The post below was written by Jon Neufeld, the lead guitarist of Christian contemporary band, Starfield. He describes his visit to Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia, a Christian relief and development organization of over 2,000 members active in more than 26 countries.
I had the privilege of traveling with Food for the Hungry to Ethiopia in August 2012 to witness first hand some of their work in this beautiful, yet extremely impoverished country.
Photo credit: Food for the Hungry, Facebook
Driving through the countryside from Addis Ababa and descending into the Rift Valley, I was overtaken by the lush surroundings and beautiful valleys surrounded by majestic mountains. We spent the next three days visiting some of the communities and individuals that are being sponsored and taken care of by Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia.
The first thing I noticed was the humility, integrity and professionalism of the staff on the ground in Ethiopia. Many of them had grown up in Ethiopia and were deeply invested in the land, its culture and its people. But beyond that, they were full of compassion and love. They longed to see communities that are buried in chronic and generational poverty rise up and reach their full potential as self sufficient, flourishing communities.
The other thing I noticed was the love and trust that the people (most often the children) had for the FH staff. It was as if the staff themselves were foster parents to many of the orphaned children in this community.
The day that I will never forget was the day we met my hero, Jibril. Jibril is a 13-year-old boy taking care of three younger siblings whose mother died of tuberculosis a few years ago, and whose father had abandoned them. We later learned that this kind of story is all too common in Ethiopia, where a child’s parents have died from a preventable disease or have chosen to disregard their responsibility as a parent altogether.
It’s heartbreaking, but amidst this tragedy is incredible hope. Food for the Hungry has initiated the Child-Headed Household program that helps siblings remain together after losing both parents. They provide education, training, food, clean drinking water and basic care for these little families.
I can’t imagine being a 13-year-old child and having to take care of three younger siblings. Jibril had to grow up fast, but he is not alone. Food for the Hungry has come alongside this little family and is walking with them, allowing them to remain a family and to have a shot at some semblance of a normal life. Because of the amazing work of Food for the Hungry in high-risk, impoverished countries like Ethiopia, Jibril and his siblings have been rescued from total despair, and been given new hope and new life.
Child sponsorship is a commitment worth making for those of us in North America with a disposable income that we most often spend on ourselves. I am a believer in child sponsorship and in the great mission that God has given to organizations like Food for the Hungry to come to the aid of those most in need.
As a Christian, I believe that we are called to take action where we can. As a wise man named Bono once said, “This is not a cause, this is an emergency”. We cannot pretend that poverty doesn’t exist in our world. The world is smaller than it has ever been and we cannot turn a blind eye to those in need. I will never forget my experience in Ethiopia, and I pray my life always reflects what I saw there.
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