This evening I finally had a chance to quickly go through the mail. Near the top of the pile sat a letter addressed to yours truly with the return address of Project 61, which some of you may know is the ministry that is working within the forgotten community of Korah in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are serving the children, who for many years have worked in the trash dump to find whatever they might possibly salvage to sustain themselves and their families or anything they might sell in the center of their village to others in order to survive.
Several months before our first trip in July to meet our daughter in Ethiopia I began to hear many rumblings about Korah. Each time I read about the heartbreak of the children living in such deplorable conditions it made my heart long to see for myself what I might be able to do. I felt drawn to the village of Korah from the very minute I began to learn about it. The first thing that sprang to my mind was that we would be making two trips to Ethiopia and within our luggage perhaps we could carry shoes to bring to those in great need in Korah. The shoe idea stuck and you might say I became a bit obsessed with getting 60 plus pair of shoes on board the plane for little extra money. My son made a flyer for the neighborhood and within days shoes came from all around. I would return home to shoes in bags on my front porch. Thank you so much to those who gave so generously. So fast forward to my planning a visit to Korah.
I had contacted Sumer of Project 61 and she agreed to come pick me up with their driver so I could find my way. Many folks in Addis Ababa have a driver since street signs are at an all time low and getting around is very challenging. As we turned down the roads of Korah off the beaten path I was amazed at the beauty of the tin shacks all lined up and the big boulders in the road that caused such a lurching I questioned the van being able to make it. Yes I saw beauty and I will never explain it other than to say that I was placed exactly where I was intended to be to have my heart broken by the children of Korah. God allowed for me to see beauty first because what came next was tough. The van stopped and children of all ages crowded around the bus pushing to see who would be hopping out. I felt like a superstar with so many fans peering in. They flung open the doors and literally the first hing to hit me was the smell of the children. It took my breath away and made me quickly question if I was going to be able to get out of the car. I was actually feeling so overwhelmed that I nearly burst into tears thinking that my visit was a mistake. So I prayed. I asked God right then and there to carry me through this and to help me to find beauty in my visit to Korah. Remember I knew I was there with a purpose and my next thought was this… Put on a smile, breathe deep and feel the discomfort. That is exactly what I did and within a few minutes I was much better and taking in all the hugs and all the love of the bustling children who eagerly welcomed me into the shelter for tea. Yes I drank the water. It was so hot I had no fears. There were twenty plus children of all ages making tea and welcoming myself and Sumer and there was no way to resist their charm and hospitality.
Next I would be joining Sumer and Sammy in visiting those in Korah who desperately need help. We conducted home visits to interview families and begin to get a feel for the needs of the children living in very harrowing conditions. Again, there was little I could do as we navigated the extremely rocky and muddy terrain of Korah. All I can say is that I was in prayer nearly every moment and I let all my fears go. As we waited to go into some of the homes in Korah a tall smiley boy approached and in a shy manner greeted me and asked if he could help me with my camera bag. The bag was a hindrance and it must have been written all over my face that I was firghtened I might land in the mud. This boy took my camera bag and took my arm and sometimes my hand and stayed alongside me for the longest time, guiding me where I needed to go. He was proud to show me Korah. He was proud of the Bright Hope Church and the shelter where he was living. I knew nothing of his story but I was instantly calmed by his presence and help. It was just strange how quickly we bonded and laughed and smiled without uttering many words. He spoke very little English so our communication was through gestures or the occasional translation of Sammy.
In Korah 250 kids have now been rescued from the ravages of the trash dump. They have been welcomed into the arms of missions teams and missionaries. They have been guided by the ministry team of Great Hope Church. Many children have now been baptized and fed daily by the Project 61 group and now the kids are being given the chance to become educated through the sponsorship of everyday people in everyday families who have heard the cries of the orphaned and the impoverished child. So many families came forward wishing to sponsor a child that there is currently a wait list as there is no more room at the private boarding school two hours away. With 147 million orphaned and vulnerable children in the world I know there must be many paces such like Korah. Ethiopia has over four and a half million orphans and now that I have seen for myself the tremendous needs of children I now know by name, there is certainly no turning back. My few visits to Korah were God’s way of breaking my heart for the least of these so that I might share my experience with others, advocate, sponsor and most importantly GO and LOVE on orphans.
The boy who guided me around Korah is now one of my sons. That day in Korah I gave away a piece of my heart to a child who has needs beyond our wildest imagination. I left that afternoon knowing that we needed to sponsor Tadessa so that he might remain out of the trash dump and be educated at the boarding school. He is twenty years old and has never completed his education beyond 9th grade. He does not have family who can care for him and his Uncle who lives locally refuses to help him in any way. Believe it or not that is often a common story due to the lack of resources. It sounds very harsh but if you have four mouths feed and can only feed two well then often a choice is made. It is tough to reconcile but it is the reality in many third world countries.
The letter that came from Tadessa was absolutely touching. He was asking about our family and expressing his love for me, his Mother. It truly could not get any better than to read a letter from a child who truly needed someone to take a chance on him. He needed someone to welcome him in and then love and nurture him and finally support him in his school endeavors. I am honored that God broke my heart that day I visited Korah. Tadessa is the answer to the question, “Why am I here and how am I going to get through this?” The adoption of our daughter has had a spiral effect and my heart is being called back to the community of Korah and to Ethiopia almost daily. I am a Mom who is here for my kiddos but a few more kiddos await me in Ethiopia. I remind myself daily that my urgency to get back there is in God’s hands. I need to be patient and very prayerful. I need to listen like I have never listened before as to what I am being beckoned to do. Meanwhile I smile from ear to ear thinking of the beautiful family (Tadessa included ) that I am able to love. They are all such gifts!
So here is dear Tadessa. His smile is so contagious and his gentle shyness is so sweet. He is a child who needed a chance. I can’t help but think of all of the many chances God has given me…
Can you spot Ava? She was a mess when our group first entered the fabulous- oh no the name is escaping me- place for dinner and cultural dance. We all went as a group on the final night of our second trip to Ethiopia. You cannot imagine just how funny a few of the little ones were who are completely used to the Ethiopian food. They simply chowed it down never mind the spice. It was a sight to see. Since I had spent time in Korah the Project 61 leaders were cool with me inviting Tadessa to dinner. It was another highlight of my trip. One of the ministry leaders brought Tadessa to the restaurant and you have never seen such a polite and humble child. He took amazing care of myself, my sister and my new daughter. Ava finally zonked out thanks to Aunt Shanny and we were able to enjoy the food. At one point Tadessa got down on his knees and presented me with a little wrapped package, a necklace and bracelet that he gave as a token of thanks. Moments later he began to feed me with his own hands.
Don’t forget Ethiopians think it is a bit ridiculous to use cutlery… The jury may still be out on that one but the injera bread works quite well for scooping up food. I was not expecting Tadessa to pack food into my mouth so my laughter may have been a bit inappropriate but when it was explained to me that feeding another is a token of LOVE, it was all I could do to laugh and choke back my tears.
You see this child, this young man was rescued by those who had a dream and listened to the vision God provided. It seemed somewhat surreal that the very hands that had once spent nearly seven years hunting for survival through the garbage in the trash dump of Korah, his very hands were now feeding me, an American mother of four who was seeking to listen to God’s call in visiting the beautiful and rich place called KORAH.
Thank you God for bringing Tadessa and I together. Our relationship has already brought me joy beyond measure.