Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Forgotten Boys

Today we decided to slow down and sleep in a bit. We wanted to take Josiah to the playground at the Hotel and just try to absorb what all is happening to us. Jerry has been having the most difficulty with the jet lag so he really needed some rest this morning. We even missed the breakfast service at the restaurant so we had to order lunch or a croissant and coffee. We are all trying to learn Amharic and I tried to order water by saying "WAHOO". The man that was sweeping the floor next to us could not contain himself. He started to laugh out loud, looked at me and then tried to politely redeem himself by bowing and nodding obviously biting his lip to hold it in. He was so sweet. The proper pronunciation is "WUHA". At least I'm trying, but Ellie and Jerry are doing great. My excuse is that they are not using their brain cells to prepare bottles, diaper bags, goody bags for Josiah and such all day like I am. Plus, God is really doing something in my heart and mind that I have never experienced in my life. While we were eating the Maitre'd was watching us with our Josiah as he was eating and talking and we were obviously working on communication with him. He came over and talked with him and translated some for us. They talked for quite a while and then the man stood up with a big smile on his face. He said, "Do you know what, I just told him that they like you, and he asked him if he was happy and if he liked you, his new family? He said he likes you very much" . The people here are amazing. They all care so much for these children. It's so true that complete strangers come up and kiss these children, get right down on their knee to be eye level and talk to them with joyful sounding voices. Grown men in business suits, the guards, security, people just walking by, all of them smile and greet these children and us. It is absolutely delightful!

After this we went to the playground where Josiah really had a great time. By the way he responded, we think it was his first time on the swings. He was nervous at first but then he started to laugh and like it. Yesterday afternoon we took him into the pool that is filled by a hot spring. Jerry and Ellie played with him in the pool while I sat on the lounge with both girls on me in snugglies. Josiah is a fish. He absolutely loved it. He was screaming, laughing and kept wanting to jump into the water. After I noticed he really had NO FEAR of the water, I told Jerry to let him jump in but not to catch him right away. He needed to learn some healthy fear as a safety precaution. After about 3 times, he seemed to slow down and think differently about just jumping in any more. He started to notice where the shallow part ended and then called to "PAPA" or "ELLIE" to catch him. Before that he was pushing them away not wanting them in his way. We spent about 2 hours there with him and it was a joy!

Next we were picked up by Tafesse's cousin, Yasu because his car had to go into the shop. We met Ryan, Travis, Joanna, Avery and Silas for lunch at the Top View Restaurant where we overlooked the city. It reminded me so much of Los Angeles. It was very good and another sweet time of fellowship. Travis and Joanna are house hunting and getting settled into their new life here. A big difference from their life in Texas. After lunch, Ryan took us to the KOLFE older boys orphanage. This is where the boys over 12 years old go. This is also the place where Ellie raised $1200 for their library to be built thanks to the Franklin Academy Charter School and my friend Jennifer Hoffert. After today, I CAN NEVER FORGET THESE BOYS!!!!

We pulled into the facility that gave me the first impression of a very run down old prison campus or something like I have seen in the pictures of Germany during the Holocaust. Very depressed and unmaintained. We were greeted immediately by smiling faces and warm welcomes as numerous young men came out to see who was in the white car that just arrived. I was very nervous because I fully expected these young men to be cold and unsociable. On the drive there I was even thinking I would rather not go there at all and was having a conversation in my head that I would rather have gone souvenir shopping this afternoon. We want to get some gifts to bring home to the special people that helped us get here. Well isn't it just like God to show me again that He always knows better and has a plan for everything. Today I met some of the most DELIGHTFUL, HAPPY, SOCIABLE, LOVING, RESPECTFUL AND WELL MANNERED young men in my life!!!! (Teenagers as our society calls them) I AM AMAZED AGAIN! I must have been personally greeted by 30-40 young men ranging in ages from 12 to 18. They all had genuine smiles and either spoke fairly good English or were learning. They all put their hands out to shake, give their names and smile. Within about 5 minutes, my heart was melting again as I could feel myself falling in love with these boys. As Ryan started to give us the tour, they gathered along side and with "pride" started to explain what each building was. They were obviously excited to have visitors. I was so impressed with how well groomed and clean they were. They take pride in their appearance as well, wearing old tattered clothes, but still having a sense of style and dignity. They all asked questions about us, about America, about our adoption etc. They would all take turns asking questions and as some stayed with me continually as I walked. They very politely and in a very gentlemanly manner helped me walk along the very dangerous broken-up cement, big holes, rocks, puddles, etc. on the ground. You really have to look down because nothing is well groomed or smooth on the landscape. There were buildings with broken windows, sheets or fabric on them as window treatments. They looked like they haven't been painted in 20 years. Yet these young men pointed them out to me with pride and joy! I was so absorbed by their joy that I was smiling so big my face hurt. I was complimenting them on how they obviously worked hard because in spite of the run down condition it still displayed a sense of beauty. They had a vegetable garden planted among the rocks and they even have a flower garden. They were particularly proud of their kitchen that has a window that opens into the next room which serves as the dining room and theater. Hoptamu, the young man that was by my side the entire time and spoke English very well, was particularly interested in asking me how I liked everything as he showed me. He said they enjoy the movie room very much. He then wanted me to see their sleeping building. There were rows of bunk beds as far as the eye could see. It was like a barracks on a military campus. My immediate surprise was how neat, organized and well maintained it was. "PRIDE" everywhere. Then it was off to the soccer field where there was a game going on. The field was just a big dirt area full of rocks. It had no marked lines and the goals were made of the same Eucalyptus poles we see so much here. The netting was shredded and falling apart. It seemed to serve no purpose as any scored goals would go right through them. Even the ball was old and tattered. This facility holds up to 180 young men. There were a great number of them there but I don't have the exact number yet. While two teams of boys played, a great number of others watched and waited on the sidelines. Once one of the teams scored two goals, another team would get to run on the field to replace the losing team. We get so used to seeing boys in America play with the proper equipment, i.e, shoes, pads, uniforms. These boys had none of that. They played in beat up tennis shoes, no pads, no matching uniforms. Some only wore one sock. We watched for about 30 minutes, or I should say we talked with a great number of them on the side lines. I felt like I was in such an unusual situation. I can't really describe it.. The place was so depressing, sad, run down, and yet there was such a spirit of joy that it was contagious. As many of you know about me, I don't do superficial. I believe I was there for the purpose of loving on these young men, to encourage them and to let them know that they matter to me and to God. I asked questions of them like, "What do you want to be when you grow up? The answers were: doctors, electrician, carpenter, teacher, go to America, etc. They have dreams and aspirations, desires and goals to be a positive influence and contributors to society. They love to study. They told us they only play soccer on weekends because the rest of the time they study. It is obvious because they too had great questions for us and I was amazed at how well they spoke English.

There were three conversations I had that impacted me the most. I asked if they have a lot of physical fights among them. They all sincerely looked at me with a sense of surprise and almost disgust. Several of them shouted out the following answers: "No, never!" ; "We love each other."; "We respect each other." "We use our minds to settle problems, as he pointed to his temple area." "We are a family here." We witnessed an example of this as Jerry noticed in the distance one of the older boys who was wearing shoes had accidentally stepped on the foot of another. They both respectfully treated each other with compassion and respect.

The second, a older young man about 16 yrs old told me, "This facility is about 30 years old and the government does not maintain it. He said many people come to visit, take lots of pictures but they never come back and they never do anything to help us." He was not angry or resentful at all, he spoke very softly and like it was just a fact of life. He was very joyful even as he told me this.

The third was, "Are there compounds like this in America where boys don't have a mother or a father?". This one crushed my spirit and heart. I told him we did have some children in America that have not parents too. I was immediately struck with the fact that I could not say we had compounds like this. Later, when we drove away Ellie said this was the time she too fought hard to hold back the tears.

These young men even treated Ellie with great respect, honor and genuinely asked her lots of questions. At the soccer game when I was surrounded by about 20 young men, I told them how Ellie raised $1200, (or about $11,000 Birr) to help fund their soon-to-be library. They all looked very surprised, eyebrows raised, eyes opened wide, and a very sincere thank you was expressed to her. They bowed their heads and said "thank you very much". Again those of you who know me and Jerry would understand that we would never feel comfortable taking her into a compound full of young men. She is absolutely beautiful and such a sweet personality that we always have a huge hedge of protection around her. At first we were both right by her side. But I can't efficiently express how safe she was and how respectful they were toward her. It was unbelievable!

So here is what was etched in my mind that has caused me to know I can NEVER walk away from here and be one of those people that never come back and never do anything to help them. Their beds are very old metal, the "pads on them", not mattresses, are also about 30 years old. They have holes in them, they are absolutely trash dump quality. The blankets and pillows etc. are the same. They cannot possibly keep them warm. Remember, I told you there are absolutely no heating systems in Ethiopia and it gets down in the 30's at night. The windows are broken and in desperate need of replacement. The kitchen was like something out of an old Gothic run-down castle. It was all stone walls, floor and no windows or light.It looked like a dungeon. We have photos that can only explain it because I can't even find the words. Their dining room and theatre was a run down building that had old tables that looked at least 30 years old. We didn't see any chairs so I wonder if they stand? The theater was an old 26 inch TV on a shelf with a couple of old benches in front of it. They looked like old bleacher benches from elementary school when I was a child. They are the most uncomfortable things to sit on. We literally had walk with caution throughout the entire compound because the steps everywhere are broken and the ground is all uneven and full of rocks etc.

I have not stopped crying since last night. These are the forgotten boys. No one wants them. I have to admit that until today, I was the most guilty of never wanting or even considering adopting one of these boys. I had all these preconceived ideas about how bad, dangerous and evil they must be and they did not really matter to ME. OH GOD, PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!!! I AM SO ASHAMED!!! I WAS SO WRONG!!! I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN! I know I must do something!

I spent this afternoon with some of the most respectful, well mannered, joyful, content, happy, sincere, genuine and goal-oriented young men that I ever knew existed. As we wrapped up our visit, Jerry literally had to come pull me by the arm and drag me across the compound. I was pulling away from him and all the boys started laughing. I told them I didn't want to leave yet because I was enjoying them so much. Jerry said we had to be considerate of our driver, he had to get home. I honestly could have stayed there all night. As we got to the car, the boys were following us asking if we could come back tomorrow. Some of them shouted out "DON"T FORGET US!" "PLEASE COME BACK!" I literally pulled away from Jerry, stood in front of them and said "OK, I WANT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU TO PLEASE COME GIVE ME A BIG KISS AND HUG. AND I MEAN EVERYONE!! I held my arms open wide and stood there as they looked around with puzzled faces. They looked at each other, and at Ryan like "Is she serious?" Ryan shouted out that I was MAMA to all of them. I stood there with Keziah in my snuggly as a line formed and I hugged, kissed squeezed and asked God to bless each and every one of them. They were laughing and honestly thought I must be crazy. Josiah was in Jerry's arms and was laughing out loud as he watched this whole thing. He then started to kiss Jerry's cheek repeatedly as to mimic what he was watching. As the line diminished I looked around and saw some shy ones that were not in the line. I walked up to each one of them and made sure they got a hug and kiss too, whether they wanted it or not. Then some other came running from another direction as if someone had gone to tell them what was going on. They said," I did not get a turn". Then a few of them came back for seconds. The young man who told me he wanted to be doctor for babies came back and I gave him four more kisses not just one. I stood there and waited until it was obvious there were no more in waiting. Even some of the older men that looked at least 18 or older came out to greet me and get a hug and kiss. I was so surprised! One of them held my hand for a long time and was speaking in Amharic, He did not speak English. When I asked Hoptamu to translate, he said, "He wants you to help him get out of here!" THIS WAS MY LAST CONVERSATION WITH ONE OF THEM!

Over the last several years the LORD has been impressing on us that pure religion is to care for the orphan. James 1:22, 27. We have been on this adoption journey for several years and have so far, adopted five children. We are now going to pursue adopting a few of these older boys if the LORD will allow and provide. But, for the first time, I now have a passion to care for the orphan in a new way. While I very sadly have to admit that I cannot adopt all of these children, and believe me I want to, I MUST DO SOMETHING to help make a difference and impact them in a some way. My heart and mind have been transformed! GOD HELP ME TO HELP THESE FORGOTTEN BOYS OF KOLFE. We are going to meet with whoever we can before we leave to find out what we have to do to get permission to adopt KOLFE and start a campaign when we get home. My mind is racing with ideas, dreams, hopes and my heart is experiencing something I can't really describe. It is hurting, heavy and yet full of love and joy after having been blessed by the boys of KOLFE! I pray that my heavenly Father will go before me and prepare the hearts of those who will be blessed beyond all measure to join us in this journey. Please, Please, Please, kneel before Him and ask if you may be one of those people. Many people want babies, many people talk of saving the girls from a life of prostitution, but who will speak for the boys that are the future leaders of our world!!! May GOD forgive me and help me to make a difference!!! I can't thank God enough for the experience he has blessed me with today!!


Scarlett_333 said...

That is amazing. I can't wait to hear what you have in the works to help these teenagers, they sound like truly remarkable young men.

Anonymous said...

We enjoy being kept up to date on this great adventure you are on. I can feel the emotions right through every word I read. May you have a wonderful ending to your visit there and may your trip home be safe. We look forward to meeting our nephew and nieces and kissing their faces off! With much Love,Cyndee and Chuck said...

You don't know me...I saw a link to your blog on someone else's blog a while ago. Thank you so, so, so much for sharing your journey. God is using you in so many ways. Even through this blog I can feel God convicting my heart about how I spend money. I am a young single woman who has been called to adopt a sibling set from Ethiopia. "Logically" I do not know how it is going to work. What I do know is that through God it will work out.

Forever His,


Timm and Jennifer said...

My entire family has been reading your blog daily since you have been in Ethiopia. This entry touched us all on such a deep level. As we prepare for our trip in just a few weeks we will be thinking about how we can help these boys. If you have any suggestions of things we could bring to them please email me privately. Many blessings as you travel home with your beautiful new children.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check w/ hotels in your area. From what I hear most of them throw away their used bedding once a year no matter the condition. I'm not sure about their mattresses but I have a friend w/ a hotel and he told me they can't get anyone to take their bedding anywhere because of how much they are getting rid of. God Bless you all.

Holly said...

Crying again here. I can picture everything through your words. My dh and I already know we are in for the experience of a lifetime when it's our turn to travel...

Angela Gilbreath said...

Wow!! I am amazed and humbled each time I read your blog. I can only imagine the joy and heartache you endure as you visit with your precious little ones, but then realize how many more are left behind. Your family has been in my prayers daily. I love you all and can't wait to see and hear more of this wonderful adventure that the Lord is blessing you with :)

Angela, Larry and Eden

Justine said...

As a mum of six boys, you made me cry when I saw you with your arms out to this boys. My boys are so loving; I can't begin to imagine the grief this poor boys have with no mama to love them!!! Bless you!!! I ran upstairs to share your story of Kolfe with my 11 and 14 year old boys. We are all so inspired to do more for Africa. Thank you for sharing your story!!! God bless!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi...I can understand you 100%!! I have been on 4 trips to Addis in the last 2 years, totalling 6 months there. My husband and I and our middle son are all captivated. My son now lives there and is a student at a Bible college. We did not get to see Kolfe yet, but Ryan had spoken to us about it. I will try to go there next time. We have 2 Ethiopians living with us who won the DV lottery last year. It has been a wild new chapter for us. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up living there and adopting a second batch of children, though I never would have imagined it before. My youngest is almost 18. God bless you for caring!!!

Jamie Wallace said...

I just got back from Kolfe with Children's Hopechest and Red Letters Campaign:

Hopechest has the single best model I've ever seen because it's about on going, holistic care for the young people like these. Kolfe is a great fit for their model, and they could basically pull the trigger on sponsoring the boys as soon as a church would be ready to sponsor them.

Pray for the right church that would see the potential in these future leaders of Ethiopia.