we stepped off the bus that this community has been blessed by God.  The children politely greeted us with huge smiles.  As we toured the facility, the joy and pride on the faces of the staff was contagious. 


We saw the chickens, carefully wiping off our feet to get rid of our human scent as we toured the egg house.  The fields were filled with vegetables springing up through the rich soil.  In the kitchen, we met the women preparing the noon meal.  The water flowed beautifully through the faucets, clean and cold.  Bright paint welcomed us in the dorm rooms.  Our team exclaimed with glee how clean the bathrooms were. 

We gathered the children together in the main room, teaching them songs and sharing the story of the Good Samaritan.  What joy to hear them singing loudly with us, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in their beautiful voices.  The rains began and we quickly dispersed into various classrooms.

The rain continued and our best laid plans were quickly tucked aside.  We happened to have balloons and started making balloon hats for the kids.  I remember looking over the classroom filled with children in multi colored balloons and laughing out loud.  The joy a balloon brought each of these children was so refreshing.  Here, in Africa, the small things matter. Something as simple as a tied up balloon on the head of a child brought such delight. 

I came away from that experience with this thought, “Don’t forget to take joy in the simple things.”  It’s so easy living here in the US to focus on all the things I need and want; the things that will make my life easier and better.  I too quickly forget that stopping and taking a moment to appreciate the simple beauty at hand is often all I need to remember that I am a child of God, loved and cared for.  

Our team loved our time at Trees of Glory. The children are happy, healthy and thriving.  There is God’s love in that place and it was an encouragement to help make all the CarePoints succeed as TOG has.  Thank you for all your work to help make that place a sanctuary. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wrapped in a long distance hug!

Etenesh waited her turn with the other kids and I could see her visible excitement as the child in front of her sat down with the translator and one of our volunteers.  She rocked forward on her toes and waited patiently, a smile slowly spreading on her face. 

I gestured for her and she sat down between Helina (our translator) and Paul (one of our volunteers).  Etenesh gazed with curiosity as her package was found labeled clearly with her name.  About a month earlier, Etenesh's sponsor family, the Klein's, had written a letter to her, including family photos and several small gifts they hoped she would like and would need.

Etenesh looked at the pink and purple shirts, and all of the lovely things the Klein's had chosen for her and her eyes kept searching for the photos of her sponsor family.  I watched her smile and settle as the letter appeared and she leaned back to hear the encouraging words written just for her.

I was snapping photos as the letter was read ... and suddenly Paul and Helina wrapped arms around themselves as Paul read the letter outloud and Helina translated. 

Pam, her sponsor, had written specific instructions to Etenesh "wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze tight.  This is my arms around you giving you a hug and telling you how much we love you and pray for you!"

Etenesh broke into a huge smile ...

And this sweet, shy girl turned and gave Paul a big hug and said "give that to Pam!"

And then she turned and hugged Helina too.

Being sponsored by the Kleins has enabled Etenesh to attend Trees of Glory CarePoint in Ethiopia.  Her family was not able to afford schooling for her, but with sponsorship, she is now getting a valuable education along with nutritious meals every day, clean water, clothing, medical care and Christian discipleship. 

With all of her basic needs being met, Etenesh is thriving and looking forward to her future full of hopes and dreams like any teenage girl!  The Klein's letters giver her hope and encouragement because she knows they love her and are praying for her and wrapping her in a hug!

If you are interested in sponsoring a child ($34 per month), we still have a few children at our Kind Hearts CarePoint that are still waiting for a sponsor family.  Please email me at for more information or to be matched with a child.