A First-Born Son Shoulders The Burden
It happened when Teka was a mere 14 years old, in the sixth grade. It was impossible to guess how deep the implications would be for this young Ethiopian boy. But one thing was certain – life would never be the same again. The person he loved most, looked up to, and had learned from all his life, was gone forever.
On March 15, 2010, Teka’s father, Yadeta Dinsa, was murdered by Muslim extremists on his way home from a church service. A machete blow to the neck caused him to lose a lot of blood, but it was the spear wound to his chest that ended the life of Yadeta, just 34 years old. Teka’s mother, Martha Geleta, was left stunned, along with her six children.
Martha had always been a stay-at-home mother, her only responsibilities to create a home and care for her family.Though frail physically and emotionally, she tried hard to cope with her loss while making sure her six children were dealing with their own traumatic loss, and while working the farm land to put food on the table. On top of it all, she faced attendance at crucial court hearings for the murder trial. It did not take long for reality to sink in.
The family could no longer afford the house they had rented before Yadeta’s death. Realizing this, church leaders mobilized church members to help construct a new house adjacent to the family’s previous home. But there were not enough funds, and with more than half of the work unfinished, the building could hardly be called a house. It offered no protection against the wind, cold and rain. They also had no beds or mattresses.
To first-born Teka, it was clear that sacrifices needed to be made. He soon found himself working the farm land to provide for the family, even though the property was a one and half hour walk away from home. Teka persevered because the three hour round trip walk to work the land meant food on their table.
Engulfed with anxiety and overwhelming burdens, Teka’s mother Martha did not have the emotional reserves to attend the hearings for Yadeta’s murder case. Understanding the importance, Teka represented his family at the court hearings. Month after month he faithfully made the 5-6 hour journey to attend the court hearings alone. The route led through difficult mountainous terrain. Teka did it on foot, often in pouring rain.
Between the court hearings and his work on the farm, Teka found himself missing more and more time at school, but he did his best to keep up. He longed to finish school and carve out a better future for himself and his family. It soon became clear that this dream had come to an abrupt end.
Registration for the new academic year was approaching. Martha tried her best, but she could not scrape together enough money to pay registration fees or buy uniforms and stationery for Teka, let alone all the younger children. So it fell upon Teka to sacrifice his dreams, something he did without hesitation. Their tragedy could not be undone, so he took upon his young shoulders the implications for himself and his family.
But God had another plan. Although Teka’s family lived in a particularly inaccessible region, Open Doors heard about Yadeta’s murder and arranged to visit the family. The Open Doors team arrived unannounced since there was no way to communicate with them. Local church leaders organized the visit for the team, who drove 10 miles from the nearest town and then walked the last five hours to the village. Their surprise arrival brought smiles and joy to Teka’s family, but also great encouragement to the believers in the village who gathered at the small house for prayer, reading the Word of God and fellowship.
Once the team became aware of the family’s needs, they immediately committed to help, and funds were provided to purchase the school supplies for all the children. Martha and her children were speechless at first, as though the new school clothes and supplies had fallen straight down from heaven. “I now have many fathers in the church,” Teka told his pastor later.
“I thank God for the support and encouragement from the church and other believers,” he continued, looking happily at his new clothes, pens and notebooks for school. “My sisters are happy to have the same things as their friends in school.”
“We Christians are not divided by color or language,” said Martha. “People who do not know us have helped us in our time of need. We are so happy! God will help me raise these children,” she said.
Our Savior and Lord, we are speechless as we read of Teka’s selflessness in the face of tragedy. Thank You for bending Your ear to his circumstances and bringing help. May each member of that family and community remember Your faithfulness and take courage in the face of whatever struggles they face in life, for indeed You did send help from heaven. And teach us through this example to look for You in the midst of our own difficult circumstances. Truly great is Your faithfulness!