Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ethiopia - Day 6: My 6 year old Sons

On February 13th, 2003, I gave birth to my second son Braeden.

On February 13th, 2003, a woman thousands of miles away gave birth to her second child, Amanuel. A year later, his father would pass away leaving her with 2 small children, ages 1 and 2.

On February 13th, 2009, I was able to meet that woman and her son. I was able to take her little boy a back-pack full of clothing, household goods, necessities, a signed teddy bear, and a soccer ball.

On February 13th, I was also able to witness to this dear mother and tell her how much my Savior, Jesus Christ, loves her and how it is only by His help that I was able to travel the miles to meet her and tell her how much He loves her and her family. An experience I will never forget. Meeting Amanuel was amazing, kicking the soccer ball back and forth, hearing his little giggles, all wonderful. But to see the difference Compassion makes in one family's life was priceless.

We started out as a crowd of sponsors looking among the faces of a crowd of Ethiopians, each of them also scanning our faces for a match to the picture they held. I immediately saw the little boy up front that looked exactly like his picture, holding a bouquet of peach tipped roses (my favorite by the way!) I didn't even wait for them to call his/my name and introduce us - I just walked up and called out MY little boy's name, Amanuel. Awesome.

After introductions by his project manager, I met his mother and his aunt, who lives in Addis Abada. Amanuel and his family live so far away that they had traveled the night before to stay with his aunt before coming to see me that Friday morning. He lives in one of the highest points of Ethiopia in the mountains. His director told me that only 10% of the population are Christians as most of them are Orthodox.
*Amanuel is just a cutey pie. He was extremely shy and would just smile and ignore the questions of the interpreters. He was never rude, nor mean, nor agitated - he just smiled and giggled.
*His mother and aunt call him by the nickname "Amani".
*He was able to write and name his ABC's in English and could identify ones I wrote for him. The translator said he was very smart to only be six. Yeah, I have one of those too. Sometimes TOO smart.
*He was left-handed; Braeden throws and bats left-handed.
*He stuck on the Atlanta Braves cap I had brought him (A for Amanuel!), cocked over to the side; this is one of my favorite characteristics of Braeden. It ranks right up there with his dimples, on the "Mommy wants to eat you up" scale.
I had a great time playing soccer on the grounds of our hotel. I thought it was sweet that he just smiled and said he didn't care for candy but yet took the lollipop I offered him and immediately popped it in. (He giggled when the translator told him that he told stories.) I felt the pleasure of a parent watching her little one ride a merry-go-round. Snickering to myself as he would let go with "no hands", another thing I'm sure Braeden would have done. Heck, we probably would have been at the ER that afternoon if Braeden had been there. That seems to be his favorite place to visit....
At six years old, Amanuel really didn't realize who I was. He didn't understand, as the translator kept trying to tell him, that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to meet me and know me. He didn't understand, why this white woman kept stroking his cheek or his hair in love. He just wanted to run and play with his ball. So after an hour or so, I told them to just leave him alone, let him be a little boy and play with the other boys, I would rather him have fun than be uncomfortable. I'm a mom! I understand shy little boys!

Looking back, I would have it no other way. I was able to learn about his family from his mother and project coordinator, things I never would have been able to do had I been answering questions about what animal my boys like best or what flavor of ice cream is their favorite. I learned that his mother is very gracious. She was so appreciative of our relationship and praised the Lord for it. I also learned that Evangelical Christians are also persecuted in her region, and that conversion from Orthodox Christianity brings with it difficulties and hate. I learned that they are living in government housing but that she is saving her money to move to a safer, better home. And I was surprised to learn that with a small gift I gave at Christmas, this mother is now renting a small space and has purchased goods to re-sell. She is now completely self-sufficient and is able to provide completely for her family. With only $150.... neither her nor I have to worry about Amanuel finding his next meal or having shoes to wear. And here I thought I was using our American blessings to buy her something like a goat or some blankets.... but a business?? Our provider is amazing!

The project director pulled me to the side late in the day to talk to me about religion in America. He asked many questions and was interested in why I was there and why I had chosen to come so far. As I told him my story of being led to come to Africa, raising the huge amount in such a short period of time, and of wanting to learn more about Compassion to share with others - he said that Amani's mother is not a Christian. "May I call her here so you can tell her about your salvation. Tell her about your Jesus. Tell her about your Bible. You tell her. She respects you. She will listen to you." So we then spent the next 30 min or so, he translating and I witnessing to this widow from the mountains of Ethiopia. Her listening with her head bowed, almost in sadness. Interjecting with "yes" or "God Bless you". When I told her that I was worried to hear she did not know my Jesus, that I think I had come really to talk to her and not to just Amanuel, that I wanted to have the peace of knowing that this would not be the last time we met, but that I would be able to meet her again in eternity, in God's family..... she answered with a low voice that she is so glad Amanuel has us. That she is glad he is going to Sunday School. That she is glad HE is learning about Jesus. But almost as in, "I'm glad HE has that choice as I do not." I told her about the Psalm I had read days before of God working in this land, and I explained the Ephesians verse that Braeden and now also, Amanuel's, teddy bear symbolizes, and she graciously said that she would go and read them both in a Bible. That she would think about all I had said.

Also disturbing was the project director's comments about how special my visit was. That many sponsors do not even write their children. What an opportunity to personally mold a little mind and heart wasted!! The Compassion staff does an unbelievable job of loving and teaching these children, but to forfeit your personal relationship is almost like neglecting a valuable piece of artwork! You never know what it may one day be worth!

As other sponsors and children were weeping and emotional as they said good-bye, I was at peace. MY little boy was very happy. I could tell he was very loved. He was being taken care of, and he was smart. And I know that in the years to come, with more letters, more photos, and more children's drawings, that the relationship I have with that little boy will continue to grow stronger. I can't wait to see how God binds these two little six year old twins from across the ocean. I don't know if I will ever meet him face to face again. Or if I will be able to hug his mother another time. But I do know that, just as we were told the first day here, I WAS in Ethiopia for a reason.

I hope it was to eventually inspire others to form the same kind of relationships with Compassion's waiting children. As these children are not just dirty, sad faces on a packet, but real children with real smiles and real needs.

I hope it was to lend a face to that little six year old memory. A face that he will remember as one that came many miles on an airplane just to hug him and give him a soccer ball.

But most of all, I hope that I was in Ethiopia at that time, in that year, to plant seeds that I may never see yield.... but to know they were planted none the less.

2 Corinthians 9:6-13 (New International Version)

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. "


Abbie H. said...

Awww he is adorable. Looks like you guys had a great time together! I can only imagine how hard it was to leave!

Britt said...

What a cutie!

From the letters Joan sends, I know her mother is so thankful as well. I can't wait to hug them both!!!

Beth said...

How awesome! I am not great with writing our sponsor children... I maybe get to it quarterly, which I guess is better than nothing. If only there were more hours in the day, more days in the week... but you are very inspiring, Tracy. Your love for these kids is bubbling over. God will use that!

So, I am curious... any thoughts about adopting from Ethiopia? :-)

blessedmomto7 said...

Wow-beautiful! I can't wait to get there!