We All Form Tribes, Still Today

I am preparing for my trip to Ethiopia, coming up in just a few days. My purpose and drive is always to equip our staff and guide the ministry to be ever more effective in serving those for whom we exist. While in Ethiopia, I fill my days from dawn to dark with conducting meetings, giving seminars, consulting with the staff, and of course… working with the kids. That’s my passion and I make the most of every minute I have in Ethiopia.Home visit DSC08808

It’s been very encouraging over the past few years as I have seen great growth and progress. We have even been awarded 1st place in the rating of NGOs by the Ethiopian government! You can read about it here.

It’s no small feat working in a third world country but God has given us great staff who share the vision and work together to accomplish our goals. But we are far from one of our big goals. It is great to expand our walls, but even better to transcend them.

There is a great TED Talk called “Tribal leadership” by David Logan. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.

The speaker talks about how we all form tribes, still today… and how those tribes have five culture stages of development. 

Stage four is when a team comes together and works united for a common cause. At stage four, a tribe is able to change and improve their environment but the next stage requires moving out beyond their tribe (organization) to impact their community and the world. This is where we are at in BCI right now. We need to focus our attention from making “our” world a better place… to making “the” world a better place.

2For several years during my visits, we’ve sown into the lives of our sponsored children and staff through English quizzing competitions, English camps, training seminars, and leadership conferences. We’ve offered a constant pouring into our sponsored children and staff, but have not so diligently focused on going beyond the walls of our organization.

This visit to Ethiopian in March marks a change. It’s time to begin reaching out beyond ourselves and beyond those we serve, to extend ourselves to the community. We will move beyond growing BCI and work on growing a community and having a greater impact on Ethiopia.

This year, we are inviting local schools to join us in the English Competition with rewards for both the schools and the students, the goal being to motivate excellence in English to all schools, not just in BCI Academy. We’re also inviting staff and teachers from other community schools and organizations to participate in this year’s seminars.11357206_579819878826659_2782281940711472808_o

Because these activities are in addition to our existing programs and outreaches, I need to raise a budget of $2,491 for these new initiatives.

  • English Quizzing – $1,424 for individual prizes $419, school awards $500, medals ribbons & plaques $253, and refreshments $252.
  • 2016 Annual Spring Conference – $724 for conference materials, lunch and refreshments for 125 staff members from other schools, ministries and local government offices.
  • Medical Checkups – $343 for medical equipment providing free checkups to community children.

I am reaching out to you because I believe you share this vision. Together, side by side, our tribe is changing lives…now on an even more significant scale. Would you be the sponsor – or help sponsor – one of these events; 2016 English Quizzing, 2016 Spring Conference, or the 2016 Medical Checkups?

In his TED Talk, David asks, “What kind of an impact are the tribes that you are in making?” I want to thank you for being a part of this tribe who is bringing hope to the hopeless and making a way out of poverty for the children and widows of Ethiopia.

In Christ,
Keith V. Strawn | President

To Fix A Broken Heart

Natnael (Nati) is a quiet boy who has endured much more pain and suffering than anyone should ever have to endure. When Blessing the Children found him, he was five years old, wandering the streets of Debre Zeyit, crying and very hungry. Nati had been in town for about 20 days. His parents recently passed away and someone put him on a bus to come to his uncle’s house.

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Nati when BCI found him.

Nati lives with his uncle, aunt, and young cousin.  Neither Nati’s aunt or uncle work because of their age and physical ailments so the added pressure of another mouth to feed has put a great strain on the family. Upon admittance to the program, Blessing the Children took Nati to the doctor for a routine physical, where it was discovered he has a serious heart condition called a ventricular septal defect (a hole in his heart).

After this discovery in 2011, Nati’s long journey began. Five years of tests, medicine, poking, prodding and visits to numerous different specialists and hospitals. At one point, in 2013, Nati was schedule to have heart surgery in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, but his case was put on hold for unknown reasons.

After the Black Lion Hospital put Nati’s case on hold, we began looking at options to bring Nati to the U.S. or Canada for treatment. After speaking with several doctors and specialists from all over the world, we were told about Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in India. Fortis is said to be the best cardiac hospital in India and comparable to the best in the world. With India being a closer option than the U.S. and with less visa restrictions for Nati and our staff, we began making plans.

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Nati in 2012

Finally, after five years, Nati was approved for his surgery in India! With this joyous announcement came another hurdle though – cost. Between the cost of the surgery, airfare, room and board, and meals, Blessing the Children needed to raise over $4,000 to cover this trip.

With passion, diligence, and the support of many generous donors, we were able to raise the funds needed for Nati and scheduled his surgery for Friday, January 22nd. Accompanied by Abebe, Blessing the Children’s Program Officer, Natnael left for India on January 17th.

Both Nati and Abebe were first time flyers and while the trip was a little bumpy for them, then arrived safely in India for Nati’s surgery, which went off without a hitch! After his surgery, Nati spent a few days in the ICU for monitoring and was able to have solid foods. After his 10-day checkup, Nati got the ok to start moving around and even made his way to the children’s play area to read a book and color.

After two weeks, Nati’s appetite was back with vigor and he was excited to do a little sightseeing around town. As Nati’s body continued to heal, the hospital staff monitored him and gave him the OK to travel home three weeks after his surgery.

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Nati after his surgery.

Upon Nati’s arrival home, he was checked by a local doctor and we are excited to say he is doing great. This has been a long, painful journey for Nati but he has kept a positive attitude and a light heart. This experience has been life changing, and lifesaving, and we are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for Nati’s future!


Nati is excited to be eating real food again!


Nati enjoying a book in the Children’s Play Room.


Nati cutting the bread at his “Welcome Home” Party.