What happens when people—children—are denied this sense of permanency? When girls and boys are forced to make their lives in the streets where the only thing permanent is the deep ache of hunger, loneliness, and despair?
This summer I spent six weeks with The Forsaken Children's team in Ethiopia. During this time, I was privileged to spend each day with a group of boys at the drop-in center, teaching English, playing soccer, and just spending time loving on these amazing guys. The best part was getting to know these young boys and hearing their stories - learning where they came from, what brought them to this point of life on the streets, and, especially, what they hoped their futures would entail.
One of the boys I was privileged to get to know was a thirteen year old named Adam*.
Adam was the shy, reserved one amidst our group of rowdy boys. He sat quietly to the side, participating in lessons when asked, making jokes with his friends, but mostly just taking it all in.
There was one thing I noticed early on about Adam...
Each morning the boys trickled in to the drop-in center after a night on the streets. We would begin taking roll, making sure each of them had arrived safely for the day. But every morning Adam was absent for roll call. He always wandered in eventually, carrying his whole life in a bag in his arms. He would quickly change into his uniform, shedding his street clothes, tuck his bag safely away, and join us in whatever activity we were doing. And I would always wonder why he was late every morning... I would soon learn more about this young boy who lived his life with unwavering faith...
Where he came from...
Adam had been living on the streets of Addis Ababa for over three years before coming to the drop-in center. His mother died when he was very young, and his father eventually abandoned him. He has an older sister, who he once lived with, but when she got married her new family refused to allow her to care for her younger brother. Why? Because Adam is HIV+.
All of his losses and his illness lead young Adam to his home on the streets in 2010.
“There is no benefit to life on the streets. It is full of theft and addiction.” ~ Adam
Last January Adam was hanging out near the bus station when he met Fitela and Mesfin, two of TFC's amazing Ethiopian team members, who invited him to our drop-in center. He visited the next day and has not missed a day since, coming for the meals, the fellowship, the informal learning, and, most of all, for the love. But he always comes late.
What is Adam's first stop, you ask?
Each morning on the way to the drop-in center, Adam goes to the church. This sweet boy, mature far beyond his years, spends his first few waking hours with our Father, praising Him for the good in his life, trusting Him for healing, and praying and believing that God will heal him. Adam knows that God is the only one who can give him everything he needs, and he rests in that each day.
A street boy, only thirteen years old, and he gets it! His understanding and faith in our Father’s great love for us at his age and with his illness was and is humbling and encouraging. He has taken Jesus' yoke...
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30
For now, Adam is living at TFC's drop-in center in a room arranged just for him. He attends school and gets regular medical attention because of The Forsaken Children.
His tangible needs are met, for which he is very thankful. He is also very thankful for the relationships he finds at the drop-in center - people who truly care about him and his future and people who continue to invest in him, despite his health and and the fears that surround HIV in Ethiopia.
Adam, like all children, longs for and needs to belong. TFC's Ethiopian team is providing him a sense of belonging now and will continue to do so for as long as necessary. However, I know that God wants more for Adam. God's best for him is a family, a place where he can belong permanently. That's why I love the Permanently His Campaign. This campaign is paving the way for both a secure facility for TFC's Ethiopian projects, INCLUDING THE DROP-IN CENTER, and for its foster and adoption program - a timely endeavor for the "Adams" involved with TFC.
In our final conversation, Adam told me:
“My next step before I came here [drop-in center] was dark. I didn’t know what would be next. Now, I am good... I am happy with Jesus Christ in my heart. I have hope because of Christ.”
Get involved with Permanently His TODAY and help change the lives of street children in Ethiopia!
*Name changed and pictures of child withheld to protect privacy.