Every story has a beginning and this is their’s. The tourists to ADDIS call them shoeshine boys. That was what I called them when their lives intersected mine. The government of Ethiopia calls them entreprenuers. I feel like that is a big stretch since most make less than a dollar a day and they have to support themselves and their families back in Wolaita. I know we here at IAMNOT4GOTTEN have told their tale on multiple occasions, but I want to go back to a time in their past. Most of these boys come from about six hours south of ADDIS Ababa Ethiopia. They migrate to ADDIS from a small village and region called Wolaita. Several years ago the Joshua Project researched this culture and have labeled them some of the poorest in Ethiopia as well as the entire world. Their livelihood is based on agriculture, farming and animal rearing. Their agricultural tools are archaic. Their land has experienced a loss of fertility due to prolonged cultivation. Nearly half of the population suffers from food shortage. Because of each of these causes, families are forced to send their young sons to the thriving metropolis of ADDIS.
However, this is still not the beginning of my tale. Long before I ever met any of them, another group of people came into their lives. Missionaries went throughout the southern regions of Ethiopia. The gospel was preached. Souls were converted to Christianity, churches were planted, and schools and health centers were built. The majority of Wolaitians are evangelical Christians. This is the background of the shoeshine boys. Most come from families who believe in Jesus. They have gone to church. They have learned worship songs in their native tongue. They come to our feeding center in the BOLE district of ADDIS Ababa and try to teach us. They sing, “Tadeke!” A song the explains that Jesus is writing our stories. I love watching them sing and dance in worship to the One they know.
Though they know Jesus, when they come to ADDIS their lives our consumed with just surviving. They have little time to spend with their Savior. They are focused on survival. Recently however, our counsellors at the feeding center have been reaching out to them. They have been working and teaching them about the POWER BRACELET. The boys take a leather strap and tie a knot that represents their birth and how God knit them together and knew them before they were ever born. They then thread on a black bead signifying our sin that separates us from God and a second knot is tied. Next to that knot a red bead is threaded onto the strap. The red represents the blood of Jesus that cleanses every sin. A white bead is then placed onto the bracelet. Christ’s blood washes us whiter than snow. A blue knot comes next signifying obedience in water baptism. A green bead comes next and we talk about ways to grow in the Lord. A gold bead ends this sequence and we tell the boys one day they will walk on streets of gold if they but believe in Jesus’ forgiveness. A knot is tied to secure all the beads. The boys know one day death will come to each of us but for those who believe that God sent Jesus into this world that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. The bracelet is secured and closed together by a clear bead that signifies the deposit of the Holy Spirit into every believer. Most of the boys at the feeding center agree, “Yes, Yes, we know Jesus! We believe!”
I have recently received a follow up email to Samauel and Haman’s efforts in this. Fifty-eight of these boys want to start attending church again and rededicate their lives to Christ. They are willing to go through discipleship classes, and want to be baptized. I knew I must tell you these praises. Again it is the principle of one person who tells another person and the Kingdom of God grows. My brothers and sisters in Ethiopia say the Angels of God are doing the Ethiopian Shuffle because of the party that goes on in heaven over a single soul coming to know Jesus.
God’s story goes on and on in every part of this world.