Tuesday, August 9, 2011


This week I had the opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with my brother, David, and sister-in-law, Shanna. They were at the end of their eighteen month long journey. They finally had a date at the U.S. Embassy that would finalize the adoption of Musse. Musse is a little over 2 years old, although he's about the size of a one-year old, and he is the cutest little thing. He has a gorgeous smile that lights up a room and eyes that dance with laughter. And his laugh! What a beautiful, infectious giggle he has. Musse is also the master of facial expressions; the best is when he rolls his eyes and smiles a very sly grin.

We arrived at the transition home where Musse had lived for the last 10 months to pick him up and bring him back to the guest house with us. It was so beautiful to see how naturally he went to Shanna and David. He had last seen them at the end of May and it was now August, but it was just like he had see them just the day before. And in the four days he's been with us, that bond has already grown exponentially. He walks to them with his arms open wide and grins when they pick him up. When he cries, a hug and simple words calm him down. Despite his limited vocabulary, his eyes and his smile have communicated so much to us. Words can't really express how awesome it is to see the three of them together. It's hard to believe it's only been a few days. And I can't wait to see Kyle (my other precious nephew) and Musse together. Kyle has such a good heart and he has been waiting for a little brother for so long; I am excited to see their relationship grow.

Families who adopt are the ultimate rock stars, in my opinion. It is a long, frustrating, and often heartbreaking process. But despite that, thousands of families adopt children into their families every year. And the process, however painful it might be, yields rewards that are immeasurable. It is a game of waiting - waiting for the referral, for court & embassy dates, and for answers. And it is during the waiting that families grow stronger, closer, and even more faithful.

Many times you may hear people (often strangers) comment on how lucky an adopted child is. And to a degree, that statement has some validity to it. Adoption does afford a child the opportunity he or she might not have had otherwise. There are millions of kids out there who have been orphaned; the reasons are numerous and not even that important. What is important is that these children deserve the opportunity to live a life of happiness without fear of hunger, disease, abuse, or neglect. But a greater than a child's "luck" are the blessings the adoptive family feels. When I think back to the conversations and the tears of joy and frustration over the past 18 months, it's no wonder that families grow closer. As I sit here and think about what to write next, I feel overwhelmed for my blessings are too many to count.

Mostly, though, I think adoption is about love, hope, faith, and doing what is right.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Adoption Wordle

I took all of the wonderful posts from Facebook and put them in a Wordle.  This journey was made extra special by all of the sweet words and blessings from my friends.  Constantly amazed by all of the love.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trees of Glory

Wednesday afternoon...
Yesterday I told y'all about the throngs of people who covered the roads on our trip to Hawassa. Some were obviously headed to or from market, some were herding goats and cows; some it was difficult to determine what their goal was. But today, I did learn another possible reason for what seems to be an endless amount of walking. Drop in centers are not uncommon here in Ethiopia. And that is where we are headed this afternoon - to a place called Trees of Glory. I'm writing this on the way there so I can't truly describe it yet, but it sounds like a combination between a daycare center and the Boys and Girls Club. It's a safe place for kids who are at risk (ummm, I think that's most kids in Ethiopia) to go on a daily basis for shelter, food and education. David & Shanna sponsor a little boy there, so we are going to meet him and take him a care package.

Later that same day...

So today was simply a fabulous day. The drive to Trees of Glory took about an hour and a half. I'm not really sure what direction we drove, but we did drive out of Addis into the mountains. Like our drive to Hawassa, any pictures I did take won't really do it justice. It was extremely lush and beautiful. Even thought the sky was overcast with rain off and on, I think that contributed to the beauty. As we drove out of town, the first few miles reminded me of the Great Smoky Mountains. Eventually the trees became less numerous and faded into open meadows populated with typical Ethiopian homes and storefronts. Maybe because the drive wasn't as long as yesterday's, or because it was in a different part of the country, but it didn't seem like there were quite as many people here.
Trees of Glory is not just a drop in center, it is also a school and an orphanage. There are some children who have been orphaned so they obviously live there. But, there are also dozens of children who walk many miles each day to go to school, learn about God, get a couple of meals each day, have a safe place to hang out, and just be a kid. To learn more about this agency, please visit http://www.hopechest.org/trees-of-glory/.

We were immediately greeted by the lady in charge of Trees of Glory. She ushered us into an all-purpose room and with her was the young boy David & Shanna are sponsoring. He was such a cute boy, about 10 years old. He had such a serious, quiet look about him and there was a sadness in his eyes. He does still have a family, but apparently, they struggle, so everyday he walks approximately 40 minutes from his home to the school. We brought him a care package filled with school supplies and 3 new shirts. He was pretty excited; in fact I think he put on 2 of the shirts right away...one on top of the other. Even if there hadn't been a language barrier, I don't know that he would have said much. I think it was pretty overwhelming for him. We had also brought with us a care package for another little boy from another family. Still a language barrier, but this boy had quite an infectious little grin. The two settled in next to Shanna and Mussee to look at some pictures. They all looked so stinkin' precious! At about this time that I was really thankful for my brother and his dry sense of humor (as well as his ability to pick on me). This will surprise many of you, but I was ready to lose it. Those two boys who have pretty much nothing were so sweet, loving and well-mannered, not to mention they were so appreciative of us spending time with them. I turned to my brother and told him to start picking on me, knowing that would allow me to keep it together. He must have been storing up some thoughts about my hair because he didn't miss a beat.

Not only were the boys grateful, but a handful of adults took time out of their day to visit with us. We were blessed with a coffee ceremony; coffee beans were roasted and ground in front of us. When the coffee had boiled, she added it to fresh milk. With a side of popcorn, it was the perfect snack for a rainy afternoon. We were also treated to injera and cabbage prepared two different ways. Defintely interesting and I'm glad I tried it, but not sure that injera will be breaking my top 10 favorite foods.

Before we we left for Addis, we toured the compound. I think I might have to save that experience for another day. Pictures are definitely a part of the story and it is a story all by itself. Until next time...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the Road to Hawassa...

This trip is such an experience and I have so many friends who have been so supportive and so excited for my family, I decided it was a good time to revive the blog and share the journey. As I've written down some thoughts over the past two days, I've come to realize how difficult it is to come up with the words to describe this moment in my life. I'll try to share different pieces of the adventure over the next few days.

As soon as we arrived in Addis, we went off on our first adventure to Hawassa. The orphanage Musse lived in for a brief time is there and that is where we planned to meet his birth dad. Hawassa is about a 5 hour trip from Addis, I believe south of the capital city. The drive has some spectacular vistas, but it also incredibly heartbreaking. We were on an actual highway for the most part, although not always well-maintained and more like what Americans would call a Farm-to-Market Road. And all along the way are throngs of Ethiopians. They are on foot, on cart, in a taxi...everyway imaginable. Some people are just walking along with nothing but the clothes on their back while others carry packs, water jugs, or fruit & vegetables. Carts filled with cornstalks rolled by as we sped down the roads. Other carts, led by overburdened donkeys, had people as their passengers, sometimes up to 10 or 12 on one tiny cart. While it was pretty sobering, at times there was also humor. Like the time we passed a cart that appeared to have no owner. Upon closer inspection, he was simply napping while letting the donkey lead the way.

Every few miles we would come to a cluster of villages with small children playing outside in the dirt, and if they weren't playing, then they were working in the fields. We saw several families plowing the ground with a pair of cows, or harvesting crops. Mothers and daughters hung their laundry out to dry on fences and rocks. Children as young as 4 or 5 herded the goats and cows alongside the road. More often that not, the livestock was without anyone to herd them and they just meandered alongside the cars. Occasionally, some of that livestock decided to cross the road and we would nudge our way around them.

Along the way we also passed through several towns. Not really what we would consider towns back in the states, but here a variety of businesses lined the road and people bustled from one end to the other. There were still the donkey-pulled carts, but the towns were also filled with taxis and cars, usually filled to capacity. Women sat on the side of the road selling roasted corn and other fresh fruits & vegetables. Stores no bigger than most American master baths sold anything from sodas and candy to car parts and electronics.

Quite possibly the strongest memory from today's journey was definitely the most heartbreaking and the one which left us feeling the most helpless. Driving down a fairly empty road, we came upon a group of about 20 people, wailing quite passionately. One woman fell to her knees in the middle of the dirt road. As we came upon them, we noticed one lone boy on a cart being pulled by a few people. He was about 6 or 7 and his legs were covered with a purple cloth. The woman running beside him had to have been his mother for the look of fear and worry on her face can only be worn by a mom. Several people rushed up to our van, their faces begging us to help. As someone pulled away that purple cloth, we understood their concern. That sweet little boy had a huge gash on his leg and it was covered in blood. Helpless to do anything, we could only pray that they made it to the next town where we saw a clinic.

I do have a few pictures from today, but I can't post them until I get home. Truth be told, the pictures I do have don't do the beauty of the countryside or the extremity of poverty any justice. Unless you've been to a third world country, your mind really can't comprehend what you see. I dont even think the poverty I've seen on mission trips comes close. Quite honestly, I still can't wrap my mind around the things I've seen over the past 36 hours. Over the past few weeks you may have seen the news stories about the Horn of Africa and the dire straits they are currently in. Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are in the midst of a famine and I can tell you that what you see on TV is only the tip of what is on the news. Thanks for letting me share. I'll try to update tomorrow night.