Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hope+Sisterhood Ethiopia

Head over to the Project Hopeful website to see my latest guest post about our recent trip to visit the Hope+Sisterhood.  If you are looking for a great place to make Christmas or end of the year donations, there are many opportunities to give direct help to the women in the Sisterhood program.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, November 21, 2015

More from Ethiopia!

I've been home from Ethiopia for a week but there is still so much to tell about what happened there!  The internet service at our guest house was really spotty so there were two posts that we were able to put up while we were there that I was never able to link to here.  A new post will be coming soon so I wanted to make sure you caught these two before you read the next one! If you haven't already, catch up on these posts at the Project Hopful website here and here, and watch for a new one coming soon!!!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Guy!

It's his birthday, a day when we should be together.  But instead I'm missing him while I'm off on an adventure.  I love him so much.....that he's the kind of guy to send me off to Ethiopia on his birthday is just one of the millions of reasons.

Happy Birthday Scott!!  I love you!!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Project Hopeful Guest Post #2

I'm writing for Project Hopeful again today.  We've been very busy in Ethiopia meeting some incredible people!  Please join us!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Project Hopeful's Hope+Sisterhood

I'm with my sister and two new friends in Ethiopia right now blogging for Project Hopeful.  There are things happening here that you don't want to miss!  Hop on over the Project Hopeful blog and read all about it!!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Invitation to Join Me at the Table

Remember back in elementary school when you would meet your girlfriends under the slide during recess and talk about your "club?"  The very best of these moments involved groups of nice girls who laughed and talked together while beckoning for other girls running by to join them.

I'm part of a club like that and I don't want you to miss it!  The Glorious Table is a place where life is shared and grace is poured out.  You will meet some new friends there who will encourage you right where you are and will find a conversation you will want to join.

Subscribe to the email list and like The Glorious Table on facebook so you don't miss anything.  There will be new posts every weekday and a special devotional series on Saturdays.
Jump on over, check it out, and pull up a chair.  Today's writer is an old friend of yours - ME!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Have a Sister Who Doesn't Speak English

Her name is Tigist.

So many things about us are the same. Although it's said in different languages, we share the title, Mom.  One of her sons is named Ts'aga which means "grace." I have a daughter who's middle name is Grace.  She squeezes her kids and smothers them with kisses. I squeeze my kids and smother them with kisses.  She dreams about her children's future. I dream too.

We share many deep similarities but also some startling differences. She speaks Amharic. I speak English.  She lives in Ethiopia. I live in the United States.  She is a single mom. My husband comes home every night.  She walks everywhere she goes. I only walk for exercise or on vacation.  She works to survive. I have a savings account.  She carefully measures out food between her three children. I have leftovers to give to my dog.

She is sick. I am healthy.  

That difference is what made us sisters instead of birth, proximity or even adoption.  

We became sisters the day I opened an email from Project Hopeful'sHope+Sisterhood program that introduced me to Tigist Belachew.  Project Hopeful knew that Tigist didn't need a sponsor....she needed a sister who would love her and know her face.  She also needed a sister who had resources to share and could give Tigist and her sweet children a new beginning. 

The Hope+ Sisterhood program matches up HIV+ women like Tigist who are in danger of losing their lives and children with women like me.  They helped us begin a friendship that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.  My American girlfriends joined me and we sent checks for 6 months to allow her to join the program.  We framed pictures of Tigist and her kids and began praying for her. On the other side of the world, Tigist had the hard work to do. 
I was able to meet Tigist on the first trip we made to Ethiopia for our adoption.
Together we cut the traditional Dabo bread.

Tigist and sweet, mischevious Ts'aga.

Tigist is holding a picture of her American sisters and letters from them.

Through the program she began seeing doctors and trying to get healthy.  She developed a business plan and began working her new injera selling business.  The Sisterhood goal is a healthy, confident mom who has a skill that will provide for her children. Tigist took baby steps toward that goal.

Her business had a slow, jerky start because of the monsters she was fighting every day, HIV and persistent TB.  Sick days seemed to stall whatever progress she could make on the good days.
Tigist's home where she welcomed our family.

She served us the traditional coffee ceremony in her home.

My sweet sister.

Mommas and their precious children.

She explained to us the difficulties her health presented to her business.  She had just been released from the hospital the day before we visited her.

If I had been the one sick, the fight would have looked so different than it did for Tigist.  Regular checkups would have caught the problem quickly for me.  A primary care physician would have been making referrals to specialists while overseeing my treatment plan.  I would have had the luxury of being able to be thoroughly educated about my condition and the possible treatments.  My medical care wouldn't have been dependent on me having cash in my hand.  The troops would have rallied with childcare and meals while my only job became recovery.

Instead, Tigist relied on treatments from one clinic for one problem and treatments from another clinic for others.  She stopped taking expensive medicine as soon as she started to feel better because her children were hungry. She collapsed on the sidewalk walking from the hospital to a food vendor because there was no one at the hospital to bring her meals. She refused an appointment with a world-renowned TB specialist because she couldn't read about him on the internet and know of his amazing cure rate for drug-resistant TB. She also refused because his treatment would require her to check into the hospital for 3 months. Leaving her children in someone else's care for that long wasn't an option she was willing to consider.
Persistant, drug-resistant TB

Our sweet Tigist at the Mother Teresa Home for the Sick & Dying where an American doctor who we asked to examine her found her. We were able to get her home and hire help.  We also were able to send a letter sharing the good news of Jesus' love for her The Project Hopeful manager read it to her and then explained how to begin a relationship with Jesus.  She accepted Jesus as her Savior!

As much as I hated it when it was happening, my heart understood. Who else can a mother be, but a mother.  A mother who gives the extra eggs the American sisters sent money for to her children so they have energy for school; who can't trust the hired help to nanny for 3 months because they are her babies and shouldn't be without her. She fought the best she knew how. We fought alongside her. But the monsters won.  Tigist's children lost their mom on August 25, 2014.
Project Hopeful staff checked in on the children during their next trip.
Nancy, the Sisterhood director, and Eyrues.

Eyrus, Ts'aga & Tamiru.

The children are now living with their father and step brother.  Their father works as a day laborer earning about $1 a day when he can find work.  School fees and uniform costs are a challenge.
This wasn't how it was supposed to work with the Sisterhood program.  Most sisters go on to live healthy lives with thriving businesses after the 6 month training. There wasn't a plan or a program for children left behind.  But there were sisters.

Tigist's children are the reason I'm headed to Ethiopia next month. Project Hopeful is letting my sister, Kathy, and I tag along as their bloggers on their regularly scheduled Sisterhood trip. I've got profiles of the 10 women in the current program who we will visit sitting on my desk right now.  We will check on them, assist their business development and encourage them by bringing gifts and letters from their American sisters.  And then we will tell their stories on Project Hopeful's blog. They are all women just like my sister, Tigist.  Women who want to be strong enough to offer their children life. Women who are willing to work hard and sacrifice to give their children a future.

And one day next month, we will be in Tigist's home with our arms around her sweet children.  We will remind them of their mother's fierce love and tell them that they are not forgotten.  We will make sure that they are eating enough and have their school fees paid.  We will speak Tigist's dreams over them and tell them that they also have a heavenly Father whose plans for their futures are good.

I am not the same girl I was before I became Tigist Belachew's sister. Her friendship and memory have changed me. I care about things I didn't even know about before. I'm profoundly grateful for things that can easily go un-noticed. The world feels like a bigger place and God's work feels more sacred.

Because her name was Tigist, and we were sisters.

Tigist Belachew, my sister.

Watch this video below about the Hope+Sisterhood project in Uganda to see the program in action.
And please consider becoming a sister yourself by contacting my friend,

HOPE+ Sisterhood from Lantern Vision on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sports, English and Dentistry - ATM goes to School

The Clay Center is all about building relationships that allow for the spread of the Gospel and Biblical mentoring in young adults.  There seems to be a new openness to Christianity among this current generation and eagerness to learn healthy habits in family life and marriage.  The Fords and Comptons hope to use the Clay Center as a place to connect with University students through sports and English and then begin one on one mentoring.  Relationships like that start slow and begin with learning trust.  Many of our team activities were for the purpose of beginning to build trust in the name “Clay Center” and give the Fords and Comptons an open door to future ministry opportunities in a Buddhist culture.
We spent 3 days doing just that in public schools.  Each day, we drove down a driveway under the dead of eyes of a Buddha who had fresh offerings of flowers and fruit laid out before him.  We unloaded trucks full of soccer balls, footballs, sports pinnies with the Clay Center logo printed on them, candy, English lessons, dental gear…..and teens who love Jesus.  Dave introduced us as a bunch of Americans who traveled from the other side of the world to help them with skills because we love them.  We spread out with our gear, our smiles and the Holy Spirit’s power to break down walls and smooth the way for the Gospel.
We divided our team into teams that rotated each of our three days.  Everyone got a chance to participate in our sports clinics and English classes.  Our dental team needed less hands so we polled the team about their future career plans and used students on that team that hoped to work in the health field some day.
Tim & Laura led our soccer skills training.  They rotated their kids through stations led by our students.  The language barrier seems to lose its power when a ball in involved.  The school staffs all expressed excitement about the soccer skill training.  They told Dave that they often have people come donate balls to the school, but never have people stay to work with the kids and help them learn.  The kids love soccer and were eager to learn things to make them better players.  Our teens have had the privilege of having coaching and team opportunities in the States that they were able to directly hand down to their Thai counterparts.
We also had an American Football team working each day under the hot sun.  Tim & Brenda Steenland brought their coaching skills to head up this team.  Great cheers went up from the school kids when it was announced that they would be learning football….a purely American sport.  It didn’t take long for training in the basics to give way to two hand touch games complete with growling defenses and touchdown dances.  There were many times that a game was stalled until the giggling girls could pull it together enough to pick themselves up off the ground after one of Josh Ford’s touchdown dances.
Our American students were divided into teams of 3 to teach basic and advanced English lessons to classes full of Thai students.  The students were elementary all the way up to high schoolers.  Our teaching teams were led by Aubrey Gillette and Tacie Anderson and taught lessons about numbers, colors, vocabulary, conversation skills and greetings. The part that got the most fun and laughter out of the Thai students was when our team taught them to use American slang.  We practiced “Peace Out!” “See you later alligator!”  “See ya” “Catch ya later!” and gave a lot of fist bumps and high fives.  I think our American team was the most nervous about participating in the English teaching…but quickly found that they were well prepared and had eager students.  They really did a great job and hopefully feel confident in their ability to use their English speaking skill as a gift to the Gospel anywhere in the world God may take them.
Our dental team saw much fewer kids than the other stations because of the individualized care they received.  The school staff brought to us the children who had the greatest dental needs and Dr. Dame addressed the pain of as many of them as he could during our day.  We had 4 students each day working with him.  One student became his chair side assistant, one learned to fill syringes and manage the other tools, and two sterilized and re-bagged tools.  Most children who sat in Dr. Dame’s chair had mouths full of cavities and infections.  They walked away having felt the love of Jesus through tender care.  They also walked away much healthier and with a new toothbrush and toothpaste! 
By the end of each day, the road had been paved for future ministry for the Clay Center’s team.  All the Buddhist headmasters thanked Dave profusely and offered open ended invitations for him to bring teams in the future.  Other local headmasters heard about what was happening and came to check it out and ask for a team to be brought to their school.  One of these is a Christian man who leads a public school.  He requested a team with the added invitation to have complete freedom in his school to preach the whole gospel to his Buddhist students.  The dead eyes of a Buddha statue can't hills a candle to the fire in the eyes of a bunch of Jesus loving teens! How amazing to be able use things as simple as soccer balls and footballs, English and dentistry to be a light in the middle of a dark world.