Two Powerful Stories from Zeway

Of the dozens of home visits that we’ve been on this week, two stand out in my mind.

The first was the home of Meseret, an HIV+ mother of four children, Sadam, Keeya, Miki and Sammy.  Meseret radiated gentleness.  She is a loving mom to her kids and joyfully secure in her faith.  Miki, who is 7 years old, says that he wants to be a missionary when he grows up, but in reality, he already is one.

At a very young age, Miki heard his mother read to him from the scriptures about Jesus’ death for the sins of mankind, and it changed his life.  From that moment on, he has been committed to telling everyone he meets about this Jesus who died willingly for our sins.  He began witnessing to a neighbor lady who was on drugs and married to a drunk.  Through his counsel, she realized her need for Christ and came to saving faith in Him.  Now this neighbor woman joins Meseret and her children in their weekly street evangelism ministry.  In the middle of our meeting, Miki asked to pray.  As he stood in the middle of the room praying over us, I was deeply humbled by the giant faith of this tiny boy.  Although I couldn’t understand many of the words of his Amharic prayer, his posture and his tone were unmistakable.  Miki approached our God with boldness and with fervency.

What makes this story all the more special is that, like his mother, Miki also lives with HIV.  None of us know how many more days Miki or Meseret will walk this earth.  Yet, we know that they can say with Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  When God gives them their last breath and says their time here is done, they will stand before their Maker, reconciled through Jesus.

The next story is not a happy one.  It is, in fact, the story that I have shed tears over and felt most broken for.

Kuftu is a 12-year-old CHH orphan.  She is beautiful, articulate and smart, but her eyes are sad and her face is solemn.

Kuftu has no memory of her parents and has been only trying to survive for most of her short life.  She has no siblings.  She has been mistreated and abused by many people.  She was found by a Food for the Hungry social worker and brought into the CHH program.

Now, Kuftu’s physical needs are met by the program.  She has clothing, a roof over her head, enough food, and school supplies.  But Kuftu’s demeanor is fearful and withdrawn, and her spirit is sad.  “Please pray that good things will happen to me.”  She has never known love, never been special to anyone.

Even though there were others in the room much more gifted in counseling than I am, I facilitated the conversation because I was the only female present.  I know that God set that up so that my heart would break for Kuftu.  She is the same age as my firstborn.  It absolutely wrecked me to hear this girl say that the hardest thing in her life was that she had never known her parents.  She could not make eye contact.  Her eyes were glued to the floor and her spirit was hopeless.

By the end of our meeting, I had run out of both words and comfort.  It’s in moments like this that I realize that I have nothing to give, and the gospel is the only good news I have.  As we walked out of the house, Matt urged me, “Tell her who she is.  She needs to hear it from you.”

I pulled her aside and told her all of the things I saw in her.  Beautiful.  Smart.  Precious.  Lovable.  A blessing.  I told her all the things I tell my own children, all things I imagine she hasn’t heard.  Then I said, “Kuftu. I only just met you, but I can SEE all these things in you.  You have a Maker who knows you intimately. He formed you and He knows you. He says that if you call on His name, He will answer you.  If you seek Him, He will be found.  He is so faithful, Kuftu!  He is more faithful that the best earthly parents, and He is a Father to the fatherless.”  As I held her hands and spoke into her face, her eyes still could not meet mine, but they filled with tears. 

For the rest of our time in Kuftu’s yard, I mostly held her hands and hugged her.  I fought my own emotions.  Kuftu’s life has been painful.  She undoubtedly has more pain ahead of her as she navigates the adolescent years alone.

Yesterday, I saw Kuftu again, and again I held onto her and told her how precious she is.  I gave her the only Good News that I have, and told her that I will not forget her.  I won’t.  I can’t do much for Kuftu, but I have a God who can do everything for her.  He can make Himself known to her and heal her broken heart.  He can even bring a family to her so that she can know the love of parents.  Until then, I wait and I pray.

For the 48 hours that I have known Kuftu, I have prayed for her ceaselessly, with the sort of intensity I pray for my own children.  Jesus, save her.  Write your name on her heart.  Take her burdens and give her rest.  Show her the tenderness of your love.  God, do not leave this precious girl.

Praise be to God.  He is the greatest hope that I have, and the greatest hope for Kuftu too.

“But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 9:7-10

Redemption (by Dawn Patterson)

In the times I have visited Zeway, I have heard stories of sadness, stories of hope, stories of forgiveness and stories of transformation.  But today, I witnessed an incredible story of God’s redemption that I have to share.

We went to visit the home of Selamaweit.  I had the privilege of meeting her two years ago.  She has 4 beautiful children named Beniyam, Samraweit, Mintossonet & Edatu.  She is a widow living with HIV.  When I met her 2 years ago, her faith was contagious.  When she spoke about Jesus, she would stand up because she was so amazed at all He had done in her life.  Today when we came, there was another little boy there.  As we greeted her, we asked who this child was.  She shared with us how her neighbor had abandoned the son and she chose to take him in.  She also said she was the “legally registered” care giver.  In other words….she was his foster mom.  We were blown away.  Here is an HIV+ widow caring for 4 children and not only does she take in this child, she goes through the effort to become his legally registered caregiver.   She was so loving toward this sweet boy (as she was with all her children) and he was clearly very attached to here.

But here is where the story gets good….as if that’s not good enough.  After her husband died, a few years later, she fell in love with a man.  She made the decision to leave her children and abandon them so she could go to be with him.  Ultimately, God brought her back to her children and she became a believer but she was alone, very poor and struggled to provide for her children.  She said she cried to God to help her.  She said she wept tears.  Then she said “and then God brought me you all and FH.  If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be able to care for my own children and I wouldn’t have been able to take care of Ibidde”.

God wastes no tears.  He is the God of second chances.  He is the Great Redeemer.   I have heard it said that from our deepest hurts come our greatest ministries and I belive this to be true.  I imagine the time away from her children is one of Selamweit’s deepest hurts, but how beautiful it is that through that hurt, God has brought her to a place where  she is able to minister to this precious child.

Being Known (by Dawn Patterson)

As we drove into Zeway town I started thing about how much our lives have changed since we first visited.  I looked at the faces of every person hoping to get a glimpse of someone I recognized.  If I saw someone I knew….would they remember me?  I thought about the excitement the children must have when they know the “forengi” will be visiting.   Are they as excited about meeting us as we are about meeting them?  Sometimes there is the misconception that WE are the blessing to them.  But the truth is….they are the ones that bless us.

I’ve never left a home visit feeling like “wow…we’ve done a really great thing for these children”.  I’ve always walked away feeling challenged.  Could I rise to the occasion as these children have done in their circumstances?  If I had no parents to guide me, would I walk hours each day just to go to school?  I just can’t say my answer would be yes.

There is a determination in the spirit of these children.  Some how, some way….they don’t give up.  How easily we give up when things don’t go our way.  But they press on.  When I close my eyes and picture these children….I see Jesus with each and every one of them.  Holding their hand, walking with them….even carrying them.  They can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.

If I had never come to Zeway…I wouldn’t have ever met these children.  I don’t know that I would have been so challenged in my own personal life to help be a voice for them.  I wouldn’t have spent so much time examining my own faith and the realities of just how shallow it is.

My friend Julie said her prayer for this trip was that these children would know that they are KNOWN by our God.  That they would know who they are….a child of the most awesome King.  That is the message I want to share with these children.  That they are dearly loved by a perfect Father who will never leave them or forsake them.  He is the reason we are here.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:13-14