Our dear friend, Dan Hamer, shared these words on Facebook following Kalkidan’s memorial service. Dan is a pastor at Overlake Christian Church and an adoptive father. He heads up the work in Kenya that allows Russ to do ministry as a hydrologist. He is also Kathleeen’s husband; together they have opened their home to us many, many times, especially during the years when we were traveling to Seattle every other week for therapy with Kalkidan. Now they’re stuck with us for life.
If you didn’t get the chance to know Kalkidan you missed an amazing young girl with a smile that would light up a room and melt your heart. She also had a tender heart of gold and a larger than life personality. She was adopted by our dear friends eight years ago from an orphanage in Ethiopia having lost both of her parents to AIDS. Just last week at the age of thirteen, Kalkidan was killed in a tragic car accident.
Even though in this life she was surrounded by an incredible family and countless friends who showered her with love and encouragement, she was just beginning to figure out how to accept it. As often is the case with children who have suffered trauma, neglect, and abuse it is not easy for them to understand the unconditional love of a family or a God who loves without strings. They don’t always see themselves the way we see them, let alone how God sees them.
I know that in heaven, Kalkidan now fully understands this and I suspect that her smile is even more magical. I would venture to say that everyone who had the privilege of loving Kalkidan also learned an invaluable lesson about unconditional love. Not surprisingly, the student became the teacher and we are all better at both giving and receiving love for having loved Kalkidan.
While my family’s tears this week could have filled a bucket and over a thousand friends and family attended her memorial service, there are many like Kalkidan whose passing will mostly go unnoticed. I suspect that would have been the case had she remained in the orphanage. The world is full of Kalkidans who need the constant assurance that their life matters and that regardless of anything they do, or don’t do, that they are loved.
I am convinced that everyone needs a Kalkidan in their life to teach them this lesson. I hope you will look for one in your life. They don’t just reside in orphanages in Ethiopia. They are in every homeless shelter, prison and foster care agency. They are also in every school, church, and family. These are children who as a result of their brokenness don’t always behave the way we would prefer and whose beauty and gifts will oftentimes go unnoticed unless someone is there to walk alongside them. Don’t sit back and criticize and judge them, get off your high horse and show them the unconditional love that God has shown you.
Find a Kalkidan and you will never be the same.
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