You are likely reading this because you saw the post on the Drawn From Water blog about the recent changes we are implementing.

First before anything, we want to thank you for checking out what we are doing next as a family!  We are excited about this new season and thankful that the transition period we have been going through is finally coming to a close.

Many of you watched in shock when the orphanage project was taken from us and then continued to pray as we sought what God had next for our family and for the organization. Today, we are jumping for joy because it’s finally time to announce our new direction as a family. It gives us great pleasure to talk about this new project and just how much impact it will have in the lives of so many orphans. Super good stuff!

If you have been following along with Drawn From Water but did not see the post that went up today, you might want to take a minute to read about the wrap-up of that organization.  To summarize, after speaking with the board and praying about the next steps we felt that it was best to close up Drawn From Water before moving on to the next projects, it was clear to all of us that the next chapters need to be a fresh start.

The Closing of a Season

Before we dive into explaining our new project, and all it means to us, I want to take a moment and say that, for our family, we feel the door to working in the tribes has closed.  We have prayerfully approached this decision and have come to the conclusion that it’s time for us to focus our energy in areas where we can be more helpful.

As parents, who have adopted a mingi child, and as a family who fell totally in love with the wonderful people of the tribes, we will never be able to stop praying for them. If the opportunity arises, we will continue to help these people.  However, we feel peace that it is time for us to forge ahead on a new orphan-care project in Ethiopia that is not related to the work we were doing in the South.

If you check out Rich and Melissa Lester’s blog, you will see that they are working on a new project as a family as well, and although we feel that God has put different missions on our hearts.  The Lester’s are life-long friends to us, we will stay in constant contact with them and their new efforts as they develop over the coming months.

The new project

 Now, let me explain a bit about our next family project.  It’s a new direction, but one that, looking back, we can see we’ve been preparing for our entire lives. To say we are excited is an understatement; we passed that up a long time ago!

We are going to be starting a large orphanage project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our hearts have been broken for the countless thousands of street children who have no mother and father to care for them, and we have decided to put our energy and skills toward building a large family-style orphanage where orphans of Ethiopia can be given a home.

Jessie and my combined experience working with orphanages around the world over the past 15 years have led us to a clear understanding of the best practices to implement into our new project.

We have approached the local government and asked that they work together with us to see this project to reality, and the response was overwhelmingly positive! Although we do not expect to start-out quite this large, the government officials in charge asked in our first meeting that we build to a capacity of two thousand children. They said that within a few months, they would be able to direct that many orphaned children into the new orphanage. For now, because the capacity does not exist in the country, they are literally leaving children on the streets.  The level of need is staggering.

Our hope is to start with a capacity of roughly 100 children and expand each year. We believe that small family-style village model orphanages are the most effective way to raise well-adjusted children who are ready to enter the world and lead. Our goal is to help raise future leaders for this country, children who will grow up with a sense of self worth and a solid faith in God.

Although we are passionate believers in Adoption, personally having adopted two children ourselves, we have seen from living in Ethiopia for the past two years that adoption only helps solve a minuscule part of the huge problem. More needs to be done to address the greater issues, and we feel our family is called to do just that.  This orphanage will focus on keeping the orphans in country and giving them the best possible foundation, both spiritually and emotionally, to go out in their country and contribute to its future success.

We feel the time is now to step in and create a large-scale, long-term sustainable model in Ethiopia for orphan care. The need is too great to ignore, and the current resources on the table for helping in this area are simply too small.  Something has to be done. Clearly the need is for a first-rate, Christ centered establishment in Ethiopia for orphans to call home.

Timing and implementation

Given the expansive scope of this project, and the energy and resources needed to implement something of this nature, we have been getting advice that it is best for our family to head back to America for a few months and regroup.  The last season that we found ourselves in was exhausting on so many levels. We want to be sure before starting that we are spiritually and emotionally rested and ready to take on this project and are able to see it through.

So, in a short time, we will be heading back to America where we will spend time meeting with our mentors, friends, and church leaders to discuss this project and get advice from them on how best to take the next steps. We will also be working on setting up a new nonprofit organization in America and getting all our paperwork in order on that side so that we can come back ready to hit the ground running.

Toward the end of our stay in the States, we will be traveling around, speaking in churches and meeting with supporters to help put the team together that will make this project a reality.

Although we are chomping at the bit to get this project off the ground, we are heeding the advice from our spiritual mentors that we need to spend time to reflect on all that has happened, and allow ourselves time to process, and carefully plan the best ways to implement this project.  We are thankful for those who can speak into our lives and hopeful that this next season will be fruitful.

Ways to help

We do not, yet, have our non-profit status finalized in the states, so we cannot yet take donations toward this project at this time. However, we will be working on setting that up soon and will announce on this site when we are ready to start fundraising for this project.  Our family is supported by personal donations through friends and family, and, as of today, we are still short on meeting our monthly expenses. So we want to mention briefly here, if you are interested in helping our family with the cost of living while we set up this project drop us an email and let us know.  (I am putting my email address at the bottom of this post). We are forever thankful for those who have already helped our family fulfill our calling. We pray the returns in the way of changed lives and orphans who are given a future are infinite and continue on for generations.


Spread the word

We learned with Drawn From Water that one of the biggest keys to a project like this getting off the ground is having people like you spread the word about the work.  The more who work toward the same goal, the more viable the project becomes, and ultimately the more children we can rescue.

So, please help spread the word about this project. Post all over the place and tell everyone you know that you are going to be a part of making this happen.  It’s going to be a long journey from where we are today to when we finally have our doors open to accept children, but if we all work together, it’s going to go a lot faster.

You can also join the cause on Facebook!  Click here to join the cause.

We are always open to suggestions and assistance. If you have experience that you want to share with this project, or if you are open to helping in any way, just drop us an email and let us know.

Thank you all so very much for supporting the work our family is undertaking in Ethiopia.  We are excited to embark on a new journey together with you!

Levi & Jessie Benkert

If you want to email us you can at, Levibenkert(at)gmail(dot)com