Everyone Dreams (A Help One Now Post)

Yesterday morning I woke in Addis Ababa to the sounds of jackhammers and drills, to the roosters crowing, to the call of prayer. Construction crews, roosters, payers, they awaken Addis before the sun. Mornings here are such an experience. By seven, a group of boys were playing an early morning soccer match in the dusty streets. I stood sipping coffee and watching from the balcony. They were a sight to see. They passed the ball with the skill of children who have only ever known one game. On one occasion, they stopped, and a shorter boy shouted at another, pointed to his hands. On other occasion, a taller boy scored a goal and both teams cheered.

These boys dream of representing the Ethiopian football team one day. I know it.

From the guesthouse balcony, I also saw a young girl washing clothes. She is no more than six and I wondered what dreams she holds. I suspect she hopes to be a doctor, teacher, or engineer.

Every child dreams. It’s the thing I’ve taken from this trip.

Earlier this week, a group from Help One Now visited Gunchire, a backwater Ethiopian town with a dirt road for a spine. On either side of the spine, the businessmen peddled their wares to passers by. One pointed to our van. “Chat! Chat!” he called from a booth. Another held a handful of used toothbrushes out from a store window. Further down the spine, a woman leaned against a sign with a large English subtitle, which read “Crowing Nature for Food Security.” I reckon there is a typo in there somewhere.

The capital of the district, Gunchire is a hub of commerce for the Gurage people, poor hub though it may be. There is a local bank, which is rarely open, a micro-lending institution, which charges high interest, and a hotel, which boasts no visitors. There is the palpable feeling of disadvantage hanging with the dust in the air, but the Gurage people went about their days; they didn't seem to notice the lack of prosperity.

We came to a small home where an HIV positive mother sat with her two children. She lost her husband some time ago, and is making a way for her family through small trade. In an effort to help her maintain economic viability so that her children aren’t forced into the orphan care system, Kidmia provided her with modest in-kind support, brought her clothes that were hand-made by the prisoners at Welkite. She sold the clothes at the market in Gunchire. Turned the profit into support for her family, and reinvested the rest by purchasing more clothes to sell on the next market day.

The children were in the yard; the daughter was grinning ear-to-ear. She seemed to be a happy child, a grateful light. Her brother was only three, a shy boy who cuddled close to his mother.

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” my new friend Lamar asked the girl.

She smiled. “A doctor,” she said.

“Good, good,” Lamar smiled in return, and told her through the translator to continue her studies.

She is a wonder to me, this little girl from an impoverished family in backwater Ethiopia. She dreams big, dreams like little girls from the United States, girls with better education, better food security, more stable structures. She dreams like girls with dolls, with opportunity, with health care.

Lack does not inhibit the human capacity for dreaming, it seems. At the end of the day, we all dream the same–in color, in hope, in shades of future prosperity.

The next day, we asked Aschalew Abebe, the in-country director for Kidmia, what this little girl’s life would look like without additional support, without access to education and health care. He said, “child prostitution, early marriage, forced labor, trafficking, polygamy–these are all realities for the girls of Gunchire without the proper support.”

Today, sitting in the airport and waiting for my connecting flight home, I consider the girls of Gunchire. They have dreams, yes. They have potential practical futures, too. The odds are not in their favor. It is a sobering thought.

*****

This week, I've been traveling with Help One Now in Ethiopia. Help One Now has entered into a strategic partnership with Kidmia, and will be providing a child-sponsorship component to Kidmia's already robust programs. Kidmia works within a local community to improve the prospects for vulnerable and at-risk Ethiopian children.

I'd sure be honored if you'd consider joining with Help in sponsoring one of these at-risk children. Each sponsorship helps provide these children with food security, education, and health care.

Joseph - Defender of the Fatherless

This is a repost of a bit I wrote last Christmas for the Idea Camp/Orphan Care conference.

***

It was to be a quiet divorce. A silent separation.

I imagine the first conversation between Mary and Joseph, the one before the angel visited him. Mary coming to him with tears, saying, “I’m pregnant and I swear, I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the chosen one, the Son of God.” Joseph stood contemplating fact or fiction, excuse or explanation. He wondered whether to accept Mary’s word or hunt down the scoundrel — “who did this to my fiance?” Maybe he seethed.

Mary was so tender, so meek and mild, maybe delusional.

With an awkward sort of compassion, Joseph, “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” It was the best he could do, he thought. The dream-state proclamation of Immaculate Conception changed it all — “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” the angel said. And though it’s not in Scripture, I wonder if the Angel might have said, “and that child needs an daddy here on earth.”

There are so many themes in the Christmas story. Sometimes we get lost in angels, wise men, and mangers, and that’s assuming we make it past the wrapping and trim. But if we dig deeper, if we look closer, there are sub-themes that tie into the larger meta-narrative of scripture.

When Jesus chose to take our skin he first took residence in an unwed mother. He chose the potential of fatherlessness.

Scripture is clear, God will provide for the fatherless. In the Christmas narrative God provided by way of a simple carpenter, a man who had every right to secretly divorce his fiance. But that carpenter transcended occupation and became known as a biblical hero of our faith.

Certainly Christ is the center of this season. But for a season that also celebrates the bit characters like Mary and the wise men, perhaps we should consider the life of Joseph more closely. As a man he was pragmatic, certainly. But as a follower of the living God, he shed his pragmatism in obedience to a call, choosing to be called “daddy” by “God with us.” And in his decision to care for the fatherless, the world received the reconciling grace of God.

***

If you are looking for a way to engage the fatherless this Christmas season, might I suggest you look into child-sponsorship in Uganda? HELP, a grass-roots non-profit is doing some amazing work. It might be a fantastic family project.

VISIT HERE TO GET STARTED!

Chris Interrupted (A Twelve Causes Post)

This post is part of Joy's "12 Causes for Christmas" series.  You won't want to miss out on the other causes.  Visit her site for more.

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” ~ Matthew 5:9

Chris Thornton wears his occupation well. He has a banker’s knack for numbers and a penchant for company embroidered shirts. He’s everyday normal, keeps between the lines, lives by the books. Chris  is a do-right kind of fellah. He gives the appearance of being risk averse.

A banker he is, through and through. At least that’s what some might say.

I know a different Chris Thornton. A wild-eyed believer. A radical. A man in reckless pursuit of peace and reconciliation.

When I first met Chris—really met him, that is—we sat across the table from one another, separated by a basket of chips and common bowl of salsa. The Invisible Children documentary had led him to a village outside of Jinja, Uganda, he said. He met Pastor Edward, a man struggling to bring the kingdom to a group of widows and orphans.  The village was outside of the normal sponsorship networks like Compassion International or World Vision, Pastor Edward had told him.  The children were out of sight, out of mind.  And to Chris, this was unacceptable.

Chris returned, life interrupted. He visited churches, bringing pictures of the children and giving voice to their stories. He asked for child sponsors and the people answered. In the two years following his trip to Uganda, Chris would build an overwhelmingly large network of sponsors. “It’s almost too much,” he told me. “I just need some help.”

And help was waiting.

Over the course of the following year, I watched Chris spread his grassroots, reaching out to different organizations. One particular organization answered. H.E.L.P., a burgeoning non-profit, was expanding its child sponsorship programs in Haiti and Zimbabwe, and wanted to reach other countries. Their organizational structure was well-established and they were looking to branch out. It was a natural fit.

Chris and H.E.L.P. have now teamed up to make child sponsorship a reality to the small village in Uganda.  It's a miracle. A real one. And sometimes I ask Chris how it all happened.  But before he can answer I always say, "It's because you're crazy. You allowed your life to be interrupted.  And that's why I like you."  

***

I could not love the work of Compassion or World Vision more.  In fact, read what Deb (World Vision) and Jessica (Compassion) wrote today about those organizations.  But before you head off to their places (and I hope you do), would you consider sponsoring a child outside of the reach of the traditional child-sponsor organizations? Would you consider allowing your life to be interrupted?

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Remember, there is no competition among Gospel-centered workers, only brotherhood.