Verse of the Day

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

The man who puts up with me... 

Happy Father's Day! Yes, you are the man who truly puts up with me:  the man who works three jobs to provide for the family... the man who lets me bring home stray animals... the man who blesses and supports my dreams of welcoming home 8 kids... the man who doesn't comment if the house is messy or if it's eggs (again) for dinner... the man who encourages me to be ME... nuts and all. Thank you. I love you, Sweetie! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Happy at Home

I honestly feel kind of embarrassed--- and a bit guilty. The transition with S. has been so easy and positive that I almost feel reluctant to share. I know many of my friends and acquaintances have had extremely trying homecoming and transition times. For us also, all of our past adoptions had significant troubles and difficulties. We have endured biting, hitting, running away, inappropriate urination and defecation, food challenges, stealing, hoarding, lying, learning problems, overwhelming grief, etc. We know hard. We know what it feels like to need the Lord so badly to help you, that you constantly pray--- begging God for mercy and direction. We were fortunate that the hardships passed with time. Yet, we are keenly aware that many families necessitate counseling and family therapy to find some way to function and thrive as a new family unit. I grieve for some of my friends who never seem to enjoy relief. It pains me. But it also makes me very aware--- and very grateful and humbled by the Lord's gift of S. He has been such a sweet joy! I literally feel like this child has always been here.

And it's not just me who has felt this ease. Dear husband has experienced it, too. The moment S. saw his new daddy, he beamed from head to toe! His smile lit up the entire world--- for just that moment. His face seemed to speak love and joy... and "Where he heck have you been?" He did not want to let go of his daddy's neck. And even 2 weeks later, S. runs to greet Dad when he comes comes home from work. It's like "instance love" between these two. It melts my heart.

Upon meeting the rest of his family, S. was initially shy. He smiled and hugged everyone, but didn't totally warm up for a couple of days. Now, S. is running around with all of the kids, calling them all by name. He is not aggressive, likes to tease, and enjoys joining in with whatever is going on in this big family. Yes, he's had his times of grief and anger, but they have been short-lived and he has allowed me to comfort him. He was truly ready for a mommy.

Interestingly, my little man calls himself by his new name already. I initially called him his given name of Asfaw; then I called him S. Asfaw. Now, it's just S.  It always fascinates me how readily and easily four of my kids accepted and desired to use their new American names. A name change just didn't seem to bother them.

S. seems to accept change readily and goes with the flow. He is not reserved in the slightest, yet he is also not hyper or demanding. He is simply happy.

S. derives great joy from the little things: a warm shower, sippy cups, swings and a playhouse, new food, ice cubes, and rowdy play. The only things he has been afraid of are doctor visits, blood work, and snakes. (Doesn't seem too out of the ordinary!) His only "dislikes" have been brown rice and mixed berry smoothies. He child eats vegetables, fruits, and meats--- everything.  Although he does eat a good, maybe too healthy portion of food, he does not eat to the point of sickness.

S.'s adjustment has been going so well, we even took him to church last week. He quietly played with his bag of toys, and was so well-behaved. We are even going to try putting him in Sunday school tomorrow; I imagine he will do just fine. Additionally, he (we) survived a trip to our local CVS Pharmacy; he didn't even try to grab everything in sight, and didn't pout at all when I said "no" to a second treat. I am simply amazed at how this little guy is adapting to our family and to life in America!

As far as the adjustment of my existing family members, our family is also doing exceedingly well. We have literally had about 30 minutes of jealousy... total... from one person. And that person is now okay. Sure, we have some rolling of the eyes when S. has cried due to grief. Yet even then,  the older adopted kids then think to ask if they were the same way. I think Samuel has helped some of them to have a bit more compassion for people.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us over the course of this year. Your prayers have been answered (and we liked the answer!). Although I realize we are bound to have difficulties--- that's just life--- I am going to enjoy this delightful time of joy and blessing. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Last Day in Ethiopia--- Addis Ababa, Part 4

On our last day in Addis, we attempted to spend some time sightseeing. Mainly, we wanted to see the Addis Ababa University Museum.
Outside the Addis Ababa University Museum

Big sister and S. posing by exhibit

S. screamed when he saw the lion!

Still a little scary, even if it's stuffed!

Outside the museum

As quickly as you were able to view the above photos is about the speed at which we went through the entire museum! S. was way too excited to pay any attention to ancient artifacts and historical displays. He was running full-speed through the main room--- I was quite concerned that he was going to jump into one of the open exhibits! So... our best laid plans took a bit of a detour. I think the museum tour lasted about 20 minutes. Good thing it only cost 150 birr. Our driver was rather shocked when we appeared at the mini-bus, ready to go. S. told him that he really didn't like all this driving around; he just wanted to go home. The boy knows what he wants. 

In effort to avoid an immediate return to the guest house, our driver took us to a wonderful Italian pastry shop. It was a little dicey finding a parking spot here--- and equally dicey maneuvering across a very busy street with no pedestrian crossings and plenty of pushy street vendors trying to gain our attention. This was probably the one time big sister felt a bit uncomfortable; she does not like being surrounded by strangers. I grabbed her hand and pulled her next to me, just like I did S. He didn't like it, either.

Once across the street, we walked into a pleasant little shop that could have been in Europe. Flower vendors sat outside the entrance, greeting us with kind smiles as we entered. This is a very busy little shop, and it has been open everyday since the Italian occupation of Ethiopia; it has remained a popular place to enjoy miniature cream puffs and various other goodies. Considering no desserts exist in traditional Ethiopian cuisine, this establishment has enjoyed much success! The pastries are only made twice a day, and the locals have figured out when the pastries come out of the oven. People wait in line for their treats, enjoy a plate there... and then take a pink box home with them. S. happily tried everything put in front of him; he liked most of the items, with the exception of the creamy custard filling in the cream puff. I was a little leery of eating dairy products in Ethiopia, but figured the custard had been boiled. No problem. No sickies.

After the pastry shop, we had delicious buna at Kaffa Coffee House. I had my first Ethiopian macchiato; it was delightful! This store was also jammed full of people, both local people and tourists. The shop was about the size of a small Starbuck's, and had multiple tables where people stood to enjoy their buna. We also purchased some coffee to take home. Now that I've opened the coffee and brewed it at home, I so wish I had bought a lot more of it! It is simply the best coffee I've ever had. 

After buna, we headed back to the Ethio-Comfort to pack our belongings and spend time with Tsebay and her family. It is always so hard to leave friends. I think it's easier to be the one leaving.

Our flight left Addis Ababa on Friday night at 10:15 p.m. We took the advice of our travel agent and did arrive 3 hours early at the airport--- this was a good move. Friday was the kick off of an Ethiopian holiday, so the airport was absolutely jammed full of travelers and families picking up travelers. Due to a recent change in airport security, drivers and families must wait for passengers in the parking lot. Thus, the parking lot is not only full of cars, mini-buses, and people, but apparently also pick-pockets, too.  Our driver warned us not to exit the car until he brought over a person to help us with our bags. He also instructed us to stay close to the valet and put our purses over our necks and close to our bodies. We had no problems, but were very thankful that we got the the airport so early.

When you enter the airport, you wait in line and have your bags screened. Security has opened my bags every time we've traveled; they always find some metal object in the luggage. Next, you to the ticket counter and wait in another long line. Use this time to fill out your customs exit form. After leaving your baggage and obtaining your boarding passes, you walk through customs and have your passport stamped. After that, you head to another screening at the gate. Moral of the story: give yourself at least two and half hours minimum to get through all of this. It takes forever!

The plane ride home was sweetly uneventful. Thankfully, I do not have any post traumatic stress issues from the infamous Christmas Day Underwear Bomber episode we had the last time we were bringing home kids from Ethiopia. Thank you, Lord.

The scariest thing for S. was the flushing toilet. Unfortunately, S. was sitting on the toilet and reached back and accidentally hit the flush button. The poor kid freaked out--- a serious freak out--. He jumped off the seat and hit the bathroom door, yelling and crying. Poor guy. After that, he insisted on leaving the bathroom before I flushed the potty.

Oh, one word of advice: make sure you have some diarrhea medication in your carry on. Thankfully, S. could swallow the tablets. It could have been a very long and sticky flight.

To pass the time, S. used the bathroom every hour or so and hit every button on the interactive screen in front of him. The child did not watch one movie or television show for longer than about 3 minutes; he also didn't listen to any musical choice for longer than 5 minutes. I can't believe the T.V. screen kept him busy for most of the trip home. He tried every meal placed in front of him, but usually only wanted the sega (meat). He only slept about 2 hours total, until right before we boarded the plane in Washington, D.C. to head home. He slept the entire last 6 hours of the trip. Such a welcome relief!

We arrived in Phoenix a bit after 8:00 p.m. S. was so excited to meet his new daddy and all of his brothers and sisters. He gave everyone a big hug, with the exception of the dogs. Initially, he was fearful of the dogs; within a week, he thinks they're the greatest ever!

Our little guy stayed up until about 12:30 a.m., and then managed to settle in for a short night's sleep. He got up by 3:30 a.m. So did I. So did big sis. It would be a long few days... darned jet lag!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Farewell Party for My Little Man: Thomas Center

After a somewhat gloomy afternoon at the YWAM Mercy Development home, we headed over to the Thomas Center to enjoy a Farewell Party for S. and his good friend, A.

Great, hand-clapping music
Let me just say from the get-go: S. is no wall flower. The child loves to be the center of attention--- singing, dancing, and celebrating. The Thomas Center offers a great little party for the leaving children, complete with traditional sweet bread, roasted grain, popcorn, soda, coffee, and a gift of traditional clothing for the child. S. loved the music; a couple of the staff members played guitar and sang songs with the kids. It was difficult for me not to cry; all of this joy generated from a bunch of fatherless children. They all celebrated with S. and A.--- happy that they were about to start a new life with their very own families. I just prayed that each lovely child there eventually finds a home and parents of their own.

My new superstar,  singing at the top of his lungs

My little man, dancing

Traditional sweet bread/cake


S. attempts to cut the first slice

Mom's turn to cut the cake

Squirmy man doesn't like posing for photos

Happy to clap and sing

Yummy chickpeas

Such sweet children!

A., Pastor Abdissa, and S.
The Children's House staff seemed a bit apologetic that they no longer offered a big evening out with exiting children and parents. In December of 2009 when T-man, my step-son, and I traveled to Ethiopia to pick up our other three children, we did enjoy the usual farewell party. Then, the celebration started at the Thomas Center, and ended very late at a traditional cultural restaurant, complete with dancing and musical entertainment. (Oh, I do remember that night: B. was high-strung, chugging Coca-Cola; G. and A. were running all over the place, ignoring everything anyone said. Not exactly relaxing, and nobody slept very well that night.) It was fun for the kids; over-the-top for the parents. After all, it's right at the end of a very emotional week. All that to say, I didn't miss the traditional dinner out. I was happy to have a shorter, lower key, early evening with my son and his friends. More than that is simply not needed. The evening was perfect.

Addis Ababa, Part 3: YWAM Mercy Development

The streets of Addis Ababa

Women selling vegetables, roadside

Lots of busses and tons of traffic

The streets are always filled with people

View of nicer area of Addis, near Ethio-Comfort

Any home with any value has razor wire on top of walls

On Thursday, May 24, 2012 we had a pretty leisurely start. I was unfortunately up at 3:30 a.m. again due to the Muslim call to prayer. Between the barking dogs, jet lag, and the Muslim call to prayer, a good night's sleep is pretty close to impossible!

This morning, T. and I are regretting the fact that we forgot to bring lots of dried fruit. Last trip, we stocked up on whole-food bars, nuts, and a variety of dried fruits. Since I traveled alone with T., I was quite reluctant to venture to the local mini-mart. It was a short walk, but one I was not going to risk making. 

T. and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe while in Addis. We did have a male driver with us at all times within the city, and did not venture out without him. We chose not to go out at night, and did not eat anywhere but the Ethio-Comfort. Some might call us too careful, but when you have a beautiful and novice traveler as your daughter, and a sweet little boy--- I'd rather err on the side of being too careful.

Today we spent much of the time driving through Addis Ababa. The city is teeming with people, cars, busses, donkey, goats, and construction. The city is literally changing over night, with old and run-down areas undergoing demolition and new, high-rise building taking their place. Since none of the land is privately owned in Ethiopia, when the government wants to build, they build. Home owners are reimbursed for their homes, but I am told that often times the reimbursement is not too favorable for the home owner. 

Indeed, much of Ethiopia is undergoing such change. The Indian government is leasing huge areas of land (the size of Addis, I am told) and introducing mechanized farming; the Indians are also building various manufacturing facilities. When the Indians (or the Chinese) come into the area and decide on a particular plot of land, the government takes the land from the Ethiopians living and farming on it. The Ethiopian families are told to go elsewhere. This has created anger on behalf of the displaced Ethiopian farmers, in some cases. In other cases, Ethiopians surrender their land and end of working for the Indian companies. Additionally, I learned that the Ethiopian government makes a large amount of money through leasing the land, and through taxes on the exported materials. From what I understand, the farming and the manufacturing do not benefit the people of Ethiopia; all the food and products leave Ethiopia, and are exported. I do wonder how much of the new construction is government funded, and how much of it is foreign-government funded? With all of the obvious changes in Addis, there is certainly a lot of money coming from somewhere. 

T. and I did manage to spend a bit of our own money, purchasing beautiful items from the stores near the Addis Post Office. We did not have Kassa, our Lalibela tour guide with us to bargain... so I'm sure we paid about double what we did last shopping trip! Nonetheless, we enjoyed shopping in Addis and appreciated the helpfulness of the shop keepers.

Next stop, YWAM Mercy Development.

Outside of YWAM Mercy Development--- no overhead shelter  for outdoor benches

Outside YWAM MD

Not much room for kids to run and play, and what is here is not very safe 
Main entrance to YWAM MD. Note the sofas and chairs on the porch. The facility has no room inside for them.
Let me introduce you to a busy place: the YWAM Mercy Development complex. Well, it used to be a complex. Just last December, YWAM occupied 3 separate buildings. Now, due to lack of funding, YWAM occupies only one house. Many of the children are no longer able to stay at the houses. All of the ministries are run out of this one facility. Two of the missionaries left; the discipleship training school is defunct. The compound itself  is woefully inadequate--- overcrowded, messy (due to lack of storage and usable area)... and down-right upsetting. 

The YWAM home used to have separate boys' and girls' houses. Now, they are under the same roof--- adults staying in the main rooms, providing supervision for the kids. If I recall, the age range of the 15 children living in the complex is from 8-16. The home provides shelter, food, and funds for school; it also provides some Christian discipleship and accountability. 

In addition to the room and board aspect of the ministry, YWAM MD also runs a school-day feeding program for about 20 kids. Everyday, these kids come to get good food and hopefully, the sweet love of Jesus.
Lunch time feeding program

Outdoor food storage area

Kids enjoying lunch and fellowship

Some were bashful for the camera...

You can smile...

Gotcha! Such a beautiful smile from a great kid!

Indoor eating area for the younger kids

Inside main living area of home

Cramped quarters; the extra refrigerator is in the hallway

Computer work area for older students

Main area, looking out to front of property

Scripture decorates the walls

Tiny indoor kitchen area--- shown to us my Pastor Abdissa

I am not pleased... the kitchen area is so inadequate

Outdoor cooking and washing area
If I remember correctly, YWAM Mercy Development needs about $1500 USD to operate each month, and it is not meeting current budget needs. In order to grow and to serve more children in the surrounding community, the ministry needs to rent another home. There is a home currently available to rent--- almost across the street from the existing house. If YWAM MD can secure more faithful donors, more children can seek and find refuge. As it stands now, YWAM and all of its ministries are in jeopardy. That means no housing, no food, no community feeding program, no water program, no discipleship training program. If you would like to share in the burden to bring relief to these children, please make a donation online at (indicate that the funds are for YWAM MD). Please consider making monthly support payments. The US dollar goes a long way in Ethiopia (exchange rate is 17:1).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sister Connection in Burundi

Photo from Sister
If you love Africa and feel led to help those in need, take a look at Sister Connection. My friend, Denise Patch, started this organization designed to serve widows and orphans in Burundi, Africa. Currently, Denise is attempting to raise funds to provide widows and orphans with a summer camp opportunity. This is a wonderful way to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Please consider sponsoring a widow or an orphan! Giving is so easy, and can change a life forever.

This is from Sister Connection's Facebook page:

From the President's Desk . . .

"I have two chickens and they are laying eggs. If you were near, I could send you some eggs, but I am afraid that they cannot reach you safely."
-- Beatrice, Sister Connection widow

When I was a child growing up in Burundi, I loved having guests drop in unannounced. As we welcomed them in, they would give my mom a basket wrapped in colorful cloth. In keeping with their custom of opening gifts in private, she would take the basket to the kitchen, untie the cloth, and lift the lid off the basket to reveal some food item from our visitor's garden or livestock. Often it was eggs. Mom would remove the eggs, and fill the basket with a gift from our pantry. Often it was white sugar--a luxury item for our subsistence gardener friends.

One year, a devastating drought brought horrible famine. Their staple crop, beans, had failed. Our Burundian friends were hungry and always short of food. Though my missionary parents launched relief efforts in collaboration with international organizations to bring beans to the region, it was taking time. For weeks, the beans from last year's harvest grew scarce, and hunger was escalating to starvation. It was during this time we received a visit from one of the local pastors. He and his wife were special friends to our family. Though I was young, I noticed the signs of stark hunger in their faces. Their cheeks were sunken and they looked frail. In their eyes, however, the light still shone, and their love for Jesus and for us was strong. When they handed my mom the traditional gift, I went with her to the kitchen. She unwrapped the beautiful cloth, and slowly lifted the lid off the basket.

What she found there brought my mom to tears. Nestled in the basket was a small pile of beans. For a few minutes, she stood there with her head hanging from slumped shoulders, broken by the sacrificial love of our friends.

"How can we receive these beans?" she whispered. "This is probably the last of their supply. How can I give them sugar when they need these beans? Yet, how can I refuse their gift?"

My heart was changed in that moment. As I stood looking at two handfuls of pinto beans, I saw Jesus. I was only 10 years old, but I understood that what looked like a pile of dried beans was actually a sacrifice of love that could cost our friends their lives. It sounds silly to think a basket of beans bearing the value of life, but the famine was severe. Our friends had just given us from the last of their food, knowing we didn't need it, but wanting to show us how much they loved us.

It hurts to be loved that deeply.

That's how deeply our widows and orphans love you. Whether you sponsor them, build homes for them, give scholarships to orphans, contribute to critical needs, send their children to camp, or give to the "ministry support" fund so Sister Connection can exist, they love you for it. Our widows and orphans consider your love, provision and prayers to be among the greatest gifts they have ever received. Out of their poverty, they would give you their best-because they want to show you how much they love you. The ocean prevents you from receiving a basket wrapped in colorful cloth filled with eggs or beans, but I hope you receive it in your heart.

The gift we want to provide to over 500 widows this summer is a spiritual retreat, and we also want to give the gift of camp to over 1300 orphans. Three days filled with fellowship, worship, encouragement, teaching, laughter, tears, prayer, and as many beans as they can eat.

Your participation in this gift has already been incredible. To date we have received $20,386 toward our need of $50,000 (about $30 per widow or child). $29,614 is still needed for all to participate. Together, I believe we can fill the basket with enough beans to feed the hearts, minds, and bodies of our widows and orphans.

If you would like to be part of this gift, here are three ways to contribute:

• Give online
• Give by credit or debit card over the phone by calling our office at 623-882-1393.
• Contribute to this gift by mail: Sister Connection c/o FMF, PO Box 580, Spring Arbor, MI 49283.


Denise Vibbert Patch
Sister Connection

P.S. We are hoping to receive all the funds by June 15 to give our Burundian team enough time to plan food and transportation before the first camp begins on July 9.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Addis Ababa, part 2

It was another early morning for us women... up at 4:30 a.m. A 10 hour time difference really plays havoc with your body! The great thing about getting up so early is that it is the perfect time to call Arizona. Dear husband insists that I call him everyday, just so he knows I'm alive. He sounds pretty good, this time around. I'm sure it helps having my mom and dad staying at the house. What a sweet gift their stay was for our family. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

By Wednesday morning, T. and I were getting to see the "real" S.: funny, loud, and crazy! He loves his blue sippy cup, his kid's camera, and the iPad. Yes, the iPad. He really enjoyed the free Lego game that T. had downloaded before the trip. It only took him about 5 minutes to figure the whole thing out. He also enjoyed listening to the Beatles and Audio Adrenaline.
S.  loves technology already!
The power is down, and remained off the entire day. Thankfully, the camera is charged and ready to go. I am also very thankful that we brought a flash light this time. I really don't like the idea of using candles with little kids around! Anyway, it was kind of a relief that the power went off, as S. just can't leave the downstairs TV remote alone. Buttons are SO exciting!

After a scrumptious breakfast, we headed to the Thomas Center for the optional physical exam by Dr. Desta. I did receive records that he had been treated for cellulitis, intestinal tapeworms, and chicken pox. Dr. Desta believes his limp is due to an adhesion of the knee cap; I pray that that is all it is. Poor baby.

Next on the agenda today is a visit with extended family--- G.'s birth mother, and B. and A.'s birth father. Abdissa from YWAM Mercy Development (Tsebay's husband) was kind enough to bring our kids' family over to the Ethio-Comfort. It was quite nice to have a quiet, more private visit. 

For some of you who have never visited with birth family before, I want to really encourage you to take  advantage of this opportunity. Not only is it a relief and healing for the birth family, but it is a truly humbling blessing for the adoptive family. It allows you to see adoption for what it is: a joy birthed through pain. When you are confronted face-to-face with the painful side of adoption, it gives you a more accurate view of the process. It also grows your compassion, allowing you to put yourself in another's shoes--- if just for a few moments. Without the love of Christ in my heart, I do not think I could appropriately process this experience. 

We visited with our Ethiopian family for a couple of hours. They enjoyed receiving photo books and other framed photos of their children; they also liked being able to ask questions about how their children are adjusting. We laughed a lot together, and did not shed tears until it was time for the visit to end. This is the third time I have met with my kids' family, and I must say that I absolutely consider them an integral part of our family. We all understand that we are in this parenting relationship together--- and that adoption can be positive.