Two years ago, two moms sat together during a playdate in a small Indiana town. As their children played, Danielle Black and Jolene Shrock talked about Ethiopia. Both of them had recently adopted children from the country and their experiences had made big impressions on their hearts. Little did they know that their playdate discussion would eventually culminate in a non-profit organization called Awake & Alive. With the support of their husbands, friends, and other leaders, these two women who had no experience in forming non-profits would soon enough be blessing the lives of children and families halfway around the world.
A heart for Africa
"Awake & Alive was the culmination, for me, of a deep love for Africa and my Savior, and wanting to live out my faith in tangible ways," explains Danielle, a mother of four (including her adopted daughter from Ethiopia). After spending a college semester in Kenya, she had always assumed that at some point in her life she would live in Africa. "To say Africa got into my heart and soul would be an understatement," she says. "I even have a tattoo of Africa and a heart on my foot."
As often happens, life seemed to get in the way of her plans. Danielle married and began having children, leaving her to wonder if her vision for living in Africa would ever happen. "Thankfully," she says, "through our Ethiopian adoption, my connection with Jolene, and the desire to live the life we're all called to as Christians and through a really profound prayer time with an amazing group of ladies, I realized that while it wasn't how I thought it would be, my love for Africa and connection to it was still very much a part of my journey—in the present, as well as the past."
Jolene's attention turned to Africa when she and her husband, Darin, desired to start a family but weren't able to do it on their own. "Adoption was clearly spoken into my heart . . . Ethiopia chose us," explains Jolene, who is now the mother to three adopted children. "After several trips to Ethiopia and having our hearts totally broken by the orphan crisis, Darin was one hundred percent behind my desire to do more for the country that has given us so much. We knew that adoption was a great avenue for thousands of children. But we knew the statistics: 4.6 million orphans are in Ethiopia alone. We knew we had to do something to help those who never have the opportunity to be adopted."