Our amazing mission team departed for Addis Ababa this yesterday morning. As I write they should be landing after a long 16 hour flight. They will head to the Ethiopia Guest Home for a quick shut eye and then back to the Addis airport to travel to Entebbe. Please pray for their strength and stamina as they then travel 3 hours to Jinja.
As you can see by these photos, the team packed over 60 bags full of shoes from Soles 4 Souls for 400 orphans and 400 of these precious hand made sock dolls. This Saturday will be the best day for these children at Amazima as each one get a brand new pair of shoes and a new doll. (I'm sure the older boys may give their to their little siblings. ;)) The grace and favor of God stayed on the crew as the United staff here at the Nashville airport allowed 4 additional bags for check in with no cost. I'm amazed at how much this happens for Visiting Orphans on our trips. It's such confirmation that God is the author of these trips and He so desires these supplies to get to the children. The picture of the team is of the 13 team members (plus one videographer) who were all leaving from Nashville. They met the rest of the team in the Dulles airport.
Britt and I will head over tomorrow morning, but our trip will be many hours longer as we did not get to fly on Ethiopian airlines. We will be traveling through Chicago, then to Amsterdam, Nairobi and then finally to Entebbe. We were eager to meet up with the team in Jinja and so we are flying on KLM. I bought 3 great books so as not to just feast on the free movies that the airlines offers. My book list consists of Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue", Bruce Wilkinson's new book, "You Were Born For This" and John Bevere's new book, "Extraordinary". I am looking forward to filling up with God's word on this trip before being poured out on His behalf as I get to love on these children.
I will do what I can to blog as I am in Africa. Can't wait to share our video we are producing about our trip and the pictures and stories when we return!
I am gearing up for another trip to Uganda. This time I will be joined by CMA artist, Britt Nicole. Britt was inspired by the Orphan's Ticket Home gala that was held in August. This will be Britt's first time on a mission trip and the first time to visit orphans or Africa. We have such a heart full of expectation about what God is going to do on this trip. Bethany Haley, Executive Director of Exile International and great friend of mine will be joining us on this trip as well. It's so neat that God is sending the three of us to Africa together. Little did we know when this picture was taken what God had in mind just a few months later.
My wonderful supportive husband, Simon will be leading a team of 31 people for Visiting Orphans. They are also going to Uganda and we will meet up with them in Jinja on January 3rd, spend a few days workign with Amazima ministries and Canaan Children's Home and then head to Gulu with Bethany's ministry to work with former LRA child soldiers. Bethany's ministry uses dance and art therapy to minister to their traumatized hearts and I'm so ready to be a tool for God to use in this way...
The trip itinerary will look like this:
January 1st, 2010 - Leave the Nashville airport for Entebbe, Uganda.
January 2nd - Arrive in Entebbe
January 3rd to 5th - Jinja working with Amazima & Canaan's
January 5th - Entebbe
January 6th to 11th - Gulu working with Village of Hope
January 12th - Home
Already our home has received 400 pairs of shoes from Soles 4 Souls for the 800 little feet that Katie Davis sponsors through her Amazima ministry. Tomorrow I am picking up 400 sock dolls for these children which were created by another ministry. We've also received 40 Christmas gifts for the street boys in Addis for Simon to take on his trip. Another team member has created 8 full size soccer goals by hand for these same street boys. I can't wait to see the faces on these little boys when they finally get REAL soccer nets! Please keep us in your prayers..that God would send us all in safety and that we would all be willing to step out of comfort zones and be used by Him in every way He desires....
We are so filled with love during the Christmas season as our loved ones pour into us and us into them. Usually we return to the New Year with that wonderful warm fuzzy full feeling that we are loved, secure and that we have a family to call home. But not for everyone…. Millions of children around the world don’t even know it’s Christmas or what in the world that could mean to them. Would you give this love in your heart away in 2010 by traveling to pour it into the orphans of this world?
If so, Visiting Orphans, a mission sending agency, needs you. They have designed trips to lead teams into orphanages all over the world with just this purpose in mind. When you travel with them to Ethiopia you even get to help work at the America World transitional home. They are also offering two trips to Southern China’s Hunan Region! You could return to the region where you once adopted or hope to and invest in the children who may never have the opportunity for a family. You can also visit the wonderful ministry of Amazima on a trip to Uganda. Or visit the children in the port town of Limon, Costa Rica this March who rarely, if ever receive teams to help.
Visiting Orphans is also leading trips to Ecuador, Ghana, Rwanda, El Salvador and Honduras. To learn more or join a Visiting Orphans trip, please click here .
Surfers and tourists who travel to the beautiful, remote beach town of El Sunzal, El Salvador often pass by the large metal gate of the Remar orphanage. Unbeknownst to them, hidden behind barbed wire and a foreboding entrance is the evidence of a God who heals; children who laugh, run, play and care for one another. These children have been placed in the orphanage because of abuse or abandonment. Their stories are so disturbing that at times I could not translate them to our team members. They have suffered broken bones, attacks by family members and abuse that is grueling to recount, yet their smiles are beautiful, their laughter contagious, andtheir community is indescribable. These children live in a safe world, protected from the poverty and cruelty they have suffered. They are the children of the "Ciudad de Los Ninos" orphanage and each one of them has captured my heart.
We were amazed by their countenance - they were kind, loving, affectionate and hard working. Each child diligently cleaned and did their chores daily. They never argued, fought or complained. They taught us how to worship and how to pray. We listened to toddlers' bedtime prayers (some praying for over 5 minutes) with grateful hearts and passionate prayers to the Lord they love to worship. It was absolutely precious.
One of the highlights of my trip was being called an "angel" and "answer to prayer." The orphanage director described how she often cries out to God when the kitchen is bare, the children need new shoes, and she can not afford to pay the electrical bill. Then God responds and sends "angels" to meet their needs. Our team arrived with $12,000 in cash, 8 suitcases filled with gifts, and arms ready to hold each child, listen to their stories, tickle, laugh and play. We felt honored to bring hope and encouragement from their brothers and sisters in America. We were privileged to purchase a stove, refrigerator and table for the newly built baby house (which will soon house 20 infants). We purchased more than 2,000 pounds of rice and beans, sugar, kitchen supplies, toiletries, baby food, oil, spices and toys.
One of my favorite stories was the time we spotted an orange truck in the market and began to barter for oranges. After a long, dramatic experienceof negotiating (which involved driving away and being chased down by theorange truck driver), we purchased the ENTIRE truck load (7,620 oranges) for$300. The truck followed us into the orphanage, and the staff and children were practically dancing as the truck rolled in (they can rarely afford tobuy fruit for the kids). Another night we ordered pizza for 150. Most of the children had never eaten pizza. Needless to say, it was the best pizza party ever! We had tearful good byes, but sense that we will each return one day. We also had unbelievable meetings with key government officials, including the Attorney General, who oversees adoption in El Salvador. God opened doors for us through unplanned circumstances and we were treated like dignitaries. We expressed our concerns over the plight of the orphans of their country, our personal adoption experiences, and at the request of the Attorney General herself, laid our hands on her back and prayed over her.
I truly felt like Esther in the throne room of the King. We also met with the attorney who is handling our adoption cases. We were encouraged and discouraged, amazed and exhausted, surprised and overwhelmed all at the sametime. It was an unforgettable day of "divine appointments" and we know thatGod orchestrated all of this for our future children, other waiting adoptive families and all those who defend the cause of the orphan.
I can not begin to express the gratitude I feel for your love, support andpartnership on this trip. As I mentioned time and time again at theorphanage, the true "angels" were YOU, my supporters in the United Stateswho gave so generously. On behalf of Carolina, Juan, Beatriz, Wilson,Antonio, Ana, and the precious children of the Ciudad de Los Ninosorphanage, I want to say thank you. We are already considering what theLord has in store for future trips. We know this story is to be continued...
If this story has inspired you and you would like to go and help the orphans in El Salvador like Jenni has, you can join Visiting Orphans next trip this March from the 6th to the 13th.
I just realized that I never posted a blog about this awesome career change I've had. Through the sovereignty of God, I have accepted a position as Executive Director at Visiting Orphans. Visiting Orphans is a wonderful mission sending agency. We send mission teams to orphanages all over the world. We also aim to set up U.S. churches in partnerships with orphanages. I seriously think I have the best job in the world. It's so neat to look back through this blog from the first trip I led. VERY little did I know that God has a much bigger plan in store for me! I have learned that volunteering for Him can bring you GREAT opportunities in time....
However, this job also brings a heavy heart with it. I get emails daily from people trying to start orphanages are others who are already in charge of orphanages. They need help! Their emails break my heart. There is one in Ecuador where the government has cut off their funding, so their staff are quitting. The woman there doesn't know how they are going to feed the children. Then, there is a man in Haiti who takes care of three orphans now and wants to bring in more, yet doesn't have the funding.
I know my place is at the throne of God, on my knees. That is where the direction and power reside. I can't pretend I have all the right tools to make this happen. But I know that God sees the least of these and hears their cries. I pray He divinely connects me daily. With the right church, the right people and the right ways. We need more people to GO! I can't believe sometimes that at the end of the day I am still looking for individuals to just take a few precious days out of their lives to go and love on these children. That is what blows my mind.
Lord, help me get the word out about these trips. Send the right people. May Visiting Orphans get to the point that we are having to turn people away because our trips are so full. Pour out your rain Father and bring the workers. The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are so few!
I was looking online today for the contact information for Canaan's Children Home, one of the orphanages we spent time at on our last trip to Uganda and came across this article right as it was posted. Since I've been there I know this is not a sham. They had a large fire in their older girls dorm. Please consider giving to help them rebuild. We will be there for 3 days on our next VO trip in December as well...
Our last mural was Noah's Ark on the front of the new classroom wall. We finished it just in time for the rain, which was so funny..we were painting the last few details of Noah's Ark as the rain came gently down...listening to the thunder as it approached. So God.
My time this week really was heart breaking and good. I had more time to rest than normal...time to hear from God and to speak to Him. Sickness can be a good interruption in our lives. It makes us take inventory of our lives. What is really important?
But my small one day of sickness paled in comparison to the babies I met who were struggling to stay alive from severe malnutrition or fighting against sepsis as it set in. We laid hands on these babies and fought for them spiritually as much as could and we cried with them. I still cry with them. Their high fevers and swollen bodies. Their lifeless questioning, pleading eyes. The children who loved us and we left. The therapy my heart received as I sat with children who were kissing my hands and noticing every small detail on my body, from the hair on my arms (they do not have hair on their body), to the color of the blood vessels through my skin, my painted toe nails and freckels... They tried on each piece of jewelry I had, ran their hands through my hair over and over again.
Many times we just sat together...I was therapy to them as their hearts yearned for a mother and they were therapy to me as my mother's heart needed them. I felt so much love from them and I pray they felt this love in return. I was only a substitute for that one day until their true adoptive moms could be there to finally hold them forever.
I feel revived, hurt, upset, confused, happy to be home and scared to not return.
As I close, I realize we never painted the rainbow that went over Noah's Ark. The promise...the promise that is so important to these children - that God has heard their prayers and He has shown up and promised them a family. That will be my goal the next time I visit...to add the rainbow and bible verses to the walls of the home.
Thank you for your encouragement and prayers as we traveled and reveled in God's love for these children. It was a holy and precious time. Remember adoptive parents, it is a HOLY moment when you meet your adopted child for the first time. You are bringing heaven to earth in that moment in a glorious example of what Christ did on the cross for us.
I just remembered this poem called The Invitation and feel I am to share it with you:
It doesn't interest me what kind of job you've got, where you eat or where you shop or the make of car you drive
It doesn't interest me how big a house you own, what I really want to know is what makes you feel alive.
I don't want to talk about how your future is all planned out; that isn't what it's all about to me.
Tell me what you ache for,
tell me what you wait for,
tell me what you long for,
what your holding on for,
tell me what your dreamin,
what will give your live real meaning,
what you've been afraid to pray for,
tell me what you ache for....
It doesn't interest me if your planets align, your signs are well defined and your career is right on track.
It doesn't interest me if your faithful and your true, if you're not true to you, then where's the truth in that.
So I don't want to waste our time comparing all our stars and signs; that's not what I think makes you shine, you see.
Tell me what you ache for,
tell me what you wait for,
what you long for,
what your holding on for,
tell me what your wishin,
if you feel like something is missing,
that somehow you've been saved for...tell me what you ache for..
Tell me what you are dreamin,
what will bring your life real meaning,
what deep down your heart breaks for...tell me what you ache for....
So far we have painted 3 out 4 murals in the America World Ethiopia Transitional Home. The one featured is in the main lobby and older babies room. Then we have them in the toddler room and baby infant room. We are getting the wood floors refinished and moving out the front wall of the classroom, giving the kids more space and light. I had the unique experience today of being admitted into an Ethiopian hospital. I was suffering from dehydration and stomach flu symptoms. I have to tell you this hospital (the Korean hospital in Addis) was faster than an American hospital and they took great care of me. SO many people in the hospitals in Addis though. They are every where...I hated thinking of the people who couldn't afford to go to the emergency room when they felt like I did. The bill for the whole day in the ER was only $30 as opposed to thousands of dollars in the U.S., yet still, so many street kids and families would never be able to afford this.
There's a sweet lifeless little baby in the transitional home who hasn't been referred who has pneumonia. Please lift this baby up for healing. The kids are the most amazing children. There's one little 5 year old boy who just stands quietly and watches us as we paint. He loves to be held and to hold hands when I walk somewhere. I'm glad he's been referred or I'd be a goner to adopt him ASAP. I'm telling you, the babies are amazing, but those little children capture your heart. They always look so sad when we leave for the day even when I assure them that their mommies and daddies are coming very soon and they can't wait to take them home.
We are ordering new bunk beds that are 3 beds in height so that the boys and girls have room in their bedroom and baby beds that aren't metal for the home. If you'd like to help us, you can do so here. www.orphanstickehome.org.
The prepatory work for decorating the America World Ethiopia Transitional Home has begun for the us. We (me, my sister Robin and a friend named Lacrecia) are traveling to Addis Ababa tomorrow. As you can see a primer base is being painted. They moved the babies into another room so we can paint their room with gorgeous murals that an adoptive mom out of Utah is greating for us! God has really given her creative ideas and a joy for this work. We also hope to change some of the light fixtures in the home (unless you like this disco ball light fixture! :)) and buy material to sew window treatments.
We'd still like to raise about $5K more to be able to refinish the wood floors and purchase the lighting fixtures needed. You can donate to this endeavor here. Please be sure to note that your donation is for "Decorating the Ethiopia Transtitional Home".
Also, Visiting Orhans, a mission sending agency that I now work for is sending another team to Addis in November. This team will help with any work on the Ethiopia Transitional Home that this current team is unable to complete. If you'd like to go and help, you can apply online here. Craftsmen, electricians and anyone with creative ideas is welcome!
Last Saturday was amazing. The Gala was beautiful in every way...gorgeous black and white decor with red rose bouquets atop tall clear glass vases...pictures of adopted children all over. The music was so perfect and Britt Nicole loved on our guests in every way. By the music she chose, the stories she told and the way she loved her Father. Each guest received a airline "ticket" when they arrived that directed them to a country. They found their table by finding their country as each table was assigned a different country. Their name tags were pilot wings. I opened up with a story about Nicolas Winton. It is the first story I can find in history that details international adoption, except it wasn't called adoption, it was called rescuing children. Nicholas saved almost 700 children from the Nazi death camps in 1939 as a 29 year old single man. I shared his story with the crowd and showed a clip of him meeting a room full of the orphans he saved as now adults. It's a very powerful story of how we can all have an inheritance like this if we help orphans. Tom Davis shared his story of adopting his daughter from Russia and what life is like for an orphan in an orphanage and how if everyone in the church would adopt a child, there would be no more orphans! Then, Aster, the Founder of Kids Care orphanage shared her vision for the primary school she is trying to build for the children in poverty in her community. Dan Coley closed with an extremely touching message about having passion and being completely surrendered to God in life. The night ended after Aster auctioned off her personal gold bracelet bringing in over $700 for it! I will miss my time with America World and the opportunity to share about orphans and adoption in this way. I love giving worship and glory to God by setting up amazing events like these. In the end, no matter how much money we made, I KNOW it was a sweet aroma to Him and an offering that pleased His heart. May his heartbeat for the orphan now resonate in the attendees that gathered that night. Lord, do not let the enemy steal the seed that was sown this night..I pray it fell on good ground and not rocky ground. Ground that you prepared and are now watering through future messages. Thank you for the last five years at America World. I loved the walk with you I had...traveling all over the U.S. each weekend to share your heart for the orphans with new prospective families. Meeting new children as they are recently adopted and witnessing the joy in the families. May this time in my life never be stolen and may I be a good steward of all you shared through it with me. I offer it back to you..may I be a beautiful instrument in your hand for Visiting Orphans.
Tom Davis, Author of Fields of the Fatherless, a wonderful book about God's heart for the orphan will be speaking at our Orphan's Ticket Home Galas in Atlanta, Nashville, and Stockton, CA. You can read more about this speaking engagment and see what Tom said about America World and our Gala's here.
Our Guest Artist will be Sparrow Recording Artist, Britt Nicole! You can register for this event here.
This year our mission team hit a big snag on their travel to Africa. We all got to the Dulles airport just fine, boarded the plane to Addis and then after sitting in the plane for five hours, unboarded and found out the flight had been completely cancelled. They put us up in a nice hotel room and we left for Addis almost 24 hours later. Needless to say we lost the first day of our mission trip and we didn’t understand why God would allow that, other than to give us a good night of sleep before heading out on this mission.
Well, it all made sense as we arrived to the Ethiopia Guest Home, where our team calls home while we are in Addis. As we pulled into the courtyard of the home, we saw this young man doubled over in pain and many of his friends and neighbors surrounding him and helping him walk. We were alarmed but proceeded to get our bags into the house, etc. As we looked around the house and chose our rooms, some of us went out onto the balcony and could see that this man was still hurting and had sat down while his friends tried to get water down his throat. So, I mentioned that the guys ought to go and help and pray for him…and off they went. Ignited to do God's will wherever it may reveal itself! These guys are so awesome! So sensitive to the Spirit and wiling to be used by Him!
Nate, Chris, Simon, Zack and Dave all gathered around this young man to see what was going on. Nate, Chris and Simon, who had joined us on last year’s trip immediately recognized him! In this huge city of Addis it was the same young man who had assisted our driver last year on our bus! Chris picked him up and carried him to our car, while Dave who is a surgeon began asking him questions about how he was suffering. Simon and the rest of the guys, Dave included, all prayed over him and sent him to the hospital with some of the Birr (money) that our group had collected in donations.
The next day we heard that he began to feel better even on the way to the hospital and that one of the staff of the Guest Home took him to lunch and he was asking her questions about the Lord!
So, God is always right on time! If we had come even one minute earlier, we may not have witnessed this scene and been called to action. We are so thankful for interruptions like these on our trips. We look for these “invitations” to get involved. It was even the first time for some of these men to pray in public and lay hands on someone. That is one of the things I love about a mission trip! It will always take us out of our comfort zones and it will cause us to live out the Gospel we all know so well.
Now that I am home I will be blogging about my past days in Africa. On the last night I asked every team member what was their most memorable moment. Here is mine:
One was when we spent the day at the Mother Theresa Orphanage in Ethiopia. This orphanage has about 400 kids with HIV. The number is staggering and a very small percentage of these children are ever adopted. It is one of the most hopeless places we visit as a mission team.
The guys played football, aka, soccer with the older boys while most of the women led the children in songs and arts and crafts. While I was working with one set of kids, Audrey cried out my name. When I turned to see what was the matter, she was trying to help a little 4 year old kid out of a ditch. He had been pushed by another child head first into this rock ditch and blood was running all down his face and onto his hand, while he cried in pain. Without thinking, I picked him up immediately and rushed him to the clinic that was on this large compound. I was with a volunteer there and she asked me if I had any open wounds. I had not even thought about that. Not once did I hesitate to not pick him up b/c he had HIV. Thankfully it never crossed my mind! However, in that moment, the danger of this virus and the threat of it scared me. I quickly realized there was no concern as I did not have an open wound, and I laid my head against his bloody head and tried calming him and comforting him. It seemed to work. Pretty soon the nurse took him and laid him on their table. He was crying as she pressed on his head. She uttered something to him in amharic and he quickly stopped crying. I was amazed as she put disinfectant on his sore and he didn't let out a peep. I myself would have been crying and carrying on. So, I asked her what she said and my heart broke with her answer. She told him, "if you keep crying, I will not help you and you will get an infection". So, no matter how hard she pressed, he did not let out a sound. You know this tiny boy wanted a Mama during this time. Someone to let him cry. Someone to kiss his wounds. Someone to reassure him he will be okay.
Most orphans NEVER have someone to pick them up when they fall, or to kiss them, or to comfort and hold them. They either go uncomforted or are hushed like this nurse did to him. I excused myself from the room as for me even, it was too painful to watch. Pretty soon, he found me in the multitude of children and grabbed my hand. He was such a quiet and shy boy that even the interpreters couldn't get him to talk, so I don't know what he thought. But he did manage to say that his head was still hurting. Then all the sudden he left with all the other children to go to lunch. He didn't look back..he just walked away. That was a sad moment for me too. I realized that they are used to visitors coming and going and never seeing them again. He didn't even bother to say good-bye. Why bother...there's no hope in it for him.
Later that night I laid awake in tears as I realized he could have had a concussion and no one looked into that chance. I was so worried. So, Simon and I prayed for him until we couldn't stay awake any longer. If you think about him, please continue to pray for him. I wish I could tell you his name. I am more than ashamed that I do not know it. He just wouldn't talk though. I completely plan to visit him in January when I return. I will let you know how that reunion goes...
Follow along as I take this mission seriously and minister to the orphans in this world.
Visiting Orphans...It pretty much speaks for itself. Our lives are made to give away to others and I love it that helping orphans is pure and undefiled religion! Follow along as I take God seriously about this mission and minister to the orphans in this world. He is constantly at work in our lives..we just sometimes have to shift our perspective to notice Him. I pray you will hopefully see Him in the words and pictures below..through my perspective.
This blogpage follows the mission trips I lead to minister to orphans in this world. I am the Executive Director of a mission sending agency called Visiting Orphans. (www.visitingorphans.org) I believe my mission in life is similar to the President of Compassion International, Dr. Wes Stafford. In his book, "Too Small to Ignore" he says, "On one side of this international bridge, my role is to minister to the poor, to the orphans, to "comfort the afflicted." And then I cross the bridge, coming back to the Western, more affluent world, where my job is to speak and write and to "affict the comfortable" to call them to action." Loving people on both sides of the spectrum...
I pray that something in my words or pictures will inspire you to reach out beyond yourself...to GO and help the "least of these".