Metu had suffered a great deal before I met her. How, then, could it be said that God was in the place of her suffering?
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.
By Rachael Burnett. I wish everyone could get to know Nega.
Nega is the director of TFC’s on the ground efforts in Ethiopia. Honestly, I’ve only “known” him for a short while— the only time I've been around him and seen him in action was for a short week this summer while on my first trip to Ethiopia. But, wow. This man never seems to get tired. He never seems to run out of energy, smiles, time, or hugs.
Lately, I, myself, have been way short on all of those elements. I’ve felt drained, like I can’t keep up with the list of to-do’s and be-here’s spiraling to infinity. Maybe you have felt this busyness-to-the-max, too?
As I was thinking and praying about what God would have me write in this post, struggling to come up with something, He reminded me of a beautiful scene I witnessed this summer and the phrase “only one thing is needed” from a story in the book of Luke...
While we were in Ethiopia, each morning our team worked with street children at the drop-in center, and every afternoon we went to a nearby soccer field and played with the kids there. I remember feeling absolutely shocked one afternoon as I looked up to see Nega jogging out to join the match with the boys who were already whipping up and down the field. What in the world was he doing? Was he really running out enthusiastically to join the kids?
With all of his other responsibilities, how does he have time to play? How does he have the energy?
Obviously, Nega knows something I didn’t know—or at least didn’t grasp down deep in my heart. He knows the truth of Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:42, “But only one thing is needed.” Jesus spoke this gentle admonition to a woman named Martha—who I think may be my long-lost twin—after she was a bit perturbed at her sister Mary’s lack of assistance in the kitchen.
You see, Jesus had come to visit Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Martha was busy, “distracted with much serving” (vs. 40), flitting around the house making preparations for the meal, fluffing the sofa pillows, and swishing the last stubborn cobwebs from the corners. All the while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet simply listening to his teaching and enjoying Him (vs. 39).
Exasperated over being the only one concerned about the chores, Martha approached Jesus and boldly asked Him, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (vs. 40). And Jesus responded ever so gently, but pointedly, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (vs. 41-42). I can just see Martha shrinking back in conviction—maybe a little stung by the reprimand, but humbled with the reminder of what-or rather who-really matters.
Nega gets it. He recognizes that Jesus places a premium on relationship—both with Him and with others. Nega recognizes that, more than organized programs and neat facilities, the street kids need love. And kids (and big people, too) spell love T-I-M-E.
Is there anything wrong with being a doer? Was Martha wrong for desiring to serve Jesus? Of course not! However, like Joanna Weaver states in her book, “In her eagerness to serve Jesus, [Mary] almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss knowing Jesus. Maybe it’s time for us to take a lesson from Nega and from Mary. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our busyness, our “service,” our to-do’s and be-here’s. Rather than play soccer, I’m sure there were a thousand other things Nega could have chosen to do, a thousand other things that were seemingly demanding his attention right then. But, in my opinion, he, like Mary, chose the “good part”—the eternal part.
Iva May, the author of the chronological Bible study I use, puts it this way:
There are only three things that are eternal:
- The Word of God
- The Souls of Men
So I’m learning the importance of filtering the ways I’m spending my time, even if under the banner of “serving” or “necessary busyness”, through the lens of those three eternal things.
Let’s reject distractions and wake up to choosing the best—choosing to intimately know and love our Savior and other people, especially those on the fringes, both the ones right across the street and those all around the world.
I am happy to report we have a very important flock of chickens at Kota Ganate right now. These chickens will be the parent stock for the hatchery we have been developing for several years. We received this flock at the end of June just after they hatched. For those of you who aren't in the poultry biz, parent stock are the chickens that lay the eggs which are then hatched to produce chicks for the hatchery. They are the mama and daddy birds, if you will.
By the end of the year, we will be able to start hatching chicks ourselves and selling them to local farmers! Our short-term goal is to hatch 1000 chicks per month. Then we will quickly increase our production throughout next year. Each chick sold will produce 75 cents in income for Onesimus (each chick bought and raised by a farmer will produce significant income for him and his family as well, helping the local economy).
Early next year we will actually be producing a profit at the Kota Ganate Hatchery! As we increase production, all of the profits will help fund Onesimus' ministries to children living on the streets. I'm excited about that - how about you?
Finally, I want to thank those of you who have been praying for me. For two months I've been struggling with a knee injury, which has kept me confined in my house for the majority of the time.
Despite being unable to do much myself, the work on the Kota Ganate Agriculture Project has continued. It is a good reminder that this is God's work, not my own. Please continue to pray for me as my knee is still weak.
For this month's prayer post, I only have one request - TFC Sustainability Coordinator, Jonathan Bridges', knee. As I sit here in America and hear of Jonathan's knee injury and the difficulties it is causing him in Ethiopia, my powerlessness to do anything drives me to one thing... prayer. Will you join me and pray for Jonathan? While you're at it, you can lift up his wife, Jess, and their two precious children as well.
Here's a recent update from Jonathan concerning his knee:
"My injury baffled the docs. There was no obvious event which triggered it, there was little to no pain, and the x-ray showed nothing. So they invited me to the hospital for a thorough examination. At the hospital one of the doctors drained the fluid off and gave me a shot of cortisone. Immediately I was able to walk without crutches, and within a couple of days, my knee was back to normal... or so I thought. We packed up and headed home to Chencha.
The next few weeks were great, and on June 23rd, Aregahegn (the farm manager) and I traveled to Addis Ababa to pick up chicks for the Kota Ganate Hatchery. The trip was successful, and we brought 332 chicks to the farm.
About a week later, however, the cortisone apparently wore off, and my knee started swelling again. It swelled more slowly this time, but within five days I was on crutches again. We went back to the hospital on July 6th. The orthopedic surgeon took a quick look at my knee and scheduled me for arthroscopic surgery a few days later.
I had surgery on July 10th. To our surprise, there was very little damage inside my knee - only a little damaged cartilage under the knee-cap. The rest of the knee was in perfect shape. The doctor was actually surprised that my knee swelled with that little amount of damage.
This was both good and bad news. It was great news to find out that my knee is actually in pretty good condition. The bad news is there is no good explanation for why my knee is acting as it is, and they don't know what to do to fix it... I'm trying to stay positive, but I'll admit to you that it's starting to wear on me."
Thank you for your prayers!
By Rachael Burnett: It's our last day in Ethiopia! We are all packing up now and getting ready to head to the airport; it seems like we just arrived in this beautiful country. We began the morning early at Onesimus with the kids getting ready for the foot race to the soccer field. Nega worked to get the road blocked off, which is no easy task here; traffic is crazy to us Americans to say the least! It is so neat to see how well respected and influential Nega is in the community, and making this race happen for the kids was so special. Half of the team went ahead to the finish line at the field to cheer them on, and the other half of us rode the van that led the way through the street so that we could watch them run. It was so fun to see the kids just running their hearts out--some not even wearing any shoes.
After the race, there was an Onesimus staff soccer match; our own soccer stars Kelly M. and Candice played! Candice scored two goals--one with her left foot! She's a rockstar, and the kids are enthralled by "Rooney" (i.e. Kelly M.). They love to chant, "Rooney! Rooney!" The boys' tournament championship match was next. It was an exciting game, and Onesimus played really well...so well that they won! Everyone went wild as this was Onesimus' first ever championship win! There was an awards ceremony to honor the players and coaches, complete with medals and certificates. Kelly M. spoke for a few minutes congratulating everyone and thanking them for good sportsmanship and fair play (huge concepts for most of these kids!). He also noted that there were more people and players there than ever before (it started in December 2010). It is so awesome to see how The Lord is expanding this ministry!
It was definitely hard to say our goodbyes to all the kiddos. They have stolen our hearts for sure. While sitting in the stands watching the games today, I had kids climbing all over me, holding my hands, sitting in my lap, putting their arms around me, playing with my hair. There wasn't a single minute in the three and a half hours I sat there that I didn't have a kid touching me. They have no understanding of that personal space bubble most of us like to have and that was absolutely okay with me today. Their uninhibited affection and love is such a wonderful and needed reminder of how God just continually lavishes His unconditional love on us and how we need to share the same with others. Though those kids don't really know us, they love us. And I am blown away that our God does know us--every single ugly part of us--and yet He loves us. I hope you take a minute to let that truth sink in today.
Thank you again for your prayers and encouragement as we have been here this week. Please continue to pray for us as we process all that we have seen and experienced. I know I don't want to be the same when I return to the States. To borrow a phrase from Pastor Ernie, I think and I pray that each of us has been "ruined for the ordinary."