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19 posts from October 2008

October 14, 2008

Thoughts on Opening a New Country

We're about halfway into the trip, and things are going mostly as we expected. Back in the home office, we look for all sorts of criteria before we expand, but when you hit the ground, you find that what's on the schedule doesn't necessarily happen the way you planned it on the whiteboard in Colorado Springs.

I had hoped to come back with 10 orphanages ready to enroll in sponsorship immediately. I think we'll hit 7 instead. The others just don't fit with our model of community-to-community sponsorship where your church or business "adopts" the orphanage to sponsor the children and make annual visits.

I am not saying anything new when I report that Ethiopia is extremely poor. There are few job opportunities and that leads to a high unemployment rate. You sense how deep the problem is when you see how many beggars there are. Some of my friends who were missionaries here in the 1990s say that a lot of that mentality is leftover from the famine relief efforts of the 1980s. "We are the World" taught a generation of Ethiopians that white people bring money and food to fix your problems.

It seems that everyone wants to get into international adoption. There is a marked difference between the adoption facilities and the orphanages who do not do adoption. The "outside" differece is easy to see...lots of money, nice facilities, fancy suits for the staff.

In the places where there are no adoptions taking place, you find dirt, hopelessness, and difficulty.

In the midst of this, the people are amazing. I have a few leads on potential staff members for CHC--which will be our first critical decision. People make the difference, and I'm praying through the best people to invite to serve in leadership positions here.

Tomorrow I'm flying to Lalibela. Here's a little backgrond on Lalibela from Wikipedia:

"Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Lalibela was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem."


by Giustino Taken on August 20, 2005 from Original caption states "Bet Giyorgis church, Lalibela"

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October 12, 2008

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Here is just a brief snapshot of the beautiful children from Kechene. I'd like to get this orphanage sponsored ASAP.  Our team is taking pictures and gathering information in anticipation of a rapid sponsorship.

Ethiopia Day 2 and 3

Oh how I wish you were here! Let me share a few highlights with you.

Ethiopia Cultural Experiences:

1. At an Ethiopian restaurant I was shocked to notice everyone was eating meat. Apparently that's quite the luxury, but the shock wasn't the meat, it was the fact that it was all raw. Yep, you got it. Delicacy of the day: Raw goat meat. Not wanting to take home a pet amoeba, I choose to have it cooked well done.


2. Tonight we were invited to a home for a coffee ceremony. The family was unbelievable. Poor, but filled with so many riches. There are 10 kids, and all of them are very close. We were greeted with three kisses on the cheek and treated like we were family. Their hospitality was something to be desired. One of the things I've come to discover is that the poor have so much to treat us regarding what it means to love, share, and give. I'm convicted.


3. Have I mentioned the coffee?! From one coffee lover to another, you have never tasted coffee like this! Apparently, coffee was originated here in a city called Kaffe centuries ago. They serve macchiatos that will knock your socks off. Sugar, milk, espresso and froth that Starbucks couldn't touch with a ten foot pole. And yes, that's Simon's belly.


3. Public transportation. In a mini-van seating 12, we managed to pack in 20! At least it was cheap. A whopping .20 cents each for a 30 minute trip.


VERY IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: We will have one orphanage ready for sponsorship immediately. I can't say enough about how moved I was by being with these children. Their situation is desperate. I know there are at least 100 of you keeping with this trip and involved in helping us launch Ethiopia. If you are ready to have your church, business or organization sponsor this awesome place called Kechene, email me ASAP at: I would like this orphanage sponsored right out of the gate. There are 87 children there, very poor, half are orphaned because of AIDS. There is a phenomenal staff in place, acting as teaching, role models, and providing the nurture they need to grow up healthy. First come, first serve!


October 10, 2008

Day One - Ethiopia

We had a late start today, but managed to rescue the video camera from customs! Simon headed to the Dept. of Information, and with some help from a 'friend,' we had the correct paperwork in no time. So video is on. We will prepare a short promo video of Ethiopia to help all of you promote what's happening here to your friends when we return.

Our 2 1/2 our drive led us to a wonderful orphanage in Ambo, a quite heavily populated farming community. This area is severely affected by HIV/AIDS leaving many orphans abandoned in its wake. Suleiman, the director is an incredible man. His father died when he was eight, and his mother and three siblings were all killed during the famine in the 1985. He was left orphaned. Already handicapped (he has no use of his right arm) everything was an uphill struggle for him. But he managed to graduate high school, college, and has his masters degree. Now he directs the New Hope orphanage, an incredible example of a the definition of a 'wounded healer.' Healing places in others where he was wounded.

The great thing about Suleiman is that he has a vision for the future of these kids. He isn't satisfied with only helping feed and clothe them. He's started a school to help them with their education because he believes Ethiopia's future is in their hands. Men like him are beacons of light, doing incredible things in the midst of hopelessness. If we keep finding and supporting these kinds of people, the face of this nation will look completely different for the next generation.




Call to Prayer

The call to prayer here in Addis Ababa sounded very early this morning, waking me up. Muslim and Orthodox alike went to prayer. And they'll be called again throughout the day to offer prayers.

Not being accustomed to the call, I woke up in a state of confusion. What was this noise? Is something wrong? Should I be running? And, where am I?

It was all a metaphor for opening new countries...confusion often reigns. One of our sayings around Children's HopeChest is "flexibility is your friend, expectations are your enemy."

I expected to have Simon's video camera. But it was confiscated by the Ministry of Information and we're trying to get it back before we visit our first orphanage.

The orphanage I expected to visit today turns out to already have a sponsoring organization in the U.S. committed to caring for the kids. Hmmm. Not what I expected, but okay, we'll go with it and be flexible.

Today, flexibility must be my good, good friend.

We'll see how things turn out with the camera, and hopefully find another site for our potential sponosring churches to connect to. This is all part of the adventure of opening a new country. Some of you may wonder how that process unfolds and how we come to pick one country or partner over another.

In the next few posts, I'll drop in some information about the partnership criteria we use, and how they specifically apply to Ethiopia. For now, I would ask that you pray...constantly!...for me and the team. If you want to really get into it. Pray a 6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, and 6pm each day for our team. The prayer requests are simple...

Pray for SAFETY...for our team...our hosts, guides, drivers, and translators...and for the children.

Pray for INCREASE...for the mission of Children's HopeChest...for the number of people whose lives are transformed.

With those blessings from God, all else will fall into place. Thanks for joining me on an unexpectedly confusing and flexible start to this new journey in Ethiopia. Keep praying!

October 09, 2008

Hello From Ethiopia

After a very long seventeen hour plane ride, we are here! Sadly, Simon's video camera was confiscated at the airport. Go figure. We didn't anticipate any problems in customs, but this is a big deal. Simon is here specifically to capture these stories so we can make videos that tell the story of Ethiopian children. These videos are for people like you to share your passion for Ethiopia with your friends. We have to go to the Dept. of Information tomorrow to get it back.

We drove down Bole Avenue, the central street of the city. I don't think I've seen anything quite like it before. Apartments, business, shanty towns, and tons of people lined it for miles. It was dark out so we couldn't see much else We're now at the Cherokee house where we will stay the next few nights. Sam and Jamie just walked in and are here safe and sound. Sam is currently chastising Jamie for not taking his Malaria medicine.

Tomorrow we are off to an orphanage about 2 1/2 hours away. We'll have some good pictures to show you from "New Hope Center for Handicapped Children."

Pray we get our camera back!!!

October 08, 2008

Out the Door to Africa

I'm leaving in 5 minutes for the airport - Denver to DC to Rome to Addis. Our team will arrive around 7:00 pm. I will be able to Twitter, which also updates my Facebook status. So pay attention to the twitter updates on the left hand side of my blog toward the bottom, as well as FB.

Your prayers and thoughts mean more than you know on trips like this. There is so much to do, and I don't know how we'll be able to do it. We have to interview potential staff members, find good on the ground partners, love on kids, build trust in a matter of days, shoot tons of video footage, live on a few hours of sleep, and run like mad! Of course it's exciting - scary too. But that's where faith comes in, doesn't it?

I wish you could all come with me! You'll be in my heart. Thanks for your support and prayers. Talk to you when I land in Ethiopia.

October 07, 2008


Tomorrow I leave for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for ten days with a team of six friends. Mike Todd who is from Canada and Jamie and Sam from The Red Letters Campaign.This is a brand new country for Children's HopeChest to begin ministry.

I'm going to blog while there and try to help you understand what's involved in opening a new country for orphan ministry. We are visiting at least 19 orphanages, and hope to have them sponsored by the churches and people going on our Spring 2009 trip. Please download the itinerary here: Download EthiopiaVisionTrip.doc, and pray for us regularly.

I've posted a few articles about Ethiopia you can read by clicking on the title:
A Video explaining the vision for Ethiopia
A report on the famine.
What you can do to help.

This is very exciting for so many of us who have been waiting for this moment. Ethiopia is on the hearts of so many of my blog readers who have been to the country and adopted a beautiful son or daughter. Now we can come together to really do something to change the lives of orphans in Ethiopia and help them have a hope and future. Stay tuned to the blog for pictures and updates. I want you to be with me via the internet as I see Jesus in the eyes of the orphaned and abandoned. I'll leave you with the words Bono of U2 wrote on his visit to Ethiopia years ago found in a song called, "Wave of Sorrow."

"Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what's left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who've left their thrones
They are buried in this valley of dry bones

Blessed all of you with an empty heart
For you got nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego
It's all we got this hour

Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight
She used what she got
To save her children's life

Blessed are you, the deaf cannot hear a scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream
Blessed are the tin canned cardboard slums
Blessed is the spirit that overcomes."

October 02, 2008

Sex Trade Industry in Southeast Asia

As I continue to do research on the sex trade industry and how Children's HopeChest can be involved, I'm horrified by stories. Read this post from Seth's blog.

I didn't ask to be challenged by the sex trade in Southeast Asia anymore than I asked to be challenged by the the AIDS pandemic in Africa. It's one of those things that has rattled me out of the pillowed complacency of normal life and demanded that I care. It's an easy issue to avoid - the sex trade shows the ugly underside of humanity - the part where one human degrades another human for personal pleasure. It's seamy and evil.

Yet, I can recall how, as a 22 year-old neophyte in Bangkok, I was sadly ignorant. I didn't understand the issues. Rather than responding with compassion, I viewed the whole thing as a kind of cultural spectacle. No one had prepared me for it and I didn't begin to see the girls caught up in it as God saw them.

How could I understand the cultural pressures placed on a young girl growing up in the rice fields to care for her aging parents? How could I understand the mix of guilt and disgust she feels in trading her purity in return for money? How could I understand her desperation to turn a trick when she's been spurned all night? Or the sense of worthlessness she feels from having traded herself away? Who could have explained to me the hopelessness she feels - the sense of being trapped?

My friend and ministry partner in Bangkok, Jim Larson, writes a blog about these struggles and sees them every day. A few examples from his recent experience:

Joy has been sick and discouraged, pulled down yet again by her dysfunctional mom.
Jane has been extra self-centered and shallow.
Waw is tired and depressed.
June started worry about money again--probably her biggest weak spot.
Wan left as quickly as she came back and obviously still needs more time.
Mint is just as stuck as ever in a sick codependent relationship.

In the last few years as more and more of our teams (my oldest two children on two of them) have ministered to girls caught in the sex trade, this issue has thrust itself into my awareness and rattled my cage. These young girls over there need our attention. Kim's video captures it well.

G.A.T.O. - Thailand from Kim on Vimeo.