Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Finally Easter!

One of the benefits of Ethiopia marching-to-the-beat-of-it’s-own calendar drum is that we get a second round of some big holidays.

Thanks for those who have been praying this Easter week, God is opening doors for many seeds to be planted.  Join us in prayer He gives the increase!

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Last night we had a second showing of the Jesus Film with probably about 50 neighbors. We hope to show it again on Saturday night. We are in our dry, dry season but yesterday, the sky threatened all day long.  The rain didn’t start until 30 minutes after the movie had ended!  We haven’t had great power but had a back-up generator. 

Tonight the kids will come around and sing songs, in exchange for bread, or at our house, because I never get to give anything to the kids here as we discourage a dependent, hand-out mentality, I plan to give out candy, glow sticks and bread.  It’s the one time a year I can give for absolutely no reason. 

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And because we can never celebrate this too many times, “He is risen!”

Monday, April 25, 2016


Alongside the 5 F’s team, Jon has been able to partner with several community members and start them in business. Jon serves in an advisory capacity and loves every minute he can work alongside these promising young men.

Our sellers took a business training the 5 F’s offered and have continued to meet and are now selling solar lights.  The lights can also charge a basic cell phone.

In Awi country, 6% of people have access to electricity, so with one light, a family’s house can be “wired” with sustainable, renewable power.  It changes the family’s ability to read, study or work into the evening.

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All four sellers are learning and teaching the many analogies light can be used for…

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After selling, they train the farmers as to how to properly use and care for the solar lights.

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So many opportunities are opened up through this business.

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I realize this is lacking many key details, but we are encouraged by open doors. Please keep praying. :) Look for our next newsletter for further explanation. 

And praise God, our project is approved!  Thanks for all who prayed!

This is Easter week, please pray with us for a true celebration of the holiday and many chances to celebrate with our neighbors.


Quick Plug: A Few Of Our Favorite Things

I am getting ready to do a homeschool order and ADORE Usborne books for every subject, fun and supplement, the girls love their resources. It's also amazing for travel and long waits. I am inviting you, please feel no obligation, I decided to make it into more than me ordering in the hope that if you were thinking of placing an order, it could benefit me. Heehee...

I am going to highlight a few unsung heroes of the best “non-screen” ideas for kids during travel or times of waiting (think restaurants, in the car/plane, church bags), a few of our favorites that have entertained so many kids in so many places. (Don’t even get my started on their beautiful illustrated story collections for kids! Think Shakespeare, Dickens, Greek Mythology, Arabian Nights, Fairy Tales, Farmyard Tales, Stories from Around The World, Aesops, etc)

These cards are reusable with dry erase markers, there are three different sets, Animal Doodles are the favorites for kids of all ages, every mom should have a set in her purse or diaper bag! Also check out Travel Doodles.

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The girls also love the sticker books, I am going to feature a few more aimed at girls, but there are many more designed for boys. They are also others more advanced, teaching on world cultures, books on designing your own castles, building planes, trains, cars, doll house sticker books, dress design, home design, mosaic flowers, something for every kid at every age. The Teddy Bear line is great for boys or girls toddler and up. These are great on road trips as well. So many options, they are very informative and helpful for hands-on kids.

I really loved this one, “Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World” as it explains step-by-step about many cultures traditional clothes.

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The girls got this as a gift and are it’s probably their favorite as they can also practice their design skills. They put on the stickers and then design parts of the outfits. Click Here:

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 I could go on and on here, one more fun book I am excited to try, “A Year In My Life”. A book with 365 quirky drawing and writing prompts we will use to start our school days and have as a sweet keepsake. 

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Jump online and peruse 100’s of fun, educational, engaging products for children of all ages. Usborne Books & More offers educational books such as phonics readers, reference books, and hands-on learning as well as activity puzzles, games, sticker books, math activities, and so much more. Come baby gift, birthday, summer travel, and kid shop for all ages, interests & budgets! Katie Miller is coordinating and is only an email away! She would love to answer questions, too!

Orders should be in by May 17th. Thanks!

To begin shopping, head on over to:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Thank you, dear friends, for your compassion, empathy and most importantly, prayers on behalf of the woman and children mentioned in the previous posts as well as the other victims of the famine. 

Because it is a small and connected world, I was reminded by a friend from Indiana of a center in Bahir Dar that may help a woman like this.  We checked into it and she fit the description of someone the Grace Center could help though their budget is tight.  After that, we drove around near dusk and looked for her.  Nightfell and I slowly walked sections of streets where many poor gathered, looking for this woman.  We didn’t find her and A was beside herself.  J reminded me “Mama, God knows where she is. Maybe we can’t find her because someone else will.”  

Thank you for those who inquired how to give.  SIM does have a famine relief fund set up and the funds go forward with the Gospel. Project Number 83300

We are back in Injibara now, the girls trying to catch up on all their play they have missed with their dolls and me, trying to catch up on school we skipped. ;)  

Please also join us in prayer regarding our Project Renewal.  It has hit some significant hiccups at the federal level. We don’t feel like it is time for us to move on. Pray God works all together for His Good. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

God, Help.

This morning, I write from an aching place.  I am wrecked. To those of you who worry about my mental health, don’t fret, this isn’t “wrecked” in a psychiatric way. I recently read an article addressing how after living in the developing world and dealing with areas of injustice and poverty as a rich and privileged person “gets easier”.  The article refuted it and I agree wholeheartedly.  I think when the issues of poverty and inequality are easy, we have ceased looking at those around us as human.


Sit with me this morning, grab your coffee and let me tell you a story. 

First a little history:

When we first moved to Ethiopia, we asked many people, Ethiopian and expatriate alike, what “rules” they had when it came to the beggar situation, the people we had to walk and drive by, some with obvious medical conditions, others, young mothers with kids running between cars. Honestly, life is just really more comfortable when they are not there. 

Some people told us they give a little bit to everyone who asks. Others have made it their guide to give more to a few. In general, most Ethiopian we talked to seemed to have a demographic they looked for, the least able to provide for themselves. 

A few general thoughts as we prayed we made our own set of principles.

This doesn’t refer to our community, it’s a different ball of wax when living in a community but unknown beggars on the streets in cities or in the market places. 

-Don’t set “rules”. Rather, have a set of guiding principles but always be open to the Spirit’s prompting.

I am going to list our current principles, not because I think we have the right answers and this list should be emulated, but just so you have more context on the wrestling. Our principles evolve over time and sometimes we throw them out the window because we know the Lord hasn’t asked us to shut up our hearts towards anyone. And sometimes we are weary or hard-hearted or have nothing left and we walk on by, pretending not to see. 

Our priniciples we have gleaned that also fit for us are as follows: 

1) If possible, try to hire the person to do some sort of job. This preserves dignity and empowers.  This may mean I have three boys in the market with me to haul a load I am capable of carrying, which feels yucky to me to be served in this way. Many times this isn’t a possibility.

2) Give to disabled or those with significant medical difficulty

3) Give to moms with kids, their step after this if begging on the streets doesn’t pan out is prostitution. They are there as last resort already. Put the money into mom’s hand, not the children’s.

4) Give to the elderly, especially elderly women.

5) Beggars are people with stories, look them in the eyes and value the man/woman/child as a precious and loved creation of God.

6) If a child is selling something, (gum, tissues, olive branches used as toothbrushes, etc, etc) buy from them. 

7) Don’t give to able-bodied men or able-bodied children.  If a small child is asking, we try to find the connected adult to not affirm the child’s future in begging. 


Okay, time for the story. 

We are in Bahir Dar for a long weekend.  Jon is at a renewable energy conference (think solar, wind, water, all natural ways of generating energy). The girls and I plan to fill our days with walking the lovely streets and eating ourselves silly on fried foods we can buy from vendors, reading, swimming and I am hoping to squeeze in their math lessons. Yesterday, the conference hadn’t started but we came up to do our stocking up for a few months. Jon and the girls sat in the van as I went to the grocery to buy several months of supplies. 

The grocery store is very close to the bus station.  We had heard that there had been an influx of mothers with small children coming into Bahir Dar from drought and famine affected areas of the countryside, just trying to survive. 

I felt sweaty as I watched our pile of groceries be tallied and the crowd around me grew as the cashier was closer to announcing my total bill. We go through a tin of milk powder a month and it is around $35.  I was purchasing two as I have been wanting to make more yogurt. I knew the bill would be significant, not something I would blink twice at in Walmart but here, with a crowd, I felt embarrassed.  Because it is hot, the doors are propped open and through it came a countryside mom (very clearly marked by clothes and hairstyles from a certain people group).  Her small daughter stood beside her and a baby slept on her back, his face covered from the sun so I couldn’t see it, but his two perfect little feet could be seen by the mama’s hips. 

Now what to do, I am spending $200 in front of a crowd of people and now being asked for a small contribution. As discreetly as possible, I wadded up a bill and gave her double what I usually give a woman in this situation, which to be culturally appropriate, still isn’t much. I muttered a quiet saying, “May God give to you”. As I had a crowd watching me, there was nothing discreet happening. The people in the grocery store smiled and blessed me for “helping”. I had a pit in my stomach and couldn’t wait to get out of there.  After the groceries were in the car and we were ready to go, I saw a banana vendor.  “Buy her bananas,” was the distinct directive I heard from the Spirit. 

I walked down the street to the bright, yellow stacks and wondered if she would even still be there when I got back.  I bought one kilo of bananas.  The price has gone up, they are almost a dollar per kilo.  I knew I wanted some for my family anyways.  I caught sight of her and small crew, they were coming towards me. I bought another kilo.  

After walking a few steps, I gave her the bananas. She asked me how to eat them and I realized she has probably never had bananas.  As I could only see the feet of the little one on her back, I said, “Your baby can eat them, too”.  She seemed relieved and emboldened by the contact and she quietly asked, “What am I to do with my baby?” To clarify, I asked, “How old is your baby?” She responded, “Three months old.” I backpedaled, told her that little of a baby should just do breastmilk. She waited for a second, “I am too hungry, what to I do?” I asked about her milk supply. “It’s almost dry, I am not making milk, I’m too hungry”. Her little girl watched with big somber eyes, the banana vendor came around the cart, waiting to see what I would say.  

What should I say?  What should I do?  Once again, we had onlookers. I broke our normal protocol and gave her more money, telling her to hide it as countryside women and their girls in a city are easy targets for thieves…and worse. If she is careful, she can get enough food for a few days. 

I walked back to the van, on the very short way, I passed several more groups of countryside women obviously from the same people group, fresh off the bus, new to the city streets, with two or three children. I want to stop and invite, “get in, get in the van, let’s go get something to eat!  Let us find you places to stay, let us find ways to stop your suffering, to fix your problems!” but I know I can’t.  We can’t stop the suffering and we are not the Savior.  Though, the Church has been called to be the hands and feet of Christ and I can’t figure out what that needs to look like in this situation.  

I climbed into the front seat and felt like I’d just been punched in the face by the famine and at a complete loss as to how to respond and we drove away. I’ve prayed for her baby, for her, her little girl, even asking God to bring them back into our lives in the next few days if He wants us to do more.  But it’s overwhelming, she is just one mother of thousands who are migrating with nothing because they know that staying home will mean certain death by starvation.  At our house, in our community, we would be able to do more.  

As I let myself sit with this, trying not to drown it out because sometimes it’s okay to hurt, to weep over the world’s brokenness. All I can think to pray for her, for me, is, “God, help.” 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


A few pictures to share a bit more about life, most taken recently, all but the first as we are in our last month of dry season and there is not much green. 

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This is a follow-up to the post on loads.  Many people are hiking long distances for this kind of water. 
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A lamb, about 5 minutes old, learning how to nurse.

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Picnicking on Mark and Debbie’s front porch.

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A few shots from Western Easter, the girls have no memory of Easter in the US, so we hid 11 eggs (all we had) and the girls basically thought we were the best.

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Making “Easter Crowns” and dying eggs.

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I love this picture.  A couple, she, trying to smile but nervous, he, looking anywhere but the camera.

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Intricate bamboo scaffolding. Would you climb up this?

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Lately the girls have been putting feathers in their hair in attempt to be American Indians. :)

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Cracking up, waiting on a plane…

Hope you are well!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Master Tree Growers, Above and Beyond

After the  training called Master Tree Growers put on by Beyond Subsistence (An Australian based Non-For-Profit) at the 5 F’s project, the group of Master Tree Growers has emerged. The personal ownership in the group is a beautiful sign of the empowerment the training gave. It is a group run by the Awi farmers, for the Awi farmers.  

Because Jon went to the training, he is part of this unit and he goes to the meetings when he can. The group was meeting once a month and decided to volunteer in one of the worst wash-outs in our area, a prime example of the dangers of overgrazing and not managing land well, which leads to massive erosion. 


(All Photo Credit to Sam F.)

The group now meets twice a month, working madly on restoring the land before rainy season when the torrents further destroy.


Jon was so blessed by the camaraderie he witnessed.


4 women also took part in the training and continue to be active members.


This young man who lives at the foot of the mountain helped just because.



We are amazed by the selflessness and investment in caring for the earth this group is showing. 

The trainers came from Australia, Uganda and north Ethiopia.  When trainings create change for only a week or only one family, it’s good, but a motivated group working for the same goal, well, they can change the world. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Exposure to new cultures has enriched my life and understanding of God since the first time I stepped foot on foreign soil. While learning Spanish, I was amazed that even the way language is expressed points to cultural values. This maybe should have been obvious, I will blame it on high school and the fact that my frontal lobe wasn’t fully formed.

I am not sure where I’m going in these writings, just thoughts tumbling around, no real conclusions, which is Jon’s least favorite style of conversation. :)

It’s easy as an outsider looking in to glamorize or villianize a culture we don’t understand. When looking at a new culture, we view it through a thick set of lenses, our world views that have been forming since birth-we could even argue that it starts in the womb. Americans of similar socio-economic, ethnic and religious background do it to each other over silly little things. For example, parents who are firm believers in early bedtimes for toddlers being surprised and possibly even judgmental of the mother who has her 2-year-old in a shopping cart at Target at 11:00 pm. 

When we first moved to northern Ethiopia, I was shocked and horrified to discover the babies and young toddlers don’t have names. My immediate heart response (with my worldview lens) was one of defeat and indignation. “What?! Do these women not even love their children!  What terrible people.”  In trying to be understanding and contextual, my mind grasped for other possible reasons.  Then my heart was moved to great pity. “Aww…how terrible that the mother’s don’t name their children to protect their own hearts because infant mortality is so high” This is true in some people groups but not in our surrounding villages.  

To enter a new place is to take on the role of a baby, realizing that we know nothing and are dependent for everything.  It takes watching, withholding judgement, asking questions, not assuming.  I found someone to ask and we realized, because of their love for their children, the children are not named or if they are given a secret name the parents don’t  speak it as the belief is it attracts attention to and invites evil spirits into the child’s life.

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(Playing a rendition of volleyball with Jon after English class)

In our pre-field training, something drilled into our heads was the concept of “Reject and Redeem”.  Every culture in the world has things of beauty and things of shame. Practices that point to God, His Salvation and His kingdom come and others that point to the darkness  here in attempt to destroy us all. 

What cultural points do you see around you that needs rejection and then prayers and action towards redemption?

It seems the world is homogenizing in culture.  The Western world has a big responsibility as much of the homogenizing is coming because of Western media and entertainment.  Ethiopia is composed of over 80 distinct languages, but some are dying out. This is how life goes, especially an interconnected one that demands progress or not surviving.  Most of these disappearing cultures (there are exceptions) are HIGHLY relational. With the influx of technology, especially in the city, is a loss of this.  In the 2 1/2 years we have been in Ethiopia, even the climate in the city mini buses have changed. Peoples’ noses are buried in phones as opposed to chatting with the man or woman smashed in beside you. 

While talking to an upper-class Ethiopian, Addis Ababan man, he asked me how country side life was. I told him about it and that we love it, but it would not suit him as he is used to a connected and modern lifestyle. He quietly but passionately disagreed and expressed he wishes to move to the countryside, were people make time to invite others in for coffee, make time to sit together. Cultural strong points which over the last few years are fading. These are things he said he can longer find in the city. The city is hurtling at amazing speeds towards development in infrastructures, which is amazing.  There is also loss.  The streets in Addis are full of beautiful people, in almost every way, Westernized, for better and for worse. 

As we watch technology come to the countryside, the contrast is stark. A man on a cell phone while he plows his field with an old wooden plow he carries on his shoulder and an ox.  Many of the positive benefits of technology aren’t changing day-to-day life here but pornography is, coming soon to a village near us. It’s breaking my heart. No people are innocent as we are all born sinners, but there is a level of protection that is demolished with influx of entertainment. I am in this weird spot of benefitting from all the technology and advances while also saying it hurts.

We need to be aware that, as Westerners, our culture also has much that needs rejected and redeemed and the whole world is watching. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Load

We cannot move forward without first taking a moment for this…

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Thank you dear friends for praying for this rat to be caught and sharing in my horror. I am sleeping much deeper again.  Take a second look at that fat, little guy.  Part of his tail was missing, I wondered if he had been caught in another trap before?  He was a domesticated rat, not scared of people. Yuck.


Our roads and trails are full of strong men, women and children, although mostly women carry the loads for astounding distances. 

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Heavy loads on young children is a factor in short adult height because of the continual spinal compression.

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Loads on market day. These women are hiking up the Blue Nile Gorge on the main road. 

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Jerry cans weigh at least 40 lbs and a young girl takes a break before climbing up a steep bank.

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Small children also are involved in the hauling, especially now when the rainy season is long past and dry season is drying even the deepest wells. (In the drought affected areas, water has been dried up for months).


Hauling firewood

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These women climbing up a mountain.

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Ready for sale, made by men and refreshingly, hauled by men.

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Market days load, this was 8 kilometers outside of town and this family group hadn’t arrived even at the base of the trail that leads to their house.

It makes my Monday look not very heavy.