Nothing Is Wasted: The Story Of Tsi

What drives you to do what you do? Where do your passions come from? What situations have you endured that have become a part of “your story” and have been redeemed to help others? We all have them. As Richard Rohr has said, “Nothing is wasted.” That is certainly true of Tsi, a fourteen-year-old girl we met on our third day in Ethiopia. World Vision wanted us to meet her because she has an inspirational story of survival and rescue, and also because they wanted us to see, first hand, what World Vision is doing to save lives.

Tsi, a beautiful teenager, (not unlike one of my own five daughters) is being raised by her mother and grandmother. Her father tragically died several years ago. When he died, the little girl begged her grandmother, “Please don’t give me to somebody else. Please don’t arrange a marriage for me.” The grandmother told Tsi, “Please be strong. Attend school. Do your best. Although your father is not alive, I will protect you.” This was her solemn promise.

A year ago, when Tsi was 13, she left home at 7 a.m. to walk to school. She had an hour walk ahead of her. While on the journey, five armed gunmen caught her, pulled her to the ground, beat her terribly, tore her clothes, threw away her shoes and raped her.

She screamed, but no one came to her rescue. The men forced her to travel two eight-hour days, barefoot, through rocky, dangerous desert ground. They took her to a narrow mud hut, and locked her inside. She was held prisoner there for forty days and nights, unable to see daylight. The leader would feed her a piece of Enjera (Ethiopian-style bread) a day through a window. He and his friends would visit her at night to rape her. She lost all hope of ever being set free and seeing her family again.

Si's 56-year old grandmother. One of the strongest women I've known.

Si's 56-year old grandmother. She never gave up. She kept her promise to always protect the daughter of her beloved son.

The morning of the abduction one of Tsi’s friends came running to the grandmother’s house yelling, “They’ve taken Tsi. They’ve taken Tsi.” The grandmother heard these cries, fell to the ground and shouted, “No! No! This cannot be!”

She pulled herself up and immediately started walking to Tsi’s school. Her worst fears were confirmed. Tsi was not at the school. From there, seeking help from the only ones who could help her, she walked several more hours to the World Vision office in the capitol city of Addis Ababa. World Vision immediately broke into action. The police were contacted and an innovative plan was devised. The main perpetrator’s parents were put in jail hoping to draw out the man for capture.

While the plan was being carried out, Elders from Tsi’s village paid a visit to the World Vision office. They threatened the World Vision staff and warned them to cease all prosecution attempts. “Leave us alone. Stay out of our business. This is our tradition. This is how a man may get a wife.” The members of the World Vision staff were shocked. “What if this was your daughter who was being treated so shamefully and so violently. You would not want this happen to your daughter.”

They replied, “It is our way. We would not stop it.” The World Vision staff, though very frightened by the threats, did not back down. They relentlessly continued working with the police and the court system to see that this man was captured and brought to justice.

He soon got word that his parents were in jail and came up with a plan of his own. He forced Tsi to sign a paper stating that she had gone with him of her own free will and wanted to marry him. He then proceeded to take her to his parent’s house—another two days traveling on foot.

Upon their arrival at the parent’s house, the police arrested the man, put him in jail, and released the parents. Finally, the man was convicted and was given the maximum sentence of fifteen years in jail.

On that hot afternoon, sitting under the shade of an acacia tree in the front yard of Tsi’s grandmother’s house, we heard this story. In fact, we heard three versions of it. One from Esatu, the World Vision staff person who helped Tsi’s family through the entire ordeal, one from the grandmother’s and finally Tsi’s own account of her terrifying forty days. We were all brought to tears as the details unfolded.

Jenna Lucado prays for Si and tells her that she is loved beyond measure by God.

Jenna Lucado prays for Tsi and tells her that she is loved beyond measure by God.

After Tsi finished her story, Jenna Lucado asked how she was doing now and whether she had any dreams for her future. “So many people are harmed by these traditional practices,” she said. “I want to be an advocate for the rights of women and children. I want to be an attorney. [Remember, she’s only 14!] The most important thing to me now is my education.”  This is making beauty of ashes. This is redemption.

World Vision also worked with Tsi’s school to ensure that she passed the seventh grade, even though she missed so many school days. They were able to convince the school to use her excellent mid-term grades for her final grades. This was no small feat since the schools in Ethiopia are very strict. She is currently a straight-A student in the eighth grade.

None of this would have been possible except for the fact that Tsi was a World Vision sponsored child. Without WV as her advocate, Tsi’s grandmother would have had no where to turn. She would have been powerless. With no living father or grandfather, there would have been no hope for justice. World Vision was there to demonstrate practically the love of Christ to the hopeless, powerless and fatherless.

I repeat my questions: What drives you to do what you do? Where do your passions come from? What situations have you endured that have become, or could become, a part of “your story”? What, in your life can be redeemed in order to spread the love of God to others? May Tsi and her grandmother be an inspiration to all of us.

Remember: Nothing is wasted.

(This story is remembered to the best of my ability from notes I took. Please forgive me if any facts are incorrect.)

The telling of the story of Tsi. (Esatu, man on the right, is the World Vision friend & advocate of Tsi. He's also translating.

The telling of the story of Tsi. (Esatu, man on the right, is the World Vision friend & advocate of Tsi. He's also translating.

Si's grandmother invites us into her hut for coffee.

Tsi's grandmother invites us into her hut for coffee.

Serving one coffee is the ultimate expression of hospitality in Ethiopia.

Serving one coffee is the ultimate expression of hospitality in Ethiopia.

Everyone is seated on benches around the wall of Tsi's hut. (The coffee was really good!)

Everyone is seated on benches around the wall of Tsi's hut. (The coffee was really good!)

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34 Responses to “Nothing Is Wasted: The Story Of Tsi”

  1. What an incredible story. Isn’t amazing how God redeems the bad things in our lives and uses them for good as He promised us in His word. He has redeemed me from a lot. I hope that Tsi can truly use her story to change lives for the Lord. That takes courage!

  2. Gail,
    I have never left a response on any blog before, yet I have followed many blogs for many years especially that of your husband. Why God brought me to this story I do not know. He has reached accross the world for to me read your message here in the UK.Throughout I cried and thought of the people especially children all over the world even right under our nose , possibly unknown to us who are suffering some terrible ordeal.
    I am frightened for Tsi – how will He protect her from the return of these evil people?
    What can we do when the numbers seem so overwhelming? I believe I understand your message although I have not followed the story thus far – the answer is – whatever we can. If it is only some small help to one child we can say “I made a difference for that one”.
    God Bless you. Ken

  3. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you so much for your comments. I love your connection with St. Nicolas and the work of World Vision—and all similar organizations for that matter. I have learned a lot about him this year and you are exactly right. He took action and made a difference. And … we know him and his story, not just for our entertainment, but for an example. Let us not just learn about what’s behind Santa Claus, but imitate the compassion, the passion and the action of the man, Nicolas of Myra.

    I’ve enjoyed getting to know you via Twitter.

    God bless you abundantly,
    Gail

  4. Gail,

    I feel like I’m showing up late to the party here, but I just stopped by on a whim.

    “Doesn’t Gail Hyatt have a blog?” I asked myself 15 minutes ago. So off I went in search, and then I found this!

    It seems fitting to read this in the early moments of December 7. Just this afternoon I was appropriately reading a reminder of what St. Nicholas did when confronted with the horrible reality of a neighbor considering selling one of his three daughters to slavery because of economic hardship. Nicholas wasn’t willing to put up with it. He took action. He made a difference.

    After reading this post, I realize that World Vision gives us all an easy opportunity to imitate Nicholas.

    I feel guilty for using my unstable work situation as an excuse not to take positive action now. “Unstable” in this case does not necessarily mean “without income,” which puts me in a far better position than many others on this small world. So I encourage anyone in a situation like mine, reading this entry and comment, to join me in giving very serious consideration, pledge, or commitment to following the example of Nicholas.

    Tsi’s story breaks my heart. Tsi’s challenges are so far removed from those that my junior and senior high Sunday School students face. But if God can fix a little bit of the world by breaking my heart, then so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time that irony was part of God’s plan. And it sure won’t be the last.

    Humbly and seriously,

    Jeff

  5. Heather,

    Thank you for your kind words. I think one of the biggest impacts this trip had on me was discovering that people (all of whom are created in the image of God), no matter how far apart or where they live, are all basically the same. Tsi, her grandmother and the rest of her family were, in so many many ways, just like me and my friends here in America. What a gift to be able to meet a “sister” on the opposite side of the world.

    May God richly bless you as you seek to know His heart and strive to align yours with His.

  6. Natalie,

    Believe me, I struggle with apathy, too. That’s one of the big reasons I am so thankful to have taken this trip. It was truly life changing for me. There is still so much I can and should do, but I am grateful that I am doing something. And, comparatively speaking, a lot more than I used to. Lord, keep me from complacency.

    Let me encourage you to do two things.
    1. Sponsor a child through World Vision. You can choose the country you want, a boy or a girl, and maybe even a name or a birthdate which means something special to you. Or just let God choose one for you. Then write letters to this child, at least once a month. This alone will change you.
    2. Go on a mission trip. Figure out a way to go to Africa, Guatemala, India, or even the Appalahcian Mountains. Open your heart and see what God does with it.

    Let me know how it goes.

    Because of Him,
    Gail

  7. Gail,

    Thank you for taking the time to share Tsi’s story… sad as it is to say (and hard as it is to admit), it is difficult not to read stories like hers and feel an immediately disconnectedness, as though I am reading about a stereotype and not a person. Thank you for writing with so much compassion and grace – and for bringing her story to light in a way that resonates with all people, no matter your background or circumstances.

  8. Oops. By “he” I meant “He” … God not Bob Dylan. :)

  9. I found your blog via Michael Hyatt’s blog and I have so enjoyed it. This post fell particularly powerful on my heart. I’ve been wrestling with apathy so this story was eye opening. It makes me think of the Bob Dylan song “Every Grain of Sand”. It’s amazing to see how he works in the details to bring so much goodness and beauty from all the devastating places. Thanks for sharing your heart so candidly on here.

  10. Thank you for sharing Nikki. Beauty from ashes. This is what God is in the business to do. I’m grateful to Him that you are seeing and experiencing some of that Beauty. There is more where that came from. I have no doubt that you are truly making a difference. Stay in the story.

  11. Wow…this story moved me. Beauty from ashes. My family emotionally abused me and I endured two abandonments, one not of my father’s choice, and the second being emotionally blackmailed by my family. Beauty from ashes. I want to help people who have endured emotional abuse to see God in everything and to watch Him work in otherwise impossible situations. This is what drives me every day to try to save souls. Sometimes, I’m not sure if I make a difference, and then something happens to change my mind. God works through the willing as in Tsi’s case.

  12. That was a heartbreaking story.
    Thank God World Vision was
    able to free Tsi from that
    terrible ordeal.

    I was happy to learn that Tsi
    (after that all she had been through)
    had “dreams for her future.”

  13. Oh Gail, thank you for sharing what you and Mindy noticed about the Ethiopian’s hearts. I have seen that same thing in friend of ours who are from Ethiopia. Amazingly loving and caring people. I can’t wait to nurture that in our little girl!

    You mentioned a transitional home for those being adopted and I believe that is what type of care she is in as well. We call them orphanages but friends who have been there tell me that the Ethiopians call them transitional homes. I am learning so much as I go along.

    I love the definition of Aster that you shared and your hope for her life to be like the flower she is named after. That is beautiful! I think I’ll print it and put it on her keepsake book. I’ll definitely keep you posted.

    Sweet blessings,
    Renee

  14. Hi Renee,

    I am SO excited for you!! There are quite a few families in my area who have adopted children from Ethiopia. What an unbelieveable blessing they have been to these families.

    My daughter, Mindy, recently returned from a trip to Africa. She visited many many orphanages in Ethiopia and Uganda. One of the orphanages she visited was a transitional home for children who were to be adopted. Mindy was so encouraged by the love and care the children received. I think Aster will be the joy of your life.

    One thing I noticed about the people of Ethiopia (and Mindy noticed this too) is that they are very warm, loving and caring people. They have such hard lives and all too often they have to make very difficult choices. But I believe they are made from a good heart. Aster has this quality in her genes. She comes from a legacy of love and care. God is just giving her to you to nurture it.

    Thanks for your prayers for Tsi and her family. I believe that she will grow up to be a mighty woman of God who accomplishes great things for His kingdom.

    Keep me posted on Aster. May God richly bless your life together.

    Warmly,
    Gail

    Aster – a daisy-like, star-shaped flower with petals radiating from a center disc.

    May Aster be one who radiates the love of Christ, to all around her, because her life is centered on Him.

  15. Jeremy,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement. I don’t think it’s possible to be unaffected by Tsi’s story. I wish everyone could meet her and her family. Their faith in the living God, their resilience, courage and opennes are such examples to us who know nothing of such hardships.

    I’m so grateful to have met her and to see how World Vision is helping countless people like her. They are the hands and feet of Christ to a world of hurting, needy and wonderful human beings. I’m so proud to be associated with them.

    May God richly bless you for your open and humble heart.
    Gail

  16. Hi Gail,

    I’ve been visiting for a while but haven’t left a comment until now. This story just makes me cry. I am going to be praying for Tsi’s continued healing, protection and God’s amazing provision to take her brokenness and make something beautiful. I love how God takes our pain as an offering, Holy and pleasing to Him, and brings the hope of His glory into our lives. He’s definitely done that in my life more than I can even count.

    I especially love reading about your trip and Ethiopian stories because God has called our family to adopt a daughter from Ethiopia. We just found out a month ago that we’ll be getting a baby. Her name is Aster. Her father abandoned her and her mother when she was born. Her mother was so impoverished and unable to care for herself and her baby that she chose to give her life by bringing her to someone who could get her to an orphanage in Addis. She weighed 8 lbs at 6months. Today she is over 17lbs at 7.5 months. We are praying that we’ll get to bring her home soon.

    I found your blog through your adoring husband. I am so blessed by Michael’s blog and his love for you!

    Blessings,
    Renee

    Renee Swope
    Proverbs 31 Ministries

  17. Wow… Wow…. If only more people understood that this is happening NOW! Nearly everyday… How would it change our society if we could all embrace a child who has endured that sort of experience. The love of God is the only thing that can cover those wounds. May we not be selfish and complacent. Thank you Gail for sharing your experience. Thank you World Vision for all that you do. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

  18. Hi WidneyWoman,

    This really is an amazing story of courage and endurance. As horrible as Tsi’s experience was, it is not wasted. I LOVE that. She has asked herself the question, “What does this make possible?” She may not have literally asked herself this question, but she has, never the less, answered it. She is such an inspiration.

    (My husband just wrote a blogpost about this question. http://michaelhyatt.com/2009/07/what-does-this-make-possible.html. I find myself constantly asking it when things go “wrong.”)

    I appreciate your comments. Please keep this family in your prayers.

    To God be the glory,
    Gail

  19. Wow. I am humbled. An amazing story of courage and endurance. Our personal story of endurance and redemption pales in comparison. Not even worth sharing. I will remember Tsi’s story for a long time and will pray her dreams will become realities.

  20. Cafe Mocha Momma,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I needed to hear this today to wake me up from my own lethargy and complancency. How easily we fall back into old habits and ways of thinking.

    I am going to write a post today about what how your response spoke to me.

    Thank you so much.

    To God be the glory,
    Gail

  21. I have no words right now. . .only the raw ache of conviction for my own selfishness, complacency, and lack of zeal for God. I need time. . .I need prayer. . .I need Him.

    May God continue to bless Tsi and her Grandmother. And may He bless you for your willingness to share their story with those who otherwise would never know.

  22. Having five daughters (& no sons) made it impossible for me not to be affected by Tsi’s story.

    Shelia – heroes is right. I met so many heroes on that trip. I’m now on the “lookout” for them here, right under my nose. I love treasure hunting :-)

  23. This is a story full of heroes. Real heroes who do what’s right, no matter the cost. Who endure no matter how weary. Who honor their committments. Who give all.

    Thanks for telling it so artfully and articulately. It was no accident this story was placed in your very graceful and capable hands.

    Nothing is wasted. Nothing.

  24. Thanks, Gail, for sharing Tsi’s story. It’s always deeply upsetting to read about abductions and sexual terrorism — we are so blessed that these tragedies and injustices are not part of our daily lives. But as you said, these blessings of ours translate into our even greater responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable members of our human family.

    Thanks, too, for introducing so many of us to the heart of World Vision’s work and inspiring us to become partners with this great organization to rescue and redeem thousands of young women like Tsi.

    Love you!

  25. What a powerful story! Thank you for not keeping it to yourself, but serving others by sharing it. We need to be aware of what is happening outside of our comfortable world here in the U.S. if we are to have an impact in the world.

    Thank you also for the challenge: “What situations have you endured that have become, or could become, a part of “your story”? What, in your life can be redeemed in order to spread the love of God to others?”

    You have inspired me to do more.

    Maria Keckler

  26. what a painful, yet ultimately beautiful story. thank you for recording it for us.

  27. Cheryl,

    Thanks so much for your comment and for your honesty. Truly nothing is wasted.

    Thanks for being an example of this in your life.

    May God continue to enrich your life as you use it to bless others.

  28. Thanks for sharing this incredible story about redemption. I’m sponsoring a 5 year old little girl from Zeway, Ethiopia, and I pray for her protection daily. I pray for all the girls in Ethiopia.

    I’m so grateful for organizations like World Vision, Compassion, Food for the Hungry, etc.

    This story will stay with me for a long time.

  29. Gail,

    When I was in the middle of my separation and divorce, one of my dear friends continually reminded me that “God doesn’t waste our pain.” I’m so thankful that He uses the difficult circumstances of our lives to bless others – provided we choose to be part of his future restoration, both in our own lives and in the lives of others.

    Tsi could have chosen to be bitter and resentful, yet miraculously, instead she is allowing the mercy of God to propel her forward, for the good of others. May we all do so with the pain of our lives.

  30. Thanks for sharing Tsi’s story. Good story, written well.

  31. Peter,

    You’re exactly right. We have no idea. But things are changing. I saw it time and time again while there. There is real hope. And I believe that we have a resonsibility to be involved in that change.

    It’s a fact that we live in a society where these things are not issues, and where we enjoy so many freedoms and blessings. Perhaps because of this, we can fight even harder for those without them—we know what’s possible for them. We know what we’re fighting for.

    But we must do something. This is the gospel. This is the love of Christ demonstrated in “word and deed.”

    $35 a month is nothing—a tad over one measly dollar a day. Peanuts. And, you get a real, live, new friend to boot. Really.

    There are so many fantastic organizations doing so much good. Find one and sign up. And do it again.

    I’m proud to promote World Vision. (http://www.worldvision.org) They are better stewards of my money than I am and they are faithful stewards of the gospel. The whole gospel. They are involved in real, deep, sustainable transformation.

    Start by reading: The Hole in Our Gospel, by Rich Sterns (http://snipurl.com/j74kl) It’s must reading for all Christians, or anybody for that matter.

    Thanks so much for your comments.

  32. Amazing story, Gail. Thanks for bringing it to life for all of us who haven’t seen this first-hand. And it was great seeing you in Franklin today!

  33. Wow.

    That’s heart-wrenching.

    It is so hard for us here in the west to comprehend even the smallest part of this story:

    Walking an hour to school. The grandmother walking an hour to check if she’s at school, then another two hours to the WV office.

    Assault and rape at the side of the road, abduction, forced marriage, the community just accepting it as normal.

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. Who can’t spare $35 a month to potentially save another child like Tsi?

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