I have all four of my children with me this morning, and even though we have only been here at the cafe for fifteen minutes they are already getting restless. I am wondering if this plan to meet here with Beletu and have all my kids in tow was a good idea. With Jessie still in Texas recovering from her surgery I do not have much of a choice, the kids are pretty much stuck with me until she returns. Just as my mind is wandering, counting for the thousandth time how many days until Jessie returns, Beletu walks through the door jarring me back to reality. She has a broad smile on her face and goes immediately to the kids, kissing each of them on the cheek and asking in Amharic how they have been. It has been almost a year now since we last saw Beletu, and our last goodbye was a sad one. Drawn From Water was in the middle of that-most painful of transitions and we were unsure what the future held. She had cried as we left. All of us did.
Today though, there is reason to celebrate. We are opening Bring Love In, and Beletu is beginning her training to become the head house mother for our first home here in Ethiopia. She is in her mid thirties, and has a son who is 11, a perfect fit for our widow led households. In a few weeks time she will be through the training, settled into her new home, and ready to welcome in six or seven orphans from the government orphanage.
I set this meeting up so that I could get a chance to share with you Beletu’s story. One that I have heard many times, but wanted her to share with you in her own words.
“Thank you so much for coming!” I say as I am released from Beletu’s warm hug.
“Thank you!” She replies in english, but quickly moves on to Amharic and Yabi starts to translate our conversation.
“I am so blessed to be able to come and be a part of this ministry, and to be able to work with the children.” She says with a smile.
“We are blessed to have you.” I reply, feeling genuinely honored to have her here with us today.
“We are excited about being finally able to start opening the homes, this time of getting the license and preparing on our end has taken longer than we had hoped but we are glad that it has all been done the right way.” I pause in the middle of my sentence and jump from my seat, Everly is heading out the front door and I dash off to grab her and find out what is happening.
“I need to go potty” Everly says as I scoop her up into my arms. “Well the potty is back here” I say to her as we walk back towards the bathroom.
A few minutes later we are seated at the table again and I start up once more.
“I wanted to ask you a bit about your story, so that I can share it with the people who are supporting Bring Love In. Would you be okay sharing with me about your life?”
“Yes” She says, her eyes turn towards the ground, almost as if she is ashamed of her story. I pause and give her a moment before I start in.
“How long have you lived away from your son?” I ask, gently trying to encourage her to speak, but not wanting to make her feel like I am pushing her.
“Eight years ago, when my son was three years old I became very sick. I tried to go to the doctor in my village which is about 11 hours bus-ride from the city, but no none could figure out what was wrong with me. Finally I found a way to get to the city and saw a doctor who could help me. He told me that I had TB and that I needed several months of treatment or else I would die. I stayed with a friend and started the treatment. But I was not able to tell anyone in my family why I was gone for so long because no one had a phone in my village. It was almost six months before I was able to go back home.”
“Was it hard for you to be away from your son and husband?” I ask.
“Yes, I loved both of them very much and was sad that I had to be gone for so long. I wanted to go see them and tell them that I was going to be ok, but I had to stay for my treatment”
“I am sorry” I say as I see the desperate pain in her eyes.
“Once I finally came home, my husband had already married another woman.” She says, a tear forming in the corner of her eye.
“He said that he thought I was dead, and that he did not want to wait for me if I was never coming home.” I cried and tried to tell him that I still wanted to be his wife, but he said it was too late, and that it was my fault that I did not come back sooner. My son had been moved in with my family and I was no longer accepted in my village any more. I was outcast by everyone, and I did not know what I could do.”
She scoots her chair away from the table and leans her head into her hands for a moment, then quickly regains her composure, leans back against the seat and continues on.
“My son stayed living with my family, and I came back to the city by myself. I thought that if I could not be with my people any more, at least I could make money and send some back to my son so he could get a good education. I found a job making a little money and started attending a good church here in Addis. It was not the life that I wanted for myself, but I was learning about God, and reading my bible. I found strength in my new friends from church.”
“Are you excited that your son will be able to come and live with you now?”
“Yes! I have prayed for a way that I can be his mother once again, and now, finally after more than 8 years, God has provided. He will come live with me in the house with the other children, and he can go to a better school here in the city. We are blessed to be able to be together again.”
“Do you have a job now?” I ask. It has been nearly a year since she last worked with us at Drawn From Water, and we never had intended for it to take this long for us to call her and offer her employment once again.
“Yes, I am a waitress at a local restaurant. I make about 600 Birr ($34.50) each month with tips and the salary.
“Have you been living in a house?”
“Yes, my sister and I split the rent on a very small metal shack. We are happy to have somewhere to live.”
We continue to talk for several minutes, Yabi explains to her about the training that she will be starting, and we tell her that she can now give notice that she is leaving her other job. Beletu hugs us all once again when we are done, and tearfully thanks us. I want to push her away and explain that it is not us, but God who has provided all of this, I want to tell her that we are the ones who are thankful for her, thankful that she kept pushing forward in a life so full of hardship. Instead I just hug her back and tell her in broken Amharic that we are glad that she is coming to work with us. Before we go I ask if Beletu is ok with me taking a quick picture of her. She smiles an awkward uncomfortable-around-the-camera-smile and replies, “Yes, no problem” as she wraps her arms around Everly who has spent most of the last half hour on her lap.
Beletu is going to be the head housemother in our first forever family home. We are thankful that God sent us a woman like her, someone we can trust and rely on as we work out the inevitable kinks in this new program of caring for children by creating new widow led families.
Please pray with us for Beletu in this new season in her life, pray that her son does well with this transition, one that is sure to be complicated and painful for him.