Monday, February 28, 2011

Four Years

Four years ago today.  I would say that is the day that this adventure truly began for Nikki and me.  It was four years ago today that we first saw Durant's referral and accepted his referral.  Since then our lives have changed completely. We have learned to be dependent on our Father, to choose the adventure that He has for us, and to love those who we would have never crossed paths with before.
Over the past four years we have begun to learn to see people the way God does.  We wouldn't have it any other way.  Thanks Durant for being in our family and for opening the door for us and many others to see what God is doing.  Happy 6th Birthday Nati!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Month of Change Sites

Some of you are beginning to respond to us that you would like to be "Month of Change" drop-off sites.  We are so excited that you are joining us for this month.  If you would like more information or to sign up to be a site, just email us at Thanks for all of your help!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dreaming Big, Working Small

Here are some words from Christy Reppe after she returned from her trip to Ethiopia last month with Nikki.  Thanks for all of your hard work, Christy.  We truly love you.

I knew before going to Ethiopia that I would be most impacted upon return. That just seems to be how God works in me. Maybe it's so that I can stay in the moment while I'm there, or maybe it's just how God gives me perspective -- looking back. I always feel like I can look back with so much better clarity and with a real vision of the big picture.

The trip was exhausting, in that every day we were diving into people's lives in a very intimate way. The 10 women that were the focus of our trip were sharing with us, one at a time, their private stories. Each one was so different, but every one was filled with so much hurt, pain, and injustice in many ways. Just listening to one story felt like about a month's worth of emotional "heart work"... in fact, sometimes just walking into one of their homes would be the equivalent. But we would listen to, question, encourage, challenge, and pray with each of the women. It was so important for us to be present with each one of them, and I felt so blessed that we were able to do so. We were honored to be with them, and they were honored to be with us. It was beautifully exhausting.

If you have any experience doing humanitarian work, you know that you are often hit with what appears to be never-ending need. From what I've observed, this usually drives us to one of two things: do nothing because we are discouraged at the small size of the difference it might make, or try to do everything and not have time to see the people we are working with.

I love that Eyes That See is all about seeing each and every one of the people involved in their projects. They dream big, yet work small. In a group of 10 women, each one matters, and each one is known intimately and responded to individually. We met every one of them. We heard every one of their stories. We know all of their names (even if we have a hard time pronouncing them). We spent all of our time and energy so that we could know them and remind them of their great worth. This is the kind of purpose I am honored to pour myself into and be beautifully exhausted by.

I hope that those of you following along will feel the same and be encouraged by all of the priceless "small work" being done by Eyes That See. We truly can rejoice in what has begun, and all that is to come! Thank you for being a part of it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

All in One Week

Last Friday Nikki and Christy wrote from Ethiopia about several of the needs at Project 1.  Some of the women had real needs and each of the children involved badly needed a new pair of shoes.  As of yesterday, all of these specific needs have been met! Thank you so much for your generosity.  The lives of these women and children are truly changed by the financial gifts and prayers that you offer on their behalf.  Thanks for having eyes that see our friends in Ethiopia.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Month of Change

This year Eyes That See will be celebrating “The Month of Change” from April 1-30th. During this month we will be collecting change at various places throughout the country, while sending daily emails about participants and those who benefit from money that is raised. All of the change collected during the month will help fund the projects within Ethiopia.

Currently, we are looking for people who would like to be a change drop-off sites. Maybe you are an individual, a business, organization or church. If you would like to be a change drop off site, the process is very easy. Your site could be at your desk, your kitchen or your favorite coffee shop. Here’s what it looks like.
  • Make or find your container. It can be as simple as a cookie jar or coffee mug or as elaborate as the old school Valentine’s boxes we made in elementary school.
  • Send us your email address, the site where you are collecting change, and a photo of you with the your “Month of Change” container.
  • Print off a copy of the “Month of Change” flyer that we will send you and have it available to explain what we are doing.
  • On the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 30th email us how much change you have collected so far. No dollar bills. Only change counts! We will not post individual totals, but we will celebrate what comes in as a whole each week.
  • Make the daily emails available to anyone who is interested and enjoy being a part of changing people’s lives with your pocket change!
We would like to have our entire list of change drop-off sites posted by March 20th, so please let us know if you are participating. If you have questions, contact us at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Last Day

The last day in Addis came more quickly then I was ready for. I'm always surprised how that can happen. I'm anxious and excited to go home to see my family again, but a sadness sets in when the time nears to our departure.
Ethiopia is truly my home away from home. I have better relationships and feel more alive and comfortable in my own skin when I am there. But don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the United States and consider it a gift that I get to live here.

As typical in Ethiopian culture, Christy and I were sent off with a coffee ceremony! This is truly an honor and a sign of respect and love. This time though was the most honored I have ever felt. I got to light the candle starting the ceremony and also cut the bread!! This is the first time I've gotten to do this and it is also not customary for women to do either of these practices. So I felt very honored!!

And in true Nikki fashion, I entertain everyone as I struggled to light the candle (4 tries) and couldn't get the bread to cut all the way through!!

We were given kind words of thanks and appreciation and also gifts to go home with. A couple of the women stood up and shared their hearts with the group. We had coffee, bread, popcorn, and barley, and we ended with worship. It was a great send off.

I have to say thank you again for your support of Eyes That See. We know all of this is only able to happen because of God's love for you and all His children. Thank you for your obedience.

Monday, February 14, 2011

They are home!

Thanks for all of the prayer and support.  Nikki and Christy are home and doing well.  This was an amazing trip that we will continue to be writing about over the coming weeks.

Before they left they took some pictures of life in Ethiopia.  These are some typical sites you will see around the city.
Woman carrying brush

Spices at the Merkato

view of the city from Mount Entoto

Typical shop in Addis

Sunday, February 13, 2011


At 19, Fikirte is the youngest student in the beauty school program. She lives with her parents, brother, and sister, but they are unable to continue supporting her. Since joining the program, she has quickly become a student showing great skill and passion for her work. While visiting with Fikirte, she shared how thankful she is to the program for helping her to no longer be a burden on her family. Beyond being able to support herself, she is already dreaming of one day in the near future when she can help other women in situations like hers. We are so proud of her for dreaming big dreams, and knowing her worth in Christ!

Nikki and Fikirte

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Typical Day at the Beauty School

Here are some photos of a typical day at the beauty school.  Thanks for all the support in making this happen!

The teacher-Meseret
Misrak washing hair
The supplies that they work with, seriously that is about it! 
Here are the girls posing with their new hair product donated by a fellow hair stylist from the United States - thanks Katie!
Meseret observing their work
Sintyu cutting a women from the neighborhood's hair - they practice on real people which is a big deal because the other schools use mannequin heads

Soccer Ball

We had fun making one boy's day by giving him 10 birr (about 60 cents) in exchange for his homemade soccer ball. Eyob is 13 and in the 8th grade.

 It is common practice for kids to make their own soccer balls, because they can't afford a real one. We will use Eyob's ball to show students back in the U.S. a tangible piece of life in Ethiopia.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How you can help today

As you know, we have spent much of this week with the women in our beauty school program. Several of them have some very real and immediate needs.
One of our goals with this program is to help these women become self-sufficient. The commitments below are short-term because we believe they can reach that goal
within a few months after graduation. We'd like to offer you the chance to be a part of making a
difference in their lives. We leave Ethiopia in just over 24 hours and we'd really like to be able to leave by telling them that for the next several months their immediate needs have been met.

**Sponsorship fulfilled** Sinite - monthly school tuition for her daughter - $5 - asking for a 1 year commitment

**Sponsorship fulfilled**Helen - monthly vitamin D for her 2 1/2 year old daughter- $10 - asking for a 1 year commitment. Her daughter is having trouble walking and is very weak due to the lack of Vitamin D

**Sponsorship fulfilled** Helen - monthly school tuition for her older daughter - $5 - asking for a 1 year commitment

** Sponsorship fulfilled** Helen - wishes to have her situation kept private, but she is in desperate need of monthly assistance of $30 - asking for 4 month commitment

Misrak - monthly school tuition and food provided for her daughter - $20 - asking 1 year commitment

After school children - 20 pairs of shoes at $10 a piece

If one of these needs is to be met by you, please send me an email at

Thank you for your prayers for us while we have been in Ethiopia.

What Can I Do?

I've talked with some people this week who have been paying attention to the blog who now feel like, "what can I do about all of this?"  It can feel overwhelming sometimes.  Yet there are some simple ways to be involved in the lives of our friends in Ethiopia through Eyes That See.

  • Be Praying.  We will only accomplish what God allows us to, so please continue to be praying for Eyes That See and the children, women, and staff involved.
  • Share the Stories.  If you have been thinking about some of the blog posts, the conditions people are living in, or how easy it is to make a difference, share with the people around you.  Let the stories live on around you.
  • Partner with us financially.  As we continue this project and begin the next one, we are needing more financial partners.  Take a look at where you are at and see if there is any room to join us in changing the lives of our friends in Ethiopia.  
Thank you for all of your support as Nikki and Christy are in Ethiopia.  They will be home very soon!


Let me tell you about Mitean. She is a 24 year old living in government housing because both of her parents have died. Mitean is a very intelligent women and she happens to be the very best student at the beauty school!
Mitean opening her graduation gift!

Before coming to our program, Mitean described herself as angry, irritable, and unapproachable. But now with a smile on her face describes herself as hopeful, patient, and kind.

This past week holds some very special moments for Mitean. On Saturday she accepted Jesus as her savior. This week she got offered a job at a salon!! She hasn't even graduated yet, but they are so impressed with her ability that they are going to hire her part time until she graduates next month and then she will go full time! Christy and I are so excited that we are able to be here to celebrate with her.

Mitean wants to say thank you for your generous gifts which has enabled her to change from the inside out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Sintyu's neighborhood
Sintyu is one of the ten women who will be graduating next month. We had the opportunity to go to her home and hear her story. She lives in one of the poorest areas in Addis. The shacks in her neighborhood are hidden behind an area dump. As we stepped out of the car, we had to avoid the garbage, feces, and skulls of animals. As we entered her home and our eyes began to adjust to the dark, we were able to make out the faces of two young boys (ages 7 & 3) on the twin size bed that took up half of the house. We sat down to hear her story, and it is a painful one.

She is 24 years old. Her name, Sintyu, means "survivor of many bad things." Having already lost both parents as a teenager, Sintyu lived with her brothers and sisters. She found herself pregnant at 17, and was asked to leave her home as she would bring shame to her family and the burden of another mouth to feed. Needing to provide for her child, Sintyu felt like her only option was to turn to prostitution. She did this and any other job she could find until she met her husband three years ago. They had a son together.

Sintyu started in our program last fall to get a skill that will help provide for her family. Even though she has a husband with a steady job, he is also an alcoholic and abusive. He feels because Sintyu's first son isn't biologically his this gives him the right to beat him and treat him like less. Sintyu says that this happens regularly. He comes home drunk late at night and begins kicking and hitting the boy. He is verbally abusive to Sintyu and yells slander in the neighborhood about her.

As Christy and I sat there we were amazed at how matter of fact she shared this information with us. Sintyu feels like this is her life until she can make enough money to move out. We asked what would it take to make this happen now instead of waiting until after graduation and she finds employment. We were told it would cost about $50 right now to get her into a new place where she no longer had to wait in fear of her husbands return. An additional 3 months of this same amount would put her in a position to become self-sufficient.

I'd like to be able to say hers is the only story like this, but Sintyu is not alone in her painful reality. Tonight Sintyu and her boys will sleep safely in their new place.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Soap and water. Something as simple as these two items can be life changing to a person. We have seen this first hand on our trip. While getting a tour of the facility, Endris showed us the shower and said that this is where the children can take a shower and also the women. This is the only shower that they get. Many of the women have no access to running water in their homes. So they are able to take a shower here and it is making all the difference. Their confidence and self worth has risen a ton because of a bar of soap and water!

Thanks to Toms of Maine, Grandma's Lye Soap, and B Natural we were able to bring tons of bars of soap that will last them for awhile!

Gift Bags!

We gave each of the 10 women their gift bags filled with lots of fun girly things! They were so honored to receive them one by one like I was handing out diplomas. They giggled while they hugged me and shook my hand. I later found out that it was the first time many of them had ever touched a white person.

The women were very thankful for the bags. It was cute because many of them brought their bags back the next day!

This is a really special group of women. They are full of joy, hope, and peace. The recurring theme that comes out with all of them is how much their lives have changed because of the community they are experiencing with the other women in the program.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Our first day of working in Ethiopia we got to visit the home of one of the women in our beauty school program.

Her name is WoubeEjig. Her house leaves little to be desired. It has no windows, no running water or electricity, it is made of mud, and it's the size of a closet. But WoubeEjig was so honored that we would come and sit and see her home. As five adults crammed into this tiny place, we sat and listened to her story. It's difficult to try to even begin to share with you the hardship and struggles she has faced. Losing her father at a young age started her on a journey of addiction and prostitution. She is 35 years old. She has two children. A son who is 20 and a daughter who is 6. Her daughter is living with her grandma right now. Her small home with very few belongings had recently been broken into and robbed.

But the thing that stuck out most was her joy and hope. Because of going through the program, her life has been changed. She said because of the opportunity to go to the beauty school and receive counseling she is free from her addiction, knows who she is in Christ, and has hope for her future.

This is what Eyes That See is about. This is why we exist and why we need your help and support more then ever. There are countless women with stories like WoubeEjig who need the opportunity to feel the joy and hope that only God can bring them.

Currently we have enough funding to provide this to 10 women. All that is stopping us from starting another group of 10 women is $30 per student each month for 5 months. This is a total of $150 per student to have her life changed or $300 each month would support an entire class.


Yesterday we had the chance to meet 6 of the students involved in the after-school program. We learned their names, had some fun conversation as they practiced the English they are learning, played a little soccer, and spent time getting to know them. Each of the students received a little goodie bag filled with donations from some of you -- thank you!

The way these young people's lives has changed is amazing. Each of them have lost not only one, but both of their parents. Some have family members taking care of them, but through Project 1 now have a chance to eat a meal after school, clean their uniforms so they can continue in their schooling, take showers, receive tutoring, and learn about the love of Jesus. The staff in charge of the project are very proud of the students and how far they have come. They commented that these children were not children who knew how to laugh and play just months ago...all they knew was loss and work. At Project 1, they have learned how to play, and how to be children if only for a small part of their day. And their joy is contagious - every moment that we weren't talking or playing with them, we were all laughing.

God is doing amazing things!! And He is so good that we are all invited to wear this same joy around with us today. You're reading this because God has called you to be a part of this, maybe through prayer, maybe through financial support. But however you are meant to be a part, please don't miss it! This joy is for you! Please share in it with us today!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Arriving Safe and Graduation Gifts

Nikki and Christy have arrived safely and are already at work in Ethiopia.  Thanks for all of your prayers so far. One thing that Nikki wanted to thank everyone for was their generous gifts to the women who will be graduating next month.  There were so many gifts put together that everyone will get a beautiful bag filled with tons of fun things like lotions, hair supplies, scrunchies, toothbrushes, etc.  Thanks so much, especially to Brittney Armstrong and her team for putting together such great gifts.

These women are such a gift to all of us, as we see how easily lives are changed by the grace of God.  We are looking for more people to be partners with Eyes That See through monthly support so we can continue to work with women like these.  If you are interested, please email us at
Some of our first graduates!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Today is the day....

Today is the day!

Thank you so much to the many of you who donated items for the women graduating! I'm excited to give them their encouragement bags filled with goodies. They have one month left until graduation day and I hope this is the encouragement they need to continue on their new paths. I will make sure to let each of them know how so many people in the United States are praying for them specifically.

I plan on updating the blog while on my trip. So please check back for updates.

Thank you for your prayers for Christy and me on this trip. Please continue to pray for:
  • Our health and safety during the flights and time in country
  • Our families hanging out without us back home (that's 2 dads and 8 kids)
  • God's favor upon us
  • Our eyes to "see" what God wants them to "see"
  • His will to be done
This is the note that will be in each of the women's gift bags. It says:
Congratulations. We are so happy to have you be a part of the first graduating class. Our prayer for you is that God blesses your life and you feel His love always. Jesus loves You.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Through Becca's Eyes...

Our guest blogger today is Becca. I had the privilege of meeting Becca years ago when she became my daughter's (best ever) speech pathologist. Little did I know at the time that this meeting would turn into a friendship with a common thread of two cute little Ethiopian boys and a love for humanity.

Becca is a great writer. You can check out some of her thoughts at Live Out Loud.

If you’d asked me what I saw in Ethiopia ten years ago, many images would have crossed through my mind. I’d have described starving children with distended bellies. People who were sick and dying. Poverty. Sadness. Death.

Ten years later, very different images pop into my head when I hear the word Ethiopia. Cognitively, I know that much suffering still exists; it is this suffering that provides the need for programs like Eyes That See. But suffering and pain no longer define what I see in Ethiopia. If you ask me what I see in Ethiopia today, here’s what I will tell you: I see joy. I see hope. And I see family.


Ask anyone who has traveled to Ethiopia what it was like, and they will describe a number of things. Some of those things will be heart-breaking, for sure. But every person who travels to this beautiful land will also come back talking about the joy that radiated from the people they met along the way. In a land where so many people struggle to meet their basic needs, joy still rises up and through it all. Of the many lessons that Ethiopia can teach us, one of the most powerful is that joy comes from within.


Even with all the joy that emanates from the people, it would still be easy to look at Ethiopia and see despair. Over four million children are orphaned due to poverty and illness. An estimated 58% of the population is without access to improved drinking water. Nearly 12% of children will die before their fifth birthday; one in twelve women will die in childbirth. Healthcare is almost nonexistent. Education is limited in many places, and only 36% of the population is literate. Thousands upon thousands of people go hungry and homeless every single day. Children work on the streets. Women are forced to work as sex slaves.

So yes, it would be easy to see despair. Yet, the flip side of despair is hope and it is hope that I see when I look at Ethiopia. I see hope when a well is built and women and children no longer have to walk six hours at a time to gather dirty drinking water. I see hope when children stop dying from the diarrhea that comes from that dirty drinking water and start living long enough to build their own country’s future. I see hope when a school is built and children learn to read and write and dream. And I see hope when a single, HIV positive mother of three is able to support her family by learning how to be a hairdresser through the training provided by Eyes That See.

You can choose to turn away from Ethiopia in despair. Or you can choose to invest in hope. I choose hope.


Finally, when I look at Ethiopia, I see family. I didn’t always, though. Before my son, James, came home from Ethiopia, I had a tendency to brush this country aside. They over there-- they weren’t like us, over here. Then I held my baby boy in my arms for the first time and felt his heart beat next to mine. I felt his soft breath on my cheek as he slept on my chest. I loved him, and I raised him, and I watched him laugh and love and grow. And suddenly the lines between us and them were forever erased. Now, I look at the faces of Ethiopia and I see family. I understand in the depths of my heart that there is no “us” and “them.” It’s an artificial distinction that we as humans choose to create. But it’s false. We may be separated by the people of Ethiopia by an ocean and many thousands of miles, but in the end, we are all one. They are our family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In The News

There has been a lot about Egypt lately in the news and the horrible situation going on there.  Nikki's great friend was impacted by the riots and many here in the US are very concerned.  Please continue to pray for the people in Cairo.

At the same time, we have been asked a lot over the past few weeks if it is safe to travel to Ethiopia.   Nikki is leaving soon with Christy and I will be leaving in March.  The US government issues travel warnings for countries that they feel citizens should not visit.  Here is there description from their website.

"Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff. "

Ethiopia is not on their list of countries and remains a fairly safe place to travel to.  Of course, there are always dangers, but not more than other times.   As Nikki's husband who is very invested in her safe return, I feel good about her going to Ethiopia again.  Of course, for her sake I do wish there was a Jimmy John's in Addis, but the is simply personal preference on her part!

 Please pray for God's work to be done and we know that this and every trip is in God's hands.  We will be updating you on the progress of the projects in Ethiopia and the travels of Christy and Nikki as we get the updates.  Thanks for being part of Eyes That See.