Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Greetings from Grand Lake & Happy Anniversary!

We are over in Grand Lake. It's an annual tradition, to come here with Grammy and Evan every summer. We love it here! We only arrived yesterday, and we have already been out on three (successful!) moose-hunting excursions. We are staying in our favorite cabin again this year. It's very close to the village and the lake. The kids love running down to the park...or the lake...or the "Snack Shack" for various goodies.

It's also our wedding anniversary today. Seventeen years! Dave and I are sitting at a coffee shop right now, comparing "then" and "now."

  • We were thin. Dave had some hair.
  • We were young. We were naive. We were untested. We were clueless.
  • We assumed life would be perfect: 2.3 kids. Golden retriever. Picket fence.


  • One of us isn't thin. But one of us still has hair!
  • We're definitely not young. Nor are we naive or untested. (But we may still be clueless.)
  • Alas, life hasn't been perfect! We have struggled. A lot. But this life has definitely been an adventure. Sometimes it has hurt. But much of the time it has been lovely.

Thanks for the adventure so far!

Happy Anniversary--I love you!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let the count down begin!

Yippee, things are happening fast around here. We are in the process of finalizing our travel plans. The details are more complicated than any normal person would care to know, but here is the overview:

  • Leave for Rome on Saturday, July 12

  • Go to Addis Ababa on Sunday, July 20

  • Return home to Colorado on Sunday, July 27

(I think we "get" Amelia when we arrive in Addis on July 20!)

Some adopting families are working with a charity in Addis Ababa called Children's Heaven ( I cannot ask or encourage you enough--please, please visit this website! The woman who heads up this ministry is named Hanna Fanta. She has agreed to meet us and take us to the BIG market in Addis Ababa. (What a treat, to be able to go there with someone who knows her way around!)

Some Colorado families who have adopted from Ethiopia are organizing a benefit for Children's Heaven. So in addition to shopping for gifts and mementos at the market, we'll choose items that will be auctioned at the benefit this fall.

We will also be able to spend time at the home for girls that Children's Heaven operates while we are in Addis. There are forty-one orphaned girls, ages nine to seventeen, in Hanna's care. If you are able to send donations for these girls, here is the list of items they most need that I received from Hanna:

Used lap tops
English and Math Tutorial CDs/Books
Piano/Guitar Tutorial CDs/Books
School bags
Movies (dvd--educational / Christian / family-friendly)
English Songs (Christian preferred)
Posters (Christian preferred)

Again, please look around at to see the incredible and life-saving work Children's Heaven does for girls who would otherwise have no hope.

The orphanages we will visit are called Sele Enat and Hope for the Abandoned. The items most urgently needed there are:

rubber pants (worn with cloth diapers)
over-the-counter medicines of all kinds
baby wipes

Finally, here's a bit of fun:

We found some sassy brown-skinned dolls today. They were inexpensive, and hopefully Allison and Abby will meet some little girls who might like them.

There is so much to do before we leave in just 16 days! If you would like to send any of the items that are needed for the children we will meet, please let us know. We would be honored to carry them over.

Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:2-3

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Woo-hoo!!! We have a date

We're so excited!

We have an embassy date. It's July 23!

We don't know exactly when we will leave....but we do know we will meet and hold and hug and kiss Baby Amelia in just 25 days!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


In the course of two weeks of waiting, airfares have increased from $2100 per person to $3400 per person. We are rapidly approaching prohibitive travel costs at this point. (5 people x $3400 = too much money!)

I spoke to our agency this morning. They are going to try to get us confirmed embassy dates today or tomorrow. Our first choice is July 16, second choice is July 23.

We have really wanted to bring the girls on the trip, believing God will use the experience to change our lives forever. So we pray we will be open to whatever God has in mind for us: If we are not all meant to go, that we would be ok with that. If we are all meant to go, that HE would open doors and make straight the way.

I read this Scripture this morning:

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for He founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
(S)he who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false....
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of Glory may come in.
Who is He, this King of Glory?
The Lord Almighty--
He is the King of Glory.
Psalm 24:1-4, 7-10
What I am reminded of:
  • We are all God's--even Amelia on the other side of the world--and I have to learn to wait.
  • Oh, that He would find clean hands and a pure heart when He looks at me! (It's hit or miss, unfortunately.)
  • He is the Lord Almighty, the King of Glory!...and I praise Him for that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We received the adoption decree

We received the adoption decree for Amelia this morning. We have known for a couple of weeks that she is officially our girl. But now we have it in writing!

It is an Ethiopian court document, translated into English. It's a bit sad... Amelia is referred to throughout as, "Ayitu Found Abandoned."

We found some humor, though, too. Throughout the decree, Dave is called DAVID BRAIN HOWLETT. Get it? Ha ha ha!

Anyway, we should know our travel date "any day now," per our agency. The waiting is so hard....we would love to know today when we can pack our bags!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

$202.51 for Change 4 Change!

Allison and Abby (and best friend Chloe Boden and best cousin Evan Stauffer) had their Change 4 Change fundraiser at church today.

Before I share details, here is the text of the request the girls put in at church. They figured out what to do, and handled everything all by themselves:

“This is a fundraiser called Change 4 Change. It is for Ethiopian orphans in an orphanage called Sele Enat. Me and my sister are adopting there and we are blessed to go with our parents. So we thought we should do something big since we have a chance. We don’t need much for it, all it is, is some buckets and if people have extra change it wouldn’t hurt to drop some in.”

So the kids set up at the Missions Counter. We made a poster, and they handed out cards that looked like this:

Wonderful people came by throughout the morning....and their change...added up to $202.51. That's a lot of change!

Thank you, Brothers and Sisters! Thank you, God!

Here are a couple of pictures of the kids at work this morning:

That's Allison (back left), cousin Evan (front left) and best friend Chloe (on the right).

And here is Abby (front left), with Allison (center) and Chloe.

The girls even dressed up today!

We have some ideas for various ways the girls can show love to the children we meet in Ethiopia. We expect to have inspiration and clarity "at just the right time." For those of you who help, we give you our word that your change will be well-used. This experience has already been a faith-builder for Allison and Abby. And we haven't even traveled yet!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Removing Friction from the System (by Dave)

I’ve been amazed as I observe what takes place on these online Ethiopian adoption forums. It’s truly the power of community in action. Hundreds of individuals with a common affinity for the children of Ethiopia are banding together to meet real needs outside the scope of governments and other ineffective bureaucracies. It’s wondrous to watch the spontaneous emergence of needs and the immediate response to those needs by the forum members.

Whether it's traveling families taking special formula to orphans awaiting the arrival of their adoptive parents (thank you again, Leah...and thank you, Toni, too!) or the many others who are transporting supplies to address the needs identified by the caretakers, it’s just so incredible to see the “friction” of bureaucratic systems removed so that real needs are met by connecting those that “have” directly with those that “have not.”

It’s also wonderful to experience the friendships and bonds that are being built with people who have never met face to face. I urge anyone who isn’t a part of these communities and has a heart for the children of Ethiopia to participate. I can’t help but think that there is great hope for the country of Ethiopia as the impact of the members of these boards grows in momentum and more are made aware of and drawn to the plight and the pain in Ethiopia.

Hopefully the people of Ethiopia are starting to catch a glimpse of how much we love them through the actions of the everyday people participating in these online forums.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Change for Change Update & What Do They Need?

Allison and Abby are going to set up a Change for Change counter at church this Sunday. We have a cute red bucket, and we are putting together cards that explain what they are doing, and why. Hopefully people will share their pocket change, which will be a joy for the girls as they seek (with such pure hearts!) to serve the children in the orphanages we will visit. May God bless their efforts! We'll keep you posted (pardon the pun).

Another thing the girls have been doing is going to jump rope class. They are learning all kinds of moves! We will take jump ropes to Ethiopia. Even across the language and cultural barriers, we hope Allison and Abby will be able to jump rope with the kids they meet.

People have been asking us what kinds of items they can send to help the children in the orphanages we will visit. According to our adoption agency, the children currently have plenty of clothes, shoes and blankets. Also, people tend to bring supplies for the babies pretty frequently.

It is the older children who are most likely to be overlooked. We would like to take "hair-fixing" supplies and fingernail polish for the girls. Our agency says a family once took matchbox cars, and they were a huge hit. We have a connection in Addis where we can buy children's books in their native language, plus children's Bible story books, and coloring books. We'll be looking for more inspiration as our time to travel gets closer.

The one baby supply that would be greatly appreciated is the kind of formula we were able to send for Amelia. It's made by Enfamil and it's called Enfa-Care. It is specifically made for low birth weight or preemie babies, so it has extra calories and nutrition. It comes in a green can, and we will take the powder formula. I have seen it at Target and Walmart.

There is also a need for rubber pants (the kind toddlers wear over cloth diapers), all kinds of over-the-counter medicines and baby wipes.

If you're reading this and you would like to send any donations, just let us know. We would be honored to carry them over.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Another article about the situation in Ethiopia

We received the June 14, 2008 issue of The Economist today. There is an article titled, "Ethiopia: Will it ever be able to stave off starvation?" I would paste the article here, but the photo is probably too disturbing. So click here to read it.

How can we do more than be a lifeline to this one little girl? Our hearts burn as we cry out to God, "Here we are, send us!" What will that mean? What can we do? What will God do?

How can it be that such a significant amount of (governmental, UN) aid goes out to the people, but there is still so much suffering?

What can we do? Where is the Church?

We purchased ten copies of "There is no me Without You," by Melissa Faye Greene. This is not a "Christian" book, per se, but God certainly used it in our lives. If you live nearby, and you're at all interested, we would be thrilled to give you a copy. Just let us know. Here's what the book looks like:

We can't recommend this book enough. It's a well-written, amazing read. We hope you'll claim your free copy! :-)

Until you can get a copy of the book, or if you don't live nearby, check out the author's website here--

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What happens next?

Now that we have passed court in Ethiopia, we are really, really eager to go to Africa! Here is what I know:

Our agency's facilitator in Ethiopia obtains the adoption decree, gets it translated (to English, I presume?) and requests a new birth certificate (from Ethiopia, I presume?). These steps usually take around two weeks---although, it can take up to three weeks.

Once these items are completed, we are scheduled for an appointment at the U.S. embassy. The appointments are always on Wednesdays. We expect to know our embassy date three to four weeks before we travel.

So. Our embassy date could be July 16 or July 23. (I guess it could also be July 30. But we're praying for those earlier dates!) We travel to Ethiopia several days before the embassy date. And if we can work it out to take that little detour to Italy, then we'll go there several days before we go to Ethiopia.

The bottom line is this: We could be on our way in four or five weeks. Yippee!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Change for Change Update

At our neighborhood garage sale this weekend, the girls sold lemonade for their Ethiopia Change for Change program. Here's a picture of Abby and our good friend Morgan, "girling" the table:

The girls collected around $15. Some friends from church shared their change as well. We're on our way to Allison's goal!


Happy Day! We had a message from our adoption agency with the preliminary message that we passed court in Ethiopia. Yea!

Even though Amelia is now officially our daughter, it will be awhile before we can go get her. We should have a firm travel date in one to three weeks....but the estimated travel date is sometime between July 12 and July 27.

I have delayed some things--like getting a dresser for Amelia's room--until we reached this milestone. So I guess it's time to start looking for a dresser. (Did I say, "yea!" yet?)

It's getting official---
the Howletts are goin' to Addis Ababa!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

And now for a bit of comic relief (AKA "The Odyssey"

While we continue to wait, I'll share a a round-about way, it involves Amelia.

With a new baby coming, we realized that family life will involve one last mini-van. So, we traded in the old gold Honda Odyssey....for a new slate green metallic Honday Odyssey. After years of nobly refusing features like a built-in DVD player or a navigation system, we went for the gusto this time: this mini-van is tricked out.

Imagine the girls' delight when I came home with the new van. (I'm the resident car wrangler around here.) They immediately raced in the house and grabbed the first DVD they could put their hands on. It happened to be "Akeelah and the Bee," a sweet little movie about perseverance and courage.

Now, imagine their dismay when we couldn't get the DVD to work.

Fast forward several hours. Mom has spent this time poring over the (thick and complicated) owner's manual for the new van. Mom, Dad and the girls are now sitting in the van, in the driveway, trying to figure out the complicated technology of the Rear Entertainment System. Question: How many master's degrees does it take to turn on a DVD player? Answer: Apparently more than two, because we couldn't figure it out.

I took the van back to Boulder the following week, where the problem was easily solved by tightening a fuse.

Fast forward again. We are again all sitting in the van, in the driveway, eagerly anticipating the thrill of watching "Akeelah and the Bee" in the car. Surprise! The problem wasn't solved after all. It still didn't work.

Back we went to the Honda dealer. Imagine this time, Lory, Allison, Abby and three or four Honda service guys ALL sitting in the van, in the service bay, pushing buttons, checking headphones and speakers, loading and re-loading "Akeelah and the Bee" and feverishly reading the owner's manual. For over an hour. It felt like car pool day! Finally, the guys in the service department asked if we could bring the van back in and leave it for a day. (They're all pretty young--I imagine they were having terrifying flashbacks about their moms and mini-vans and their own carpools.)

So Dave dropped the van off at the dealership on Wednesday morning. Later that day, Jason in the service department called to see if we would take a rental while they kept working on the system. It seems the whole thing was dismantled and laying in the van, while they waited for an overnighted part. Sure, no problem. I would love to drive a Chevy Malibu (insert grimace here).

The next day was Thursday. Chevy Malibu: day two. Dealer installed the overnighted part. The system still didn't work. Dealer replaced the DVD player. No go. Replaced the entire unit. Still no good. Dealer started working through the wiring system.

(I think the disassembly looked something like this...)

Yesterday was Friday. By now, we're really missing the van. (The only people who own mini-vans are people who need mini-vans. So, it makes more sense than one might think for a family to miss a mini-van.) It's day three for the Malibu.

I checked in with Jason in the service department. Turns out some of the guys had worked on the problem for several more hours. After many Howlett man/woman/girl hours in the driveway with the owner's manual, three trips to the dealer, uncounted service man hours in the service bay at the dealership, overnighted parts, whole system replacement, re-wiring re-works and three days with a Chevy Malibu...

...someone at the dealer thought perhaps they should check the DVD. Turns out, we would have never been able to watch "Akeelah and the Bee" from the comfort of our own mini-van. Because "Akeelah and the Bee" didn't work--we had a bad DVD.


So...the girls and I offered up some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Great Harvest when we picked up the van yesterday afternoon. I don't know who was more embarrassed: the highly-educated, yet clueless, Howlett Four---or the highly trained Honda service specialists. I'm sure this is among the most expensive non-repairs the dealer has ever undertaken.

The good news is, even though we're still waiting, WHEN Amelia comes home, she'll have a fully-functional rear entertainment system in her fancy new mini-van. The bad news is, she won't be able to watch "Akeelah and the Bee."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Still waiting....

(These are waiting room chairs, and they're not very comfortable!)

We received this message from our adoption agency this morning:

The Court date for Ayitu on Wednesday June 4th was postponed due to power outages at the Ministry. As a result the ministry could not give their opinion on her case yesterday. Hopefully Ayitus case will be rescheduled for today or tomorrow; it may however be next week.

(By the way, they call her "Ayitu." We will call her "Amelia Ayitu.")

So, darn. The waiting continues. We have given birth to a kiddo, domestically adopted a kiddo, lost several babies during pregnancy....but none of these experiences has prepared us for the roller coaster of international adoption. (Even as I complain about the waiting, I realize our journey to Ethiopia has been amazingly fast and smooth.)

So here is a good Scripture for today, from The Message paraphrase:

Why are you in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God--soon I'll be praising Him. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God. (Psalm 42:5)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

All about me! (Allison Howlett)

Hi, I'm Allison Howlett and I have the wonderful opportunity to go to Ethiopia to get my new baby sister, Amelia. My sister Abby and I figured that if we get to go to somewhere in need, we should meet it. I consulted mom and dad about it and we came up with Change for Change. We are going to get some buckets and ask for some spare change that you don't need. I read that one girl did this and raised $12,000! That is my goal.

Here is some more about me... I love my kitty cat called Buster, he is all gray and my favorite thing about him is his loyalty to me and his faithful and mesmerizing golden eyes. I also would die without basketball and art. I'm still playing basketball post season. My favorites in art are sketching and doing charcoal. All I need is basketball, art, and cats, I'm pretty simple!

How we got here...

The girls and I had been haranguing Dave to adopt internationally. Of course, there are plenty of good reasons not to undertake an adoption--it's expensive and we're old, to name two pretty good ones. However, there are good reasons to consider it, too: We believe God loves adoption. (He invented the concept, after all.) And what a blast it would be to add another daughter to our already-great family.

In the fall of 2007, through a crazy set of circumstances, we met a family online who were doing an independent adoption in Rwanda. We realized, if we were to consider adoption, we would want to go to Africa. I started researching, and I determined pretty quickly that Ethiopia was the country for us (as if I'm the one who calls the shots, right, God?). Here are a few facts:

  • Ethiopia is about twice the size of Texas;

  • There are between five million and six million orphans in Ethiopia;

  • Ethiopian children are orphaned by poverty and disease;

  • For every child who is adopted, ten thousand orphaned Ethiopian children are not adopted;

  • God loves the children of Africa just as much as He loves Allison & Abby, our cherished and blessed, suburban cul-de-sac-living and generally doted-upon American born daughters.

Dave, not unreasonably, requested some time to pray and think....without input or prompting from me. (Who, me? Pushy?) Imagine my surprise when he called me from an airport just a few days later. I could tell by his voice that something serious had happened. In fact, I thought something was really wrong. Turns out, he had come upon an article about U2's Bono--one of Dave's heroes of the faith--and how God used Ethiopia to break Bono's heart for Africa. After reading the article, Dave was shaken and humbled to realize that we "Howletts Four" were about to become the "Howletts Five."

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

Court date in Ethiopia is TOMORROW!

We have a court date tomorrow, June 4. Our first court date was on May 15....but it didn't exactly "happen," because the governmental ministry in Ethiopia hadn't completed one of the forms. Grrrr!

So we pray that we will pass tomorrow. (I will write a bit about the process soon.)

Our hopes are high enough that we are beginning to plan our travel. Dave and I and the big girls and my mom (Grammy) are all going. Additionally, we will get Amelia when we arrive. Well be a big group, which means we'll need two hotel rooms. We know my mom can help out if Dave and I need to do things that would be too tiring or stressful for the girls. Also, with Abby's bad asthma, we feel better about having another adult with us.

Our current travel plan involves going to Rome for a few days before heading over to Ethiopia. (Dave says we're "in the neighborhood," and he has always wanted to share Rome with us.) I know I'll be soooooo eager to get to Addis and see Amelia. But he's right: how often are we all on that side of the world?