Big Dreams, Bright Future

Bizuayehu is 24 years old. At the age of 12, his mother was hit by a car. She was unable to walk and could not earn a living, which made it impossible for her to provide for her young son. Sponsorship was an answer to prayer.

With his basic needs met, Bizuayehu was able to stay enrolled in school. Now, 12 years later, he has completed a 4-year training program in hotel operations at Technical and Vocational Training School.

Bizuayehu is an amazing young man with big dreams. In the short term, he has a goal to learn French, Spanish, Chinese and to improve his English skills. Long term, he hopes to open a small café or hotel.

IGA: Putting Moms to Work

As so many of our families have struggled to make ends meet during the past 16 months, we, too, have struggled to fill the dramatically increased need for food support. We have been challenged to fully support 40 unemployed families. This is a feat in and of itself, and it has come at a time of historic inflation in Ethiopia. The inflation rate in Ethiopia was 20.35% in 2020, as compared to 1.25% in the US. Our families need more, and everything costs more, especially food.

There is no apparent end in site to the rapid inflation, so we have shifted our focus to creating new income generating activities for our families, so that they can have opportunities to support themselves. In true “teach a man to fish” fashion, we have created a plan to help our mothers earn an income. This plan includes a variety of small business models. Our mothers will be provided with required training in how to operate a small business, taught by an experienced professional.

Our first eleven mothers have been selected and are being trained on the ins and outs of starting and running a business. Their business type will be making a variety of injera, a staple food in Ethiopia. This is a simple business and the women all have experience making injera. There is a constant demand for injera, due to its importance in the Ethiopian diet. Our staff has developed a new kind of injera oven that will help them produce their product more efficiently.

Each injera business costs $250 USD to start up. This includes an oven and all of the supplies for the first few weeks in business. We have an initial goal of helping eleven of our mothers get this business off the ground. We know that helping them support their families is the best long-term solution.

Injera Oven $90
Teff (main ingredient) $120
Rice $30
Fire Wood $10
Total Need: $250

If you would like to support a mother with a contribution in any amount towards her new business, we invite you to meet the moms and choose a mom to support: Support IGA

Please also join us in praying for the success of this business venture. The women are so excited for the opportunity to go back to work and at the prospect of earning an income to support their families.

Blessings are Flowing

Drilling of water well on the BCI Academy – Bethlehem Campus

Clean, safe drinking water is on its way to the BCI Academy! It has been nearly four years since we expanded the school to include a second campus, and our newest campus has been in dire need of a water well throughout this time. The school is located in an area that suffers from chronic water shortages.

This infrastructure need reached fever pitch in 2020, when sanitation came to the forefront as a result of the pandemic. Our donor family rallied together to make it possible for us to take on this infrastructure project, even during the toughest of financial times.

The children loved taking part in our fundraising efforts by lacing up their sneakers and participating in the Wooha (water) Run. Local police blocked off the streets so they could run freely and complete their course. The mayor stopped by to recognize the efforts of the children and ministry in bringing this project to life.

2020 Wooha Run

The well will provide consistent access to clean water for nearly 2,000 students, staff and teachers as well as local community members, with whom we intend to share this blessing. We’re thrilled to report that drilling has begun on this project and the well is expected to be completed within a matter of weeks. Blessings are flowing even in difficult times. Praise God!

BCI Celebrates 20 Years

Have you ever embarked on a new adventure and had it turn out completely different than you expected? When BCI’s founder first traveled on a mission trip to El Salvador two decades ago, setting up a thriving program for orphaned and impoverished children in Ethiopia, Africa was most certainly not on his radar. By allowing himself to be led by God, thousands of lives have been touched and forever changed. As we celebrate BCI’s 20th anniversary this year, we look back with gratitude and forward with hope, and with respect for the responsibility of working on behalf of the children of God.

As with the rest of the world, the BCI ministry was tested in new ways during the past year. Our organization has had to adapt to the ever-evolving global crisis, which has challenged us on all fronts. We continue to follow God’s lead and trust that His plan will be done.

With the economic pinch of the pandemic, more families are struggling than ever before. Ensuring that all children on our wait list secure sponsorships is at the top of our priority list at this time. We have children who have been waiting for a year or more and also several with critical needs who God has led to our program in recent weeks, including refugees from the war in the Tigray region.

In honor of the ministry’s 20th anniversary, we are prayerfully seeking sponsorships for 20 children. There are many ways that you can help:

*Pray for the waiting children
*Send a one-time gift to help a child
*Sponsor a child
*Share this newsletter with a friend
*Talk about BCI with those in your circle
*Share BCI’s social media posts on your accounts
*Speak with your church about sponsoring a child
*Co-sponsor a child with a group of family or friends
*Co-sponsor a child with your Bible study group

We feel gratitude for your ongoing support for the precious and vulnerable children of Ethiopia, and we invite you to learn about some of our waiting children, whose stories are included in this newsletter. Please pray for each child to find a sponsorship match.

Catching up with Eyob Teklu

My name is Eyob Teklu. I started in the BCI program in 2008. BCI is my home. I grew up in a better living standard because of BCI. Sponsorship helped me a lot in my childhood. After high school, I graduated from TVT and became a cake baker in Debre Zeyit. Today I am an independent, confident, hard working man because of BCI.

There is a proverb that says “no appreciation is enough for great kindness.” But here, I still want to thank you all for your kindness, which has provided us with hope and courage to live a better life. I would like to express great appreciation on behalf of all those financially sponsored by you.

I am the main pastry chef at Gold Mark International Hotel and a teacher at Bishoftu Hotel Training Center. I am able to provide a good standard of living for myself, my mother and my sister. My plan is to someday own a bakery and hotel training center. I enjoy attending the youth program at church and playing sports in the morning.

To all of you kind people, you help us so we can stand by ourselves. You give us so much love, and I cannot express my gratitude by any words. Through you, God’s love reaches those children who are in difficulty and in need.

Full Circle: A Sponsorship Journey

The story of Mekdes Shisema, by her longtime sponsor, Rick.

My wife, Sheila, and I fell in love with Mekdes (name meaning “temple”) on our second trip to Ethiopia. She was a full orphan. Looking back, we saw potential in her that needed to be brought out. We couldn’t see her having the opportunity to overcome the harshness of her life on her own so we made the decision to welcome Mekdes into our own family. Since then, we’ve seen her through birthdays, braces, university dorm living in Addis Ababa, and university graduation. We’ve met her aunt, some of her extended family, and we’ve taken on her younger brother, Adana.

Since graduating from university, Mekdes has moved into the workforce and is now employed as an English teacher at the Bethlehem campus of the BCI Academy. Her English skills have been fostered by the many English speaking missionaries who have all had a profound impact on her vocabulary. She picks up on the nuances of sarcasm and humor, and some travelers from Texas even tried to teach her a drawl.

Mekdes has faced typical struggles adjusting from the security of the sponsorship program to living as head of household. In fact, she has told us more than once that “adulting” is not as fun as she imagined. As a result of sponsorship, education at the BCI Academy, and the influence of international missionaries, she has been afforded the opportunity to strive for her potential. She is a young adult and will continue to mature with time.

We’ve noticed signs of her maturation by the questions she has begun to ask, such as “how do I manage expectations?” and “what books should I read?” She’s much more observant toward her own culture, with its pluses and minuses, and she’s much more observant of Sheila and I, with our pluses and minuses. She is in the process of discovering a bigger world view than is possible only in the context of one’s own country.

As we reflect back on the past decade of sponsorship, we realize that it has been a two-way street: Mekdes has helped Sheila and I see our potential. The gratitude also goes both ways.

The Power of One

Imagine you’ve spent your last dollar. There is no savings in the bank. No assets to sell. You’re now out of work and your cupboards are bare. You’re hungry, and your neighbors, friends and family are unable to help you because they are facing the same dire situation. Your very survival is at stake.

At the height of your despair, someone comes along and stocks your cupboards with enough food to last you for months. There may be millions of people around the world in the same situation as you, but you’re not a statistic. You are a real person with hunger and heartache and you’ve been handed a life preserver, maybe by someone from halfway around the world whom you’ll never meet on earth. You most certainly would not be feeling like their help was insignificant.

When we look around the world, especially during the unprecedented crisis we are currently facing, we can feel so small and powerless. Our actions can seem insufficient when an entire world is hurting, but we must not lose sight of just how significant it is to make any sort of impact, no matter the size, to ease the suffering of others.
A short time ago, we were faced with 42 families in acute hunger crisis and 200 children out of school and highly vulnerable to the global pandemic. The needs certainly felt overwhelming, but God is good – ALL the time. When we gave the circumstances to Him, He led our donor family to unite, and the actions of many individuals joined together to cover food support for each and every one of our 42 families, protecting entire households from hunger for the duration of the summer.

City officials from Debre Zeyit were present for the distribution of the food support, which took place June 9th and included 220 pounds of food per family. The city officials gave a speech expressing their gratitude for the impact of the ministry’s food support distribution, and shared important health advice.

Discouragement has been rampant in the community, but the gift of food support has given the families a sense of security and restored a feeling of hopefulness about the future. We are grateful for each and every person who made this possible, and for those holding the ministry up in prayer.

Inspiring Teens: Eayasu Wondimu

Eayasu Wondimu is an 18-year old grade 12 student who has been in the BCI program for more than 10 years. Eayasu lives with his mother, aunt and cousin and enjoys spending time with his best friends, Bemnet and Tewodros, who are both in the BCI program. The three friends attend church together and enjoy discussing Bible verses and visiting recreational areas.

Eayasu has some musical abilities, and he can often be found writing and singing his own songs. He feels that singing is one of his callings and he would like to pursue singing professionally in the future. Academically, Eayasu’s favorite subject is economics. He aspires to become a successful businessman and use his earnings to create an organization that is concerned with the welfare of youth.

Eayasu is involved in the local youth community and spends time with youth whom many consider to be “bad kids” in order to try to bring them to Jesus. Even though he knows in his heart he is doing the right thing, his life is made difficult because of his choice to associate with these youth. This makes his social life especially challenging. We commend Eayasu for his strong character. He is a testament to the impact of sponsorship and an education at the BCI Academy.

Trip of a Lifetime

Teyent Asrat is a 21-year-old university student who lives with his mother and sister. His father died from tuberculosis when Teyent was just a baby. After awaiting sponsorship for many years, he now has support to help him attend a local university where he is developing his musical talents. Teyent recently had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel on a study abroad trip to Madagascar. His university covered all of the expenses to travel to Madagascar for 10 days and attend music camp. Many young Ethiopians have never ridden in a car, let alone on an airplane. Teyent could not have dreamed of such an opportunity on his own. It’s so exciting to see the unique stories God is weaving in the lives of our children as they grow up. Teyent’s gifts have already taken him beyond Ethiopia’s borders to explore the world. We look forward to seeing where his musical talents will take him in the future.

Hirut’s Testimony

My Testimony

I come from a very large family in Debre Zeyt. Being one of the oldest child among my brothers and sisters, I took care of them very early, starting from my childhood, proud to support my mother. Since then I have always loved to work with and care for children of all ages. I learned from my mother and I realized myself later that correct feeding is of tremendous importance for the development of children and their abilities in the future. I believe also that if a child is well fed and feels loved, he can accomplish whatever he wants and show love to his brothers and sisters and most importantly to God.

I took nutrition studies at Addis Ababa university, participated into literacy campaigns for children and worked during five years in harsh conditions such as refugee camp on the Somali border, caring for malnourished children. Then, I devoted my time to my own children and husband, continuing my university courses in Belgium where we settled. One of my life goal has always been to open a cantine in my neighborhood in Debre Zeyt to care for children in need.

I was thus so amazed and delighted to hear that an organization like BCI Academy was already in place while I was planning to stay a few months in Debre Zeyt for family purpose. I contacted “Bless the Children” to offer to volunteer as nutritionist to monitor the children, give health and nutrition advice to the mothers, etc. They responded quickly, we have discussed the matter and I have been warmly welcomed, feeling a sense of family!

My first concern has been how to deal with and get added value from the kitchen’s waste disposal. Especially the organic waste. We have started to produce compost with the children so they can learn about the environment and sustainability by diminishing waste and re-use it in other ways. They will also learn how to grow plants from that compost.

Then, we have worked on the kitchen arrangement and diet plan. We want to increase the fish intake of the children because it is a great source of proteins and other important nutrients for growth. Arrangements are needed with local fishermen to carry quickly the fish in frozen bags from the numerous lakes surrounding Debre Zeyt to our freezer to avoid waste.  Furthermore, it is good to teach the children the importance of local products and markets. We will introduce fish at least once a week in the children’s diet.

A few days after my arrival, we greeted 13 young volunteers from abroad. Our young students welcomed them and prepared our traditional coffee. Afterwards, they all discussed together and exchanged ideas, read texts from the bible and sang songs. It was really so pleasing to see them all together. Among all the activities planned, the distribution of school material an equipment to the families in need was the most interesting one for me. During home visits, we are asking a lot of questions to understand the situation in order to donate some material according to their real needs. We can see people in their own environment.

It is always moving our heart because the poorest people are usually the kindest people and they are offering us their only asset, love and respect. By being in their home we realize what is appropriate or not. For example, what is the use to provide cereal in grain to a single mother if she cannot buy charcoal for cooking? We have to find other solutions.

The newcomer volunteers also did a really good job painting the walls, chairs and the doors. The night before their departure, our young students showed great kindness by cleaning the feet of the group to show them love and politeness. It was really moving to see them do that with genuine love. It really shows their love of God and to one another.

The social workers organized everything efficiently and in a very correct way. At the beginning of the school year, they started the distribution of school material for the university students who also received transportation money to go to school. The fresh students also received money for their transportation as well as school material. The little girls were also being taken care of, they received uniforms as well as bras and hygiene kits. It is important to teach them proper hygiene to avoid any kind of health problem.

This morning I stumbled by chance on my return plane ticket. I got emotion and tears welled up my eyes. It was a mixture of joy – the perspective to be reunited soon with my husband and children – and sadness – leaving all those children who gave me a thousand time more than what I could ever give them. They made me strong, they raised up my soul and spirit. They raised up my faith in God. They made me better for my family. I would like to thank “Bless the Children” very sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, for trusting me and for giving me the chance to go through this spiritual journey.

Yours faithfully,

Hirut