Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Celebrate Mediocrity Over a Piece of Humble Pie

In my life I have come to celebrate mediocrity; measure success in small doses. There are very few scenarios in which I truly excel.  Go back to high school with me for a moment.  Every year I won the "Coach's Award" for my athletic team contributions.  That's code for, "you try really hard, but sorry, honey.  You still don't get to play."  Fast forward (several decades) to now being a parent.  I have great kids, whom I love dearly, but they are four boys who know how to be loud, how to make a royal mess, and how to really push my buttons at times.  I don't have the best mannered, well-behaved little blessings I dreamed of.  I can't even claim that I win the award for the worst or naughtiest little blessings, because they do have some compelling and redeeming moments now and then.  (Though I do have some great stories we will tell for years to come.)  I never thought I'd celebrate winning the equivalent of the Coach's Award for parenting, but I actually do...and I've come to find joy in it.

On the other hand, there is one thing I have gotten much better at over recent years...eating humble pie.  I owe much of this new-found  pie eating success, and the ability to find joy in it, to my adventures to Ethiopia.

In this crazy, stupid, ridiculous American world of people (women mostly) comparing themselves to each other, I've decided to embrace what is.  I have decided to make it one of my missions in life is to make others feel better about themselves, by comparison.  Hang out with me...You will inevitably feel better about yourself, in part due to the vast amounts of humble pie I have to consume.

Because of this, I have a story to share with you of my most recent trips to Ethiopia.  Through this story I was reminded about how grace is not just about forgiveness of sins and unwarranted favor after the fact.  But it is about a way of pursuing life freely.  I don't have to be excellent. But I will warn you that attempting to live this way, you will definitely need unwarranted favor.  In efforts to make the most of the time at the CarePoint, I had projects and activities planned.  Most of that was suddenly not an option since that piece of luggage never showed.  A friend, who shall remain nameless (Regina!), convinced me that teaching the kids some songs went well before.  Then another friend, (Jodi!), convinced me how great it would be to teach them a song familiar to our church, which turned into a horrible, dronious song choice.  Even better, these friends left the stage to "help the kids learn it."  (Many thanks to Amy for actually sticking next to me, even if I did try to push the microphone in front of your face instead of mine.)  So as you might guess, I ended up on stage with a microphone in front of 150+ children and families attempting to do good.  You should have seen the look on these kids' faces.  They screamed, "Really?  This is what you do for fun?!"  I noted this extreme awkwardness and cut the song 3/4 of the way through.  In a panic, I decided they needed a more fun song.  So naturally we went into singing, 'If You're Happy and You Know It.'  Good active song for kids, right?  Yeah, if they speak your language and know what you are saying.  Otherwise you just end up clapping, stomping, spinning and yes, still singing on stage.  Let me tell you, the body language I received from the crowd seemed to transcend language barriers.  They didn't know what I was doing or saying, but I knew exactly what they were thinking.   I wanted the stage to open up and swallow me whole. Unfortunately, I couldn't make that happen either, so I still have to live with that one.  Truth be told, I was frustrated, embarrassed, just plain annoyed with the failure and a bit angry with myself for just trying too hard.  I had forgotten that I was there to BE WITH them, not DO FOR them and that's how I ended up in this mess.  It took me a few hours to get over myself, but I've learned a lot from that moment in time.  I have had so much joy and laughter come from reliving this not-distant-enough memory that I wouldn't trade it for anything. (Now that doesn't mean I'm going to post the video online; you'll have to watch it with me so we can laugh together.)  I've also been freed of my mess ups and am willing to go out and mess up again, as long as I do it with joy and thanks of living in The Grace that was freely given to me.

Join me in celebrating mediocrity, eating humble pie, making others feel better by comparison and finding joy in the everyday realities.  And if you need a little help to get there, join us on a grand adventure to meet our friends in Ethiopia.  In the meantime, get to know the truths, the crisis, and the needs out there in this world; and pray for Sue, Kara, Kate, Cindy, Sam and Carter as they embrace this adventure.  You don't have to be excellent at it.  You don't have to do as much as others are doing, but you have to do more than nothing.

 From Patch Our Planet:
My goal is not to leave you with a burdened sense of guilt. My goal is to build a burdened army that will be motivated to action by the thought of children without a protector, without a family. Antoine de Saint, a French aviator and writer in the early 1900′s said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Follow with me the team's story of adventures from Burayu this coming week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Burayu CarePoint!

 So much progress in just one year...Check out THIS SHORT VIDEO  of how your support has filled tummies, created jobs, supported local industry, provided access to education, offered medical help, and created so many smiling faces. Way to go! Thank you, from the Burayu CarePoint!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Third World Experience

This post was written by Connor Dood about his experience and thoughts about his time in Ethiopia.  He has been there twice, once with his parent's during the adoption process of his brother Keegan, and once when he traveled with his mom and Whitney for a vision trip with Children's HopeChest which led to the partnership with Burayu in Ethiopia!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ethiopia lately.

I miss sitting outside a Kaldi’s Coffeehouse, sipping on a caramel macchiato that tastes better than Starbucks and costs a fraction of the price. I miss eating around a communal saucer of traditional Ethiopian food, not exactly sure what I’m about to dip my injera in but trying it anyway. I miss the exhilaration of riding in a car through Addis, where no one obeys any traffic rules and no one is even sure if such rules exist. I miss the diverse culture: full of coffee ceremonies, hair whipping, and frequent holidays. I miss being able to refer to “rainy” as a season. I miss riding in a rickety boat through a lake full of hippos in the South and standing on the edge of an untouched canyon in the North. Believe it or not, I even miss being woken up at five in the morning to stray dogs barking and cattle being herded through the streets. But what do I miss the most? The people. Those incredible Ethiopian people who remain friendly and joyful despite their circumstances.  

Because of my trips to Ethiopia, I will never be the same. I will never think the same way or interact the same way or purchase the same way or talk the same way. This is something I’ve had to get used to. I left a significant chunk of my heart in Ethiopia, which still beats for the people, the culture, and the country itself. This is the burden that every traveler must carry—that with each country he visits, he leaves an important part of himself behind.

However, isn’t that the point? Aren’t the countries we visit supposed to have an emotional impact on us?  Shouldn’t the people, the sights, and the culture always be close to our hearts? I think so. And I think most people who have travelled abroad, especially to third world countries, would agree.

However, the reality is that traveling to a third world country will wreck you. You’ll see families who live in mud huts smaller than the size of most American walk-in closets. You’ll see children on the streets who can no longer walk because a simple broken bone didn’t heal properly. You’ll  see glistening new skyscrapers built around tin shacks, Lexuses parked next to donkeys, and men and women in business attire walking alongside of men and women in rags. In fact, you’ll probably see plenty of things that you wish you could unsee.

For these reasons, you will come back to where you came from and rethink much of your life. Do you need to live in such a large house? Do you need so many clothes? Is that new car you’re thinking of buying really necessary? Could you give more money to charity? Should you? Do the things you complain about and the worries you obsess over really matter after visiting a country where the people’s chief worry is having enough food to eat and a roof over their heads that doesn’t leak too much?

Those who plan to travel to third world countries need to understand that they will not easily re-incorporate themselves into their first world cultures upon returning. Things will not seem the same, and they shouldn’t. But don’t use this as an excuse not to go. Please, put your life aside temporarily and simply go. Whatever your motives are—whether for self-betterment, for an adventurous experience, or because you genuinely want to impact lives—I still urge you to go.  

Because if you don’t go, how will you ever know what could’ve been? How will you ever know if a third world experience could’ve changed your life forever?

It’s extremely easy to ignore poverty when it’s on the other side of the world. It’s easy to read or see something about orphans and think, “Wow, that’s so sad,” but still do nothing about it. It’s easy to write checks to support missionaries and organizations that fight against global epidemics. But what’s not easy is being able to feel the urgency of the crises abroad when we live in a materialistic society so far removed from such staggering poverty and suffering.

However, maybe, just maybe, traveling to a third world country will personalize these crises for you, causing you to take personal action and responsibility. It has for me. One of my favorite writers, David Platt, wrote a book called Radical, which is about taking your faith beyond the American Dream. While discussing the orphan crisis worldwide, he wrote, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

Overall, don’t be afraid to go to a third world country. Don’t let the mundane demands of your life stop you from embarking on a trip that could have such a profound impact on you. Let it wreck you. Let it change you. Let it flip your world upside down. Leave a chunk of your heart behind. Allow yourself to experience deep and permanent change. It will be difficult, but I promise that it will be worth it.  

In Him,

Connor Dood
Freshman at Indiana Wesleyan University

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tigist is hired Program Coordinator at Burayu CarePoint

During our visit to Burayu in August, I had the distinct privlidge of  meeting the newly hired Program Coordinator for the Burayu CarePoint.  She blew me out of the water, people!  I could not be more confident than I am in Tigist to know, love and commit to serving all 150 Burayu kids and their families.  She is truly a talented woman.

Many of you know this about me:  I am no good at commanding the attention of large groups of small children...a disaster in waiting.  But Tigist, a name meaning patience, has this gift.  Not only does she know how to lead a group of busy kids, but she respects and smiles upon each one as if they were her own flesh. 

She was hired by the Burayu CarePoint church staff to be the program coordinator six months prior to our visit.  She oversees the ongoing relationship between each family, their needs their relationship to the community and the CarePoint.  This includes food distribution, discipleship, tutoring, education enrollment, healthy living education, medical care, general connection and well-being.  She knows your families!
While she was taking us out to our home visits, I noted a boy off in the background that I recognized from his profile picture.  I asked her, "Is this Daniel over here?"  Her response to me, "Yes, it is!  But it is Daniel no.111, not Daniel no. 57."  Then she proceeded to tell me more of where he lives and who was his family.  I was dumbfounded by her quick response and in-depth knowledge of 'the Daniels' and their families.  What I quickly learned is that she know all 150 families just as well.

Thank you for helping to employ such a talented woman to care for all our children.  She has big dreams for all of them.  If you would like to read more about Tigist and her background, check out her profile on our community page under the "Leaders" tab.   Please join me in thanking her for her dedication and heart.  Tigist's Profile

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Abneezer and You

    Let me tell you about a boy.  He is a boy that lives oceans apart from me, that I think about everyday.  I see a quiet confidence in his teary eyes as they look up at me.  I can't tell you exactly what he is thinking, but I am pretty sure I can see his heart through those eyes.  But what I can tell you is much of what those eyes are teaching me still.
    Abneezer is a young boy with what I would consider to be a very heavy weight on his shoulders and a quiet confidence in his heart.  He lives with his mother and sister in a small home they have put together on land they do not own.  They are squatting on government land in what you and I would call a 'lean to.'  At any given time, the government may come in and rightfully reclaim their space, leaving them with nothing.  My initial perspective was that they would be left with nothing.  But my initial perspective includes space...stuff...and food.  Abneezer's perspective is more mature. He is proud of his home and cares more about the happiness of his mother and sister.  When we met him, he smiled big and in clear English said to my husband, "Welcome to my home, sir."
    As our group entered his humble home, he was nothing but smiles looking up at us.  Maybe it was innocence of youth, but he certainly was aware of what his mother was saying to us at the same time.  Her story she shared with us was no light matter; we were all in tears.  Abneezer's mother and sister are ill, and they cannot afford the necessary medical care, nor is there easy access to it.
    We stood with our arms around each other crying, even though I can't say exactly what for.  I could have been crying for the harsh reality of her situation.  I could have been crying for the ache in her heart and because she was crying.  I could have been crying for the brokenness of my own heart and the silly complications I needlessly add to it.  Or it could have been all of these things.  As we cried, she spoke of her recent feelings of fear and loneliness in facing the future.  But then she continued her perspective... a group traveling across the ocean to meet her and the staff she connects with at Children's HopeChest in Burayu, she no longer felt alone.  She knew of a much larger community of people who care for and pray for her family, despite the ocean in the middle of it all.
    Abneezer's eyes looked up at us and seemed to say that he too understood they were not alone.  His eyes were blood shot from holding back the tears, but they still smiled at you with a strange peace in his heart.  I saw Abneezer again the next day at the Kale Hiwot Church CarePoint location.  He was our biggest fan for getting his picture taken again and again, often returning to the back of the line to await another turn.  But what was most striking was how throughout the day I would have a little hand come up from behind, grasp my hand and give a little squeeze.  He didn't need to be seen or given attention, as he was often already engaged in another conversation or activity with a buddy.  He would just reach out, simply hold my hand and exchange that smile behind his tear filled eyes with me as if to say 'I notice you are here.'  I love that little boy and he will always have a piece of my heart.  I am honored to have met him, to learn from him, and to help solidify his connection to the dedicated staff at the Burayu CarePoint.  His face and his grasp is a continual reminder to me to keep my perspective real and grounded, to value relationship and to smile upon one another in love.
   Abneezer's mother expressed that when she was invited to be a part of the Children's HopeChest Burayu Community, she was aware that the government was profiling kids most eligible for the program and that this could potentially trip up her housing situation as she squats on the government's land.  The risk of losing her family home was worth the risk compared to what they would gain from entering into relationship with Children's HopeChest.  I'm gonna say that again since it sinks in deeper with me every time I send a child's photo from the trip to his/her sponsor.  The risk of losing her home was outweighed by the reward of gaining relationship with Children's HopeChest.  Welcome aboard our community, my friends.  We are so glad you are here to join us.
     Meet Abneezer's family:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I am broken...and it is good.

Friends of Burayu,

Last week I returned home from our trip to Ethiopia and visits to Burayu with this team.  I love going everytime, but it's the return days that I reflect, wrestle, and grow the most.  We certainly have stories and photos to sort through and share with all of you, but for now I will share some of my story.

Making sense of my life on this side of the globe is different and sometimes difficult after leaving a piece of my heart behind.  This year, on my way up north to pick up my children after landing back on American soil 24 hours prior, I stopped by my sister's house just to give a hug.  She asked how I was doing and the only response I could think of was, "I am broken.  I am broken...and it is good."  This confuses me and makes perfect sense to me all at the same time.  I can feel weak, incapable, confused by my life circumstances and wonder if those same circumstances are a gift or a challenge after experiencing the simple joys of the Ethiopian people. Here's how I made sense of this dilemma in my hours in the car last week. 

There is a peace knowing that through the brokenness, comes a great fulfillment.  2 Corinthians speaks of Paul's thorn and God's grace: "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Two team members happened to choose the same verses for our morning reflections. In Matthew 6 it talks for 8 or so verses about the needlessness of worry.  A trip to Africa can bring plenty of opportunities to worry for me and my friends and family.  I know that worry cannot add a second to my life.  But for me, saying "do not worry" is only a piece of the puzzle.  Alone, it is a task of omission. For me it's incomplete. The more I try to omit, the more obsessed I may actually become about it.  For example, I read Jen Hatmaker's book, Seven.  She simplified her life in so many ways by omitting many options.  It is a concept I do like, but it did lead her to write an entire book about her relationship with stuff.  Our team also spoke about that certain and mysterious peace that passes understanding.  I cannot help but think that the peace is not something God can give us, but something that is always there, that I must reach out and grab.  I can omit the worry, but I must grab the peace.  Personally, I must put my focus on grabbing the peace and the ability to boast in my weaknesses as things come into play that I would like to omit...else I again become a complete failure in my attempts.

8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There are many noble, good, pure and honorable things going on with our third world friends.  Years ago, my brokenness and failures would have shamed me and taken forefront in my life until I was successful at the daunting task of omitting those 'shameful happenings'.  Now I know, I am broken...and it is good, my friends.  Thank you to this year's team for laughing with me (and at me), crying with me, praying with me, growing and living with me.  I hope that you too will someday consider stumbling along this journey with us too.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

We Want You: Travel to Burayu

In the recent months, several adoptive families have been in Ethiopia to meet their children and had the privilege to visit Burayu, many of whom have sponsored and met their sponsored child.  Ask about their incredible experiences!  Now we are planning for other groups of us to travel and visit Burayu.  Whitney is traveling in August to help solidify some connections between Children's HopeChest, Burayu CarePoint leaders and Adoption Associates staff, along with the incredible opportunity to spend some time with 150 great kids.

Now it's your turn.  We want you to join us!  We are making plans to have a team travel in 2015.  Clear your calendars.  We are scheduled for the week of February 28th to March 8th time frame.  Travel will be that week, but nothing has been confirmed for flight details yet, though they are currently showing to be a very good deal at under $1000.  There are also some ground fees, but these flight deals may not last.  Email us at BurayuCommunity@gmail.com if you may be interested in joining us.  It is undoubtedly an adventure of a lifetime and we want to share it with you.