Adoptee's first act of love: aiding his homeland

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP) -- People huddled in blankets near Ha Tsolosa, Lesotho. The January rain drizzled around them, a sign the recent drought was ending. The lack of rain had lasted two years and had devastated crops so badly many villagers had run out of food.

Soon, aid workers -- both foreign and local -- started unloading relief items including bags of mealie (corn meal), oil and beans from trucks.

But one worker looked a little different to the crowd.

Villagers in Lesotho's drought-stricken Matsoku Valley patiently wait for aid workers to distribute food in January. Among the volunteers: Haddon Fries, 9, who had just been adopted in the African country and was heading to a new life in the United States.
Photo by Micah Fries
"They weren't used to us showing up with [a young boy from Lesotho] decked out in a baseball cap," an observing missionary recalled.

Haddon Fries, 9, had just been adopted and was heading to a new life in the United States. But first, he spread Christ's love in the country of his birth. His new family joined a volunteer team and helped distribute food with Global Hunger Relief (GHR), funded by Southern Baptists, and Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist humanitarian aid organization.

"He was very aware that he was helping his own people, and many of them would speak to him in his language," Micah Fries, Haddon's father, remembered. "But on the other hand, at that point in time in his life, he didn't know anything other than his own people."

Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a former missionary to Burkina Faso and a former vice president of LifeWay Research in Nashville. According to the family's blog, he and his wife Tracy had been slogging through paperwork, home studies and more for years to bring Haddon to their home.

Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., and his wife Tracy, with their children (from left) Sarah Grace, Haddon and Kessed Noel, had just finalized Haddon's adoption in Lesotho and were volunteering in a drought relief food distribution by Baptist Global Response and Global Hunger Relief.
Photo by Brett Barnhill
Finally, the couple flew thousands of miles with their two daughters -- Sarah Grace, 13, and Kessed Noel, 11 -- to complete the adoption. And, to be a Fries meant you served others.

"We've just made it a policy since our kids were little to take them on mission with us just in our normal life, whether it's here in our own town or, you know, around the country, or even overseas," Fries explained.

The government of Lesotho had required a two-week stay in the country as part of the adoption process, so the Fries family filled the time with what it did best -- going "on mission."

Before the trip, Fries contacted International Mission Board (IMB) personnel for information on current ministry projects in Lesotho. That brought the five Fries to that mountain, where they started unloading mealie, oil and beans.

The food items, distributed monthly, would help meet villagers' needs until May, just before the harvest. GHR funds paid for them and BGR facilitated the project. GHR uses a unique "dollar in, dollar out" model, with every cent that Southern Baptists donate helping to feed the hungry in North America and around the world. The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program makes this possible by covering GHR administrative costs.

The partnership of GHR, BGR, IMB and the Cooperative Program made it possible for Haddon to enjoy handing food to his countrymen. Although he had never before visited the mountains, his new dad said Haddon loved the experience.

"He jumped right in and helped us load the truck and unload the truck and set up all of the distribution sites," Micah Fries said, adding, "Sometimes, they would sing some songs. It turned out, he knew a lot of the songs."

The entire Fries family made unforgettable memories during their first couple weeks as a new unit. Brainerd Baptist had donated to drought relief efforts -- and the Fries had the chance to see results of that generosity firsthand. They also helped deliver BGR Hospice Kits to terminally ill people, and the girls ministered to orphans.

But their acts of service affected more than just the Fries family by impacting villages full of devastated people, said Stan Burleson, who with his wife Angie have been sent by First Baptist Church in Perryton, Texas, to work in Lesotho and partner with IMB missionaries.

Burleson, who helped coordinate the food distributions, said the aid was crucial with various sources reporting that the Lesotho drought had been the worst in decades. "They [villagers] said people could have died," he noted. "There are people who would not have had enough food. I mean, that's the reality of it."

So before he left Lesotho, Haddon Fries had the chance to say goodbye with an enormous act of love. He helped his people survive a disaster.

Now, the little boy has been part of the Fries family for several months and is getting used to American life. He has turned 10 years old and has started school. But his parents make sure he remembers Lesotho.

"We want Haddon to love his country, and we've worked really hard to help him understand just how wonderful Lesotho is and we want him to remember his heritage," his dad said. "His room is decorated like an American boy's room is decorated in a lot of ways. But we've also decorated it with some of the major icons from his culture -- the Basotho hat, the shepherd's staff and the Basotho blanket."

And, of course, they also want him to understand the importance of serving others. Micah and Tracy have encouraged Haddon to share food, money, clothes and necessities that God has given him with those who have little -- generosity that began on week one when he helped distribute life-saving food in his native Lesotho.

For more information about Southern Baptists' Global Hunger Relief fund, divided 80/20 between overseas and domestic hunger needs, visit Global Hunger Relief.

To learn how you or your church can participate in overseas human needs ministries, visit Baptist Global Response.

Lily Jameson writes for Baptist Global Response. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the SBC Executive Committee.
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