In case you’ve missed some of the incredible stories from this year on the blog, we wanted to share a few of our favorites. There are many testimonies praising God’s faithful work here at LSM – from volunteers in the States to staff in Ethiopia and an orphaned child in Haiti. Their stories are a beacon of hope. Each life touched is precious and each life is connected to you. It takes money, sacrifice, love and prayer to make this ministry possible. That has come from all of you!
The beauty of this ministry is seeing lives changed, as well as watching the Body of Christ come together with genuine love on behalf of the vulnerable children and families we serve. You are the life blood of LSM – and we hope that you’ll be deeply encouraged by these stories today. And if you’re not feeling connected, we’d love to bring you closer into the LSM family this coming year so you can witness these miraculous stories first hand.
On Friday night, November 8, nearly 170 people gathered at our newly renovated Event Center for an inspiring evening together. Guest speaker, Tim Goeglein, spoke profoundly from a place of humility about his personal experiences in life. He was once an affluent politician, but pride caused him to fall into repeated plagiarism. When he was caught, he thought his whole world was falling apart. In an act of true grace, President George W. Bush forgave him when he didn’t deserve it and had disgraced the White House. Tim felt the love of Jesus through the forgiveness extended to him. His open and honest testimony is a reminder to all of us that we can show radical grace to others. Today, he is using his words in a different way. No longer seeking to promote self, he is seeking to lift high the name of Jesus! His genuine heart is pointing others to the saving grace of Jesus.
Doug Isch, LSM’s president shared another story of grace that night. From places of hopelessness, ultimate healing has come through the loving gifts of many just like you. For single mothers like Mahret* living in the slums of Ethiopia, the journey was particularly tough. Mahret had nothing – and ultimately, made some pretty desperate decisions to survive. Her little girl was born in the midst of those difficult years. Mahret was scared, and now she had a little one to provide for. At times, they would not eat for days. There was not adequate shelter and they were extremely vulnerable on the streets. Those were long dark years and they barely survived. It wasn’t until LSM was able to come alongside them that Mahret began to see what true hope could look like. That was in 2010.
Today, Mahret and her daughter are living a fully restored life. Her daughter is going to school, has plenty to eat and they have a bright future ahead. With the business skills Mahret learned in LSM’s programs, she’s been able to start her own small business selling coffee and injera, a local bread. They aren’t rich in material things. However, Mahret and her daughter have been introduced to the saving, forgiving grace of Jesus! They know that they are truly rich in things that can never be taken away!
On this special night, we were reminded that our Healer can bring restoration to every situation. We are grateful for that powerful knowledge – and grateful for every person who sat at those tables and gave generously to the work of LSM. Because of you, we were able to exceed our matching grant goal! Now, we can reach more vulnerable families like Mahret and her daughter with the Gospel of Hope. Thank you for being part of this beautiful redemptive story!
Pregnant at 14 years old was not the life that Nira* envisioned. Her father made her drop out of 7th grade, and marry a man of his choosing. Nira was still a baby herself and now she was about to become a mom. She followed her father’s orders and married. Her first baby was born. Not long after came her second baby, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Nira and her husband had a hard time keeping their six children fed and cared for. As she looked at her child nearing 14, she thought about the life that she could’ve had if she had not become pregnant and married off. Her heart sank into hopelessness. Does anyone care?
One life changing day, Nira was introduced to Jesus! She began growing in her love for Him. Her faith became evident to those around her…most of all, her husband. Sadly, he wanted nothing to do with her religion and decided that he had enough. He got up and kicked her and four of their children out of the home.
Nira did not have much time to grieve the loss of her broken family; she had to find way to provide for the children. The burden to be the sole provider weighed heavy on her shoulders. She worked tirelessly as a maid, cleaning, cooking and washing clothes. But no matter how hard she worked, or how many different ways she tried to ration food, there was never enough. How does a mom look into the eyes of her child crying out for hunger and say, “There’s nothing for you today.” Nira determined to find more work. She began selling spices on top of the back-breaking labor she was already doing. The life that Nira was living was a constant cycle of hard work, pain, hunger and deep sadness. She questioned her faith. Does God care? Does He see me? Does He even love me?
Loving Shepherd Ministries heard about Nira and welcomed her in with loving arms. Nira felt cared for like never before. She said, “Before I joined this program, I struggled with my faith. But now, because of LSM’s consistent teaching and follow up, I am sustained. I have learned that the God who saved my life from eternal death is my only helper in my suffering. He is on the throne!”
Nira also received business training through LSM. She now bakes and sells “injera.” (an Ethiopian flatbread) Armed with love and wisdom, life is much different! There is a loving group of people who check in with her regularly to ensure she does not fall into despair. One of Nira’s biggest blessings is the true hope she has found in Jesus. She loves seeing her children grow in their faith as well. They are thriving in school and have enough to eat. This family is smiling once again because of you. Thank you!
Nira has lived through the heartbreak of her husband abandoning her, but she now clings to the knowledge that Jesus will never ever leave her or forsake her. This is not just Nira’s story. There are many more women and vulnerable children struggling to survive in this cycle of poverty. Can you help us rescue another family in Jesus’ name?
Sponsor a family. Help single mothers like Nira rise above poverty and make a lasting impact for generations to come.
Become a prayer partner. Nira has asked us to pray for her business to be fruitful and that she could purchase her own home. She would also like us to pray that she and her children would make Jesus known in their community.
Give a financial gift. Nira’s business relies on donor support and would not be possible without you. Thank you!
Hilina Wendossen grew up in a missional family. From a young age, her father instilled in her a passion for the hurting. She knew that whatever she did in life, she wanted to make the world a better place. As a young Ethiopian, she has a passion and vision to see her country thrive. Becoming a part of Loving Shepherd Ministries in Addis Ababa has been an inspiring and beautiful way to live out that passion!
With a bright smile, she says, “I have a vision that my country will no longer be an example of poverty, sickness and war. I will contribute my best effort make this happen.”
Hilina began working for LSM in 2010 as a fresh graduate. To her surprise, she immediately found meaningful and spiritually grounded work! With a degree in social work / counseling, she thrived in her everyday interactions, caring for vulnerable young women who had been forced to make desperate decisions just to feed their babies.
Hilina remembers, “At times, I would have a counselee who was the same age as me (mid 20’s) sitting across from me. I remember early on, working with one young mom and her son in particular. They had been through such trauma and pain. You could easily see their despair and loneliness. Every time we talked, I put myself in her shoes and I started looking at my life and asked, ‘What if I was on the street every night in the cold weather making those desperate choices? Could I hold my head up high?’
I gained so much compassion for her. It gave me the stamina for the long work it takes to help someone who has been through that trauma find healing. It is worth sticking through the difficult seasons with this vision. There’s no greater success in life than seeing someone find TRUE hope.”
She continues, “The best part of this work is seeing a poor, hopeless, depressed and traumatized family become totally transformed! When you see them becoming fully happy, hopeful, energetic, courageous and thankful to witness the work of God and acknowledge Him in their future… there’s nothing better!”
This long, hard work is really just getting started. Hilina is thrilled for the opportunities LSM has in the future with the current Ethiopian government. As she and the Ethiopian team work together tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable single mothers and their children, she asks for prayer. Will you join us in praying for her?
HILINA’S PRAYER REQUESTS:
Pray that God would give me wisdom as I serve these vulnerable children and their mothers.
For successful and smooth relationships with the government as we serve vulnerable families and communities.
Timmy* is now 8 years old and is excelling in 2nd grade! He still remembers clearly his very first day of school. He was so excited. He got his little uniform on, lovingly took his new notebook and pencils out of his backpack, just to gaze at them for a moment, before tucking them securely back inside and hoisting the bag onto his back.
Every day in class, Timmy eagerly soaked up the lessons he was taught. And every day after school, his mom, Tabitha, was there to pick him up and listen to the new fidel (Ethiopian Amharic script) he had learned. Timmy wondered why his mom would sometimes cry while he recited his fidel to her.
“Why is mom sad I’m learning so many wonderful new things?”
His mother’s tears were not of sadness. They were tears of great joy and thankfulness!
Tabitha birthed Timmy in one of the slums of Addis Ababa. They were both desperately hungry, and Timmy almost starved to death in his first few precious weeks. Life had been filled with poverty and hardships for Timmy’s mother…until she came to LSM.
Because of your love, prayers, financial support and advocacy, Timmy and his mother’s story has changed. Your actions showed that their lives were worth more!
Tabitha began working for Moriya Ethiopian Accessories, a business we helped start for a group of impoverished moms. Using the skills she learned as part of the Moriya team, she has since branched out on her own. Today, Tabitha owns a successful sewing business. She is providing for her son with a dignified, stable job. She is remarried and expecting a baby.
Timmy is no longer hungry and hopeless. He has continued to excel in school and dreams about his future with excitement! He loves his new dad, and is anxiously awaiting his new sibling.
Timmy and his mother are a living example for those in their community. Their lives display hard work ethic, leadership and an overflowing love of Christ!
Most importantly, little Timmy knows the hope of a life filled with the love of Jesus, because people like you believed he and his mother were worth it! Thank you for making a difference!
Johnny and Mekdes are part of our Ethiopian Team. They are passionate about empowering families through their ministry with LSM and with the valuable support of many volunteers from the local church. Together, we are empowering over 30 single mothers and their children in a local village with education, counseling, small business training and physical support. Johnny and Mekdes also have their own ministry- strengthening marriages and counseling families.
There’s a reason why this couple is so passionate about seeing families thrive.
Both Johnny and Mekdes grew up in an orphanage and didn’t receive the nurture and love they know is so vital for children to experience in a family. Johnny was five years old when he went to the orphanage. Mekdes was eight. After their fathers died, their mothers felt that they had no choice but to send them somewhere else with the hopes they could survive and maybe receive an education. The huge government orphanage they found themselves in was a necessary reality.
Growing up in an orphanage was better than many children received in the poverty – striken country, but it wasn’t perfect. This massive institution was home to 5,000 – 7,000 children at any given time. There was only one caregiver for every 50+ children. Not surprisingly, this led to many hardships for the children growing up without parental guidance or support.
They say, “Our passion for nurturing healthy families began with our own experience of growing up without ‘divine family love.’”
Mekdes talking to women in our family today
Mekdes shares about their life there, “The government orphanage gave us a lifestyle that was so much better than the rest of society, but we didn’t know that the people around us were in deep poverty.” Because of their opportunity to live in the orphanage, they received up to a high school education and were able to experience things that many in their home villages never could have.
However, after graduating high school, they had to leave the orphanage, totally unprepared. Except for brief summer trips to visit their mothers, both young adults had lived most of their lives within the walls of the orphanage and had little interaction with the outside world. They didn’t know what poverty and real-life experiences were like. It was a shocking reality when they walked out those doors. Around the same time, the ruling government that had been supportive of their orphanage was ousted. Now, they felt vulnerable without the powerful figure who they always thought would protect them and their country. Johnny said, “We felt like we were unwanted, resource-wasting and no-good children of the former regime.”
Johnny working with vulnerable children today
But there was hope! After leaving the orphanage and finding work near their biological families, they discovered a faith in Jesus that changed everything! Although Johnny was abandoned by his family after becoming a Christian, he still says it was the best decision he ever made.
“The Holy Spirit touched my heart and brought joy to my soul like I had never experienced before… I raised my heart and hands to Him and He welcomed me with open arms. I felt a very warm love for the first time, and my eyes poured out tears of joy. I had experienced a long journey of orphan life at an orphanage and now I had a chance to say, “’My Father!’ It is still very sweet to my heart!”
Later, Johnny and Mekdes reconnected after all those years in the orphanage and got married. They were passionate about serving the Lord together, and felt a call to serve families first.
Mekdes recounts, “Despite all the blessings we received in the orphanage, our souls missed the natural love of divine family love. Our caregivers are like “professional paid caregivers” but natural parents are like the “loving shepherd” who sacrifices their own life for their sheep. In light of this truth, the vision has grown in our hearts to keep and maintain natural and divine love. Today, we get to provide awareness, training, counseling and empowerment that can save marriages and families for generations to come.”
Johnny and Mekdes passing out Christmas supplies to vulnerable families in rural Ethiopia
We are so grateful for the passion and experiences that God allowed Johnny and Mekdes to live through that brought them where they are today. Like them, we can look at our life’s tragedies and let them define us for good or for ill. We are so grateful that this couple has chosen to rise above their past, and let it be their legacy for the Kingdom of God!
Learn more about LSM’s vision and FAMILY MODELthat gives every child we serve the love and stability of a family.
A baby boy was born in a rural village in Ethiopia. Baby Meleke* curled his tiny fingers around his mother’s pinky. A difficult life was ahead of this little one. Just a few months earlier, his mom Shali* went to Arat Kilo, a slum area of Ethiopia’s capital in search of new opportunities. It was only temporary until she could find work. Everything changed when she got a boyfriend and soon found out she was pregnant. But he wanted nothing to do with baby Meleke. He walked out—never to be heard from again. Alone and scared, this young mom was left to fend for herself and the life growing inside her womb.
With no income, no support, and a child to care for, how would they survive?
For the next few years, life became more and more desperate. Shali did whatever she could to feed her son, but there was never enough. School was out of the question for Mekele. They were just trying to survive. There was very little chance that they would ever be able to break out of this cycle of poverty. Despair and hopelessness began to settle in.
But this is not a story of despair. God used LSM to bring hope to this precious family!
One day, Shali and Mekele were introduced to LSM. Our staff shared the love of Jesus with them. Today, they are thriving in the LSM trauma healing program. Through LSM, Shali learned how to weave. She is a talented artisan and runs her own business. Because they now have an income, Mekele can attend school. They are surrounded by women and children who love and care for them. A mother’s life was redeemed, and the fruits of this transformation have been passed on to her child.What once appeared to be bleak strands of pain and hopelessness have been woven together with threads of hope and love. A beautiful tapestry created for the glory of God!
Right now, there are countless moms and children suffering like Shali and Mekele once did. Will you help us reach them with the hope and love of Jesus?
The monthly Ethiopia Program updates was looking pretty standard. It was full of positive conversations and new things the team wanted to accomplish. Over 40 families in Ethiopia have access to some incredible programs that are helping single mothers provide for their kids.
And then my eyes caught on one word… CANCER.
Two moms were diagnosed with cancer in the last month. Another young mom lost partial vision in both eyes. I wish I could take away those words and the weight they carry for their sweet families, but I can’t.
These precious mommas have faced some terrible things in their life already. They’ve had to make the heartbreaking choice between feeding their child and sending them to school. It’s unbearable to think about life as a single mom in one of the hardest places in the world, deeply entrenched in generational poverty with a stigma around their shoulders. I place myself in their shoes for a moment and imagine what this diagnosis would feel like and what this means for their children.
BUT THEN I’M REMINDED… THEY AREN’T WALKING THIS ROAD ALONE!
In the last three years, these families have all entered the LSM program in their village. It’s enabled their children to go to school. It’s given them food stipends so they don’t have to worry about whether or not they can feed their children. LSM has helped them start their own businesses and walked alongside them so they can succeed. We have watched these families make huge progress. Beyond all of that though, they’ve connected to a local church and are mentored by volunteers in their community on a regular basis. They have support groups that they’ve started in their own communities. Their fear and stigma have faded and they’ve gained confidence in themselves.
Cancer, blindness and the pain they’ve faced isn’t fair, but they know we will walk alongside them in this season of their journey just like we have in the last season. Despite the ravages of sickness, poverty and sin in this world, there is a big God who is above it all!
And in the middle of our mess, we can point each other to Jesus, take each other’s hand and say simply, “You don’t have to walk this road alone.”
On January 10, two days after Ethiopia’s Christmas, Biruan* and Greta bounded home from the LSM Christmas party in their rural village. Laughter filled the air as they chattered about the games and Bible lessons they shared. Ten year old Biruan talked about some of the recent discussions kids her class had with LSM staff about finding their identity and purpose.
Their mother Shashi smiles and thinks about the journey they’ve been on. These conversations and the quick smiles her children show are a far cry from their desperate, gaunt faces only three years ago. You see, after their father suddenly died nearly seven years ago, Biruan and Greta watched their mom struggle to make their small farm sustainable. They never had enough food, and there never seemed to be enough money for them to go to school or get new clothes. Life changed after joining LSM’s programs. For the first time, the whole family experienced relief and true hope.
The laughter and smiles after a fun Christmas program are just the beginning. Today, Biruan and Greta have enough to eat because of LSM’s support and intervention in their distress. Their mom has gained valuable training on how to run her small farming business effectively so she can provide for their family. The kids are learning in school and are passing classes with top grades! They are enjoying a variety of small group programs with LSM staff and local volunteers. Most importantly, they’re learning about their true identity and hope in Christ – and are seeing it lived out in tangible ways from the LSM staff around them.
It’s a testimony of hope we believe will change their future – and the future of their community as these kids grow with a heart for Jesus and skills to serve.
Shashi said, “Your support is bringing light in my life and I am feeling that I found a helper to accomplish my dreams for my children. Before joining the project I didn’t know about saving money. I wasted my money and lend my money to people who couldn’t pay me back. Because of that, I had conflict with many people. Since I have joined the LSM project I have learned how to live with people and also manage and save money. The project’s training, coaching, mentoring has changed me a lot and taught me how to raise my children in ethical and biblical ways.”
Visiting missionaries can be a huge blessing. Blare and Janel Gerber and their kids experienced this first-hand. Just before Christmas, they packed up their four children, and took off on an adventure to Africa to visit a missionary family working in a village in rural Ethiopia. On their way through the capital, the Gerbers asked if they could meet with some of LSM’s staff and families to see our work first hand.
This trip is one that their family will never forget. Beyond the sights and sounds of a new culture, there’s nothing like seeing how your dollars and prayers are being used for His glory. Meeting Tegen* was one of those moments.
Tegen welcomed the Gerber family into her little home. She served them strong Ethiopian coffee from her little black pottery cups. Next, she taught the children how to have a traditional coffee ceremony. Our staff translated each step. Tegen’s large sewing machine sat in the corner, taking up much of the home’s space. The Gerbers were thrilled to listen to her beautiful testimony, and see her thriving sewing business. Beri, her son, proudly displayed his school books. Our staff spoke how well he has been doing in school. A small home business and attending school may seem like mundane things, but for Tegen and Beri, it was an answer to prayer.
Janel said, “I think just seeing the way people live in hard life circumstances, but yet have so much joy and purpose really impacted all of us.”
This trip was foundational in the lives of Blare and Janel and their four children. God is moving around the world, and He calls us to action. Whether traveling to far off lands or praying from your kitchen table, you have a chance to take part in His kingdom work. We’re grateful the Gerber family got to see a small part of the lives touched with prayers, financial gifts and advocacy for LSM. The Gerbers can testify that Tegen and Beri now live with stability and hope because of your love and support. Thank you!