20-year-old Groum Pale knows first hand what it’s like to be a street kid – constantly hungry, afraid and in despair. Today, this dedicated young Christian spends much of his time among some of Addis Ababa’s many street kids, sharing God’s Word and love with them.
Watching Groum stand confidently in front of a group of young people and children, smiling, talking and reading to them from the Amharic Bible, it is hard to believe that just 11 years ago he was a frightened, half-starved street kid. His story, he says, is testament to the restorative and healing power of God’s Word and the love shown towards him by Christians.
Groum and his sisters found themselves homeless and alone when their parents died of HIV and AIDS and spent years on the streets, surviving on scraps of food they found in rubbish bins. They were often ill, their stomachs infested with worms and their skin and hair riddled with lice. Most of all, they were in a constant state of anxiety, not knowing what the next day would bring.
But then, when Groum was nine, Hannah’s Orphanage – a Christian-run home for street kids – rescued them. The orphanage workers restored them to health, gave them a place to call home and shared God’s love with them. Groum said it took a while for him to trust this kindness.
Lost part of my childhood
“I lost a whole part of my childhood living on the streets because I saw horrible things,” he says. “There, you learn how to be a fighter and to be mistrustful of everyone. I had to learn how to trust.”
Within a year he was unrecognisable from the street kid he had been. He was excelling at school and had developed a strong faith in Jesus – thanks to listening to Bible stories on the Faith Comes By Hearing Proclaimer devices provided to the orphanage by the Bible Society of Ethiopia.
“We loved listening to those wonderful Bible stories,” he recalls with a smile. “We would listen hard and then, at night, as we fell asleep, we would try to repeat the stories to each other. I felt that the voice that came out of that little black box was actually God’s voice, and so, when I meditated and prayed, I could hear his words in my head. It encouraged me so much.
Recited Bible passages out loud
“Getting to know God’s Word changed my life. When my friends and I faced any difficulty we would recite out loud passages that we had heard and use them to encourage each other.”
Today, Groum is in the final year at school, where he is top of his class, and plans to go on to study civil engineering at university. He says he wants to help change his country for the better.
“This has all happened not because of my own potential but because I have Christ. If you have Christ, you have everything, even if you don’t have anything else. He is everything to me.”
Proclaimers were damaged or stolen
Most days, when his classes are over, Groum can be found helping street kids and the younger children at the orphanage. He used to play Bible stories for them on one of the orphanage’s Proclaimers, but they were all recently damaged or stolen when the orphanage had to move premises after the authorities took their land. So now he just reads out loud to them from the Bible.
“One passage that really spoke to me when I was 16 and listening to the Bible on the Proclaimer was where Paul talks about spreading the Word of God by ‘any means possible’. That has become my mission.”
Groum was delighted when he was given a Proclaimer by visitors from the British and Foreign Bible Society, which will also be replacing all the other Proclaimers lost in the move.
Story and photos by Grace Smith, British and Foreign Bible Society.