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Chad Dykstra - 2014-06-03

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Melkam Gena!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-01-07

Why I Run
Chad Dykstra - 2012-10-03

It's All About the Injera
Chad Dykstra - 2012-03-09

Expectations and Reality
Chad Dykstra - 2012-02-15

I Remember
Chad Dykstra - 2011-10-25

A Summer of Firsts
Chad Dykstra - 2011-09-13

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A mild vacation (and spicy food)

Chad Dykstra - 2011-04-18
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We traveled somewhere sunny and warm for spring break!  You may be thinking we went to Florida or (insert Southern state here).  We did contemplate a Florida trip, but quickly reconsidered.  20 hours in the car sounded less than ideal for our first road trip as a family of six, and we sure didn't want to pay for six plane tickets!

After talking to our friends the Cayleys from Wisconsin and the Meyers from Holland, we decided on a road trip to visit the Cayleys in sunny Eau Claire, WI!  There may still be ice on the lakes and snow in the shadows...but at least while we were there, it was sunny and warm - even when it was cold and rainy back home.  Who knew you could go north for nicer weather.

The main purpose of our trip was to have an "Ethiopian Reunion".  On our first trip to Ethiopia we traveled with both the Meyers and the Cayleys.  We were scheduled to do the second trip with them as well, but the Cayleys unfortunately got delayed due to their case being investigated by the US Embassy in Ethiopia.  I won't go into the confusing details, but our five adopted children are all related in one way or another or at the very least lived in the same village and were good friends.  They were all very close and we wanted to give them an opportunity to spend some time together.  In addition to the Meyers and the Cayleys, the Scott family from Minnesota came down for two days as well.  They adopted another cousin and friend of the kids.

We did some planning and hit the road with the Meyers.  We decided on an overnight stop in Madison, WI to break up the ~8 hour trip.  To date, our longest trip with the boys had been Grand Rapids.  After an evening of swimming and a morning trip to the Madison zoo, we were back on the road and headed to Eau Claire.  We visited with the Cayleys for 3 days.  Lots of fun was had by all - multiple parks with play structures, an indoor water park complete with big slides, and most importantly lots of time for the kids to play together.  Every day was packed with exhaustive fun-filled excitement.  I'm not sure how they did it, but they were up late every night and awake by 6:00 or 6:30 every morning.  It made for a tired mommy and daddy by the end of the weekend.

During much of the trip, we had 8 adults and 11 children running around!  We were so thankful for the great weather. All the children, whether biological or adopted, had a great time playing together. With the kids playing outside, that left the adults to spend time talking, telling stories, and comparing experiences.  It really helps to talk to other families so we all know that we aren't alone in our experiences!

It's hard for the boys (specifically Zinabu) to deal with the emotion of spending so much time playing with friends from Ethiopia and then returning to real life.  They don't really understand the concept of vacation and consider it a fun new thing to do.  They have asked angrily and insistently over the past couple days to stay in a hotel and go on another trip.  We've had quite a few ups and downs over the past week and had some very hard days...some of our hardest days in a while.  We also had a few moments that were really good.  The last few days we have kept very busy (and the boys have been busy, which helps redirect them).  Things seem to be leveling out a little which is most welcome!

On our way home, we stopped at an Ethiopian market in Chicago to pick up some Ethiopian spices.  We've been meaning to make Ethiopian food for a while but didn't come home from Ethiopia with all the supplies we needed to do so.  This weekend was the time for us to do that!  We made injera (the Ethiopian signature flatbread), Doro Wat (Ethiopia's national dish - a spicy chicken), Mesir Wat or "Wuti" according to the boys (red lentils - made at the boys' request), and Gomen (collard greens).  It all turned out great!  It is nice to finally be able to make injera.  It's quite a process to make it and many Ethiopians who move to the US even buy it because as I understand it's much harder to make here in the US.  I finally found a recipe online that is pretty complex compared to many other recipes I've seen, but it actually works.  The Frost family came over and the food was received to rave reviews!

This week, we have kindergarten testing for Z & A.  It will be interesting to see how that goes, since the boys are still working on their English, letters, numbers, etc.(though it gets better every day).  Our preference right now is to put Zinabu in Kindergarten and Abatu in young fives.  Ben will be in Pre-School.  That means we'll have a pre-schooler, a young fiver, a kindergartener, and a first grader.  The school years will never be boring around our house!

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75 bucks

Chad Dykstra - 2011-03-25
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Prior to our two trips to Ethiopia, we decided to sponsor a girl named Rediet through the Yezelalem Minch ministry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (she is below on the left). YM is a ministry that serves vulnerable orphans and widows in their community with the goal of providing food, schooling, and medical supplies to allow families to stay together instead of being torn apart by poverty.  Rediet lives with her mother and her father has passed away.

During both of our trips to Ethiopia, we were able to visit with Rediet and her mom, (and in one case her little sister) and provide them with clothes, school supplies, shoes, etc. that we brought with us as a gift from home.  They were obviously very grateful and it was neat on the second trip to see how their comfort level around us had increased and how happy they were to see us.

A few years ago we started the tradition of giving an additional financial donation each Christmas to each of our sponsored children and their families.  This has been really special.  It takes a few months, but we always get a letter in the mail with photos of what was purchased and how the family was blessed. During our second trip to Ethiopia in December, we gave Birtukan (the founder of YM) a $75 donation for Rediet, as well as a $75 donation for Abenezer on behalf of some friends of ours who also sponsor a child at YM.  For most people $75 isn't much to spend on a gift, especially at Christmas time, but it's very neat to see just how it can be used in a situation like this.  It took a little longer than usual to get word back from them because they had an incorrect email address for us, but yesterday we received an email from YM.  I thought many of you may appreciate this, so I decided to share.  Here is the word we received back from Rediet's family:

We called Rediet's mother to the YM office and told that you gave $75 for her.  When we give your gifts of $75, she said  "I am now young and strong so I don't want to buy anything.  But instead of working in other person's house for daily bread, I can make my business to sustain my life." At that time we were happy and encouraged her to work hard at whatever she likes. Now as you see in attached picture she is making enjera (local bread) and getting some income and helping her children.
When we see her situation we thank you and praise God.

For just $75, Rediet's mother was able to stop being a day laborer (working odd jobs as you can find work) and start her own business!  Talk about learning to fish!

I have one more story I'd like to share.  We also received word back from Abenezer's family on how that $75 was used.

Abenezer's mother is HIV positive and she gets sick some times. At the time you gave $75, she was very sick and had no help. But because of your gifts she got well and her health condition is good now.

When our friends sponsored Abenezer, they were impacted how his father had already passed away and his mother was sick with AIDS.  They had commented to us how the odds were stacked against him considering his family situation.  Little did they realize that their simple gift may have saved his mother's life and kept the family together!

I was reading in the book of Luke last night, in chapter 16 (CEV).  It tied this all together for me.

10 Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. 11 If you cannot be trusted with this wicked (NIV: worldly) wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 12 And if you cannot be trusted with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something that will be your own? 13 You cannot be the slave of two masters. You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.

14  The Pharisees really loved money. So when they heard what Jesus said, they made fun of him (NIV: sneered).

15 But Jesus told them:
You are always making yourselves look good, but God sees what is in your heart. The things that most people think are important are worthless (NIV: detestable) as far as God is concerned.

Pharisees aren't the only ones who love money and chase after worthless (detestable) things.  I do it all the time.  Chances are you probably do too.  We're Americans, after all...and having whatever we want is supposed to be the "American Way".  Yesterday was a great reminder for me that God has bigger plans than I do and it doesn't kill me to skip a dinner out and open the checkbook for something that really matters!

Yezelalem Minch is an incredible ministry.  There are still over 100 children that the program hasn't been able to find sponsors for yet.  If you are interested in finding out more information on the YM ministry or would like to investigate child sponsorship for $30/month through YM, you can visit, find them on Facebook, or let me know and I'll be happy to give you more information or put you in touch with someone who can help you sponsor a child.

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The River of Life

Chad Dykstra - 2011-03-01
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When thinking of the way things used to be, it's hard to look back beyond December 10, 2010.  Our life right now resembles a winding river filled with whitewater rapids.  It's quite a ride, but takes lots of energy to keep moving forward (or to keep from crashing into the rocks).  If you get around a corner and think to look back, you can't see very far because there have been so many bends in the river!  At the end of the day, the distance you've traveled "as the crow flies" sure isn't very far...but boy, you've sure covered a lot of ground! 

As we get close to being home for three months, we have definitely covered a lot of ground.  Zinabu and Abatu are doing really well with their language.  They are starting to use broken sentences more regularly, and we really feel like they are understanding a lot more.  We are finally able to start having a few carefully worded conversations with them.  We look forward to having more in-depth conversations with them about Ethiopia and their memories there.  They are going to preschool twice a week and children's church is going OK too.  We're starting to be able to drop them at class and leave them instead of having to stay with them.  All good things that give us a break!  Speaking of giving us a break - public thanks go out to Mom and Dad V. for watching the kids once a week so Lora and I can have a few hours of time away from the madness.  Who would have ever thought grocery shopping together could be so peaceful and quiet!

Yesterday Zinabu was saying a few phrases in what we can only assume were Kambaata to Lora with that little evil glimmer in his eye that says "You don't know what I'm telling you right now".  If you know Zinabu, you know exactly the glimmer I'm talking about.  We still don't hear the boys using any English to each other (except words like mommy and daddy).  This is good - we'd like the boys to be able to maintain their language, and they won't be able to do that if they don't continue to speak it on a regular basis.  Over the past week or so we've also heard the boys sing-songing more - some in English, some that resembles Kambaata/Amharic, and some that is just made up jibberish.  We're glad to hear that...I can only assume sing-songing is a sign of happiness and contentment with their current situation.

We have finally come out of hibernation and have actually been out quite a bit lately.  We've probably been out a little too much.  The last week has been crazy.  Emotions have been running really high in our house lately.  We aren't sure if it's because we're starting to return to a more normal (busy) life or if it's just the emotional flavor of the week.  Whatever the cause, we're back to lots of whining, crying, screaming, and fighting.  That's the thing with a trip down a winding river - you aren't always moving forward, sometimes you take a turn backwards.  Eventually, you'll (hopefully) get where you want to be.

Just like it's hard to look back, it's hard to look too far forward right now as well.  We're still working on getting out of "one day at a time" mode.  It's hard to say what the next few months are going to look like.  I'm dragging my feet signing up for the Chicago Marathon, which will be selling out this week.  It's hard to make commitments that far in advance when you don't know what tomorrow will look like!  Hopefully Team World Vision has a late registration for me if I still get a chance to run it.

Further into the future is even harder to see.  We have a seven person vehicle, and only six of us.  There's room for one more.  Will we fill that seat?  Only time will tell.  Right now the thought of any more children is definitely overwhelming, but that may change.  :)

We're excited to have found out that there's a family from our small group at church who is beginning the process of adopting from Ethiopia.  We are so excited for them, and excited to see what our community and church are going to look like in a few years.  God is doing great things and we can't wait to see it unfold!

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Spreken zie Deutsch?

Chad Dykstra - 2011-02-09
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It's late October.  The weather has been very warm - unseasonably warm.  Almost "too warm" for deer if I really have time for that anyways.  Who is thinking about's almost time to get on a plane!  Heading to Africa...where the weather is even warmer than the heat wave at home!  Heading to meet the two boys we've been waiting for.  Taking the trip that will change our life forever! 

Before we set foot in Africa though, there's just one thing we have to do first...Germany.

I know what you're thinking.  Probably the same thing I was thinking before we left.  It goes something like this...

You mean I have a two day layover in Germany?  In October?  Score!  Oh man, this is going to be awesome.  Who gets an opportunity like this?  We get to go to Europe!  Four star children...two day layover of a lifetime!  You know what happened?  By the time we were getting on a plane in Frankfurt, we were so ready to be off the ground.  I'll tell you why...but first, I should clarify that it was a good experience.  We saw a lot of amazing things and have lots of memories.  I don't want to come off complaining about two days in a four star hotel in goes. 

The weather was absolutely freezing.  Like 20 degrees.  We were not ready for it.  We were going to Africa, after all, where it's sunny and 75 every day.  We didn't bring big coats, just light jackets and fleece pullovers.  We didn't have room for bulky coats, and we sure didn't want to take them along with us to Africa.  All of our travel was either walking or riding the public transportation systems.  Neither of us spoke a lick of German.  We were so tired of going into restaurants or other public places and struggling to order food, and usually not getting what we expected.  You serve THAT on pizza?  This sausage looks like a...well... a sausage!  I don't even like mustard.  After two days, we were so tired of the German language.  We longed for something familiar - just to find people in the U-bahn tunnels that spoke English.  Even in Ethiopia, there would be dozens of other Americans traveling with us at all times.  We marked Germany off our list, and couldn't wait to get it behind us.

Fast Forward three and a half months.  Putting kids to bed these days gives me plenty of quiet time for reflection.  Many of my blogs come from time cuddling in bed with the boys and thinking about their life and what might be going through their little minds.  Tonight, for some reason,  I was thinking about Germany.  About the cold. The weird food.  The strange language.  About being different.  And then I thought about the boys.  All of this started to sound pretty familiar.  Jackpot!  Head to America - and a 4 star house to live in!  A family!  What an adventure!  It is all those things and more...and less.  If two grown adults don't think too much about these kinds of things, how much less two boys?  It's easy to take normal and comfortable for granted.  Familiar surroundings, familiar food, language we've spoken since we were toddlers.  Just being normal and like everyone else.  It's easy to forget that even though this is normal for us, everything isn't normal for the boys.  Over time, it's becoming more familiar, but not everything will ever become normal and that's something we'll have to work through.

I look forward to being able to communicate with the boys more deeply to talk about these kinds of things.  But for now, I'll just lay in bed and enjoy the time that we have with them.

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Things change slow...but oh so fast!

Chad Dykstra - 2011-02-03
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Watching your children change is a little like watching your hair turn grey.  When you stand in front of mirror and look for changes, it doesn't seem like much is changing.  If you look at a picture from a few months back and hold it up to that mirror, though, that's where you really realize just how quickly things change!  I thought it fitting to start with a "grey hair" analogy for this blog.  The last few months have probably given us quite a few gray hairs.  smiley

We are coming up on 8 weeks being home.  8 weeks is such a short time, and it's an eternity.  It seems like yesterday, and it seems like forever!  We still shake our head sometimes at some of the silly things that have stayed the same, but if we look back at where we were 8 weeks ago so much has changed.  Both boys are in school now 2 days a week (Lora is there to keep things under control).  We went to church for the first time last week, which went pretty well (again, with Lora in children's church with them).  We're slowly starting to hear more English and less <whatever language they are speaking at the time>.

It's fun to see all the kids interact together.  They are really starting to act like siblings.  For those who haven't seen the video that I uploaded of our wild Indians, you can watch it on the media page.  It's pretty entertaining - click here to go to the media page and watch it.   Every once in a while, we are able to let the kids play without direct supervision.  It doesn't happen often, and it sure doesn't last long...but it does happen once in a while and it's great!

Seven weeks ago, in order to get the boys to sleep, I had to stay in their room with them until they fell asleep.  Six weeks ago, we needed to drag them to bed.  Both of those have improved dramatically.  This week we've changed sleeping arrangements around a little bit.  Ben and Zinabu now sleep in a room/bed together and Abi and Abatu have beds in the bedroom downstairs.  We did this for a few reasons.  Both of our "naughty" boys are now together in one room and close to us so we can keep an eye on them.  (Insert evil parental grin here).  The main reason, however, was that Ben has complained about having his own bed and we've caught him several times over the past few weeks sleeping in Abi's bed with her.  He'll crawl into bed with her after she falls alseep.  We figured why not embrace it and let him share a bed with Zinabu.  Both Ben and Zinabu are very cuddly so it's a good fit.  Abatu is excited about being "down-ko-stairs" and having his own bed too.  It's been working out well for us so far!

Bedtime schedules are slowly working in our favor as well.  Zinabu's over his infection, and he's not getting up to use the bathroom several times a night or waking up wet anymore.  The kids are usually sleeping until 7:30 or so, which is a welcome change for us...we're really not a morning family!

We showed the boys pictures and videos of their family in Ethiopia and mentioned the names of their siblings for the first time today.  That had mixed results.  When Lora was saying the names of their siblings, they would add "Abi" and "Ben" which was pretty neat.  Abatu really enjoyed the video and pictures and couldn't get enough.  He especially liked the video messages we recorded from each of their siblings we were able to meet.    Zinabu didn't want much to do with it yet.  He kept coming in and out of the room with a funny look on his face saying "yucky".  He would go into the other room, close the door, then open it and come back, head back out and close the door again.  I think he's going through a little more of an anti-Ethiopia phase right now than Abatu is.  It's completely normal for kids to cycle in and out of that.

It was neat to have them see the pictures of their sister Mitaye's husband and say "daddy".  That was a connection we really didn't make prior to meeting him...that even though he was their brother in law, Negese was a father to the boys as well and they consider him as such.  We feel like we are now able to print a few of the pictures we took of the family and hang them up in the house.  We've wanted to do that since our return, but haven't felt ready yet.  We still have the video lifebook that Bethany created that shows more video of their family, community, and home that we will not show the boys for a while...but today was a good start to helping them continue to remember their family.  We want to make sure that's a part of them that is never lost.

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