How do we start making a difference?

Every single life matters. There is no "us" and "them" and we shouldn't live as though there is.

Every person is entitled to have nutritious food, medical care, shelter and clean water.

Every person deserves to have freedom,opportunity,dignity and hope.

Everyone needs to be loved. We all have the ability to influence our world and to make a difference.

It begins with a heart-felt desire to do something. That's followed by a commitment to finding ways to gaining awareness, becoming more educated, and using our resources, both within ourselves and amongst each other.

The hardest part might be taking that step....or a plunge, and getting out of our comfort zone. It might feel as though it's just a tiny step, not worth much.

But every effort is like small pebble thrown in the water, creating a spreading ripple that moves, grows and changes into something magnificent and beyond borders.

Jun 8, 2011


I am so thankful for my opportunity to be the Education/Mission Trip Coordinator for Hope for Korah. It's a privilege that I take very seriously. I've struggled for months with a back injury that I felt had limited me. As others planned further trips to Ethiopia, I was feeling at a real loss as I knew that I was staying behind. I wanted so badly to go back to Korah. More than occasionally, I reminded myself that my perception of being held back was just that, "my perception". As months have gone by and I've really taken a long, hard look at all that I have experienced in Ethiopia over the last two years, I realized that nothing was stopping me from pressing on in my advocacy of the poor. Advocacy didn't have to mean going to Ethiopia (although I'd love to be on that plane in August!). Advocacy meant being a voice for the poor and my voice was as loud and clear here as it would be there. My perceptions of "restriction" were becoming just that...a restriction to my potential service to the people of Korah. So, I made the commitment to dive into what I love - learning and bringing awareness to others. I decided to do what I could, even if it would start out small, but to do it with all my heart. And, what a better way to do that than through imparting knowledge about poverty to volunteers that are about to embark on a transformative journey of a lifetime. Perceptions. That's what we struggle with as we attempt to understand poverty too. As North Americans, we think that we understand what poverty really looks like. No food, no water, no clothes, no health care, no school, no income. This is our mostly material view of poverty. But, poverty embodies so much more than that. Poverty has a face. Poverty's face has a heart and that heart feels poverty on a very deep level. The best way to know what poverty looks like and how it feels is to ask the poor themselves. We may think that going on a mission's trip will give us a full understanding of poverty. In reality, it will give us a tiny glimpse. We will see the pain, the suffering and the injustice. But, we will also return to our own comforts and securities. If we are students, school will await us and opportunities will meet us every day. If we are adults, our families will be provided for and our sense of safety, security and other aspects of our life are unlikely to waver. After a trip to an impoverished community, we will never have to stay there in the circumstances and suffering of the poor and continue enduring as they do. We get the "quick peek" at poverty, without ever having to truly “feel” its oppression. The poor get a "lifetime" of its grip. And so, what do the poor say about poverty? Yes, they hunger for food and thirst for water. They wish that they had medical care that was easily accessible and free. They don’t like having tattered clothes or their loved ones getting sick. They wish their kids could go to school. But even more so, they crave dignity, hope, and opportunity. They want to be acknowledged and deeply loved. They are tired of feeling like a lost cause. They don’t want to feel forgotten. They could do away with shame, fear, abandonment, isolation, desperation, and the feeling of being trapped in an ongoing no win situation. They want to have a voice…that is heard and respected. Do we think that our perceptions of poverty will bring them what they need? Yes, we can bring water and food. Yes, we can bring clothes and build homes and schools. But, how do we build self-confidence and self-reliance? How do we take away the pain and darkness of shame? How do we overcome hopelessness? Is it possible that we must empower ourselves in the process as well? But, with what you ask? To be effective servants of the poor, we must equip ourselves with a deep knowledge of their culture, their values, their political structures, their social networks, and the true reasons for their lack of access and opportunities. We can try to "help" to bring them what we think they need. But, isn't it best to ask them what they need rather than assuming that we know best? Then we can serve them from that place of true understanding. The poor are poor in spirit because they do not feel empowered. Empower a people and you will surely see the riches of the poor. You will see the richness of their many gifts, talents and bountiful community resources. Transform your perceptions with a solid education on poverty and you will begin to bring change to the world. Knowledge is power. And that's why I'm so grateful to be in this place of serving the people of Korah from a distance. I can help to impart the truth behind poverty issues and development. I can help to equip others to serve out of a knowledge that will truly empower the powerless and the voiceless. I could believe the perception that I am sitting here, held back at a distance. But, I choose to believe the truth, which is that my heart is already there in Korah. I can’t get much closer than that! I can serve with an open heart, hands stretched out thanking God for the opportunity to love His people, as He has asked me to do.

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Sululta 2010 - What's it all about?

It's about working together for HOPE. A team of medical professionals as well others with a passion for Ethiopia and the betterment of its people will travel in April 2010 to the rural community of Sululta, Ethiopia. This village is located about 25 km from the capital city of Addis Ababa.

The aim of this trip will be to provide not only medical assistance to the rural community, but also additional medical supplies and training for the staff at the clinic. As well, building community awareness of health issues, creating a nutritional program, implementing health promotion and prevention, and collecting data for future implementation are key aspects of the trip.

The team will seek to establish a stronger partnership between a teaching university and the clinic while looking for sustainable ways to assist the Sululta clinic in its long term functioning. I am privileged to be part of this team and look forward to being with the beautiful people of Ethiopia once again. I am excited for what God has planned in the days that we work together as a team to share our hearts, our talents and our passion for making a difference.

August 26, 2009

So, how did I get to Ethiopia? I have often thought of my desire to make more of a difference. But how? While I am already involved in the adoption of children, I felt that adding an "out of my comfortable world" experience was what I needed to take me to the next step in my journey. One day, I decided to share that with God in the quietness of my heart. At the time, I remember feeling that the desire to reach out across the globe to Ethiopia seemed very far out of reach. Too far for Whose reach? Literally a day later, I received an invitation from our partnering adoption agency to participate in a trip that involved adoption as well as a medical clinic. I was utterly shocked and thrilled all at the same time that an opportunity was right before me. Not only had God attentively heard the desires of my heart, He had opened a door as well. I knew at that moment that there was purpose ahead. My desires mattered and they would be put into action.

On March 26 of this year, I travelled on 22 hours worth of airplane rides (one way). It gave a whole new meaning to my kids saying, "Are we there yet?" I was privileged to visit rural villages, orphanages, adoption homes, the government adoption offices, and offer my help as a pediatrician's assistant at the medical clinic in Salulta, a town of 30,000. What I experienced left me a different person. There were times when I questioned whether I had anything to offer. "Who am I to help these poor people...the need is so great. I'm just an ordinary person" Funny thing is...the doctors and nurses felt the same we have what it takes? Well, its not about our professions or skill sets, although they contribute greatly to the need. It is more about our heart to make a change and our willingness to get past that fear of being inadequate. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, " You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. You must do the very thing which you think you cannot do."

So, I took my fear of inadequacy, looked it in the face, and replaced it with my desire to reach out and love people - one person at a time. We would see over 1,000 that week. While sitting on my wooden bench in that concrete room, I might only share a smile, hand out a toothbrush or some vitamins, hand out stickers, or perhaps ease the anxiety of a mother holding her sick child. I could do that...just love people.
You'll see in the days to come, as I share my stories, that deciding to love was all that was ever needed and the outcome was unbelievable - far beyond what I ever imagined.

"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

August 24, 2009

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about the people that I met in Ethiopia. Every single one touched me in a very unique way. Some hold stories in my heart of incredible heartache and destitution, while others have brought me great joy and a profound understanding of how connected we all are in this world. Regardless of where we live - we are the same people. We have hopes and dreams...we laugh and cry...we gain some days and suffer losses others. Color is only skin deep. Language doesn't have to separate us. We can learn it or get a translator. So, what does separate us? Our views, attitudes or preconceptions perhaps? That is a question worth asking ourselves. We become what we think.

In addition to offering medical help at the Salulta clinic, we also had 2 opticians who conducted eye exams and gave people eye glasses. It was surprising to see how many were in need of eye care. Countless numbers lined up with eye infections and cataracts. One woman had walked 450 km, from the border of Kenya for eye drops. I don't think that I'll ever complain about driving across town to my doctor for a wait of an hour in his waiting room.

As I worked with the pediatrician in my little area, a commotion started up to the side. A woman stood there, waving her arms around, speaking out to familiar faces in the crowd. What she had in her hands was a pair of glasses. I looked over at her and immediately caught her glance. With great triumph and glee, she yelled out at me, " I am beautiful" "Yes", I agreed, giving her a thumbs up and replying, "Kongo". This means beautiful in Amharic. She burst out in a full-bellied laughter. It was quite contagious. She could not contain her joy and I could barely contain my tears. That beautiful moment I will never forget. It made me think that every single girl and woman deeply desires to feel beautiful, no matter where they live or what their circumstances. Why shouldn't they have the opportunity to feel that way? The beauty that I encountered in Ethiopia transcended outward appearances or the flowery eye glasses held in this lady's hand. This was the beauty of the heart and soul and it captivated not only my heart, but closely connected me with the many people there. What a gift.

August 19, 2009

So what do I do when I'm not at home with my family?

I have the joy and privilege of working as an intercountry worker at Hope Pregnancy and Adoption Services in Abbotsford. I love that name, "Hope", fitting for where my heart desires to dwell. I have the honor of walking alongside people as they journey through international adoption. I handle the Ethiopia and Haiti program as well as all new international inquiries. I am blessed to work with a magnificent group of caring and loving individuals. What a great team we are! Together, we help those in need of love and support during difficult times, while also sharing in the dream of building families with adoptive parents. We also desire and to provide hope and opportunity of a better life to the many children, both here and around the world without families. Every single child deserves to be loved and well-cared for. I'd have to say that I consider my job one of the most awesome opportunities ever given to me. In fact, I don't consider it a job at all - I consider it a joy and a blessing in my life. It also gives me a chance to put my talents, abilities and desires into effective action. My heart is to support, encourage, and inspire others and I am given that window of opportunity to care for others every day. Adoption is a journey of the heart, filled with many up and down moments and I'm so glad that I can be there if someone needs a hand or a shoulder to lean on. Then of course, there are the really sweet moments. One such moment is when I get share in the joy of presenting a child proposal to a family. I get so excited that I don't sleep either that night..just immersed in the beauty and blessing of it all. I love getting excited with a family over travel plans to pick up their long-awaited child. In those moments I think, " God, you are so, so good!"

A treasured moment at an Ethiopian Orphanage

August 18, 2009 - A Step...

Every journey begins with one step. This blog is an expressive step to sharing my heart with you. I really believe that our hearts are meant to be shared.....deeply. That's what relationships are about - and living in relationship is what we're all meant to do. We weren't meant to be "me" oriented, but rather "we" oriented. Opening up our hearts and sharing our hopes, dreams and trials can be really difficult. But, the benefit far outweighs the risk. At times, we have to step out of our comfort zone and move into unchartered territory. Stepping out, we can accomplish great things. We can inspire, teach, motivate, encourage, hold up and build up. It starts in the heart. That's where God does His best work. We may feel nudged to do something or reach out to someone - that's a step. Kind of like starting this blog. Both our words and our actions have the power to reach out to people and to influence their lives for the better. In fact, we have the power to change the world. I know that's become very cliche...and that's sad, because it's entirely true.

So why don't more people step out to influence the world? Why have so many people become complacent? Well, its scary to put yourself out there. What will others think? What will we think of ourselves? Do we have what it takes to make a difference? Absolutely! Is even a small effort one worth making? Absolutely! What if we fail or get ridiculed? Expect it, but don't let it take you down. No one can get up without falling first. I believe that its better to fail while daring greatly than to not try at all. Are failures really failures? Sometimes, steps that look like failures to us are just ways of showing us where we need to make adjustments...where to begin again, with renewed vision. Remember the old saying, " if you fail, try and try again." So, where do we start? There are just SO many needs and potential areas of improvement in this world. Ask God to show you. Be attentive to what He shows and then move on it. Do a little something in that direction. Give yourself credit for your talents, abilities and interests. Acknowledging your gifts and talents is not self-centred, it puts value on who you are and what you were meant to do. Follow your passions...everyone has them. If you don't feel that you have one...then start looking deep inside. You'll find it. Don't underestimate what God can do through you. Write your thoughts down. You'll see things begin to unfold.

I've got a myriad of journals and little pieces of paper in my purse that all have thoughts that have gone through my mind and heart at one time or another. When did the thoughts come? Well, sometimes in the shower...a great place to be "washed over" with brilliant ideas. Sitting in the van going somewhere...reading bulletin boards, watching people, talking to my boys, listening to a friend, a song, reading a book...lots of places.

So, I've got a little notebook in my purse now that I can pull out and write down those thoughts. They allow me to re-visit my thinking. Then, the next question might be, "Where exactly do these thoughts come from?" Well, I know that they're God given, infused with His plan for my life and colored by my experiences and desires of my heart. I'm not one of those people that think that things just happen. Things happen for a reason. I don't even like to call them "things". They are more like assigned moments, allowable circumstances, or unforeseeable blessings. They can be entire seasons of our life or just a defined moment. Most times, we don't see the relevance of these moments or events in our life. We may never see that. But often times, we do, and as we look back, we clearly see the hidden purposes of these "things" that happen in our life. I believe that God is the master architect of our lives. He's drawn up our plans very carefully, with a precision plan and long term benefits. Every person has a plan for their life; a purpose. Everything about us fits into that purpose if we'll let it.

The real exercise is to be fully attentive to where God is leading our steps. Yes, it's a journey, not a destination. But, all it requires is a first step....sometimes a baby step, but it's a start!

Join in the journey...

I hope that you will enjoy reading the stories that I have shared. I also hope that you will take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the experiences which changed my life. Not only do I value the gift of life and relationships more deeply, but also the reality that I am able to have an active part in making the life of others better. Knowledge and good intentions do not take the place of purposeful actions. Without choosing to act - the world remains unchanged. I believe that we can all " Be the change we want to see in the world".
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that he was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
"Good Morning" he called out. May I ask what you are doing? the young man paused, looked up, and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean...the sun is up and the tide is going. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this the wise man commented, "But young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference." At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it in the ocean. As it met the water, he said, " It matters to that one." (Adapted from The Starfish Thrower, by Lauren Eiseley)

Every person matters...every one can make a difference. I hope that you will be inspired to be that person.