In March of 2012 I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit a Compassion International project along with Dr. David Anderson, Emnet Tilahun, and her father Tilahun B. Kidane. After an all night flight we arrived in Addis Ababa and met with representatives from Compassion to learn about their project.

In the weeks prior to the trip, my family sponsored a child in Ethiopia with the hope of being able to meet him on my trip. We were blessed to sponsor Biruk Mele, a young boy not much older than my own children, who lived in extreme poverty with his mother. In America, we think we know what poverty is, when in reality the poor in America have it relatively better than the poor in other countries. After a drive through Addis Ababa, we entered Biruk’s community and were able to find his home. It was a tiny structure that barely contained Biruk and his mother, a bed they shared, a small stove, and a small piece of furniture to hold all their belongings. In the days before the trip my wife and kids went shopping for things for Biruk. We gave him clothes, school supplies, and a soccer ball. I was blessed to be able to spend some time with him, and it concluded with the two of us and some neighborhood kids kicking the soccer ball around for a while.

I left Ethiopia full of thoughts of Biruk and children like him who, through no fault of their own, are living lives that amazingly are filled with hope. They hope for a better life in the face of extreme poverty and what many would see as hopelessness. It put into perspective my “problems” and the problems of those in my life. While we all face challenges and problems in our lives, those of us in America are, for the most part, born into a culture and a society where opportunity for a better life exists and is well within our grasp.

My family and I pray for Biruk all the time, and we write to him every week to encourage him and to let him know that people far, far away love him and want only the best for him. Sponsoring him through Compassion International is one of the best things we’ve ever done.