Let it sink in

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Brent Kee with B+R Photography out of Nashville, TN. Brent is a self-taught photographer who specializes in family and senior portraiture. He discovered a passion for photography after purchasing a fancy-schmancy camera to take pictures of his first son, Fisher. Brent has learned the art of photography and post-processing through practice, research, and intense sessions of osmosis. Brent loves Jesus and has a heart for orphans. This is Brent’s first trip to Ethiopia and he is working this week to capture Ethiopia and the ministry of The Forsaken Children from a first time perspective.

Before you begin to read this post, please know that I’m issuing a challenge for you. If you are using the internet to access this post on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you have the means to ACT. Even though you are thousands of miles away from these kids and may never know their names, you can make a difference. Please don’t be just a consumer of my message. Please give. Please pray. Please ACT.

]Eman (a TFC/Onesimus ministry volunteer) and I are walking quickly down a large hill directly beneath a train overpass in a crowded downtown area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Dozens of vendors are sitting on the ground and lining the streets at five foot increments, selling everything from sticks of gum to freshly cooked empanadas to clothing. Eman points to a group of kids in brown tattered clothing, and we approach. The kids spot us and come running toward Eman and the strange white guy with a camera (I'm about as noticeable as a zebra riding a unicycle in Addis). Before the kids are ten feet away, I notice one little boy's face is glistening, as if it's soaking wet. At five feet away, I begin to smell the sharp scent of paint thinner and can see that his eyes are glossed over. As I Ethiopian bro-hug this boy, I can feel the plastic water bottle filled with modeling glue hiding in his shirt sleeve. Eman explains to me that this eight-year-old boy is battling an addiction to glue. He's one of hundreds of street kids who use this dangerous substance in order to numb themselves from the temperatures and conditions of sleeping on the streets each night.

Let me highlight that. Hundreds of pre-teens and teenagers, sleeping on the streets, addicted to easily accessible drugs. Let it sink in. What if these were your kids?

I ask the kids if it's okay for me to photograph them, and they agree. They laugh and pose as any kids would, inviting their friends to join them. Within three minutes, we are surrounded by 15 kids, and the number is quickly growing. They all have bulges in their shirt sleeves. Three or four of them quickly realize the rectangular object in my pocket, and I begin to feel their hands on my thigh as they attempt to steal my smart phone while others attempt to distract me. Eman is attempting to speak to a group of boys about his own rescue from the streets, but their persistence in trying to steal from me distracts them from his message. His words fall on deaf ears and drug-altered minds.

This post is tough for me to write. As a dad, I can't begin to fathom the circumstances that landed these kids in this situation.

How did this happen? What went wrong? God, really? God, why?

Later in the week, Eman took me (sans smart phone) on another visit to spend some time in ministry with street kids. This time, he was able to relate his own story of redemption to a group of kids. You see, with each visit to the street, the ministry team of TFC/Onesimus is injecting doses of HOPE into these kids. Relationships are built, invites to The Forsaken Children/Onesimus facilities are given, and then the real RESCUE begins.

 Do you have your ticket to the show?

His name means "like gold", and the name suits him. He is chock full of life, intelligent, driven, and overflowing with charm. His favorite subject in school is grammar, so he has a special place in my heart :) . Endewark was rescued from the streets, and he now lives in the Onesimus halfway home with 8 other boys who are rehabilitating their lives with the support of The Forsaken Children and Onesimus staff. If you met the kid, you would have no way of knowing that he grew up on the streets and used to live in a three foot wide and seven foot long "house".

Endewark's story reminds me that every one of these kids living on the street is "like gold" to our God. Each one of them deserves a chance at a new life on Earth, and each one deserves the opportunity to learn that there is everlasting life through Christ. Each child is worth fighting for. I pray that through ministries such as The Forsaken Children and Onesimus, they all get that chance.

I left Ethiopia yesterday, but Ethiopia hasn’t left me. I hope it never does. During my trip, I have prayed over and over that God will use this trip and my experiences to mold me and shape the path laid out for my family. I also pray that my stories have, in some way, challenged my readers to ACT on the emotions that have hopefully been evoked.

For every story of brokenness I have experienced in Ethiopia, I have been able to find God working through The Forsaken Children and Onesimus to provide stories of HOPE. God doing what he does best. Making the broken into the beautiful.

I’ve got one more post for you guys, where I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from this past week. Thank you all for reading. Want to play a part in the stories of these kids? You can. If you’ve got an email address, a couple bucks in your pocket, or a heart for people, you can. Email kmcgugan@theforsakenchildren.org to get started.