Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas fun

We are blessed to have a pond in our back yard which is perfect for skating. We enjoyed a little Christmas Day skating. And yes, this is the same pond that Katie and De got married in front of last summer:)

Girls with skills.

Blaine sets up a big light and we even skate at night. So much fun!

MJ doing great this year on his skates. The minute he gets off the bus after school, he begs to go skating.

Blaine and MJ.

Aliya is terrified but is learning. She's never been on skates or rollerblades ever. Scary!

De and MJ.

Mihiretu the risk taker...his pants give away how many times he fell!

Blake and Reno.

The hunting thug in his jammy pants:)

We always have to do the traditional "family with the birthday girl" pose. It's not easy getting everyone together in a picture so I take every opportunity I can!

We had a wonderful Christmas this year with family and friends.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Heavy heart for my friends today

Remember the beautiful house by the trash dump I wrote about recently? This is what it looks like now. Our friend, Biruk went to visit them yesterday and was absolutely shocked at what he found. The trash dump has completely encroached upon this property and they were forced to take down the bedroom end to make room for the trash. You can see just how close it is to the house now.

Just the living room portion of the house is now left.

Wendimu and his parents. Just 2 months ago this was a little paradise next to a trash dump. My heart is broken and the looks on their faces say it all. They are staying just a few more days in hopes that the government will help them find a new home. Not sure if that's going to happen or how that works.

I absolutely cannot believe that in the period of 2 short months this could happen. It was inevitable at some point, of course but this is so soon. I am thankful to Biruk for sending these pictures to us so we can be praying for this family.

With all the internet awareness of Korah and the trash dump now going all over the world, the government has decided to clean up the dump adjacent to the main road so it "looks" better to the average passer-by. It really does look nice, all covered in grass now. But one needs to look a little deeper, come off the road and walk into the community of Korah and see where the garbage has gotten pushed to see how it's impacting real people. I suspect that is why this has happened over the past 2 months. It should have taken much longer for the trash to encroach on their property but looking good to the "world" is so important.

I'm struggling with the inequity of it all today. I just returned from the grocery store where I filled my cart, loaded it all in my SUV, drove to my house and loaded it all into my pantry and refrigerator, on the way home stopping for a car wash. All the while, holding back tears and my heart feeling like it weighs a ton because I know that on the other side of the world, this family is in imminent danger of being homeless.

Sorry this is not going to wrap up into a perfect little platitude today. Of course, we are praying that the Lord will provide them with another home and we have already seen that He is faithful in their lives.

I understand...if you build your house near the edge of a trash dump, eventually you will lose it to the trash. I'm not down on the dump people. I'm just upset for my friends.

And today my little mind just cannot wrap itself around the inequity of it all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The BIG news!

I won't keep you in suspense any longer.

Our friends who we traveled with, Kevin and Denise have begun the adoption process for an older sibling group!!

They told us a couple weeks ago but I wanted them to have the chance to share the news with everyone they wanted to tell before I blabbed. It's been hard news to keep quiet!

This is a couple who's youngest child is Blake's age-21, and they are complete empty nesters. They love to travel together and do a lot of biking in the summertime. Currently, their time is theirs and they have all freedom.

But not for long:)

And they are giving it up by choice.

They knew that when God brought them on this trip with us to Ethiopia, that He would require something of them. They weren't going to visit this place and forget it. They weren't sure what their long term commitment would be but they were open and willing for whatever God had for them.

Within 2 weeks of being home, they were certain that adopting was in their future. God confirmed it when Kevin asked for a sign that this was the direction they were to take. They have been our friends for a long time and they remember back 6 years ago when God gave me a dream and showed us we were to adopt. Well, God did it! The next morning was a Sunday and as soon as Denise turned on her phone, she had an email announcing that it was Orphan Sunday! They had no idea that it was. Great confirmation the very next morning!

They are moving full speed ahead. They're signed up with a great agency and busy taking their pre adoption classes, learning what it means to adopt older children.

And through this they are simply giddy with excitement! They remind me of a young couple expecting their first baby:)

We are, of course THRILLED beyond words for them. It's fun to be able to share in this journey and walk along side them.

I am secretly hoping for a couple/few new friends that are my kids ages. Yes, I said few as they are open to 2 or 3! How fun would that be?!

Never, ever doubt that God can change your desires to something the world simply can never understand.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wendimu's invitation...the blessing we received

Habtamu is one of Katie's special friends from Korah. I've shared pictures of him before. He now attends the boarding school in Sheshemene. Katie has a bond with him and still communicates with him through a friend there who has Facebook. She sent him a gift bag last fall with some presents and photos. Needless to say, he was really happy to see her when we showed up at the boarding school. The two of them were inseparable and she and De even went back to visit them the next Sunday with Sumer on her regular visit.

This is Habtamu's family - Dad, older brother Wendimu and his beautiful mother. Wendimu came to the clinic and stayed and visited with Katie and De all day. He came back the next time we were there. His English is great and he's a very sweet guy. He knew of the connection with Katie and his little brother and graciously invited all of us to his home to meet his parents, have coffee and to see that they still had the pictures Katie had sent to Habtamu.

We got permission from Sumer and off we went through the streets of Korah on our way to his home.

Always with children in tow.

Wendimu leading the way...we just followed. Along the way, he told Katie that he lived near the dump. She was unfazed and said, "Ok." He said, "No, I live really near the dump. You can see it from my house."

As we crossed over into the dump, I began wondering just where he was taking us.

A little farther into the dump.

Over some trash.

And into this beautiful, lush oasis we walked.

With a gate to help keep out intruders.

It soon became clear that we were in a little haven.

Most people in Korah have no land in which to plant anything but this family had found a small piece of fertile land, built their home and planted several types of crops.

The front door faces away from the garbage dump, which is not far behind the back of the house. The air was fresh here...it was so pleasant.

We were warmly welcomed by his parents. They seated us and his mom began preparing coffee for us. Their house with its high ceiling was so clean, bright and well cared for.

She had roasted barley for us to snack on.

And prepared some wonderful coffee for all of us.

After a nice visit, we expressed our thanks and said our goodbyes.

His parents followed us out and you can even see his mother standing at the end of the line, watching us leave. So sweet.

Wendimu is a 3rd year engineering student at the University of Addis Ababa. He is a very bright young man with a great future ahead of him. We asked him how he affords college. In Ethiopia, he told us, if your grades are good enough and you can pass the National Exam, you can get into college. When you graduate and get a job, then you begin to pay back your tuition. Awesome opportunity.

We were all so impressed that adjacent to the huge Addis Ababa city dump stood this lovely home and grounds. Inside this home lives a beautiful family, so full of hope now for their sons' future. (There is a middle son who also attends the boarding school)

Seriously, what we would have missed had if we had not made this friend and accepted his invitation. As I said before, the homes we visited were highlights for all of us. It's then you can see how people really live.

I think about the experiences and relationships we miss out on in our lives because we don't step out of our comfort zone. Our lives are so much richer for this experience and we have a much better understanding of the culture there.

Who would have thought? We had no idea that we would find such beauty, hope and joy just yards from the garbage dump.

I keep thinking, "What if we hadn't gone? What if we'd gone to New Zealand as we'd always dreamed of doing for our 25th anniversary?"

Denise, Kevin, Blaine and I all agree...we had more fun - not just a more fulfilling time, but more FUN in Ethiopia than we could have had anywhere else in the world.

So glad we all went. No regrets...not a single one.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This is for you, Biruk!

I have been trying to find a way to pay tribute to our friend, Biruk so I'm going to do it through these photos and stories.

Katie, De and Blake met him when they were working in Korah previously. He was there with another American friend, helping her. They all began hanging out and became fast friends. You may remember that I mentioned a guy who took a punch from a shop owner in Addis for Katie and De? That was Biruk. Biruk was helping them with a purchase and told them not to buy their items from this particular shop owner because he was ripping them off. When they walked away the man punched Biruk. Poor guy! We've been Facebook friends since then.

We knew when we went that Biruk was planning on spending as much time as possible with us Ferengy's (American's). He met us with the wonderful Korah welcome committee at the airport and literally almost never left our sides until we had to go into the airport to leave. He went home a couple times for things and stayed behind when we went for 2 days to Hossana but otherwise he was with us. Katie and De had a bunkbed in their room at the guest home where he stayed. We LOVED every minute with this kid!

In the picture above, he is interpreting for me at the Korah clinic. He is an incredible interpreter, rivaling any adult interpreter and better than most, that we've ever had. He is intuitive and sensitive. He knows what we're thinking before we even say it. His maturity is unreal and I had a very hard time remembering that he was only 17 years old and not a peer of mine!

One time he let his age show.

At the clinic in Korah, you will remember that my job was triage nurse. All the patients who were seen first came to me or the other nurse, Janet. We took down their names and their medical complaint. You can imagine the types of medical problems these people had...everything under the sun. Well, I am a nurse and a mother so not much flusters me.

The other thing you need to know about Ethiopia is that youth is not respected. If you are a young person, older people look down on you.

Ok, so here we are. I am heavily relying on Biruk for his interpreting skills and these mostly older people need to respect him enough to relate their personal medical concerns to him...a 17 year old boy.

It went very, very well...overall. I have to be a little blunt here to tell this story so I hope this doesn't make you blush too much.

Here's a little overview of the more sensitive cases:

Biruk: "She is having trouble with her breast..."
Biruk: "Her menstrual cycle keeps going...it never stops."

Women lifted their shirts. Boys pulled down their pants. We saw it all and all the while, Biruk was completely unfazed...a true professional. I was impressed! I don't know any other 17 year old boy who could conduct himself like Biruk.


One of the days was particularly long and exhausting and we both were feeling it.

Toward the end of the day, a mother came through with a son of about 9, although he looked 6. Biruk proceeded to ask her what kind of problem he was having. After listening intently, he leaned in close to me and said, "He is having a problem with his butt hole."

Me: "Ok, what kind of problem?"
Biruk: "Something is coming out of his butt hole."
Me: "Is it a worm?"

(Don't forget where we are, ok?)

Biruk: "No it's not a worm. It's more like," he then makes a gesture with his hands like something being squeezed through his tight fingers and says, "it's more like meat!"

I totally understood what he was trying to tell me but by this time it was all he could do to hold in his laughter! He kept saying quietly, "He's having trouble with his BUTT HOLE!" This would bring more snickers and I am ashamed to tell you...I couldn't hold back either! Soon, I pulled myself back together and announced my diagnosis.

The poor kid had a hemorrhoid.

Even the best translator can have trouble with a word. Here "meat=tissue."

We just had the best time that day!

This pic is outside the shelter in Korah on sheep killing day. From left to right is Goshu, Murad (both Korah church leaders), De, Katie, Biruk and Danae (she nannies for Sumer).

Biruk and Katie on their balcony. A beautiful view.

De, Katie and Biruk.

In the van.

Biruk ate like a king (as we all did) the entire time we were there. This is kitfo, a traditional Ethiopian dish that is a huge treat that they rarely get. It's raw meat mixed with spices. I warned him not to do it! Maste told us he's gotten tape worms from eating it before but Biruk wouldn't listen. Hope he's tapeworm free!

Donkey carting in Sheshemene!

I do have a small fear of hyenas and they all know that there. So whenever there was a dog present, I was told it was a hyena. This is one tame hyena who lives in Korah.

Best buddies.

Messing around on sheep killing day!

I love this picture! Biruk did kill one of the sheep and was feeling pretty macho about it!

I have something else to tell you about Biruk. He is one of the most godly people I know. He loves Jesus and relies on God for absolutely everything. His faith is huge and can and will move mountains. God impressed on his heart when he was a very young boy that he'd one day be an evangelist, sharing the gospel to people who've never heard it, in places where it is not welcome.

He's been looking into schools in the U.S. He wants a theology degree and a minor in music, as he wants to use music in his ministry. He's interested in North Central University in Minneapolis. We've told him that if God provides the tuition, he can live with us. So as of now, we are praying for God to move the 'tuition mountain.' Can't wait to see what God will do!

He spent so much time with us and not in school that we all went to speak with his principal. We explained what he was doing with us and for us but the principal wanted to know what it was that we were doing for him. He was very concerned about Biruk missing school but with the promise that he'd make it all up, finally gave him permission to miss a few more days to be with us.

We really are indebted to and thankful to and for Biruk. He helped us with so much while we were in Ethiopia! Honestly, I don't know what we would have done without him there. He is an outstanding young man and I know God will use him greatly in the future.

So this Thanksgiving, among so many other things I am giving thanks for our friend, Biruk.

We love him!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Saturday in Addis Ababa at the feeding center

We had all decided when we went to Ethiopia that we wanted to be busy. Our group did not have a need for rest but wanted to be put to work and be busy all the time. That is exactly what we did.

Maste gave us an idea for an opportunity to serve on a Saturday...go volunteer at the Hope Enterprises feeding center in Addis. We really had no idea what we'd find when we got there other than a lot of hungry people, so we went. When we arrived we told the workers there that we were there to volunteer and they put us to work.

Above you can see Kevin beginning to fold the injera.

This was the result. They stacked plate/bowls 5 high and covered the table. At this point, I had no idea exactly why but we followed directions.

This center is open every day but Sunday, serving breakfast and lunch. (I think breakfast) People can pay 1 birr (about 5-6 cents) for a token, which they exchange for a meal. This place has things figured out perfectly and do an impressive job with organization. They feed 750 people at the site where we were (mostly to men and boys) and another 250 next door (mostly to women).

Blaine helping fold injera.

Counting to make sure there's enough.

The people are allowed in in groups of about 170 each. They get in line, hand the man their token, pick up their plate with injera, go over to the outdoor sink to wash their hands and proceed to the tables that sit under a large, covered roof. This process happens 3 times until all the people are fed and all the food is gone.

As I have said before, I will not exploit people. I don't try to be dramatic or take graphic pictures of people to shock Americans.

I do believe it is important, however to paint a picture of this day in a vivid way because it is the one and only day that I was shocked...shocked to the point where I had to take a step back, reabsorb the tears that had formed in my eyes and get back to work.

Most (I'm guessing all) of the people who visit this feeding center are homeless. There are many street kids, boys of about 10-14 years old who came through the line. They are always charming, giving you a wink. It's cute until you realize the reason they are so charming is because they know it gets them something. Cute, charming people earn more as beggars or sales people. It's for survival...and that's sad.

There were men who came through the line that I wondered how they'd be able to carry their plates, since they were walking on their hands. I'm not sure what happened to their legs...was it a birth defect or an injury? Whatever caused it, their legs were crippled and small. So they walk on their hands. Oh, their poor hands. The streets of Addis Ababa are filled with broken glass, gravel and other things you wouldn't want to walk on even with shoes. But these men have no choice. I offered to help those men but they had their own method. They either stuck the plate under their chin and carried it that way or had a friend who helped them.

A few women came through the line, one woman who stuck out to me in particular. She had a sweet baby on her back and was being led by her other daughter, a 3 or 4 year old girl. The mother was completely blind.

The one thing they all had in common was they were dirty and very hungry. It was nice that they had a place to wash their hands and they all did so eagerly.

After they took their plates of injera and sat down, Blaine, Katie, Kevin, Biruk and De went out with buckets filled with a lentil stew and a large ladle and began dishing out the "wat" or stew as it's called. I'm pretty sure Denise and I had the cleaner job as the others came back with their fronts covered with lentils!

As the first group finished their meals, they returned their plate to the counter and we were to dump whatever was left on the plate into a plastic pail on the counter and then put the plate into the blue tub to the right to be washed and readied for the next group of people coming through. When I say we dumped the remains of the plates in the bucket that's an inacurate statement. There was usually very little left or nothing on the plate so we actually hit the plate on the side of the bucket to get the plates cleaner for washing...or so I thought.

The bucket got about 1/3 of the way full of scraps. An old man walked up to the counter and opened up a little plastic shopping bag and looked at the man who was working with us. As I watched, the worker then took a plate and began mixing the scraps up. He then, using the plate as a scoop, gathered half of the 'scraps' and put it into the mans bag, which the man then tied up and walked away.

This almost did me in. I literally took a step back as my eyes filled with tears (as they are now again as I tell you this). After this man came with his bag, another did...then another. There were simply not enough scraps to go around for these people to have another meal that day.

I don't know how to hit you with this as hard as it hit me except to say...if you went to McDonald's and everyone dumped their leftovers into a bucket, then someone mixed it up and then gave it to those who wanted something for supper later...this was exactly the same thing. It seemed so dehumanizing at first but of course...these people NEED something for supper or maybe they bring it to someone who is sick. It would be MORE of a shame to waste it...I get that.

It just simply took me off guard and shocked me.

I got over it and went on but I will never, ever forget that.


It was a huge blessing to be there and get to serve that day. We all enjoyed the work and the people.

God showed us in a new way...the need is just huge.

We were told that on Saturday a sponsor pays for the entire day and 1000 people eat for free. They put the sponsors name up on the window to honor them.

And just how much does it cost to feed 1000 very hungry people the only meal they will have on Saturday?

About $60 USD. $60 to feed one thousand people!

It made me think...how many dinners have we spent that much on ourselves or even a couple times, just on myself? Yes, we have done it.

I think I'll have to pass when I see that price next to a steak on the menu next time. I'll get the salad.