Everything is going great with our boys! They are starting to have big dreams for themselves. To believe in a future. In their relationships with one another, they are learning to love well. When one of our guys insulted a friend, he immediately regretted it and apologized. They were able to fix the issue by themselves. The boys desire to be different. Changed. Getachew, one of our staff at the house, said he sees the changes in the boys and feels "it is the prayers backing us up from the U.S." Keep praying! God is doing amazing transforming work in these guys lives! Menge says "miracle" is the only word to describe the amazing growth and changes in our boys.
Whenever Hope Overflowing staff run an errand or go out, they will try to take the boys with them. Frequently, a visit is made to check on friends still living on the streets. As our boys see other street boys living in their former environment, they compare themselves and see how much happier and filled with peace they are. People who recognize our boys as the ones who used to be those dirty, drugged, beggars on the street, are shocked. They can't believe the change! Those who watched in suspicion as our staff spent time and loved on our guys on the streets, are seeing them now and asking how? What good thing happened? We tell them this is all because of our God!
Last week, the guys had the opportunity to go to the movies and see Black Panther in 3D. Menge and Getachew said it was so much fun to treat the boys to this, as they had never been to a nice movie theater before - and the 3D glasses! :) While this was great fun, it was also difficult for our boys to sit and eat popcorn and drink soda like "normal" kid, as they looked around and felt they did not belong. Sitting next to those who they used to beg from and are now enjoying a "fancy" movie like everyone else, was internally hard for our guys. Although they look like every other Ethiopian kid, inside they are struggling with their new identity and belonging. Even though they are physically out of the street, some of them are still not out mentally.
RE-CONNECTING WITH FAMILY
Many of our boys come from broken families where extreme poverty and abusive stepfathers drove them to the streets. A lot of our boys have moms who are trapped in the situation of loving and missing their sons, but are not able to care for them in the current environment and relationship they are in. As you can imagine, these moms are worried for their boys and greatly saddened by this, as well as our boys at New Life Home. They miss and worry for their moms, and sometimes younger siblings, who are stuck in troublesome conditions. These visits to the boy's family members is good for us as well, so we can confirm the truth as to why our boys were living on the streets. Menge says he, "does not have words to express the impact and the happiness he has seen from the families."
Recently, Menge was able to reconnect 12 year old Fekadu with his mom and two younger siblings, who are as Menge says, "very, very poor." Fekadu's mom was very worried about him and had searched for him, fearing he had died on the streets. Fekadu had fled to the streets 2 years ago due to an abusive stepfather and the lack of food and money in their family. His mother had tears of joy and many hugs for sweet Fekadu. She is incredibly greatful for Hope Overflowing and how we are taking care of her son. To know that he is safe and loved, fed and cared for. Through us, Fekadu was able to give his family some money when he left to help care for his mom and siblings. As you can see from the beautiful smiles in the picture, this reunification brings great healing and peace to both our boys and their families.
Twelve year old Ashenafi was also able to reunite with his mother and father. His family lives outside of Addis, but his father works in the city so we were able to meet him there. When Ashenafi's father saw him and the transformation in his son, he literally said with a full and greatful heart, "He is not my boy anymore, he is your boy." We told him that he is still their son and our support does not change that, but we promise to take care of him and love him as our son as well. Ashenafi's mom recently had another baby and he was able to send gifts, to which his mom called and cried over the phone, so thankful.
A while ago, 16 year old Nati was able to visit his mom as well. Again, our staff took Nati to visit as she called the house and was in great distress. She is not in a healthy situation. Nati was distraught with worry, so we went to her. Nati was able to give her some money, through Hope Overflowing, to support her and his younger siblings as well. She knows to call our staff if things continue to get worse and we will take care of her.
Ebenezer and Getachew have begun basic English and Math three days a week for two hours each day. The boys have been divided into two groups by previous education and ability. Many have asked about sending the boys to school, and at this time, tutoring at home is the best option. With their survival lifestyle from years on the streets, emotional stability, and lack of formal education, it is best at this time to start this way.
While Peter and I were at the house, two boys from the streets visited to hang out and have lunch one afternoon. First of all, the contrast between these boys and our boys was great! A reminder of how far they have come. Zerihun has had multiple opportunities at New Life Home, and Menge gave him his fourth and final chance. Sadly, he left again and went back again to the streets and drugs after two nights. Saladin is a young man Peter and I have met several times on our trips to Ethiopia, and honestly I didn't have a lot of hope for him. But God did. His eyes were so clouded with drugs and he seemed so distant. I cried when I saw this picture of him! The change. Only God. Please pray for him as he is from a muslim family and has been on the streets for 4 years. Lots to overcome. So, now there are 13.
While we are looking for a "female Menge" to build relationship with the moms and eventually run a house for them as well, our staff continues to visit them, bring them diapers and help them medically when they or their children are sick. The women keep telling us that they are praying for our plans for them and are especially eager for the new life for their children. They do not want their children to face the same hardship and challenges that they have. Witnessing first-hand what has happened with the boys, their friends, they believe God can do the same for them.
Our last night in Ethiopia last month, Getachew looked at Peter and I after a full day of playing with our boys at the home, interviews, and lunch with the street moms, and said, "James 1:27. This is it." I had to think for a minute which verse that was, and then it hit me!
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
I have tears typing this, as I had tears then. What a gift that WE - all of those praying and supporting Hope Overflowing would GET to be a part of this amazing work that God is doing! Amen.