A Warm Welcome at Zoe
Imagine riding down dirt roads on the way to see orphan groups and watching small children running to the side of the road just to wave and smile to us as we passed by in our bus. Some would run 50-60 yards, and this was repeated mile after mile. We smiled at older adults carrying objects on their heads and a baby strapped to their backs. They waved and smiled back. Others carrying large yellow containers filled with water from nearby creeks or wells acknowledged our passing with waving and smiling. What a warm reception we felt even from the windows of our bus.
Then, the warmth engulfed us at each place we met the ZOE orphans sponsored by our Sunday School classes and individual BSUMC members. As we descended from the bus, we were greeted with shouts of joy and hugs -glorious smiles and excitement every time. Our hosts seated us at the front of their meeting places as guests of honor. Next, even the smallest children would find a spot to sit quietly and hear their peers, other ZOE orphans, address us. One by one children who serve as heads-of-household stood to thank us for our support and praise God.
Then for visit’s finale! Singing would begin with one or two voices leading before a chorus of everyone else quickly joined. The singing begat joyous dancing. We were lifted from our seats participate in the dance. To feel the joy and satisfaction was overwhelming for us. Before departing, we were presented with gifts made especially for us. We left feeling humble.
Not all was joyful. The stories the children told about their realities brought us to tears. These young ones had experienced so much loneliness, hunger, isolation, and family ordeals of mental and physical strife in the past. One boy said at times he didn’t want to live, but he had younger twin brothers he was trying to help feed with very small amounts of food. They lived together under a bridge. He knew he had to go on, but all he could offer was his love and compassion. That family of three children was referred to ZOE and placed with a large group of orphans and with similarly dreadful backgrounds. ZOE gave them hope but did not offer food. ZOE helped them make a business plan and helped them to express their dreams.
Visiting with first, second, and third year orphans at their businesses was an eye-opening experience. We saw the empowered entrepreneurs at the market with beans, tomatoes, bananas, and other vegetables for sale. We saw others sell juice, crackers, toothbrushes, and vegetables. One young man made roofing tiles in a kiln and employed other ZOE orphans. Still others functioned as contractors. We saw a group of ZOE orphans digging the foundation for a house. The satisfaction each of these children got from their endeavors was apparent in their proud carriage.
Watching them work reminded me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14. These ZOE participants are using the talents God gave them and are experiencing success!
They are also helping other orphans be successful too. In the beginning, ZOE participants receive a micro-loan. They repay the loan while also paying their younger siblings school fees. Eventually, they give back to their groups and have additional funds to save and reinvest in their businesses. To see these orphans, many near starvation, come out of poverty and grow closer to God, truly reveals what love and faith put into action can do.
by Dr. Wally Fridy
Typical ZOE Trip Schedule
Day 1 – Depart USA
Day 2 – Arrive in country
Day 3 – Travel to base Hotel
Day 4 – Visits with ZOE orphan working groups
Day 5 – Visits with working groups
Day 6 – Worship at local church, free time
Day 7 – Visit with working group
Day 8 – Visit with working group, travel to tourism destination
Day 9 – Tourism activities, travel to airport
Day 10 – Arrive home