This summer, a team of TLC staff and volunteers traveled to Addis for TLC’s 2nd annual youth camp! Russ Cooper, Financial Director for TLC’s parent organization Indigenous Outreach International, was on our team, and he shares here about his experience as a TLC sponsor:
I honestly don’t remember when I started sponsoring Seyed through TLC, but I think it was about 8 or 9 years ago. I remember hearing about this boy who had run away from his Muslim father and lived on the streets of Addis Ababa alone at the age of 12, and my heart was moved. When my family began sponsoring him, he was little more than a name and a picture—just another sad story among so many. We put his picture on our refrigerator and prayed for him when we thought about it, which honestly was not a lot.
Because of my work with IOI, I have the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia at least once every 2 years, so I soon had the opportunity to meet Seyed in person. He led me into the small room he shared with his family and showed me the poster on the wall that he was using to learn English. He pointed to a picture of a pig and said, “pij.” I corrected him on the pronunciation, and we shared our first laugh together when I imitated the sound a pig makes.
I have seen Seyed a few times over the years, and have taken the opportunity every Christmas to make sure he had shoes and a uniform for school. My love for him has grown, and I was so proud when Ayele shared with me that he felt called to pursue ministry after he finishes school. He graduated from high school last year, and passed the national exam to get into college and study accounting. He has now finished his first year of college and is helping Ayele as much as he can with the younger children in the TLC project.
I recently went back to Ethiopia to help with the 2nd annual TLC youth camp. I was excited at the prospect of seeing Seyed and was happy to learn that he would be a small group leader at camp. It gave me so much joy to watch him as a leader, hear him share his testimony, and see the respect the other kids have for him. We shared many more laughs as he tried to teach me some Amharic words and corrected my pronunciation. He has grown into an amazing man of God, and I am so humbled that I have had the opportunity to invest in his life for these past few years. The thing that blessed me the most, though, was when he introduced me to his friends and said, “This is Russ. He is my father.”
I can’t believe that only cost me $35 a month . . . I can’t think of a better investment!