Our Story – Day 4, The Final Day
This is the continuation of the story of how EHE began. It is a testimony of God’s desires to reach into the lives of the poorest of the poor and to see families touched by His love, mercy and hope. If you missed the prior days, you can find them here: (Our Story – Day 1) (Our Story – Day 2) (Our Story – Day 3). Please consider partnering with us in this Story.
But how would we now find beneficiaries? The names of these women were not on the lists. Where were they? How would we find them? So, we prayed that night that God would give us wisdom. And He answered.
The next day our first 20 women showed up at our gate. We had no sign. It was our home. There were very few in the community who knew we were starting an organization at that address. We still believe that God sent them. They came one by one and knocked and their story was almost identical. “I am very poor. I can’t feed my child. My child is sick. I want to work, but I have no one to care for my child. I was hoping there was someone here who could help me.” Our staff went to each of their homes and investigated. What they found in all of the women’s homes were deplorable conditions. Their children were sick and severely malnourished. They had little hope and no money. All dignity had been stripped away through begging, prostituting and scavenging. They were the women and children we had been looking for.
So, we started. Our initial staff consisted of 2 Care givers (including Christy and an 18 year old young woman who still works for EHE!), a cook, a director, a part time accountant and Jerry. We took 20 of the most malnourished and sick kids I’ve ever seen into the living room of our house that had been transformed into the Day Care. Early in the morning those Moms brought those kids and the kids cried and cried and cried, as this was the first time in their lives for many of them they had ever been out of Moms sight. Did I mention how hard they cried? It was crazy and beautiful, but we also knew it needed to move soon to its own location.
The new location that we found had a problem. The house was way too big for simply 20 kids to come to Day Care. So, we felt God say that we should grow and fill it. And fill it we did. We grew right away to 33 children and still day after day needy Moms were coming and telling their heart breaking stories of need. God was going to stretch us more than I ever imagined.
Not only were we being stretched numerically, but at the same time our scope of services were needing to adjust. Day Care was not enough. We needed nutrition and exceptional healthcare and intensive social work and income generating opportunities and relational healing and basic socialization. We were already in over our heads, so we started adding new components to the project and trying to tailor the program to the individual needs of those Moms. We started seeing progress as Moms and Children were getting healthy, building community and embracing hope – one at a time. There certainly were challenges and many cases of one step forward and three steps back. The complexities of poverty were mind-boggling to us, but the individual results we were seeing were beyond beautiful.
We have the privilege of continuing to walk with most of those early Moms and their kids. Every time I think of what God has done in their lives, my eyes start welling up with tears of joy. God’s love is so intense for those Moms and their kids.
Just when it seemed time to settle in and breathe, we felt that tug from The Lord to again grow. So, we did. This time we grew to 67 children and their Mothers. We were filling that house that God had opened up for us to rent. Then again, we felt God tug at our hearts to grow to 133. Then again we felt God lead us to grow to 196, where we are now. And still we feel Him calling us to add another 40 to the project every year for years to come. His heart is so big for these kids and their Moms. He keeps opening our hearts and He keeps providing in His time and in His way.
Then the question came, “Who is going to educate these kids?” We had given them a great head start through early childhood education. But, we also had a desire to walk longer term with these families and make sure the kids received a great education. Now we needed a high quality Kindergarten for them. At that time there was one in the area, but how could we ask them to add 40 new kids (almost 2 full classrooms) into their already full school every year? We would need to educate them.
So, in 2013 we opened the EHE School that housed Nursery and two years of Kindergarten. Now,
this summer we are preparing to add 1st Grade with the plan of adding one grade each year to the school through 8th grade. On Friday we watched as 27 EHE Kindergarten students graduated from KG! A bunch of those children were from the first 33 in the project. What a day of celebration it was.
It has not been without its challenges, but I am filled with joy every time I get the chance to see these absolutely amazing teachers at the school really love on the children in their classroom and giving them an education that includes all of the core components while also encouraging the kids to be creative. Wow, those teachers and Assistant teachers are truly gifts from God.
Today, EHE has grown a lot in scope of services and size. We now have 53 Ethiopians who work for EHE, serving the 196 children and their Moms or Guardians while also benefitting their siblings and the greater community. In 2014 we also launched EHE Spiritual Ministry that offers spiritual counseling and Bible Studies for Moms and Christ-centered programs for children. We’ve even seen some of our staff come to Christ through this program.
Along the way we have seen amazing partnerships develop as people in 40 States, 4 Canadian provinces, Europe, Africa and the Middle East have joined in supporting the work. We have formed great partnerships with Food For All in the Netherlands, Bridges of Hope in Canada, bunches of churches from all over, and amazing informal networks with others working on the ground in Ethiopia. We have an incredible staff led by Alayu and the rest of our Ethiopian leadership team who long ago outgrew any need they had for us to be around and looking over their shoulders. And the future looks amazing.
So, what is next? Our hearts continue to expand in walking among Moms and children who are the poorest of the poor. Our local project in the Kore’ slum will continue to grow by 40 children every year, but the need is so great. We have dreams of growing that project more to try to meet the needs of the 10 – 15 moms with children we currently are turning away Every Day, while aso moving into other areas to do similar work and perhaps even moving into other countries where there is a need for family preservation organizations like ours. But, what we need is resource to do so.
Often times I get asked what we need the most. Do we need more volunteers? Do we need more experienced professionals to serve on the ground? Do we need more mission teams? To be honest, the thing we need most is Sponsorships, Prayer and Finance. We have fully qualified national staff who are able to contextualize the program. We have locals with Huge hearts for seeing their people served in Jesus’ name. We have Ethiopian leaders who are not afraid to dream and to change whatever needs to be changed in order to make sure that the beneficiary is the one who is truly being served. We have staff members who are moved to tears when they have to turn away yet another Mom and her child because we do not have room. We’ve got a great team. With a bit of resource they do so much.
We need advocates and givers and funders. We have so many generous people who give out of what God has given them. We simply need more people who believe in seeing local based family preservation solutions – and who will give to EHE so that our Ethiopian team can keep growing those solutions.
It is an amazing story that God keeps unfolding in front of us. Most of the time we simply are trying to catch our breath and keep up. We’d love it if you would join in this story with us.