Verse of the Day

Saturday, December 31, 2011

No News

Our agency has informed us that S.'s grandmother isn't cooperating with the court process. She has missed a handful of appointments, which is totally understandable--- given where she is, and given her transportation problems. But, the truth remains that regardless of WHY this woman is not appearing, her failure to appear in court poses hardship on little S.

Did you know that for every month a child is in an orphanage, that child loses about 3 months of physical and emotional development? Orphanages, not matter how good they seem to be, are no match for the love and care of God-fearing parents. Our S. has now been in an orphanage for about a year. That's a long time for a 4-6 year old. So, we wait. And S. waits.

We also still await word from the judge, but the agency assumes that she will recommend going through the process of abandonment. What this means is that the agency will need to file different papers and make public postings about S., looking for any other family members who could appear or make statements on his behalf. This can be a lengthly process; I do know of one poor family that waited for 2 years for an abandonment to clear! Yet, we have been assured by our agency that S. lived in an area that processes paperwork faster. If all goes well, according to our attorney, this additional step should take 2-3 weeks. Then the case still needs to move through the US Embassy.

Like I stated with our last adoptions, I am so grateful that this is not our first adoption! Having gone through adopting 4 other children, a heart learns to more easily "go with the flow." Worrying and getting upset only hurt the person doing the worrying and fretting; and, participating in all that anxious thinking only demonstrates a lack of faith in what God is doing or needs to do. It has taken me years to get to this point in my thinking, but it certainly allows me to be at peace in the situation. I so thrilled that I can pray to my Lord, and give Him all these issues.

Lord, have mercy on all the kids waiting for adoption processes to finalize. Have mercy on the waiting families. Give them strength during the wait, and comfort them with your Presence. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn patience and perseverance; thank you for teaching me how to trust You for everything that has, that is, and that will take place. You are a great and glorious God! Bring our kids home when it seems right to You. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011


We've been back from Ethiopia for two weeks, and we still have not received our final court approval. I am encouraged that CHI has finally located S.'s grandmother; she has relocated to Southern Ethiopia for the coffee harvest. Even as we speak, a CHI representative is in route to some small remote village to find Grandma. We were told that the CHI driver would be on the road for several hours, then leaving his car and walking to her village... a 3 day walk! Then, Grandma needs to walk back to the car with the driver, hit the road for Addis, and then go to court. Grandma does have a court hearing scheduled for December 19, but if she does not make it in time, the court will allow her to appear at her earliest convenience.

We take so much for granted, don't we? Can any of us imagine the above scenario? First, it reflects the admirable love and devotion of a grandmother to her grandchild. Because she initiated the adoption, we assume that she also understood the hardship such a decision would bring upon her. She knew she had to continue working, following the coffee harvest to many parts of the region; she also knew that she was alone responsible for all the legal paperwork for S. And it's not a small stack of paperwork. The process includes lots of forms, interviews, and digging. And still, she made the unselfish decision to give her grandson a new family. What a gift! What love! I hope to meet her someday.... Second, this scenario shows us just how much we take for granted and how we fail to understand how much of the world operates.

In America, we live live by the clock, basing many of our decisions of how we can benefit and how we can squeeze more activity into the day. We operate under the assumption that hard work leads to success, and that if you just work quickly and intelligently, success will follow. We feel that we are entitled to excellent education, well-paying jobs, mini-mansions, and fast cars. Our "necessities" are not universal, however. In Ethiopia, necessity is just that: do you need something to live? That is necessity. America needs to reexamine "needs" versus "wants." Do we "need" a car, or do we simply "want" the convenience a car offers? Do we "need" more food, or do we just "want" some comfort? What are you wrestling with right now? Want or need?

Thanks, Grandma for the perspective. Your sacrifice helps me to put waiting--- my want for your grandson-- into an appreciative and grateful context. God will bring S. to his new family at just the right time: not early or late. He's always perfectly on time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 7: Ethiopia Court Visit, December 1, 2011/Court Day and Mount Entoto

... from my personal journal

Well, I couldn't sleep again past 4:00 a.m. Darned dogs! Yap-yap, all night long.... At least it gave me plenty of time to "get my head on straight" before court. I need peace that only my Father can give.

T-Man and I were told to be ready to go by 8:15 a.m.; our case was set for 9:00 a.m., and the court building in some distance from the Ethio-Comfort. Well... it was about 8:45 a.m. by the time Pastor Abdissa arrived. I'm trying not to panic, imagining what might happen if we missed our official court time. Turns out that Pastor couldn't drive his car up the street as the road had been ripped up the day before and large chunks of cement blocked roadway access. Pastor Abdissa, bless his heart, had to "hoof it" from the road to the guest house, adding a good 10 minutes to the already shrinking morning schedule.

After picking up another CHI couple, we finally managed to get to the court building by 9:20 a.m. The court waiting area was not too large--- but it was already jam-packed with people. I'm not a good at estimating numbers of people, but I would say at least 75 to 100 people waited. There were only about 30 chairs lining the perimeter of the white-walled room. Most people stood. It doesn't appear that our tardiness made any difference!

We waited and waited and waited. 10:00. 10:30. 11:00. 11:30. 12:00. Finally, Pastor and Attorney Abdissa is able to make an inquiry. When would we been seen? We were the last people in the room, and we were starting to get a bit antsy. Did we simple miss our appointment? I wasn't too concerned; I figured this sort of thing has probably happened plenty of times. I was just glad we had packed some snacks for the road.

After a few more minutes, we find out that both CHI families had been left off the court docket! Our cases had been returned to archive last week, as neither or our children's remaining birth families had been able to make it to court. Abdissa to the rescue! Abdissa was able to convince the judge that it wasn't our fault that the our names had been left off the docket; He also managed to personally retrieve the files from the court archive. Thankfully, the judge agreed that the mistake was on the court's behalf, and she took the files into her office for review. After about 20 minutes, both families were called back to court (a small room with two metal desks).

In court, we were asked very basic "yes" and "no" questions. All of them were listed in the CHI document regarding court; no surprises. The proceeding only lasted about 5 minutes.

Unfortunately for both CHI families, because the birth parents had failed to show for the final adoption decree, we did not receive our final approval for adoption. This was a bit disappointing, although Abdissa had already warned us that the court would not have all the necessary documents to complete the adoptions. In S.'s case, his grandmother is his legal guardian. She has moved to Southern Ethiopia, working as a migrant coffee bean harvester. She has already missed 3 court proceedings, and another is scheduled. In the mean time, CHI is trying to "track" her and send a driver to her location. All we can do is wait. I am so grateful to have been through a previous long adoption waits; it has prepared my to stay relaxed. No sense it getting all upset about things you have no control over. Take this one, too, God. You deal with it!

After court, we headed back to the Ethio-Comfort for delicious hamburgers! T-Man was quite excited to have some American food. I was quite thrilled to just be out of the court room.

Kassa and his driver picked us up about 2:30 p.m., and we headed to Mount Entoto.

Mount Entoto is the highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa. Mount Entoto is over 10,450 feet above sea level and houses Addis' first palace (Emperor Menelik II). It is considered by Ethiopians to be a sacred mountain, and holds the palace grounds, a large church, several monasteries, and a museum. Mount Entoto is also covered with fragrant eucalyptus and massive juniper trees. People living nearby trudge up the mountain roads, gather fire wood, strap massive loads to their backs, and walk back down the mountain. Most of the firewood gathers are very elderly women.
Mount Entoto

Juniper and Eucalyptus trees of Mount Entoto

The winding roads made T-Man a bit uncomfortable; he remembered seeing a YWAM painting of an accident on that very mountain... glad I didn't remember that while driving up the narrow pass! I did take note that there were no guard rails on the roads, just lots of people, carts, and donkeys making their way up the mountain. I also note the extreme importance of a car horn. Drivers in Ethiopia use horns more than the brakes, if you get my point. Driving in Ethiopia is always an adventure!

The trip up the mountain must have only been about 20 minutes, but it was significantly cooler at the top. When we got to the top, hundreds and hundreds of people were all gathered: some in traditional Ethiopian dress, some in Western-style clothing. The entrance of St. Mary's had a few stands were devout Orthodox believers could purchase umbrellas and other items. The street was lined with overhead  flags; it was decorated like we might decorate our US streets for a Fourth of July parade.

Right as we pulled up to the church entrance, our car died. After multiple attempts to start the car, several people standing nearby simply pushed the car backwards and to the side of the street. Our driver looked at me and told me not to worry. He promised the car just needed some water. He was right.

Orthodox Christians trek up Mount Entoto to worship at St. Mary and St. Michael's churches. By the church ground gates, crowds of people clog the entrance. Women have traditional head coverings; some men wear shawls. The outdoor loud speaker blares the pastor's message; the tone of the address reminds me of Muslim call to worship. Followers repeated the chants and performed ritualistic stances and motions. Many had their own pray mats. Believers bowed, bent down, and even kissed the ground as part of the service. 

Saint Mary's

Flag-lined streets

Orthodox Christians, praying

Services are hourly; sermons are blasted over loud speakers

View of Addis Ababa

The poor air quality of Addis

One of the tree-lined walkways on the Palace Grounds

As part of the compound, the country's first palace stands. The rooms were very interesting: simple, thick white plaster walls with dark bamboo wood ceilings. The ceilings looked like an intricately woven, inverted basket--- quite beautiful, considering the age of the structure.

The Palace

Wheat fields surrounding the Palace

Rickety stairs and unsupported walkways made for an interesting tour...

Inside on of the Palace rooms

Ceiling detail 
After leaving the Palace and touring its surrounding buildings, we wandered back to the parking area. We notice a long line of people; they are waiting patiently for a small amount of Holy Water from the priests. Believers claim that many have been miraculously healed of diseases such as HIV and cancer.
Holy Water line
We also viewed the museum associated with the monastery. It was an interesting tour, personally escorted by priest. He was very kind, and showed us the many treasures of Ethiopia. We saw ancient Bibles, clothing and crowns from past rulers, and even several Olympic gold medals that had been donated by talented Ethiopian athletes. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the museum.

We headed to the parking lots--- car in perfect running order! T-Man had an opportunity to try a small stalk of sugar cane. All I could think of was the germs on the knife that cut the sugar cane... God protect him!

We drove back down the mountain and prepared ourselves for our last meal at the guest house. We already had suitcases packed and ready. Suddenly, who should be at the front door but Fekadu, our son's father! What a sweet surprise! Fekadu brought individually wrapped gifts and hand-written cards for each member of our family. He gave Glen and me colorful beaded cross necklaces; he also gave all the children either traditional clothing or scarves. He was very generous, considering this man makes no salary. I am overwhelmed by his kindness.

Fekadu shared with us that his nephew has been admitted to the hospital for diagnosis of a possible heart condition. It is a sad moment. We all gather, arm in arm, and lift up the needs of this little one to the Great Physician. No need to translate. God is present. It was a holy moment. 

I was strengthened by the prayer, as I did not cry when Fedadu left. I felt humbled and at peace--- no need for tears. Fekadu is a strong, gentle man. I think he knows that the Lord has knitted our families together in a very unique way. Oh Lord, how do I deserve such blessings?

T-Man, Kassa, and I finished a quick dinner and brought all of the luggage downstairs. Tsebay then convinces me that now is the time to learn a little about injera! Nothing like packing as much living into time as possible!

Tsebay led me to the injera prep room. She showed the proper consistency of injera batter, and then proceeded to show me how to pour the batter in circles onto the hot griddle. This is not as easy as it looks, I soon discovered! I took my pitcher in hand, ready to pour... and I look to the side of me: 3 men, videoing the session! Just a bit intimidating....

My first and only injera looked like a one celled organism. Not too appetizing.

Next, Tsebay brought out several large, heavy bags: teff flour, berberre,  and shiro. She wanted to encourage my injera making. Now I have no choice but to try!

Soon came the tears and the hugs of saying good by to so many dear people--- all the people in the guest home, my sweet Tsebay, along with her husband and her beautiful mother. It is so difficult to leave people you've grown to love and to care for.

Kassa accompanied us to the airport, walking as far as he could before we entered a secure area. He hugged T-Man and then me... he fought the tears that had fallen so freely in the van ride here. Kassa calls me his "Mum." Right now, I truly feel that this is true. God has given me a tender heart for this orphaned young man. I want to help him grow into a man of honor and courage who can survive in such a battered world. 

We were advised to get to the airport 3 hours ahead of our flight time. It does take quite a bit of time to get through airport security screenings--- 3 of them, plus the time it takes to fill out the exiting country paperwork.

During our wait, we met more wonderful people. Of all the Ethiopians I have spoken with, all of them expressed great joy and curiosity as to why people would want to help their children. As a Christian, this provides me a perfect opportunity to share my convictions. I love this country!

We left the airport, flying Ethiopian Airlines direct to Washington, D.C. via Rome (re-fueling stop). Our flight leaves a 10:15 p.m. We had an hour or so lay over in Rome, and then headed for Washington. We again stayed awake until the final stretch of the trip; this really helped with the jet lag.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 6: Ethiopian Court Visit, 11-30-2011

... from the pages of my personal journal. Photos withheld pending finalized court proceedings.

Wednesday morning, Kassa, T-Man, and I headed back to the Thomas Center. S. ran straight to Kassa, who then pointed to me. Kassa reminded Mr. S. that I was his mommy; S. ran to me and enthusiastically hugged me... then he ran to T-Man and grabbed his hand. He just stood there--- looking up at his older, taller brother. S.'s small face absolutely beamed--- joy spilling from his heart onto his beautiful face.

Within minutes, the kids escorted us into the main lobby of the Thomas Center where we again enjoyed orange soda, cookies, and roasted chick peas. This time, however, S. was given his very own soda. To say the boy was delighted would be a total understatement!  He literally chugged the entire soda--- extending his neck back, opening his mouth and guzzling the contents--- pausing only to insert about 8 small biscuit-type cookies and a couple handfuls of chickpeas! I don't even know how he had time to breathe. It was funny to watch him, although in the back of my mind I'm guessing I may have another child with eating issues. Hmmm.

After the food-fest, we moved outside to get some fresh air and some exercise. S. ran around happily with all the other kids, but was careful to involve T-Man and Kassa in the fun. He liked to keep his eye on me. I was sitting in the shade of the building, trying my best not be try to bond (bonding was not encouraged by CHI at this point in the process). This is pretty much impossible--- not to bond! Your mind says one thing, and your heart, another.

S. seemed to tire easily today; he also seemed to limp a bit more. Dear husband (also a physician) has suggested he may have a simple limb length discrepancy. Who knows. Perhaps it was just the excitement of the day. 

A wonderful addition to the day was having S. cozy right next to me, our backs leaning up against an old mattress and foam pad. The African sun felt splendid, as the breeze was rather cool for a person living in the Southwest desert. S. and I mirrored each other's actions, showing each other how funny we could be. We both thoroughly enjoyed just sitting together and goofing around with each other. We compared each other's foot, hand, and head sizes; then we compared our fingernails. His were way prettier than mine, as his had been painted a beautiful shade of sparkly pink that very morning by a sweet 12 year old girl in the complex. He was quite proud of the polish, and he wondered why mine were so white. He actually tried to scratch off the white color... to no avail.

We continued to play and to follow each other around the front area. S. seemed to prefer hanging out with me today, as opposed to playing a rough and tumble game of soccer with the other boys. My heart was bonding. I was not really following the guidelines--- hard for me. But I figured if something happened and this adoption did not go through, at least this child--- this day-- would feel like the most loved child in the world. I would give him today. I loved him.

All was going fabulously until S. was asked to wash his hand for lunch. Suddenly, this sweet child's disposition turned to a blank stare with seemingly endless tears streaming down his dusty cheeks. Okay. What's going on?

An older girl tried to help S.; she led him to the outdoor faucet to wash his hands. He stubbornly refused. He just stood there, weeping as he clutched on to his photo book.

After about 10 minutes of silent crying--- and seeing T-Man, all his buddies, and me wash our hands--- he reluctantly gave his hands a quick rinse. We walked into the Thomas Center and saw the other younger kids already sitting down to lunch. For some reason, the nanny brought his plate of food to him where I was sitting. He was the only child with the adults. I don't know where he wanted to be... he just seemed torn and totally unable to process what was going on. He refused to eat for quite a while. Kassa was finally able to coax him into eating; the food seemed to soothe him somewhat.

We were all puzzled by the meltdown. Had he been hurt? Was he scared? Hungry? Overwhelmed?

Turns out he simply knew what was about to happen. As soon as lunch was set out for the kids, the prospective adoptive parents were ushered out the front door. Then he bolted to me. He clung to T-Man, and then to me. He would not let go. All the other court and Embassy families were in the van, and I had this sweet boy clinging to me as if his life depended on it. It broke my heart when the nanny had to pry him off of me. How painful it is to leave someone you just fell in love with! Now I understood why the staff advises you not to bond... but I don't know if I could have done this any other way.

I am happy that I was rather clueless and did not anticipate the abrupt departure. I didn't have time to cry--- which was probably good. Crying wouldn't have helped the situation. I just prayed for my little guy, and hoped that somehow he would understand that we would be back for him.

After leaving S., the van load of prospective and newly adoptive parents (with their kids) headed for the other Thomas Center. Somehow I had failed to remember that there are two facilities named The Thomas Center. One has babies, the staff offices, and a playground--- the other has the older children. (I think that's right!) Anyway, the luncheon was at the baby house. I had mistakenly assumed that we would be eating together with the kids at the first Thomas Center; I thought I'd have more time with S. Oh well. Go with the flow, Crazy Woman!

The Thomas Center luncheon was its usual delicious self: traditional Ethiopian food and lots of it. I did not have the nerve to try Kitfo--- just couldn't do it! Although it was a very amiable group gathered for lunch, I couldn't help but to compare the experience the last time I was there. This time, all the newly adopted were babies. Two years ago, most of the kids were 3 years and up... and they were loud, crazy, hyper, and exceedingly happy. This group was very "tame" in comparison!

Kassa had arranged for his driver to pick us up near the Thomas Center so that we could venture out and enjoy some shopping. I welcomed the distraction. Last time we were in Ethiopia, we did not shop or do anything--- the three kids were so hyperactive, we opted out of all activities. But this was our chance! We headed to a shopping area near the main post office in Addis. It was an crazy, colorful mix of honking cars, swarms of pedestrians, and little shops teeming with all different sorts of goods. I am not someone who enjoys shopping, but this looked fun!

Kassa warned us: let HIM bargain. He gave us strict guidelines: scope out the store, see what you like--- if anything-- and then let him negotiate the price. T-Man had great fun, trying to participate in the haggling process. I, on the other hand, winced at the shouting and bickering. Seriously? Do we have to act like this? All part of the Ethiopian shopping experience, I am told. In the end, we came away with some awesome souvenirs for the kids... and T-Man and I again understood just how important it is to shop with an Ethiopian guide! The prices kept changing, even for Kassa. A tourist would get eaten for lunch, so to speak. Thank you, Lord, for Kassa.

After a couple hours of shopping, we headed back to the Ethio-Comfort for another great evening of delicious food and wonderful company.

I really enjoy staying at the Ethio-Comfort. First, I like the homey environment. People lodging in a guest home are typically looking for a more relaxed environment with family-like interaction. This interaction adds a significant, positive aspect to travel. Families get to talk, cry, and help each other. We had a chance to interact with other adoptive families, families serving as missionaries, and families traveling the globe. It was an education and a great pleasure. Second, the Ethio-Comfort provides adequate accommodations at a reasonable price. Although I never shopped around too much when deciding on a place to stay, I did investigate other traveler recommendations through Travel Advisor and through CHI. I don't really know if there are significantly less expensive places to stay, but I am very impressed that I've managed to stay healthy during 2 trips, and I trust the staff.  That goes a long way. Finally, the main reason I love the Ethio-Comfort is the manager: Tsebay.

Ever since meeting Tsebay, we have had the "bond." I think it is the Holy Spirit, uniting new friends. Very sweet. Tsebay is a self-controlled, gentle, strong, determined young woman. She runs two guest houses with ease, despite the fact that she is a very pregnant 7 months. I love Tsebay's "way" with people. She truly has a servant's heart. You can see that demonstrated in the way she listens, attends to, and supports her guests. He guests are her friends, and while you're there, you are family... plain and simple. The wonderful part of this type of hospitality is that it's contagious. I want to be like Tsebay. She has taught me a great deal about Biblical hospitality; I am so blessed by her ongoing friendship and devotion. I love my Tsebay!

The other unexpectedly sweet friendship I have made in Ethiopia is with our Lalibela tour guide, Kassa. Since our connection just 2 years ago, our friendship has grown stronger and more blessed. 2 years ago, we were enjoying sightseeing, talking, and laughing together. Then, I had the lovely opportunity to meet and interact with his family. Since then, we've helped him grieve the loss of his beloved parents to a tragic house fire. Kassa lost all of their household belonging, and then was made financially responsible for his sister, who was physically and psychologically damaged by the fire. His family was awarded a lot of land to relocate in Lalibela, but the law stipulated that he had to build a house on the property or forfeit the land. He had to let the land go, as he did not have the financial resources to pay for construction. This is a lot to handle for a twenty-something.

We have tried to financially supported him--- paid for his driver's license and for his sister's medical bills. But our few thousand dollars are not enough to help him realize his dreams of becoming a sight-see tour bus guide. He needs his own vehicle.

I do not understand the politics or the financial realm of Ethiopia. People can't get loans. The people I talked with who do run businesses in Ethiopia do so because of initial foreign investment. Someone took a chance and offered another person an opportunity to succeed in the business world. This is something Americans don't understand. We complain because we can't get a mortgage for a house, but these people are frustrated because many want to work but don't have the finances to start a business or to follow through with an idea or a dream. There just isn't money in Ethiopia, except, perhaps Chinese money...(the Chinese have funded road-building projects and have imported lots of big, red buses, and who knows what else). Anyway, God willing, we will be instrumental in securing donors for him: Kassa needs $10K to qualify for a loan to purchase a mini bus. Without a vehicle, his work aspirations will remain frustrated. I find that unacceptable.

Kassa has an entrepreneurial spirit: he is smart, funny, multi-lingual. He can look at a situation and see what needs to be done to improve it. I think he would do very well as part of the Ethiopian tourist business. He just needs a chance. Lord, I want to help him. Show me how.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 5: Ethiopian Court Visit, November 29, 2011

From my personal journal; sorry, no photos until court is official 

At about 10:00 a.m., our CHI driver picked us up to meet our new son. We were finally going to meet this little boy we've been praying for for a year! As our driver pulled into the Thomas Center, the stark surrounding don't prepare you for the joy you're about to encounter. The area is so poor; the tops of the walls have razor barbed wire, and the tall metal gates are constantly guarded. The van has to honk to be allowed entrance. The other family visiting with us were just as anxious as we were. What was going to happen to each of our families? Would we instantly love our kids, or would this take time? Thousands of thoughts cross your mind in those moments up to the great meeting.

As we got out of the van doors, three children (one for us and two for this other couple) bounded through the front doors of the orphanage. In my hand I held the Shutterfly album I had created for S.; it had his beautiful face plastered on the front cover. He didn't know which family was his until he saw his photo... and he instantly came running and smiled a thousand watt grin that bathed the world in glorious sunshine! One look said it all: he now had a family and he absolutely loved it!

We followed him into the Thomas Center's main greeting area and started pouring over the family photo album. Thankfully, our friend Kassa provided interpretation; there was no one on staff to greet us or to interpret for us. Kassa explained all of our photos--- who everyone was. He started kissing the photos, especially the one of Daddy and of our Golden Retriever, Rocket! He read through the book over and over again, just trying to absorb what was going on. Then he started trying to balance the paper album on his head, hoping to gain an approving smile. Little did he know he had won my heart at first sight.
The Thomas Center

The Thomas Center, dining area in view

We were fortunate to spend about 2.5 hours at the Thomas Center visiting S. Mr. S. LOVES orange soda, cookies, and roasted chickpeas. He gobbled as many off the table as he could... and in record time. He also got a lot of entertainment from the camera. All the kids wanted to get their hands on the camera, so be prepared! We also played lots of soccer and explored the front area of the Thomas Center. There is nothing for the kids to play with except for a flat soccer ball and a few sharp sticks. That didn't seem to stop the kids from playing happily with whatever they found.

What we did notice when S. was running around was that he only wants to kick with his left leg. I am not sure if he just has a cute "waddle," or is he had a sort of limp. He does not appear to be in any pain. I know he has significant burns on his left knee from falling into a cooking fire when he was young, so I don't know it that massive scarring impacts his stride. This will be something we'll have to have evaluated by a physician. I wonder if he has a limb length discrepancy?

S. is very small. He is supposed to be "around" 4, but he is wearing a 3T shoe and 2T pants and tops. He is also quite stocky. Reminds me of my sweet Mr. A.

S. plays very well with the other boys, and seems to lack the aggressiveness of most of them. He even let me hold and cuddle him. He maintains good eye contact and wants to touch my hands. He loved T-Man and Kassa, and gave them all plenty of attention. He even joked around with Kassa in Amharic!

We were them able to watch the kids eat lunch. I'm laughing inside as I watch the dining table: 8 kids, all incredibly well behaved and polite. They all prayed before eating and waited patiently to be served. (Looks like my kids at home could learn a little something here!) What particularly touched me was that he wanted to feed me, and he allowed me to feed him. In Ethiopian culture, it is a sign of affection and respect to feed each other. He touched my heart.

We said a sweet goodbye--- hugs and kisses. We both knew we'd see each other the next day, so no one was too sad.

I love him. That amazes me. Love can happen in moments! I am especially grateful to God that He allows such sweet beginnings, as I know from experience that those sweet times come and go... and come and go. I know life with this new little one will bring hardship and pain, as attachment and bonding challenges all kids and newly adoptive parents. But to just have that first day... a sweet one, at that... is an amazing gift from the Lord. I will cherish this memory in my heart all my days.

After the visit, T-Man and I spent the day visited a couple of the travel agents Kassa works with. What is keeping Kassa from getting ahead in the travel industry is not having a mini tour bus. One of the owners of the tour agency, after talking with us for quite awhile, offered to help Kassa secure a micro-finance loan AND to personally help him with car financing if he could come up with 60% (roughly $10K). Kassa was flabbergasted, and felt very encouraged. He also recommended that Kassa pray to God every day with his need. I had also told Kassa that if the Lord truly wants him to have a car, he will surely get one! Now, all I need to do if find some other people in the US who can help me raise the money. Lord, please show me who to ask. $10K is nothing for you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 4: Ethiopian Court Visit 11-29-2001

Excerpts from my personal journal... parts eliminated to protect the privacy of those involved

What an incredibly emotional and sweet day! Today, we were greeted by our former Lalibela tour guide--- Kassa Akele Menale. We had wired Kassa some funds to that he could get on a plane from his home town of Lalibela and spend the week in Addis with us. Kassa looked well, although he did seem a bit beaten down by the hardships of life. He no longer looked like the happy-to-lucky young man we had just seen 2 years ago. We spent a couple of hours visiting and catching up with Kassa, and then proceeded to begin teaching him how to use his new Apple laptop and digital camera. We hoped both would facilitate his tour guide business.

Kassa, our favorite Ethiopian tour guide

After breakfast, we headed to two Addis Ababa museums. The first, The National Museum of Ethiopia, housed the bones of the infamous "Lucy." We saw fabulous ancient artifacts that pre-dated the birth of Christ. We also saw the "fossil record" supposedly documenting evolution. Again... praying in my head throughout the whole exhibit.
The National Museum of Ethiopia
Here's "Lucy,"or Dinknesh, as the Ethiopian prefer to call her...

Other various artifacts:
Water or oil vessel, before Christ

Figurines, before Christ

Royal throne 

Lion of Judah

Ancient grave markers

Story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

St. George

These are obviously only a few of the artifacts and works from the museum. We would highly recommend making this visit. A guide will give you a personal hour and a half tour for less than one dollar!

We also visited the University of Addis Ababa's Historical Museum. This, too, was very interesting and required more time than we had. A person could easily spend a few hours in this one museum--- we had about forty-five minutes! Kassa kept us constantly moving through the exhibits; I felt frustrated at not being able to read many of the placards on the displays... and I'm NOT a "museum person." 

After losing my reading glasses at the museum (a big "darn it all!"), we headed back to the Ethio-Guest House for the most delicious spaghetti ever! Seems odd to get great pasta in Ethiopia, but perhaps that is one good thing that came out of the Italian occupation a long time ago! We had a lovely meal with Tsebay and Abdissa. I had a real opportunity to learn more about YWAM and how it functions within Ethiopia. I have so much to learn about his wonderful country!

Abdissa of YWAM Ethiopia Mercy Development has an overwhelming task: he directs two homes for street children, oversees discipleship training for a rather large group of young people, oversees a child sponsorship program, offers community support and small business help to families, supervises a community feeding program, helps bring water into the area (serves 300 families), and oversees other after school programs for youth. This man is smart, humble, and very loving--- and he is highly respected by the people. I can tell that by how people responded to him. Next time I feel overwhelmed with 8 kids, I think I'll turn my thoughts to Abdissa! He has more on his plate than I do!

T-Man and I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the boys' and girls' facilities. We got to see the Joshua House, home to 13 boys from the ages of 4 to 18. The girls' home (Ruth's House) currently has 8 young ladies, ages 6-18. 
Kitchen and bedroom wing of Joshua House 
Lots of laundry for lots of boys

Front Yard to Joshua House 
Everything was neat and well-maintained at the boy's compound
We learned a bit more about the compounds and how children are brought into them. It is a very long and interesting process. First, YWAM staff walks around the community. As they see children alone and abandoned, they begin to minister to them in small ways. They initially talk with the kids, determining their needs. The staff begins to share food and drink with the kids, and continues to build relationship with them. After some time, and if the child is truly abandoned and without a family, the child is offered a place to stay at one of the homes.

As an adoptive mom, I know how difficult and disruptive a "new placement" can be... and this is multiplied many times over! Yet, peace reigns in these homes. The children were very well behaved, respectful, and very happy to have visitors. They love to learn and to sign about how the Lord has had mercy on them and saved them. It was hard to believe that these kids were once without hope; they now have family and are thriving. Seeing their faces made me full of a sweet joy that only the Lord can bring.

We were truly blessed by being able to bring some personal items, clothing, and school supplies to the boys' home. T-Man also played guitar for the kids, who were so very eager to sing along to new songs. I so wanted to do MORE, but this is what the Lord sent us this time to do.
Loving the boys in Joshua House

Ruth's House

Dining table at Ruth's House

Outside of Ruth's House

Hallway to girls' rooms

Ruth's House

Because of adoption regulations, we were only able to present the birth parents with photo albums of their kids. It is so difficult to want to do more for these wonderful people, but we feel equally compelled to maintain the sanctity of adoption procedure in Ethiopia. If we were to give gifts or financial support to the family, it might be construed by some to be a form of payment for children; this is of course NOT what we want or support. 

In our particular case, we have been privileged in that we have been able to send multiple letters and photos over the last two years so that these parents could still in some way participate in their kids' lives. These parents were simply overjoyed to see us and to see new photos of their kids. We spent about 4 hours with them; we laughed, sang together, prayed for each other, and wept together as we said good bye. We even made a call home so that the birth parents could hear the sound of their children's voices. I loved every minute of our visit. God has allowed so much healing and joy to come from pain. But why should I be surprised? God is the master of healing!

Adoption is such a interesting mix of joy and grief. I have an overwhelming joy of having the blessing of more children, but I never lose sight of the fact that these children are only here because of loss and pain. They had to endure great deprivation, agonizing separation, and grief beyond what most of us can relate with. Yet, through God's mercy and His love, these kids are flourishing. And their parents have learned to endure.

I think I saw a little of what heaven will be like today. I sit here, blown away by the grace of god. I feel so unworthy to have the privilege of raising so many. I don't know how we will provide, but I feel certain that the Lord knows exactly what He is doing for and through us. Who am I do question God? God is great! Greater than we can fathom. God is good! So good, we fail to appreciate and understand. Lord, help me to understand and believe.

Days 1-3: Ethiopian Court Visit (11-25 to 11-27-2011)

The following posts are directly from my personal journal:

It all feels surreal--- sitting on a cramped, uncomfortable airline seat--- headed to Ethiopia once again. I have within me a mix of inexplicable joy and a bit of anxiety. I keep praying to push the last airline flight out of my head... He never gives us more than we can handle, right? I am determined to believe and to walk in faith. His presence comforts me immediately and I feel no fear. I am extremely grateful to God--- and very humbled by His grace. Why us, Lord? Why have you chosen to bless us in such a way? Please help me, Lord. I want to do this well.

Our flight this time around was much more palatable than the first visit. T-Man and I were determined to find some way to lessen the effects of severe jet lag, and we hoped traveling at night might be part of the answer. We initially departed Phoenix in the evening (8:45 p.m.), and headed to San Francisco. After a two hour layover, we took a non-stop United flight that landed in Washington, D.C. by 7:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. During this leg of the journey, we attempted to stay awake. I dozed a bit the last one or so, but T-Man managed to stay awake the whole journey.

We boarded Ethiopian Airlines by Saturday at 11:15 a.m.--- and braced ourselves for a 13+ hour plane flight. By this time, T-Man and I were totally exhausted and ready to sleep. We managed to get a good 7 or 8 hours of sleep on this flight so that when we arrived in Addis Ababa by 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning, we actually didn't feel too horrible. I think this travel strategy really paid off (thanks, Heidi at Susan Parr Travel!).

At the arrival, we patiently waited in the incredibly long Visa-upon-entry line. During the wait, we made instant friends with an amiable young man named Sega. Sega was adopted from Ethiopia many years ago, and was returning to visit his biological mother and family. He was planning on a long 3-month visit, and hoped to learn a lot more about his birth country.

Sega was a very articulate, well educated, charming young man of about 26. Sega was born in Ethiopia, became a citizen of Nigeria, was educated in private school in the UK, and currently lives in the US. He knows multiple languages and hopes someday to work with the United Nations. He is currently in transition again, awaiting his US citizenship papers. Sega had a very interesting, albeit unusual upbringing.

The hour and a half wait in the Visa line proved to be such an encouragement to me. Sega showed how wonderful adoption can be when the adoptive family encourages and promotes a continuation of the biological family relationship. Sega loves and adores both of his families and considers himself double- blessed. This is what I so want for all of my internationally adopted children. I pray in my heart while I talk to Sega: Lord, is this is your will for my children, please show me a way.

Finally, we managed to get through the Visa line. When we arrived at the desk, the attendant looked at us funny: our Visas from almost 2 years ago were still valid! We had not even looked at the passport dates; we just assumed we needed a new Visa. In November of 2009, we ordered Visas through Assistant Stork. I didn't recall ordering long-term Visas, but oh well. We were happy to have made a new friend while waiting in line, and also happy to not have to pay again for Visas!

Upon leaving the airport and getting plenty of Birr (Ethiopian money), we were greeted by a face we knew from the YWAM Ethiopia website: Abdissa Tadessa. Abdissa is my dear friend Tsebay's husband. Abdissa is the director for Youth with a Mission Ethiopia Mercy Development, and we were very surprised that he even had the time to pick us up from the airport--- we know he is a very busy man with many responsibilities. He was incredibly gracious and pleased to meet us; he escorted us to the airport parking lot where we were met by his very pregnant and beautiful wife, Tsebay. I got very teary-eyed seeing her; she is one of my "heart" friends. I am immediately concerned about her, as she looks very large for a woman who still has over 2 more months of pregnancy. She tells me she is in danger of developing gestational diabetes and will see a specialist later in the day. My inner prayer life is going into overdrive....
Tsebay, Mommy, and Abdissa

Sweet Tsebay, a forever friend!

After arriving at the Ethio-Comfort Guest House (Tsebay is the manager), we were greeted by delicious bunna (coffee) and lots of wonderful, warm conversation. I love Tsebay! She is a gentle, diligent, sweet woman who has managed to follow and serve the Lord in difficult circumstances. It was such a joy for me to bring her many things for her new baby. I think we overwhelmed her a bit....

After visiting for a few hours, T-Man and I headed for bed about 6:00 p.m.! We slept fairly well, despite the continuously barking dogs and screaming cats throughout the night. Note to self: remember earplugs next visit.