We wave goodbye to her as she is placed back in her crib, her bottom lip under her teeth as she waves brightly, Andrew and I making fools of ourselves waving, waving, “Bye! Bye! We love you!” She keeps waving, up and down from the wrist, turning her head to the side.
We load into the car and Fekadu, our driver, asks us about our time and asks us if we are hungry for lunch. We are, and we pull up to Sky View. It starts to rain and we walk up the stairs, surrounded by trees to a little room lined in windows, full view of the tree tops, making us feel like we are perched in a tree house in the jungle.
We order our food and chat with Fekadu. He is humble and quiet, with large, kind eyes. It’s easy to feel comfortable while with him because he doesn’t need to fill space with talking if it’s time to be quiet, you can be yourself . Andrew respects him immediately, I can tell. We chat more and more, and then he asks us, “Have you ever heard of Compassion International?”
“Yeah!” We respond. “We love Compassion, we sponsor a couple girls.”
“I was a Compassion child,” he tells us, totally catching us off guard.
“What!? NO way! That’s amazing!” we tell him. He is my same age.
He starts to tell us about his family when he was a child, he never met his father, and his mom remarried a man who was an alcoholic. He would hit him everyday. I start to get upset thinking of anyone hurting such a kind soul, Andrew too.
“So I had to start sleeping outside on the street. I was 8, and didn’t have shoes or go to school. I was one of the first groups of kids Compassion worked with, and I was chosen by Nerida, she lives in Australia.”
When he says her name, a smile comes to his face, not a showy smile, but one of deep joy, of love, as though the love she has shown him over many years has illuminated a permanent light in his heart, in who he is. This serene, humble man asks us shyly if we want to see her picture, proud.
“Of course,” we say, we’re both feeling overwhelmed by this story, amazed, to see the other end of this, to see him now, an adult, showing us his sponsor. It felt surreal, humbling. He pulls out his phone, there are only a couple pictures on it.
“This is her, Nerida, my best ever lady. She saved my life. I am who I am today because of her, because she chose me,” he shows us his best ever lady as if she were the most precious, important thing in his life.
He shows us a couple more pictures, they met a few years ago. They took a trip to India together. A picture of Nerida, her husband, son and him, “Family Picture,” he tells us, proud, as he pulls it back to see it again himself, smiling at the photo. This, these people, are everything to him, he doesn’t even need to say it, it shows on his face when he looks at them.
He tells us that when he was chosen, he got shoes. He got regular meals, and was able to go to school. How he is able to be the man he is today because he was sponsored. Because he was chosen by Nerida and her family.
“How much is sponsoring?” he asks us, “$38? $40 a month?”
“$38,” we tell him.
“Maybe for sponsors it’s like nothing, an after thought, but for the kids, it’s their whole life.”
“Wow…” we tell him as I think about our two girls we sponsor, their little lives becoming more illuminated to me. We always have known Compassion is good, do good things, but to see Fekadu’s face, and hear his words…
“She would write me letters,” he told us as he put her picture away, “And I have every one. I’ve saved every letter, every book mark, I remember the encouragement she would write to me. She saved my life.”
After meeting our daughter for the first time just hours ago, then hearing Fekadu’s story, we can’t hold back the tears, Andrew and I sitting, stunned listening to his story, taking it all in as the rain streamed down the windows, the sky still bright. He is quiet and humble, but the light inside of him, his joy, shining.
“Every month, we would all run to the office to see if there were letters, I always had one, she always wrote to me. Some of the other kids didn’t get letters, and they were so sad, it’s important to write.”
“It am thankful for the life God gave me because of it. The shoes, the education, the food, it’s the reason I am here.” He looks down at his hands, “But the most important thing that I got from being sponsored is learning about Jesus Christ. It’s because of him that I have forgiven my step father. We don’t really have a relationship, but I have forgiven him in my heart, and now, because of that forgiveness and because of Jesus, I support my half brother and sister, his children, and I put them through college through my work.”
Too much. We see their photos, a handsome young man and woman, their arms around him. They look healthy and confident, he tells us what each of them are studying. He shows us his mom, he tells us she is his hero, he supports her, too, with his work. His work that he was able to do because he was sponsored by Nerida.
We learn he also sponsors other families locally, a widow and her 14 year old son who is paralyzed throughout his entire body. They have no wheelchair, so she carries his grown, limp body on her back. “I cried the whole day I met them,” he tells us as he showed us her smiling face next to her son in a picture, their clothes tattered, but Fekadu helps to provide meals for them through his sponsorship. He bought them a simple wheelchair, not fancy, but usable.
He sponsors a poor family who lives at the dump. He loves them. He works with the youth in his church.
“I can’t live my life without helping others the way I was helped.”
Andrew and I told him that we are going to chose another child to sponsor through Compassion, one in Ethiopia. We are hoping that in a couple years, we can travel back as a family to visit that child.
“That would mean everything to them,” he nodded.
“But you’ll have to drive us,” we smiled.
He nodded and smiled.
Fekadu wrote this with someone thinking about sponsoring;
“A message for the people who would like to start sponsoring in the future is….here is an open field to be God’s hand and feet. You will never regret for what you will do here in the lives of Children. This is a place where the blessings flow for both the child and sponsor.
Compassion for me…..’Compassion is an angel which was sent from God to save my life.”
If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can find the children waiting for sponsors here: www.compassion.com
We started looking at some of the little boys in Ethiopia, and they each now have a little video with their profiles you can see. Hearing their sweet voices will make the decision of which child to chose kind of hard, but in picking one, know that through that simple act, there are untold lives who will be touched and effected by just this one child that you choose. Just like Nerida.
Just like Fekadu. 22 years ago.
“Appreciation and gratitude goes to my favorite organization ever, Compassion International which is highly committed to change the lives of children by releasing them from spiritual, physical, social and economical poverty. I am here, who is a live testimony to witness this.”
Andrew and I were so honored to meet Fekadu, and to hear his life, his love for Compassion. About his sponsor, Nerida, who to this day is touching lives with that one decision. Who sponsored and encouraged him for 14 years. Hearing about the lives he serves and supports now because of being a sponsored child.
We are honored to share his story here. To share the other end of those sweet faces just waiting to be sponsored.
Compassion International, you are doing a good thing, we are so honored to be a part of it.