There is something profound about visiting someone in their home when they are sick or in need of companionship, in need of encouragement or support, in need of hearing that there is hope. Surely this must be part of what James 1:27 intends when James says to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” But it’s not a one-way street, for as we visit, we receive encouragement and are ministered to ourselves. We are changed, transformed by the work of Christ in and through others. During a recent visit to Woliso, Ethiopia, we accompanied our church partner, Woliso Kale Heywet Church, to visit some of the orphans and widows who are part of their Home Based Care (HBC) Program. What a blessing to see the HBC team from this church in action as they ministered in these homes, providing encouragement, hope, and prayer.
As we walked down a small dirt path on our way to visit Sity, a five-year-old girl in the program, people came out to see what we were up to. Upon hearing we were there to visit Sity, they sprang into action. She was not at home, and people literally ran in different directions to find her. Everyone knew her.
While we waited, neighbors in this predominantly Muslim part of the community brought out benches and wooden stools for us—a genuine display of hospitality. People were gathering, which is not completely unusual, but this seemed different somehow—these people really wanted us to meet Sity. The buzz about this little girl was unmistakable.
About twenty minutes later, when Sity arrived, I quickly learned why. I don’t know that I have met a more charming, dynamic, charismatic little girl. She literally lights up a room with her personality, sweet smile, and sense of humor.
Sity is disabled with a pronounced limp. She has a cast on her left leg and needs surgery on the right. The world is often a very hard place for a child with a disability; they can be outcast, seen as worthless and a burden. But nothing could be further from the truth for Sity. She is clearly loved, endeared, and known by all in this neighborhood.
Both of Sity’s parents have passed, making her a double orphan, and her elderly grandmother cares for her. Sity has Spina Bifida. She has had numerous surgeries already, and is still in need of further medical care. Woliso Kale Heywet Church is working with the local Catholic church and the grandmother to help her get the care she needs.
Sity’s grandmother has her hands full. She is unable to work, with her season of employability behind her. Our church partner will continue to monitor their progress and provide nutritious food Sity needs to aid in her recovery. They will continue to visit, continue to encourage, continue to share the love of Christ with Sity and her Muslim grandmother. They will continue to make sure this little girl does not slip through the cracks.
I learned that Sity and one of my daughters share the same birth date, so I showed her a photo on my phone. She grabbed the phone, kissed the picture and said, “I love her.” The room of friends and neighbors burst into laughter, another example of Sity’s remarkable charm. As we concluded our visit and walked back to the van, I was struck by how I had just been encouraged, just been touched, by the heart of a child. I will not soon forget her sweet, precious face.