April 2016 Update

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We are very pleased to inform you that we have come to an agreement on a five year extension with our ministry partner (Strong Hearts) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This agreement will ensure our continued impact to the widows and orphans that live in the Korah neighborhood (city dump area of Addis Ababa). The long term agreement is a direct expression of your past support and future commitments.

As we reflect back on the ministry, this started with an idea of a Christ-centered program in an impoverished area in support of widows and many fatherless children (orphan prevention). After much time sharing ideas and thoughtful prayer, God led with direction and grace in establishing the Strong Families Care Center, in support of 40 families in Addis Ababa. In just three years this has grown from an idea to a fully functioning care center with 19 staff. Personal testimonies from moms who would otherwise have had to put their children into orphanages, baptisms for some who accepted Christ for what has been done here in Christ’s name, and recognition by the Ethiopian government as the best care center in Addis Ababa within a city of four million people, are a few of the accomplishments we have made to date.

Going forward with the new agreement and with the center established, we are now focused on a long term vision for the ministry. We have grown to 45 families in the program at this time. This is our current limit with the government, but that does not limit our outreach. Our ministry partner in Ethiopia is looking to create another center in a different part of Ethiopia based on what we have established. While we cannot financially support that effort, due to being fiscally responsible with your donations to ensure the long term success of our care center, we are providing the guidance on how to establish that effort by how we run and finance our ministry. If other church partners come alongside us, we may be able to help fund an expansion effort at a later date, but our focus is to maintain the long term viability and community impact that the Christ Church Strong Families Ministry is providing.

Spring team bringing Christ's love, needed supplies and medical and dental help.
Spring team bringing Christ’s love, needed supplies and medical and dental help.

Keeping families together.
Keeping families together.

Check ups by one of our doctors on our medical team.
Check ups by one of our doctors on our medical team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another way we our making an impact is through our annual mission team trips. We bring in much needed supplies and support to those on the ground through donations, medical team work, and monitor the care center to ensure it is being run properly and provide guidance on how to improve things where needed.  If you haven’t been to Addis to witness the operation first hand, we strongly encourage you to make that trip and see the families that you are touching through your support.
Lastly, as we continue to move forward with the care center, we want you to know that there are opportunities to get involved. This is an open ministry and you can be as involved as time allows for you.  Volunteer opportunities include inventorying the mission team donations (annual event), special events (two or three times a year), or communication needs (monthly or quarterly).

If you have questions regarding the ministry, interested in the mission trip, or helping with your time and talents, please contact us at 262-416-4177, or email at: shsf@christchurchmequon.org

Thanks again, with God’s direction and your support, we have come a long way and the future looks great.

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November 2015 Newsletter

I had the privilege of visiting the center a couple weeks ago. Once again (as with the visit in August), I am so happy to report that things are fantastic! The staff is working hard to maintain the best of conditions for our families there. Only God can orchestrate all that is going on at Strong Families.

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The first thing that stands out is the fact that we have very little staff turnover. The caregivers continue to love on each of the children they have in their care, like their own. They are always full of laughter and smiles along the way. They get paid a fair wage, but they are clearly not there just for the money, (although it helps support their families) they are there because they are fulfilling God’s calling to serve these families. This is why I always ask for anybody coming to visit, to bring a small token of appreciation for them if they can. I am always looking for ways to say thank you for their service. I have never seen any other cooks or cleaners do their job so joyfully. One staff person is a cleaner and she reminds me of an Ethiopian version of Lucille Ball. The leadership that the lead caregiver gives, social worker, nurse, manager and from our main office of Strong Hearts, is so vital to the sustainability of this program. I cannot say enough positive things about these individuals and how their servant leadership is key to the center.

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When working in Ethiopia, especially with NGOs, unfortunately there are more stories of failed projects and corruption, than there are success stories. We are thankful that we can already see the fruits of our labor through this ministry. We have women that are now baptized, families that have stayed together because of the support we have been providing, and families that are better equipped with education and job training because of their participation with SHSF.

It is only because of your continued financial support and prayers that we can continue this work. A huge thank you for allowing this work to continue. We still have many sponsorships to fill this year, so please spread the word to others about the work that is being done and how they can help too. We need sponsorships filled, one-time financial donations, and in-kind donations of clothing and jackets for our upcoming trip in February. No donation is too small, and it all adds up to make the center work the way it
does!

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I want to close by sharing a story about our newest family. The neighbors (in Kore) found a woman and her 6 children living on the streets. They had made their way to Addis from the countryside. The neighbors just had a death in the community, so there was a vacant room available. They took in this woman and her children and gave her this room to use so they would be off the streets. The community of people I am referring to, are not people that have much themselves. They certainly would not be seen as having a situation that we would view as being privileged enough to take care of somebody else that needed more help than their own family. But they did. They wanted to help. This same group of neighbors then came to our center and asked if we would please take the 2 smallest children during the day. The mom had found work temporarily but now leaves the 6 children during the day, with none of them in school and no food or anything. She is doing what she can to provide for her family, but it is a slow and hard start to provide for so many children on her own. Our staff made the decision to accept the two little ones at our center (even though we are at very much at capacity). This mom (Serkalem) is so thankful for our assistance and happiest that they (Rediet and Yared) are in such a great place during the day and most of all, that they are fed. We do not normally help with materials for family’s homes, but have made a few exceptions when the family is in dire straits. This is certainly one of these cases. They have nothing. Imagine having nothing at all. Not a pot, a mattress, a blanket, only the clothes you are wearing. That is this family. We provided some essentials to this family now, and we pray that she can get on her feet. Again and again I am able to witness the love between a mom and her children when I see her pick them up at the end of the day. All smiles and hugs from both mom and the kids. It is the best scene ever and it never gets old to watch. This family still needs sponsors. So do others, but please pray for the 7 of them specifically, as they are encountering a new life in a new town, and thankfully experiencing Jesus’ love in a very tangible way.

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Many blessings to you as we celebrate Thanksgiving. No matter your life situation, I am positive we can all be thankful for Strong Families. I know I am so thankful for all of you and making Strong Families possible with Christ’s guidance.

-Bridget Sullivan (on behalf of Strong Families)

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New faces at the Care Center

We are so thankful for all the families we serve here, as we look back at our last year.  We were able to welcome 3 new families into the center recently.  We had a set of older twin boys that have now moved onto a preschool program closer to their home and easier for their grandmother that is caring for them.  We continue to pray for Dagim and Natan in their futures here.  Their grandmother was so grateful for the time their family had with our center.  We were there for them at a crucial time and thankful for over a year to pour God’s love into them.  The other family was not able to follow the program requirements we have for each family, so we had to make the decision to open that spot up for a family that would.  It is unfortunate and we will miss that little one each day, but also know that we have to benefit the families as best as we can and that is also teaching stewardship with the resources we are providing.

The need here for programs like ours is so great, the “empty” spots open were quickly filled.  Please read about each of these new families on the website.  Pray for them, consider being a part of their family by sponsoring one of them, or share it with others that may be looking to sponsor a family.

Our center cannot exist as an island.  It is part of a bigger picture, and you, the supporters are a crucial part of this.  Please come along side us and help us fill these sponsorships.  These 3 new families, as well as a couple more, are still in need of sponsors.  If you are looking to make an end of year donation, that would be great, too! The one-time donations help tremendously for the gap we have currently between sponsored and not sponsored families so we can continue to do what we do.  A quick answer as to what sponsorship costs cover:  the running costs of the center for each family to be at the center.  This includes rent, staff (we have 20 staff), food, supplies, trainings, and medical, to name the main ones.  We do not charge the families anything to be in our program, as we are standing in the critical gap between having a baby and being able to support and keep your family together and when a child becomes school-aged.  Once they are in school, they should be able to maintain their job and skills they have learned while being with us and be able to provide for their family without our assistance.  The difference between a place like Ethiopia and a developed country is that a day’s wage, a medical issue, any one thing that may seem minor in a larger picture, is a huge life-changing factor for the families we serve.  We require our families to be working each day, maintain their homes for their children, their children to be at our center each weekday, and be a part of the trainings we provide that includes health and hygiene, economic as well as nurturing their spiritual journey.

We welcome any questions at any time and would love to hear from you.  We hope that this new year will bring blessings to you and your family.  It is our hope for the coming year to have each family sponsored.  Not only financially, but know there is another family advocating for them, praying for them.  We have seen such great success from many of our families.  It is a blessing when we can celebrate their victories with them.  Some of our families are just making it and that is a victory in itself.  I cannot imagine where those families would be without the support they have in Strong Families.  If you currently sponsor a family, please share with others!  Tell them about the family you sponsor, how special they are, how far they have come and what a difference your sponsorship makes.  Thank you all for a great 2014…we look forward to a wonderful 2015!

Our new families…

Abriham a & Tena
Abriham & Tena

Niftalem & Desalech
Niftalem & Desalech

Tesfanish & Birke
Tesfanish & Birke

 

 

 

 

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Care Center Families Are Thriving

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We are in the middle of conducting update interviews for each family this week.  Checking in with each parent to see how things are at home, needs they may have and all they have accomplished.  We will also ask each caregiver to assess the children in their rooms and how they are doing on a daily basis.  Even our super shy children are opening up with their peers and even me!  It is such a privilege to watch them grow in their confidence and person God has created them to be.

As I look into each one of their eyes, and see them running around, I can’t help but be so very in awe that we get to be a part of this journey.  The power and dignity that is being instilled into these families’ hearts is just beyond words.  These kids are developing physically as they should!  They have room to run around and get those muscles moving versus being on their moms backs while they try to work.  The parents have the opportunity now to earn a better living to support their families.  It is still a VERY tough life for them here.  So please do not think that they have it easy now because they are with us.  Most of them still remain in a 4×6 foot house with mud walls and a tin roof.  They are still drinking water that gives them giardia because it is not clean.  But so much HAS improved.  We still have much education to do and more love and respect to give.  This journey to a better way of living and being able to be secure in the family that God has blessed them with…is more than words or pictures can explain.   Much of our work here, we can see transformations happening.  But there is so much that are little mustard seeds.  We hope that passing along the love of Jesus to them will make a difference someday and hopefully eternally when we are all together again after our life here on earth.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts—for giving us the ability to do what we are doing here!

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Brihanu starts his 2 month hospital stay

Brihanu at the HospitalThank you for continuing to pray for Brihanu!  This is a picture of him all tucked in his new bed at the local TB hospital.  Mom will stay with him for the next 2 months of treatment. He will receive daily injections and nutritional supplement on this road to a healthier little boy.  He has little toys, books and fresh clean clothes and diaper for his time there.  Dad was so excited (with a big huge smile) when we told him he could come with us to check them in on Monday.  Of course it took us all day to check them in, when we thought it was going to maybe take an hour.  Just how things go here, most times!  We will visit them and bring dad to visit, as well.  Please continue to keep them in your prayers.  Thank you so much for your support!!

 

 

 

 

 

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A brief update on Brihanu

photoI wanted to give a brief update on Brihanu.  Since my last update, we have been to the specialized TB hospital twice, the largest hospital in Addis twice, one clinic and one medium size hospital.  All of this in the past 2 days.  I have a special tan going on my left arm from all the driving.  Anybody that has been in Addis can appreciate the traffic here.  If you are not familiar, just imagine Chicago or any major sity traffic, only there are no specific lanes or rules, necessarily, while dodging people, animals and potholes.  Brihanu thinks the rides are fun…and so that keeps it more fun.   Once again, the patience here is unbelievable.  Most of the time, my white skin is usually more of a burden.  But I have been able to use it to our advantage to often get to the front of the line.  While of course I feel bad for the others that are waiting, I just look at Brihanu and Almaz’s (mom) sweet faces and I can justify going to put my paper first.

The best news I have from all of this running around is that the neurosurgeon consult (which they told us we had to have before getting medication) said no surgery.  Whew.  I was praying for that.  A little tiny guy like him—draining this fluid from the absess on his spine—just didn’t want to have to go that route unless somebody said we really had to!  So to make a long story short…daily injections must be given for the first 2 months of treatment.  The clinics that can give these injections in our area are currently out of stock.  Mind you, this just happens here, I have been told.  So, the other option is for Brihanu to stay at the TB hospital for these 2 months.  So we will try this on Monday morning.  It is not like the states, where you get 24 hr care.  A family member needs to stay with the child.  But services and food are only provided to the child.  So mom has to go out (this place is about an hour give or take from her home) and get her own food.  And of course there is the issue of the dad.  He will be at home this entire time.  He is blind.  So Almaz told us that she will ask the neighbors to help him while they are gone.  So we will bring him to visit when we go to see them at the hospital.  A generous friend of the center will be donating the funds so mom can go out and buy food for herself for the next 2 months and we will pack up extra clothes, toys and diapers from the center to go along with them on Monday.  Not quite sure where mom sleeps there, since all I saw were toddler/baby beds.  So it will be interesting to find these things out on Monday.

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Brihanu does not usually like anybody but his mom to carry him, but she gets so worn out carrying him, we try to help out.  He is most comfortable with Masresha.  I think we may have the most patient, caring social worker here!  Very blessed.  Please continue to pray for the entire family.  We are surely on our way to great treatment here.

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Please keep Brihanu in your prayers

BrihanuWe are asking for prayers for our newest family in our care center.  His name is Brihanu.  He is 1 yr and 3 months old.  He came into our program a bit over a month ago.  He certainly looks smaller than his age and we knew he needed to be “plumped up”, but so many do.  He also appeared to be behind on some developmental milestones, having some poor coordination and weak muscles.  Again, nothing terribly alarming to us, since his mother carries him around, and he was brought with his parents everywhere since they are beggars.  She uses a walking cane since she has one leg that is longer than the other.  Her husband is blind.  How difficult that must be to keep track of a little one and even harder if they start crawling around or walking?    So it is reasonable to think this was a reason for some of his poor muscles.   He never had the opportunity to use them.   And extreme poverty affects nutrition.  Fast forward from all of this “getting to know you” process, to over a week ago, when we were told that he was having back problems and the “massage therapist” told the mom that this was a more serious problem and they could no longer help.  She needed to take him to a doctor.  We were never told of this pre-existing back issue.  So we get the story now that he fell off a bed (only 2 inches off the floor) and injured his back.  2 months ago.  Hmmmm.  Ok.  So he gets back x-rays and it looks like there is a compression fracture between L3 and L4.  Not good, but nothing is broken and according to many medical people that were consulted, these things normally heal on their own.  So I thought it was done.  The child would heal and we would work on strengthening and putting pounds on.

Brihanu's Home

Our manager was insistent (thank God!) that we follow the recommendations and go and get an MRI done.  Wow, am I thankful for God providing this wisdom.  Went to a wonderful MRI diagnostic place that is brand new and still under construction for parts of the clinic.  I have never been so impressed with a place.  Well, honestly at first I was not.  They told the mom that she needed to put him to sleep and then they would have him sleep for 15 minutes on the table for a good MRI.  Huh?  No drugs?  You expect this little one to stay completely still?  So, not to my dismay, this strategy did not work.  They even put mom next to him on the table, breastfeeding him, to keep him still.  Still no go.  I had another appointment, so I had to leave.  When I was updated later that day, it was reported that 3 hours after I left, the child fell asleep and stayed asleep for the entire MRI!  Miracle?  Super calm Ethiopian baby?  Whatever it was, I was shocked and thankful they could get a good reading.

The next day we picked up the results and it seems as if all evidence is pointing towards Pott’s disease (TB in the spine).  So we went for further consultation and labwork today.  We will go to a private hospital this week that specializes in TB treatment to see where to go from here, more than likely a long regiment of medication should clear things up.

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Looking through pictures that I have taken of him, he has gotten more weak and possibly lost weight.  We weighed him at 8.4 kilos a month ago and today he weighed 7 kilos.  We could be off a bit on either end, since the scales are different, but still, the kilos decreased.  He is over 1 years old and only 14 pounds!  I took a picture of him when he first came and he was sitting up.  He can no longer do that.  He was absent from us for a week and home with mom when she was getting the xrays done.  Last week, we were figuring things out still, so it is easy to miss some of these things since he is always in somebody’s arms.  He is not walking yet.  Never did.

The patience that mom and dad have had throughout this process is inspiring.  As well as our social worker, Masresha.  I am almost in a panic thinking about the possible outcomes and what is to come. And it seems like they are ok with waiting for answers, going to the next waiting room, waiting while a baby is fussy and tired and tired of being poked at.  Me?  I am looking at my phone, looking at the time and wondering why we have not been seen yet!  Mind you—the wait at these places have not been long.  Quicker than the pediatrician office for my own kids at times!  But I feel this urgency to get this little one “fixed”.  I know we have to rely on the Lord.  Yet another faith lesson for me.  Mom just loved sitting next to me in the waiting room and look at my pictures on my phone.   I loved that she was so comfortable with me…not understanding half of what she was telling me, but a big smile on her face when she would see her son, or my own kids.  Then she would rest her arm on me or her head on my shoulder.  She is really just a child herself.  She is only 19 years old.  She grew up an orphan on the streets.

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People want to know how the center and our mission help the families here.  All I can think is that we are helping not only a little 1 year old that probably would not have had the means to this medical care, but also helping this very young mom that needs guidance, love and support.  They look like they have some great neighbors.  Dad is always around (which you do not always see here) and available to come with us.  They all wanted to hop in my van when I picked her up this morning.  But we told them it was ok—and we took just one older woman.  They all help her carry the baby since she uses a walker and it is difficult to carry him around herself.  Now this is the community we fell in love with when we first visited.  I could go on and on.  Mark said 2 paragraphs.  But I just had to share more.  I hope people still read it!  Please pray for Brihanu and his parents Almaz and Abebe.

 

P.S. For all the sponsors—this is yet another reason why the updates are not complete yet!  I promise they are coming!

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