Hirchie & Sara Schaffner, of Dyersburg, TN, recently spent a week in Ethiopia discussing leadership skills and spiritual growth with the men of Great Hope Ministries. Update below……
Our latest trip to Ethiopia was once again amazing but in an all new way. As we left Korah in July, Sara and I both knew we needed to come back to Ethiopia soon to work with the Great Hope leaders and the kids we love so dearly. So, we set the dates which fell on her schools fall break and it was right in between all other teams and gave us an opportunity to meet with the leaders without them being spread all over the place. Not only did the dates work but our tickets were buy on get one free – how awesome is that! (special thanks to Alicia Jordan and Sabrina Freeland.) (Alicia oversees all P61 trips and Sabrina is a resident travel agent / expert.)
Because of the blessings of God, we were able to take the leaders of Great Hope off to Awassa for a retreat. It was such a privilege to spend the week with these great men of God, we had some wonderful times in the word, amazing fellowship and a powerful time in prayer together. Along with this opportunity, we spent each afternoon with the kids at Shashemene which compared to Korah resembles the Garden of Eden.
Surrounded by the beautiful green landscapes and the smiling faces of children who now have a hope and a future was beyond satisfying. We spent time just hanging out with these kids who have stolen our hearts, it was fun to just watch them laughing and enjoying life and knowing it was because of the generosity of sponsors like you. We passed out letters and gifts, shared meals, took tours of the classrooms and most of all we loved on these “gifts from God.”
As amazing as this time was and as hard as it was to leave our sponsored child Yohannes, God still had one more job for us and it was life changing. We went to Korah on Friday morning about 12 hours before we were set to fly out. I have to say the empty street in front of Great Hope is a beautiful sight because those kids who packed that street this summer were now safely tucked away in Sheshamene, Akaki and in class at Bright Hope. We were in Korah for a reason though – we had brought gifts with us for some of the sponsored kids and when we arrived earlier that week Sumer informed us that one of the kids (Zarahun) sponsored by some of our church members had not gone to school but was back at the dump. So that morning Sumer arranged a meeting with Zarahun and his best friend Habtamu at a home on the edge of the dump. We arrived with Sumer, Mastewal and Murad to find two 10 year old boys in tattered clothes, covered in the grime and dirt of the dump and afraid they were in trouble. When Sumer asked why they didn’t go to school they replied “we didn’t think anyone would really want us.” Our hearts sunk as Zarahun, whose parents are both dead, said he couldn’t remember his parents and Habtamu shared how his mother was poisoned and his father was raising the two boys in the dump. We shared with the boys that they both had sponsors and asked if they still wanted to go to school, they both said they wanted to go to school and leave the life they had in the dump. After some discussion about where they could stay until they would be able to leave for boarding school, Saylia Murad (One of the Great Hope Leaders) offered to rent a place and keep the boys with him so they would not return to the dump. As we left this home with the two boys I realized what it felt like to change a life, it was exhilarating to say the least. As we made our way back to the church I told Sumer that this is one of the coolest things I had ever been a part of and I could only imagine what it was like to take over 200 kids out of the wasteland of the trash dump to give them a real shot at life. Words cannot express the joy I felt walking along side these two precious children who just hours earlier were rummaging through garbage to find their breakfast.
When we arrived at Great Hope we took their ragged clothes and watched as Worldu and Maste scrubbed the boys clean!. We gave them new clothes, fed them lunch but more than anything else we witnessed how generous hearts of sponsors and taking some time to care for these children now gave them joy they had never known before. Jesus said “You clothed me, fed me and gave me what I needed, when you did it for the least of these.” And, we were witnesses of that scripture in action. We left Korah that day with a sense of fulfillment and overwhelming humility that God would use us to be His hands and show His heart to those boys.
Many people have asked why are we so wrapped up in Ethiopia, why spend your vacation on another continent, why do we love this place so much and the answer is simple – It’s because God has made it a part of our heart and a part of our purpose in life, and it is a place that God has used us to help save some lives!
Please continue to pray for the precious children and families of Korah. And don’t forget to pray for Sumer and Corey and the men of God at Great Hope Ministries – they truly are working miracles every day.
Your gifts and support are truly saving lives!
God Bless You All!
Hirchie & Sara Schaffner