When I was in college, my Bible study group studied Nehemiah. We were intrigued by his ability to "see" God's gracious, invisible Hand at work. We got into the habit of asking each other how we were seeing God's gracious, invisible Hand at work in our lives. It became a valuable exercise in learning how to notice what might otherwise go unseen.
I have been reminded of Nehemiah's eyes of faith during our recent adoption experience. I suppose it's because so much of this experience has forced us to live outside of our usual comfort zone where we become a bit immune to seeing the invisible. Although we prefer to feel a little more "in control" of our lives, we have to admit how much it has strengthened our faith to see God's invisible Hand of grace and care in our lives as we have gone through the months leading up to meeting our daughter. It has also been incredibly reassuring to look back and see how carefully He had each and every detail under His gracious care. Here are a few examples:
One of the areas of frustration in this whole process was the amount of paperwork that was required. One day, after failed multiple attempts to get a particular bank document for our dossier, my husband made his way to the bank with great determination and a little impatience to make sure this document was obtained. A pure gift of grace to us came in the form of a kind, compassionate bank manager who just happened to be Ethiopian. Over the next months before we left to get our little Blin, this gracious gentleman would call and offer his help, such as giving us the phone number of his sister-in-law in Addis should be need any assistance while we were there. It left us with such gratitude for a culture that goes so out-of-their-way to offer kindness and assistance to strangers. Later, when we were in Ethiopia, we found the same thing... such loving, generous-hearted folks. It was such a comfort to us to meet these people and see the way God had been loving and caring for our child long before we even met her. What beautiful people!
Another gift to us came in the form of the owner of the guest-house where we stayed. In so many, many ways - Tsebay (above) loved us and supported us through our exciting and sometimes overwhelming stay in Addis. Her gracious, gentle actions left a fragrance of God's love behind her. She walked my husband to the hospital on the day he was ill and I was needed across the city. She helped us give Blin her first bath, she showed me how to boil the bottles to ensure they were clean, and she even helped me clean out Blin's dirty little nose one day. Looking back on our time now, I realize how much and how well God loved us through this woman.
One of the most precious memories of our time in Ethiopia was going to the orphanage where Blin first lived. We were prepared for the fact that it might be more rustic than what we are used to in the USA, but we were not prepared for the overwhelming love and generosity of the care-givers and of the precious children in this place. Our favorite thing was spending time with the children. The girls took turns holding my hands and showing me all around, while the boys took over showing my husband around. They were delighted to show us everything, speaking wonderful English and showering us with love. They all gathered round before we left and sang in the sweetest voices: "God is so good". When we finally had to get in the car and leave, I had to cry - partly because I wished so badly I could take them all home with me, but mostly because my heart was so touched by how kind, how content, and how full of God's love these children were. I prayed that I might have wisdom to teach my child such beautiful contentment, and I prayed that she might be able to return someday and see for herself the overwhelming evidence of the invisible, Gracious Hand of God at work in this place. The kids certainly had it right... God is so good!
I know it's been said that hindsight is "20-20", but for any families who are in that difficult place of waiting, I hope our story will bring a little encouragement that, even if you can't see it yet, God's Gracious Hand is even now holding you and your child in His tender care.
Oh, and when they tell you that it will be worth the wait, they're not even close.... it's so much better than that!
Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, for leading them to exactly where You had prepared for them to be most effective and for Your protection over each woman on the team. May there be MUCH FRUIT from this time invested in the lives of so many women and children in Ethiopia. Show each of us how You want us to be involved in the ongoing ministry of YWAM Ethiopia - prayer support, financial support, mission trips, child sponsorship, adoption... Lord, there are many ways we can be Your hands and feet in this needy place.
We are in Addis after returning from two nights in Gimbie. We have witnessed the real Africa! Last night as we were travelling we had to dodge cows, cattle, goats, monkeys and hyenas on the road! Can you believe it? Our eyes were as big as saucers as we rolled up to the hyenas on the road. It was night and their eyes were like saucers too! Amazing.
To travel and see the farming being done with no machinery and just with men and their oxen was a sight. At each stop our van was swarmed with Africans wanting to peer in to see the white ladies. We had many huge smiles with waves that moved the air! We are glad for all of the bubble gum that Lisa brought that we handed out the windows by the tons.
Gimble is very remote and the people there live very close to the ground - if not on the ground. We stayed in a hotel that will be remembered by all. It was 5 US dollars per night, per room with two people in it. Do the math! We have unbelievable stories about that place. God is sooo good and we are HAPPY for His provision in all ways.
Tezera, who is one of our directors, is a precious friend and great woman of God. We had such fun with her as she went with all of us to relieve ourselves in the jungle. She had a hoot as we all made a human wall of privacy. She behaved as our mother and fed us all sugar cane from the local children as we drove along. She is a preacher too and we were so blessed as she taught us from the scriptures during our twelve hour car ride--one way!
We stayed in a beautiful hotel last night and we all slept like babies. We had hot showers (no showers in Gimbie) and we ate a fantastic breakfast. We sat at the table, recalling the fame of the Lord, and we all cried and laughed. We are 'Women to Women' and that has been the theme of our trip - now in that same vein, we're off to shop!!
Today we'll shop and also visit the YWAM Children's Home to see Abdissa and the children. Joan will also have time with her children.
We love you and we're all anxious to finish strong and come home!
Kisses and hugs to all (four kisses on each cheek!),
Women to Women Team
Liane, Joan, Kim, Carolyn, Lisa, Amanda and Katie
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, the team will be visiting the village of Gimbie, which is located NW of Addis Ababa near the Sudanese border. Adoption Ministry is in the process of establishing a new orphanage in this town - the Orphans and Widows' Home in Gimbie - working closely with a couple from California who are living there and serving at the Adventist Hospital. We have rented a house and are hiring nannies and staff to run the orphanage.
Gimbie is a 12 hour drive from Addis - so all day on Wednesday, the team traveled across the Ethiopian countryside! Thursday was spent meeting with Monica, the missionary mom who cares for the children and serves at the hospital. The team also met with some government officials who are helping to facilitate the establishment of the orphanage. God has given Adoption Ministry great favor with these men and women!
The team hopes to be a big encouragement to Monica - who cares for many children as well as her own and whose husband is currently in California. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have visitors from the U.S. to share and pray with! And if their paperwork is completed, there is a possibility that the team will bring four babies back to our orphanage in Adama! The return trip will be spread over two days so they'll arrive back in Addis on Saturday afternoon.
Enjoy some pictures taken in Gimbie and please join us in praying for the team - for renewed strength to finish strong, for continued direction from God so that all of His purposes are accomplished and for travel safety and physical health!
Tuesday was a day spent in the village of Tede (Teh' day). In this little community the people farm for a living. Most of the farms are small subsistence farms and the people are poor. The outreach to Tede is done from the Orphans and Widows’ Home and seeks to bring relief to the very poorest of the poor. The orphanage director, Tezera, was raised in this village, and her sister’s husband is the only pastor there. Youth With A Mission’s goal is to support at least ten widows and ten children in Tede. Most of our sponsored children live here and our team hoped to visit each one. Here are some pictures taken last year during another visit to Tede:
Today we received not one but TWO emails from Liane Wolbert, who is leading our Women to Women trip to Ethiopia.
EMAIL #1: Saturday, July 11
Greetings from Addis Ababa!
We have just had another wonderful day in Africa! We are all thanking God for our safe arrival and our team is all together and doing very well. We know that you are all praying for us and we know that God has been faithful to all of your prayers!
Yesterday we began our day at the Fistula Hospital and joined another team who have been ministering from Vanguard University. At the end of our tour, the other team said goodbye and we were waiting for Abebe to return with our driver so we just sat enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Doctor Hamlin was doing her rounds after finishing her surgeries and she passed us. Our guide intruduced us to her and we were able to speak with her for a while. She was so gracious and she thanked us for all of the sacrifice we had made to come to minister in Ethiopia. She had just completed a 3.5 hour fistula operation. She is 85 years old! We thought that it was a special gift that we could see her. Of course she was gracious to be in a photo with us. If you have not read her book "Hospital on the River" it would be a book to put on your list.
After the hospital we went to the homes of some children in the community that are being cared for until being adopted in our program. We were in a neighborhood that was bustling with children and when we arrived, all of the children were swarming around us saying "Hell-o!" We passed to a small home for 4 people (2 children and a mama and a grandma). The grandma is dying and the mother is HIV positive and she is making a plan for her children for adoption. They were so happy for us to see them and we took turns going into the home, which was about the size of a small bathroom in the U.S.. Katie and Carolyn and Lisa and Amanda had children all over them and they were singing with them and taking photos too. Joan and Kim and I were in the home talking to the mama with Abonish translating--When we left everyone was hugging as if we had known each other for years! The entire neigborhood came out to see us and they were waving goodbye to us also. This is a very common occurance when you are visiting in Ethiopia.
After visiting in another home we went to visit the children that Joan and her husband, Tommy, are adopting. The children are in Addis for the summer. Let me just say that it was amazing to see Joan meet her children for the first time. They sat close to her the entire time that we were there or on her lap as she talked with them. Many pictures were taken and they hugged and kissed her. We all spent about one hour with them and she showed them pictures of the family waiting for them in the U.S.--they looked intently at all of the pictures. There was alot of translation going on with the children and her son-to-be leaned over and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. It was so sweet. By the end of our visit both of the children had warmed up to Joan and I believe it was a huge success. After leaving, we looked at the pictures that Lisa took, which were fantastic, and Joan will treasure those and have them to share with Tommy, Tommy, John and Lucy. Joan was pretty much wiped out after that!
Last night and today we have been with the teenage girls from the YWAM Orphange in Addis. We have had such a great time with them. We have told them that we are going to have "Girl Time" with them and have taken them to a hotel for the night. We have had fun playing many games and have also had worship and teaching and prayer. There has been much laughter and of course tears of blessing. We had a time of sharing after lunch in the hotel resturant. It was such a precious time that the resturant staff was watching and the waitress was standing listening and she could not stop crying! Can you imagine?? It was such a precious time. (For Bonnie--we told the girls of your love for them and the preparation of the gift bags that you made for them. They all loved the gifts so much and the scriptures that were on the bags were perfect for each girl.) Of course we have many photos.
The girls are all down in their rooms and off to sleep. Tomorrow we will go to do more visits in the community after the girls return to the compound. We will start for Adama about 3:00.
Pray for continued strength and for the time that is coming for us in the villages and then for the drive and time in Gimbie. All of the team from the U.S. is amazing and jumping into everything that we are doing like a breeze. We are all being blessed to overflowing!
Joan and Kim and Carolyn and Lisa and Katie and Amanda and Liane send their love to their families and friends and tell you that they are missing you but so glad that they are here for now. All will have much to tell on their return.
Blessings and we will hope to talk again before going to the remote area!
Ciao for Now!
Liane for all
EMAIL #2: Sunday July 12
We have just finished a fantastic lunch at the home of Abebe and Abonesh. The children have entertained us and now we are having coffee. The team is in the back, watching their cook grind the coffee beans with a mortar. We will enjoy her labors. Today we said goodbye to the young women from YWAM. This morning the Lord prompted us to wash their feet. The Mamas in our group served with washing and Amanda and Lisa and Carolyn and Katie prayed for each one. As you can imagine, there were many tears of blessing! The the Spirit of the Lord was soooo present with us.
We are now going to confirm tickets for our trip home and then to retrieve Joan. Joan has taken a taxi to the Bole District to see her children. Mickey and Nardos (Abebe's oldest children) have gone to interpret for her. They will meet in a resturant that sounds like a Mickey D's - Abebe says that there is a play area!
After this we will go to Adama and get ready for our time.
We are all doing well but are tired. Pray for a double portion of strength for all of us. We have loved every minute but after so many tears, we are a little pooped! God is so good and we are blessed to overflowing!
Much love to all and to my family, Mark and Adam and Nate and Alena and my Mama--I love you!
We are having many laughs and so you know that always means a good time for me!
Lunch will be shared with Tezera at the Orphans and Widows' Home. The afternoon will likely be sharing bible stories and games with the children and participation in the widows' feeding program. The widows living at the O & WH and many in the community are recipients of the generous monthly support of several who have committed to give so that these women can provide food for themselves and many other women and children that rely on them.
Several of these women are blind and Adoption Ministry has been able to pay for surgery to remove their cataracts. As well as receiving flour and other sustenance, they're receiving discipleship and loving guidance from Tezera. It's a very tangible evidence of James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
Tezera Kebede runs our Orphans & Widows' Home in this bustling town, where horse carts and livestock share the road with cars and vans. Tezera and her husband had it on their hearts to provide a home for the marginalized widows and orphans in Adama. With God's vision and YWAM's support, their dream has become a reality!
Providing portable water filters
Helping adopting families raise funds
through coffee sales
Lord, give this wonderful group of women an absolutely awesome time together! Break down any walls due to cultural differences and bind them together as sisters. Mend broken hearts. Give them a freedom to be themselves and receive from each other out of Your love and goodness. Thank You for making such a retreat possible and do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that they're able to imagine!
posted by Becky
I'm imagining that for breakfast they had rolls, some sort of fresh fruit (papaya, banana or melon), perhaps an egg and always dark, strong coffee! Meal times here are great times to talk about the day, pray, plan and share how everyone is doing. Liane will be sure there's lots of laughter!
In the afternoon, the team plans to visit the YWAM Children's Home, where Abdissa is 'father' to over twenty children who he has rescued from life on the streets or without hope. These kids know Adoption Ministry's teams well and so look forward to our visits. There will be squeals and hugs - even the girls who've never been there won't be strangers for long! The team may also visit some of the children who are living in the community in Addis who Abdissa knows and ministers to. For dinner, they'll take the teen girls with them back to the Guest House for dinner and a fun evening together.
Our 2009 Women to Women Team is on their way to Ethiopia! Last night we had a wonderful prayer send-off where parents, family and friends gathered at the YWAM Adoption Ministry house in Puyallup to pray over each team member and ask God to go before them, preparing the way for a wonderful 12 days of ministry and adventure!
Each team member took one personal suitcase and one (gigantic) suitcase filled right to the 50 lb capacity with clothing, formula, craft supplies, diapers, vitamins and gifts for the children in our orphanages. In addition, enough money was raised to provide two widows in Adama with cataract surgery, giving them recovery of their sight!
Our team will fly to Washington D.C. and on to Addis Ababa (via a one hour fuel stopever in Rome), arriving at 7 pm on July 9th. (Ethiopia is 10 hours ahead of Pacific time here.) Please pray for safe travels, calm spirits, team unity and God's leading in all they do. I will be updating the blog with more details about their itinerary in the days to come. We don't anticipate a lot of communication from the women, as the internet is sketchy at best in Ethiopia, but anything I hear, I will pass along in the blog!
(You can read a few more details about the trip here.)
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