The Chosen – Part One
Today we start a three part series sharing the stories of a man named Lemma and a woman named Bekelech. Both were in defeat and struggling. And then they were chosen…
by Kari Costanza
Lemma woke up. He was still drunk. Where was he? At night, he never knew where he’d end up in the morning. But it was never in a bed. “Let’s get something to drink,” called a voice from outside. It was one of Lemma’s friends. Last night had been worse than usual. He’d downed Araqe, a cheap local Ethiopian beer, straight a tin can until he’d passed out. He was so out of it his parents thought he was dead. But now it was morning and he was ready to start drinking again. His friends were waiting.
Meanwhile, Bekelech’s run of extremely bad luck had finally reached the finish line. Forced to drop out of school and marry at 15, she’d watched two infants die—both beautiful boys. Her husband, depressed to the point of suicide, had packed up and left the family. What she witnessed this morning left her heart officially broken. Clinging to her newborn baby, she watched her oldest son, Tsegaye, walk down the dirt road of Chitu, Ethiopia, to look for a job. Tsegaye was 9. He’d been at the top of his class and now he was a drop out—just like his mother.
A Season of Hardship
The lives of Lemma Wakgari and Bekelech Mulissa seemed destined to continue in a downward trajectory. Like most of Ethiopia’s 82 million people, their families lived off the land in a country twice the size of Texas. “[Ethiopians] are dependent upon agriculture,” says Worku Tsega, the CEO of WISDOM, World Vision’s microfinance partner in Ethiopia. And agriculture can be cruel. “With a good harvest, the market cannot provide for sellers. If there is a bad harvest, there is nothing left to sell.”
For Lemma and Bekelech, this was a time of bad harvest. Lemma, now 28, was a poor farmer, just as his father and grandfather had been. Bekelech, now 34, was destitute. She had to send her young son out to tend cattle and work the land.
The two had something in common: they needed a miracle.
The Miracle of Microloans
When World Vision started work in Chitu, about two hours southwest of Addis Ababa, in 2001, only 4 percent of the population had access to clean water. Sanitation was dangerously lacking. Today, nearly half the population has clean water, and 100 percent of Chitu’s households have latrines. Through child sponsorship and generous donors, World Vision built schools, health clinics, and veterinary outposts. Chitu was ready for economic development.
World Vision studied the conditions of Chitu. Very few people had furniture and most cooked over open fires. There was a need for beds, dressers, tables, and chairs. The health and environmental risks of cooking with open fires had to be stopped. Vocational experts prepared to train men and women in carpentry and building energy efficient stoves.
World Vision asked local leaders to choose the participants—looking first for those who had been denied an education and needed a break.
Lemma and Bekelech were chosen.
Continue this story and read the next chapters in the lives of Lemma and Bekelech…