"How can there be too many children? It's like saying there are too many flowers." Mother Theresa

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Welcome home Merry Christmas

We woke up at 6am on Christmas morning. Ryan and the kids missed their connection and stopped and got a room. Ryan was too sleepy to make the drive from Chicago. They kids sat patiently waiting for them.

A joyful welcome home.

Brothers first hug:-)

After a breakfast at my inlaws and dinner at our house, we, along with my parents went to our Ethiopian families house to celebrate once again. Selamawit Grace was thrilled to see injera (Ethiopian traditional food.)
AFter a long day and jet lag the kids tuck in for their first night home.

What a wonderful Christmas!
"Fall on your knees..Oh hear the angels voices..Oh ni-ight devine. Oh oh night when Christ was born."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last day, Having some church

We got up and got ready for church at 8ish. I am feeling a bit depressed. I feel heavy hearted about leaving the other family. I feel sad because we didn’t have our embassy appointment. I feel scared because Derara and I are making an international flight alone. I feel guilty because I am angry that the cooks didn’t fix breakfast yet. Yep, I am ugly.
We are told it is a short walk to Beza International church. I quickly realize it is not so short. These Ethiopians walk everywhere. We finally arrive at the church and can’t go in yet. We are a little early. We meet a missionary family from the US and their children (one adopted from here) and talk a while. They open the door and we file in. It is kind of like a warehouse turned into a church. We take our seats a few rows from the front and shortly the service starts. The place is packed. We start with a word from one of the pastors about his walk with the Lord. He says we are all children of Abraham. However, we not only received the inspiration of Abraham we also received the condition of Abraham. This is why our actions and our beliefs don’t always agree. This is why our thought lives are so difficult for us to manage. I wonder does he know how this “condition” has left me in such a funk this morning?
The worship pastor comes out and says “If there is breath in you today, you owe God a praise.” The music starts for “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” We in American churchs can learn so much from the Church in Africa. They know how to praise. They understand the bible in ways we don’t. They know what it means to be the “good shepherd” when the daily see shepherd boys with their sheep on the main streets. They know what it means to be “The bread of life” when people around them are hungry. They know what is means to be the “Living water” when their drinking water is contaminated. They understand the phrase “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” when they have have lived under a King. They know what CS Lewis says in Chronicles of Narnia “He is not a tame Lion, but HE is good.” The Jesus they worship is not the one you can beat up. He is Holy AND Good. I think of in scripture when God told Moses to take of his feet he was walking on Holy ground. I read somewhere that God wanted to be skin to skin with Moses. I am in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ who are worshipping skin to skin and I feel overdressed. The pastor gets up and we do corporate scripture reading. It is nothing like corporate scripture reading here in the states. It is loud and joyful and people cheer. The pastor talks about people facing mountains in their live and that mountains melt in the presence of our God. He asks if anyone wants to come up for prayer and many go forward including Ryan and I. We are prayed over by an African man and I am feeling more and more free.
We go back to our seats and the sermon begins. It is about giving. It is a sermon about giving like none I’ve ever heard. It clearly in the beginning is not the prosperity gospel. It is about how our giving is about obedience and it is also our opportunity to participate in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is an amazing sermon and I hope I can find them online and participate from a distance in what is going on in this place.
We have a lazy day until the wee hours when Derara and I check in at the airport. We say our goodbyes. I fight off tears. I know it is a short goodbye. I no longer feel scared. I thank God for being the melter of mountains.

More from me after our first Christmas together. Thank all of you who prayed for us, donated money or offered us encouragement. You are valuable.

Day 8, Feel like someone punched me in the gut

We woke up that morning, quickly dressed and went to get Iella. We skipped showering etc, until we get back the guest house, for obvious reasons. Ryan has mosquitos bites on his forehead as big as silver dollars. I pray we don’t contract malaria as I scratch the bites on my legs. We go to the patio and wait for Iella. We think we will order a macchiato and but no one comes to take our order. Iella comes out and we get in the car and drive a little ways to the main strip. We get out and go in to get our macchiato. There are no ladies here, just men. I think I’m missing something. We take a table. I am causing quite a stir and wonder if we should leave. The waiter comes over and tells us they have no macchiato. We go to two more places in search of the blessed liquid. We find a Kenyan place in a fairly large building and we climb the steps. They have macchiato. I have two. Iella laughs at me. While I’m drinking it there is a program on the tv about morbidly obese Americans….hmmm maybe I shouldn’t use sugar in my drink. I get up to go to the bathroom and find what you find in most public Ethiopian bathrooms…..filth. The ladies has no seat and it is literally black with filth all over it. The smell makes me gag and I decide to hold it until it comes out my ears before I’ll go in there, squatting is not even an option. I hold back the urge to vomit my macchiato up and go to get the men so we can run some errands for Biruk before picking up the kids.
We arrive at the shanty and everyone comes to give us hugs and kisses. Derara looks a little haggard. He slept on the floor fully clothed. The other kids look fine, as this is how they have lived until two months ago. We are served breakfast, pasta with vegetables and it is delicious. Then we are served coffee. My bladder is already full, but I can’t offend the cook. After visiting with the everyone, we say our goodbyes. This is it. We are leaving Biruk. I feel like someone punched me in the gut. I climb in the car and can’t stop crying. Ryan is sobbing. Guta is wiping his eyes. Selamawit and Derara just sit there. Maybe they have no tears left. We are leaving their biological family. They feel like our family now. I wasn’t expecting this ammount of pain at this goodbye. We cuddle in the backseat. I put one earbud in and turn on Shane and Shane, I give the other to Derara so he can listen too. My face is in the window, the sun on my skin and the wind hitting me, the tears begin to dry. We drive two hours back to Addis, forever a little different…….I still need to pee.

Day 7, Meeting Grandma

We went to the embassy this morning and they would not interview us today. They said Monday was the best they can do. We were scheduled to fly out Sunday night. Ryan is making calls to find us an exchange flight. I am quite upset. I am very homesick. I will probably have to fly home with Simon Derara and Ryan and the other kids will come after they get their visas. I have never flown alone before. This has always been a fear for me.
We traveled to Weliso to visit the kids family. Our first stop was the Emanuel orphanage. . Eyob is the director of this orphanage and he invited us to visit and partake in the coffee ceremony. The kids are quite anxious to see older brother, Biruk, but agree that we should go. On our way, driving down a dirty dust road we saw Biruk!!! What a surprise. He was in his rickshaw. He jumped out and gave hugs all around. He followed us on to the orphanage. Eyob had a quite intimidating appearance. He is tall, black as night, has heavy curly hair and big gummy smile. He looks like an African warlord, but is in fact a kind, gentle Christian man. The kids all ran out to see us and shake our hands, many yelling Faringie, Faringie. (The native word for foreigner.) He gave us a tour of the grounds, the boys room, the girls room, the baby room. The baby room was empty, we were told there was an outbreak of malaria and the babies were moved into the city until they could be safely at the orphanage. We were a little disappointed. Derara and I were wanting to have another baby party like we did at the CCI house. We were introduced to pastor of the orphanage. The area is conservative Muslim and this guy is opening his own church on the back of the property. The only thing that adorns the walls are scriptures. We are shown Eyobs office and the church. To say this place was a pitiful sight is an understatement. To look at the place, it looks uninhabitable. But it is very inhabited. 45+ children call this place home. I feel Jesus presence stronger in an orphanage than anywhere else in the world. Eyob leads us to the kitchen and there we are served coffee. They have the place fixed nice for us. Plastic table clothes, cans with flowers in them. I feel unworthy of being in this space in time. They have nothing and are still going all out for us.
Next we travel closer to grandmothers house. We stop along the way to visit the kids fathers brother, Birhanu. He lives in a oromia thatched roof hut with his wife and two children. They invited us in to look around their home. I had never been in a home that looked like this. It had dirt floors and dirt walls with newspapers on them. They treated us kindly and I wondered to myself “Is this how Derara lived as a small child.” I had been to his brothers shanty but not to his grandmothers house.
We traveled off the road onto a dirt road and stopped when it became impassable. We made the rest of the journey on foot. Then she saw us…hugs and tears around. This is the house Simon and Kaleab lived in as small children.
She tells us that Derara was very sick when he was little. She thought he might die. She gave him a nickname that means “God is with us”. She gave also Kaleab Mercy a nickname and though I cannot remember the name I remember that it meant “The cross of Christ.” I look at where my kids came from and I begin to cry. I have been at my emotional breaking point all day and this tender moment I had the privilege to witness was my undoing. “God is love. God is Holy. “ In this moment I am seeing his character.
She keeps her arms around Derara from the time she sees him. She tells us she is so happy. She keeps thanking us for all we have done for her family. I never feel like we have done anything. But this time I see it through her eyes. Her daughter died. She loved her and misses her still. She wasn’t able to care for the grandchildren. She is too poor…and on another continent a family puts her daughters children back together. They won’t be naked, they won’t be hungry and they will be together. I am so thankful to be the instrument of joy for this woman.
We walk back to the vehicle and say our goodbyes. I don’t know if this is the last time the kids will see their grandma or not, but I know we all will always remember this day.
We drive back out to Biruks shanty. It is a four room structure and 3 people each have their own room and one room, the room that my children lived in is empty. We go in and talk. While everyone is talking, I am handed a small tattered photo album. I go outside so I can clearly see it and I am stopped in my tracks. Their biological parents. My eyes are locked with the eyes of my kids Mom and Dad. She is small and looks like Selamawit. He is tall and muscular and looks like our own Sweet D. This is such a treasure. I begin taking pictures of the photo pages. There are a couple pictures of my kids when they were smaller. Kaleab Mercy as a baby. Selamawit as a baby. It looks like the family was doing well when Selamawit and Biruk were babies. That is when the most pictures were taken. There are few pictures after that time. I return the photo album and sit down for dinner. Their fathers sister is the cook in the area and she fixes us traditional Ethiopian food. It is quite good. She is happy with our compliments. We talk to Biruk about his future and how we can help him. We make some plans. It is getting late and dark and the kids are tired. They decide they’d like to spend the night in the room with Biruk. I look around and see a few stools, homemade border on the walls, one small pallet on the floor and an old suitcase in the corner. “Where will you sleep?” I asked Derara. He says he will sleep in the floor and wants to stay. We kiss them all goodnight and take off to our hotel room.
On the way to the room Iella, our cab driver tells us this is one his favorite days. “We made the old lady so happy.” It is one of my favorite days too and I am happy he was with us. We have drinks on the patio when we arrive at the hotel. I am a little leery of going in the room and want to stretch out the night. When my eyes become too heavy we walk to our sleeping quarters.
I have never been a more pitiful hotel room. It cost us 7 dollars!!! Can you imagine? I’m afraid my pictures of it don’t do it justice.

I am afraid to climb in the bed. The mosquito netting has holes in it. The bathroom stinks. I tried to talk Ryan into getting back in the car driving to the city but he will not. I am reminded of my earlier struggle with being a spoiled American and I let sleep have me. At least I am creating a memory right?

Day 6, my prayer closet

We just hung out here at home today. We have been trying to resolve an issue with the kids passports. They gave them the wrong birthdates and the embassy would not take them. In these birthdates they were 6 months a part in age and they said that wasn’t possible for biological siblings. So the day we got here we received new birth certificates with new ages (correct ones). We then had to go to immigration to get new passports. Our embassy appointment was supposed to be today and we did not get Selamawits passport. We went on to the embassy to talk to them about it and they were closed. So if we don’t get it tomorrow we won’t come home Monday. This left me feeling particularly bummed. So bummed in fact, I had to try my best to keep it together. I don’t have a very good poker face though and folks were asking me what’s wrong. As soon as we got back to the guest house I ran up to the bedroom and closed the door. I shed a few tears and Ryan came in and we talked a bit. I asked him to call home and check on everybody but not to give me the phone. I knew if I heard anyones voice at home I’d started crying all over again. I guess I’m home sick. I was home sick one time when I was a little girl. It isn’t a good feeling. Selamawit came in the room to get her “chruch musica” that she picked out yesterday. This sweet daughter of mine is already ministering to me. I followed her lead and got my iphone out and put my ear buds in and listened to Shane and Shane. I consider this my prayer closet. I went down stairs and sat with Selamawit as she listened to her “Church Musica”. I began to sing aloud “ I was dead in my sin, you came in yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. You made a way when there was no way. You covered heaviness with garments of praise. You wrote a song and your singing it over me….”
I left my buds in and we walked across the busy street to find some dinner. I passed a lady with her infant on the side of the road and I stopped and gave her some money. Selamawit was so happy to see this. I can feel the spoiled American beginning to slip away.

Day 5, swimming and sun

The weather here is amazing. It is crisp and cool in the early mornings and late evenings, warm in the middle of the day. If feels like a warm fall day but looks like summer time year around. It really is perfect weather. We spent the day at the Hilton and went swimming. It was the first time swimming for my kids and Guta got in the water and immediately started to dog paddle, very shortly later he was swimming and even racing Derara across the pool! Selamawit did not swim though. I think her modesty won out and she didn’t want to put on her suit. She wagged her finger no at me and said “In Amedica”. I felt sorry for her just sitting there so I took her to the salon to let her get her hair done. She picked a braided do from a poster of braids. It looked lovely. Then, the boys wanted to get there hair done so we took them.
That evening we went to Fasika for traditional dancing and food.

Day 4 spoiled American

Today I had a litany of complaints. The shower wasn’t warm. It also is outside on the balcony. The toilet isn’t flushing and it is dirty. We are all staying in the same room. When I woke up at 2:00 because I couldn’t sleep I had to wait hours for coffee. Even after the cooks were awake the coffee wasn’t ready for an hour. I miss high speed internet. I can access facebook but not my email or my blog. I miss TV. I would love to say I’m so super spiritual that I don’t but I do. I miss my family.
Did I mention I saw a man crawling up the street because he has no feet? Did I mention there are mothers and babies sleeping on the streets with simple shawls as a covering? Did I mention I saw an elderly lady totally naked washing her body in the sewer? Did I mention you can see all the ribs of the dogs and cows and goats that walk these main streets? Did I mention there are 5 million people in this city and 3 million orphaned children in this country? No, I guess I didn’t mention that.
This day has revealed to me how far I have to go. I am ever thankful that he who began a good work in me will carry it out to the day of Christ Jesus. May he protect me from my selfishness.

Day 3, our kids

We arrived at the guest house at 4am. We were greeted by our case manager, Sue, on arrival. She told me “I have a surprise for you.” In my mind I was like “There are more kids. NO couldn’t be…” We walked up the three flights of stairs to our room and out ran our kids! We were expecting to see them later in the day. Selamawit came straight to me and embraced me and bawled. She was crying so hard that I think everyone around us was crying. Guta went straight to Derara and wrapped him up. When they broke their embrace hugs and tears were shared around the room. Than we began the dance of smiles that we are still doing. With no shared language between us we just smile at each other. It’s awkwardly comfortable.
After we’d had a couple of hours of sleep, I joined Sue downstairs and she told us of the things she has learned about our kids. They have a BIG faith. Selamawit wants to be an evangelist. They told her their mother came to Christ a month before she died. We walked to a local restaurant for lunch and coffee/tea. Guta (Manny) has not let go of Derara for more that a minute or two! Everywhere we walk he has his arm around him or is holding his hand. Maybe he is afraid he will slip away from him again. Selamawit walks shyly occasionally taking my hand. She is so delicate and feminine. She is truly lovely.
The first evening brings us to the transition house that has been our kids home for a couple of months. Wow! There are so many beautiful children. I wallowed in babies. It was so much fun. We were all carrying babies around. The older kids sang for us and came curiously around to talk to us. There are truly a great group of children there. The wonderful part of being in a transition house is that all these kids have families working toward bringing them home. There is Hope in the house.
Before we left the house, Selamawit Grace and Guta Amanuel went upstairs to pray with the staff…We bid our farewells to the beautiful people we may never see again this side of heaven, but will never forget.
We arrived back at the guest house and then set out on foot to the Imperial Hotel for dinner. Derara had an insatiable attack of the giggles that got all of us started. Ryan well…the vomitting began at the hotel….

Day 2, Istanbul

Turkish airways was nice. We flew into Instanbul at 9am their time. I had a fever and a headache. We rented a airport hotel room for 6 hours and slept. Then we spent too much money on dinner and went to our gate. Our plane was delayed -really delayed.
To sum up our experience in Turkey…sick…tired…gone.

Day 1, The journey begins…well sort of...

The journey begins…well sort of
We woke up this morning to the smell of coffee and breakfast cooking, thanks to my dear mother. Then we bid our farewells. The goodbye is always tearful for me. I will miss my kids. I always wonder “what if”. What if this is it? What if I don’t see them anymore. Do they know? Do they know I love them? Do they know I want only the best for them? Did my life speak of a loving God? Overly dramatic? Yep. But I'm like that sometimes.
We took a rental, compliments of the dear ex-husband to the Cinci airport. (If you don’t know the story of my ex husband, ask me sometime. It’s another story of Gods grace and faithfulness.) I am sitting in the coffee shop at that airport as we speak. Ryan gave Simon D and I both a copy of our passports and a 100 dollar bill to carry in our pockets. As we sat looking out the window I asked Simon “If you could keep your $100.00 what would you do with it?” He very passionately said “I’d give it to my grandma.” I’m thinking his sweet grandma is about to get 100 dollars richerJ My pleasure.
I look at my handsome son, Derara and I am overwhelmed with emotion. What a journey this life has taken him on. Three years ago he lay in his new bed crying for his brother and sisters. Last year he was reunited with our own little Mercy Bond. In two short (well not so short) days he will have his other brother and sister back. He will get to visit his grandma. Get to visit the very place he was born. Go back in time, if only for a little while, if you ever can really go back in time.

We board our flight in a bit to JFK. Then we ride Turkish airways to Istanbul. Maybe I’ll chat more then….

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This picture really is worth a thousand words. I wonder what she is writing. I wonder about the map on the wall. Did she put it there? Or did the staff? Has she searched for Kentucky? Does she even know she is coming to Kentucky? Maybe all she knows is that she's coming to the US. Our case manager had this to say about her, "She just wants to serve the Lord." Maybe she is looking at that map and thinking of the peoples around the world who don't know Jesus. Maybe she writing scritures in her notebook. When we met her she had scriptures on her walls at home. In fact that was ALL that was in the room, just papers on the wall she had written verses on. SHE has lessons to teach us all. The WORD is all we really need. "The word was with God and the word was God." John 1:1. Saturday sweet Grace and Manny, Saturday we begin the travel to bring you home.