Today was Yezeshewai's birthday--the girl I sponsor through Compassion. We were honored to meet her when we traveled to Ethiopia in July.
Yezeshewai is eleven. She lives with her mother and two sisters in a town just outside Addis Ababa, in one room of a house that belongs to someone else with furniture which mostly belongs to someone else. Her mother makes injera for someone else to sell.
Through our sponsorship Yezeshewai's school fees are paid and uniform bought. She receives health checkups and information and visits from a social worker. She attends Sunday school at the church which sponsors the project. She participates in extracurricular programs--she likes soccer. Yezeshewai writes me letters thanking me for the clothes or shoes they were able to buy with our Christmas and birthday gifts and telling me about their weather and what she has been learning.
She wants to be a pilot. We told her she must fly to Oregon and visit us.
As we pulled into the grounds of the church which sponsors this Compassion project, I saw Yezeshewai's face dart back behind the door of the tiny project office building. She came out to meet us with a small bunch of yellow and orange roses and a shyly murmured greeting and a quick, wispy hug. In the office we were photographed; she wears the same shy smile as in the first sponsorship photo of her I received.
We heard about the project, saw the church, handed out Jolly Ranchers, and took group photos. Guess which one's the visitor? Yezi's neighbors declared, "He looks like Michael Jordan!"
We drove to Yezeshewai's house, her head on Aaron's shoulder as she sat on his lap, and met her queenly mother, her soft older sister, her firecracker younger sister, and some of the most sparkling neighbor girls on earth. We received Ethiopian hospitality with coffee and popcorn and smiles, and we were shown the framed photo of ourselves sitting in a place of honor. We made awkward translated conversation until too soon we had to go. Yezeshewai now clung to us as if to soak us up.
I wonder how is she is today, this eleventh birthday day of hers. Does she even realize it is her birthday? I have heard birthdays are not so important in Ethiopia as here, and certainly she has no PalmPilot reminder or circled wall calendar square to draw attention to it. Did her family gather together today for a special meal or moment of honor? Did her sister wear her fancy dress? Perhaps they saved some Tootsie Rolls. Perhaps they are looking at their family photo--their only one, the one I took--and saying, as I am, Happy birthday, Yezeshewai. God keep you safe and strong.