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?
Recently some good friends of mine asked their kids, “What Christian do you know that should be famous?" One of their children answered, “Mommy and Nega Meaza.” This child had met Nega during his recent visit to Memphis and had heard him share many testimonies about how God is transforming the lives of street children through his team. She also has a mommy who has visited Nega’s ministry in Addis Ababa and is an amazing advocate for what God is doing there. So, from what she has heard and seen, she thinks Nega deserves recognition and fame.
Can I just say here that I agree with her! But I would add a few more names to the list…
I would add Fetla, the spiritual mother to dozens of children who have left the streets. She has made such an investment in each child. You see, Fetla prays hard, serves hard, and, most of all, loves hard. She is a member of Nega’s team who sees things through spiritual eyes and boldly shares the Gospel to the lost children she serves.
I would add Mesfin to the list of Christians who should be famous as well. Mesfin has grown into the team member who knows each child’s situation, where they can be found, and what needs they have. I think of him as the worker bee who gets little recognition for all he does.
I would also add Taye to the list. Taye is the one on Nega’s team who swells with excitement at the prospect of equipping the church in Ethiopia with strong, biblical teaching and discipleship. He longs to see churches willing and able to join his team in caring for the children no one else wants anything to do with.
Abazu should also be on the list. She spent years being a mother to many children who otherwise were without a family. As a house mother at one of our halfway homes for children who have been rescued from the streets, she was the member of Nega’s team that showed many children that they were indeed worthy of love. So many children have seen Jesus in the flesh because of Abazu’s example.
I would add Jonathan and Jess Bridges to the list as well, a couple who have left the comforts of the U.S. and planted themselves in the remote village where the Kota Ganate Ag Project is located. They raise their two precious children in this place because they have seen how their skill sets can further the Gospel if they are willing to give up creature comforts and invest in what Nega’s team is doing.
And, finally, (I could actually go on and on!), I would add my wife, Karyn, to the list of Christians who should be famous. For years she has sacrificed her natural desires for putting down roots, for owning nice things (we do have some of those), and for so many other things so that we can pursue God’s call to minister alongside Nega and his team. Everyday she pours herself out for our family so I can focus on TFC and it can continue to impact Ethiopia’s street children with the Gospel. She’s amazing!
Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. ~ Job 29:11-12
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.
By Britainy Sholl, Vice Chairwoman of The Forsaken Children.
This story is based on a former street child's real life experiences. Take a moment and get a glimpse of what life is like on the streets from a child's perspective. Finally, be inspired by how God intervenes to change children's tragic stories into ones full of hope. God is on the move in Ethiopia to restore hope in the hearts of its forsaken children.
This is my story of hope. My name is Fekadu.
When I was 7 years old, my father abandoned our family, and soon thereafter my mother, who had been very sick, died.
With nowhere to go, my little sister and I began living on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I could not care for my sister, so she eventually went to live with a family friend who was only willing to take one of us.
I worked on the streets to make money so I could buy food. But the work was very difficult, and people often stole my money.
Most days my empty stomach ached, and I had to dig through many trash cans to find any crumb to eat.
I remember one time when I became very sick, and no one helped me. For 3 days I was sick, and people just walked on by as I lay in the street.
One night I had a dream someone reached out a hand to help me. I awoke, knowing that no one would help a dirty street kid like me. I tried hard to forget about my dream, convinced it didn't mean anything.
I often saw other boys and girls going to school or playing with a soccer ball and wished I could be like them.
But my life was about survival - making it from one moment to the next all on my own.
When I turned 10, I was very thin, lonely and sad. I cried often and was becoming weaker day-by-day.
Then one day, I saw it! It was the hand from the dream I had tried to forget. Only this time it wasn’t a dream. It was a man named Nega. He reached his hand out and said, “Come with me. I am going to help you.”
I could tell by his face that he was a good man, so I went with him. He took me to a place called the drop-in center. When we arrived, there were other nice people there. They had the same look in their eyes Nega had...
Why would these people help me? I am a complete stranger, and I have no money to pay them. I am dirty, weak and hopeless.
The reason didn't matter - someone had finally seen me and reached out a hand to help.
The first thing we did at the drop-in center was eat! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a real meal. I ate until I couldn’t fit another bite into my mouth! Then they let me take a bath - with soap! Again, I couldn’t remember ever doing that. Maybe my mom had given me a bath when I was a baby. Then they told me the best news: I was going to get to go to school! I would get an education. I would play with other boys and girls.
Several weeks later I was working with one of the adults at the drop-in center on my studies when I asked the question that would change my life. This question had been on my mind since the day I arrived there, and now I had to ask. “Why did you help me?” The answer was simple...
“Because of Jesus.”
Who is this Jesus? I had heard the other kids at the drop-in center speak of Him, and I wanted to meet Him. I asked question after question about this Jesus. I wanted to thank Him for telling these kind people to help me when I did nothing to deserve it.
At the end of our conversation that day, I finally understood who Jesus is. The thought of someone giving His life for me so that I can know God was the best news I had ever heard! That is when I found Jesus and finally found hope.
I was a broken, poor, dirty, unloved street orphan. But Jesus loved me. He loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
This song brings me joy. I see Jesus every day in the faces of my friends at the drop-in center. They are able, because of the love of Jesus, to see me as Christ sees me. I am worthy and loved beyond measure; a son of the Most High. Yes, Jesus loves me.
You see, that dream I had of that hand so many years ago wasn’t the hand of any ordinary man. I now know that it was the hand of Jesus Christ. He reached down and touched my life and filled it with hope.
This is my story of hope. My name is Fekadu. What’s yours?
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.