Forever Family

Grace Covenant’s involvement in Hope in Ethiopia can be hard to describe.  If you have spoken to someone who has visited the orphans and widows in Zeway, you may find yourself in an hour long description of the sights, sounds and feelings of the trip goer.  Often our words do not have the capacity to describe how it feels to be involved in the lives of the poor – whether we have visited them or just know them  by name because we pray for them.

But I have heard the Ethiopian people describe our involvement in Zeway very well.  And when I heard the descriptions, I was floored that I could be blessed by such involvement in the lives of people on the other side of the world.

Here is what one orphaned child said to us on a house visit when she spoke of the orphan ministry at Grace Covenant Church, “Bridges of Grace is my father.  You  are my mother.  You care for us when no one else does”

FH Web Site PhotoWe do not fully value the  importance of our relationships and monetary gifts with the people in Zeway.  A similar statement was from a widow who was dying from AIDS “Because of Bridges of Grace, I can die in peace now. My children will be cared for”  (Because of the help from Grace,  two years later and this woman is still alive!)

When our  donations are used to employ social workers who share Christ, feed children and provide medical care to AIDS widows, and provide social stability to the least of these, relationships are developed that are eternal .  The social workers who visit and care for the children and widows in Zeway do not take our place, but they are extensions of us, and the orphans and widows know it.  They are grateful more than we understand.

Until we hear statements like the ones above.


We have become part of their families.  We point them toward a future and a hope, and we cause them to see their preciousness in Christ.  If you have sent a photo of yourself or family with a trip team, chances are it is displayed proudly on a mud hut wall.   We are part of their families,  and if they have not become part of yours, you are missing out on an eternal relationship!


By Julie Kouri

Matt and I have been in the Ethiopian adoption process for 2 ½ years and finally in October we were able to bring our toddler daughter home. She joins her two brothers who were adopted from Russia several years before.

Between the two of us, Matt and I have had the great privilege of taking several trips to Ethiopia. We value the culture and love the people of Ethiopia so much more because of our time spent there. As we transition as a family, it has been wonderful to be able to see the cultural traits our Ethiopian daughter brought with her even as a toddler.

When we brought our daughter home, it was just after Ethiopia’s rainy season. During rainy season, power outages are very common. The lights and electricity go in and out throughout the day or the lights may go out for days as the rain comes down. Having her most recent memories of Ethiopia during this rainy season, our daughter was surely used to the lights going on and off in her baby home.

Knowing this, I found it interesting how she responded one day when I accidentally turned the light switch off when she was taking a bath.

I had our middle son in the bath tub and she was in a small tub in the shower. They were both splashing away when I hit the switch accidentally and the lights popped off. My son yelled out of instinctual fear of the dark and complained of the inconvenience of not seeing his bath bubbles. Our Ethiopian daughter, who had been in our home for 2 weeks, did not flinch. She kept right on splashing.

I switched the lights back on. My son did not respond to this at all. He started playing with his bath boats. My daughter, though, looked up, squealed with delight, and clapped her hands in celebration of the lights coming back on.

Because I have had the pleasure of knowing many Ethiopians as my friends, I see this as a likely common practice – they celebrate the good things in life, but they do not complain about the bad. My daughter demonstrated this in not noticing the lights had gone off, but cheering when they came back on.

How often do we do this? How often do we complain to God in the bad times, but during the good times ignore Him?

This story relates to the $100,000 fundraising goal we recently set for the end of 2012. It would be easy to focus on the $20,00 that we did not reach. BUT we do have $80,000 MORE than when we started in September to donate toward the future and hope of orphans and widows in Ethiopia, and we are thankful for the generous supporters who gave towards the goal. We are still on track to meet our broader goals. And even better, we can celebrate the continuous and amazing spiritual, mental and physical progress being made by the partnership, both HERE and THERE.

So let’s imitate the example of Ethiopians for a while and praise God, not for what we are missing, but for what we have. He is good!

Let’s Party!

By Heather Bauer

Everyone loves a good party. And, if you are reading this blog, you probably love advocating on behalf of orphans. So why not combine the two? The countdown is on to raise $100,000 in 100 days by December 31, 2012. While that number may seem daunting, we are well on our way with $41,105 already donated. So, let’s party plan, people!

Have you ever hosted a fundraiser? My husband and I had never hosted one prior to December 2010 when we held our first Christmas Cocktail party to benefit Hope in Ethiopia. We felt pretty intimidated and also somewhat awkward asking people for donations. BUT, we were blown away and humbled by the generous response from neighbors, co-workers, and friends who shared their evening with us and let us share our hearts for orphan care with them. The first year $1,000 was raised. Last year nearly $5,000 was donated!

More than the dollar amount raised, it has been an awesome opportunity for us to share orphan care within our neighborhood, workplace and with an expanded circle of friends. Our date is already set for this December and we are excited to see how God might use this evening to grow awareness and support for orphans in Ethiopia.

What can you do? Set a date! Create a guest list and keep it simple using Evite or Pingg for communication. Appetizers, especially finger foods will keep guests mingling and help you avoid having to stock utensils! Christmas makes decorating for a party easy since you likely will already have your halls decked out. If you are hosting an evening event, dim the lights, and light every candle you own to create a festive evening. Display a slide show with photos of the children in Zeway on a television or laptop throughout the evening.

Don’t go it alone! One couple set up a great table display that helped give guests visuals on how far their resources can go in helping orphans in Ethiopia. For example a $4 large latte equals malaria medication for a sick child or a $6 magazine equals a Bible in a child’s native language. We also asked a couple friends to help with food and borrowed glassware and serving dishes.

After guests arrive, take a moment, welcome your guests and share a couple stories of transformation from the widows and orphans being supported in Zeway. Lastly, share the need for financial support. Offer marketing materials so guests have something to take home, pray and consider supporting these children. Have a laptop or iPad set up and linked to the donation page for guests to donate at the party if they wish.

We have much to be thankful for and celebrate this Christmas season! We have a great opportunity to use our time, talents and treasures that God has entrusted to us, to be part of transforming both our community at home and the community in Zeway, Ethiopia!

Be Part of $100K in 100 Days

By Scott Thacker

September 22nd kicked off an ambitious year end campaign to raise $100,000 in 100 Days for Hope in Ethiopia. The $100,000 will cover a majority of the 2013 expenses to care for the 150 orphans and widows that are cared for thru the Zeway Partnership. $40,875 has been raised to date!

How can YOU help? I’m so glad you asked!

1) PRAY for generous hearts

2) ASK for contributions

3) See below for ideas!

Social Media – spread the word with your 500 best friends on Facebook and Twitter. Got a blog? Blog about how you or your family have seen HOPE thru the Zeway Partnership. Give Zeway a name and a face.  Include the donation link and promote the progress to date with this link:  Also, ask your friends to like the Hope in Ethiopia Facebook page!

House Party! Whether it’s a block party, a THANKFUL party, Christmas or Costume Party, the Fall is full of reasons to celebrate. For example, we are in planning mode to host our 3rd annual Cocktail Christmas party to benefit Hope in Ethiopia. Last year $4,500 was raised by 40 guests. Guests include neighbors, co-workers, parents of kids our kids play soccer with, some churched but many unchurched people. It’s a great outreach opportunity to share HiE with friends. Laptops and iPads are set up to allow instant donations and track progress throughout the evening via:

Dinner Party! Invite a group of friends for an intimate dinner and share about HiE. Tell stories of individual widows and orphans, and how their lives have been radically changed by God thru the Zeway Partnership. Send guests home with a small bag of Ethiopian coffee and include the donation link on the coffee bag:

Birthday or Christmas Gifts! Do you really NEED anything for your birthday this year? In leiu of gifts, ask friends and family to make a donation to Hope in Ethiopia. Email friends or family, or post on Facebook this birthday wish that is truly life giving. Don’t forget the link:

Garage Sale! Ask your friends and neighbors to donate their old stuff and give the proceeds to Hope in Ethiopia.

Want to get the kids involved? Ask them if there is something they would like to make to sell (artwork, jewelry, baked goods, etc). Host a gathering where friends and family can purchase their wares. Another idea is to let them set up a hot chocolate/apple cider stand.

So, what’s in a necklace, anyway?

Visit Funky Fish Designs

You might be asking yourself, “A blog post about a necklace?  What’s
in a necklace, anyway?”  For me, personally, I happen to think there
is a lot in a necklace.

The first thing there is, is an invitation.  When we wear something
that stands for something, people will often comment, “I like your
shirt!” or “I like your necklace!”  It’s a perfect invitation to say
“Thank you…it helped to feed a child in Ethiopia.”  I can’t tell
you how many times I’ve been able to have that conversation with
cashiers, doctors, school teachers, etc.  You never know how Jesus
might stir in someone’s heart when you share with them about Hope in

Second…it’s a reminder.  A reminder to pray for these children and
the staff who dedicate their lives to caring for them.  Whenever I am
wearing a piece of jewelry that supports Hope in Ethiopia…my mind
goes to Ethiopia.  I am reminded to go to our Loving Father on these
children’s behalf.  I am reminded to lift up the social workers
because they are in the trenches daily fighting for these children.

Third…it’s food.  A month’s worth, to be exact.  When you purchase a
necklace, you provide food for an entire month for a child in Zeway,
Ethiopia.  Pretty simple, right?

Last…it’s a perfect gift.  It gives the message of hope.  It
provides food.  It’s an opportunity to share about Hope in Ethiopia in
a fun way.  And hey….it looks really cute on!

In Christ,

A drop in the bucket

In October of 2005, UNICEF’s Richard Mabala, the head of their Youth, Protection, and HIV/AIDS program in Ethiopia, said this:

“The Global Campaign being launched today talks about children as the Missing Face of AIDS.    Maybe we could talk about the missing faces, or even the invisible faces.  Instead, the faces have been turned into staggering statistics, huge numbers that we throw around in our speeches, ‘xxx infected every minute, yyy  orphans, zzz numbers of children needing treatment,’ etc.  And as we stand and pronounce the statistics, they continue to get bigger so that our next speech will have to revise the statistics up once again.  And because the statistics are so big… they can actually disempower us as we are overcome by a sense of helplessness.  How can we ever hope to deal with such a situation?  Where do we start?  How can we find resources?  And yet each one of these statistics dreams, just like you and I dream.  In our case, our dreams inspire us to action.”

I spent a lot of years wondering, as a believer in Christ and a person who cared about the world at large, how I could ever hope to do anything that mattered when the world was as broken as it is?  Have you ever felt that way?  As if all of your good intentions, your concern, your money even, were just drops in a grossly inadequate bucket?  I’m not a doctor, a lawyer, or a policy specialist.  I’m not rich, and I don’t speak any African languages.  What could I do about HIV orphans and widows?

God has made it brilliantly clear to me that our “drops in the bucket” matter – maybe more than we even think.  I got to witness this firsthand in Zeway last year.

The widows and the children I visited were, through the financial and material support of the Hope in Ethiopia partnership, full of dreams for the future.  To them, my $50 per month constituted not a drop in the bucket, but an entire month’s worth of hope in the form of schooling, clothing, food support, and rent.  To them, my $50 provided anti-retroviral drugs, counseling for grief and loss, fellowship with other orphans, and legal help.  My visit to their one-room homes in Zeway  provided irrefutable proof that I, and my church, and my country, by extension – actually care about them and are willing to sacrifice to give them hope.  They smile, they are no longer isolated, they are allowed to dream.  They are given dignity, humanity, and connection with the wider world.

Is that a mere drop in the bucket?  Only to us, in our limited perspective.  For the “missing faces” – Abush, Muktar, Tihun, Yirgalem, Lidia, Hiko, and over 100 more orphans in Zeway – it’s a veritable flood of living water.

We can all do something that truly matters; add your drop.

Ellen Tuthill

Just Showing Up

By Guest Blogger, Heather Bauer

“His power is made perfect in my weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My husband, Chris, and I have enjoyed the privilege of traveling to Ethiopia several times, the first trip to adopt and bring our son home, and subsequent trips to visit orphans in Zeway.  Our lives have been forever changed by Ethiopia and all God has taught us about Himself along the journey of adoption and in caring for orphans in Zeway.  While we have been involved in this partnership from the beginning, the “busyness” of life and struggles of inadequacy have distracted us from being more involved over this past year and we have missed being engaged.

In December, we learned of an anonymous matching fund donation of $20,000 to Hope in Ethiopia.  As we were looking to reengage, Chris and I felt God prompting us to host a fundraising party to help bring in donations to match the fund in hopes of raising $40,000 by the January 31 deadline.

Really, right before Christmas with everything else going on?  I thought we were nuts and several times wondered if we had heard God correctly.  In fact, I was feeling so overwhelmed with juggling our 3 young children, their various school activities, gift shopping and preparing for holiday travel, that I admit, I considered canceling the party several times, including the night before the event when I found myself unexpectedly at the hospital with a friend.

What am I doing, I asked myself?  I felt completely unprepared to host 40 people in our home, one week before Christmas.  “I will never get everything done, people are busy, what if no one shows?  This party is going to be terribly disorganized.  What kind of speech or presentation are we going to give?  We are so unprepared.”  These thoughts and more were running through my head over and over.

I had lost sight of Christmas with my nose buried in my “to do” list.  I felt more than overwhelmed, inadequate and weak.

Ah, ha!  Yep, right where God wanted me – to remind me that “His power is made perfect in my weakness” and to remind me that Christmas is about love and HOPE, the hope of a Savior, a King.  It is not about being bound by a burdensome yolk but about being set free!  It is not about my cooking, cleaning or presentation.  It is not about me.  It is about God working through insufficient me because He is more than enough.  He just asks us to show up….and then watch what He does.

I can’t say I felt any less nervous as the door bell rang and our first guests arrived while I was still blow drying my hair.  And I can’t say the presentation Chris and I made, or our words were anything short of jumbled.  But I can say that we showed up, we walked in faith and trusted God to show up and do the heavy lifting.  And He did.

As we totaled the donations in the days and weeks that followed the Hope in Ethiopia fund raising party, we were blown away and humbled by friends, family and neighbors who gave generous financial contributions totaling $4,500, to bring hope to orphans in Ethiopia.  With the matching fund, that number doubles to $9,000!  It was the best Christmas present for Chris and I to receive – to have people in our community support orphans in Ethiopia, to see God use our meager efforts and bless those efforts in great abundance.

We are less than $1,500 away from reaching our goal to raise $20,000 by January 31st – which will double to $40,000.  Please join us in maxing out this generous matching fund donation!  Skip Starbucks and give $20 to bring HOPE to orphans, living on their own and raising themselves.  What better way to start this New Year?  Donate now via this link:


Matching Fund Opportunity!

We are excited to announce that an anonymous donor has offered up  to $20,000 to be matched by January 31.  For every dollar given, the donor will match it.  This is a great opportunity and one we were praying for as we end the year and work toward meeting our annual goals.  We are blessed by this opportunity to raise $40,000.

Would you please consider giving toward this goal after you have given to your local church?

Please go to this link to give.  You can pay with your credit card with just a few simple steps, and track the progress of the campaign. Consider giving to Hope in Ethiopia for your end of the year giving or as a way for your family to give collectively this Christmas season.


Children Transformed – Here and There

The core tenet of the Hope in Ethiopia partnership is transformation.  Transformation in Ethiopia and transformation here in Austin.  It’s a neat thing when we get to see our kids involved in that transformation as they too care for the least of these.  Below is a note from friends Joy and Zach Rener about their 5 year old daughter Ava and how she is helping to bring clean water to the community of Jido.

From Joy Rener…

Ava Art ShowAfter hearing about Hope in Ethiopia and the need for clean water in Jido, our family wanted to see how we could fill up a jerry can to donate to the project.  We asked Ava how she thought she could make money.  She said, “I could sell my art.” (She had done this before at a garage sale to make money to buy a toy she wanted)  She has been to art shows before so she understood the idea.  As we started talking she came up with idea of making 30 new pieces of art work for the show.  We put together an online invitation and sent it out.  [Read more…]