I met Melkamfire four years ago when she was in college. Her mother was a recycler at the Kore garbage dump in Addis Ababa when we met, but due to a worsening lung condition, her mother’s employment at the dump soon had to end. Her mother began hawking produce on the street and selling snacks at a nearby liquor store to pay for her daughter’s education. Melkam also had to work any job she could find because, despite her mother’s efforts, the earnings were insufficient. But Melkam and her mother persisted. Eventually Melkam received a scholarship through IntSam and put much effort into her studies. She earned an honors degree in management and now works as an administrator at the Addis Ababa City Road Authority.
“Next to God,” Melkam said, “I am grateful for International Samaritan’s assistance and to my mother.”
Imagine my delight when our cherished IntSam alum called two weeks ago to inquire about my weekend plans. I responded, “It depends. What do you have in mind?” Melkam revealed her exciting news that she had gotten engaged to a man from a well-established family in Addis Ababa, and extended an invitation to Engidawork Lemma and me to join the exclusive wedding reception at their new home, which had been graciously provided to the couple by Melkam’s in-laws. I was ecstatic and told her that being a part of such an important day would mean the world to me.
Engida and I arrived at Melkam’s house on Saturday at midday and walked by beautifully decorated cars and a walkway lined with flowers. Her mother greeted us with open arms. Melkam was the happiest I had ever seen her, her skin shining, appearing younger than when we first met.
Two of the bridesmaids, also former IntSam scholars, were seated in front of us. While I was thinking about Melkam’s journey, the bride and groom made their grand entrance to a standing ovation. Melkam entered wearing her traditional clothing and cloak, arriving in royal fashion. She is a living example of the tenacity and perseverance that had brought her this far.
The congregation honored the newlyweds by showering them with presents and blessings. The bride and groom, both young and happy, conversed and laughed during the ceremony, making it clear that they were meant to be.
They said their vows to one another and promised to be by each other’s side for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. And they became one. A passage from Matthew 19:6 came to mind as they waved goodbye to the guests and left to begin their joint life:
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together let no one separate.”
I smiled and quietly uttered, “Amen. Amen.”
Melkam and Tamene Gizaw, married January 29, 2023
Selamawit Terefe, Director (Ethiopia)
Selam has a Master’s Degree in Sociology from King’s College and has also studied law, management, and women’s rights. Her research led her to work on women’s issues in East Africa with the United Nations. Her passion is reading, so she developed a book club for scholars to discuss books written by Ethiopian authors.
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