Happy Sunday morning! It’s already Sunday evening in Ethiopia which means our kids are all at home getting tucked in by their moms.
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You are likely reading this because you saw the post on the Drawn From Water blog about the recent changes we are implementing.
First before anything, we want to thank you for checking out what we are doing next as a family! We are excited about this new season and thankful that the transition period we have been going through is finally coming to a close.
Many of you watched in shock when the orphanage project was taken from us and then continued to pray as we sought what God had next for our family and for the organization. Today, we are jumping for joy because it’s finally time to announce our new direction as a family. It gives us great pleasure to talk about this new project and just how much impact it will have in the lives of so many orphans. Super good stuff!
If you have been following along with Drawn From Water but did not see the post that went up today, you might want to take a minute to read about the wrap-up of that organization. To summarize, after speaking with the board and praying about the next steps we felt that it was best to close up Drawn From Water before moving on to the next projects, it was clear to all of us that the next chapters need to be a fresh start.
The Closing of a Season
Before we dive into explaining our new project, and all it means to us, I want to take a moment and say that, for our family, we feel the door to working in the tribes has closed. We have prayerfully approached this decision and have come to the conclusion that it’s time for us to focus our energy in areas where we can be more helpful.
As parents, who have adopted a mingi child, and as a family who fell totally in love with the wonderful people of the tribes, we will never be able to stop praying for them. If the opportunity arises, we will continue to help these people. However, we feel peace that it is time for us to forge ahead on a new orphan-care project in Ethiopia that is not related to the work we were doing in the South.
If you check out Rich and Melissa Lester’s blog, you will see that they are working on a new project as a family as well, and although we feel that God has put different missions on our hearts. The Lester’s are life-long friends to us, we will stay in constant contact with them and their new efforts as they develop over the coming months.
The new project
Now, let me explain a bit about our next family project. It’s a new direction, but one that, looking back, we can see we’ve been preparing for our entire lives. To say we are excited is an understatement; we passed that up a long time ago!
We are going to be starting a large orphanage project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our hearts have been broken for the countless thousands of street children who have no mother and father to care for them, and we have decided to put our energy and skills toward building a large family-style orphanage where orphans of Ethiopia can be given a home.
Jessie and my combined experience working with orphanages around the world over the past 15 years have led us to a clear understanding of the best practices to implement into our new project.
We have approached the local government and asked that they work together with us to see this project to reality, and the response was overwhelmingly positive! Although we do not expect to start-out quite this large, the government officials in charge asked in our first meeting that we build to a capacity of two thousand children. They said that within a few months, they would be able to direct that many orphaned children into the new orphanage. For now, because the capacity does not exist in the country, they are literally leaving children on the streets. The level of need is staggering.
Our hope is to start with a capacity of roughly 100 children and expand each year. We believe that small family-style village model orphanages are the most effective way to raise well-adjusted children who are ready to enter the world and lead. Our goal is to help raise future leaders for this country, children who will grow up with a sense of self worth and a solid faith in God.
Although we are passionate believers in Adoption, personally having adopted two children ourselves, we have seen from living in Ethiopia for the past two years that adoption only helps solve a minuscule part of the huge problem. More needs to be done to address the greater issues, and we feel our family is called to do just that. This orphanage will focus on keeping the orphans in country and giving them the best possible foundation, both spiritually and emotionally, to go out in their country and contribute to its future success.
We feel the time is now to step in and create a large-scale, long-term sustainable model in Ethiopia for orphan care. The need is too great to ignore, and the current resources on the table for helping in this area are simply too small. Something has to be done. Clearly the need is for a first-rate, Christ centered establishment in Ethiopia for orphans to call home.
Timing and implementation
Given the expansive scope of this project, and the energy and resources needed to implement something of this nature, we have been getting advice that it is best for our family to head back to America for a few months and regroup. The last season that we found ourselves in was exhausting on so many levels. We want to be sure before starting that we are spiritually and emotionally rested and ready to take on this project and are able to see it through.
So, in a short time, we will be heading back to America where we will spend time meeting with our mentors, friends, and church leaders to discuss this project and get advice from them on how best to take the next steps. We will also be working on setting up a new nonprofit organization in America and getting all our paperwork in order on that side so that we can come back ready to hit the ground running.
Toward the end of our stay in the States, we will be traveling around, speaking in churches and meeting with supporters to help put the team together that will make this project a reality.
Although we are chomping at the bit to get this project off the ground, we are heeding the advice from our spiritual mentors that we need to spend time to reflect on all that has happened, and allow ourselves time to process, and carefully plan the best ways to implement this project. We are thankful for those who can speak into our lives and hopeful that this next season will be fruitful.
Ways to help
We do not, yet, have our non-profit status finalized in the states, so we cannot yet take donations toward this project at this time. However, we will be working on setting that up soon and will announce on this site when we are ready to start fundraising for this project. Our family is supported by personal donations through friends and family, and, as of today, we are still short on meeting our monthly expenses. So we want to mention briefly here, if you are interested in helping our family with the cost of living while we set up this project drop us an email and let us know. (I am putting my email address at the bottom of this post). We are forever thankful for those who have already helped our family fulfill our calling. We pray the returns in the way of changed lives and orphans who are given a future are infinite and continue on for generations.
Spread the word
We learned with Drawn From Water that one of the biggest keys to a project like this getting off the ground is having people like you spread the word about the work. The more who work toward the same goal, the more viable the project becomes, and ultimately the more children we can rescue.
So, please help spread the word about this project. Post all over the place and tell everyone you know that you are going to be a part of making this happen. It’s going to be a long journey from where we are today to when we finally have our doors open to accept children, but if we all work together, it’s going to go a lot faster.
You can also join the BringLove.in cause on Facebook! Click here to join the cause.
We are always open to suggestions and assistance. If you have experience that you want to share with this project, or if you are open to helping in any way, just drop us an email and let us know.
Thank you all so very much for supporting the work our family is undertaking in Ethiopia. We are excited to embark on a new journey together with you!
Levi & Jessie Benkert
If you want to email us you can at, Levibenkert(at)gmail(dot)com
I have to warn you before I start, I know its a cheesy route to come to such a deep emotional place but this is how it happened, so I am going to share it that way and hope that it means as much to you as it does to me.
Today Jessie and I watched So You Think You Can Dance with our kids, something that despite being in Africa and not getting even one TV station, we are able to do thanks to the nonexistent piracy laws… If you are not breaking the law then….. Right? Anyway, that is besides the point. Here we were watching this one particular dance where the couple on stage were getting really into it, really putting their emotions out on the line as they danced to a Coldplay song (called “fix you”) and opening up their hearts. It was clearly a deep moment for them, a time when the both of them just let go and danced from deep down inside. Now those who know me well will know that it does not take much for me to cry, it just kinda happens when I watch sappy movies. Anyhow I sat there next to my wife with our daughter on my lap and felt a tear start to form on the corner of my eye. I wiped it away, shaking my head, scoffing at my own week embarrassing emotions and tried my best to hide the fact that I was getting emotional over something like this, but as they continued to dance I started to wonder what it was about this moment that was reaching in and stirring me.
I looked deeper and realized there while I watched them, encircling their bodies around the stage, holding each other tightly, and putting their hearts out for the world to see, I realized that marriage is a lot like dancing, its the swirling, beauty of movement together. Marriage is the balance of being who you are on your own while holding onto the other person and at times picking them up and carrying them along through a rough patch, or relying on them to carry you through when you need it. I see these people dancing and watch the way the move and trust each other to be there when they jump and I look over at Jessie and see this beautiful wonderful woman who has had to catch me so many times, I see this person who I love so deeply, and I realize that I love dancing through life with her. I love the trust, the depths of emotions that we share and the beautiful painting of a life that we are creating together, I realize that marriage is art, not structure, not contract, art, and its deeply beautiful.
As we embark on yet another season of our lives together I am eternally thankful for the love of my life Jessie, for the dance that we are creating together and for the trust in her that I hold onto so deeply.
You will see on this blog in the coming weeks the unfolding of a new time for us as a family, its a wonderful thing, a place of peace and great triumph, its a time to start out again and look into the horizon together, aiming for great and lasting change. Its the beautiful sequel in our dance together. I for one am on the edge of my seat with excitement about the launch of this new project! Stay tuned…
And don’t be shy with the new Facebook like button that I worked so hard to finally get working on this site… For some reason it was much harder to get set up then it ever should have been, but its there now so like away!
We also just set up a Facebook Cause for our new project… Be sure to join the cause by clicking here.
The big news around our house for the kids is that our cat had kittens last week… The fun never ceases. Somedays the kids will spend hours just watching them squirm around. Today they started to open their eyes. I can not even begin to explain the excitement.
To the best mother there ever was. We love you Jessie and we are so thankful for your kindness and super mom skills. We hope you have a great day today!
From Nickoli, Luella, Ruth, Everly and Levi
Also, will you consider giving a mothers day gift to a mother in need today? There are 30 mothers who are dangerously close to having to give up their children because they simply do not have enough money to take care of them. Will you consider helping one of the women in Jerry and Christy’s Embracing Hope Ethiopia project? For only $34 a month you can help give one of these mothers a chance at a future together with their children.
I am going to make it super easy for you, click here to see the list of mothers and children in need. Then you can click through and fill out the form letting them know who you want to sponsor this mothers day. And, post all about it! Lets make this mothers day the day when we all picked a mother to bless!
We have this ritual around our house, one that I am a firm believer makes for better kids. Every Saturday morning we let the kids watch cartoons as soon as they wake up, we just let them go for it and enjoy a slow Saturday morning of just plain old TV watching. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Of coarse living in Ethiopia with no satellite dish makes for some pretty slim pickings when it comes to what to watch, but thankfully we have accumulated enough DVD’s so there is a bit of selection, although its all reruns… Anyway, this morning was cereal day, that sounds like it might be sort of lame, but cereal day is special around here. Its not that we are against cereal or anything, its just that a medium sized box costs around 7 dollars, so we try and keep it to a special thing or we would go broke if our four kids ate cereal every morning…
So anyhow, I opened up this box of Shiny Star, and its sort of ok tasting, nothing special to be sure. But the kids are jumping off the walls excited, asking for third bowls full and doing backflips because they think it tastes SOOOOO good. Its interesting to see how tastes change, and how two years in Ethiopia makes you forget everything. But for me, I have to admit that I do miss a good old bowl of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch now and again.