It does begin with one… one nudge, one idea, one yes!
I might say it too often, but actually going to Ethiopia changed everything for me. There is little in me and in my family that has remained the same since stepping foot off the plane in Addis Ababa. The adoption of our daughter lead us to Ethiopia and of course God’s plan was so much greater. After our adoption was complete I could not stop thinking of the many Ethiopian children in need of a voice. It became very obvious that I could be used to advocate for those living in destitute conditions. Within a year of our daughter coming home we were presented with the opportunity to become Sponsorship Coordinators for the Children’s Hopechest Care Point of Chapa located 275 miles south of the capital city of Addis Ababa near Awassa. Truth be told we really did not have any idea what we were getting ourselves into but again I was trusting that our yes would be used for His glory.
Last year a very small group of us visited the Chapa Carepoint for the first time. A Carepoint is a designated safe area that is often a church combined with a school where Children’s Hopechest Ethiopia Staff come alongside community leaders and pastors to identify children with tremendous need who would not be able to attend school without support. Some of the children might be orphaned by immediate family and all of the children would be considered vulnerable to homelessness, extreme hunger, illness or possible traffickers The Carepoint becomes a place where children receive education, medical attention if needed, monthly food allotments, mentorship and spiritual guidance. Once children within the community are identified then Children’s Hopechest profiles each child to better understand his or her story. From there the Carepoint is born and Children’s Hopechest seeks monthly sponsors who will commit to $34 per month per child to assist the child in survival, wellness and development. Just moments into my visit last year it was clear that I needed to share the beauty I saw in the little gem called Chapa. I needed others to meet the children and hear what I heard in their song.
In many ways this year’s visit to Chapa was even more special than the first. Twenty others joined me and as our three vans rolled down the small side road toward the school you could feel the excitement in the faces of those greeting us and the children running alongside. Our visit began with many hugs and smiles from the teachers and the school directors. We unloaded supplies and began to organize our day of fun. I will share more about that soon but I want to start at the end of our visit and share photos of the Celebration Feast so many of you helped to provide for the Chapa kids and also many kids from the village who do not attend school and wait all day watching from the perimeter of the school. God provided and we were able to invite the little onlookers in for a hot meal of injera and wat. So many of you contributed financially which allowed us to purchase a giant ox from the farmer down the street and feed around 500 children. It was so much fun and amazing to watch them gobble up their food and delight in the fizz of soda pop. We opened bottle after bottle praying for a loaves and fishes story. After the feast we were not surprised that there was food to spare.
As the children filed into the church, squeezing in so they could all eat together, our wonderful translator lead the children in song. They raised the roof and we were so honored to hear their native songs and be a part of their worship. Our team spread out among the 300 plus children in the church and we laid our hands on the children while we prayed for our time together, new experiences, the sponsors God brought this year and all the hope and future that is planned for the children and the leaders of the school. Most of us wept as there was such a presence of God in the church. There is such hope and energy at Chapa and the translator shared with me later that the children are so polite and smart using pleases and thank yous and helping their fellow students. It is obvious that in one year the children have gained a confidence and a joy that only God can deliver. It makes us all eager to advocate for every Chapa child to have his or her own sponsor as we know how vital sponsorship is to who the children will become in Christ. They will grow up to be the future leaders and educators of Chapa and beyond and that is truly how we change the world one child at a time.
The teaching and celebration we shared with the children stole our hearts and for most of us on the team, those moments are forever etched on our hearts. Several of us were able to spend time with children who we returned home to sponsor and we all returned home eager to spread the word that you too can be a part of the community who comes alongside the Chapa community to love, pray and support them in the days ahead. Who knows perhaps next year you too will join the Begin With One team to actually meet your child in the absolutely charming village of Chapa.
Peace and Grace,