I remember her father more than anything else. He spoke of Ababa as if she had hung the moon. I don't know what I expected to find during my visit to Ababa's home, but a proud father wasn't it. This was one of the few home visits Karyn and I made while living in Ethiopia. We had learned early on that our presence in the homes of Onesimus beneficiaries seemed to cause more harm than good. But this visit was one I do not regret because of what it taught me
I remember the dirt floor, the foam mattresses piled up awaiting their nightly use, and the old text books sitting on a chair that were emptied of half their pages (I later learned that a woman whose family shared the house with Ababa's family used the pages to construct small bags to sell to local shops). I also recall wondering where they used the bathroom, because as far as I could tell, no bathroom existed.
Such thoughts ran through my mind as Karyn, Jonathan (my brother, who was with us), and I sat in the few chairs - culturally, guests are honored, and, in this moment, that meant we got to sit while everyone else either stood or found alternative places to have a seat. We sat for a few moments not knowing what to expect, but we were thrilled when little Ababa's sweet face popped in.
Ababa was probably 11 years old at the time, and she was clearly excited to have three foreign guests in her home. We practiced our Amharic with Ababa, and, after a few moments had passed, she introduced us to the man who had been sitting in the back corner since our arrival. The man, who I probably would have avoided on the streets due to his rough exterior, was her father.
As I shook Ababa's father's hand, a slight smile softened his appearance, giving me the courage to ask him some questions. I do not remember all I asked, but I do remember how proud he was of his girl, Ababa. And she was all smiles while he spoke, obviously a daddy's girl.
One question I do remember asking this man who already worked 7 days a week was, "What would you do without Onesimus' help in providing for Ababa?" I expected he would respond with something akin to, "Find another organization," or, "Pull her out of school," but his response was different. He said,
"I would work more. I would do anything to make sure she has a future."
I left Ababa's home that day not thinking about the family's small house, their lack of a bathroom, or anything else related to their poverty. No, I left amazed by her father's heart and convicted by my assumptions about the families involved in Onesimus' SAFE Project. Karyn, Jonathan, and I agreed Ababa's father was God's provision for her. And we knew Onesimus and TFC were part of preserving the lasting hope Ababa's father and others within the SAFE Project provided her.
The Student And Family Education Project (also called the SAFE Project) is a part of Onesimus' ministry model. It exists to afford poor families the ability to send their children to school, preventing these children from turning to the streets for their livelihoods. In providing school fees and family support the Onesimus team creates relationships and opportunities that point the students and their family members to Christ.