Category Archives: FIG

The Orphan Crisis Without Adoption

We could spend hours or days (or longer) debating the question of whether everyone is “called” to adopt or whether it is even a call or a command or whether the Church is necessarily failing because everyone hasn’t adopted.  Today, we set those questions aside and talk about non-adoption options for supporting orphans, or maybe even preventing them.  Let’s discuss “caring for widows and orphans in their distress.”  James 1:27.

Project HOPEFUL operates a number of programs specifically designed to address the needs of widows and orphans in the countries where we operate.  For example, our Hope + Sisterhood program in Uganda, Ethiopia, and soon, Guatemala, partners women and families from the United States with women who are HIV positive from these countries.  The goal of the program is to give the women a “hand up” out of poverty and to help them become self-sustaining as a family.  Many of the women in our program are widows or have been abandoned by husbands upon learning of their positive HIV status.  Most have children, some of whom are positive.  Rather than continue the cycle of poverty and relinquishment for adoption, the Sisterhood seeks to empower these women to start businesses and use the financial support they receive for six months to plan for the future and family sustainability.  For more information about our Hope + Sisterhood, check out our website:

Village of Hope cares for special needs orphans in San Lucas, Guatemala and teaching them about the love of Jesus Christ.  VoH welcomes families and children into its “Village” where these individuals are loved on by house parents, provided food, shelter and education.  The goal is to create a loving home where the people we serve are safe.  Two families from Project HOPEFUL serve at Village of Hope:  The Kiel and Carolyn Twietmeyer family and the Todd and Amy Block family.  There are many ways to partner with Village of Hope, including being a part of the sending team for the Twietmeyers, assisting with the salaries of staff, and partnering monthly in the work being done there.  You can read more here:

Our Family in the Gap – Awassa program is growing like wildfire! In just a year of operation, our donors are supporting over one hundred families or children in Awassa, Ethiopia.  We have assisted the community in providing education, animals, health care, food, clothing and more.  Like our other in-country programs, Awassa seeks to keep families together and enable the independence of the people we serve.  You can see the details here:

Project HOPEFUL will expand into Ukraine in 2014!  Our programs in Ukraine seek to provide mentoring, support and education to families living with HIV.  Project HOPEFUL also has the opportunity to participate in providing a summer camp for families living with HIV and provide staffing for children in the hospital who are left alone for more than eight hours every night.  We hope that you will step up to support this program:

Last but not least, for the first time this year, Project HOPEFUL is offering CHRISTMAS WITH PURPOSE.  Our in-country programs have put together a list of items you could purchase as your gift to a loved one this holiday season!  Give a cow to a family in Ethiopia; provide malaria treatment in Uganda; contribute to the salary of a nurse in Ukraine; or how about a mosquito net?  It’s all right here:

In our home, the kiddos each get an animal in their stocking for Christmas.  This year, we can purchase our animals through Project HOPEFUL!  We hope you will join us in this amazing Christmas with Purpose.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

{Isaiah 9:6}

FIG Awassa, Ethiopia: Day 3

From our FIG Awassa Director, Greg Knight – Day 3 of his visit:

Today we began at Ajuuja meeting with Eyasu and three of the four active board members of Ajuuja Children’s Home. They expressed great gratitude for all the support that Project HOPEFUL Awassa has sent so far and prayed blessings upon our family and all the donors involved and Project HOPEFUL. All four men are well spoken and confident men of God that not only serve on the board but are active in the hands on portion of the ministry. They asked that we tell the donors, Charisa and Project HOPEFUL that “without you we can not do this.” We talked for a while and board member Pastor Aklilu closed the meeting with prayer.

While we were meeting Rebekah spent time playing with the children and getting some more great photos! A few of the girls gave her a special hairdo and she enjoyed the time laughing and playing with them. She also had a chance to try her hand at making injera! The ladies said she did a great job so…..I’m expecting some fresh injera when we get home.

Afterwards we took a few minutes to head to Haile Resort which is owned by Ethiopian Olympic runner Haile Gebresellasie. Joel, Rebekah and I took a small boat into Lake Awassa hoping to catch a glimpse of the lake’s resident hippos. It was a pleasant ride and our guide drove us straight to a group of hippos in the water cooling off from the midday sun. Rebekah said it was the fourth scariest event of her life! The ride back was nice and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery that God created around Lake Awassa complete with local families fishing, tending livestock and washing laundry.

Upon returning to Ajuuja we were told that two of the children from the community we hadn’t met yet were there. They were ready to see us and receive their care packages. We talked with them and asked about their families and things they liked and they shyly obliged with soft answers. The young boy that was there was escorted by his mother. My notes said that his father was HIV+ and when I asked how he was doing I learned that he was bedridden with full blown AIDS. I watched as he played with a spinning top and toy helicopter and realized his father would likely not be around much longer and his mother was already bearing the burden of fully supporting the family and caring for her very ill husband. It set a very sad tone for me but I didn’t react, I just made the notes.

After they left Fekadu and Eyasu asked me to sit in the room where we met the staff two days earlier and the board that morning. Fekadu said there is bad news and Eyasu explained the young boy Tamrat, who I expected to see this day, would not be coming.

They explained that when we visited his home a day earlier and were told that they had to go to the hospital that his father had taken ill and suddenly died. I sat and looked at Tamrat’s photo and thought of all the hardship in his life and how this was just not fair. Suddenly overcome by emotions I let go and sniffled, snorted and cried while the others sat silently. I know these families have a hard life and something like this is a common occurrence but this was so real. The boy we were so looking forward to meeting and giving a small bag of items to bless and show him that we love him just had a devastatingly life changing event happen and for all the advocating and posting and begging for donations we do there is not a thing we could have done to stop that.All I knew to do was ask can we help in any way? Eyasu and Askale said the funeral costs would be around 500 Birr or about $27 so we left that for them. I’m still processing all that but I know that God is sovereign and loves that family in a way that I can’t even begin to grasp.

After I composed myself and the awkward silence was over we regrouped to head to the market to shop. We had a donation for two Bibles that was enough for seven. God did it again!! We think too small sometimes.Ajuuja’s immediate need is for formula so we bought that with donated funds we brought. We shopped and bought personal care items and a nice outfit for one of the community girls. I felt led to provide food for a very poor but very special lady. I suggested tef and oil but Askale said she was from a group that didn’t use tef so we opted to search for corn. For that we needed to head to the open market where the ferenji price would be double the local price so we waited. While waiting a few of the donkey and horse drawn carts passed and I asked Rebekah if she wanted to ride. She agreed after much prodding form Teshome, Fekadu and me. It was once again the ferenji show at the local people smiled and watched us closely as we rode up the cobblestone path with our smiling driver. As we approached we learned that Askale and Joel had made a great deal! They used less than the amount I told them I’d like to spend and bought 100 KGs (about 200 lbs.) of dried corn. I asked Askale how long it would last and she said for a single lady about six months!!!! God came through again and now I wonder why we are amazed when He does these things.

We returned to Ajuuja to deliver our purchases and say good bye as this portion of our trip closes. Eyasu was so excited to see the formula and Bibles and just kept saying “it is so much, it is so much, and after all the others it is so much!!” We gathered back in the meeting room that I filled with blubbers and tears earlier and celebrated with kolo (an Ethiopian snack) and much thanksgiving for everyone there. The staff presented each of us with gifts of traditional Sidama items and I must say I think we looked pretty snazzy in our new duds.

Now I am thanking God for the staff at Ajuuja and all their hard work, for all the friends who give sacrificially and pray for this effort, for Ethiopian friends who keep us out of trouble, for the whole Project HOPEFUL team welcoming us aboard and all they do and for allowing me to experience this time and to be a deliverer of His blessings to people He created and loves.

F.I.G. Awassa Ethiopia Visit: October 10th

We’re so glad to bring another update from Greg Knight, Director of FIG Awassa:

We began the day at 7:30 by visiting the local fish market. They were using cast nets that reminded me of the way that Peter was probably fishing when Jesus called him.The boats were small and made by hand and the men were hard at work cleaning their nets from the days catch. Large birds were waiting for anything the fishermen left while monkeys played in the trees behind us. There were many people around, some cleaning fish, some buying fish, young boys trying to do anything that might get them a tip and we “ferenjis” just watching. We went to an area where people were eating the small cut pieces raw. A young man approached Joel and began speaking to him just to let him know that he thought Rebekah was pretty. I would agree!

After that we headed to Ajuuja and had the privilege of meeting all but one of the sponsored children and their families! We were able to sit for a few minutes with each family and ask questions, talk to them and just experience who they are. I took a lot of notes and I hope to be able to share details with their FIG families very soon. There were so many people, all of which were so grateful not just for care packages but that people they didn’t even know that live so far away cared enough about them to find a way to help by sponsoring their children.

One lady in particular really got to me. I did not see her until her child’s name was called. I looked up and she approached in a wheel chair that she pedaled like a bicycle with her hands with her daughter walking alongside. Her humble smile was contagious and she was soft spoken. She explained later when we visited her home that when her daughter was just 18 months old her husband’s motorcycle had somehow sparked a fire that spread into a kerosene can in their home leading to an explosion that sprayed the fuel on both she and her husband. He has fully recovered with only scars remaining while she, after a year of being bedridden, is in a wheel chair and her legs, arms, and torso are horribly disfigured/scarred. At her home the chair stays outside and she scoots about preparing meals and doing all the things a mother in Ethiopia does for her family with a bit of assistance from her neighbors who also greeted us at the home.

The thing that struck me as I think the day through is that after we talked with her and her daughter she only backed the wheel chair out a few feet from us. She remained there for the duration of the time that we spoke with families and distributed the care packages. Every time I looked up she was smiling joyfully through the pain she endures each day because other families were being blessed. I was talking with Joel and Rebekah and shared with them that this presented the biggest challenge for the day for me because she with so little and in her condition had more joy than I do as richly blessed as I am. (Methinks I need to do a little work on that.)

We visited many homes throughout the afternoon. Teshome (I mispelled his name in yesterday’s notes) selected a variety of homes and families for us to visit and I am greatly thankful for him.

One of the homes we visited was a traditional hut for the area of Sidoma. It was a beautiful setting and when we stepped inside it was like another world. Looking into the front door to the right we saw the familiy’s 3 calves tied to a span of fencing. Straight ahead was a small piles of hot coals that were heating wat. To the right the family’s neatly stacked dishes were stored alongside stone water jugs that they used for refrigeration a tall woven basket in which store tef and corn and stone containers used for serving food. In the back was a bed that the family shares. They showed us around back where fresh cabbage grows alongside false banana trees (enset) that are used to make the Sidoma staple food (kocho)  and we even got to see the part of it in the ground where it stays for six days at which point it can be used to make the heavy thin bread-like kocho. I even got a chance to strip the “good stuff” out a tree with a machete!

Many more tales to tell but I need to stop before the readers leave me!! ~Greg

To learn more about Project HOPEFUL’s F.I.G. Awassa Program, visit the page here

F.I.G. Awassa Ethiopia Visit – Greg Knight

Director of the F.I.G. Awassa Ethiopia Program, Greg Knight is in Ethiopia with his daughter visiting our contacts there and building relationships. We wanted to share with you what he is doing by posting his updates and some pictures as he is able to send them to us and this is the first of them. We trust you will enjoy this ‘fly on the wall’ perspective.

“Today we began at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast that was interestingly different. Bekah passed and I ate lightly, both of which proved to be good decisions!

Askale (Eyasu’s wife and partner at Ajuuja) and a driver picked us up in a 4 wheel drive shortly after 7:00 and we picked up Ajuuja Social Worker Tashoma on the way out of Awassa. Afer about 20 minutes of paved roads we began the dirt road/off road part of the three hour drive. About an hour in we had to stop for Fekadu who was carsick and regretting breakfast! He was in the back on the vehicle and the road was very rough and filled with turns, ruts, people, livestock and all manner of transportation both with 4 legs and motorized. The driver didn’t slow much for these instead he cut in and weaved around everything in our path.

After passing through village after village and seeing some the most beautiful landscape and people on Earth we reached our destination, the town of Yaye.

We were escorted into a small government building where 5 families that had been identified as the poorest of the poor who could benefit the most from the donation of a sheep were waiting for us along with local social workers. They all expressed deep gratitude for the work of Ajuuja and for our visit which had the purpose of purchasing and delivering sheep to them.

We then began the walk to the local livestock market which was just past the general markets that are open daily and the market that is open only two days per week and provides the only opportunity for the local families to purchase staple foods, house wares, etc. The market were scheduled to open at noon and were over an hour early and things were relatively quiet. We heard whispers of Ferenjis! Ferenjis! which is the term for white people.

As we waited for noon we decided to try our hands at the local outdoor ping pong tables. Within minutes the crowd grew as if a major sporting event was taking place! They were friendly and quite delighted at the Ferenjis lack of skill on the tables.

At this point the group separated into two groups since the market price for animals would suddenly double if Ferenjis were present to purchase.

Bekah and I along with Joeal Tashoma retured to the market place as the local vendors began to arrive with their wares. We walked through the market and were followed by a few children but the usual calls from the vendors like “special for you big man” or “we give you best price missing.” They were selling flour, sugar, spices, pots & pans for the locals and had nothing for tourists. It was a great look at that part of the area residents lives. Later we saw women and children loaded down their purchases and headed back to their homes in the countryside.

We received a message that the animal market had begun and we walked in that direction to meet the others after they bargained and selected the sheep.
The streets were filled by this point with people and the calls of Ferenji were much more pronounced and we were being followed more people than we could count. Tashoma and I were in conversation and hadn’t noticed the growing entourage until we stopped and were surrounded by curious onlookers posturing to get a good look at the strangers. We decided it would be best to keep moving!

We found a place to sit and the people formed a circle about twenty feet from us after much encouragement from Joel and Tashoma where we waited. I felt like we should dance or sing or something to get the people a show but we just waited.

After about 15 minutes or so we began the walk back to the Government building we started at and met the sheep and the rest of our team on the way.
The sheep were beautiful and healthy animals and we were pleased to learn the with the funds that were donated for five sheep we they were able to purchase seven!! Two more families would have a sheep!!

Waiting for us were the five families and two additional families had been identified to receive the two bonus sheep. We presented the sheep to the families who were most grateful. It was not until a representative from an agency that advocates for women and orphans spoke that I realized the significance of these animals. She spoke and expressed thanks for the gifts that would change the way that these families lived. To me it was just a sheep. To them it was a source of fresh milk and future lambs as they will have them bred. It made me wish had been able to provide more. She then gave thanks to God for sending us and for the donors and all the families we represent and mentioned that not many are concerned for women and orphans.

I thanked them for welcoming us into their community and assured them that we are driven by scripture to aid the widow and orphan in their distress. I let them know that families in the United States were praying for them and valued them. It was a moving experience that won’t be soon forgotten. This was a great affirmation that we are doing all this for a reason.

for perspective I asked what the annual income for an average family in that are would have and was told a most of the families would struggle to reach $100. So these animals represent nearly half a year’s income!!”

Thank you, Greg! We look forward to hearing more.

To learn more about the F.I.G. Awassa Program and how you can be a part of it, visit Project HOPEFUL.

Update: Project HOPEFUL’s FIG Awassa, Ethiopia Program

By Charisa Knight

Hello Project HOPEFUL friends!! We are over here in Virginia being amazed at what God can do through people with generous and compassionate hearts. This program was started about 6 weeks ago after talking and praying with some of the Project HOPEFUL team. We thought we’d start small and see how it goes….Well, God had different things in store!

(to read the beginning of this journey go here:

We currently have FIGs (family in the gap) for all of the 18 children that are eligible for sponsorship at the orphanage in Awassa. This is fantastic!

These FIGs will have the great reward of making sure these children have the things that the need, invest in them spiritually through prayer, sending them care packages and letters, and going on mission trips to meet them! We are so thankful for these families that have jumped in with us by faith from the beginning!

We also are taking part of the orphanage’s community sponsorship program. This is something that is already in place and we are stepping in to help them make sure they have the funds for this program and provide support for micro-enterprise programs and other needs. This program helps families stay together and have their daily needs met. Currently we have 10 of these children with FIGs and have 8 more children that need someone to stand in the gap for them!

We have already provided boxes of desperately need cloth diapers and a month of needed supplies. As I type more formula and diapers are on their way as well as 6 needed walkers.

Greg is taking a trip over October 6 to meet with our representatives in country and the orphanage director. Together they will make plans for our community families and see what the needs are for the children at the orphanage. We are excited about this trip and wait to see what else God has in store of us and the children in Awassa!

If you are interested in being a FIG or donating to this initiative please email us! We’d love to partner with you.

Changing the world one child at a time.

“Do you know anyone who would like to take a boy like me…”

In Eastern European countries, at around age 16, orphans are forced to leave the orphanage system to enter the world with limited education, minimal support, and sometimes the just learned knowledge that they have HIV.  Within the first five years, almost 90% of these orphans end up in crime, prostitution, drug and alcohol addiction, or commit suicide.

In Russia 10% -15% of children who “age out”   commit suicide before age 18.  70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

We have four amazing boys on our list that could easily become statistics: Tim, Jack, Jonah, and Joshua. All of whom, have glowing reports. All are young men that want to make a difference in the world. All know the chances of them being adopted are slim. We have the chance to intervene and change the stories of these boys.

“Do you know anyone who would like to take a boy like me. I would really like for a visitor at least, because I am all alone and I have no one.” -Jack

When an adoptive parent came to the orphanage, Joshua asked why they were adopting such a small boy and if they would want a boy as big as him.  When a reporter asked him if he has a dream, he said “I have to find me a dad, mom, and a dog!”

According to a volunteer: “Jonah is a wonderful, just a wonderful boy!  He said that when he was younger he had a brother who was taken into an adoptive family but they left Jonah at the orphanage; then he added sadly, ‘but it’s good he has a family now.’   With great interest, he asked about family life. ‘Do you have a porch?’  ‘Do you go out socializing in the evenings?’  ‘Do you have a husband?’ (yes) ‘And he works?’ (yes) ‘That’s lucky!’”

Tim carefully and inquisitively peers into the faces of all incoming adults, hopeful that one of them will take him into their family.

Please consider becoming a FIG, or adopting one of our older boys. They have been waiting way too long for a family. Please help give them the childhood they desearve.

This article was written by Jenni Johnston, Waiting Child List Coordinator for Project HOPEFUL.  You can view children who are currently waiting for families by visiting .