Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My computer screen is blinking at me waiting for me to type.  I'm not quite sure what I want/need to write tonight but I know I must write so here I go.  Since being home from Ethiopia for the past month I have been filled with so much emotion.  So much, in fact, that I haven't really been able to verbalize it to anyone.  I told a friend today that I feel paralyzed in a way.  I guess that explains my blog silence. :) Our three weeks in Ethiopia were filled with so much.  So much good and so much that is just painful. 

Obviously, the highlight of our time in Ethiopia was meeting our son, Tariku.  I can't tell you what an amazing kid he is.  He is just pure JOY.  We had braced ourselves for so much difficulty but honestly haven't had any trouble since we've been home!  We are just eating up every delicious moment with him (as I know the difficult part will come!).  I marvel at him.  His smile.  His belly laugh.  His sense of humor.  His ability to pick things up so quickly.  His sensitivity to others.

What I think I hadn't expected so soon was that I am grieving for my son.  I know...weird, right?  Why am I grieving for my happy, seemingly adjusting son?  His story is his to tell and I won't go into detail about it.  Suffice it to say he has gone through quite a bit in his first four years of life.  It's hard just having small tidbits of information about his past.  I want so badly to know it all so that I can help him in the way that he needs.  Our little guy is a fighter.  A survivor. 

I think my heart is just heavy with the knowledge of what he has had to bear...things I can't imagine.  Our world is so, so broken.  I can't fix it.  You can't fix it.  All together we can't fix it.  I'm just so thankful that one day it will all be whole and right and that God will make all things new.  Only He can bring full restoration.  None of us can make our past go away...both the mistakes that we have made and the hurt that has been brought on us by others.  But we can let God into those spaces to bring healing and hope.  That's my prayer for Tariku...that God enters those crevasses I'll never be able to fit in and fills him up and meets him there.  That He heals the broken places in his heart and that somehow God uses Ben and I to play a part in that. That as we love him with abandon Tariku will catch a glimpse of just how wildly, crazy in love his Heavenly Father is with him.

For now, I just get to sit with the searing pain that threatens to tear me open some days and also the utter joy that my son brings wherever he goes.  Psalm 30:5 says "Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning."  I know there's a legitimate place for the "weeping" right now in my own heart.  And the joy has already come in the form of a 48 pound little boy who has changed my life.  I am just so thankful for him...and for the story God is going to tell with his life. 


Monday, May 17, 2010


Many of you generously donated money prior to our trip to Ethiopia for a pizza party for the teenage boys at Kolfe.  Because of your huge hearts and generosity, Ben and I had the absolute pleasure of throwing a full blown pizza party for around 100 teenage orphans who live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at Kolfe.  I have many friends and family members who sponsor boys at Kolfe through Children's HopeChest so I was excited to go and see first hand what it's like.

Let me just say it was really fun to go to the pizza place and see them whip up 70 pizzas.  And by whip up, I do mean about two hours later, which I still think is crazy fast for that many pizzas in Ethiopia. :)  We hung out on the rooftop of the pizza place waiting with the awesome folks from HopeChest where I snapped these pictures:

Then we started to carry the 70 pizzas down the four flights of stairs to the van.  You can only imagine the looks we got.  Only the crazy white people would need that many pizzas. :)

We made the relatively short drive to Kolfe and pulled in. Many of the boys appeared quickly because they had been told pizza and fresh fruit were coming. I have to say, I didn't know what to expect and found myself a little nervous. Most of my interactions with orphans have been with little kids and so this was a whole new ball game. Teenagers. Boys. Lots of them. What to do? What to say? As it turns out, you need never worry about what to say at Kolfe, as the boys just started asking questions and talking easily with us.

I admit I was a bit distracted at first. My friend Erin in Maine sponsors a sweet Kolfe boy named Biruk and I SO badly wanted to get my hands on him and hug him I could hardly stand it. Erin's experience with Biruk has been incredible. Talk about what a meaningful role a sponsor can play in a child's life!! Her family skypes with Biruk... he has watched her kids do gymnastics and crazy stuff in their living room from Ethiopia. I LOVE that. I feel like I know Biruk as I have watched Erin's relationship with him develop. So, I went to ask someone if they could find him and as soon as I turned I saw his face right by the van. OH. THAT. SMILE.

I said his name and he beamed. He knew I was going to be coming at him fast with some hugs from his sponsor mama. :) I'm fairly certain I smothered the poor boy but he didn't seem to mind. I had my arm around him for the next hour or so. Seriously??? How lucky am I???  It was AWESOME.

He showed me the dorm where he slept.

He wowed me with his typing skills in the computer room...

He was not any different than any other child on the planet in that he loved that someone took an interest in him. Somebody (Erin!) loved him enough to send me with hugs and kisses and questions and love from his sponsor family.  I know that Biruk's life didn't get any easier because I spent an hour or so with him.  But I bet he went to bed that night with a smile on his face and joy in his heart because he was reminded he was loved.  I know I still can't wipe the stupid grin off my face when I think about getting to meet him!

There are still boys at Kolfe who do not have sponsors.  (If you are interested in changing that, please click here for more information). The ones who had been sponsored were eager to ask me if I knew their "mom and dad" in Texas or Florida or some other state.  They were rattling names off at me more quickly than I could process what they were saying.  I wanted to say so badly that I knew their sponsors but I couldn't.  A few boys couldn't hide their disappointment.  It was heart wrenching.  Let me tell you, these boys LOVE their sponsors.  If you think sponsorship is just writing your check every month you are sadly mistaken.  These boys have no family to speak of.  It is not an understatement to say these kids consider their sponsors family.  They are hungry for relationship.  It was really quite beautiful to witness.

As was the boys putting down some much anticipated pizza and fruit! :)

Then we got to give these sweeties their packages from their sponsors...

The little guy that Ben is with above is my in-law's newly sponsored child.  How cool is that?  Ben got to tell him that they were like brothers now.  He liked that. :) 

I am so thankful that we got the opportunity to give these boys a fun evening! They LOVED the pizza and fruit and each boy was also given a new t-shirt. I couldn't believe how many of the 100 came up and shook my hand and thanked me sincerely. How humbling. So now I pass along their thanks to you, who truly made it happen! You all are so awesome and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring about these boys.  Wish you could have been there.  You would have loved it.  Please, PLEASE continue to pray for them. Pray that they feel loved...that they know God created them for a purpose...that they grow into the big dreams they each have and pursue them with all their hearts. 

P.S. My friend Erin just emailed me some comments from the boys after the party.  I'm adding them to the post now to give you a feel for just how much something simple like pizza and fruit means to them...

Ephrem wrote to his sponsor mom:

Yes mom we eat pizza, mango, banana and orange at Wednesday this day is our fantastic day because we don’t eat pizza and orange before. We are very joyful in that day.

...and this one is from sweet Solomon to Erin:

Yes we have wonderful day today. Lots of boys tested pizza for the first time. I knew this party before a month ago but all boys didn't know that so they are very surprised and the same time they are so happy. I don't know how we can say thank you all you God people. You are a blessing for us. now we know that we are not alone. We have lots of people that praying and thinking for us. Thank you Erin very very much and I would like to say thank you all people who helps us and care about us everyday. I haven't seen before such kinds of smile faces on Kolfe boys. I would like to say thank you again and again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Things Hidden Well in a Land of Prosperity are Exposed in a Land of Want

I was going to blog today about the pizza party we threw in Ethiopia at Kolfe Boys Orphanage, but then I ran across the blog post below from this woman and just had to share it instead.  It's as if she was in my head...her words so sum up what I feel.  So enjoy this for today and know the pizza party post and pictures are coming soon. :)

It has been three months since Nathan, Hannah, and I returned from Africa. In many ways it seems like we were there only yesterday. In others, it seems like an eternity ago.

I liken my first taste of Africa and my processing of it these last few months to someone who is going through the five stages of grief. I honestly think while I was there, I was in a state of shock. Being slightly numb is about the only way I could keep from weeping at every moment. I was carried along by the rhythm and flow of life in Ethiopia—the sights, and sounds, and smells. But I didn’t know how to feel. I was overwhelmed by the need and my lack of ability to do anything about it. And I certainly didn’t know how to reconcile everything I was seeing with my life back in America.

Which led me to anger. At injustice. At rich, spoiled Americans. At myself. Some justified anger, sure, but mostly my anger was misdirected. I wanted someone to blame. Surely someone was responsible for all this death and sickness and disparity, and so it must be all those people who don’t know, who don’t care, who don’t do anything. If they would just listen. If they would just care. I was ready to point my finger at anyone and everyone.

And, of course, at myself. Because Africa, like a magnifying mirror, reveals more of yourself than you really want to see. Things you hide well in a land of prosperity--like selfishness, laziness, greed, arrogance-- get exposed in a land of want. When you see a woman who has nothing use her meager supply of water and injera to serve you tea-- you can’t help but think of how often you’ve opened your overflowing pantry and sighed that there’s just nothing to fix for dinner. When you meet a man who walks the 3 miles back and forth to work, works 12 hour days, 7 days a week, all for about $2 a day, and he counts himself as blessed—you can’t help but think of how often you’ve complained you needed “me time” after a day “stuck” in your comfy house homeschooling your well-fed kids and folding enough laundry to clothe an army. When you give a child a piece of gum, and you look back to see them sharing it with 6 other children around them--you can’t help but think of overflowing Easter baskets and Christmas stockings stuffed full of goodies. And you feel fat. Regardless how much you weigh, you just feel like a soft, flabby glutton.

And so I entered the stage of bargaining. OK, God, I can still live in my house as long as I speak up for orphans and bring one home to live in it. I can still have 25 pairs of shoes as long as a couple of them are TOMS. I can still spend hours online doing nothing productive, as long as I occasionally post something thought provoking on facebook. I can still own way more than I need, as long as I donate some of the stuff I don’t really want anymore to Goodwill.

But that leads to depression. Because you can never really reconcile owning anything with having given enough. I think of the story where the man came to Jesus and said, ok, I’m ready to follow you, and Jesus said, only one more thing: go sell everything you have and give it to the poor. The man walked away sad. He could not do it. His heart was not willing. While I certainly believe it’s ok to own things, I can never again rest in a place of, ok, I’ve given enough, I’m good now. It will never be enough. And that can be deeply unsatisfying for someone who wants a simple black & white way to deal with my abundance. It just isn’t simple, people.

And I am finally accepting that. There is no easy answer. Really, I’m finding we here in America have a lot more in common with my new friends in Ethiopia than I originally thought. Our countries, yes, different indeed. But we are all people, created in God’s image, and in desperate need of the gospel. And redemption. What Africa wears on the outside, laid bare for all to see, we hide underneath layers in America. They wear physical disease, hunger, poverty, and need. Here, our layers of “stuff” hide emptiness, brokenness, despair, and a hunger that is never satisfied deep within our hearts. Their need is easier to identify, but ours is still there. Underneath it all are human beings with gaping wounds and fatal bleeding. We need a remedy. We need to be rescued.

And with my acceptance comes hope. I believe in a Remedy. I believe in a Rescuer. I serve a King who loves Africans and Americans. I believe He will use me, if I will daily seek to obey His leading in my life. I will not prescribe to you what you need to do, and what that will look like for you. I will not pretend there is an easy solution or that one need in one country is any greater than another need in another country. But for me, I cannot forget what I have seen, and I am now responsible for it. Under the veil of earthly things is a spiritual reality, one we sense when we close our eyes and stand still long enough to feel. We were meant to live for so much more than the American dream.

And so I will not doze off in the sleepy shire, I will engage in the battle. I want blisters on my hands and fatigue deep in my bones and scars on my heart from all I’ve seen and experienced---because too much is at stake. Lives are at stake. Physical and spiritual. I don’t want to cling tightly to anything, save Jesus. I want to spend myself—my life, my time, my resources—with reckless abandon. So that one day, when I stand before Him, I have nothing left. Nothing wasted. Nothing squandered.

I used to be anti-short-term mission trips. I just didn’t see the need to spend thousands of dollars to go somewhere for a few days where you would barely scratch the surface of the need but potentially leave with some sort of self-righteous satisfaction that you at least “did something”, returning to your life of complacency the other 350 days of the year. It seemed to me a bad use of resources that could be better used in the hands of someone who worked there long term as well as a hindrance to seeing the daily mission we are called to here.

But I have changed my mind. Go. Let the two worlds that are America and Africa collide in front of you. Spend the money, because in God’s economy, it’s a drop in the bucket. Like the woman who poured the perfume on the feet of Jesus, offer what seems excessive. When I asked an Ethiopian pastor who ran a local orphanage what I should tell my friends back at home, he said, "Tell them to come. Come and see. It means so much that you would get on a plane, leave your families behind, and come be with us and spend time with us.”

Why would that surprise us? After all, we were created for community. It is the greatest gift we can give as we seek to share Jesus.

So go and see. Serve. Share. But don’t wait to engage in the battle until your feet hit African soil. Start today. Start here. Because too much is at stake.

Join me in this conflicted state, where my sin and my obedience wrestle daily. Choose to live with eyes open. Stop spectating. Suit up, and get on the field, where you strive for the goal but often meet resistance and sometimes fail. It is not funner. It's harder. At times it feels like a burden. But it is what is true. What is real. And it is worth it, because it is where Jesus resides.