I wish you could be here to see her face – shy, nervous, tired… yes, certainly tired, as she has been preparing for our arrival, I’m sure. However, there is also a hint of pride, even though she’s not accustomed to others complementing her, congratulating her for a work well done, you can see it in her face. She doesn’t quite know what to do with herself so she sits there, clutching her skirt and eyeing her hands. And we, four American women, who really don’t have any idea what it is like to survive this tough life she has lived, sit across from her trying to hold back our tears. It’s strange enough to have these Americans sitting in the one room that is her home without us adding our crying to the scene.
We are asking her how she is doing, how she makes it, how she has survived these last six years since her husband died. There is sadness in the story, but this is not a sad story that she tells. It is a story of opportunity, restoration, triumph and hope. When her children were chosen to be sponsored by Help One Now, she was dying. Her children were considered the most vulnerable. She is HIV Positive and was very sick at the time. She didn’t have access to the important Anti-Retro Viral medication that can make an HIV patient healthy again. Her family, which consisted of herself and her six children, had no cow or chicken or garden to sustain them. She was too sick to have a job – where would she find one anyway? She was forced to leave two of her children at an orphanage because they were sick as well, and she had no way to care for them. But today, Birknesh, this beautiful mother, sits across from us and with a strong voice that belies her small frame, she tells her story. She is healthy because of the life saving drugs she receives from the clinic. Four of her six children sit beside her. The other two, no longer in an orphanage, are working at her clothing shop, just as my oldest daughter works at our clothing shop, many miles away, in much different circumstances, but in this, we are the same. Speaking through Aschalow Adebe, the smart and passionate local leader who loves his people and sits with Berknesh’s youngest child snuggled close on his lap, Jen Hatmaker tells this sweet, hard working mom what a really good job she is doing with her family and how proud we are of her work. Birknesh looks down at her hands again, trying to suppress a smile, eyes glowing with the knowledge that what we are saying is true. She is doing a really good job. She wants to show us: “Come outside, you should see my cow.” This cow provides milk for her family, sometimes more than they need; she takes the extra and trades it for important things like rice and grain. “I also have a chicken and a goat; come see.” “And in the back is my garden.” Lush and overflowing with coffee plants, entesh (something like a banana), avocado, peppers and more. “And please stop by my shop and meet my oldest daughters.” “See what I have been able to do,” she says without words, “How our lives have changed.”
Then Birknesh, looks down at her hands again and says “thank you, thank you, thank you. If it wasn’t for you I would not be alive. My children would be orphans.” Aschelow explains to us again, like he did yesterday when we arrived and today as we drove through this amazing, beautiful, complicated country: “See what I am saying? Do you understand what I am telling you? We love our children, we don’t want to give them up. We just don’t have the economic capacity to keep them, and we don’t want to see them die.” This is why we are here. It is why Jen Hatmaker, Kristen Howerton, Jillian Lauren and I came to the small community of Gunshire – to hear her story, to hug her and tell her we are proud of her, to delight in her children, and most importantly, for this…to show you what can happen when you give. This story of empowerment, triumph, restoration and hope can be the stories of many others in this community. Just $42 a month. No way, it doesn’t seem possible that $42 can literally save someone’s life and prevent 6 children from becoming orphans. But it really is that simple, on your end at least. Oh there is much more involved here in Gunshire. There is Aschelow, the leader that is here with us today and with these people everyday. He knows this community; it is his own. He identifies the most vulnerable; those that are on the verge of disaster. He takes their picture (much more than that, but to simplify) he takes their picture and asks us to sponsor this child who is on the brink of becoming an orphan if we don’t do something. There is also a kind man named, Wondemear, who manages the center where Birknesh and other women like her can come to learn a trade, learn to garden, and receive counseling on how to move forward and save their family. There are chidren’s homes and medical clinics. There is support. Your $42 does even more than just provide clothing and school supplies for a child. When you sponsor a child through Help One Now, you are sponsoring a family. You are absolutely about the good work of orphan prevention. It doesn’t quite seem possible, but it is. Please go here http://www.helponenow.org/kids/ and choose a child to sponsor. You can be responsible for making all the difference in the life of a family. ALSO, because she believes in this work with all of her heart, Jen Hatmaker is providing a copy of her powerful book Interrupted for everyone that sponsors a child. There is more! Go here to find out and choose a child that tugs at your heartstrings http://www.helponenow.org/kids/ . Her face tells the entire story – A story of opportunity, restoration, triumph and hope.