My husband and I had been to Ethiopia in 2010 to adopt our son, Ade. We instantly fell in love with the country. The people, the culture, the atmosphere, the way they love each other and others. We knew immediately that this place had captured our hearts. I am a stay at home mom with four kids. As a stay at mom, sometimes, you struggle with the question “what is my purpose?” Yes, I know my purpose is to raise my kids and to take care of my husband and my family. But outside of that, there has to be something more. When I stepped off of that plane in Ethiopia and smelled the smells and heard the sounds, I started crying and I said to myself, “I’m home.” I am not a traveler in the least bit. I am a major homebody actually. So this was very unusual for me.
We returned home with our son, and a year later I went back to Ethiopia with a group of people from our kids’ school. It was then that I met one of my best friends in the world. The moment I met Henok, it only took one look into his eyes to see the person he was. To see his passion, his heart for Jesus, and his heart for others. I was instantly inspired by the person that he was, and that helped me realize what my purpose outside of my family was.
I spent that week with Henok—watching and learning from him was so much fun and extremely eye-opening for me. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my husband all about him and Habti (our driver). I continued to go back for the next three years and my friendship with them grew stronger and stronger.
I knew that my husband had to come meet them and that our non-profit, Orphan Free, had to partner with Carry 117. Orphan Free is focused on adoption funding and family preservation, and Carry 117 is also focused on family preservation! So in October of 2014, Joe flew to Ethiopia to meet these guys he had been hearing about for four years! He felt like he already knew them. I told him, “You will probably only have to spend two minutes with them before you will know that this is what we are called to do. You will see Henok’s heart and you will know.” Well, he called me within 15 minutes of meeting them and said, “You are right. I love them and we are definitely partnering somehow with them.”
We have been so blessed by Henok and Carry 117 and all they have accomplished. I am so proud of them. I love seeing the pictures of them and the smiles on their faces and the family-centered atmosphere that Henok has created. That is one of the things I love so much about Ethiopia: their value on the family. Americans could learn a lot from them, especially when it comes to slowing down and taking time for our families. Henok and Habti have taught me a lot about being a family and for that I will be forever grateful.
Henok and Habti have been with me through some of the best times of my life and some of the saddest times of my life. They have walked with me to see my son’s family again and they have rejoiced with us when we brought our son back to see his family. They have been there when we have received devastating news about his family. They have helped me when I have been deathly sick. They are more than just best friends, they are family.
When you go across the world to serve, it can be easy to get so caught up in who you are serving that you miss a chance to build a relationship with the people you are serving with. The people you are shoulder-to-shoulder with as you are serving others. Had I focused on who we were serving more than who I was serving with, I would have missed the opportunity to build these relationships that I treasure so much. So that’s my challenge to you… to invest in the people you are serving with.