written by Joy Casey
The day began early. The place we went is a section on the outskirts of Addis by a garbage dump that originally was a leper colony but has grown to 128,000 densely packed people who are the marginalized of Ethiopian society: the leper, the cripple, the outcast and the desperately poor. Here Adoption Ministry has started a work with a humble church whose mission is to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the community where the pastor and Case Manager of Adoption Ministry 1:27 grew up. Both Pastor Nunesh and Case Manager Tesfaye are children of leper parents and God has given them hearts of compassion for the sick, the lame and the poor. It is an honor to work alongside such dedicated men.
People ask me many times if I am overwhelmed by the depth of poverty manifested in the teeming masses of people in Ethiopia. In this place called Korah, the results of poverty are evidenced by severe health issues secondary to malnutrition, abandoned women and children, scores of orphaned children whose parents have died of disease, and crushing poverty on a scale seldom seen. But I am not overwhelmed.
God has given us a unique opportunity to meet the basic physical needs of people through Adoption Ministry 1:27, and I have the privilege to observe Pastor Nunesh and his team pour out their lives in service to their growing congregation and lives are being impacted for eternity. We look at what we do as an assignment from God to bring hope to the people He has put in front of us. What Adoption Ministry does is small in comparison to the need, but God is a God of individuals and all I am asked to do is lend support to those He has given me. I am not to do more; I am not to do less. You are asked to do the same. Obedience is everything.
I am not an eloquent writer and lament that I cannot paint a word picture that can adequately capture the sights and sounds of Korah, but I will bring you stories of encouragement and stories of people whose lives are desperate. The stories of hope will bring smiles, especially to those ministry partners who are providing monthly funds for some of these people. The needs presented by other stories are highlighted to give opportunity for you to gain a heart of understanding and compassion and possibly be moved to help through adopting a family financially through AM 1:27 or praying for the church leaders on a regular basis.
A Story of Hope
The families identified by the churches we work with are what we call “at-risk” families. They are at-risk of disintegration if there is not intervention on some level. With the help of our ministry partners, Adoption Ministry 1:27 can stabilize a family with the goal of then providing seed money and counsel on how to start a business that can eventually bring income to provide for that family. During my time in Ethiopia visiting many of the adopted families through AM 1:27, I am blown away at the courage, ingenuity and hard work of some of these families. When their basic food is provided, many then have the luxury of spending their new found energy (amazing what food does!) on looking to the future with the hope of being self-sustaining.
When I first met Tigist and her daughter she was scavenging in the garbage dump looking for things to sell and snatching up food that the restaurants had thrown out. She and her 6-year-old daughter were barely surviving and at high risk for disease. A wonderful American family adopted Tigist and Aleme and they have received bedding, rice, sugar, salt, oil, teff, tea, buna (coffee) and soap. When I went to her home to visit her, she was not there because she was at the market selling bananas and mangos.
She told me that now that her basic food needs are being met through AM 1:27, she was able to buy some fruit and sell it and could earn enough money each month to pay her rent of $25.00. Of course, she is not making enough money to completely support her and her daughter, but it is a huge step in the right direction. One of my friends gave me money to use to help in a small business (thank you Lori!) and we will use it to help Tigist enlarge her business and become successful. Her whole demeanor has changed and she is grateful first of all to the Lord from whom comes every good gift, and secondly to the American donor who has given her food for her belly.
Stories of desperation
- Alehegn Derbe is the father of four children, two school age and twin 3-year-olds. His wife died two years ago and the full care of the children fell on his shoulders. Alehegn is a leper and leprosy has affected his hands and feet and eyes. The only option for him at this time is begging. His daughter Mitk is 13-years-old and fixes ladies’ hair after school earning about 60 cents a day. Rent for their small room is $25 a month.
- Teje is a beautiful young woman whose hands, arm and chest are deformed due a severe burn. Teje has untreated epilepsy and during a seizure she fell into a cooking fire and was badly burned. She has a 2 ½ year-old son, but her husband divorced her after her accident and now she earns a small amount of money begging bringing in about 87 cents a day. Her rent is $11.50 a month. The really heartbreaking thing is Teje knows no man will ever marry her and she is quite disabled so her future is very bleak.
- The Widow Mestawt lost her husband shortly before giving birth to their daughter 7 years ago. For the past four years she has washed clothes for others and makes a whopping $23 a month. She manages her money really well, though. Half of her earnings go toward rent, another fourth goes toward her daughter’s school costs, and that leaves less than $6.00 for food for the month. Adoption Ministry 1:27 wants to help her with food and find an income generating activity that she can do to earn enough money to adequately support herself.
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, Tesfaye grew up in Korah. In conversation I observed that since he has lived in this village all his life he must have many good friends. He looked at me and said, “Most of my friends are dead.” I was shocked because Tesfaye is only 30-years-old. “Dead? Why are so many young men dead?” I asked. “They died of disease, AIDS or at the hands of the police because of criminal activity,” he somberly replied. “All that you see here is the result of poverty.” It is true. Sanitation is non-existent, health care is scarce and of poor quality, the living conditions are crowded, small and dirty, and worst of all there is not a lot of hope for the majority of the people.
I have become passionate about lifting people out of poverty. I don’t want children growing up alongside a mother who is degrading herself by begging for alms or food. I don’t want children growing up digging in garbage. I don’t want children growing up worrying if their mother is going to die. I don’t want children growing up without an education. I don’t want children growing up without the hope and grace of Jesus Christ.
I want families to be strong and for mothers and fathers to pass on to their children a legacy of employment and stability. I want a strong and vibrant local church that has the wherewithal to meet the needs of the poor in their midst. In five years I want to see a noticeable difference in the churches we partner with …. a strength and assurance that Christ’s body can and will meet the basic needs of widows and orphans.
“Who is my neighbor?” an expert in religious law asked Jesus in Luke 10:29. His answer indicated that we are responsible for any person, no matter nationality or political affiliation, who is in need. I know many who read this are already doing the work of the ministry in various ways, but if anything I have said has tugged at your heart, would you consider adopting a desperate family in Ethiopia and giving the gift of hope and a future?
If you would like to adopt a family or get more information, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org