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.

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)

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

 

 

 

 

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!

Family Care Center October 2014 Update

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Strong Hearts Family Care Center

October 2014 Update

We have been back for about 2 months now, since leaving Addis for a couple months this summer.  The center looked great when we came back!  We have great confidence in the staff here, but it is hard to not play the “what if” game in your head when you can’t see things in person!  But it was pretty much a “pop in” visit immediately when we got back in the country, to see everybody at the center.  It was awesome!  We really missed everybody.  The hugs and kisses received from everybody wiped away all evidence of being exhausted from the long trip back

yohannes and habtam laugh

We had minimal medical issues when we were gone, but a pretty serious one.  The little one Elsabet (who has Down’s Syndrome) was in the hospital a couple times while we were absent.  Things often get a bit lost in translation, but from what I understand, she also has TB of the spine like another little one here, Brihanu.  She is doing well now, on medicine, and has been fine ever since.    All the other kids are great and healthy!

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We were happy to be able to bring most of the supplies that were collected back in the states.  Anything that did not fit in our luggage (even went 2 bags over and they didn’t charge us!) will come over with the team in March.  The staff were so thrilled with new scrubs (their uniform) we brought!  Please keep that in mind, medical people—save the scrubs that you don’t like anymore but are still in good condition!  We can use them!  The kids all have a really good, warm sweatshirt now and there are enough pants to go around during the days when they are with us.  They just keep growing taller!  It gets very cold during rainy season here (can get down to 40s and there is no heat).  This is what we use the gently used clothing donations.  We were also able to distribute the last of the 4 new outfits they receive per year, from the program.  This is what we use the new clothing donations for.  I have to say, I think we could put on a fashion show for Kohls department store!  Thank you for all that donated those warm outfits.  They were so very grateful for their new outfit.

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We have confirmed now that we will not be graduating our first group of families this year.  I have to admit I was really looking forward to new babies, but am really happy it turned out this way.  Last year, we had the understanding that the children that turned 3 this year would be moving onto pre-school at Strong Academy.  Rules have changed with requirements, and that group of children will be with us another year!  We are so happy to pour more into those children and their parents/grandparents, for the next year.  A year just didn’t seem long enough.

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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.

biruk, senayt and abriham

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 has 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.

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Those that sponsor a family, updates will come soon.  Those that are on-going supporters for the center or one-time givers, please feel free to contact us ANY time and ask questions.  We love to hear from you and would love to share more!  Please pass the word to others that you know about us.  We still need to fill up the rest of the sponsorships and know that the one-time gifts are vital to filling in that gap between our budget and sponsorships not yet being filled.  Not to mention the ever increasing costs and unexpected things that occur.

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

-Bridget & Mark Sullivan

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

Care Center 14 Days of Love Challenge

Family Care Center

14 Days of Love Challenge for February

For 14 days in February we featured families that are still in need of a sponsor so you could learn a little something about them, have the opportunity to sponsor them and receive updates. Not many sponsorships were filled. There are 18 children left that are still not sponsored. Maybe you are not able to sponsor but you can still help us, by passing along the information to a friend that would like to make a difference. Below are all of the pictures and stories featured from the 14 day challenge.

Day 1:
It has to be our twins of course, for day one! This is Dagim and Natan. They are being raised by their Grandmother, Temench. She is also raising 2 other older granddaughters. She is such a strong, beautiful woman. She is a widow. You can see her hard working hands and feet, look into her eyes and see that she has not lived an easy life. But yet she chooses to raise her grandbabies, regardless of their moms abandoning them. It is NOT an easy road. We are so thrilled we can have them in our program. They are an absolute delight. They cried and cried at first, never being apart from their grandmother. But now, they love being with us during the day, gobble up their smoothies and other nutritious things we offer and have fun preparing for pre-school. More education than their grandmother has ever had. It is a new generation now. Natan is already sponsored at 25%, so only 75% more to go. Dagim needs to be fully sponsored. Those peope out there that have twins, don’t you want to be a part of their lives to make a difference knowing how hard it can be with little twins? She used to carry both of them to and from the center, which has to be close to a mile. She brings somebody with her to help now and well, they are BIG boys now, so they just HAVE to walk on their own! Oh how I wish you could all see them in person! Some of the cutest 2 year olds you have ever met! And Temench’s smile just brings a smile to my face when I picture it in my mind. Click here to learn more and sponsor either one…or both!

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 2:
The first one is Yeabsira. She started off such a little bitty thing and now look at her! When you click on her profile, you can see how much she has grown since September! She is pulling up on things, has all sorts of hair that the caregivers enjoy doing. Her mom, Askale is single raising Yeabsira and her other child that is 10 years old. When she was young, her family was promised that she could come to Addis to stay with her aunt and get an education. That never happened. She just worked in her aunt’s home and still has no formal education. Askale does beautiful embroidery work!

The smiley guy on the right is Abriham! He loves posing for pictures and seems like a real smarty learning his numbers and letters in the 2 year old room. His mom is Demeku. She was also promised an education if she moved to Addis and she did not get one. When she was 8 months pregnant, she discovered that her husand had another wife. She is raising her son alone now. They share a home with 2 other families to make ends meet.

Time for you to commit to helping these families. We love getting to know them, help them, pray for them and be able to provide the medical care, education about nutrition and hygiene, and numerous other things we are privileged to do. But we can’t do it without your financial support.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 3:
The cute little boy that was featured when we kicked off the Love Challenge …his name is Yonas…and he still needs a sponsor. He is an absolute joy since he lights up any room with his smile and always wanting to sit on your lap or play! His mother, Etagan, is always full of smiles, as well. She is married and her husband is a daily laborer. She has no formal education. She enjoys embrodery work. The picture of him is when we handed out the winter coats at the beginning of the program when it was cold and rainy here. Her picture is when she came to our training in handicrafts with the team from Texas.

The next picure in his very stylish sweater is Biniyam. I will not tell you he is always smiley, because he is not. He is a very serious boy, that often is sorta, well, particular, let’s just say. They ALL can’t be smiley and happy all the time! But he is cute, nonetheless and enjoys being here with us, often not wanting to be changed out of his clothes when his mom comes to pick him up each afternoon. Poor little guy has a lot of ear infections, and this picture was from when we took him to see a doctor last week. His mother, Birtukan, is raising him on her own, since her husband left after he was born. She use to own her own little restaurant that served drinks and snacks, until her husband took all of her money from her place and she had to close it up. She moved to Addis at age 15, after her mother passed away and her father remarried. She said they were always fighting. She thought it was better for everybody if she left to find work in Addis, instead of her hometown of Wolo. She has a 1st grade education. Her picture is also from the handicrafts training.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 4:
I am going to share with you what this mom told me when I asked about what Strong Families meant to her family. “Broken hearts are healed.” So don’t you want to be a part of that? Because we know we can’t do it without you!

The mom that shared this with me, her name is Beletu. She is married and has 3 children. Maybe similar to many of you reading this? The difference is your circumstances and hers. She did not chose to be born into the poverty she is in. She has a 10 year old and 6 year old. Her husband is a day laborer (which means he does whatever job is available–hard labor like moving rocks or dirt for construction in many cases) and she does embroidery work and sews. She went up to grade 5 in her education. Gelila is such a cute little one and fits right in with all of her little friends in our 2 year old room. She made me think of my grandpa when he would never show any teeth while taking pictures. Gelila would not show me her teeth when she was smiling for her picture!

Dagim T. also is one of 3 children in his family. His mom and dad are both HIV+ and taking their antivirals and eating healthy when they can afford to do so. They CAN stay together as a family. He cleans roads as a job. She has no education and does embroidery work for income. Dagim was so little when he came into our program in the fall and has grown so much! Yeneayew (mom) always has a smile on her face and always seems to be in high spirits. It is hard not to get in a good mood after seeing her!

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 5:
First up is Selam. She is in one of our 1 year old rooms. She is another one of our more serious little ones. She does love her momma so very much and lights up when she comes to pick her up each afternoon. She also enjoys the time with the other kids and caregivers at the center. Her mom is Sewunet and she is 21 years old. She had a child with her previous husband and he is 4 years old and doing well in school. Her husband is handicapped and begs as a source of income. Sewunet use to also beg. But now that she is in our program, she is selling items to local sooks (small store). She would like to someday have her own sook to support her family. She has no formal education, but wants more for her family and her children.

Next is Bereket. He is new to our program. They came in a bit over a month ago. He was so shy and so unhappy when he was first here, wanting to be left alone to be sad. Now his personality has been shining through. He has the biggest smile ever and he has quite the sense of humor as he plays with the other kids in his class and jokes around. He gives me the typical Ethiopian eyebrow raise (in this picture) and will giggle as he wags his finger at me for taking his picture. His mom is Almaz, is 32 years old and is no longer with her husband due to his drinking. She looks much older than a woman of 32, as you can see from her picture (if you look them up on the link below). She is from Addis and has a 6th grade education. Her smile is just as big and contagious as her son’s!

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 6:
I was going to feature our moms that are outside here today learning how to use their talents and gifts in making a new handicraft…but it will have to wait. When I saw the next name up on my “featured” list here, I know the first baby up has a very special place in many people’s hearts.

Her name is Elsabet. She was born back in October to a mother that is HIV+ and part of Strong Hearts hospice program. She was very underweight and they kept the baby in an incubator for a little while (I know my days are not exact, but stories here are never very big on exact detail!) and then came home. I remember the hospice workers (that are in the home helping patients that are affected by HIV or cancer to help them with nutrition and monitor health needs) being very concerned for this baby Elsabet. They didn’t think the mom was connecting very well with the baby, having issues with the baby breastfeeding and giving what appeared to be, very little formula. So fast forward to the end of December when she came into our program. She was a tiny little thing. Not sure how much she weighed, but you could see bones. The first picture of her here is when she first arrived. Now about a month later, she already looks bigger. I think just having her here all day, regular feedings and love, is doing it! We will continue to work with mom as we get to know her. But for now, we are just so thankful this little baby is thriving. She is one of 3 children in the home. The other 2 children are 10 and 9 years old and their father passed away. Elsabet’s mom’s name is Nana and she has had a rough start to life, moving to Addis when she was 10 years old because her father passed away and her mom could not afford to pay for her to live there. She has no formal education. She has been working at the trash dump, collecting things out of it, to sell. She is already sponsored at 25%…so that means only 3 more people have to commit to $35/month!

The 2nd little one just celebrated a birthday! Realize that the calendar here is different than the calendar used in the US. So we convert all of their birthdates to US calendar. I know..confusing, but it would be really confusing if I told you that her birthday was January 22, 2004! It is the year 2006 right now in Ethiopia. So anyways, we celebrated all of the January birthdays just this past week. So this picture is of Arsema at her birthday party here. And yes—that next picture is of her holding that huge knife to make the first cut in her cake that has all the burning candles. No frosting smeared on faces here for birthdays, just hand clapping, singing and cutting of their own cake as soon as they can! Her mom is Gete and she is the one that we were able to get seen at the hospital since she thought (or was told) that she had a tumor in her abdomen. Could you imagine carrying around the burden knowing that something was wrong, but you did not have the money to pay for a doctor visit to see? That was her situation before entering this program. And by the way, she is fine as far as a tumor is concerned, there was no mass after an ultrasound was done. But we are having her monitor her blood pressure and hoping that she can get that under control with some nutritional changes. She is married, and has another child that is 7 years old. Her husband is a daily laborer. They live in her mother’s home. Her mother has an undiagnosed mental disorder. Her little Arsema is the cutest—runs to her mom each afternoon to go home! This family is also at 25% supported, so it would only mean 3 more sponsors at $35/month!

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 7:
This may be one of my favorite pictures I have. What looks more comfortable than this little one sleeping? This is Besufekad. I walked into one of the rooms and the caregivers were folding fresh laundry during naptime and apparently thought it was a great place to put him. His mother is Weyneshet and she is 21 years old. She is HIV+ and just recently moved out of her mother’s home. Her husband left her when she was 4 months pregnant. When he first came into our program, he was just getting over having pneumonia. At the time, he very much favored the guard (a male) to any other staff! It is hard to imagine him not being able to have a comfortable and clean place to lay his little head down each afternoon. He is already sponsored at 25%, so only 3 more $35/month available!

Mehalet most definitely wins the “best afternoon momma greeting” award. The reuinion between Mehalet and her mom, almost makes you cry. The pure joy that you can see when her mom walks in the room is awesome! Can you imagine if they could not be together? Nope, me neither! Etenesh (mom) is 26 years old and has a 4 year old, as well. She looks well over 26 years of age, but life here seems to age people more quickly. She made the choice to not stay with her physically abusive and alcoholic husband in order to protect her family. We are thrilled that she had the courage to do this and we are able to help her at this critical time in their life. She is staying on top of her health in order to take care of her 2 young children. She takes her anti-virals and eats healthy when her income allows. She has a 7th grade education and washes clothes for a living. She also has a sponsor for 25%, so only 3 more slots to fill!

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 8:
This is Ruth. She came into our program almost 3 months ago. Our social worker and lead caregiver met her mom, Birhane, when she was sitting in a wheelchair with her baby. She shared with them about how she wanted to work, and had a job before she had the baby, but did not have anybody to care for her baby. She applied to our program and met the qualifications. It was our youngest little one at the time (November) and we were happy to have them join. She has another child at home, who is 9 years old. She is also married, but her husband has been mentally unstable ever since a job went poorly. She said sometimes he sleeps at the church and does not come home. Birhane (mother) uses a wheelchair at times, but mostly two walkers. When she was 5 years old, she received an injection from a doctor to help with an issue with her leg and it made her legs worse and she has no use of her legs. She moved to Addis with her father in order to get treatment. Doctors could not help correct this. She had a job at a factory before she had the baby, and had the opportunity to go back to this place of employment, but needed childcare. She would like to make more money for her family, but is thankful for a steady job. Baby Ruth is adorable and we love seeing her grow. The first picture is of her when she first came into our program and the video was taken a couple weeks ago that I sent to her sponsor family. She is sponsored at 25% currently. Of course kids never “perform” as they should—she has this incredible smile that covers her entire face that I wanted to share, but she would never look at me and do it while I was taping! But you will get the idea. You will see how much she is thriving, sitting up and getting ready to crawl. Come and be a part of these families’ lives by helping us help them.

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To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 9:
Something different today. There is a fine line in our head between educating people about the realities here, versus exploiting the families. But today I am going to share pictures from some of our families’ homes. The social worker at the center conducts ongoing home visits for each of the families. We hope to help them learn better ways of taking care of themselves, their homes and their children. What you see by these inside pictures are some “typical” homes. Some homes may have concrete, tin or mud walls. Most homes do not have running water, so they have to walk to get containers of water to wash their clothes, dishes or cook with, for that day. Most homes do have electricity. Many have one room, with their bed being a mattress, perhaps on the floor, along with maybe a table or a chair for food preparation. Many are in a compound of various similar homes. When people walk through our center, they see a nice, clean facility. They see clean clothes, and clean, healthy children (for the most part, we always have a couple runny noses!). This is deceiving from where they rest their head every night. A person once said to me that our care center “should not be anywhere near the trash dump. No child should be exposed to that filth.” I couldn’t agree more. But this is reality. This is where God has placed our family to serve. We live and serve in the Kore (same know it as Korah) area. We are not scooping anybody up with our Superman cape flying off our backs and taking them out. But we are doing our best to meet them where they are. We are doing our best to help them at a time in their lives that is tough. We are hoping to change hearts. We are hoping that these families can learn the love of Jesus through us. We are hoping that they will take pride and gain the dignity every mother, father or grandparent should have in leading their family. We ask that you help one of these families and we will be thrilled to share with you their progress throughout the time you sponsor them. To some families, progress may just be surviving. Progress may be not giving up on raising their family because it is tough. I say the word “tough”, but only because there is no other word to describe it, but it does not seem to do the situation justice. Please consider sharing the stories from the previous week, as well as this coming week, with others. I know it is not the pleasant coffee chat you may be comfortable with, but I don’t think living in these conditions are terribly comfortable, either. You have been given privileges in perhaps just the place you were born or the school you attend, or the way you make your living. Use your gifts and your privileges to help somebody that does not have that currently. I assure you that the families we are serving are soon going to be an example to their neighbors and be able to help them. I could go on and on, that is evident. I promise to stop yapping on and on, if you will promise to consider what a bit over a $1/day could do for these families. Most of the families are simply happy that their children are being fed healthy meals (because they couldn’t afford it) and be in a clean, positive environment. Every child deserves that. No matter what your religion, your political affiliation, your stand on major issues…I don’t think you can possibly argue that these little ones don’t deserve to be cared for and to stay with their families.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 10:
Shewaye is a quiet little one that much prefers the caregiver to me, for taking photos! She is one of 2 children in her family. Her mom is Zeneb. She is only 25 years old and has already been a widow once. Her husband that she had her 1st child with passed away. Her 2nd husband left her after Shewaye was born because they didn’t have any money. He does help pay some of her rent, though. Zeneb has no formal education. Her hope for her children is that they will have a better future, and be able to learn in school. An opportunity she did not have when she was young. Her other child is enrolled at Strong Academy in KG1. She is very thankful to be a part of the Strong Hearts programs and have a safe place for her children during the day so she can work.

Yodit is the next little one here. She is also a quieter one and much preferred to come hang on my leg with her little friend, than pose for a picture. Her mom is 26 years old and has 3 children. Her first 2 children are from a different father than Yodit. He left her when she was pregnant with their 2nd child. She is married now and her husband was also looking for a permanent job at the time that she came into the program. She is thankful her child is here, so she can work now during the day to help support her family. She is also thankful that her child gets fed while she is here, on a consistent basis. You really have to hop over to the sponsorship page to see this beautiful mother and daughter.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 11:
This is Tsinat. She is in our 2 year old room. Her mom Mekdes, in the next picture, is a shining example of how a person can work on getting a better future secured for their family. She is 21 years old and completed the 7th grade. She had her child out of wedlock and lives with her grandmother. She is from Addis Ababa. She came into the program very excited to be free to work since her daughter would be here during the day. She also said that she would like to further her education. That is exactly what she did! She is currently enrolled in beauty school and will graduate in June. She is happy that she is free more during the day to help her grandmother with household things, as well as studying and going to school. Way to go Mekdes! Please be a part of their new journey! They are sponsored at 50%, so only half to go for them to be fully sponsored! That is two at $35/month or one sponsor at $70/month.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 12:
The “featured” child is really Abigiya. She is 2 years old and her little 1 year old sister Heldana, is also here, but is fully sponsored. There are 2 children in this family and they live with both their parents. Their parents are evangelist, with the husband preaching at a local church and Dibora (mom) makes jewelry at the local church. She is the one that makes the gorgeous crosses that you may have seen pictures of on our page. (I decided to share that picture again on here!) They are thought of highly in the community, as Christian leaders, but also have struggles living where they are living with no family support and lower education. Dibora finished the 10th grade and was born in Hosana, moving to Addis Ababa when she was 31 years old. She definitely feels their calling is sharing God’s word. They are so very thankful for both of their children to be able to be in this program. It started out that just Heldana was here at our center. A long story short, but when we had just one of their children, they brought in a child (older girl) from the countryside to watch their other child. This is common practice here so that parents can go to work full time. We spoke with the parents and educated them why this was not ok to have a child working like that, and that this country child needed to be in school, not working in their home. They agreed with us and now this other older child remains in their home, but is in school full time. So Strong Families has not only made a difference for this immediate family, but now another child has the opportunity to get educated and have a better future. This family can now be an example to others around them that taking in older children to work in their homes is not acceptable. When people are not exposed to different lines of thinking, they do not know any better. I am thankful we were given the opportunity to educate and change hearts for these families. Please be a part of this change, too.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 13:
Selamawit is an only child and is adorable. Her mom is Meseret and she is 22 years old and married. Her husband found out recently that he was HIV+, but mom and Selamawit are healthy. She is very happy to be in the program so she can find a job now. She has a 6th grade education and would like to sell things. She moved to Addis from Wolo when she was 16 years old with her brother, to find a job.

Brihanu is our newest addition! He just came into the program about 2 weeks ago and is a bit over 1. He is the only child to his mother of 19. Her name is Almaz and she has been married for 3 years. She came to Addis from Raya when she was 13 years old. She grew up an orphan, her parents passing away when she was a baby. She begged and received help from neighbors to survive. She had no shoes as a child and had a bad infection, so the neighbors gathered money to put her on a bus to get to Addis for treatment. The treatment that she received was not even for the foot/leg problem, but that she had TB. She was treated for 7 months at Mother Theresa’s and then was back on the streets begging to earn a living. This is where she met her husband, who is blind, and also a beggar. Alma uses two walkers to help her walk—since she has one leg that is significantly shorter than the other. She has not known any other life other than begging, yet she shared with me that she does not want her son to grow up learning to beg. She is not sure what she is good at, since she has never done anything else. She was learning how to make bags today with the group from our center. I am hopeful this young girl can turn things around for her family, one day at a time. She is thankful Brihanu is in a nice clean place during the day and that he gets fed as well. You can be a part of her transformation! Please consider sponsoring them.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Day 14:
I was so hoping to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody is sponsored!”, but I cannot. We still have 18 families that still need to be sponsored. Out of the 14 days that we have been doing this challenge, 5 people (2 came in today!) have sponsored families at different levels of support. Thank you so much to those families!!! It really means the world to us, and to the families we serve here.

This month, not only have I had the opportunity to write a bit about each family that has not been sponsored yet, but it also happens to be the month that we have been completing updates on each family. What perfect timing for God to remind us what glorious things are happening here. We have done about half of the updates for the families. While some families still need help with things like leaking roofs, better jobs or medical issues, the majority so far have been sharing with us how much their everyday life has changed because they are in this program. I am refreshed and inspired by the strength of these families. One of the mothers I was talking to this afternoon was sharing that things were so very good with her family now. She is so happy that she is free during the day now that her little one is in our care center, so she is free to work. This is a woman that was in a serious construction accident (fell off a building), got beat by her alcoholic husband, is now raising 3 children on her own and she says life is good because she can pay for her rent and food for her family now! She works mainly at the trash dump looking for things to sell. Does this put “life is good” into perspective for you? It does for me! And I think her baby might just be one of the prettiest and happiest babies we have. She already has a sponsor, so I won’t even tease you with her adorable picture. (I couldn’t help myself–the cute little one with the big smile is here, below!) But there ARE 18 other adorable, cherished by their family, children, that we need your help in providing support.

People want to know if it makes a difference. We of often ask ourselves that same question. Does this program make a difference? I cannot predict the future. But I do know that it is making a difference today. These mothers (they are mainly moms, but we have one dad and a couple grandmas), I hope, are learning that they are loved. They are learning they are smart and God has given them gifts. We hope to bring to light these gifts. Because right now, they have only worried about immediate needs and surviving. The proud smile I saw on a young mother’s face yesterday as she showed me the bag she was starting to sew with our volunteer handicraft trainers was priceless. This was a woman that a week or so ago, told me she didn’t have any skills other than begging. They all still have a very difficult road to travel and life is not easy for them. But we are hoping to show them that they are loved, their children are loved and we want them to stay together, because that is best for them. The sense of community that is already in place here is one of their biggest strengths. The women that have a handicap, have friends that help them carry their children home. When one of them is working later, they arrange for their neighbor to pick up their child for them. This may sound somewhat like the states, but we are not carrying babies on our backs or walking a mile to get home on rough terrain. We don’t have to wear little floppy shoes over rocks and dirt, to get home. Not most of us from developed countries, anyways. I urge you to look back at the last 2 weeks, read about each of them. Pray for them. Share with others. Let your heart be burdened with their stories. Donate your money, time or service in helping us help them! Walk with us in this journey of loving them.

To view all of the children or to commit to a sponsorship click here Family Care Center Sponsorship

Care Center December 2013 Update

1422361_10202075989682835_1130331292_nIt is about time for an update!  We have been busy with everyday routine around here.  We now officially have 40 children in the program.  We expect to add at least one new baby any day now.  We are licensed to be at 40 children, but have the flexibility of going 10% above that number, so we could be at 44, if we feel we are able to do so.  For this new baby coming in, it is quite evident that we need to have her with us. The mom needs the extra support and guidance in caring for her and her family.  The baby is about 7 pounds and 3 months old.  We will know more once she is in our program.

It is such a pleasure to see the way the center is running so well.  The systems are pretty well in place on our daily routine.  And now, with consistent running water—oh my, what a difference that makes!  The baby room has now been switched with the 1 year old room so they can have their own bathroom in their room.  Those babies need more baths than the other kids!  Little changes have been made.  I have even gotten over my mentality that clothes need to be put on that match the gender of the child that wears them each day!  If you have never been to Ethiopia, let me share with you, that it does not make a difference if a boy is wearing pink, or a girl is wearing a boy shirt.  This use to drive me a little crazy, but now I could care less, since I know who is who and as long as they are clean!  I use to arrange all the outfits every afternoon for the next morning for the children, and now the caregivers do that.  This is always our intention, mind you.  That nothing is totally dependent on us, or any one person.  The center should run well even when some people may be missing.  Working as a team reinforces this thinking.

Last time we wrote, we were anticipating a small team from Texas to come and teach the women handicrafts.  Well, they did come for 3 days as well as some additional days by a couple of them that were here, to teach more!  The number of women that were trained wound up being 32!  It was great fun that they could all be here, in community with one another, but also to receive the training.  We now officially have so many beautiful necklaces, bracelets, cross ornament (or just home décor) and cloth gift bags.  We would love for anybody interested in these items, to please contact us, so we can get them to you!  Our ladies in Texas have some and soon Christ Church will also have some!  If you are traveling here, please feel free to visit us to take some home with you!  All of the money goes for the women to compensate their current jobs.

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Today we the women had training on nutrition, hygiene and HIV.  It was presented by a friend from the states (Wisconsin even!) that is a nurse.  The more education we can pump into them, the better.  There are so many misunderstandings and myths here, we want to make sure that our women are getting true, accurate information, so they can provide the best for their families.  The process to apply to get into this program included a home visit, so we could assess their living situation.  We are now starting to do home visits and take pictures, so we can see improvements, or be able to show them if improvements need to be made.  Most of the families live in small structures that have dirt floors, mud walls and tin roofs.  Even though this may sound not livable to many of us that have not grown up like this, this is life here, for these families.  There is still a way that they can keep their home and things clean.  That is part of why we are here.  We will help the ones that need it—to show them the importance of keeping their clothing and bedding clean, and food preparation so they can have the most hygienic homes possible for their family.  Slowly, we hope that they will feel good about their progress, and this will be able to be seen through our pictures we will share with them.  Even now when I view the sponsor pictures of the families when they first arrived (not that long ago!), they have changed so much!!  They just look healthier, there are less sick kids, and some are looking cleaner.  But we still have a ways to go on educating the families.  We know it will not change overnight.

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We are so excited to be able to share with each of the donors that have already sponsored children.  It is like sharing about my own kids, for the ones that I know better! I invite you to have one of these families touch your family, the way I know it has for so many.  Any way that you can be a part of it, would be appreciated.  You can share with others, donate items, money or sponsor a family.  You can always email us directly with any questions, or look at the website for updated needs.

As long as we are talking about support and money…which is not my favorite subject…we REALLY need donations and sponsors!  There is nothing more humbling and setting you up to be leaning more on God’s plan then making you a bit nervous that the funds are not flowing in as we anticipated.  I am positive God has a plan.  But it is difficult to understand why all of the sponsorship slots were not taken right away!  These families are beyond precious.  If you were here, and you could meet them, look into their eyes, see not only the children that we are blessed with each day, but also meet their families—you would not hesitate to share what we are doing here.  I really look at each of these families as my own.  What if I were born into the poverty and other circumstances they were?  What would I do to better provide for my child?  Would I not be so thankful for a ministry to step in beside us and help?  We never want people to donate funds out of guilt.  So this is not what my intention in sharing this with you, but sometimes it takes putting ourselves in somebody else’s position, to think about things a bit differently.  We want you to donate because you feel led to, because you believe these families will be better off because of this ministry.

Without support, we cannot do what we are doing.  We understand, maybe you are not in the position to give right now, but you can share with others, in conversation over coffee, via email, Facebook—whatever your means of communication may be.  Or maybe you could throw together a group and sponsor a family together.  Do you know somebody traveling to Ethiopia?  Encourage them to visit us here so they can see our center.  Give them donations to bring along for us.  There are endless ways you can support this ministry.

Many blessings to all of you as you are busy preparing for holidays, days off work and school and spending time with friends and families.  For some, it may be a time of remembering a loved one that is no longer with you.  Regardless of what your situation you may be in currently, know that you are blessing to our ministry by simply reading and keeping us in your prayers.  It takes a village…on both sides of the ocean!

Check out the sponsorship page.