“I didn’t know it was ok to be a girl.” These words, uttered by a young woman, changed the trajectory of Deena Wilson’s dreams for the way she served Jesus. The simple statement came after a party celebrating girlhood, at a children’s center Deena had traveled to in Ethiopia. The center was Berhan Yehun, located just outside the capital city of Addis Ababa.
Berhan Yehun serves the most vulnerable in the area by providing meals, tutoring, health care, and mentoring to children who lack many of life’s most basic resources. The organization strives to instill dignity in each child it serves, empowering them to break cycles of generational poverty and understand how precious they are to God.
After that first party on her first trip to Ethiopia, Deena’s relationship with Berhan Yehun flourished, as she continued to return and build relationships over the next few years. She loved watching the kids, specifically girls, blossom as they grew to understand their inherent value.
Alongside the staff and volunteers at Berhan Yehun, Deena planted seeds of confidence and worth, beginning with meeting the basic health care needs. “I’ve mostly worked in the medical field,” Deena says. “Most of my life I’ve spent in doctor’s offices.” So when she learned that many of the girls visiting Berhan Yehun had little access to menstrual products, which kept them home from school and living a full life, Deena began working to ensure these items were available. By helping provide staple health care resources, she found ways to share that being a girl is not only okay, it is powerful.
“We threw a big party for the girls,” Deena says. “The guys helped decorate. They all had a crown. We had all of the candy and dessert.” Deena shared information on menstrual health as a part of the female experience. “I talked about them being fearfully and wonderfully made—that they’re not lesser,” she says. “At the end, we grabbed confetti and threw it in the air and said, ‘I love being a girl!’”
Deena says her own heart experienced transformation through partnering with Berhan Yehun. “It’s been a course correction on how big God is,” she says, adding that she has learned how to be a better listener when entering new situations, instead of immediately believing she should try to fix things. “We tend to think in the United States that we have all of the answers,” she says. “God is bigger than the box we put him in.”
Deena believes that investing in a relationship with Berhan Yehun is a great way to help build God’s kingdom, even if the ways we serve are different than we expect them to be. “We may never get to see the return on investment, but these kids are being actively educated, actively fed, actively loved,” she says. “I love it. It’s hard to leave.”
Interested in partnering with Berhan Yehun? Go to https://handsofhopein.org/Ethiopia-Home/ to learn more!
Written By:Sarah Norris