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The weekend following Ethiopian Christmas, we took the Bethel boys to the Lake Hawassa for a fish feed. The lakeside has become very popular as many small shops have sprung up making it difficult to find enough chairs to sit and enjoy the atmosphere yet, our friend Chombe wielded his charms and influence and soon all 23 of us gathered around the fried fish platters and enjoyed the deep fried Talapia caught from our beautiful lake. At dusk we headed back to our house, projected the movie, “Gladiator”, on a big screen and served fandesha (popcorn) and cookies to all 18 of us. I thought, this will probably be the closest thing to a movie theater these youth will ever experience.

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The time between our Western and Ethiopian Christmases spans two weeks and each culture gets to demonstrate what the season means to them. At Bethel we invited all the financially struggling families to our compound and the children received a T-shirt and school supplies. Throughout the day we visited the families of friends who had invited us to celebrate with them and enjoyed injera and doro wat, the traditional Christmas dishes of Ethiopia. It was an especially long day for us as our church, Christ Embassy, began celebrating Ethiopian Christmas Eve at 11 pm and we celebrated until 4 a.m. on Christmas day. You can see that the Lord had sustained us as no tiredness can be detected on Claire’s face; I assure you mine looked the same!!! All the families that appeared at this Christmas celebration are those that Bethel is helping keep their children in school. The families are so destitute that, prior to being in the home-to-home supervision program, the parents would send their children to beg in the streets instead of permitting them to go to school. By supporting the family with a stipend of 300 birr ($15) per month, the parents agree to keep their children in school. This benefits the children as they can get an education and stay off the streets while the family can better meet the basic needs of their children. It’s hard for people of developed nations to believe that so little support can have such a beneficial impact on the life of these impoverished families. We hope to soon give those who want to help in such efforts, an opportunity to do so by establishing a non-profit corporation in the United States through which contributions can be made and more families will be able to keep their children in school and off the streets.

href=”https://seeingallthingsnew.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/dsc04797.jpg”>We Love Care Packages
We are so appreciative of the help we receive, not from just our friends we have made here in Ethiopia, but also from our family supporting us with their prayers and gifts from abroad. We opened a Christmas care package from my sister and brother-in-law, Claudia and Ken, and in it she had thoughtfully inserted 2 dresses that two of our girls, Tigist and Beti, just loved!!! Things have greatly changed in Beti’s life; she first only wanted to be known by her muslim name, Hikma, but as she began to meet and admire the changes the Bethel Street boys had made in their lives and attended their Christian church, she decided to become a Christian and changed her name to Beti, meaning Bethlehem in Amharic. She started to attend our church, Christ Embassy, and we have had the privilege of seeing the depth of worship the Lord has worked in her heart as she kneels before Him and at other times dances and praises Him with total abandonment. She still struggles with submitting to authority figures, which she seems to have been lacking in her earlier childhood, but we believe that she’s developing the discipline and character she needs to have a prosperous life. Beti comes from a tiny village Agwamariam; her parents split up and both abandoned their five children forcing them to live together with few resources. At the time Beti was 9-years-old and was deceitfully put on a bus by her older brother who paid a friend to drop her in our town, Hawassa, to live on the streets and make her own way. We found her living near the bus station and eager to be adopted into a safer environment. She’s 12 now and will be entering first grade in a few weeks after being tutored 4 hours per day for 3 months in Amharic language, Math and English. I can’t express the joy it brings us to see children who did not have much of a future receive the tools and opportunities necessary to become anything they want to be.

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Here our girls are eating with Sabla, the daughter of another family that we are helping survive the extreme poverty of Southern Ethiopia. The girls appreciate the support they are receiving but still struggle with treating each other kindly. If we hadn’t had the support of all our Amharic-speaking friends whom we have made over the past year to mediate arguments, we couldn’t have made it through the 3 months it took to finally open Bethel Girls Home. They will be the oldest girls in the house and will naturally lead the younger girls. Over those months we hope they have developed some of the necessary character and commitment to succeed as leaders and role-models of the younger girls who will be adopted into the house.

DSC04461Meet Hikama (Beite) and Tigist
We are moving forward!!! In the first week of November, Getachew, Claire and I went out to familiarize ourselves with the plight of girls living on the streets of Hawassa. We started at the Manharia (bus Station) and Claire recognized a girl, Hikama, that she had met the previous week and had been living on the streets for over a year. While we were talking with her another girl, Tigist appeared and, as Getachew was questioning her, we found out that she had been thrown out of the home in which her parents had arranged for her to work that very morning; it is common for parents in the surrounding poor rural villages suffering under severe poverty to make such arrangements. Some police officers agreed to watch the two girls while we went to the Womens and Children’s Affairs Office to inquire how we could help. We talked with the director and found that the standard procedure was to house them in a temporary shelter until a determination could be made to return them to their families or place them in an NGO, if the home is not appropriate. I had heard of children running from the shelter and returning to the dangers of the streets, so after expressing this concern to the director, we received permission to temporarily house them in our home until we could open our new home for girls in January 2014. They came home with us that night and we learned first hand of the challenges and blessings of helping street girls adopt a new life! This is a picture of Hikama and Tigist the first day we accepted them into our home.

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Miratu is one of the first youth who was supported by BSCFAS. In both the first picture, you see him standing with one of his street friends, holding the baby of the women who he was sharing the small piece of land in front of the fence. In the second picture you see Miratu, four other youth and the women with her baby in front of the first home he established for street youth. The women later left the home without any notification or way of reaching her. Getachew arranged with the regional government officials to adopt the baby, Ephraim, into his own family and has raised him as one of his own children. The final picture was taken 5 years later at the present location of Bethel Street Home. You see Miratu in the middle of the back row happy, attending school and functioning as a leader in the house. We are now seeing all these boys a couple of times per week and have grown fond of them as we pass time filled with humorous anecdotes of us learning to communicate with each other in our broken Amharic and English.

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Since we’ve received our work permit with Getachew’s NGO Bethel Street Children and Family Aids Services (BSCFAS), we’ve been discovering many opportunities to help the children of the street and their families. BSCFAS has successfully lifted 14 boys out of the dangers of the streets of Hawassa during the past 5 years. Getachew’s NGO has focused on prevention, also, helping the parental figures of families keep their children in school by supplementing whatever little income the family has by a stipend with the condition that the child must remain in school. The first picture shows the home of two children and the children’s mother who was lying paralyzed near his home and begging with her children. She asked Gethachew to care for her daughter as her family was to poor to support both children. Getachew hadn’t seen the mother for 5 months and later met the father who told him the mother had died in the hospital 2 months prior. The final picture shows the father, his two children and their aunt struggling to survive after the mother’s death. The father still lacked the ability to support his children and Getachew agreed to pay the daughter’s school fees until Bethel could start a home for girls. There are few homes in Hawassa for girls living in such abject poverty. We believe we can gather the necessary funds to establish such a house for girls and will keep you appraised of the opportunity to support this project.

Our Boys Saying Goodbye to Our Julia

After meeting the boys at Bethel Street Home, Julia has gained a great respect for them and the work in which the Lord has led us. We will miss you Julia!!!

In August, Julia came to visit us in Ethiopia for the second time. We celebrated her 21st BD in Mombasa, Kenya and reintroduced her to the boys to whom we have become devoted. We have seen these boys grow in both their allegiance to the Lord and their readiness to become active self-reliant and contributing members of our community.
After saying our tearful goodbyes to Julia at the Bole International Airport on Monday evening, we met Getachew Tikke, the director of Bethel Street and Family Aid Services (BSFAS) at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) Office on Wednesday morning and began the process of requesting our much awaited work permit. Although Getachew had all the required papers in order, Thursday we faced some officials who were fearful in authorizing the permit. Getachew with months of experience and wisdom in gaining his license certification for his own organization, was able to encourage these officials to meet their authorized responsibilities and the work permit was granted in a matter of hours. Hurrah!!! We immediately went to the Immigration Office one hour before closing, presented our application for residency and the required supporting documents and were informed to make copies of our new work permit and submit a letter from Shiloh Bible College releasing Claire to work with any agency of her choice. We were to come back the following morning to finish the processing. We had a celebration dinner, discussed and prayed over plans we would be soon starting before Getachew returned to Hawassa to meet his responsibilities there. Claire contacted Shiloh that evening and they quickly emailed her their closing letter.
We returned early the following morning and after a two hour expedited processing, we had approval of our residency status. After a friend from Christ Embassy Addis, had agreed to pick up our residency cards and mail them to us, he placed us in a private vehicle and we were back in Hawassa 4 hours. All we have is praise for our Lord Jesus in making the process so smooth; He answers our every prayer and does so surprisingly and abundantly!!! We are now ready to work and give others an opportunity to sow seeds in His Kingdom plans for the street youth of Hawassa.

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Christ Embassy Hawassa began in the Paradise Hotel with just a few members. Our Pastor Alex had been sent out by Pastor Chris from Nigeria along with Pastor Wale, who was to pastor the Addis congregation and was given 250 birr ($14) for bus fare and all other expenses. The Lord sent workers to help him and within a few months they moved to larger venues until we are at our present location. A critical issue as a member is passing the Foundation Training through which each member learns the importance of publicly confessing the often criticized teachings of some of Jesus’ most challenging words. Such teachings spawned from Bishop Benson Idahosa of Nigeria and Kenneth Hegin have been followed by signs and wonders and we regularly hear testimonies of people’s blood being cleansed of HIV and malaria, hands and limbs being restored as they believe and fight the good fight of faith against the deceptions of the enemy. Here Claire is receiving her diploma for passing a written test of the extensive doctrine of the teachings of Christ. We have accompanied our pastor to towns in the surrounding areas and seen congregations the size of ours spring up in Sheshemane , Durame and Laku. Pray for the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all believers as we come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph 4:13) and are prepared (Eph 2:10) to meet our Lord and King as His bride without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5:27)

DSC03110In August 2012 we had returned to Ethiopia with all the necessary papers, expecting to find housing for as many street children as possible. We began sponsoring a new street home managed by a person that appeared to have the best interests of the children at heart. After a few months we discovered his motives were not at all what we had thought and he and the children were being forced to leave by the landlord. The children were placed in another home quickly and because of the potential threat to the standings of Shiloh Bible College, we agreed to cut off all our relationships with the organizations to which we were connected.
This was a particularly low point in our spiritual walk as the desire to fulfill our calling in the Lord had come into conflict with many worldly considerations. But the Lord is always faithful and we were introduced by a friend to Christ Embassy a congregation led by a Nigerian English speaking pastor. We came to the service just being thankful to hear a service in English since, all other services are translated from Amharic into English and much is lost in translation. We began hearing a doctrine that focused on seeing ourselves and other Christians as empowered by a new spirit (2 Co 5:17) and through the belief in our heart and confession with our mouth (Ro 10:9,10) of the power and authority with which Jesus has left us, we can overcome any obstacle. Our lives are to be forward and upward and, in Christ, we cannot be defeated in any area of our lives. We have been challenged to believe and have faith in scriptures as John 10:34,35 and Matthew 21:21 and fight the good fight of faith as we persistently confess with our mouths we are the bride of Christ doing the same and greater works that Jesus has done and awaiting His return.