Seeing is believing: A ‘Desse-Transformation’

- by Joe Bridges

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (Galatians 5:22-23a)

With the Boeing 777 behind me, I stepped on Ethiopian soil. Immediately my heart felt heavier and my mind burdened by the emotions flooding over me. This is why I, honestly, don’t enjoy my first day in Ethiopia. I like control, order and stability – not the emotional roller coaster I seem strapped into as soon as the dust of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia gets into my lungs.

But a little boy made this day entirely different. While I did experience anxiety about the immigration process and nervousness about seeing all my Ethiopian friends and coworkers for the first time in awhile, the roller coaster stopped when I saw him. As I watched Nega come into the airport, I noticed a small body shadowing him. Then I saw that all too familiar face – It was Desse.

I have been hearing positive updates about Desse since he entered into the halfway home, but nothing compares to a firsthand perspective. I suppose I had my doubts because of Desse’s long, sorted history with Onesimus. This was the little boy who ran away from the program 15 times in one year. And did I mention that he was Onesimus’ first beneficiary? Yep, Desse has been around the longest and probably caused the most trouble and heartache of all the beneficiaries.

When I saw Desse today, I prepared for his typical interaction; biting, excessive hugging, kiss after slobbery kiss and just plane overwhelming behavior. To my surprise, though, he patiently waited for his turn to shake my hand and give me a hug and then he kindly asked to carry my bag. We walked side-by-side to the car and I asked him about school.  I raved about how handsome he looked (he looked so happy and at peace) at which he produced a shy grin – something I had never seen from Desse before today.

As we rode to the guesthouse, I couldn’t keep from glancing at this little boy that I did not know anymore. He looked like Desse, but he acted so normal, so self-controlled. When Desse and the others left us at the guesthouse, I couldn’t stop thinking about this new boy I had just experienced.

What happened to the once drug addicted, overbearing and unpredictable street boy?

I spent the rest of the day wondering what had changed for Desse. Then, about an hour ago I sat down with Nega and Emabet* and asked them about Desse's transformation.

They both agreed that he is a walking miracle.

When I told them how many people have been praying for Desse over the years, Emabet piped up and said, “That is why he has changed. God did it!" Now I’m convinced, only God can produce the fruit we are seeing come out of Desse.

I lie down tonight with a thankful heart and as I fall asleep God reassures me that running The Forsaken Children is worth all the heartache, confusion and effort because of my changing friend, Desse.

Today was a good first day in Ethiopia.

*Nega and Emabet are the co-founders of the Onesimus Children Development Association, which is The Forsaken Children’s partner project.