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Global Outreach International

What An Orphan With HIV Taught Me About Perspective

by Steadman Harrison
When I took a step back to understand and nurture my own perspective

When I asked about the vision of the orphanage at Osco in Ethiopia, the Nun shared with me that the mission was changing. Five years ago we were here to help these children with HIV die a dignified death, now we have a new mission - to help them live a dignified life!

It was hard to fathom. As I toured the 300-bed facility where children slept head to toe to accommodate the 600 kids all living with HIV, I realized what Mother Teresa had accomplished by opening this branch of the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Destitute and Dying. A generation of HIV positive children had been saved from death and were being brought up to understand the love of Christ and the hope of the Gospel.  

Talking to the children, I quickly learned that the majority of these kids had never left the compound other than an occasional visit to a local church! Given their vulnerable immune systems and the relatively new understanding of anti-retroviral treatments (ARTs), the caretakers had made a decision not to expose the children to the germs and diseases that were prominent in the community. My heart was broken for Mekdelawit, a young Ethiopian teenage girl, who shared with me the predictable routines of her life and her limited ideas about the world beyond the orphanage. No hopes, no dreams, no vision for the future seemed to be within her imagination.  

I took a walk to the top of a nearby hilltop that first afternoon in Osco with a friend. I needed time to process, pray, and catch my breath. As we reached the summit of the mountain, I looked out at the beauty of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa was there in the distance. Volcanic mountain peaks were visible through the clouds. The world from that vantage point was big and beautiful. The next morning I pleaded with the senior staff to let me take 30 teenagers on a simple hike to the top of that same hill. To my surprise, I was granted permission.  

Children in Ethiopia

Mekdelawit asked me to call her “Meki” and she was at my side the entire way. We took our time as a group stopping to watch the donkeys and mules carrying their heavy loads through the village. Women were kind to show the group of teenagers how they ground the local flour in preparation for making their daily bread. We bought Coca-Colas for everyone to drink. Some of the kids tasted it for the very first time that day!? When we reached the crest of the hill above Osco, Meki took my hand as her eyes took in the bigness of the world. “Can you see where you came from?”, I asked. My hand stretched out and I pointed to the bright orange babies home that was an easy landmark in the middle of her compound. She gasped. That day every one of those teens experienced a shift of perspective. They lived in a bigger and smaller world all at the same time. That was twelve years ago. Meki and the majority of her peers went on to graduate out of the home for the Destitute and Dying. My prayer is that they each embraced hope - both eternal hope that comes from faith in Christ and the hope they have for impacting the world around them.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it people of old received there commendation. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:1-3

When was the last time you sought out a change of perspective? Perhaps today it is time to take a walk, to pray, and to catch your breath. May the Lord grant you a bold new vision, a shift of perspective, a view of what is possible.