Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Final Call To Help Our Flood Victims

I am interrupting my blogs about Africa for a day to put one last call out for anyone who would like to help us as we strive to finish the homes for the flood victims we are helping. I realize the flood is very far from many people's minds and it is easy to forget about. But we are in the final stages of finishing our home repairs and it was just brought to the forefront of my mind as I looked at our budget. I have been in Africa and just returned to find that one home in particular that was the home of an elderly blind woman and her husband was in VERY bad shape and needed many more repairs than what I realized in the beginning. I have heard over and over from every repair man that has come in, that it is an outright MIRACLE that this home has not burnt to the ground by now. It has been sitting with all the original wiring that I don't know how old it is......VERY old, with the original big fat fuses and copper pipes in the plumbing that had to all be replaced as well. I consider it an act of God that we found this house when we did considering how dangerous it was with a blind woman and her 80 year old husband living in it. So I am pleased that we are able to make this home safe for them, but it all has cost way more than I anticipated. SO.....I am putting out a challenge to all my blog readers as well as my facebook friends to donate $25 toward this FINAL call to help the flood victims. It would help us stay inside our budget and it will ensure that the homes are brought to completion. WE ARE VERY CLOSE. I am so excited to show you the final reveal of this home. It is looking great. I really am shocked that I was able to do all that I did when I know nothing about contracting :) I now call myself Contractor Kelly :)......who knew?? We now just have to get it all paid for and leave them with a house they never could have dreamed of. $25 is not that much, but when everyone joins together it can make a HUGE difference and it WILL help us meet our goal. I am asking for a small amount so that everyone can take part :) After this blog, I will not ask for donations for this project again. I am really trying to finish this project so that I can focus on my next one.....advocating for the waiting children from Ethiopia and helping to bring a water well to the Korah community :)

If you would like to take part in this FINAL attempt to help the flood victims YOU MAY CLICK HERE to go to the PAYPAL link.

If you have any questions you may email me at kelly@ordinaryhero.org . THANKS SO MUCH TO ALL YOU AWESOME ORDINARY HEROES FOR HELPING THE FLOOD VICTIMS OF NASHVILLE. Thanks for helping me to help them :)

If you did not see the video which documents the progress of this house you may CLICK HERE TO WATCH.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Last Day Ethiopia

It was hard to believe that this was our last day. We have met so many amazing people, made such life long, lasting relationships, some of us have found children to sponsor, who will now be in our lives forever and we will watch grow up and thrive, and some think they may have found their children to adopt on this trip. I can't tell you how pleased and blessed I am to have had the amazing team that I did for our very first OH mission trip. The Lord has blessed Ordinary Hero and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. We had a team of such amazing people who are all like minded with the same goal in mind.....to bless the children and the people of Ethiopia. Along the way God had many neat moments for each and every one of us on this trip which confirmed without a doubt that each person was called to be there. I want to take a moment to highlight my amazing team and encourage anyone who would like to join us next year to start thinking about it now and contact me.
Here is our cast of characters.
Here below, we have Terri from Nashville, wife and amazing mom of three small children.Next we have Stacy from Utah, wife and mom to two small domestic adopted African American children.
Robby, son of Gina, and one of our awesome 14 year olds on the trip.
Rachel from Chicago area, single and awesome school teacher.
Part of my family below....Hubby Shane(who turned 40 on our trip...Happy Bday), 18 yr old daughter Lauren and 14 yr old son Collin....pictured with our two new sponsored kids from Korah who are now part of the fam :)
Michele from Utah, wife and mom to one biological and one adopted domestic African American.
Melissa from Nashville, wife and mom to one small baby she bravely left with Dad :)
Lydia from Clarkesville TN, our awesome 17 year old who hung with us adults like a champ :)
Kelly B from Clarkesville TN wife and amazing mom and hopes to adopt one day.
Nick and Kate from Arizona, newly married and Nick is a rapper. They were the hip ones on the trip :) The kids loved Nick's hair.
Jodi from Virginia, wife and mom to 4 children, 3 biological children and 1 adopted from ET
Gina from Nashville TN, wife and mom to Robby and his sister and hopes to adopt from ET.
Dana from Nashville TN, wife and mom to one little girl under 2. She organized our art projects and did a fantastic job.
Clay from Nashville TN, single and soccer coach for local High School. He helped organize all the soccer fun on the trip. Did a fantastic job!
Carol from Nashville TN, mom and amazing prayer warrior. She works as a prayer partner for 700 Club and used her gift many times on our trip. God moved through her. She's awesome!
Caitlin from Nashville TN, single and school teacher. She had a gift with the children. She was awesome! This was her first time to ever fly :)
Blake from Nashville TN, newly married and soccer coach. He was amazing with all the kids playing soccer. They were impressed with his skill.
Ashli from Nashville TN area, single and working as a waitress. She has such a heart for children and missions and worked so great with them.
So as you can see our team pretty much knocked out every excuse not to go on a mission trip. We had everyone from single, to newly married, to mom who was nursing and left baby behind, to mom of several small children, to young twenty somethings with little ones all the way up to us 30 something's with teens and then early 50's with grown children. So there you have it...our awesome group!!

We ran by El Olam orphanage again to drop off some things for them. It was so good to see those kids again. They were so excited we were there. We couldn't stay long but just long enough to get in some good kisses and hugs. They all ran up to the balcony and stood there waving to us as we drove away and they watched our bus. It was so precious and sad at the same time to have to leave.

We started our day at Korah, where I took pics of the waiting children while the rest of my team worked with the kids in their summer camp. It broke my heart to see these beautiful children, some with a parent, and some with a relative, and some with just a family friend who was taking care of them because both parents had died. They all brought these children in, in hopes of them getting adopted and finding a life outside of Korah. I could truly feel God's presence as I worked with these precious little ones, making funny faces and getting them to smile, knowing all the while that their whole destiny hangs in the balance. Most of the adults just truly had hope in their eyes as they gave us the child's story and there were a couple of came in in tears with the reality hitting them like I can't even imagine. There was one mom in particular who could not hold back her tears. Her daughter was simply beautiful and precious and about 8 years old. This mother sat in tears telling us her story and then when we asked the reason she wanted to put her up for adoption she sat and wiped her tears and explained that she as the mother, has leprosy and is concerned for her future. I can't imagine what was going through her mind as she sat there talking to us. I simply can't wait to help find these children a family. One child in particular was a young boy around 7 or 8, I think and we nick named him Winker. He was so hilarious and stole the hearts of our whole group. He was always the first one we saw and he would run along side our bus waving at all of us. The last day we stopped and let him in and he was like a super star with everyone and their cameras. He started winking at everyone again which totally cracked us up. I have some really funny video of him. The winking thing started one day between he and my son, Collin. I think Winker quickly learned that it got many laughs from the group and then started winking at everyone. It's the cutest thing. I can't wait to find him a home. There are also the little girls who would sit and stare at me with the sweetest, sparkly eyes and smiles and I couldn't help but wonder what their future holds. So I am working with Sumer to put together profiles of these children and will be putting out a password protected link to view all of the waiting children from our whole trip soon, once I get it all together. The current pictures you will see of this day I am not using for advocate purposes yet, but if you wish to ask me about a particular child feel free to email me at kelly@ordinaryhero.org.

We said our sad goodbyes and gave big hugs. One of the sweetest moments was when my daughter's little boy who she has chosen to sponsor reached deep in his pocket and pulled out a ring for her. It was a rubbed off piece of tin ring with what looked like a little heart on it. All I can guess is that he found it in the trash dump where he lives but it is now one of the most treasured tokens that my daughter has from the trip. She loves it and it just goes to show you how special you become to your sponsored child. It makes my heart sing to know that he reached down and found this little treasure and stuck it in his pocket while thinking of her. They are so grateful for you and love you like family. We pulled our two little guys we are sponsoring on the bus and gave them both a new outfit and a goody bag filled with little treasures and candy. They were so excited and thankful. They kept saying "postcard from America?" Wanting to know if we would send them a post card from America. I can't imagine how sad they must be knowing it will be so long till they see us again. But you can bet that they will get a postcard from America along with a new bag and school supplies to get them ready for their new boarding school.

The man who runs the program named Sammy grew up in the dump. He sat one night and told us all his heart wrenching story of growing up, being an outcast, his father having leprosy and getting taken off and shot and left for dead but then someone found him alive and nursed him back to health. He was healed from his leprosy and married and had Sammy and lived at the dump. His mother died when he was very young. All Sammy wanted in the whole world was to go to school. He told us that the man who started Young Life Ministry accidentally found them one day and stumbled into the dump. He said it was the first time someone shook his hand, especially a white person, and took an interest in them. He said no one had ever visited the dump before. He said they invited them to come the next day to play games and eat snacks and sing songs. He said it was through these people that he felt the love of God for the first time and gave his heart to God. Since then he has grown up and now devotes his whole life to helping bring hope to the people in the village he grew up in. I just wonder how many Sammy's there are out there. I just wonder how many children will have that story because of the hugs, the games and the love we showed to them on this trip. And I wonder how many children will now get sponsored because of us being there and God working through us to show his love and bring them a better life.

This place stole our hearts and I can't wait to announce that they have filled up the boarding school with sponsored kids and would then move on to another. God is good. I do hope you prayerfully consider sponsoring one of these precious children who, without a doubt, would have no hope of ever having a life without your help. We have seen first hand just how special a sponsor is to a child and how they consider you family. We will be going back each year and can take gifts from you to the children and really help create a connection if you like. We love our two little sponsored guys already and can't wait to bring them hope from their new family in America with each little package they get. They will know they are loved and we will see them flourish with a new future and a hope set before them.

To find out about sponsoring a Project 61 child contact Erin Allen at Erin@p61.org . You can visit their site at www.p61.org . This is all still fairly new for them and they are still working on getting up a photo listing of the kids who still need sponsors. You can always just have her pick for you if you like. After seeing it all first hand, I can honestly say that it is so important that all these kids find sponsors...I can't even tell you. It is $700 for the year and that takes care of their meals, clothes, school fees, transportation to get there and living expenses for the whole school year. If you break it down monthly it is not that much. I can't wait to see how many children get sponsored. They have had 20 new sign ups just since our trip and I haven't even put the contact info out until now :)

After we left Korah we stopped in the market and picked up a few trinkets to bring home. We then went to the Ethiopia Museum and ate dinner. After dinner we headed to the airport. We said our goodbyes to our most amazing guides, Bissy and Maste and also our awesome door guy who we had grown to love. We boarded the plane and settled in for our 14 hour flight back to America. We all definitely left our hearts in Ethiopia with those children who are considered the least of these. We landed in Washington and had a very long layover where most of the group got to get out and tour the sites of Washington.

When I think of the trip I can't help but here the praise songs that come from the children. These children sang everywhere we went. Their sweet voices were so pure and just rang with God's love as they sang about His love every time. I hear those voices in my head as I type and all I can think about is Psalm 40: 1-3 as I can only pray for those sweet children who sing their hearts out while living in the worst of circumstances and all the while they wait on the Lord to act on their behalf, putting their trust in Him.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

This is a trip that will go down in history as our first group trip and it is one that we will never forget. It is the beginning of many more. We look forward to playing a small role in bringing hope to Ethiopia in the future. Many thanks to all of you who donated towards this trip to make sure that each of our team members were able to go and to make sure that we were able to bless the people with many donations once there.
To view pictures of the last day of our trip you can CLICK HERE.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Eighth Day in ET serving those who wait

This might be a tad long but there is so much to say with such really neat stories. Our eighth day in Ethiopia was completely geared around finding the waiting children by visiting two different orphanages. One was in the city and one was in the country....way in the country :) One thing I take total pride in while visiting ET is coming face to face with the children living in orphanages who are paper ready and waiting for a family to find them. I have found that when I meet them and personally see their little personalities and hold them and love on them, it makes them come alive in people's eyes. Most people just need to know that they are there in order for them to be adopted. So we take our mission trips and make it one of our main missions to come face to face with these children who wait and bring them to the forefront in hopes that maybe one of you reading this will discover that one of these precious little ones is waiting for you. I can account that each and every one of them are just precious and it makes my heart sick to think that no one is looking at their profiles. Both orphanages we visited are those that Sue with Celebrate Children uses. She and her husband were very gracious to meet us at these orphanages to tell us about the children.The first orphanage we went to was a small orphanage. This particular one has a sibling group of 5 that have been waiting for a long time now. I wanted to definitely make it over to this orphanage in order to advocate for them. Sue hopes to adopt them out all together for sure, but it is possible to split them. If that is the case it would be amazing for either two different family members or friends to adopt them at the same time in order to keep them all in the same family or at least close to one another. These five kids are just too cute for words. They are all beautiful and are all waiting for a family to find them. I believe the oldest girl is HIV+. Our whole team rallied around these waiting siblings in hopes to find them a home and show our support and how much we love them. I will send out a Speak Up about them soon with more info but remember I can't use their picture for advocating purposes on my blog. I took pics of all the children in these orphanages. Some are paper ready and some are not. You will see pictures but I am just showing you pics of the day and all those children we saw and met with ;) You may email me to inquire about a child and I will let you know if that child is available and then direct you to Sue or not. These 5 siblings have been on my site for a while so it is so neat to see these children in person. Also while there we ran across some other paper ready children who were just precious. One child that stole my heart was a 7 year old HIV positive little girl. She had the sweetest spirit I had ever come across. I gave her a homemade doll that one of our team members brought and let me tell you that I have never seen a smile light up so big in all my life. She literally sucked air and got the biggest grin and just stood in awe for a second. She then took it and held it close and just squeezed it so tight as she looked at me and said thank you. She was just precious!!! She stole my heart so I encourage any of you who are considering an HIV + child to call Sue about this little girl. God was shining through her without a doubt. We all loved this orphanage and it was so clean and so well run.
We then loaded up and headed out to the country to a remote village that has an orphanage that only Sue pulls kids from. As we drove we all caught a glimpse of the country poverty like we had never seen. It is just a whole other world to live in the country in ET verses living in the city. These are some of the hardest working people I have ever seen and they live off of barely anything. We saw mud huts, stick huts, dirty, fly covered children like we had not seen anywhere else. We drove for 3 hours outside of Addis and as we got deeper and deeper into the country and down the remote, bumpy, mud filled, pot holed roads, I couldn't help but think of the children we were about to find. I felt so honored that God would choose our team to travel that far in such conditions because he has hand picked some of these precious children to be pulled from these circumstances. He is using us to bring attention to them and I know He has a plan for them. These were
some of the dirtiest conditions that I had seen as far as the children that lived around the orphanage in the surrounding village. They had mud covering them from one end to the other and their clothes were just rags. BUT....their spirits were some of the sweetest we had seen. They were oblivious to the way they looked. We pulled up and they for sure had never seen a bus load of people....and mostly white people ever come to see them there before. At first they were frightened of the camera. I don't think anyone had ever even taken their picture before. Then they warmed up and wanted pictures over and over. They were so sweet and when I saw them standing there with those sweet smiles and the flies swarming their faces without them even flinching it made me sick. We went inside the orphanage gates to find some very excited little ones, ready to play. There were several waiting children in this group as well. I have several on my site that have been on there forever so I was thrilled to meet them and put a little personality to their picture. It is amazing what meeting them in person can do verses just seeing one little square headshot. I always try to capture many different pics of all the kids to capture their little personalities. I always try to do something goofy to make them smile and it usually always works. Then they warm up and love having their picture made. Some even start posing. There were two little models in this group who will be going home to their families very soon. It is unreal to be there and look at the mud and the bugs and the out house, and the hard conditions and then look at these children and picture what their lives are going to be like once they go home to America with their new families. There is a sibling group of 4 beautiful girls that reside at this orphanage. They have been on my site for quite a while. I met three of them and the oldest was not there that day. There were so many handsome boys and beautiful girls at this orphanage, I can't even tell you. They all had very sweet spirits and warm, sparkly smiles.
Our 3 hour drive back was very surreal as we tried to reflect on the children we met and became friends with that day. The hardest part is leaving, seeing them smiling and waving and knowing that we are just leaving them there....to wait. You see, you bond with this children and some of them hang on you and hold your hand and are so thirsty for love that you can't help but have your heart melt over them. They tell you they love you and you tell them you love them back. All I can figure is that Jesus sent us there to be his hands, his feet, his voice, and show his love to these children. We filled them with hope to keep dreaming for the greatest gift they could ever receive....a family. Jesus says "ask and you shall receive". I have total faith that each of these waiting children will find their families because I know each of them..... are asking.
Also, on a side note. When we returned we had found out that day that our sweet, adorable door boy on our bus who works so hard making sure he jumps out and opens and closes the bus door all day long for us had been sleeping on the bus at night with not even a cover. We noticed he showed up in the same clothes all week and was very thin. We gave him food all the time and he was very gracious and never refused it. We invited him in that evening to eat dinner with all of us. He was very thankful and had never eaten dinner like that inside at a table before. So when we found this out, Kelly B in our group asked him if he would like to come in our guest home and take a shower. He immediately started crying and shaking his head yes and went over to the water spout and splashed water in his face to wash away the tears. Nick in our group (who happens to be a rapper called Murs) went up and got some of his clothes and gave them to him. Kelly showed him where the shower was and he said he had never been in a building like that before. He was so excited that he couldn't quit smiling. When he came down he was beaming. Nicks clothes and shoes fit him perfectly, he smelled great and couldn't quit bowing and hugging everyone in thanks. He became like family to us for the rest of the trip and everyone really made him feel loved and like part of our team. It was soooo awesome!! One of our guides and translators noticed what was happening and said "See, just like you did for Nathan's birthmom, you did for this boy......You changed the world for one". How awesome is that! There is nothing left to say :)

I have given a glimpse of our day but to view all the photos from this day you can go to the following link.

Our amazing last day in ET will be posted tomorrow. We said our goodbyes to Korah. I am sitting in Washington airport now. Good to be back in the States but sad hearts left behind.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Day To Remember

We started our day headed to an orphanage north of Addis. We enjoyed the beautiful countryside as we drove out there. We arrived and found around 85 kids in this poor orphanage. They were all lined up in a row on a bench just looking at us in wonder. The guys struck up a game of soccer and volleyball with the boys and the girls enjoyed crafts and face painting. Everyone warmed up nicely. Bizzy, our guide, and I walked across the street to buy some food for them. When I asked where we could buy some food to provide for them and leave with them, he told me the store. I was cracking up when the "store" was a small stand across the street. There was a stick bridge I had to walk over water to get to it and about wiped out. Let's just say I made the store clerk's day. I bought every from of pasta she had plus tomatoes, seasonings, potatoes, and onions. We took it back to all of them and then dove into the shoes. Their shoes were pi-ti-ful. They all lined up and I am so glad to say that we had a brand new pair of flip flops for each of them. They were so happy. There was one little boy with glasses that stole everyone's heart. It was a great orphanage to visit and I would recommend this one again.

The next thing on our list was to literally go on a scavenger hunt for my son's birth mom since her area was on our way back from this orphanage. My son's orphanage has shut down since I was here last and I lost my connection to find her. I can't explain the miracles that took place to find her and how everything lined up perfectly. It was definitely God's favor and I am so thankful. The first thing that happened was that our guide noticed the adoption agency office here as we were driving down the road. We quickly pulled over and went in and I asked for the number of Nathan's orphanage director. She first called him and then put me on the phone with him. I couldn't believe it was that easy. He told me she did not have a phone but he would try to get in touch with someone who knew her. Several days went by and my friend Ruth, who lives here, was able to contact him and all he could tell her was the general area she was in. So with that, we took out her picture, and our guide went to work within the community. He hopped out and within ten minutes came back and said he knew another area where she lived. We went to that area and found a woman on the road who knew them. She got in our bus and guided us down a long dirt road and then she and our guide walked ahead to find them. We got the call to come on so me, my husband, and my daughter and son all got out and started down this road with our other guide. As I got closer I noticed the sweet face of my son's sister standing there. When she saw us she started immediately crying and ran right to me and gave me and just fell into my arms. She was the sweetest thing. I introduced her to everyone and she was just beside herself. She walked us to where they lived. It was so sad and surreal. It was a mud hut/shack type of house. It was very small but when I walked in the very first thing I saw was Nathan's pictures that I had given her last year sitting on the table. It hit me hard when I saw those pictures, how much they love and miss him. It was hard for me to imagine that this tiny shack is where my son lived with them for three years. She busted into tears and said in English, "I miss my brother."

She told us that Nathans mom was at work so we loaded in the bus and she guided us to where Nathan's birth mom works as a clothes washer. She had no idea we were in town. On the way, she told us the neatest thing. She said that just that week his mother had been talking about him a lot and really missing him. A little boy ran ahead to get her and I saw her from a distance stick her head out to see who was coming. After she sat and stared trying to figure out who was walking toward her with her daughter she ran out in a dead sprint with the biggest grin on her face that you have ever seen. She threw her hands up and just fell into me. She was sobbing her eyes out and couldn't quit kissing and hugging me. After she gathered herself I introduced her to Shane, Lauren and Collin. She met me last year for the first time but has never met anyone else. She was so shocked, I can't even tell you. We walked into the house where she works and I showed her the pictures of Nathan where she just sat and kissed them and hugged them. I gave her his first blanket that he loved when we brought him home and I also gave her a necklace that he had made and she put it on and wore it with so much pride. We finally got a contact number for her and made our way back out to the bus. I forgot to mention that my whole team got to witness most of this. They all met both of them and it was so sweet as she went around and hugged all of them. We talked for a bit and then said our goodbyes. We will keep in touch better now and I hope to be able to help them more. They are both precious. His mother is deaf and mute and the 15 year old daughter is the only one who knows how to translate for her to communicate. They are so sweet together. I am so thrilled that God guided us to her and made all the pieces to fall in place in the middle of Ethiopia walking through a random village with a picture. Wow!!

We went to another small HIV orphanage after that and played with the kids and gave them a few donations and then we were wiped and went back to the guest house. It was an unbelievable day for everyone, including my family and Nathan's birthmom and sister the most. Oh, and special thanks to Stacy and Michelle in our group for taking pics and videoing the whole thing through their tears as they watched.

To view the pics of this amazing day, CLICK HERE

My team is thinking I'm nuts cause I'm literally blogging as they all come back from shopping at the market before we leave tonight for America. I will get caught back up on the rest of the trip as we sit during our long layover in Washington. Pray for our safe travels home. We will fly out at 10:30 in the evening Ethiopia time tonight and arrive in Washington on Saturday. We stopped this morn for me to photograph even more waiting children from Korah......OH MY GOSH! Precious!! Lots more to tell.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Those Who Wait and Face to Face With HIV

I am attempting to get caught up with our days. We actually leave tomorrow night from Addis and we have just been so busy that I haven't had the time or the energy to blog. This has just been the best trip. Let me go back to our fifth day that I haven't posted about. We all woke up and we split our group in half to start the day. Some went back to Korah and some of us went to an orphanage with some waiting children and some went to the Celebrate Children transition home. Everyone had a great day at their different places to serve. I happened to be on the trip that went to the new orphanage in order for me to photograph some new paper ready waiting children. I was just riding along when things started to look real familiar. When we pulled up to the gate it all came back to me. Unbelievably enough I was sitting in front of the gate to the old Hannah's Hope orphanage....the same orphanage I was at just exactly one year ago when I traveled with my sister to go pick up Lucy Lane. Hannah's Hope has now moved and this new orphanage has taken it's spot. The gates opened and I saw some excited little ones running around and I had major flashbacks. You see, last year, at this same orphanage I had the privilege of photographing and advocating for at least 8 waiting children and they all got adopted after our trip. How odd when I come back to Africa to meet more waiting children that I by chance end up at the same orphanage to do it all again with a brand new set of children. It gives me hope that they will all be adopted :) These children had literally just moved in the day before we arrived. So you can imagine that they were still uneasy with their surroundings but they all did fabulous. They didn't have good clothes so we brought them all upstairs (into Lucy's old room ) one by one and dressed them and gave them new shoes and a new toy. They were so excited. We gave out some toys and balls and played with them and got to know them and helped them break out of their shell. We gave them snacks and just loved on them. They were precious. There was a 4 yr old boy, twin 7 yr old boy and girl, a boy 5 yrs with his 2 yr old sister, a precious 6 yr old boy, two brothers age 7 and 6, and a sweet 4 month old girl that had just been found abandoned. I'm telling you I can't wait to do a Speak Up Campaign for these kids when I return. They are the sweetest kids. Most out of the group that I just mentioned except for the baby are available and waiting.

The other half of the team went to the Celebrate Children transition home. They said it was the nicest place that they had seen on this trip. The kids were just precious and they said they were in such good spirits and everything smelled good which is always a plus here :) They worked on arts and crafts. So to those of you who have little ones waiting in the transition home for you right now, rest assured that they were loved on and played with and given big kisses by our team.

That night we all went to a very nice restaurant to eat. It must have been the hot spot because we ran into Sumer and her team from Project 61. We enjoyed a nice meal and came back and crashed.

The next day we all headed over to Mother Teresa HIV orphanage which was unbelievable because of the facility and how much hope they give these kids, and humbling because of the fact that all these hundreds of kids have HIV. Let me tell you that this place is amazing. It is huge and it holds hundreds of children from babies to teens. It is run by only 7 amazing sisters (nuns) of the Catholic church. One of them gave us a tour of the whole place. First of all, she was so cute and spunky and had the spirit of an angel. She has been there for 5 years in Ethiopia and is from Europe. She loved on every child that walked by. I was doing fine on the tour until we came to the critical care unit that held several little ones that just looked like they were hanging on to life. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen as I watched them lay there and just gaze at nothing as their life hangs in the balance.

We did several art projects with the children as well as soccer and basketball. There was also a group of volunteers from Malta (had to ask where that was and is somewhere beside Sicily) who seemed thrilled to have help for the day. I made a little buddy who LOVED taking pictures for me. He just followed me and took pictures of everything I pointed to. He is the little guy wearing a hat in one of the pics. Some of the children you could not tell were sick and then some of the them had the presence of that disease all over them. It was sooooo sad. They craved love and touch and attention. I was so glad that we were there to give that to them. They are outcasts from their community and their schools and it is no fault of their own. They are innocent victims of a deadly disease. But in Ethiopia they are in the best care possible while they reside at Mother Teresa. It is impressive to say the least.

After we left Mother Teresa we headed over to an area where we were able to play soccer with the street children. The area where they were was lined with tarps that were held down by rocks where the people sleep. It, again, is very sad to see them live like this. It started pouring rain in the middle of their game but that didn't stop them at all. They all had the best time playing in the rain. We made friends with some of the other children who were walking around selling gum for money.

I am not allowed to post pics of children specifically on blogs to advocate for them so all my pics are general pictures that we have taken throughout our trip :) If you feel led to ask about a specific child you may email me at kelly@ordinaryhero.org and I will let you know any info that I have. I will not be answering email until next week. I am VERY excited to see the families that God has picked out for some of these precious kids. I am very thankful to Sue Hedberg with Celebrate Children that she has been here to personally take us into some of these orphanages and give us the privilege of meeting them and advocating for them. I have many more to talk about as well. Just met more today and am meeting more tomorrow. They are all amazing!!

Some Pics, not a lot, from our day 5 can be found HERE.

Pics from our day 6 at the HIV orphanage and street children can be found HERE.

Again, pictures will not upload from Africa for some reason on this blog which is why I have the links.

More to come....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Out of our Comfort Zone

Our days are so packed that I barely have time to post. I have a bit of catch up to do. How do I describe our 4th day on this wild adventure?? Lots of Yuck! Let me explain.....
We had a new place to visit that was more in the country with a different feel from the day before in Korah. On our drive there we saw beautiful landscape and a different view of Ethiopia that was unlike what we had seen before. The rolling hills were beautiful The shacks of the city turned to the cool stick huts of the country. We arrived at a long mud road that we needed to walk down to get to where we were going. We first had to cross over a small creek of some kind on foot which several of us didn't make it across without falling in and getting mud all over us :) Our feet immediately had mud squishing between our toes in our flip flops but what could you say when there is a child standing beside you covered in mud from head to toe with no shoes on at all and would trade for our flip flops and mud spattered pants any day. We walked down this rock filled, pot hole spattered road that led us to a fence that opened up into this Pastors property where he was holding a church service and you could hear the singing coming through the mud walls of the tin roofed church. We walked up onto the porch where they had us take off our shoes and wash our feet. I poured the water on my feet just expecting the mud to run off and it obviously wasn't doing the trick. One of our guides came over and graciously took the cup of water and poured it over my feet and began to wash the dirt off. I had never had anyone wash my feet before and it was very surreal. I totally got the whole 'washing of the feet' back in the bible days. Mix that with the voices singing praise in the background coming from the church and it was an unbelievable moment. We walked into this tiny church and immediately took up half of it with our group. They sang and the pastor preached the story of the woman with the issue of blood getting healed among other stories from the bible. It was amazing to hear the word of God being preached in Africa....the same word of God that I hear sitting in the comfort of Brentwood. "And this word shall be preached from nation to nation"....

After the service we had the driver head out to purchase......yes.....another couple of sheep. We wanted to feed them and sheep was their food of choice. Most of the girls set up arts and crafts inside the church while the guys went out to the open field and played soccer. The view was amazing all around them. We had a donation room that I stayed in the whole time passing out clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, candy and toys to each of the 100 something kids that came through.

Then it was dinner time. Let's just say that they slaughtered the sheep, as they like to call it, but it didn't die immediately like the one in Korah. It decided to jump around, spreading blood on the rocks that we have to walk on to get back and forth. Gross...yes, I know, but I'm keeping it real. Then for some reason they thought it not a big deal to just prop the head up on the fence post, I guess to save for later, not sure, but it just kept looking at us for the rest of the day :) Again....keeping it real. This place was much more rough around the edges, surprisingly than Korah, the trash dump, if you can believe it. It was just a different feel and a different type of people that seemed a little more hardened.

We cooked the sheep and served everyone and then the sun began to set so it was time to leave. I know without a doubt that we brought in love and hope for whomever needed it from us. There was one young, pregnant girl, in particular that kept staring at us all through the church service when we first arrived. She had such a look of despair on her face the whole entire time through church. I could tell she was battling something. But let me tell you that as much as she sat and listened in despair, when we came in and became the hands and feet of Jesus, she burst into a different person. She slowly warmed up to the craft bunch and was actually doing some on her own and painting nails and then came the smiles and the heaviness was lifted. As we drove away I sat and watched that beautiful, young girl waving goodbye to us with a beaming smile that lit up her face. That day I had experienced my share of awe as well as yuck but I knew, if not for any other people, we were there for her. We brought hope that she needed and hopefully showed her God's love in practical ways that lifted her spirit to keep pressing on in the midst of her hard circumstances. Pray for her if you think about it and pray for the children there. They are oblivious to their circumstances that make life so hard for them.

I am having trouble uploading pics to the blog so CLICK HERE to view a page with all the pics of this day on it. It will give you a visual of everything I just wrote about and more. This trip is amazing and again, I can't say enough about this awesome group. They can whip out the art and the soccer balls and have these kids on cloud nine in no time flat.

My next post I will be our Day 5 where we shopped, some went back to Korah and some of us went to a small orphanage and care center to hang out with some paper ready kids....which means that they have all their paper work ready and are just waiting for a family to choose them. They were so stinkin adorable......Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trip To Korah

I am late on posting due to not having internet service here in Addis- and Blogger is giving me crazy problems posting pictures. I was able to get a few, but please click the link at the bottom of the post to see the pics from this amazing day....
To sit and try to describe our day in Korah seems impossible, but I will share my heart along with the pictures as best I can, even though it will not do it justice. We had all heard wonderful, sad, heart wrenching things about Korah and I believe nothing could have prepared us for such heart break and yet such amazing love we saw in the children.

First I must tell you that Korah is a district of Addis. It has 130,000 people that live there, so I have been told. Korah is a landfill....a trash dump....

and a place that women and children call home as they reside in the dump,
dig through the dump for anything they can sell to survive,
and raise their children in the dump.

We met up with Sumer on our way to Korah. First of all, I need to tell you about this amazing woman of God. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what I would witness in her life when she and I met about 6 weeks ago in Brentwood, sitting at the Puffy Muffin, sharing our hearts over chicken salad sandwiches. She told me that she was leaving within a week to move her whole entire family to Ethiopia. She was selling everything they owned and moving herself, her husband and their three small children to a place called Korah to serve the VERY least of these. She was introduced to Korah only last December while on a mission trip to Ethiopia. They took a tour through the dump and she left with a changed heart and a calling laid on her life so strong that when she approached her husband about moving there, he didn't call her crazy, he just told her that he knew and had a peace from God that they had been called to missions. He said that God told him to go and he told Sumer where. So now here they are laying down their lives for the children who get forgotten. As soon as I heard she would be here while our group was here, I immediately knew we would be making a trip to Korah.

So off we went to a place we couldn't even imagine if we had tried, to meet my friend, Sumer and to take a trip to Korah.

We start out looking for sheep to buy. We have decided on this trip that we want to provide lunches for the children we visit each day. Well.....a real treat here in Africa is....sheep! So we pulled over on the side of the road and purchased four lucky sheep. Two would be lunch and two would escape the slaughter, only for a later date of their choosing. We drew an immediate crowd. First there was all 22 of us looking in horror at these poor sheep, knowing their destiny as they are chosen and loaded up on the top of our bus (alive), and then there is the crowd gathered all around us just to look at the Americans, grossed out, and horrified over the sheep. Yes, they got a big kick out of that.

We made our way to Korah where the roads turn to dirt, the children have no shoes, their clothes are torn, the smell of sewage increases, and little eyes filled with such love and wonder look to see who is coming.

As we drive in, I see little faces peeking through the mud huts.

Some wave and wonder who could be coming to visit them. Up until Sumer started her ministry, they never had visitors. They are a very poor, leprous, community that is forgotten and never given any aid.

We pull up to find hundreds of excited children waiting for us to arrive. We all get out of the van and are immediately drowned by children on each side of us. They were the most excited little dirty faces I had ever seen. Everyone in our travel group was so taken back by these kids. I think it is seeing the unbelievable circumstances contrasted with such love and joy of heart pouring out of these kids.

Sumer took us inside what she calls the shelter that they have set up for the sponsored kids. It was a modest place made out of mud walls but had separate rooms for the kids. You should have seen the pride and joy on the faces of the kids who showed us around their new home. YOu would have thought it was a castle. Well, compared to what some of them have witnessed it was. I noticed I kept hearing the same word a lot by all the children.....SPONSOR. They all are very aware of the ones who are sponsored and will be attending the boarding school in the fall and those who get a hot meal a day. As the children would play with you, they would ask if you would sponsor them. They call Sumer their mother, they see what she is doing for the first time in that community to make a difference and they are grasping at the thought of taking part in that dream.

We first split our group and part of us walked through the actual trash dump and part of us went to visit some homes in the community of Korah. I was in the group that walked through the dump. When you approach the dump you see beautiful scenery start to become scarred by the reality of their lives scattered everywhere with the trash of the city. We made our way down a narrow windy path and ended up at a family's house in the dump. They invited us in and told us how thankful they were that we came. One of their sons is sponsored and they could not be happier. They are very poor and told us of their need. But regardless of their need they fixed us coffee. I was asked to stand up and share the gospel before we left in order to tell them who it was who sent us to them to help. It was a very humbling and amazing experience to watch the eyes of this African family stare at mine and take in every word as another man translated. We left their house and made our way all the way up through the dump. It all just looked like a landfill until we topped this hill. Then I saw movement in the distance and was horrified to discover it was hundreds of people digging through the trash for whatever they could find. As we walked through I could feel their shame. I could feel the heaviness of the place and yet I turned around to see Sumer embracing these women who were digging through the trash. They grasped her face and kissed it and what I was told was that she had their children in her summer program and had gotten them sponsored which kept them from digging through the trash with their mothers. As I left I ran across a young girl in purple who gave me such a sweet grin that I almost couldn't believe it. I felt shamed of the things that we take for granted in America. I thought of how upset we get when we as much as spill a drop of coffee on our nice, crisp, white shirt.....and yet I see this little angel smiling and laughing with all her heart while standing on and surrounded by trash. These people literally live among the pigs and yet you feel the spirit of God working through them.

As we walked back I watched as one young girl just held onto Sumer as they walked. She caught me looking at them and smiled and told me that Sumer was her mother. You see, Sumer has brought this young girl into her own home along with 6 other children from the dump to give them somewhere to sleep at night when they have nothing.

Shane's group who split off from ours went to visit houses in the dump area. When I caught back up to them later, they all just looked shell shocked. I described the dump and they said it could not have been any worse than they conditions they saw these people in. They said the went into a home that was so small that the 14 children that lived there (most having HIV) had to take turns going inside to sleep on the mud floor. Shane prayed over the family and the whole group said that when they got up to leave that there were puddles all over the mud floor from all of their tears.....

We were also blessed to be able to feed these kids lunch. This was a special lunch that we had planned ahead to provide for not only the sponsored kids but for the children in the area who don't have a sponsor but just need food. Sheep is a delicacy in Africa and something that most only get on holidays. Before we left for our trip we had lunch with our friends Jeff and Sharon, who gave us some donation money that they wanted to be used to bless the children on this trip. We decided at that lunch that day that we would provide the sheep with that money. Now you can see the fruit of something that started as a plan thousands of miles away given by a couple living in Ky who wanted to do something to help. They fed about 150 children on this one day in Korah and I will tell about the next day in my next post but they provided the sheep for that group as well.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous at the thought of watching an animal be killed, even if it was for food. I won't go into detail about how they did it but I included some of the not so graphic shots to give you an idea. The best is watching the groups face in the background as they watch this slaughtering. They prepared the sheep into a stew, we also bought bread for all the children to have with it. It was so neat to watch our group get to serve these children what they like to call a feast of a meal. As I sat and watched these kids lick every bite, right down to knawing on the bones of that sheep, it made it all worth it. As gross as it was to watch, the joy that I saw on their faces as I watched them eating and laughing, all the while knowing that they didn't have to dig a meal out of the trash, made my heart sing. I looked around and watched love pouring out of my group into these children and back at them. I looked and saw Collin, my 14 year old, playing with a little boy, teaching him how to do a cool handshake. That particular little boy had holes in the bottoms of his shoes that made me sick to see. I saw another little boy that clung to Lauren, my daughter, and stole her heart to the point that she decided on her own that she wanted to use her own money she had gotten from babysitting to sponsor this child. She couldn't quit talking about him for the rest of the day. I saw almost everyone's hearts on our trip just melt over these kids. They had nothing and yet they had so much. We came to give and yet they gave to us so much more. There was one boy in particular that followed us the whole day. He said the word "Sponsor?" every time we got close enough to hear him and he always followed it with a great big smile. Well his determination and desperation for a sponsor won us over. We told him that we would sponsor him and you had never seen a more excited little boy. He is about 10 years old but acts 20. He said he would call us mother and father and he has white sister and brother. He ran up to the little boy that Lauren said she would sponsor and said "You, Lauren, sponsor....Me, mother, sponsor.....WE BROTHERS!!" and then they just gave each other the biggest hugs, they were so excited. None of the kids get jealous when they hear another one is sponsored. They congratulate them and are so happy that their dream has come true and that they will now get food and an education. Well, little Ceasar, our new sponsored child, immediately picked up my backpack and started carrying it around on his back. He immediately took ownership and pride in his new sponsor family, it was so cute. Then he just told everyone he saw that we were his sponsors.

Also as we moved down the hill into this amazing open space, the soccer began and I met up with the most amazing little girls. This little girl who couldn't be more than 4 attached herself to me and had the cutest little spunky spirit. She hugged me and she kissed me as tight as she could. I would set her down to take a picture and then she would run right back when i was done. She had a sweet sister that stuck by her side and an older sister that I saw as well. These little girls stole my heart, totally. I have to admit I was thinking of how they might fit in the fam,, they were so precious.
I left that day determined to help these kids. Sumer told me she has room in this particular boarding school in the fall for about 75 more kids to be sponsored. Ok, that has to happen. Then I'm thinking, what school are you picking next because we are getting more than 75 sponsored. We are planning an Ordinary Hero trip to ET every summer. I plan on building relationships and watching these sponsored children flourish and watching my different travel groups be heart changed just for taking part in it. I also now have two little guys to check on who now know that we think of them and consider them family. Since my daughter has fallen in love with one little one and sponsors him now, does that make me a Grandmother?? :)

We sat in one of the small rooms at the shelter and heard the heart of all the leaders involved there. We asked them their vision and their dream for their community and they told us. They would love to pull out of the cursed land of the dump area and purchase land, put in a well, build a school, an orphanage, a care center, a day care, etc. There is hope to re build that community and raise those people out of mud and mire if we all join together. Our hearts will be forever changed. I will have more information soon if you are interested in sponsoring a child yourself. I want to check with Sumer first and make sure I am giving out the right info. But I'm telling you, people, this is the real deal.

I will have to wait on my next post since I am so tired and about to fall out, it is so late here. Yesterday was an interesting day. It was a completely different experience than Korah. It was much more oppressed and hard and heavy spirited. It was good, though to see the contrast. Had we not, then we would think that all of Africa was as sweet as the kids we had encountered so far. But there is another side that is quite a bit different. There is not a starvation for love, there is a need for survival mixed with the environment and the people that breeds hardness. I know without a doubt that we came in letting our light shine in this place, probably even brighter than Korah because of the heaviness there. We brought hope to some who had none. We were used by God to show that hope still exists, even in the places where it looks like it does not exist. This was a completely different experience that I will tell more in my next post.

For those of you reading who are checking in on family on our trip, just know that we are all being used by God. We have an amazing group. I could not have asked for better. I feel so totally blessed by this trip.

More later......

To view the online album of all the pictures from this day CLICK HERE.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 2 - El Olam Orphanage

We had an amazing first day on the ground in ET. We all went over to El Olam orphanage where we were greeted by 40-50 very excited and loving children. They were all just adorable and sweet and SO glad to see us. They had a whole room full of babies and many toddlers up to age 12. We walked in and immediately the guys struck up a game of soccer with all the older boys. I was so impressed with how Collin and Robby, our two 14 year olds on the trip, jumped right in and became great friends with all these boys.

I made my way up stairs where I walked into the baby room. There were several babies just laying in their bed crying with not enough room mothers to help them so I immediately went over and picked one up and she immediately stopped crying and just stared at me. I noticed how many others were crying so I walked out on the balcony holding the one little treasure yelled down to the group and asked "who would like to come up and help with the babies" and they all looked up at me and then bee lined it right up. Several of them started crying. I have to admit that I got a little teary eyed myself. These babies were just so precious and to think that they are orphaned is just too much.

After we said our hellos we divided up and Dana and some others took the toddler bunch and headed up some great crafts. Clay and Blake and the guys headed up an older boys soccer group and Lauren and Terri and some others headed up some soccer fun with the girls. We also had some face painting, fingernail painting, and we passed out some adorable flip flops from the vacation bible school kids in America among others. We gave them new clothes and shoes and soccer balls and toys. We also arranged to feed them a special lunch. So we paid for their staff to cook them a lunch that would be a special blessing to them. They had so much food, like injera with a special meat sauce, fruit, some kind of vegetable, bananas, and cookies from us at the end. One little boy looked shocked as they handed him the plate and looked up at Ashli and asked her if it would be ok to eat it. She said it was heart breaking that he didn't even know what to do with so much food. When I asked what they normally would have had to eat they said BREAD......that's it!

Are you kidding me?

I also wanted to leave them with something beneficial for them once we are gone. When I asked them what they needed most they said a washing machine for their clothes. So.....a guy named Takebeh, along with the orphanage director and myself and Carol jumped in the bus and headed downtown to find and purchase a washing machine. We battled the traffic (and the goats) and found the perfect washer for their orphanage. We loaded it up and took it back to the orphanage. They were so thrilled and thankful.
Once it was time to leave they all wanted us to gather in a circle so that they could thank us in prayer. We all held hands and shane prayed and thanked God for them and the children and us being privileged to meet them and then the orphanage director prayed along with the children quoting something with him which was precious. Then he prayed in English and thanked God for sending all of us to them and for giving them such a wonderful day. He ended by saying that they had NEVER had a group show up to help them before. Well.....as the little 12 year old girl squeezed my hand standing beside me in prayer, while wiping her tears, I couldn't hold back my own. They squeezed us soooo tight and gave us the biggest, longest kisses you have ever seen when we were saying our goodbyes. These kids were so thankful and they were so sad to see us go, not knowing if they would ever see us again. Of course we left with them heavy on our hearts and minds and now I am determined to not only see them again but help get those that are available.....adopted :) Sue with Celebrate Children met us there and helped me target the ones that were adoptable and she told me their stories. They are absolutely precious and I can't blog about them specifically on the blog and point out their pictures but you are welcome to email me and ask about them and you can bet we will be posting up some Speak Up emails when I get back. There is a precious sibling group of 2 absolutely sweet girls ages 10 and 7, and there is a sibling group of 4 with the oldest being a girl around the age of 15 with three brothers all younger. There are two other single little boys as well, that are just precious!! You can bet that I will be advocating for them very soon.

Tomorrow will probably be the most emotional day for all of us as we head down to the Korah dump and see the children who live there and also visit my friend, Sumer's amazing ministry down there as we watch her pull these kids literally out of the trash and get them sponsored and send them to school for the first time. She actually just moved her whole family with her husband and three children to Ethiopia to live indefinitely until God tells them otherwise. She is amazing and we will all see it first hand tomorrow as we wade through the trash to get to these kids and then hold a soccer camp and lunch and love on them.

Stay tuned. God is Good!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Made it safely!

Hey Everyone!

We made it safely after 24 hours of travel. We have a great group as you can see for yourself. I will do my best to update the blog, but internet is SLOW. We have our first day in the morning to head to El Olam orphanage where we will love on some kids and have some soccer fun as well. Hope to post some pics soon... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We Are off To Africa!!!

I am super excited about our first ever overseas mission trip. We leave today and are currently in our first day of travel and haven't even left America yet. We are enjoying our 8 hour layover in Washington Dulles Airport at the moment, waiting on two more team members to arrive :) Above pictured is 14 of the 22 team members of this travel group. The above group is from the Nashville area. I can't tell you how great this travel group is. We not only have this group from the Nashville area but we have others meeting us from Virginia, Utah, Illinois, and Texas. That is amazing to me!! Also, check out our great new tshirts, modeled by my cutie son in the middle of the above pic. And of course they say "Change The World For One" across the front. If you are interested in purchasing one contact Charlene at info@ordinaryhero.org. We will totally be sporting these cute t's on this trip.
I'm am thrilled to be traveling with my hubby, my daughter and one of my sons on this trip.
Above is Kelly and Lydia from Clarkesville, TN and Melissa from Nashville.
Here we have Ashli joined by her Dad who happened to be traveling abroad to a different destination at the same time.
Clay, Caitlyn, and Blake are three Nashvillians......
This happened to be Collin's first plane trip.
Also, this happened to be Caitlyn's first plane ride. Wow!! She picks Africa as her first plane ride :)

I am waiting on two more team members to arrive and will then post a pic of all of us. Stay tuned because I will be posting throughout the trip as much as I have internet connection. We are all anxious to love on some precious children.