Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Now?

I'm home from Ethiopia and am finding a repetitive thought crossing my mind, What Now? Where do I go from here? How do I process all that I saw, felt, did, etc now that I'm back home? What's the next step? What Now?

The reality is, right now I do not have answers to those questions. I don't know in full, what now?

I know that I don't really want to go back to "normal", whatever that was anyway. I cannot ignore what I know now, what I've seen, and how God obviously calls us as Christians to care for the least of these (Matt 25:31-46). God began to stir me towards the path of Ethiopia more than a year ago (read blogs from Nov 2009 through lots of 2010 and that's quickly apparent)... and my husband is still there in Ethiopia currently doing what God has called us to during this season.

But from this point on, I'm not sure what that path looks like except for this...

I know, I've seen, and therefore I can advocate. I can spread the word, tell the stories, and invite others to join the team to assist the "least of these" in Ethiopia - STREET CHILDREN.

The Forsaken Children/Onesimus is doing amazing, life changing things in Ethiopia. Through the strength and power of Christ, they are changing lives - one child at a time, helping the community, sharing the love of Christ, and offering lasting hope to people! I look forward to writing more blogs about some of the awesome ministry opportunities and programs I've seen with my own eyes while in Ethiopia. God is moving there and we must continue to support the efforts of such ministry.

What now? All I know so far (God will make the other paths known in His timing), I will advocate, spread the word, and invite others to join the team - check out below a way YOU can join...

Hanna's Challenge
written by Joe Bridges (founder of The Forsaken Children)

I took a deep breath and faked a reassuring smile for my guests, Tom and Kim, before we made our way up the steep, cluttered path to Hanna’s plastic house.

There, in the middle of busy Addis Ababa sat a heap of plastic that was supposed to be a home for a family of six. Hanna, her mother, and her younger sister, Sarah, looked up at us. Their expressions made it clear that we were the only foreigners who had ever visited their home. I struggled to think of things to ask because of my racing thoughts – how can anyone live like this, what are Tom and Kim thinking, what am I even doing here, etc… I know at one point I glanced at Kim long enough to see what appeared to be a tear forming. I looked away quickly so I wouldn’t cry myself.

Over the next few weeks I watched as the Onesimus team agonized over what to do for Hanna and several other girls with similar stories. Their concern – how can we take these children from their families when we are called to champion Ethiopian families as tools to bring their children off of the streets? The answer came as the painful awareness that these particular children’s parents were not filling their roles at all, nor did they ever intend to. Therefore, Hanna and 4 other girls were placed in Onesimus’s newly established girls’ halfway home in late 2009.

"Hanna" by Nathan Golden
Today, everything about Hanna’s life radiates unquestionable hope.

The Onesimus team considers the halfway homes to be a reparenting phases to prepare Hanna and others like her for long-term Ethiopian foster families. It’s amazing to see how it is working in Hanna’s life alone. In less than a year, she has moved from a late-night street partier to a well-behaved child who is thriving in school. Even more thrilling is Hanna’s recent decision to follow Jesus.

Entering 2011 The Forsaken Children wants to ensure the life impacting and essential halfway home and foster family phase of Onesimus will prosper. Let me tell you how you can help us…

Hanna’s Challenge
Recently a donor committed to give $6,000 for an end of year gift. Discovering that his gift covers ½ a year of a home like Hanna’s (up to 10 children) expenses, he asked to make his gift a MATCHING CHALLENGE. His challenge to you is to help match his $6,000 donation dollar for dollar, making 2011’s halfway home expenses covered.

This is such an incredible opportunity for us to ensure Onesimus’s halfway homes flourish for Hanna and others like her. I ask you to take his challenge and commit to give whatever you can to help match his $6,000.

If you give $30 anytime today through Dec. 31, $60 will be sent to Onesimus, which covers a child’s schooling for an entire year. In the same way, $5 sends $10, $10 sends $20, and so on. How cool is that?
We have until December 31, 2010 to pull this off. I know we can do it! Click on any “Give Today” link to give right now. Simply choose “Hanna’s Challenge” in the designation box on step 2 of your checkout process.

What kind of difference can YOU make today with the many blessing you have been given?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Ethiopia

Mr. McGoo and I were able to spend Christmas together in Ethiopia. Although the Ethiopian calendar does not have Christmas until about January 7th on our own calendar, our friends in Ethiopia went out of their way to make Mr. McGoo and I feel at home and give us the Ethiopian Christmas celebration of our dreams.

Saturday afternoon, we went to the Onesimus/The Forsaken Children Boys Halfway Home and were able to celebrate Christmas with the entire Onesimus staff, their spouses and children, and the halfway home boys and girls.

We gathered together and celebrated Christ's birth. They decorated for us, complete with a Christmas tree lit with lights and covered with ornaments and even candy canes that had been sent to Nega from other American friends (I had to explain what they were and how they relate to Christmas). The boys had practiced a program for us, put together by the ministry department of Onesimus. The program was wonderful: Desse led the program as a MC, we began with singing songs about Jesus, then Nebiyu read the Christmas story of Christ's birth to us and shared a message, the boys then put on a small drama about the birth of Jesus, we exchanged gifts, and then enjoyed a feast together! Mr. McGoo was given an opportunity to share with the children, and all the adults in the room why gifts are given at Christmas time. He posed the question first, "do you know why we give gifts to people on Christmas?" The children gave their guesses... one saying, "to show others that you love them".... which was the perfect lead in to share the truth. The truth of God's amazing gift to us, His son born as a man, to share and know our struggles, and ultimately give us the greatest gift of all, His death and payment for our sin.... John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

The feast was worthy for kings... every type of Ethiopian dish you can imagine... even fruit, colas, and a cake for Kelly and I, although the spelling of my name was off a bit (ha! Heather is VERY difficult for Ethiopians to say... that whole "th" thing really makes it hard). Overall the time was wonderful, spending it with people I truly love, and focusing on the reason for it all - JESUS, who is also the foundation of all the relationships at the festivities... brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here are some photos to share more about our Christmas in Ethiopia experience:

Sadly, I had to leave Ethiopia late that night... arriving to the airport about midnight to catch a 2:10am flight (didn't leave until 330am) out of Ethiopia. I was blessed however with a Christmas celebration with my fantastic husband and my dear friends. I miss them already, but am thankful that my hubby is still there for the next week and half loving on them along the way (even though I miss him too). Christmas in Ethiopia - I'd do it again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Measure of Success

What is our measure of success? How do we know we've accomplished the goal at hand? If I was in America, I'm pretty sure I'd know how to list some action points that should be met to label success, whether in daily life or in activities/programs.

Here in Ethiopia, however, in another culture, where things work differently than everything my worldview has created it to be... success must be measured or viewed differently. For example, what allows me to say "yes, this time in Ethiopia was a success?"

Would I say if I teach x,y,z in sports while we were here, that's success? would I say if we put on x number of events while here, that's success? Would I have to see x number of children changed forever due to my 2 weeks? Is it simply to make sure the children have an opportunity to be children during my time here through sports? What is it? What is the measure?

As a task oriented, to do list oriented person... not being able to evaluate the measure of success is a new experience for me. I'm used to action points with decisive YES I accomplished or NO, I did not. And actually, it's probably allowing me to give up control a bit more than my personality regularly desires due to the inability to measure success in the same terms that I'm familiar.

For example today, we would normally evaluate a "training session" or soccer/football event according to what gets accomplished, how well the children understand the drills (even if they cannot perform them well), the adaptability of the children's skill level, the attention span, level of the participants, etc, etc. However, nothing goes according to plan in Ethiopia and learning to work with what you have is a MUST.

Today we had our boys event (one of 3 this week) at the "field" - which I must remind you is a 'flat' surface, but is simply a dirt area, filled with many rocks, pebbles, even cobblestones in some areas throughout the surface, no grass. We had three staff member with us, only 1 of which is capable of working as a translator. We had more than 30+ boys attend without warning, 6 soccer balls, 16 Collierville track jersey tops we brought as pennies, and about 10-12 cones... Mr. McGoo and I looked at one another and quickly devised as best a plan as possible- he took 20+ of the skilled, older players, and I took the remaining 10-12 little bits. Mr. McGoo took the "translator" and I utilized two of the boys that knew the best English of the bunch.

I attempted the following: dribbling drills, passing drills, trapping drills, small scrimmage, heading drills, and taught them how to adequately "throw-in" the ball. My description, will not do any of it justice, so let me simply say that it was chaos - utter chaos at times. And yet, somehow I did all six activities with my group. Through it all there was sign language, repetitive instruction, crazy looks and expressions, detours for discipline and reprimand (i.e. throwing rocks at each other; picking the ball up with their hands as instructed otherwise, etc), detours in asking the masses around us to back up, get away, give us room and leave our soccer balls alone, examples run by me to show them how to do what I could not say in Amharic, a somewhat constant battle. BUT, at the end of the day, for my group, I can honestly say that regardless of the chaos of it all - 1. the boys enjoyed themselves; 2. we accomplished more than one activity and I was able to "instruct" a bit along the way; and 3. they smiled and hugged and kissed me before we departed for the evening.

So, what's the measure of success?

Heavy Heart & DOING

This past weekend we got an awesome opportunity to travel 4-5 hours outside of Addis Ababa and spend quality time with Nega (Director of Onesimus) and his wife, Emebet. The weekend was designed for a three fold reason: one, Mr. McGoo and I would have a chance to see some of Ethiopia outside of the city (and capital) of Addis Ababa and get a better feel for the country as a whole, rather than a simple bird's eye view of the capital only; two, Mr. McGoo and I would get some non interrupted time to visit with Nega and Emebet, building our budding friendship even further; and three, much more importantly we could pay for a weekend getaway for Nega and Emebet - allowing them time to rest, relax, spend time together, and have a quiet time away for the Lord to recharge them again for the great and busy ministry they are running in the city.

We traveled to Lake Awassa and were able to stay at a wonderful resort. The hotel was right on the lake, with a beautiful view of the lake shown threw a glass wall surrounding the lobby. The place would have easily costs $200+ a night in the US, but we were able to get it for the weekday rate of $55USD per night, which included a gourmet breakfast (all you can eat) in the morning, access to their pool, sauna, steam room, and gym. It was a DEAL and we were able to spoil Nega and Emebet while there. We had a wonderful time all around.

As we left the comforts of Lake Awassa and began our travels back to Addis Ababa on Monday, my heart began to become heavy again. We traveled 4-5 hours through the countryside of Ethiopia, passing small town upon town built around the precious need of all people: WATER. Between towns the shoulders of the roads were filled with people walking: some walked with massive plastic jugs hoping to find a destination to refill their water jug, others walked with the livestock they kept (goats, cattle, donkeys, etc), others walked from school in their uniforms heading home to eat lunch (hopefully) before going back for the rest of the day, others sat on the side of the road hoping to sell some of the produce they had or the product they made. We passed grass houses and mud huts, often with naked little ones running around in their "yards". We passed a world that America does not know. We passed a world and a society that many do not think of as we enjoy the comfort of our couches and our HD Tv's.

The further we went and the more the images filled my heart and mind, I yearned to better understand, to love, and desired to help provide. The more we passed through these people, and through these towns, and I saw child upon child, my heart became even more burdened.... LORD - how do I help? Lord, what do you want me to do? How can I help make more opportunities? So many are not looking for handouts (although many beg without other options), so many simply want their work to lead to some sort of provision, even what we take for granted at home... WATER. They are not even asking for running water - just an opportunity to obtain CLEAN WATER, drinking water, and maybe walking less than 2 hours to get it for once. I felt the Lord stirring me again, "oh Heather, how silly are you at home... how much of my blessings do you take for granted daily?!"... and I began to think of my backpack in the back of our vehicle, currently filled with 3 chilled bottles of water that I had collected during my stay in Lake Awassa. Three bottles I would be able to replace as soon as we arrived in Addis Ababa, or even purchase again when visiting the next town. Three bottles that could make a difference to someone else.

That was all the stirring I needed - I didn't know what the Lord had for me tomorrow or how I will help and make a difference the next day, but I knew I could make a difference at that moment. I asked Nega (who was driving) to find the next child on the street that was alone (knowing I did not have enough to share with everyone, I didn't want to stop by a group). Thirty minutes to an hour later, Nega asked me if three children were okay (funny that I had 3 bottles, right - God is so good!). I quickly responded "YES" and before I knew it we were pulling to the side of the road onto the shoulder. Hysterically and thankfully, the children began to take off running away from us as soon as the car was coming to a stop. This excited me because I'd want any child to run from a stranger, even knowing their intentions... however, as we yelled to them and showed the bottled water out of the car window, one brave young girl - she was probably 7 years old, if I had to guess - made her way back to our car, snot all over her nose (a common thing, I find myself cleaning snotty noses regularly in Ethiopia, ironically I love every bit of it). Her friends/family stopped their running to watch. We handed her two bottles of water to which she smiled and quickly began to step away. We then grabbed the third and last bottle and called her back, Nega telling her that Jesus loves her and God loves her the entire time. I'm not sure that she understood Amharic, as they often speak a different language in the countryside, but I am confident of this, God called me to give, I did, and He'll provide His own word to this young girl and her family even if we do not have the correct translation that day. She smiled and walked away.

My heart smiled as we drove off, and yet I look forward to how the Lord will open up doors for me to make a difference through Him tomorrow - regardless how small or large, I'm willing. I said earlier that "I didn't know what the Lord had for me tomorrow or how I will help and make a difference the next day, but I knew I could make a difference at that moment." That's my challenge for you today - what is the Lord asking YOU to do today to make a difference for Him and those around you??? TODAY, not tomorrow, or next week? Often we get so scared or petrified by the large nature of so many things in this world (war, famine, poverty, orphans, etc) that we do NOTHING... but be confident in this, it is not within our own strength that we accomplish a good work, but God's strength within us. At the same time, God simply asks "who will go?" or "who will do?" (Isaiah 6:8), not HOW? - He will provide the way!

1 Peter 4:8-11
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully adminstering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

(We have a choppy video of the little girl and us giving her the water from the car, but for some reason trying to upload our videos onto the net depletes our internet connection greatly - therefore those will have to be shared once we're back in the States.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


So Mr. McGoo has mentioned in his blog (http://mrmcgoo.blogspot.com/2010/12/differences-walking-and-driving-in.html) that as farengies (foreigners) we get stared at quite often here in Ethiopia. However, Mr. McGoo tends to be looked at even more frequently than me and talked about too. Every Ethiopian seems to find a likeness in Mr. McGoo to a world renowned football athlete... Wayne Rooney. Everywhere we go, it is often said, "Rooney" when Mr. McGoo passes or is introduced to a new person.

For example, here are three recent examples:
  1. When visiting Lake Awassa with Nega (Onesimus Director) and his wife, Emu, we had the opportunity to meet one of Nega's younger brothers. As soon as we walked into the room for introductions, Nega's brother's first words were, "wow, Rooney!". ha ha. Hilarious.
  2. We walked to the grocery store/dinner Monday evening, on the way, as we passed some men sitting on the side of the road, one of the men pointed to Mr. McGoo, saying "Rooney!"
  3. While in the grocery store, as Mr. McGoo and I stood near the juice aisle that also sits next to the meat counter, the group of employees there (all men) began discussing something intently. Of course, I didn't have a clue what they were talking about because it was Amharic, but I understood one random word... "ROONEY", and to no surprise, when I turned around they were staring at my man.
So Mr. McGoo is not paranoid, people are looking and watching and for him, often comparing his likeness to Rooney - body type/build, lack of hair, white skin color, and partial facial hair. I think it's hilarious - Mr. McGoo isn't always laughing but he's a great sport!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lasting Change/Hope

Before arriving on Sunday, December 12, 2010, it had been six months since we last stepped foot on Ethiopian ground. It had been six months since we've seen the children that captured our hearts and God used to change us forever. It had been six months since we've been able to see for ourselves the work that Onesimus/The Forsaken Children is doing on a daily basis. And within those six months, I can testify that much has happened. Much has changed, and through Onesimus Children Development Association, the Lord is working in the lives of the children and the community at large.

Here are just two examples for you today...

You can read a little past about Desse at: http://theforsakenchildren.org/love-for-desse-%E2%80%93-it%E2%80%99s-not-easy/

Having been one of the first beneficiaries for Onesimus/The Forsaken Children, Desse has captured the hearts of many throughout the years. However, the road with Desse has been anything but easy. We have read stories over the years of his constant uncertainty for change, his running away habits, his inability to accept the love of the Onesimus staff in full, and the amazing Christ-like love that Nega and his staff have displayed that continued to pursue him against all odds. When we first met Desse ourselves in June 2010, I began to see what the TFC staff had mentioned. Although I (and most of the mission trip team) definitely fell in love with him and looked forward to seeing every smile, every laugh, and receiving every hug, it was obvious that Desse suffered from what we termed "attachment disorder". He jumped from person to person, never really settling in on one or two people to bond with... instead it was as if he looked for quick fulfillment from each person and as soon as he got bored, or maybe even felt that we cared, he'd move on to the next. Unlike most of the other children that seemed to bond specifically with one or two people, Desse seemed to always look to find the next best thing or "run away" from the attachments that were developing. Although looking happy or laughing at times, Desse never seemed really settled during our time visiting in June.

This time however, I am so happy to share that Desse is no longer the same. He is not the boy we met in June 2010, although still as lovable as ever, he is different in some very positive ways.

Wednesday evening we were able to visit with the Halfway Home boys and Desse was there. He is now living within the Onesimus/TFC Halfway Home, complete with 5 other "brothers", house parents Abezu and Alemyu, and their beautiful little girl, Beza, and little boy, Danny. As always, we had a wonderful time with this special crew of boys, but this time we met a few new additions to the home and also were able to experience the new Desse. He has obviously been changed by the unfailing and long standing love of Jesus and the Onesimus staff. I would describe him as more settled. He is undoubtedly happy and seems to be fully at ease. No longer is he jumping from relationship to relationship, but sits in the comfort of the love of his "brothers" and house parents. He greeted us warmly and gave to us small gifts - a picture of two cats he had, another cut out photo, and most impacting and generous, he gave us a photo of his family - the 6 halfway home boys together that was taken just last month. No longer does Desse seem to be afraid to give his all to others, committing himself to love them too, even if it might hurt. He has come a long way, and we have only witnessed a small bit of the long progression and transformation, but have been blessed to see the exceptional fruit of this ministry in one body - DESSE!

Desse in 2008

Desse with Jessica Bridges- June 2010
Desse - December 2010


Although relatively new to Onesimus/The Forsaken Children ministry, Aster was a part of the Girls Halfway Home when we arrived to Ethiopia in June 2010. She lived with her house mother, Fetla and at that time three "sisters", Hanna, Maeza, and Ruth (Metu is now there also). There was definitely something about Aster that softened my heart and left me with a desire to get to know her better. She did not speak much English and was withdrawn and timid throughout most of our time, although we could get her involved with prodding. She was sweet and quiet, but one could tell that the baggage and past had left her with many scars within. Turns out, prior to living at the halfway home, Aster had lived with her mother on the streets, but around the time we came (either before or after) to Ethiopia, her mother had died. Upon our first meeting of Aster, although she was beautiful, especially when looking intently at her face, it was actually difficult to tell if she was a boy or girl. Her hair was cut very short and all the clothes she possessed were boy clothes. I later learned the painful truth that often girls of the streets dressed as boys to conceal their identity in hopes of hiding from the predators that roam and corrupt at night.

The timid, withdrawn, and boyish Aster that I knew in June has been transformed over the past six months. Today I am so happy to share that she is absolutely beautiful, outgoing, and confident. She does not shy away any longer. Even though she still speaks only a bit of English, we are constantly finding inventive ways to communicate with each other and make each other laugh. I love this girl. Along with her halfway home sister, Ruth, she is my little buddy constantly by my side. She and Ruth are the first to grab my bag when they see me arrive, and the first to give me a hug. I'm so thankful for how the Lord has worked to heal Aster's wounds over the last six months His provision of love around her in the Onesimus staff.

Aster (circled in yellow)- June 2010

Beautiful Aster today with halfway home sister Hanna
Aster today showing some of her bright personality

When I think of Desse and Aster, I'm reminded of Joe's (The Forsaken Children founder) comparison to Jesus' parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Jesus tells us in this parable that even for just ONE, there is must rejoicing in heaven. Therefore, for even ONE street child to receive the lasting hope of Christ and a changed life forever, everything Onesimus and The Forsaken Children do is worth it. Even if it was just for Desse and Aster, every bit of support raised would be worth these two! But the most amazing part is, I can attest that more than these are being affected through this ministry and for that we are most encouraged and grateful! God is mighty to save!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Often people think that because we're in Africa we must be living in a tent, a mud hut, or in the bush... however, the reality is we are living quite large - ESPECIALLY compared to the common man in Ethiopia. To help everyone get a better picture of where we are and how we are living, here is a visual guide.

This is our bedroom at the SIM Guesthouse. We have our own room - such a blessing, a bed, a dresser, a closet, a desk, a side table, a window, and two lamps. The bathroom/shower situation is community style... separate stalls, but all in the same area like a summer camp. Hot water, toilets, wonderful things.

Here are additional photos I took while standing on the 3rd floor of one of the government offices. See the mountains in the distance, beautiful... and the homes all below. These are nicer homes... the last picture shows a common street home - see the blue tarp - very common. I'll work to get some additional photos maybe of the living conditions, but often you cannot understand until you see with your own eyes. We are blessed - VERY BLESSED and too often we take it for granted.

Another Day

Today (Thursday) has been a tough one for me. I did not sleep well last night, waking with a nightmare or two (odd, before last night I couldn't tell you the last time I had one of those) and unfortunately woke up with a timid and somewhat upset stomach this morning. It has continued most of the day, although I have not thrown up, nor feel as if I need to. I just feel a bit unsettled, a little nauseous, and super tired (NO - I'm not pregnant).

Desiring to hopefully work through the uneasiness of my body, I went ahead and started the day as normal. By 2pm or so, I was not feeling better. I decided to give my body what it seemed to be craving - REST. I got dropped off at the guesthouse, came up to the room and slept until Mr. McGoo arrived at 6pm (3hr nap). I'm still feeling exhausted and a bit unsettled, but am praying I'm like new in the morning.

Although I missed it, today we had our second girls football session. It was scheduled for yesterday and many girls came with great anticipation, but we had to cancel yesterday due to the length of the community coaches meeting that was behind held at Onesimus. I had a chance to sit with all the girls for a quick bit and let them know about the cancellation, the reason for it, and the expectation of tomorrow (today). I gave them an overview of what we'd work on: communication with your teammates, passing, dribbling, a few games/scrimmages, and if they were "good", I might have a prize for them. They were a little disappointed about missing Wednesday, but definitely looked forward to today. I told them that we'd "leave the boys behind and go have a good time". :)

Thankfully, Mr. McGoo took over for me today with the session. I bet he'll say a little about that on a future blog of his own, but I'm thankful that he's in the know, probably more than me anyway, and was able to utilize the time and not disappoint!

To leave today's post on a bit more positive note, yesterday (Wed), I brought out the "big" camera and started taking JUMPING PICTURES with the children and staff. HILARIOUS as always, and they ALL got a huge kick out of it. Here are some for me to share... I'm planning on trying to get copies of these printed for the folks because I have a feeling they'd be more than excited to show it off to others.

Thank you for your prayers.

Please continue to pray that there is LESS OF ME and Mr. McGoo and MORE of Christ showing through and in us to each child, adult, and random person we are in contact with. God is definitely at work and we want to be ready and available as a vessel for Him as He chooses. Thank you!

We're headed out of Addis Ababa tomorrow (Friday) to Lake Awassa with Nega (director of Onesimus) and his wife, Emu (also works in the Onesimus ministry leg/department). We are looking forward to seeing Ethiopia outside of the city of Addis Ababa. The lake is about 4 hours away and we're praying that this time not only gives us an opportunity to further invest in our relationship with these two amazing people, but that God also uses this time to recharge their batteries, spoil them a bit, offer them rest, and gives them time away from distraction to connect with each other! We should be blogging and updating while there, but just in case internet becomes touch and go we'll be gone from Friday until Monday! Until we meet again.

UPDATE: Feeling MUCH better now. Thank you for your prayers. Taking it easy, eating some dinner, and getting some liquids have seemed to make a big difference, but I imagine prayers have done the most. We've enjoyed a night skyp'ing with our little sis and TFC friends, as well as playing cards with Kelly D - she just left to head back home to the US. Please keep her and her travels in your prayers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Out of all the things that I experienced today, one thing in particular has me pondering tonight. Twice today, while driving to and from destinations I saw children playing on the street with a self made tetherball. I'm talking about finding a pole to utilize and some rope and any circular/round ball type object (never a TRUE ball, I'd imagine that is too difficult an item to find, too much a prized possession by those who have them) that could be found would be attached. They were playing what we'd call Tetherball with what they could find. It struck me the first time I saw it, but by the second I began to ache a little. How many children, heck how many adults, no let me get really real with what I was feeling, how often do I sit on my tail end and watch tv and veg like a bum, or neglect or take for granted the many forms of entertainment I have at my disposal at home - board games, card games, internet, computer games, Wii games, soccer ball to grab whenever I want, a basketball goal nearby to play, etc, etc, etc. How much have I taken for granted in my own home, while children EVERYWHERE (just gotta look outside of our own neighborhoods to find them) are grasping to use their imagination to make some sort of entertainment for themselves. Everything inside of me wanted to jump out of the car and hand them a new toy, a real ball, a coloring book, or something... but they were playing - the game was working. After my urge to jump out of the car and head their way, I realized that they were PLAYING, they were acting like children, and to see that here, out on the street even, it made me smile. Too often here, and in many places of the world, children are not given the luxury of being children very often. You have children raising other children, fending for themselves, and more horrific things than we might want to think of... but these children, in that moment, were children.

That concept is one reason (of many) I love this organization so much... not only are they working to help the community at large to be able to help themselves, not only are they providing and sharing the everlasting hope of Christ, and the many many many other things they are doing, but they also provide a chance and opportunity for the children within the ministry to be just that - CHILDREN!!!! Such a beautiful thing! How are we to come to Jesus with childlike faith or "receive the kingdom of God like a little child" , as He says in the gospel of Mark, chapter 10, if we were never granted a childhood or a moment of childlike-ness?! I'm not saying that if someone lacks a childhood then they are doomed as far as their relationship with Christ is concerned, rather I'm saying how much more beneficial for someone reading this verse to grasp the Lord's meaning of "like a child" IF and WHEN they've experienced days like a child?!!!

So that's my soapbox. Sorry. I'm not surrounded by the distractions of "daily life" in America right now, so it becomes easier at times to hear God speaking or YELLING sometimes at me - truths I know, but do I live like I KNOW?!

Today, as Mr. McGoo mentioned on his post, we were able to inventory all of the gear/donations and it was FABULOUS and such a blessing. THANK YOU - THANK YOU to all who gave. I cannot tell you how many "Wow!!!!"'s we got during our inventory. We also began our first session of Sports Ministry with the girls. And, although the session did not go as planned or the way I thought it might during our preparations, THE GIRLS LOVED IT! They were so happy. They were able to play football, they were able to go play, while the boy beneficiaries stayed behind, a role reversal for sure, and before the sessions was nearly complete, I already had many asking, "tomorrow?!". And with that in mind, I will say that today's event was awesome - regardless of how it would compare to a session on the States, it doesn't matter - the girls loved it. We had 15 participating and I wouldn't be surprised if more joined tomorrow after the others begin to talk. We focused on dribbling, passing, and trapping the ball on a "field". I'll be sure to get Mr. McGoo to snatch a photo of the "field" because EVERY descriptive thought in your brain right now is wayyyy off. But we were blessed for the square footage and the flatness of the area.

Today was a good day! May God be glorified through every little bit - less of me and more of Him! Thank you for your prayers!!! I think we both might be meeting with the government tomorrow, definitely Mr. McGoo is going. Onesimus wants to continue to show the government how serious they are about sports ministry and showing how foreigners have come to assist will help their cause and hopefully help them continue to win favor from the government. In addition, Mr. McGoo will sit in and speak at the community coaches meeting tomorrrow. Pray that as he's able to share about himself and his knowledge of sports and coaching that he'll be able to present his faith fluidly within and the Spirit can plant a seed or begin to water what has already begun! GOD IS GOOD!

Mr. McGoo and some of the kiddos that cannot get enough of him. He spent over an hour watching and playing table tennis with them, you could tell it filled them with pride to have him watching.

After the soccer session with the girls, Alemeyu - in charge of ministry and leading the sports ministry, gave the girls a good summing up discussion of the day.

Lunch time in the Drop-In Center. In Ethiopia, during lunch time, all the children leave school and go home to eat - a select few in the Onesimus ministry are selected to eat at the drop-in center should they meet the necessary need and criteria.

Faith and Deeds and Ethiopia

Monday morning, we made our way to the Drop-in Center for Onesimus. We had plans to use this day solely as a rest day and work to get our bodies up to par with the climate change, time change, etc, but we decided to begin taking baby steps in order to get our bodies into the correct time zone and schedule. We first had breakfast at the our place of residence, the SIM Guesthouse, then headed out the door about 830am (1130pm CST). The center looks so nice and clean - the team had a cleaning day a few days prior to our arrival and the hard work really showed. Because all of the children (for the most part) are in school during the day, the mornings at the Drop-in Center are a cherished and quiet time period for the staff. It is a few hours available for them to get extra work off their desks done and most importantly do a devotion time together and sing praises to God. We were able to be a part of that experience Monday morning, and I am so thankful.

The staff are currently reading through the book of James. We read chapter 2 verses 14-26. It was beautiful to hear the reading of the Word in Amharic while Mr. McGoo and I and Kelly D. followed along in our own English Bibles. I couldn't help but find myself smiling... thinking that this is what it's all about, different languages all around reading the same TRUTH and sharing in the same HOPE of Christ. Gives me chills. We had an awesome discussion, mostly in Amharic, with translations here and there and our English input at times too, regarding what James tells us about the inter-relationship between faith and deeds. It was so cool to hear the staff talk about the Ethiopian church and the challenge that they face in which many praise and sing on Sunday - looking to worship our God, but lack the praise and worship within their daily lives. We discussed how James seems to pinpoint the need for daily worship through our actions. If we believe, we should be showing that belief in physical ways. People should see our deeds and God be glorified through them. Ironic how we can say the same thing about the church in America - lots of folks in the pews - but are we changing the world? Are we as a church (am I) pursuing the things of Christ? Awesome stuff. We even discussed how it is easy for folks to desire to discount with James says here in regards to faith and deeds, because in Galatians its says "by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit", to which our friends so eloquently stated... faith and deeds are two different sides of the same coin - you cannot separate the two. YES, we are saved by faith and faith alone, however James challenges us to say if you have faith but no deeds, no fruit coming out of your life, is there really any faith at all?
SUCH GOOD STUFF and a constant challenge for me. Yeah, I'm here in Africa, in Ethiopia for 16 days... but what does my life look like the other 340+ days?! Is the Spirit pouring out of me in word and deed? And then I'm left with two statements I've read in the last day or so in the book: The Hole in Our Gospel...

"Are you willing to be open to God's will for your life?"

"...God expects us to serve Him on His terms-not ours. (Luke 9:57-62)"

So after our morning devotion with the staff at the Drop-in Center, we took time to plan a bit for the weeks ahead with Nega and Alemeyu (we call him Alex most of the time) and then we simply enjoyed the children around us. We loved on them, helped teach a few of them how to properly shoot a basketball, had my hair breaded (uhhh... crazy hair picture after the fact - taking breads out of your hair after 8 hours or so makes for a Mufasa looking fro on this white girl... think 80's crimpy look but will more poof - photo below), and ate lunch. We then headed back to the guesthouse to rest up - meaning a 3.5 hour nap for Mr. McGoo and a 2hour nap for me - much needed! We then enjoyed a great dinner with 4 of our Ethiopian friends.

Check this... you think your money cannot make a difference - here is proof how the rest of the world does not live off the same amount we do in America - we paid for the meal for all 7 of us. Seven people: one pizza, two big burgers and french fries, a club sandwich and fries, and a large traditional Ethiopian dish, 8 cokes/Sprites in a glass bottle (no free refills), 4 machiottos, and 1 tea.... ready... LESS THAN 20 USD. Seriously!

PROOF that your $5 per month to TFC (www.theforsakenchildren.org) can make an amazing difference here. We ALL have something to give, whether to this organization or another - YOU have something to give.

After dinner we made our way back to the guesthouse and Kelly D. and I enjoyed playing cards together. We both have hubbies that do not play, so an extended game of Rummy was GREAT FUN for us both. Mr. McGoo laughed at our dorkiness, but nothing is new with with that, right?

And then we experienced something more cultural than we have ever before... the three of us (me, Mr. McGoo, and Kelly D) made our way with Nega and his brother, Mande to a restaurant at almost 11pm. The city was silent as we drove, no one was to be seen, and then we arrived to this hole in the wall place. A place, in Memphis no one would go into on their own - dark, secluded, filled with people... Nega went inside first to make sure there was room and then invited as all in... although we were the only farengies (sp?- what Ethiopians call white people or foreigners) in the place, we were all there for one purpose: Arsenal vs. Manchester United football match. Kelly D. and I were the only women in the place and even though we found a small corner to sit into, we were stared at regularly until the lights were turned out for the match. It was a cool experience. A dungeon/basement like environment, complete with the musty smell and more chairs put out than the room could actually hold (US fire marshals would have had a field day with this one)... but it was fun. Intense at times as ManU scored, or Arsenal came close... fun and a true cultural experience.

So today is another day... we should start our soccer camp/sessions for the girls this afternoon. Below are some photos to share.

The staff of Onesimus on their clean up day - photo thanks to Kelly D

Coffee and Welcome Ceremony

Hanging out with some of the halfway home girls during the coffee ceremony - they didn't have school Monday

Cannot get enough of goofy pictures - the girls LOVED this face by Mr. McGoo

Mufasa, need I say more?

Star Trek photo - for Kelly D and KC

Machiotto - YUM, I love!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ethiopia Flights & Arrival

After 20 hours in a plane and a couple layovers (Chicago and Istanbul) adding additional travel time, the McGoo's are now safe and sound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is so good to be here. Everything seems so familiar as if we haven't left that long ago. Staying at the same place we did this June, the SIM Guesthouse probably has a lot to do with helping it feel like "home" and then you add the people we know and adore and it's like maybe we never left at all.

The journey here was long, but thankfully successful. We did have our fair share of interesting occurrences along the way... First, we met new friends during our Chicago layover... Kelly is the founder of Ordinary Hero (www.ordinaryhero.org) that was established in Nashville, TN and now has an international leg of their ministry also. She was traveling to Addis Ababa with her daughter, Lauren, and sister Kristi. We were told to keep an eye out for these gals by a friend, but before we knew it Kristi found me with my Amazima Ministries (www.amazima.org/) t-shirt on and we began talking before we ever knew we were the ones each other was supposed to find. As God would have it, we even had seats on the same row together for our flight to Istanbul. It was a nice treat on our journey. Unfortunately that flight didn't go as delightful as it began, and our second interesting occurrences occurred leading up to our landing. Maybe the pilot forgot to take us down to a certain altitude prior to needing to be there, or bad weather forced the issue, I'm not sure. Regardless, somehow the plane when from high to low more quickly than I've ever experienced, and to top it off at the lower level we experienced bad turbulence. So combine a quick drop with shaking and you get a bunch of uneasy stomachs rumbling. I even felt it. Unfortunately it got the best of a large number of our cabin mates and before we knew it, our new Ordinary Hero friends had someone puking in front of them - multiple, I mean multiple times - and then we had someone behind us do the same... to which I believe the entire cabin experienced here and there - wow! Thirdly, our flight from Istanbul to Addis Ababa had us sit in the plane for over an hour before they could get clearance to take off. Needless to say, we left Memphis at 430pm, headed to Chicago - arrived around 6something-pm. We took off from Chicago to Istanbul around 9-10pm, flew 10.5 hours. Had about 45min to get some coffee and walk in the Istanbul airport before boarding, sat 1 hour before departure in the plane, then flew another 5.5 hours to Ethiopia. Our flight was scheduled to arrive at 1:10am in Ethiopia... due to the delay it was 3am Sunday Ethiopia time before we hit customs and about 4am when we got settled into bed.

Now that we're here... we slept this morning from 4am-1030am... then dosed on and off throughout the early afternoon until a late lunch at 2pm. Ate with Kelly Dawson, who has been here a week already and was on our mission trip team in June. We've enjoyed lunch, a soccer match, and dinner and were able to see a few of the kids we've grown attached to during the football match. Now it's time to hit the hay. Thank you for your prayers!!!

A few photos for ya below.

Our New Ordinary Hero Friends - http://www.ordinaryhero.org/
Here are two of the halfway home girls - Aster and Hanna

Goofy Photo, What Else 

Loving on Ruth

This is what a 4am bedtime after 20+ hours in a plane and traveling more than one full day straight looks like...JETLAG

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Covered In Prayer As We Go

One of the things Mr. McGoo and I are most grateful about as we depart for our next journey to Ethiopia tomorrow is the reality that we know we are covered in prayer as we go. Friends, family, Sunday School classmates, coworkers, and beyond are calling on the Lord to do His will throughout our time in Addis Ababa. There is a peace and a comfort that comes with such covering.... being reminded that it's not about us, nor about our power to accomplish anything... such freedom in that, because we know how unequipped we can be. We are so thankful.

Above is the prayer list we've put together and sent out for our time in Ethiopia... listing specific ways we are asking God to move during the next 16-26 days. Thank you for lifting those items up.

While thinking of prayer and how thankful and blessed we are to have such a strong support group around us, lifting us and The Forsaken Children/Onesimus ministry up, I came upon this chapter of John... as I read over these words in scripture... my heart began to smile. I'm so thankful for God's promises and how He is always with us!

Thank you for your prayers!

John 17

 1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:    “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
    6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.   13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
    20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.   24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
   25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”