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 ( 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 :)