It's taken me so long to get back to these posts because I knew that Day 5 would be a long one (so long that I'm going to divide it up).
We know how lucky we are as sponsors to be able to travel to Ethiopia and meet our sponsor kids and we wanted to connect sponsors and their kids as much as possible while we were there.
I hope these next few posts will give you all a glimpse into what we experienced.
As we crossed the street to enter the gates of the I Care for the Nations care point, we could hear the children chanting with excitement in anticipation of our arrival. I'm pretty sure we all teared up a bit at the sound. We were welcomed with a flood of cheerful faces and before I knew it this sweet boy was in my arms.
Meet Besufakad, our sponsor boy. He just celebrated his 8th birthday and he is an absolute delight. He's a perfect blend of sweet and rambunctious all mixed up in one.
A moment later, his beautiful mother Genet (which means "heaven" and is totally appropriate for her) came up to meet us. More about this amazing lady in another post.
We all moved through the crowd of kids to find our special little someones. Aimee and her girls. I mean two of the most beautiful girls you've ever seen.
Cherie and one of her kiddos, precious little Bezawit.
A view of the crowd from above. Little did we know (well, we kind of knew) how crazy this crowd would get (not crazy, crazy, but crazy like there are a whole lot of them and not that many of us and we were in a relatively small space). Like I often say about my own herd of children, they need a field. Literally. Like these kids need a field to run and play in. This is part of the long term vision for I Care for the Nations that I am praying big time will one day come fruition for them.
We had planned for this day for months and now we were finally standing in the middle of the place that God had picked for us before we ever knew it existed. For some of us, Ethiopia has been a part of our lives for many years. Ever since my first trip to Ethiopia in 2010, a piece of my heart resides there. I can't fully explain it and it's hard to understand unless you've been, but once you go, I think it becomes easy to see what I mean. It has changed me and I am so thankful that God has expanded my view of the world through this beautiful country and it's people.
After that first trip, I knew that God was asking for more from me and my family. We were now aware of the needs and we were required to act (Proverbs 24:12).
Thus started our adventure with sponsorship.
|Devin with Abenet|
God brought us to Children's HopeChest shortly after that and the rest is history. We've had the amazing opportunity to be sponsors of a child at a Children's HopeChest care point, Trees of Glory, for 5 years. Through that relationship we were able to see that God was using Children's HopeChest to change lives, strengthen families, disciple kids and provide for their most basic needs. And it makes a difference.
|Eyrusalem and Jeanie|
So when our church decided to partner with Children's HopeChest to help support a new care point in Ethiopia, I couldn't have been more excited. This care point is in the very early stages and the staff at I Care for the Nations are doing amazing things.
But there is much work to be done.
|Cherie and Mikayis. This little one holds a special place. Just love him!|
The children served here are among some of the most vulnerable in the city of Addis. Most come from single mother households which puts them at higher risk of suffering from the affects of poverty. Some have witnessed or experienced domestic violence, the affects of substance abuse, HIV and other illness, and many other painful and traumatic circumstances that nobody should have to endure.
Despite these challenges, these children, mothers and families radiate joy. It is one of the things I love the most about being in Ethiopia, the beautiful and resilient spirit of its people.
|Heidi and Yared|
|Jeanie and Abel|
So we had all these great plans for how we would get all of our tasks done, spend time with the kids, learn more about this amazing ministry and document our time so we could share it with you. We started by lining up the kids so we could pass out name tags (the stick on "hi my name is___" kind). We had raised money to provide each child a new outfit and pair of shoes. These items were ordered in country and I love this. HopeChest is very conscientious about how they "help" and one of the things they encourage is purchasing items in country as a way to boost the local economy. So when you donated to the clothing fund, the kids at I Care benefited and the local businesses benefited.
Anyway, the kids patiently waited for their clothes and shoes to be distributed.
Some of them were definitely in need of a new pair.
This older group of girls was absolutely precious.
The fun part about the clothing distribution is that the kids wanted to put them on right away. So they did (this kicked up the crazy a couple of notches). Just picture over 100 kids trying on new clothes and shoes (shoes that needed to be laced). The most fun part was that when they began to change clothes, they peeled those nice little name tag stickers off. We quickly realized we were in trouble, especially after we realized that the kids were putting on matching clothes. So not only did they no longer have name tags on, they also now all looked alike.
Lesson number one when doing a mission trip in Africa (and really, it's a good lesson anywhere) plan well and then plan for your plan to not go as planned and be flexible. I'm super awesome about being flexible (ok, so I'm so not good at this. I like my plans to go as planned!).
Plan B: markers.
We busted out the markers and we were able to salvage the situation. The kids thought having a number on their hand was a pretty cool thing, so it all turned out alright.
It was fun to see all of the kids dressed in their cozy jumpsuits and new shoes. It's rainy season in Ethiopia now, so these clothes came at just the right time to keep these kiddos warm through the cool nights ahead.
Up next, we had great plans to have three groups rotating through care package, arts and crafts and game centers. This kind of turned into a semi controlled mob scene in which care packages did get given out, arts and crafts did get completed and games were played.
Stay tuned for this part of our day.