Entering Into a New Season

IMG_0377“To every thing there is a season,” wrote the Teacher, “and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1, KJV).

As I watch the seasons change here in Ethiopia, I am reminded of the new season of life into which God is leading our family.  It feels like yesterday when we booked one-way tickets for our family of five to Ethiopia.  Now almost three years later, it’s overwhelming to say that we have one-way tickets for our family of seven back to the US in less than two weeks.

Where do we even start…well it’s impossible to give you a simple answer.  We have looked at about every scenario we can think of at least a dozen times each but when we walked into God’s plan for our family to move to Ethiopia we knew it was going to challenge us unlike ever before.  We have had to spend a lot of time differentiating between feelings and our faith.  Our feelings have been all over the place, and constantly changing, but it’s been our focus on God’s promises that have secured us and given us confidence but not without a battle.

Every moment of our time here in Ethiopia has been worth it.  We couldn’t begin to share all that God has allowed us to partner with him in here, but some of the best moments have been in seeing lost people find Jesus and flourish.  We have encouraged and walked along side mothers to keep unwanted children, prevented more orphans, discipled leaders to transform their communities, created sustainable jobs, helped women through pregnancy, seen women delivered from prostitution and trafficking…and it’s hard to express but as we think of continuing this list it puts tears in our eyes because it’s truly amazing all that God has done and that He would use us in this time to do these things.IMG_2041

Before moving we told everyone that we would make sure our family was always the first ministry and this is at the heart of why we are moving back.  As many of you know our sweet Selah was recently diagnosed with Hypothalamic Hamartoma (HH).  HH is basically a benign tumor-like malformation that causes a syndrome characterized by seizures, developments and cognitive deficits, behavioral problems, including rage, and even early puberty. We have tried two medications for her seizures so far and they have been ineffective, and behavioral issues have increased. Her tumor location that causes the seizures is really rare.  We are waiting to hear back from a hospital that specializes in it to see if they would even be able to remove it.  Selah also just needs more therapy and less chaos in her life and Ethiopia does’t come close to providing the medical needs of Selah.

On top this, our other kids schooling needs are becoming increasingly more demanding.  Most important is the help we need with Abby’s education.  Even though Abby is 10 years old, she is still at about a 2nd grade educational level and requires a lot of attention to help bring her up to pace with other kids her age.  We placed the kids in a new school here in Ethiopia starting at the beginning of September but quickly realized that it wasn’t meeting our needs or expectations.  So we started homeschooling them again, and while they are learning a ton, it is just too much. Selah is very emotional and demanding and we just can’t give her the attention while homeschooling the other three.

So what does all this mean… Well we believe that’s important to continue the work in Ethiopia for at least the next 12 months, I, Ian, will be making at least 4 trips back to Ethiopia in 2015. We feel there is more to help with at Ellilta Products and Woman at Risk as things have expanded significantly over the past few years.  One of our hopes is to continue the work we have been doing for the Kingdom in Ethiopia but from a base back in the US.

We are also trying to see if we can schedule Selah for surgery soon when we get home.  We are currently in a dispute with our International insurance company that is trying to deny our coverage for Selah, but hopeful to have some progress on this soon.  In February our baby is due, and that’s very exciting for us.

We love Ethiopia and we could see ourselves here a lot longer, but we feel peace with this changing of seasons.  Would really
appreciate your prayer and support as we prepare for this transition.1IMG_6854

Over our time here in Ethiopia, one of the hardest parts has been that many of the incredible things we have shared publicly as victories have almost always been met with private battles.  We probably underestimated the attack that would come for stepping out of the ordinary to follow God into something extraordinary to advance His Kingdom, but still we remain steadfast in knowing His strength is abundant and enough for anything, everything.

Moving forward we will take things step-by-step.  Looking at 2015, other than our trips back to Ethiopia, we will be based in the US and don’t expect our family to be moving back to Ethiopia.  Beyond that we just don’t feel we can say for sure, but we are thankful to have such amazing people behind us and supporting us.

-Ian & Brittany Bentley

1st in Class

 

At the core of what we do here in Ethiopia is a deep desire to see the women we work with not just survive but thrive.  We try to keep the stories we share with you real and honest, not always about the good things but some of the difficult things.  Today, we want to share the good, and perhaps even one of the greatest moments of our time here.  This morning Brittany and I walked into the office at Ellilta Products where we produce scarfs and Meselu, one of the women who has been working with us the longest, grabbed us and told us she had something to show us.  The smile on her face was huge and I honestly had no idea what to expect.  Meselu then handed me Eyob’s, her 8 year old son, report card.  I looked down at the bottom where it said “Rank” and it said “1/44″  Yep, 1st in his class!  Here is a mother, a single hard working mother, who just a few years ago was forced to work the streets to provide for Eyob.  Now as she has a good job that has given her dignity and opportunity to work hard during the day and be home with her children at night, she is not only thriving but her son is at the top of his class and with huge potential.  This couldn’t better represent what want to see more of here in Ethiopia, women who know their God given worth and value while being empowered to change their life, their families life, and this country.  Thank you for being part of this with us!

 

We have big and bold plans for 2014 and would love for you to join us.  If you are interested in supporting us through financial gifts you can go to our website at:

http://steadfastlove.org/donatenow/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Started My Day Today

I woke up today as a 30 year old.  I woke up to the warm hugs and kisses from my family with handwritten cards that would make Hallmark jealous.  After breakfast I headed into work at Ellilta Products and as I was greeting all the women I noticed this young girl watching over one of the women. I know all the women’s children but didn’t recognize this girl so I asked about her. When I asked, I received a very odd response that concluded as she is the daughter of someones friends.  So I started talking to the girl, what is your name, “Kalkidan”, how old are you, “13”, why are you not in school today, “I don’t have school” and the list of friendly questions went on.  Kalkidan has this incredible smile and actually spoke great english.  She also told me she plans to be an engineer after going to college.  I left her to walk into our monday meeting in a separate room with a smile after just meeting this incredible young woman.  I felt optimistic about her future and was excited about meeting her, but then the real story came… Kalkidan had been found on the streets over the weekend by a few of the women that work with us. They took her in and cared for her (that’s a complete other story of how amazing our women are) and then brought her to the some of the councilors we work with.  Her mother, who was a former graduate of ours from Woman at Risk, had left to work in an Arab country leaving Kalkidan with her father.  This left Kalkidan very vulnerable and she was then raped by her father and it was after this that she fled to the streets. We are not sure, but we think she might be pregnant with her fathers child.  Just 15 minutes prior to hearing this I had just spoke to Kalkidan thinking what an amazing young women with a huge future, now I just wanted to go back to her and give her a huge hug and then put together a team of men to hunt the father down.  This is the beginning of a long journey for Kalkidan, we don’t know what will happen but we are asking you to join us in prayer. Pray for her heart, for her needs to be met, for comfort in knowing that nothing can separate her from Gods love, and lastly for justice.  Kalkidan’s story unfortunately isn’t uncommon, I asked some of the team around me how we were supposed to go back to talking business and we couldn’t.  I’m so thankful to have a team of people around me here in Ethiopia that care for the lives of these women, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans.” We need to keep shining light on situations like Kalkidan’s, and we need to be the Church that defends ones that are left defenseless.

So while it’s not how I would imagine my 30th birthday, I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. My family is close and we will stand with God is the battle He has placed us in. Thank you for praying and supporting us!

In His Love,

-Ian

One Year in Ethiopia

One year ago this month we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  After a long journey from California, we landed with 18 bins, 3 kids (glad we didn’t lose any), and the feeling like we just got pushed into the deep end of the pool without our floaties.  I can remember the first few words out of Clayton, who was 3 at the time, was, “Look at all the trash everywhere, why don’t they just pick it up”.  The look on the kids faces were priceless, but all the craziness aside, we had peace that this was now home.

In the first few weeks upon arriving, we found a home, a car, cell phone service, and somehow navigated government offices to get driving licenses and other necessary documents in order to live here.  Thinking back on the early days, sleeping on foam pads in our unfurnished house, it’s crazy to realize how much has happened.  This past year has been the biggest adventure in our life and it’s also been the most challenging.

As we look back at this past year and think about the year ahead, that feeling of being in the deep water isn’t as scary.  We have realized that the deep water is where God intends us to live, and with Him and only Him is what keeps us afloat.  It would be dishonest to say that there weren’t times when we tried to bring out the floaties to keep us going, but at the end of the day this past year has been as much about refining our own relationship with God as it has been about impacting the people in Ethiopia.  After a year into our time here, we certainly feel much more at home and enjoying the adventure of Ethiopia.

Happy Mother’s Day from Ethiopia

Happy Mother’s Day from Ethiopia

Mother’s are not good…they are great, amazing, incredible, and every other word that would describe the most precious thing in the world. Here in Ethiopia we have the privilege to work with some of the most courageous mothers in the world. Women like Meselu, who at just 25, was forced to move out on the street with her son. To provide for her son she started working in prostitution. She is now working with us, has a good job, and recently showed me her sons report card…2nd in his class of almost 50 children. I wish we could show you the pride on her face and tears in her eyes when she showed us his report card. This is just one of countless stories on what it means to be a mother here in Ethiopia, their courage is humbling and we are so thankful each one of them.

Here is a quick clip of a few of these women describing what it means to them to be a mother. So from all the women here in Ethiopia to my wife, mom, and friends back home, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

Happy Mother’s Day from Ethiopia

If you would like to support our work with mothers like Meselu, please click here. Because of your support we are able to help these women and the next generation of future leaders here in Ethiopia.

-Ian

EXPOSING DARKNESS AT THE SUPER BOWL

Today is one of the largest sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl.  Over 100 million people will be watching the Super Bowl today while more than 100,000 descend on New Orleans to watch the game in person.  Also today, the largest sex trafficking incident in the US will be happening.  Every year at Super Bowl time 1,000’s (The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami.) of women, and often-young girls, are brought into the town that Super Bowl is held for one reason, to be exploited for sex.

The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked annually. The U.S. State Department estimates an even higher number: about 12.3 million adults and children “in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world.” It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels organized crime. Victims of trafficking are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves many kinds of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. According to the United Nations, sex trafficking brings in an estimated $32 billion a year worldwide. In the U.S., sex trafficking brings in $9.5 billion annually.

We often think that these issues are only relative to the developing world and in places like Asia, Latin America, and Africa, but it’s alarming that the US has such a significant part in this.  The Department of Justice estimates that more than 250,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry annually. The average age of girls who enter into street prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old.

We can hear these statistics, throw up our hands and feel overwhelmed and then just get back to those delicious Buffalo wings (Americans consume 100 million pounds of wings on Super Bowl Sunday), but I want you to use your voice and do something about this.  What if it was your little girl?  What if it was my little girl…MY little girl, there would be no hurdle to big, no circumstance to difficult to prevent me from doing everything I could to rescue my little girl.  God’s response… these are my children, My little girl and I’m calling YOU to do something about it.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:11

Everyday, we see the realities of this here in Ethiopia.  Here in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, it’s estimated that over 150,000 women are involved in prostitution.  Some women work almost every night for as little as $.10/client and around 10 clients/night.  It’s not right, and it’s what continues to gives us such a passion to see this change.

Please pray today for the women and children that are being exploited, and then find a place or organization that is involved in stopping human trafficking where you can use your voice.

Orphan Care- How we can Respond?

Today it’s estimated that there are over 160 million orphans in our world.  Here in Ethiopia, its home to about 5 million orphans, and what’s important is not the massive statistics but that each ONE of these children have been created in the image of God with purpose, a purpose that they may never realize unless we take away the faceless statistics and replace it with a name and a face.

In ancient Rome, many unwanted children faced what they called Exposing.  Exposing was done when a child was born malformed, with disability, or simply out of inconvenience.  These children were taken outside the city walls where they were defenseless, exposed to weather, animals, and left for dead.  This cruel practice was finally banned in 374AD, but before it was banned a group of people became known for rescuing and caring for these little ones.  This is how the early Church responded to not only a need but to what God has called us to.

Today, that need and calling is no different.  In the book of Isaiah we are called to “Defend the cause of the fatherless”, and we are invited to join God and stand for these little ones.  This isn’t a box we need to check off as Christians, but an honor and incredible privilege for us to be part of.

Orphan care is often thought of as only adoption, but its really only part of how we can respond.  You can sponsor a child, start an orphan care ministry at your church/community, visit them and come on a missions trip, Adopt or help in foster care, and much more.  There are so many opportunities we have today, to join God in His call to be a Father to the fatherless, to defend them, and we can respond just as the early Church did in Rome.

How will you respond?

 

Free shoes at a cost.

Would you want free shoes or would you rather pay for them?  Who wouldn’t want free shoes right, but when we take a deeper look free stuff it’s always best.
Over the past few months, we have had a constant challenge in discerning the best way to address the bombardment of poverty we face living here.  Not a day goes by without someone asking us for money or food.  Our hearts are constantly burdened to do something, but our conclusion is that there is no such thing as a quick fix.  We might think that handing out a few birr or some bread will fix the issue, but it’s clear that in most cases this is actually hurting more than helping.
Today we had a great opportunity to address this in the context of Africa.  At FashionABLE, we are working with some of the hardest people I have ever met.  The woman are motivated and empowered by their employment opportunity, yet it’s still not simple.  We are often having discussions of how to motivate them based on incentives while keeping things fair for everyone.  Outside of their day-to-day job, we often have visitors who want to help.  At times we have received clothing for kids, or some practical needs like lotions, nail polish, etc… and we would say in most cases that these are small gifts that have been encouraging to the women.  Today, we had over 20 pairs of nice shoes show up.  Rather than handing them out, we took a different approach.
After meeting with the two managers at the office, we decided that these “free” shoes shouldn’t be just given out to the women.  Knowing that shoes like this in Addis would go for between 1000-2000 Birr ($50-$100USD), this would have been a huge gift for these women.  We imagined how thankful they would be to be given them, but we also want what’s absolutely best for each one of these women.  With this in mind it has always encouraged us to put more thought into everything and not just take the most obvious or easiest solution.  Today, we decided to not hand the shoes out for free but charge a nominal price for the shoes.  Since the shoes were donated, we wanted to use the funds from the sale of the shoes in the best way.  So we decided to take the fund and donate it to Woman at Risk (WAR), the rehabilitation program that most of the woman currently working at FashionABLE came from.
So let me explain how incredible this worked out.  We told the women that we had some beautiful new shoes that they could purchase in our stock room.  At first they looked at us with a bit of confusion, because they might have expected us to just give them away but then we continued.  We told them that we were selling them for about 100-200 birr ($5-$10USD) and that rather than keeping the money we would be donating it to help other women struggling in prostitution.  So not only are the women at FashionABLE able to purchase there own shoes, but they are able to help other women who are in the position they once were in.  We also gave them an opportunity to pay off the shoes over four months so that it’s would allow them to pay for it without as much of an up front cost.
It’s hard to articulate in writing, but every woman left today with a new pair of shoes that they were ABLE to pay for out of their own hard work while knowing that they were ABLE to help the other women through the same rehabilitation program they were helped through.  This is sustainable development, and it’s allowing women to have the dignity and confidence that God has designed us to have no matter what culture of continent we come from or live on.

Casual Pursuit

For some reason the words “casual pursuit” hit me today. In reading Luke 5, we find Jesus calling His first disciples. The scene is set with Jesus standing by a lake sharing the word of God with people. While there he sees a few boats and some fishermen cleaning up after a day at work. Jesus then goes down to the water and jumps in the boat and asks one of the fishermen to push to boat out a little and then continued to teach people from the boat.

So was Jesus just looking for a different perspective to continue teaching? I’m not sure why the change in teaching places, but in verse 4 we see that when He was done speaking he asked Simon to head out into the deep water and go catch some fish. The story then goes on to tell the multitude of fish that were caught on a day when the fishermen spent day and night trying but caught nothing, until now!

It was after reading this story that the idea of “casual pursuit” hit me. Putting myself in the context of this story, I often find myself trying to hear from God while He is teaching from the shallow waters. As soon as He says, let’s head out into the deep I find myself much less willing. The result I see from this is a casual pursuit of my faith.

I don’t want to live a life in a casual pursuit, but I want to be willing to head into the deep waters. My two sons love to go swimming and while they are more than capable to play in the shallow end, they love it when dad takes them into the deep end. In the same way, our Father in Heaven sees a multitude in the shallow end where they can touch the bottom and live a safe life. Then there are those who are willing to step into the deep end with confidence that God is there with a tremendous blessing. It might be costly, but it’s worth it! Who wants to jump into the deep end with me!!

One-Way Tickets~