Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sponsoring a Zeway Pastor

One aspect of this partnership that has been unique is the commitment of the local Zeway churches to care for the orphans and their desire to understand adoption.

But that is easier said than done, and many of the church leaders desired to learn more about what the Bible says about adoption and orphan care and how to do it on a practical level.

Bridges of Grace had planned on creating a conference for this very thing, but thankfully an organization called Kidmia approached us about an orphan care and adoption conference they are hosting in Ethiopia for pastors. We've known the leaders of Kidmia for a while and Together for Adoption has worked with them to provide curriculum. All this to say this is a great opportunity and it is going to be a great conference.

We'd love some help with this. The cost to attend the conference for a pastor and his wife is $70. This includes transportion to Addis Ababa, lodging and food for 2 days and the conference fees. The conference is at the end of May.

Would you be willing to pay $70 for a pastor and his wife to attend this conference?

We have 15 spots paid for, but a total of 31 pastors and elders have signed up to attend. Would you be willing to support a pastor to learn more about adoption and caring for the orphan on a biblical and practical level?

We have the names of the pastors and wives already, so we can send you the name of a specific pastor that you can sponsor. We are also sending 2 people from Grace to attend the conference and debrief with the pastors afterward, so we'll be able to give you an eyewitness account of how God used your donation.

Please contact Julie at if you would like to sponsor a pastor or for more information.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What We Can Promise

It is hard to go to Zeway and not want to make promises to fix many of their problems. What makes this especially difficult is that in Zeway, an amazing cappuccino costs less than a quarter, a hotel costs $5 a night and an good salary can be about $50 a month. How far our money can go in the Ethiopian economy.

So when a child asks for something or when the physical need is obvious, it is hard to not promise these kids that we will fulfill that need.

Especially when they ask for a bottle of water, a Bible, a stable home, school supplies, new clothes.

And while a big part of this partnership is supplying physical needs, when a team goes to Ethiopia, it is not our place to be the givers of these needs. We don't want to be viewed as
"Santa Claus". It is the role of FH and the local churches to deliver these things. People who are there everyday to mentor, follow-up, and be the daily support for these children.

So what is it that we can promise these kids? There is one thing that I have said to every kid that I have visited in Zeway. A promise I have made to each of them.

"I promise that I will ask about you. You are remembered. I may live across an ocean, but I want to know how you are -your health, your education, your siblings, your relationships, your soul. I will think about you and I will ask about you."

Mother Theresa wrote in her memoirs, "There are poor people everyone, but the deepest poverty is not being loved."

Dr. Karyn Purvis, a leading adoption psychologist, says that a basic need a child has is to know he is precious.

So how do we get these children out of some the deepest places of poverty? How do we fulfill their basic needs? We let them know they are loved. That they are remembered. That they are precious.

So that is one problem they have that I can promise to do something about. I promise to ask about them and to think of them and to remember who they are as children of God.

Can you make this promise to the orphans of Zeway too?

Soon we'll be publishing a photo book of the names and faces of all the Zeway orphans. With this, people will be able to know these children and pray for them. Others can promise to remember these precious and loved children.

It is the one promise we can make.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Contrasts

One thing I have learned that can make a trip to a far away impoverished land difficult is that I walk away with knowing the contrasts between how I live and how others live in this world. It is something we all wrestle with when we return home. How we spend our money and the amount of comforts we have is certainly a big contrast, but there are other cultural contrasts that I noticed this time.

One example of this is the status that animals have in our communities. On the main road to Lake Zeway there was a large animal that had died and the skin of the animal had been shredded off so just the rib meat was showing. Several street dogs (and all the dogs seem to be street dogs) were gnawing on the bones. Jokingly, Scott gave me a poke with his elbow and said, "Imagine Blueberry chowing down on that meat." (Blueberry is our very cute Springer Spaniel puppy). I chuckled and said, "Really? I went to 3 different stores looking for the perfect placemat to place Blueberry's food bowl on"
The contrast between street dogs eating rib meat and a rubber place mat for my dog's food struck both of us.

Another contrast I realized is when the Thackers, the Tuthills and I were talking with the social workers about ideas for children and youth ministry. We were talking about the choices that teens make and how to help them make good ones. In my head, I was preparing to talk about $5 choices verses $500 choices. The idea that some choices in this world have small consequences and how it is good to allow children to make poor choices when the consequences are small so that they learn from experiences and hopefully apply that knowledge when they are older and their choices have $500 consequences. I was trying to come up with a real life example of a $5 choice for a child in Ethiopia. I could think of none. The children there do not have the luxury of choices. They don't have choices in foods, choices in schooling, choices in what they use their money for (what money do they have?). How they dress for the weather or activities is not a choice when they have only 2 changes of clothes.

The choices these children have to make are all $500 choices. They all have big consequences. This is a contrast that makes me really want to pray and support these kids.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Defending the Fatherless

Scripture mandates that we should do a lot for the poor. Here is just a smattering of what the Bible says:
  • Isaiah 58 says we should satisfy the needs of the hungry
  • Psalm 72 says we should have compassion on the poor and the needy and rescue their lives from violence
  • Psalm 74 says we should save the children of the needy
  • Matthew 25 says that we are to give them drink, food, invite them in our homes, care for them when sick, etc.
And Scripture also says in Deuteronomy, we are to "defend the fatherless". After watching Dateline about Vanya from Russia, I had to reflect on what I was doing to DEFEND the fatherless.

Defending, in my opinion, looks different than feeding, clothing, educating, or caring for children. It even looks different than caring for their spiritual needs - to give them a future and a hope.

Defending is a term that conjures up in me a bit of patriotism in fact (wrongly, I credit patriotism for this feeling). It's justice. We, Americans should understand the need for justice over even feeding these kids (after all, isn't our immediate reaction after feeding them is trying to figure out how they can prove themselves in an income generating activity and they can be self-sustaining? aaaahhh, I digress.)

Defending the fatherless is righting the wrong. It is defending the oppressed. It's justice and we like liberty and justice for all.

So what does defending the fatherless look like? I had to think on it and this is what I came up with:

  • It is defending the child whose distant relatives are trying to take away his parents' home.
  • It is defending the children in which the government plans to destroy their home without giving the children an alternative place to live
  • It is standing before an abusive family whom an orphan girl escaped from defending her and securing her legal documentation so she can attend school again.
  • It is telling a neighborhood that they are wrong for telling children they cannot use the public bathrooms and then building those children the "best bathroom in Zeway"
These are examples that I could come up with of how I'm supporting those who defend the fatherless. (And I do feel like supporting those who do the actual defending is how it can all works) It was good for me to reflect over that, not to prove anything about the Zeway Partnership, but because, I believe God, through Scripture, is asking all of us to be a part of caring for the poor and defending the oppressed.

I most certainly want to be a part of God's plan for this.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Hero Zeritu

Hero : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.

Meet Zeritu. Zeritu is an orphan living in Zeway. Her father died when she was young and she does not know where her mom lives. After Zeritu’s mom left her, she found the only other relative she knows, her aunt, and lived with her for a period of time. Like most parents in Zeway, Zeritu’s aunt could not afford to send Zeritu to school and instead made Zeritu work as a day laborer. Zeritu wanted to go to school and make a better future for herself. Since her aunt would not let her, Zeritu ventured out on her own.

By God’s grace Zeritu met an FH social worker in June of last year. As an orphan Zeritu was able to participate in the Child Headed Household (CHH) program. Zeritu now lives in a small one -room house that is rented for her by the CHH program. The house is owned by the mother of one of the FH social workers who lives next door to Zeritu and watches out for her as if she were one of her own children. Thanks to the food, shelter and funding provided by the CHH program, Zeritu was able to enroll in school. Zeritu is currently in 10th grade and her favorite subjects are physics and mathematics. In addition to her schooling, Zeritu also has had the opportunity through the CHH program to receive training in food preparation as a possible career.

Zeritu told us about her dreams for the future. In Zeritu’s words, “I need to be an engineer. Second, and most important, once capable, I want to support other children who face the challenges I have faced.” She went on to tell us, “I need my dream to become my reality. Please pray for this.” As I sat on a low stool just above the dirt floor in the corner of Zeritu’s home, in the midst of her humble surroundings and big dreams, the term hero came to mind. At that moment Zeritu became a hero to me. Zeritu ended her time with us by saying, “I am happy you are here to visit me. I thank you on behalf of all children who have lost their parents. Your support is awesome.” Zeritu, it is you who are awesome, and heroic.