Embracing Hope recently celebrated our 2nd Birthday. Two years ago we welcomed the first 20 children into the first floor of our house to love on them and try to provide them and their Moms with a tangible hope.
To be honest with you, we had no idea what we were in for. We had a tiny bit of money in the bank. We had government approvals in hand. Many people were skeptical and to top it all off, we had no family sponsors and no idea if this idea was even going to work.
Would moms accept the idea? Would we ever have the
capacity to address some underlying issues? Could a cycle truly be broken? Could we find staff that could embrace the Moms and children where they were and demonstrate love, mercy and grace toward them? Could we impact Moms not only physically but also emotionally, intellectually, relationally and spiritually?
We started with 2 caregivers (one of them being Christy), a social worker, a part time bookkeeper and a cook, which meant that our kids were picking up the slack on those first weeks. We tried to make the place special and worked hard at trying to create an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for these Moms and Children who typically were forgotten and cast off. But, could it really work?
The bottom line is that this never was our idea to begin with. It seemed as if God was opening up this venture that we were simply being invited to join in. It would prove to be the ride of our life and one that He has used to bring Himself glory over and over.
Two years later Embracing Hope Ethiopia looks so much different. Our number of children has grown to 114 and 107 moms. Our staff has grown to 41 staff people. We are now in 2 Day Care centers – and no longer in our home. We now serve just shy of 500 meals (including snack) per day. The organization is daily run on the ground by an Ethiopian staff who care deeply for the moms and the children that we serve.
We now have Moms who have built deep community with each other, the kind that makes sure that others do not go without and who care when suffering comes. We have Moms who have started their own micro businesses. We have Moms who have come to know Jesus. We have Moms who have found better jobs than working in the dump. We have children who are starting school and are at the top of their class. We have children who would not have been alive had it not been for someone being there to care for them. We have moms learning to read and write for the first time in their lives. We have Moms who for the first time in their lives are not having their dignity robbed daily through begging and prostitution. We have Moms on HIV medication so that they will be around for their children long term. We have Moms who are still incredibly poor, yet they now have hope and are not alone.
We even have a few moms who have become so successful that we are dreaming of ways to graduate them from the program! We have local and sub-city government cooperation – they keep giving us glowing reports. We have a large number of moms who have saved at least one month’s salary. We have healthy kids who are now able to learn and thrive.
We have families that are intact – Moms with their own children. Orphans prevented. Families Preserved.
All that these Moms needed was someone to walk alongside of them. They were looking for a way out, an opportunity, a bit of a break. Many of them were praying that somehow someone could intervene. And then God led them to us and us to them.
And now in this next year we are dreaming of ways to further our education of our children, increasing tutoring and providing after school care. We are looking for ways to stay engaged in the lives of the children as they reach Age 6. We can’t just turn off the partnering. Not yet. So, we’re looking at ways that we’ll be able to walk longer term with the family by providing reduced levels of support. And as we do that, we’ll be freeing up more slots in the Day Cares to care for more families on an intensive level.
What a ride it has been. An incredible, awesome, beyond the imagination kind of ride. At times it seemed we could not take one step further, yet God had other plans. He has given us the strength and the vision. And we are a bit giddy when we sit back and see what He has done and is doing.
However, I would be remiss if I did not point out two incredible assets that God has provided to get us to this point.
- God has given us an amazing on the ground staff and an incredible Board of Directors both in Ethiopia and in the US. These are people who care about the poor and who are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the least, the last and the lost. They demonstrate Jesus to us, and to Moms and Children daily.
- God has given us the most wonderful supporters anyone could ever dream of. People who sacrifice themselves to give toward family sponsorships and support our missionaries and the general expenses of the organization. People who pray hard for breakthroughs. God has provided through you abundantly. This has allowed us to truly focus on serving people in need who come to us. It is refreshing and truly a gift. Thank you!
So, here’s to year 3. Thank you God for the amazing blessings you have poured out on us. Thank you for the privilege of walking beside those considered outcast yet those who have become great friends and family members to us. We thank you that you call us to share our impoverished lives together.