My dear blog readers and followers,
Interestingly enough, I have procrastinated for a while before I pick up the pen to write this blog. To be very honest, I have never written a Christian testimony before, nor have I even thought about writing one. But truly God has worked miracle through this woman’s work and definitely her amazing story needs to be shared. I feel so blessed to become a witness of His grace and also have the opportunity to work with her and become a small part of this miracle.
This woman’s name is Marcie Erickson, the founder of Grace Centre for Children and Families (which include an orphanage, day care centre and medical clinic) in Bahir Dar. Since August 2012, besides my regular weekday volunteer work on BEMONC (Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care) at the Amhara Regional Health Bureau, I work with the children at Grace Centre during the weekends.
This is how I came to know about Marcie and the Grace Centre. It all happened one day after work walking home from the hospital. I was following two women, one Caucasian and one local, both in uniform. They had just finished donating blood (which is a precious scarcity in Ethiopia). Upon casual chatting, they told me about their work and even proudly led the way to show me their workplace – Grace Centre.
Marcie is a US missionary in her 30’s. Just out of high school at the age of 18, she headed off to Guatemala to volunteer in a children’s home and then at 19 went to Ethiopia for the first time. She spent 9 months in Ethiopia teaching English and was overwhelmed by the conditions people lived and children dying from starvation. Upon return to US, she studied music therapy at Florida State University and then transferred to Florida A&M University to study photography. She waited for God to send her for another international mission. Although she did not graduate, she had used her photography all the time as a voice for Africa. At age 24, she volunteered under the Catholic Church in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. Later she returned to Ethiopia and made Bahir Dar her home. She felt the calling of God for her to adopt children and raise them in Ethiopia.
In May 2006, she quickly became the adopted mother of three Ethiopian boys, aged 13 days, 3 months and 2 years and 9 months respectively. At that time, the frail 13-day old baby was hanging on for his dear life. While waiting for the processing of the adoptions, she had to stay in the orphanage with her children. She found it hard to see the way these babies were cared for with three laying to a crib, bottles propped in their mouths and their cries seemed to go unheard. She then had a vision from God in her head, a wonderful safe loving place for women and children. According to Marcie’s article “Blessed through Service”, she said a prayer, “Lord, if this is coming from you, then you give me the people that will help me run it.”
She then phoned to her closest friends Deanne and Andrew Knife who are Australian missionaries, residing in Addis Ababa at that time. They immediately agreed to move from the capital to Bahir Dar to help Marcie run the project. (Deanne was the Caucasian lady I met at the hospital that day) Together, with God in the forefront, they formed what is known today as Grace Center for Children and Families. Their goal is to see families remain together and not come to the point where mothers feel like they have no choice but to abandon their children. They began by taking in foster children in the fall of 2006 with five foster children. Two were reunited with their birth mothers and the other three are now living with their adoptive families in Australia.
It didn’t take long before the Grace Center was busy and fully operating with the:
Day Care Center: Offers single women another option other than to abandon their children.
After School Program: Provides tutoring for children.
Feeding Program: Providing nourishment for the malnourished.
Medical Clinic: Offers free medical care to those in desperate need.
Women’s Empowerment- Jobs and Training: Assists women in becoming self-sufficient through childcare, basket weaving, jewelry making and other skills, training and employment.
Children’s Home: A home for abandoned and orphaned children.
Temporary Care: Provides the opportunity for families undergoing severe trials to have temporary accomodation for their children.
Child Sponsorship: Provides the opportunity for impoverished families with the ability to stay together as a family.
Within the Grace Center alone they serve 850 women and children, hundreds of these women have conceived children through rape. Many of the women are HIV positive and have other diseases. The children are homeless, begging with their mothers on the streets. At Grace Center they strive to allow these families to grow and become self sufficient, having a full life.
Come and have a tour of the Grace Centre with the youtube clip below. You will see the amazing service Marcie and her friends have provided to the women and children in Bahir Dar. Grace Centre is the first to provide such kind of services in Ethiopia. It now has over 140 local staff with 6 compounds on 12 acres of land donated by the government. The facilities are well equipped with donated supplies which are often flown in from overseas by missionaries and volunteers. The premises are jam packed with children in need. It is serving at least 800 free meals a day. Volunteers have come to serve from many different countries.
You can also read more on Grace Centre’s website: Grace Centre, Bahir Dar
Marcie is now married to a local Ethiopian, Sefinew Birhan, and has 3 biological children of her own (6 in total plus the numerous children in Grace Centre who love hugging her as their own mommy) To raise money for Grace Centre, Marcie is traveling to speak to local organizations and soliciting donations, as well as speaking to youth groups and children to raise awareness. She also is producing music CDs of hymns, and all of the proceeds will go to the mission. In addition, she’s looking into ways to auction or sell her photographs of Africa as an additional means of income. “I know God will provide, ” she said.
Isn’t Marcie’s story a real life miracle? With faith in God, there is no dream too big. This young woman is living her dreams, helping countless impoverished families and orphaned and underprivileged children in Ethiopia. There is no sign on Grace Centre’s door telling people who they are, but God brings the ones He needs them to help.