HOPE, Heart and Home


I’m gonna live here.

So, after 5ish hours in a taxi van thing, we made it to HOPE and wow, I’m gonna live here.

When we first got to Ethiopia, I loved it but, when we started working with BCDO (Blessing the Children), I felt as though maybe Ethiopia wasn’t for me and that it was just gonna be a check off the list of countries I wanted to serve in, in Africa. Working in Debre Zeyit was okay but hard, hard because I felt like I was called and brought to Ethiopia for more then just hanging out with some beautiful teenage kids who already have amazing faith and paint a few rooms. I just really felt like I was supposed to be doing more, like I am meant to be an encourager on the field, someone who strives to be better and pushes everyone else around me to be better, but I felt stuck in DZ. I felt like I couldn’t do what I was called to do but, I still tried my best to encourage and tried to be a helpful member of the team, but wow it was hard feeling like you’re meant for more but being stuck in one place not being able to be truly me. I loved the people but I didn’t make any strong connections and though BCDO is doing great relational ministry, it isn’t why God wanted me in Ethiopia.

Then we left. We started our bus drive to HOPEthiopia on the 10th and from the moment I stepped off the bus, I fell in love ( I also had to pee because, 5ish hours in a bus on African roads, not kind to ya bladder) 

But after going to the bathroom and getting our bags in the house, I took a moment and just stood in awe. 

I love it here and I’m not sure when, how or who with but I am coming back and I am living here.

I’ve never truly felt at home anywhere, even though I’ve lived in the same part of Texas for 10+ years, it’s always just been the people that made Texas feel like home and after going to Africa last year, I discovered I have a strong love for Africa but I was never sure where, until we got here. 

I already feel more at home playing with the kids, talking with the house moms, drinking coffee, walking around town, just appreciating all God has done and is doing here more then I’ve ever felt at home in TX.


I have found my earthly home which is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever find but after seeing this beautiful place, I know I’m home because, pink and white flowers.

One time I was questioning God, like asking if this is really where He wants me long term and then I looked down and saw pink and white flowers. 

You are probably wondering what the heck pink and white flowers has to do with anything so I’ll tell ya, 

one night we did a kind of listening prayer where we ask the Lord what he wants to tell me personally or someone on our team, then we write it down and after everyone is done, we picked a name out of a hat and gave our paper to that person.

The paper I got said (and I quote)

“You are stronger then you think. I am for you and not against you.

Your story is not finished, I want to do a mighty work within you.

  • Pink and white flowers

I love you. You’re beautiful.

Your worth isn’t determined by other people. 

  • Your Heavenly Father “ 

So on that note, the pink and white flowers kinda stood out because we had pink and white flowers at the school in DZ so I just assumed it was just because I had been obsessed with them and it was kinda my way of connecting with God at that location but then as we walked to the Tree Planting Ceremony on the 12th, that’s when I was just kinda questioning/asking God to show me if it’s His will to live here long term and not joking. As my brain is asking, I look down and for the first time that whole walk, I saw pink flowers with white middles and I just felt this heavenly peace about it and well, I don’t really need more convincing then that. 

It is nice that there is a bank in town, a few shops and a wifi place within 3 hours of the compound, so I could for sure stay here and not die lol. 

The people are also so kind and the kids here are the most adorable kids ever! But there is also a lot of brokenness and hurt. Hurt I want to help heal. 

I want God to use me to help clothe those who are naked, give shoes to those who have none, feed those who are hungry, both spiritually and physically, and encourage those who already have a relationship with God.

I love this place and I already cannot wait to come back! But I also know I have work back in the States and in different parts of Africa so I don’t know when, how or who with, but I am coming back to HOPEthiopia.

God flipped a big switch in me when I came to this place and its not turning off.

Every time I go outside I am left in awe and I don’t think that feeling will ever leave me.

When people ask me about this trip back in the States, all I can say is, the first part was really hard for me but the second part, it was worth the wait, it was worth the feeling of possibly never finding a place that feels like home in both place and people. It was worth the questioning because God completely blew my mind here.

It is quite crazy to think that at 16 I found the place my heart has been longing for but, when you know where God wants you, its never too crazy and you’re never too young.

On the HOPE compound, there are ten buildings. The team house, a training center for women that is the process of being built, a bakery/kitchen and seven houses. 

Between the seven houses, there are 7 house moms (one for each house) and 24 kids (which are split up between the houses).

One of the kids here is an 8 year old boy, B. He is the kindest little boy I know. 

When we went to the Tree Planting Ceremony, it was about a 2 and half mile walk out there and the sweet child held my hand nearly the entire time, if he wasn’t holding my hand, he was using my camera to take pictures and videos of our walk. Then, we were getting ready to go back, there was a river that the locals just walk on the rocks to get across but for safety reasons (unclean water, sharp rocks, 4 hour bus ride to real medical attention) we didn’t go but most of the locals with us went across it and instead of taking the short cut across the river with his friends, B walked back the long way, holding my hand to make sure I didn’t slip in the mud and making sure the other guys in the town didn’t try to grab my hand. It was the sweetest thing. Then that afternoon after us girls ate lunch, we went back out to play and he ran up and gave me the biggest hug! He is just such a sweet heart and he has two little sisters living here on the compound as well and they are 7 and 4 and they are so sweet! 

The house moms are also super kind and have complimented on my hair a lot LOL, the people here really love long blonde hair. 

I found out that the name Skyler is really hard for most people to pronounce so I tried just Sky but the kids can’t do that either so now I just go by Ky. They can remember it and pronounce it much better then Sky or Skyler lol.  

Well, basically, I’ve found home in part of northern Ethiopia, by a town called Harbu Chulule (which means Victory Eagle), a town that is broken but it is still so beautiful, home in a compound with over 30 people who treat everyone like family and its only growing. I am so thankful that God led me to this place.

So a big thank you to everyone who read this and a BIG Thank You to everyone who supported me and helped to fund this trip for me, because God worked in you to support me, I found the place my heart never knew, it always wanted. Thank you for letting me find home.

  • Skyler Vanderwier


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