Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Prostitute (or) His Majesty's Daughters

A few weeks ago we had a duo team come over to Addis from Charlotte to document the work and ministry of MYM Ethiopia. Steven Mills and Mathew Rogers manned their cameras for 10 days and caught some breathtaking photos and videos. Not only did they capture some amazing images on film, but God also imprinted some soul-shaking images on their hearts and minds. 
Steven Mills, Mathew Rogers, Carmen Post, and Trent Post
I had planned to post an update this week to catch everyone up on our family's journey, but when I read the Facebook note posted by Mathew Rogers, I knew that I didn't have anything that could even touch what was poured out from his heart concerning our work here. Mathew has been gracious enough to allow us to use his journal entry as a guest post on our blog. Enjoy!

The Prostitute (or) His Majesty's Daughters

Today marks one week since my return from Ethiopia. It took me a minute after returning home to process what's been going on in my soul. In fact, it wasn't until this weekend that I even began to wake from the malaise of jet lag, caffeine addiction, sleepless nights, and pesky whispers from the that Still Small Voice.

I was attempting sleep in Elliot's bed. He was dreaming beside me with his sweaty arm across my neck. He's like a little heater. I was looking at the paper lanterns above his window, trying to will myself to sleep.  Thoughts swirling again; orphans, Amele, Trent & Carmen, poverty, Amy, goats, smog headache, that smell...

My mind always came back to one moment. In all 10 days that I spent in Ethiopia, 8k miles away from my family, one moment. The moment when 3 women rescued the prostitute from rape.

I realized how greatly this night has effected me when I attempted to recount the tale to Debbie, and couldn't stop shaking. I wasn't cold. My Soul was shaking. The Spirit was shouting at me or whispering at me...whichever one. My soul woke up.

Anyway, Carmen had been threatening me with this particular event for the whole damn trip. She's pushy. She was going to take Steven and I out with herself, Amele, & Amy at 4:30am to meet the new crew of street boys that would be coming to the Day Center. They had been meeting with these boys for somewhere between 3-4 months on the streets in the morning or in the middle of the night. Right where they sleep. Talking to them. Making them laugh. Learning their names.

My brief note to New Believers (or Veteran Believers for that matter): This world is going to try to teach you that the important people of the world drive big cars, have big homes, have big egos, and have a huge following on social media. It's a complete lie. It couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, Jesus said: "God lays low the proud, and favors the humble."  Carmen shook the celebrity culture of the United States right off me, and reminded me how the King of Heaven laid down his life for such as these:

The King of Kings would be proud to be counted among them.
The King of Kings would be proud to be counted among them.

I knew this adventure with Carmen was going to mess me up. Not because I hadn't seen poverty before. But because I'm a father now, and I knew I was going to see Elliot and Leona in the streets of Addis this particular morning, and I didn't know if I could take it.

So we pulled up onto the curb underneath a bridge across from a bus pick up. There they were. At the base of the truss of the bridge rested a vulnerable tangle of dirty fabric, mangy dogs, gravel, and tender limbs reaching out for one another. Amy got out of the car first. She got close and called out their names. Little faces rose up out of the mass, and that's when I saw Elliot's face. I blinked back tears, and got out of the car with Carmen. 

The boys sat up one by one to greet the ladies. They rubbed their sleepy eyes and chatted in Amharic through growing smiles. Amy and Amele translated for Carmen when she couldn't find the words. The boys greeted the ladies like old friends. 

Amy greeting the boys at our first stop.
Amy greeting the boys at our first stop.

Despite the early hours, we began to draw a crowd. I imagine it was strange to the onlookers at the bus stop to see 3 Americans and 2 Ethiopians seeking company with street boys at 4:30 in the morning.

Eventually we began to get the feeling that we were drawing too much attention to the boys. Carmen instructed the ladies to tell the boys that we would be back and we would be taking them to breakfast. We had one more stop to make to find another group of boys before the restaurant opened at 7:00am.

The 5 of us jumped back in the car and circled the bridge once to make sure the crowd was dissipating, leaving the boys undisturbed. 

We drove a little ways through the sleeping city, toward the 2nd group of boys. That's when it happened. At the roundabout. As we turned left, our headlights ran across a man and woman kneeling in the shadows next to some steps.

The light only passed over them briefly. The man had his arms around her waist, and she had her hands on his arms. She was on her knees and he was kneeling down beside her. It could have been one of two things; she had been drinking and he was helping her get to her feet...or something much less noble.

Carmen brought the car to a stop, and had this look on her face. A 'blood in the water' kind of look. "Wait a minute..." she says. She drops the car in reverse and readjusts the car using the headlights to purge that dank ally of all it's shadows. Both individuals held their hands over their eyes and looked to the car. It was clear to see then that the mans intentions were vile. 

"Was he trying to rape her?!" Carmen shouted as Amy lept from the car. Amy got down beside the girl and put her hand on her shoulder. It took a second for my brain to register exactly what was happening, but I heard Amele begin to translate from the back seat, "She's saying help me. Please help me." Carmen's battle cry grew louder (and a bit saucier actually). Carmen and Amele lept from the car too, and all three women positioned themselves like a wall of rabid honey badgers between the girl and the man. That's the best and most accurate description I've got. Carmen is like 5'2 with heels on, and the look of fire in her eyes could falter a defensive end. Amy told the girl to get her shoes and run in Amharic. 

My mind was catching up to the Reality unfolding around me. I opened the passenger door and muttered my prayer under my breath; "Beloved, protect us."

As my two feet hit the concrete, I could see the man hold up conciliatory gestures, pleading with the women to calm down. "I paid her. I paid her," he said. "This is a misunderstanding."  The girls presence provided momentary relief from the man's advance. She quickly pulled down her jean skirt , picked up her sandals from the ground, and ran down the street, looking back only once. 

The man backed away from the girls who never broke eye contact with him, and I felt my soul whisper; "Behold, the King's Daughters." 

Step by step, the man eased himself away from them, eyeing over his shoulders as he angled for more and more distance.

Carmen's voice was roaring with indignation. With every step she took forward, the man stepped backward. If this were a David and Goliath scenario, Goliath would have never gotten out on the damn field. "DON'T YOU HAVE A MOTHER?! DON'T YOU HAVE A SISTER?! HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENED TO THEM?!?!!!", she demanded.

The man held up hands of surrender and once space between himself and the girls were sufficient, did an about face with his tail less than neatly tucked between his legs. 

The girls lingered in the street long enough to make sure the man was well on his way and the girl was a far cry in the opposite direction. Slowly, we all gathered back in the car. Carmen's eyes never left the man as he diminished into the dark city. After the last car door closed, I looked to her, "I've missed you, Carmen." It broke the tension and we all laughed. She put the car in gear, and we finished the drive to the still-sleeping boys a few streets away.

It wasn't until much later in the day that my mind started to interpret the events of the morning. I was in the car with Trent on our way out of the city to see the sights when my emotions began to find their way to the surface.

This event has convicted me to look inwards. Thoughts of my safety were the first thoughts I had when I saw the girl in the clutches of that man. That young lady was His Majesty's daughter, too, whether she knew it or not. Amy saw that. Amele saw that. Carmen did too. It reminded me what it looks like when a Believer's soul hangs on every Word He says, and I'm gripped again with what a life of faith looks like. Seas part, shadows flee, and mountains side step at the advance of His Majesty and His radiant Bride. All else is smoke and mirror to the unseen reality, pinning it all together. Lord, give me eyes to see, too.

Even in telling you this story, my hands shake. I'm back in the States and The Rogers are again looking for a church to call home. We work. We eat. We tuck the kids in. We kiss each other goodnight, and we do it all over again. We worship in the car and we talk to the kids about Him. Show them who He is through our lives if we're lucky. 

Since getting home, my patience for American Celebrity Christianity diminishes further, leaving an aching to step out of the boat and meet my Beloved upon the water. I was reawakened to this world's need for His Majesty's people, and I was reminded of what they look like. His Bride is a marvel to behold.

I beg the Lord for the opportunity to teach my children who He is, how to see Him, and how to labor on His behalf for His will to be done here as it is in Heaven. 

I'm grateful for my time in Addis and for my Family there. More than that, I'm grateful for fresh wind and fresh fire for my family, and for each day that the Lord allows us to reshape for Him, and all the adventure that that entails.

Taking the boys to breakfast.
Taking the boys to breakfast.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Family Adjusts, While Lives Are Changing...

It’s been almost four weeks since our last post. We’ve been super busy, and a lot has happened over the last, quick, four weeks. We are slowly, but surely, adjusting and adapting to our new environment. I’m not sure that we’ll ever totally get used to all the stares and looks when we are out and about. We certainly stand out! 

Playing Four-Squares at VBS
MYM Ethiopia ministry is booming and going strong. Our second week here we had a VBS at the MYM Daycenter. A group of college students from International Evangelical Church put on the event for the week from 10-12:30 everyday. We had around 20 kids come to VBS everyday. Some of the kids were in the current cycle of boys at the center, some were Keeping Kids Home beneficiaries, and some were from the PLF (Placing Lonely in Families) home. The mornings would start with songs, and then break into four groups by age. There were crafts, songs, bible story, and games. I (Ryan) was in charge of games and had a blast just watching the kids have fun and interact. The week was a success as the kids learned of how Jesus is their protector, provider, and ultimately their rescuer. 

Craft time at VBS.
A huge praise report on two of the three boys who just finished their six month cycle at the daycenter. Tadessa and Adugna were reunited with their families last week. These boys have made remarkable transformations, as both gave their lives to Jesus during their time at the day center. Please pray that the boys will stay home, and continue to grow in their relationship with the Lord. Pray that they can be lights in their families and communities. There is a third boy, Danny, that finished the cycle as well. There are currently no Ethiopian families who have stepped up to the call of starting another PLF home. With that being said, please pray for Danny. Pray that the family that God has for Danny will be burdened and step up to the call. 

Adugna, Tadessa, and Danny. 
A new cycle of street boys arrived at the MYM Daycenter last week. It is a large group of around 20 new boys ranging in age from 7-14. I was really surprised at their energy levels considering most are coming to us from a life of malnutrition and addiction. I have a really good feeling about this group of boys. I look forward to spending the next six months pouring into them and getting to know them. Its hard to believe that the boys that just finished their six months, looked and behaved the same as the 20 dirty, scraggly, wild boys that showed up to the center last week. It’s so exciting to dream of what these 20 boys are going to look like when the Lord is done with them six months from now. We feel so blessed and honored to have the privilege of being a part of their journeys. 

The new cycle of street boys at the daycenter. 
We held a Keeping Kids Home event this weekend (Fri/Sat) at the daycenter. Friday was just for the kids to come and learn about who holds the key to their hearts. This message was conveyed to the kids through teaching, games, crafts, and a sharing of testimony from MYM Director Carmen Post. The kids were sent home with a chain necklace with a key on it to remind them of what they learned that day. Some of the kids are from Muslim families, so please pray that we sent home with them not just a necklace, but also a seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

On Saturday, the kids came back to the day center, but this time with their parents or grandparents. The Keeping Kids Home program is MYM Ethiopia’s model for orphan and street kid prevention. The beneficiaries are extremely poor and at very high risk of having to give up their kids either to the streets or an orphanage. Saturday was all about the kids and parents bonding and just having fun with each other. Life is very hard for these families just attempting to put food on the table and shelter over their heads. Opportunities for these families to interact and have fun with each other are few and far between. We had a morning full of fun games and snacks. There was a wet sponge toss, balloon pop battle, three-legged race, sack race, and wheelbarrow race. It was so awesome to watch the kids and their parents laughing, smiling, and just being silly for a change. I think a lot of times, the parents of these kids get a really bad, undeserved rap. The typical American way of looking at these parents is to conclude that they are lazy, cruel, and unloving parents. What we observed at the KKH Family Field Day was the absolute opposite of this stereotype. These parents love their kids and are doing the best that they know how to care and provide for their kids. Watching these families interact, I truly realized that they are no different than most more “privileged” parents around the world. They love their kids, and they want the best for them. We had an awesome duo of photographer and videographer from Charlotte with us last week. They took photos of most of the KKH families, and sponsorship opportunities should be coming soon, so stay tuned!

As far as our family goes, we have found out how tough it can be working here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We started our process of pursuing a work permit the week that we arrived. We did finally complete that process early this past week. We then immediately began our process for our residency cards at the Ethiopian Immigration office….NIGHTMARE!!! I arrived at the office at 8am with our manager Endale. We walked out at 3:30pm with mine and Courtney’s process complete, but Nara’s incomplete. For some reason, they wanted to see Nara’s Ethiopian birth certificate even though we had her U.S. Certificate of Citizenship. So much back and forth and hoops to jump through. When we asked the immigration officer why Nara’s application was not approved and what we needed to bring when we came back she said, “Leave this place.” I was ready to go off on her…but I didn’t. My tongue was probably bleeding from biting it so hard. We go back tomorrow to pick up Courtney and I’s cards and hopefully to finish Nara’s process. Please pray that it goes well, because Courtney and I are already dreading going back. 

EVERYTHING here is a process. Don’t be fooled by Courtney and I’s Instagram and Facebook posts. You’re seeing our highlight reel. Victories can seem very few and far between. There can be many seemingly failures and valleys between the victories. Some may look at our social media posts and think, “Wow, they are just rocking it! It looks to be going smoothly.” There are times when we feel that way, but a lot of times we are just sloppily stumbling forward. Life and ministry here are very hard. However, when we look into the dirty faces of the street boys, and are graced by the smiles of the Keeping Kids Home families, its all worth it. Every discomfort, pain, tear, frustration, and failure disappear when we see the transforming work of Jesus Christ unfolding before our very eyes in the lives of the least of these. 

We want to thank our financial and spiritual supporters from the bottom of our hearts. Though days can be hard and frustrating, we wake up every day thanking God for your generosity that allows us to be here, acting as His hands and feet in such a broken city. With that being said, we are still short of being fully funded. There are some potential circumstances coming up that could increase our budget needs. If you feel the Lord tugging at your heart to contribute financially to what He’s doing here, then please click HERE to begin your monthly contributions. Just make sure to designate your giving in the “Thomas Support” box. 

Prayer Needs

  • Pray for Tadessa and Adugna to transition smoothly back in to their families and that they’ll go to Him rather than the streets when times get hard. 
  • Pray for Danny’s future family that God has for him to step in and step up. 
  • Pray that the Keeping Kids Home families remain encouraged and that the Muslim families will come to know Jesus as their Savior. 
  • Pray for the new group of street boys that are starting their cycle this week at the daycenter. Pray that they will allow Jesus to mold them and transform them into new creations. 
  • Pray for our family to continue to adjust to our new home and that our government requirements will soon be met and done. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

We're Not In Kansas Anymore...

View from the Ministry Department Office at the Day Center

We made it friends. As I sit here and type, I can hear the call to prayer at a mosque in the distance…a reminder, as if we needed one, that we are not in Kansas anymore. The sights, sounds, and smells are all familiar, as this is not our first time in Addis, but no matter how many times you travel here, the culture shock sets in immediately.

We arrived at Bole International Airport here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday around 7am where we were picked up by our good friend, and MYM founder/director, Trent Post. We loaded up our 23 pieces of luggage, yes…I said 23, and we headed off to our new home here in Addis. We feel extremely blessed to have the house that God allowed us to have. We actually have more room than we need, so maybe the Thomas family will expand in the future??? We are so blessed to have Jerri and her four year old daughter Enishu living here on our compound with us. It definitely helps to ease our anxiety knowing that we have an Ethiopian living with us who speaks the local language and can show us the ropes of living here in Addis. There have been numerous occasions already in our short time here that Jerri has brought over coffee (amazing roasted from scratch coffee) for Courtney and I. She is super sweet and a true blessing to us. 

Coffee thanks to Jerri

We have felt so welcomed here between Carmen and Trent Post’s hospitality and everyone we have come in contact with for the most part. We have only been here five days, but it has been a very busy, yet productive, five days. A large amount of our time this week has been spent scavenger hunting for items we need to furnish and settle into our new home. Let me just tell you, this is no easy task! It takes much longer here in Addis to do everything…especially shopping. What we could have accomplished back in the states in maybe a good full day has taken us five days here, and there are still a few items left on the list. There is no Ikea, Walmart, or Target here. Certain items can only be found in specific areas of the city. Once you find the part of town that has the item you are looking for, you may have to visit 5, 6, 7, 8 stores to get a fair price or to find the exact item you’re looking for. Trent has been exceedingly gracious and helpful in driving us all over Addis to find the items we need. Bless you brother!

Nara is adjusting exceptionally well. The first day here in our home we couldn’t find Nara, so Courtney walked over to Jerri’s room and there was Nara…squatting down on the floor stoking charcoal to help Jerri make some coffee. I am so envious of Nara’s ability to enter into basically any environment and to flourish and excel so quickly. She and Jerri’s daughter Enishu have become best buddies. It’s so cute to watch them try and communicate with each other. Enishu’s english is very limited as is Nara’s amharic. Enishu will just rant and spout out a long line of Amharic and Nara will look at her like she’s crazy and then laugh. However, this has not stopped them from having so much fun together. Its so encouraging to see Nara doing so well here. 

We did take a break from our house item hunting and unpacking one day this week to go see the MYM Ethiopia soccer team play one of their games. Boys from the MYM Day Center, PLF Home, and Keeping Kids Home families have formed a soccer team and they play organized games in the local area against local teams. Courtney, myself, and Nara certainly stood out amongst the spectators…we pretty much stand out everywhere we go, which is hard to get used to. The kids watching the game would linger close by where we were standing and by the end of the game we had quite a crowd of them around us. Several of the young boys spectating would come by and rub on my arm looking at my tattoos. 

We’ve had the opportunity to check in and visit with the four boys at the PLF Home that whom we spent a lot of time with last summer. They all seem to be doing very well. Trent and I stopped by their house today to do some electrical work in their kitchen. I stepped outside the kitchen and all four boys were sitting on the ground with a plate of food in front of them, and had stopped to pray as brothers for the Lord to bless their meal. That is what its about my friends! I am excited to get started with the ministry side of things, but for now it has been nice to just be able to spectate a little and to get our feet wet a little at a time. There is no shortage of work to be done here, and I feel so honored and blessed to have been asked to join this fight to defend the defenseless alongside Trent and Carmen. 

We want to especially thank our financial partners who have made this whole adventure possible. Now that we are on the ground we can’t help but to be so thankful for the generosity of our partners who are giving. Everything around us is on account of your generosity…the house, the food, everything. We thank God for you all that you have decided to let Him use you in this way to fulfill his divine purposes and plans in Addis. 

For now that is all, but I am sure as the next few weeks come and go, we will have more stories to tell and reports of victories to come. 

Here are a few current prayer requests:

  • Pray that we continue to adjust to our new environment and home. 
  • Pray that God will give me (Ryan) the vision that He has for MYM Ethiopia’s Ministry Dept.
  • Pray that God will continue to lead us to the children and families that He would have us minister to. 
  • Pray for the hearts of those whom we will be coming in contact with in the weeks to come. 
  • Pray for many to decide to follow Jesus and that those whose hearts are guarded by the walls that Islam has built around them will crumble by the saving power of the Gospel. 
  • Lastly, pray that Courtney and I can learn the language quickly! This is one of our biggest hurdles in feeling effective in ministry here. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The In-Between

So here's a quick update as to what's been going on with the Thomas Family. We put our house on the market and within six short weeks it was SOLD! Still can't believe it went so quickly! God is good! I thought it would bother me moving out and selling most of our stuff, but honestly I can see that God prepared my heart and it wasn't as hard as it could have been. We have moved in with my parents, into the bonus room over their garage for the time being, as we are still fundraising for our move, which we hope to make in June. We are currently almost to 40%!! YAY! We can leave at 70% and are trusting that God is continuing to work out the details. This has been His plan all along, and as it is difficult in the waiting, we are praying for His timing and that He would continue to send us the support we need. There has been much going on in Ethiopia with MYM finding out about a child predator who has been raping several of the street boys. They were able to get the police involved, and when the police went to this mans house they found 70 boys there and tons of the glue they huff. SO HEARTBREAKING! This gives us so much more urgency to be there. Ryan will be the Discipleship Coordinator there and will be working one on one with some of these boys and others who are in desperate need to know that they are known, cherished, valued and loved by our Heavenly Father. It is this same love that compels us to do whatever we need to do to help reach, rescue and restore lives. Of course we are not the hero's in this story. Jesus is and we want to be obedient to the burden He has placed on our hearts. With awareness brings opportunity and we are inviting you to join us on this journey of building His kingdom and seeing lives changed for eternity. 

So this is the space we are now calling home. AKA my parents bonus room. My sweet Dad put a fresh new coat of paint on the walls for us, and the rest of the family moved things around to make room for us. It is a bit crowded with EIGHT of us living here, but we are so grateful. The hard part has been figuring out shower itineraries ha. We have stacks of crates in their garage that are currently being packed for our big move to Ethiopia. Its getting real y'all! Please pray as we prepare for this new chapter in our lives. If your heart is being tugged to be a part of MYM, we currently need more monthly supporters so we can get to 70%. Consistent monthly support is crucial as it helps us confidently plan ahead and keep us there for the long haul. You can simply click here and designate the giving amount/frequency that works best for you in the "Thomas Support" box. Thank you to all who have encouraged us along the way and for those supporting us already through prayer and giving. We cannot do this without you!!! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Your Treasure...A Sore Subject

What if a mere $10/month could assist these boys in getting off the streets?

As many of you may know, Courtney and I officially listed our house on the market about two weeks ago. We've had tons of showings and two offers so far. Nothing has worked out yet, but we foresee our house being sold and us homeless in the next month or so.

We are so eager to get to Addis to begin our work with Make Your Mark Ethiopia. Things are starting to fall into place and we can see God all over the selling of our house. Once our house officially sales, we will basically have our bags packed and ready to head out to Ethiopia! However, there is one thing keeping us from doing that...monthly supporters. Or the lack thereof actually. Everything seems to be falling into place for our big move except for the commitments of monthly financial partners.

We are currently at $1005/month or 22% (we can make the move @ 70%) of our needed monthly support. That $1005 consists of only 15 monthly partners...only 15! We are extremely thankful for those 15 partners, as well as all of our one time gifts that have come in. We are currently at 55% of our needed $35,700 up front costs which is covered by your one-time gifts. We feel confident that we'll "easily" reach our up front costs with the proceeds from selling our home, belongings, and cars. However, like I said earlier, we'll have our bags packed, ready to go, but we won't be able to leave for Ethiopia because the monthly supporter funds won't be anywhere close to what we'll need to sustain us to stay there.

We'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed in the current number of monthly financial partners. When we started the process of fundraising back in September, we had hoped to be around 50-60% funded by this point. We knew that fundraising would be difficult, but we never thought it would be this difficult or slow.

We've brainstormed and racked our brains trying to figure out the reason for the lack of giving and commitments to give monthly to the mission and calling that God's placed on our family. There are really three main reasons we believe people aren't jumping on board or waiting to jump on board.

1) "I'll wait until they actually move to make sure they are truly committed to going."

I don't really blame this group for their reasoning and logic. However, we are fully committed to this and are doing everything in our power to make the move to Ethiopia. Our hearts and minds are already in Addis. Our bodies just haven't caught up with them yet. We have a love and passion for the forgotten children and families of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that can only be pruned and cultivated by God. There is no reason to wait to begin giving monthly. In fact, the sooner you begin giving, the better we are able to plan and set a date in stone to make the move.

2) "I don't have $40, $50, $100 etc. to give every month."

This may be absolutely true. However, we graciously and appreciatively accept all monthly commitments. You would be surprised at the dent it would make in our monthly needs if we had an army of people giving at $5 or even $10/month. If 220 individuals would decide to sacrifice $10/month, we would be 70% funded and could make the move to Ethiopia. We know that between the two of us, we have well above 220 individuals who are a part of our lives, whether it be family, friends, or church family. With that being said, don't be ashamed of your current ability to give. We want you to experience the joy of giving whether it's $5/month or $500/month! 

3) "My monthly contribution wouldn't really make a difference."

This my friends is a lie from the enemy! We witnessed the difference that monthly giving is making in the lives of street children and the poorest of the poor families in Addis. Street boys are stepping from death into life. Street boys are going to school for possibly the first time in their lives and excelling! Street boys are finding a safe place to find dignity, love, and the Gospel. Children of desperate families are able to go to school without being a financial burden to their parents. Muslim families are experiencing the love, grace, hope, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ through the programs of Make Your Mark Ethiopia. Your monthly support would make a bigger difference in the lives of the least of these more than you could probably matter how big or small the amount! It takes the generosity of us all to make this happen...not just the generosity of the few "privileged"or spiritual "elite".

The heart of the matter is that this is a matter of the heart. 

It boils down to where your heart is.

Matthew 6:21 reads, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I have to challenge you to ponder...where do you find your treasure in this life?

Do you find it in your salary? Your home? The latest and greatest iPhone? Your daily cup of Starbucks? Your Netflix subscription? Your 401k? Your bank account?

Or...just you recognize that the treasure in this short lifetime is found in serving others and leading them from death in sin to eternal life in Jesus Christ?

Do you realize that our treasure or our money's true power to unlock unspeakable joy is actually in giving it away, rather than storing it up in the attempt to build our own kingdom here on earth?

So imagine with me for a second, what giving up that one $5 cup of Starbucks a month could do.

It could help bring a boy off of the dirty streets of Addis so that boy no longer has to endure constant harassment and beatings from police.

It could prevent this child from having to endure nightly sexual assaults from sexual predators.

Can a mere $5 make any difference at all? 

I say yes.

Would you miss that $5 or $10 a month?

Absolutely not.

If you are reading this, I challenge you to click the link below and set your giving up at $5 or $10 a month. At least start at that amount. See what the Lord does in your heart as money's hold on your life begins to dissipate. I pray that He does a great work in your life as you learn that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

You can set up your monthly giving HERE! Make sure to designate your giving in the "Thomas Support" box. 

"Be concerned for the poor – but be no less concerned for us rich who claim not to be rich so we can excuse ourselves from giving.
Be concerned for the poor – but no less concerned for us who have done just enough to assuage our consciences, just enough to pat ourselves on the back, but not enough that we’ve ever felt sacrifice. 
Be concerned for the poor – but be no less concerned for us who aren’t — because someday we will face Christ.

We’re all hungry for uncomfortable because we’re hungry for God – and He is outside of our comfort zones."  ~ Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's It Worth To You?

It's been awhile since I've blogged. I thought I would give everyone an update on where we are currently with our fundraising efforts, as well as what our financial needs are exactly.

First off, our family would like to thank everyone who has given up to this point whether it be spiritually in prayer or financially through donations and partnership. We had a hugely successful womanless pageant fundraiser at our church, Mission Baptist, over the weekend, and we are so grateful for the turnout. The show of support and the outpouring of giving at this event has encouraged us even further and we are so thankful for that. It looks like the total amount raised at the pageant is $8718.00!

There is an urgency in our fundraising. We plan to make the move by at least June 2015. There may be some that are curious as to what our exact financial needs are so let's cover that.

We have basically two types of financial need and they are:

1) Up Front Costs- These funds are to get us to Ethiopia and to get us established once we get there. This amount will include one way airfare for our family, a car, one year's rent, and furniture. The estimated total for this particular need is $35,700. We are currently at $17,500 or 49%.

All one-time gifts will go into this fund until we reach the $35,700. Once this amount is reached, the funds will begin to spill over into our annual operating budget.

2) Annual Operating Budget- These funds will be used to sustain our family on a monthly basis, as well as to sustain and operate the MYM ministry department, which I will be heading up. These funds will cover our annual trip home, language school for myself and Courtney, medical insurance, car insurance, car expenses, food, rent, home school materials, an emergency fund, and utilities. It also includes the entire MYM ministry department's operating budget which accounts for $6,600 of the total, which will also hire two additional Ethiopian staff members for the department. The total annual operating budget is $55,224. This breaks down to $4600/month. We are currently at $895/month in monthly partners which is approximately 19.5% of where we need to be. 

All funds from MONTHLY financial partners will count towards our Annual Operating Budget. THIS IS OUR GREATEST NEED! Once we move to Ethiopia, one-time gifts will also go towards this budget. 

When you are able to commit to giving monthly, we can count on those funds. We can plan and focus on ministry without worrying about where the next month's/year's budget money will come from. This allows us to focus on the MINISTRY, which is why we're going to be there, rather than constant fundraising.

These amounts may seem really high to some of you. I've even had a few people respond to me when telling them our needs by saying, "Are you serious?!! It costs that much to live in a third world country?!" Well, quite simply the answer is.....yes. Items that we consider basic or expected here in the States are considered luxuries in Ethiopia. Being a luxury, they are also usually imported and therefore they cost way more. This is especially true with cars, appliances, electronics, and certain food items.

We pray that if you're on the fence about partnering with us financially that you'll take a leap of faith and go for it! Courtney and I would never ask you to do something that we would not be willing to do or that we're not already doing. We are in the process of selling our home, and before we leave out, will sell basically everything we own. We tithe, give to different organizations, and sponsor two children in third world countries. Not once have we missed that money. This is the one area that God tells us to test Him in.

"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." Malachi 3:10

We have seen first hand that the MYM ministry model works. The lives of street boys are being transformed, and they are finding new life, salvation in Jesus Christ. Boys are being reunited with families that have counted them as dead or lost and they haven't seen in years. Families are finding dignity and community and are no longer at risk of giving up their children due to extreme poverty. This is the result of people like you who believe in what God is doing through Make Your Mark in Ethiopia. They believe in it enough that they sacrifice part of their finances. Do you believe that these transformed lives are worth the sacrifice?

Set up your giving here, designate your funds beside of "Thomas Support".

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

Monday, November 24, 2014

If God Originated It, He Will Orchestrate It...#preachinggospeltomyself

The past two weeks at church we've talked about finances. It was a reminder of what I have seen God do personally in our lives the past two years and how God always supplies our needs. Not all my wants, but always my needs. I want to share, not to bring any glory to Ryan and I, but to share how great our God is. When Ryan and I decided to adopt we had no idea how we would pay for it, but each time when needed to send in the next payment, the money was always there. When we try and look back at our finances it makes no sense how we were able adopt with no debt and still have money in savings. Ryan even felt led to start tithing during this time and we never did without.

Back in February we felt God calling us to full time missions in Ethiopia. After much prayer Ryan and I both felt we should do a trial trip this Summer and the Post family agreed that this would be a great idea to see the ministry first hand and make sure this was our fit. One night we emailed Trent and Carmen and told them we were planning to do a month long trip sometime this Summer. As soon as we sent the email Ryan and I both looked at each other and said, how are we ever gonna pay for this? We had just spent thousands of dollars traveling last year to Ethiopia twice and here we were planning a third trip that would cost us $6,000 just in airfare. We both decided that since this was a trial trip we wouldn't fundraise or tell anyone we needed money. We trusted that if God wanted us there He would get us there. Two days later I went to the mailbox and there was a letter from our adoption agency reimbursing us $500 for submitting our home study early.  About a week later I retrieved the mail and there were two more checks. One where we had over paid on our Escrow and another bill that I had accidentally paid twice! Then a client of mine left me a very nice unexpected tip. I was amazed how in one week God showed up in such a big way! This year was also the first time we could apply for our adoption tax credit. With the money we'd already received, plus the money from getting our tax money back we had almost exactly the amount we needed to purchase our plane tickets! You cannot make this stuff up!! God provided the $6000 in two months that we needed.

Now I'm not saying that if you give or tithe that God will pour a bunch of money in your bank account. The whole prosperity gospel thing is crap. We've had to change our life style a bit, but I've never regretted it. I've seen first hand that you gain a joy and peace that far outweighs anything materially you could ever want. So why am I sharing all this...I am amazed at how detailed and personal our God is and I needed to write this to remind myself of how I need to trust him with all the details of my life. I like to be in control and have a plan. I can see how I daily need to surrender and trust my Father knowing that He's got this. He is constantly at work and His fingerprints are all over the journey when I look back. So I keep moving forward with just enough light for the step I'm on, knowing that He goes before me. I keep going back to this quote from Andy Stanly at Catalyst..."If God originated it, He will orchestrate it."