You may remember, I mentioned my dear friend, Karen, several weeks ago. (If you missed that post, read here.) Well, she's home from her first trip to Africa...her first trip to minister and share the Gospel with the fatherless. And I wanted to capture her first-time, first-hand experience for my bloggy readers -- so, here are my quesions, and her answers! Thank you for taking a few moments to read about the children in Ethiopia and Uganda!
How did you get introduced to the world's orphan crisis?
I probably was not aware there was a crisis until you and Vince started the process of adopting internationally. Even then I didn't see that it was a problem of such wide spread proportion. I knew there were orphans. I was a M*A*S*H fan growing up. Korea was war torn. I considered that to be a real and reasonable part of the story. I think I was a little surprised the first time I heard someone say that there were enough orphans in the world to populate the former U.S.S.R. (Do I have that right?) That's a lotta' defenseless kids.
What moved you to join a Visiting Orphans mission trip?
Me and my big mouth. At one of our singles retreats you and Vince were discussing the need for people to adopt and encouraging even singles to adopt. (I'm still certain that is not my calling.) I remembered remarking to someone sitting near me, "I don't want to adopt as a single, I just wanna' go help." The ensuing conversation was a lament that our church did all kinds of missions but nothing when it came to orphans or orphanages, and that we did not have any idea how to be a part of something like that. After y'all moved to Alabama, I was keeping up with your blog--you challenged those who weren't called to adopt, that they were still called to care for orphans; and then suggested to me a way to do it. I was actually looking for a place to hide under my desk when I read your suggestion--then God reminded me of my words from the summer before and said, "Well, are you all talk or not?"
Did you have the necessary funds for your trip, or did you have to raise money? Were you surprised by how God provided for your trip? Why, or why not?
I did not have the necessary funds for my trip. I could have squeezed it out, but I wouldn't have had anything left, and I do mean NOTHING. I knew He would provide if He wanted me to go. First, I sat back for a while (being sick to my stomach) thinking it just was not possible. But a couple of my friends pointed out to me, "Karen, you have to go all-out if you are going to do this, you can't sit back and take it easy."
Good friends. So, I heeded their advice. I sent out about 80 support letters. I was amazed at God’s provision--I was blessed to be able to raise exceedingly abundantly more that I needed. About 30 people responded, and some who I hadn't even sent letters to gave me funds as well.
What was the most shocking part of your travels to Africa?
I'd have to say that biggest shock came the day we visited the dumps outside a community called Korah (think: the man and his family who the ground swallowed up because of their disobedience) This Korah was founded as a Leper colony (along with all of its implications) in Addis Ababa, Ethioipia. We had been warned that we would be visiting a dump, and that we should prepare for the smells etc. But as I looked at the itinerary, I understood that there was no way to prepare, though I tried to consider what it might be like.
When we pulled up, the one thing I had not envisioned was that the dumps were literally on fire--smoke was rising from various places all around. My mind immediately went to a word Jesus used which we translate as "Hell." The word is geheena, pronounced (gheh'-en-nah). It referred to a valley south of Jerusalem where rubbish and dead animals were thrown to be burned. I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, "These children live in Hell." I fought back tears and prayed for strength. I was going in.
We could see the kids standing at the edge waiting for us. It was tough. I prayed at some point that God would deaden my sense of smell. I can handle looking at gross things, and I could even take my time and figure out how to breathe in the smoke. (I found that progressively harder by the way.) But I really did not want to hurt the children's feelings by having to run off to get sick. One miracle, we decided later in the day, was that none of us did get sick.
I went in willingly, knowing that this was exactly Jesus wanted us to be; and that is the truth: imagine after all, the picture of where we (sinners) once were and where we deserved to still be (Hell)--but it’s also true that I really wanted to leave, and quickly. We were there for around 3 hours. The children that lived there were typical little kids. They wanted the stickers and candy that we had for them. They put stickers all over their faces. One little boy kept coming back for more sweets. I didn't mind so much but I wanted to let as many kids as possible have a piece too. I finally asked him, if he thought I didn't recognize him? He started laughing.
I took each child's hand and placed a piece of candy in it with the other hand because I wanted to know that they were lovable, and touchable. The saddest part that I saw was that girls, most of which appeared to be between age 10 and 15, would hardly look us in the eyes. They were very outnumbered, and I couldn't help wonder what their life is like on a regular basis. My guess is that no one was keeping them safe…in any way.
What was your most joy-filled moment spent with Africa's orphans?
I think the part of the trip that gave me the most joy happened in Uganda. The children at Canaan Children's home were sleeping on the floor. The girls were sleeping on the floor in the hospital because their dormitory had been burned down and was in the process of being rebuilt. We had an overage from the money we raised for the trip. We discussed as a team, and decided to honor pastor Wagaba's request for mattresses for the children. As we watched the children come and get their "surprise" I was overtaken by the idea that we had come to comfort the orphans in their distress, and indeed, a mattress should provide some long lasting comfort, not just what we could give while we were there. The children began to sing, "This is the day that the Lord has made. We are the people that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." It was a very sweet moment.
Did you come home hopeful, or hopeless? Did you sense God working to care for the least of these? Can you share a few ways?
In Ethiopia on Friday night a few of us went for to a local place for coffee. On the way, we ran into some ladies from the UK. They were there doing mission work. As we discussed our different activities, a sweet and powerful little lady announced, "God has got his hand on Ethiopia." I believe she is right. He does and always has. He sent Philip (by supernatural phenomena) to explain the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch long ago. And today, He is raising-up leaders from within Ethiopia. Our guides and those working in the guest home were working with street kids, the children in the dump were being ministered to by a young man who came out of the dumps himself. He came to know the Lord, when students from Young Life (instead of shunning him like other missionaries had) wanted to play with him. Now he is there to lead his people. Visiting Orphans will send these people help, and make people in the US are aware of the needs. There is hope. The children in Uganda have hope. Even the children from the neighborhood, who do not live in the orphanage, run through and play there. They will see God's love in action. Do I think an orphanage is the best way for a child to live? No, but these children were being loved. They were being told about Jesus. Many of them had awful stories from before they were in the orphanage. Many of them said that their life was so happy now.
In 2-3 sentences, what do you want Believers in the US to know about this crisis?
Believers in the U.S. need to know that the need is great. The need is actually greater there than here. We have been given such wealth and blessing, and it is not for us to keep to ourselves. There are defenseless and hungry children in the world. We are responsible for them too.
They were created in the same image we were.
They are ours.
Jane Grace and Micah. We took Jane Grace a care-package when we traveled to Ethiopia (her family picked her up several months later).
We need to sell 400 T shirts to give 400 orphans a brand new pair of shoes & a new shirt.
400 HopeChest Project T shirts will give us the $12,000 we need to reach EVERY CHILD!
I don't want any child left behind. 100% of proceeds goes to the project!
Fundraiser ends Feb. 1st!!!!!!!!!
HELP SPREAD THE WORD!! 400 for 400!!
Let us faithfully pray for Haiti and the souls who are suffering so greatly. It was God's grace that sought us out to be His Children. And many of us were found in our own dark-night of the soul. Let us petition our Heavenly Father to sovereignly, graciously and mercifully reveal Himself through His hands and feet that are ministering at this very moment, in a very dark night.
We cannot all go, we cannot all give, but, we can all pray!
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
Two of the families who joined us have children adopted from Ethiopia. One family had recently completed the adoption of a beautiful African-American baby boy. A fourth family is anxiously awaiting the call about their daughter in Uganda. And the rest of the families are pursuing/praying about adoption/fostering.
Juda, Ben and Micah (baby Cooper will be romping around with them soon enough!!)
Because Ethiopia follows its own ancient calendar, Christmas falls on Jan. 7 and their new year isn't until Sept. 11. Ethiopia's calender is based on the Gregorian calender, but is actually seven to eight years behind the Gregorian Calendar, owing to alternate calculations in determining the date of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus (www.selmata.net).
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas much different than Westerners. No Santa Clause. No excessive gift-giving. If gifts are given, they're to children and are usually small gifts of clothing. The main observances of include a Christmas Eve church service (and often fasting), as well as a special service on Christmas day. A feast is also observed on Christmas day, celebrating the birth of Jesus.
We're observing Genna tomorrow night in our home with friends in our community who have Ethiopian/African America-adoption connections.
"...Melkam Gena from Ethiopia. We are back from the dump. It was a dificult scene. You know when Jesus references hell, the word is Gahenna (?)? It references a burning pile of rubbish that never ceases. If you can imagine the dump of Addis. . . the smells and the smoke ... my first thought when we pulled up... these children live in hell."
1.6.10--Just read an update on Karen's facebook page; says:
"will celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia tomorrow ministering to children who live in the dumps with the team. I can't even imagine"
I can't wait to share the details of her trip to Ethiopia & Uganda with you-- stay tuned....
Right now I'm just gathering necessary paper work, and other stuff like that, while we wait to hear from our social worker.
Although, we are ENJOYING every minute with Micah! His little personality is so funny! We drove the first-leg of our trip home from Tampa on New Year's day. We stopped to grab a bite to eat at Bob Evans. After our waiter brought our drinks, he told us he would be "right back" to take our order. Well, he obviously did not return quick enough, because Micah keep turning around in his chair, trying to find the guy, and wagging his finger while saying "right back, right back" -- ha ha, it was so funny!
I don't consider it to be a dirty word by any of it's definitions - especially regarding chastisement or self-control.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray. Prov 5:23
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid. Prov 12:1
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Prov 13:24
Because we began 2009 with a relocation, job change, and adoption, I felt like I spent most of the year picking up debris from a train-wreck. By no means were the changes bad--it was just a lot to absorb in a short period of time. But 2010 still has all its potential brimming, and I want to maximize on the health of my mind and body, an the youth of my son!! Not to mention Vince's benefit of my personal discipline as well. (And my church, and my community, and my family....)
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor 9:27
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Heb 12:11
What exactly will discipline look like for me this year? While I'm still praying about that, asking God to give me clear vision and goals, I imagine that the focus of my efforts will involve Bible-study. 2009 was not my greatest season of studying God's Word. Although it was an AMAZING year, and although God sustained me often by His Words planted in my heart in year's gone by, I found myself too often running on empty. I cannot give when I'm empty, and I certainly cannot give anything of value when I wander into the 'valley of dry bones'.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17
The key to a productive 2010 for any of us is discipline. Godly discipline. It's not easy, and it won't happen accidentally. The pursuit of discipline must become a passion. An here's where I have to be careful! It's easy for me to get excited about the pursuit of discipline for reasons of personal achievement. But the pursuit of discipline must always and only be for the purpose of Godliness. And a passion for Godliness only comes from and is only fulfilled by God alone.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10