Monday, March 14, 2011


On Friday, we visited three different orphanages and I haven't stopped thinking about them since.

I'm not going to describe to you the conditions or the smell or the sadness. I really do believe that the caregivers in these homes are doing their very best and I don't want to make it sound like they aren't trying. And honestly, I saw some of the same things within the walls of the orphanages as I did out in the middle of town.

Runny noses, bare feet, and torn clothes are just normal here. These things don't indicate a child's happiness or a reveal family's status. Most children here just don't have much.

But here's what got to me about the children in the orphanages - they think they don't matter.

Within seconds of pulling through the gate at the boys' orphanage the frenzied excitement told us how much they LOVE visitors. And the girls, oh those sweet girls, clung to our waits and held our hands tight as soon as hurried introductions had been made.

Please, listen to my song.
Please, play futbol.
Please, take my photo.
Please, help me read my school lesson and play a hand-clap game with me.

Please. Notice. Me.

At ten or twelve years old, these children are still hopeful. They are thrilled that 15 ferenge came to see them and I do believe that they feel our love - that on some level they know that we care about them.

But one morning, these little girls and boys are going to wake up and say to themselves, "You know what? I. Don't. Matter. What difference does it make whether or not I get an education? Who will care if I disappear? Who will I disappoint if I become a prostitute?"

This realization may come gradually - slowly building in their minds each day - or it may hit like a ton of bricks. Either way, the day a child asks WHO CARES? and the answer is NOBODY is the day that child's life changes for worse.

The main - and perhaps the only - difference between a child living in the orphanage and a child living in a tin or mud home is that the child living in the orphanage has no family. No mother or father, aunt or uncle, grandma or grandpa to say, "I value you. You are important to me."

This difference is HUGE.

Since we've been here, Mark and I have asked each other often, "So, what do we do?"

I've said it before, and I believe it even more now, adoption is not the solution. Many orphans (dare I say most?) are not eligible for adoption and many of the children who I saw on Friday will never, ever experience a family. But somehow, we've got to show these children that they matter - that they are important to someone and that someone cares deeply what happens to them.

Thankfully, I saw evidence all around the orphanages that showed me that other families who have come before me believe this also. Families who met these electric children and said, "You know what? YOU. DO. MATTER."

A library full of books donated to the boys - I value your education.
New computers with internet - I want you to learn about the world.
New playground equipment for the girls - It matters to me that you have fun.
A box of new shoes delivered to the toddlers - I care about your health and safety.

I know these are just things. Material possessions that will one day fade and be destroyed, but they send a message that is so much greater, a message that is perhaps not conveyed to these kids in any other way.

I wish I could hold each of their faces in my hands, look into their eyes, and say, "You are of utmost importance. Learn. Grow. Thrive. Be something."

But I know I can't - so I will continue to support projects that send soccer balls and buy goats and provide school uniforms and will trust that my Heavenly Father will use these gifts to capture children's hearts and enfold them into His family as his very own valuable, precious children.


Laura said...

Love this post! When we visited the 3 orphanages, it brought back many memories of the orphanage my daughter, Meron was in.

We were able to take many many cans of formula to Kebebe Tshai, which they desperately need.

Kolfe was amazing. Those boys were just wonderful. At Kechene the girls were rather shy with us but many shy smiles and hugs were given.

So happy for let's get our little ones home!


Kenton and Shannon Carew said...

Amazing post, Becky. Hope you don't mind that I post it on my blog.

Jamie said...

Thank-you for sharing this...


Julie and Matt said...

What a great post! I just returned from my 2nd trip to Ethiopia leading a team from my church to witness what a partnership between our church, Food for the Hungry and local ET churches is doing for orphan headed households. Your comment about "who cares?" resonated so much with me, because I enter the homes of the orphans and say to each one of them "You are remembered." The partnership we have with the Zeway churches has been great as they have taken noticed of the crisis in their town and have asked our ministry to tell them more about adoption. While international adoption isn't the answer, local, indigenous adoption may be getting closer to helping the orphans and this is what our church and the ET church is seeking to do. We'll see what is in store for us and them!

It is a great blog post and sorry I've gone on and on. I've been home for 6 days now and my mind is still going!