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Our blog has been “shut down” for quite some time now. Life has been pretty normal and frankly hasn’t felt very blogworthy. In retrospect, we have been very blessed over the past few months and there has been plenty to write about. Our family has seen a significant level of healing and lots of just really good things. After about 3 years, we finally seem to have hit our “normal” and it has been awesome. Awesome doesn’t equal perfect, but I don’t ever remember reading anywhere that we were called to have “perfect” families (or normal families, for that matter.)
During this time, we’ve also been on a bit of a journey. For the last few months, Lora has really felt called to action again. Looking back on it, it seems as though I was as well, but just a slightly different path and urgency than Lora’s. What we didn’t realize is that the starting line to this journey wasn’t quite as far away as we (or maybe more specifically I) thought.
Lora has had a heart over the past few months specifically for foster care. Last month at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, Lora attended several sessions on foster care. She was working hard to learn more, all the while trying to prepare me and praying that I would feel called to this journey as well. If I’m being honest though, my heart wasn’t there. This doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t break for kids in foster care, because it does. The statistics are staggering, especially in urban and African American households. As much as this absolutely does break my heart, I have not to date felt that strong pull that says “this is where I want you to serve.”
Lora and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about the future of our family and I told her that my heart was not in foster care, but rather still in Ethiopia with waiting older children. I love Ethiopia. I love the culture, the heritage, the food, the beautiful people, and their strong faith. This didn’t, of course, mean that I was ready to jump into the deep end or that I had any immediate plans for action.
I’m a runner and I like analogies, so bear with me while I throw in a quick running analogy. We’ve been through pretty strict training over the past three and a half years. It hasn’t always been fun or easy. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe more tears and sweat than blood, but you get the idea. I do have a heart for older children who are waiting for families, and we are pretty well-prepared for caring for children that come from places of trauma and loss. I was happy to consider using that strict training again someday. I was ready to line up with the slow people in the back, meandering our way toward the starting line. It seems, though, that God has ways that are not ours and it didn’t take long for us to be grabbed by the ear and dragged to the “elite development” corral where you don’t get to wait very long to cross the starting line after the gun goes off. Well, the gun went off and here we go.
A few weeks ago, we were asked by Bethany Christian Services to advocate for “Melody”, an 11 year old Ethiopian girl, and to help her find a family. (A quick side note before I do go too far. The names of waiting children are changed to protect them, so Melody’s name isn’t actually Melody. Although we do know her real name, for the time being we will continue to call her Melody.) We looked at Melody’s profile on the waiting child portal and explained to our kids that she has been waiting for two years and we were asked to pray for her and to help her find a family. One morning a few weeks ago, Zinabu urgently reminded us that we forgot to pray for Melody during our bedtime prayer. This was a shock to us, because although we do have kids who highly value their evening prayers, Zinabu isn’t usually one of them. A few days later, Z came home from school and said he was telling everyone that we were going to adopt Melody and that he was going to have another sister. We hadn’t discussed this and were pretty surprised. We thought it was funny, but we also were slightly annoyed that he was stirring up the rumor mill. All of our kids, in fact, saw Melody as our daughter sooner than we did.
It seems that our kids knew something that we did not. Over these past couple weeks, we have been praying for Melody and have been seeking more information about her not as advocates, but as potential adoptive parents. She is a beautiful, intelligent, athletic girl who has so much potential. She’s in the top of her class and she dreams of being a doctor someday. She’s also suffered more pain and loss than any 11 year old (or 100 year old, for that matter) should ever have to endure. We have learned quite a bit about her history and her unique challenges, however we won’t be sharing this information with anyone out of respect for her privacy and protection (so don’t ask!)
Through this short journey, neither of us have felt any hesitation that Melody should join our family. Adoption is very expensive, it’s hard, and it takes a long time. It is NOT for everyone, nor is it the best plan of action in every situation. We are going into this adoption eyes wide open, aware of the challenges that we’ll probably face. We’ve had several conversations with our kids about what this is going to look like and they are enthusiastically on board. We have verified that Melody’s desire is to be internationally adopted, and we feel uniquely well-equipped to help Melody heal from her painful past.
The race is officially underway. Our preliminary application is submitted and we will be submitting our official application this week. Even with a waiting child, this is still going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. The adoption process will likely still take 8-20 months, or maybe longer. There is a chance that something could happen and the whole works will fall through. We really don’t know what will happen, but we do know that hanging out in the unknown reliant on God’s leading isn’t such a bad place to be.
During our adoption process, Lora and I were looking for ways to make a difference in Ethiopia while we waited to be matched with our boys. It was during this time that we were introduced to Team World Vision. I hadn’t laced up running shoes in almost 10 years, but immediately knew that this was the way I should get involved. I started running again, and we were matched with our boys shortly thereafter. Just weeks after that first race, we were on a plane to Ethiopia to meet our boys.
While in Ethiopia, Lora and I witnessed first-hand the impact that water, or the lack thereof, has on a community. While visiting World Vision area development programs, we were taken to a river where World Vision was in the finishing stages of an irrigation canal to help local farmers. While at the river, we saw livestock drinking, women washing clothes, people bathing, and drinking water jugs being filled to carry back home. All in the same place.
This is personal to us. Last summer, I was out running with the kids. Abatu and I arrived at the bridge over the Rabbit River, and he explained how this was like the river that they used to walk to and collect water. They had to walk over a big hill to get to the river. His older sister wasn’t able to go to school and had to collect water.
Drinking contaminated water has awful repercussions. In the time that it takes you to read this letter, over 20 people around the world will die from a water-related illness. To make this even worse, the walk is often far to collect contaminated water. Women and children are primarily responsible for collecting water. This affects more than just health. It prevents kids from going to school and keeps communities in poverty. It breaks our hearts to think of Zinabu and Abatu’s family struggling with this daily.
While in Ethiopia, we were also able to visit a community where clean water had been made available through a World Vision water project. We were able to see a water tower that is filled from a nearby well and pump house which gravity-feeds water to several distribution stations in the community. In this way, water is available to the community even without electricity. We were able to talk to a woman who used to have to walk a long distance to carry water, but now was able to fill her containers right in her own community, and saw children in their uniforms carrying books on their way to school. What an amazing difference!
Last fall, I set out to once again run the Chicago Marathon with hopes of finishing strong and healthy as a jump-start to a greater involvement in this worthy cause. Over the past few years I have felt a desire to run the Comrades Marathon with Team World Vision and to have an even bigger impact on providing clean water to communities in Ethiopia and Kenya. After much prayer and consideration, this is the year!
The Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. It is a road race between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the country of South Africa. The race has a total distance of 54 miles – over 2 marathons - with a total elevation climb of over 7,000 feet (and 4,000 feet of descent) throughout the course. There are 16,000 total participants each year, but only around 150 Americans will take on the challenge. I will be numbered among them.
Over the past several months, I have been training and preparing my mind and body for this challenge. As I post this blog, I’m still sore from running 57 miles in the just the past two days - that's more than two marathons! As unbelievable as it is to go out and run 26.2 miles on a Saturday, it takes a special kind of crazy to run 31 more the next day! Of course it isn’t just running either – there’s a myriad of other strength training to prevent over-use injuries (and rest to not get burned out or over-trained.) It’s been a busy 2013.
I leave for Africa on Wednesday, May 22 and will be undertaking this epic challenge on Sunday, June 2. While in Africa I am going to have some pretty amazing opportunities. I will be visiting four of the children that our family sponsors in three different countries. If that weren’t enough, Lord willing I am also going to once again be able to visit the birth family of our adopted children and hopefully allow them to video chat with Zinabu and Abatu. Lora will hopefully be able to travel with me to Ethiopia for the first 5 days of the trip, including two sponsor visits and the family visit. After the race I will spend time in Kenya to view more of the work that World Vision is doing in communities there, as well as a few days to enjoy the Kenyan wildlife and wilderness.
Along with big fitness goals, I also have big fundraising goals. First and foremost, I need to make clear that my fundraising does not provide me with plane tickets, race registrations, or any other benefits related to this trip. This cause is important to me, and I will be paying all the costs associated with the trip myself. Any money raised goes to provide clean water to communities that need it the most. I have a very aggressive goal of raising $500 per mile, which can provide clean water for 10 people. If I reach my total goal of $27,000, we will be able to provide clean water to 540 people for life.
I can’t do this alone. I ask that you consider how you might be able to help me reach this goal. I’ve been praying that individuals and businesses would be able to step forward and make a big impact. It would be awesome if you were willing to provide $500 to support me for an entire mile…or maybe even more than one! Maybe there’s a way that you can contribute $50 to provide clean water for 1 person.
To celebrate that my biggest weekend of $57 is behind me and to personally show our support for this cause, Lora and I are going to match $57 for every contribution of at least $57 Through the end of April, with NO LIMIT. Please make us tap into the emergency fund.
If you are able to help, please visit http://support.worldvision.org/goto/chad_dykstra
to make a secure online donation. If you would like to pay by check, please make a check out to World Vision and send it to me at the address below. Your donations will be tax deductible.
3669 36th St.
Hamilton, MI 49419
Together we can make a big impact on our world. Thanks for your support, and God bless!
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The holidays are now behind us, and most of us have moved on from times of togetherness (and feasting) to times of new beginnings. Times of resolutions to lose the 5 pounds we may or may not have gained over the past month and a half. This may be a strange time of year to wish you a Merry Christmas...but in Ethiopia, today is Christmas Day! We're fortunate that as a "culturally diverse" family we are able to celebrate holidays like Christmas two times!
We had a fantastic time tonight celebrating Gena (Christmas) with great friends and amazing Ethiopian food. Thanks to the Bakkers for coming over tonight to celebrate with us. We had a wonderful meal and watched videos from our time in Ethiopia two years ago, which brough back great memories. A & Z were so small!
We're so glad that through adoption we've been able to not only grow our family, but increase our cultural and culinary experiences as well! Even Abi has grown to love injera and Ethiopian food. Her favorite dish is Zilzil Aleecha - or a steak dish served in a green pepper sauce. We've continued over the past two years to chip away at Ethiopian cooking, and in the last few months really feel great about the food we can make and we just love it. We've made it three times in the past month alone! We're challenged with a few picky eaters and with 5 out of 6 of us liking it, there are very few meals that have that high of a success rate so we figured why not add it to a regular rotation.
Here are a few pictures of our adventures in Ethiopian cooking over the past month. Pardon the grainy #iphonography.
A stack of injera fresh from the mitad
Injera with edges peeling and ready to come off
A plate of traditional Ethiopian food featuring 'doro wat',
a spicy chicken dish, and a glass of t'ej (Ethiopian honey wine)
Tonight's Gena celebration dinner, complete with Abi's favorite Zilzil Aleecha
I've tossed around the idea of adding an "Ethiopian cooking" section to our website to post recipes, pictures, and tips of our cultural culinary adventures. If anyone is interested in that, feel free to drop a comment below and let me know. I think a place to share tips, tricks, and recipes could be of great help! There are a lot of families with a connection to Ethiopia in West Michigan (and around the country for that matter.) We're definitely better together. I know we wouldn't have the recipes we have without trading, tweaking, and sharing with others (thanks Jen!)
Tonight, you may be depressed about settling in for a long winter and the endless couds and snow (or rain....huh?) that it brings. If so...rejoice! You have one more chance today to relish Christmas and focus on the reason for the season apart from all the presents and stress of the holidays. To that, I say Melkam Gena!
It's hard to believe it's been almost 7 months since our last blog. I do have more to say, and I promise to get to that soon! Today, I wanted to tell you why I run.
As many of you probably know,I've once again been training for the Chicago Marathon this fall. It's hard to believe, but this week is race week! After taking the fall of 2011 off running because of the changes in our family over the past couple years, I am excited to run again this year for Team World Vision.
Last time I ran in 2010, Lora and I had not yet traveled to Ethiopia to meet Zinabu and Abatu. We were running with a picture of our boys to remind us why we run. Today, that is all just a memory for us, but I run this year with a new picture. More about that in a bit.
This summer, I took our kids out for a run. Abatu's a pretty fast little guy, and the two of us finished the mile to the Rabbit River before everyone else. We walked up on the bridge and Abatu told me "This is like the river we got water from in Ethiopia. We had to walk over a big hill and then we got to the river."
Imagine walking multiple times a day to a dirty river to collect all the water you need for the day. This is still the reality for a large part of the world, and it's still the reality for A&Z's biological family in Ethiopia.
As I mentioned earlier, two years ago we ran with a picture of our boys pinned to my jersey. This year while I run, I am going to run with a picture of Anada. Anada is a biological sister of Zinabu and Abatu. She's of school age, but doesn't go to school and part of her daily tasks involve collecting water for the family. Imagine how her world might be different if clean water were available.
The need for clean water in this world is very real. The effect on our Ethiopian family is very real. This breaks my heart. Although there's nothing I can do to provide water directly to Anada and her family, I can help provide this basic necessity to others in Ethiopia through Team World Vision.
Some of you have already supported this great cause, and I'd like to say thank you for coming alongside me and helping to make a difference. While in Ethiopia, Lora and I were able to visit a completed World Vision water project and talk to a woman who no longer had to walk 45 minutes to get water. Together, we really are changing lives.
World Vision has found that it takes just $50 to provide water for one person for life. Would you please consider supporting me with a tax deductible donation and once again helping me provide clean water to those in need? Perhaps providing water for just one person, or if you are able, maybe even for a whole family. Also please pray for Anada and her family. Pray for their health and protection. I'll be praying that their village is the next World Vision water project!
You can support me by visiting my fundraising page at http://support.worldvision.org/goto/chad_dykstra
or just clicking "donate now" below. If you'd prefer to send a check, please just let me know. You can mail a check made out to World Vision to our home address (3669 36th St, Hamilton, MI 49419) and I'll be sure you get a tax receipt.
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