Friday, March 15, 2013

Beautiful Tihune

I met Tihune for the first time in July 2010 when we visited Zeway. She showed up for the jewelry making training. She was by far one of the quickest learners and made some beautiful bracelets. Tihune was incredibly quiet. She rarely looked up from her beads and never smiled. It was apparent that this beautiful young girl carried a tremendous burden. Often, when I would see her looking at me, when I returned eye contact, she would look away. It was also obvious that she was new to this group of girls because her interaction was minimal.

I asked the social workers about her but nobody knew her story. She was brand new to the CHH program and they had little information about her. I tried to encourage her and love on her as much as I could in that day and a half that we spent together. But still, there was no joy in this young girls eyes.

When we did the art day, 3 siblings showed up....Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot. There were delightfully cute and we soaked them up. We found out that they were Tihunes younger siblings. Knowing that Tihune was CHH (Child head of household) it quickly became apparent that she was the "mama" to these young children. Some of her burden was explained. But it would take 9 months to know the rest of the story.

When I knew I would be returning again and doing the jewelry training, I hoped I would see her. And I did. When we pulled up to the FH building, there she was. Standing with all the other girls we've grown to know and love...Melekete, Eden, Melesech, Belatu and more. AND SHE WAS SMILING! I was stunned. When I went around and greeted all the girls, she didn't hesitate to hug me. She kissed my face. I just looked at her and exclaimed "Tihune, you are smiling!" and she just giggled.

We had the opportunity to visit Tihune in her home on this trip. And our eyes were opened. As we arrived, we were greeted by her, her siblings Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot and a 3 year old ball of energy & giggles named Radiette. She was excited to have us and we felt blessed to visit her. I asked her "Tihune...what has happened in your life since I saw you last?" The first words out of her mouth were "the first and most important thing is that I have come to know the Lord". I just cried. I was overwhelmed. The transformation in this girl was astounding.

But then I asked another question and I was not prepared for the response. I asked her "what has been your biggest challenge in taking care of the children". And she broke into tears. Her pain was still very fresh and raw. She shared with us that after her parents died, they were living with her older brother. He would drink alcohol and beat them all. She made the decision to leave their family home with all the children and was on her own with them. That is when FH found out about her....and when I met her last year. On top of all of this, her older sister died and Tihune (at the age of 17) is also caring for her niece, Radiette.

When we visited her, the Social worker informed us that the brother has left the village and his wherabouts are unknown. They quickly moved Tihune and the children to the home she grew up in and will know provide legal support and protection to make sure they can stay there...and that they remain safe from the brother.
When it came time to pray, I asked Tihune to come sit by me. When she sat down, she snuggled right into me. It felt like when my own daughter snuggles into my lap when she wants to be comforted. We wrapped our arms around each other and we sat there....cheek to a loving embrace as Kathy prayed.

When are visit was over, it was clear that trust had been established. That is one of the many beautiful things about this partnership. These children are learning to trust again. They are learning that there are adults in their life that are loving them and praying for them. And most importantly, they are learning about Jesus and His love for them. The FH staff, the people from Grace who visit, the people who consistently pray, the families that make the photo pages and so much more are all acting as the hands, feet and heart of Jesus!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Going back to Ethiopia.....

Nobody is more surprised than I am that God is allowing me to return to Zeway, Ethiopia.  Even as I sit here and begin to type this post, I feel the emotions well up inside of me.  Although I felt God telling me I would be returning to Ethiopia, it just didn't seem like it was going to happen.  I resolved to just pray and turn it completely over to Him.  I felt an overwhelming peace that if I was meant to return, He would make it known.  Well, He did and in just 6 weeks, I will be going to Ethiopia with an amazing team with Hope in Ethiopia.

Lord willing, I will get to see our "spiritual son" Johannes.  To make a really long story as short as possible...(or you can read the whole story here) on our very first trip to Ethiopia (July 2010), Johannes and his father accepted Christ.  It was a moment I will never, ever forget.  Negatu, Johannes' father is an HIV+ widow.  After we left, they discovered Johannes was HIV+ too.

In March 2011, I was able to see Johannes again.  During that visit, God showed me my capacity to love a child in a maternal way that did not come from my body.  You can read about that visit here.  During that visit, we found out that Negatu was extremely ill with TB.....they feared he would not survive.  John and I prayed every single day that the Lord would heal Negatu.

In June 2011, my husband was able to visit Johannes and Negatu.  Fearing the worst, they headed to their home.  Negatu greeted my husband at the door!!  He was well!  John shared with Negatu that we had prayed for him every single day and Negatu got up, wrapped his arms around John and wept.  Oh, what I would have given to witness that moment.

In June 2012, another team visit Johannes and Negatu.  They had made this beautiful hat out of old calling cards for John and I.  A sweet friend brought it home for us and and we look at it every single day.  It is one of my most treasured gifts.

I have always had an ache in my heart for Johannes.  I love him dearly.  I can not wait to see his beautiful face again.  The beautiful thing about the Hope in Ethiopia partnership is how it is caring for the child BEFORE they become an orphan.  When it was discovered how many HIV+ widows were caring for their children, the partnership decided to start caring for the widow and the child.  When a HIV+ parent can get proper nutrition and access to the medication they need, their children have such a better chance of not becoming orphaned.  While I have been blessed with a son through adoption....and I believe adoption is a wonderful preservation is a REALLY wonderful thing.

This is just one story from my personal experience.  This ministry serves over 150 orphans and widows in Zeway, Ethiopia and each person has a story.  I encourage you to visit the Hope in Ethiopia blog.  This ministry is a community to community partnership and when you read the stories you will see how lives are being transformed there and here.  There are so many stories of God's beautiful redemption in the lives of our precious friends in Ethiopia

To God be the glory.....always,