Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our special week: Day One and Two

We brought Zion home on Monday night.

He slept well and made little coo sounds all night as he slept.  It felt so good to have him next to us, safe and sound.  On Tuesday, Mitch attended a ceremony back at the orphanage.  I, unfortunately, was ill.  The nannies performed a coffee ceremony and made a special bread to share.  He also received the traditional outfit, so cute on him. 

Then, that afternoon, we had our embassy interview.  We thought it would be a true interview, but it was really just a quick signature.  This was it.  The final step in this journey.  The American embassy has approved for him to come to the states.  There is nothing that can stop us now.  I wanted to happy dance, but thought that may be inappropriate in a stoic governmental building.  ...and I'm not a good dancer either.

The end of the journey, the beginning of forever.

We left on Saturday morning and arrive in Ethiopia in the wee hours of Monday morning.  We were so excited to meet up with our dear friends, Anka and Andrew Weber.  We met them last December on our court trip and have fought this battle along side them every step.  They are such amazing friends and I cannot imagine going through this without them.  We woke up Monday morning to head to the orphanage.  The kids had moved to a new facility about one month ago and so we hadn't been to the new location.
As we pull up, you can hear the voices and cries of little ones.  My heart melts.  I am just a few minutes from holding my son and starting our lives as family, the way God intended.

First out comes Kibrom, a handsome 5 year old boy that will soon join his family in Wyoming.  He embraces his mom with a full clenched hug and a deep breath.  So great to see!  Then out comes, Tariku, Andrew and Anka's 2 1/2 year old boy.  He lights up when the nanny hands him to his emaya, his mommy!  It was as if he had been waiting just as long as all of us.  An instant connection that I will never forget seeing.
Lastly, the nanny says "Tegegn Abare"  Yes, yes, that's us!  Hurry! Please!  And there he is.  My little angel, my little son.  He is beautiful, perfect curls, big brown eyes and a huge smile.  The kind of smile that takes up his whole face, exposing his six little teeth. A contagious smile! She hands him to me and I melt, literally, I am flooded with love and relief.  He is perfect and he is ours forever! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I apologize for the delay for those of you trying to follow us along on our adoption journey.  I will now attempt to catch you up.  We got the email that we had cleared embassy on Wednesday 12/5.  We were absolutely thrilled!  It was exactly one year from the first time we met him....a painful times, an excruciating year....a year of unknowns....and a year of no control.  I say this with anger in my heart that this time was stolen from us, and him.  Time that is precious and never salvaged. But at the same time, I feel peace.  I have learned a greater understanding of patience and a deeper faith in the Lord, for which all things are possible.  In July, we were strongly encouraged to give up on Zion's adoption because it didn't appear to be a possibility.  At that point, we were devastated but said that we would continue to fight until he came home.  And we fought!  We fought with endless conference calls, emails, and prayers.  We so appreciate the flowing support of others during this time. We would not have been able to make it through without the love and encouragement of friends, family, and the facebook Ethiopian adoption support group!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Long Awaited Day...

I'm slowly catching up on some blog posts on my recent trip...

For over a year, I have anxiously waited to get back to the place that I believe God has called my family and me to serve.  As many of you know, my experience in Jinja, Uganda with Pastor Andrew and Home Again Ministries absolutely rocked my world!  I can't quite put my thumb on exactly what it was.  It could have been the widows and single mothers that welcomed me into their village as the first white man that had every visited them.  It might have been the hundreds of kids that were starving for the attention of a father figure.  It very well could have been the man with with the vision, Andrew.  Or, it could have been being exposed to some of the greatest poverty that we saw in our time in Africa.

Whatever the reason, God made it clear that he wanted Shannon and me to help.  What has happened since then has been well documented in other posts.  While I love all of the ministries and partners we work with in Africa, this was the day I had been waiting for.  I couldn't wait to see the school that we have been working so hard to support!

But, before we made it Andrew, we had to follow through on our promise to Pastor Isaac at Canaan's to purchase paint to make Canaan's shine.  The team loaded up and headed to the local paint store with Isaac.  This proved to be another fun first for me...negotiating in Uganda for paint that is made by a Denmark based company and sold to us by men from India.  Somehow we managed to get through the language barriers.  Overall it was fun and we left with 2.4 million shillings of paint (about $1000).  We would get to use the paint first hand a few days later to paint Canaan's.

Then it was off to see Andrew, the Karamonjong women, and the school.  First we started by visiting with a number of the mothers.  These people have come to Jinja from the countryside looking for work, only to arrive and discover that they are not welcome and have been shunned to a small community with little to no resources.  The ladies are beautiful, God loving women.  Unfortunately, their livelihood has become very limited farming, selling beads to the occasional mission team, and prostitution.

The women blessed us with some skits, songs, and laughter to entertain us and make us feel welcome.  We shared some testimonials and time together in fellowship.  They even took the time to teach Roger and myself to make paper beads.  Needless to say, our beads struggled to pass quality control.

Then, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the church and talked with Andrew about his vision and goals for his ministry and people.  My passion for him and his ministry continues to grow.  Some people over the last year have suggested that he is a man with unproven ability to lead a project like this, or even worse, that he is corrupt.  After visiting with him again and seeing the progress he has made, my resolve to move forward with him is stronger than ever.

Then it was the time I really had been waiting for.  We moved around the corner to the new school.  Andrew has done an amazing job with the school!  It is 90% complete and looks great!  The playground equipment is almost complete and the school should be ready for students in just a few weeks.  It is so amazing that God has put all of these pieces in place in such a short time!

We were able to talk with many of the families that are so excited to have their own school.  They truly feel blessed by the opportunity that their children are getting.  I am so blessed to be able to share this bond with them.

I brought with me a gift for the school from our family.  It was a wooden cross that I made out of maple and walnut (the walnut was harvested from the land around our house).  When the school is complete, Andrew will hang it in a prominent position in the school to remind him and the kids about their family in America.  I made a matching cross that hangs over the dinner table at our house to always remind our family of the bond we share with our school in Uganda.

I am really struggling to find the words to describe how great it was to see the school becoming a reality.  It was just Easter Sunday that we started the fundraising efforts.  It was only June that the school was nothing more than a few poles in the ground.  Now it has walls, concrete, paint, and play equipment.  I am humbled beyond words.

As the wonderful day came to an end, we packed the team up to visit the King Fisher Lodge and the source of the Nile River.  This is always a fun time and gives the team a bit of a rest from days of serving.

Overall, it truly was an amazing day and everything that I hoped it would be.  Thank the good Lord for all he is doing with and through us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Celebrating the Sabbath

What an amazing day in Uganda!  We spent the entire day serving and being served by Pastor Isaac and his staff here at Canaan's Children's Home.  After another great breakfast, we headed to Sunday school.  We split the team up into 3 groups to teach Sunday school to 3 different age groups.  The team did an amazing job teaching and sharing the word with the kids of Canaan's.  I selfishly snuck out of the back of my classroom (as the team leader can do), to be served by attending Pastor Isaac's Sunday school class to the adults of his congregation.  He taught out of Ephesians Chapter 6.  Interesting that I was reading the exact same message on the plane ride to Africa.  I guess God wanted me to make sure I understood that I need to continue to "Put on the full armor of God" to protect against Satan's attacks.

Then we moved into the worship portion of Sunday service.  Man do these people know how to worship!!  Ninety minutes worth of singing, dancing, clapping, praise and worship.  Truly a sight to behold.  Finally, after 2 and a half hours of church, the actual sermon began.  It was great also and our team was so blessed to be able to share this moment with Isaac and his congregation (ended up at 3 hours and 45 minutes worth of church - a record for me).

Our afternoon was spent touring the primary school, seeing the foundation for the new church and new preschool, and then fellowshipping with the kids.  Papa Isaac also shared his amazing testimony.  If you aren't familiar with him, please check out his testimony here.  You will be moved.

After dinner, the real work began.  Isaac, Roger, Jeff, Eric and myself began a great discussion about life, Man Up, servanthood, and future plans for both Canaan's and Man Up.  These nights are nothing short of amazing.  Being in the midst of iron sharpening iron is what makes our trips so special.

My love for Isaac and the kids here continues to grow.  He has a desire to raise young men of God, as we do.  We share the same vision of going deeper into men's lives and truly investing in them.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to work and serve alongside such amazing people.

As great as this day was, I am so excited for tomorrow.  I get to see my amazing friend, Pastor Andrew, and see our school for the first time in person.  I'm already getting emotional thinking about it.  I am so blessed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Travel Day

Once again, I am behind here, but I'll post each day in order...

Today is the day we officially say goodbye to Ethiopia and hello to Uganda.  It is always bitter sweet and I have to say that we didn’t spend enough time in Ethiopia.  Hopefully the stars will align soon and Shannon and I will be back very soon to visit our friends when we travel to bring Zion home.  I am, however, ready to be done with the rainy season in Ethiopia.

The flight was uneventful, as was the trip through immigration and customs (just the way we like it).  Our favorite Ugandan bus driver, named Abus, was ready and waiting to take us to our home base of Canaan’s Children’s Home for the next 4 nights. 

The travel from Entebbe airport was filled with lots of scenery, traffic, motorcycles and potholes.  It is always great to get to see Lake Victoria (the second largest lake on Earth) and all of its beautiful wildlife. 

As we pulled into Canaan’s, we received the normal rock star welcome.  The kids greet us by surrounding the bus and cheering until we open the doors and enter the mob of young people.  It was so heartwarming that I was the first off of the bus and immediately spotted my good friend Richard (age 9), and shortly later my boy Stuart (7).  Both of them became my good friends last year and we haven’t missed a beat.  We quickly reconnected.  Shannon and I sponsor Stuart, so our family is directly tied to him in more ways than 1.  It means a lot to us and them that both Shannon and I can visit them and love on them at different times throughout the year. 

We were also greeted by one of my favorite people in the world, Pastor Isaac.  He really is one of the greatest men that I know and truly a Man of God.  He teaches me so much whenever we talk and I treasure the time we have together.  He inspires me to be a better father, husband, and overall man. 

The day ended with a tasty meal made by Momma Rebecca and some of the girls here and then some fellowship with the team and leaders at Canaan’s. 

This day was a nice mental break for the team and allowed us to recharge a bit.  Tomorrow is church in the morning and serving the kids of Canaan’s in the afternoon.  

Last Day in Ethiopia

Sorry I have been delayed in posting.  But, I will continue to post the days in order.  This is the post for August 17, 2012...

Our last day of service in Ethiopia was another great day of serving Men, Women and these precious children.  We started the day back in Korah.  As usual this time of year, we fought through the rain and mud to find our home base for the day. 

The day began by painting the inside of the new “Man Up Cave.”  This is the new dorm and meeting area for the young boys of Korah.  Roger has been doing such an amazing job of serving and discipling these young men and Great Hope Ministries has blessed them with a new place to call their home.  The boys painted along side of us and you can see how excited and proud they are of their new cave.

Then, as the team helped Roger with the daily bible study, my dad and I snuck away for some home visits to some of my favorite people in Korah.  They were short and sweet, and unfortunately too short to enjoy any homemade boona (coffee) from the ladies.  We stopped quickly to see “Brady’s Girls” (2 beautiful little girls that love Brady Stark) and their family.  All of the family was there, so it was nice to see everyone.  Momma is so sweet to us, and I hate that we couldn’t stay longer.

Then we moved on to Sintayehu’s house.  This is the home that my Man Up group from last year blessed with a home makeover.  Sintayehu has become very special to me, as has his mom.  We shared some pictures from last year and talked about how everyone is doing.  I was able to bless them with 600 birr (a little over $33 – likely close to 3 month’s rent) in hopes of keeping his mom off of the dump for the afternoon.  She is one of the many people here who supply for their family by digging through the city trash dump.

We did some shopping at the Post Office (I enjoyed sharpening my negotiating skills) and Tamoca for some coffee.  Then it was off to Hope for the Hopeless about an hour outside of Addis. 

When Shannon and I were here in December, we visited Hope for the Hopeless in Addis and had a great time with their kids.  I was told that they were not connected at all.  The facility is home to 52 young men and women ages 7-18.  We spent some time fellowshipping with them, playing games, and throwing the American football around. 

Roger and I connected with a young man named Donny.  He was very articulate and had a smile that would light up a room.  As we talked more, it became apparent that the facility in Addis was connected to this facility and he lived there for 6 months before coming to the permanent orphanage.  I showed him some pictures from our earlier trip and he was happy to see some old friends.  I do remember that the Addis facility is a transitional and rehabilitation facility, so now I have seen where those children end up.  It is a pretty nice facility, but needs the attention of more teams.  There just isn’t enough love for them.

We finished the night at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  I had my first ever Honey Wine experience (notice I didn’t say I enjoyed my first every honey wine experience), and the team was able to see another side of Ethiopia.

Another long day is now in the books, and I have to say that the physical toll of this trip is beginning to wear on me.  I need a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Man Up Day #2: Korah

It seems funny, but I shared with my dad today as we were traveling around the city of Addis Ababa that I feel very calm, relaxed and at peace here in Africa.  It may be just that my cell phone doesn't work, I don't have to drive, and I'm not in a hurry to do much of anything.  Or, it could be that God is telling me that he loves that I come to serve and He wants me to continue.  Whatever the reason, I like it.

The day started with my visit to our adoption agency's office to pick up paperwork.  It went very smoothly and they were very helpful.  My goal for the morning was to not do anything that would land me in a third world country's jail.  I accomplished that and got my documents, so all is good.

Then it was off to Korah for the day.  Korah is the leper colony where many people live off of what they find in the city dump.  With this being my 3rd time there in the last year, it is becoming a second home.  We went on a tour of the community for a bit and I was able to say hi to all of the kids that I have become friends with.  They have become so special to me.  The older kids are home from boarding school, so I can see everyone.

My good friend Sintayehu lives in Korah when he isn't away at school (he's 17).  Last summer, the Man Up team performed a home makeover for his family and I bonded with him and his family.  Shannon and I were able to visit him in December as well, so I really like him and enjoyed spending time with him again.  He wrote me a really sweet letter tonight as something to take home with me.  I will cherish it for years to come.

We visited with the women of Mission Ethiopia today as well.  These women have incredible testimonies and work very hard to create beautiful handmade jewelry.  I know many of you have supported them and some of our projects by purchasing beaded necklaces.  These women are simply amazing and our team was blessed to be able to speak with them and worship with them as well.

As the day moved on, we stopped for pizza at my favorite place to eat in Addis, Island Breeze.  It seems funny that their brick oven pizza is so good, but it is nothing short of amazing and they never disappoint.

Tonight be made our way back to Korah for Roger's daily bible study with the boys of Korah (in the Man Up Cave, as they call it).  The group started with 7 young men and has grown to over 30 tonight.  Seven young men came to know Jesus for the first time tonight and the Man Up team was happy to help Roger with that part of his ministry.  He is really doing an amazing job.

After bible study, we had a bonfire, popcorn and soda with the boys.  It was a great way to end a wonderful day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Man Up is in Ethiopia!!

After several days of travel for 12 Godly people from around the US, the Man Up Team is officially on the ground in Ethiopia and serving orphans, widows and men.  The travel wasn't without a few hiccups, but at the end of the day, we are here and had a great first day of serving.

Selfishly, our first stop was the Help for the Needy Orphanage.  This orphanage just happens to be the location for our precious baby Zion.  As team leader, I get to do these kinds of things and schedule stops for my benefit (as well as the other kids of course).

Our team did a wonderful job of serving the 55 children that live there and assisting their caretakers with their daily tasks.  We were able to bless them with diapers, formula, and some new toys.  These children range from birth to 7 years of age.  They are all starving for attention and were anxious to just soak up every bit of love we could provide for them.  Their smiling faces tell us all we need to know about why we are here.

As many of you know by now, our adoption has not gone well in recent weeks.  We are still struggling to get his clearance from the southern region and the blame game going on between our agency and our third party consultant is enough to make me sick at times.  All we are asking is that someone bring him home.  We are providing every resource necessary on our end to make it happen, but we still struggle to get it done.

With that in mind, my 4 hour visit with Zion today was just what I needed (while being excruciating at the same time).  At the end of last week, I had become emotionally drained by the process lately as everyday something else has gone poorly or at least not gone as planned.  With the stress of leading this team, dealing with the adoption, and the other rigors of daily life as a husband, father, employee and entrepreneur, I had been drained.

But, in steps Zion.  I arrived to him sleeping in his crib.  I'm not sure there's much more peaceful in this world than an infant sleeping.  As he began to awake, I picked him up and we enjoyed just being together with some relaxing, quite time.  At that point, he was able to finally meet his Grandfather and his Uncle (both Man Up team members).  As the day moved on, we played, crawled and just got to know each other again (I haven't seen him since December).

As the time started to come to an end, he reached out with his little brown hand and grabbed my thumb as hard as he could.  He then relaxed his head into my chest, as if to tell me that he was at home.  We cuddled there quietly for almost an hour until it was time to go.  I sent the team to the van, and began the difficult task of actually putting my son back into his crib (1 of 8 cribs in the room, but at least he is lucky enough to have his own and doesn't have to share).  With tears rolling, I put him into the crib, only to have him reach for me with tears in his eyes.  No matter how much I prepare myself for this mentally, I can't explain how difficult it is.  Especially now.  We have worked so hard and still don't have the results we need.  We are being told that someone will get things done so we can bring him home to us, but there are no guarantees.

We are amazingly blessed by him, though.  He is a beautiful little boy.  He has great hair and wonderful skin.  His smile is priceless with his 4 teeth coming in and he has so much love to give.  He has blessed me with a new sense of energy.  I am now more convicted than ever to bring him home and if the people that are standing in my way think that I've been fighting hard up to this point, they haven't seen anything yet.  That starts tomorrow with a visit to our agency here to look at paperwork.

Please keep Zion, our team, and our families at home in your prayers.  This is all a wonderful and difficult time all wrapped up into one.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Give1Save1 Feature

Many of our friends and family have been asking about our adoption and how it is progressing.  We have been rather quiet with it, because over the past few weeks, we haven't received a lot good news regarding Zion's situation and our ability to bring him home.  We have a lot of fight in us, and we are refusing to give up on him.  But, all of that fight takes additional resources to make it happen.  The good thing is that we have some great people with abundant knowledge who are on our side. is a great website with a ton of information for and about adoptive families.  Given our situation, they have decided to make us this week's feature family in an effort to bring awareness to the difficult situation in Ethiopia and help us with resources to continue our fight for Zion.  

Please take a moment to watch our feature video and visit to learn more!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Home Again School Project Update

An update from Shannon:

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see our school project in person. I had an idea what the ministry was and knew that it was special, but I wasn’t ready to fall in love with the people of the Home Again like I did. They are such anamazing group of people! We pulled up in the van and were met by a swarm of young kids clinging to us, longing to be held and loved. Their faces, so beautiful and pure; their hugs, so strong and true. I felt honored by their greeting.

Our group of 23 people met under a tree and Pastor Andrew explained his ministry and his vision. He truly is a disciple of the Lord and is full of compassion and love for those he serves. Then the women of the community put on a skit for us. There was no language barrier. The message was clear. The only way to have peace and happiness in your life is through knowing our savior, Jesus Christ. We were then entertained by some teenage girls performing a traditional Ugandan dance. After that, we split them into two groups: the children and the adults.

Three of the men on our team gave testimony as we painted the women’s nails. A little purple sparkle polish made the women smile with beauty! What a humbling experience, to dust the African mud off of my fellow sister’s toenails, and give her a little token of my love and respect.

Finally, we were able to see the start of the nursery school. Pastor Andrew was so proud to show off the beginning of this children’s ministry. The latrines were completed and there were men working on construction of the school itself. Our group gathered around the wood posts to pray for God’s guidance and blessings upon the project. I then was able to give Andrew an installment of money. We had an impromptu “ribbon” cutting ceremony. We didn’t have ribbon or scissors but the idea and celebration was a success.

I want to thank you again for your prayers and support. This nursery school project has become very dear to Mitch and I. We have been so blessed to have friends and family give us donations. At this time, we have raised $17,230 and are well on our way to our goal of $25,000. We aren’t done though. Please consider helping us finish this task with a financial donation. Anything short of the $25,000 goal will put the school operations in jeopardy in several months. Please continue to keep Pastor Andrew and the people of the Home Again Ministry in your prayers.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


At church this weekend, Pastor Scott gave us a valuable lesson on perspective by looking at Luke 23:39-43.   I won't spend much time on the passage, because that isn't the point here.  Basically, the passage tells us about the 2 men who were crucified next to Jesus on the cross.  Each man had a completely different perspective of who Jesus was.  Prior to their death, Jesus promised one man that he would be in heaven while we are left to assume that the other wasn't so fortunate.  The lesson here is that there are 2 men in the same situation with completely different perspectives on Jesus.  The same can be said of virtually any situation in our daily lives.

It made me think about how Man Up has changed my perspective in life.  As I have said so many times since returning home, I continue to be amazed at how 16 days in Africa flipped my world upside down.  I have shared much of this before, but many of them are worth re-visiting:

  • Africa is more than just a shape on a map.  It has real people, real resources, real love, and real problems.
  • Soccer is more than that sport that I watch every 4 years during the World Cup.  It is a universal language of fun and love.
  • Leprosy isn't a disease that just existed 2000 years ago.  It is still a problem that affects thousands of people in Africa.
  • Faith is more than just going to church on Sundays.  It is about being obedient and following Him in every part of your life.
  • Love is more than simply saying the word to your spouse and children.  It is taking time to stop and truly honor them and love them with your actions, words and thoughts at all times.
  • Orphans aren't just the kids that you see on the infomercials with bloated stomaches.  They are real children that have endless amounts of love that are looking for someone in this world to accept just a little of it.
  • Leadership is much more effective when you serve those who you are trying to lead.
  • The vast majority of things we worry about in our world trivial in the grand scheme of things.
  • And I could go on and on...
For all of the problems and things that Africa has wrong, they have so many things right in this world.  They insist on putting relationships first in their lives instead of the next meeting, the next purchase or the next TV show.  We can learn a lot from them.

I'm so excited for my next opportunity to be with them in their great land.  After returning from the inaugural Man Up for Orphans trip, I prayed hard about how and where this experience was going to lead me.  I am doing my best to be obedient and I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a co-leader for another Man Up team to Ethiopia and Uganda.

We will be visiting many of the wonderful ministries that we visited last summer, as well as discover some new opportunities to serve.  We are in the process of assembling a great team of men (and women) who are interested in following James 1:27 and visit orphans and widows in their time of need.  

If you enjoy epic road trips, laughter, sports, hugs, tears, music, beautiful landscapes, coffee, and kids, you are perfect for our team.  Or, if you are just looking for something to give you a little different perspective on things, join us August 14-25.  I don't ask people to join our team.  Rather, I simply ask that you pray about it.  It is my belief that if you openly and honestly pray about answering God's call to do your part to end the orphan crisis, there is no way you can say no to this incredible opportunity.

If you want more information, leave a comment and I can get you a step-by-step itinerary for the trip and all of the details you are looking for.  If you are past that point and know you are in, visit to apply.  

Man Up!  Live Dead!!  Love BIG!!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Most Important Post Yet...

On the day that we celebrate our Lord's resurrection, we have decided to announce something that is very close to our family. It is our first major fundraising effort.  Since in Uganda last August, I have kept a number of images and people close to my heart. There is no denying that in a land of the greatest poverty known in the world and millions of orphans, there is not shortage of people and ministries to wrap your arms around.

I certainly don't want to make light of many of the great ministries that we worked with, but God really stirred my heart at one particular spot in Uganda. We were there a short time, but I will never forget my experience.

Our Man Up team met with Pastor Andrew of Home Again Ministries in Jin-Ja, Uganda one afternoon at his church. Pastor Andrew has a humble church in a struggling community. He has dedicated his church and life to serving the poorest of those among him, widows and children. The people that live in this community are a mixture of different tribes and backgrounds, but they have several things in common...they are almost all single mothers and widows caring for their many children (usually 5-8 children each) with little to no resources or opportunity.

Andrew broke our team up into teams of 5-6 people and sent us out into their tight communities. We were simply told to "share the Gospel." This was the moment that I became rather uncomfortable. I have never been one who feels comfortable standing on a street corner preaching the word. But, I believe God puts us in uncomfortable situations to make us stronger, better people, and to learn to rely on Him, so I pushed ahead.

As we were driving in our bus down the street, our driver randomly stopped on the side of the road and told us to get off and that he would be back in an hour and a half. My response..."You want me to do what?? Are you nuts?? You are going to drop me off on the side of the road in Uganda where we don't know anyone, no one speaks our language, and we're supposed to trust that you'll be back in 90 minutes?"

In faith, we stepped off the bus and started a short journey over uneven terrain and railroad tracks, until we were met with some gorgeous, anxious little faces. They were smiling ear to ear, quickly taking our hands. Most of them had some tattered and torn clothes, but several met us without pants or shirts. A 7 year old boy grabbed my hand and we immediately bonded as we walked together. It was clear as we walked with them towards their homes, this was going to be an interesting 90 minutes.

They led us to what I would describe as a small courtyard between some of their family mud structures. This is where we were greeted by 20-30 women and 1 man. We sat before them, somewhat uncomfortably (they had pooled their resources so we could sit in chairs, while they sat on the dirt), and looked around, unsure exactly what was going to happen next.

One of my team members took over and began speaking with them, sharing the Gospel, and encouraging the women who had gathered with us. It was extremely powerful to learn about these women, how they provide for their family (many pay the bills with prostitution), and the other hurdles they face (disease, hunger, no education, etc). We later found out that we were the first white men to enter their community. They seemed very happy to have us and their one request from us was to help them get bibles in their native language.

The children were eager to play with us, but sat very respectfully, waiting for the okay from their mothers. As we finished our time with them and began to walk back to the road, the same little boy again found my hand. His mother (Helen) came along side of me and we began to converse (she was one of the few there who spoke english). Our conversation hit me like a ton of bricks and showed me what Man Up is all about. It went something like this...

Helen (with a smile): "You know my son would love to go home with you."
Me: "Oh, but you would miss him."
Helen (laughing): "He is the youngest of 5, I would be free!!"
Me: "Yes, but you would miss him greatly!"
Helen: "You are right. But, you have no idea what kind of an impact you have had on that boy! Even though you have only been here a short time, he has no father, no positive man in his life. By just coming here and spending time holding his hand, you have made a huge difference for him. I can see it in his eyes!"

I was floored!  We like to think that we are doing good things on our trips, but until you hear it from the people we are serving, you never really know.  After returning home to the US, Pastor Andrew sent me an email, thanking me for coming and he wanted me to know that he had a record number of people at his church the Sunday after we were there.

Since that time, Andrew and I have been exploring different options of ways that we can help break the cycle of poverty and the feeling of hopelessness in this community.  We have looked at several options, but keep coming back to education.  So, Shannon and I have made the decision to be obedient to His calling and do our part to help these people.

We are starting by helping Andrew start a nursery school for 60 children age 4 and below.  It will allow these children to get at least 1 stable meal a day, and will start them off at an early age with a basic education.  The school will also give the single mothers an opportunity to work and start to earn a respectable wage to support their family.

The need is great, and unfortunately, so is the cost.  We are hoping to raise $25,000 which will purchase all of the necessary supplies to start the school and fully fund it for the first year.  In that time, we are hoping to secure more long term funding options for Pastor Andrew and the school.  Eventually, we have hopes to bridge this into a primary school for older children and a vocational school for the mothers, but we will work on that as God provides.
So, I hope that after reading this post, you are asking yourself, "How can I help?"  There are several ways that you can help this wonderful cause.
  1. Pray - Prayer is very powerful for all of us.  Pray that God will help us find the funding to reach our goal and put 60 little ones on their way to prosperity.
  2. Share - Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.  Anything we can do to spread our work helps us.
  3. Join us - The August Man Up team will be visiting Pastor Andrew and these amazing people.  You can experience the people, project and everything that surrounds them yourself.  For more info on the trip, visit
  4. T-Shirt - The new puzzle shirt design is ready and waiting for you.  They are a higher quality shirt than our last ones and very comfortable.  They are a heather charcoal color and we are currently taking pre-orders.  You can purchase one either by contacting myself or Shannon, or by ordering one here, in the right hand column.
  5. Donate - You can give Shannon or I monetary donations. If you are wanting it to be a tax deduction, we are now partnering with the National Christian Foundation to help us manage our fundraising efforts.  They are a 501(c)3 and any donation you make to them is tax deductible and 99% of the proceeds go directly to our project.  Donation checks can be sent to:
                                    National Christian Foundation
                                    11625 Rainwater Drive, Suite 500
                                    Alpharetta, GA 30009

  • When making your donation by check, write in the memo "The Home Again Ministry School Fund." so it gets processed to our fund.  It would also be helpful to include a short note with the checkin stating the fund name to direct them.  If you have questions, leave a comment below and I'll help you out.
  • You can also donate by clicking on the link below and making a tax deductible donation.
Donate to The Home Again Ministry School Fund!
Thanks so much for all of your time, prayer and support!  It means a lot to have your help with this important project.  Please remember to share this with all of your friends!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Man Up for Orphans

It is well documented that the inaugural Man Up for Orphans mission trip to Uganda and Ethiopia was bigger and more important that any of us ever imagined.  The children, widows, mothers, men, and missionaries taught me so much about what is important in life, how to properly love those around me, how to better love and honor God, and how to be a better man.

I was so moved by the experience that I am leading (along with my good friend Jason Clement) a team back to Uganda and Ethiopia.  We will be visiting many of the same ministries that we visited last summer, while also serving in a number of new areas in an effort to spread the Gospel, LOVE BIG on orphans, and disciple the men of Africa.

Man Up And Go PROMO from Man Up And Go THE MOVIE on Vimeo.

If you are wondering what kinds of things we will be doing, take a look at some of my posts from last August and you will get a great feel for how this trip changes the lives of those who we serve, as well as those who serve.

I have told people for years about how great of a blessing adoption has been for our family.  Many people look at our beautiful adopted children and comment "They are so blessed that you took them out of the situation they were born into."  My response is always, "That's true, but they bless us much more than we have blessed them."  That is how I feel about serving in Africa with Man Up.  I know we are doing great work for those we serve, but I know I am much more blessed by them than they are by me.

We still have spots open on our team.  If you are a man (or woman) who is opening to trying the adventure of a lifetime, serving the Kingdom, loving kids, and becoming a 127 Warrior (based on James 1:27) you need to join us!!  Please visit the One Child Campaign website for more information on the trip and to apply.  This is one of 3 Man Up trips scheduled for 2012.  If this trip doesn't meet your liking, leave a comment and I can get you more information on the other trips.

It is easy to make excuses not to go.  Trust me, we all have those thoughts.  It's always going to be too much money, at a bad time of year, you can't leave for family for that long, you don't have enough vacation time, etc.  I can tell you without a doubt, that if you decide to make this leap of faith, God will provide, and you will never regret taking the chance to do something bigger than you are.

At the end of the day, it's hard to ignore the word of God..."Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Join Man Up today!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Live Dead Conclusion

As I reflect on the Live Dead 30 Day Challenge, I have to say that overall it was a great experience.  I have not posted much lately, because of the usual excuses of being busy, but in addition to that, I wanted to digest the entire challenge prior to giving my final word on the topic.

I have learned a lot about myself, my faith, and the unreached around the world during the past 30 days (actually now its more like 50 days, but who's counting), but more than anything, I now value taking time every day to be in His presence more than I ever have.  I still struggle with the daily discipline of spending extravagant time with Him, because that is my busy, consumed, sometimes lazy, sinful nature, but I am now lightyears ahead of where I was several months ago.

I also find myself taking time to acknowledge smaller things in life that I never thought about before, as well as sending up "arrows" throughout the day as I witness people's needs or I'm reminded of a certain group of people who need something.

One product of the challenge is that I am now deeply convicted that I (and coincidentally Man Up) am being called to serve in Sudan.  I am still learning more about this war torn area of the world and I'm unsure as to the nature or timing of the project, but there are many pieces that seem to be falling into place to make it a natural fit for Man Up in the near future.

I have another item that has been weighing heavy on my heart that I hope to be able to announce soon, but the timing isn't quite right, so I'll save it for the next post.

Until then, LIVE DEAD and LOVE BIG!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Week 3

If you happen to check in on the is blog regularly, you may notice that if you count the days between the last post and this one, it has been more than 1 week in the challenge.  That is for 2 reasons:

  1. I have not been very good about blogging and have gotten behind (Today is day 23)
  2. I have taken a few days away from the challenge as life has become very busy for me.  I am trying VERY hard to "be more" in so many ways, and unfortunately, everyone gets skipped every so often as I am physically a little drained from balancing everything.  The worst part about this is that I know in my mind that everyone EXCEPT God should get skipped every now and then, because he should be at the center of everything that I do.  But, to be honest, I'm not quite there yet on my faith walk.  I am, however, much closer than I was 30 days ago.  
Because my last couple of weeks have become more busy in virtually all facets of my life, it has been very difficult to devote extravagant time to Him.  I hope he forgives me for this shortcoming.  On the other hand, when I stop to think about it, I have developed many new tendencies (I'm not prepared to call them habits yet), that take place throughout my days and weeks that are bringing me closer to Him.  I am encouraged in my mind by these actions, although I also know that that is creating shades of gray in this world (like we humans love to do), when pretty much everything is actually black and white (you are either following Him or you're not).  So, I'm not prepared to break my arm patting myself on the back just yet.

I find myself listening to different radio stations in my truck which allow me to take a few minutes in my day to appreciate a little worship.  I am much better about seeing a need in someone's life and immediately "shooting a prayer arrow" in an effort to help them.  I am taking time to attend daily mass 2 times per week over my lunch break and it is amazingly refreshing in the middle of my crazy work schedule.  I have made time in my schedule in the past few weeks to sit down and talk over coffee or lunch with some great like-minded men.  I have limited some draining activities from my life in hopes that I can focus more on the energizing items which lift me up.  I have worked hard to invest spiritually and emotionally in some of my college student athletes in an effort to be a positive mentor in their life (I have been rewarded handsomely by several of them thanking me for making an impact in their life and showing me what their new relationship with Christ is doing for them).  Then again, I probably shouldn't say that since I work for a secular institution.

As I said, I'm not prepared to call these habits yet, but they are me moving in the right direction.

This week's challenges that stand out to me are those which relate to apostolic function, worship, and suffering.  It may be hard to understand unless you've read these challenges, but to me they relate back to a common theme:  Serving.  This week I am firmly convinced that He is calling me to help many unreached people in Sudan (hopefully with Man Up).  It is kind of a long story, but I have been slapped in the face repeatedly with Sudan in the past 7-10 days and the suffering that has taken place there in recent years.  This is for many reasons (many of which I don't understand), but I believe that one of the main causes is the lack of believers in their society.

Apostolic function is all about bringing the Gospel to unreached people (i.e. Sudan).  The challenge day on worship was all about listening and following God's call (i.e. to visit Sudan).  And obviously suffering is also related to these people.  Through apostolic function, we can help those who are suffering to understand why their suffering is taking place and to learn to trust in Him to know His plan for them.

The day that stands out to me as a call to action was "Hospitality."  I think I'm pretty welcoming to others and easy to be around, but I do know that as I reflect on myself and my personal thoughts that I do not view small inconveniences in my day as opportunities to invest in others.  Rather, I find myself annoyed and not always as hospitable as I should be.  One of my many efforts this coming week will be to look for those opportunities to share with others and show His love by working to serve and not be concerned with myself when others ask for my assistance.

It has been a great month so far.  It is coming to a close, which is a little bit sad, but also a relief.  I only hope I can continue these changes when the challenge is complete.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Week 2

Week 2 for me was a lot about action.  There were other great topics this week, such as transparency (opening up to others, even when they may have wronged you), prophesy (attempting to see things as God sees them), and affirmation (emphasizing other's positive attributes).  But, for some reason, in a week where I struggled to get anywhere close to my daily 2.4 hours of extravagant time with Him, I kept getting hit in the face with repeated words of action.

Day 10 was about "Abandon" and being willing and able to answer the call to do whatever He wants, no matter where and when it is.  And then in day 11 I was given the instruction to pray "God, change me, and change the hearts of this unreached people in the same way you are changing me."  That statement is incredibly powerful for me right now, given my passion for unreached people and the orphans of the world, as well as a desire to open my heart more fully to Him.

Then today, day 14, the call is to simply "be more."  Be more for Him.  Be more to better present yourself to Him someday.  Be more for those around you.  We are in a society where we are constantly told to "do your best" (which is a bit of a struggle for me watching my 3 year old playing soccer).  Of course, there is a line where that is okay, but we truly do need to BE MORE.
"This generation needs to learn to eat less, sleep less, and pray more."  -Leonard Ravenhill
I wasn't just hit with the Live Dead Challenge on the words of action.  I viewed an Andy Stanley message online where he talked about the book of Nehemiah when Nehemiah is rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem.  In chapter 6, his enemies approached him to strike a deal to stop any further construction, but Nehemiah consistently retorts "I am doing a great work, and I cannot descend..."

What a powerful statement.  "I am doing great work, and I cannot descend..."  I can easily relate this to Man Up, as we truly are doing great work.  But, it can also relate to parenting, my field of work, mentoring young people, and so on.  This begs the question about everything in life, "is what I'm doing great work?"  And, if the answer is "no", then why am I doing it?  It isn't worth my time.  But, if it is, don't let other things get in the way, because I cannot and will not descend from my great work.

Action steps were also discussed by Pastor Tommy at the local North Point Church this week in the continuation of the series "MOVE."  His point is that we are (or should be) constantly moving in our spiritual life.  Make sure it you are moving the right direction.

The book, Fivestar Man, calls men to awaken their entrepreneurial spirit and use the skills and blessings that we have been given to prosper financially for our family and to be able to share those riches with those who are less fortunate.

The greatest thing about the week is that in the midst of all of the words of encouragement from multiple areas, I have been blessed with tremendous opportunities to MOVE and BE MORE in my work, Man Up, and family life.  And, all of these blessings occurred in a week that I didn't commit myself to the extravagant time with Him that I have been striving for each day.

I am tremendously blessed and have a huge desire to "be more" with everything.  I guess that means I need to "be less" with sleep.  That's okay as well.  If it means being more to those around me and to make myself more presentable to Him, then count me in.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Conclusion of Week 1

As I reflect on a week worth of the Live Dead Challenge, it has been a great week!  I have been able to be pretty consistent with my time and ability to keep up with the daily challenges.  That's not to say that I have been perfect, but I have definitely committed myself to more extravagant with Him.  This has taken the form of quiet prayer, reflection, reading, and listening to him and his word.

Each day has brought about it's own insight into my life.  Listening is one great example.  I am reminded a lot by those around me that I wasn't naturally gifted with the ability to listen well.  This is not simply the case with those who I spend much of my time with, but it also pertains to my relationship with God.  Historically, I have not taken the time to listen to Him.  What I have found in several days of taking the time to listen to him and his wishes, I have experienced great clarity on some issues and relationships that I have felt confused about in the past.

Living a simple life and understanding expectations are also lessons which were learned this week.  These are also both areas in which I historically struggle.  While I feel that I try to keep things relatively simple at times, let's face it, in this day in age, a biblical sense of simple is much different than ours.  And realistically I'm about as bad at this as it gets.  I rarely say no to anything, which may make life simple for others, but more complicated for me and my relationship with my God and my family.  At the end of the day, He says that our relationship with Him must be first, followed by our family.  Everything else comes after that.  Unfortunately, I can't say that historically these have been my priorities in life.

Understanding expectations from my spiritual relationship and those around me is also something that I need to work on.  I've been blessed with so many opportunities, time, talents, and relationships that I often expect much more than I should.  I often expect things to come easy, but I must remind myself that anything worth having will not come easy or without pain, no matter what part of life we are talking about.

Finally, integrity in speech is paramount.  I'm extremely guilty of not thinking before I speak and I've committed to doing just that as I move forward.

I've always been a huge believer that our society doesn't teach enough self reliance.  Our younger generations are being taught that it is almost always someone else's fault and that everything should be handed to you.  Today, a local pastor had a great sermon on moving through your personal spiritual journey and one thing that I took to heart is that if we are truly going to ever become God centered, we have to be accountable for our own spiritual growth.  It is not up to anyone else to help me grow spiritually.  There are a lot of options out there to assist me on my spiritual journey, but at the end of the day, it is MY responsibility.  I have to say that over the recent months that I have taken it upon myself to grow my personal faith that I couldn't agree more with Pastor Tommy's statement.  Is it up to us to find Him and get close to Him.  Heaven is a choice.  He gives us the roadmap, but it's up to us to follow it.

Obviously my passion is for orphans and those less fortunate.  One of my favorite scriptures from this week is Matthew 9:37-38

"'The harvest is so great and the workers are so few,' he told his disciples.  'So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields'"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Live Dead Challenge Day 1: Abide

For those of you who know me personally and have been around me over the past 6-9 months, you know that God is at work in me.  I don't quite know how to describe it, but I believe that he is trying hard to do some special things through me and I am trying hard to listen to his calling.

Recently, my close friends who are all part of the Man Up project and I vowed to take the 30 day Live Dead challenge.  It is a 30 day prayer challenge to "Live Dead."  Basically, what that means is that you die to self and live through Christ.  It is a concept that interests me and my friend who brought it to me is someone I trust and look up to in many ways, so I said "Why not?  Let's see where God leads us through this."  The mission of Live Dead is to help people grow closer to God, bring awareness to the need for missionaries, and to promote prayer for many people (mostly in east Africa) who have never been exposed to Jesus Christ.

I have to admit, the whole thing seemed simple enough until I received the Live Dead Journal.  I flipped through it for the first time and I began to glance over the first day's challenge.  I suddenly became pretty nervous about it.

The first challenge discusses John 15: 4-5, 16.  It talks about how we are the fruit and God is the vine.  Without the vine, the fruit withers away, so we must be obedient to the vine (God).  We all know that Christians are called to tithe 10% of their money to church.  But, what about time?  Today's Live Dead challenge was to tithe 10% of our time to God.  That's 2 1/2 hours a day!

Those of you who know me, know that I don't typically have a ton of extra time on my hands.  With a busy job, consulting business, educating other coaches, father of 2 littles ones, and a husband, my days become pretty full, pretty quick.  How would I find this much time in my day to give extravagantly to Him?

To be honest, I'm not sure yet, but I will say that day 1 went very well.  I really enjoyed focusing more attention on Him throughout my day.  I did little things, like turn off the radio in my truck and turned off the TV when I rode my bike this morning, to spend time focusing on Him.

Another thing I did was to listen to a sermon from one of our local churches that was posted online.  The pastor did a great job of challenging people with their new year's resolutions.  Most people resolve to do "something" (i.e. eat better, save money, etc.), instead of becoming better people.  Once we become better people, then we will do better "things."

As I listened, it really rang home to me...I want to be an authentic man.  I want to be a man of honor.  I want to be a pure person.  I want to be a resilient man.  These are the types of things that will eventually help me become a better husband, father, and son.  Becoming a better person will help me be one of the best athletic trainers and strength coaches around.  They will help me become fit, healthy, and more spiritual.  Being all of these things will help me make more money to support my family, and equally as important, support those who are less fortunate. I want all of these things.

The question is...can I really do all of these things and become all that I want to be?  I'm not sure yet, but I know that I can't do any of it without His direction.  Without His vine, I will wither.  As I tithe my 10% over the next 30 days, the time I have left will be more productive than ever.  The Live Dead Day 1 Challenge is over and it was a success!

I will periodically post on the challenge as a way to share the experience as well as chronicle the events for myself.

Live Dead, Love Big!