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.

Team Besha

Besha Asefa is a 12th grade student at the BCI Academy. It’s easy to spot him on the school campus, since he walks with crutches. His disability is the result of contracting polio at the age of one. This is a sad story, but even worse is the fact that his parents rejected and abandoned him due to his disability, leaving his care to his grandmother.

Due to his permanent need for crutches, it’s important for Besha to keep up his strength. Last year, while working out at a local gym, Besha was approached and invited to participate in a weight lifting competition. It was exciting for him to receive this invitation and he began training right away. At his first competition, he was encouraged when he earned a second place finish out of nine competitors. He achieved this by lifting 75 kg (approximately 165 lbs). For his second place finish, Besha earned a medal and a certificate. He also participated in a wheelchair race and placed 4th out of 15 competitors in both the 400 meter and 800 meter distances.

At a subsequent competition, Besha tried to lift 80kg but failed in his attempt and was disqualified. He is passionate about these sports and they have given him a sense of belonging and confidence. He wants to continue competing, but the other competitors are better trained and nourished. Besha is slim and has limited protein in his diet.

People with disabilities are not afforded equal rights in Ethiopia. There is no disabilities act to protect them. We have seen the positive impact of sports on Besha’s life and feel that fostering this passion is critically important to his future. We would like to provide Besha with the means to continue training at his best level. He is in need of funding for his training, transport, extra nutrition (eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables) and a sports uniform.

As we prepared to share Besha’s story, things took a turn when an estranged family member beat him with no provocation. Besha sustained multiple injuries, including a broken hand. Worst of all, it was a hit to his spirit to be physically assaulted. The injuries also caused him to miss school and training. We feel now more than ever that we want to help Besha overcome the multitude of tragedies he has experienced in his young life.

Upon graduation, Besha dreams of attending University to study architecture. He also wants to continue with his sports training. He hopes to one day have the opportunity to use sports to travel outside of Ethiopia, and perhaps even participate on a big stage at the Paralympic Games.

When speaking with Besha, he told us passionately that “BCI has helped me to receive my only Savior, Jesus Christ, and I’m thankful for it. God has been helping me through BCI with my education and my life with Jesus.”

The most recent x-ray showed that Besha’s hand has healed and praise God he is not expected to have permanent difficulties. If you want to partner with us in supporting Besha’s competitive sports, please reach out to us and let us know you’re on Team Besha. We believe that God’s hand is in Besha’s participation in sports and want to see him follow his passion, both for himself and as an example to encourage others.

Phone: 1 (888) 269-2719

E-mail: info@blessingthechildren.org

PayPal: http://blessingthechildren.org/donate.html

Praise Report | For the Love of Peanut Butter!

Peanut Butter! Most of us grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and continue to use it in our daily adult lives. Not only is it delicious but it’s also packed with nutrition and good fats.

Peanut butter provides protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, resvertrol, arginine, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid.

Handmade peanut butter ready for distribution.

Handmade peanut butter ready for distribution.

Blessing the Children has started the initiative to provide each child in the sponsorship program with a jar of peanut butter each month, in addition to their normal food support. This started last month (March) and was a huge hit with the children. They loved the peanut butter and we loved the nutrition it provided them.

Excited to try her first jar of peanut butter!

Excited to try her first jar of peanut butter!

In addition to filling the children with nutrition and good fats, the purchase of close to 200 jars of peanut butter each month with be supporting some local families in Ethiopia who grind and jar this peanut butter from home and we know exactly what is going into the peanut butter. No chemicals or additives.

We are looking forward to continuing the peanut butter distribution every month and appreciate everyone who sponsors a child to make this possible! We couldn’t do what we do for these precious children, without you!

Handmade peanut butter ready for distribution.

Handmade peanut butter ready for distribution.

142,560 Nutritious Meals

Can you imagine how much food you would need to cook a meal for 100 children?

Now imagine being able to provide a healthy, nutritious meal for 100 malnourished children – over 1,000 times. That is over three years worth of meals for 100 children!

Blessing the Children has been given the amazing opportunity to partner with Kids Against Hunger to ship and distribute a 20’ container packed with 142,560 meals to Ethiopia.

Blessing the Children currently has a child sponsorship program supporting 154 children but there are so many more children in Debre Zeyit and the surrounding villages that are not receiving support. The need is endless.

With these meals, we will be able to provide a lifesaving blessing to the children and families in the Debre Zeyit community and surrounding villages who we are unable to reach with the sponsorship program.

Three pallets of KAH meals,  approximately 42,768 meals.

Three of ten pallets containing KAH meals.

The specially formulated Kids Against Hunger meals contain fortified soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, rice, and vitamins and minerals. Although the meals are chicken-flavored, they are actually vegan and have a shelf life of up to 3 years. The container has been fully packaged by the KAH satellite in Monmouth, IL and is ready to go!

Now we need your help. In order to get this container to Ethiopia, we are in need of $7,400 for shipping costs. Would you consider making a donation to help bless the children and families of Debre Zeyit? Do you know someone you could share this need with?

To make a donation, please contact Melissa at Melissa@BlessingtheChildren.org

Great Impact :: A Nurse from Canada

Blessing the Children in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia has been so blessed to receive missionaries from all over the world.  Europe, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and most recently, we were blessed to have Helene Leis visit us all the way from Canada.

Helene came to serve Blessing the Children by performing health exams for the newest and sickest of our children.  She came prepared to perform a full health exam on the children.  She then was able to make recommendations to our staff to let us know who needed to see the doctor and what the possible issues are.

Helene served with BCI for two weeks.  During those two weeks she examined more than 30 children.  But not just a quick exam either, she spent around 1 hour with each child asking many questions of the mother or guardian to get a full health picture of the child.  She then made many notes on the child’s file so BCI can follow up with local doctors.

During those two weeks Helene also held a first aid training and a nutrition class for moms in the BCI program.  In the nutrition class, Helene taught the women proper nutrition for their little ones.  She also answered any questions that the mothers had about their babies’ health.

She also held a first aid training class for the BCI social workers and teachers.  This was a great opportunity to teach proper responses to accidents and illnesses that arise with having lots of little people running around!

Helene during a training session.

Helene during a training session.

Helene is very much a go-getter.  She is the type of person that can get things done.  We have one child in the program, Nati, that has been sick for quite some time with a serious heart condition.  We have been trying to get him to the right doctor that can perform his surgery or send him overseas to have it done.  Helene was able to set up an appointment for Nati with a highly specialized doctor in Addis Ababa that frequently sends children to India for surgery.  We found out more about Nati’s condition but we are also praying that this doctor is able to help Nati.

Even though it is a joy and a blessing when God sends us to serve Him in different places, it can also be overwhelming at times.  Helene was overwhelmed by the poverty that she witnessed in Debre Zeit.  Also, some of the mothers of the children expected Helene to heal their children and this caused Helene a lot of heart ache when she was unable to.  Missions trips can be filled with ups and downs but God meets us in those low times and shows us that we are making a difference in the lives that we touch.  God doesn’t expect us to go and change a nation but He calls us to obedience.  When we follow Him, He will use us in unmeasurable ways.

We are so thankful that Helene left the comforts of home to serve our children!

What’s Stopping You?!

-An Inspirational Story by Jonnett T.

Lis Detweiler is an amazing woman that inspires me so much.  She is the epitome of selflessly giving of yourself to serve others.  Lis recently came to serve BCI’s children for two weeks in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.  She came with a team from her church in Pennsylvania, USA.  I have been affected by all of the missionaries that have come to serve with BCI, but Lis affected me in tremendous ways.  I have never seen a more selfless, caring, willing, person in all of my life.

When I talk to people about coming on missions trips or giving of themselves in a deeper capacity for the Kingdom, I am met with a myriad of responses.  Most of the responses are something like:  “I have no skills to give”, “I don’t have enough money or time”, “I am scared to travel far away from home.  What if I get sick or hurt?”, “I want to… some day”.

I have given many of these reasons when God asks me to do things that I think are “crazy”.  A lot of times, these answers come from a place of fear or uncertainty.  Uncertainty about whether or not this is God’s will or not.  I have seen so many people (and I have been this person at times) who keep waiting and waiting for a sign from above to prove to them that going on a missions trip or sponsoring a child is God’s will.  When they don’t hear these clear cut “words from God” they do nothing.  But, God has already told us in His Word that we are to preach the gospel to the lost and to serve the least of these and to rescue the widows and orphans.  I personally believe that by serving in such capacities, you are doing God’s will and He is pleased.

Lis is a person that serves God at all costs.  She even signs up to serve when she is not sure in what capacity she will be able to serve.  I don’t mean, she doesn’t know if her skills will be useful.  I mean, even if she doesn’t know if she is physically able to serve-she goes anyway.

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Let me explain.  Lis was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis.  Several things can cause arthrogryposis but Lis believes that her mother contracted a virus while she was pregnant with Lis.  The disease is symptomatic of curved joints and causes cartilage to grow around joints rendering some of Lis’s muscles useless or severely stiff.  She was also born with severely deformed feet, they resembled club feet.  As a baby and a toddler, she had surgery to reconstruct her feet and to lengthen her heel cord.

Through all of her trials and struggles Lis only gives praise to God.  She is able to get around using crutches and she praises God for the mobility that she has.  I was absolutely amazed to watch Lis get around town.  She doesn’t just simply walk with the crutches.  She uses her arms to swing the crutches in front of her and then swing both legs to the side to move them forward.  The streets of Debre Zeit are rough and I was amazed at watching how strong Lis is.

Even though getting around was difficult for her, she did not let it affect her time here.  Lis was always on the go, wanting to serve in many different capacities.  There were times during her trip when I was really tired and just wanted to rest but then I would see Lis constantly on the go and she inspired me to overcome my weariness and keep working.

The main thing that impressed me so much about Lis is her constant cheery attitude.  She is a woman whose heart has been captured by God and she is fully living the fruit of the Spirit.  She has such a love for people that it’s contagious, she is constantly full of joy-no matter the circumstances, she has a kind of peace that beats all human reasoning.

When deciding whether or not to come on the trip she had many different concerns going through her mind.  But prayer and talking to her dad got her through.  God gave her strength and her dad helped her to see that she could overcome the concerns that she had.

Lis fell in love with Ethiopia and she is so glad that she took a step of faith and came to serve God here.  We can confidently say that her first missions trip was a success.  Lis, I just want you to know that we all fell in love with you and we see God in you and that inspires us to continue with the work we are doing.

The Blessing of Water

Written by Marianne H.

When you run out of eggs – or any grocery product – what do you do? What about when you’re out of toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste or dish soap? My common course of action is to run out to the supermarket and buy more. It rarely happens that something I need cannot be found on the shelves of my local store. Actually, not only can I find what I’m looking for but there is generally a very diverse selection of each product available, sometimes to the point of finding it hard to choose.

The same goes for medical care. If I’m sick, I go see a doctor. If I have dirty clothes, I throw them in the washer and that is the extent of the effort it takes to clean my clothes. If I want to turn on a light or charge my laptop, there is power available. And whenever I want to shower, there is water.

I believe that those of us who grew up in first world countries, take a lot of things for granted. I grew up in a country (the Netherlands) where we have lots of water and where the water that comes from the tap, has been defined as the best drinking water in the world. Since I have been in Ethiopia for the last six months I have learned to appreciate the ‘little’ things more and have become acutely aware of what a blessing it is to have the kind of access to water that I do in my country.

We all know that water is needed for a lot of things but Ethiopia is not a country with a wealth of water. After I experienced a couple of days without water, I started to appreciate it more and realize that a lot of things are not possible without water. Things I normally take for granted. Without water there is no shower, no flushing the toilet, no laundry washing, no cleaning, no dishes, but most important: there will be no water to drink. Our body can only go a couple of days without water before it shuts down.

When there is no running water in Ethiopia, I am very blessed to be able to go up to the store to buy bottled water but this is not the case for most Ethiopians who can barely afford to purchase food.

According to a recent report of the world health organization, only 13% of the Ethiopian rural population has access to clean drinking water. The rest of the population is exposed to diseases that are connected to a lack of water, dirty water, bad hygiene or lack of sanitation. Dirty water is the number one killer in the world with a rate of 25,000 victims a day.

Families with their water jugs.

Families with their water jugs.

Women and children have to walk – sometimes 7 hours a day – to find a place where they can take water. And even then, that water is dirty and disease ridden. They fill up their cans and carry them all the way back home. All that effort, for water. In my country, the average use of water is 130 liter per person a day, whereas the average use of water in Ethiopia is 3 or 4 liters per person a day.

Even if the majority of Ethiopians had access to a tap for running water, the tap water in Ethiopia is not safe to drink. I have seen firsthand a lot of Ethiopians that are often sick, because of the bad drinking water.

Knowing this is a huge problem, Blessing the Children is working to prove aqua tabs for the BCI families. These tabs are dropped into any available water and effectively clean the water, thus giving the families access to healthy, disease free drinking water. These little tabs have prevented a lot of visits to the clinic and have improved the life standard for many of the children in the BCI Program. They have made a big difference for the families and we feel so blessed to be able to provide them.

Holiday Break Program

Holiday Break Program – by Marianne H.

After a couple weeks of studying and tests, the children of the BCI Academy had a week long break from school. During that break, we organized two holiday programs – one for the younger children and one for the teenagers. A majority of the children do not have many things to do during their break since very few have toys or the like to play with. Some of the children help their families with jobs, watch their little brothers or sisters while their mom is working or hang around the street. So we saw this break as a good opportunity for us to teach them from the Bible, to teach them some social skills and to give them a fun time.

The Teenagers.

The Teenagers.

The first two days we had a program for the teenagers of BCI and around 30 teenagers showed up. The children were divided into teams and each team made up their own team names and charts. Each day started with a team meeting and prayer. After that, the teenagers started their day with team building sessions in which each team could earn points by working together to do jobs around the school like cleaning up the school, shining the leader’s shoes, etc. These duties were mainly purposed to stimulate good behavior; no fighting, obey the leaders and participation. There was an amazing team-spirit during the sessions as everyone worked together to do the jobs and do them well.

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After team building sessions, the teenagers were taught lessons from the Bible. The theme of the lessons was: ‘Our God is greater’ and the two Bible stories that were taught were Gideon and Jericho. Through the whole program, we tried to teach them how great our God is. The kids then received a balance meal for lunch.

Music Workshop.

Music Workshop.

In the afternoon we did workshop rounds with the teenagers. We wanted to challenge their creative talents, something they are not often challenged on. Every teenager could choose a focus; there was music, drama and art. On the end of the second day, we had a little show – “BCI got talent” – in which the children could showcase what they had worked on in their workshops. The art workshop group showed the big painting they made, the music workshop group sang their song and the drama workshop group did their drama.

The teens doing their drama skit.

The teens doing their drama skit.

On Thursday and Friday it was time for the younger children to come and join the holiday break program. They were also split into groups and participated in the team building sessions just like the teenagers. Their Bible story time was filled by a puppet play where the BCI social workers played a puppet skit with hand puppets. This was a big hit and the children loved the puppet show. They also had some time for singing and games. The children were then served lunch and in the afternoon we did crafts and competitions. At the end of the second day, every team made their own drama and performed for the whole group.

The group of younger children.

The group of younger children.

During the days of the program I was blessed to see a lot of smiles, laughter and joyous children. While watching them run around and have fun, I would almost forget that they come from very hard backgrounds; mud huts, lack of food and clothing, and many broken families. I pray the children had the same wonderful experience that I did and that, even if just for a few days, they could forget all their troubles and just enjoy being a child. 

The children doing arts and crafts.

The children doing arts and crafts.

The younger children playing games.

The younger children playing games.

More games!

More games!

The puppet show.

The puppet show.

The teen art groups painting.

The teen art groups painting.

Our Hands Extended :: Ethiopian Staff Bonuses

As the year draws to a close, we tend to look back how we spent the last 12 months of our life.

What did I accomplish? What did I overcome?
Am I better now, than I was when the year started?

Reflecting back on 2012, Blessing the Children is so blessed to say that – Yes! We are better now than when we ushered in 2012! This is due in large part to our staff, who make all the difference.  BCI would cease to run without the diligent, hardworking hands of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

Our social workers are the most caring and compassionate people you could ever hope to meet. They dedicate their time and energy to the children in our program, treating each and every child as if they were their own. They are advocates for these children and continually strive to ensure each child has what they need. Their patience and passion is unmatched.

Our beautiful Goldie, serving the children

Our beautiful Goldie, serving the children

Kelkias arranges and coordinates our team members, missionaries and interns. He oversees Blessing the Children’s various programs and projects, waking up early and going to sleep late every night to ensure that everything is running smoothly and our missionaries are effective. He does what needs to be done, without question or complaint.

There are so many more staff who work tirelessly to keep the programs running in Ethiopia: teachers, accountants, drivers, cooks, guards, etc.


To show our deep appreciation for their ongoing commitment, it is our hope to be able to bless every one of our Ethiopian staff with a bonus this year.

With your help, we would really love to be generous
with all of the BCI Ethiopia staff this holiday,
as they are generous with us all year round.

Would you consider making a donation to bless the dedicated people who are our hands and feet in Ethiopia?

You can make your donation online, via phone or mail. If you’d like to send a card, we will make sure all cards are delivered at the time the bonuses are handed out. If you donate online and have a specific staff member in mind, please be sure to specify for whom the donation is intended. Otherwise you can mark your donations “Ethiopian staff bonuses”.

All donations for Ethiopian staff bonuses will need to be in no later than Friday, December 28th. Thank you so much for your support of Blessing the Children and the many hands that keep it running, year after year.

But the girl was a boy…

When God gives a vision, He will give the provision.  Tadesse Gebreyes, Blessing the Children Ethiopia’s National Director, had a vision recently about an 11 year old girl who needed help because she had no family.  She was living on the streets – alone, unprotected and uncared for.  She was in dire need and in a seemingly hopeless situation. Involved in Tadesse’s heartbreaking vision was a Pastor from a BCI partner church, MKC Church.  He was the one who would be the liaison between the girl and Tadesse.

A few days later, Tadesse received the anticipated call from the MKC Church Pastor.  Before the Pastor could talk, Tadesse began to share his vision with the man, who started to laugh. The Pastor explained to Tadesse that the vision was accurate, with one exception. The girl was a boy.

Kumilachow Melesa

Kumilachow Melesa

Meet Kumilachow Melesa, an 11 year old boy that came from the Bahadar region of Ethiopia.  His father died of yellow fever when he was only four and his mother – his last living family – died when he was 9.  Kumilachow was his mothers only child and upon her death was forced to the streets.

Kumilachow was living along the roadside and receiving some charity from a local school, but they could not afford to help him for long.  He was then brought to Addis by a Good Samaritan truck driver who wanted to help the boy although resistance from the truck driver’s wife put an end to that. The truck driver, unsure what else to do, took Kumilachow to the police station where he lived for around 15 days.

Kumilachow was receiving very minimal assistance from a local organization called Kingdom Youth International but unfortunately they are unable to continue due to financial constraints. Kingdom Youth International was only able to assist Kumilachow by providing a small amount of injera and he has gone hungry many times and has been frightened as he slept out on the road vulnerable to any people and animals passing by.

While his dire situation is no indicator, Kumilachow has attended school in the past and is in grade 4.  He is a smart young man who speaks like a young adult and even knows some English.  All he needs is a chance.

God has placed Kumilachow at the feet of Blessing the Children and we are seeking support for this young man.  God has told us in his word that this is what true religion is, to feed and clothe the poor orphans.  Would you be willing to get Kumilachow off the street and into a good home?  With a sponsorship through BCI, Kumilachow’s life will be drastically changed, allowing him to attend school and giving him a chance at a bright future. Would you be willing to change this young man’s life?  We need to raise full support for him of $90/mo so he can be accepted into the sponsorship program and removed from street life. If you or someone you know is able to help, please phone the office at (989) 667-8850 or email Info@BlessingtheChildren.org