Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 2 - Ethiopian Airlines - Wheels Up

This morning we all headed to the airport bright and early to get checked in and through security with all of our luggage. All 48 pieces of luggage I might add. If you are doing the math, that is 2 carry-on's and 2 checked bags each. Shockingly enough, everything went smoothly and we were all at the gate with time to spare. Glory! So we boarded the big 777 Dreamliner at 10:15, were wheels up at 11:30 and arrived in Addis Ababa at 7:30 AM local time...which would be 11:30 pm central time.

Just mine and David's luggage. Imagine this times 12. 


The flight was smooth and there was some shut-eye to be had by most everyone I think. At least I have proof of it from these awesome team members and my other half. Haha!

pre-flight nap

Team Photo right inside the Addis airport


After arriving in Addis, getting our Visas, going through Immigration, grabbing our luggage and getting through the bag check area we were met by the Ordinary Hero staff - our very favorite people Bissy and Gecho! Bissy is the GuestHouse manager and Gecho is the best driver in Addis. I could not run up to them fast enough for my hugs. Seeing them both there was the best way to end a long flight and start a mission experience! They helped get our bags to the vans and got everything loaded for us and we were off.

I took in a deep breath as we drove the streets of Addis. The sights (and even the smells) that I have missed were so very present as was the instantaneous smack in the face of poverty. We didn't have to look far for it though as our team was first met by it at the airport when a lady came up carrying her infant asking for money while telling us that her husband had died. Whether the story was true or not, and it most likely was not, doesn't matter. What matters is that this woman was desperate enough to go face to face with us begging for money, not taking no for an answer. We told her no as we had talked about the fact that this would happen and we couldn't give "just because we could." But after we did that, I wondered if this was a woman now who would join the many other women on the streets tonight because she didn't make enough money begging today. My heart sank.

After settling in at the Ordinary Hero Guest House for a couple of hours, we got right to work...jet lag and all. We went to an orphanage that is run by a group of catholic nuns. Sister Camila met us at the front before we went in to share with us the history of the place and the way it is run now. Currently they are at their lowest capacity ever - 58 children. I could hardly believe how "unoccupied" it seemed compared to just a year ago! There were several children there that I recognized from last year which was bittersweet to say the least.

I was so proud of my team for jumping right in and connecting with the kids immediately. It was awesome. The gals begin painting nails, combing hair, cuddling babies and chasing toddlers. The men started playing soccer, tossing the kids in the air and catching them, holding babies, and talking with the older boys.

There were two children though in particular that I want to touch on. One named Elsa and one named Marta.
Elsa is a child who has been at the orphanage since birth. She has severe hydrocephalus, is blind and has cerebral palsy. She is 12 years old which is completely unbelievable and a total miracle because to look at the circumference of her head makes you gasp and your heart stand still for a beat. It is that severe. But then to look at her and realize that she is still alive is to look into the face of a sweet sweet miracle. God is written all over the face of this sweet child. I immediately went over the Elsa and began talking to her and she responded somewhat by blinking her eyes rapidly. I told her that I was thrilled that I was back to see her again and that I could not believe that she was already 12 years old...almost a teenager! Next we talked all about Princess Elsa and the movie Frozen. Ha! I told her all about how they named a Princess after her, and then I ended our conversation by rattling a small toy by her ear. That was by far the most interesting and favorite thing I did. Haha!!!
Marta was a baby that I couldn't pass up so I scooped her up and we played for a bit. Talk about a cutie! I asked the nannies how old she was and they quickly responded that they didn't know. I knew better than to ask this silly question. I mean, birthdays in Ethiopia are not important at all, but I was just hoping that since she was still so young that would know it. My heart sank as I sat there telling her that it didn't matter that no one knew her birthday because God did, He gave it to her, and that was all that really mattered anyways. And then of course, I started getting teary eyed so I stopped that conversation and moved on to more fun things like peek-a-boo and tickling her belly. Ha!

We stayed at the orphanage for several hours and then came back to the guest house for dinner, a short team meeting and finally we are all hitting the sack. I have personally been awake now for almost 28 hours so I am exhausted. I know my team is and they have all been troopers. Today has been the adjustment day and tomorrow we will hit the ground running.




The popular thing to do - paint the nails


Is she not the cutest thing ever?


Inside the infant room


Little Marta - precious little Marta


The older kids and our guys playing soccer on the courtyard


I learned how to play marbles


Beauty queen painting my nails

Christine with a super handsome little fella who hammed it up for everyone!


David, Cheyenne and Megan with the infants - there was definitely no shortages of babies to be held


Connie found this precious little one and scooped her up for some love


Alison couldn't contain the smiles while holding this fella.


Andy holding our little ham again.


Mr. Kenny with this little guy "D". He was super desperate for attention and found it with Kenny. What a great role model for him!





Serving Jesus By Loving People - Ethiopia Bound

FRIDAY - DAY 1 - WASHINGTON DC

It's 1:15 AM and by all accounts I should be sound asleep. I am exhausted. The past week has been a whirlwind of activity to get us to this point; team meetings, suitcase packing and repacking, traveling with the kids to go to Gramom's house, and trying to also take care of the day to day things. I told myself that if I could just make it to  my bed at the hotel in Washington DC tonight that I would fall fast asleep and be recharged for the flight to Ethiopia tomorrow.

But, I sit here thinking about what just happened at the airport and have a smile on my face and a joy in my heart. You see, I was getting irritated having to wait so long on our bags to come through baggage claim and just wanted to GO! When they finally got 11 of the 22 bags loaded up on the cart, the man who was helping my group to the hotel shuttle space started walking so I began making small talk by asking where he was from. I already knew he was going to say Ethiopia because they all have a certain beautiful look, but when he said "Korah" and I said "oh yeah, I've been there. I love going", you should have seen his eyes! They lit up and got huge. He was floored!

Most people have never heard of Korah. And I'm even referring to people who live in Addis Ababa. People who live only a few miles away from Korah have never heard of it because it is an area of forgotten people. They are the outcasts of society because of leprosy, HIV, TB, or some other unfortunate reasons. But, I believe they are the people are the first chosen by Jesus. 

The more we talked, the more we found out about each other. He knows our friends Temesgen and Pastor Tesfaye! Temesgen and him are connected through a boarding school in Shashamene together and he recognized David from when he was there several years ago painting the school. We chatted about people that we both knew and he told me that he got to come to the US on a 2 year work visa. He has been here for 1 year. I asked him if his family still lived in Ethiopia and he responded "yes, they still are living right by the front of the dump." 

I couldn't stop there. I told him that I was going to be visiting Korah several times over the next 10 days and that I would be sure to ask Tesfaye if he knew where his family was and if he could lead us to them. And then...I did something I NEVER do. I told him to lean on in and we made a SELFIE!!! hahaha!!! I'm going to proudly show off my new friend's photo and try to see where his family lives. I would love to be able to just bless their socks right off of them :) I certainly don't think it was an accident that we were put into each other's path for nothing tonight.

Follow along over the course of the next 10 days as I journal our trip to and through Ethiopia. God is moving already and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for Ethiopia 2014 - Serving Jesus by Loving People.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Update - Where We Are In The Process

It's been a while - a busy while I might add! Between working at the store, running the home, and the kids being out of school for the summer, I've been one busy mama. Plus, we are getting ready to leave for our annual mission trip to Ethiopia in just 7 days! Yes - we leave next Friday afternoon and I can hardly wait.
We are leading a team of 12 people from our community on a mission trip through Ordinary Hero where we will minister to the women and children in some of the poorest areas around Addis Ababa. These precious people are considered outcasts from their families and social circles and have had to leave them to go live in either the trash dump community known as Korah, or up on Entoto Mountain. I am especially excited to go back to Entoto because after leaving last year, God kept pressing on my heart to DO something for the kids on Entoto. My heart was broken at the level of poverty and the screaming and crying that happened when the food ran out at the feeding program before all of the children got fed. It was horrific and something I still can't get out of my head. So, I was able to set up a child sponsorship program through Ordinary Hero for the kiddos in the feeding program on Entoto Mountain. This feeding program is run by a local man, Endinhnew, who has no resources himself but does his best to find food for 160 kids every Saturday. Over the course of a year, I have been able to find sponsors for 16 kids, and with the help of 2 other amazing gals at OH, we have found people to donate to the feeding program so that those kids are fed every week without fail. We also were able to get these kids enrolled in school last year right after we left thanks to some generous donors who paid for their uniforms, fees and supplies. God is moving on Entoto Mountain and I love seeing this place transform from ashes to beauty!
This year, I will be taking my team to not only work the feeding program and pass out blessing bags there, but also do home visits on all of my sponsored kids to make sure they are doing well. I will also be hand delivering packages from their sponsors! I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they get their own little packages to open. And we will be meeting our sponsor son for the first time. His name is Belete. He was orphaned as a young boy and went to live with his grandmother. She moved to Entoto a few years ago because she is HIV positive and the belief is that if you are sick, there is "holy water" there so you go there for healing. After several years, she couldn't afford him and his siblings so she made him move out and he had no choice but to live on his own. He is only 14!!! He was homeless, hungry, cold, and had nothing - literally. I can't wait to meet him and hug his neck, hang out with him while we are there, and let him be mine and David's son while we are there.
We will also get to see our sponsor family from Korah! A mom and her 3 small children. I cannot wait to see this precious family again!!! We were connected with them on our last trip and we loved them the minute we met them. The mama couldn't have been more precious and those kids - well, they were pure joy. The 10 year old girl just wanted to hold my hand and be with me, and her two younger brothers loved David. Can't wait to hug them and spend time with them too!

However, I'm sure you all want more of an adoption update so I should get on topic. I just get so excited when I talk about going back to Ethiopia and my mission work.

Our home study was officially approved early last week and we received all of our copies in the mail that are for everyone and their brother :) Our agency approved the home study so we are officially ON THE WAITING LIST!!! This means that we should be getting matched with a child sometime in the next 12-15 months.
So, our next step was to submit the home study, other paperwork, and $890 to USCIS (basically Homeland Security). This is the government section that will either approve or deny us the rights to be adoptive parents based on our home study. Please pray that they do not hold the breast cancer against us. I am so so so nervous about this and I don't know why. My oncologist wrote a letter stating I have a normal life span so it should be okay, but I've been told you never know. So prayers are always appreciated. We will know in 2-4 weeks. After that, we will just go to get MORE fingerprints done (for the same agencies we have already had them done for), and then we will continue working on our dossier.
The work continues in the Fundraising. We are both working hard at saving and fundraising. Our next big amount due is $12,700. If you would like to purchase one of the believe bands that is shown on the side bar of the blog, you can do so on paypal. If you would like to purchase multiple bands to give away, use for gifts, or sell for us just send me an email and I will tell you the easiest way to do that. My email address is BlevinsAdoption@gmail.com. We also have our adoption fundraising webpage where all donations are tax deductible. The money you give goes to Ordinary Hero in our adoption fund,and they send it all straight to our agency on our behalf. The website for that is www.grouprev.com/blevinsadoption. We so appreciate any and all help with our adoption fundraising. We have been blessed in this venture and we know that God will continue to do so.