Gezahegn was abandoned as a young boy and left to fend for himself. Today he is a mature Christian attending university through Compassion's Leadership Development Program.
As an 8-year-old orphan, Gezahegn moved in with an uncle who couldn't even support his own family. Still, his uncle managed to send the boy to kindergarten for the first time. Though grateful for his uncle's effort, Gezahegn suffered at the hand of his aunt. "Weary and sad, I would walk to school every day," he says today, at the age of 21. "I (didn't) take lunch to school like my friends, and I had to isolate myself in order to avoid (their) questions."
Life became a little brighter when his uncle heard about the Compassion-assisted child development center in Ethiopia's capital city. Gezahegn was soon registered, and after seeing the boy's potential, the center director helped him get promoted from kindergarten to third grade, where he became first in his class.
A Sudden Change
Sadly, this relatively comfortable life ended when his uncle moved to another city, leaving Gezahegn under the care of another relative.
His new guardian was a drunkard who mistreated him, says Gezahegn, and most often their arguments were focused on the boy's Christian faith.
"I tolerated the insults and the emotional abuse because I knew I had nowhere else to go," says Gezahegn, fighting back tears. "He was totally against my Christianity. For me, my Christianity was the only good thing in my life."
One night, the inevitable happened: Gezahegn was thrown out into the street with only pocket change to live on. But determined and strong spirited, he went straight back to school the next day. Though the center staff tried to make peace between the boy and his relative, they were unsuccessful. Gezahegn ended up living in the church compound and sleeping on the benches in one of the Sunday school classes.
"I felt hopeless and rejected. I cried before God for all the suffering I was going through," he says. "I had no one to take me, and that was not a good feeling. I lost all confidence. But deep down, I knew one thing God will never leave me or reject me."
Not Left Unnoticed
After living there for two months, the center staff rented a small room for Gezahegn and provided him with cooking utensils and a small mattress. The young boy started taking care of himself cooking, cleaning, and washing his own clothes. "It was not easy to come home from school and cook for myself. There were times where I had nothing to eat because what the program gave me for the whole month would be gone within 15 to 20 days," he recalls. "I got tired after cooking and washing my clothes and had a hard time to even do my homework. But since I knew education was the only way out, I kept up with my schooling."
Through years of hardship, Gezahegn's commitment to God did not falter. He served the Lord as a choir member and led a peer-educators group at Compassion's child development center. Eventually, he was even entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of another orphan boy, Getasew, who moved in with him.
"My involvement in the center gradually increased my self-confidence," he says. And though taking care of someone else was a huge responsibility, he says, "I no more felt lonely."
The Provision of Unfailing Love
After completing high school, Gezahegn was accepted into Compassion Ethiopia's Leadership Development Program (LDP). Now a construction-engineering student in his second year of university, he says, "I praised the Lord for His unfailing love and provision. I believe that He prepared LDP for me so that I can be equipped for the purpose He had in mind when He created me."
In addition to leading his church's youth choir and teaching Sunday school, Gezahegn leads a small ministry called Service of Love. Through it, he and some church friends cover the school expenses of two little children. They hope to be able to add more children in the near future.
"I believe that God has been leading me through all the ups and downs of my life to prepare me for the greater purpose ahead," says Gezahegn. "There were times I wanted to just quit, but God has been my strength, and He gave me people who love and support me. My life is a miracle, and I praise God for all His provisions through Compassion."
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