Our family traveled to Ethiopia in August of 2009 to bring home our beautiful son through the incredible journey of adoption. Just a few months before we left for Ethiopia, I stumbled upon a link to an organization serving in Southern Ethiopia called, Drawn From Water (DFW). I learned that DFW rescues children from a tribe that drowns them due to their beliefs that these children are cursed or imperfect. The elders believe that if these children remain living among them, they would bring ill fortune to the tribe. When I first learned about DFW, the Benkert family was in the process of selling all their possessions to move their family to Ethiopia and run an orphanage for the children rescued through DFW. I was inspired by this family’s leap of faith and commitment to help provide a better life for these children and I continued to follow their story.
Before we left for Ethiopia, our family knew that we would be giving back to our son’s birth country somehow. We prayed that God would show us how during our time in Ethiopia. I remember telling my husband that I thought God wanted us to support DFW. During our one week stay in our son’s birth country, our agency, Children’s Home Society took us on a tour of Children’s Home Academy, a school they built and support in the capital city, Addis Ababa. We also toured a clinic in Addis and another school that they were in the process of building in Hosanna.
We knew we could not go wrong supporting any of these entities. They all were doing great things for the Ethiopian people. There are so many needs, choosing where to give back had become an overwhelming thought process for us.
On our last day in Ethiopia, as we were riding the bus to the airport, I remember thinking, here we are leaving Ethiopia and it was still unclear to us as to how our family would give back. I remember praying that God would somehow still show us before we leave.
We arrived at the airport, went through security with our luggage and waited for another adoptive family to pass through security. As we were waiting, a tall American man approached our family. He noticed my daughters’ University sweatshirts and was curious about where we were from in the states. We introduced our new son and briefly shared a few things about our one week experience in Ethiopia.
Then the man told us that he was there working with an organization that rescues children from tribes who would otherwise be drowned by tribal elders because of a superstitious belief. This sounded too familiar. My husband asked him if he had ever heard of Drawn From Water.
Indeed he had heard of DFW. In fact, he told us that he was with an organization that had been working with the DFW team in southern Ethiopia. You can imagine how shocked we were to be talking to this man about DFW in the middle of the Bole airport in Addis Ababa. This was crazy! What is the likelihood? DFW had rescued the first children in January, just 7 months earlier. It was a very new organization at the time. What are the chances that we would be approached by a stranger at the airport who was there to work with this new organization, an organization that has recently gotten my attention more than any other organization or cause? We were on the same flight to Amsterdam as this American. Once we got settled at our gate and while we waited for our flight, all four of our kids fell asleep in our arms. I knew I was going to be sitting in that spot for a while, so I was grateful that this man sought us out and came over to continue the conversation we began at the security area.
My husband and I spoke quite extensively with him about his trip that week. He spoke about the 2 day journey out to the tribes from Addis, among other things that lined up with what I had read on the DFW website. It was clear to us that he knew and understood the work of DFW.
Once home, my husband and I could not remember the man’s name. I wanted to connect with him again, so I contacted the DFW staff and shared with them our story of meeting this man at the airport in Ethiopia. The DFW team was baffled. They had no idea who we could have met because they had very few men from the US work with the team in Ethiopia up to this point. In fact, they were unaware of anyone travelling that week.
Confused, I thought there must be a mistake. Then a few months later, I contacted the DFW staff again, told them our story of meeting this man, hoping that someone would be able shed light on this mystery person. Again, they could not imagine who someone fitting this man’s description could have been.
After my second failed attempt to identify him, our family decided that he could very well have been an Angel sent by God. The purpose of this Divine appointment was obvious – God wanted our family to give back to our son’s birth country through Drawn From Water.
In May 2010, I emailed the DFW team in Ethiopia, explained our story again and asked where we could help. Jessie responded to me and we began emailing each other back and forth. I threw out some ideas, such as setting up a sponsorship program or designing a T-shirt to sell.
I knew nothing at the time about setting up sponsorship programs and I didn’t know the first thing about designing a T-shirt. All I knew was that our family was going to help in some way and with God’s help I could accomplish whatever He assigns me.
After Jessie shared my ideas with the rest of the team, she came back to me and said they all thought the T-shirt thing was a good idea.
I know why God gave me this assignment. He knew that if I already had the knowledge of how to design and sell T-shirts, I would not need Him. He gave me a vision and a task that stretched me and would require me to rely completely on Him.
I enlisted the help of close friends who had experience with design work and connections to a printing company. I set up an on-line store to market and sell the shirts from and by July we began on-line sales of the first T-shirt design. Now, 5 months later and another limited edition T-shirt design, we have sold close to 300 shirts with 100% of the profits going to DFW.
A couple months ago, DFW announced their new child sponsorship program. Our family did not hesitate to jump on board. We now sponsor a sweet little girl named Kero. Right after I submitted our request to sponsor Kero, Levi from DFW sent me a more detailed description of her. In this description, he stated that Kero was attending her second day of school at Children’s Home Academy. This was the very same school our family toured when we traveled to Ethiopia.
Our family thinks of it as a blessing to come along side the DFW team and others who are giving a voice to the powerless and making a difference in the future of these children. God is so good. He continues to give our family confirmation along each step of our journey. Our next focus is to expand the DFW store. We are waiting on God’s direction once again, giving Him all the glory!
Guest: Tammy Hagstrom blog: http://www.thewayhomefromethiopia.blogspot.com/