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Monday, December 13, 2010

He was wearing the same dusty, green suitcoat from his profile picture ...

As I emailed photos to Dale and Kristi Hall after our trip, I included this note …

“It was one of our most memorable moments as we watched Dale and Ashene meet for the first time. Dale has such a large presence with his height and his stature and his smile that fills the room – and he had a bright yellow shirt on that day that made him look all the bigger compared to this slight boy who was quiet and shy and swimming in his over-sized, baggy clothing. Dale has a way of making people feel comfortable very quickly and Ashene was no exception. Within moments we could sense Ashene’s nervousness subside as he became comfortable and confident (and loved) in Dale’s presence. Dale was so focused on Ashene and his interest and concern were pure and genuine – and it may sound impossible, but I felt like Ashene saw Dale as a father within hours of their first meeting.”

Kristi emailed me back … “The trip really broke our hearts for orphans. When I read Dale’s emails from Ethiopia describing Ashene, with no mom or dad, and wearing the same clothing he wore for his sponsor picture 6 months ago. This shy, humble child who wore baggy 70’s mens’ leisure pants, a ragged jacket and rubber boots that were too large for his feet – touched our hearts deeply. It was obvious from the photos Dale sent, that Ashene was genuinely happy to be around Dale. Even when I was shopping for Ashene, God knew exactly what he needed and he impressed upon my heart that we needed to send clothes and shoes. I had no idea what size he wore, so I walked around JCPenney holding a sleeping child in one arm and praying earnestly for which size of shirt and jeans and shoes to buy … and then to discover that everything fit perfectly!”

From Dale … “On Friday, when we drove to “Trees of Glory” care-point, my mind was on Ashene. I knew that I would be meeting him for the first time that day, and I was imagining what those first moments of recognition and meeting would be like. I knew his face from the profile photo where he was wearing a baggy, green suit coat with a resigned look on his face – not happy, not sad, just “there”.

We were busy sorting through care-packages and clothing donations when the first group of kids came into the room and sat at the table with the coloring books. The kids looked at the crayons and then looked at each other, and not a single child reached for a crayon. It dawned on us that the kids had never seen crayons before and had never colored before. We quickly asked a translator to explain and demonstrate “coloring” to the kids – and they took to it eagerly!

Just then, there was movement at the door as more children entered the room – and I recognized Ashene immediately. He was wearing the same baggy, dusty, green suit-coat from his profile photo. I scanned down his thin frame to his green striped trousers and my eyes settled on the old, oversized rubber boots he wore on his feet. My heart broke a little more at that moment as I noticed how large those boots were for him. I thought about the care-package that my wife had so carefully selected with a new shirt, jeans, underwear and most importantly … a new pair of hiker-type sports shoes.

Finally we were introduced, and I shook his hand and we touched shoulders in the traditional Ethiopian greeting – but it quickly turned into a hug. What a flood of emotions! Here was the little boy we sponsored in Ethiopia, half a world away, sitting right next to me. He was no longer a photo on the “frig” – I was face to face with this boy and I was feeling fatherly and protective all at once!

We sat down together and we needed 2 translators to converse because he spoke a dialect called Oromfia. I spoke to him in English, it was translated to Amharic, which was translated to Oromfia as I explained who I was and told him about my family – and how much we love him and pray for him. We went through all of the items in the care-package that my family had picked for him from back home. He cradled the shoes in his arms, and I asked him if he wanted to wear them right now. Ashene is a shy and humble boy and he spoke very quietly and said that he was very thankful for the shoes and the clothes and he would wear them tomorrow when I came back.

I spent time with Ashene as he colored for the first time and I asked him about his favorite food and his favorite color, his favorite school subject (Math) and what he wanted to do when he grew up (a teacher) and his answers solidified my commitment to support and love this precious boy.

When the only Ashene I knew, was the photo of him on my frig, it was easy to feel sad about his situation and then move right back into regular life, forgetting that these children are somebody’s sons and daughters and that a mother or father had (or has) hopes and dreams for this precious child. Once you meet your sponsor child – they become very real and the situation becomes very personal!

I made sure to spend as much time as possible with him that day and the next. We played soccer and Frisbee and I showed him how to throw a football. Most importantly, I continuously told him about my family and how much we love him and pray for him. The care-point director, Simret, explained to me that Ashene had lost his mother and then had lost his elderly father. I asked her to tell him that I would be a father to him and that I would do my best to care for him.

On Saturday, when we returned to Trees of Glory, Ashene was waiting for me, wearing all of his new clothes and his new shoes. We waved to each other and then picked up where we left off the previous day. I was happy to see that the clothes and shoes we had picked for him fit him perfectly – and he seemed to stand a little taller and a little prouder in his new clothes that fit him well. I made sure to hug him many times that day – and saying good-bye was hard.

As a guy, and an ex-cop, I’m supposed to be able to “hold it together” in tough situations, but his circumstances and his humble nature slammed me hard. My heart broke for him – and for all the children at the care-points we spent time at in Ethiopia.

Now that we’ve been home for a few weeks, Ashene is always on our minds. We talk about him every day and pray about what the future holds for him. I treasure the time I spent with him in Ethiopia and my family is grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of his life. I look forward to the day when I can return to Ethiopia and spend more time with him. The slogan “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world” became very real to me and my family and to Ashene that day."

Here's a link to Dale and Kristi's blog ... Click HERE.


Becky Lee Burk said...

Tears! I think the personal testimonies are soooo important.

Kristi and Dale said...

Thank you so much, Karen!

Gina said...

Oh, these stories so touch my heart! I've been sharing this blog with my 4th grade class. They have been moved as well.