Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I met Tihune for the first time last July when we visited Zeway. She showed up for the jewelry making training. She was by far one of the quickest learners and made some beautiful bracelets. Tihune was incredibly quiet. She rarely looked up from her beads and never smiled. It was apparent that this beautiful young girl carried a tremendous burden. Often, when I would see her looking at me, when I returned eye contact, she would look away. It was also obvious that she was new to this group of girls because her interaction was minimal.
I asked the social workers about her but nobody knew her story. She was brand new to the CHH program and they had little information about her. I tried to encourage her and love on her as much as I could in that day and a half that we spent together. But still, there was no joy in this young girls eyes.
When we did the art day, 3 siblings showed up....Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot. There were delightfully cute and we soaked them up. We found out that they were Tihunes younger siblings. Knowing that Tihune was CHH (Child head of household) it quickly became apparent that she was the "mama" to these young children. Some of her burden was explained. But it would take 9 months to know the rest of the story.
When I knew I would be returning again and doing the jewelry training, I hoped I would see her. And I did. When we pulled up to the FH building, there she was. Standing with all the other girls we've grown to know and love...Melekete, Eden, Melesech, Belatu and more. AND SHE WAS SMILING! I was stunned. When I went around and greeted all the girls, she didn't hesitate to hug me. She kissed my face. I just looked at her and exclaimed "Tihune, you are smiling!" and she just giggled.
We had the opportunity to visit Tihune in her home on this trip. And our eyes were opened. As we arrived, we were greeted by her, her siblings Kalkedan, Abraham & Liyot and a 3 year old ball of energy & giggles named Radiette. She was excited to have us and we felt blessed to visit her. I asked her "Tihune...what has happened in your life since I saw you last?" The first words out of her mouth were "the first and most important thing is that I have come to know the Lord". I just cried. I was overwhelmed. The transformation in this girl was astounding.
But then I asked another question and I was not prepared for the response. I asked her "what has been your biggest challenge in taking care of the children". And she broke into tears. Her pain was still very fresh and raw. She shared with us that after her parents died, they were living with her older brother. He would drink alcohol and beat them all. She made the decision to leave their family home with all the children and was on her own with them. That is when FH found out about her....and when I met her last year. On top of all of this, her older sister died and Tihune (at the age of 17) is also caring for her niece, Radiette.
When we visited her, the Social worker informed us that the brother has left the village and his wherabouts are unknown. They quickly moved Tihune and the children to the home she grew up in and will know provide legal support and protection to make sure they can stay there...and that they remain safe from the brother.
When it came time to pray, I asked Tihune to come sit by me. When she sat down, she snuggled right into me. It felt like when my own daughter snuggles into my lap when she wants to be comforted. We wrapped our arms around each other and we sat there....cheek to cheek...in a loving embrace as Kathy prayed.
When are visit was over, it was clear that trust had been established. That is one of the many beautiful things about this partnership. These children are learning to trust again. They are learning that there are adults in their life that are loving them and praying for them. And most importantly, they are learning about Jesus and His love for them. The FH staff, the people from Grace who visit, the people who consistently pray, the families that make the photo pages and so much more are all acting as the hands, feet and heart of Jesus!
I saw Tihune one last time on Saturday. When we said goodbye there were simply not enough hugs and kisses. I pray that one day I will be able to return and visit her again. If not, I will rest in the knowledge that she is in very good hands. The best hands. The hands of our awesome God and His plan for her is perfect.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2