Editors’ note: Journalist Hikma A. Abdulmejid reports on two organizations in Ethiopia that give children who have been abused and abandoned an opportunity for a brighter future in “Broken, Not Crushed” in the December issue of ONE. While her cover article focuses on the children’s trials and hardships, her audio report recounts her encounter with an elderly sister who has given her life in service to this mission. But reader beware: You, too, may be charmed by the playful Sister Lutgarda! A full transcript follows.
I had a confirmed appointment for a Tuesday at 4 p.m. to meet the children and sisters at Kidane Meheret Catholic Orphanage. I met with my camera crew and we headed there. Sister Lutgarda had told me over the phone that the orphanage is located inside the Kidane Meheret Catholic Church compound. I called her as soon as we arrived.
And there she stepped out from behind the green gate, a charming old lady with a warm smile on her face. I went forward as the camera crew was behind, collecting their equipment from the trunk of the car, and she greeted me with a welcoming hug. I told her I was so happy to meet her and she responded to me in Amharic.
I was astounded by her pronunciation. So, I instantly asked her how long has she been here in Ethiopia. She teased that I have to guess first before she tells me. I guessed 20.
She replied, “No, try again.”
I asked her if it is more or less. She nodded and said, “More.”
“25? 30?” I continued.
Sister Lutgarda had a gentle and witty personality.
The camera crew approached us and greeted her halfway through our conversation. I included them in the conversation and told them I was guessing how long Sister Lutgarda was in Ethiopia and asked them if they can guess.
“20? 40?” they guessed, but they too had their guesses wrong.
“I have been here for 53 years,” she helped us with the answer.
We all had surprised looks on our faces. I was amazed by her dedication to the service. We all expressed how amazing and the long time it is.
And she proudly replied, “Well, I am a soldier of God,” and she guided us to go inside the orphanage compound. Sister Lutgarda introduced us to the children and the sisters there.
While the camera crew was setting their camera, she gave me a tour of the orphanage. As we arrived at the children’s care room where newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers were playing with their caregivers, the children all ran towards me and Sister Lutgarda and gave us lovely hugs and kisses. I received their affection in an amount I have never done before.
It was such a heartwarming experience.
Hikma A. Abdulmejid is a freelance journalist and lecturer in journalism and communications at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. She has been published in Addis Fortune and writes for a number of U.N. agencies.