Carly Marin served with Ordinary Hero on the ground for one month in Ethiopia as a trip member and photographer. We are thankful to Carly for her contributions through photography and her beautiful expressions in her own words below about her time spent in Ethiopia…….
If you’re like me, you wish you could save the world.
If you could, you’d replace war with peace, put an end to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. You’d stop human trafficking, rid of mental illness, cure cancer and see to it that every child was safe and cared for. You’d put an end to poverty and world hunger while you were at it.
If that sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is.
Here’s the simple truth that’s sometimes hard to swallow:
It’s not my job to save the world.
I’m not God.
What then, am I responsible for? I believe, full heartedly, that the calling on my life, and on everyone else’s is, in its most basic form: to Love (John 13:34).
When you love someone, you give yourself to them. You have a relationship with them. It takes cultivation, time, prayer, resources and dedication.
I’ve been blessed to serve overseas as a missionary for a total of one year. I first spent 11 months in 11 countries on a mission trip called The World Race. Ten months after my return, I set out to go to Ethiopia for a month, where I teamed up with Ordinary Hero. It was there that I witnessed the incredible, life-changing difference it makes when time, effort and pursuit is poured into just one person—and the impact it has not only on that person for the rest of their lives, but on their community.
Tesfaye grew up in Korah, a community that sits amongst the city’s trash dump where its residents scrounge daily for their food. A majority of them have leprosy or HIV and many spend their days begging on the streets. Both of Tesfaye’s parents had leprosy. He remembers being five years old, himself and his siblings surrounded by the mountains of trash. They were in search of food for themselves and their parents, as they were unable to do so themselves due to their illness. Dumpsters would come in from restaurants and thousands of kids would flee toward it, fighting each other as they raced to find food amongst the waste. People were hurt all of the time in the process. One day a dumpster hit the side of Tesfaye’s mouth which resulted in a huge infection that proceeded to worsen and cause him immense pain over the course of six years. He would often ask God why his life and the lives of others around him were so terrible, until one day his life changed forever.
While in the dump one day, a teenager on a missionary trip found Tesfaye. When he saw the horrific condition of Tesfaye’s mouth infection, he was able to get him to a hospital for treatment. Beyond that, he sent emails requesting help from back home, and a neighbor of his from America decided to sponsor Tesfaye. They still keep in close contact to this day. Because of this sponsor, a stranger from across the world, Tesfaye was able to get an education and a degree. He’s now a pastor in Korah and heads a sponsorship program that helps provide families with food, basic medical care, and rent for a month at a time.
“My sponsor changed my life,” he said.
And now Tesfaye is helping change the lives of his community.
I had the pleasure of hearing Tesfaye tell his story a multiple of times to missionary teams that came to work with the ministry. The way he shares his testimony is so real and so genuine. His eyes alone speak volumes, and his words are coated with the pieces that his life has been dealt.
Some may think that sponsoring a child or family will have little to no impact on the world as a whole. But the truth is, if Tesfaye hadn’t been poured into and sought after by that one missionary decades ago, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Today the impact he provides for the entire community of Korah continues to multiply throughout the hundreds of families that live there. The moral of the story is: changing the world for one, in turn, changes the world for countless others.
While in Korah, I witnessed a row of women who stood in a line. They had deep lines drawn on their faces, marks of life and time passed. One by one they told us their name and why they so desperately needed a sponsor. Some were sick or had sick family members, unable to care for them. Others had children. They were begging us to help them find a sponsor to save their families.
By this point, I believe, Americans have become numb to an extent, and possibly repelled by those commercials with the sappy music and slow motion montages of African children with flies covering their faces. I know from experience how different it is to read stories like these or see the commercials about life oceans away and how distant they seem. I’m guilty of seeing them, thinking some sympathetic thought for a moment or two and then never thinking about it again. I wish I could express the urgency and reality of the situation of these people here. I wish I could put you exactly in my place when I was with them. I hope you trust me when I say that these are real people, with families and hardships as real and tangible as yours, though of a different kind. I don’t say these things to guilt or obligate you into action, but please see them and remember them as more than a story on a blog.
I’ve been sponsoring a young girl named Carolyn for several years now. Carolyn lives in Uganda. We’ve never met but I receive updates and photos of her every so often. Throughout the years, I’ve loved Carolyn though she’s seemed like a stranger that lives oceans away. I’ve never met her in person. And for years, I’ve put my trust and funds into a separate organization, though reputable, that I don’t know on a personal level. As I spent days with crowds of children and families awaiting the food only possible via sponsorship, I saw Carolyn in them. I saw her in the sweet faces that waited in line at the feeding program on Entoto Mountain. I saw her in the women that carry their monthly food supply wrapped tightly on their hunched backs as they walk it all back to their tin houses. I saw her in the joy and thankfulness that they had, and I witnessed the impact that sponsorship makes.
The motto for Ordinary Hero is “Change the World for One”. As simple as it sounds, it’s quite profound. And after spending a month with the “ones” whose worlds are being changed, my world was changed from being exposed to the impact of sponsorship.
I can’t save the world, but I can help change the world for one.