Monday, August 30, 2010


Ava Eleanor Argene Strobel
She is home and we are filled with great joy!
There is so much to tell about our journey to Ava and all we have learned in following God and opening our hearts to hear HIS plan for our lives. We could never have imagined the love we would feel not only for Ava but for so many children who we left behind. This little one needed us yes, but we are already feeling that it was us who needed her more than ever.
We are adjusting slowly to her needs and her cues. Her brothers are very dear and watching them interact and talk with her is so awesome! 
I cannot wait to continue to process all the joy and much of the heartache I saw in Ethiopia. There is so much to share and it is country who now owns a portion of my heart. In fact, I cannot wait to return but until then we can educate and advocate for the many orphans still in great need.
Stay tuned and thank you all for the amazing and unending support!


There are few words more precious than HOME. Today I am so aware of the many comforts we have and that all of the eagerness and emotion surrounding the arrival of our sweet daughter would not be possible without the following:

FAITH: An open mind and heart and a willingness to surrender and allow God to steer the ship. Relinquishing control is not my strong suite and let's face it most of us live the American lifestyle of working harder to gain more and get further. I have come to understand in a way I can barely express that letting go and letting God is one of the best gifts you might ever give yourself.

TEAMWORK: Never underestimate strong and frequent communication with your spouse. As teammates Bob and I have come to believe that all things are possible. It may not always look supper glamorous or even smart to those on the outside looking in but our constant dialogue is a big piece of our adoption story. You see way back when we began thinking of adoption and before we even felt the strong call to adopt, Bob and I would spend a great deal of time just talking. He would tell me I was crazy and that with the three children we already had our hands were very full and I would remind him that although I knew that I still felt the nudge that we were the family that should adopt. The dialogue we have shared through this journey has been priceless and I am grateful every day for such a devoted and exceptional man in my life!

GRATITUDE: Always remember to be grateful for your community. Our community of family, friends, church members and neighbors have been nothing short of sweet miracles and such an important part of this journey. As I looked around at those welcoming us home at the airport I was so touched by my feeling that this child comes home not just to a family of love and support but to a community of love and support!

ORGANIZATIONS:  All God's Children International has blown us away in their commitment to adoption and the orphans of Ethiopia. The staff loves the children as if they were their own and it was obvious from start to finish that they are well run, organized and on top of every detail. There are numerous organizations who are aiding orphans all over the world. You can make a difference in so many ways without ever feeling called to adopt. Ask me how or just start researching all that can be done to support those children who live without parents, homes, food and or education all over the world. I hope to get many of the best organizations posted to my site soon.

There is far more to share but as I go to sleep in my comfortable home with my family all fast asleep, I want to say how glad I am that God chose me. God chose us to become adoptive parents, God chose us to be open and willing, God chose us to be stretched and changed by what we would see in Ethiopia, God chose us to raise not only our first three children but now to raise four children with Christian values and hearts for the least of these. God chose us to spread our love.

Our work as beacons of light and hope and our promise to the orphan has just begun and today we are grateful that a little one who might not have survived has been found and that God has connected the many dots to create the shape of our lives together. We are HOME. Thank God for the journey!

Monday, August 16, 2010

BE THE CHANGE and get your t-shirt(s) HERE!

Speak Up for Those Who Cannot Speak for Themselves!
All proceeds from the sale of our tshirts will benefit 
the love and care of orphans and widows.
-Send a child to school
-Send someone to love on orphans 
Be the Change 

We have three junior sizes and small, medium, large and x-large for adults. Please note that the shirts are slightly fitted.
Please feel free to email us at should you have any questions.
Thank you for your support!

choose a size

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Such a celebration!

Today I sit here as the luckiest girl in the world! Truly, I am richly blessed and supported in ways I can barely put into words. This week three friends who are also my dear neighbors, hosted a shower for me and for the little girl who will soon adorn our streets with her beautiful eyes and precious smile. My friends, Kim, Michelle and Carrie seriously went all out people and I do mean ALL OUT to get our all boy household ready for a little princess. Take a peak at a few photos below and you will see just how they spoiled me :)

So let me just say that that you have never seen a cuter and more amazing cake! 
It made me cry to see the blond momma holding the little cocoa baby complete with curly locks.
Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan certainly does deserve a shout out for clever and delicious cake.
The entire top square cake is now in our fridge and we plan to all share it as a family before I depart 
next week for Ethiopia. 
I'm telling you the entire night was super special!

The table looked extra special too with amazing flowers out of my girlfriend's backyard and 
darling cards displaying facts about Ethiopia.
They used fancy ribbons to wrap each napkin and even brewed Ethiopian coffee that we had brought home so that everyone attending could try it. 


It was such a gift to me to be in a room with so many supportive women. I so appreciate the generosity, the curiosity and the support surrounding our adoption. I cannot help but think that several of us in attendance that night would make a terrific mission team. Most of us are raising little ones but who knows what the future holds. I just know that the adoption of one sweet baby into our hearts and our home has turned out to be so much more than I could have ever imagined. 

Even through the questions, the wait and the many program changes this has been a miraculous journey.
Thank you all for making me feel so blessed and so loved.
You guys ROCK!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

For good

Adoption is the land of disclaimers so let me begin by saying that all of this could change but guess what?
We are Ethiopia bound again and this time it is to bring our daughter home for good. Her tiny feet and big eyes will soon be right here under the same roof. We will be a family of six and the Owen will officially be a big brother. It is all really happening and we could not be more thrilled that soon little Ava will be home in our arms where she belongs. 
Our Embassy date was announced yesterday and 
it will be on Monday, August 23rd.
Crazy huh that we work like mad and have to wait wait and wait some more only to then be granted very soon after passing court, a quick embassy date.
We are still soaking it all in around here and wondering how we will get everything ready.

Who knows and in many respects who cares.

Ava will soon be home!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ethiopia- a few photos...

Here is the door we entered to meet our daughter for the very first time...

On Sunday morning we saw this group of cattle right on the streets alongside traffic.

Navigating the streets of Addis can be challenging but the scenery is always interesting!
Here is the traditional coffee we enjoyed at the home of our new friend and taxi driver, Solomon.
From incense to our chicco treat, it was the real thing!
The children of Ethiopia absolutely stole our hearts. Here is the group of boys we
loved who sleep at the bus station each night for a variety of reasons. They receive
some donations and help from local ministries. I look froward to seeing them again when we

This was a typical scene outside our window daily. Ethiopians work very hard and their animals
do to. We have no idea just how easy we have it even on a long and tough work day.

There are hundreds more images to share of both Ethiopia and the miracle of adoption. Processing all that we saw and the host of emotions we felt throughout the week is taking some time. I will share more photos soon.
I'll leave you with a question. Is there a place or a person God is stirring you to explore or reach out to? 
For us it is the land of Ethiopia where we were called and challenged to open our eyes and our hearts wide.
Where might it be for you?

Ethiopia- a journal entry from day four

We are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the largest city and the second most elevated capital city in all of Africa. It is a city and one that will remain etched in my heart forever. We have been to many cities in several countries but Addis is very different for us. You see there are no tourists that come here and we are the only white people around. I feel that most of us could stand to be thrust into another land and made to walk the streets filed with those of another race and certainly a very different culture. Today we walked from our hotel up to a nearby corner just outside a village where everything is happening from corn being cooked on little stoves to shoes being sold to boys surrounding foosball tables that appear to be 20 years old. There are meat stands, both Christian and Muslim and animals that roam the streets. Sometimes the animals simply stand in the middle of the road, causing all kinds of havoc on already treacherous roads. We have noticed each day that Ethiopians here in the city are very active and walk everywhere. They are on the move. The rainy season has just begun and although that means tremendous mud everywhere it does not stop any of the people from being out and about with a purposeful sense of where they need to be. They seem very task oriented and work harder than most of us might prefer. They shepard animals in the fields across the street from our hotel. They carry huge long bundles of timber that are used everywhere to create scaffolding to build buildings, many that simply remain incomplete and vacant. They walk uphill with large jugs of water on their backs or sometimes toddlers who are all wrapped and seem content. People here  where everything from jeans to wrapped clothing and you see the well dressed with wild hair, jewelry and heels walking right alongside the women with no shoes and filthy rags.  It is city of contrasts. During our walk this afternoon we were very mindful that we stuck out like sore thumbs. My heart was beating and I kept wondering if it was safe to travel further. We have heard and read that Addis is a very safe city but one never knows and many times throughout the week we have not been greeted with smiles , only stares and disdain. The women look at us as if to say, "We know you are here to take our babies," and frankly it feels rather disturbing to be looked at as if you are less than simply because you are not one of them. I wish everyone were forced to walk as we did today in a foreign culture where everyone else has a different color skin. Some greeted us with nods and smiles but the staring was overwhelming and often intimidating. We were stretched today and made far more tolerate of what a person of another race, culture or creed might feel like walking the streets of our neighborhoods.

Today was our second visit to Hannah's Hope where our children are until we pass court after tomorrow and are later assigned an embassy date to return to complete visa paperwork to take them out of the country. Arriving outside the gates of Hannah's Hope was a dream come true for all of us as it has been such a process to get here. We are with 7 other families and we could not have asked for a better group of convicted souls. We love the group and hearing all of the stories that lead each of them to adoption. Everyone so far has bonded well with their children and we are praying that each family passes court tomorrow. We were laughing tonight at dinner that someone should wear traditional white Ethiopian garb tomorrow to our early court appointment just to see what might happen. Bob might be our best choice as he has the short thin stature of most Ethiopians. We were all saying tonight that Ethiopians are indeed his people.   

We met our daughter, Argene (pronounced  Are gen eee with a hard g) yesterday and right after her Special Mother placed her in our arms she looked right up at me and smiled. Our tears and emotions flowed as we held her and realized that God brought us through nearly 2.5years of paperwork, waiting and now traveling half way around the world to connect us to one sweet little one who needs us and needs a family. It is truly a miracle and a God ordained plan. Finding the courage and the faith to step outside ourselves and often our comfort zone could never have happened without faith, letting go of our own needs and trusting that God would work it all out. I wish I could bottle and sell the feeling of such faith so all of us could take a dose when needed. It felt so surreal to finally feel her, smell her and interact with her knowing that although we did not give birth to her,   she is without a doubt our daughter. She is already etched in our hearts and needs us , but we feel strongly like it is our family that needs her. We need her to come home and complete our family.

Tonight our hotel is quiet and many families have gone to bed. Our agency picks us up early tomorrow for our court appointment. It will be a long morning of waiting and wondering what the judge will ask us. We are some of the very first families to be present at this court appointment since the changes have taken place in Ethiopia. Over the past few years representatives from the adoption agencies represent each family without them being present. The change in the system which brought about the two trip process now means that we must meet with our children for two days ahead of court and then stand before a judge and testify that we wish to adopt him or her. They want to be certain we have met the child and we must explain why we wish to adopt from Ethiopia. It could be slightly intimidating but we have been told to speak from our hearts. We will keep you posted. 

We have to be very careful with photos of Argene. Ethiopians are every particular about photos and the use of photos on the internet. They are a very proud culture and as one boy told me today when he saw my camera. "We do not wish for others to see Ethiopia as a bad place." I actually was taking pictures of darling baby goats and he found that to be offensive. I put my camera away and then we just talked. He was with a group of buddies and they wondered why we are here. It did not feel wise to share that we are adopting a baby but rather to tell him that we are only taking photos to share Ethiopian culture with others. We explained that we are here to help the many needy children in Ethiopia and he seemed to soften at that point. He was so articulate, passionate and so dreamy gorgeous. He is a student at the University and I trust that after the brief interaction we had today he is a young man who will make a positive impact right here in his village and perhaps in the city of Addis. So I tell you all that to let you know that we cannot post pictures on Facebook or our blog until Argene is legally ours and on her way home. Then we will be happy to share our joy with all of you who have touched us with all your love, support and prayers. We will share with all of you Miss Ava Strobel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

So much to share

They say home is where the heart is and yes that is generally the case but today I am feeling like my heart still lies in Ethiopia. Our daughter is there and now that we finally know her I know both my husband and I would agree that we left a piece of our hearts with her at Hannah's Hope in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The whole idea of meeting her. beginning to bond with her, legally stating we want her to become a part of our family and then leaving her just does not sit right as a Mother. We are doing what we need to do in order to bring sweet baby Strobel home but this process, this roller coaster ride we are on sure as my heart feeling mighty dizzy. As we took off Saturday night from Addis headed for Frankfurt, then Chicago and then home many tears began to flow. We will hope and pray that the Embassy date is assigned quickly so we can return to Ethiopia, appear in court and then finally receive the papers that legally allow us to bring her home. Yahoo!

Of course our Ava is the reason for our journey to Ethiopia but the story has become so much bigger. We were so fortunate to make several new friends and a few that we got to know very well and we hope to stay connected to for years to come as we raise our Ethiopian children. We were also very blessed to experience a third world country for the first time and I am now convinced that doing so should be mandatory for all Americans. It was so eye opening and helped me to become even more aware of what others endure but that ultimately we are all just people. We are God's people and we all require the same things. I saw that no matter your country of origin, the color of your skin or the size of your home we all just need to be loved. We all need a kind smile or a gentle touch. We all need a nourishing meal and water that is suitable to drink. No matter the street you roam or the relatives you have we all need a place to lay our heads at night. We all need clothing to keep us dry and warm. My week in Ethiopia helped me to better understand that basic needs are universal. Basic needs are essential and without them it is so challenging to survive especially as a child. The call to adopt Baby Ava is as big as the hearts of the children of Korah, or as wide as the smiles of the Special Mother's loving our babies at Hannah's Hope. The call to adopt lead us to the bigger picture of feeling what it was like to be the minority on the streets. Our adoption journey lead us to the Kolfe Boy's Home where new soccer balls and pizza are luxury items and where a boy who reached for his assigned pieces of pizza first turned to me to ask if I needed some before taking his first bite.

There is simply too much to share so I will continue to process it all for now. I will continue to pray for the safety and the health of our new daughter. I will continue to pray for the quick paperwork process in the Ethiopian courts. I will pray for Almaz and Was and all the many others who touched our heart this week with their dedication to the little souls of Ethiopia. I will pray that others are touched by adoption such as we have been. My heart feels so full it could burst and that is a very good thing.

Photos are soon to come...

Into Our Arms Forever!

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welcome home ava! from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Meeting Ava during our first trip to Ethiopia

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Meeting Ava Ethiopia Trip July 2010 from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Korah- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

During our recent visit to Ethiopia I felt very called to the village of Korah in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. There have been numerous rumblings lately about the tremendous need to help the children of Korah who are growing up in and around the local trash dump. The village was established 75 years ago as a place to send people with leprosy who were said to be cursed. Now there is a 3rd generation of people living in Korah with nearly 100,000 suffering from such things as leprosy, HIV, misc disease and of course malnutrition. There are many children of Korah who have been forced to live and work at the trash dump in hopes of finding food and possible items to sell in Korah's center of town. With the start of the Great Hope Church in Korah and the building of a shelter, along with the ministry of local Sammy Liben and Sumer Yates, there is now a feeding program and a sponsorship program in place to rescue the forgotten children of Korah and send them to boarding school where they can escape the horror of the conditions of living and working in a large trash dump. For more information please visit: or where you can learn more about how you or your organization can help the people and the children of Korah. Please send me a message or email Erin Allen at to request sponsorship information. I will soon be posting the photos of my day recently spent in Korah. I must tell you it was life changing and beyond anything I have ever done to stretch, change and rearrange myself. God helped me to help the people who I met. Much of what I could offer was nothing more than the snap of my camera or a warm touch or an inviting smile. The needs in Korah are beyond our wildest imagination yet God is over Korah and there is already amazing work being done. I invite you to view the following videos to learn more about the beauty and the needs of Korah's people.


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Hannah's Hope Orphanage- Ethiopia

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