5 Lessons from 5 Years. Its EHE’s Birthday!
As we celebrate Embracing Hope’s 5th Birthday of providing services to the poorest of the poor, it is great reason to celebrate! 5 years ago, after months of bureaucracy and red tape, we opened up the living room of our house to those first 20 children and their Moms. There have been many ups and downs since then…but it has been an amazing ride that we are so grateful to God for.
Now, 5 years later, we have so many stories to share. Day after day EHE’s staff has engaged in dignity restoration and family preservation among Moms who truly love their kids and just need a bit of partnership. They have loved on them, fed them, clothed them, counseled them, educated them, be-friended them, nursed them back to health, danced with them and prayed with them – all while showing Jesus’ love in deed and word.
Today our numbers have grown, by God’s grace, to over 240 children and their families whom we serve. It is a testimony to God’s goodness and how much He loves these families who were on the edge of needing to orphan their children simply because of health and economic problems.
As I look back over 5 years, there are so many lessons I take away. But, here are 5 as we prepare for the 5th Birthday of Embracing Hope.
Lesson #1 – GO Local.
I can’t say this enough, our local staff is the greatest resource that Embracing Hope has. 6 years ago we had an idea to start a Day Care, but it was our Director Alayu who helped us to grow and contextualize the concept so that it could serve Moms and children holistically. Our Ethiopian Leadership Team are the ones who painstakingly navigate challenging decisions. Our Staff daily have the language and culture to best deliver Jesus’ love in culturally appropriate ways that make a lasting difference rather than a giant splash.
And today, Moms (yes the poorest of the poor Moms) are serving one another, sacrificing for one another and caring one another. They have Family and Community that did not exist before.
Within this complicated context, I am convinced that Local is the best way to go…AND it creates jobs, too!
Lesson #2 – Faith truly is spelled RISK.
All of us at EHE have had to dive in and risk failure again and again. We needed to move our family to where the poor lived – something even the locals thought we were crazy to do. We needed to seek government approval (to live with integrity and for sustainability) – and God did the unexpected again and again. We needed to discover families in need – people that officials once told us did not exist, yet God found them. We needed to find a solid, trustworthy staff – people whom God sovereignly directed us to. We needed lots of funds that we did not have – but isn’t it great that God cares about the poor even more than we do and provides in ways that still blow my mind.
And over the years, God kept stretching us as he continued to show us more and more families who would not make it without intervention. And He keeps expanding the hearts of our staff to serve more of those who are so greatly in need, so we know that we will need to keep risking to serve more in His Name.
He also is leading us to expand Embracing Hope’s work outside of Ethiopia, into serving Moms and children in desperate need in a predominantly Muslim country over the next 2 years. So, it is time to Risk again.
Would you RISK with us? We need more and more partners and family sponsors. We need individuals and churches and community groups. Please drop us an email – we’d love to talk.
Lesson #3 – Die. Die. Are you Dead, yet?
A wise man once described mission work to me using Jesus words in John 12, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” He said to me, “You need to die to yourself and your passport culture, so that God might do an new work through you.” I didn’t fully understand what that death was going to look like then, but now I have a bit better idea. Another friend of ours puts it more bluntly, “God moved me to Africa to kill me.” So Be It. Amen.
Die to my understanding of ministry and what is “important”.
Die to comfort. I cannot recreate American comforts here. So, why bother?
Die to my Ugly American-ness. I must die to my need to find a logical, progress driven solution to every problem, as well as my belief that if I just throw my weight around here and there, then there will be progress. My politics and practice must be constantly re-formed.
Die to my privilege. Thank God for long lines, uncertainties, unavailable foods, inconvenience, bureaucracy, water outages and power shortages. Without them, I would even be further from understanding how the majority world lives daily. God will produce patience in me – one way or another.
Die to my ideas about productivity. I live in a place that is all about community and relationship – the most important things.
Die to my need for lack of interruptions. I never understood what Divine appointments and Holy Interruptions were until my life started being interrupted hundreds of times per day. I still get frustrated at them…proof that I need to die a bit more here.
Lesson #4 – It takes all of us.
UCLA College Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “It takes 10 hands to make a basket.” There is nowhere that is more true than in an organization like Embracing Hope.
It takes everyone working together – everyone of them a God given gift. Our local staff serve the Moms and children directly. The Moms serve one another. Our Prayer partners pray. Our Family Sponsors give, pray and encourage. Our Donors bless the organization financially. Our visiting Teams help us to spread the word and provide technical assistance. Our Boards in the US and Ethiopia pray, envision, plan and direct. Our partners like Food For All, Bridges of Hope and Operation Blessing assist in funding and implementation. Christy’s parents direct the logistics of physical donations. Churches keep us in front of their congregations in prayer and support. Local partnerships with other Ethiopian organizations help us to encourage and learn from one another, while also discouraging cheating and dependency among beneficiaries.
It takes all of us working together in order to watch Families walk out of poverty one step at a time.
By the way, if you want “in,” we could use your hands, too – to keep scoring. We need more family sponsors. Please visit www.EmbracingHopeEthiopia.com/sponsorships and sign up today to sponsor a family – starting at just $34 per month!
Lesson #5 – Dignity is the foundation.
We must remember that every one of us – rich or poor – were created in God’s image. That image is distorted, but it still is true at the core of who we are.
Dignity means that we see everyone as having God-given assets that can be maximized in order to overcome poverty.
Dignity means that no one should be pitied, rather they should be partnered with.
Dignity means that I will never do something that makes me feel more important than you or that means I rescue you or act like your savior. There is only one Savior, after all, and I want you to see Him, not me.
Dignity means that every interaction I have with someone who is poor is an opportunity to make them feel valued and worthy. We are equals, so I am present to listen and pray, not to talk and give advice.
Dignity means that poverty is not eradicated by merely elevating someone’s economic status or standard of living or by providing education. True poverty is overcome when someone sees themselves as created in God’s image and worthy of love and respect.
Dignity means that we provide the highest of care, treating others as we would expect to be treated. We do not simply throw money at a problem or impose a solution that has worked in a different context. Rather, we relationally walk with the person over an extended season, sacrificing as if we are sacrificially serving Christ Himself.
And Dignity becomes the foundation for the Gospel. We often times start sharing the Gospel at the Fall, but we must rewind a bit more to God’s creation and intent for us. There we see the dignity that He has placed inside of Every human being. That is the starting place for understanding the Good News of Jesus’ redemption and deliverance.
It has been a great 5 Years. We have many plans for the years to come, which we will be sharing soon. We are grateful for the ways you have partnered with us in the past. This work is a testimony to the ways God has worked through you.
Please join us in prayer and support as we continue walking among the poorest of the poor to show Jesus’ love in word and deed.
**All Photos are credited to the Ethiopia Media Team who traveled with the One Child Campaign to use their amazing media skills in capturing Embracing Hope in action.