How I Met an Ethiopian Prince

I received a message from someone who was not my ‘friend’ on Facebook. I checked the message with a bit of reluctance because I had been getting a lot of messages from Nigerian princes who were eager to give their inheritance away. The message was sent by a man named “Beidemariam” from Ethiopia. I initially thought it was yet another scam, but I quickly recognized the name; Beidemariam was the very first child I sponsored through Compassion International.

When I was an undergrad, I learned about poverty stricken places around the world: Kampung in Indonesia, Kowloon walled city in Hong Kong, Favelas in Brazil, slums in India, Skid Row in L.A., etc. I got increasingly uncomfortable that I was not doing anything about it, and I had to do something.

Compassion International runs child sponsorship programs where the donor and the sponsored child exchange letters in addition to providing food, water, education, and vocational training. The organization has been maintaining good ratings from independent charity watchers, and I love that Compassion partners up with local Christian churches.

I thought sponsoring a kid via Compassion was a good initial step to take. When I signed up for the program, I got connected to Beidemariam. He was in his mid-teens, and he had been waiting for a sponsor for a very long time. (I was told that it is much harder for teenage boys to find sponsors). We would exchange letters back and forth, and I enjoyed getting letters and photos from him. We last wrote to each other when he graduated from the program a few years ago. We said goodbye, and I thought I would never hear back from him. Snail mails through Compassion was the only way I could contact him, and I did not know how else I could contact him.

Since our last exchange, I graduated, got married, and moved to Korea.

Then, this message popped up in my Facebook messenger.

“Hi My Brother Hong yoon kim….I have no word to express about u….u’re support make me Ivery strong……Thank u very much ….Good Bless u …..Thank u Thank u Thank u million times”

I was totally shocked and dumbfounded; I was glued to my phone for the next hour trying to catch up with what he had been upto. I found out he has been chugging along major milestones of his life as well. He graduated, got a job, and had a beautiful daughter. I felt privileged to be welcomed into his life again. Judging by how he is thriving as a father, I assume he would have been just fine without my help. Nevertheless, I am thankful that I was able to give a tiny little push to get him over the financial hump. Reconnecting with Beidemariam will go down as one of greatest pleasant surprises of my life, and I very much look forward to being a better friend with him.

Since Beidemariam, the number of kids I sponsor steadily grew over the years; my wife and I now support 11 kids via Compassion. Carol Ryrie Brink once famously wrote “The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.” I wrote about Beidemariam because I am not a truly generous person. To whomever reading this, I demand your praise, adoration, and flattery!

But I do know there are truly generous people out there, and I hope my experience will nudge everyone to consider giving. You never know how big of an impact you can make.

P.S. — Special shout out to my friends working at Facebook for making this a reality.