Thursday, July 19, 2018

Photo Joy Journal

In Ethiopian culture, bad news is held closely and alluded to, it is not given over the internet or even a phone call. If a university student gets a call to, “Come when you can, your mother is a little sick,” it would generally be understood as “Come immediately, your mother is on her death bed or has already died.” I read of a young Ethiopian woman, studying abroad. When she returned home, she learned her father had died months before. The intent isn’t to hide or complicate but out of mercy. Her family wanted her to focus on her studies and didn’t want her to face bad news so far away from them.  

As most of you are from the USA, this is only a bit of interesting culture but I don’t know how to write the following. Thank you for all the prayers for Huluhagarish and her baby. They won’t be going to Addis Ababa this week as he died two days ago. Instead of a long bus ride south today, she sits in her house, receiving mourners over a little life God gave and took away. We are praying God is known and glorified through this sad and hard. Prayers are not wasted. Continue with us to pray. 

Efforting a thankful attitude, here’s a list of little things, my photo joy-journal.

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Eggs and bananas available in our local market.

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Fresh produce from the market with a 20 kilo sack of floor behind it. 

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A sunny morning to through the clothes on the line. Cloth diapering in rainy season for two babies with no dryer…the struggle is real.

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Thank you Lord, for Jon! We would all fall apart without him.

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And then this. Our little collector, wanting to hold everything in doubles, screeching in frustration when she can’t hold it all

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And a nice bus driver who let Tiger climb aboard and play while his passengers were out.

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And this combo

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Picnics in the van when we can’t find a dry or unpopulated spot. Actually, picnicking with toddlers is more on my list of least favorite things but in hindsight, it seems sweet. Like the quote I read on traveling. Something along the lines of “Travel is only glamorous when it is a memory”.  :)

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Their little friendship. Miss T put out her hand, Tiger grabbled and as if he understands his role as protective, big brother, he took it and immediately led her off towards the horses, which is what she was dying to see.

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 The sweet kids in our pasture.

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Friends who journey alongside us. Ashenafi helps with our medical patients. He is an amazing evangelist and blessing from God. 

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And our THIRD-GRADERS! These beauties. 

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This is my view from the attic window as I work through a stack of “Thank-Yous”. When I look over the list of you, people who support us through prayer and finances, I can think of nothing more humbling. I have a reaction of falling into my knees in gratefulness and humility. How I would love if we could live, not in need, but instead, completely self-sufficient. However, it is not our reality and I am reminded how God’s strength is seen in our weakness, in our needs. We feel the magnitude of laboring together, as Christ Body, being many members, yet being one. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Gloom, The Green, The Visitors, The Baby and The Power Pole

My days smear together, I retain a foggy idea of the approximate date, give or take a few, but I consistently remember the day of the week because if I miss a Taco Tuesday, Friday Night Movie Night or putting on the Sabbath tablecloth for Sundays, our tradition-loving kiddos are scandalized. 

The rains have transformed brown to green but also the dry land into water. Visiting a friend this week, there is no avoiding the sloshing through deep waters, careful to avoid spots where my dry socks will be soaked by the water pouring over the top of my trusty rain boots. I am basically the queen of fashion in this season, when I traipse around, skirt tied up to show my leggings and high boots, my face hidden under a thick hood.

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Ugh. If this was all it brought, it would be hard to stay encouraged…

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But the green mountains make up for the gloom. 

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When the sun comes out, so do we! A game of Ultimate frisbee on our sunny Sunday morning at a high spot in the pasture. 

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We spent 2.5 days with visitors, friends from Michigan blessed us by coming and staying with us. Jon used Brian’s expertise and had him teach two days, one training in Addis Ababa, another in Injibara.

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We are so thankful for new friendships! (And in a much smaller category, these Mexican style Moo-moos that just keep giving. The girls got them for a gift at 4-years old and they hold their color and continue to be a favorite. So, FYI, if you are ever in Mexico and considering a purchase, this is the one to make! Besides, it brings joy to see our Ethiopian-Americans running around the countryside in traditional Mexican dress).

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We take the sweet with the hard and praise God.

Thanks for your prayers for Huluhagarish and her baby. The memories of the Addis Ababa journey and hospital were apparently too fresh, too difficult. She chose to not go last week. She knows her baby will die without a surgery, of infection. She said we can talk about it this week again. When she is home, she is warm. She is able to hold her little one. We gently repeat what the doctor has said. She’s smart, she knows her baby will die without the operations. She also knows the cost, physically, emotionally, and she can’t face it. We pray and step back, reminding her of her and her baby’s value in the eyes of God. Please pray God is glorified. 

We have another situation for prayer. The power line directly in our backyard, behind our house leans at a frightening angle. The live power lines are the only thing keeping it from crashing onto our house (and to any person or animal in our backyard). We have approached our power company many times with offers of hauling workers, paying replacement pole costs and labor but it doesn’t seem to be serious enough to motivate anyone out to fix it. Jon drove to Bahir Dar. It is the city about 2 hours north to appeal to a higher power. Will you please pray with us that the right person is motivated to fix it immediately and for protection for our family, friends and house. I don’t let my mind wander down the path of “What-ifs” when this line snaps but it has a very tragic possibility. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Wrapped Up

Rainy season stops for no one. June-September is our winter in the highlands, cool temperatures, daily rains and cloudy skies bring bright, green pastures, muddy trails, new plant growth and human bodies tightly wrapped in their fotas or a blanket/towel, capturing warmth against the rains. 

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Tiger, he doesn’t mind all the puddles. Neither does Miss T, though on this day, she was stuck on my back as she doesn’t have a pair of rain boots.

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Rainy season adds a challenge/adventure element to all getting out of the house.

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We wrapped up the girls’ 2nd grade year! (Shh…yes, I know it is July…they don’t know kids are supposed to be on break!) J and A thanked all their teachers in their graduation speeches they gave at their ceremony. ;) It’s been a year of others pouring into them and we are so thankful. Jon and I praise God for their growth and maturity in the past year.  3rd grade started the day after. Our school schedule is interrupted often so we take advantage of the rainy season and get a jump-start on the material.

The toddlers in the house have staged a coup not to have Mama available at their whim. Transition is usually chafing and as they switch to one nap a day and less time with me in the morning, I am feeling the discomfort but we press forward! I realized yesterday how little the toddlers have been away from me in their lives. I still nurse Miss T and she has never had a bottle, which brought me to the shocking conclusion that I am the only one who has ever put her to sleep. Our neighbors here nurse their children as long as they produce milk and it’s the norm in rural Ethiopia. 

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On Aubrey’s last day with us, we tricked the kiddos into looking and snapped that picture with every set of eyes in the same direction. We send Aubrey off with thankfulness and blessing and now I relearn how to do life without an extra set of arms. Thanks much, Aubrey!

We send off the young mother, and her baby (the child with spina bifida), back to Addis Ababa this week. Huluhagarish (mother) is nervous and sorrowful.The long and bumpy bus ride with a child with nerves exposed from his back is still too fresh in her memory. While the rain pounds down on her tin roof, she recounts to us the cold hospital waiting room, where she doesn’t leave. She is summoned in to see her baby in an incubator every few hours to nurse him. It is her only time she is able to be with the sweet boy and then she returns to the narrow, wooden bench, with hours to sit and worry. She wraps her body in her fota and shivers the night away, balled up and wishing things were different. Her brother goes with her and brings in food. We continue to pray that this time, the child will weigh 4 kilos or over and they can proceed with the surgeries. The doctors have given the child a 50% chance at life. Please keep praying for the comfort of both of them and God’s glory to be known. How we pray they can know God as the good Father He is.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

America! And A Healthy Baby Boy!

I’m sentimental, lately, exceedingly reflective and thankful. 

Today we celebrated America’s independence in the hut with teammates. We had a time of good food, pulling out all the stops for a picnic, American style. 

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Gratefulness for our country and the freedoms and beauty of America. Jon and I are so thankful for our godly heritage and for a country that allows religious liberty. We took time with teammates to pray gratitude, blessing and petition for our nation that God has abundantly blessed. 

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On the actual 4th of July, we can’t celebrate with a picnic as we are saying goodbye to dear Aubrey, sending her back to her family and hometown. (Insert a sad family) What a blessing she has been to our whole family! This marks the end of our time with a young women living and helping in our home. Now I will try to swing homeschooling while Yeshi watches the toddlers. Tiger and Miss T love Yeshi but as they have had very limited time without me, they are loyal to Mama to a point where they want to be in the same room as me, most of the time. 


And in news too good not to share, Asmarich and Meregeta have a healthy baby boy!

If you are a regular reader, you have prayed for this day to arrive. 

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When we saw them on the day of the birth, Meregeta, beaming, proclaimed, “This child is the answer to your prayers!” I shared with them the many who have prayed along with us, prayed for Asmarich during a life-threatening illness, a nearly catastrophic delivery and we marveled together at this little gift of God. There are some additional threatening complications, so please keep praying for the health of this mother and little one. 

Thanks for journeying alongside. Light a sparkler for us. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

4 Kilos

An update on the sweet baby for whom you are praying. The baby boy was seen by a doctor and his mom reports increased pain and he is not nursing well. His mother and uncle (his family-wife and 6 kids are still here) are staying in a hotel in Addis Ababa.

He will see a specialist on Thursday and will receive an operation when he weighs 4 kilos. This seems a high goal for this little guy but we know with God all things are possible. 

Four local farmers just planted “house grass” for us which will enable us to recover our hut roof at the end of rainy season. The grass has raised in price as using land space for a small financial return is not very lucrative. 

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Thank you for praying for our community. Our team is finding open hearts in many directions. 

If you follow international news, you may have seen a giant peace rally in support of our new PM, Dr. Abi. Reportedly, there were 4.5 million in attendance. We received a text from our friend who was their, “Proudest moment for Ethiopians…proud to be alive”. While most of the country’s population in favor of Dr. Abi and his plans for peace, reconciliation and unity, there are a few opposed to it. There was a bomb thrown, an assassination attempt on Dr. Abi’s life, killing one attendee and injuring 156. Continue to pray for peace. 

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Visiting the injured in the hospital. Pictures are credited to a news source from Facebook. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Weight Of Inequality And The Baby In Front Of Me

Her brother knocked on our door as soon as we returned. He is a friend of ours. Could he bring his sister and her new baby to see us tomorrow? He told us the baby is sick. 

I wasn’t prepared for the depths of pain for this 14-day old boy and the grief of his mother. This beautiful baby is missing part of his skull (though all is covered with skin), has severe spina bifida (The skin never closed over the back and so part of his insides, about the size of an orange, are outside of his little back, nerves and all. His legs are limp and unresponsive and he nurses between pained cries. 

She was discharged from the hospital as she didn’t have money to get to an Addis Ababa hospital where operations are available. In recovery herself without a father of the baby in the picture, the mama is grieving and angry at God for giving her a child like this. She knows, even with best-case scenario outcomes to medical treatment, this survivor, overcoming tremendous obstacles just to be born alive and to fight to nurse, will need a wheelchair for life. A wheelchair in a rutted, mud world doesn’t sound promising to her now. She sees the way people don’t understand physical or mental handicaps and the repulsion for differences. She hears the hopelessness in people’s voices and the suggestions that it would be better for all if the baby just died. 

Tomorrow, she heads on a bus with her brother to Addis Ababa where SIM contacts will meet them at a bus station to navigate the maze, jumble and smog of Addis for the first time. 

The inequality in the healthcare systems and available treatment has churned in my mind. I have access to medical evacuation flights and the best medical care in the world for nothing I have done but because of where I have been born. Believing that all humans are valuable, even the less than perfect ones, even the ones who weren’t born in countries of privilege, we pray and trust God to be revealed through this, in beauty, though all the family can see now is brokenness and what seems to them as a cruel sentence of pain and death. 

Please pray with us for the difficult trip ahead for her, the first time in Addis Ababa, protection, Doctors who can take time to show her love and the precious little life, squirming, trying to get comfortable in her arms. Pray she is comforted. 

I’ve felt deeply convicted and burdened lately with a lesson God is not letting me escape, teaching me on every side. I recently worked through a Bible study on the Minor Prophets, moving into a study on the Old Testament Judges. A banner theme throughout each of these prophets and onto the judges surprised me. God repeatedly called His people back to Himself from their cycle of sin. Their sin is clearly known as the Israelite people serving other Gods. But what I previously did not see as a theme woven through is also the Israelites rejection of God’s command of working for justice, loving the “Quartet of the vulnerable” (From Keller’s, “Generous Justice”) Orphans, widows, immigrant and poor.

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Amos 5 specifically talks of the many ways the Israelites have forsaken justice and oppressed the groups God has commanded his people to care for. 

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“ ‘I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offering and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

Finishing up with Judges, a friend handed me the previously quoted Tim Keller book, “Generous Justice”. I can’t recommend the book more highly, though I am only 50% complete. 

Our family’s memory work right now is Isaiah 58 (Wow, read it). God is hitting me over the head with this theme. I am praying I learn how this looks for me, for our family, here in our community and in our world.  How do we consistently show Jesus and God to a hurting a broken world? How do we work out justice for the vulnerable? I care about the unborn, how do I show in tangible ways I care about the born? Not just the born who are like me or from my area but seeing each soul as inherently precious as a creation of God?

My heart is breaking about it all and I have sat silent over many issues the Lord burns in my heart because I fear making people upset.  My intention is not to be polarizing or upsetting. At risk of walking into a minefield, the current narrative of children separated from parents in the news highlights one of the four groups God does not let us forget as a vulnerable and oppressed. As Christians, can we make it not about politics but about Bible? 

The Bible overflows (Old Testament and New Testament) with calls to radical, counter-comfort love. God-fueled love poured out on behalf of the vulnerable, on behalf of those who can’t pay me back in any form. These calls to justice, to fight oppression, it applies to immigrant children. It applies to their parents. There needs to be laws and immigration policies in place but in the process, can all still be treated humanely? 

1) Our family has children who have experienced the trauma of separation from birthparents and it still affects them today.

2) We directly see the implications of how being born into poverty or an unstable political climate has lasting effects on entire societies and we don’t take lightly our privilege and blessing but also don’t want to be entitled to it as ours, or our life goal to preserve.

As I prayed yesterday, I wondered at what cost to me, to America, if like the Israelites, we turn our backs on the vulnerable. The orphan, the widow, the immigrant and the poor. I put myself in the place of a mother who knows the way to a different country is fraught with danger, probably rape, possible death and sure mistreatment but as she weighs her decision, her desperation ebbs from every mental space as these terrible risks are easier than what her family is currently facing. I know how easy it is to reduce people into groups and then we can make broad and sweeping decisions. I would never want someone to make these broad and sweeping decisions if my children fit into these groups. 

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“Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the find, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted. than shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Photo Update

When I think I used to blog several times a week, I laugh at how it was possible! Toddlers are napping, J and A are with Jon at the 5 F’s project and the afternoon clouds have rolled in, ready to dump their contents on our mountains. Since pictures are worth 1,000 words, I’ll maximize my window of time.

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Tiger loves the rain. It is cold though and we usually don’t let him play in it. 

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We haven’t hit our coldest nights and Miss T has started wearing what I would call a snowsuit to bed. She has been sleeping so much better than just a normal footed pj. We call her, “Snow Leopard” and she toddles around, not aware how cute those little ears make her.

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And Tiger, he is our ‘SUPER HERO, FLY!” Self-proclaimed when we tie a cape on him.

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Our time in the south was great. Meetings were super-productive and encouraging. There aren’t many spots for the kids to play at the guest house where we stay in Addis, especially during rainy season. So this play room was well-loved. This was my attempt at having our four kiddos create a perfect picture with their four heads sticking out. #wishfulthinking

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While in Addis, in a sunny and desperate moment, I tried the babies in the stroller out on the street. We couldn’t make it far because of giant holes in the sidewalks, piles of trash and other obstacles but it was so heartwarming watching people have huge and then endeared reactions to our youngest set of twins. Let’ s just say it was a good conversation starter. A large truck even pulled over to smile and the babies and tell them, “Hi”.

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I spent the better part of a week, trying to track down immunizations for the babies, especially Miss T as we came when she was 2.5 months and we are in areas where diseases nearly eradicated in the Western world are common here. We praise God for the protection on our kiddos health. We found some that we needed but are awaiting others to be sent from another country. I knew the process wouldn’t be straightforward but was not expecting it to be this bad. Tess in a taxi is also another lose-lose situation. Please pray with us about this. 

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We heard rumors a Pizza Hut had opened. one of Addis Ababa’s first chain restaurants. The rumors were true and all six of us were giddy. Aubrey was in Mekelle but Pizza is kind of her thing, so she did eat some leftovers when she joined us again.

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On our 9.5 hour trip back to the north, Miss T slept 30 minutes.

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Tiger slept about 20 minutes

and the girls…

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slept about FOUR HOURS. Ha!

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We arrived home to no water and significant power problems. The power company came and fixed touching power lines and then Jon was on his own to fix all the other damage. I was concerned we were going to lose everything in our freezer, but Jon has become a Jack-of-All-Trades and even though he doesn’t consider himself to be an electrician or plumber, after a few days, we had both! We still have some problems but we can life with them until Jon can think of a different solution. Any electricians/plumbers want to visit?

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Medical cases have come…a few easy and straightforward but also a new baby, 2 weeks old, in a desperate situation. It’s hard. This is a whole post for another day but the weight of inequality is sitting heavy.

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A visit to the local orphanage, the story of a new little one, found two weeks ago, abandoned at the bus station. So much need into which we pray “Jesus”. Lately, my prayers have been mostly the word, “Jesus”as I groan into prayer. 

Thank you for reading along, praying and also for all who commented on the last post. More on this topic formulating in my mind. ;)