Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ethiopia 2010- Day 3

Day 3 in Ethiopia was Sunday. We enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs at the hotel (this would be our breakfast every morning! We all joked that we would not be eating scrambled eggs for a while once we got home!). And then we went to the church in Arsi-Negele. Arsi-Negele is a village about 20 minutes from Shashemene where we would be ministering for much of the week. Arsi is 90% Muslim and the church we served with was planted in Arsi 3 years ago. During the week we would be doing sports evangelism through baseball, children's ministry (like a mini-VBS), teaching English in the village school and worshiping with the church each evening. So Sunday morning we joined the church in worship.

The church was a small building formed by sticks and tarp. The floor was mud and the seats were handmade benches. The service began with prayer and then worship. The worship was very spirited and heartfelt. And I was moved. I had no idea what they were singing, but at the same time I knew what they were singing. You know what I mean?  I didn't know what the words were to their songs, but I knew they were singing praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. I was struck by the fact that although I did not understand their worship, God did. I was awed to think that God speaks every language. And I was awed by their worship. I was challenged by their worship. The people of the church in Arsi-Negele are in love with Jesus. They came from a place of intense poverty, their church building was not much to speak of, there was no plumbing, electricity was spotty and it did not matter. They sang with all of their hearts to the Lord. They danced before the Lord. And they did so every night of the week that we worshiped with them. Everynight during their worship, the power would go out and they would not miss a beat. The kept on singing- they kept on dancing. Why? Because He is worthy no matter the circumstances. Because He is the greatest thing we would ever possess- greater than money, or clothing, or food, or electricity or plumbing.... He is greater! He is more valuable! He is worthy! I asked our translators about one song they sang and danced to each service and he told me what it meant- God is my refuge, God is my comfort, and nothing can take Him away from me. I was challenged by their worship- I was challenged in my love, devotion and worship of God. Would I worship with such passion if my circumstances mirrored theirs? Do I love Jesus more than anything else in my world? Am I too comfortable with my things- my "necessities"?

After worship, Jack preached- on Sunday morning and each night of the week. He did an amazing job! I am always so proud of him and I love to sit under his preaching. Throughout the week 20 people responded to the Gospel during the church services. This was pretty awesome and amazing. In a town with a 90% Muslim population, just having non-believers come to the church was a challenge, but to have 20 respond to the gospel was incredible!

After church we changed our clothes and traveled to the nearby town of Hawassa. Hawassa is a town with a beautiful lake and a new resort. We went to the resort for the afternoon to relax and to get ready for the week of ministry. The other ladies and I spent time preparing for our English lessons and getting things ready for our VBS. We spent the afternoon putting together "salvation bracelet" kits. Taylor, our resident baseball expert, spent the afternoon explaining the game to our translators. Because baseball is not a sport that is played in Ethiopia, even our translators had to be taught about the game. We enjoyed relaxing, the free WiFi and drinking some Coke before we headed to a nearby restaurant Cafe Lewi and ate pizza! Seriously, good, american pizza! Sunday was a great day!

Here are some pictures from our Sunday and from the worship services throughout the week.

The church in Arsi-Negele

Dembi, the church planter

 Children in the church service

 Jonathan greets the church

Jack preaching

Working on bracelets at the resort

Belay enjoys the free WiFi at the resort

Taylor explains baseball to Tekele and Bekalu

The Haile Resort

The view of the lake (there are hippos in this lake!)

The ladies

Our team at the resort
Front Row- Tekele, Sandy, Carrie, Jack, Jeff, Cheryl, Michelle
Back Row- Bekalu, David, Belay, Jonathan, Taylor

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free Diapers!!

So, I had a good day at CVS today. I just had to share!

Transaction #1-
2 Thermacare Heat Wraps (which we need due to neck and back aches from sleeping on a plane!)
2 Olay Facial Cleansers-
- (2) $3.00 thermacare coupons
- (2) $2.00 Olay coupons
- $10 ECB

Total Before Coupons and Sales- $25.98
Total Spent- $3.00
Earned $10 ECB to use on the next transaction.

Transaction #2-
1 Oral B Vitality rechargeable Toothbrush
- (1) $10 Oral B Coupon
- $10 ECB

Total Before Coupons and Sales- $24.37
Total Spent- $4.37
Earned $13 ECB to use on diapers!

Transaction #3-
2 Huggies Megapack Diapers
- (1) $2 Huggies Coupon
- (1) $3 CVS huggies coupon
- $13 ECB

Total Before Sales and Coupons- $23.98
Total Spent- NOTHING!!!!

So for the entire trip I got $75.63 worth of stuff for $7.37!! And that included diapers!! Yay! I don't have any ECB for next week because I spent them all, but it was worth it for the diapers. That's the point of earning the ECB. Sometimes you buy things you won't use (like an electric toothbrush) so you can get things you need (like diapers) for free!!

And a special note to my friend, Jodi. It's not easy- especially at first! But it's worth the work it takes and over time it does get easier! I've been doing this for two years now and there are still weeks I don't do very well. There's a learning curve, but you'll get it! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ethiopia 2010- Days 1 & 2

We're home! It was an amazing trip. Over the next few days (and possibly weeks) I am planning to write a series of blog posts detailing the events of our trip and sharing pictures. It is a way for me to share with all of you about our trip, but also a way for me to record my memories, thoughts, and lessons learned on this trip.

We left Friday, September 17 at 3:30 in the morning. I cried Thursday night as we put the boys to bed and then I cried again on Friday morning as I kissed each one of their sleeping heads and whispered good-bye. It was hard to leave them. I wasn't worried about them because I knew they were in good hands with Nana and Paw-Paw, but they are my babies and I was going to miss them. Last year when Jack was in Ethiopia, I posted on Facebook how happy I was that he was going to be home the next day and that I had missed him. A person commented that I had the wrong attitude in missing my husband. They thought that it was wrong to eagerly anticipate his return. She said to even consider it a sacrifice that he was gone was unspiritual and she suggested I needed to be more kingdom-minded. I humbly disagreed then, and I do now. I was thrilled that Jack had the opportunity to go to Ethiopia. I supported him 100% and prayed that many were reached with the Gospel while he was there. But he is my husband and my best friend. And because I love him, I also missed him. And because I love him, I looked forward to seeing him again. And yes, because I love him, it was a sacrifice to be without him. Was it the greatest sacrifice of all time? By no means. Was the sacrifice worth every moment? Absolutely. Would I be willing to make that sacrifice again for the Kingdom? May God provide many more opportunities. But there is nothing sinful or unspiritual about missing our families when we are away from them, even for the most important of callings. In fact, it is very God-honoring to serve Him even while missing our loved ones. Though we love those who we are away from, we love God more. And so, on Friday morning I tearfully said good-bye to my boys. I love them. I love them more than I thought possible before I had them. But I love Jesus more. And so, though I missed them like crazy, I left them behind to follow God's calling to Ethiopia.

We met the rest of the team at the church. There were 8 of us in total- me, Jack, Sandy, David, Michelle, Cheryl, Taylor and Jeff. We loaded up the church van and headed for the Atlanta airport. The morning was pretty uneventful as we took a small plane to Dulles Airport and then boarded a large one bound for Ethiopia. Thankfully, the flight was also uneventful.... though very long! Jack and I were very happy when we were first seated to find that our seats were on the bulkhead of the plane so there were not any seats in front of us... YES! But this plane had a very interesting feature. Portable cribs were able to be hooked into the bulkhead for children to sleep. And we happened to have a mother with her 2 year old daughter sitting next to us. So Jack spent the majority of the 15 hour flight with a baby sleeping right over his lap. I was awed by the generous spirit of my husband. He never complained, and actually spent a good bit of time sharing his i-Pod with the mother and little girl when she was fussy. He challenged me even then with his Christ-like attitude.

We landed in Ethiopia safely at 8:00 am (Ethiopia time) Saturday morning. So, though we had all had only had the few catnaps we were able to get on the plane since 3:00 am the previous morning, it was morning in Ethiopia and time to hit to ground running. All of our bags arrived safely and made it through customs. As we exited immigration and customs, our friend Jonathan was waiting for us. Jonathan is an American who lives in Ethiopia and coordinates the teams who come to minister. Jack met Jonathan last year on his trip and the two bonded. And they picked up this year right where they left off- with a big hug! Jonathan was there with two of our translators- Bekalu and Belay (pronounced Buh-lie). Bekalu was one of Jack's translators last year and they were both happy to see one another again. Jack and I instantly bonded with Belay for one very cool reason. When Caleb was very small, he had trouble saying Caleb correctly and somehow it came out "Buh-lie." That's what Caleb called himself for a good many months and so when we met Belay in Ethiopia he reminded us of our son.

We boarded our bus driven by our driver, Solomon, and drove to a coffee shop for breakfast/brunch and for Jack to exchange our American money for Ethiopian birr. Then we loaded up the bus and began our 5 hour trek to Shashemene. Though most of us were exhausted, we stayed awake for much of the bus ride taking in the sights. We drove through Addis-Abbba and out into the countryside as we journeyed to the town of Shashemene and our home for the week, the Lily of the Valley Hotel. We took a pit stop about 3 hours into the ride at a small drink shop and restaurant that had "american" bathrooms- they had toilets and plumbing. No toilet seats and we had to bring our own toilet paper, but as we would come to find throughout the week, they were very nice bathrooms!

We arrived at our hotel, checked in and met our third translator for the week, Tekele. Tekele was a refugee from Eritrea. Ethiopia and Eritrea have been at war for decades. Ethiopia claims to own Eritrea and Eritrea claims their independence. Tekele escaped the warzone and now lives in Ethiopia. We also met, Dembi, the church planter who oversees the churches we would be working with during the week. Dembi spoke no english, but we very glad we were there.

Over dinner at the hotel, I found out Belay's story also. First, he looks a lot like LeBron James. It took me all day to figure it out! I kept looking at him and telling Jack he looked familiar. Belay (also known as Ben to our team and thus LeBen to Jack) has three older siblings to two younger. When he was 8 years old his mother died and he moved into an orphanage. He learned some english from the Americans who came to work at the orphanage and taught himself the rest. He came to know Christ while at the orphanage as did his two younger siblings. His older siblings were older when their mother died and so were not raised in the orphanage. Belay had the opportunity to lead them to Christ as adults. When he turned 18 he moved to Addis and went to college and just a few months ago he returned from South African where he was in Bible college. He is now 27 and is trying to start a ministry in Kofele, Ethiopia. Kofele is 99% muslim. Belay wants to open a Christian school where he will feed the children breakfast and lunch and educated them and share Christ with them. He also wants to train up missionaries. He said that it was wonderful that we came from American to share with his people, but that Ethiopians needed to be reaching other Ethiopians too. And the name Ben? He once had an employer who pronounced his name wrong and it drove him crazy, so he asked the employer to just call him Ben.

Over dinner the power went out and Belay turned on a candle picture on his i-Phone. Bekalu said that was like "tiger on a paper" which none of us understood! We laughed at his funny phrase and it became a joke for the week as we compared everything to "a tiger on a paper." Later Bekalu explained the analogy saying that a picture of a tiger on a paper was a poor substitute for the real thing- not scary or effective- much like the picture of the candle was in the dark room. Still, it made for a funny saying for the week.

We all said goodnight and gladly went to sleep after a long two days! Our week we just beginning! Stay tuned for more!

Here are some pictures from our first two days:

The drive from Addis to Shashemene

Jack with his other soulmate, Jonathan, at our pit stop

The Lily of the Valley Hotel

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prayer Guide

Tomorrow morning at 3:30 am we will begin our trek to Ethiopia. I would be so honored if you would go with us through your prayers. I am very excited about this trip. I get to go to Africa for the first time with my best friend! And we are doing children's ministry. I've spent many hours in the past two weeks preparing our lessons and I am so excited to put them into action. Every day we are going to be presenting the Gospel during our time with the children. And we just found out that we have been invited into the village school to teach english each morning. While we will not be able to openly share, we will be able to develop relationships with the children and teachers hoping that they will come back in the afternoon when we can share! It is a great opportunity!

Will you pray for us? Here's how you can pray for me specifically:

- Pray for my momma heart... it's going to be hard to leave my boys for 8 days and be halfway around the world!
- Pray for our travels. Our flight to Ethiopia is 17 hours long! Pray for safety and that we will be able to get sleep on the plane (yeah, right!)
- Pray that I would be bold to share the Gospel. Pray that I would be able to bond with a teacher and have the opportunity to share with her.
-Jack will be leading our team and preaching each evening while we are in Ethiopia. Pray for his strength and endurance through out the week. Pray that he proclaim clearly the messages he has prepared. Pray that I would be the helpmate he needs this week.
-Pray for Jack's parents, Nana and PawPaw, as they care for our boys all week.
- Pray that our boys would adjust easily to our being gone and not be too upset.

Here's a guide for each day of our trip:

Friday, September 17 … Pray for safe travel for the team as they leave Atlanta early!

Saturday, September 18 … Pray for the team to make it into the country smoothly and for a good night’s rest to begin ministry.

Sunday, September 19 … Pray for the team as they worship with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters and begin to have opportunities to proclaim Christ.

Monday, September 20 … Pray for divine appointments as children’s ministry and sports camp begin and evening preaching events being.

Tuesday, September 21 … Pray for wisdom as the team continues the children’s classes and sports camp while also beginning to distibute Proclaimers with the gospel message.

Wednesday, September 22 … Pray that God would move greatly among the people being touched through the ministry of the team and for physical rest so the team will finish well.

Thursday, September 23 … Pray for endurance as the team enters their last full day of ministry.  Pray that God will again open doors for the sharing of the gospel.

Friday, September 24 … Pray for the final opportunities to reach out to the village as the team travels to say good-bye and wrap up ministry.  Pray as well for safe travel as the team departs for home on this evening.

Saturday, September 25 … Pray for safe travel to home and rest for the team as they return, rejoicing in what God has done.

Thank you for praying for us and with us! Don't worry, I'm sure there will be lots to blog about when I get home! And lots of pictures too! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Zoo and The Braves

So, it has become somewhat of a tradition on our house to go to the zoo on the Friday before Jack leaves for Ethiopia. Seeing as this year I am going to Ethiopia with him, we decided we had to go and spend a day together with the boys. The weather was beautiful and the boys were wonderful! We had a great time.

And then on Monday night we took the boys to see the Braves play the Nationals. We wondered how everyone would do since the game didn't start until 7:10, but they were AWESOME! They all three were wonderfully behaved and we stayed for the whole game. It was a lot of fun. Caleb loved when the fireworks (that were silent) shot up whenever the Braves struck someone out. And this game the Braves pitcher Lowe had a personal record 12 strike outs and then the closing pitcher got 3 more in the final inning! That's 15 times the fireworks shot off! Noah loved doing the Tomahawk Chop. He especially loved that the large statue of the Chick-fil-a Cow also did the tomahawk chop! It was a very fun night full of great memories. We sure so love living so close to Atlanta!

Here are some pics from our fun-filled weekend!

What ferocious lions!!

Family Self-portrait on the train!

Ready for the game!


I took these pictures of the 5 boys at Josiah's birthday dinner. I am trying desperately to catch these precious moments before they are gone!

Owen and Josiah- 1 year old

The cousins! Noah- age 2, Owen age 1, Hayden age 4, Josiah age 1, Caleb age 4

Best Friends Buzz and Woody

Monday, September 13, 2010

1,000 Gifts

Whew! Today has been a day! Already! I have so much to do to get ready to fly out to Ethiopia on Friday and I am feeling very overwhelmed. Plus the boys have been CR-AZY today. And so I thought it was past time to stop and count the things I am grateful for today.

141. boys giggles in the shopping cart
142. the way he puts up with me
143. a night of baseball
144. friday at the zoo
145. god's provision
146. getting to go to africa with him
147. future hopes
148. naps
149. siah's big smiles
150. holding hands

holy experience

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stone Mountain

Sunday we went to Stone Mountain with our very good friends, the Moss family, for Garrett's birthday. We have been wanting to go back to Stone Mountain since our "staycation" last Spring when we went for the first time. We had a wonderful day Sunday. Caleb once again loved the ropes course! We enjoyed the fun barn, and dinner at Miss Katie's and of course we rode to the top of the mountain again-- and we got some amazingly great pictures. We ended the night with the laser show and fireworks. We have not been to fireworks since Caleb was 2 and Noah was 5 months old because Caleb was terrified. When the fireworks started at Stone Mountain, Caleb cried. But we quickly discovered that if we covered our ears fireworks weren't nearly as scary! We had a wonderful day. And best of all we got to spend it with great friends. We are so grateful for David, Sandy, Kaylan and Garrett. David is such a wonderful friend to Jack... I don't know what I would do without Sandy as my dearest friend.... and the boys absolutely ADORE Kaylan and Garrett. The day was great- great fun, great friends, and the boys even behaved greatly (and we didn't even get home until midnight!!). Here are some of our great pics from the day!

David took this picture of me and Jack trying to get a good pic of the 5 kids! 

See how good we did?!?! Silliness always works!

A great picture of the whole group!