During our trip to Ethiopia in February Joe and I had the unexpected opportunity to visit with an old friend. We hadn’t seen Tamrat since last June. He was among the hardest group of street kids that Nega has ever worked with. As we visited with him, his mom, two of his sisters, and a nephew we could hardly believe that this was the same kid that we knew just eight months ago.
We hadn’t planned to see Tamrat. Our meeting happened in true Ethiopian fashion. We were traveling to Nazret to get away from the hustle of the capital city for a few days so that we could concentrate on important matters and do some planning for the coming year. On the way Nega mentioned that Tamrat was living there with his mother. We asked if Nega thought that he could track Tamrat down so that we could see him. Nega was sure that he could arrange it. After a few days as we were heading out of town Nega made a few calls and the next thing we knew Nega stopped the car and Tamrat walked up to greet us.
He then walked us to his house where his mother invited us inside. In the small room we exchanged greetings and small talk. We were repeatedly offered coffee and soft drinks, which we repeatedly turned down because we knew that in reality they had none to give. Joe and I sat in two wooden chairs while Tamrat lounged with his sisters on a thin mattress on the floor. His mother beamed with pride as we asked him about school. “He is number one in his class” Nega translated to us.
This kind of change can only be credited to God. We’ve seen this time and again. Tamrat was addicted to life on the streets. By the age of 14 he had seen and done things that would make most of us cringe. Last fall he, along with his friends Yared and Nati, accepted Jesus Christ into their lives. All three have since moved back in with their families. They are excelling in school and are sharing their new found faith, hope, and joy with their families and friends. The other boys who were in that same group still struggle to break free from the streets.
This is what it’s all about. I’ve never seen the power of Jesus transform lives as clearly as I do with these street kids. Thankfully Tamrat is not alone. More and more kids are learning about this power and through it they are gaining freedom.