TESFA Special Needs: Meet Burtukan

by | Feb 15, 2018

Reading Time: 4 minutes


JANNA COCHRAN works as an EI/ECSE Specialist with Willamette ESD since 2003. She is married to Gregg Cochran and has two children, Carter and Hadley. She makes regular visits to Ethiopia and serves as Petros Network’s Field Specialist with Women and Special Needs Children.

As a Special Education teacher here in the US, I have the opportunity to teach and support children with Down Syndrome.  So, it was a special privilege to meet Burtukan (Burtu for short) and her family at our Petros Network-sponsored medical clinic in Fall 2014.  At 4 years old, Burtu had likely never seen a physician or received formal medical care. Hearing of our free medical clinic, Burtu’s mother brought her in, concerned because her daughter did not speak or learn like other children her age.  

The Diagnosis:

At the clinic, Dr. Jeff Turk was able to give Burtu’s family a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  I was able to meet with her family to encourage and share information on life with Down Syndrome.  The experience of sitting together in a grassy field outside our clinic with this precious family is one that I will never forget – a far stretch from the classrooms and school buildings we have here in the US!  My prayer was that God would use me to speak life-giving words to this family and that he would demonstrate His love for Burtu through me.  God has brought Burtu to my mind so many times over the past 3 years. She has been the subject of countless prayers. How was she? Was she growing and learning? Did her family have the resources they needed?

Three Years Later:

Joy and relief filled my heart when Burtu and her mother walked into the TESFA Center this past October.  Her precious mother was delighted to see Dr. Jeff and visit with our team. We were able to get an update on her health, her development, and her learning.  Now at 7 years old, not only was she healthy, she had grown! Burtu faces many challenges but is learning new things. She, like many children with Down Syndrome, watches what others do and imitates them. Burtu enjoys playing and helping her mother in the home. She sings & dances. She is a delight and a joy! Her family – no different than any other family living in extreme poverty – faces seemingly insurmountable odds. But in their challenge, they have hoped. They know the risen Savior and see their children, Burtu included, as gifts from Him. 


The Hope and Dream Of Education:

When I asked Burtu’s mother what her hopes and dreams for Burtu were, she said she would like to send Burtu to school.  Burtu’s mother and father work as day laborers, which does not provide enough money to pay for schooling for Burtu or her younger brother.  Education is a luxury that many cannot afford in rural Ethiopia, where day-to-day life presents physical hardships most Westerners cannot imagine.  Where there is no room in the margin for the weak or disabled, there is simply no resource to send a child with a disability to school.

A privilege we have as Petros Network volunteers is the opportunity to not only provide tangible help but also spiritual encouragement. Our team members were able to sit with, talk to and encourage Burtu’s mother. We prayed over her and her precious daughter. We showered her with the love and affection a Child of the King deserves.  Her mother’s countenance and spirits were lifted and Burtu was delighted with the attention, interactions, and small gifts. In return, we were immeasurably blessed by the precious, determined spirit of a very special 7-year-old girl.

In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (NLT).  In our Redemptive Lift activities, Petros Network brings the Hope of Jesus Christ.  We work in the knowledge that God has a purpose for Burtu’s life and countless more who have a similar story to hers. Each child is made in the image of God and He has a plan for them.   Burtu – and the countless others her life represents – are precious to our Savior.  He delights in her as He does in ALL of His children. She is precious in His sight.




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