A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Dawit Ashiber Hadley,
Dawit was born in Bechena in the countryside of northern part of Ethiopia. He never knew his biological father. He and his sister were raised by his mother who was very sick and couldn’t walk.
At around the age of 4, Dawit’s mother borrowed money from his grandmother so that they could travel to Addis Ababa and start what they thought would be a new life. His older sister stayed behind and Dawit and his mom moved. However when they got to Addis Ababa they soon realized that life was not going to be easy in the city. They ended up in Kore, the poorest part of town. They had to live by begging at the church. They were permitted by the church to live under a covering that was erected in the graveyard which was a part of the cultural burial process.
Eventually, they were able to move into a shanty with an old woman who was also a beggar. But still Dawit’s mother continued to grow more ill. Dawit recalls the day that his mother was home alone and she began to hear noises and then by the miracle of God she was able to stand on her own. Able to walk now, she now began to work by collecting things from the dump that had been thrown out such as old fruit that she could sell to the poor. Just as it seemed that maybe things might be getting slightly better his mother got very sick again. She was brought to some local missionaries who put her in the hospital and put Dawit in school. Unfortunately Dawit’s mother never got any better. She was eventually sent home from the hospital, unable to keep her or treat her. She was no longer able to leave her bed.
At the age of 8 years old, Dawit discovered his mother dead in her bed. Following her death, his grandmother came down to Addis Ababa from the countryside to collect all the belonging of his mother for the money that was owed to her and then she left Dawit behind to fend for himself at the young age of 8 with no family or place to live. Now this young boy would not only have to grieve the loss of his mother with no family to comfort him, but he would need to find a place to stay and a way to eat. A beggar lady Dawit called “Nannie” took him in her home to care for him. She was poor and had four of her own children to feed so there was never much food around to eat. Still, Dawit somehow survived.
Later a Christian woman who was HIV positive, named Kaseh took Dawit into her home. Her own children had been taken from her so Dawit was like a son. They were still poor, although the living situation was much improved. But a strong Christian woman living with a street boy who wanted nothing to do with God created tension between them. Dawit would skip out of church to go play. He began to hang out with bad kids on the streets doing things he shouldn’t. After three years with Kaseh and the fights getting more intense, Dawit left the home.
For a while he return to live with Nannie but the poverty found him scrounging for food from in the local garbage dump.
Dawit was placed into a home with a woman away from Kore and all his friends. Soon he discovered that this woman had men coming to her home regularly and this was not a good place for him. Dawit left this home and returned to Nannie again.
Dawit got connected to Addis Kidan Church and became sponsored through Transformation Love. He began a discipleship class with our ministry leader Nebiyu and would later be baptized. Dawit was placed into a home with Zelam, a strong Christian mother and one of our volunteer social workers who has a son of her own, Ammanuel, who was is sponsored by Transformation Love and a second street boy named Tilahoun who was also sponsored by Transformation Love as well at the time. This became his new family for the coming years.
Once Dawit and Tilahoun had become teenagers, it was no longer possible for Zelam, being HIV+ to care for the boys so they were placed into our Transformation Love foster care home.
We came to love Dawit as our son. We wanted to adopt him but he was too old for a legal U.S. adoption so we considered him our son in every way, but the one who continued lived in Ethiopia.
Dawit attended a private college prep high school. Throughout the course of Dawit’s high school years, Dawit lead a large Christian group in school and at Transformation Love ministry.
Dawit grew to love Jesus more than anyone I have ever known. He loved to teach the Word of God and he was a powerful prayer warrior. Dawit intended to become a Pastor just like me, his father.
Tragically, Dawit passed away on August 21, 2015 at the young age of 19. As Sherry and I made an emergency flight to Ethiopia to bury our son, our hearts were so heavy and they still hurt from this loss today. However as scripture promises, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.” I Thessalonians 4:13-14. Sherry and I do not mourn as those who have no hope. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have hope that we will see him again with our Savior Jesus Christ. We are certain that his is the hope that Dawit believed in his heart, lived his life for, and held as highest truth for his life. As a teenage preacher and pastor, Dawit led many students to put their hope in Jesus and he told us he was willing to die for his faith in Jesus Christ. He told us just weeks before his death that he believed God was calling him to be a missionary in Africa to preach the gospel. Dawit truly lived out Romans 1:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
We have been blessed to have had Dawit in our lives and in the ministry of Transformation Love. We are left with many wonderful memories. Memories of Dawit singing, “Bless the LORD oh my soul” off key at the top of his lungs in the morning as he would get ready for school. Memories of his picky eating habits saying, “I don’t like” to food he had never tried. Memories of his laugh, his goofy pranks and teasing. Memories of him traveling with us to Kenya and while on a day safari, feeding his banana to the baboon only to have a bunch of them attack the vehicle, climbing up the sides while they were setting on the roof screaming. Memories of him dancing unihibited before the LORD in worship and then preaching the Word of God with power. Memories of him hugging us and telling us how much he loved us. We love you more Dawit!
Sincerely submitted, Pastor Dennis Hadley