Money Well Spent

My name is Ellen, and I want to tell you a story. It sounds a bit like a fairy tale – the ones by Grimm or Andersen that include suffering and gross misbehavior by human beings, and sometimes end happily anyway.

There once was a mother who was so poor that she was always, and only, a beggar. She had 3 children, and was pregnant with her 4th. They lived in what can best be described as a nest on the grounds of a local church. Eventually the priest made them move, so they had to beg and wander and find a new place to make a shelter. The mother got sick, and then sicker. The children took their mother to a hospital. They begged $2 from their neighbors to pay for one night. Then the hospital demanded $13.80 – a large sum in their country – to treat the mother’s kidneys. They could not move their neighbors to give them this much. The hospital sent the mother home, the children in tears and feeling that they had failed her.

When they had traveled the many miles back to their town, the mother sat the children down and pulled a little pouch from her waist. “I have here the $13.80 needed to pay for my treatment,” she said. “But I am going to die soon anyway. We can’t waste this money on me. It’s all we have. I will divide it among you to live on.” And she did.

Shortly thereafter, the mother died. The children watched her burial, and a family came forward to take in the youngest of the four, who was just a few months old. Surely this was better than asking the other siblings – 6, 7, and about 12 years old – to care for a baby. But the new mother took the baby to a far-off city and made her a house slave. Once she could walk and begin to work, this foster mother forced the girl to work constantly, kept her from school, barred her from any interaction with the community, and even denied her clothing.

The oldest brother heard the ugly rumors of this and rented a motorbike. He made the long trip and searched discreetly until he found his sister, now 9 years old. He implored her to leave with him, and stole her away on his motorbike. She had never been so happy in her life.

When they returned to their hometown, the brother reunited Baby Sister with her other siblings, who were now teenagers, and had been longing for her for years. But the bad foster mother, enraged at the loss of her slave, arrived in town with the police in tow. Lying to the authorities, she attempted to steal Baby Sister back for herself, saying she was her own child.

At this point, this terrible story takes a dramatic turn, because these children had an advocate. They had a modern-day knight – a mere slip of a woman named Tsehaye – who heard what was happening and boldly stepped into the story. Tsehaye was a social worker supported by this Hope in Ethiopia partnership – and she intervened to help this family. She went to the police, explained that the children were the truthful ones (as they so often are), and convinced the authorities to leave Baby Sister with her siblings. The legal workings were handled. The family of orphans was put back together.

This story certainly has the elements of a fable. The bad news is that it really happened, and I heard the whole thing first-hand from the children.  But the good news is that God is using this partnership, these social workers, our dollars to mend lives and rescue children through advocacy and protection. For years I have thought that the money I donate to Hope in Ethiopia is well-spent because it goes to feed, clothe, house, educate, and counsel orphans like these. Now I believe that the greater thing my money is accomplishing is this: in Zeway and its suburbs, orphans and widows have advocates, defenders, helpers motivated by Christ to step in and fight for justice to be done. Perhaps this causes evil people to think twice before abusing orphans in these towns. Perhaps it gives hope to the young girl who has just lost her second parent, and hears that there is a person to turn to for help. Maybe it prompts the local church members to take up the same work in the name of Christ. Perhaps it points people to a God who loves mercy and justice for the fatherless.

Whichever it is doing – and there’s evidence it is doing all of these things – my money is well-spent.  $50 in my pocket never looked as good as the faces of the three siblings in this photo anyway. I’m not at all ashamed about buying my way into their story – this is the role The Author wrote for me, and perhaps for you.

To learn more about getting into the story, click on the DONATE link above.


  1. Samson Kacha says:

    Hi Ellen I have gone through the history with a lots of mixed fillings. I want to thank you again on behalf of my team here in Zeway and Orphans, for sharing others how your contribution changes the life’s of most. Best, Sami Kacha.

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