Update on Kieran’s physical condition….and prayer

Many are asking about how Kieran’s appointment went on Monday.  Thank you so much for your faithfulness in prayer and for your concern.  I’m sorry it’s taken this long to give a report.

Long story short—we don’t know much yet.

That was to be expected.  But Kieran was visibly disappointed when he realized that we weren’t going to schedule surgery now and fix his leg.  He said he knew about all the other issues, but I think he was holding on to a thread of hope that it could all be magically fixed in America.  Who wouldn’t?

We spent a lot of time taking x-rays.  His bones are all very soft and there are signs of multiple other fractures because of this fact.  His spine is curved in every which way.  At this point, there is no way we could do leg surgery and put pins, etc. into the bones—it would be like screwing into very soft pine.

So the direction we are taking is to load him up on Vitamin D and Calcium, do more blood tests, and wait for an appointment in Champaign, IL with a geneticist.  When we determine the cause of the bone degeneration, then we will proceed….whatever that means.  The orthopedist believes the cause was one of 3 things: malnutrition, body’s inability to absorb Vit D and other nutrients, or a congenital issue like osteogenesis imperfecta—or some combination of the three.  Do we think any of this is reversible?  I have no idea and I’m not sure the doctors know either.

It all sounds a little hopeless, but here is the part where God is stepping in.  I have a good friend in Springfield who is also an adoptive mom of a girl from Ethiopia.  She has hooked us up with an adult Ethiopian friend of theirs and Kieran, Eva, and I went to her apartment after Kieran’s first pediatrician appointment two weeks ago.  The purpose was to do some translation so we could check on Kieran’s emotional and physical feelings, and to have some comfort food as she showed me how to make “easy” Ethiopian food and “fake injera.” 🙂  She had an Ethiopian dance DVD playing when we came in and we all had a lovely time.

But come to find out, she is from the exact region that Kieran is from.  It’s not that they know the same people, but she knows the same foods and customs and was able to explain a lot to me, as well as send home a big bag of the regional spice.  In part of our conversation, she was determining that she thinks that Kieran is lactose intolerant.  In more conversation we had after the orthopedic appointment, we are realizing that Kieran was pretty deprived of Vitamin D during his youth.  Some important parts of the story came to light, and they would not have if she had not been from his region.

So it may very well have been his lack of nutrition that caused his bone issues.  There is still much to determine.  But it seems clear to me that God is putting pieces of the puzzle together and handing it to us when we would have no other way of determining what the pieces were.  That (among many other things) shows me that God is working on this and that we should not give up hope.

I am currently near the end of Beth Moore’s James Bible study, and this morning I read her daughter’s story about how God healed her unexplained chronic illnesses after she decided to take James 5:14-15 at its word:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.

She said she normally didn’t have a lot of room in her theology for this kind of thing, but she did it.  She also says she was unexplainably healed.  I am thinking we should pursue this for Kieran as well.  I believe this also may be part of the story that God is writing in Kieran’s life.  I have discussed with Kieran that even if nothing changes physically, he can still go to school, have a job some day, have a family—all things he wasn’t able to do in Ethiopia.  (When the injury happened to his leg at about age 10, he had to stop going to school because of paths to get there were no longer possible for him.  No school means manual labor jobs, which isn’t possible for him either.)  So that alone is part of God’s redemptive plan in his life to show the world.  But what if there is even more if we just tapped into God’s power and trusted that He truly still heals and makes the lame man walk…..???

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

So please keep praying for us.  Pray for healing like you’ve never believed before.  Pray for wisdom for us and the doctors and even more Words from our Heavenly Father to guide us.  And pray for Kieran’s heart to have peace and patience and trust in our God, no matter the outcome.

If you have made it this far in my post, then you are a righteous person and your prayers are powerful and effective.  Let’s believe that verse together.  Our prayers do make a difference.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

So, I was reading in Lamentations the other day….. (what—you too??) and since I am in the middle of having just brought home a 15 year old boy with much loss, I have been wondering what is going on in his mind, what he is lamenting.  I know the contexts of the two are totally different: Jeremiah was writing about the Israelites’ suffering and desperation in the midst of God’s punishment for their deep ongoing sin, while Kieran has done nothing to deserve his difficult place in life.  Yet in the middle of this depressing book and in the midst of His anger, our gracious God, once again, offers hope:

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For men are not cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to the children of men.  (Lam 3:19-33)

Kieran is often found sitting alone in silence.  It is not because he is depressed (though I know he has sorrow)—I am pretty confident that he is praying a good bit of that time.  But he is bearing quite a yoke while he is still young.  He is grieving the loss of his childhood, his schooling, his family, his culture—all because of the loss of the use of his legs.  However, I see hope in his eyes.  His life may be a little like Job’s, but he is not giving up on his faithful God.

Recently, I read a post by my good friend and adoptive mama Monica that inspired me.  She said in long car trips when she is alone with her newly adopted teenage daughter, she takes the opportunity to pour into her love and the knowledge of her importance to God and to this life.  So that day, on the way home from our pediatrician appointment, I tried to do the same in the best way I could with Kieran’s limited understanding of English.

I reminded him how much God loves him and has not forgotten him.  I told him again that God so specifically called us to go get him, that I know He has great plans for him.  I tried to explain redemption to him in easy English like this: “I know some things are bad.  Your leg, that is bad.  But God is so good at changing bad to good!  He makes beautiful things out of ugly things.  Often, He even makes them more beautiful than before!”  And I told him that God is writing an amazing story (with a big pen sweep of my hand) with his life and I am SO EXCITED to see what He does with it!  And this God wants him to tell God’s redemptive story to the world!

Later today (Monday) is Kieran’s appointment with the pediatric orthopedic surgeon.  This is the appointment that he has probably been waiting on for 5 years.  This is a good bit of the reason he left everything he knew to come to America.  There may be a lot we still do not know after this appointment, but it is the beginning of something.  And there is always the possibility that they will tell us there is nothing they can do for him.

Please pray for wisdom for the doctor and a creative mind to think outside of the norm.  (I am thankful that he goes to Cambodia yearly which will undoubtedly give him a different kind of experience.)  And please pray for Kieran’s heart to accept and trust God even if the news is not what he wanted to hear.  With disabilities, he can still attend school (which he has not been able to do since his accident–there is no way to walk a long way in Ethiopia with crutches, nor push a wheelchair through the ruts in the dirt).  He can still get a job and have a family here.  There is still hope, even in the midst of his grief.

I wanted to make sure I wrote this post before our appointment today.  Whatever the outcome, God is faithful!  God is still on the throne and will use Kieran to glorify Himself!

Home–All of Us

Last night we closed one chapter of our family’s story and began the next.

After 32 hours of travel, we arrived in Springfield to a crowd of family and friends there to greet us and our newest family member, Kieran. A delightful homecoming. Our kids were especially excited to see “big brother:”  Eva ran up to give him the biggest two-year-old hug she could muster.

It’s good to be home, to sleep in my bed, to drink water from the tap, to navigate a culture I know.

But I’ll miss Ethiopia, one part of this freshly finished chapter.

I’ll miss the wonderful and generous families we met who have also chosen to open their families to “the least of these.” I’ll miss the differentness of Ethiopia–the food, the music, the sounds, the smells. I’ll miss the AWAA staff: Job, Yonas, T, and the host of nannies and support workers at the transition home. I won’t miss the night club down the street from the guest house that played techno/dance music past 5:00 AM every morning.

You can’t romanticize Ethiopia, have a crush on it like a junior high school girl. It’s problems are many and complex.

But you can love it. And we do.

Neither can you romanticize adoption. Raising children is hard work. And, as Russell Moore writes, adoption always begins in tragedy. There is loss and grief and injustice. This is true for Kieran as well as Aidan and Eva.

But adoption also offers redemption and hope.

We’re grateful that God opened our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to this call. Our lives would be much smaller if we’d not listened and obeyed.

Now that we’re back, I’ve had a chance to sort through some images (and post them with fast Internet access). Here are a few scenes from our last (but maybe not final?) trip to Ethiopia.

Liam, who fell asleep on the table at lunch on the day we arrived in Addis Ababa after a long trans-Atlantic flight.

Our first meal together back at the guest house: ramen noodles.

After we passed embassy and received Kieran’s new birth certificate and court decree.

Kieran outside a shop in the Post Office shopping district.

Liam with Job, one of the AWAA staff.

The familiar sight of children’s clothes drying in a well-protected courtyard.

Liam and Kieran in Kieran’s room at the transition home.

Coffee ceremony.

Nanny at the transition house. Everyone there loved Kieran and wanted to have their pictures made with him before he left.

Nurse at the transition house.

Holding hands and chatting with a friend before leaving for America (props to Suzanne for seeing this image).

The boys with Job and Abraham, one of our drivers.

Weary travelers in Chicago (ORD) after 30-some hours into our journey.

With a friend from the transition home in Addis Ababa who also now lives in central Illinois.

Thanks to everyone who came out to meet us at the airport (and thanks to Brian Bolton for getting a photo of all of us).

Hello Brian Spencer

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

This post requires explanation.

When we came to Ethiopia in July, the rainy season was just beginning. Rainy season means it rains. Every day. So travelers are advised to bring rain coats and boots.

While I had a rain coat, I had no boots. I asked around and my friend Brian Spencer said he had boots I could borrow. Sweet. In exchange for letting me use his boots in Ethiopia, I promised to wear them and take a photo for him. That way he’d be the proud owner of boots that were worn halfway across the world in Africa AND have photographic proof.

Only, I never needed to wear them and forgot to take the photo. It did, in fact, rain every day but the roads were never messy enough to warrant boots.


So this trip I decided I’d make up for my oversight.

I made this little sign that read “Hello Brian Spencer, from Ethiopia” and had Liam take my photo down the street from our guest house. While we set up the shot, we drew a few curious onlookers. I smiled at them, said “hello,” then asked if they’d hold the sign and let me make their picture. I explained that Brian Spencer was my friend in America and the pictures were for him. Several folks were good sports and played along. So here are their photos.

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Hello Brian Spencer from Ethiopia - The Gowin Family

Embassy Passed

The Gowins passed embassy in Ethiopia

At 9:00 AM today we left Ethiopia for an hour to stand (and sit) on American soil at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. The anticipation of the last few months came to fruition as we received the court decree and birth certificate that officially include Kieran as a Gowin.

On Wednesday morning we’ll receive his passport and visa; on Wednesday night we’ll begin the long journey home.