by Becky Burns

As I’ve been preparing to retire at the end of 2022, a lot of time has been spent looking back over the 15 years I’ve had the privilege to serve this ministry.  There have been incredible blessings, miracles and “only God” moments, as well as some of the biggest challenges and heartbreaks I can remember!

Back in the summer of 2007 my dear friend Liane suggested to Joy that I might be able to help her as she put together an international adoption program in Ethiopia.  I had zero experience in the field of adoption and big fears about traveling to somewhere like Ethiopia.  But… I knew that God was opening a very exciting door for me.  He would remind me that even if I had a few gifts that would be an asset, He was about to show me a whole new level of trusting Him.

In 2008 I went to Ethiopia with Joy, meeting Abebe and Abonesh – my dear friends and ministry partners.  Travel to that part of the world presented a whole bunch of challenges for this un-adventurous girl whose ethnic food palette consisted of Taco Bell and maybe P.F. Changs… if I felt daring.  Abebe still teases me that I didn’t eat anything on that trip.  Not true.  I ate granola bars and drank coffee.

In those days, you had to visit an internet café with dial-up to send an email (remember that connection sound?) and the connection was often dropped. There was no easy way to communicate with home.

We made a harrowing trip into the rural countryside (harrowing for me – I know Joy makes these kinds of trips now all the time and thinks nothing of it).

It didn’t seem to me a place you’d want to have a flat tire but it wasn’t too surprising given the “road” conditions.  Just when things were looking up, our driver mentioned that the gas gauge was creeping toward empty. (There were no gas stations along our route, just FYI.)

I was planning how I’d spend the night on the floor of a grass hut until some helpful men (angels?) brought us gasoline in a pitcher!

We were guests in the homes of women and their children living in shocking poverty, where we navigated streams of human waste to get to their doorsteps.  They were the most gracious hosts, serving us out of their meager storehouses with such love.

We met with widows who would eventually come to be connected with our Widows and Orphans Home.

We visited an orphanage in Addis to get insights into operating a well-run orphanage.

The trip was a life-changing one for me.  It planted in my heart a great love for the beautiful, hospitable Ethiopian people.  It energized me to ask for God’s help to advocate for them in the most effective ways possible.

Our international adoption program was launched and I was on a steep learning curve, relying on God’s help over and over.

Working with a foreign government was incredibly challenging and part of my role was to help adoptive families – organizing adoption training weekends, navigating the paperwork, the communication and the waiting – no doubt the most difficult part for all of us but especially hard on them.  For the most part these were folks I only knew over the phone and sometimes via Skype, but they all became very dear to me.

Joy and I had the delightful opportunity to meet several adoptive families in person who lived far from our home office in Puyallup WA at a ‘reunion’ gathering outside of Nashville.

It was so much fun to get to hug those wonderful families and spend some face to face time with parents and children – each one I’d prayed for so earnestly to be united as a family.

When the Ethiopian government closed down international adoption, our adoption work pivoted to an emphasis on domestic adoption in-country, which was something we had already begun but which required a much more concerted effort to teach God’s plan of adoption to a culture not very open to that idea.

I also had the privilege of overseeing our three sponsorship programs for orphans, missionaries and kindergarten students.  My communication with hundreds of our wonderful donors has been something very unique to our ministry and I’ve loved that part of my job so much.

Joy has not only been my boss but also my sounding board, brain-storming partner, shoulder to cry on, prayer companion and encourager.  Jason has been a rock through many highs and lows – he’s a faithful voice of wisdom and godly insight.  Abebe and Abonesh are two of the most dedicated and prayerful people I know – kind and spiritually discerning.  All of our staff, both here and in Ethiopia, have been a joy to work with and they will – of course they will – remain lifelong friends.

This job is now in the best of hands!  Kim Koch has stepped into the role of program administrator with such proficiency and dedication.  I know you have already begun to get to know her and will agree that she is simply the best!

I step away with a huge lump in my throat.  (And apparently with a LOT of words!)  This ministry is obviously very close to my heart and there it will stay as I transition from a member of the leadership team to simply a supporter and prayer partner.  Thank you for helping to make this last 15 years one of the greatest privileges I have ever known.