Monday, August 27, 2012


Last year I purchased scarves for some of the women on my Christmas list from FashionABLE.

Their mission is fabulous!  And it's extremely successful.  So when we had the opportunity to visit FashionABLE in person and spend some time with the women there, and the new person helping to run it (Ian Bentley), we were thrilled (okay, I was especially thrilled!). 

The website for FashionABLE is

When I come back wearing the scarves I purchased directly from them, you're going to want to get some for yourself!  They are beautiful and very well made.  This is a picture of the on site store:
FashionABLE is a division of Women at Risk.  They help women get out of prostitution.  Many women here have led lives of prostitution for a variety of reasons.  For some, their husbands have left and they have no education so they support themselves the only way they know how.  For others, it's because they were trafficked from the country to the city.  No matter the reason, the women are in need of help.  FashionABLE trains them to weave fabric to make scarves.  Here are some pictures of the looms (below).  It is an amazing process!

In this picture the yarn has been spun and dyed and  now is drying to be used for a scarf.

Once the scarves are finished, the women roll the ends using their legs!  It makes the little fringe on the edge of each scarf.

We were allowed to help roll the ends of the scarves.  Here's Jayde trying it out.  She found out it's a simple concept but definitely takes practice to perfect.

We spent part of two different days at FashionABLE.  The second time the boys came, too.  Though they had no interest in seeing the scarf-making process, they found things to entertain themselves, like throwing old tires over a stick (like horseshoes with tires).
Check out this awesome ministry (and it's a great idea for Christmas gifts this year)!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Awash Adventures

My mind says, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" as I write this post.  Except, in our case, it would be, "Camels and warthogs and monkeys, oh my!" 

Our family, along with Sheri and Hannah, drove to Awash National Park (about 4 hours south of Addis) this past week.  I love getting driving through the country anywhere, but it has been especially awesome to get to see landscapes in Africa!

My pictures just do not do it justice!  It's sooooo beautiful here!  Adjectives- hm, let's see..... gorgeous, beautiful, awesome, surreal, indescribable, incomparable, etc., etc., etc.

We saw camels just roaming along, ya'll!  I shot some footage with the video camera of the camels.  My daughter has been making fun of me all week for saying, "Hello, camel!  Goodbye, camel!" on the video.  But, I promise, when I said, "Hello", the camel shook his head to acknowledge me!  I have proof. 

We stayed at the nicest hotel in Awash.  It was awful.  I think I would rather have slept in the car.  I know I would rather have been in my sleeping bag in our family tent, for sure.  But, we stuck it out. 

There were 3 girls under that mosquito net!  I know now why we are taking malaria medication. 

We were required to hire an armed guard to be our guide through our day driving around the area.  He was very nice but did not speak any English.  Behailu interpreted the best he could.
This picture is just to show you the road we were on.  Very long.  I felt like I was on safari.
An oryx stared at us.  He actually has very long horns, even though you can't really see them in this picture.

Warthogs also showed themselves to us, but my camera wasn't ready.  They were huge!  Much bigger than what I pictured from "Lion King".  Haha.  The kids were singing, "Hakuna Matata" in the car.  We looked for Timone, but we didn't find him.  :)

The river is long, brown, muddy, but gorgeous.  Surrounding it on all sides are a multitude of shades of green.  I have never seen so many colors of green in one place before.

We fed the wild monkey our bananas.  (Technically, we weren't supposed to, but our guard politely turned his head.  I probably shouldn't tell you that.)

The children were very excited to see ostriches.  They started following us and began running, then someone shooed them away. 
One of the highlights of our trip was seeing Awash Falls.  It was huge!! 

We stopped at the Lodge in the National Park that is available to eat and sleep at (we should have stayed there for the night).  Our lunch was delicious.

This is the bar area.  I just thought it was cool, so I wanted to show you.

We ate lunch on this balcony:

This was part of our view during lunch:

Sheri and I tried some Ethiopian white wine.  Yum.

It made Sheri's day to meet a family of baboons.  This guy was the alpha male.
We had a great time and it's something we'll never forget!

Embracing Hope Ethiopia

Our family had the opportunity to go to Embracing Hope Ethiopia to learn about their ministry and see  it in action.  The mission statement of EHE reads:

"Our mission is to partner with God, individuals and the local church in ministering with the poor, orphans and vulnerable children (and their families) of Ethiopia using compassionate, holistic practices that promote sustainability, transformation, community, and Christian discipleship which invades all areas of life for this and future generations."

You can go to: to see a list of their projects in more detail. 

Embracing Hope Ethiopia provides a day care service to 66 moms (the common theme for their lives is a husband who left them) so they can work. 

Some of the moms work for Embracing Hope making baskets or magazine bead jewelry (seen below)

Other moms are given the opportunity to start their own businesses, and still others are employed in the community because they know their children are safe and well cared for. 

The children receive 2 meals and one snack each day.  As we walked through the compound, we saw pictures of each age group on the door to their room.

We witnessed song time for one group of children. 
We were able to deliver the dresses that so many women from EPC (our church) sewed for the girls (and some shorts for the boys).  Here are some of the sweet faces of the girls who will be wearing those dresses:

Alana is modeling the dress made for her.  It is just like the ones given to the EHE girls.  (Though I bet the EHE girls won't be wearing tights, rainboots, and necklaces with theirs.)
The families coming to EHE are the poorest of the poor.  Most live in a slum (a small room the size of a tiny bathroom with mud floor and sides and a tin roof) that they rent.  They are sick and do not have enough to eat.  They are without hope before EHE takes them in.
One of the main things that Alan and I appreciate about Embracing Hope Ethiopia is that they are teaching the women to be empowered in their own lives.  There's a literacy center being built, a money management program, nutrition and hygiene classes, among other sustainable facets to the ministry. 
The founders, Jerry and Christy Shannon, are giving their lives to the Ethiopian women and children and spreading the gospel at the same time.  Spending time with Jerry was eye-opening.  EHE has to turn away 1300 women a year.  Did you read that?  They are maxed out.  And the women they turn away came to them through word of mouth.  That means that they are only an extremely small percentage of the need. 
EHE runs on sponsorships, so go to the website for more information on this ministry.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lessons Learned

We have had the privilege on many occasions of driving through the African countryside.  I will NEVER sing the song, "He Reigns" by Newsboys again without going back to the African plains in my mind and picturing the hot, dry, dusty, beautiful soil, Acacia trees, colorful birds, mud huts, and wildlife that we have witnessed on this side of the world. 

Here is a link to the song,

and these are the lyrics:

"It's the song of the redeemed rising from the African plain.
It's the song of the forgiven drowning out the Amazon rain,
the song of Asian believers filled with God's holy fire.
It's every tribe, every tongue, every nation, a love song born of a grateful choir.
It's all God's children singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns."
It's all God's children singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns."

Let it rise above the four winds, caught up in the heavenly sound.
Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals to the faithful gathered underground.
Of all the songs sung from the dawn of creation, some were meant to persist.
Of all the bells rung from a thousand steeples, none rings truer than this.
All God's children singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns, He reigns."
All God's children singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns, He reigns."

And all the powers of darkness tremble at what they've just heard.
'Cause all the powers of darkness can't drown out a single word
when all God's children sing out, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns, He reigns."
All God's children sing out, Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He Reigns, He reigns."
All God's people singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He Reigns (He reigns), hallelujah."
All God's people singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He Reigns (He reigns), hallelujah."
All God's people singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He Reigns (hallelujah)."

(the emphasis is mine)

I want to share pictures of our time in Awash with you, but first I want to share some things I have learned while being here.

1) You don't have to have electricity to have fun.  Video games?  Computer?  TV?  Not necessary.  We have had countless fun evenings spent playing games by candlelight and flashlight.  Lots of time talking and laughing.  You don't need electricity to show love and have a good time.  You need people.

2)  Water is necessary.  However, a hot shower with a turbo-powered shower head, beautifully tiled shower, bubble-bath-filled tub, and expensive plush towels are not necessary.  We have spent many evenings taking a baby-wipe shower (i.e. wipe off the basic nastiness and call it a day), a one-water-bottle shower, and (if you're really lucky) a one-pitcher-from-the-kitchen shower. 

3)  Food cooked over a propane stove when it is sparse tastes better than a steak dinner from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a tiny bit here, but there's a reason why food always tastes awesome on our camping trips.  The same as here:  it was hard to produce!  And, there's not much of it!  Therefore, it tastes delicious and smells divine.  That's the rule.  If you don't believe me, go camping and find out for yourself.

4)  You only need a couple outfits.  Really.  I have a closet full of clothes in 5 different sizes (don't ask) in Florida.  They are waiting for me when I get home.  When I find an outfit that fits me in that closet I will happily wear it and revel in the fact that I-don't-have-to-wash-it-that-night-because-it-needs-two-days-to-dry-in-the-rain-and-then-I-need-to-wear-it-again-so-I-won't-be -naked-like-the-guy-I-saw-on-the-side-of-the-road-in-Addis-this-morning-bathing-in-the-sewer-water.  I don't care if you're still wearing the tight-rolled pants from middle school with a tie-dyed shirt, you have clothes.  Period.  I love you whether you have the latest Cosmo looks or not.  Okay? (Oh my goodness, Mom and Dad, did you ever think when I was growing up you'd hear me say this?  Shopping was my favorite hobby.  Enough said.)

5)  Letting someone go hungry  and skip a meal is not worth me going out to dinner.  Dude.  Let me just say that I will continue to go out to dinner.  I can name a long list of restaurants I am salivating over visiting when I return to Florida.   Chick-fil-a?  Yes.  Grandpa Johnson's?  Bring on the BBQ.  Mi Casa?  Burritos and margaritas, I will see you soon.  Obrien's?  Loaded cheese fries, I have dreamed about you.  BUT!!! I will not eat you as often as I did before, and I will not eat you without counting the cost in my budget as it relates to my sponsored women, children, and families.  I will not tell you how many children in what organizations we sponsor.  I don't want this to be a "look at me" post.  But it's more than one.  More than two. We sponsor moms.  We sponsor families.  We are paying for school fees for people we don't know.  Why?  God knows.  We have the means with what God has blessed us with.   If it means I don't have the latest clothes, dance classes for my kids, or electronics, then so be it.  If it means I cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner, cut coupons, raise chickens, and plant a garden, then I am happy to do it. I have now seen the faces and met the mommas and heard the cries of hungry babies.  I will count the cost when my $35 dinner out will feed a child for a month.  My $55 date with my husband will take care of a mom and children for 30 days.  My $120 amusement park ticket will completely clothe, feed, and educate a single mother and baby for 4 weeks.  They are real.  They are not sad pictures on a website.  They have names and hurts and dreams and fears and they want someone to love them.  I will.  I can love them.  But I can't love them all by myself.  Will you help me?

5)  I love living near my extended family.  If there's one thing I've missed, it's having the loving support of my parents, in-laws, sister and hubby, aunts, uncles, and cousins, nieces, and nephews.  I have only one sister (and she's an amazing wife, mom, sister, and friend), but my extended family is huge.  My mom is one of 7 seven girls.  My dad is one of 4 children.  There are lots of cousins.  Family get-togethers have always been loud and filled with fun.  Everyone does not always agree, but everyone knows they are family.  That's enough. I am extremely thankful to have such a large family.  I always wanted my children to have lots of brothers and sisters to go through life with.

6) Most species of bugs make my skin crawl.  I don't like most of the ones in Florida, and I don't like most of the ones in Ethiopia.  There are a lot of similar insects (since they have similar climates), but I still don't like them.  I would be happy never to see another roach, ant,  mosquito, bed bug, fly, or spider again (yes, I know spiders are in a different category, but they crawl and creep me out, so I'm lumping them right in). 

7) My house does not need to be decorated by an interior designer to make a home for my family or provide hospitality for others.   I have been blessed with a beautiful home in Florida.  But, we have lived out of suitcases here, had a home with sparse furnishings, sat on chairs built by a local man, and been happy in rooms with no expensive artwork (or no artwork at all).  All of these things have happened at different times, but everywhere we have lived we have felt at home. Why?  Because we were together.  "Home is where the heart is" has never been more true.

8)  Exercise rids you of bad feelings, gives you energy, and burns calories.  I have never in my life climbed as many stairs as I have in the past 3 months, and it's been great!  Apparently I needed to re-learn some lessons in life, and this was one of them.

9)  Many people in the "church universal" today have turned a blind eye to what really matters to Jesus.  I am going to step on some toes here, but  I have witnessed large numbers of people that say they love Jesus do nothing more than attend church on Sunday.  Or they work in ministries in the church without reaching out to others in the community and world and think that's all they are supposed to do.  Or they look at their neighbor with tatted up arms, multiple piercings, and Harley jackets and think they are so glad they "are not like them".  You know how I know this?  Because I was one of them!  When you let legalism enter into your thoughts and heart you cease to love people the way Jesus loved them and instead just judge on their outward appearance.  The Bible says that people who don't know Jesus are "captives".  Try thinking of others in this way. You'll stop caring about what they look like and start caring about loving them.  What is your neighbor going through?  Can they use a meal?  Their lawn mowed?  A card? If you don't know, find out!  Then, ACT!

"My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him.  The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ.  They want to to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them."- Kyle Idleman, Not A Fan

10)  The church is not made up of people in America, but people all over the world.  Did you know that?  Because I hear sooooo many people make comments like, "we should help our own first", and now it makes me want to throw up.  No where in the Bible does it say that Americans should only help other Americans.  Or that God loves America best.  Or that God loves white people more than black or brown or tan or albino or any-other-color-you-can-name.  There are people next door to you that you are supposed to minister to.  There are people in the next town that you are supposed to minister to.  There are people in another state that you should help.  There are people on your continent that you should love.  And there are people all over the world that you are called to love, minister to, and help.   No matter where they are.  You are supposed to love.  Period.  You know who's going to be worshiping God in Heaven with Jesus one day?  Every tribe, every tongue, and every nation.  That's it.  Heaven will be a lovely rainbow of people.  That's a promise.  If God's calling you to feed someone in your neighborhood, do it.  If He's calling you to spend time with your family in another state when someone's going through something rough, be there.  If God asks you to go on a mission trip to another country, GO.  If He puts it on your heart to move to a remote location and reach people with the gospel, just do it (sorry, Nike).  Please don't judge the person next to you because they have not been called to walk the same walk as you.  Just do something. Spread the gospel. And support each other. Be a unified front for Christ.
"9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;"-Revelation 7:9

Limiting this list to 10 was difficult.  Lessons are limitless.  Thank you, Lord, for teaching me.

Panicky? Um, yes.

As I opened my eyes this morning before it was light outside and listened to the chanting of the Orthodox Church, I realized I have actually grown to like waking up to the Indian-style music. 

It was at that moment that I began to feel a little panicky about coming back to the States.

I like it here.  I really do.  I mean, come on, where else do you see chickens coming to market like this? (Stephanie, I thought of you.  This is a version of an Ethiopian chicken tractor.  Haha)

Sure, there are things that irritate me about Ethiopia.  For instance, not being able to walk anywhere without having a multitude of people begging for something.  Or having the power go in and out and in and out all day long.  Or never being sure if you'll have enough water to make it through the day.  Or wading through trash-filled mud because there's not trash pick-up so it lays in piles littering the ground.  Or having virtually no one think ahead, so it makes your life very inconvenient and frustrating.

But, for every little act that I won't miss, there are two that I will

I'm going to miss:

- walking outside on our dirt road and having moms bring their babies up to me to kiss.

- the children that run to me to practice the English words they are learning in school.

- the way I am encouraged at every meal to linger over coffee or tea at the end, enjoying the company of those I am with.

- going to a restaurant and having the staff play with and joke with my children.

- having people come up to me offering to help with the kids no matter how loud they are without getting mad or thinking they are ruining their space.

- having people stop and come over to help if they think you are in trouble without turning a blind eye because they are so busy rushing to get to their next appointment.

- walking to the muddy soccer field and playing with all ages without having anyone expect you to be good or care if you don't play well. 

- being grateful for every book, piece of paper, article of clothing, and morsel of food, because all of those things are much harder to get here.

-seeing all the kids coming into Bring Love In and watching them adjust to their new homes and families.

- participating in ministries that I have grown to love.

- having the opportunity to be part of a church plant that's growing and making a difference in the community.

- the new friends we have made- those that were born here and those that have been transplanted to this country ministering to others.

-driving through the African countryside and just reveling in the the beautiful scenery, getting dusty and not caring, because everyone else is dusty, too.

There are more.  Many more

I wonder if when I get home I can stay focused on the lessons I have learned and not get caught up in the hectic way of life that is so "American".  

And I am anxious about whether or not I fit in anymore at home.  I am changed.  My family has been changed.  What do I do with that?  What will it look like?  How will it feel? 

I pray God can use every experience in Africa to help me love my brothers and sisters at home with a new sense of the way Jesus loves them- those in my family, my church, my community.

And I'm torn.  Between longing to go and longing to stay.  Panicky?  I'm sure there will be a lot of turmoil on Monday.  Tears, too. 

I'm praying God will show me what ministry is supposed to look like now for our family.

I was praying that we would eventually feel like we "fit in" again with our friends and family.  But then I realized- maybe we're not supposed to?  Maybe there's a reason we don't fit in.  Maybe there's a purpose in those emotions and it will be used to determine what we do in the future.  Only God knows.   

Please pray for our family and our transition.  Pray for our plane ride with 5 children (2 of who have never been on a plane and one who gets motion sickness).  Pray our flights are uneventful.  There's a tropical storm/hurricane coming toward Florida right now and we really would rather not get caught in it.  I hate to fly.  I HATE TO FLY.  When I say that, I really mean it.  

Come to the airport!  If you would like to see our family, we're flying in Tuesday, August 28, at 6:17 p.m. on United flight 1291.  Our boys are very excited about America.  They know there are people there who are going to love them and play with them.  They have looked at your pictures every day.  So, if you are available, come to the airport and show them you've prayed for them. We will not be able to spend lots of time with each individual person, but we can hug you and say "thank you" and take pictures for the boys' scrapbooks.  

Before you come, please read this post"How to be the Village" from Jen Hatmaker I read this a few months ago, and saved it to have family and friends read when we came home.  We're now at that point, so please, please read it!  It's funny, not boring, and it will help you figure out how to respond once we're home.  For our situation, you can skip down to "Supporting Families After the Airport".  Pay special attention to #5 (we're already experiencing a lot of grief, and it's going to be magnified once we leave Ethiopia). Then read the part about "what we'd like to experience after the airport". Reading this would be helpful for us and also for any other adoptive families you know.  It just takes a minute.
Thank you for taking the time to help!  We could not do this without support.

So, panicky?  Yes.  For lots of reasons.  I know I need to focus on God's word, so I head back to the Psalm God gave me 3 months ago to meditate on, Psalm 34. 
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Ordinary Love

For over a year, I have been following the newsletters and updates of No Ordinary Love Ministries.  I watched as they expanded their programs and opened their home for children and widows.  I was excited to be able to visit them while we were in Ethiopia. 

On Friday, Sheri, Jayde, Alana, and I participated in their Friday program.  Every Friday the Bentley family, along with the Gross family (founders of No Ordinary Love) lead a community Bible study, song, and playtime for the women and children in their community program. 

Please visit No Ordinary Love's website for information on what they do- it's a wonderful thing!  There are nine children living full time in the home, and over 30 in the community program.  The children are happy, smiling, and eager to learn and have fun.  This is despite the fact that the meal they receive that day at No Ordinary Love may be the only one they get and they walk to the NOL compound with no shoes and holes in their clothes.  I'm not exaggerating.

A translator presents the Bible study in Amharic so all can understand:

A group of children are seen here reenacting the story of the Good Samaritan:

Sheri and I were able to hold babies:
We jumped rope and played ball with the kids:

Alana made new friends:

The women and children at No Ordinary Love are in desperate need of sponsorships.  You can visit their website for information.  Sponsoring a woman or child in the community program is only $25 a month!  For less than the cost of eating out, you can change a life!  It's true, we've witnessed it!  Please consider sponsoring one of these beautiful faces.

For my adoption friends that will be coming to Addis Ababa over the next few months- No Ordinary Love has a great need for children's clothing (especially girls) sizes 5-8.  If anyone could fit donations into their luggage, I can get you in touch with Jimmy Gross or Brittany Bentley to deliver them.

EPC ladies- ready for another sewing date?  Because they would LOVE dresses and shorts donations. 

Please bless someone else as God has blessed you.

Birthday Blessings

We started off the week breaking in Sheri and Hannah right away. Power has been in and out, like usual.  Sheri has taken cold showers, but has not been without water yet.  I'm sure that will come before we leave! Here are Sheri, Hannah, Jayde, Alana, and Alan playing Rummikub by candlelight.  The first picture is with my flash. Trust me, it was actually dark:
This next one is the true lighting we have frequently in the evenings:

There has been a lot of rain and our road frequently looks like a river:

Thursday was my 36th birthday.  Sheri and I went to Zumba in the city in the morning, then worked at Bring Love In in the afternoon.  That evening, we went to Habesha 2000, the same traditional Ethiopian restaurant that we took Alan's parents to while they were here. 

This was my first birthday with 5 children:

My husband informed them it was my birthday, so I was serenaded, and then later picked on to get up from my seat and dance with one of the male dancers.  Yes, I shook it, baby!  I'll try to post the lovely video Sheri made on Facebook (yes, that "lovely" was sarcastic).

For my birthday gift, I received a handmade necklace bearing all my children's names:

Sheri brought me candy (oh yes, she knows me), Missy sent magazines, Kelley & George gave truffles, Becky a package of oreos, Mom and Dad a gift card, and special cards were received from home from Avery & Barbara and Matt & Courtney.  It was fun to open all the cards brought from the States since we have not been able to receive mail here.  The oreos are long gone and I'm working diligently on the candy.  :)

Thanks to all my friends and family who sent birthday wishes and ecards via Facebook and email.  They were cherished!

Today I am thankful for:  sweet treats, handwritten cards, and wise words from friends.