Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas To All

May you and yours have a blessed holiday, filled with abundance of joy in our Savior’s birth. 

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Tomorrow we hope to drive south and spend Christmas at a lake with lots of wildlife. So much wildlife, we may not be able to swim because of hippo infestation. You guys, this is real life. HA!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Legacy In Death

My heart is wavy waters today. Grandma F has passed away.  Our hearts rejoice, she didn’t suffer in sickness, and now she is forever with her Lord and Savior.

We feel sad too. Growing up, she was very special to me, well, because, she’s a grandma.  We didn’t know each other very well though due to the fact that she processed life through the lens of fact and had a careful and meek personality. To know me at all is to know that my life is recklessly processed through emotion and I wasn’t naturally blessed with meekness.

However, soon after Grandpa died, she broke her hip.  She wanted to move back into her home but needed someone to live with her.  This was at the time we were preparing to move to Ethiopia and we needed a place to live. It made sense and she opened her home to us. After about 2 months she was back to her independent self and needed us for very little. She said we were welcome to stay.  As our departure date was pushed off repeatedly, we would have a conversation that went something like this. “Grandma, it looks like it is going to be longer than we thought.  We’re happy to find somewhere else to live.”  She would respond in a firm voice, “Kids, don’t be silly.” And so we stayed, for 18 months.

After moving to Ethiopia, I realized that I missed her, not as a grandma I didn’t know well, but like I missed a friend.

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After our time in the US this summer, we were once again saying our goodbyes. One of the last things she said, “When you come back again, if I’m still around, you are welcome to stay with me.”

Death is a time to stop and think in thankfulness about how we’ve been blessed. All of our grandparents have left a deep and beautiful legacy for us.  I’ve heard said that each generation rides on the shoulders of their parents, who are riding on the shoulders of their’s. Each able to go a little higher because of the sacrifices of the lives lived before. Our ancestors have been men and women of God, serving and loving in Biblical ways. 

We grieve here in Ethiopia, but not as those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

The line from this song has been echoing through my head since I have heard of her death.“No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me”

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Luxury of Choice

(A post I began while in the USA)

Opening the cupboard, there they are, boxes of wonderful cereal! I usually want to eat two breakfasts because I can’t fit in all the goodness in one meal. Bagels, cream cheese, yogurt parfaits, easy and made for me. I bought them at the store, full of aisles of so many choices it makes my head spin. Literally, first time in a store after returning to the US, the Walgreens started to spin around me, dizziness overtook me and I had to sit down. Dramatic, yes, a real response, also yes.

We laugh that we can make things just. the. way. we. like. it. And it’s AWESOME. “Okay, I’ll have the #10, but with extra onions, no mayo and can I get that on focaccia?” We manage our temperature within the degree of where we are the most comfortable. And it’s so cozy.

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Choice is amazing but let us not forget, also a luxury. Please hear me out, I condemn nothing about having choices, but I am convicted to recognize it as privilege. My neighbors in Awi country don’t get to make decisions about whether they homeschool, send kids to public or private, charter, etc, etc. Their choice is made like this, “Do I have the money to buy my child a uniform, notebook and pencil? Is there a school within walking distance and can I spare them on the farm that they may go to school?” If so, then, yes, they go to school. At least the boys.

There are no mama wars over vaccines because the choice for vaccines looks like this, “Are vaccines being offered in town? I will use every available resource to get my kids there because I have seen other’s children die with these diseases”.  

Or the choice we make as Americans, “Hmm, what should I wear, is this a dressy, casual event?” or “Should we do Mexican, Indian or Thai for dinner?” “Ran out of time for dinner, take out or fast food?” “Where should we go for date night?” “What about vacation?”

Women in Syria make the choice, “Should I put myself and kids into an entirely untrustworthy boat with people who may hurt us and we may drown before we are allowed to get off the boat or stay here and die?”

 Everyday, our lives are full of choices and decisions, some big, others small. And we can get into wars over these luxuries. Should we use essential oils or prescribed medicines? Should we eat paleo? Should I expose my child to X, Y and Z? Again, none of these items are a waste of time to think about but I notice the temptation to make these things my Gospel. 

At times, my personal choices have become my Gospel. The subject I can’t talk about enough and at times, it can cause me to even look at others making different choices in a condescending way.

When we are at a park, what good news do we share?  How peppermint oil changed my life or how Jesus, the Son of God did? Can I remember to recognize my choice as luxury and only let the Gospel of the Bible be my obsession? 

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While in the USA, I had only one store onset breakdown (if I don’t count my dizzy spell upon first setting foot in a Walgreens) and it was standing in a Bible aisle in a large Christian book store. The variety was staggering and then I saw the “Duck Dynasty Bible”. I was overcome by the choice available for Americans to learn and study in whatever way suits us best and how many times with unending resources and choices, we squander them. Meanwhile, the majority world is hungry, aching for truth in their language.

As Westerners, by birthright alone, we have so many choices, I pray I can use my choices, my privileges as a chance to follow Jesus’ example instead of becoming entitled, uptight and opinionated. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

"A Trip of a Lifetime"

In the planning stages, we knew it would be a lot to get back to Ethiopia after our four month assignment in the USA and then host guests a week later.

We also knew it would be too valuable to have these visitors to say “no”. 

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I am blogging about this a few months late but our hearts are 100% grateful for the encouragement and understanding that Jeff, Margo, Tim and Kari brought with them. And in spite of having a whirlwind trip spending a few days in Zambia, Ethiopia and Italy and tremendous jet lag, they were up for anything and I think stretched in new ways. :)

I noticed that Jeff’s hashtag for the trip was “#atripofalifetime” and I would have to say they will probably never pack in as many places in as few days as they did.  You will have to ask them though. :)

Thanks so much for pressing your trip to get to us!  We are honored and thankful.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Tortoise

 Over the weekend, our friends from the hot, deserty West went north and left Daisy, the tortoise in our care. She has to be walked several times a day (away from dogs’ mouths) and needs sunshine and vegetables. Daisy’s favorite food is carrots but she can only eat those if they are cooked. 

We learned that we are not ready for a pet the girls take care of; though, it was fun for three days. A tortoise also couldn’t survive here because of ants. We have vicious, flesh eating ants that could enter her shell and she is powerless against them.

The idea of taking Daisy for a promenade was hatched while sitting in a neighbor’s hut. There are no tortoises in this region and because of little access to books and pictures, the concept of a tortoise was unheard of, “He wears his house? What?”

Her afternoon walks were then public.

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The response was amazing and the questions continual. 

“What does it eat?”

“Does it bite?”

“Is it scary/“

“How does it reproduce?”

“Can it never leave it’s shell?”

“How does it grow?”

"What does it eat?” 

“Where do they come from?” 

etc, etc, etc

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What an amazing teaching opportunity!  I’m now brainstorming what other non-dangerous animals we can pet sit. 


Baby Shower in a Box:

Would anyone be interested in blessing a friend of ours here as she is preparing to have her first baby? If so, send me an e-mail so we can discuss details. The box would need to be sent before the beginning of January and I know December is a full time! amy.gerst @ sim. org


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Circle of Destiny

I read a fascinating article about how American kids are so far removed from their food source, at an elementary school, many children didn’t know that meat came from animals. We do not face that educational problem here. 

The-Not-So-Littles aren’t the most sentimental about animals, but they can get attached like any other kid to something cute.

We drove through our gate and he stood there, bleating at us. A new goat. He is cute. The girls squealed in delight. There is one reason only why a new goat was staring at us. A holiday feast.

Me: Girls, you do know what is going to happen to the goat, right?

A: Yes, it will get eaten!

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(The girls have free reign on their fashion here)

This of course does not stop J from playing with it like her pet. We revisited the sensitive subject at dinner. 

Jon: Girls, so you do know the goat is going to be eaten?

J: Yeah, that’s just the way life goes, it is the Circle of Destiny!”

And Not-So-Little A, my sensitive-nosed little one, can’t wait for the “smelly goat” to meet it’s pot.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Reasons To Be Thankful

Our Thanksgiving, as aforementioned was joyful but anti-climatic. 

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After Jon got home from work, we had a bonfire and learned about the Thanksgiving story.

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We all were in particularly jovial moods. So, even when our dog ate our cookies (that were out to be the base of our s'mores). Besides Daddy. “He was so mad his head almost popped off!” Which was a funny overstatement. When our wads of mini marshmallows that had melted in a chunk slipped off into the fire and we didn’t get to eat them, The Not-So-Littles just laughed

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And the rain started. Not-So-Little-J raised her hands in the air and sincerely yelled, “Best Thanksgiving Ever!” A complete miracle.

On Friday, we had our Thanksgiving party. The power was out and came back on…

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When it did, this little one was so delighted by the light bulbs. He would yell with delight when we switched the lights.

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And all of these faces are a few for which we are very thankful.

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Thank the Lord for my dear friend, Yeshi. She is expecting and we are thrilled!

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Discovering this little toy, a stuffed horse that moves on it’s own! 

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I know, go ahead and scream he’s so cute.

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Climbing the olive tree, one of the girls’ favorite pastimes.

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A game of frisbee


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And volleyball, disturbed only be the biting ants. 

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The crew watching volleyball, trying to escape the biting ants.

We have so many reasons to be thankful. God is so good in giving us community.

Friday, November 27, 2015

1,142 Donkeys

We had our Ethiopian-style Thanksgiving today. So great, pictures to come. Thanks to those who prayed for us and others living away from family and home culture.

On the drive from Addis Ababa to Injibara, a friend challenged the girls to count the donkeys en route. The girls fizzled out around 300 and rejoined the game from about 720-850. 

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I, on the other hand, was quite consumed counting donkeys. We saw a few herds, but most came in twos or threes and I counted 1,142 donkeys. I even missed some in far off pastures or when my family had the nerve to ask me something. “Mama, I am hungry, can I have lunch?” “Wait a second! I’m busy!” Ya know, I didn’t want to miss one. At night, when I closed my eyes before bed. I saw donkeys under heavy loads. 

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The drive is astounding in beauty.

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The seas of red are hot peppers drying in the sun, and it will be hand mixed with other spices to create berbere, a staple spice here. Though the views are phenomenal, I am not sad today we are not driving.  We get to stay put a whole three weeks. ;)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Truly Full Of Thanks

Thanksgiving, the day, will be a bit anti-climatic for us this year. I lay awake, thinking about it, it seems that trying to recreate an American holiday here feels a bit flat. So much can be reproduced but there are dear faces in our minds that can’t be replaced. 

Thankfully, God has given us many dear faces here. The original Thanksgiving was about the American Indians welcoming and blessing the Pilgrims and then mutual celebration. In light of this, tomorrow, we’ve invited five of the families who have blessed us (the pilgrims who weren’t going to survive the winter) to do a meal. There will be no turkey but plates piled high with injera, shiro, vegetable stew and flowing pots of coffee. (It’s fasting time for Ethiopian Orthodox and though we would love to bless with meat, I AM SO GLAD I DON’T HAVE ANY BUTCHERING TO DO!) 

I did bring a small frozen turkey breast back to Ethiopia. We will eat it on Monday night when a Canadian family comes through. Canadians don’t have the same Thanksgiving date as Americans but they have agreed to be thankful with us.

A few exceptional reasons for which we praise God:

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This. All summer I prayed God would give the girls friends in Addis Ababa as well as Injibara. Yesterday in the pasture, there was so much love and fun to be had, Thank you, Lord!

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And this. Another kid at the guest house in Addis Ababa, who happens to be a boy and also happens to love to play prince to these two princesses. He has also proclaimed he will marry them both. They are okay with this as they could always be together. Jon and I are less okay with it but think we can talk sense into the situation, at least by the time they are teens. 

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In another huge praise, Not-So-Little-A has decided it is time she learns Amharic. The girls have seemed to have had a mental wall to learning the language and after pushing, pleading and prodding, we backed off until it was girl initiated!  Now, onto language learning.


Psalm 136, is amazing in it’s entirety. Here are the beginning 4 verses to whet our appetites.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; 

to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever. "

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 23, 2015

On The Road Again...

Hey! We leave tomorrow for Injibara. We would appreciate prayers for a safe and uneventful journey. 

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 Does it seem like all we do is travel around? That is how it feels to us too. 

We are stable though, praise God. I can’t tell you enough how much your prayers mean. We wrapped up our meetings, went to church, got our groceries, ate at restaurants and the girls had time to run around with friends. 

Hopefully the next time we will talk to you, it will be from the blueberry house. 


A throwback from our first trip up north that resulted in an accident that has left residual trauma in our hearts. Hey, if our girls didn’t get some terrible disease from playing in this truck, we can make it through anything, right? ha!


Friday, November 20, 2015

North Team

After a week of meetings, (Jon has had two weeks), we’re kind of done and may run away screaming if someone rings the bell for another one. 

There are currently three families with kids on the team and the girls had days of running around, having a blast. 

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After a swim, I found these four playing tick-tack-toe on dry legs. 

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We were staying on a crater lake, beautiful but deep and murky so when Mama was calling the shots, the girls had to wear life jackets.

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The girls’ birthdays were celebrated as well as one other little girl who has a birthday soon.

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One night we went driving, looking for hyenas. We drove into a pack of 50+. Hyenas are creepy animals and I wasn’t sad to leave them behind. Especially when one did a cackle, laugh. Yuck.

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One teammate planned a crazy run around game that had us frantically completing childhood games as one big team. This is a picture of “steam roller” that we had to do for 30 meters, which is actually TOO FAR in scratchy grass.

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Painting faces and singing “Old Macdonald”

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Our team leaders, not the game creators though

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Building pyramids of at least 10

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Treeing monkeys

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One of our tasks was also to do one hundred jumps into the lake. 

Such a time of sharing, refreshment and prayer. We are so thankful for people whom God allows us to fellowship.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Master Tree Growers

Hey! Hey! I am back!  I found another temporary solution for photos, hoping this one can last a bit longer. :)

We have been back for a month and in a completely, non-complaining way, it feels like we time traveled because we haven’t been in the USA for at least a year. It would be an understatement to say we’ve been on the go, but it has all been good and worthwhile busy!

Right now, our family is south of Addis Ababa for some meetings (Yes, we live in the North, long story :)). I had some time to slip away today and organize my thoughts a bit. 

Master Tree Growers training was amazing. I mentioned it in a previous post, but God blessed it in mighty ways which I cannot detail here but thank you for all your prayers.

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All the trainees and the trainers (Kinfe from Mekele, Ethiopia, Joy from Uganda, John from Australia and Tafera from the 5 F’s project). Jon and Mark were participants.

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All attendees received a hat and they were worn with much pride. 

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Mark, at their new house (the mud house in the background, almost dry enough to move in) explaining what plants they have put on the land and why.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pure Michigan

Here are a few posts I had backlogged that already had pictures loaded:

Does anyone use Mars Edit as a blogger platform that could help me with some diagnostic questions?

Our Flashback to a few summer memories.

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Borrowing bikes for the summer was one of the best choices we made this home assignment. The girls LOVED them and near the end of summer, bravely decided we could remove the training wheels.

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And they did it! We about couldn’t get them off the bikes after this. 

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Four-wheeler rides

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and cousin’s birthday parties

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paddle boat rides

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Trips to the big lake

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Packing in last memories together

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And tea parties at child table sets in public spaces because grandparents who won’t see their grandkids for awhile to to great lengths.


Our time in the US was sweet.