When Rachel and I traveled to pick up our adopted daughter, Eden, in Ethiopia, we had the chance to spend time at several orphanages. One that particularly stuck with me is the Kolfe Orphanage in Addis Ababa, a home for older boys: its battered building sit in dry, hardpan clay; thin rays of hope came from caring Ethiopians and Americans that worked with the boys, but could not easily erase the aching existence many of the young men knew.
This story shared with me today is of one young man from Kolfe, named Solomon, and a very special couple I met at Summit, Eileen and Jerry Mestas. It brought a broad smile to my face, and I imagine it will for you as well. (As a side note, Rachel confessed feeling she was in the presence of a celebrity when she learned that Eileen Mestas was not only a champion of adoption and orphan care, but also had developed the patent for the original “hooter hider” nursing cover, for which many a mother is undyingly grateful. But that’s another matter…) :
Solomon Bekele is 19 years old and has been living in an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the last 10 years. He was living without hope or plans for a future and he thought he was forgotten, even by God. He was all alone with not one living relative in this world. The Kolfe Orphanage with boys ranging in ages 7-21 years had not been maintained in over 30 years. The living conditions were tragic, with raw sewage seeping up from the ground, broken windows in all the dorms, and the beds they slept in were trash pile worthy. They only had injera (their national bread) and soup to eat every day, three times a day
Then in November 2007, the Mestas family from Wake Forest, NC traveled to Ethiopia to adopt a sibling group of three. They were taken to visit the Kolfe orphanage and met Solomon. They became pen-pals and miracles began to happen through the letters to Solomon.
Upon returning home from Ethiopia, the Mestas family started speaking all over the country on behalf of orphans and were instrumental, in just 2 months, of raising over $50,000 to renovate the orphanage. Eileen Mestas started posting Solomon’s letters on their family blog www.jobsdaughters.blogspot.com which began spreading around the country like wildfire. How many people get to know a real orphan boy in Africa and hear his cries for help and his heart’s desire to be loved? People from all over the U.S. started to visit Solomon at the Orphanage in Ethiopia, and continue the humanitarian aid efforts. When he was asked how many people had visited him he said; “Too many to count.” In two short years, the Kolfe orphanage has become famous and is being transformed. Solomon has been instrumental in getting several of the younger boys adopted, and many more of them sponsored by American families.
Solomon failed the Ethiopian Government National School Exam in 10th grade and was considered not worthy of further education. He was not permitted to attend any more government schools or University and was destitute with no hope for a future.
The Mestas family started to financially support him going to a private school in Ethiopia where he graduated in August 2009, as Valedictorian! Out of 400 students he was the only orphan. Through a series of miraculous events, Solomon was awarded a full tuition scholarship to attend The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC.
The president of Southeastern, Dr. Danny Akin, agreed to give Solomon a tuition scholarship if he could get to the United States. This was the greatest challenge of all, since the US Embassy normally does not grant student visas to orphans. It is mandatory for all international students to return to their country after they graduate. All students must prove ties to their native country, such as family, property, bank accounts, and other resources. Typically orphans have no ties to ensure their return. The odds were against Solomon again. The Mestas family elicited the support of several organizations, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption of Fort Worth, Texas, Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh and others who wrote letters of recommendation in support of Solomon’s application. They also engaged the Office of Senator Kay Hagan, who assisted in the expedition of his VISA approval just yesterday, Monday June 21, 2010!! He received his Visa this morning and is booked on a flight to the USA tonight which arrives at RDU tomorrow, Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.
God performed another miracle for Solomon and he will be living with the Mestas family and joining their speaking ministry for at least the next 4-5 years. Solomon has become the VOICE OF THE ORPHAN!
A crowd of at least 100 people is expected to welcome him at the RDU airport tomorrow.