|Yohannes at Halfway Home|
For over a year Yohannes told the same story... "My mother is dead and my father is a drunkard living on the streets." Such a story seemed legitimate and familiar, especially coming from a 13 year-old street boy. But one day this all changed when Yohannes slipped up and mentioned his mother, referring to her as if she was living. As Nega, Children's Home Ethiopia's Director, prodded the true story of Yohannes's journey to the streets of Addis Ababa unfolded...
Nega always says a street child's story is like an onion. Everyday you peel back a layer until you come to the truth.
Yohannes's parents are both alive and live in Southwest Ethiopia with his siblings. Due to poverty, boredom, and curiosity, Yohannes jumped on a train to Addis Ababa approximately 4 years ago to check out this grand city of supposed opportunity. Yohannes did find opportunities - not for wealth, education, or good food, but rather for unending freedom to play with friends, get high, watch pornographic and violent films, and many more activities that numbed his soul little by little.
If living on the streets sounds unappealing to you, imagine yourself as a 13 year-old with no restrictions whatsoever - that freedom is what the streets are for many children and that is what many street children love, become addicted to, and struggle to leave behind.
Hunger probably lead Yohannes along with about 13 of his closest friends to start coming to Children's Home Ethiopia's Drop-In Center in 2009. As his belly was filled, his eyes and ears started to open and see what he was missing on his beloved streets - the love and protection of caring adults, of a family. Nega, Bisrat, Nesegnet, Ribika, and Fitela taught him, fed him, clothed him, listened to him, and even cared for him when he was near death due to illness.
Yohannes's deadened heart began to feel again. when he went to the streets each evening the rush of street life began to pale in comparison to the rush of being unconditionally loved.
The time came when Yohannes had a choice to leave the streets and enter Children's Home Ethiopia's Halfway Home. He chose the Halfway Home. Alemayu and Abazu, House Parents, dedicated themselves to Yohannes; sharing their lives, love for Jesus, church family, and home with him. Could he trust this love? Almost as a test and probably due to an ache for the freedom of the streets, Yohannes ran away from home.
The intensity of parental love is often hard for a former street child to fully embrace, not knowing if he or she can truly trust that the love is genuine, unconditional, or that it will last.
Yohannes with his Halfway Home brothers and sister
Gone for close to a week, Yohannes came back to the Drop-In Center after Nega found him on the streets. He reluctantly went back to the Halfway Home. A week passed, then a month, then several months, and in August Yohannes will have been in the Halfway Home for a year.
In June Yohannes became my spiritual brother when he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
Yohannes's progression from coming to the Drop-In Center to find food, to starting to trust the love of the staff, to moving into a home, to becoming a child of God paints such a vivid picture of why The Forsaken Children exists. The street children of Ethiopia are unreached, unable to understand the love of God the Father, often due to their own disconnect from their own father and family. Leading such children to Christ often requires reconnecting them with what their hears long for, the unconditional love of parents. Given this love, children, like Yohannes are coming into a true and intimate relationship with our almighty God.
Yohannes will be reintegrated into his family in Southwest Ethiopia on August 4, 2010 - NEXT WEEK! We are thrilled that Yohannes's parents became believers since Yohannes's disappearance from home. Both Yohannes and his parents are excited to be reunited.