A name shapes who you are. It is often the first introduction you have to others and shapes their first impression of you. Names are important, and Daniel knew this all too well. In fact, Daniel wasn’t always his name.
Daniel was born to a family with limited means in northern Ethiopia. He also was born with a clubfoot on his left leg, causing his foot to turn inward. Since he did not receive treatment for his condition, it became worse over time.
Walking was the primary means of transportation for Daniel and his family, and most of the roads around Daniel’s childhood home are rocky. Each day, Daniel found himself navigating uneven roads and bumpy paths without proper shoes or protection for his feet. The severity of how his left foot turned inward did not allow him to wear normal shoes. So, he had to cobble together makeshift shoe solutions so that his feet would not bruise more when he walked. Even with his ingenuity, walking was very painful.
Yet, Daniel persevered! God had special plans for him.
Daniel made his own shoes out of materials he found throughout his childhood and could not envision things being any different or getting any better, for that matter. He probably did not think things could get worse either, but they did. Daniel’s father, the financial provider for the family, passed away, and when Daniel’s father died, his world collapsed.
His struggle became more than just walking from place to place because his mother abandoned him. When his father died, she did not see a way to survive by caring for a disabled child and left Daniel to fend for himself. He was just a teenager.
Alone, desperate, and hungry, Daniel began begging on the street for money, and when he was 15 years old, he made his way to the capital city of Addis Ababa. Once there, he had a larger audience, and he went to the streets to beg for food and rent money every day. His condition and his past significantly hampered his self-confidence, and the reaction he got from society made things worse.
And as I said to start, Daniel was not his given name.
In the Ethiopian countryside, it is common for children to be given names based on the situation and circumstances surrounding the child’s birth. Because Daniel was born with a clubfoot, he was given a name that meant “if only he would amount to something” — it was a name that questioned his manhood. Daniel felt that people didn’t see him as a human being. They didn’t see him as someone worthy of affection or opportunity. Daniel not only felt abandoned by his family and his community, but he was also unsure if God cared for him. His life was extremely difficult, and he felt that God had done an injustice to him. But, little did he know, things were about to change!
Umer, a member of the counseling team at the CURE Children’s Hospital of Ethiopia, found Daniel on the street. Noticing his clubfoot, he told Daniel about the surgical services that CURE provides to help children with Daniel’s condition. Umer then gave Daniel some money for dinner and transportation to come to the hospital. Daniel decided to give CURE Ethiopia a try.
Daniel was warmly welcomed at CURE Ethiopia and provided a treatment plan free of charge. He was cared for and loved without anything in return. It was a miracle to Daniel!
His treatment plan was extensive, involving casting and a frame since he had been walking on the side of his foot for years. This meant that he would have to stay at or near the hospital for several months. Knowing that his healing would not be complete without a stable home environment to return to, CURE staff spoke with the Debosco Children’s Center and secured a place for Daniel. At the Children’s Center, Daniel received three meals a day and vocational schooling.
Daniel was given a Bible, and the gospel was shared with him. His opinion of God slowly began to change. He is building a personal relationship with God and reads his Bible to learn more about Him. During the Ethiopian Easter celebration at CURE, Daniel wanted to change his name. After being told about Daniel in the Bible and how much he loved and was faithful to God, he chose to be named after him.
Now, Daniel has a new name and a new future.
Daniel plans to finish his treatment plan at CURE Ethiopia and then travel back to his home village. He wants to show the people in the village where he was raised that “he is a full man now.” He wants them to see that he has changed.
Daniel has changed. He has a bigger family now — the family of God! We hope that the love and care he has seen and felt at CURE extends into his life outside of the hospital. We pray that God has taken hold of Daniel’s heart and that Daniel begins to follow Him. Daniel’s journey with God has just begun, and we are excited to see where it will take him!
* Thank you to Nahom Gezahegn for contributing content for Daniel’s story.