Since our trip, I have thought of often of a man named Robel. Robel works for America World and was our travel guide during our trip to Ethiopia....but he was really so much more. Robel was really an inspiration to me; an example of what it is to live out your faith. Some of the details of his story are fuzzy to me, but I will share what I do know the best I can.....As a ten year old boy, Robel moved 300 miles away from his mom and sister to Addis Ababa (capital city) to work and help provide for them. He was a street kid and did what he could to get by - washed cars, shined shoes, etc. He came to become a Christian through an organization that had soccer games for the kids to participate in. It was a Christian organization and in time they asked him to come to Bible studies in addition to the games. He described to me being overcome as he read the Bible, feeling as though God was talking straight to him. He continued to attend church and grow in his faith. Through some experiences and connections with people that can only be attributed to God's hand on his life, Robel was able to go to college in Cuba. He returned to Addis Ababa, where he lives now, to "pay it forward". He worked for the UN for a while, but being disgusted by the waste of money that could go to help others, he quit. He now works for our adoption agency and recently worked with National Geographic to shoot a television show called "Departures" where he traveled with their crew to document Ethiopia.
Robel is an amazing man....young and yet so sure of what it is to live out his faith. He has about 23 street kids that he works with. He checks in on them, makes sure they go to school (which costs him money), teaches them to sell or serve (ex. shining shoes) for money instead of expecting a hand out. He knows what it is to walk in their shoes and invests in their lives. He is amazing with the kids - both on the streets and in the orphanages. Robel is in the process of starting an organization to help these kids called Children's Future Ethiopia. If you are not a friend of Facebook, look it up. There are opportunities to help and sponsor kids coming soon! Get connected with him and support him to help him make a difference. I have seen these precious kids with my own eyes.....they need you.
We had such a good time getting to know Robel. It was only a week of our life, but we were forever challenged to live more sacrificially and act on our faith. If only the world had more Robels.....it would surely be a better place.
I've been pondering a lot lately what God has next for me and for my family. Let me try and explain....
When we began our adoption journey, I was so on fire for the cause of orphans and was overwhelmed with purpose to make a difference for their cause. Our family stepped out in faith to adopt a child because we believed it was a way that God could use our family....we knew we could not make a difference to 143 million orphans, but we knew we could to one. We felt convicted that if all Christians worked together to care for these sweet children, we could together make a difference. We were excited to feel this sense of purpose and passion and thought this must be "it". This is what God had for our family.
Well, fast forward about a year and a half. We are home with our precious boy, and we couldn't be happier. Elijah is an amazing gift and he is our own. But, you see, that's just it. We have grown our family to include Eli because by the grace of God, He chose us to parent this beautiful child. We are so grateful. So, you can see how we feel like we really have done nothing for the cause of orphans at all, but only received this blessing that God had for us.
I still carry the same passion to make a difference in the lives of these fatherless children. So, that leaves me asking, "What next?" What do I do now.....now that I have received this gift, and discovered my heart for the least of these...what do I do now?
I partially know the answer. In the previous post I talked about a new orphan care and adoption ministry I am a part of launching in our church. It is something God planted in my heart not long after we decided to adopt and I was beginning to discover how big the orphan crisis really was. I have no idea where God is going to take this ministry or what He has in mind....but I am excited to be along for the ride! It is my hope and prayer that God will use it to help these kids. I hope that people's hearts will be stirred to do something to help children in need....I don't care if they are next door or around the world....wherever God leads you. I hope this ministry will be a resource and encouragement for families hoping to adopt - but I also hope that it will be bigger than that. That families who do not feel called to adopt will find meaningful ways to connect with these kids and make a difference. All of that to say, I do feel purposeful in being a part of this ministry and I know it is part of the role God has for me in this cause.
But still, I find myself searching. I can hear some of you now....yes, I have four kids; yes, I am home schooling; and yes, I am involved in this church ministry. But the burden God has laid on my heart for the orphan is real and my heart is stirred to do more. What does that mean? I don't know. Will we adopt again? Quite possibly. Does it mean working in and growing in this ministry? I think so.
I guess now that we are home, it just feels like we've returned to "life as normal" and I'm not sure I'm OK with that. Yes, my life is good. But I don't want to grow comfortable with "good" and "normal". I want to live my life in a way that is purposeful and not about me. Admittedly, I am not very good at that yet, and it's easier said than done. But, I hope, through the searching and the desire to be purposeful for Him, I will continue to discover what exactly it is He has for me to do. Until then, we will enjoy these blessings we've been given and keep our eyes open for the next!
We are a family of ten...striving to live the lives that please God...getting it wrong a lot of the time, but trying nonetheless. We have eight beautiful children...three were given to us through birth and five through the miracle of adoption. We feel blessed to be living the life we've been given.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
~ One in ten children die before their first birthday ~ One in six children die before their fifth birthday ~ 44% of the population is under 15 years old ~ 60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition ~ The median age in Ethiopia is 17.8 years old ~ 1.5 million people are infected with AIDS (6th highest in the world) ~ There are roughly 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia ~ Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa ~ Half of the children in Ethiopia will never attend school. ~ 88% will never attend secondary school ~ Coffee prices (Ethiopia's only major export) declined 40-60% from 1998-2002 ~ Ethiopia's doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000 ~ Severe drought struck country from 2000-2002 (first year no crops, second year no seeds, third year no animals)