The First Act of Love: Pastor’s Family, Newly Adopted Son Bond by Distributing Food in Child’s Country
by Lily Jameson
Villagers in Lesotho’s Matsoku Valley patiently wait for aid workers to distribute food in January 2017. A severe drought has devastated the region, and Global Hunger Relief worked with Baptist Global Response to provide these people with mealie (corn) meal, oil, and beans. These monthly distributions were scheduled to continue until the harvest season which began this month (June). Photo by Micah Fries.
People huddled in blankets near Ha Tsolosa, Lesotho. The rain drizzled around them that day in January 2017—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.
“They weren’t used to us showing up with a young [boy from Lesotho] decked out in a baseball cap,” an observing missionary recalled.
Nine-year-old Haddon Fries 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) and Baptist Global Response (BGR).
“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.”
Micah serves as senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is also former vice president of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tennessee, and a former missionary to Burkina Faso. According to the family’s blog, he and his wife had been slogging through paperwork, home studies, and more for years to bring Haddon, their “gift,” home.
Finally in early 2017, Micah and his wife, Tracy, flew thousands of miles with their two daughters—Sarah Grace, thirteen, and Kessed Noel, eleven—to make Haddon a Fries. And, to be a Fries meant you served others.
Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, posed with his wife, Tracy, and their children (from left) Sarah Grace, Haddon, and Kessed Noel in January 2017. He and Tracy had just finalized the adoption of their son, Haddon, in Lesotho, and were spending time together by volunteering with Baptist Global Response and Global Hunger Relief. Photo by Brett Barnhill.
“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,” he explained.
The government, he said, had required a two-week stay in the country as part of the adoption process. And the Fries family filled that time with what it did best—going “on mission.”
Before the trip, Micah 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.
Given monthly, those food items 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, and every cent donated by Southern Baptists helps feed the hungry in North America and around the world. The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program makes this possible by covering GHR administrative costs.
All those organizations made it possible for Haddon to enjoy handing food to his countrymen. His dad said he loved the experience, even though he had never before visited the mountains.
“He jumped right in and helped us load the truck and unload the truck and set up all of the distribution sites,” Micah 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 with BGR Hospice Kit delivery to terminally ill people, and the girls ministered to orphans.
But their acts of service affected more than just the Fries family. Stan Burleson said they impacted villages full of devastated people. Sent by the First Baptist Church of Perryton, Texas, Burleson and his wife, Angie, work in Lesotho and partner with IMB missionaries. He helped coordinate the distributions.
Volunteer workers distributed bags of mealie (corn) meal, oil and beans to mountain villagers in Lesotho during January 2017. Among the workers were Micah Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his family. They had traveled there to finalize the adoption of their son, Haddon, and were volunteering with Baptist Global Response while in the country. Photo by Micah Fries.
He said that aid—especially the food—was necessary. News sources reported the drought had been the worst Lesotho had seen in decades.
“They [villagers] said people could have died,” Burleson explained. “There are people who would not have had enough food. I mean, that’s the reality of it.”
So before he left Lesotho, Haddon 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 a Fries for several months and is getting used to American life. He has turned ten 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 wanted him to understand the importance of serving others. Micah and Tracy encourage Haddon to share the food, money, clothes, and necessities God has given him with those who have little.
The child’s lessons in generosity began on week one—when he carried beans for Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response.
For more information about Southern Baptists’ Global Hunger Relief fund, divided 80/20 between overseas and domestic hunger needs, visit GlobalHungerRelief.com.
To learn how you or your church can participate in overseas human needs ministries, visit Baptist Global Response at GoBGR.org.
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