Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Team Blevins' Christmas News

Team Blevins 4.0 has some exciting news to share and what a perfect time of year to let you all in on what we have been treasuring in our hearts for quite some time now. We are following God's lead as we enter this new phase of life and choosing to trust instead of fear the unknowns knowing that God will provide. First though, a little background...

David and I knew from the time we were engaged that we wanted to have a large family...large to us is 3-4 children. Things were going well in the kid department until right after Brody (aka Blevins 2.0) was born. When he was 4 months old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Honestly, at the time, we didn't think a thing about my fertility. We had a 26 month old at home and a 4 month old. We weren't thinking about another baby anyways. We were still in survival mode from having 2 kids 21 months apart. We did what we had to do at the time which was take the treatments and survive the cancer.

A year ago, after getting through all of that and beginning to really feel better, I started feeling a deep hole in my heart. An ache for another baby. I started talking to my oncologist about it and she agreed to let me come off of my cancer pill at the 5 year mark  (next August) in order to try to get pregnant. I would have to agree to go back on it after the baby was born. And she would give me a year to try. That sounded like a good plan.

But God had other plans. In February, just 3 months after that talk with my oncologist, I ended up in the hospital with a huge kidney stone and a surgery. The CT scan that showed the stone, also revealed a large mass on my ovary. Just by looking at it, there was no way to tell if it was cancerous or not, but some of the characteristics of it leaned towards it being so. After discussions with both my gynecologist and oncologist everyone agreed that I should have a hysterectomy because the breast cancer pill I am on causes uterine cancer. So, after a lot of prayer, tears and finally a peace about it, that's what happened. I had a total hysterectomy at 35 years old...taking away my last chance of ever having another baby of my own. I was secretly devastated. Many people didn't understand that feeling though given that I have a boy and a girl. They don't have to understand it though. It's okay... God gives us all different wants and desires. Ones that line up with His heart if we are seeking Him I believe.

But again, God had plans to redeem the devastation I felt. Just several months later, David and I traveled to Ethiopia for missions and while there, he birthed a passion in my heart that I never knew really existed for me and my family. International adoption. I had always considered adoption eventually, but assumed it would be domestic. However, when God enters the picture he takes your plans and vision and twists it into His plan to make it perfect. After spending 10 days in country with the women and children of Ethiopia I knew how we would grow our family. I knew that God was calling our family to adopt from Ethiopia. I knew that our child would be a rescued orphan that would really rescue us from our selfishness of first world-ness. I knew that our child was already growing in our hearts instead of my belly and that that love would continue to grow the closer and closer we got to meeting him or her.

Chloe and Brody know that they are going to be getting a baby from Ethiopia who will be born in mommy and daddy's hearts...and their hearts. They know that it may be a while before we get to meet our newest little one and they are very excited it. My children already have a heart for Ethiopia from seeing our pictures and hearing us talk about it.

You all can have a part in our journey to adoption also. This is your chance to jump on board and partner with Team Blevins 4.0 and help us to become Team Blevins 5.0
We have decided to sell these awesome hand-made clay bands from MudLove to jump start our fundraising efforts. I have one and I LOVE it!!!





For each one purchased, the company donates 20% of its sales towards clean water in Africa. So it's a bonus buy... it helps us get our baby home and helps the people of Africa. You can also partner with us and sell them  to your friends and family. If you can sell 10 or more for us, you can have yours for FREE!!!  And have your friends sell them to their friends. Ah, the circle could go on and on and on! They make great gifts to!

So here is how it works:
1. The paypal button is on the side of my blog. You can pay there or pay in cash. If you want more than 1 bracelet, just indicate that in the amount you pay as there is no option for quantity.
2. If you choose to pay in cash, please send an email to BlevinsAdoption@gmail.com so that we can meet up.
3. If you choose to pay via paypal and would like to save me some shipping costs, email me and let me know where to deliver your bracelet to.
4. The band colors will vary but if you have a first or second choice in colors, please indicate that in the message section of the paypal invoice or in the email that you send. I will do my very best to honor all color requests!
5. If you have any other questions, please email me! All adoption related things from here on out will be handled at BlevinsAdoption@gmail.com
6. If you would like to partner with us and sell to your friends and family, get your list of 10 people and their costs up front. Then turn it all in at the same time. That is how I will know it is all from you and you will get your free bracelet.

We are soooo excited yet nervous about this venture! Clearly this is way out of our comfort zone and we have no idea what we are doing. But, we are seeking wise council and just trusting God to lead us every single step of the way. Stay tuned as we work hard, pray hard, and bring our baby home...and join us in praying for our family as we go through this process!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Health Update - It's Been A While

It's been quite a while since I have updated you on my health because clearly my focus is on moving forward and putting all of this cancer business in the past :) Remember how a few months ago I said I was putting the rain boots and slicker away because the forecast was only calling for a small chance of rain (recurrence)? No need to carry that extra stuff around when the greater chance was for sunshine or the occasional cloudy days!

Well, let me first share my sunshine with you because it has been bright and sunny in my neighborhood lately. Despite a 9 hour surgery, a 2 day ICU stay and a 2 day regular hospital room stay nothing could have kept the joy from my heart! Yep, that's right, the sunshine kept shining through it all and it's because I just had a SUCCESSFUL reconstruction!!! After 2 failed attempts in 2010, I finally had a successful, state of the art, breast reconstruction and it WORKED!

Friends, you all have no idea unless you were with me during that dark time of failed reconstructions 3 years ago how much joy has filled my heart and soul since waking in the recovery room on November 18th. I was not one of the lucky ones who was able to have immediate reconstruction at the time of my mastectomies. My oncologist and surgeon said my cancer was too advanced and aggressive to do that. They wanted me to get through the intense and heavy chemo first before doing any type of reconstruction. I was fine with that as I just wanted to beat the cancer- take one thing at a time- knowing that reconstruction would follow eventually.

And it did follow. One year after finishing all chemo the first time (I had to go back and do another year after my experimental drug was stopped due to failure), I had my first attempt at reconstruction by having tissue expanders placed behind the muscle in my chest wall. Every week for 10 weeks I had to go to Nashville to have them injected with saline to stretch my skin. This was to make room for an implant that would eventually be placed. Week after week my skin would not stretch on the side that had been radiated...at all. The pain got worse and worse. The muscle spasms got more frequent and I began having trouble even breathing. I was barely able to breathe without pain medication and muscle relaxers. It was awful!!! This was from July 2010-September 2010.

So my former plastic surgeon, said we needed to do another type of reconstruction...a lat flap. Basically it was the next least invasive type of surgery. He moved part of the latissimus muscle from my back and wrapped it around to my chest as a flap and placed a new expander behind it and we proceeded with expansions again. That surgery did work! And I got expanded to almost the right size.  However, there was still a lot of pain and I ended up getting septic. This meant I had to have everything removed. At that point I was DONE!!! I was angry and confused and hurt and said "screw it all...never again."

But something happened. Time passed. God healed those emotional wounds of anger and hurt. He eased the physical pain through physical therapy and time. He showed me who I was in Him. He made everything okay. And everything was okay...and then came February 2013. I told David that I was thinking about having reconstruction again. His eyes got huge. He couldn't believe it after how I hadn't spoken about it in 2 years. NOT A WORD!!! He was very supportive and said I could do anything I wanted to do and he would be behind me all the way. I didn't mention it again until I made an appointment in June and even then I went by myself - to my new doctor who was recommended by several friends, my oncologist and lots of online community. I assumed my only option was expanders again. Not so much. Something new. A gold standard for women who have had radiation since our skin is forever changed and not pliable. No expanders...no implants...nothing "foreign" in my body for it to reject or become infected by!!!

So I made another appointment with him in July and this time took David with me so that he could go over everything with him too. I wanted all of our questions answered and mainly I wanted to make sure David felt as good about this doctor as I did. David is a very good judge of character and first impressions. When we left that day, I had scheduled my surgery and we went to Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. We were both excited for my upcoming surgery...in November!

We decided not to tell anyone for a few more months...not even family. We just wanted to treasure this little secret of ours and have our joy...just us. And then after we told family, we didn't even tell many of our friends... only our neighbor, pastor, and a few choice others beforehand because this was just such a special and private thing for us after all we had been through before. We didn't want a lot of people knowing until afterwards.

Some took offense. Some didn't understand why we wouldn't tell this surgery news, and some totally understood. The main reason was that I wanted to spend most of my time talking to the Lord about it and getting my "feeling" about it from Him. I didn't want outside sources influencing me and not be able to really hear from the Lord. I also wanted to have this be just something between me and David until we knew if the surgery was going to work. I didn't want it to be this huge build-up and then feel this huge let down if we were to have told people other news.

However, I had my first post-op appointment this week and 3 of my 4 drains were pulled. My incisions are looking great according to my surgeon and he couldn't believe my progress. I am already almost off of my pain medicine. I am following his orders strictly as in resting other than to walk to the bathroom or to take a shower. I am not allowed to lift anything over 5 pound for 6 weeks.   I am overfilled with joy and thankfulness. I have faith that all things are going to continue healing well. I am now 10 days out and can't wait to see where I am in the next 10 days.

More of an update later. If you don't mind...please pray for my continued healing!!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Orphan Sunday - Watch This!

Watch this video of a teenage orphan named Asfaw. I met him this past summer and can tell you after spending over a week with him that God is going to use this young man to share His plan of redemption. God can take all things broken and use them for our good and His glory. Praising God for Asfaw!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Becoming A Mission Minded Family

I've just finished reading a book called "Awake: Changing the World One Person At A Time". It was a beautifully written book about world missions that left me in tears at the turn of nearly every other page. My heart would get worked up and my insides just in knots because I knew EXACTLY what the author was describing and talking about. Here is an excerpt that hasn't left my mind since reading it because it it so very true:
"You can change the channel when you see a starving child commercial but God knows that child intimately. A Father, who every day, has to watch his children die all alone in a little mud hut with no one to even cry over them."

Before we ever left for Ethiopia in June, God began impressing on my heart that there was something bigger for me. Something was going to happen in my heart there. I didn't know what it would be, but found myself just trusting Him and His promise of great plans for my future. I knew that as much as He was burdening my heart for a country that I had never stepped foot in that He was beginning a great work in me that only He would be able to do. While I loved my entire time in country and my heart felt at home amongst the Ethiopian people, I knew exactly where God wanted me to work my ministry within the country when we visited Entoto Mountain and Korah. I haven't gone in to great detail about either of these places so let me share about each of them with you. 

Entoto Mountain: 
* lies north of Addis Ababa (the capitol of ET) in the Oromia Region
* approximately 4000 people reside on Entoto Mountain
* many people who are HIV positive are outcasts and come to Entoto where St. Mary's church is. This church is well known for its  "holy water". The people come here hoping that the water can heal them
* Over 60% of Ethiopia is Christian Orthodox meaning that they do not know about Jesus as the Savior.  
* The government provides free antiretroviral medications but it has to be taken with food or not taken at all. This is the problem!!! There is a HUGE lack of food...and not just food, but also shelter and clean water.
* the women of Entoto carry huge loads of Eucalyptus branches down the mountain everyday on their backs for about $1/day. This is enough money to feed one child 1 meal. So who in the family eats?!? How do you choose which child? And how does the mom keep her energy to work if she isn't eating? Much less to pay rent and other expenses...
* The homes in Entoto are basically mud hut "complexes". 
* Tuberculosis is also a health risk on Entoto Mountain

So that is a brief glimpse into the living conditions in Entoto. It is a community of "outcasts" for lack of better terms. It is a community of people whom I have no doubt that if Jesus were physically here today, he would have gone to visit in a split second. Where their fellow country-men see them as outcasts in society, Jesus sees them as precious in His sight. He grieves over every single one of them just like he grieves over every single one of us. These people need help. Honestly, they need everything... it can be overwhelming at times (like now when I am stopping to really sit and think through it all). BUT, what they need the most is love. Simply love. They need to know that someone loves them, cares for them, and will fight for them. They need to know that they are worth it. 
"Faith in Jesus Christ that is not aligned with the poor...it's nothing." - Bono

Since arriving home, God has been relentless in His quest for "more" with me. I have been blessed to be able to help put together a child sponsorship program through Ordinary Hero for the children of Entoto Mountain. I have about 150 kids total that need sponsored and I know that God has the perfect sponsor chosen for each child. If you would like more information on 
becoming a sponsor you can email me at KBlevins@ordinaryhero.org
You can also check out the Facebook page called "Endinhew's Hope" where every Friday we do a Featured Child from the Entoto Mountain child sponsorship page. Click HERE to check it out. Also, Wednesdays are when we feature the women of Entoto and you can choose to sponsor a woman if you would rather do that.
"If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will." - Mother Teresa

Also, David and I are leading a trip back to Ethiopia next June where we are planning to focus most of our time in Korah, Entoto, and with the Hope for the Hopeless ministry. We cannot wait to get back and I am even hoping to make it over twice next year. We know that our family has been called to serve Ethiopia for years to come...as in our children too. We will be involving them in mission work there starting probably in 2015. It has become very common talk in our home. Heck, Brody even came home from preschool the other day and had colored a picture of a little boy with dark brown skin and when I asked him to tell me about it he told me very proudly that he made the little boy in the picture be from Ethiopia. My heart about 
melted!!! 
"Does it not stir up our hearts, to go forth and help them...to leave our luxury, our exceeding abundant light and go to them that sit in darkness?" - Amy Carmichael

Several people have asked me why international missions? Why Ethiopia? Why Entoto Mountain?  The truthful answer is we are being obedient to God and we have chosen to follow Him and not man or man's desire for our lives. I encourage everyone to follow where God leads you and if that happens to be in your own neighborhood, city, state, or country then that's awesome. Serve there! But wherever it is, just be willing to serve.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Make A Difference. Be The Difference.

All over America, there have been back to school talks consisting of: school shopping, notebooks vs composition books, markers vs sharpies, crayons vs colored pencils, teacher assignments, and the newest trends this year. I've read (and written) my own blogs about kids going back to school. I have enjoyed getting back into the routine of car circle, PTO volunteering, classroom volunteering, lunch with the kids, etc...

HOWEVER....there are some places, that school doesn't quite go like this. There are some places where kids can't go to school unless there is money to be able to buy the supplies and uniforms. The one place I am talking about in particular is Entoto Mountain, Ethiopia.

In ten days, the children of Entoto Mountain, are supposed to start school. But, instead of wondering who their teacher will be, or if their friends will be in their class, they are wondering IF they will even be able to attend school.  You see, without uniforms and school supplies, they are not allowed to go. Can you imagine being told that your child can't go to school because you can't afford supplies? You can't picture that because that doesn't happen in America! It's taken care of here and all kids go to school. Our children are blessed with an education because of where they were born, but why can't we bless the children who aren't that lucky? Well, we can! I can, and you can. But will you?

For the entire school year, it will cost $2000 to be able to send all of the children to school, purchase uniforms and pay for the supplies. BUT, since we are in such a time crunch (school starts in 10 days) I am begging you guys to give what you can and help me raise $1000 for these kids in the next 10 days. I know, I know, it may sound like a lofty goal, but my God is big, and He can get these kids even more than that. So, let's aim for $1000 and believe for even more. While we are at it, let's commit to praying Ephesians 3:20 while we see what God does in 10
days.

Here is the link (it is through Ordinary Hero- who we traveled with) that you can click on to give ENTOTO MOUNTAIN SCHOOL. In the message section, type "Entoto Mountain School". If you give, please send me an email letting me know so that I can keep track of how much we raise in the next 10 days. My email address is kellyblevins04@yahoo.com




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ethiopia 2013 at OneTrueMedia.com

Changing the world...one person at a time. (turn on your computer volume)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Taken Back


Breathe on me, breath of God, breathe on me
Breathe on me, breath of God, breathe on me
I come alive, I'm alive when you breathe on me
I come alive, I'm alive when you breathe on me

Awake, awake, awake my soul,
God resurrect these bones
From death to life, for you alone
Awake my soul

Speak to me, word of God, speak to me
Speak to me, word of God, speak to me
I come alive, I'm alive when you speak to me
I come alive, I'm alive when you speak to me

Today at church we sang this song and in my mind I was back in Ethiopia. I was back on those beautiful muddy, people lined roads. I could see those precious street children begging for food and money but mostly wanting someone to pay attention to them and give them more than a quick awkward glance. I could see the mothers with their babies on their backs looking tired and weary from a long, hard day...and life. I could see my friends on Entoto Mountain looking for food, needing healing, medicine, and most importantly the Gospel of Jesus brought to them. I could see the orphans I had the privilege to hold and love on and wondered if they were sick, happy, getting other visitors, etc... I feel so helpless here. I just want to be there. Hands on. I want to play with those children. I want to paint their nails, laugh aloud with them, hold hands with and hug their precious moms. I want to invest in them, take the time to listen to their stories, share in their pain and show them that I do care and that God does too. But, this is where my faith and prayers HAVE to be enough because that is all I can offer in this very moment.  

Once you have been to a third world country as severe as Ethiopia and seen the things I have seen, it never leaves you. Half of my heart is still there and as I sing the words "awake awake awake my soul, God resurrect these bones..." I can't help but ask God to always keep my heart and soul awake for Ethiopia, their needs, and how I can be His instrument of love there. Because truly, just as the song says, I come alive when I am there, and I feel like He breathes new life into me when I am there. Counting down the days until June 21st when we go back again. Until then, God has opened the door for me to start a child sponsorship program for Entoto Mountain children. I will give the details later...hopefully in the next week or two!!! In the meantime, start praying about committing to sponsoring one of the children that I met and truly are starving. The cost is $30/month and will provide them with food every single day. OK, more details later though. 









Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ethiopia - Last Day

The pain is too much to bear. My heart aches as I say goodbye to my new Ethiopian friends and my old one, Temesgen. My heart is also aching for this country. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined wanting to stay when it was time to go. When I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, I didn't think it would hurt this much.

I can hardly get on the plane knowing that I can leave this poverty stricken country yet I leave behind our sponsor family and the hungry, sick and hurting people.

I'm feeling like I didn't make enough of a difference. That I didn't change anyhting. I need more time. I want more time.

I will board this plane in 2 hours, but 1/2 of my heart remains in Ethiopia. Until next time...


These are the scriptures that are written on my heart forevermore...

Psalm 146:9 - The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

1 John 3:17 - If anyone has material possessions, but sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in them?

Isaiah 1:17 - Learn to do good, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, please the case of the widow.

Ethiopia - Day 8

Today we went to church! What a refreshment for my soul. Beza Inernational. We only were able to stay for the worship part of service which was about an hour or so long but I was refilled by the Spirit of the Lord nonetheless and left recharged and ready to go. There was so much joy in the music. The singing, dancing, lifting of hands, dancing, and true singing to our Lord and Savior was refreshing to see. So many times in our North American churches we get caught up in worrying about what our pew or seat neighbors will think if we raise our hands, we are more focused on getting our coffee drank during the worship part of service before it gets cold, or we show up late because "it's just the singing." Ugh!!! This frustrated me before, but now, well, now it frustrates me to no end.
I've seen the Spirit of the Lord come upon the poorest of the poor and bless them beyond what any financial blessing could. I've seen the joy of the Lord be their strength. I've seen it and I want it now more than ever. I have always loved singing and worshipping Jesus in that way during our church service, but now I know I will do so even more as I think I will always think back to Beza and remember the Ethiopians and just how much they were able to praise Him despite their circumstances and how joyful they were to do so.

After church we left and went to the Hope for the Hopeless in Soluta - their countryside location. H4H is an organization that takes kids off the streets and basically raises them until they are 18-20 years of age. They have "dorms" for the kids to live in and they are given an education. Our goal today was to distribute blessing bags to the kiddos who live their and also the countryside kids who don't and to run a dental and medical clinic.

A few days prior, a team of 3 ER doctors from Cleveland came to our guesthouse to stay and they agreed to come to H4H with us to check out the kids and treat any infections that they might have. I talked with them and told them of my Pediatric ICU background and they quickly asked me to see patients with them as they don't really see a lot of pediatric patients since there is a Children's Hospital in Cleveland. I was thrilled!

We set up clinic in the meal house and the kids came pouring in. My first patient was a 2 year old little boy from the countryside who was not a resident at H4H. His daddy had heard that the Americans were there and he wanted us to see what was wrong with his son. He had an open wound under his nose that wouldn't heal. He also had a rash all over his head and face. He nor the dad spoke any English so I had my friend Temesgen translating for me. After looking him over from head to toe, I presented his case to the doctor. Diagnosis: Impetigo, staph infection and fungus. Treatment - antibiotic and fungal cream.

Next patient was a sweet little girl who was 4 years old and I immediately noticed she had been given a pair of Brody's old shoes. My heart swelled! Her eye was bright red, draining, and itching. She also had an earache and a rash all over her belly. Quite easy to diagnose this kid. We gave her antibiotics for her ear infection and the rash was just from fever. No eye antibiotics for the pink eye, but instructed how to clean it and hopefully the antibiotics she was given to take for her ear will help that too. She was told to follow up in 3 days when they came back.

The other cases we saw were a broken arm  - a child had fallen 3 days prior playing soccer and had broken his radial bone. It was such an obvious break. NOTHING had been done for it. So the doctors made a splint and sling and gave him some Advil to help with the pain and were going to see him again as well. There was also a girl who had a gash on the bottom of her foot that the hospital in town had tried to stitch up. It was a both job and had become infected. Those stitches had to be removed and new ones put in. She was a champion!!!

Things that we take for granted because we can go to our primary care or ER or even a walk in clinic for, these kids suffer with because they have no access to basic medical care. It's incredibly sad. But honestly, my heart was filled so very much this day. I felt fulfilled in the medical work that I was able to do today. I never thought I missed my work as a nurse, and honestly, I don't miss nursing in North America. But loving on these sick kids who are so happy to just get a dose of Tylenol or even just have someone listen to their complaints is amazing. I felt like I made a difference on this day. I felt like I may have been more than just a drop in the ocean on this day.


This is the little girl who got Brody's shoes




happy beyond belief


At the same time that I was doing the medical clinic, David was assisting in the dental clinic. We had a dentist and his wife on our team who brought their equipment and "set up shop" at the H4H homes. These children do not have basics such as toothbrushes, and if they do have them by chance, they don't really know how to use them. And dental floss? Well, they have never seen it. So needless to say there were lots of teeth that needed extracting. There were lots of abscesses, and infections that were so bad that they were nearly into the sinus cavities which can be life threatening if untreated. These kids have no access to dental care as most Ethiopians don't have access to it. 

So, there was no time for cleanings after all of the dental work was done on all of the kids, but they all got a class on taking care of their teeth and they all got toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. 

The kids after they got their dental lesson on how to brush their teeth

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ethiopia - Days 6 and 7

July 5, 2013

Entoto Mountain, Ethiopia - the place that has stolen my heart forever and ever. My heart will never be whole again until I can get back there and see those children's faces again. Even then, it will only be whole for the time that I am there.
The mountain is a small, remote area where a very poor population of Ethiopians call home. Many of these beautiful people are HIV positive and most of them are hungry and desperate for basic needs to be met.

Today (day 6) we take the trip up Entoto Mountain where there are mountain women who carry loads of eucalyptus branches down the mountain to be sold for firewood. The loads are 180 pounds and take 3-5 of our men to lift whereas 1 woman carries it herself - hunched over and weighed down. The looks on their faces tell a story though of being more than physically weighed down. They are tired. They are aged well beyond their years. They are worn and heavy burdened in their souls. I instantly think of Jesus telling us to come to Him and give Him our burdens as His load is light and He will give us rest.

We meet three of the women on their way down the mountain and stop them, offering to put their branches on our van and give them a ride to where they drop them off. They immediately smile and look as though we are offering to carry the weight of the world for them - and maybe we were for that day. During the ride, we give them food, toiletries, and some money (they make the equivalent of $1/day) while trying to get to know a little of their stories.

not an unusual sight to see along the side of the roads


these are the eucalyptus branch bundles carried 





these hats are donkey hair hats sold on the mountain


wow...there are NO words...


STILL...no words...


precious women getting their loads lifted


While up on the mountain, we are surrounded by kids. They see our vans pulling up and come barreling towards us as they know they are about to be loved on and cared for. Immediately when we get out, 4 girls come up to me and start doing the hand games and rhymes with me. I learn a few new games and then teach them mine. We are full of laughter and silliness. Next come the group games. I have NEVER in my life enjoyed duck duck goose, and their version of something similar to London Bridges the way I did today. We danced, sang (I even learned the words to their song) at the top of our lungs, laughed, and played for a long time. 

When it was time to go and I found out we would be returning tomorrow my heart swelled. I couldn't wait to get back and see these kids again. Sleep well little ones - see you SOON!


here we come....so here they come - JOY!!!









it's tackle Ryan time!!!


buddies


duck duck goose - Ethiopian Style





JULY 6, 2013

I experienced the cliche' of "starving children in Africa" today and it became very personal. Tears welled in my eyes as we began passing food to starving children.

Again we were on Entoto Mountain where a brand new ministry has been started by a local man. He feeds the children, using his own extra money, every Saturday until the food is all gone. Today, it took about 10 minutes before each bag of food was inhaled - by only about 1/3 of the children there. The other 2/3s didn't get any food as there just wasn't enough.

Almost all of the lucky ones who got a bag did not want to share. They didn't know where their next meal would be from so they hoarded it and devoured it. The unlucky, left starving, began crying. It was too much to bear. Several times I heard fellow team members mention Jesus feeding the 5000 and how we needed this food to stretch. One child in particular near and dear to my heart was around 18 months old. When she saw the bags of food being passed out, she instantly started crying and reaching her little hand out. Luckily, she was handed a bag of food and her mother instantly got it and took her aside to let her eat.

After the feeding program was done, all of the children lined up and were brought into a room for a new pair of shoes, a sucker and a book or toy. We were able to give every single child something...but not every child got a pair of shoes as we ran out. As the kids were waiting in line, I locked eyes with a sweet girl who was worried that we would run out before it was her turn. I learned how to tell her "it's okay" in Ahmeric and just kept holding her hand. As she inched closer and closer to the door she laid her head on my chest and I could feel her release a sigh of relief.

We spent 4 hours here today and it flew by incredibly fast. However, as I sit now with my thoughts it seems like we were there 8 hours because of how emotionally exhausted I am.

I will NEVER again say that I am starving as I have NO IDEA what it feels like to be starving. No, I may be hungry but never have I been starving to the point of crying as these precious children have.

God please please take care of these precious children of yours. We did what we could today and it doesn't seem like it was enough. I am trusting you to feed them physically and spiritually.


reaching for the food 


waiting patiently while Mesfin speaks


so many hands - so little food 


lining up for shoes and goodies


this precious little one got no food and was terribly sad, but I think Colleen was maybe just as, if not more, heartbroken than her.


thumbs up because they are getting some new shoes!!!









Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ethiopia - Day Five

July 4, 2013

Korah - a place also known as the trash dump community - is home to some 120,000 people. A place that is so littered with poverty that without seeing it with your own eyes you could never fully grasp it. Yet it is also a place that is riddled with love, hope and joy over the promise of a new day. The people are overjoyed to see Americans come because they know they will get fed today.

Children line the mud/dirt roads, grab my hand without hesitation and then shoot me a huge grin when I look to see who's hand is in mine. They want to have their picture taken and then giggle hysterically when I show it to them. They pose endlessly for their photo ops. They are excited to lead me through their corridor alleys and into the homes we are visiting. They wait patiently as we go in to minister to, pray for, and form relationships with the locals.

They wear sandals and flip flops and act like it's nothing as their feet sink in the mud. I, on the other hand, cringe as my shoe goes all the way down. I avoid the puddles that the down pours have left while they walk - almost skillfully - through them. They take great care to help me avoid the puddles and mud-holes as they escort me through Korah and I feel ashamed of myself for not carrying them. They feel pride though to show me around.

One family in particular stole my and David's hearts. A young mom with three children; two boys and one girl. She showed us her mud-hut - literally the only thing in it was a "mattress" that was a little shorter than a twin size and maybe slightly wider. It was for the WHOLE family to sleep on. There was also a small bench maybe one foot wide. A single lightbulb hung in the back of the room. The whole room/house was 8'x12'...smaller than my children's bedrooms.

I saw no blankets, no toys, no sink, no food, no nothing! My heart cringed. We gave the kids a few granola bars, 3 tootsie pops and 2 matchbox cars. You would have thought we had just handed them a million bucks. We also committed right then to becoming their sponsors. For $50/month we will be able to send the kids to school, pay their rent, and ensure they are fed. This is truly life changing. The mother was overjoyed and kept hugging and kissing me as did the 10 year old girl. I was humbled as joy flooded my soul.

We made several other home visits and heard stories that would break your heart. Leprosy, blindness and people relying on the trash dump as their food source. There were several families who were not sponsored while we were there and desperately need one. If you are interested, please know that your donation of $50/month will go towards that particular family's most pressing needs - usually rent, medication, and food. All of the money goes through the local church in Korah so that there is accountability with it. You can be sure that your money is going to what it is supposed to. Please check out www.ordinaryhero.org in a few weeks to see who needs sponsorship and see a little of their stories.



Precious boys inside the church in Korah



Our friend, Lincoln loving on a Korah kid


Ryan playing with this little one


Gathering outside to share stories and show love


Inside the church in Korah


Kelly (founder of OH) with Pastor Tesfaye


Our sweet Temesgen with Bira and Teddy who were amazing translators for us!


Aaaaah!!!! Our amazing sponsor family. Look at the beauty in 
their faces. I'm so blessed to be part of their lives!


LOVE - Mesrtbekla, Negst, Yohannes, Pedros - our new family


Teaching Yohannes how to play "fives"


Oh sweet boy! Through sponsorship this boy is now another son of mine. Love him.


Sweet girl. Can't wait until the day she and Chloe can play together.


From one mom to another.... no words are even needed.


Our boys Yohannes and Pedros playing with their new matchbox
cars on their bed. PRESH!!!


Another hug


Our friend Skylar hanging with these awesome boys. 


A typical looking home. The sticks are one home and the mud wall is another.


Darling little one who asked to have her picture made and
 then gave me those precious puppy dog eyes.


Besties! Love how the little girl in the Hello Kitty nightgown can hardly
stifle her giggle long enough for the picture to take.


David with Teddy - this young man is going to make a 
huge difference in the world. Just watch!!!


This precious lady needs a sponsor! She has leprosy and was crying because of the pain she was experiencing. She has a 20 year old and a 12 year old and can't afford her medicine, can't walk because of her disease, and has no money for food. As we were leaving her house, she was the one blessing us and telling us that God is faithful. 
Please consider helping her out through sponsorship.


My girl, Negst (which means king) with her little friend.


Beverly with these adorable Korah kiddos


After leaving Korah, we went to the post office for shopping. This is the touristy type souvenir section of Addis. We found soccer balls for the kids and that was about it. We also did spring for a pack of gum from a street kid just so she would stop asking us. That was one thing that is very interesting about the post office...there were children everywhere going up to adults and asking us to buy their products. Clearly the shop owners don't appreciate this as it takes away from their businesses, but my gracious I have never seen anything like what I am about to describe...

The children selling things were chased away from us by two security guards who walked around carrying big sticks. These sticks were used to hit the kids without hesitation if they didn't get away fast enough. I even saw the female security guard hit a woman carrying a child!!! I was livid and it made me sick to see this. For the most part, these kids are living on the streets, have no family and are just trying to get enough money to eat. As we were driving off, several people in our van handed out some money and food to the kids and while it won't last long, at least it was something.