Thursday November 8th
Well, after our sleepless night, we all fell fast asleep when Eli took his morning nap—I’m talking about the hard, deep sleep that hits you like a truck (it was 2 am our time after all). We woke up to the phone ringing to tell us our agency representative was in the lobby waiting to collect our paperwork—nice. So Nick and I threw on some clothes and headed downstairs, got everything settled and then head up for some breakfast of cereal bars and dried fruit.
We pulled it together enough and made it to the Embassy on time. We were literally there for a total of about 15 minutes. Security took longer than our appointment-which is a blessing (we waited 4 hours with our first adoption)—and just like that, Eli was cleared to come to the US!!
Now for the bummer part of our trip-because we have made some good friends in Ethiopia and would be doing some traveling and because we would be joining the Children’s HopeChest team for two days, we had to bring Eli back to the care center for a few days—his nannies were delighted—but it as definitely hard to leave him again—for us that is—he was delighted as well to be back.
Next we stopped by to see our favorite shop owner at The Post Office (a group of well known touristy shops that have Ethiopian souvenirs). We met Mimi on our first trip in January 2010 when Nick went into her shop to buy a pair of shoes for a street child. The sign by her register said “Jesus Loves You,” and we prayed right there for this boy. It’s where we do all of our shopping now. She is amazing. Last time was there, she ordered an outfit for Caleb because they didn’t have his size in the store. When I returned three months later, she had the outfit waiting. This time, she had her staff person walk over an hour to get bracelets that we had requested (like the ones we use for fundraising). She goes out of her way and is honest and fair and you don’t have to worry about being swarmed on the street by vendors or pushy sales people. So, if you’re ever in Addis, stop by Mimi’s Souvenirs at the Post Office. I am always amazed that she remembers us with all of the people that come through there.
After that, we had another dinner date with a friend that we also count as part of our family. Nick met Fresbhat on a mission trip that he went on with Children’s HopeChest in September of 2010. Fresbhat is in his late 20’s and has lived for years on church property at a cathedral near our guest house. He was orphaned as a child, has no family to speak of and was taken in by the church where he does tours.
His dream is to be a professional runner. Runners in Ethiopia are like football and basketball stars in the US. Ethiopia is known for its amazing runners and Fresbhat is one of them. He trains twice daily with a running club and runs two half marathons a week! His determination and drive of unwavering, yet it is an uphill battle for him to reach his goal.
He lives in a 10x10 room with no running water, a single light bulb that may or may not work and he shares this space with two roommates. He eats a diet of only bread and pasta—that is what he can afford—no meat, no sauce just boiled noodles and bread. He is paid the equivalent of $60 US dollars per month and from this he has to pay for his club fees, transportation costs, food and other necessities.
He’s a good athlete-great by American standards, running a half marathon in just over one hour and has competed in a race in Croatia, finishing first in his age group and eighth overall.
His story of this race is heartbreaking—he had to borough another runner’s shoes (because he couldn’t afford any of his own), after starting the race, his feet began to hurt and blisters quickly formed, he sat down and cried in anguish and disappointment as the chance of his success slipped away. Other runners around him encouraged him to keep running, so he finished the race (winning his age group). Prize money was promised, but he has never received it. He says this is the way it goes in other countries---this is why he wants so desperately to run in America.
If you thought his uphill battle with acquiring basic necessities and stiff competition was a hard one, getting a US visa has proven to be insurmountable. I have worked over the past year to get him race invitations as an elite athlete. He has received 4 or 5 invitations, but each time he applies for a US visa ($160 USD non-refundable) he has been denied. The US considers it a risk because he is a single young man. It is very hard for anyone to get a visa to the US from Ethiopia. Count your blessing as a US citizen; we do not know this struggle.
Fresbhat’s dream is to run races in the US. He tells me, “I know I can win” and I believe him!
His times are better than most of the winners of the races I have investigated. We’ve helped him by sending money for good running shoes, encouraging him through our visits and emails and helping with the visa application fees, but he has been rejected three times for an athlete visa. Despite all of this, he gives thanks to God for his many blessings and perseveres towards his dream.
If anyone reading this post has any suggestions, connections, information on helping Fresbhat fulfill his dream of being a professional runner and running in US races, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.