Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Beloved One

I set out on this trip to Gondar, not really knowing what to expect.  One thing I knew was there were two babies there who I believed God had directed me to sponsor and pray specifically for.  And I'm so thankful that they are being lovingly cared for at Bridges of Hope. After just a week in their care, these babies appeared healthy and bright eyed.

This beautiful girl is named Tsion (for Zion, the holy city in Jerusalem).  

I was able to hold her and feed her and see her sweet smile.

This is Alazar whose name means "God is my help."

It is a fitting name given the circumstances of his first 6 months of life.

Although they are not related, they were left at the same hospital and have been cared for side by side since birth.  They share a story that has hardship that has brought them both to Bridges of Hope where they are now being nurtured.

I think they have the most beautiful features and look forward to watching them grow.

Names are important and in Ethiopia, children are typically thoughtfully given names that have a certain meaning.  This is why it is important for me to note the meanings of Tsion and Alazar's names.

While I was expecting to have an affection towards them, I was not expecting to have my heart completely stolen by this precious girl.

After just 3 days, I have such an overwhelming love for her that I know it comes from the Lord.

She essentially chose me.  Her smiley little self came up to me on day one and climbed in my lap, and that was that.  We were friends.  She followed us around, lifting her little arms up for me to hold her and was sunk.

Each day she would find me.

Her story is so unbearably hard and her given name had  such a negative meaning. She arrived at Bridges of Hope just 8 months ago.  I was shocked, because given her history, you would not expect her to be so happy and loving.

I was informed that upon her arrival, she was prayed over and given the new name, Tewadaj, which means "the beloved one."  The healing she has experienced is miraculous.

As we left on the second day, I told her I would be back the next day to play again.

When we arrived, I learned she was at school.  I was so disappointed that I would not get to see her again to tell her goodbye.

Just before we left, she came bursting in, home for lunch and rest time.  

Such a sweet girl.

Using all of my Amharic words.
I was so thankful for one last snuggle and can't wait to return to visit her, the "twins" and all of the other children that we met.

My beloved one, Tewadaj.

Special Needs

On Thursday, Jeanie, Aimee and I arrived shortly before the other girls, so we headed downstairs to the rooms that are home to two sweet special needs boys, Nardos and Makbeal.  The two boys are lovingly cared for by their "mothers," two committed ladies who nurture them daily.

They both struggle with disabilities that affect their mobility as well as their ability to chew and swallow and communicate.  

I first saw this picture of Nardos a couple of months ago and couldn't wait to 
scoop him up in my arms.

He is such a handsome boy!

At age 3, he is quite small and suffers from cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. 

 He let me examine him, 

and even smiled, 

until I flipped him on to his belly and then he let us know that he did not approve!

I treasure the time I had with him.

Jeanie spent some sweet time with 4 year old Makbeal who suffers from hydrocephalus and seems to have some respiratory concerns as well.

We got him up in a chair so that he could play and interact better.  

He loved it!

I've mentioned that medical needs are especially hard for me, because as a pediatric nurse practitioner, my natural tendency is to make things better, too fix the problem and help each child reach their full potential.

I firmly believe that every life has value and that we should do everything possible to ensure that these boys, as well as the other special needs kids at Bridge of Hope, have the highest quality of life.

I commend the mothers for the way they care for these children.  
It is exhausting as they are often crying and discontent.  
They require round the clock care.

At one time, a physical therapist was coming weekly to work with the children, but because of lack of funding, therapy is not possible at this time.

I awoke in the middle of the night on my first night back in the States researching their conditions and various therapy chairs and equipment that may help them.  There is so much that could be done to improve their daily routines.  I am heartbroken at the thought that they have not been able to receive therapy that could greatly improve their lives.

We are reaching out to any contacts who may be able to collaborate with us to provide the care they need both here and in Ethiopia. Please contact me if you have any connection or expertise in this area, therapy equipment or pediatric wheel chairs that you'd be willing to send over on our next trip.

We also met several kids that we are working to refer to local hospitals for care. With so many needs, it is hard to know where to begin, but we have already seen God provide in amazing ways for these children and I know that he brought us to them so that we could advocate for their needs. I am praying with eager expectation of what God will do for them and through them and invite you do the same.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my 
requests before you and wait expectantly. 
Psalms 5:3

Monday, April 15, 2019

April 11, 2019, Ethiopia Day 3

Day two in Gondar was designated as the community day.  Misikir had told us of the destitute condition that much of the community lives in.  Many children are in desperate need of basic care.  We have seen over the years how successful sponsorship programs and the Berta program at Hope for Korah have been in improving the quality of life of children and relieving some of the burden of their families and we were excited to meet the 54 children that have been assigned to us.  

Helping in this way is especially close to my heart as this type of support helps to keep kids in their families and out of orphanages.
Families walking up the hill to be registered.

Waiting patiently for their turn.

Some of these kids are being raised by relatives and even neighbors and many by single moms who struggle in day laboring jobs making barely enough to keep the family alive. 

They were in significantly worse condition than the kids we had met the day before.  Many of their shoes were worn completely through.

Many of them had medical needs that needed to be addressed and all were malnourished. One boy had a medical need requiring immediate attention to prevent the spread of a potentially life-threatening infection.  

We were able to send him to the local clinic to receive the treatment he needed for just $2.  Such a small amount for us, but it makes a life changing difference in Ethiopia.

Despite all of their challenges, so much beauty and resilience filled the room.


The overwhelming desire to help these children laid heavy on us as we completed the profiles of all 54 children.  

We left dreaming big about the ways God will use all of us to impact this group of children and even more determined to get them the support that they desperately need.

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 
Psalm 15:2

April 10, 2019 Ethiopia day 2

We awoke to the chanting of the Orthodox church priest and the sound of diesel trucks and taxis starting the days work.  After breakfast, we loaded up and headed further up the mountain to the Bridge of Hope Compound.  Bridge of Hope, the organization we will be partnering with, was started by a Swiss couple 18 years ago.  They have a large sloping property that houses a school as well as the orphanage.  The view from the top of the property is breathtaking.

We were welcomed with introductions, songs and prayer and greetings from many of the house mothers and children.  We took a tour of the facility and quickly realized this was no ordinary orphanage.  

The buildings are arranged into homes so that one mother is able to care for up to 8 or 9 children.  They all live together in their home which includes three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom.  

Many of these house mothers have dedicated the past 16 years of their lives to raising these orphaned children as their own and take great pride in their work.  It is the best possible model as it provides family units instead of the typical institutionalized care for these children.  You could tell the difference that this type of care makes instantly.  The children are thriving and are well cared for and clearly loved.

Of course, we fell in love with the kids.  

They are all so precious.  

A few special ones decided to befriend us.  

My precious Tewodaj, whose name means “beloved,” has a story that is so unimaginably hard, yet after only 8 months at Bridge of Hope, is overflowing with love and beams with joy.  

It is truly miraculous.

This facility cares for several special needs children and receive one to one care from their loving house mothers. This mother’s name "patient" and could not better describe how she cares for sweet Nardos.  Their dedication to these children is truly remarkable.

Over the years, donor support for Bridge of Hope has dwindle. Last year, they operated at a 30% deficit which created quite a challenge for them.  Staff have gone unpaid, protein in the diet has become scarce and they have struggled to keep up with the mounting demands of raising the approximately 80 children in their care.

Because they are the best orphanage and school in the area, the government often refers kids to their facility.  Just within the last month, 5 new babies were admitted, including these two, my “twins.” 

I was delighted to meet Alazar and Tsion, the two babies that I am sure God placed on my heart to pray for  6 months ago.

We spent the rest of the afternoon profiling the 28 kids from the orphanage that we have been given to advocate for.  It was amazing to learn about them and hear what they like to do and what their hopes and dreams are.

This sweet boy asked for prayer for the healing of his legs.  We are looking into ways to help him and several of the other kids who have medical concerns.

With so many needs presented, we left with renewed resolve to work to help this amazing organization continue the good work they are doing in Gondar.