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.
A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to attend a very special celebration honoring the academic achievements of many of our beneficiaries. It was a Saturday morning, and, in addition to our beneficiaries, the Drop-in Center's compound was packed by the Onesimus staff, several teachers, and even some government officials. The half-way home kids put on a skit. We heard encouraging words from one of the local government officials and several of the Onesimus staff members. Soft drinks and special cultural bread were served, and gifts were given to the top academic achievers. Fifteen boys and girls ranked in the top 10 of their classes - not bad for a bunch of former street kids. Several of the students were first in their classes. Tamrat received special honors for actually being first from his entire section. Everyone had a good time at the celebration.
I hope that you enjoy the pictures below and will join us in celebrating the special achievements of this very special group of kids.
(Fekadu and Ruth)
It was a Thursday. Our week at the drop-in center was coming to a close. The last day of the medical clinic was in full swing and patients and children were everywhere. I spent the week entertaining and loving on those precious children, helping in the pharmacy, and doing whatever I could to help. While I had some things on my agenda to accomplish while I was there, the most important of these was learning Fekadu's story - a personal account from Fekadu, himself. It had been insanely busy and the entire week had yet to provide a time for me to sit down and let him share his story. But, Nega, in the midst of his crazy schedule, remembered that I needed to learn some things about him and he suggested we use that afternoon to talk. So, that's just what we did.
We left the busy, medical clinic and Fekadu and I walked hand-in-hand toward Pizza Corner, a couple of blocks from the drop-in center. I will never forget that walk. Ever. Fekadu, carrying my notebook, walked with a stride that exuded confidence and pride, making sure at every "intersection" that I was safe. It was then that I noted and admired his leadership. Later, I would learn of his strengths, his passions, and his perseverance.
We sat out on the patio, each ordered a Mirinda (a popular soft drink in Ethiopia) and we began our chat - a chat that would open my eyes even more to the heartache these children have already faced in their short little lives. It is more heartache than many of us will see in a lifetime. I learned of a young boy from Jeda, a village 370km north of Addis. He was orphaned at age five when his mother died from epilepsy and his father had been murdered by a brother when he was a baby. At 8-years-old, an aunt in Jeda sent him on a train to Addis to "find" another aunt when she could no longer afford to raise him. He lived on the streets until he found his aunt in the city. He stayed with her for a while but after being bullied and "hated" by his cousins, he left for the streets again. Fekadu recalls, "I left because my aunt's four children began to hate me. That is when I started a new life on the streets."
As I listened to this young boy share his past, I was overcome with grief and I struggled to maintain composure. Then, Fekadu began to describe life on the streets. As I choked back tears, I realized that there was never going to be a way for me to fully understand the pain of living on the streets in Addis Ababa. While I could try, it was just not possible.
Fekadu shared, "The streets are a very, very difficult life. Life on the street is bad. Bad doesn't describe the streets well. One time, I was very cold and sick and I slept alone for 3 days and no one helped me, " he said. "We got a lot of suffering on the streets. The police don't allow us to sleep under the buildings so we go to the land to sleep. It's tough. It is a difficult life for me. I couldn't get one meal a day on the streets."
As he continued, I processed the thought of the other 100,000 (something) children just like Fekadu, who were searching for food and shelter, at that very moment, on the street. I ached for them and I hoped God would continue to reveal Himself to me in these moments.
After describing his life on the streets, Fekadu shared how he found Onesimus. At this point, my tears could not be contained, as the joy I felt for this young boy's new life was overpowering. Just 10 months earlier, in November of 2010, some of the staff at Onesimus met Fekadu at the Coliseum (a popular hang out for street kids) and they invited him to the drop-in center. When I was there in June, I visited with Fekadu, a shy young boy who was withdrawn and lacked confidence. Now, just three months later, I sat with a confident, 15-year-old young man who shares all the changes that have occurred in his life.
He said, "I have seen many changes in my life. Changes spiritually, physically, and with my education. Spiritually, I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. (Praise God!) Physically, my personal hygiene- I get two meals a day, clothes, shoes, and I get to shower twice a week."
It is here that God's miracles start to become more clear and I am able to truly understand the amazing things that are happening through Onesimus and TFC. Fekadu came to the drop-in center where he found acceptance among his peers and the staff. Love and security from his new family at the boy's halfway home.
He continued, "Living there is nice. We couldn't get love on the streets. Now, we get love as a family from Abezu and Alemayu. They play with us and love us." And, finally, he found hope. With tears streaming down and a smile on his face, Fekadu said, "I'm very happy now. I didn't have any hope on the streets. Now, I have HOPE."
That day, God revealed to me how he has not forgotten any of those children and He loves them just the way He loves ALL of us. And, while there is great suffering among the street children, God is using safe havens like OCDA (Onesimus Children's Development Association), leaders like Nega and Joe , organizations like TFC, and people like you and me to be his hands and feet to bring these children to know and cherish a personal relationship with Him- the only ONE capable of truly giving them a future with lasting hope.
As for Fekadu, his future is bright. As we finished up our Mirindas, I asked him about his future. A future he can now see and he said,"I hope to continue my studies. Also, I have a gift to play futbol and I hope to play and be a known player like Rooney (a famous soccer player in Ethiopia). After I have my own income, I hope to support Onesimus, if it is God's will. I want to help the street children."
That afternoon I spent with Fekadu taught me more than I could ever have imagined. It taught me about God's heart for the broken - God's heart for me and God's heart for Fekadu. That afternoon taught me about what God and His hope can do for me and for a kid who has nothing at all.
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!!!
By Kelly McGugan Thursday, June 9, I will be going back to Ethiopia for the third time in twelve months. While the previous two visits presented their own separate set of circumstances surrounding them, this trip will be the first of its kind for me. I am actually leading a group of short-term missionaries to work with our friends and partners in Addis Ababa.
Although this is my first experience leading a trip and the enemy is trying to attack me and lead me to believe that I am inadequate, honestly, I am not really that nervous about it. I have spent some time thinking over the trip and realize God has me right where he wants me. When we rely on the Lord to sustain us and guide us, He never gives us anything we cannot handle with His help.
Additionally, I can look back and see how He prepared my heart for this trip. My first time around, almost exactly a year ago, He sent me on a short term mission trip with my church and allowed me to see how I was not seeing the big picture (more on that in a bit). The second time, the Lord sent me back to Addis Ababa for a full month to learn the culture, develop relationships, and learn to rely on Him to provide.
Looking back on both trips, I could not have guessed what He had in store for me in the future. I certainly would have freaked out a bit had I known He planned to have me lead a trip and a full team back to Ethiopia. However, reading Matthew 6:34 (“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”) helped me understand I’m called to just focus on the NOW and God will take care of tomorrow.
"When we rely on the Lord
to sustain us and guide us,
He never gives us anything
we cannot handle with His help."
As we prepare to leave for Ethiopia, I pray that God opens the eyes and the hearts of the folks that are coming with me. I remember how my world was turned upside down by the Lord last year through my time in Ethiopia. There was a time when I thought I got it. I thought that because I went to church, put my family first, gave my tithe, sang the songs, was a good person, and here and there did some good deeds for the day, God would say – “Here is my son Kelly, with who I am pleased.”
That is what I thought was right. However, I was missing the point; I wasn't seeing the big picture. Much like the stories of how the people in Matthew 25 were missing the point, I was simply going through the motions of what I thought God wanted of me.
I was stuck in the mindset of “Hey God, I’ve lived a pretty good life, so what do you have for ME?” That kind of mindset that says I’ll do good for the less fortunate when I can, I’ll read my bible, pray, and go to church; but I am not doing that for God, because of my relationship with Him, or for the poor and needy ... I am doing that for me. Thus we serve out of narcissism, in the name of "good works", and we have not allowed God to work in and through us.
Jesus tells us whatever we do to the least of these we do it for Him (Matt 25:40). In that, He isn’t saying to help the poor because He identifies with them, He is saying HE IS THE POOR. God sent His son to save us in the poorest and most humble of beginnings. In knowing what He did for me, and all of us, I was able to see how I did not need to be given anything because of my actions or deeds. I was able to love for the sake of love.
While I can see these things in myself, what are the things in your own life that you're doing away from your relationship with the Lord? Are you stuck in religious habits? Or are you seeing the transformation work of Jesus Christ move in your life and those around you?
In saying all this, I pray that God moves in each and every one of the team members during our time in Ethiopia. I ask you to join in our adventure that God has called us all on, following on the blog and praying through our experiences and travels that God will reveal in someone’s heart, maybe even yours, that He wants more.
"She looked, and we both smiled our biggest smiles. She must have known that while happy to see her, my uncontainable joy was in response to her new life."
"We are all dirty, polluted, broken and sinful people - yet somehow, in spite of that, God sees us as beautiful." - Kelly McGugan
"I experienced first hand that a small financial contribuiton produces large results when placed in God's hands." - Heather McGugan "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."