Sunday, December 26, 2010

We had the “What If?” talk.

Making Happy Birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve...
everything is a first for Alex

Are we really willing to give it all to God? Even our lives? What if something happens to one of us or two of us or even three of us for that matter? Are we willing to trust God completely? Will we still believe in him and give him the glory no matter what happens in Africa?

The chances of something bad happening are probably worse in a small car on interstate 5 but I think this is a good time to remind ourselves that we have given our lives to God. It is a time to reflect and ask ourselves what that really means. What does it mean to say “no matter what, I believe, I trust, I give my life to live or die for Christ Jesus”? No Matter.

I would ask that if you are reading our stories that you would pray for us, that you would trust God with us and that you too would choose to allow God to have his will in our lives even if that means a loss for you.

No Matter What.

The journey to ET begins officially tomorrow…

I received a phone call tonight. Alex was checking on all of us to make sure we were okay. He was very concerned and wished he could be with us tomorrow to go to the airport. Because we were leaving from Seattle after spending Christmas in the Olympia area with my parents, it just wasn’t practical to have him come from Portland to Seattle. He said it would not be a problem to ride the bus back. That would be one long bus ride…We tease Alex because when he first came to Portland he was lost several times and with his accent being so strong, and not necessarily asking the right questions, ended up in many of the wrong places! It is painful for me when he tells me he is going to take the bus some place new! He is quite the professional now but still…

Alex’s cousin, Michael, is going to be meeting us in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday. Our first anticipated adventure is going to be a long drive (8 plus hours and a long walk) to Alex’s mothers home. We will meet much of his family. Alex was on the phone with his mom (yes a cell phone out in the bush somewhere) and she just doesn’t quite understand who we are or why we are visiting. She doesn’t understand what it means that Alex lives in the United States. She thinks he must be in the city somewhere. Alex doesn’t think the nieces and nephews that live with her have ever heard of “white people” or even know they exist. We have recorded video messages and pictures of Alex to bring to his family so they will believe us. We are not sure exactly why or what to expect but we feel peace in pursuing this visit of his family. We hope to bring mutual love, respect and a melting of our family with his. A long term approach and plan. Details will be uncovered in time. For now, we are attempting to be open with our hearts and our mind as well as our ears to God and we are asking for courage to take the steps toward His plan.

The return of our Annual Charity Christmas party at BFRG

Several years ago, we felt prompted to share the joy of being generous with our clients and friends. In addition to celebrating Christmas and a wonderful business year, we expanded our party and time with our friends to include the opportunity to share financially with some of our favorite charities the company had helped to support over the year. Each year has been special.

This year was unique and delightful in ways distinguished from past shindigs in that the Ethiopian theme emanated throughout the night. Decorations, coffee and tasty dishes all brought delight to our guests. I believe I enjoyed it as much as anyone. Students from Horizon Christian School sang carols; we saw pictures and videos and just shared our desires to help the orphans with each other.

My emotions ran high as I was again humbled by the kindness and generosity of our friends…5 beautiful Ethiopian children were sponsored. The life of a child and their family will be changed forever. For that child it means education, food, medical care, opportunities to learn about God, and support. Support might not seem like a big deal, mostly because we are so used to built in infrastructures. We don’t think anything of the local elementary school, the roads we take to get to it, the stoplights that keep us from accidents, the grocery store where we are able to get food for our lunches or the kind teachers who are there. It is all automatic for us. Being sponsored helps bridge the gap where those valuable necessities and the infrastructures are missing. Alex was just telling me about when he was a kid and when they “had it good” they took popcorn in their pocket for lunch. Being sponsored gives the child the opportunity to thrive rather than survive.

The highlight of the evening had to be Alex sharing a glimpse of his story. His coming to the United States and the divine meeting with our family. I can’t help but believe that we needed Alex as much as he needs us. We do have this on video to share sometime soon.

Be blessed!

Horizon Kids Church with Harrison and Alex

In anticipation of our journey across the world, Pastor Jenny invited Harrison to share his concerns for the children of Ethiopia. On the Sunday before Christmas, Harrison and Alex gladly stood before the children, shared of the needs and their heart and promised to bring back videos and pictures. The video of Korah was then shared. Here is a glimpse of the boys….the children were delighted.

Many of the students were asking questions. One of the best shouted from the middle was from a little boy. “Alex, Alex, Alex!!! Did you have (e)lectronics when you were a kid?” Alex just smiled and said, no.

Watching my son was beautiful. I believe right now he is really sharing out of his faith and his unknown. I am so very aware that even for him it is going to be so real very soon. I am praying that the raw nature of the adventure will keep his heart soft and sensitive and motivated to help. I am trusting the Lord that it won’t break his heart completely.

At the conclusion of the service, Pastor Jenny had the children come forward and lay hands on the missionary Harrison and his mother. The sweet little boys and girls gathered around with their eyes closed tightly and their hands reaching to touch us, several of the children prayed out loudly with strength and faith only found in a child. I couldn’t help but let the tears stream down my face. I couldn’t quickly swipe the tears as my arms were pinned by the children who stretched to touch me. It is in those weak moments where I am so aware of my insignificance, my inability to change the world, my complete dependence on the One, the only One who truly can go before us and work through us to accomplish what he wants do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This ain't Hawaii...4 minute video of our destination.

I couldn't be more delighted by our choice to visit...
Korah in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

If you are wondering why I keep asking for treasures to take with us...
check out this video and you will see a glimpse into why we want to share the love.

I dare you to let down your guard, EXPERIENCE, and dare to be moved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Final wish list for ET...only 2 more weeks.

The countdown till lift off has begun...

We will be leaving Portland Oregon on the evening of December 25th, 2010. We will fly from Seattle on December 27th. This means we have just about two weeks to finish our hunting and gathering...

Yes we are limited in how much we can take, but because there are four of us, each with two suitcases, that still amounts to 400lbs plus carry ons. This is still quite a few treasures we can hand carry to the programs caring for orphans and the extreme poor.

Here is a list of some items still on our wish list. Think creatively and if you want to know if there is something more you can send or you have an idea, call or message me.

fleece blankets/throws (the children currently nap on the dirt at Sally's preschool)
coloring books
any children's DVD’s
children's cassettes- (music)
composition books
Preschool toys- high quality- like blocks, board books, plastic stacking toys, things that won't break down and can be used by many small hands.
Formula and diapers
Jeans and shoes in excellent condition
Soccer or sport jerseys, deflated soccer and basket balls, beach balls and pumps
Classroom style pencil sharpener and small sharpeners, pencils and erasers
Soap, lotion, toothpaste, tooth brushes, nail clippers
Small toys from the dollar store, small baby dolls, cars, hair bands
English training materials geared toward elementary level english
Books, especially bible stories
Simple medicial supplies: bandaids, neosporin, anitseptic, bandages etc.
Socks and underwear for children
Used eye glasses
Small sewing kits, scizzors
Gently used children's clothing

We are collecting loose change and financial gifts for medical visits, food and resourses for a few grassroots organizations that are doing their best for the cause. 100% of all financial gifts will be given directly to nonprofits. If you have a preference on such a gift, we will honor that to the best of our ability or return the gift.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why not just help locally?

This is an honest and fair question. Why not help locally? When some of my friends are honest with me, they will say...but there are so many kids in this area that don't have school supplies or coats. There are so many who are struggling to make ends meet. Why send our charitable giving out of the country when our own at home aren't making it?

I guess to start with, I believe that people are God's diversification plan. Kind of like having a financial plan diversified in several investments. Some are long term investments, middle and short term. Risk can vary across the board. Some are better at some strategies than others because of their attention to detail, their patience or knack. I believe in part that this could be true amongst people who help. Our hearts get tugged in many different ways and "helping out" doesn't have to look the same for everyone.

When I consider Ethiopia, as I am sure is the same with other majority world areas, there just isn't anything about their extreme poverty, death rates and their sickness that come close to what we have to overcome in the US. There are somewhere around 5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone. I'm not talking about foster care or state assisted kids. We are talking about kids on the street whose family members have died, kids in big box orphanages and children living in the dump. We aren't talking about kids who don't have school supplies or are living with their Aunt, we are talking about kids who might as well be naked and eat a couple times a week. Children actually starving to death.

We are talking about broken systems where the child just can't ever get ahead.

I have also been asked, but what about Aids? Why don't the people just stop messing around and spreading the disease? I suppose if they would the spreading could stop, but they don't. So are we just going to wait for people to "wise up"? But what about the now and the innocent children that are infected? Some women are raped. Some don't know their spouses are infected. So many are sick because someone else wronged them. Why do we feel the need to pass judgement on why they are sick anyway? Don't you realize their are so many other diseases like Polio and Malaria and leprosy that haven't been eliminated from the society yet either?

How does the cycle stop? By telling them to stop messing around? Even at that, how can we encourage them if we don't engage with them at some level? We just think they know because we know? In the US we have so many diseases that we inflict on ourselves through many vices such as food, drugs, alcohol, too much TV, over working etc. We don't hesitate to cash in on our own health insurance even when we are sick by our own hand. But we say we won't help them because it is their own fault?

The idea that we truly are islands in our economy being successful all by ourselves and others around the world should just buck it up and do the same, is kind of ridiculous. We have so many advantages. Even if you are a "self made wealthy person", you still had some benefits from the outside: parents, or education, roads and infrastructure, cars to buy, supplies available, mentoring at some level, hero's to look up to, people to watch and so much more. What if truly none of that was available? I really don't believe that people are truly "self made". We just take for granted our advantages.

My goal is not to sway you to think the only needy place is in majority world countries. My goal would be for the reader to acknowledge that the need in the majority world is nothing like it is here. There isn't the advantages there that we have here. We take for granted our opportunities, our freedoms and our community or societal help. My desire would be for you to understand how far a little would go somewhere else. Most of all, rather than over analyzing everything, start somewhere and help. If you want to help locally than do! Or, better yet, diversify your investment and do both.

Regardless of where you decide to give, give sacrificially free of judgement and with your whole heart as unto the Lord. Don't hold back.

Partnering with Sally Baer

One of the most exciting parts of this journey is partnering with others who have already given their lives for others around the world. Many of you have graciously asked how to help or what to donate. One of my ideals has been connecting with the different groups ahead of time so we could bring exactly what they need and want.

Sally Baer and her family is one of those rare individuals who has chosen to live in Ethiopia and dedicates everyday to serve. We will be meeting up with her and her family on January 5th for a Christmas card and pencil distribution in her community she serves outside of Addis Abba. In addition we would like to contribute toward her preschool and after school program. Her are some items from her Christmas Wish List...

• fleece blankets/throws (the children currently nap on the dirt)
• coloring books
• any children's DVD’s
• children's cassettes- (music)
• composition books
• Preschool toys- high quality- like blocks, board books, plastic stacking toys, things that won't break down and can be used by many small hands.

6 Baer Essentials, We have designated 100lbs for her after school program. Be blessed and share some love!

Tualatin Life Article....

I can't quite figure out how to get it legible in this format so if you want an easy read version of the article...check out November's post called "New to our Blog?"

Thank you all for your encouragment!

Monday, December 6, 2010

the lump in my throat

Clam diggin this weekend with Harrison and Kaytlynn
and the cousins Chase and Molly

I'm not sure how to describe it but it seems I have this choked up feeling welling up inside again and it just won't go. I'm sure there are a few contributors. It seems like the farther I have come from my trip, my emotional side would lesson and my logic would kick in. Let's see, I returned at the end of July...I'm going into my 5th month. I was only there a week with very minimal exposure compared to most everyone else. Seems like heart and head should be in alignment by now.

The Facebook friends I have made and reading their blogs, watching their videos and seeing their pictures takes me in with out much warning. I feel compelled to read, to "listen in", to see how they are living out the opportunity to participate in what God is doing. Surely this is not enough to keep me in this state.

We are in the final sorting from the ET mansion move. (If you aren't up to speed, read November's "New to our Blog?") Tonight it was some old half filled photo albums from high school. I peeled a few pictures from the sticky pages with the hopes of scanning them in the near future and dumped the rest. There just isn't room for anything without purpose. I also found a manual I had written for managing all of the maintenance and day to day operations of my house. The combination really was strange...from high school misfit (athlete, band-o, wanna be smart girl) to successful business owner, followed by a successful surrender to the market crash, to my current state of ET mansion dweller really swirled my brain.

What's really important? What do I really want? Is it too much to ask of those who love me and live with me? After all, I have helped to contribute toward the creation of this life they love. How could I ask them to give it up?

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

I guess even when I think about the albums and continuing to cleanse the "extra". There are parts of my life that in the past weren't in the way. The boxes stashed in the garage that weren't causing any problems. But now in this new stage I wonder, what needs to go and what can stay. What remnants do I need to save of my previous life's journey, what can be recycled, trashed, sold, shared and so on. What really has lasting value and importance.

Do I have to figure all of that out? Hasn't it all been written for me in the bible? Where are the directions to me regarding Ethiopia? I know there is plenty about orphans. Living amongst them or bringing one home? Honoring my family and their needs? Helping others to follow the dream?

What about the orphans? HIV, education, water, LOVE that only Jesus gives through us? How and when and how and when. The lump just sits there.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

disguised as a police officer

Despite what some might think from reading my stories, although my heart is in the clouds of Africa most of the time, I really do work. Today I was meeting with a favorite client, almost everyone is a favorite because I enjoy people so much! Anyway, I was listing a house for one of my clients and we were done with the paperwork in about 15 minutes but we all lingered and the most amazing conversation transpired. The surfaces slid away.

Officer D. began to tell us about his own heart felt passion. Like most other Americans, he works hard each day and provides for his own family. The option on traveling around the world to rescue children isn't possible. But he didn't let his own circumstances keep him from making a difference, a significant investment with what he already had. Officer D. has a friend in Haiti who helps rescue girls from sexual slavery. He has to go in under cover and pull them out one at a time with out blowing his cover. It is often dangerous work. Officer D. has listened to many of his stories and felt compelled to help his friend. He was able to gather old vests and equipment that would normally have been recycled. His friend for the first time was able to get a large vest that would protect him during a raid. He said that his friend was so encouraged by the gesture and the friendship. It will make a big impact for him and for others making raids.

Our conversation really encouraged me to remember how important it is for each of us to use the opportunities that we have to help others. I think it is easy to look around at others and think they are so much more talented or they have so much more to give or they just have a knack for that....when really all of us have connections in some small way if we are creative and think about it a bit.

It also encouraged me to look, really look and hear the people around me and see through the disguise of their profession, their status, their person. There are so many stories, there are so many generous and caring people around us, sometimes we just need to listen. Slow our day down a bit and listen to each other and really share from our hearts. When stories are shared, we encourage one another...we love...we bring change.

What's your story? Your passion?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The highlights of today...3 more sponsored!

Today was a day of delight. All days certainly don't go that way but today was wonderful, full and fast. I remember when days would go by and I wondered if God would allow our family to be used for something grand, maybe something average or really anything at all! Looking back it is always easier to see the seasons that have come and go and their influence on our current path.

Discussions of Ethiopia and the vast opportunity to serve, to explore and to dream began early today over coffee with my friend. More conversations continued with another dear friend over how to really allow the children at church to experience a connection with those across the globe. Stopped by the office to send out my newsletter sharing my heart with so many of my friends. Then off to pick up Kaytlynn and Harrison early from school as they had a short day.

We had arranged to follow up with our presentation to Shane's coworkers. Last week, with Kaytlynn cheering in the background, Harrison presented to adults mind you, the need in Ethiopia through his written out speech and the documentary video about Korah. Today we returned with sponsor packets and actual children who needed help. We set up a table with trinkets and pictures. Included was a bucket for shinning shoes, coffee, a native shirt, hand woven table cloth from the leprosy hospital, beaded jewelry, a bottle with dirty water, hand made animals and a woven basket. Alex came out to see what was going on and was shocked to see "his country!" on the table. He escorted Kaytlynn and Harrison around the offices to see if anyone might be interested in sponsoring a child. Today, 3 beautiful children found a future and a hope.

I can see the confidence in Alex rising. His belief in really being able to make a difference and help his country is building. He would stand tall with Kaytlynn and Harrison and nod strongly. "Yes, my mother still drinks water like that." "Yes, the children shoe shine and sometimes go to school after if they are lucky." "Yes, most kids don't go to school." "Yes, they need help." A partnership is being woven. Ever so intricately. "Yes, I lived like that for 14 years, until I took myself to the big city."

How many years did he wonder if God had a plan for him? Maybe he didn't even know he could dream for a plan. Today he would say to his coworkers "Someday I take you to my country and you will see". He wants to bring water back for his mother's village. Maybe the thoughts and dreams have always been there, cultivating slowly.

I made a quick dinner, answered some emails and went to show houses...

Now home again and glancing in my email I see a copy of the proof for the article to go out on December 7th in our local paper. I see another email from a friend who is going to donate beautiful handmade ornaments for the craft fair to raise funds for the people. I am filled with thankfulness. It feels like a miracle. I am reminded by this friends story and his adoption/sponsorship when he was just a boy in Bethlehem.

For a moment I relish in the connections, the human love, the closeness I feel to those sharing in the dream and watching their own stories unfold.