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Meeting the kids at Resurrection Orphanage Center of Nekemte, Ethiopia

We visited Resurrection Orphanage & Center of Nekemte (ROCN). They care for orphaned and abandoned children to meet their basic needs and offer a loving Christian home environment.

ROCN is a new orphanage started by Tensaie Umeta (who was from Nekemte). I met Tensaie though North Heights Lutheran Church (my home church in MN). Nekemte is a city of 103,000 people but ROCN is the first orphanage in the area. So the need is great.

We loved spending time with these kids and they touched our hearts. We were able to bring new clothing that was donated by sponsors in MN. They also needed shoes and it was a blessing for us to take them shopping to buy new shoes.

Children with new clothes!

Children with new clothes!

Until coming to ROCN, these children had never been to school. They are bright kids but needed help to be ready to attend school. The director of the local private school has given free tuition to the children. He himself has taken in 6 orphans into his home and he provides for all their needs. The two house mothers at ROCN are amazing care for the children like their own 24/7.

Abby pictured with children in their school uniforms.

Abby Carroll and Birhane Umeta pictured with ROCN children in their school uniforms.

The first ROCN home provides for 4 orphans, but can hold 6 more. A donor has pledged monthly support for the other children, however they still need $2,500 to buy beds, mattresses, linens, desks, tables, chairs, clothing and shoes to make this happen. Would you consider helping?

View pictures of ROCN kids and staff here

Visit the Resurrection Orphanage & Center of Nekemte (ROCN) website

Traveling to Nekemte on what locals call worst road in Ethiopia

Abby and I went to Nekemte, Ethiopia to visit the Resurrection Orphanage Center of Nekemte (ROCN). The road Addis Ababa to Nekemte is rough. It’s unlike any road we’ve ever been on and locals say it’s the worst road in Ethiopia.

The land cruiser we rented, and yes it's on the road. Our driver Tamasgen was great!

The land cruiser we rented, and yes it’s on the road. Our driver Tamasgen was great!

It’s not advisable to drive unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle. Fortunately, our driver Tamesgen was great. Thank you to Berhanie Umeta (my friend Tensaie Umeta’s sister) for accompanying us on our trip. No one knows when the road will be complete but once it’s finished there will be a significant economic impact for all of the communities this road passes through.

In the end, when we saw the kids at ROCN, the road trip was worth it. We give thanks to God that we were able travel safely.

Women wear scarves to keep dust out of her hair. Abby got to wear one on our trip to Nekemte.

Women wear scarves to keep dust out of her hair. Abby got to wear one on our trip to Nekemte.

View more pictures from our road trip to Nekemte

Caring for vulnerable children and orphans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

542188_187915464688414_110928318_nThe first person to greet us when we got off the plane in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was Pastor Mekebib Desta and his wife, Tigist Tesfaye. Thank you to Alex Shootman for connecting us!

Mekebib leads Emmanuel Light & Life Church and they have a ministry to help children who live on the streets of Addis Ababa. They minister out of their own poverty to help orphans and vulnerable children get their basic needs met and know the love of Jesus.

It’s estimated that over 100,000+ children live on the streets left to take care of themselves. The need here is overwhelming but there are people like Mekebib and his church that are making a difference in the lives of 54+ children every week. They also have church members like Rahel Tamirat and others who are helping orphans and poor children.

Abby and I are looking at practical ways we can support Mekebib and his team’s work here. We loved spending time with kids and seeing the difference this ministry is making. It’s great to the body of Christ at work and I’m grateful that we get to partner together.

 

Visit to Embracing Hope Ethiopia serving poor, children and orphans

Abby and I visited Embracing Hope Ethiopia that was founded by Jerry and Christy Shannon. Their focus is the poor, children, and orphans who live in a section of Addis Ababa known as Korah. This area of the city is very poor and is known as a forsaken place. It began as a leper colony and then the site of the city trash dump. It has a higher prevalence of poverty, crime, prostitution, and disease then many other areas of the city.

The children loved playing with Abby.

The children loved playing with Abby.

We love that this ministry works to serve young children and mothers in holistic ways. Abby and I truly enjoyed meeting the Shannon’s and their amazing Ethiopian staff at their their daycare center serving a 110+ children and 65+ moms.

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Embracing Hope Ethiopia helps vulnerable moms and very young children. They provide a place where the children can be cared for and the moms are freed to work and provide for their families. The result is that more families are able to be kept together (i.e. preventing more orphans) and they are touched by Jesus’ love, hope and transformation.

During our visit we were able to hear story after story of a child who’s life was saved because they were able to get medical care and nutrition. Some of these children were within days of death when they first arrived. All of these children have loving moms who might be living with HIV, illness or through circumstances outside their control, they just don’t have the means to provide for their children.

As we met the children, it was clear they are being touched with the love of Christ and they are doing better at life because of the wonderful work of Embracing Hope Ethiopia. Abby and I are looking at ways we can come along side the work that’s happening here.

View photos of our visit to Embracing Hope Ethiopia

Visit the Embracing Hope Ethiopia website and pray about sponsoring a child.

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Rich In Knowledge Academy children singing in Addis Ababa Ethiopia

Pastor Mekebib Desta, Brian Carroll and Rahel Tamirat.

Pastor Mekebib Desta, Brian Carroll and Rahel Tamirat.

Abby and I visited Rich in Knowledge Academy in Addis Ababa. It’s an excellent school where 40 students from ages 3 to 8 (k – 2nd grade) attend. We were blessed to learn that the school Director, Rahel Tamirat, provides free education for half the children who are orphans or are living in poverty. To do this, she takes no salary so she can pay the staff and school expenses. Why? She loves children and makes this sacrifice gladly to give them a future and experience the love of Christ.

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Kindergarten class at Rich In Knowledge Academy

The children gave us special treat of singing for us in English. It was so beautiful to see the joy in the kids and their smiles. When they sang, it reminded me of my 3-year old daughter Lydia who sang me same song.

This school needs help. Abby and I are talking about how we can come along side this school. It costs about $22 per month per student. Some of the children don’t have food at home so they can’t bring lunch and there’s no school lunch program here. These children are learning (while hungry) eating just one meal a day.

If you want to help a child get an education and have a school lunch, let us know. We’ll work to get funds directed to Rahel. Here’s a link to Rahel Tamirat’s facebook page.

View more photos of our visit Rich In Knowledge Academy

Showing love to poor and orphans in Addis Ababa with food

tumblr_m1mnxzA1tR1r754u5o1_500_thumbAbby and I felt led to buy food and give it to the poor and orphans in the neighborhood where we’re staying in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We hoped something simple as fresh baked bread, apples and bottled water would bring some relief from morning hunger.

We had no plan beyond walking up the street and giving food out to those we felt needed it or asked us. We simply wanted to show love.

We came to a street corner where there were many poor people. As we gave out food, we were quickly surrounded and there were more hands than we had food to give. We ran out quickly.

But when we said we didn’t have any more instead of being upset those who received none still thanked us and were smiling. They seemed grateful and joyful. I can’t describe it.

Abby and I watched people who got food then share and divide it with others who got none. As they broke bread and shared water it reminded me of church communion. It was beautiful. Even in poverty the poor are generous.

Spending Christmas in Ethiopia to love and help orphans

It’s Christmas Eve and we’re traveling to Ethiopia today. Abby and I are excited to finally begin this adventure together!

As I write this post, we’re in Frankfurt, Germany on our way to Ethiopia. I’m feeling grateful for the support and prayers of friends and family who we will miss this Christmas. To me being able to go on this trip to love and help orphans with my daughter is the best Christmas gift ever. I thank God for making it all possible.

I wanted to give an update on our trip and how this connects with our vision for the Forever Families Project.

We’re connecting with four great groups while we’re in Ethiopia who align with our vision and help vulnerable children and orphans. Even though we have these plans, I’ve wanted to keep our agenda open. We are really hoping to begin new friendships, be a blessing and go where God leads us.

The first person we’re meeting is Mekebib Desta in Addis Ababa. Mekebib leads Emmanuel Light & Life Church and they have a ministry to help children who live on the streets of Addis Ababa. They minister out of their own poverty to help orphans and vulnerable children get their basic needs met and know the love of Jesus. It’s estimated that over 100,000 children live on the streets left to fend for themselves. Abby and I will get to spend two days with Mekebib’s team. Also, I’ve been invited to preach in Mekebib’s church.

The next group we’re meeting with is Embracing Hope Ethiopia that was founded by Jerry and Christy Shannon. Their focus is the poor, children, and orphans who live in a section of Addis Ababa known as Korah. This area of the city is very poor and is known as a forsaken place. It began as a leper colony and then the site of the city trash dump. It has a higher prevalence of poverty, crime, prostitution, and disease then many other areas of the city. We love that they have a focus to serve children and mothers in holistic ways to prevent more orphans. Abby and I look forward to meeting the Shannon’s and volunteering at their daycare center serving a 100+ children.

We’ll also be connecting with Bring Love In founded by Levi and Jessie Benker. Levi and Jessie have an amazing story which I encourage you to read in Levi’s book. It’s great. Bring Love In is a community of people who are working together to bring love in to the orphans and widows of Ethiopia. They connect orphans who are given to them by local authorities, and widows from within local Christian church communities, to create new forever families here in Ethiopia. Abby and I are really looking forward to spending time with Levi & Jessie’s family. It’s going to be fun meeting them.

The last group we’re visiting with is Resurrection Orphanage & Center of Nekemte. They provide for orphaned and abandoned children in Nekemte, Ethiopia (located about 240 miles west from Addis Ababa) by meeting the basic needs of shelter, food, clothing, basic medical care and spiritual education and training. This is a new orphanage started by friends at our home church in Mn. Nekemte is a pretty large city of 103,000 people but this is the first orphanage we are aware of in the community. The need is great. Abby and get to bring new clothes for 10 children and money that was donated for the orphanage. We’re looking forward to spending time with the children and staff there.

If you are looking for a groups to provide year end donations, please prayerfully consider these worthy organizations. That’s all for now. More updates to come along with pictures by Abby who will be our photographer for this trip.

Love Impacts a Child’s Brain Size

I came across this report highlighting the results from a new study titled, “Brain Scans Show the Impact of a Mother’s Love on a Child’s Brain Size

The report states , “Neurologists say that the latest [brain] images provide more evidence that the way children are treated in their early years is important not only for the child’s emotional development, but also in determining the size of their brains.”

I’ve been continually thinking about all orphans and vulnerable children who need loving homes. Science has shown a link between love and child development in research on going back to observations on maternal deprivation. But we need to take this knowledge and do something for children in need.

Let’s help orphans who have no homes and nobody to care for them know that they are precious and worthy of love. Let’s help these vulnerable children get their basic needs met and find loving mothers and fathers. Love is the answer. Get involved.

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.” ― Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home

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Starting Forever Families Project in Ethiopia

Let me start by saying, I don’t have allusions to save the world or start a movement. I am an ordinary person who loves Jesus. The Forever Families Project and upcoming trip to Ethiopia all started with a dream I had two years ago at an ARC conference.

In the dream, I saw a clear picture of the Earth, the continent of Africa quickly zooming into the country of Ethiopia until it reached ground level. Then, I saw children in distress that had nobody to help them or love them. They were forgotten ones.

What was different about this dream was not that it happened while I was awake (which was memorable in itself). The difference was that I knew immediately that I needed to do something.

I was reminded of James 1:27: “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.”

Until this dream, I had no personal connection to Ethiopia besides what I heard or read on the news. I didn’t know anyone who had been to or was from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is home to one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13% of children in Ethiopia are missing one or both parents. That’s 4.6 million orphans – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. (UNICEF) This is old data from 2005 and it appears the problem is growing. Others say it’s smaller but in any case it’s a huge issue.

There’s a lot of back story that I’m leaving out. I’m sure I’ll talk about it in future posts over time. I always have loved kids and I love being dad to three beautiful daughters (Maddie, Abby and Lydia). They are a blessing from God and bring joy to my life.

Orphans in Ethiopia are in desperate need of a big solution. Big solutions require big visions. So here’s ours.

Our vision to love and serve orphaned and abandoned children in Ethiopia to help them remain with their birth families or connect them with loving forever families through local adoption. I have a dream that all these vulnerable children will have loving homes, education, medical care and a hope for their future.

In addition, we want to do “orphan prevention” which is means we connect with families who are very close to having to give up their children because they cannot afford to keep them (these vulnerable children often have extended family who can’t afford to care for them either) and we give them some financial support each month to help make ends meet.

Ethiopia also needs economic development. Currently, the Ethiopian economy is driven by agriculture (accounting for 80% of employment) but radical deforestation combined with period’s drought and is a major cause of extreme poverty. This problem is being addressed by groups like The Eden Projects which we support.

Also, we want to help business development (think small businesses growth) by empowering young entrepreneurs to ultimately have a positive impact on orphans in the society. I’ll share more on this later.

None of these solutions can be done with a dump money and run approach. This vision is not about a hand outs. It’s about giving a hand up and empowering Ethiopians to address challenges right from the start. My goal isn’t to start another organization. I’d much rather connect with great organizations that already exist and are doing good work.

Still, I have no idea how this vision is going to happen. I’m not sure where this dream will lead me or my family but I know it’s much bigger than us and can only happen if others get involved and dream with us.

I am planning to take my daughter (age 15) to Ethiopia in December. I’m excited to see kids empowered to help kids. They have a heart for helping others and this is a project that they are leading and doing too.

I am currently searching for ministries and groups for us to plug into while we’re in Ethiopia and start building relationships and see what difference we might make. We’re planning to leave for Ethiopia on December 24th and return January 7th. This is our first trip and an initial step to starting key relationships.

Please consider getting involved.