MANATEE COUNTY — Ever since Ashlie and Ryan Fulmer were married, they knew they wanted to adopt. They just didn’t know when it would happen.
The couple began exploring the possibility last year. And now, with a son in the womb, Ashlie Fulmer is deep in the heart of Africa, waiting to bring home their first adopted child, Easton, and to co-lead a team of missionaries in caring for orphans just like him.
“Once we learned of the poverty and orphan crisis in Ethiopia, we knew that our adoption was not just about our desires to have a child, but the desires of a child to have a home and parents,” Ashlie Fulmer said.
Next week, she will be joined by six other members of Woodland, The Community Church, during a two-week mission trip to help children who have no parents or home. Through the non-profit missions organization Visiting Orphans, the group, along with 23 others from across the country, will leave July 18, heading first to Uganda and then to Ethiopia, where they will spend time with orphans there.
Members are bringing soccer balls and other sports equipment, nail polish, balloons, bubbles and other items they can use to connect with children.
“Adoption is only one way to care for orphans,” Ashlie Fulmer said. “The mission of Visiting Orphans is to have volunteers in the orphanages 365 days a year. If there are always volunteers there to hold and feed babies, play with children and share the love of Christ, these orphans will not be left abandoned.
“Although my 14 days may not change the life of an orphan, there is hope that with enough volunteers, these children are not forgotten,” she said.
Braden Woods resident Karen Windon and her daughter, Carly Miers, a student at Braden River High, had been saving to make a family trip to Europe but decided to use the money for this mission trip instead.
“It was like God hit me upside the head with a two-by-four,” Windon said. “It just seemed like the right fit. It felt like the right thing to do. My daughter and I talked and decided that money would be far better spent (going to Africa).”
In preparation for the trip, Windon and Miers have been collecting gently used clothing and money to help the children who scavenge for food at the Korah Dump in the capital of Ethiopia.
Ernie McFarland, Ashlie Fulmer’s father and another Braden Woods resident, also said he is eager to meet his new grandson and interact with the children in Africa.
“I know it’s going to be challenging to communicate, but they understand when you give them something,” he said. “They understand when you give them a hug. We’re going to love on children. That is our purpose.”
“It’ll be fun and an adventure,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store. He’s got far bigger plans than we do.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 18 — Leave for Africa
July 19 — Arrive at the Addis Ababa airport and then depart for Entebbe
July 20 — Lunch with Return Ministries Uganda; Minister to children there
July 21 — Return Ministries Uganda and My Father’s House orphanage
July 22 — Canaan’s Children Home; Nile boat ride in late afternoon
July 23 — Cannan’s Children Home in morning and afternoon; Head to Amazima at night to help prepare for Saturday feeding program.
July 24 — Amazima Feeding Program; Dinner at King Fisher Lodge
July 25 —Church; Lead children’s Sunday School classes; Travel to the Ethiopia Guest Home in Addis
July 26 — Rest and shopping
July 27 — Kora Dump with Project 61 organization
July 28 — AWA Transitional Home & Kids Care orphanage. Group will split up and go to each orphanage.
July 29 — A day of soccer and other activities with orphans
July 30 — AHope HIV orphanages
July 31 — Beza Entoto Impoverished Children program. Head to airport
Aug. 1 — Arrive home
BY THE NUMBERS
There are more than 42 million orphans in Africa. Ethiopia, a country twice the size of Texas, has more than $4.6 million orphans. Uganda has more than 2 million orphans, many of which were orphaned because of AIDS.