Sunday, March 10, 2013

One of the Lucky Ones ...

One of the big blessings that has come with having so many kids (nearly 400!) and so many sponsor families involved with our CarePoints (Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory), is that we often have a family travelling to Ethiopia each month!  That means a visit to the CarePoint which is an exciting day for the kids and the staff - and especially for the child who gets to meet their sponsor family!!!
 
A photo of Mekdes from November when our team of volunteers delivered a care-package
with photos of their sponsor family to each child at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts.
 
Lisa Miller sponsors Mekdes, a 9 year old little girl who attends Trees of Glory CarePoint.  Mekdes is from a very poor family who is barely able to provide for her, and so by attending TOG, she receives nutritious food, clean water, medical care, clothing, education and Christian discipleship through her sponsorship by the Miller family.  Mekdes and Lisa have written letters back and forth, but this would be the first time they two would meet face to face!!  Here are Lisa's words about that eventful day ...
 
Travelling to Ethiopia is always an amazing experience, this time it was made even more special by visiting the Trees of Glory with Childrens HopeChest staff member Hilena. Although my daughter is just two and a half, I want to bring her back to Ethiopia to visit her homeland as often as I am able, For both of us, the visit to TOG was a wonderful way to make the trip even more meaningful.
 
The drive through rolling hills is beautiful and relaxing. Once I reached the outskirts of Duber, I became very excited because I knew I was minutes away from meeting the staff and my dear Mekdes, whom I sponsor. I first saw the unassuming TOG signage and a guard let us in. We were met by the wonderful Simret, who works so hard to keep Trees of Glory a safe haven.
 
Then my darling Mekdes was brought out. Although she lowered her eyes in shyness, she ran to me and hugged me so tightly. My daughter Medhanit danced around her, waiting for a turn to hug her. She continued hugging me for the next hour while I shared a letter and gifts with her.
 
A photo of their first meeting, Lisa on the left with her arm around Mekdes. 
Lisa's daughter reaching to touch Mekdes' face.  Hilena is standing, and Simret on the far right.
 
Simret toured us around the compound, at each turn I was amazed at the additional growth. The library is beginning to take shape, the water is in place, the children's dorms, the chicken farm, the cows that provide milk, the playground, and the additional pieces of land that are beginning to form a garden.
 
All of it shows the dedication and vision of Simret's dreams.  But she doesn't stop there, she continues to share what she hopes will continue to develop on the property. I witnessed child after child getting "Mama" hugs from her and beaming at the love they are showered with. The staff kindly prepared lunch for us, which included Shiro and our favorite Injera.
 
Then we were able to go to Mekdes' home, which became my favorite part of the journey. We drove back to Duber Village, a town we passed on our way to TOG. It is a typical small village with narrow metal and wood shanty-type businesses and houses.
 
We walked up to Mekdes' home, which turned out to be a bar. It was a small one-room bar, with just one kind of local alcohol served.
 
 
Mekdes showed us her home with pride and introduced us to her family: her Mother, Father, Grandmother, and baby brother. Her Grandmother was very friendly, at one point she pulled off her head scarf to show me the long braids she was so proud of.
 
 
 
It is a simple bar: plain walls, dirt floors, narrow wood benches, and a single shelf where the alcohol is kept. The villagers started poking their heads in the door out of curiosity, and soon many packed in the door to watch what was unfolding with our visit.
 
 
 
The family lives together behind a curtain in one room. This means Mekdes, her parents, Grandmother, and her 2-year old baby brother have to try to eat, study, and sleep through the sounds of the men drinking and being noisy late at night through only a curtain that separates their small space from the bar.
 
But as difficult as this is, Mekdes is one of the lucky ones. She has two parents who love her and believe in a girl's right to study and learn. Many of the kids in her neighborhood were wandering around all day or herding animals, because they are not so lucky. I'm sure they would love the chance to go to school and count on a daily nutritious meal, while someone shares affection and the love of God with them.
 
Our visit ended with the opportunity for Hilena to share the word of God with the group of about 30 and for me to share a prayer with not only the family, but their neighbors who had joined us. It was with sadness, that we had to leave, I can't wait to get back and see my Mekdes, as well as the growth that I know will take place at TOG. It is such a blessing to be a part of this great place.

Our next trip to Ethiopia is scheduled for November 15-25, 2013.  If you would like to join the team to work one-on-one with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com for trip details.

My next blog post will include a video created by the HopeChest Ethiopia staff.  It shows the kids and many of the projects underway at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory as well as other HopeChest Ethiopia CarePoints.  At the end of the video, it includes video of Lisa's visit to Trees of Glory and the time she spent with Mekdes.

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