A Strange Connection — by Ellen Tuthill

About a week ago, my family and I were traveling back to Austin after spending time with my in-laws.  Departing from the tiny airport in Binghamton, NY, we learned at check-in that our first flight was delayed.  Everyone was confused and grumbling — flights out of Binghamton are few, and nearly everyone needed to make a quick connection in Detroit in order to get home that night.  Most affected was the 16-yr-old girl who would be traveling by herself.  Her grandparents worried she could be stranded overnight alone.

I noticed that the girl was wearing a youth ministry shirt, so I struck up a conversation.  She told me that she’d just spent a week volunteering at a camp in New York. “I’m flying to Detroit and then back to Austin by myself, and my family is really nervous about me going alone.”  Natalie’s parents had moved to Austin just three years ago to help pastor a new church.  I was happy to learn that we shared the same city.  “Yes, and I volunteer a lot with Camp Nikos for at-risk kids in Austin,” she said.  “Have you heard of it?”

I got chills.  “I know of Camp Nikos…do you work with the kids just in summer, or year round?” She said she volunteered all year.  “Did you happen to work with the kids at Camp Nikos when they made gospel bead bracelets to send to orphans in Ethiopia?” I asked, not daring to think she had.  “Yes, I did, actually!” she smiled.  “We were teaching them about the nations…and making that gift helped them see that it’s a big world out there, with other children facing tough circumstances…”

A boy shows off his his bracelet made by Natalie and the kids at Camp Nikos (we tucked them into Easter eggs)

A boy in Zeway shows off his bracelet made by Natalie and the kids at Camp Nikos (we tucked them into Easter eggs)

My eyes filled with tears, and I broke into a goofy grin.  “My husband and I led the little team that delivered those bracelets,” I said.  “Our friends Tara and Kebede explained them while we passed them out to about 70 orphans in Zeway.  I got to personally tie some onto the kids’ wrists.  They were so excited and they recited the colors and their meanings back to us…I just can’t believe you had a part in making those!”

Natalie’s grandfather, a pastor, said, “This is so strange…we have been praying that God would send someone to watch over Natalie on these flights and make sure she makes her connection in Detroit.  I can see that He sent you to do that.  Thank you for serving our family in this way.”

I didn’t do much, but God gave me a chance to be a stand-in mother for this girl.  She was alone for a few hours, and she knew that if she needed anything on her journey, I would be there to help and to fight for her. The airline held the plane for us in Detroit, and we landed safely in Austin that night, where I got to meet Natalie’s mother.  She told me that just after she finished praying for someone to watch over her daughter’s travels, her parents texted her from Binghamton to say that such a person had just appeared.

The loving local team who cares for the orphans and widows

The local team who cares for the orphans and widows

Every parent — especially those who are dying of HIV — prays that someone will step in to watch over their child when they’re not able.  Though Natalie is young, she has already stood in the gap for kids on two continents.  I want to encourage you that ALL of us have the opportunity to answer a parent’s prayer for the orphans of Zeway, Ethiopia.  They need housing and education.  They need health care and job training, and food.  And the best thing about Hope in Ethiopia is that, for $40 a month per child, you can provide all of the equipping and the material things these orphans need — but we also employ amazing men and women to stand-in as parents in other ways as well.  When you give to this ministry, you are actually planting a loving, local adult in the kids’ lives to serve them and protect them on their journey.

In IMG_5170addition, you can effectively stand in the gap from afar.  Once, one of our teams from Austin visited teen orphans at their tiny home in Zeway and were asked to pray over them and bless their lives.  Afterwards, the children said, “Our parents are gone.  But you are like parents to us, because in our culture, those who provide for our physical needs are considered father and mother.” The team was shocked at the gratitude and connection these kids felt to strangers from another continent.

You don’t have to get on a plane to see a young person safely on her journey.  If you have not already, please consider the role of stand-in parent, and join me as a donor to Hope in Ethiopia.

 

 

 

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