The Spitting Grandma


And then, the Grandma spit on my hand…

In March 2013, I had the privilege of leading a team of eight to Shanto, Ethiopia to visit FOVC where I manage 150 sponsored students. Four of my team members were sponsoring children and I was excited for them to meet their children and visit their homes. My cousin, Abby, started sponsoring a boy named Gedion in 2012. Abby made that monthly commitment and had decided to meet Gedion in person.

Gedion was almost eight years old. His mother had died and he was being raised by his father with the help of his two grandmothers. When we arrived at his family’s home his two grandmothers were there to greet us.

What I have observed on my two trips to Ethiopia is that adults are very reserved. However, not the children — they are silly and curious! I think children around the world are pretty much the same with the exception of the various customs they learn. Ethiopian adults are quieter people. They’re reserved, yet deeply caring people who listen and talk when required. However, not the elderly. These two grandmas talked non-stop and they cried. The translator could barely keep up as they expressed their gratitude for the help Gedion was receiving.

After Abby presented her gift of bread, which is customary, the two grandmas spoke of the many years they had prayed, how God had blessed them with a long life, and how they were praying for us. It was a powerful and energizing moment for all of us. A moment to be remember. Then, they each took our hands and spit on them. It was a custom that I had never experienced before. One that I didn’t understand but immediately thought that this must be really special. I learned later that spitting on our hands was them giving us a huge, deep-hearted blessing, and we were honored to receive such a gift

Many of the families that we serve in southern Ethiopia often go on for generations without a single person who has attended school. Yet these are smart people who understand the transformative power that education can bring to a family — they just lack the means to get that education.

For Abby and me, the moment was one that we’d never forget. Not because the custom of spitting on our hands was so different but because Abby realized that her monthly commitment wasn’t merely a donation but the answer to the prayers of two grandmothers and a blessing to a child and his family. Check out our children who are still waiting to be sponsored at