Archive for ‘Stories & Memories’

July 12, 2011

Genet’s Gift

This morning I’m thinking about my friend Genet.  Truth be told, I don’t know much about her.  I don’t know how old she is, though my guess is she’s a few years younger than me.  I don’t know her story, though I know it led her to Women At Risk, and I know the pain and tears I saw in her eyes as I heard other women tell heartbreaking stories of abuse and violence and abandonment.  I don’t know where she is today, though I know the God who is pursuing her, the Savior that died and rose again to give her new life.

On our last day at Women At Risk in Nazret, Genet pulled me inside, sat me down, took my hand, and put on my wrist a small silver bracelet.  Then she looked at me, and in her broken English, said, “I love you.”

Genet’s gift to me was not extravagant, but it was heartfelt.  She can’t afford much, and yet she gave me that gift.  That is humbling to me.  Incredibly humbling.

It reminds me of the widow who gave next to nothing in the offering, but Jesus commended her above the rich men who gave an abundance.  Why?  Because it cost her everything.  The rich man’s offering didn’t require much sacrifice; he still left with wealth.  But the widow gave everything she had as an act of love and devotion. (Luke 21:1-4)

Genet’s gift is a beautiful reminder that the best things we receive are not those that are the most extravagant or that required the most money, but those which came at greatest cost to the giver.

And then I think about Jesus.  I think about salvation.  And I’m reminded that it came at an unspeakable cost to the ultimate Giver.  The Father gave His only Son.  Jesus gave up everything, including His life.

Will the love of Christ compel us to give until it hurts?  It is not something we must force, but rather something that flows from our understanding of how much Jesus sacrificed to give us life.  As we look to Him, as we get to know Him deeply and intimately, we are transformed.

I am thankful this morning for Genet’s gift because it points me to Jesus.  I am thankful for Genet because she is a living example of the power of Jesus to transform lives.

Will you join me in praying for Genet this morning?  Pray that as Jesus continues to transform her life, that she would continue to point others toward Him.  Pray that He would sustain her and provide for her.  Pray that she would know Him more deeply with each passing day and that her eyes would remain fixed upon Him.

I’m praying for you this morning, whoever may be reading this.  I’m praying that you would know Jesus and receive the gift He places before you– Himself.    All we could ever need is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is the Giver and the Gift.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15

April 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

To the woman who loved me unconditionally from the day that she first held me, the woman who fed me, clothed me, encouraged me, disciplined me, laughed with me, cried with me, talked with me, supported me…

Happy Birthday!

I thank God for choosing you to adopt me into your family and into your heart.  There has never been a day I did not know that I was loved.  There was never a moment that I questioned whether or not you saw me as your “real” daughter.  Someday, should the Lord bless me with children of my own, I know that so much of what I know of being a parent will have come from your shining example.  I hope that today you know how loved, cherished and appreciated you are.  May the coming year be full of exciting memories (like becoming a grandma to my very first niece!)

Happy Birthday, Mom.  I love you and I am incredibly blessed to call you my mother.

April 3, 2011

My friend Kat.

For those of you who don’t know her already, please meet my friend Kat:

How do I know her, you ask?  Well, Kat and I met for the first time here in New York City, at the Manhattan Diner on the Upper West Side in the spring of 2009 to be exact.  She was in the city looking at apartments because she would be moving here that July for grad school.  But before that happened, she and I, along with a team of other guys and gals, would be traveling to Ethiopia.

To make a long story short[ish], Kat has become one of my dearest, closest friends.  Besides the fact that she is hilarious and a great home chef, Kat knows and understands and loves something very special to me: Ethiopia.  For as much as I knew I would return there (and did… and will again!), I’m inclined to say I felt even more strongly that Kat would be back there.  She loves and cares for the Ethiopian people and their beautiful country so deeply.  The desire of her heart is to serve them.

Well, God has opened the doors for Kat to return to our favorite place this summer… for the WHOLE summer!  I couldn’t be more thrilled for my friend.  I cannot wait to hear about every detail and all that God does while she is there.  Would you please join me in praying for Kat?

Read Kat’s blog post HERE to learn more about the trip and how best to be praying for her.  She’s also giving you and I the opportunity to partner with her in financially supporting some of the organizations she works with while there.

Kat, I am so, so happy [and, ahem, a little jealous] that you will be back in Ethiopia loving and serving those that are always on our minds and in our hearts.  I am praying for you and praising God for all He has done and will do through you!!!  You inspire me, lady.  And I know I’m not the only one.  Love you!

February 23, 2011

The Cause: Meet Howie.

I want you to meet my friend Howie.

This beautiful little girl is 9 years old and lives in the village of Ambo in Ethiopia.  I don’t know much about Howie’s life, to be honest.  I know that she has a father and a little sister, Gifti, who is 7.  I don’t know what happened to Howie’s mother.  I know that Howie is quiet, somewhat shy, loyal and loving.  I know that she held my hand wherever we went and I could always count on her being by my side in Ambo.  I know that Howie is enrolled in Compassion sponsorship and that, through it, she is enrolled in school, is involved with the local church, is fed and clothed, and has hope for a future.

I know that there are children like Howie across the globe whose lives are full of difficulties and who need to know that there is hope for them, there is a future for them, that they are capable of more than their circumstances might allow.  Circumstances (in this case, poverty) should not prevent these children from having goals and dreams for their future.  Poverty lies to them and tells them that they do not matter, that they are not capable, and that their life is worthless.  Did you hear me?  That’s a lie.  The worst kind of lie.  It destroys the spirit of a small child who ought to believe that nothing is impossible.  Who ought to know the love of a great God who created them in His image.  Who ought to know of a Savior who fought for them, died for them, and now lives for them.

Our words have power.  The book of Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).  We have the ability to speak life or death into the lives of others.  And whose hearts, minds and spirit are more sensitive and malleable than a child’s?  Child sponsorship gives us a chance to speak life into children who are surrounded by death, both literally and figuratively.  We can use powerful words to build them up, to encourage them, to dispell the lies of poverty and the lies of the enemy.  We can replace those lies with our words about a loving God, a gracious Father, an all-sufficient Savior.

Someone out there in the world sponsors Howie, the sweet girl who became my friend and later called me mother Someone else out there believes in Howie like I believe in Howie.  I believe God has plans and purposes for her life, and He is using the work of Compassion International to bring those things to fruition.  I look at Howie and I see one of the “little ones” Jesus spoke of.  I see a spirit that ought to be encouraged and talents that should be nurtured and cultivated.  I see a little girl who God can use for His glory.  And I see those possibilities become realities through the faithfulness of a sponsor.

What can YOU do?

The world is full of boys and girls just like Howie.  It’s overwhelming to consider how great the needs are in this world, but you can start with a single child.  A child looking not for handouts, but for opportunities and hope for their future.  You can pour into that child and build a relationship that will last a lifetime.  And remember: your words and your love will carry much more weight and meaning in the heart of a child than any amount of money you could give.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion
Sponsor a Child

If you’d like to know more about Compassion International, visit their website.  I also highly recommend reading the book, “Too Small To Ignore” by Wess Stafford (President & CEO of Compassion International).

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mark 10:14

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Matthew 10:42

What about you?  Do you sponsor a child?  If so, tell me about him or her!
Where did you first learn about child sponsorship and how did you decide to commit to sponsoring?

February 19, 2011

Much is required.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48

I look around me in Ethiopia and I see intense poverty and lack of what we would consider basic necessities.  I am reminded of the opportunities I have been afforded simply because I was born in America.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I spend time with sweet children, children without a home.  I pray that God will raise up mothers and fathers for those children.  I am reminded of the blessing of the family I was adopted into.  Even more so when I hear of the millions of orphans in this world.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I hear stories of women whose circumstances have brought them to the streets of Ethiopia.  Women whose bodies and very dignity are sold for a price to men who take and take from them, abuse them, and throw them aside.  I hear horror stories.  I am reminded that I am blessed not to know that kind of pain, that God has kept me safe for 25 years.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I see a world that is lost and dying.  I see people trapped in bad relationships, in their own thoughts, in sin.  I am even more aware of the freedom I have in Christ.  I realize what a miracle it is that He saved my life from a path of emptiness, selfishness and ultimately destruction.

To whom much is given, much is required.

It’s hard to see so much pain, so much suffering, and know that you can hardly identify with it.  It’s hard not to ask, “Why?”  I so easily could have been born into poverty.  So easily could have been an orphan.  So easily could have been abused.  So easily could have continued in my sin.  But I wasn’t, I’m not, and I didn’t.  By the grace of God.  As I bring those difficulties and, honestly, frustrations, before God, He reminds me:

To whom much is given, much is required.

The challenge lies in not settling in to a comfortable, me-centered life.  The challenge lies in resisting the cultural tides and be willing to give and serve in a way that requires sacrifice.  The challenge lies in being bold and not shrinking back when an opportunity arises to speak into the lives of others the things that truly matter.  The challenge lies in knowing that all that I have is a gift from God and truly loving Him enough to use those gifts to bring Him glory.

I have been given a voice, so I will speak.
I have been given finances, so I will give.
I have been given hope, so I will share it.
By His Spirit, for His glory.

Because to whom much is given, much is required.


“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:33-34

February 15, 2011


“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

Gewdegna… Amharic for “friend”.  I miss my friends today.  I miss them and yet I am aware of their influence in my life nearly every day.  I am aware of how God is using them to challenge me, to teach me, to change me.  I am also aware that so many of my friendships would not exist if it weren’t for Christ and the boundaries and barriers He breaks down between us.  I am struck by how different some of my friends and I are, and with others, I am struck by how very alike we are.  God uses both constantly in order to teach me about Himself.

I miss my friends in Ethiopia.  I saw a picture of some of the boys in Ambo the other day.  I saw the faces of Berhanu, Danny, Kaiyo and Tura and I thought, “Goodness, I miss those boys.”  I remembered sitting on the bus in Ambo pulling apart a loaf of bread and dipping it in Nutella with Kaiyo and my teammates and laughing at how aggressive we all were in getting to the Nutella first.  I also remember Kaiyo, ever the gentleman, making sure we got our lunch before he did.  Kaiyo, the boy who scrapes up just enough money to rent a small room with two of his best friends, the boy who probably struggles to eat (if he’s able to at all), and he made sure we got our meal.  Yes, my friends have a lot to teach me.

I miss Kathryn, my kindred spirit and my sister.  I find it mind-boggling that God orchestrated the events of our lives in order to bring us to Ethiopia to serve Him alongside each other.  I’m thankful as we continue to encourage each other, share our struggles and our fears, and grow in grace.  When I think of Kathryn, I think of that C.S. Lewis quote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  I am reminded through our many lengthy phone calls and Skype sessions of how the Lord uses the people in our lives to teach us and challenge us and encourage us.  I am learning that although transparency and honesty with others can be scary and difficult at times, it is in those moments that God teaches big lessons and brings healing.  He also reminds us we are not alone.

I miss so many of you today, friends.  I want you to know how thankful I am each day for you.  I want you to know that Christ’s love has been on display through you.  I want you to know that you are a gift.  I pray I can be as loving, encouraging, gracious, humble, patient, faithful, honest, gentle and kind a friend to each of you as you have been to me.

Whose friendship are you thankful for today?

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

January 24, 2011

The In-Between

Reverse culture shock.  Re-entry.  Whatever you want to call it, it happens.  I’m finding myself in this weird place between life here in New York and my two amazing weeks in Ethiopia.  It feels like life here was placed on pause, and on Tuesday night, January 11th, I pressed play and jumped back into it.  My life in Ethiopia feels so far removed from my life here.  I’m still fighting to reconcile the two, to find a place where they can converge and be meaningful.

I have seen and experienced so much.  I have rediscovered a place and a people that I love deeply and miss terribly.  My heart has been overwhelmed and overflowed, broken and overjoyed.  There are moments I well up with tears, sometimes of joy, sometimes of sadness.  There’s a loneliness I’m struck with, the idea that no one here can understand.  Missing my team, my family for the past two weeks.  Wishing I could transplant myself back in time and back to Ethiopia where life just makes more sense.  And yet it’s also a place where life makes absolutely no sense.

My heart aches for my friends who have no place to sleep tonight.  My heart aches for my friends who probably did not eat dinner, who have no shoes on their feet, who have no family to go home to.  And I log on to Facebook or Twitter and see post after post about things that do not matter.  I see complaints and greed and self pity and then I get angry at the world for not knowing any better.  Then I’m reminded that there was a time that I didn’t know any better.  And even worse, a time I knew better and disregarded it.

Living in ignorance seems ideal, doesn’t it?  “Ignorance is bliss,” we say.  But our ignorance does not erase the pain of the world.  Just because we pretend something does not exist, or even honestly don’t know that it does, doesn’t make it any less real.  For so many people it is their reality.  Homelessness is their reality.  Poverty is their reality.  Abuse is their reality.  Prostitution is their reality.  Being orphaned is their reality.  Illiteracy is their reality.  Disease is their reality.

What do I do with those realities?  That is the question I bring to God.  May He teach me and lead me and guide me.  May He deliver me from my selfish tendencies and my fleshly craving to live in ignorance.  May He continue to provide opportunities for me to be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.  May He continue to change and soften my heart.

Jesus came and died for all those harsh realities that are so very wrong with this world.  May the love He gives and the hope He brings be that which drives me and that which I long to share.

“I know I’m filled to be emptied again, the seed I’ve received I will sow.”

January 16, 2011

Borrowed Words.

My teammate (and now dear friend) Kathryn posted this note on her Facebook yesterday.  I can identify with so much of it and was moved to tears, so with her permission, I’m sharing it now with all of you:

As I sit here in my bedroom in Knoxville, TN on my first Saturday morning back from Ethiopia, I reflect back on my time there. I am a mixture of emotions, reality, and biblical truths. I try to make sense of my life here in America. Over the past few days, I have told stories from my journey and realize that to so many people, they are just that, stories. To me, it is the reality that Jesus has called me to. I struggle to find my purpose for sitting through a 3 hour anatomy lecture on cells and body orientation when I could be worshipping with my sisters in Nazret or feeding my friends that live on the streets of Ambo. I sit through dinner with friends and feel so absent, like my body made it back home, but my heart did not. At times, I am filled with joy to tell of my time in Ethiopia. Other times, my heart breaks because I know that the people listening cannot fully understand or appreciate it the way I do. I miss my new family (team members) more than words can express.

I am responsible for telling America where I’ve been. I am responsible for telling of the LORD’s work in Ethiopia. I am responsible for telling how God has changed my heart in the past couple of weeks. I am finding that the hardest part of missions is not being surrounded by poverty or hearing heartbreaking life stories in a foreign land, but it is the return home to the life lived before such heart transformation. I settle for not making sense out of why I am here in this season and not in Ethiopia. I run fully after the LORD, knowing that He has every single day ahead planned out and that He has a purpose for it. He knows when and in what capacity I will return to Ethiopia.

“For those who love God, all things work together for good.” –Romans 8:28

In this season, I trust that my time spent studying for nursing will be used for something. I can only speculate as to what that purpose is right now, but I am comforted to know that God already knows. I think back to this past Sunday when I sat in a hot church in Ambo and read these words from Isaiah:

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me… I will accomplish all my purpose” –Isaiah 46: 9-10

God has shown me how self-centered the life I have led has been. I strive for more humility and compassion for the needy of this world. I realize now that I have viewed all of them as lazy, but that many of them are my brothers and sisters in Christ who have had major tragedies in their lives that I have turned my back on. I am ashamed of this. I am better than no one in this life. All I have is Christ.

I think back to my time spent at Little A Hope orphanage, where all of the children are infected with HIV/AIDS. As I looked into the beautiful brown eyes of those children, I was reminded that God is a god of all days. He knows the number of days given to each one of us here on this earth. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say that every day was spent in pursuit of knowing my God in a deeper way than the day before. My goal for this 2011 year is to know Christ in a far deeper way than I can even imagine right now. I don’t know what this year will hold regarding that, but I welcome whatever it entails.

“That every eye would see… Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised… God of all days, glorious in all of Your ways… With everything, we will shout forth Your glory… With everything, we will shout forth Your praise”

August 21, 2009

go in peace

bettyThis is Betty. I gave her a pedicure on our first day at Women At Risk.  I knew enough Amharic to be able to ask her name.  Then I asked how old she was- she’s 18. During our time at Women At Risk, Betty was awfully quiet. I’d often see her go off to the side by herself and just sit and observe. That day I decided to join her. We didn’t have much to say given the language barrier, but I think it was okay. It broke my heart that this sweet girl had been through things I couldn’t imagine. Here I was, five years her senior, and yet this girl had seen the hardest of times. When I was 18 I went to college. My parents provided. I had no cares or worries. Meeting Betty put things into perspective.  I pray that whatever pain and hurt she has suffered, whatever shame she may feel, that she would truly know and grasp the amazing love with which Jesus loves her- that just as Jesus said to the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears, He will say to Betty, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

August 14, 2009

fun fact.

I can’t believe I didn’t share this earlier:

The day we arrived at the school in Ambo, tons of kids surrounded our bus as we were getting off. There were so many sweet faces. The first child I locked eyes with looked familiar. It hit me in that moment:

THIS is him.

The boy I just happened to use a picture of on this blog was smiling right at me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to take a picture of him myself. But it was such a beautiful moment to see that familiar face– to connect what I’d simply seen online with a real, sweet little boy. I had him in my English class a couple days later. He was so smart and eager to learn. He raised his hand to answer almost every question.

It was such a blessing.