A Seat to Share
One woman's journey of discovering love 8,000 miles away
As a 48 year old mom of three, who has primarily been a stay-at-home mom the past 20 years, I am quite intimidated by social media. Actually stated more accurately, I am pretty clueless about all of it. The only reason I even opened an Instagram account was to be sure my kid’s posts were appropriate. OK and maybe to be a little nosy too. Who knew I would find beauty and inspiration in those little squares. For as long as I have been a mom, I have longed to adopt a child. I felt it was something I was called to, but my husband felt our family was complete with our three wonderful children. In order to fill the gravitation I had to orphaned children, I started to follow a few different adoption agencies and orphan care organizations on those tiny little squares. My days would be lifted when I would see the joyful smiling faces, where others were advocating. One organization that continually tugged at my heart was The Archibald Project. I found myself eagerly awaiting new posts from them. I could feel the love they had for orphaned children. The Archibald Project is a small organization led by husband and wife team, Nick and Whitney Runyon. These two amazing people chose to leave their conventional careers, to give all they have to bringing awareness to ethical forms of orphan care all over the world.
Then one day, October 10th, 2016, I saw an Archibald Project post of a beautiful girl with the biggest smile announcing about their next Media Mission to Ethiopia. I immediately commented that it was speaking to my heart. And just a few moments later I received a response that said, “We’d love to have you.”
Me? Really? A mom. A novice photographer at best. A broken soul searching for a way to give back. That set in motion one of the biggest leaps of faith I have ever taken. Without telling anyone, not even my family, I timidly submitted my application. Days later, I was surprised to hear they wanted to interview me. Again doubt and fear of not being enough ruled my thoughts. But after just a few minutes on Skype with Whitney, my fears started to fade. I was drawn to her gentleness and kindness and I knew I needed to meet her. Somehow, some way, for reasons unknown to me, she saw something in me that told her I was right for the team. This was their 7th Media Mission. I really didn’t know a great deal about what I was going to be doing…I knew the plan was to document the lives of some orphaned kids in Ethiopia.
Fast forward to February 23rd, 2016 in the Newark airport, where I met the rest of the team with whom I was headed to Ethiopia.
I was in awe of the energy and excitement of each and every person and looked forward to all I would learn from them. We arrived in Addis Abba on a Friday night and met Whitney, Nick and Marisa, the Director of the organization we were there to document called Selamta Family Project. The level of comfort I felt with each of them was immediate. I had a sense of peace fall over me in knowing that I did have a purpose on the team. Like an orphaned child, I was welcome and wanted.
Selamta Family Project is not an orphanage, it is an organization that brings together Forever Families.
They hire marginalized women who lack the education and other resources to care for themselves, due to being widowed or abandoned, and pay them to be a Mom to 8-10 orphaned children.All expenses are covered for rent, food, clothing, health needs and education. In addition, they have a Community Center where the families gather for many different events. The kids come there after school and on weekends for help with homework, to use the computer lab, to have their health needs met, to check out a book or to simply hang out together. At Selamta they belong and they are not an orphan, they are part of a Forever Family where they never age out.
And so began my Ethiopian journey to share a seat…
Imagine sitting around a dining room table with more guests than there are seats. In our culture we would go grab more chairs, but in Ethiopian culture you scoot as close together as possible and share the seats available. What a thought… share what you have. You see in Ethiopia a seat doesn’t mean room for one more, it often means room for two or three more. This is similar to what I see in Selamta… always a way to bring more to the table. To feed more, to educate more, to care for the health needs of more, to serve more, to LOVE more.
In their modest, but beautiful homes, they share rooms and even some share beds. In their Selamta Forever Families they share life. They share the sorrows of their pasts and the hopes for their futures. They share the responsibilities of the household and they share time together hand-in-hand, on a walk. Even at school, they huddle close together sharing both seats and desks. This concept of sharing creates a closeness that goes beyond just personal space. It creates a family, all different pieces of the most glorious puzzle, that when put together creates a picture of love that is beyond words.
What I didn’t expect to share, with a mother named Zenebech that lived 8,000 miles from me, on another continent, was the story of the changes in our lives as mothers. You see we both said “good bye for now” this last year to our oldest children, as they left for university.
Shannon Kirk, TAP Ethiopia Media Mission Team Member
We shared tears shed for our aching hearts, of not being with them every day. We shared the same fears in watching them go so far from home and the same pride in watching them spread their wings. We shared the emotion of seeing our household dynamic change with them gone. We shared the joy of being able to entrust them to God during this time of great growth. And, we shared in the excitement of knowing they’d be coming home for break in the months ahead. We shared the trials of motherhood and letting go. We both have one less person at our table right now, so we both ask those remaining to please scoot over, to make room for another to share a seat at the table of life, love and promise.
For 8 life changing days, due to an opportunity given to me by The Archibald Project, I shared a seat with others at the many family tables within Selamta’s ten Forever Families. I shared in their delectable cuisine, I shared in the stories of their difficult pasts. I shared in the joy of their present and I took great joy in sharing in the endless possibilities of their futures. But most of all, I now know, that like an orphaned child, I belong as well and have so much of God’s love to share with others.