The reality of abortion in Ethiopia

We are sharing an update from Living Hope Maternity Home in Adama, Ethiopia.  Enjoy!

by Dinah Monahan
We are aborting Ethiopia’s children!  I say “we” because it is U.S. money that is training, equipping and paying for the operating costs of clinics – both in the cities and in the outlying villages.  There is NO regard for the women.  In the clinics they are giving the pregnant women RU486 without accurately establishing to how far along they are.  The women are NOT told anything of the health risks, which include many complications, possible death or sterilization.  If the baby is obviously too large, the girls are receiving surgical abortions in clinics and government hospitals. The abortions are done through the third trimester.
While there are many healthcare professionals who oppose abortion, there is no organized opposition….until now!  Living Hope received a shared grant from the Storms Family Foundation and another family trust to start a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Adama.  It is the first and only CPC in Ethiopia!  Our CPC will be staffed by our Maternity Home nurse, Mulu and our purchaser, Abu.  We will be returning in November and hope to carry in a portable ultrasound machine with us. 
Meseret is not only running the maternity home, she is laying the foundation for organized opposition to abortion in Ethiopia.  People there are being lied to and abortion is being pushed on this culture with a passion.  Not only do babies die, but the fabric of this child-loving culture will be torn irreparably .  In this country, women are victims to many terrible circumstances.  Yet abortion is particularly cruel because it is being offered as a simple, painless solution to their problems.  No assistance or real help is offered.  No genuine caring for the woman as a person.  The women are herded in and given the abortion pill, or given a surgical abortion with no information or understanding of what is being done.  
The church is silent because there is so little accurate knowledge of abortion.  God has opened doors for Meseret to speak to pastors, health professionals, and women’s groups.  There are now groups of people meeting regularly with the purpose of educating others about abortion.  This is how it starts.  What a privilege to be at the very beginning of the Pro-Life movement in a country!
Meseret was recently asked to speak to a group of pastors and women’s groups where she shared about the sanctity of human life.  She explained the stages of development of a baby in its mother’s womb because most people in Ethiopia believe that before 3 months gestation “the baby is just blood.”  She told how the heart begins beating after the 21st day and the facts about abortion.  Two pastors invited Meseret to speak at a training center for pastors and leaders in that community.

Two of the newest residents at Living Hope…
Fanose is a grade 5 student and is 17 years old.  She was a house maid when she became pregnant.  She was told about Living Hope by the wife of the guard.

Zelalem is also 17 years old.  Her parents died of HIV and she was living with her aunt along with her two younger sisters.  She left her home to work at a hotel in the northern part of Ethiopia.  The hotel owner was using the girls who worked there as prostitutes and collecting the money for himself.  When Zelalem became pregnant, she asked the owner’s permission to get an abortion but he didn’t want to be held responsible if anything happened.   She returned to Adama where she heard about Living Hope.

Be sure to visit Living Hope’s website to read more about the important work they are doing in Ethiopia:


Guess who is hiding the magic pill to longevity?

Imagine a medicine which protects you against cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, depression and dementia. A medicine which works best when taken regularly and long before any symptoms of any of those diseases appear. A medicine which is cheaper than any supplement or aspirin. Would you take it?

Then why don't you? The name of that medicine is exercise, and ...
...OK, OK, I hear you saying "not again, I have heard that mantra before. Tell me something I don't know!" Which is exactly what I want to do: To tell you something you AND I don't know, because nobody seems to have the answer to the sixty-four-thousand dollar question: Why don't we take this medicine?
Now here is this hot item called swarm intelligence, the phenomenon which, we are being told, makes a horde of blooming idiots come up with solutions worthy of an Einstein's. That should work just fine for us. So, let's put it to the test. I'll tell you first a few facts and my thoughts, after which it is your turn, and then we can look at the results over the next few days, or so.
Now, just so that we all start form the same page, let me recap the effects of exercise. 

Exercise & Heart Disease

Exercise, done right, has been found to reduce the risk of dying from any cause by at least one third with a 9% reduction for every one hour of vigorous exercise performed per week [1]. To be fair, studies which calculate such risks are inherently flawed. They assess exercise through questionnaires, which makes it difficult to reliably judge the amount and intensity of exercise, and whether people stick with a given exercise level and for how long. That's why I like to look at the exercise-health correlation using fitness as the marker. Because fitness is a direct consequence of exercise, and it is something we can objectively measure in the lab.
A fit 45 years old man has only one quarter the lifetime risk of dying from cardiovascular causes compared to his unfit peer [2]. And 20 years later, at the age of 65, being fit means having only half the risk of an unfit 65-year old. So much about exercise and the number one killer of men and women alike, cardiovascular disease. How about the runner-up: cancer?

Exercise & Cancer

The association of fitness with cancer is not as well researched as with cardiovascular disease. But the available data clearly point to a substantial effect. In a study performed in 1300 Finnish men who were followed for 11 years, the physically fit ones, when compared to their least fit peers, had a 60% reduced risk of dying from non-cardiovascular causes, which means mostly cancer [3]. An almost identical value of risk reduction for cancer death had been found in a 16-year study of 9000 Japanese men aged 19-59 [4]. The ones in the highest quartile of physical fitness had a risk of dying from cancer that was 60% lower than the risk of their peers in the lowest quartile.
The fact that fitness correlates so strongly with the risk of dying from cancer might tell us that the intensity of exercise plays a large role. In a study, which followed 2560 men for close to 17 years, the intensity of physical activity was clearly related to cancer mortality. But only in those who were physically active for at least 30 minutes per day did the higher intensity of exercise lower the cancer death risk by close to 50%. Do less than those 30 minutes, and high intensity might not get you away from cancer death. Obviously, low-intensity exercise does neither increase your fitness level nor does it decrease your risk of dying from cancer. The message to all those who play 18 holes on a daily basis: Get a (sports-)life!

Exercise & Dementia

Even less well examined than the exercise-cancer association is the exercise-dementia association. But also here we begin to see a remarkable effect. Results from the first relatively small trials show that physically active elderly have substantially reduced risk of Alzheimer and other forms of dementia, possibly in the range of a 50% risk reduction [5]. 

Why Don't We Exercise?

Ok, so here we are. Obviously, man is made to move. And whether you call exercise medicine or whether you call the lack of exercise a pathogen - which is clinician speak for something nasty that makes you sick - we already know a lot about how exercise does its work biochemically. That's beyond the scope of this post.
What interests me here is the question which I have asked at the beginning of this story: Why do we not take this "medicine" which is free-of-charge and which has a stronger effect than any of those pills for lowering cholesterol or blood sugar or blood pressure?
As researchers we have made no progress at all in answering this question.
The psychologists outdo each other with the creation of behavioral models, which give their inventors a lot of stature, but which have failed to get us one inch closer to the answer. Just to give you an impression, there is the Health Belief Model, the Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change, the Social Cognitive Theory, the Protection Motivation Theory, the Health Action Process Approach, and probably a few new ones in the making. Their common denominator: no reliable answer to our question.
That's why I would like to try swarm intelligence. If the "swarm" of readers of this blog post, that is you and me, is large enough, we might just come up with an answer that is worth pursuing in a more methodical way.
So, I'll go ahead and tell you a few suspicions which I have. And then, at the risk of baring my soul to the point where you might not find me a likable person, I will tell you what motivates me to do an early morning 90-minutes exercise session almost every day of the week.
But first the suspicions which I have why so few people get themselves to do even the bare minimum of exercise:
1.     Is it because we can't see, I mean literally see, the effects? Would some sort of visual feedback about the benefits and effects of exercise inside your body motivate you to exercise?
2.     Is it because we rather react than act? That is, we only do something to cure a disease once it's manifest rather than prevent it? But then, why do we have intelligence and one of its nifty byproducts called foresight in the first place?
3.     Is it because we are so focused on a pill or an operation as the only tools, which work against a disease, that we simply can't appreciate the value of something so simple and cheap as exercise?
4.     Why do we use the lousy excuse "no time" when we have several hours to spend in front of the TV EVERY day? Regardless of how busy we are with our work?
These are just a few questions which come to mind. They amount to asking why we don't exercise. 
But it will be equally helpful to ask the question: what is it, that KEEPS YOU exercising? 
Because from those who do, we can learn, how to motivate those who don't. Provided we get an honest answer. My suspicion is, the answers which we get in research, are mostly edited for "political correctness". The couch potatoes hide behind the time constraints, because being busy is not perceived as a character flaw, being lazy is. And what could possibly be a character flaw of the exerciser?
Well, I give you mine. The instinctive gratification with which my inner brute views the overweight person in front of me at the check-out queue or in the waiting room, the gratification that comes from being reminded of his risk for disease and suffering being a lot greater than mine (in German we have that word "Schadenfreude"), the gratification that comes from telling him, in my mind only, of course, "I have that strength of will that you don't". 
That's a gratifying incentive, to be sure. But it's not the only one. The main reason why I run every morning, no matter what the weather or the size of the hangover from Saturday's evening (yeah, it happens to all of us) is, that I have seen enough people who suffered a stroke or a heart attack. And I have seen their remorse of not having done enough while there was still time. I fear that. That's what keeps me running.
And what is it for you? Honestly. Let's hear it, and let's see whether we find a common thread, which research has overlooked so far. Remember, as a swarm we are supposed to be far more intelligent than as individuals.

Samitz G, Egger M, & Zwahlen M (2011). Domains of physical activity and all-cause mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. International journal of epidemiology, 40 (5), 1382-400 PMID: 22039197

Berry JD, Willis B, Gupta S, Barlow CE, Lakoski SG, Khera A, Rohatgi A, de Lemos JA, Haskell W, & Lloyd-Jones DM (2011). Lifetime risks for cardiovascular disease mortality by cardiorespiratory fitness levels measured at ages 45, 55, and 65 years in men. The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 57 (15), 1604-10 PMID: 21474041

Laukkanen, J. (2001). Cardiovascular Fitness as a Predictor of Mortality in Men Archives of Internal Medicine, 161 (6), 825-831 DOI: 10.1001/archinte.161.6.825

SAWADA, S., MUTO, T., TANAKA, H., LEE, I., PAFFENBARGER, R., SHINDO, M., & BLAIR, S. (2003). Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Cancer Mortality in Japanese Men: A Prospective Study Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35 (9), 1546-1550 DOI: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000084525.06473.8E

Buchman AS, Boyle PA, Yu L, Shah RC, Wilson RS, & Bennett DA (2012). Total daily physical activity and the risk of AD and cognitive decline in older adults. Neurology, 78 (17), 1323-9 PMID: 22517108

Your shortcut to longevity.

If you don't die from an accident, a serious infection or a cancer, you'll live as long as your arteries let you. And how long they let you is all in your hands. I know this sounds over-simplified, but it's biomedical knowledge in a nutshell. Lets look at what happens in and to your arteries and what that means for keeping them in mint condition. 
 You may have thought about your arteries as elastic tubes, which transport blood to where its oxygen and nutrient load is needed. But there is more to it. For example, there is this very thin lining which separates the muscular elastic wall of the arteries from the blood stream. This lining is called the endothelium, and it is where the difference is made between lifestyle and death style.
The endothelium is a one-cell-thin layer which has often been likened to the teflon coating on your non-stick pots and pans. The only true part of that analogy is the non-stick part. It prevents cholesterol and fat from docking on to endothelial cells and gradually growing into atherosclerotic plaques. When they rupture, blood clots form and those clots might cause a heart attack or stroke. I say "might" because not all plaque ruptures turn into such dramatic events, but we will get to this later.
Many people think that a chronic overdose of cholesterol or fat, or simply aging, are the causes of atherosclerosis. That was the working hypothesis of scientists 50 years ago. But it doesn't jibe with the observation that half of all patients with confirmed atherosclerotic lesions, have cholesterol values within the normal range [1]. That's because plaques grow WITH cholesterol, any amount of cholesterol, but they start growing ON inflammation. Chronic inflammation, to be precise. And chronic inflammation grows on your physical activity habits. Or rather the lack thereof.
Inflammation in itself is nothing bad. It's a process by which cells rid themselves of invaders. Only when inflammation becomes chronic do we have a problem. To avoid chronicity, endothelial cells have a mechanical switch. Or, as we call it in biomedicine: a mechanoreceptor. Those receptors respond to pulsatile blood flow. That is, if those receptors are being hit often, long and strong enough by blood waves gushing through the artery, they trigger an anti-inflammatory cascade of hormonal reactions. If we don't keep hitting those receptors, the cascade turns pro-inflammatory and the career of the atherosclerotic plaque begins. The extremely complex biochemical happenings do not concern us here. What concerns us is that this pounding of the endothelial cell receptors doesn't come from sitting around, or from playing golf or from walking through the park. It only comes from vigorous physical activity.  Which explains the growing evidence for the relative benefits of more intensive vs. less intensive physical activity.
One example is a recent study by researchers who had followed close to 20000 adults aged 20-90 for almost 20 years, monitoring their cycling habits and their health [2]. The study took place in the Danish city of Copenhagen where 5 Million people own 4 Million bicycles. Male study participants who reported habitual cycling at the highest of three intensity levels lived on average 5.3 years longer than their peers in the lowest intensity group, independent of the duration of cycling. Of course, this was a prospective cohort study, which only allows us to talk association but not causality. But its findings match nicely with the expectations we have from our knowledge about the anti-inflammatory effects of higher-intensity exercise. Specifically, that high-intensity exercise inhibits the oxidative processes which precede and coincide with inflammation in the endothelial cells [3]. These effects were either absent or negligible in exercise of moderate intensity. By the way, this second study had been performed in women. I point that out, just so that you don't think what applies to male Danes may not apply to women. 
Now, what's the good news in all this for those devotees of the minimalistic physical activity lifestyle, otherwise known as couch potatoes?
The good news is, that you don't have to spend hours in endurance exercise. In my lab we have seen significant improvements in fitness and health with thrice weekly 20-minutes high-intensity interval training (HIT). In our HIT routine our participants spent those 20 minutes with 4 consecutive intervals, in each of which they ran or cycled for 4 minutes at moderate intensity, followed by a 1-minute all-out sprint, with no break between intervals. A recent review confirmed the benefits of HIT [4], which accumulate with a significantly smaller time commitment to exercise, than what is required for conventional endurance exercise.
There is more good news. Remember that I mentioned that the rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque "may" cause a heart attack or stroke. That's because we know a couple of interesting and encouraging things about such plaques. First, plaques may be of a "vulnerable" or of a "stable" type. The stable ones don't rupture easily but the vulnerable ones do. Secondly, not all those plaque ruptures end in a heart attack or stroke. Most ruptures actually don't. And we can't predict exactly which ones will cause problems, and when. So there is a large element of chance in all this. Third, plaques can change their status from vulnerable to stable or vice versa within weeks or months.
The good news in all this is that it is in your hands, or rather in your exercise, whether your existing plaques become more stable, and whether you decrease or increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke. All it takes is the intensity of your exercise.
The bad news, those insights take away your excuse of lack of time. Think about it, what are 60 minutes a week for HIT, when the average German spends 4 hours PER DAY watching TV, and the average American tops that with another 2 hours a day.
So, when you want to know whether your physical activity habits qualify as a lifestyle or a death style, keep the simple reasoning in mind: exercise determines the health of your arteries, and the health of your arteries determines your longevity. And the shortcut to the latter goes via HIT.   

Schnohr, P., Marott, J., Jensen, J., & Jensen, G. (2011). Intensity versus duration of cycling, impact on all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, 19 (1), 73-80 DOI: 10.1177/1741826710393196

The Truth That Troubles Me

by Jeff Butler
Program Director, Adoption Ministry 1:27

The Truth:
We as Christians believe in and worship an all-powerful, perfect, loving and gracious God.
We as Christians today are part of the richest church in the history of Christianity.
We Christians live in a world that is experiencing the greatest global human suffering.
How can these truths co-exist? How can there be an all-powerful loving God, limitless in strength, knowledge, resources and compassion, yet 1,000 children die every hour from starvation and preventable diseases? 
There’s no lack of power or compassion within God’s heart!  The truth that troubles me is what I discovered within my own heart - this is where I found the biggest problem!  You, I, and the rest of the church are Christ’s hands, feet, arms, eyes and ears on planet earth. We have been given His Holy Spirit therefore we have everything we need to make a global impact.
I was serving as a pastor of a community church a few years ago. I was invited to go to Ethiopia along with a YWAM missions team to visit and serve at their Widows and Orphans Homes.  I had no idea why I was going, but I really believed God wanted me to go. The suffering and loss of the poor - people just like me - shattered my heart. Global poverty and suffering became more real and personal. I came back burdened but unclear about what I was to do about it.
Since then I have been back to Ethiopia five times. My wife and I have adopted three children from YWAM’s orphanages. I helped lead a church mission team to serve with churches in Ethiopia.  I was reading books such as The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, and Radical by David Platt. God was schooling me. Each trip I took to Ethiopia, I would see more of the bigger picture - what causes poverty, widows and orphans.  
Orphan Care: I saw the work being done to care for widows and orphans. Most of us realize this is our biblical mandate found in James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  YWAM has four Widows and Orphans Homes in Ethiopia where widows and children are lovingly cared for, both in the homes and in the surrounding communities.
Nystrand fam
Orphan Reduction: Next I saw the need to reduce the number of orphans in the world through the God-originated idea of adoption. My wife and I had already adopted four children domestically before my trip to Ethiopia so I totally got this one! Orphan reduction though adoption. The minute an orphan is adopted, they become a son or a daughter!
I felt there was something more that needed to be done. I believe God gave me a picture of the crisis to help me understand at a deeper level. I pictured a poor struggling family, like many single-parent families I had encountered in Ethiopia, standing on the bank of a raging river when a crisis occurs. The mother, trying to hold the family together, loses her grip and the children slide off into the raging river. The mother desperately tries to save them but can’t. Downstream, on the bank, are some people that reach out and try to grab hold of some of these children before they go over the impending waterfall and are lost.

This is a true story that is occurring everyday in our world!  When these families, mostly held together by a single parent, fall apart though death, disease or starvation, the children fall into the most perilous of circumstances. They live on the streets where they fend for themselves without protection from abuse and exploitation. Many simply don’t make it.

Some are rescued by those downstream. They may end up being cared for in orphanages and a few are adopted. Should we simply wait and if it’s not too risky, or too costly, or too uncomfortable, to maybe reach out to a few to try and pull them out?  But what about those who don’t get a family? What about those who don’t get a meal or a shelter?
God was already moving to answer the question that lay heavy upon my heart and it seemed that He had laid this burden on a few others of the YWAM Leadership Team. God was also moving to connect the YWAM team with local Ethiopian churches to birth a new work… 
Orphan Prevention: We as the Body of Christ need to come alongside vulnerable families and help to sustain them so that their children don’t become orphans. This can’t be a government solution, or a parachurch solution; it needs to be a local church solution: Orphan Prevention through the local church!
In September of 2011 Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia launched a new work known as Adoption Ministry 1:27 to partner with the Ethiopian Church to care for widows and orphans. We have developed partnerships with several indigenous Ethiopian churches to care for vulnerable families in some of the poorest regions of Ethiopia where we launched the “Adopt a Family” Program.  Local church pastors identify the poorest, most vulnerable families in their communities – either single-parent families on the verge of collapse or guardian families who are willing to take in orphaned children but need financial help to do so.  We seek those who will “adopt” one of these families for $40 per month. 100% of the money goes in-country to Ethiopia to run the program and care for each family with food, medical care and help with income-generating activities. 
I have visited many of these families who have been adopted through Adoption Ministry 1:27 and have seen radical transformation, revitalized health and renewed hope. 
Waganesh prog
The truth that troubled me is being used to transform me.  You and I, the Church, are God’s answer!  Let’s start being the Church.  We need to get off our comfortable spot on the bank of the river, swim upstream and wrap our arms around a vulnerable family to sustain and support them. 

Jeff Butler serves as Program Director for Adoption Ministry 1:27 and is also on the board of Adoption Ministry.  He and his wife, Chris, have adopted three children from Ethiopia.

If you would like to ‘Adopt a Family’ or just want more information about Adoption Ministry 1:27, please contact us at:

Also, please check out our latest AM 1:27 newsletters:

The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is coming up on May 3-4 at Saddleback Church in southern California.  There you can hear Dennis Rainey, Francis Chan, Rick and Kay Warren and many other great speakers address orphan care and God’s heart for the orphan.  Click on the photo below for more information!

It's not your genes, stupid.

Imagine traveling back in time and meeting your caveman ancestor of 10,000 years ago. Imagine telling him about what life is like today: that, with the tap of a finger you turn darkness into light, a cold room into a warm one and a tube in the wall of your cave into a spring of hot and cold water. You tell him...
you can fly from one place to another, and watch any place on this Earth without ever leaving your cave. You tell him you never have to run after your food, or fear that you run out of it. Your ancestor will have a hard time believing you. In his world only his gods can do all that.
Then you tell him how some of your friends think his way of life is preferable for health, which is why you are visiting him because you want to see for yourself. Before I get to your ancestor's most likely answer, let's get on the same page with those friends of ours first.
You have probably heard them talk about the past 10,000 years having done nothing to our genetic make-up. In other words, your ancestor's DNA blueprint was the same as yours. Today this blueprint collides  with a space age environment in which we don't expend any energy to get our food, and the food we acquire delivers far more energy and far less nutrients than what had been the case during 99.9% of human evolution. 
According to this view, today's epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer are simply the collateral damage of this collision. This explanation is so persuasive that it is being parroted by every media type and talking head who can spell the word  'genetics'. I'm afraid it is not that simple. Here is why:
Remember when the 3 billion letters, or base-pairs, of the human genome had first been decoded at the beginning of this century. This decryption had been delivered with the promise of revolutionizing medicine. Aside from new therapies, the hottest items were prognostic and diagnostic tools, which, we were made to believe, would lay in front of each individual his biomedical future. And with this ability to predict would come the ability to prevent, specifically all those diseases which result from an unfavorable interaction between genes and environment.
Almost ten years later we are nowhere near this goal. OK, we have identified some associations between some genetic variants and the propensity to become obese or get a heart attack or diabetes. But these associations are far from strong and they hardly help us to improve risk prediction. Just this year, Vaarhorst and colleagues had investigated the ability of a genetic risk score to improve the risk prediction of conventional risk scores which are based on biomarkers, such as the ones used in the Framingham score. Less than 3% of the study participants would have been reclassified based on the genetic risk score [1].

In a study which was released just yesterday, genetic markers for the development of diabetes in asymptomatic people at high risk, did not improve conventional biomarker risk scoring at all [2]
Obviously we are not simply our genes. This is because genes do not make us sick or healthy. Genes make proteins. And on the way from gene to protein a lot of things happen on which genes do not have any influence. To express a gene, as biologists call it, that gene must first be transcribed on RNA and then translated from RNA into the final protein. Whether a gene is transcribed in the first place depends on whether it is being made accessible for this transcription process. Today we know at least two processes which can "silence" the expression of a gene, even though it is present in your DNA. These processes are called DNA methylation and histone modification. Simply imagine them as Mother Nature's way of keeping a gene under wraps.
That's a good thing if the protein product of the silenced gene would be detrimental to your health. It could well be the other way round, too. Anyway, these happenings have been called epigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms enable cells to quickly match their protein production with changing environmental conditions. No need to wait for modifications of the genetic blueprint which takes many generations and a fair element of chance to materialize. The most astonishing discovery is that these epigenetic changes may become heritable, too. Which means, there is really no need to change the genetic code. 
I believe you get the picture now. While it is true that your ancestor's genetic code is indistinguishable from yours 10,000 years later, the way your body expresses this code in the form of proteins and hormones can differ in many ways. Which is why researchers are now as much excited about epigenetics as they used to be about genetics 10 years ago.
I don't want to be the party pooper, but whenever I see such excitement I'm reminded of how it has often evaporated after some further discoveries. Here I'm skeptical because of the picture, which we are beginning to see. Insulin, for example, is known to regulate the expression of many genes. At least in rats it has been shown that insulin's suppressive effect on gene expression in the liver, can be altered by short term fasting [3]. That means, relatively minor behavioral changes may affect the way our organism expresses its genetic code.   
Observations like these support the idea that we are not our genes, but what we make of them. In plain words: let's not hide behind the "it's-our-stone-age-genes" excuse, to explain why we are fat and lazy and ultimately chronically sick.
Now, back to your ancestor and his response to your friends' suggestions that his way of life is preferable for health. When you also tell him you live a lot longer than the 40 years he has on average, he'll tell you: You have got some nutcase friends over there. Let me live like a god first and then I'll worry about health later.
Maybe, we are not so different from our stone age ancestors after all. 

Lu, Y., Feskens, E., Boer, J., Imholz, S., Verschuren, W., Wijmenga, C., Vaarhorst, A., Slagboom, E., Müller, M., & Dollé, M. (2010). Exploring genetic determinants of plasma total cholesterol levels and their predictive value in a longitudinal study Atherosclerosis, 213 (1), 200-205 DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2010.08.053 

Zhang Y, Chen W, Li R, Li Y, Ge Y, & Chen G (2011). Insulin-regulated Srebp-1c and Pck1 mRNA expression in primary hepatocytes from zucker fatty but not lean rats is affected by feeding conditions. PloS one, 6 (6) PMID: 21731709


We're down to 24 days left in my district. Shame they're the craziest 24 days of the year! So much to do. So much I want to teach before they become second graders. So many fun things I want to fit in. So much cleaning will need to be done. Sigh. Ah well, we'll get through it.

This week we're practicing dipthongs. In what other profession do you get to say that?! Our spelling pattern this week is oy and oi. We've done vowel games before and one of the quick and easies was "Four in a Row". I feel this gives them reading practice with the spelling pattern without only using those 10 words and they have fun. You always have to sneak in the learning. (Muahhaha lol)

Click on the game board to download.

You'll need to make dice (or a spinner or alternate rules). I got the idea to create the dice after seeing another oy oi game on Pinterest. I was originally making the dice to play that game and then I decided to do a Four in a Row. Here are the dice I made. (I made one die for each group)

#YouMightBeAFirstGrader if during calendar you do the math to figure out how many days are left and you yell out "I wish there were 200 days of school!"

To hell with exercise

Who says that exercise is medicine? For one, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) of which I'm a professional member. Then, how can I say it isn't?
Let's look first at the conventional view of the benefits of exercise. There is a large and increasing amount of evidence which clearly tells us that exercise prevents today's number 1 killer: cardiovascular disease. That is, heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Mind you, what is common knowledge today emerged only some 50 years ago when Morris and colleagues discovered that UK bus conductors, the guys climbing up and down the double-decker London buses, had better fitness and fewer heart attacks than their all-day-seated driver colleagues [1].
In the years since then our knowledge about the effects of physical activity on cardiovascular, metabolic and mental health has virtually exploded. From this evidence the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) concluded in 2008 that the most active people of the population have a 35% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to the least active people [2]. The WHO lists insufficient physical activity (PA) as the 4th leading cause of death world wide after high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose. What's wrong with this picture? High blood pressure and high blood glucose are known consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. So is obesity, which ranks 5th place on the WHO killer list. Which is why physical inactivity deserves top spot on that list.
What most people don't know is the way lack of physical activity causes all those diseases, from insulin resistance and diabetes to arterial dysfunction and atherosclerosis, and from there to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure. The mechanisms are extremely complex, and, while we have untangled quite some of them, there are probably a lot more to discover. I'll try to make this the subject of one of the next blog posts. 
Now you are probably asking yourself, how the hell, with all this evidence, will I ever be able to make my point that physical activity is not a medicine. Ok, here it comes: it's a matter of viewpoint. The one I'm taking is the one of evolutionary biology. Let me play its advocate and present as evidence a couple of insights.
First, our human ancestors, who had roamed this Earth as hunter/gatherers for the most part of human existence, had, by necessity, a much more physically active lifestyle. A lifestyle which required at least 1.7 to 2 times the normal resting energy expenditure [3]. [To get an idea about resting energy expenditure and physical activity levels and how they are calculated, simply follow the links to the videos.] Those ancestors' genes are what we have inherited. And these genes are exposed to a lifestyle which is vastly different from the ones under which these genes evolved. Specifically with a view to physical activity, which brings me to evidence no 2:
What we typically observe today are physical activity levels with factors of somewhere between 1.2 and 1.4 of our resting energy expenditure. That's true for most people.
Even if you were to follow the ACSM's recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on at least 5 days per week, would you NOT reach the level of 1.7 if you are working in a typical office job or doing house work. Which means, the physical activity levels which we recommend today, do not add a behavioral type of medicine into our lives, they merely reduce the extent of a "poisonous" behavior called sedentism. It's like cutting down from 2 packs of cigarettes per day to 1 pack. Would you call this a "medicine"? Would the ACSM call that a medicine? With respect to exercise they do.
So, OK, if you had been attracted to this post in the hope of finding some excuse for not doing exercise, or some argument to get those exercise evangelists, like myself, off your back, I'm sorry to have disappointed you. No, actually, I'm not sorry. And neither will you be, if you get your physical activity level above those 1.7. Then you may just start calling exercise a medicine. Until then, chances are you will still go to hell with exercise, because you get too little of it. Certainly too little to stay out of that hell of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many cancers.


MORRIS JN, & RAFFLE PA (1954). Coronary heart disease in transport workers; a progress report. British journal of industrial medicine, 11 (4), 260-4 PMID: 13208943
Eaton, S., & Eaton, S. (2003). An evolutionary perspective on human physical activity: implications for health Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 136 (1), 153-159 DOI: 10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00208-3

Who Me?

by Becky Burns
Administrator, Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia


The one reason I didn't ever want to consider missions or even teaching abroad was because I was afraid God would ask me to go to Africa. I don't like things outside of my comfort zone.

Africa - specifically Ethiopia - was waaaaaaay outside the zone. I have a problem with claustrophobia and I'm a terrible eater when it comes to strange foods.  I admit it - I have issues.  I immediately wondered if this could possibly have anything to do with God answering my prayers that I would really know His love for me.

Oh yes it did.

It was Spring of 2008 and I was already working for Adoption Ministry of Youth With A Mission Ethiopia but I had agreed to work on the website, create a blog, do paper work, talk with families on the phone... not to do anything crazy like actually go to Ethiopia.  But Joy (our ministry director) wanted me to go, the board paid for my ticket and my dear friend Liane was going too. It was clearly what God had in mind for me.

So my husband dropped me at LAX where I was going to fly to Washington DC and meet up with Joy and Liane and we'd continue on to Ethiopia. Then I got a call from Liane saying they had missed their flight and that I should just go ahead and go and that they'd meet me in Ethiopia - 2 days later. (There are only a few flights per week to Addis Ababa on this airline.)

Meet me in Ethiopia? Are you kidding me? Did they know this is a third world country?  Did they forget who they were dealing with here? 

Yes Becky, Abebe will meet you at the airport and everything will be fine.  So I spent the five hours from L.A. to D.C. in unceasing prayer.  I was very spiritual.  (That's what happens to you when you face an impossible thing.) 

I'm sure I looked like someone with a serious mental health issue - no color in my skin, hands covering my face, rocking back and forth. I could not believe this was happening. But as we descended into Dulles, after wrestling with God the whole way, I finally told Him "Okay, I'll do it. You are in charge, not me. But You have to be my Traveling Companion, Travel Agent, Concierge, Interpreter and in-country Host. And please help me not throw up."

As it turned out, our flight was late and I missed the connection to Ethiopia so Joy and Liane met me there and we had two days in Washington D.C. during the peak of cherry blossom time, courtesy of United Airlines.

blossoms & capitol

dc hotel
Our luggage went on to Ethiopia so we ate, toured and slept in our clothes!

It was a gift. And so obviously God saying, "I love you Becky!" He would have given me whatever I needed if I'd gone on to Africa that day. But whether I went or not, He did want me to know whether or not I would trust Him.

Do you ever tell God, "Please don't ever ask me to _______"? 

I'm finding that if you're praying (or even thinking) one of those prayers, while at the same time asking Him to help you know Him more, He just might use what you thought you could never do to get the other prayer answered.  That's not how I would do it but then, what do I know?

street girl

Ethiopia is a very hard place.  Millions of people are homeless, living on the streets and sleeping on a scrap of tarp or under a piece of corrugated tin.  There is no way to prepare for what you see there.  For how it smells.  For all the children wandering in the city. 

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I know I was not prepared.  But the other thing I found and didn't expect was the strong faith of so many of the people I met.  They are full of joy, trusting every day that God will provide for them and serving Him in some extremely difficult circumstances. 


Abebe is our representative in Ethiopia.  He is one of the most gracious, hard-working and kind men I've ever met.  This man loves Christ with all his heart.  He also loves children and I've seen him cry more than once over a child who has no family.  He strokes their face, hugs them and treats them as I've seen him treat his own children.  He has also helped bring the Gospel to a remote village where persecution of Christians is very real.  Hundreds of families have come to Christ, partly because this man has committed himself to live out what the bible says.

Tezera is our orphanage director.  (Someone gave her an ipod and now she can listen to Amharic worship music whenever she wants!)  This is one strong woman of God and, let me tell you, she can preach!  She began taking in and caring for widows and children before God brought YWAM with the funding and the help she would need.  She just does what the bible says to do - care for the fatherless and those in need.
Africa 328
The love and hospitality of Ethiopia's people was very humbling to me.  Homes in Addis Ababa are not too cozy or full of pumpkin bread smells...


We went to the homes of many women who were struggling to feed their children.  Yet they insisted on serving us.
widow's home where we ate lunch


coffee ceremony
electrical system
I have never felt so unworthy of someone's giving.  Never.
There are so many times when I really can’t believe that I get to do this work. Me? It is God alone who prepares, arranges, equips and confirms what He calls us to do.  I could never in a million years have imagined it or planned for it.  It’s all Him.
I wanted to share this because I want to encourage you not to wait as long as I did to say 'yes' to God.  It probably will look very different than my experience.  Maybe He’s calling your family to get more involved in widow and orphan care.  Maybe you need to go on a mission trip.  Maybe it’s volunteering somewhere that would stretch you or giving in ways that cost a lot.  Maybe it’s adoption.  
I can tell you that there is nothing in the world like cooperating with God and taking a step of faith.  He makes it WORTH IT.