Eternal Perspective

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By KB

Slightly over two weeks ago, I returned from a week in Zeway, Ethiopia. During my time there, I experienced the stark contrast between poverty and wealth, sickness and health, desperation and hope. For most of the children I visited, the only reason they are able to survive at all is because this program provides for their basic needs. Even with the food, clothing, rent, etc. that is provided by Hope in Ethiopia, they are undeniably poor and living in difficult conditions. We met multiple HIV+ children, whose sickness not only wreaks havoc on their bodies but also on their social status. Some families have homes in very poor condition, or must move frequently in order to stay housed. Throughout the community, there is hunger, disease, poverty, homelessness, and death. That is daily life for the people of Zeway. Yet Zeway is not devoid of hope or joy.

Here at home, most of us don’t encounter absolute poverty at any point in our lives, let alone each day. Therefore, when we are faced with situations like those in Zeway, we are shocked, heartbroken, and maybe appalled. And that is ok. We should use those emotions to motivate us to advocate for those who need it. However, when we allow those emotions to transform into worry, anxiety, or despair, we need to stop and reflect. Because this is not all there is.

You see, it wasn’t the images of severe poverty or even of grave illness that imprinted themselves on my heart two weeks ago. It was the hope and joy that I often saw in the midst of those circumstances, namely in the faces of those who were followers of Jesus. In that environment of hunger, sickness, and death, the people of Zeway have few if any false notions of personal control over their circumstances. Facades and fake smiles have no place there, because they don’t provide food or heal sickness. All veils and distractions have been stripped away, and what remains is reality. Yet for many of the kids in our program, there is not just an earthly reality, but a heavenly one. And perhaps because, not in spite, of their circumstances, their knowledge of and hope in eternity is a more intimate and real one than I have ever known.

They know a Jesus who is more powerful than hunger, disease, poverty, homelessness, and even death. And His power is not just to change those hardships on earth, but more importantly to eternally reward and exalt those who love Him so that all the hardships they experience on earth are simply “light and momentary troubles”. The followers of Jesus in those one-room houses in Zeway understand that and it is their reality. Because of that, they radiate joy, hope, and purpose. Jesus is not an add-on; He is the Only. There is nothing else to cling to, no other sources of eternal provision. I want to know Jesus like that. I want to view eternity as my resting place and my true home. And though I have more obstacles and distractions in my life that my keep me from that, I can know Jesus like that, because in reality He is the one true Savior and nothing else can take His place.

My week in Ethiopia gave me valuable insight into the lives and souls of the precious children we support, and invaluable insight into who Jesus is and the hope that He alone can bring. My prayer as I continue processing is that the Holy Spirit will continue to strip away the distractions that keep me from depending on Christ only. I pray that I will be able to believe and act as Paul describes in 2 Cor. 4:16-18:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

Pure – Just the Way I Like It…

by Jacodien

Pure—that is the way I like my chocolate. So much better than milk or white. All that added milk or even leaving out all the cocoa takes away the best of it. This week, here in Ethiopia, I have gotten a taste of purity. Not the diluted 55% kind you find in our stores. But the real stuff. Fully pure.

It started right away on day one. The drive from Addis Ababa to Zeway.

No big buildings (the few that did exist were under construction with big wooden scaffolding meters and meters high). No chain stores with advertisements screaming at you on every street corner.

Just purity. Earthiness.jacodien photo

With colors that talk, but don’t scream.

People, the way they are. Full of passion? They sing it out. Not softly, somewhere where nobody sees them, but full and uninhibited. Pure.

Desperate and without hope? They won’t conceal it in a dark corner, but display it, on the middle of the street.

Pure. Real.

No distractions. No interruptions. No hiding. No dilution.

Even the coffee is pure. Kind of like espresso, the Ethiopian way. Flavored, the same way they decorate the houses and streets, with colors that talk, but don’t scream.

There is no need to scream.
Because there are no distractions which need to be overcome. No cars which take up the road. No lights which pollute the dark. No shame which is disguised.

Oh yes, there is brokenness. Sorrow. Pain. Grief. Lives with deep sadness and despair.

Just like there is laughter. And good jokes. Hugs. Love. Joy and Thankfulness.

Ethiopia, as I have gotten to know it this week, is pure. Just the way I like it.
There is no need to seek, to scream, to jump out of the way. Pure and raw.

That is precisely the only reason I can think of why the work of the strongest enemy, the greatest created being, Satan, is so pure and visible here.

Because here there is nothing that distracts men. Nothing men hide behind. Satan has to work here. Pure and real. To reach his goal.

Yes, it is difficult. To see the fight. But here, just because of the lack of distractions, because the people don’t get overwhelmed by TV programs, by blinking billboards, too long schooldays and speeding cars. Because of that it is tangible to discern God’s voice. To hear His word. To feel His touch.

Life is earthy. Pure.
Not perfect. There is still spiritual war going on. Real, tangible, pure, raw and hard.
All the more it speaks of the confidence that we have as children of Father God, siblings of Jesus. We do not fight for victory. But fight from victory. In Christ’s power we are invincible.

So with our breastplate on and belt around our middle, our sandals on our feet and helmet on our head (which in our Ethiopian attire looks like this) we go on our way.

Enjoying the purity of all our precious new friends—their coffee and their tears and their hugs.

Pure. Just the way I like it…

I Finally Arrived

by Melissa

I have finally arrived in Africa.  The continent I’ve had a longing for.   I didn’t know what to expect and I wasn’t sure what God’s purpose was in choosing me to go on this trip.  I still don’t know my purpose but in one day, I have fallen in love with Ethiopia and it’s people and culture.

My first day was more of a dream.  It didn’t feel real and yet I know my heart and soul have been changed forever.  We started off the day worshipping with the Food for the Hungry (FH) staff.  These men and women have dedicated their lives to helping their people, which is why Hope in Ethiopia (our organization) has partnered with them.  They are a living day example of what James was talking about in James 1:27…”Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  This wasn’t a metaphor.  Orphans have no one to protect or guide them.  And widows lose all the benefits of their husbands.  In this culture, widows and orphans are outcasts.  When you add HIV to that equation, they become completely isolated.  One mother with 5 kids told us that she’s had to move 5 times in the last 2 years because one place would not let her family use the communal water pump.  Another place would not let her family use the communal bathroom.  There is always a reason to ostracize them.   Food for the Hungry and Hope in Ethiopia go against these cultural prejudices by loving each family despite their circumstances.  FH counsels all of these children and their mothers.  They help carry their burdens…burdens that we in the US would probably not be able to handle.  FH helps these families learn how to sustain themselves and build a future.  It is not a handout.  It IS ongoing unconditional love, financial support and guidance for the “least of these”.  It is what Jesus commanded us to do.  I look forward to the day I meet these FH workers in heaven where they can share all of their stories of triumph with me.

 

Gibril 2015Our first visit was with the K. family, which consists of 5 siblings.  These children have no parents and are the true definition of a child headed household.  Four of these siblings live together in a one room “house” they rent.  This room is the size of my bathroom.  There are two mattresses on the floor, neatly made.  And one small desk that holds their 6 plates, 4 cups, cooking utensils and food containers.  The floor is a dirt floor covered by what I would call cabinet liners and a rug.  They own nothing. The oldest brother is now 16 and the middle brother is 14.  When the boys were 7 and 5, their parents separated.  Their dad took the boys to another town and their mom kept the three girls in Zeway (the girls are currently 13, 10 and 5).  Their dad hired the boys out as cattle herders for $25/year which was extremely hard labor for them and they could not attend school.  One day while the boys were washing their clothes in the river, their mom came to them and they ran away with her back to Zeway.  Soon after, their mother became sick with diabetes.  She died in 2010 and the five kids were left on their own.  They had a grandmother but she was too poor to take them in.  However, she did take in the youngest child as she was still a baby (all kids three years old and under have to go to an orphanage) with the intention to send her to her siblings when she turned five.  She turned five this year, however, the grandmother is still taking care of her.  She gets to visit with her siblings often and is still part of their family.  The local church heard about their mother’s death and helped them out until FH entered the picture.   With the FH child headed household program, these kids are able to go to school because FH pays for their school supplies.  They are able to have shelter because FH pays their rent and utilities and water bills.  They are able to start the healing process of losing their mother by attending the weekly grief and counseling sessions where all the kids come together to share their stories and build a safe and understanding community.  Their FH social worker has also gone above and beyond all job requirements.  He and his wife have loved these kids as their own.  They moved the kids so they would be closer to his family.  His wife would get up at 4:30 am to teach the boys how to make bread.  The boys have now taught their sisters.   When I met these kids, they were full of joy.  They did not feel sorry for themselves or hopeless.  And all of this is because of Jesus.  They love Him with all their hearts and know that He is with them every second of every day.  They find their hope, the only true hope that lasts, in Him.  The oldest brother wants to be a petty trader, or salesman, and work for himself.  The middle brother wants to be a scientist and do research.  The two older girls love science.  This family is such an inspiration to me. They keep each other safe and hold each other accountable.  They all contribute to the family in their own special way by cooking, running errands, cleaning the house, washing clothes and dishes.  Surviving is a daily struggle for them yet they do it in such grace because of the grace that Jesus has bestowed amongst them.

Then we went to visit B.  She is 19 and lives alone.

b 2015When the Hope in Ethiopia team visited her two years ago, they said she cried the whole time and never smiled.  In two years, B is smiling.  She is so grateful for the FH program as she says that the grief and counseling sessions have helped her start healing by allowing her to connect with other children and hear their stories.  She knows now that she doesn’t have the worst life as she previously thought.  B’s mother died while working as a house maid when B was 8.  She was hanging clothes on a clothesline when an electric wire came in contact with her and she was electrocuted.  B went to live with her aunt.  At this point, B was a part of the FH child sponsorship program, however, the aunt was keeping B’s ration

s to herself, refused her to go to school and treated B badly.  At one point, B contemplated suicide.  She eventually ran away from her aunt and a very poor woman with her own children to take care of took her in.  This woman was a Christian and insisted B go to church with her.  B was an Orthodox Christian and didn’t want to have anything to do with a relationship with Jesus but she went.  For a while, she fought back spiritually.  B met a social worker from FH who convinced her to join the child headed household program (which would mean she would have to leave this woman’s home as you can’t be a part of this program if you live with an adult who can help support you).  This social worker and B became like family and he counseled her as if she were his daughter.  After a while, B thought about all the good people in her life (her social worker, the poor woman) and realized they were all Christians and loved her in a way no one else had.  So she gave her life to Jesus and now wants to give back to others all that she has been given.  B used to wonder why she didn’t die with her mother, however, now she sees hope and a purpose for her life that she has never seen before.   Her smile says it all.

This is just a glimpse of these amazing survivors…we are so lucky to have met these wonderful, generous people and to have shared their lives with them.

The Team Arrived in Zeway!

We made it! The sights, the sounds, the smells all fill my senses and I can’t help but smile. Ethiopia has

2015 trip team photo

implanted itself in my heart, and I have returned. God has been drawing me back since I left two years ago, bringing me back to simply love on others. What better reason but to love? Tomorrow I will be reunited with the social workers who are part of my family in Christ and reunited with a group of orphans that transformed me and my whole family. I get to hug them , sit with them, and tell them how valued and precious they are in God’s eye and my own. God has brought together a great team and we look forward to watching them experience all the amazing work God has been doing in this little community in Zeway.    – Kim

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.

 

 

 

Light in the Darkness — by Kristina Vandiver

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“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5

As we entered this one-room mud hut in Ethiopia, the first thing we noticed was the absence of light. The one window was tightly shut, and there was no lamp to illuminate the room. Then we noticed the woman lying on a straw pallet quietly moaning in pain. As soon as we saw her, we stopped, bumping into one another, dumb in stupor. We’d come to visit her and the little boy, her son, who was playing outside. But, how do you visit the dying when you thought you were going to visit with the living? As we fumbled through the darkness, our translator took over. “I will ask her how we can pray for her. It is not appropriate to ask other questions at this time.”  Our cameras were quietly put away.

This was one of my first “home visits” with the Hope in Ethiopia partnership — a collaboration between Food for the Hungry, local Ethiopian congregations, and our home church in Austin, Texas. The AIDS pandemic has created a generation of orphans in the world’s second largest continent. In years past, grandparents and aunts & uncles would care for these children, but many of those potential caregivers have died as well. For those caregivers who remain, there are just too many children and not enough resources to care for them all. The result: children living alone, trying to act as grown-ups as they grow up. These young ones are incredibly vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, exploitation of the cruelest kind, and the fate of living in an unbroken state of extreme poverty. Our cross-Atlantic partnership tries to catch these little ones in a safety net of love, protection, and grace.

We’d traveled halfway around the world to visit these children and children who had parents still battling this ravaging disease. The woman lying on the floor answered our translator’s question by saying that she was worried about what would happen to her boy if she were to die. She wondered how she could pay her $20 renEthiopia 2014 027t every month when she was too sick to work. She was worried…and she began to weep. By this time, the little boy had entered the room, and as his mother wept, he curled his little body up next to her feet and began to weep with her. After a quiet pause, we asked if we could pray over her. With her permission, we gently laid hands on her frail frame and began to pray. As we prayed, the darkness that seemed to be so overwhelming was inched out by the one true Light. He was there, before us, but it was prayer that opened our eyes to see Him.

Ephesians 6 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And 1 John 4:4 reminds us that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Why?  Because only Jesus has secured victory over death and darkness on our behalf.  There are times when the darkness can seem overwhelming, crushing even. But Paul encourages us, as he did the people of Corinth, with these words:

Copy of Ethiopia 2014 066“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 

I want to encourage you not to give up.  We can confidently fight the darkness wherever God has placed us, because He IS the light.

To help us fight for the children and widows of Zeway through prayer, financial support, advocacy, or encouragement, please visit the rest of this site.

 

Overcomers — by Rebecca Kunkel

Rebecca with RedietI love to run!  But I really don’t like running directly into the wind.  And, I certainly don’t like running uphill into the wind.  That’s tough.  It takes endurance and strength.  It takes commitment of will.  Sometimes when I’m running in these conditions, I want to give up.

When I visited Zeway, Ethiopia last month, I saw people who face great adversity… each and every day they are running uphill, into the wind.  I could spend a long time explaining the enormous challenges these Ethiopians face on a daily basis.  But instead I want to tell you about the great strength, endurance, and commitment of will they possess.

I saw a people who are overcomers — strong despite adversity.

Rediet with BezaI talked to children who are grateful.  American kids often grumble about going to school.  But these children in Zeway are grateful to have access to an education at all.  Many of the children asked for prayers that they would do well in school, because they know that academic success is a stepping stone to a good future.  These children are eager to learn.  Their faces are constantly wearing a smile.

 

IGenet Roba cropped talked to families who are hopeful.  Despite illness — even HIV/AIDS — and lack of material goods, these families have hope.  They believe God can improve their lives.  They see proof of it in the things they now receive through our program: a roof over their heads, a goat to provide some income, clothing, daily nutrition, and the attention of a local social worker and church volunteers who love them.  They see past their history and their current circumstances and dream of a better future.  Their eyes are full of hope.

 

I witnessed a community that supports one another.  When we visited homes, often the family didn’t owServing coffeen enough chairs for us.  But I saw neighbors appear with stools and benches from their homes in order to make us comfortable.  While we were visiting one widow, suddenly coffee appeared that had been prepared by a neighbor at this mom’s request, so that she could honor us with a traditional sign of hospitality.  Their hands are busy doing things for others.

Tilahun with Hajiis I witnessed children who are alone, but not always lonely.  Many of the children I met have no parent in their home.  They are double orphans, living alone or with a sibling for so many years that they can’t remember their parents at all.  Being alone is a harsh reality they did nothing to deserve.  Yet, they haven’t given up.  They endure.  They have commitment of will.  Many of these kids describe having a new “family”:  their Hope in Ethiopia social worker, other orphans in the program, and most importantly God.  They have faith in a loving Father and they keep moving forward.

I was deeply inspired and forever changed by what I saw in Zeway, Ethiopia.  I saw widows and orphans running uphill, into the wind.

They face extremely difficult circumstances.  They experience painful memories and emotions.  But, they also have endurance and a deep commitment of will that I have seldom seen.  Because they are grateful, hopeful, and faithful, they are people to be admired, not pitied.  But they need a little help to overcome, and we want to continue to provide that.  Will you join us in meeting the material needs of these orphans and widows in Zeway?  To see how you can keep the hope in their eyes, follow us at www.hopeinethiopia.org or https://www.facebook.com/hopeinethiopia.org, and attend our event at 12:30 on May 18th at Grace Covenant Church in Austin http://grace360.org/th_gallery/ethiopia/.Getu praying

Will You Go to Africa? by Scott Garner

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Spring 2014 Trip to Zeway: Transformation Here and There

A team is forming now to return to Zeway in the Spring of 2014!DSC_0948

Hope in Ethiopia is in its 4th year and it is always amazing to see the progress of the partnership.  A team goes to Zeway at least once a year, and we are excited that this team is forming now.

The trips are usually about 10 days long.  About 4 of those days are spent on an airplane and an additional day is spent driving to Zeway and back.  So that leaves a team about 5 days to visit orphans and widows and build relationships with the local church and Food for the Hungry as they serve the children directly.

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Five days is not enough time to transform a community especially considering that language and culture is a barrier to communication.   But it is enough time to transform individuals and that is often what happens to trip team members.  Trip team members see poverty in a whole new way– and not just physical poverty. Certainly, the small huts, little food, and the meager belongings bring a person to great conviction of their own riches and a deep sense of gratefulness.  But people who go to Zeway also see their own spiritual poverty and that brings transformation to the individuals.

You see, in Zeway the widows and orphans share their lives with visitors.  They grieve, and they rejoice with visitors. They are open about their needs and their spiritual lives. For instance, Amaloek, a dying widow with three children, shared with a team, “The word of God is my food.  It is what sustains me to the next day.” The people who heard those words knew that Amaloek had ONLY the word of God. She really was sustained by the Bible alone.  How often do we see the Bible as truly our way of survival? A necessity like food, water and air.  Amaloek knew God’s word as her source of life and the people who witnessed this and even the people who hear this story are often moved by Amaloek’s great faith and need for God’s word.

Teams that go to Ethiopia are so important to the work that goes on in Zeway. They bring encouragement and a perspective of our sovereign God to the people there. They return with good news, and feedback on how we can work together better. But equally important, teams that go to Zeway return with stories of spiritual and physical poverty and hope that can continue to transform lives for a lot longer than their 10 day adventure to Ethiopia.

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