Many of you know this story, some of you know part of the story, and a few of you may have never heard of my Ethiopian friend, Abenezer. I will start at the beginning.
My first mission trip ever was with Visiting Orphans in July 2010. My friend Kari Gibson was leading this trip, and God provided all the finances I needed to go on this incredible adventure. My prayer before this trip was that I would be able to make a difference in the life of one person. I knew what I saw would be overwhelming, and I knew I could never make a difference in the world, but was hoping I could make a difference in one life.
One of the most memorable parts of this trip was our visit to Korah, the village outside the city dump in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. An amazing group called Project 61 had begun a sponsorship program for kids from Korah. These kids could now be placed in a boarding school with 3 meals a day, a bed each night and education.
My first day in Korah, I met 3 incredible kids. Sentayu, Binyam and Abenezer. These three teenagers followed me everywhere and treated me like a princess. They would carry my water bottle, my backpack, and when we were hiking to the community soccer field and back they each had an arm on mine to make sure I didn't slip in the mud. Sweet, sweet boys. Binyam spoke English very well, so I talked to him the most, and he would translate for the other boys. Sentayu smiled a lot, and Abenezer quietly followed us around. When our team supplied the kids with a meal of injera, sheep and veggies, the boys insisted I sit with them. They even offered to share their food with me - wow - not sure when they had eaten last, but they were worried about me. I hugged each of them goodbye, not knowing that was the beginning of a relationship that would change my life.
On the last full day in Ethiopia, we got a BIG surprise. Six of our team would be able to spend the night in Korah. We would sleep in the shelter with some of the kids who were being sponsored. It was a giant sleepover!! It was sooo much fun! The kids made us coffee and popcorn. Someone brought in a TV and VCR and we watched a movie together, all crammed in a little room and sitting on wooden benches and wood slat floor.
When we arrived at the shelter, Abenezer was one of the first kids I saw. I was SO happy that one of my boys was there! He ran up to me and gave me a big hug, which surprised me since he had been so shy a few days earlier. He sat next to me the entire evening, looking thru the photo album of my family. Within 20 minutes, he knew the names of each of my kids and Shane. He poured over that album, staring at it. memorizing each face. While we watched the movie, this sweet 14 year old fell asleep on my shoulder. By the end of the evening, he was calling me mom, and I was calling him my son. The next morning, my team had to leave. I hugged Abenezer goodbye, gave him a pic of my family, and told him that God had BIG plans for his life and to trust in God. I told him I would never forget him.
I meant that, but I had no idea what God had planned.
In October of last year something amazing happened. I got a phone call from my friend Kari. I had purchased 2 t-shirts from her and was entered into a contest. Much to my surprise (and Kari's), my name was drawn and I WON a mission trip back to Ethiopia. WHAT?!?! It was a wild feeling...and a bit scary. Why had God given me this trip? What did it mean?
Well, February 2011 came around and I was on my 2nd trip in 6 months to Ethiopia. We went back to Korah, but since it was February, all the sponsored kids were away at school. We did, however, have an incredible experience in Korah. A beautiful 14 year old girl named Mercy was very sick. Her mother, Mulu, asked our team to pray for her daughter. Mulu is an incredible lady, with more faith than I had ever seen. Mercy had actually died several months before, but after a prayer from Mulu her daughter was raised from the dead. Yes, dead. She was alive but, still sick. When a few ladies from our team prayed for this sick girl, and sang over this sick girl, they didn't know they were about to witness a miracle. Less than an hour after our team left Mercy and Mulu's house, Mercy came walking down the street. Compeletely healed!! We sang praises to God, and took Mercy shopping for a new outfit for her new life. It was an incredible day.
God made it possible for 5 members of our team to take a 5 hour trip to Shashemene school, near Awassa, to see our kids. Two of our team had sponsored kids through Project 61 and wanted to meet them. Kari and I wanted to see the kids we had met the summer before.
Abenezer had no idea I was coming. When we arrived at around 10am, all the kids were in class. We had to wait until noon to find the kids. Even then, this is a HUGE school, so as I was waiting in the cafeteria, wave after wave of kids came in, but no Abenezer. Finally, one of the Korah kids came running in to me and said "Abenezer is coming!". I saw him out the window and ran to him and caught him up in a big Mama Bear hug. He was shocked to see me, and there were tears in his eyes when he looked at me. I had wondered if he would remember me, since so many Americans tour Project 61. Then he showed me something that rocked me to the core. He told me he wanted to show me his belt buckle. He lifted his shirt, and on his belt, made into a buckle, was the photo of my family I had given him back in July. He was wearing my family around his waist!! Wow.
Abenezer gave me a tour of Shashemene school, I saw his dorm room, the restrooms, the cafeteria, and the beautiful campus. I asked him to remind me to give him the gifts I brought for him. He told me he had a gift for me, too. We stopped back in his room and he pulled his backpack out of his closet. In this backpack was a package, wrapped in shiny red paper, just for me. In it was three necklaces that he made for me ( I am still wearing one of those as a bracelet, I never take it off) and a comp notebook. In it were drawings for each of my family members, and at the end, his entire life story. What an incredible gift...that he had been keeping in his backpack for the day he would see me again. Again, wow. Remember the picture album he looked at over and over again at the sleepover? I brought that album back with me and gave it to him to keep. I also gave him an Amheric bible and reminded him that God had big plans for His life. I told him I loved him, but God loved him even more. I told him to keep seeking God's will, even when it is hard.
We had a tearful goodbye, and I told him I hoped to come visit him again soon.
At this point I started trying to figure out a way to make Abenezer a more permanent part of my life. I asked about adoption...not a possibility since he did have a living birthmom (whom he had not seen in many many years). Also, adopting a pre-identified child is VERY difficult, if not impossible in Ethiopia right now. Next, Shane and I talked about getting him a student visa. If we were not able to do that, we wanted to at least get him a tourist visa so he could spend a summer with us. We visited with an immigration lawyer about what it would take and prayed. A Lot.
My greatest fear was that I would tell Abenezer that we wanted to get him a visa...then something would go wrong, it wouldn't work, and he would be crushed.
In August of this year, Shane and I had the opportunity to lead a trip to Ethiopia and Rwanda with Visiting Orphans. I was SOO excited for Shane and Alexis to meet Abenezer. The reunion was awesome. We met with a big hug, and sparkling eyes. I introduced him to everyone on our team, and we had some great conversations.
Here is where things get crazy. I have only told this story to 3 or 4 people. Even now, almost 3 months later, I'm not sure how to explain it. Abenezer told me there was a prophet in the village, and that the prophet had told him some amazing things. She told him that he would be a man who shared the Gospel of Jesus around the world. He wanted me to meet this prophet. When he found her I almost fell to my knees right there. The prophet was Mulu, Mercy's mother!!! When she realized I was "Abenezer's Mother", she was so excited to talk to me. Abenezer, Mulu, Henok (our translator) and I all went into a small room away from everyone else. She told me that she dreamed about Abenezer before she had ever met him. She knew this boy would be traveling to another country to talk about Jesus. In fact, three days before this, she had told Abenezer a Forenge (foreign) woman would be coming with a group of other Forenge to visit him. She had had a vision about that very moment in that room with the four of us talking about Abenezer. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
I knew in that moment that I did not need to be afraid to tell Abenezer our plans to bring him to America for a visit. It seems God had already told him.
Sooooo....now, we are in the process of getting his visa. I know God will provide, but I feel like I need to share this story, and give you the opportunity to help us bring Abenezer home. He has his passport, but now is the hard part. Visas are not given easily. Lawyer fees and visa fees and airline tickets are expensive. But it seems God has a plan, who am I to question it?? Please be praying fervantly for this precious boy and for our family and for this situation. I do belive God has a BIG plan, which means the enemy will be working hard against it.
My CURRENT fundraiser (Feb 1-9): I have a gorgeous king-sized, hand made quilt up for auction on ebay. It has a cool coffee cup theme and is tagged Protect and Defend the Fatherless. SO cool. Here is the link.
I have the $3500 to get Abenezer here!!! Praise God!! Phase one is complete. Now we are on to phase 2. I need about $2500 to get my airline ticket to Ethiopia and for my lodging for about 10 days. I really feel like I need to be there for Ab's visa appointment. His chances of getting the visa approved will increase 100 times if an American is there to insure he will return to Ethiopia. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for your help so far, God is doing great things!!! I can't wait to see what happens next!