Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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I am so excited to see what God is doing in the lives of so many as we learn to love and serve together.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Ethiopian Mansion, A Means to an End.

When we moved into the apartment last fall, the dream was unfolding but the goals were clear. We wanted to know more about Ethiopia, we wanted to have little or no debt including our properties, we wanted to know who we could partner with and where monies could be used well to help.

We knew we wanted to be givers and not just consumers. We wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Now, as our trip has come and gone and the Ethiopian mansion begins to feel very small, I feel it is time to ask the question, "Is it time to make the transition into a more permanent home?" I feel conflicted. I dont want to loose sight of the sacrifice that made this experience real for our family. Part of the gift of the trip to Ethiopia was walking away from our big house and from many of our treasures we had stored up for years.

I do want to feel a little more settled. A little less in transition. Even if we just buy a small condo, a place to call home that we can invest in. Isn't that the American dream? At the same time I feel so unsettled in my heart. Many of my Ethiopian friends don't even know what it means to be "settled" into a long time comfortable home. My American friends living in Ethiopia live lives far from "settled". They are in constant transition.

It is so hard to describe the lack of consistancy they walk through each day. Items on the menu in a coffee shop or restaurant are rarely the same as they are often running out of items and supplies, streets are of filled with traffic or workers changing routes, taxi's are difficult to get and not consistant, even little grocery stands dont carry the same items from week to week. I remember how hard it was to find a Diet Coke in Ethiopia and then when I was so delighted to find it at one store, three days later, they no longer carried it! Power and water are running one day and not the next without real rhyme or reason. Packages might come and then not come. This all might seem quite insiginifigant but it isn't. Almost every area of their lives, they have chosen to allow it to be unsettled in Ethiopia. All in Love. Embracing the culture and their new lives with the hope of seeing hope and love come to people who would not likely find it on their own.

So why do I want to much to be "settled" and feel like I can rest again? Our lives here on earth are only temporary anyway. My heart won't allow me not to be motivated to help. Our ability to make a difference isn't going to change with a small move. I do hope I will be able to sleep again at night and maybe think more clearly. I know God has good gifts for our family and for the temporary has not called us to move to Ethopia. He has called us to help. I just want to live like I care for others as much as myself. Whether it is my neighbor in Tualatin, Oregon or in Ethiopia Africa. I want to do my part and not be so absorbed with my own dreams and aspirations and desire to be settled that I loose sight of the goals...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Take aways from Ethiopia, the simple things.

If I could aspire to greet my friends and family like an average Ethiopian, I would show amazing love like most American's have ever known in a greeting!

If I could be a better person by following the example of the Ethiopians, I would learn to embrace like they do. When a person walks into a room, one at a time you circle the room, grabbing the other person, shaking their hand and often kissing their cheeks at least 2 if not 4 times. The Ethiopians ask each other about their families and how they are with all sincerity. Not a person in the room is left out. Each person rises to meet the other and everything stops for such greetings.

The same happens when someone leaves. I have heard even in businesses when someone comes to work that they will greet even 100 people in this way.

Taking the time to really look a friend in the eye. I have to admit, my greetings can some times look like a head nod to the front while picking up toys, cooking, talking on the phone and putting on my socks all at the same time! Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but real concern and love for everyone who comes in my front door and who I meet each day. Looking at them directly in they eye and giving a great big hug that says I care. This is something I can be much better at and aspire too.

Thank you Alex for your inspiration and wonderful example.

January 7th- Jen's ET Journal

Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated much differently than our holiday. It is a holy day with rest, family and the eating of a feast usually consisting of a goat or a lamb. Tibbs with Ingera. If they are Orthodox it is also the break of their vegetarian fast.

Yordonos asked if we would be willing to leave at 6AM Christmas morning to see if we could find Aleta Wondo for some pictures. My friend’s little boy is from this area and we thought it would be cool if we could get some pictures for him. Something to show his history. After all, if it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t have made it to Ethiopia as a family in the first place!

So we leave really early. It didn’t take long before we ran out of paved road. We were on quite a bumpy ride. Our driver Yordonos was awesome to ask people along the way which direction to go, as it is very difficult to get a good and accurate map. At first we were looking for the village. We had three categories deep to go.

When we finally got to the village, no one knew where the school was or the family we were looking for. Someone suggested we talk to the town official. Of course it was Christmas and the holy day so no one was working and everyone was enjoying their family time. We got a phone number for this official and he wasn’t answering. So, they took us to his home and pounded on the door, stirring him from sleep! African culture is very unique! Can you imagine on Christmas morning, the mayor of a city being woken from sleep so some tourist could ask a question? Well, he came out and chatted with Yordonous for some time, then asked outside to some of the people around, made some calls and then hopped in the bus with us and we were off up a dirt hill. We stopped several times and made turns, asked questions and at one point I thought we saw the school so I got out and took a bunch of pictures. I thought that was the end. But then the official said to me “let’s move”! Okay…I wasn’t sure. Yordonos said it wasn’t what we wanted. We kept going further and further into the dense tropical forest and up this very bumpy dirt road. It really didn’t seem as if cars ever came this far. Most of the time I thought it might be faster to walk! At some point there was a man with gold teeth who also was invited to get into the bus. He may have been a local teacher.

At one of the stops they asked us to get out. Hmmm….what was going on? He is going to be here soon. Who? In 5 minutes, he is coming? I thought maybe another person who had more info. The boy’s dad! In 5 minutes was going to be here. Sure enough, out of the thick of the bushes, comes a young pleasant looking man, nervous, emotional in yet courageous and running to meet us. He is younger than I suspected. We give hugs and kisses all around. The words are flying in all three languages, the native tongue, Amharic and English. I feel so blessed to be in such presence. We share back and forth. He tells us the story of losing his first wife, struggling to feed his family and the anguish in which he gave his son for a better life. He hopes someday he will see him again.

(Later when I asked Yordonos about what had happened he said that dad had received a phone call that the white people were coming to talk to him so he looked flushed because he dropped everything and ran the entire way through the jungle to see us. This is why we did not see any of the other family, because he didn’t even tell them, he just ran to us.)

One of the questions the adoptive parents had been curious about what the mother’s family, since she was the one who passed away. I asked him about her. He said, “Do you want to see?” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, a tombstone or a city 3 hours away or? And he said come on! So I said okay and we hopped in the van. We went about 5 minutes, and with the condition of the road I still think it would have been faster to walk. Anyway we hopped out again and he took us down a path similar to a hiking path in a beautiful tropical garden or campground. We entered one place that had a mud hut and then we went back into the thick of the jungle again. Three or four minutes of walking and we came into the big green area where everyone was there. Again it is Christmas. A holy day. He quickly explains to the family and everyone is emotional and excited and begins to hug and kiss us. Dad hugs and kisses everyone.

I hold onto grandma and then the two aunts. It is all very amazing. Difficult to even describe the surprise and delight and concern on their faces. They all begin to ask when the boy is going to come see them. They want to hear his voice, to see his face, to know he is okay. I tell them I will pass on the message to the family. Finally I ask them and tell them, I have come this far, I am like an Auntie to this little boy, don’t they want to know how he is? Do they want me to give them a report? Finally they are excited and say oh yes! Like it hadn’t even dawned on them that I was here to tell them how he was.

After a few minutes of discussion and report, we present dad with a soccer ball. Not sure how it happened, but out of the 25 balls or so we had brought, we had 3 in the van that day and one of them just happened to be Ethan’s. K and Harrison and Ethan had played with it many times. We shared this with his dad. He seemed quite proud and satisfied. He then handed it to grandma to hold. It was their proud trophy.

We lined up the children and shared with them each a piece of gum, a balloon and a sucker. They were all so excited.

To finish up our time, we took group and some individual pictures, said goodbye and away we went. Only God knows the future and the impact of this visit…but it is certain that all of this was not by accident.

On our bumpy way back down the mountain, the city official took us to a restaurant where we had Shiro and Tibbs. How fun it was to visit with his guest, a Peace Corp worker from Colorado who had been living in the community for two years. His brother was also visiting. It was amazing to have him share from his perspective about the community, their needs, the problems and the best of the culture.
Mind you, this is all before noon on Christmas. A miracle, even by American time standards.

We set off to meet our sponsored son Zelalem and to meet him for the first time. (not through World Vision) We actually had sponsored two boys but upon our arrival we discovered one of the boys had never made it to the school. His mom was afraid for him to go and kept him back. We are still sorting this out. At first our hearts were broken thing that we had been given the opportunity to give this young man a chance and he had been overlooked. The big picture is that so many children are receiving help, but even God cares about the individual and we grieved for this one child who was lost in the shuffle.

Our meeting with Zelalem was glorious. He had colored pictures for us and had written scripture in a notebook for us to take. We spent the afternoon with him loving on him. At one point he took us to see his dorm room. A small room, honestly a little like a cell with 5 beds. He was so excited. For the first time in his life he had his very own bed. I caught this right away and asked, him, are you serious? Just for you this big bed? Oh yes! He was so proud and so thankful. Humbling for sure. We were able to give him a small back pack with one pair of pants, one tshirt, notebook, color crayons, pencils, and eraser and some candy. He was so overwhelmed and in an effort not to cry he had to stop several time from pulling everything out. Less than $30 in precious treasures. More than he has ever owned in his life. He showed us the light bulb the size of the end of my pinky that he and the other boys in his room were able to light up with a small used battery. He said that is was for Malcom Gehna. For Christmas. That was it.

It was difficult to leave this sweet young man of 14 years of age. I could not promise him a return time nor know when we would even be able to communicate again. He gave Harrison a gift of a purple avocado to show his love for our family. His love for us is so strong. We blessed him and left him with our hearts heavy. Heavy no knowing when God will allow us to seem him again and also heavy for the boy who was still living in the trash dump and not receiving this blessing which we had hoped to prepare for him.

That evening we drove back to Awassa feeling very full of the day’s events. Too much to even really be able to process. God, what do you want us to do with this big gift you have given us? The gift of the journey, the relationships, the opportunity and the world we have to return to?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

January 1st, 2011 - Jen's Ethiopia Journal

First off this morning we read our daily scripture. My friend Sandy had prepared verses for us each day of our trip. What a huge blessing. Then it was off and running.

Variety and flexibility encompassed our day. 500lbs of donations in our room was finally catching up with me and I had the itch to resort through everything and begin to designate what was going to which ministries. For weeks I had been imagining who needed what, how we would be able to get it and then God really just miraculously brought to us through wonderful friends, the desires of my heart for the people in Ethiopia. So, this morning I sorted through and designated gifts, the kids packaged more goodie bags and we set out for a variety of stops as the time would allow. You never know on Africa time how the plans might change.

Our first stop was at Yezalem Minch. The children were attending to their special Christmas program and the main room was packed. Outside in the parking area there were a few children that we visited with while waiting for Shane, Bisrat and Yordanous to deliver some oranges for us. Because of the busy day and special programming, we decided to meet up again later to visit with the sponsored children and to deliver the goats to the families. With gifts and donations from friends we were able to leave oranges for 1000 children attending the programs and their 3 locations. Fruit is a novelty and the few children who watched them be delivered to the back of the kitchen were giddy with anticipation.

Next stop at the request of my friend Tamara Birk, was Kolfe. Kolfe is a government programmed orphanage with all boys. There are around 200 of them all together. The youngest is a 5 year old deaf boy. There are several ministries and teams of people from the US who are attempting to become more involved with the boys as the facilities are a little rough. We stopped by here for a quick visit and delivered a very special Christmas movie DVD and letters to several of the boys from Tamara. We also purchased on her behalf oranges for all 200 of the boys. The boys wrote several letters back in which I will mail upon my return.

The condition of this place is rough. I was having a difficult time keeping myself together. My struggle surrounded the love that I know Tamara and her family has for these young men. It is such a helpless feeling when you care deeply for one of these children in Ethiopia and all you want is to snatch them out of their situation so you can hug them, hold them and love them in a tangible way. I wanted the boys to know truly how much she loved and cared for them. I held each of them tightly for an extended hug and told them this was a hug from their mom. They all seemed somber. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like for them. Knowing they are loved but still being left in this pretty awful place. Knowing that someone wanted them as much as they wanted her. It almost seems cruel, a mirage of commitment, love, gentleness and closeness, but just out of reach. These are the moments when I just have to remember that God sees them. He loves them and he is in control. We each are giving our best and then we have to trust God, daily. We have to walk away from our normal American Christianity of having trust and security in our jobs, our family, our money and then God. In Kolfe and for people like Tamara, there must absolutely be a minute by minute trust in God first because all of the other is so much out of our control.

While on our way to Kolfe, Bisrat mentioned that we were passing by some street people who were sleeping because they were starving and just wanted to die. He asked if on our way from Kolfe if we could feed them.

We left Kolfe and we didnt have much time but we pulled to the side of the road where the homeless people were sleeping in the middle of the roundabout. It seems as if everyone in Ethiopia is hungry and poor but these guys were different. Bisrat and Shane woke them up and asked them if they wanted to eat. They eagerly followed Shane and Bisrat to the restaurant across the street. Bisrat quickly ordered some food and the grown men began to cry pointing toward the sky. “God has brought us food, we won’t die today. Thank you, blessings to you from God.” They also told Shane that they were laying there to die, trying to sleep so they couldn’t feel the time pass. When Shane came back to the van, he was nearly sobbing himself. What seemed insignificant, to stop and feed a few men, became an impacting moment that we won’t forget any time soon. Around 5 people fed for two meals for around $10.

It was time for lunch for our family and we were blessed to catch up with the Heye family. They are serving in Ethiopia as a family. Kimberly teaches and Aser works with a construction crew for a non-profit. Their 5 children are beautiful. They took us to a favorite place which is the rehab center for the Fistula hospital. There is a small lake, and the women who are recovering work in the cafĂ©. We had the most delightful pot pies. Sharing our stories and being inspired this family was a highlight. It was a joyful time, away from the smog and fantastic for our kids to talk to other kids living in Ethiopia. Could we be like them? I don’t know. I would like to think we could. Truly an un-measureable gift to live and serve in the country like they are.

Our evening wrapped up with popcorn and trail mix for dinner in our guest room. We stocked tiny Christmas stockings for the workers. We included a little cash, a hygiene item, candy and a hair tie or toy. Most of the workers have kids.

Finally we met with Ephram and we swapped soccer stories and shared Jerseys, shorts, balls, pumps and shoes with him for the boys and their tournaments.

By the time our head hit the pillow that night, we fell fast asleep.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Rice Cooker and the Surprise

Cleaning the kitchen in my house is routine. I cook dinner for my family almost every night and eating out is not a big line item in our budget. My Japanese rice cooker is one of my favorite appliances for a quick and easy add to dinner. We like Basmati, Jasmine, long grain brown and even sticky brown rice. On occasion we throw in some white rice for a Mexican variety or pilaf. Most of the time, much like my salads, I add a little twist to give it a different flavor. Much to my disgust one morning this week, I noticed the steam holes had gunk stuck in them. I poked at them for several minutes as I like to think I am mostly Mrs. Clean. I was not going to settle for unwanted treasures in my valuable possession. After prodding, poking and then tugging a bit, the metal inside pan popped out! It had never done that before. Who knew? After three or 4 years of partnering with my favorite appliance, I learned the metal pan on the inside pops out and to my chagrin, there was nasty stuff built up from the years of use, under the metal plate! I was horrified. After inspecting the metal plate more closely, I noticed there was Japanese writing with little arrows pointing to the clips that were previously holding it in place. It dawned on me that this entire time, there were directions on cleaning this beauty and I had completely overlooked them because they weren’t in English. An oversight? Oh yes, but how could I know?

A crazy thought totally and quickly came to mind. In my life, where do I have gunk, even when I pride myself in trying to do the right thing or keeping myself cleaned up, where I just have ignored the instructions? Maybe it is an innocent ignorance like with the rice cooker. Maybe no one has demonstrated for me or shown me before. By chance, it just got so bad I couldn’t help but explore further. I don’t really have a strong conclusion to this little story but I really hope I am willing to pay attention and ask God to show me more clearly where I have gunk built up and how to remedy it in my life, in my attitude and with my friends. Maintaining our lives by God’s instruction book is so much easier than and a whole lot less embarrassing than pulling out the big gunky mess after a long time of build up.