Monday, November 26, 2012

Project Presence Trip

Applications Now Available: 

We are so excited to begin preparations for our next trip to Ethiopia.  Kechene is a slum community within Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, of 50,000+ people.  It has the highest HIV prevalence in the city, with almost 16% of its residents estimated to be suffering from the disease.  Because of the AIDS crisis and the devastating impact of poverty and unclean water, the district is filled with widows and their children, or worse, orphan-led households.  It is not an easy life.  
Because of the extreme poverty and disease in Kechene, it is an area considered cursed. Many locals believe that by making eye contact with a person of Kechene they might catch the curse of poverty. For the precious people of Kechene this creates feelings of worthlessness.
Our goal in traveling to Kechene is to be a loving presence. We go and we show Love to (materialistically) "the least of these." Our desire is to create relationships and debunk the thought that the precious children are cursed but we go to show them that they matter!! They matter to us and they matter to God. 


  On this trip we will also be revisiting the school and children. We will be collecting information for individuals who have sponsored children. We will be there to CeLeBrAtE the end of the school year and continue to invest in the precious children!!

Please prayerfully consider if you are meant to come with us on this life changing trip! For an application for our June trip to Kechene, please e-mail

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What if you spent 80% of your money on food?

With Thanksgiving nearing, we thought it would be interesting to see how much food is consumed around the world. 

Earlier this year, the Food Service Warehouse released an interactive infographic that highlights how many calories are consumed by citizens of 40 different countries and what percent of income is spent on food. The results are striking--Americans spend only 6.9% on food consumption and parts of Africa spend up to 80%. Clearly, the amount and cost of food in America is something to be thankful for.

You can check out the infographic at Food Service Warehouse.

(Photo and infographic courtesy of Food Service Warehouse: "Visualizing the World's Food Consumption")

Monday, November 5, 2012

Oh the Humanity

In this tense and often divisive election season we want to remember that life is more than policies and community is more than political parties. Civility goes a long way, and we hope and pray our humanity stays in the forefront of our minds regardless of political affiliation. Wishing you the best this political season, and freedom from political commercials for at least four years.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Once again your hearts amazed us! We had a goal and
 you blew it out of the water! 
We had our 1st ever matching grant opportunity. A chance to raise $7,000 for the school and the children in Kechene, Ethiopia. 
Because you spread the word and gave, that goal was met!!
"Thank you" for making this challenge a success!! 

~ All of us at Awake and Alive and all of the children at the Bright Future Academy

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We don't have much time!!

2 Days!!! 

That is all the time we have left in the challenge to raise $7,000 in one month for the precious children in Kechene, Ethiopia.
This is the 1st time Awake and Alive has had a donor give as a "Matching Grant" and we do not want to leave any of their $3,500 on the table! 

The school is up and running. But it can not continue with out your support. 
We need you to help us reach this goal!
 When you give now your gift will be doubled!
We are looking forward to celebrating with YOU on October 21st!
 But we can not do that unless we can raise $3,500! 
Join with us for this life changing opportunity 
to change children lives in one of the
 poorest communities in all of Ethiopia! 

Donate Now 

 The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these you did for Me." Matthew 25:40

Monday, September 24, 2012

Half a heart...

Dear faithful followers,

The team has now been home for over a week.  A few doctor appointments/hospital visits and I think our bodies are all beginning to heal. But what about our hearts? What do we do with what we experienced and fell in love with? For 10 days we were removed from our comforts, friends and family, and anything we have ever known. We were with 13 other people we did not know and we were experiencing raw, hard, real life for people in a 3rd world country. So what does that do to the human heart?   For each one of our team members, well, it will look totally different. 
And that is what is so great about short term missions.
 God will take each persons experience and use it in totally different ways!

We were on a mission to show love. The groups name was "Project Presence". I believe that name was lived up to. We were there in Kechene rain or shine...mostly rain. We were in the mud hugging, holding and loving (materially speaking) "the least of these."  We learned new Ethiopian songs and games and a few phrases. But mostly we loved. But what was so amazing was how loved we were in return. I (Jolene) upon returning home found a note in my luggage written by one of the girls. It say's...
 "How are you Jolin. (Jolene) I am fine. I miss you. I love you forever. I don't have anything. I have this post card. It is for you. I give you love. Please give me love. You know that I love you very much. I love you Jolin I miss you everyday. See you next summer." 

This sweet girl's story is only for her and me to know. But she is in the program that picks the most vulnerable children from Kechene to support and educate. So when she says she has nothing to give me but love, well that is true. And honestly I would never want anything more out of our friendship. To love her and to have her love me back...It is amazing to be loved and looked up to by such a precious child of God is more then I am worthy of. 

This sweet girl has my heart as do many of the precious children in Kechene. My prayer is for them to know they are loved. Many of then are orphans. But they are loved by Our Father and we hope and pray they know and feel that. 

Half my heart is in Ethiopia, 

Friday, September 14, 2012

We are safe :)

Hey faithful readers (and nervous parents).  It is late after another wonderful and full day, culminating with a longer-than-normal debriefing session on our last night before flying out.  I can say for myself, that I've had several break down moments today in anticipation of leaving.  Ugh.  I truly wish I could just stay (if my family would fly here, that is, to be with me)!  We had our last day at Bright Future Academy finishing with setting up the school and our last day of VBS AND visiting some of the children's homes (10 of the 30, in fact, between two groups of us).  More on that another time, since it was so powerful and incredibly difficult.

With current events as they are, we wanted you to know we're not experiencing any repercussions from everything going on in the world, although we will promise to be extra cautious tomorrow.  It actually took a concerned father calling for us to truly evaluate the situation (since we are so far removed here).  BUT, we have a plan and feel safe!  So, please don't worry about us....just pray if you want :)

We'll be on a plane in less than 24 hours!  It's truly CRAZY to think about how fast this time has gone....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bright Future Academy Celebration!

Well, Wednesday was a day that I will always remember. It's nice, some mornings, to wake up to the simple sound of birds chirping instead of the priests down the street praying. Not that I don't love it, but quiet mornings are the best. For some reason it seemed like the guest house was more crowded than normal and a shower was apparently out of the question since there was so much to get done in one day. Of course, my solution was to wrap my head in a scarf and pretend like I knew how to wrap it correctly. When everyone was ready to go, we headed out for the day with high hopes and spirits. Thankfully, our bus driver took us to a bank that ended up exchanging our money! The team was very relieved, although most of my money is still in the ATM and I have no idea if I'll be able to withdraw any of it, which is a little disconcerting but worse things could happen right? Once again, the team stops for coffee and not just any coffee, more like pure shots of unadulterated adrenaline. Sadly, I had to pass because the first time I had it I became too energetic for people to handle. Naturally when our bus is stopped somewhere, men attempting to sell things line the windows, holding up their wares for us to examine, even if none of us want to buy. 

After the coffee run, we made our way to the Bright Future Compound to pick up some bread and a stereo for the celebration at the school. As soon as the bread was on board I pulled it close and inhaled. I'm sure it was the best smelling bread I've ever had the pleasure of smelling, perhaps because it was scented like a freshly baked donut. Then we made it to the school in celebratory moods, ready to get the show on the road. We made it inside, the children and men outside the school attempting to weasel the bread and other items that could be carried from our hands. I carried some bread on my head inside the school, since my transformation into a true Ethiopian wouldn't be complete without doing so. While inside, Danielle began explaining how things were going to be run, such as getting the children registered and then sending them to help tie-dye their new Bright Future Academy shirt and, most importantly, get their pictures taken so we can find sponsors for them when we get home. After that the children would be sent to have their hands painted to put on the mural on the wall, which really helped to complete the overall look of the school room. Since my attention span doesn't last very long, I was watching what was going on outside while I was listening to the game plan when I noticed some commotion out near the gate. It seemed like there was a small confrontation going on between the Bright Future older youth who had been helping us all week and some of the villagers. The situation quickly escalated and I called out that something was happening when it seemed like the gate exploded inwards as men rushed inside, one man going after one of our Bright Future youth, a young man who had been trying to get the villagers to go away. It seems they expected payment for offering their services in helping to carry chairs off the bus inside the school and the Bright Future man had refused to let them help in order to be paid because we had enough help already. A fight broke out that worked its way into the school yard. I heard our leaders tell someone to lock the door to keep us in, but when I saw the man from the village pick up a rock, I grew angry. The Bright Future youth was being pummeled, his mouth and head hit by a rock and as he was thrown to the ground to be kicked I knew I didn't want to be stuck in the school. I understood the need for the protection of the team members, but all I could think about was getting out there and bringing the children and mothers inside. Who am I to accept my own safety when there are those who have this new and promising future that could be so quickly stolen away by a rock thrown from a careless hand? 

I saw the situation was safely and quickly taken care of, but some of the team were still huddled in a prayer circle, asking for resolution. I was stuck at the window, torn between doing what I was told and running out into the school yard, my anger hot in my chest. This man who only wanted to help had been beat down to the ground, a place meant for nothing but the indentation of children's footprints. The aftermath felt stressful and slow, with men being recruited to help protect the school and have the young man who had been injured taken to the hospital, as well as some team members walking around trying to offer comfort to children and mothers, even with the language barrier. I made my way outside, too, while other team members began regrouping and figuring out how to get the day back on track. I stood, watching the children begin to play again and life seemed to return back to normal as if nothing had happened. It was a strange feeling, being furious at one point only to be completely confused the next. It was as if everything was all right, even though there was a heavy sense of aggravation still hanging in the air. I held a young girl as she cried, still scared from what had just taken place. I was stunned and angry, having no idea how a celebration was going to take place. 

Yet life does carry on regardless of the tribulations that we have. The team regrouped and began preparing the opening ceremony with blowing up balloons and decorating. I pulled at the tips of the balloons to create that high pitched squeak, hoping it might distract people and bring on a better mood. Mothers began laughing at my antics and Todd began a game of futbol in the yard. The atmosphere shifted and I found myself caught up in the festivities, even if the heavier images were still stuck in my mind. When the children started making their way into the school, they were followed closely by their mothers. It was amazing to see the smiles on their faces and how proud they were to lead their child into the school. The kids all got tie-dyed shirts and had their hands painted. After that was done they were lead outside to be seated in the school yard, where after a bit of a wait they were all served bread and soda. A few heart-felt speeches were given in order to express the overwhelming happiness we all felt in opening the school and I couldn't help tearing up at the excitement that was clear on the faces of the children and their parents. It truly is a beautiful thing, knowing that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Even as people began to leave, the sense of happiness and joy never left. It helped to cleanse the area of any residue of the pain that was inflicted earlier. 

Cara and Genet--one of our new, proud Bright Future students :)

On the porch at the beginning of the celebration ceremony

I thought the day was over, but then we were shuffled over to a Taekwondo gym to watch some of our Bright Future helpers put on a magnificent performance of skill and power. These kids could kick my butt and I admit that I felt both safer and less worried for these kids, knowing that they could high kick my face off if they wanted to. Skits were performed which involved amazing feats of twists and hits that left me stupefied. The best part of it all though was being able to give them their belts at the end of the ceremony, rejoicing as each bowed to me in respect as I handed them a new yellow belt and their certificate. It was humbling to be able to take part in a very important day of their lives. When everything was over, the girls I spend the most time with came running over to hug me and I told them they had done great. I felt like a proud parent, even though these girls are not much younger than I am. After a small dance party and a hasty exit (because many of us had not had the chance to "relieve" ourselves all day) we went out to dinner and ate a feast. When I say feast, I mean food was everywhere. After seven plates of french fries, Chai tea, and my own dinner (a fish burger?) were ordered we ate, talked, and laughed. It was a good way to settle down and relax. 

Bellies full and hearts content, we made our way to the bus. The ride back to the guest house was a smooth one and debrief is always a great way to bring people closer together. The testimonies I've heard have made me understand once again that we cannot judge a book by its cover and that you cannot truly know a person until you walk in their shoes. I've attempted to walk in the shoes of the villagers, but how can I when some feet walk bare? I suppose being here has its rough moments, but I know that if we focus on the bad, the good will never be seen. It's a broken balance of beauty and filth here in Ethiopia and I hope that I can somehow learn from both these sides. I continue to be a firm believer in the joy and hope I see here daily and it gives me the strength to "roll with the punches." 
Signing off for now, Katelyn Sarber

P.S. Totally saw my first hyena today.

Our whole team with Binyam in front of the mural

 Danielle handing out refreshments at the opening ceremony-
with her celebration face on (also notice the VERY proud grandpa in the 
background.  His little grandson is at Bright Future Academy this year).

Ephrem is a snuggler and one of our new students enjoying some
affection from Jolene. He is one of our older BFA kids as a 6 year old.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! After celebrating last night with some kids from Bright Future, today is the "official" New Year. It is 2005 here is Addis! :) Since today is a holiday, by default we had some down time because many places are closed and people spend the day with their families. We had a nice leisurely morning, ate breakfast, and spent some time processing the trip thus far, continuing to grow closer as a team. After that, we had a lovely lunch prepared for us by the team from Switzerland (it was delicious pasta!) Then we went to Kaldi's, a coffee shop here in Addis, whose logo is quite similar to a popular franchise back home which we all found amusing. After ordering our coffee we were back on the bus and headed back into Kechene. Today many of the 30 registered children for Bright Future Academy got to see their classroom for the very first time! It was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip thus far. Today we had the opportunity to see all of the prayers, donations, hard work, sweat and tears come together. It was amazing- I don't think I could peel the smile off of my face and my cheeks hurt by the end of our time with the children. Another very moving (yet subtle) experience from today was looking around at the parents or grandparents who brought their children to the Academy. They appeared so joyous and comforted to be bringing their children. I couldn't imagine the relief I would feel if I were one of those parents who is experiencing day one: Day one of hope for a brighter future. Day one of relief that my child will get fed at least once a day while at school. Day one of change for a better life. Education may equal survival for these beautiful children and their families.

In addition to sharing some highlights from the day, I wanted to take this opportunity to share an experience I had yesterday, something that is weighing on my heart and I sincerely HOPE that it weighs on your heart as well. Yesterday at Bright Future Academy, we had a very large number of children and families attempting to register their kids for school. It was amazing that Jolene & Danielle (and all of your support) have been able to provide this school and education for 30 students. As you can imagine, we had many more than 30 families at the academy yesterday and the reality is that not everyone who wanted to come, even needed to come, are able. I believe Amanda mentioned this yesterday, but some families were out in the rain for 5 hours waiting to tell their story and try to get accepted. When they were done, they went home with heavy hearts for the need in this community is just far too great.

 There was one point in the afternoon that I saw a grandmother with a small child on her back. The child looked to be maybe 5 or 6 months old and was getting fussy, the grandmother looked simply exhausted. I took one of the older children to translate and asked the grandmother, "Can I hold him for you for a little bit?" She paused for a little bit and then said, "How long would you hold him for me, a week? A month? How long?" When the translator shared her response, he also shared that the child's father had passed away and his mother was away for many months at a time trying to work to gather money.  Could you imagine being at the playground with your child and having another mom from the playground come up to you and offer to briefly hold your baby while you tended to the needs of the other child? Totally understandable right?

 Maybe even something you have experienced on a "play date"  if you have children. Okay, now can you imagine being to a point where you are so depleted, impoverished and desperate that you considered giving your child to a stranger for a week or a month out of sheer hope that your child would have a chance to be cared for in the way you want them to be cared for? No? Me neither. Here is the thing, this grandmother and the parents here LOVE their children with all they have. They do everything in their earthly power to provide the best for their kids and the abundant love I see between parents and children here is amazingly beautiful. This grandmother loves this little boy NO LESS than any of you love your children and grandchildren. She loves him completely the same. She was just born in a different part of the world and her resources are different. It is humbling.

On a much lighter note, I am exuberant for tomorrow (Wednesday)! Tomorrow we get to CELEBRATE the opening of Bright Future Academy! We are going to sing songs and play and rejoice at God's blessings on this community. I am so excited I can hardly sleep!  We miss you all back home but the trip is going wonderfully- we feel your prayers and want to thank you all for lifting up this team, the community of Kechene, Ethiopia and the beautiful children who live here.

Many Blessings, 
Amber Rohde

P.S. Jolene and Danielle are amazing! Their humble hearts would never write anything like this when it is their turn to blog, so I will  write it when it is my turn! Their leadership on Awake & Alive's first mission trip is remarkable, because of their hard work, lives are being changed and they deserve a huge round of applause. The team is growing emotionally and spiritually by the day and I can say with great confidence that project presence is making a difference demonstrating God's love to this community. Thank You Jolene & Danielle! (and pleeeease don't take this out when you proofread this for me) :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hello from Addis Ababa!!

Hello from Addis Ababa! 

This is our fourth day here in Ethiopia and boy oh boy this has been quite the experience. It is hard to believe that this is only the fourth day because, by the grace of God, we have been able to get so many things done at the school and other things on our to-do list. So let's cut to the chase and talk about the things we did, saw, and experienced today, because I know that is what ya'll are wanting to know :) Our morning started off as it normally does with the exception that Todd made some AMAZING  french toast (we were lucky enough to inherit a chef on our team). The first stop on our schedule this morning was at the AHOPE HIV Orphanage. This was a first for a lot of us and it was definitely eye opening, as most of the trip has been. Upon arriving at the orphanage we emptied our donations out of our van and after a meeting with one of the employees, we were given a tour of the orphanage. We got to see the room where they keep all the medicine and we also got to see the bedrooms where the kiddos sleep. After our tour we all went outside and got to play with the kids and as I was standing on the porch I spotted a little girl who was off by herself and I was drawn to her. She was a beautiful little girl with big brown eyes but the thing that struck me the most was how closed off she was. All the other children were playing with us and having a good time but she was off by herself. After talking with her for a few minutes and watching her reactions, it hurts my heart to think about how closed off she is at six years old. Sometimes when I look and think about the children here (in the AHOPE orphanage and the Kechene community), I have this feeling that I need to save the world. What I am coming to realize more and more while we are here is that there is a difference between having basic knowledge on how things are in third-world countries and actually experiencing it.

After we were done at the orphanage we visited a transition home for teenagers with HIV who are too old to be in the orphanage. In this transition home these girls and boys are taught skills that will help them prepare to live on their own once they must leave the house. While at the girls transition home we had a very different experience (for most of us). We were asked if we wanted to watch a chicken being slaughtered. And, of course, the boys and some of the girls were like "Oh yeah cool!" …not. So in case you are wondering, yes, a chicken does run around for a few seconds after its head has been cut off. :) The most exciting, and slightly stressful ;), part of the day was when we arrived at the school to register some more children for the kindergarten. It was an afternoon full of conversing with the mothers, playing with the children and running after them when they were about to do something dangerous, and painting the gates of the school and the courtyard wall. So many things done today! :) The older children even helped us with some painting. It was also an emotional afternoon for some of us as Binyam's dream and Awake and Alive's vision came alive. The classroom is 99.9% done! The flooring was laid, the tables and chairs were put in, the curtains were put up and the school looks good. It is so amazing to be able to be a part of something as big as this. Even though we aren't saving the world, we are changing the lives of children and families in Kechene and that is a beautiful thing. God is good :) 

Our last, but most certainly NOT least, experience was tonight at Bright Future. As most of you don't know, Ethiopians have a tradition for New Years (which, by the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is now 2005. In Ethiopia of course… :) in which they buy a goat, slaughter it, and then have a celebration that consists of cooking the goat over a fire and then eating it with friends. Let me tell you, this is not a concept that most of us are used to but it was actually fun. We had an awesome time hanging out with the kids, playing table tennis, sitting by the fire, lighting a 7 foot tall torch, dancing around it, and of course eating goat meat! I'm pretty sure most of us can still hear him bah-ing in our stomachs… ;) It was very cool to experience a different way of celebrating New Years, and none of us minded trying goat because this tradition is only something that people who are more well-off get to experience because goats are expensive. So it was very cool to be able to celebrate with them. Well everyone, that is how our day has been here in Ethiopia. Praise God that the rain held off long enough so we could get some things done. Thank you for being so faithful to the blog and in your prayers for our team! 


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beautiful Day in Ethiopia

Today was a purely wonderful, purely Ethiopian day.  First stop?  Addis Kidan Baptist Church in Kechene.  From about 10-12 we had the privilege of being in their service and seeing their hearts pour out to God.  While we didn't understand most of what was said, we were still thankful for the experience--everything from singing and dancing to watching the youth do a dance to the message about being the aroma of Christ…and much more!  After the service, we went into Bright Future to change clothes and then walked across the street to Mona's shop for some fresh sambusas and the best cups of chai EVER (this is my third visit)  I wish we could upload pictures to show you.  I'm guessing the space was around 10 x 5 feet.  We were cozy and content as the rain (once again) came down.

From there, we went to Bright Future Academy for more work on the mural and more play with the children.  This day was particularly unique because we asked Binyam and he agreed we could invite all the children outside the gate into the compound.  Once again, we painted nails, played futbol, pushed kids on swings, put together puzzles, decorated classrooms, and monitored the merry-go-round (I TOTALLY get why there are very few of these left in parks/schools across America!) It was definitely not without its complications, but it was a very special time.  The kids were So excited!  As it was time for them to go, I'll never forget the little girl who came up to me and said, "Thank you."  The aroma of Christ.

Then, it was back to Bright Future for a coffee ceremony, popcorn, and Swiss chocolate--mmmmmm and thank you!  The dancing, singing, and laughing that followed between the team and kids was another precious memory.  After a quick run to the grocery store, we arrived back at the guest house for a fun-filled time of meal preparation with lots of Michael Buble and Broadway. And the finished product was worth the wait.  Who knew how handy having a chef on our trip would be?!?

All the prayers and preparation surrounding this trip are so evident as I look around the room right now at the team hanging out together, some of us laughing until our stomachs hurt, others engaged in serious conversations.  The aroma of Christ.  Tomorrow promises to be just as fabulous with a visit to AHOPE, the HIV orphanage, in the morning, BFA, and a special thank you celebration in the evening where we will be purchasing a goat--yes, a live goat (sorry, vegetarian readers :(  ) for our dinner party.  Thank you to so many of you who have made this incredible dream a reality.  My heart couldn't be any more full. 
~ Danielle 

Hello again from the Kidan Guest House

Hello again from the Kidan Guest House! Today we are much more rested and all set up with awesome new hair-dos thanks to the Bright Future girls (minus Todd and Brandon, of course). Our day started at 9:30 when we set out to pick up supplies to finish the painting around the school. I don't think we got to the school until around 12:30. Lets just say the service at "Home Depot" in Addis Ababa (there really is one) is quite a bit slower than it is in the States. After around 45 minutes Binyam, Danielle and Sabrina walked out of Home Depot with no paint. Onto the next Home Depot it was, where this time while waiting Kate almost got to fulfill her dream of playing with a chicken. I'm not quite sure how this started but I think it was sparked by constantly seeing people walking around Addis carrying chickens. Anyways, this time we had more success and got every color of paint. We also stopped at Kaldi's, which is essentially the Starbucks of Ethiopia. Jolene and I got great drinks but after trying to order a black coffee, and subsequently almost being served ice cream instead, followed by a cold coffee with ice (where Jolene intervened since we cannot have the ice here), Brandon said he's not sure exactly what he ended up with for a drink, but whatever it was he would not be getting it ever again. (If he can help it)

We got to Bright Future and filled our van up with a bunch of the kids who were so excited to come to the school and help. Tonight during debriefing we all shared stories and favorite moments of ours from today and one thing that stands out to all of us is how helpful all of these children are. They are always there, holding a ladder or cutting tape or cleaning your paint brushes or getting you whatever it is you need at that moment. Yesterday as I sat outside pulling weeds from around the garden, a young girl came and sat right beside me and began helping me pull weeds. I smiled at her and said, "thank you," and she giggled a little bit and responded, "no problem!" They are always there at every moment helping. 

While the more business-like job of the day was working on the school, painting and setting up, our real mission is being a presence in these children's lives. I would say that was definitely accomplished today. Whether it was Sabrina teaching her (amazing) dance moves to a large group of children, or hearing everyone sing the 'chicken dance' song louder than I've ever heard, there was so much joy today. After all of the kickballs got inflated there was a big soccer game outside. There were also a lot of moments of reading stories, putting puzzles together, and learning different handshakes. As someone said tonight during debriefing, "everyone was giggling all day." 

Of course, mixed in with the laughter were a lot of the first big cries of the trip. There were definitely some emotional moments. Before we were leaving we went outside the gate to paint the nails of all the children outside of the gate. Slowly the group begin to grow and even some of the mothers in the community came over. One of the women, holding onto her young daughter's hand, explained to Jolene how her husband had just passed away. At first she was a bit shy and declined the offer to have her nails painted, but after a few minutes she softened up and got her nails painted too. I'll never forget the look on her face while she was getting them painted and how incredibly happy she looked afterwards. And isn't that the main purpose of Project Presence? To be a light during the dark times, to let these women and children know how loved they are at all times? And if they can feel our love, maybe they will grasp how immensely big the love of our Savior is for them every day of the year. 

Today's devotional spoke of how we should consider it a joy when we are enveloped in various trials; that they are gifts from Him, reminding us to rely on Him alone. There was a lot of reliance on Him today, in those difficult moments. Like the moment where we left and one of the children cried as she had to be peeled out of Paige's arms. He is there, in the midst of it, reminding us to rely on Him. Reminding us that even when we cannot be a presence here, He is here, every day, loving each one of the individuals in Kechene more than we could 
ever imagine.


Friday, September 7, 2012

There is Nothing There to See?

Hello from Addis Ababa! Two days after embarking on our journey, we are finally here, safe and sound!  It’s surreal to be sitting here in the Kidan Guest House surrounded by the rest of the Awake and Alive team. I also apologize if my writing gets fuzzy, we’re all running on little sleep. So here’s a brief rundown of our traveling adventures.  A group of 6 of us drove together from Mishawaka to Chicago, where we met up with Brandon and Kate in the airport. Let me just say that 2 a.m. is a humbling and very amusing time to meet new team members. There was lots of laughter for sure! Our 6 a.m. flight to D.C. went smoothly and we met up with Jen and Anna in that airport. I thoroughly enjoyed watching each team member prepare for the long 13 hour flight ahead. Some smiled with anticipation as they eagerly eyed their sleeping pills while others lay down on the floor and stretched their muscles out. 
One amusing adventure of our long flight happened within the first few hours. The flight attendants were getting ready to pass out food when suddenly there seemed to be some commotion coming from the back of the plane. Several flight attendants walked quickly past us. Jolene, Amber and I were all sitting next to each other and, like any curious human being, craned our necks to see what was going on. As a flight attendant passed us again, Jolene inquired about the ruckus and we learned that there was a guarded deportee on our flight. Jolene asked the flight attendant, ‘Are we safe?’  She shrugged and smiled hesitantly, ‘I tink so.’  Everything turned out completely fine and we sure got a laugh out of her answer. 
I think one of the things that has stood out most from this first day is a conversation we had with the flight attendant. She was asking us where we were going in Ethiopia and Jolene said ‘Kechene.’ This seemed to confuse the attendant and she asked again where else we were going. The same answer was given. The attendant responded ‘Why? There is nothing there to see.’ Jolene  told her about Bright Future Academy and the opening of the school next week. The attendant still seemed confused and asked, ‘You know there are other places to see in Addis Ababa?’ We smiled and nodded and the attendant left. There is nothing there to see. I thought of all the precious children and families. People. Precious people. Jesus' ministry on earth was people. My heart broke to realize that most Ethiopians view Kechene as cursed, but beyond that, that they think that it is not worth your time. As we walked through the muddy streets of Kechene today, children ran up and held our hands. I looked down into a sea of beautiful smiling faces and was reminded of Hagar’s story in the Old Testament. Remember what she named  God? The God who sees me. Kechene is not forgotten to Him. He sees each precious child and adult in this place and His heart longs for them to know that He passionately loves each of them. I can’t even comprehend this but I’m thankful that I serve a God that is bigger than poverty and unknown places. As I go to bed tonight I am blown away by the reminder that our God is a personal God. He sees Kechene. My prayer is that He can use our team this week to make a love statement to these beautiful people. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meet Awake & Alive's New CEO!

Awake & Alive is pleased to announce that Darin Shrock will serve as the organization’s first chief executive officer.  See a video introduction of Darin here and connect with Darin on facebook.

Darin has served as Awake & Alive’s general counsel through its formation and first year of operation. “I am unbelievably excited. I have a passion for what Awake & Alive is doing—helping widows and orphans help themselves. The co-founders have laid a great foundation for Awake & Alive and we will celebrate the opening of the school in Kechene in a few days. This is a great springboard for the organization and I look forward to working with the co-founders for future expansion.”

Darin has spent his legal career as an attorney serving corporate clientele, including numerous nonprofit organizations. Darin is a graduate of Bethel College (2006) and The Thomas M. Cooley Law School (Lansing, 2009). Darin is also a member of the Crystal Valley Exchange Club and serves on the Board of Directors of his church, Immerge. Darin lives in Goshen, Indiana with his wife, Jolene, and three children (all adopted from Ethiopia). In his free time, Darin enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching a good movie, and running.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pre Trip Prep

Epic Church has been an amazing support of Awake and Alive from the very beginning. We are so thankful for the church family there. They truly "Live In + Live Out Gods Love."

Last Sunday they held a commissioning for the team during the church service. It was a beautiful time to reflect on each person that God has called to this trip and to be reminded to pray for the hearts of some many people that will be touched by our presence in Kechene, Ethiopia.

 After the church service a lot of the team members got together. We brought all of the donations that you all have so generously given to the children in Kechene. We were blessed to be able to go through and organize all of the donations and pack our bags FULL of all of the goodies you have given for the Bright Future Academy as well as for the children in the orphanage that we will be visiting.

Thank you for all of your continued love and support. We are ready to get on the ground in Ethiopia and start loving on the community of Kechene! Thank you all for giving us the opportunity to go with our hands FULL of supplies for the school!

Keep checking our blog for updates!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Team!

It is with great pleasure and joy that we are able to introduce you to the Project Presence Team. We are a group of individuals who have all felt called to this special place in Ethiopia, called Kechene, and because of that call we are a TEAM, 13 strong.

God has called each one of these precious people to this trip for a reason. And some of the team members are still not sure why. But they said YES anyway! We thank God for their obedience and their willingness to travel around the world to show love to orphans and widows in Kechene, Ethiopia.  We are excited to see what God has planned for each one of our team members. This trip will be life changing for many of them. And we ask for your prayers now, before we leave, during our time in Ethiopia, and for our team after we come home from Ethiopia.
Thank you.  

While you are here checking out our team, we ask you to follow the blog and LIKE us on FB
While we are in ET we will be posting pictures and blogging daily as long as the electricity/Internet is working.

With out further adieu we are thrilled to introduce you to: 


AMBER from Indiana

AMANDA from Indiana

 GRACE, from Indiana

 KATE from Indiana

TODD from Indiana

ANNA from Indiana 

JEN from Massachusetts

SABRINA from Indiana

BRANDON from Indiana

 CARA from California

 PAIGE from Chicago

 Team Leaders:

JOLENE from Indiana

DANIELLE from Indiana

Best Buddies
& your team leaders!

Prayer Requests:

  •   Kechene: that the people there would know God’s presence and feel His love through us.
  • Unity:  with local churches in Kechene, the Vineyard Church in Switzerland, Bright Future, and each other.
  •   Relationships: that Christ would shine through the way we treat each other on the team and the way we treat the people in Kechene.
  • The children: that they might transition well into their 1st day of kindergarten at the Bright Future Academy and the rest of the school year. 

Thank you for your continued prayers.