Life was harsh for Rediet and her twin sister, Belene, until the day the child development center came to their Ethiopian village. With a fully paralyzed, terminally ill father and a mother who was busy trying to support the family, there was really no one at home who could give the 8-year-old girls the love and nurture they craved.
Rediet and Belene would often be told to feed their father and keep him company, which generally ended with them calling for help when he experienced seizures. Rediet shares,
“I really didn’t know my father. The only memory I have of him is either in a wheelchair or in bed.
“There was a lot of suffering in our house and there was really no one to take care of him, or us, when my mother went to work. All I wanted at that time was for something or someone to get me and my sister out of the house.”
Shortly after joining the sponsorship program, Rediet and her sister realized that the child development center was their safe haven where they could enjoy their childhood and forget the misery they witnessed at home.
They started spending most of their time at the center as the center staff and the people at the church showed them love and paid attention to their development.
For the first time in their lives, Rediet and Belene learned how to pray for their family’s situation — especially for their father. For the first time in their lives, they saw hope in Jesus.
“What impressed me the most was the way the staff treated us when we went to the development center. You see, I was not used to being given attention and being treated special. My mother was so occupied with taking care of our dad, she couldn’t do more than check whether we had eaten.
“The center staff showed us the love they always teach us from the Bible. What made my stay at the center all the more special was the fact that I learned how to pray, which excited me because I knew I could pray for the recovery of my father.”
Even though her father died after years of pain and suffering, Rediet continued to excel in all areas of her life.
“I accepted my father’s passing as the will of God. It was tough for both my sister and me to lose our father without really knowing him, but I knew God wanted it to be that way.
“The prayer and encouragement of the people at the church as well as the center staff gave me the motivation I needed to do well in school. But what was more encouraging for me was my mother’s concern toward my education.”
The presence of the child development center in Rediet’s life not only gave her the opportunity to experience a normal childhood, but it also brought significant change in her family as Rediet, Belene and their mother all accepted Jesus as their Savior.
“Even though we had nothing money-wise, our home was blessed the moment we gave our lives to Jesus. Jesus has been our strength ever since. A lot of people used to come to my mother to ask for advice and even sometimes for loans. We became role models in every way in a village where the community expects less of girls.”
As the family was enjoying their new lifestyle, Rediet’s mother’s health started to deteriorate, which threatened Rediet’s dream of finishing her education and attending university through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program. Rediet and her sister were spending more and more time at the hospital rather than preparing for the university entrance exam.
“My mother’s illness was something that threatened to darken my world. She was all we had. I thought about dropping out of school to take care of her. It just seemed impossible to pursue a dream when she was no more able to support me.”
The consistent support and prayer of the development center staff and church were the only things that kept the girls going. The staff made sure that the girls studied and stayed focused on the entrance exam that would make or break their dreams. However, tragedy occurred the day before Rediet and her sister were scheduled to take the pivotal exam.
“The day my mother died was a huge turning point for me. I had all the reasons to bail out on the exam and on life. But the child development center workers insisted that we go take the exam no matter what. We buried our mother and the next day we went to take the entrance exam.
“My mom had prayed for us, fed us and sent us away with many blessings the day we took our 10th grade exam, but that day [of the university entrance exam] there was no one to do that for us. What I didn’t realize at the time was that God was there and He gave us the whole congregation to pray for us.”
Despite the trauma Rediet and Belene were going through because of their mother’s death, and to the amazement of many who knew the family, the sisters passed the entrance exam with flying colors.
“The God who knew me before I was born didn’t leave me at the greatest junctures of my life. I clearly saw his helping hand and felt His presence in my life. And it made me cautious to seek His purpose for my life.”
With a renewed determination and clear vision for her life, Rediet pursued her dream of joining the Leadership Development Program. But the dream was not just for her. She desperately wanted her sister to be part of it, too.
In addition to helping the girls apply for the Leadership Development Program, the center staff joined hands and prayed for the girls during the interview session.
“The day I heard about the Leadership Development Program, I immediately knew that I could join the program if I worked hard enough. What impressed me the most was the Leadership Development students’ fellowship and their clarity of vision.
“I wanted nothing but to be part of that. When I secured my entrance grades, I prayed to God to make my journey into the Leadership Development Program a smooth one for me as well as my sister.”
After going through the intensive selection process, both Rediet and Belene joined the program they had dreamed about for years. The child development center as well as the whole church congregation rejoiced with the girls.
“I just couldn’t believe how close God was to me and my sister. When it seemed like we had nothing left, He provided a way — through the Leadership Development Program. I consider this program another safe haven where I found my family.
“I treasure the fellowship I have with my fellow students. That I get to be part of a vision this great is something priceless.”
Rediet also talks about how the Leadership Development Program changed her view toward having a family. The lack of attention and love she had experienced while growing up had convinced her that she would be unable to succeed in having a family of her own.
However, after attending training on cherishing families, she is determined to change from the way she had been raised when she has her own family in the future.
“All the training I’m getting has impacted me, but what shaped my life the most is the training I took on cherishing family. I am now confident about writing my own story [with] the family I’ll have one day.”
Currently, Rediet is a second-year veterinary student and her sister is studying animal science.
“The most important treasure I got through the program is that I now have a clear vision as to what God wants me to do in the future. I want to work with children who lacked their parents’ love and attention while growing up, and with children who are orphans.
“I want to make a difference in their lives as Compassion did in mine. I want to show them that there is hope in Jesus. I want to avenge the children of our nation who are crippled by poverty by touching every aspect of their lives with the love of Jesus.”