Of the 17 people that travelled with me to Ethiopia last week, five people had started sponsoring a specific child months ago and wanted to to meet their sponsor child and get further involved in the care-points. Greta Byers, a pre-school teacher in Wisconsin and mother of two boys, had started sponsoring a little girl nearly a year ago and it was a monumental family decision for her to join me in Ethiopia to meet the little girl (Bizuayehu) that she and her husband, Matt, had been praying for and thinking about for so long.
I was in the room when Greta sat down with Biz, and the recognition in Biz's eyes and the tears in Greta's had us all choking back tears as we witnessed their first meeting. I asked Greta to recount the experience in her own words ....
From Greta ... It was a sleepless night after a long flight, but I had been anticipating meeting our sponsor child ever since we started sponsoring her a year ago. Now, Monday morning, we were heading to Kind Hearts to meet all the children and bringing them school supplies, soccer balls, bead necklaces to make together, and cameras to take all their precious pictures. As we lined up watching them sing and watching them stand in their lines in front of their school, I quickly scanned the faces looking for our little girl. She had stole my heart through a computer screen so many months ago, so many worlds away, and here we were this close!
As soon as the teachers released the children to greet us, I started getting hugs from all directions. We were strangers, yet the kids just swarmed us for instant love and attention. It wasn't long before we weren't feeling like strangers anymore. One of the interpreters, Alex, passed by so I asked him if he could find Bizuayehu Worku for me. I told him I was her sponsor and I would love to meet her.
Within just a few seconds, Biz came over shyly looking around him up at me. As soon as I made eye contact with Biz, she seemed to recognize me like a child recognizes her mother behind a costume. She ran up to me and flung her arms around my neck. It was as if we had been reunited without ever having really met. I had sent pictures and I had her picture from her profile, but this was more like she just knew who I was! What a moment that was! I started to tear up and swing her as I held her. She looked at me sadly when she noticed my tears, but I quickly told her through Alex that they were tears of joy and I was very happy to be with her. She rarely left my side all day except to eat and play with some other children when I had to work with other groups.
The next day, we came to pass out care-packages and take their pictures with their packages from their sponsors. As we entered through the gate at Kind Hearts in the vans, I scanned through the crowd of children waiting for us and then following us. I spotted her as her eyes searched the van for me. It was so precious to see that connection and know she was looking for me.
I was able to personally give Biz her care-package and explain each of the photos and gifts, with my friend, Messiker, to translate. Again, I teared up as I read through our photo album and introduced our children and my husband who pray for her and think about her every day. I gave her a Dodgeville T-shirt and she put it on right away so I could get her picture.
She thanked me over and over, yet it is Biz who has given us so much. She has given us a chance to love a daughter from afar and help her in her own school and village.
We had to say good-bye on Friday, but not without giving her one more little package. I had noticed earlier in the week that her little jelly shoes were torn and tattered. I had some shoes I had brought all the way from Dodgeville, from a friend of mine. They would be a little big, but I decided to give them to Biz anyway, along with a little dress as well.
When I gave them to her, she seemed overwhelmed as if they weren't for her. I assured her they were for her and she just clenched then to her chest. She gave me a hug and ran outside to show her friends her new shoes and dress. The girls took the dress and danced with it and then also took the shoes. I had to intervene to get the shoes back and had Biz put them all in her bag to take home.
After that, we all prayed together and promised we would not forget them at Kind Hearts. I gave Biz a hug and told her I loved her. We ended up finding each other a couple more times for hugs, then it was "good-bye."
I will never forget that week. I got to give a little bit... to get so much back... from a precious little girl in Ethiopia.
Click here to read more about the trip on Greta's blog.
There are 42 new children enrolled at Kind Hearts, and 18 new children enrolled at Trees of Glory (about 60 new children total). If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at email@example.com.
Sponsorship is $34 per month and provides food, clean water, medical care, education,clothing and Christian discipleship. You can write letters to your sponsor child and I stay in regular contact with updates about the children and the care-points. I also lead a team to Ethiopia at least once each year to continue working with the kids and the care-points. I will have biographical profiles on all of the new children in the next few weeks and will contact you with registration instructions (Children's Hopechest www.hopechest.org/) as soon as I have the profiles.
At the moment - I have committed sponsors for all but about 15 of the 60 new children. Please contact me if you are interested in being matched with a sponsor child at Kind Hearts or Trees of Glory care-points.