Takes my breath away…

“She is clothed with strength and dignity.  She can laugh at days to come.”  Proverbs 31:25

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting one of the mothers in our program.  If anyone fits the description of the Proverbs woman, it is this beautiful mother who lives in a village on the outskirts of Addis.

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I hesitate to even share the details of her story in a public forum, for it is so personal and her struggles so plentiful as is the stigma that this young woman faces.  If you can imagine the worst challenges life would bring your way then you can imagine this girl’s life.  Abandonment, betrayal, sickness, loss, grief, separation – this is the reality she lives with.

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Her young husband took off after she fell pregnant.  She doesn’t know where he is and has the sole burden of providing for her newborn son.  And yet, she smiles and her joy is more than evident as she gazes into his young innocent face.  She loves him passionately and her worries cannot stop the laughter and the sparkle in her eyes.  She is a new mom, enjoying her baby.

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A friend, who is pregnant with her first born, has come up from the city to care for her – to cook and clean for the first few weeks.  Next to her sits another friend, also a single mother.  Together, with God, they say they find their strength.  I am in awe of the way they carry one another’s burdens, empower and encourage one another.

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“She always makes us smile and laugh.  She is amazing – even with everything against her she doesn’t give up and she finds joy,” is what her friends say about her.

They were there when she went into labor on a rainy afternoon.  Our doula had made sure she had a number for a free ambulance service.  As she lives on the top of a small mountain, her friend accompanied her down the mudslide of a hill.

“I had to slide down on my bottom for some of it” she says describing that day.  At the bottom of the hill, the ambulance was waiting, which was a good thing because she delivered her son not more than 5 minutes after arriving at the hospital.  The women laugh as they retell the story, remembering the heavy rain and mud and what a close call it was.   Her doula decides she will nickname the baby boy, “Zenebe” (rain).

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“I sing songs about my trials; I sing so that those around me with fewer troubles will hear me singing about mine and they will feel thankful for their life.  If I can still smile and laugh and sing, with what I am going through, then they will know that they can too.”  This young woman knows wisdom and strength beyond her years and a dignity that queens would envy.

Normally Ethiopian mothers don’t name their babies until after they’ve known them for a month or so.  And yet, this child already has a name.  “My son is called Wasihoon – it means an advocate, someone who bails you out of jail.  I choose it – yes maybe it has to do something with his father” – she laughs – “ I just liked that name.”

I ask about some words written in Amharic on her wall. I am told that she has written a type of poem.

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“I trust people.  They betray me.  But God sees my heart and he helps me.”  Next to this she had hung a photo of herself, one she had taken after we’d given her a small amount of money to help get her through her last days of pregnancy.  She wanted to remember herself pregnant, so that one day her son could see the joy she had carrying him, despite her troubles.  She took it off the wall after a friend had commented, “Why do you have your picture on the wall?  That’s only for dead people!”  (In their custom they hang photos of dead people on the walls in their home.)  Of course, this brought on incredible laughter.

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Her body is beautiful, but she is beyond thin and her body is taxed to the limit.  And yet she says, “I like to work.  Very soon I will be back to work. I will find a way to bring my son with me – carry him on my back.”  For now, I am thankful for those who have given through Delivering Hope to help support this woman in the interim period.

“Many women do noble things but you surpass them all.”

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Truly you are not only an inspiration to your friends but to our team at Delivering Hope and I imagine, to the wider audience who reads this and hears your story.

Congratulations on your beautiful baby boy.   May our God who sees your heart rescue you from your inner prisons, and may you continue to cloth yourself with strength and dignity, virtue and love for all the days of your life.

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