by Joy Casey in Ethiopia
In the Bible, care of orphans and widows are constantly linked together. This is because these two people groups have been marginalized in society for centuries. In America, we have social services that offer shelter, food and care for children who do not have parents to care for them and there is help for older people, too, whose families do not take the responsibility for their care. However, Ethiopia’s society is more like the culture of the Bible times. The only social service net for orphans and widows is what is provided by Non-Government Organizations (referred to as NGOs). YWAM’s Widow and Orphans Homes are licensed NGOs in Ethiopia whose primary goal is to provide care for children who do not have parents and to give care and support for widows who have no one to care for them. The prerequisite to qualify? Complete destitution.
I love the elderly widows in our Widows and Orphans Home in Adama, Ethiopia. They are precious! We have buried three over the last two years who have died of AIDS or a stroke. They were given gentle care during their last days and dignity in death. Each has a compelling story and their lives are different from anything that would be familiar to us in the U.S. From time to time I will share about one of the women – let me introduce you to one right now.
Her name is Amina Date (Ah-meen’-a Dah’-tay) and she is around 75-years-old, by her estimation. Amina was raised in the M*l*m religion, married very young and suffered many years with the shame of not having children, but finally gave birth to a daughter. By the time her husband died she was completely blind and she went to live with her daughter. Unfortunately, her daughter died and Amina’s son-in-law kicked her out of the house and locked the door. Amina had no resources and absolutely no way to take care of herself. Neighbors gave her bits of food but none wanted the burden of taking care of a blind old lady, so for twelve days she lived on the road close to her previous home, existing on people’s charity.
Now I will introduce you to a central figure in Amina’s story. This lady’s name is Tezera (Teh-zair’-uh) and she is the director of YWAM’s Widows and Orphans Homes. She is quite a commanding personality – she lives and breathes Christ. He permeates everything she does and everything she says. Tezera has become a close sister to me. She said once, “Joy, I see how your heart breaks when a child is abused or is without proper care. In the same way, when I see an old widow dirty and sitting beside a building begging, I want to gather her in my arms, wash her, feed her, and clothe her just like you want to do for children.”
One night, Tezera had a dream about an old lady sleeping on the sidewalk. The next day she could not get rid of the dream and began searching for this woman she believed God put on her heart. She found Amina sleeping outdoors, just as pictured in her dream, and she brought her to the Widows and Orphans Home. She bathed her, fed her, bought her a clean dress and gave her a bed of her own.
Tezera, as is her lifestyle, began to witness Jesus to her and prayed for her in Jesus’ name. Amina became angry and said, “No! In ____’s name!” Tezera kept witnessing to her, referring to John 3:16 and every Monday Amina would go to Bible study with the other widows. She was plagued by bad dreams of religious gatherings calling to her and accusing her because she was in a Christian setting. Little by little and with much intense prayer, she was released from the bad dreams and spiritual attacks. One evening at the Monday Bible study, Amina committed her life to the Savior. Her first prayer was, “Jesus, others can see what they eat and I cannot. You opened the eyes of many people. Please make a way so I can see.”
There were three other widows who were either completely blind like Amina or had reduced vision. Tezera took the four women to an ophthalmologist who said the women needed cataract surgery. It would cost $200 each. Tezera did not have the money, so she took the ladies home and they prayed. A pastor from America came to visit the Widows and Orphans Home and when he found out about the need, gave $800 on the spot to have the surgery.
It was quite a day when the bandages were removed from Amina’s eyes and she could see! It was the first time she saw Tezera and both started to cry and rejoice. She had been blind for 17 years and now she can see clearly! Amina is one of the sweetest people I know. Her spirit is so tender toward Jesus and her life is lived full of gratitude for every little thing. The beginning of her life was very hard, but thanks to the supporters of the Widows and Orphans Home in Adama, Amina and the other elderly women living there experience love, care and peace during the autumn of their lives.
Thank you to all who give, either monthly or with one-time gifts, to support our Widows and Orphans Homes. We rely on your generosity to provide food, shelter and discipleship to the widows and children in our care. If you are interested in finding out how you can help, please contact us at: