Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why We Do What We Do!

So we are heading back to Ethiopia in two weeks. I have had some time to do some reflecting, not a lot (5 kids etc, that’s life), but have been asking myself why I do what I do. Many people have asked me this too. And I have found myself asking this question several times being back in the land of plenty.
Coming back here, there are a lot of things I can see that stare me in the face. Things that our kids miss out on being in Ethiopia, for example, an excellent education, a passionate youth group, English church, the social aspect of a class room full of children to do life with, resources, the beautiful beach, family, close friends, air-conditioning, clean roads, good hospitals... the list obviously goes on and on, but you get the point. So it is natural that I have been weighing up pros and cons of our choices we make for our family.

... so I started listing some of the reasons we do what we do...

1. If I can see a need and can do something about fixing it, why wouldn’t I? I am someone who has gets irritated listening to people who complain about something that is not working, but do not have any helpful solutions to fix it. What is the use of saying ‘it’s not working’ when everyone can see the obvious. Right? Let’s be a part of the answer!

2. I don’t fit, and I don’t want to. I think we can spend most of our lives trying to fit into what society says what we should be, how we should act, what we should do. We care about what people think of us. When really, we should be living out our lives to a one man audience, and be all that God wants us to be, not what society expects us to be.

We spend all this time trying to fit in, when really, we were born to stand out!

Mat 5:14-16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Message translation)

3. We see that our kids are getting a better life. This is not so much a reason as a positive outcome. I know my parents would say this is crazy and does not make sense. But it is true. I see all the wonderful things that the kids miss out on, but man they gain so much from living in Ethiopia that this society does not offer. They are exposed to more than most people would be in their whole lives. They understand tolerance and acceptance. And they are not exposed to all the bad stuff kids are interested in- peer pressure, sex, drugs, media, society’s idea of what you should look like etc etc. In living in Ethiopia for 5 years, I was surprised to come back and see 14yr olds looking like 18yr olds, smoking pot and having sex. It’s a crazy world we live in. We are blessed to teach our kids the value of serving others.

4. I don’t want to live my life as an ‘under dog’, we were all made for greatness! I recently had an interview with a good friend who was doing up a story on me in a past students magazine.  I grew up as a very quiet underachiever, and as I told Fiona in the interview, I doubt any one would remember me. I wasn’t someone that people looked at and said “wow she will do great things!” I wanted to believe that I was born for something great, born to make a difference in the world, but didn’t have the confidence that God would see me as that. The great thing is, it doesn’t depend on how great we are, it starts with knowing how great God is, and believing that He will do great things, then stepping up to participate in His greatness. Now as I look at Grace and the people we are in contact with everyday, the responsibly I have, the hand I have in changing peoples’ lives, I can’t help but want my life to say- YOU CAN DO IT TOO!

5. There is greater joy in obedience. Your first initial response might be ’yuck, that does not sound fun’. But I have always been a bit of a rule keeper. I see that when rules are bent then the freedom of God’s blessing is restricted. So when God said go, it got to the point that how could we not. We didn’t know what we were jumping into, but just knew where he wanted us to be. And until he says otherwise, Ethiopia is our home.

6. I am selfish. You may wonder how moving to a third world country, giving up finances, friends and family is selfish. For as long as I can remember my heart has been in Africa. I dreamt of helping people in Africa since I was little. Now I am living the dream (granted sometimes the dream goes a little nightmarish).  It’s not just about sacrifice; there is also great internal and external reward to the life we are called to.

I would rather have the moments of nightmare in living my dream, than the nightmare of not living my dream!

I feel like I could continue come up with so many reasons, but will close with point 7...

...when I was young, real young, I had this recurring dream about a baby lamb walking across wooden planks, he fell into the mud and drowned, I felt so helpless watching and not being able to do anything. It was so disturbing as a child that I would try to re-dream and change the ending. That dream has been with me for almost 30years. I have it deep in me where I cannot be satisfied knowing there are people drowning in life, suffering in a sinful world, I cannot simply stand by and watch, walk by and look another way, do life without trying to do something significant to make a difference. Jesus tells the parable of going out after the one lost lamb in Luke 15:3-7.

There are many one lamb experiences everyday in our lives. And we were not born to simply live our lives.

Why do you do what you do?

Dee x

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Special Needs. Special Kids. Special Times!

Wonderful things have been happening at Grace in the last month!!

I received emails from Cheryl and Kate last week that set my heart bouncing. For those that don’t know, Kate and Cheryl are part of a wonderful team of long term volunteers at Grace, but also very special friends that I am looking forward to seeing again soon. I was so excited about their update that I just had to share it with you all.

In front: Tefare, Gedafew and Abraham in class

Cheryl writes “I can hardly wait for you guys to come back and see the special needs school and our students that we have sent there.  It will make your heart smile.  They are all so precious - it makes your day to see them each day so anxiously anticipating their day at school and seeing their excitement when they return.  Little Abraham (the little boy with Down's Syndrome that we saw in the streets regularly) is bursting at the seams every morning along with Tefare (young teenage boy with cognitive delays) and Gedafew (who is mute) . The three of them seem to be good buddies.  Tefare has assumed the "big brother" role and looks after them.  Fantaye's  (who is 16 and has severe scoliosis as well as cognitive development issues) carer said that Fantaye has been so excited after returning from her day at school that she has been calling out the names of other Grace workers at afterschool care.  She said that she has never seen her do that before.  Nati (6 year old who is Autistic) is still settling in.  It takes him a little time to settle in each day, but when asked he went to the black board on the second day and wrote on the board with the teacher as she reviewed some amharic letters...

Fantaye and her carer at school

...The school is a government run school, so there is no funding for the special needs program.  A man from Holland came and built a block building for the offices and the special needs part of the school along with a playground.  The principal has expressed some needs to us.  I think that it is good for us to help to an extent as they are taking several of our kids into their program.  We got some paper, crayons, exercise books, and a curtain w/ rod (the sun shines right into the window making it quite hot in the room) for their classroom.  They have a break time in which they serve tea to the kids.  They would like to serve bread as well, but they do not have the funds. With our five students there are now 37 in the classroom. The principal said that many of the students come from poor families and would benefit greatly from some bread at break time as many of them come not having had breakfast.  We are meeting with the principal next week to discuss the few things that we can do to help and to invite her to come and tour Grace so that she understands where we are coming from and what we are already doing...”

Nati at school with his Grace Carer

Kate adds “It is so beautiful to watch and Cheryl’s heart is beautiful to behold. Cheryl has been busy settling the kids into their new school and finding ways we can bless the school – simple things like providing some bread for a snack a couple of days a week, a ream of paper, crayons, some pencils and exercise books and a few reading books. Things that most of our schools take for granted but that bring such smiles to the faces of these kids and their teacher.  It is so incredible to see these kids, usually outcast by all, find acceptance and a place to learn...”

Now how fantastic as that!! I am beside myself with joy and cannot wait to see it for myself. To be involved in such a life changing project, to be a part of what God is doing through Grace is so humbling, so rewarding, so amazing. I could not imagine any better place to be, than where God would have us.

To continue the fantasticly busy but blessed month... 
Immanuel team handing out school bags

Catalyst team standing by the swings they made

“We were blessed by two special teams of people, one from Catalyst Church in Ipswich, Queensland (16 fantastic people who blessed us, the beneficiaries and staff of Grace and the local people in Bahir Dar in incredible ways) and one from Immanuel Baptist Church in Duncan, Oklahoma (8 amazing people who made us laugh and also blessed all the people they came in contact with)... They accomplished so much in their short time with us.  We have hot water systems that work in all our centre, a new gate and fence, a great new play area, reinforced play equipment, so many people were blessed with items for their homes and new clothes, our car works, great new shelves, improvements to our small business shop and small business products, kids who have been blessed and had their lives touched by the time invested in them, new backpacks for all our school kids (about 135), an organised aid room and list for our new storeroom manager, surveyed land, held in our clinic, new friends, lots of fun and lots of special blessings for those of us here long term.  I can’t say thank you enough for all they contributed...”

Wow, thank you Catalyst Church, and Immanuel Baptist Church! We so love you guys!

I want to congratulate Marcie and Sefinew who had a baby girl named Naiomi. We are all thrilled for them and pray for their stay in the US, that they get a well earned rest and have every success in raising awareness and funds that Grace needs, in their 7 months they are in the US.

At this point I feel like offering a free set of steak knives, because there is more, there is always more as God continues to do great things among his people in Bahir Dar (as well as our own). And I encourage you to get involved, whether it be through prayer, sponsorship, donations big or small, everyone can be a part of making a difference.

Thank you again for being a part of this journey.

Love Dee xx

Fantaye and her carer Hamelmal at school

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Australian Adventures

With our stay in Australia already more than half way finished, I wanted to make sure I shared some of our journey here with you. I can’t believe it has been 2 months since we have been back, yet at the same time feel that it has been so long since we were at Grace.
So a few highlights...
It was a huge highlight to have the kids in school this time. I want to give a huge thank you to Hillcrest Christian College (www.hillcrest.qld.edu.au) for allowing all five of our children to attend a whole term of school. They opened up their hearts and classrooms to us and made our children feel so welcome. As Josh said so well on his last week of term “I feel like this has been the best time in my life”. Thank you so much Mr Keith Francis and Mrs Ruth Burgess for your generous gift and support to our family during our stay. It has been immeasurable. Your generosity humbled us and we feel blessed to find a school with such high excellence in education, Christian ethics and also such an amazing outward focus in the community. Thank you.
To have the opportunity to bring Melishew to Australia for 3 months has been tremendous so far. Melishew has been a valuable employee at Grace for more than 4 years, is a founder of Grace Children’s Home, oversees the children’s care in the orphanage, runs the literacy program for our mothers, and helps oversee the day care centres at Grace. She was so brave travelling half way across the world on her own and proved that she could really do anything from there. Hillcrest has also allowed Melishew to observe and learn in Prep and Kindergarten and the teachers and staff have been so willing to help, answering any questions or queries she has had. It has been a great opportunity for her to see for herself the excellence with which education can be delivered and see in practice the children learning so well. She is also studying for a Certificate in Training  through LearnMe, a local training orgaisation. We hope to get her as equipped as possible before we head back at the end of November. She cannot wait to get back to Grace in Ethiopia and use the tools she has gained so far.
We have had both some really great speaking engagements, and some really great rest time as a family, special times catching up with some of our ‘Grace families’ who are very dear to us as the children in them had once been at Grace but have now found their forever families.
We were blessed with a week on Stradbroke Island recently. It was an amazing time, so much fun and laughter, sun and sand. It was a very special time baptising Joshua and Melishew, and Sara learnt how to ride a bike. It was a real opportunity of creating memories that last a lifetime for the kids. I want our lives to be that constantly, and the time away really reminded us of this.
Our friends who we are staying with have been amazing in opening up their home to us. We are in their 3 bedroom granny flat with a huge yard for the kids to ride bikes and play in. What I am really enjoying is that there are NO cockroaches, I do not miss those little friends in Ethiopia.
One of my highest highlights is being back at Dream Centre, our home church. We have also had the opportunity to spend time with some wonderful church families who support Grace and our family, who have really come alongside and encouraged us, but nothing is like being at home. The kids are all being recharged, God is doing fantastic stuff in their lives too.
To share a few funnies... Sara asked one day, shortly after arriving in Australia, if grapes were alcoholic. Haha, love it, and really, I get it. Mekonnen calls burgers ‘boogers’ and says he doesn’t like the green things in them (pickles). He is also at 5, quite fond of the ‘woobies’. And living on the Gold Coast during summer, there are plenty around. Sara’s first day on the beach was entertaining for all of us, for as soon as she got back into the car, she exclaimed “oh mummy, did you see the man with earrings in his boobies!?” We all just burst out laughing. Life is certainly ‘different’ here to say the least.
I have some wonderful news to share about the goings on at Grace while we have been gone, but I will wait to share that in my next blog soon. I can hardly wait to tell you.
Thanks everyoe for your love, prayers and support.
Below a just a few photos of our time here....

 Lydia with her friend Georgia at school on Sports Day. Both Lydia and Sara were able to experience what real highschool was like for the first time.

 Picking up Melishew at the airport just after midnight.

Berhani on Stradbroke Island. Gee she makes me smile :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Random things Ethiopia has taught me (good and bad) in the last 5 years

With only one week to go until we return to Australia for 3 months (yay! Our adoption visas were approved!) I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect over the last 5 years we have been in Ethiopia and share my thoughts with you. It has been a journey of great joy and sadness, laughter and tears, sacrifice and reward, hardship and blessing. We have been faced with many struggles and obstacles, yet the whole time never once regretted the decision we made to move here. It has changed us, grown us and blessed us beyond measure.

As you read about the things Ethiopia has taught us I want to thank you for sharing this journey with me xxx...

Friendship surpasses language barriers.
Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you.
When someone invites you for a coffee, you cannot simply squeeze it in. It is normally a 2-3 hour ceremony.
There is no such thing as washing your hands too much! (but this is not practised in general)
Anywhere is a good place for a man to urinate.
Never say 'maybe' as it is sure to be taken as a yes.
A corn field is not just to produce corn, it can also hide beds and other possessions during home visits.
Get petrol when they have it in town, you never know if it'll be there next week.
When hearing a life story, do not expect the truth the first time.
People are generous and will give, beyond what is thinkable, just because.
It is easier for a mother to put slits in her dress to feed her child than to work out another way.
Never eat with your left hand.
It is quite normal to pick your nose, no matter what age.
People will lie for any reason and not understand what is so upsetting.
You can be very happy in a mud hut and no shoes.
People have the right to tell you what they think, even if you have never met them before.
Don't riverwalk on weekends unless you want to see a bunch of naked men bathing.
There are many differences in the cultures and religions in Ethiopia, and until you try to understand and respect them, you won't get very far.
Cockroaches are not as bad as I always thought they were (though are still pretty gross).
A greeting can go on for a few minutes, or longer.
The use of the car horn is not considered road rage, rather a considerate act to let someone know you want to pass.
There are zebra crossings, but people still do not know how to use them.
You can fit up to 18 people uncomfortably in our Grace mobile.
Recharge your computer when you have the chance. Electricity is unreliable, especially during the rainy season.
Living without hot water is hard, but not impossible.
Living without a fridge is hard, but not impossible.
'When construction is given a time frame, pay no attention.
It is rude to refuse food or beverage when visiting someone's home.
A person with a heart condition has little chance of survival in Ethiopia.
Not too many people want to stay in their country Ethiopia to make it a better place. But the ones that do... wow, they are more loyal and dedicated to their cause than anyone.
Loud sorrowful moans that sound like serious childbirth labour commonly means that someone has died.
A funeral will last up to 40 days. But it is not expected that you mourn a child's death more that 3 days.
Ethiopians do not like to have sugar with their tea, rather, tea with their sugar.
If someone spits on you, it may be a blessing rather than someone displeased.
Wear a long skirt when travelling long distances. This is necessary for the side of the road toilet stops.
When you stop on a deserted roadside, people will appear from nowhere.
It is a sign of respect to be on time for a meeting, but do not expect that the person you are waiting for will arrive on time.
A kiss on the neck is given in a very fond greeting.
Men hold men's hands and caress, without it meaning anything more than brotherly friendship.
Rejecting a 'gorsha' (someone handfeeding you injera and wat from their hand to your mouth) can be highly offensive, it can also lead to giardia or typhoid, but accepting can lead to honour and good friendship.
In rural areas it is much more appropriate to show a breast, than to show a shoulder or thigh.
It is also appropriate (but not!) for small children to drink alcohol and hot coffee.
Animals, bikes and pedestrians have right of way.
A used cardboard box is a suitable new bed for someone sleeping on a dirt floor.
Don't drive a bajaj (tuk-tuk) in a dress.
Fat is good. It is a sign of health and prosperity.
It takes practice to sit on a squat toilet and go without it splashing back up on you.
Always keep toilet paper and antibacterial close by.
Everything is about relationship; people won't truly listen to you before they know you really care.
Never underestimate a woman who believes she can!
Never put off a birthday or family photos when a sick mother is involved.
Death and sorrow are unavoidable... so is the beauty in life here...
Appreciate everyday you have.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Update on Grace

Hi friends, I thought you would be interested in reading the update we sent out to our Australian Grace supporters this month. Toward the end of the update, we share an inspiring story of a special young girl and her family. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be, let us know!

Dear Friends and Family,
We hope this letter finds you all well. 
Grace Centre and all the staff, children and Volunteers send you their warmest greetings and thanks for your support of all that is being done here in Bahir Dar through the Grace Centre.
We would like to take a moment to give you a brief report of the services and work that is being achieved through your support.
Between feeding the sponsored children, day care kids, and malnourished people, Grace provides more than 700 meals a day. 
In the three month period January 2011 to March 2011 Grace was privileged to serve people in the following ways:

·         The Clinic treated  668 people in addition to the daily checks undertaken by the nursing staff of each child in day care,
·         the day care (excluding school aged children) served 69 children;
·         The feeding program had 50 people;
·         transitional care (for abandoned children) had 7;
·         Educational sponsorship assisted 126 children and young people of these 66 were also involved in  after school tutoring;
·         temporary care served 11 children in the past quarter;
·         pre-school had 11 children.  These children should commence school in September,
·         daytime tutoring for children who have never been in school has 9.  It is hoped that these children will also commence school in September;,
·         the basket-weaving co-op assisted 13 women,
·         jewellery making program assisted 7 women,
·         our adult literacy program  taught more than 30 women how to read and write; and
·         the water, house building and other services we have given to the Negede Village has served about 300 people living in the village. 

The total number of people being served by Grace Center on a quarterly basis is 1301.  We have also indirectly served more than 3378 people in the local community including our fantastic staff and local businesses. 

Let us share just one of the many amazing stories of our mothers, children and families that we are privileged to serve here at Grace.
Her name is Tagegne.  Tagegne is about 14 (birthdays are generally not recorded so exact ages are usually a mystery).  Tagegne first came to Grace 2 years ago with her elderly grandmother, as an orphan.  Shortly after she joined our Afterschool Care program, Tagegne’s grandmother left town without notice. She came to live in temporary care with Grace. Her grandmother returned but because of certain circumstances, Tagegne continued to stay at Grace.
Tagegne stayed with Grace for about a year and a half during which time she was able to become a student at one of the private schools nearby.  One day, in the hopes of a future reunification with her grandmother, Tagegne and one of our staff members visited the house of Tagegne’s grandmother.  Upon their arrival at the house they were greeted by a lady who, at the sight of Tagegne, burst into tears.  This lady was Tagegne’s mother who had come from the country to visit her mother.  Just as Tagegne had been told of her mother’s death, Tagegne’s mother had been told of Tagegne’s long term absence from home – what a bitter sweet reunion.  So much time lost but family members thought to be deceased found to be living.  Not only did Tagegne have a mother but also brothers and sisters – they are beautiful sight to see in and around Grace each day.
Thanks to some generous donations Grace has been able to build a house for Tagegne’s family and they are able to live together and rebuild their family (see photo below).  Tagegne continues to attend After School Care and Grace’s continued support allows her to continue her education but now she has two families – her Grace family who still love her dearly and her very own mother, brothers and sisters.
Thanks for sharing the journey and making a difference in the lives of people like Tagegne.  Many of the families served by Grace exist because Grace exists, without the support they find here mothers would have relinquished children not through want but necessity.
We want to encourage you, that when giving to Grace, whether through sponsorship, regular or one off donations, aid, or other, you are making a lasting difference in the life of an individual or many.
With deep sincere appreciation, we want to thank you for your commitment and generosity.

Love Andrew and Dee Knife, Marcie Erickson and the Grace team!

Grace Centre for Children and Families
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Value of Tears

I have been thinking a lot about the value of our tears....

Sara, my eldest daughter came home on Monday from running one of the girls groups. On Mondays, she spends time with about 10 teenage girls aged 13-19years old, from a poor village we have been working with. Sometimes they sit and talk, make paper beads, watch a video or learn to cook. After this last group Sara came in and started sharing about her time. As she did, tears started to stream down her face. She said “Mummy, these girls are just like me, but they are too poor to go to school.  Some haven’t even done grade 3. They want to, but can’t even afford the 60birr a year to enrol ($4). Mummy can we please help them go to school?!”

You know those stories, those situations that make the inner most inner part of your soul cry. I used to think that crying will make no change, that it would just add to the cries of those who are the victims. Or that it was much easier to live life, without the emotional attachment of caring too much.

But as I write this blog today, I am challenged by my own words. I believe God sees our tears as silent heartfelt prayers. I believe that our tears move Him, that He is not silent in these concerns. He does not decide to ‘sit this one out’ when it’s too hard. These are His precious children hurting and He grieves it more than we realise, certainly more than we do. I was sitting with Kate the other night and she read a verse out to me. Luke wrote in Acts 20 v 19 that Paul served in tears and humility. I don’t ever remember reading this before. Even in his tears, he was serving. It brought back to mind the times when it felt like I had no words left, when only tears would flow, I knew in those times that God heard my silent prayers, and always will.

So, we know that he sees the tears, the pain, the hurt, but will only do as much as we allow him to do through us.

This thought inspires me, if even our tears can accomplish something and be of service, how much more can our hands accomplish!! I don’t think we realise the potential that has been placed inside us, to make a difference to the world around us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When all you can do is still not enough, but it's all you can do

I have wanted to scream, every day since after Mothers Day I have felt like screaming on and off. Something has got to give, yet at the same time I find the strength to keep going, because steps forward are being taken, progress is being made. This blog is a really sad one. As much as I want to share my tears with you and encourage you to read on, please if you have a weak stomach, this blog entry is not for you. All week I thought I would not share this, but a close friend encouraged me to rethink it.
You may have heard about Fantanesh from Marcie’s website or Leith’s Grace Calendar.

Fantanesh had a baby last week, the day after Mothers Day. This would normally be wonderful news, except he was not alive. She and her new husband could think of nothing better than to parent a baby together, except that Fantanesh has a rare A- blood and a condition that meant that her babies have a little chance to live through to birth.  We did not know about this condition until it was too late. Fantanesh has one healthy 6 yr old son in Grace ASC. She was married recently and her and her husband were expecting a baby. She had already lost one child in a miscarriage. Had we known about Fantanesh’s blood condition we could have monitored her more closely. This pregnancy, her baby lived for almost 8 months in her womb, then died. We do not know for sure if it was due to the fall she had the month before, the medicine she has been taking for depression, or the rare blood condition. While I and Sister Ababu waited with her in the OR for her c-section, she lay next to a mother who had just given birth to a healthy baby boy. I worried about the emotional and mental effect that this could have on a mother waiting for her dead baby to be removed, the medical profession here do not think of things like that. But she had no choice anyway. All 3 of the doctors that were at the hospital who could perform c-sections had left to open private practices, this meant the hospital was turning away mother after mother who needed a c-section, sending them to private clinics. If the mother can not afford to have a c-section at a private clinic then there is no choice for her and her baby, and at least one or both will die. This is happening right now. So SAD, so WRONG. While we were waiting at the clinic, having also been turned away from the hospital, we saw 4 more mothers being told there was no room at the clinic, not because they couldn’t pay, but because there were no beds for them to lay and no time for them to have the operations. My prayer was that they would find a clinic willing to operate in time, and that they had the finances needed.
As Fantanesh picked her catheter up and walked herself into the operating room, she was crying, ‘please Dee if I die... Solomon (her son)’. Her cry was also to the doctor to do the c-section well as her future hope was to have another baby. She longed to have another baby. This may have been her mother instinct and desire, but it was also my feeling, living in this country and seeing these ladies, that when they are married, giving her husband a baby gave more of a guarantee to her that he would stay around and not go looking elsewhere for a lady to bear him children. She wanted to be able to give her husband a child. He, by the way, stayed by her side the entire time, and did not leave her.
The operation took just over half an hour and half an hour after the operation had finished, she was awake. Sister Ababu was very pleased with her progress and recovery. While she was in recovery, I asked where the baby was and what would happen to him/her, so Sister went to find out. She came back and asked if I wanted to see the baby. I knew I did... but wasn’t sure if I did. I had seen babies die, I had seen some really horrifying things, but this was new. Part of me really needed to see this baby, I couldn’t say no. I took a deep breath and breathed out a confidant but quiet sounding ‘yes’, then followed the lady down the stairs and around the back of the clinic to the wash area. She led Sister Ababu and I to a orange wash bucket with a pile of dirty bloody laundry, which I presumed were sheets from Fantanesh’s operation. She lifted off the pile of dirty laundry to reveal at the bottom, a bloody piece of material...and a baby boy. It took me aback. I could not believe how very beautiful he was. I did not know what I was expecting, but not someone so complete, so perfect. He was 7months and 3 weeks formed, his body was still soft.  I had felt deeply disturbed that it seemed that he was discarded out with the laundry, then found myself standing there in awe of this beautiful baby, I felt so privileged to be meeting him. He was not trash, he was not a patient’s unwanted waste, he was a beautiful baby who was wanted and had been loved so deeply. I felt privileged to be the one who met him. The young wash lady told me they had a man coming to put him in the ground where they put the other things. I said that he needed to be buried properly; otherwise we would take him and bury him ourselves. Sister Ababu is getting really good at understanding our hearts towards her people, even the when it is not always the normal thing, she will often push to see that the right thing is done.

The washing area where in the orange bucket the baby lays.
Beneath that, the babies casket- 2 cardboard boxes.

I know that when someone dies, it is only their body that lay there, that it is no longer the real person anymore, but this was not about that. It was about doing what I could do, about continuing to care about the things that others no longer see as significant or important. It was about not conforming to this society’s way of seeing life, it was about it not being ok that this child died, that he was thrown out. It was about a lot of things that I can’t put into words, I just had to do what I could. We found the only boxes available for his funeral casket; two cardboard boxes- a small one and then a larger, and looked for a spare sheet. They could not afford to give any of the sheets away. I rang Marcie who was close by and she was able to buy new material from the market to wrap his body in.  As Marcie and I stood there watching Sister Ababu place his little arms and legs together and his head straight resting on his shoulders, he looked more adorable, innocent and sweet than the first time I looked upon him. The new wash lady who had just started her shift seemed shocked to find out that there was a baby left there, which was a relief to me because maybe this meant this was not a daily routine. She stood there with tears streaming down her face, she did not think she could bring herself to look, but as soon as she saw him, she also could not take her eyes off his little body. Sister wrapped his body so carefully and perfectly in the Ethiopian scarf and laid him in the box.

Due to a generous donation from Australia, Fantanesh was able to have the expensive anti id (medicine) she needed to greater the chances of her next baby being born healthy, as well as have all her medical costs covered. She has been advised against having another baby as there are other medical issues of great concern, that she is dealing with, but being Africa and the society she lives in and options available to her, we have done all we can to protect her and any future children.
Fantanesh is at home and resting well. She told Amdu and Kidist that she is so thankful to Grace. She said that it is her desire to die in our presence, apparently that is something said in great honour. I am certainly aiming, God willing, that she will have a long and happy life.  I think about the other mothers that are just faces to me, but real as Fantanesh. What happens to them?
At the end of the day we walk away knowing we did all we could... but also knowing it is never enough.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finding your Purpose- Happy Mothers Day x

I remember hearing a wonderful message about people not understanding the value of the thing they hold, so misuse it. It reminded me of a story, a quite hilarious story that happened in Grace (retold by Kidist so a little creative licence has been used on her behalf), that I hold close to me on the hard days, that never ceases to bring a smile to my lips.
We had a wonderful man who worked for us. One day he was clearing out some space and came across what he thought were firecrackers. He was very excited because not only were they firecrackers, but they were ‘ferenje’ ones (and being foreign ones that meant quality)! Because he had permission to clear it all out, he gathered all he could find, and went to our guards and started handing them out as gifts. The first guard who was his good friend, was just as excited as he was. But as they tested the first firecracker by pulling the cord and lighting it, they were disappointed that the flame quickly dissolved before it even reached the cracker. They tried another and another. They were quite disappointed but resolved that it must have been a dud pack. The next time he saw Kidist who was in charge of our stock control, he showed her the left over firecrackers and told her they were broken, wanting her to inform us not to purchase them again.
At that moment, from Kidist, came an uncontrollable roar of laughter, and onto the floor she fell with giggles of glee. It was hard for her to even tell the embarrassed male that he had been lighting TAMPONS!

So the point that I want to reiterate, is that if we do not know our purpose, how can we live in it’s fullest??!

Have you found your purpose?
I encourage you to be the tampon God created you to be. 

Hope I made you smile today too

D xx

P.s- as this is Mothers Day I just want to brag about my mum and say how much I love her. Even though she may not realise it, she is my hero, she is the most hard working, determined woman I know. She grew me into a woman who wanted to make a difference in the world, and by the grace of God I am trying. Happy Mothers Day mum xx.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Faith Regardless

I know the last blog was a little heavy, and I am sorry if the read is too hard, I promise they will not always be sad ones, but I don’t feel like I am quite finished sharing my journey through Deanna’s death.
In her last few hours of life, I held her little hand, her tiny fingers wrapped around my finger, as she lay in hospital, trying to catch her last breaths. She lay there, her body starting to shut down, blood running out of her nasal-gastric tube and into a plastic glove in case they decided to do a blood transfer and could recycle her own blood back into her, as there was no other blood available to use, especially on a HIV victim. Even as she lay there in this state, I put my hand gently on her, praying, believing that God would do something special in her life and heal her. His word said and I believed. When she passed, as well as all the grief to overcome, I had many questions for God. I was confused. He was a faithful God. Why did He not make her well? I carried these questions heavily. As Andrew and I sat on our front stairs as the sun went down on the afternoon of the funeral, we knew that no matter how much this hurt, no matter how much we did not understand about God’s judgement in this, we needed to keep on trusting Him, and continue to know that He IS faithful. He did not intend for Deanna to be born with HIV, he did not intend for her to suffer and die. That was not His desire, that all came from the simple fact that sin is in the world. Our Father did not promise that we would not suffer, He promised to always be with us when we did. He promised to never leave us through it.

I think the greatest form of faith is believing Him regardless of what it looks like, regardless of the outcome. He is the only one that can see the big picture. I never would have thought that the day we mourned Deanna that I would have seen such a display of love and faithfulness.

D xx


photo by Marcie Erickson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Loss and Love

Almost 2 years ago, a beautiful little girl named Deanna died. She was especially precious to me because she was named after me. I love her mother dearly. Deanna was born HIV+ and at about 5 months went downhill very quickly. Within a week of full time care to try to get her healthy again (as we had done with many other babies in her state) she died. It was a very hard time for me. I of course blamed myself for what I could have done differently or better. The most painful thing was watching her mother mourn her loss. To lose a child in death, I could not think of anything more painful. Funerals in Ethiopia are very different to the ones we have in our western cultures, along with the way mourning someone’s death is displayed. There is great wailing from the depths of your soul. You are encouraged to scream, cry, wail, and/or chant to mourn the loss of your loved one. Your friends, family and community come around you and for the first night for many, many hours you display your grief in this way together. And even if you did not know the person well, it is expected that you participate. The first funeral I went to I saw so many ‘crocodile tears’ and felt that a lot of the display was just that, a display. The more time I have spent here, the more I have come to appreciate the way the people mourn their lost ones. Yes, there are some who like to put on a good show, but when a mother or someone is free to express her hurt and pain, and get it all out, and not act ‘socially acceptable’, I think it can be a very healthy thing.
After the first morning of Deanna’s funeral we all went back to her mother’s house where coffee was prepared and chickpeas were roasted. We sat, at first still weeping in silence. My eyes scanned the place looking at all the women from Grace who were supporting this mother so beautifully. All of these mothers, at one stage or another, had come into Grace with no family, no support, nothing. Now they had each other. They considered themselves friends and sisters. They were family. As the hours passed the women started to talk, then little giggles broke out amidst the conversations. Now my eyes filled with tears, watching this amazing group of ladies loving on each other through their grief. To have started the day off so grief stricken in the loss of an innocent babies life, having to help our nurse wrap her tiny still body preparing her for the ground, but then to see the embrace these ladies had for one another, was a gift I found that I was not expecting.
I found out that day, that unlike an adults funeral that is mourned for 40 days and people will come to your house each day for this period, that for a baby you are only allowed or expected to mourn for 3 days. I think this is because the guarantee for this child is access into heaven, but maybe it is because it was ‘only’ a child. The last thought makes me sad, but I am still yet to really understand. I think time will bring the answers.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Weekend. 23.04.2011

 I was very moved at the Easter production at After School Care this morning. I couldn’t be at the showing of the Jesus movie on Friday, but was told how moved the mothers and children were, so moved that many were crying. Our friend delivered a beautiful Easter message on God’s love. This morning our older kids sung of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a drama performed with the focus of Jesus giving to us so we should give to others. I love this time of year the most in Ethiopia, it is not elaborate with festivals like other times of the year, but the special thing for me, is seeing so many hearts turned to God and the true essence of what being a Christian is, through Jesus’ sacrifice we can have relationship with Him.  God’s love in its purist, not tainted with Easter bunnies or commercial overload of chocolates. Don’t get me wrong, we do the chocolate, Easter egg decorating and Easter egg hunt with our kids, it’s part of our culture and it’s fun, our kids have a ball. But life is so raw here, I like that it is hard to not get carried away and forget what Easter is all about.
Ethiopian ‘Fasika’ falls after the break of a 55 day fast. For the 3 days previous many strong orthodox will fast completely from all food and water, preparing their hearts with prayer and meditation on God, and all he has done through Jesus. I can’t help but deeply admire their dedication. For some, it is what has just been taught to them, for many it is a deep conviction to be sold out for God to the fullest.
After this morning’s Easter production, I headed to another showing of the Jesus movie, to our Mums, at Kidist’s house. Again, I sat and just found it to be such a beautiful time, watching these mums be mums and enjoy each other and be touched and moved by Easter. As I sat there I was reminded it was the triplets 2nd birthday. We left the mothers program a bit early and moved onto the next coffee infusion. Many of you may know the triplets, they came to us almost 1.5years, so malnourished, we were so concerned for their lives, they spent many months in the clinic and living at Grace. Today, their mother Aster, looked at me with such pride in her eyes and said “Last year I had nothing and you gave my children a first birthday, this year, because of Grace, I can give my children their second birthday, and you get to come!” It was a beautiful time had.

The next part of my day shocked me and sent me into a spin. I was walking home, when I got a call that one of our mothers was at the police station. She had had a baby, and put the baby in the toilet...
What do you say to that? Tears can only express... to cry for the baby that did not have a chance at life. To wonder why our mother did not feel that she could not come to Grace with this. I feel so deeply sad beyond sad. On this weekend where God offers such hope, she could not find it and felt alone in her time of need. I do know that we can only extend our hand, we cannot force a person to take it.
No matter what, God is still God and his plan is perfect. For this mother, Gods plan is perfect and He can still make her life beautiful, even if she has already missed it many times, he never gives up hope, no matter what we have done. So the perfect verse in all things, for this weekend, is “...For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8
For confidential reasons related to this mother’s situation, I cannot tell you her name, but please pray for her and her children, and wisdom for us in this as we extend grace and love to this mother, while she receives the consequences of her actions.

On that note, I encourage us all to remember Jesus in our Easter. And extend the same grace that He shows to us, to all we meet. It is not ever as easy to apply as the words on paper are to write, but if it was easy, then we wouldn’t need Him.

Melkam Fasika everyone. Happy Easter

Love Dee