|Etanaite and her son|
1. a person who is rejected or cast out, unwanted, not accepted
2. rejected matter; garbage
She lives in a community already rejected by the world around it. Yet, within Korah she has been tossed aside herself. It's a curious thing, how people who are outcasts themselves can put that label even more brutally on one of their own. She did nothing to cause this, nothing to deserve being shunned by her own community.
She was raped. Just before turning 17.
She now has a son just one year old as a result of that rape.
And while she may be labeled an outcast, she has a name - Etanaite. And behind her name is a beautiful human being, both inside and out. If people would only take the time to see.
My friends Yemamu and Sisay did take the time to see. Because of that, we were welcomed into Etanaite's home to hear her story firsthand.
We stepped into her one room house to find her little brother and her son playing by the bench.
The room couldn't have been more than 6x8. We asked how many people lived in the room. There were 7 of them. Etanaite's mother, Etanaite and her baby, and Etanaite's four siblings.
They all slept on this bed or on the floor...
There used to be eight of them in this small room, until about 6 months ago when her father died. He was blind and would go into the city to beg on the streets. The money he brought home would feed them on some days. After his death, Etanaite's mother, Zenebe, went to the garbage dump to scavenge for food and materials to sell. The dump is where she found the bottle her grandson is holding below. Dirty doesn't begin to describe it.
|Zenebe and her grandson|
After Etanaite was raped and gave birth to her son, she found work outside the city in the countryside making fabric. She made 450birr ($26)a month. Half of that money went to pay the rent for their one room house and the other half went to pay for her transportation to work. There was no money for food other than what her father brought in from begging. When he died, the family started struggling even more. Zenebe started going to the dump with her grandson on her back to find food.
What heightens the tragedy of this situation for me is that this family is alone. Because of the stigma associated with rape and with giving birth out of wedlock, they are shut out. They live in a community that they are not welcomed in. As we listened to Etanaite tell her story, tears slid down her face. Now, at the age of 18, she knows she has no prospects for marriage because of a horror that was perpetrated against her. Along with mourning the loss of her father, she mourns the loss of her future. Or at least she did, until Love walked through the doorway of her house in the form of Yemamu and Sisay. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has plans for Etanaite. Plans to prosper her and to give her a hope and a future. And that is exactly what is happening.
Can you even imagine what Etanaite must have thought as Yemamu and Sisay came into her home and asked how their family was? When was the last time anyone had asked that simple question of her? But they went further than just talk. They registered her siblings in their feeding program to help alleviate some of the financial stress on the the family. And they then proceeded to offer Etanaite a job at the Center helping to cook and clean, which she joyfully accepted. They pay her twice what she was making at her job outside the city and she now just has to walk for two minutes to work, allowing her to use her transportation money for something else. Etanaite's brother had been struggling and sleeping at the garbage dump without coming home since their father's death, but now that he is enrolled in the feeding program he has changed. She says he comes home every day and is like a different person. Etanaite said that they have so much hope now.
We had bought baby bottles, blankets and a new dress for Zenebe, which we gave to her on our last day in Ethiopia. Yemamu and Sisay had brought two mattresses from their own home to give them so that the children would not have to sleep on the dirty, hard floor. Etanaite's tears flowed freely upon receiving the gifts. I asked Yemamu why she was crying and he said it was because she was very, very happy. She said no one had ever treated them this way and cared for them like this. She said that she thanked God for the new life they could start to make for themselves because of the feeding program and her new job.
What I really think she was thanking God for was that someone had stopped to see their pain and enter into it with them. Someone had cared. There's a little verse tucked away in Jeremiah 15 that says "And if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman". That's exactly what Yemamu & Sisay have done. They have taken time to see that which is precious hidden away in the seemingly worthless, and they have called it out. By their love and care for Etanaite she is seeing that she is NOT an outcast to the One that really matters - to the One who knit her together and knows the number of hairs on her head. She is a daughter of the King and is valuable and precious in His eyes.
And isn't this every one of our stories, really? Hasn't God taken our broken, messed up lives and transformed them into something beautiful and precious? Hasn't He rescued us from the label of outcast and given us an identity as His own children, despite our history? Hasn't He offered us hope?
There are Etanaite's all around us...people who have been rejected and labeled. Will we make the choice like Yemamu did to seek them out? Will we reach out in compassion and kindness? Will our actions on their behalf prove our words to them? Will we reflect the heart of God in extracting the precious from the worthless?
"For God is a God of the humble, the miserable, the troubled, the oppressed, the despairing, and those who have become totally nothing. He lifts the lowly, feeds the hungry, heals the blind, comforts the miserable and troubled. For He is the almighty Creator who makes everything from nothing." - Luther