Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Old Wineskins

I feel it. The pull of the world. Back to the comfortable life I knew before. Before going to Zeway. I keep telling everyone that asks about our trip that it was life-changing, but what has changed and what should I be doing differently? I feel stuck between two worlds, struggling with how to fit new wine into old wineskins. Scott and I are right back to our busy, over-committed schedules. The kind that numb us over time. But our hearts are longing for Zeway. Strangely missing and yearning to be with children we really hardly know, spending only moments with them. How is it possible that our hearts could be so knitted together in such a short time? But they are. As if they were our own children. Sadly, though, as each day goes by it becomes easier to separate these two worlds. Still questioning our comfort, yet all the while enjoying it. So we cling to our memories. We cling to opportunities to talk about our time there with others, look at pictures of those beautiful faces we fell in love with, and spend time with others who have been and seen. How can we fight our comfort and keep these worlds connected? Keep our hearts from healing and forgetting? All I know to do is pray. Will you pray with me? For these children and those that look after them. For more people to know about them. For wounded hearts and for new wineskins.

-Heather Thacker

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

Being warmly welcomed into someone's home is a blessing. When that warmth is accompanied by the smell of incense, a bouquet of flowers and the floor covered in beautiful green fronds it takes it to a whole other level. That was the welcome that those of us who were able to visit Chaltu and Alemetu received.

Of all the home visits that I was able to be a part of, there a few that are my favorites and meeting these two young ladies rises to the top of even that short list. Their story is unique and it tugs on my heart. I love to see the hurting have their needs met. I so long for the day when all the wrongs of the world are made right. In the meantime, this story brings hope and whispers of the day when every tear will be wiped away.

You see, individually both of these early teen girls had become orphans. They tried to survive on their own in different ways. Chaltu has no relatives. After she lost her parents, she would sustain herself through her efforts. She tried to be a house maid but this didn't work out. Next, she did odd jobs in exchange for food and lodging. At times she would have to move from place to place every one to two nights.

Alemtu also lost her parents. She tried to live with her uncle but he wouldn't even let her go to school. Instead he forced her to work. This was even more difficult for her because she is disabled. When she was young, Alemtu fell out of a chair and never received the proper treatment for her injury. She now walks with a severe limp and uses a cane.

Their stories intersected after they each heard of the Food for the Hungry (FH)/Bridges of Grace program. The focus on child headed households was exactly what they needed. They didn't even know each other but FH placed them in a humble room together. The leadership was wise in providing this for Alemtu because having Chaltu there to help her has been a blessing to each of them. I asked them if they had become friends and the words of the interpreter were not even necessary. They both smiled from ear to ear and the answer was clearly yes.

As the visit neared a close, they asked us to pray for them. There is a legend in their region that if your mother and father pray for you, then you will be successful. They told us that Dawn and Kathy were like their mother and that Will and I were like their father. We looked past the superstition and both Kathy and Will prayed for these two young believers. We know that their true Father is providing for them and we are just blessed to have a front row seat to take in the beauty. Please join us in praying for them too.


Beautiful Tihune

I met Tihune for the first time last July when we visited Zeway. She showed up for the jewelry making training. She was by far one of the quickest learners and made some beautiful bracelets. Tihune was incredibly quiet. She rarely looked up from her beads and never smiled. It was apparent that this beautiful young girl carried a tremendous burden. Often, when I would see her looking at me, when I returned eye contact, she would look away. It was also obvious that she was new to this group of girls because her interaction was minimal.

I asked the social workers about her but nobody knew her story. She was brand new to the CHH program and they had little information about her. I tried to encourage her and love on her as much as I could in that day and a half that we spent together. But still, there was no joy in this young girls eyes.

When we did the art day, 3 siblings showed up....Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot. There were delightfully cute and we soaked them up. We found out that they were Tihunes younger siblings. Knowing that Tihune was CHH (Child head of household) it quickly became apparent that she was the "mama" to these young children. Some of her burden was explained. But it would take 9 months to know the rest of the story.

When I knew I would be returning again and doing the jewelry training, I hoped I would see her. And I did. When we pulled up to the FH building, there she was. Standing with all the other girls we've grown to know and love...Melekete, Eden, Melesech, Belatu and more. AND SHE WAS SMILING! I was stunned. When I went around and greeted all the girls, she didn't hesitate to hug me. She kissed my face. I just looked at her and exclaimed "Tihune, you are smiling!" and she just giggled.

We had the opportunity to visit Tihune in her home on this trip. And our eyes were opened. As we arrived, we were greeted by her, her siblings Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot and a 3 year old ball of energy & giggles named Radiette. She was excited to have us and we felt blessed to visit her. I asked her "Tihune...what has happened in your life since I saw you last?" The first words out of her mouth were "the first and most important thing is that I have come to know the Lord". I just cried. I was overwhelmed. The transformation in this girl was astounding.

But then I asked another question and I was not prepared for the response. I asked her "what has been your biggest challenge in taking care of the children". And she broke into tears. Her pain was still very fresh and raw. She shared with us that after her parents died, they were living with her older brother. He would drink alcohol and beat them all. She made the decision to leave their family home with all the children and was on her own with them. That is when FH found out about her....and when I met her last year. On top of all of this, her older sister died and Tihune (at the age of 17) is also caring for her niece, Radiette.

When we visited her, the Social worker informed us that the brother has left the village and his wherabouts are unknown. They quickly moved Tihune and the children to the home she grew up in and will know provide legal support and protection to make sure they can stay there...and that they remain safe from the brother.
When it came time to pray, I asked Tihune to come sit by me. When she sat down, she snuggled right into me. It felt like when my own daughter snuggles into my lap when she wants to be comforted. We wrapped our arms around each other and we sat there....cheek to a loving embrace as Kathy prayed.

When are visit was over, it was clear that trust had been established. That is one of the many beautiful things about this partnership. These children are learning to trust again. They are learning that there are adults in their life that are loving them and praying for them. And most importantly, they are learning about Jesus and His love for them. The FH staff, the people from Grace who visit, the people who consistently pray, the families that make the photo pages and so much more are all acting as the hands, feet and heart of Jesus!
I saw Tihune one last time on Saturday. When we said goodbye there were simply not enough hugs and kisses. I pray that one day I will be able to return and visit her again. If not, I will rest in the knowledge that she is in very good hands. The best hands. The hands of our awesome God and His plan for her is perfect.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

Monday, March 28, 2011

What I Saw, Heard and Felt When I Met Hiko

I met Hiko in June of 2009. It was my last visit of the trip we took to explore the possibilities of a Partnership between Grace, Food for the Hungry and the Zeway churches. Here is what I saw, heard and felt about that visit with Hiko in June 2009:

I saw a small, thin girl being coaxed down from a tree she was hiding in
I saw a small crowd of people gather around us as she came down from the tree.
I saw a small, thin girl being guided by the social worker to sit by me on a small bench.
I saw this girl cower and lean completely away from me.
I saw small fleas between layers of her clothing.

I heard questions from the social worker directed toward this girl.
I heard the social worker tell me her name was Hiko.
I heard that she was moved to this neighborhood after the social workers found her sleeping on her father's grave.
I heard that she did not have a place to live, but begged for meals and shelter daily.
I heard an old woman snarl something at this girl that I did not understand but knew it was not kind.
I heard nothing from Hiko. She said nothing.

I felt despair and hopelessness for this child.
I felt anger toward the people who treated her poorly.
I felt sadness that she did not speak or even seem to hear what anyone was saying.
I wept when I leaned in to hug her goodbye and she fell into me and knocked me on my knees and sat there on my lap.

The team left her thinking she would not survive.

She was added to the Orphan-Headed Household Partnership as soon as it was developed.

And then in March 2011, I met Hiko again.

I saw a beautiful girl walk up to me.
I saw that she had clean clothes, braided hair, a light in her eyes.
I saw that she was at school with a big smile on her face.

I heard that she had a home
I heard that she was doing well at school
I heard that she was attending a church
I heard that she remembered our first meeting.

I felt overjoyed.
I felt like praising God for his mighty works in lives
I cried tears of joy as I went to my knees to look into Hiko's eyes.

Hiko did survive. She is going to school. She has food and shelter. She is learning about God's future and hope for her life.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Saw What I Saw

I always listen for songs that relate to life. While I was raking leaves in the backyard today, I was listening to Sara Grove’s album “Tell Me What You Know” from a number of years back. The entire album expressed so much of what I have felt since visitng Ethiopia. I did a little digging tonight and discovered Sara wrote most of this album as a reflection on the time she spent in Rwanda. Another interesting bit to the story is that she was working alongside Food for the Hungry. The song “I Saw What I Saw” has stuck with me. Lyrics are below. Additionally, I have put together some of my favorite pics from our trip accompanied by the song. Enjoy.

I Saw What I Saw – Sara Groves

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it / I heard what I heard and i can't go back / I know what I know and I can't deny it / something on the road, cut me to the soul / your pain has changed me / your dream inspires / your face a memory / your hope a fire / your courage asks me what I'm afraid of and what I know of love / we've done what we've done and we can't erase it / we are what we are and it's more than enough / we have what we have but it's no substitution / something on the road, cut me to the soul / I say what I say with no hesitation / I have what I have but I'm giving it up / I do what I do with deep conviction / something on the road, cut me to the soul chorus / your courage asks me what I’m afraid of / your courage asks me what I am made of / your courage asks me what I’m afraid of / and what I know of love / and what I know of god

You are not Forgotten

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." ~ Acts 1:8

Reading that verse in the past, I quickly summed it up saying, "Oh yeah God will take the Gospel to all corners of the earth." I was thinking in a very general sense of the Gospel being preached everywhere to everyone. But did you know there are very specific verses prophesizing the spread of the Gospel to Ethiopia? This gets me very excited! It reveals God's heart for the people of this country.

The first is in Psalm 68:31, "Envoys will come from Egypt. Cush will submit herself to God." Cush refers to the upper Nile region where Ethiopia is now located.

The other is Isaiah 56:4-5: "To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant - to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off."

The first recorded occurrance of the Gospel being taken to Ethiopia happens in Acts Chapter 8 when Phillip encounters an Ethiopia eunuch traveling home from Jerusalem who wants to be baptized. A eunuch is a high ranking Ethiopian government official. This official had been to Jerusalem to worship and was studying the prophecy of Isaiah. It makes me wonder if he was reading the passage above where God promises the people "an everlasting name that will not be cut off."

When the rich pass away they can extend the memory of themselves - the very proof of their existence. Libraries, museums and park benches are named after them and on their behalf. When the poor pass away, they pass away and are forgotten. But God does not forget them. When I look into the eyes of these children I want them to be remembered. I want them to know the One who is seeking them. I want them to claim their memorial and their name "better than sons and daughters." A name that will never be cut off. 

(A special thanks to Cami Carter who provided me these prophesies when we were studying this Acts passage during Bible Study.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet Will . . .

There is always that one team member that is fun, easy-going, even-keeled, and never gets sick. Watch this video introducing that team member for us. We love you, Will!

The little ones...

The team has been sharing their hearts regarding our recent trip to Zeway and as I have gone back and read them, I feel like I'm transported back every time. I love reading how other people felt and what happened within their hearts.

I've been thinking about the hearts here in Austin. Specifically, the hearts of the children of Grace.

I returned home from Africa to this beautiful drawing made by my daughter Mandy. On my birthday card she wrote "Mama, I love you more than you love Africa". When we said nighttime prayers with my 4 year old Loralee and after we said "Amen" she said "and Jesus, please take care of the orphans".

I have heard story upon story since returning from parents about their children wanting to help these orphans. I've had parents give me money that their little ones have saved and wanted to give to the orphans. Children have pictures on their bedside of the orphans. Families have their refrigerators covered with pictures of these orphans. The list goes on and on.

In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Move forward just a few chapters to Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' God is stirring in the hearts of the children here and they are living out God's word!

It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coming soon...

I had the great privilege of joining the trip this March as the videographer. We took 12GB of pictures and over 180GB of video in our 6 days there. My desire was to capture the stories of the children so that our Austin partners would be able to connect with them in a deeper way. Here is a taste of what we captured in the form of a movie trailer. Thanks to Apple iMovie for the template that makes it easy to show off the kids and the team.

An Outhouse

Perhaps it seems unusual to have a post about an outhouse. But there is a lot to this outhouse.

To the right is a photo of the house that the trip team painted. It is Mehiret, Lidia and Bedilu's house. You'll find more photos of this family soon, but I found a lot of significance in the outhouse that is the small mud structure recently attached to this home.

This outhouse represents dignity that the children were able to gain back through the help of Food for the Hungry. It is not uncommon for there to be a community bathroom for several houses together. Because of the HIV status of these children, their neighbors would not allow them to use the neighborhood bathroom. They were shooed away and forced to go the bathroom outside causing unhealthy sanitary conditions. With this outhouse, they were allowed to find their dignity.

This reminds me once again of the importance of one particular aspect of this partnership, and that is the ultimate goal of adoption of these children by Zeway believers. When these children have a forever family they will have advocates and a mom and dad caring for them 24 hours a day. A forever family will help these children regain their "status" and avoid situations such as begging for the neighborhood bathroom.

Please be in prayer that Zeway believers will be moved for the children beyond a weekly visit and check-ins. Pray that they will be moved to make the orphans beloved sons and daughters.


My life is comfortable. I live in a nice five bedroom house in an upper class Austin neighborhood. My house always has electricity and water. If for some reason they go out, I call someone and it gets fixed quickly. I have a heater for when I get cold and an air conditioner for when I get hot. There is always a variety of healthy food on my table. I drink bottled water because the tap does not taste good. When I want new clothes, I go to the store and buy them (or order them on Amazon over my high speed internet connection). When I get sick, I have insurance and access to world class doctors. I have a master’s degree from a respected university. I work for a Fortune 50 company. There is always money in my checking account.

Zeway is for the most part a polar opposite of my life. The houses are typically one room; made from mud and straw. They constantly have to be repaired during the rainy season. Homes might have one electric outlet with intermittent power. Food is scarce and the menu is same thing day after day. People walk 20 minutes to get water that no one in America would (or even could) drink. Clothes are a need, not a want. In some cases, boys wear girls’ clothes. You take what you can get. Sickness is prolific and health care is marginal at best. People don’t worry about allergies; they worry about AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Education is often sacrificed in order to work for money to be able to eat. A 15 year old boy in 5th grade is not uncommon. University is a word not many children understand. There is no need for a checking account.

The time my wife Heather and I spent in Zeway this month was likely one of the most impactful weeks of our lives. We are still processing all we saw and experienced. Personally, I have felt conflicted since returning to Austin. I came back with feelings of hope and with emptiness all at the same time. Hope for the children we saw who live with joy despite dire circumstances. Emptiness in my soul for the comfortable life I live and a feeling that I am not doing enough to help the poor. I am wrestling inside… with myself and with God.

Adjusting back to my life here in Austin has been difficult. My job seems a lot less important than it did when I left. I am home, but my thoughts are still in Africa. My wife said it well, “I feel like I am sleep walking through my days. Never fully here.” Friends who had been to Ethiopia before us said we would feel this way. I am no longer skeptical to their forewarnings. Each day I wonder if I will always feel this way or will the busyness and comfort of my life consume the unsettlement I feel? I hope the unsettlement sticks around.

So where do I go from here? I’m not exactly sure. What I am sure of is this: if you believe the teachings of Bible, you should be helping the poor. I do believe the Bible, so that is what I want to do. I also believe the Bible teaches us to do things not out of duty, but out of love. I feel like I went to Zeway out of duty, I left feeling like I went out of love. I came home with a sincere love for Ethiopia, a love for the people from Food from the Hungry, and most of all a love for the children.
I am not sure what is next for my wife and me. Do we sell all our stuff and move to Africa? Not likely. Do we change how we live here in Austin? Probably so. Will we continue to care for and love the children of Zeway? Most definitely.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:10

Monday, March 21, 2011

What We Didn't See . . .

I have been blessed by taking two trips to Zeway, Ethiopia. The first one was almost 2 years ago in June 2009, when a team from Grace went to explore the possibilities of serving the Zeway church, Food for the Hungry and specifically, orphans who were heading their own households after their parents' deaths.

On this first trip, the team was broken by a despair and by a lack of light in childrens' eyes. We were broken by the poverty, but also by the lack of future these children had on their own. Their daily necessities, food, clothing and shelter, were ongoing struggles. A concern for the emotional and spiritual conditions were difficult to address because their physical conditions were so dire.

There was hope in Zeway at that time because of the desire for the staff of Food for the Hungry and the local churches to care for these orphans physical, spiritual and emotional needs, but the orphans did not know that yet. Their futures were bleak without intervention.

But all of that, the bleakness, the despair, the lack of light in children's eyes, we did not see that on our trip to Zeway in March 2011. That is something we did not see.

So what did we see? We saw light in childrens' eyes that were previously dulled. We saw orphans and widows who were bedridden before, greet us at their doors. We heard orphans, who were once choosing between work and school, now tell us that they were passing their college entrance exams. We heard AIDS widows tell us that they have peace because they know the partnership will help their children. All the glory goes to God as our eyes would not have been opened to this great need without Him and our resources would not have been used for this if it wasn't for His love.

With all the praise and glory going to God, He is using this partnership between the Austin church, Food for the Hungry and the Zeway church to intervene for these children. To provide them with their physical needs, to address their emotional needs, and to share with them the love of Christ and the hope that He can provide for their futures.

We saw joy, hope, community, and great futures ahead of these children. But our prayers and support cannot fall short as these children are some of the most vulnerable in the world and their situations can change overnight. Please continue praying for and sharing the stories of the orphans and widows of Zeway!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Abundant is Our Comfort In Christ

 Before I left on this trip to visit the orphans and widows of Zeway, Ethiopia several people told me something along the lines of, "Oh, I couldn't do what you're doing! My heart would just break to pieces. I would completely fall apart." Honestly, every time I heard this it reinforced my fear that I just might come unglued and, ridden with guilt, I would not be able to pull myself together as a functioning wife and mother for my family upon my return.

Well I was already fully committed and on board the flight from Houston to Frankfort when God reminded me of this part of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians:

 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." (2 Cor 1: 3-5)

Here I was - not completely sure how I got there but wanting to make this journey with my husband who so desired to go - traveling across the ocean to 'comfort others with the comfort I, myself, received from Christ.' I began to pray that Christ would love and comfort these people through me. I prayed that His love and comfort would flow abundantly. It did. 

You see motherhood makes you incredibly vulnerable. I was a sensitive person before I became a mother but after Matthew was born I felt like my whole heart was fully exposed. I had a rough pregnancy and all along the way I kept fearing that this child would be taken from me just like the one before. I thought for sure that the ache I felt to protect him would go away after he was born, but it didn't. I developed this strong sense of wanting to nurture him in a way I never felt before. Now that I recognize what it means to nurture a child, it goes beyond my biological family.

On this trip I realized that I am a mother in a much larger sense. I am "Mom" to my family but I was called to love on and nurture children halfway across the world. My most significant experience of this is with Edatu. She is only four years old and the youngest of four siblings - Binyam, Samarawit and Mintesonet. Her mother has HIV. Her whole family was placed in what's called the Defacto CHH (Child Headed Household) program of Food for the Hungry (FH). "Defacto" because one parent is still living but ill and not fully able to care for the needs of her family.

As we talked to this family and learned a little bit about how the FH program is helping them, Edatu kept looking at me, trying to capture my attention. I smiled at her and tried to love her with my eyes. Her mother, Selamawiet, began sharing what God is doing through the program, her voice got louder and louder and she stood up trying to fully express what the program has meant to her and her family. She said she had no words to say how much God has provided for her family through FH. After Selamawiet's powerful expression of gratitude, Edatu intentionally came over to me and crawled up onto my lap. She sat there quietly for the remainder of the house visit, including the part where we prayed over their family. To hold a child is to fall in love with a child. That is really all I felt like God wanted me to do during that visit.

At the end of the week we attended a play time for all of the CHH children. Edatu, along with her older siblings showed up for this gathering. I was so blessed to be able to spend more time with her, to hold her, color with her, and witness how all of her siblings cared for each other. I think God was reinforcing how important it was for me not to forget these children. To be diligent in prayer over these children and to advocate for them, similar to what I do for my own child.

In the past, I would have felt a tremendous amount of guilt over the position of these kids being born into poverty, especially Edatu as I felt a strong personal connection to her. I feel so humbled that God would choose to show me these beautiful people and how He is caring for them. I have a great sense that I don't need to carry a burden of guilt because of my birthplace, education, and family. It's all a gift. It's my response to this gift that's important.

So my heart is broken, yes. It is also comforted in what God is doing abroad to provide for these children. I simply got to visit them and love them with the love of Christ.


Here is a beautiful picture that Edatu's sister, Samarawit drew during our play day. We are planning to turn some of these drawings into note cards available for you to purchase. All of the proceeds will go directly back to Food for the Hungry helping support these orphans and widows. Be looking for these soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back from Ethiopia....

I am now 4 days back from Ethiopia and my head is still spinning. I feel like there will never be enough blog posts, hours, words or pictures to capture all that I experienced in 10 days. I thought I should just begin writing. Story by story. God is moving so mightily in Zeway that it feels impossible to encapsulate it all.

But not every story was 'happy'.

That is why I am starting with Eden. I felt God pressing on my heart about Eden before I left. She was heavy on my heart. I know now why.

When we pulled up to the Food for the Hungry building, I was not anticipating seeing her. On the bottom floor, there is a Hair dressing school. As I got out of the car, I looked into the school...again, not expecting to see her. Eden has epilepsy and previously was not able to attend the school because of her seizures. Then I saw her. And she saw me. She had been waiting. The social workers told her I was coming. It was an incredibly joyful reunion. And she looked AMAZING!

I visited with her briefly and had to leave to attend a meeting with the new Director, Samson. It was during the meeting that I found out that Eden had been taken in by a wonderful social worker named Tilahun. My heart leapt. Tilahun has an amazing heart for orphans and took in his first orphan while he was single and the child was just 3. That child is now 16. Tilahun loves the Lord with everything he has and loves these children with his heart and soul.

But the situation is not good. Eden has been struggling. Since I saw her last, she has lived in 4 homes. She quarreled with all her neighbors and they came to FH begging them to remove her. Finally Tilahun offered her his home. Tilahun asked me to speak to Eden "as a mother" and I honored his request. I spent an extended amount of time with her and shared Jesus with her.

Eden has deep pains and hurts. Can you imagine the pain she feels having been told that she is the reason her parents have died? That burden is too much for anyone to carry....let alone a child. Her soul aches and you can see it in her face. I loved on her as much as I could. I shared Jesus with her. When I would show her pictures and talk with her about John and the kids, she would smile as bright as the sun. But when I talked to her about Jesus, a sadness would overcome her.

My heart hurts for Eden. But my job now is to pray for her. I hope you will too. Pray that she can come to know Jesus as her personal savior. Pray that the Lord can break the ties she feels to this world. And pray that she can begin to accept the love from the One who loves her more than anything. Jesus.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We're Back!

The team is back! We had a phenomenal trip. We had many house visits with orphans, we fell in love with the social workers and FH stafff, and our hearts were broken for the poor. Everyone stayed healthy, energetic, and maintained good spirits. It was a great team! We witnessed God caring for the orphans and widows in amazing ways through the hands and feet of the social workers and through the support of this partnership. We can't wait to tell you more. Keep checking in as the team will be posting their pictures and stories.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great news on Melekete, Denebe, and Cherent!

Julie and the team reported that they had a great day today filled with visiting many orphans! They learned that Melekete and Denebe, the two young orphaned girls with whom many of us have grown so close, now have a beautiful new home, with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a courtyard! This is pretty unheard-of in Zeway where most homes are a single mud room with no plumbing at all. The funds from Grace's partnership used to buy her land (shown in picture here from our trip last June), and another donor covered the costs of her house! Praise God for this, and may He let her use her huge home as a place of respite for the other orphans in Zeway!

We also learned that Cherent's sister Kidist who had been in a bad living situation in western Ethiopia has escaped that situation and is now living with him in Zeway. She is 16 (and Cherent, pictured here, is 17) and they had been separated for the last 6 years. This is an answer to prayer for many of us.

Please join with us in rejoicing in this amazing news!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet reunifications!

The Zeway trip team made it safely to Addis Ababa last night with all luggage intact and no problems with customs or immigration! They had a good night's rest, then were at 5am by loudspeaker broadcasted prayer chants! They enjoyed a good breakfast then worshiped alongside the Ethiopians in Addis Ababa.

The team was reunified with Ephrem, the Food for the Hungry social worker who was paralyzed a couple of years ago and with whom many of us have grown very close. Dawn commented on her Facebook:
"Emotional, overwhelmed and joy filled...just visited with my brother Ephrem!!"

They had a good traditional Ethiopian lunch and then set off for Zeway. Julie reported that "The team is excited and wide-eyed and in good spirits."

Right about now they are entering Zeway and having a sweet reunification with the FH staff and probably some of the orphans.

Please pray for safe travels into the countryside, for good health as they adjust to bottled Ethiopian water and local food, and for a time of rejoicing as they rejoin their "other" children!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The team is on their way!

The 2011 Zeway trip team (Julie Kouri, Dawn Patterson, Scott and Heather Thacker, Greg and Kathy McClelland, and Will and Ellen Tuthill) left on-time from Austin headed to a stop in Houston, then another in Frankfurt, and finally after 22+ hours arrive mid-day Saturday Austin time in Addis Ababa. They were all excited to be going and enjoyed a nice last US-based meal at the Salt Lick at the airport!

The team will be joined later next week by Chris Degarmo from Grace and Wendy McMahon from Food for the Hungry in Phoenix who will be shooting a documentary video of the project.

Please keep the team and this trip in your prayers, and if you would like to receive prayer updates via email, please email Matt Kouri at

If you would like to download and print a day-by-day prayer calendar, you can find it here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Loving from afar....

It is amazing to see how God has loved on the orphans, widows and social workers of Zeway. What started as a "I think I have a project for the Bridges of Grace" has grown into an entire community of believers in Austin embracing, loving, praying for & supporting a community on the other side of the world.

Recently, the opportunity was offered for photo pages to be taken over on the upcoming trip. The response has been wonderful and the pages are delightful. In a country where possessions are so few, these pages will truly be treasures to the
children. But we found ourselves wondering "will we have one for every child?"

God had that covered. He always does.

Our team received an email from a couple at Grace that included these pictures. Our hearts swelled. Not only did He have the children covered, He had the Social Workers, Grandparents, brothers & sisters covered.

There is something for everyone in the Hope in Ethiopia Partnership. What has God put on your heart? God loves these children more than any of us could ever imagine and clearly He is stirring in our hearts to love these children...even from afar.

For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church ~ Ephesians 5:29