The American culture has its strengths in perspective, but it is natural for us to negate a person because of his or her status or position...
By Rachael Burnett So it’s here. The lights, the trees, the music, the parties and family dinners, the shopping and the gifts. These symbols are the so-called staples of the American Christmas scene, and they seem to ever increasingly blur the connection between Christmas and that dirty Bethlehem feed trough that was graced with our Creator God in the smooth, pink skin of a baby.
It seems so long ago and far away, doesn’t it? And really, was that “holy night” that big of a deal? Of course, we know that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and that GOD taking on flesh is a pretty big deal. Yet, somehow, we still often manage to miss it—to miss the BIGNESS of that event.
-The backwater carpenter, Joseph, and his unassuming bride, Mary, chosen to parent the God-Man through divine conception
-The Sovereign Creator bringing to fruition His redemptive plan that began back in the Garden when the “s” word severed us from our sole/soul joy and purpose—communion with our Father
-The Servant Son—knowing full well the agony He would endure—humbling Himself from the splendors of heaven to a straw-filled manger and eventually brutal death— bearing the separation for us
Not only did He bear the separation from the Father that we each deserve, but He completely conquered the breach so we could be fully and permanently restored to right relationship with Him—adopted and cherished as our Father King’s son or daughter.
Have you experienced that glorious grafting into God’s family? If you haven’t, you can; and if you have, won’t you just take a moment to revel in the peace that comes through knowing you are fully and permanently His? Nothing—no thing—is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
That fact is cause for “tidings of comfort and joy,” don’t you think? And what if we could let that comfort, joy, and peace spill out of us just a smidge (or maybe more!)? What if that unshakable peace and hope we know is just what our hurting neighbor, or the tired store clerk, or the lonely child needs?
Because, really, just what are we doing if we aren’t sharing the blessings (both spiritual and material) that have been lavished on us? I’m reminded that hoarding is toxic to the soul, while giving of ourselves and our resources allows us to take hold of that which is truly life.
While in Ethiopia with TFC this past summer, God graciously let me be part of sharing His great news of everlasting love with precious children like Metu and David, many of whom have nothing and no one that remains constant in their life. One of the primary reasons I love TFC is because they are committed to changing that norm.
Through the “Permanently His” Campaign and sustainability efforts such as the Kota Ganate Agricultural Project, TFC is working diligently to establish a sense of consistency and hope in street children’s lives by offering them a safe place to gather (recently, our drop-in center location was closed down due to a government reconstruction plan. The need is great for a new, secure facility), quality educational opportunities, healthy family structures and, ultimately, the eternal permanency of a relationship with Christ.
With the freshness of His coming in mind—the Father’s incredible example of sacrificial giving— would you consider partnering with TFC?
And would you consider refusing to give into the seemingly obligatory “holiday stress”? (It’s a worn out cliché anyway.) This is Christmas. HE—our Breach Repairer and Soul Redeemer— is Christmas.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'Till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, oh night when Christ was born. Oh night divine, oh night, oh night divine.
Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord Christ is the Lord, oh, praise His name forever His power and glory ever more proclaim! His power and glory ever more proclaim!
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, oh night when Christ was born. Oh night divine, oh holy night, oh night divine.
This year's “Permanently His Campaign” has me thinking a lot about our work in Ethiopia. More specifically, I've been thinking about the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project - something we started almost six years ago - because permanency is what this project is all about. Where we're from, “putting down roots” means to establish yourself permanently somewhere - to make a place your home. You make friends there, make a home there, start a family there - you become part of the place just as much as the place becomes a part of you.
I guess you could say my family and I have put down roots in Ethiopia in more ways than one. With Kota Ganate we're “putting down roots” for a generation of children who desperately need the permanency TFC provides, children like Abel, Sossina, and Metu.
Kota Ganate provides long-term sustainability to ensure these kids and many others will find the permanency they need.
As we literally put down roots with each crop we plant, pray with us for God to deepen our financial roots through Kota Ganate so we can continue to offer street children in Ethiopia the chance to become Permanently His.
Although apples were the idea that sparked the project initially, poultry has now taken a leading role in our plans for the farm. It is actually a dual strategy, a one-two punch, if you will. Apples are a long-term sustainability strategy, requiring about 5 years to produce significant income. Chickens, on the other hand, are our short-term strategy. Poultry production is the only thing that promises sufficient profit to make sustainability in the near future a possibility.
This is why the Chicks for Change Campaign was so important over the past year. Due to the funds generated through that campaign, we have the potential to generate enough income within the coming year to make the farm itself self-sustained.
Shortly thereafter, the farm will realize the goal of pumping money into the larger organization in support of all of Onesimus' projects. The Chicks for Change designation will remain open on our website for those who wish to continue to give. So don't put those change jars away just yet! Additional funds that are designated to Chicks for Change will go toward much needed operating expenses.
To support the farmers, donate here.
The minute I left Ethiopia last June, I began praying for God to show me every way possible I could advocate for the children I loved so dearly from thousands of miles away. I wanted everyone I knew and loved at "home" to love and care about the children the way I did. I shared stories with anyone who would listen. I longed for everyone to understand the great need that was in Ethiopia, even if their own eyes had not witnessed it. Some listened. Some did not. But, God continuously poured opportunities into my lap.
One of those opportunities was sharing in a place I least expected. As a public school teacher, I never dreamed that I would be able to share my stories with the children at school. Luckily, God had things planned long before I ever traveled to Ethiopia.
In August of 2010, I became co-sponsor of our school's service club, Kiwanis' K-kids. This club participates in a variety of service activities on a local, state, national, and international level. So, because of God's amazing provision, I was able to introduce the children in Ethiopia to a group of 50 4th and 5th graders here at home, sharing ways that they could help them! I can't describe the way my heart swells to watch the kids I love here working and serving the kids I love all the way across the world. It is humbling, in fact, to know that God wanted this!
In October, I was able to share photographs and stories, and it was heartwarming to answer their questions and share with them how different things are in other places for children their age. Then, as a club, we decided to participate in the Chicks for Change campaign. They were so thrilled! We collected empty milk jugs from the local Starbucks to use as our containers. Then the kids started collecting their change!
Also, our K-kids hosted a school-wide Chicks for Change campaign. Letters went home with over 800 students about Chicks for Change and its goal. Eight hundred new families learned about TFC and the work that is taking place in Ethiopia. God is so good. All week I watched as the change poured in! Each day the number grew and I thanked God for His provision and sovereignty.
Truthfully, I am overwhelmed by the way God has provided in allowing my two worlds to collide. I pray that He will continue to allow me to advocate for the children I love so. Listening and watching my students' excitement about being involved is absolutely amazing. Giving back is a good lesson for someone of any age, and, as they give to the children in Ethiopia, my students receive an invaluable lesson. My prayer is that God will continue providing ways for hundreds of people to learn about and support The Forsaken Children. Truthfully, I never dreamed that my students here would be able to help serve the children in Ethiopia. But, God allowed it and the GES Kiwanis K-kids were able to raise $1,828.38 for the Chicks for Change campaign. To God be the glory!
"'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then, the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:35-40
The 2012 change campaign is called Give Me Five. Your change gives hope! Please read more here.
As I considered what to write in my first post of 2012, I kept coming back to one boy’s story. But I resisted as it simply did not seem powerful enough or even very positive. I mean, my first post of the year is supposed to be awesome, right? That’s what I think, so I sat down to write the most dynamic post I could muster up . . .
I started typing and the thoughts of the same little boy flooded my mind yet again. Let me warn you, his story is heartbreaking in many ways . . . BUT the glimpse of hope at the end makes his story perfect to share, because it shows the impact that Onesimus makes even when things don’t go as planned.
To protect his privacy, I’ll call him “M”. He came to Onesimus through a referral from a close-by project that simply did not have the ability to provide what he needed – a safe home. Unfortunately his home was a dangerous place for him where mental illness often led to his abuse. His desperate situation resonated with the Onesimus staff, so despite the typical protocol of moving through the Drop-In Center phase first, M was immediately taken into the boys’ halfway home.
There, M’s story began to change. His house parents, Alemayu and Abazu, loved him. Pure, unconditional, and safe love were finally his. And M began to thrive despite a past that probably should have dictated otherwise. I met him last February and saw a rambunctious and carefree boy, not the wounded spirit I expected. If there’s one thing I remember about M, it was his smile. His smile was so full of hope and so genuine.
To my surprise, M’s family came looking for him several months ago. Usually this is what Onesimus longs for, but this time the staff feared what awaited M in his home where there was no evidence of change. Despite the fears, the ministry had no choice but to relinquish this changing child to his family, who still maintained the legal right to M.
With much prayer, the staff of Onesimus let him go, trusting that the time they had with him was enough to impart lasting hope.
I was angry when I heard the news, thinking, how unprotected M must have felt. But the Lord reminded me in that moment that I am not his Savior, nor is Onesimus. I had to rest in God’s sovereignty. And I have to trust everyday that M is under God’s watchful care and protection.
Since the day M departed from Onesimus I have thought about him a lot. I’ve realized that no one ever knows how long a child will stay when they enter Onesimus’s gate. Sure, the hope is for a long relationship and to see a child grow into a godly man or woman, but the reality is that with street children this is not always possible. For M, it was just shy of one year, other times it may be a few days, and still other children may only be present for a couple of hours.
I was reminded of what matters the most in those small windows of time by an email from my sister-in-law, Jess, who is currently serving in Ethiopia. She wrote:
A friend working with a nearby project shared with us that M is coming to their tutoring program. She said at tutoring he will often sing praise songs to himself. Looks like he took a lot of things with him from the Half-way Home.
Pray for M, the Onesimus team, and for those small, yet pivotal windows of time where these children can find hope!