orphanage and had just passed away.” Brighton Asher Hoff man was 76 days old.
*** A decade has passed since then. But even to recall the details of that fateful phone call is an exercise of faith for Tymm and Laura Hoff man, another step in their winding spiritual walk. For Tymm, it’s a walk that started not too long before Brighton entered their lives. It was just a few years prior that he’d started going to church with Laura. At that point, Tymm wasn’t sure what exactly God could offer him. He had a beautiful wife, an enjoyable job, two cars and a house with a fence. Around the same time, however, the Hoff mans were trying to grow their family. But they ran into a bitter battle with infertility, and before long, they began having conversations about international adoption. More time passed, and it became clear biological children simply weren’t a safe option for Tymm and Laura. “God shut that door pretty quickly,” she said. “And we were totally at peace with that. He brought us peace in an instant, taking the desire [to have biological children] away.” But it’s not as though the resolve to be parents disappeared, or even waned. Instead, it re-focused on the prospect of adopting internationally. In 2007, Ethiopian adoption was not common, so the Hoff mans knew they’d likely be matched soon—and they were right. Barely three months after applying for an adoption in Ethiopia, an agency matched them with Brighton. Tim recalls a line he often says to summarize this season of life: “I didn’t meet God in a pew, but in an orphanage in Ethiopia.” After Brighton’s death, the Hoff mans were reeling. After a season of infertility and two failed attempts at adoption, they began to ask themselves: Does God even want us to be parents? But they continued with the adoption process. Their agency knew of a girl in need of an adoptive family, and asked if the Hoff mans were interested. “I immediately texted Tymm and told
him, ‘I’m looking at our daughter’s face,’” she said. The death of a son and discovery of a daughter happened in a mere two weeks. “It was such an odd mix of emotions,” she said. “Because here we are, grieving so badly the loss of our son but also wanting to celebrate this baby girl the way she deserves to be celebrated.” The girl’s name was Meron—a name given to her by the police officer who found her outside an Ethiopian church. In Amharic, Ethiopia’s native language, the name means “a gift from God.” After Meron—now almost 9—there was Mebrate (they call her Mebbie); she’s almost 8. And after Mebbie, there was Zechariah; he’s almost 5. These are Brighton’s siblings, each of them also from Ethiopia.
need of a home. They just wanted to bring the kids some food—specifically, formula, with the hope it might save a child’s life. The logistics proved difficult, but not impossible. Over time, their grassroots,
*** When Brighton died, the orphanage produced a death certificate with “sepsis pneumonia diarrhea” as his official cause of death. But it’s more reasonable to assume malnutrition claimed his life. The problem of malnutrition is particularly widespread in Ethiopia where, according to the United States Agency for International Development, approximately 44 percent of children suffer from it. An astounding 81 percent of these cases go untreated, which means 28 percent of Ethiopian children younger than 5 die from malnourishment every year, according to The World Food Programme’s “The Cost of Hunger in Ethiopia.” The numbers are staggering, and Tymm and Laura want to do something about it. “We felt like we had to do something, no matter how tiny it is,” Tymm said. Two people want to do something about a plague that affects tens of millions of people not only in Ethiopia, but all over the world. The Hoff mans aren’t stupid. They know the statistics better than most, but they also know nothing is worse than doing nothing. “The problem seems so big,” Tymm said, “that an unintentional apathy can set in.”
*** “Give us the worst orphanage you know.” That’s what Tymm and Laura said to an Ethiopian adoption agency in 2010. They weren’t inquiring about another orphan in
From the left: Mebbie, Meron, Zechariah, Laura and Tymm Hoffman
cottage industry non-profit flourished. Soon enough, it had a name, and a familiar one at that: Brighton Their World. Nearly six years later, the scope of Brighton Their World has expanded, even as its mission has remained laser-focused: Seeking to eradicate the problem of malnutrition among Ethiopian children. They still send formula—and diapers and wipes and blankets and baby medications. And they also just opened a school for children in the first through third grades. This might seem like mission creep. Laura insists it’s not, that nutritional concerns remain front and center. Every student receives a free breakfast and lunch every day, and they’ve just recently installed water purifications systems nearby to provide clean water not only for the student, but the family as well. The Hoff mans’ hope is that every student of theirs no longer feel physical hunger, but they don’t want to stop there. They’re keen to alleviate spiritual hunger, as well. They live in Colorado now, where Tymm works for World Vision and Laura works full-time with Brighton Their World—but she doesn’t take a salary. They want every penny possible going to helping nourish children. ALEX DUKE is a writer and editor living in Louisville, Kentucky.
10/6/16 10:40 AM
Published on Oct 26, 2016