Name: Ed GillentineAge: 36 Hometown: Memphis, TN
"We [The Forsaken Children] are
reaching the children
on the streets and
God is drawing many
of them to a personal
relationship with Him."
When did you visit Onesimus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia?
Did you visit with a team or individually?
What was the purpose of your trip?
As a Board Member for The Forsaken Children at that time, I went to meet with government officials, the Onesimus board of directors, visit the drop in center children and staff, observe at the drop-in center, meet with government officials in Chencha, Ethiopia to facilitate transfer of promised property for Kota Ganate.
Was this your first trip to Ethiopia?
Yes. First trip to Africa actually.
If yes, did it meet your expectations?
I'm not sure what my expectations were. I knew it would be difficult emotionally to see the children and observe firsthand the difficulties of the life they live. I knew I would struggle with feeling like we weren't doing enough no matter how many children we were helping. One hundred thousand kids on the streets seems like an impossible number to reach.
I knew it would be very difficult to meet Sossina, the little girl my family supports, because I would not ultimately be able to give her the life that we can give our daughters in the United States. All of these emotional struggles proved to be more difficult than I imagined but God also was graceful to remind me many times that he loved the children more than I could ever imagine and that He was going to take care of them.
What were your first impressions about Addis Ababa and Onesimus?
Beautiful from the air. Overwhelming poverty on the ground. Certainly an "underdeveloped country". The people were amazingly humble and loving. The children, even in their poverty and loss, were happy, full of life, and embraced me like an old friend.
Describe an experience you had while at Onesimus that impacted you.
When I flew to Chencha with Nega I was the guest of honor that killed a sheep for dinner! However, what impacted me most about the visit to Chencha was meeting two or three of the elders of the local church who had survived the Communist Derg. They had been imprisoned for their faith and yet they didn't waver. Their quiet faith was evident and I felt that I was in the presence of great men of God.
What did God show/teach you during your time at Onesimus?
Trust. For safety, for meetings, for relationships, for changing my own life to be more like His Son. Love. For the children we serve, the people of Ethiopia, and even for those who were difficult to love.
Is there one Onesimus staff or child that you really connected with? If so, what drew you to him/her and what did you learn about his/her story?
Sossina is the little girl that we sponsor. She is doing well is school. She is one of the girls that is close to going on the street but at this time still lives with her grandparents.
One of the strategies of Onesimus Children Development Association is to identify children who are at-risk for going to the streets and help keep them from making the jump. Sossina is very sweet and shy and she reminds me of my oldest daughter Mullin.
When I first met her, we talked for a minute while Nega translated and then she gave me a hug and kiss that I will never forget. After she left to go play with the other children, I stayed in the office and wept.
I wept because I knew that in a few days I would get on a plane and fly back to the most affluent culture in the history of the world. I would have amenities she has never dreamed of. And she would go back to the poverty and difficulty that was her world on the edge of "streetism". Whenever I get tired of planning and meetings and fundraising, I think of Sossina and remember why I do what I do.
What is one thing you want everyone to know about Onesimus?
It's EFFECTIVE!!! We are reaching the children on the streets and God is drawing many of them to a personal relationship with him. We are teaching them using knowledge and wisdom from a biblical perspective. And we are growing the ministry in a way that is SUSTAINABLE. From an investment perspective that's tough to beat!!!