GABE AND CONNIE’S STORY
On February 25, 1960, I was born in northernmost Ethiopia, in a town called Zalanbessa of the Tigrai Region. My parents were peasants and, like most others, members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. When I was four years old, we moved to the capital city, Addis Ababa, to seek better job opportunities for my parents. It was in this city, the biggest in Ethiopia, that I was brought up.
During my early teenage years, the monarchy in Ethiopia was replaced by a Marxist military government. Soon after, the bloody "Red Terror" campaign was unleashed to liquidate any Ethiopian opposition, or suspected of opposition, to the ruthless Communist military dictatorship. I completed high school under such a reign of terror and I desperately wanted to leave Ethiopia. The chances of getting out were next to impossible except by going to a Socialist country on a scholarship to continue studies. Miraculously, I won a scholarship to study civil engineering at Roorkee University in northern India. What an unforgettable hardship it was to get the exit visa! When the visa was issued and finally in hand, I headed to the airport, but I wasn't even sure I was going to leave the country until the plane took off. I had heard of many people who had been dragged out of the plane before takeoff. After a suspenseful wait, the plane took off. I looked down at the dry, rock-hewn land of my birth and said "Ethiopia: I never want to see you again!"
After 4 years of studies in India, I graduated but, because of the continued turmoil in Ethiopia, wasn't interested in returning home. This forced me to be a refugee in India for almost three years. I tried to immigrate to the US, Canada and the Scandinavian countries but wasn't successful. The stranded life finally ended when a door opened for me to settle in Sydney, Australia, where I lived comfortably and gratefully for 4 years. I traveled to the US and that changed the course of my life.
I was born in Addis Ababa on Jan 3, 1959. I was brought up in Eastern Ethiopia, in Harar and Diredawa. In my early years, I attended a Catholic boarding school, but joined high school in Addis Ababa. While I was in high school the military dictatorship came to the helm of power dawning the darkest era of Ethiopian history. I saw so much bloodshed. I was living in a girl's hostel in Addis Ababa and was responsible for helping the director of the hostel. After I finished high school the director and his wife left for Canada so I took over the running of the girl's hostel. It was an anguishing time, running the hostel while the country was in turmoil. Although it was impossible to leave Ethiopia at the time, miraculously I was allowed to go to the US on a student visa. I wasn't sure I would leave until the plane was in the air. As I finally took off, I said good bye to my country with a resolve never to return back. I settled down in New York beginning in 1981.
Gabe & Connie:
We met in high school as classmates and lived in close proximity. After leaving Ethiopia, we corresponded by mail from the respective countries that we emigrated to. Gabe visited to the US in 198? at which point we decided to get married. In May 1989, we made New York City our home.
In 1991, a dawn of hope rose on Ethiopia with the overthrow of the cruel military dictatorship that continued to cause havoc on its citizens for 17 long and hellish years. Our people breathed a sigh of relief. This motivated us to come to Ethiopia only for a visit.
Four years later in 1995, Connie and I returned back to Ethiopia after 15 years of absence. Along with our American friend, Mr. Richard Galloway, we visited Addis Ababa and northern Ethiopia. We saw first hand the devastation, poverty and human misery that the irresponsible military dictatorship left behind. Our love for God and love for humanity motivated us to want to make a difference in Ethiopia. The visits continued each summer until 2003 when we felt God's call to move back to Ethiopia on a permanent basis. We established a local NGO called Hope Community Services with the purpose of helping the helpless in society. It is now almost 4 years since we left New York to settle back in Ethiopia. We live in Mekelle, the capital of Tigrai state of Ethiopia.
We are happy serving in Ethiopia where our little efforts touch lives. There are so many challenges living in a poor country. The needs are overwhelming. A number of times, we were tempted to give up and return back to New York but we are glad we hang on. Now we are beginning to see the fruit of our persistence. We have been helping blind children, the sick and now orphans. This is just a start of a new chapter in our lives and we look forward with great anticipation for the completion of the remaining chapters that will have more eternal significance.
Oh God, fulfill Your will in our lives to help humanity created in Your image. Amen.
Gabe & Connie