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.

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.

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

BCI Academy KG – The Next Step

Have you ever worked so hard at something, dedicating all of your time, passion and resources, and given it your all? Then when you finally complete your project you find yourself sitting back, admiring your work and subsequently wondering…

”Now what? Where do I go from here?”

As we finish construction on the third and final phase of the BCI Academy, we have been thinking and praying about the next steps for Blessing the Children. But during this period of searching, the Lord already had a plan. All we needed to do was ask and He revealed his perfect will – open a KG.

In Ethiopia, preschool and kindergarten are labeled differently. They consider all preschool and kindergarten to be “KG” and give it a grade level. KG 1 is preschool/nursery for 3 year olds, KG 2 is preschool for 4-5 year olds and KG 3 is kindergarten.

While opening a KG seemed like a wonderful idea, we simply did not have the room at The BCI Academy for expansion, but God had it covered.

Mere weeks after deciding that a KG was the next step for Blessing the Children, the Lord revealed that there was a vacant lot with an empty building directly across the street from The BCI Academy. This building would have enough room and serve perfectly as a KG and corporate BCI Ethiopia Offices. Is God good, or is God good!?

While there were a few minor setbacks in acquiring the property due to government red tape and split ownership, after all was said and done we were able to get the property for a steal!

When we bought the property, the building on the lot was new construction and still had a lot left to do to make it habitable and able to use for a KG and offices. We have been working hard – and quickly! – to do the necessary finish work to prepare it for school this fall.

Even on such short notice, we put out some advertisements and got the word out about the new BCI Academy KG and we have already had dozens of families enroll their young children. As of right now, until we can provide the necessary items, the students are temporarily placed in some offices at The BCI Academy.

One our newest little additions to the BCI Academy KG.

One of our newest little additions to the BCI Academy KG.

Now comes the hard part! Once the construction is completed and all the finish work done (flooring and painting), we still have to furnish this KG for all the precious little ones who will be attending and the staff who will be working in the offices. To do this, we need a total of $7,638.

To start KG we are desperately in need of:

Item Qty Price Total
Plastic Tables 10 $55 $550
Plastic Chairs 60 $11 $660
Desks for Teachers 3 $140 $420
Chalk/White Boards 3 $167 $501
Organizational Shelves & Bins 3 $220 $660
Nap Mats 40 $3 $120
Curriculum & Teaching Aids 3 $440 $1,320
Toys 3 $150 $450
Art & Basic Classroom Supplies 3 $225 $675
Total   $5,356

For the BCI Ethiopia Corporate Offices we are in need of:

Item Qty Price Total
Desks for Staff 4 $140 $560
Chairs for Staff/Visitors 8 $18 $144
Shelves/Filing Cabinets 2 $220 $440
Basic Office Supplies 1 $750 $750
Printer 1 $388 $388
Total   $2,282

Would you consider making an investment in the future of Ethiopia by donating towards the BCI Academy KG? In order to transition the children to the new building, we need to have the appropriate supplies to provide the children with an excellent education – as we are known for in Debre Zeyit.

We realize this is short notice but we know that all things are possible and the Lord did not bring us this far to fail! We have faith that He will provide; would you be His hands extended? We can’t do this without you!

A Splash of Color

When you think of colors, what pops into your mind?  Joseph’s coat of many colors, quilts, kaleidoscopes, rainbows, fall leaves?  God has given us such an amazing range of colors with varying hues and shades. There is no limit to what can be done with the right color combinations.

Think about all the ways that color enhances your life. Could you imagine how drab life would be without color? Now imagine how boring learning would be without color. Just as color enhances our everyday life, how much more can it add excitement to learning?!

This is why Blessing the Children is seeking out people who would be willing to help us add a splash of color and dash of excitement for the children at the BCI Academy in Debre Zeyit, Ethiopia by donating for dry erase markers.  We would love to be able to share many colors with the teachers to enhance the learning process of our children in grades Preschool – 8.

This may seem like such a simple need,  a small need. But when you take into account the high cost of dry erase markers (around $1/marker) and the amount used for an entire school, this adds up to around $720/year spent on dry erase markers alone.

We have an amazing opportunity right now because representatives from the Blessing the Children U.S., Canadian and Australian offices will be traveling to Ethiopia November 1st so if we can collect a full year’s supply of dry erase markers, we can save on shipping costs to Ethiopia by sending the markers direct! Can we fundraise 720 markers in two weeks!?

Would you consider making a donation whether it be monetary, sending a package of markers to one of the offices or even ordering them online (Amazon.com, Staples.com, etc.) and having them sent to one of the offices?

It seems so simple but a single package of dry erase markers can bring excitement to a classroom for weeks! Would you consider sending a splash of color to Ethiopia?

2012/2013 First Day of School at The BCI Academy

The BCI Academy was abuzz with excitement yesterday as it was the first day of school and the school compound was overflowing with students, parents, teachers, missionaries, and BCI employees.  The students were excited to see their friends and favorite teachers again but everyone was excited to see the changes to BCI Academy.

The start of the new school year saw many changes for The BCI Academy.  Last year, the academy had grades 1-7 and this year now has grades preschool-8.  This is a fabulous addition to the academy as our smallest children can now start learning at the same school that they will attend for many years to come.  In previous years, the younger children had to attend preschool and kindergarten at another school and then switch to BCI for grade 1.  Now they are able to start at one school and continue at the same school.  Also, last years grade 7 students are able to continue at The BCI Academy for one more year.

The third and final phase of The BCI Academy construction is nearly finished.  This final phase provides the academy with a new lunchroom,  a science lab, a few offices, and four new classrooms!  The last year of construction surely paid off as now BCI Academy is able to accommodate more students.  The number of students at The BCI Academy went from 180 to 280 in one year, thanks to the addition of Phase III.

While all of this sounds exciting, it is to be expected that some of the children were apprehensive about this new year.  All around the school compound, children were clinging to their parents but when the bell rang they ran happily off to their classrooms, except for a few of our smallest children.  The first day of school was a day of stress for some of our youngest, first-time students.  A few of the preschoolers were unsure why they were at this big place and got really upset when they saw their parents leaving.  But the BCI teachers stepped up and gently explained to the children that they were going to stay here during the day to learn and play with their new friends.

The day started with announcements from Principal Mulugeta then the children sang their national and regional anthems and raised the flags.  The start of a new school year is always filled with excitement and anticipation for the year ahead.  We wish all of the children a great and successful school year.

Principal Mulugeta welcoming the students on their first day.



The BCI Academy’s new preschool classroom.


The BCI Academy bus making its rounds.


First day of preschool for this little guy!



Let There Be Light!

Let there be light :: A PRAISE REPORT!

The BCI Academy has electricity! Since finding out in May of last year (2011) that the city of Debre Zeyit was making electricity available to our area of town, it has been a long, bumpy road to make this dream a reality for The BCI Academy.

There have been struggles and setbacks with unforeseen costs, acquiring necessary equipment,  waiting for the city, etc. but we serve an awesome God! He works all things together for our good – as He has shown us, time and time again.

We are so excited for the electricity so we can begin utilizing the school to its full potential by holding night classes and evening outreaches. The electricity will also improve our strides towards excellence in allowing us to use the new computers, photocopiers and other energy powered devices that were attained by a generous grant through our Canadian office.

We continue to praise God for providing our needs and thank all of the Lord’s generous hands and feet who have helped make this possible!

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

The High Cost of Education

The High Cost of Education by Jonnett Teshome

I have lived in Ethiopia for 10 months now.  I see poverty, desolation, and pain all around me.  I don’t understand all of the things that I see.  I don’t understand why God lets certain things happen to his children.  I don’t know why God allows some families to struggle financially while other families never have to worry about money.  Through my prayer for the families I have met in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia God has shown me that it is not for me to ask why-it is for me to do.  While I can’t financially help everyone I meet, I can be an advocate for them.

We are told many times in Scripture that we are to help the poor. In Matthew 25 we learn that if we help someone in need than we are doing it as if we are doing it unto Jesus.  That is amazing to me.  When we feed or clothe someone in need it is as if we are feeding or clothing Jesus.  I love that!

When we do these things we show God’s love lives in us.  Contrastly, 1 John 3:17 says “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from his, how does the love of God abide in him?”  The Apostle John is telling us that if we have and we refuse to give to the poor then how can God’s love be in us?  God is a giver.  He gave His Son to us, He gives us His love, He gives us His joy, He gives us His Creation.  If we are to be like Him, how can we not give as well?

I had all of these thoughts after I met Alemayhu Abera and his family.  Alemayhu is an eight year old little boy in the BCI program.  He lives in a small house with his mother, two sisters, and brother.  His father died about four years ago after falling off of a house while doing construction.

Alemayehu Abera with his brother & sister.

Alemayhu’s family has struggled intensely for the past four years.  His mother walks approximately two miles one way to work where she works for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.  She works at a local factory where she cooks injera (local bread) for the factory workers.  At the end of the week she is allowed to take the injera scraps home to her family.  These are moldy, soggy scraps of injera that she collects to take home to her children, because she very limited things to feed them.

Even though she works 84 hours a week she only makes 300 birr ($17) a month.  The rent on their house that has no kitchen, no bathroom, no running water, and no electricity is 100 birr ($5) a month.  That leaves 200 birr ($12) a month to feed and clothe a family of five.  Even though food and clothes are cheaper in Ethiopia than they are in America, it is impossible to feed and clothe a family of five off of $12 a month.  The family relies on BCI’s monthly grain support to help them eat, however, only Alemayhu is in the BCI program so the BCI support is not enough to cover the whole family.

I went to visit this family to see how we could help them.  I would like to find full sponsorship ($90/mth) for Alemayhu’s sister, Emebet.  Emebet is 10 years old.  I wasn’t able to meet her because she has been sent away for the summer to live as a servant in her teacher’s house.  Emebet attends school four miles from her house.  During the summer, she is sent to live as a servant for the teacher’s family.  Emebet does not get paid but the teacher provides a uniform and books for Emebet to be able to attend school the following year.

If a full BCI sponsorship is found for Emebet then she will be able to enter the BCI program where she will receive a free education, monthly food support, and health care.  She will no longer have to be a servant just so she can go to school.

I also would like to find someone to help send Alemayhu’s oldest siblings to BCI Academy.  Assagidutch is 15 years old and Getahun is 14 years old.  They will be entering grades 7 and 8 next year.  Currently, they attend government school.  Government school in Ethiopia is not great.  It is only half day, whereas, BCI Academy runs all day.  Also, the class sizes in government school average 80 kids to one teacher.  The class sizes at BCI Academy average 25 students to one teacher.  The children will receive a much better education at BCI Academy then at government school.

BCI Academy costs $208 a year for non-BCI, paying students.  If we find donors to fund a scholarship for Assagidutch and Getahun for this coming school year then they will be able to attend BCI Academy even if they are not in the BCI program.

Would you please prayerfully consider helping out this family?  They are the “least of these” by economic standards but their faith is so strong in God.  They praise God everytime they receive the monthly grain support from BCI and they praise God every week that the mother’s employer lets her bring home stale and moldy injera for the family to eat.

Would you prayerfully considering helping in one of the following ways?

*Sponsor Emebet to enter the BCI program at $30, $60, or $90 a month.

*Help to send Assagidutch to BCI Academy next year ($208 is needed).

*Help to send Getahun to BCI Academy next year ($208 is needed).

Please email our Program Director, Melissa, and she will help you to make payment arrangements. Melissa@BlessingtheChildren.org 

Any and all help for these precious orphans is greatly appreciated.  I can’t even express to you how even a small gift can make a huge impact on their lives.  God Bless You!

BCI Academy’s 2012 Promotion Day

The BCI Academy recently had its 2012 Promotion Day where the children were presented with their year-end report cards and promoted to the next grade. It was a day filled with fun, fellowship, dramas and singing. Heavy rain fell outside but it did not dampen the mood of the day. It was a day to celebrate accomplishments and celebrate, they did!

Grade 2 performed songs for the crowd that gathered and everyone loved the motions and movements they added to the songs. Next, a group of older children performed a drama. The drama was funny but it held a good moral about taking your education seriously. There is a time for everything – a time to play and a time to study.

The highlight of the day was the Certification Ceremony where Principal Mulugeta announced the top three students of each grade. Each of the top three students from every grade was provided with their report card and a certificate of achievement. It was a heartwarming time to see the children whoop and holler with excitement – showing their support for their fellow classmates.

Congratulations to the top performers!

Sisters Israel and Abigia both placed top in their grade levels!

Sisters Israel and Abigia both placed top in their grade levels!

Top Performers - Grade One

Top Performers – Grade One

Top Performers - Grade Two

Top Performers – Grade Two

Top Performers - Grade Three

Top Performers – Grade Three


2 of the 3 Top Performers - Grade Seven

2 of the 3 Top Performers – Grade Seven

Grade One:
Abenezer Melka
Abigiya Yirga
Zenu Mamo

Grade Two:
Saron Solomon
Dibora Taye
Mehiret Eresa

Grade Three:
Natnael Mesele
Adana Shisema
Yabsira Hailiye

Grade Four:
Natnael Birhanu
Samuel Minase
Fenet Kefyalew

Grade Five:
Estifanos Tariku
Samuel Girma
Natnael Mulugeta

Grade Six:
Eyob Bekete
Mastewal Adugna
Abdi Geleta

Grade Seven:
Yosef Kelelegn
Fenet Minase
Israel Yirga

Field Trip Fun

Enjoying their time at the Redfox Greenhouse

Enjoying their time at the Redfox Greenhouse

All suited up for the Greenhouse.

All suited up for the Greenhouse.

BCI Intern, Michelle Tiatia, decided to treat the 6th and 7th grade classes at the BCI Academy to a fun, yet education end of school field trip.

The classes went to Redfox Greenhouse which is one of the world’s leaders in what they do – which is grow flower clippings to export overseas. This agricultural project is managed by a Christian South African family who kindly opened up their home and work place for our kids to see what kind of process it takes for plants to be grown to export quality. After a one hour tour of the greenhouses, which are on a 48 acre piece of land, the children got to play soccer, eat lunch and go for a swim in the pool at the house belonging to the manager.

The kids and teachers were all blown away by this experience. None of them had been exposed to this kind of project or even the kind of house that the manager lives in. It expanded their horizons and hopefully got them thinking outside the box about the possibilities life has to offer and about the abundance God has in store for them. All of them have asked when they can go back again! Hopefully we will get to take them back some time in the future. A great time was had by all – even our hosts.

Getting suited up & sanitized for the Greenhouse

Getting suited up & sanitized for the Greenhouse