December 2015 Update from Zeway

Our latest updates from Zeway have brought us joy in celebrating with the children along with many tears as we mourn the loss of two of our amazing and dearly loved kids. Robdu passed away suddenly due to heart complications. She had been studying at a university to become a teacher. Johannes, whom we have spent years praying for his health, passed away due to complications from AIDS. The last months of his life were spent in and out of hospitals with the CHH staff accompanying him to different cities to find the best care. When his body finally began to shut down, he was able to return home and pass peacefully with this father by his side. We loved both these children and know how precious each of their lives were. They touched so many people, in their own community as well as across the world. They were inspirations to us whenever we visited them and we rejoice in their homecomings.

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(Robdu pictured in green above)


We also received news recently on our children who took 10th grade exams. Three of them, Beniyam, Alembirhan, and Mohammed, passed their exams and now will be furthering their education on a path towards a university in their near future. We praise God for their results. These orphans now have an opportunity to attend college and further themselves and their siblings. Amanu, who took his 12th grade exams, will no be attending a university but is now furthering his education in a local college studying public service. Amanu is an amazing young man who has done so many great things with his life already. We look forward to following him through this next stage.

We learned that Amelework finished her hair dressing training and is now prepared with a skill to provide income for herself.


Negatu (Johannes’s father) is now able to begin working again. He had been home full time caring for his son during his illness. Our program has helped him to begin selling goods at the local market again.


A fun update on one of our children, Edatu. Edatu finally mastered riding her bike. This little girl is such a joy and has so much energy. I’m sure she is thrilled to be racing around Zeway on 2 wheels!


All the children had great starts to the school year and we look forward to updates in the coming months.

Do You Want To Play In Zeway with Us?


We have been leading trips to Zeway for 6 years and every time we go, we make it a priority to find at least 1 day in a very tight schedule to play with the orphans in Zeway. We know that it seems a bit superfluous or even insignificant to send 10 talented, American adults to an impoverished country with so many great needs just so they can spend a day playing, but it is very intentional, very strategic, and absolutely fun.

As simple as it is, we have discovered a universal love language for children, especially children who have experienced great loss and their value in the world. This universally spoken love language for children all over the world is playing. Play time with adults and with each other. For children who carry so many burdens, play time speaks volumes to these children about their value and their preciousness.

There is a lot of work to be done to care for the orphans and widows. The Hope in Ethiopia partnership provides clothing, food, education and vocational skills. We’ve helped the community with libraries and job opportunities. We help support local Ethiopian missionaries to go to Muslim dominated regions, and we increased the number of local social workers who mentor, love, and support the orphans and widows. One extremely valuable aspect of orphan care relief and development is to remind children of their preciousness and remind them that they are image-bearers. We do this by delighting in them, by playing with them.

As challenging as relief and development can be and as many mistakes that can be made by Americans tromping through a small African village, it is encouraging to know that we can bring great value to orphans by delighting in them through play. You don’t need to know how to play soccer nor do you need to be silly, because even simple acts like blowing bubbles, making pipe cleaner animals and displaying a smile on your face while you clap to songs the children are singing, make one of the greatest impacts you can ever make on a child.

In addition to building libraries, offering clothing and encouraging children to go to school, we would like you to come to Zeway to show children their preciousness and to delight in them. Do you want to play with the orphans in Zeway with us?

The next Grace team will travel to Zeway, Ethiopia in the first week of October, 2016.  Visit Trip Details for all the info and to complete an application.

Summer Update from Zeway

While on summer break this year, some of our CHH (Child Headed Household) children took on
summer jobs to help supplement the support they receive from our Partnership. Through our
Partnership and the holistic care it provides, these orphans are healthy and motivated to take on
even more responsibility to better themselves and their siblings:

  • Melkete, one of our original CHH children, was employed in a local hospital as a cook. She also delivered food to the patients. Her younger sister, Denebe, took on more household chores to allow her sister this opportunity.  Below is a picture of Melkete helping to feed another CHH child Johannes in the local hospital after he was admitted earlier this summer to treat a fungal infection.
  • Bedilu secured employment for the summer working a horse cart, transporting people throughout Zeway. In addition to the money he earned, he was also provided breakfast and lunch by his employer.Bedilu ride horse cart
  • Samrawit was able to secure summer employment and supplement her large family working at the local flower farm.

While making repairs on the home he shares with his 2 brothers, another CHH child named Dagnachew fell and broke his arm. He has received treatment and is doing better. Pray the break heals completely without any lasting physical limitations.

Johannes, who we have been following closely since our last visit in April, is still struggling to fight off a fungal infection attacking his skin. With a depleted immune system due to HIV and numerous medications, his body is weakened. Pray for complete healing for Johannes.

Eternal Perspective



Slightly over two weeks ago, I returned from a week in Zeway, Ethiopia. During my time there, I experienced the stark contrast between poverty and wealth, sickness and health, desperation and hope. For most of the children I visited, the only reason they are able to survive at all is because this program provides for their basic needs. Even with the food, clothing, rent, etc. that is provided by Hope in Ethiopia, they are undeniably poor and living in difficult conditions. We met multiple HIV+ children, whose sickness not only wreaks havoc on their bodies but also on their social status. Some families have homes in very poor condition, or must move frequently in order to stay housed. Throughout the community, there is hunger, disease, poverty, homelessness, and death. That is daily life for the people of Zeway. Yet Zeway is not devoid of hope or joy.

Here at home, most of us don’t encounter absolute poverty at any point in our lives, let alone each day. Therefore, when we are faced with situations like those in Zeway, we are shocked, heartbroken, and maybe appalled. And that is ok. We should use those emotions to motivate us to advocate for those who need it. However, when we allow those emotions to transform into worry, anxiety, or despair, we need to stop and reflect. Because this is not all there is.

You see, it wasn’t the images of severe poverty or even of grave illness that imprinted themselves on my heart two weeks ago. It was the hope and joy that I often saw in the midst of those circumstances, namely in the faces of those who were followers of Jesus. In that environment of hunger, sickness, and death, the people of Zeway have few if any false notions of personal control over their circumstances. Facades and fake smiles have no place there, because they don’t provide food or heal sickness. All veils and distractions have been stripped away, and what remains is reality. Yet for many of the kids in our program, there is not just an earthly reality, but a heavenly one. And perhaps because, not in spite, of their circumstances, their knowledge of and hope in eternity is a more intimate and real one than I have ever known.

They know a Jesus who is more powerful than hunger, disease, poverty, homelessness, and even death. And His power is not just to change those hardships on earth, but more importantly to eternally reward and exalt those who love Him so that all the hardships they experience on earth are simply “light and momentary troubles”. The followers of Jesus in those one-room houses in Zeway understand that and it is their reality. Because of that, they radiate joy, hope, and purpose. Jesus is not an add-on; He is the Only. There is nothing else to cling to, no other sources of eternal provision. I want to know Jesus like that. I want to view eternity as my resting place and my true home. And though I have more obstacles and distractions in my life that my keep me from that, I can know Jesus like that, because in reality He is the one true Savior and nothing else can take His place.

My week in Ethiopia gave me valuable insight into the lives and souls of the precious children we support, and invaluable insight into who Jesus is and the hope that He alone can bring. My prayer as I continue processing is that the Holy Spirit will continue to strip away the distractions that keep me from depending on Christ only. I pray that I will be able to believe and act as Paul describes in 2 Cor. 4:16-18:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

Pure – Just the Way I Like It…

by Jacodien

Pure—that is the way I like my chocolate. So much better than milk or white. All that added milk or even leaving out all the cocoa takes away the best of it. This week, here in Ethiopia, I have gotten a taste of purity. Not the diluted 55% kind you find in our stores. But the real stuff. Fully pure.

It started right away on day one. The drive from Addis Ababa to Zeway.

No big buildings (the few that did exist were under construction with big wooden scaffolding meters and meters high). No chain stores with advertisements screaming at you on every street corner.

Just purity. Earthiness.jacodien photo

With colors that talk, but don’t scream.

People, the way they are. Full of passion? They sing it out. Not softly, somewhere where nobody sees them, but full and uninhibited. Pure.

Desperate and without hope? They won’t conceal it in a dark corner, but display it, on the middle of the street.

Pure. Real.

No distractions. No interruptions. No hiding. No dilution.

Even the coffee is pure. Kind of like espresso, the Ethiopian way. Flavored, the same way they decorate the houses and streets, with colors that talk, but don’t scream.

There is no need to scream.
Because there are no distractions which need to be overcome. No cars which take up the road. No lights which pollute the dark. No shame which is disguised.

Oh yes, there is brokenness. Sorrow. Pain. Grief. Lives with deep sadness and despair.

Just like there is laughter. And good jokes. Hugs. Love. Joy and Thankfulness.

Ethiopia, as I have gotten to know it this week, is pure. Just the way I like it.
There is no need to seek, to scream, to jump out of the way. Pure and raw.

That is precisely the only reason I can think of why the work of the strongest enemy, the greatest created being, Satan, is so pure and visible here.

Because here there is nothing that distracts men. Nothing men hide behind. Satan has to work here. Pure and real. To reach his goal.

Yes, it is difficult. To see the fight. But here, just because of the lack of distractions, because the people don’t get overwhelmed by TV programs, by blinking billboards, too long schooldays and speeding cars. Because of that it is tangible to discern God’s voice. To hear His word. To feel His touch.

Life is earthy. Pure.
Not perfect. There is still spiritual war going on. Real, tangible, pure, raw and hard.
All the more it speaks of the confidence that we have as children of Father God, siblings of Jesus. We do not fight for victory. But fight from victory. In Christ’s power we are invincible.

So with our breastplate on and belt around our middle, our sandals on our feet and helmet on our head (which in our Ethiopian attire looks like this) we go on our way.

Enjoying the purity of all our precious new friends—their coffee and their tears and their hugs.

Pure. Just the way I like it…

I Finally Arrived

by Melissa

I have finally arrived in Africa.  The continent I’ve had a longing for.   I didn’t know what to expect and I wasn’t sure what God’s purpose was in choosing me to go on this trip.  I still don’t know my purpose but in one day, I have fallen in love with Ethiopia and it’s people and culture.

My first day was more of a dream.  It didn’t feel real and yet I know my heart and soul have been changed forever.  We started off the day worshipping with the Food for the Hungry (FH) staff.  These men and women have dedicated their lives to helping their people, which is why Hope in Ethiopia (our organization) has partnered with them.  They are a living day example of what James was talking about in 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.”  This wasn’t a metaphor.  Orphans have no one to protect or guide them.  And widows lose all the benefits of their husbands.  In this culture, widows and orphans are outcasts.  When you add HIV to that equation, they become completely isolated.  One mother with 5 kids told us that she’s had to move 5 times in the last 2 years because one place would not let her family use the communal water pump.  Another place would not let her family use the communal bathroom.  There is always a reason to ostracize them.   Food for the Hungry and Hope in Ethiopia go against these cultural prejudices by loving each family despite their circumstances.  FH counsels all of these children and their mothers.  They help carry their burdens…burdens that we in the US would probably not be able to handle.  FH helps these families learn how to sustain themselves and build a future.  It is not a handout.  It IS ongoing unconditional love, financial support and guidance for the “least of these”.  It is what Jesus commanded us to do.  I look forward to the day I meet these FH workers in heaven where they can share all of their stories of triumph with me.


Gibril 2015Our first visit was with the K. family, which consists of 5 siblings.  These children have no parents and are the true definition of a child headed household.  Four of these siblings live together in a one room “house” they rent.  This room is the size of my bathroom.  There are two mattresses on the floor, neatly made.  And one small desk that holds their 6 plates, 4 cups, cooking utensils and food containers.  The floor is a dirt floor covered by what I would call cabinet liners and a rug.  They own nothing. The oldest brother is now 16 and the middle brother is 14.  When the boys were 7 and 5, their parents separated.  Their dad took the boys to another town and their mom kept the three girls in Zeway (the girls are currently 13, 10 and 5).  Their dad hired the boys out as cattle herders for $25/year which was extremely hard labor for them and they could not attend school.  One day while the boys were washing their clothes in the river, their mom came to them and they ran away with her back to Zeway.  Soon after, their mother became sick with diabetes.  She died in 2010 and the five kids were left on their own.  They had a grandmother but she was too poor to take them in.  However, she did take in the youngest child as she was still a baby (all kids three years old and under have to go to an orphanage) with the intention to send her to her siblings when she turned five.  She turned five this year, however, the grandmother is still taking care of her.  She gets to visit with her siblings often and is still part of their family.  The local church heard about their mother’s death and helped them out until FH entered the picture.   With the FH child headed household program, these kids are able to go to school because FH pays for their school supplies.  They are able to have shelter because FH pays their rent and utilities and water bills.  They are able to start the healing process of losing their mother by attending the weekly grief and counseling sessions where all the kids come together to share their stories and build a safe and understanding community.  Their FH social worker has also gone above and beyond all job requirements.  He and his wife have loved these kids as their own.  They moved the kids so they would be closer to his family.  His wife would get up at 4:30 am to teach the boys how to make bread.  The boys have now taught their sisters.   When I met these kids, they were full of joy.  They did not feel sorry for themselves or hopeless.  And all of this is because of Jesus.  They love Him with all their hearts and know that He is with them every second of every day.  They find their hope, the only true hope that lasts, in Him.  The oldest brother wants to be a petty trader, or salesman, and work for himself.  The middle brother wants to be a scientist and do research.  The two older girls love science.  This family is such an inspiration to me. They keep each other safe and hold each other accountable.  They all contribute to the family in their own special way by cooking, running errands, cleaning the house, washing clothes and dishes.  Surviving is a daily struggle for them yet they do it in such grace because of the grace that Jesus has bestowed amongst them.

Then we went to visit B.  She is 19 and lives alone.

b 2015When the Hope in Ethiopia team visited her two years ago, they said she cried the whole time and never smiled.  In two years, B is smiling.  She is so grateful for the FH program as she says that the grief and counseling sessions have helped her start healing by allowing her to connect with other children and hear their stories.  She knows now that she doesn’t have the worst life as she previously thought.  B’s mother died while working as a house maid when B was 8.  She was hanging clothes on a clothesline when an electric wire came in contact with her and she was electrocuted.  B went to live with her aunt.  At this point, B was a part of the FH child sponsorship program, however, the aunt was keeping B’s ration

s to herself, refused her to go to school and treated B badly.  At one point, B contemplated suicide.  She eventually ran away from her aunt and a very poor woman with her own children to take care of took her in.  This woman was a Christian and insisted B go to church with her.  B was an Orthodox Christian and didn’t want to have anything to do with a relationship with Jesus but she went.  For a while, she fought back spiritually.  B met a social worker from FH who convinced her to join the child headed household program (which would mean she would have to leave this woman’s home as you can’t be a part of this program if you live with an adult who can help support you).  This social worker and B became like family and he counseled her as if she were his daughter.  After a while, B thought about all the good people in her life (her social worker, the poor woman) and realized they were all Christians and loved her in a way no one else had.  So she gave her life to Jesus and now wants to give back to others all that she has been given.  B used to wonder why she didn’t die with her mother, however, now she sees hope and a purpose for her life that she has never seen before.   Her smile says it all.

This is just a glimpse of these amazing survivors…we are so lucky to have met these wonderful, generous people and to have shared their lives with them.

The Team Arrived in Zeway!

We made it! The sights, the sounds, the smells all fill my senses and I can’t help but smile. Ethiopia has

2015 trip team photo

implanted itself in my heart, and I have returned. God has been drawing me back since I left two years ago, bringing me back to simply love on others. What better reason but to love? Tomorrow I will be reunited with the social workers who are part of my family in Christ and reunited with a group of orphans that transformed me and my whole family. I get to hug them , sit with them, and tell them how valued and precious they are in God’s eye and my own. God has brought together a great team and we look forward to watching them experience all the amazing work God has been doing in this little community in Zeway.    – Kim