Thursday, January 6, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

Slacker doesn't even begin to describe it. I am surprised I even remembered how to sign on to this I just felt like I shouldn't let the New Year slide by without a little something. It may be random and the only one this year, but here it goes anyway..

So far, 2011 has started off great!! We just got back from an amazing trip to Hawaii. It really is a beautiful place to visit and I am thankful we had the opportunity to go. Still a little far for my liking, but I am going to say it was worth it :-). I took a walk one morning to have a little quite time to myself. I ended up sitting on a beautiful rocky shore watching the waves crash. I was thinking back on the year, and it was a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that at the same time last year I was half way around the world.... the other way... in Africa!! Talk about two totally different places! I did have one neat thing happen... I saw a beautiful rainbow in both places on January 2nd. Some may remember that story from the Uganda portion of our trip, but it was a neat little blessing and when I got home and realized my Hawaii rainbow was the same day it made me smile. Kind of makes me curious where I will be next January 2nd and if I will see another one???

Anyway, of course, with thoughts of Africa were also thoughts of my sweet Freyhiwot and the P61 team that is in Africa right now. In just a few hours they will be celebrating Christmas with the kids at the boarding school. I am sure there will be lots of smiles and laughter to go around! It is still hard for me to believe that it was only a year ago that we were in the dump celebrating Christmas and it all began. Sumer and her family are now in Ethiopia, P61 is growing strong, and 250 kiddos are out of the dump and have had their lives forever changed!!! God is so good!!
Some have asked me about going back to Africa. Don't judge, but I am going to be totally honest and say that it took me at least 6 months for that thought to even cross my mind (air travel is not my favorite thing folks). There are days that I think that maybe I do want to go back, especially to see Freyhiwot and meet Netsanet (the 2 girls we sponsor) and days when I think...maybe not. There are so many who really do have a huge heart for Africa - many have already been back multiple times and I must say that I admire them so much!!! I struggled with guilt when we got back because I didn't have another trip planned. I did think briefly about a few trips, but soon realized I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I was a little disappointed that I didn't have some huge insight or revelation. So many have come back and known exactly what to, not so much. With time and prayers, I have come to realize that God loves me just the same and he calls us all to do different things at different times. Maybe God was seeing if I would listen and obey the 1st time, maybe it was just to help get Freyhiwot out of the dump, or maybe it was to stretch me completely and trust him?? I am still not real sure why he wanted me in Africa last year, but I know he did and for whatever reason...I am thankful. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. As for the future..I don't know?? I do know that I will be praying for and supporting those in Africa and those that travel all over to be the hands and feet. I also know that I want continue to seek his will for ME.

Since one of my last posts was about our day in the dump (Jan. 7th 2010), I find it only fitting to leave you with a few pics from friends of the beautiful boarding school where the kids are now. The smiles on those girls faces pretty much says it all. Happy New Year friends (or Merry Christmas if you are in Africa)!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Help 4 Korah

I has been a long time once again. There is so much detail I am leaving out of this, but I have to tell you at least this little bit.

God was starting an amazing work while we were on our mission trip, and it is so wonderful to see it all unfolding! A sweet friend (Sumer) is going to be moving to Ethiopia with her family to start a ministry for the people of Korah (the community on the edge of the landfill). Hopefully we can get all of the children sponsored so they will have the opportunity to go to a boarding school. What a blessing to say that they will never have to sleep or eat in a trash dump again! Please link to the Korah website/blog to read more about her heart & story and to find out about ways YOU CAN HELP too. It really does take so little to make a big difference in their lives. I know it will be worth your time...or let's say "they"are worth it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

When things seem bad....remember how blessed we are that this is not where we eat & sleep, or what we have to call our "home".

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Dumps - Part 1

Alright, so now I remember why I was hesitant to start a blog. It really does take time & effort to keep the thing updated! It has been almost 3 weeks since my last post, and I still have so much I want to tell you about Africa! I am going to change things up a little. I was trying to go day by day, but at this rate, it would take me years to get thru 10 I am going to stop and tell you a few of the stories that were so special to me. I have to at least get these out before I give up on this blogging thing :-). I am having a hard time with pics today too, so they will follow. Some of them can speak for themselves anyway.

It was Jan. 7th in Ethiopia which is Christmas Day there (don't ask, it is also 2002??). Our itinerary had said this was the day we were going to work with the kids in the dumps. I am not sure what comes to your mind when you read this, but let me tell you the mental picture I had was all wrong. Mind you, we were nearing the end of our trip. At this point, we had seen some pretty heart breaking things. Some of us said that just when you thought you had seen the worst, you sort of take a punch in the stomach and have to endure a little more.

The excitement was building for Christmas Day. We had heard the day before that we were going to buy 2 sheep to take to the dumps for lunch. Yes, that means take them live, slaughter them there, and cook them over a fire. Remember this is Africa was all We were also going to take bread, cookies, cokes, party hats, some clothes, etc. This was going to be a HUGE treat for these children. We were told that they had never had a "real" meal like that and that no one had ever come in to just celebrate with them or love on them. They are part of a community (Korah) that is pretty much considered lepers. Poorest of the poor and not many seem to care.

We load the bus and head out. Again, not real sure what we were in for? Sammy was one of the guides at the guest home where we stayed. I wish you could all meet Sammy and know just a little of his sweet spirit. I was excited b/c this was a special day for Sammy too. Sammy actually lived in the dumps until he was 12 or 13. A ministry came and gave him the opportunity to get out. He goes back weekly to check on these kids at the dumps and to help the people in his community . You could see and hear his excitement for what this day would mean to him and these kids.

The bus pulled over on the side of the road and I remember looking out the window. As I scan around a little further, it starts to sink in. We are not just at the dumps, but at a HUGE landfill. We get out of the bus and hesitantly went over the first hill of trash. It was hard to even comprehend what we saw. There were literally mountains of trash all around us as far as we could see. It is hard to remember my thoughts at first. I have to admit one of the main ones was probably...don't get sick. The smell was one of the worst I have ever smelled, and let me tell you it was not something you could ignore easily. There were little fires around, so the air was full of smoke and ash in spots. There were random dogs roaming and huge birds. A bulldozer to help move the mountains of trash around. Garbage trucks were pulling up to dump fresh trash. There is no nice way to put it, this place was dirty & nasty. I couldn't look at the details too closely. I just tried to take it all in.

I remember children starting to gather around us as we walked over the hill and further into the dumps. It took me several minutes to stop focusing on our surroundings, and actually make my mind go toward these children. Their clothes were filthy and most very tattered. I knew that they were the reason we were here, and I had to get past the horrific conditions and do something. I saw a group of teenage girls standing around, so I approached them first. They did not speak good English, but I was able to get their names and ages. Fruit, Hannah, and Metki. These girls were 13 & 14 years old. They were smiling and seemed rather happy. Feeling completely helpless in this situation, I didn't really know what to do. I asked them if I could pray for them. They were very receptive. I don't know if they understand me at all, but I know God heard my prayers for these precious girls.

We continued to stand around and just kind of hang out with the children. There were some card tricks going on, hugs, smiles and laughter. It is amazing that regardless of circumstances, kids still just want to be kids. There was a group hanging around the sheep and watching as "preps" for lunch were beginning to take place. They were trying to teach these people as much as they could about preparing the food. The girls helped chop some onions, the boys were helping with the meat. My motion sick oil came in handy as we all lathered it in our noses, still trying in some way to lessen the stench. We all said we came close, but no one in our group of 30 threw up that day. Truly, God had his hand covering us!

We made our way to a covered concrete area where we would cook lunch. I kept an eye on the girls and tried to just hang with them. I had some crayons and coloring sheets in my bag. Not sure how well teenagers would go for this, but I got them out anyway. They loved them! I wrote a note on the back for them to keep, and I have one from them also. I will always treasure those little coloring sheets! We gathered around the fire and the girls even made sure I had a clean piece of cardboard to sit on. Wow... worried about me when they are the ones living in a landfill!!

We sat together and listened to bible stories that one of the ladies from our group told (our guides translated). We sang some songs, and even though communication was limited, had a sweet time together. I have to tell you that for some reason I was drawn to Fruit. All the girls were sweet, but she just stood out to me. She was so beautiful! It broke my heart to think of her or any of these children living in this. We could come & go, but they are here day in and day out. WHY??

Before long lunch was ready and it was such a joy to serve these kids! You could tell that this meal was a real treat for them. One girl even offered me some of her food...again, sweet girl...don't worry about me..just eat. They got their party hats & horns which was a hoot. At one point they were all loudly blowing the horns and just jumping around being happy carefree kids. It was bitter sweet. There was so much joy if you just closed your eyes & listened. But then, you look around and smell that smell and remember....this is their home.

When it was time to go, Alicia and I had Sammy tell Fruit and Hannah to follow us to the bus. We wanted to leave them our shoes. I wish I had taken pictures of their feet. I hesitate to even call what they had on shoes. The were filthy and worn. Their socks were gaping out the huge holes they had in them. I am not even sure if they had on a matching pair? So sad knowing they were not only walking around in mountains trash everyday, but without decent shoes on their feet. Fruit followed me to the bus and I took my shoes off to give her. I remember crying and telling her she was precious and that God had big plans for her life. I got on the bus in my sock feet and realized I didn't just leave my shoes with Fruit, but I was also leaving a little piece of my heart ........

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pause to Listen

I know we are supposed to be heading to Katie's with this post, but I had to take a break in the story and share something.

I am not sure that I ever thought about or realized how hard the transition of coming back home from a mission trip would be. I have to admit that it took me a full week before I even felt somewhat "normal" again. Not only is it hard on you physically, it is tough emotionally. I was more than thrilled to be back home with my hubby and sweet boys. I felt a whole new level of how blessed we are, but jumping back into day to day life was not so easy. I could not get my mind out of Africa and everything that was going on here just seemed SO trivial in comparison. My house was a mess...I didn't unpack my boys even went without a bath for 2 or 3 days. All this stuff that would usually drive me crazy...just didn't really even seem to matter at the time. Regular conversation was strange, and I even struggled with sharing pics and telling stories at times. At certain points you just want to, listen to don't understand what we were seeing, smelling, hearing, doing & feeling!!

God is so good! Time (and his grace) are certainly helping me in all these areas. There is one thing though, that I don't want to change. Maybe I should never wish to get completely back to "normal". I don't want to forget how God touched my heart and the feelings I had while I was there. I told friends that one of the hardest things was coming back and not feeling purpose or God's closeness daily like we did in Africa. Each day was all about serving distractions..only his plan and purpose. I am sure we all had our hearts and minds wide open too, so why wouldn't we expect to feel his presence like never before? I have been a little convicted these last few days. God is right beside me here at home, just like I felt he was 1/2 way around the world. I am the one that has "moved". I have to admit that I was in such a blah mode that I really didn't even want to open my Bible or read my devotions for that first week back. Note to self...that will not help at So, as a feeling of normalcy started to come back, I decided it was past time for me to "return".

It has been hard for me to find words to describe a-lot of things in Africa. I know a prayer for our group was for wisdom when we returned. One way I was seeking that out before our trip was to journal and write down verses or thoughts that I came across. It was amazing to look back and see how HE was making connections and laying paths. God was definitely speaking when I took the time to seek and listen. So, as I was reading last night, I wandered a little from the verse in my devotion and found this...

2 Corinthians 6:10.

This verse hit me like a rock! I stopped to write it down. It was perfectly saying what my heart felt for so many of the sweet people and precious children that we met in Africa. What is our excuse on a daily basis to not rejoice, make others feel rich, and know that we possess all we ever need in HIM! My mind was spinning, and I almost got up to blog last night, but I didn't. I am so glad that I waited. You see my God was wanting to show off just a little more. I woke up and remembered to read a daily devotion that I get by e-mail. It has been going to junk mail for some reason, so I was glad I thought to look for it this morning. I almost lost my breath when I read one of the verses at the guessed it 2 Corinthians 6:10.

You see, God is always ready to speak....we just have to seek him and take the time to listen!!!

The thought crossed my mind that hearing from God can be a-lot like the radio in your car. There is always music there. But, if you never turned it on, tuned in to a station, or turned up the volume, you would never know it was there or hear any of it - only silence. HE is always there, but how often do we get nothing b/c we haven't tuned in? I know there is a lot of good "music" out there that I don't want to miss!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hold On

So after a quick little nap we were up and back to the airport. We were happy to score our first little taste of home ....a Coca Cola in a glass bottle. Thank you Lord for the little things!! We board our flight and we were all pretty excited. After 15 hrs, a 2 hr flight was nothing. The flight wasn't full, so we all spread out and were looking forward to some relaxing and catching up on a little rest. I went to sleep pretty quickly, and then wouldn't you know it.....time to eat!!! Seriously people... it is a 2 hr. flight!!

As the stewardesses were passing out the food, it happened. The WORST turbulence I (and pretty much everyone else in the group) had ever experienced. I don't know how far we dropped, but it was scary! The looks on the stewardesses faces were not the least bit comforting either. Some said they even heard them speak a few "choice" words in English. I was waiting on some Amharic (which was usually followed in English) explanation to come over the speaker. Just let us know...we hit a little air or the right wing just fell Right when we thought we were recovering, it happened again!! This time I remember looking down and seeing the stewardess laying in the aisle beside me. There was food & drink everywhere. I think my fingernail imprints are still probably in the cheap blue leather seat in front of me. I know I was praying, but not sure that I remember my exact prayer. Angela said she made it clear to God that she wanted to come to Africa, but didn't want to die there, so in the name of Jesus, get control of this it! Some of our group said they were imagining the headlines...3o missionaries die over Africa.

Well, God was good & listened to us. Thankfully it didn't happen again. I think he knew that some of us had pretty much reached our limit :-). We finally did hear the pilot come over the speaker. "Sorry, we went thru a cloud that wasn't showing up on the radar". What?!? Not sure how that one didn't show up, but hoping they would be on the lookout a little closer next time. We all definitely got our prayer time off to a jump start that day. I know personally I was so grateful for God's continued protection over our group...and that we had a few days before we had to get back on a plane!

We landed in Uganda, and right away it just seemed different. The airport was much better. No standing in line for hours and it just seemed more organized and up to date. We gathered all our bags and headed out to meet our ride. The weather was amazing!!! It was warm & sunny, and there was bit of a breeze. Already, Uganda was seeming like it might be worth the journey it took to get there. The bus from Canaan's Children's Home picked us up, and they brought an open air truck for our luggage. Of course, we were crammed in the bus, so a few of the daring from our group decided to get the full Africa experience and ride in the back of the truck with the bags.

We head out of the airport. We are on our way and one step closer to seeing the sweet children we came to serve. Then, before we even get completely out of the airport the bus pulls over. A little bit of concern. Is security pulling us over already? I am sure a bus load of white people doesn't stand out at The luggage truck had a flat tire. Of course...turbulence and a flat tire!!! We were all truly learning that you just have to be flexible. Not many details are worth worrying over in Africa. This trip is God's plan & his timing, so you just have to be alright with that, no matter what. The flat tire was quickly repaired and we were off again.

Driving thru Uganda was such an experience. I was trying hard not to miss a moment or a detail. The countryside was beautiful!! There were lush hillsides and greenery everywhere you looked. Some spots even had a "tropical" look. There was still a lot poverty and randomness. It is hard to even compare what their towns look like compared to ours. In the cities, traffic was crazy!!! I learned to not ever look out the front of the bus or my heart & nerves might just see more than they could They drive on the left side of the road in Uganda, and there just aren't many rules when it comes to passing & right of ways. We saw several things that were a little shocking at first...a taxi with a roof full of dead chickens for example. By the end of the trip, this too was just a normal thing.

It started to rain (of course :-) ) so we had to pull over and place a tarp over the luggage. We pulled over beside a little home/ shack and some of the children came up to the bus. We got our first taste of blessing the sweet people of Uganda. They were so happy with whatever we pulled out of our bags. Candy, gum, maybe a few stickers. It was so shocking to just stop for a minute and soak up the details of how these people live. It seems just years and years behind what we know. Dirt floors, washing clothes by hand, animals roaming, no running water..etc. Yet in the midst of this there were smiles, waves, and laughter.

We finally arrived at King Fishers Safari Resort. I must say it was a very nice place (definitely by African standards for sure). Alicia and I checked into our side of the hut. Angela and Sumer were our neighbors on the other side. We got to know our first extra roomy - Leroy the Lizard. After dinner we were greeted by a cute little green frog that caused quite the chaos when 4 grown ladies were trying to catch him. We snuggled into our beds and tucked our mosquito net around us. Just hoping & praying that it would protect against many other critters..not just mosquitoes!
After soo much travel, It was exciting knowing that when we woke up we were FINALLY going to get to do the "hands on" that we came for. We were going to spend the next day at Katie's house!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time Warp

Wow... I can't believe that the trip is already behind me. I think about all the emotion, prayer, and planning that went into it the months before and now it is just back to "normal" day to day life. It is kind of hard to sit down and start telling my story. I feel like there is so much that I want to tell you, yet some of it is just hard to describe or explain. As I was driving home this morning, my thought was that only 2 weeks ago, our journey to Africa was just beginning. Now that I am back home it seems like months since I was there. At the same time, when I wake up for a few minutes each day...... I am still there.

I guess I will just start at the beginning to make things easy. The time after Christmas leading up to the trip was pretty hard. I guess Christmas was the hump that I had to get over before the trip seemed to be a reality. Having everything done early probably wasn't such a good idea either. There was a-lot of down time in those 4 days, and it was long! A-lot of thinking time, and just trying to soak up every moment.

It was the night before. I couldn't believe it was finally here. I was able to tuck my sweet boys into bed without completely falling apart, so I knew God was already I was actually able to get some sleep too, which was amazing. I woke up excited and ready to go. A good friend took me to the airport so Richard wouldn't have to wake the boys so early (we had to be at the airport by 6 a.m.). Once there, things were fine. We headed to D.C. for our all day layover. Our 15 hr. flight to Ethiopia was to leave around 8 that night.

Our biggest moment of worry at the airport was when we saw the dreaded luggage scales at the gate. If you recall, the size of our carry ons was a bit of a concern. We had all pretty much abandoned the 15 lb. rule and said we would risk. it. We tried to convince Jesse to either hide the scale or cut the cords, but he wouldn't give in. Luckily, our carry ons were not weighed, and we didn't have to make a decision on what "neccesity" to leave behind.

I have to say that my first real uncomfortable moment was right before we boarded the plane. There were people crowded around, most very different from us. Probably our first experience with the lack of personal space by people in Africa....there is no "box". It was a little scary thinking that I was fixing to leave behind all things familiar and go half way around the world. No turning back now, it was really time.

I was a little worried about who I would have to spend 15 hrs with on the plane. My seats were nowhere near my travel buddies from church. I ended up sitting beside this sweet lady named Ruby. She was from Ethiopia and was returning after 20 years for a family wedding. We had some great conversation and she was a perfectly fine travel partner.

I was really amazed at how well I did on this flight. It was long, but I made it!! Slept some, listened to my I-pod , watched some movies, watched the young girls from our team entertain the cutest little boy, and oh, yeah...ate. Let me just tell you that these people have no mercy when it comes to meal time. They shake you, raise your seat up, and say time to eat..really?!? This would happen about every 3 or 4 hours. We went from night to day and back to night again too on this flight. That was a little strange.

I wish I had a picture, but as we were flying over Africa and getting close to our destination, God greeted us with the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. It stretched completely across the horizon and was full of amazing reds and oranges. To me, it meant so much. A sign that HE was right there waiting for us in Africa. I tried to keep that in mind as we were approaching Ethiopia. When I looked out the window, I kept looking for the bright lights of the city...not so much. I did finally see some lights, but nothing like you see as you fly into an American city. It was a little strange and did give me a feeling of uneasiness..... welcome to Africa.

We landed in Ethiopia. Thankful for our 1st safe flight across the ocean. The airport there was our first real lesson in patience and just a beginning to what the term "African time" really meant. I was so thankful to be with a group of 30 other people. I would have completely freaked out had I been alone. There was not a lot of rhyme or reason to anything going on there. We had to stand in the longest lines for several hours to get our visas (at least I think that is what we were in line for). Again, no since of personal space and lots of rude people who would just pass or do their own thing. We were definitely in a different world!! Some good time to get to know others in our group, and of course practice the art of compassion and kindness.

We finally got thru the lines, and it was on to get the "bags". Let's just say that by the end of this trip we were happy to not be traveling with 60 black duffel bags. We made it thru with our luggage and then on thru the sea of people in the airport lobby. Our guides from the guest home were there to meet us. As we stepped out of the airport, I got my first wiff of the African air. There is definitely a distinct smell. A sweet wood might be the best way to describe it??

We loaded our luggage onto one bus (yes it took a whole bus just for that) and the team loaded onto another. As we were driving to the guest home, I was looking out the window trying to take it all in. There was nothing pretty or comforting about it. It was dark and only dim lights lined the streets that were filled with randomness. The buildings looked so run down, fences of tin or whatever they could find to make them of, wandering dogs, people here and there, litter scattered about. Oh, my...what was I getting myself into!!

We rang in the New Year on the bus. Not so sure that would have ever been a thought of mine... to be on a bus in the middle of Ethiopia for the New Year. We arrived at the guest home. The tall concrete walls with a gate and razor wire at the top was the first thing I noticed. Once we entered though the home was very nice. They had fixed us a great dinner of some yummy spaghetti (yeah...something I can eat). We went outside for a little bonfire, some confetti, and a toast to officially ring in the New was really a neat moment. We headed off to bed. The sound of barking dogs and crowing roosters was disturbing, but I was able to get in a short nap. We had to be up in about 3 hours to go back to that dreaded airport.

Uganda here we come!!!