We are coming, kiddos!!


Two weeks ago we made an educated guess (and another leap of faith) and purchased tickets to Ethiopia to get our kiddos! If we waited, I was so afraid we would not get 7 seats together on the airplane to come home, so we took our chances. We didn’t even have Kieran’s passport yet, but that’s how we roll! Last Tuesday (4 days ago) we found out for sure that we have an Embassy appointment on Monday July 21 and all the pieces are coming together. We leave for Ethiopia in two days!

Here is the plan:

We fly out of Springfield Monday morning July 14–Michael and I, plus Kieran and Erin. We get to the hotel in Ethiopia Tuesday night (Ethiopian time, 8 hours ahead of CST) and SLEEP. Wednesday morning we will pick up the kids FOREVER and hang at the guest house most of the day with several other families and their kids. Thursday morning we will drive all day to visit Kieran and his siblings’ birth family. We will stay in a pretty primitive hotel, spend the next day (Friday) in his village, spend another night in said hotel, and drive back to Addis on Saturday. Monday the 21st is the Embassy appointment, and then we wait two days to get the kids’ visas and fly home Wednesday night!

On the Tuesday between Embassy appointments, we will spend the day with Kieran’s older half-brother who is going to school in Addis. Also if we are lucky, one of Kieran’s soon-to-be best buddies will have an embassy appointment during that same week. We are so excited that another big boy at the same orphanage, Tamarat Belley, will be living in our same town and come home almost the same time!! And yet another big boy, B Mott, will hopefully come home to our neighboring town 10 minutes away later this year. God is doing something big in Lincoln with 10+ Ethiopian kiddos!

Prayer requests:

  • travel safeties and that ALL our bags make the trip with us
  • time with kids as a family–unity and bonding
  • pray like Elijah that the rains will hold back and we can travel to see the birth family as planned (see James 5:17-18)
  • blessings on time with birth family–peace and closure, especially for Kieran who didn’t get to say goodbye 5 years ago as he left for medical help, which later turned into adoption
  • physical strength for Kieran through airports and as we travel in more primitive areas
  • health and God’s direction for Erin (14yo daughter) who gets really sick on airplanes but feels a call to be a missionary in Ethiopia in the future
  • blessings and peace for my mom as she stays home with the rest of the kiddos
  • thanks to God who is taking care of our finances. You can go here if you want to be a part of that.

Nine kids.

It’s a good thing God doesn’t reveal too much of the future for us or we might bow out. 🙂 Six months after we said “yes” and started the paperwork (read about that here), we are now bringing them home in record time.

God is writing this story and we are humbled to be a small part of His plans. As one of my favorite songs by Francesca Battistelli says,

My life
I know it’s never really been mine
So do with it whatever you like
I don’t know what your plan is
But I know it’s good, yeah…

I want my history to be your legacy
Go ahead and show this world
What you’ve done in me
And when the music fades
I want my life to say…

I let you write your story on my heart

If you would like to meet the kids and help welcome them home, we are supposed to arrive at the Springfield airport at 6pm on Thurs July 24. There will be a church bus going to pick us up, so if you want a ride from Lincoln, check with Betsy Lewis. After that, we will not be out in public much for a while as we start to bond as a family.

Thank you, again, for being a part of this crazy journey with us!

Whirlwind Trip to Ethiopia

In case you haven’t heard this already, Michael and I are on our way to Ethiopia today. Just 5 months after applying to our adoption agencies, and even after a two month wait for our state paperwork to come through, we are about to head to court to adopt three more kiddos! Yes, we are aware. That makes nine.

Last November, only days, in fact, after Kieran’s leg surgery at Shriners in St. Louis, I got an email that Kieran’s three younger siblings were now at the orphanage. What?!? We spent focused time in prayer and fasting about it with some close friends, and, well, here we go again…. 🙂  (You can read our original, more detailed announcement here.)

This adoption has felt so different from the others. Some sense of urgency that we don’t quite understand yet. Even the fact that the adoption pursuit began in the middle of the turmoil that was threatening to close down Ethiopian adoptions was actually another force that hastened our adoption along rather than slowing it down. We went forward, putting forth a large amount of money, taking the risk that we knew we were supposed to be doing this and that God would do what HE wanted to do.

It seems like this time around, immediately after we would finish one crisis or focused time (like after taking an intensive class on parenting kids from hard places, after K’s surgery, after we taught our first Empowered To Connect class, after renovating our home for more kids, etc.), God has dropped the next ball in our laps to juggle. At least He is not giving us everything at the same time!

So along the same pattern, we got a call late last Monday from our agency saying that we might be traveling on Friday! And then we didn’t hear for sure till Wednesday!

We were originally told that September would be the earliest we would travel since the new Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) would take that long. However, for some reason ours went through more quickly than our agency has ever seen it happen! God has a plan, and for some reason He wants these kids home PRONTO! Maybe when it is all said and done we will understand better. Maybe not. But we continue to trust and try to enjoy the ride–even if the ride this time is a high speed roller coaster!

So if you would like to pray for us, here are our prayer points:

  • for our short time with our kids and to pass court
  • for finances to come as quickly as our adoption
  • ESPECIALLY for Kieran’s leg to heal quickly so he can go with us on our second trip in a month to bring the kids home. He really needs to say goodbye to some family that he didn’t get to before.

Thanks again for joining us on our journey! Hope you like roller coasters!

Kieran update and Behind the Story (BTS) 6.1

First of all, an update on Kieran’s medical issues, in case you don’t make it to the end of this long post.  🙂

It turns out that along with the severe lack of Vitamin D Kieran received as a child (no sunlight for a year or two and no dairy his entire life), he also has a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI).  However, his particular strand of OI has actually not been seen before.

We are so grateful for the doctors we have seen so far, and are especially amazed to see how God’s hand is at work even in the next step.  Kieran and I (Suzanne) will be headed to St. Louis early Monday morning, Feb 4, to stay at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children for a week of testing and hopefully some answers as to what we do next.  We will be there till Friday, Feb 8, seeing some of the best doctors in the world for this particular medical issue.  (We are so grateful those doctors are only 2 hours away!)  I had pursued Shriners early on before we brought Kieran home, but I felt the person I talked to had not given me much hope, so I dismissed the idea.  However, God sent someone I barely knew at church to come to my door with a Shriners application, so how could I say no!

Thank you, Lord, for repeatedly filling in the gaps where I would otherwise miss them altogether.

Satan apparently tried doubly hard to keep Kieran’s God-given purpose in life at bay, but I believe God will redeem it all and still use it for His glory.  We are doing all we can to help him navigate this life and listen for God’s direction.  Will you pray with us?

Secondly, people have repeatedly asked to hear more of the story about how God led us to Kieran.  In my post last May announcing Gowin Kid #6, I mentioned that during the month of March/April preceding Easter, God revealed to me multiple times that Kieran was supposed to be our son.  I couldn’t share those revelations at the time because they were so specific to him and we were not supposed to post any details about children from the orphanage until we had passed court and they were legally ours.  Here is one of the ways God led me to Kieran.

It was a Tuesday in March 2012 that I first saw Kieran (his anonymous name on our agency’s Waiting Child List was “Sage”).  He was older so he did fit the part I already knew about our future son, that he would be older and by himself (no siblings, at least to be adopted with him) and about to age out of the system.  But my honest first reaction when I saw his disabilities (that he walked with crutches along with other medical conditions) was that this would be too difficult for us, already knowing that adding number six would be a challenge, spatially and financially.  I tried to dismiss him from my mind, but within 24 hours, God had helped me open my heart, and he was all I could think about.

Then the following Friday, I came home from spending the day at a mom’s conference (Hearts at Home), and I grabbed a movie for the kids to watch for family movie night, about an orphan named Hugo.  When I got home, I saw that Michael was exhausted from watching the kids all day, so I suggested he go take some quiet time instead of joining us for the movie.

(Spoiler alert!)  The movie is about an orphan, living on his own, trying desperately to make an old robot work (that he and his late father had worked on together), so that he could get what he thought was a message from his father.  There is also a lawgiver, once an orphan himself, who is inhibited by a leg brace and is hunting the orphan down to put him in an orphanage (reminded me of Javert in”Les Mis”).  He also reminded me of the roommate of the main character in “Meet the Robinsons,” a boy who never got adopted and turned into the bad guy in the movie because of his sadness and resentment.  The third main character is an older man who is hiding a secret that could unlock everything, but he is also hurting.  Here is the scene at the end of the movie that hit me so hard:

Hugo is risking everything to try to bring the robot to the old man, and he and the robot are barely saved from being run over by a train, but then the policeman catches him.

(Police): “Are you injured? Come on! We’ll let the orphanage deal with you!”

(Hugo): “No! I don’t belong there!”

(P): “Where do you belong? A child has to belong somewhere.”

(H): “Listen to me! Please, you have to listen to me! I don’t understand why my father died, why I’m alone. This is my only chance … to work. (pleading) You should understand (looking at the policeman’s leg).

(Old man shows up): “I do! I do! Monsieur, this child belongs to ME!”

(Policeman reluctantly lets go of boy)

(Hugo runs to Old Man with his robot): “I’m sorry. He’s broken.”

(OM): “No, he’s not! He worked perfectly!”

It is this amazing triangle of grace!  The old man saves the orphan after the orphan risks his life to bring the robot to the old man to save his life.  Because the policeman sees this grace from both of them, he is able to finally let go of the revenge and bitterness he had harbored for so long.  Thus, the old man and Hugo save him, as he lets go of the orphan to allow him to go to the old man and be safe in a family.  Beautiful!

In this movie, it’s like Hugo and the policeman are the same person, just years apart.  They both desperately want a family to belong to.  They both desperately want to work, to have a purpose, to be complete.  Then when the old man says, “This child belongs to ME!” I knew to the very core of my being that “Sage” was supposed to be my son!

This was just one way in which God unexpectedly used a quirky little movie to show me His plans.  Since Michael did not watch the movie with us, and I had just recently vowed not to bring up adoption until after Lent was over, this was the first of many instances where I knew God was leading us specifically to adopt Kieran, but we didn’t get to discuss it till after Easter.

More posts to come about the revelations of that month (BTS 6.2 ….)

My (Suzanne’s) favorite Christmas song

Michael recently posted some of his favorite Christmas songs, and I would like to share with you the one that has ranked number one for me the last couple years.  Even in the off-season it makes me cry every time.  Though Michael’s taste in music is much more “high brow” than mine (translation: I have a hard time understanding the lyrics of his favorites), we both appreciate, as Michael says, “songs that speak to the mystery and wonder of God Incarnate.”

My favorite Christmas song is “Be Born in Me (Mary)” by Francesca Battistelli.  Here is the verse that really gets me:

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time you’ve waited for my arms.
Did you wrap yourself inside the unexpected,
So we might know that love would go that far?

Can you imagine being Mary?  The Jews had waited SO LONG for a Savior.  They had the Law which helped them know better how to have relationship with God, but there was always that deep down awareness that they were never able to fully keep the Law, continually reminded that they were breaking relationship with Yahweh every time they sinned.  They longed for a time when the sacrificial system was no longer needed.  When they could be truly freed from the burden of their sin.  The whole of all Jewish history was focused on waiting for the Promise of a Savior.

And here was Mary, recognizing in wonderment that The Promise was laying right there in her arms.  She was His Mommy!  And even more, that the Almighty God waited thousands of years for her arms!  Maybe it’s just me, but I step inside Mary’s sandals, and it gets me every time.  “Father, you are trusting me with Your Son???”

Here is the other part of the song that resonates with me:

I am not brave, I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl, nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

I especially felt this way during our adoption of Kieran.  Before we even knew who our son would be, we knew we were supposed to adopt an older boy who was about to age out of the system.  Who brings a teenage boy, with most likely unknown issues, into their family with 5 young vulnerable children at home??  From the outside, that doesn’t sound like a very wise decision.  Yet, I knew, without a doubt, that is what God was calling us to do, so we had to move forward in faith.  And even though God called us to pursue this, it didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be any problems, but we had to keep trusting in Him to walk with us step by step.  I am not brave.  I am just trying my hardest to be obedient and thanking God for His grace when I fail along the way.

I know where I have been.  How I grew up very insecure with a lot of baggage.  I, like Mary, wasn’t anyone special.  Just a girl.  But I sit in wonderment of how God would take a little girl and speak to her and use her for His service.  But that is the God we serve, the One who takes nobodies and shines through them so that HE is glorified.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  And I have plenty of them for Him to work with. 🙂

Goodbye Elli

Today was a hard day.  It marks the end of an era.  Our almost 14-year-old dog Elli has gone to doggy heaven, or wherever good little doggies (and maybe even the naughty ones) go.  The vet said she is now running free in Creation as God intended it.  I don’t have the theological answers, though I was asked several times by my kiddos.  What I do know is that God created her with purpose, loves her as He does all His creation, and is taking care of her now.  She is no longer in pain.  Yet even with the seven of us, our house feels much more quiet and empty tonight.

So I need to write a post on the passing of our old puppy who was, by many standards, another family member.  I realized recently that there has hardly been a day in the lives of most of our kids that she has not been present.  The older two kids skipped school today and are still having trouble sleeping tonight.  The middle two are sad and bring it up often, but will have an easier time moving on.  And Eva, she just keeps seeing someone cry and exclaims, “Erin sad?…. Tissue!  Be right back!”  Then she trots off, brings back a wadded tissue, and insists on wiping eyes and making people blow. “There y’go.”

Elli was our first “child.”  She was a black labrador we purchased from a breeder at 8 weeks old.  We knew labs were about the best and safest kind of dog we could get for our future family, so that is how we made our choice.  I had planned on naming her “Angel” because I wanted her to watch over us.  But the night before we went to pick her up from the breeder, I read in Luke where John the Baptist was foretold to come in the Spirit of Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord.  I knew our dog was going to help prepare us for the rest of our children, so I chose the female version of Eli: Elli.  (You knew there had to be a spiritual influence on the naming of even our dog, didn’t you??)  As you will see below, “Angel” wouldn’t have been the most appropriate name for her anyway. 🙂

So Elli has indeed done a lot to prepare us for the rearing of mischievous small children. 🙂  A habit I started long ago, to constantly make sure the bathroom door, basement door, and gate to the upstairs were closed, is still in effect today—even with the newest installations of baby door locks.  I still fuss at the other kids who forget to close these safeties, as I bring the baby back downstairs again (as I used to do with Elli).  We have been reminiscing about the things Elli used to do, and I would like to share some of the highlights.

As labs do, she loved to eat.  Anything.

Uncountable baby socks were digested and found in the back yard when the first two kids were little.

Crayons were like candy to her and she would focus and wait like a vulture for an unsuspecting child to drop one or leave the entire BOX unattended for 3 seconds.  The back yard was very colorful.

Money was yummy.  Once she ate two $20 bills.  Yes, I found them in the back yard, ripped only a couple times, washed and sterilized them, and turned them into the bank for new.  (What. I had gloves on.  40 bucks is 40 bucks when you are newly married.  Or even now.)  There was another time when she snacked on a $100 bill sent in the mail from Gramps, but I never found that one.

She loved trash.  (Hearing the Grouch’s song in my head right now: “Oh, I love trash….”)  She would sneak upstairs to the bedroom trash and rip it to shreds in seconds—hence the installed gate to the upstairs and door closed to the basement.  Used tissues were a delicacy—she would focus and wait patiently for the second a fresh one was forgotten, snatch it, and run off to hide and eat her prey.  When that was not available, she would devour the toilet paper right off the rolls in the bathroom—hence the closing of the bathroom doors.  Her favorite time to sneak off to do these hunting excursions was when the kids came home from school and we weren’t giving her attention (though she often just laid around during the day while they were gone), or while we prayed during dinner.  Did I mention she was naughty?

She also loved to eat sewing material, and some of her greatest feasts came with novice grandmas, unaccustomed to the ways of a stealthy four-legged omnivore.  She once ate a fully-loaded pin cushion.  Yes, it is true.  We called the vet and he said to feed her a half loaf of bread then, and another half 6 hours later, hoping to bulk up the pins as they passed.  (We swear we heard Elli say, “Yum! Dessert! Thanks!”)  They did pass, surprisingly uneventfully.  One grandma sewing project, the 12 baby bumper pad ties that got wadded in her stomach like a baseball—well, that one wasn’t quite as pretty.

Her favorite toy was the “Indestructible Kong.”  Well, it was the leastde-structible, anyway.  It would last several months, as opposed to several seconds with the other dog toys.  And she was a retriever at heart.  She would play catch-the-Kong (or whatever else you would throw—it’s just that the Kong was the only thing that would make it back to us in one piece) till the thrower gave up.  I’m not sure she would ever stop the game if she had the choice. She even bit a whole in her tongue once from catching the Kong in her mouth, but it never phased her.  She was ready to go again!  The black scar on her pink tongue (as seen in the last picture below) was a regular reminder of her eagerness to persist in her God-given purpose: to retrieve.

The kids would play a fun game with her—they would make her sit and stay (oh so difficult to do but she tried really hard) and they would hide the Kong.  Within seconds, she had followed the trail and would return proudly with her prey, eager to go again.  When guests came, she didn’t care about getting a pat or a scratch behind the ears.  She ran to get her slobbery Kong to drop in their laps.  And you couldn’t throw it off or she would become even more persistent—that must mean you wanted to play!

Even like Eva now, Elli loved to “see the people.”  If we had bags packed in the front room for a trip, she would lay by them for hours, hopeful we would not forget to take her too.  And on school days, she would come stare at me starting about 1:30, wondering if it was time yet to walk to school and pick up the kids.  (About every 10 school days, the kids are dismissed at 1:45 instead of 3:00, so I think that’s why she was always hopeful starting at 1:30.)  She was like the Central Elementary School mascot.  Everyone loved Elli, and I was affectionately known as “Elli’s mom.”

In the last couple years, she finally started losing her “puppy-ness” and was no longer able to join us on our walks to school, as I had to practically drag or carry her on the way home.  In the last several months, she was obviously in more and more pain, but still never complained.  We got to where we were giving her a push from behind up the outside back steps, and we were worried how much more difficult that was going to be for her in the winter.  More and more she was eating less and losing control of bodily functions.  I prayed we would know when it was time.  Though I knew it would be hard on the kids to say goodbye, I also knew it would be worse to watch her pass at home.  And I was concerned that if she actually made it till after Kieran came home, he might forever associate our tears and sadness of losing her, with whom he really had no history, with his coming here to live with us.  I would hate that for him and for our family.  (He might have even been afraid of her—most “dogs” in Ethiopia are wild hyenas who harm people.)  Besides, he will already be grieving much loss as it is.

So it was evident that it was time.  Our hearts ache, missing her, but I have to keep reminding myself that it was for the best.  Lots of extra pictures and videos were taken by the kids yesterday, Labor Day, after we told them.  Below are some pictures Michael took “just in case” before we left on our last trip to Ethiopia.

Goodbye, you little stinker.  Oh how you loved us.  Even when you got lower and lower on the totem pole with each new kid, you still patiently let them crawl on you and poke and pull and stick their hands in your food bowl while eating, without even so much as a snarl.  Thank you for unselfishly preparing the way.

A Day With Our Son

Today we were privileged to have an entire day with “Big Brother.”  The other four couples had court or Embassy appointments in the morning.  One family passed Embassy, two passed court, one did not.  Please pray they will pass soon before closures, though court closures are starting remarkably late this year: Aug 22-Oct 1, which is also quite short which bodes well for adoptive families!  So during their appointments, we went to the Transition House (TH) to see our son.

We spent the day talking, sharing things we know in common, including some sign language (one of his good friends here is deaf), playing card games, looking at photos and videos on my iphone, taking photos (which he does not enjoy—gets shy and hard to talk him into smiling—but yet he wanted to take more with his friends), and laughing.  He is good at card games, loves to learn, is playful, and enjoys just sitting together watching people.  I love seeing all the things he has in common with our other kids!

We had also asked permission to take him to eat with us, and since he is a big kid, they let him though we have not yet passed court.  I wanted to take him last night to the Ethiopian restaurant with the dancing and fun, but it would have been too late.  So we will do that next trip when he gets to be with us the whole time.  (Sorry, Liam, you’ll have to “take one for the team”—all they serve there is Ethiopian food. :))  This time we went to Amsterdam Restaurant which is very good.

Then we headed back to the TH for the afternoon of more of the same, and we also got to visit the Big Kid TH where S sleeps.  We will have to pass court before we can show pics.  We passed out glow sticks to the big kids there.  (We had more than enough but still ended up with not enough, so advice to those of you yet to come, line the kids up and pass them out to make sure some little fingers are not double-dipping. :))

Though he wouldn’t admit it, I think S was tired by the end of the day, and possibly hurting.  It was good we didn’t do the late Ethiopian restaurant last night.  As I read recently, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Prov 16:9)  As much as I really wanted to share that with him, I know S and Maura had a great time together today at the laid back lunch.  She said it was her favorite part of the day.  She and S laughed a lot!  (He has such a beautiful smile when he is not hiding from the camera!)

I can’t wait till you see in person how sweet Big Brother is.  He is so loving with all the kids, and especially with Maura.  I had heard this about him with the babies, but I was so thrilled to see it with bigger kids too.  And all the nannies and staff LOVE him.  He is so gentle and patient and helpful and thankful.  He said he hopes to do something to help other people in the future.  I have no doubt God is going to use him in a big way!  I got teary today sharing with a couple of the other moms that my biggest prayer in adopting an older boy was that he would be a great big brother to our other kids.  Though God is still writing this story that will inevitably have many ups and downs along the way, I know God heard my prayer and believe He is answering it beyond what I would have imagined.

I believe God speaks to me at times, and most often through Scripture.  Because I am a numbers girl (remember, I have a MATH degree!  I, like Jonah I guess, tried my best to run from writing and reading and speaking when I was in college!  God says, “Ha Ha! Who’s the boss?!”), sometimes my mind picks up on numbers in the Bible and wants to try to make something of them.  I truly fight it and read on quickly, but one Scripture I read wouldn’t let me pass it by because July 23 sticks with me since it is the day of our first referral phone call in 2010.  I wrote this Scripture in my journal in the middle of May, before our home study was finished, before our official referral, before our announcement, before we had any idea when we would be in Ethiopia.  (Someday I hope to share with you more of the things God has shown me through the story of David and his relationship with his son Solomon.)

“On the 23rd day of the seventh month he sent the people to their homes, joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done for David and Solomon and for his people Israel.” (2 Chron 7:10)

Somehow I knew this day, July 23, would be a special one with our son, even though at the time I had no idea I would be here with him.  (Know that I am aware that the Jews use an entirely different calendar year and please don’t take this as a license to interpret Scripture this way.  It is a totally improper hermeneutic.  I’m just telling you what I felt God revealed to me that day in May.) 

There was nothing exceptionally remarkable about today except that it was just a lovely day laughing and getting to know our son.  Well, nothing except the fact that he was born on the other side of the world just a year after Michael and I were married.  And that out of our broken and messed up lives, God is weaving this tapestry that only He could make so beautiful, imperfections and all.  Oh, and that I can truly say how much I love my son though I have only just met him.  But other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.

Thanks again for all of your encouragement and prayers for us.  Please pray as we talk with the doctor tomorrow, that we know what questions to ask so as to give us wisdom for the many doctor appointments we have ahead of us, and that we can learn more of his heart and his hurts (physical and emotional) so that we can best parent and help him grieve.  Pray also for court on Wednesday morning at 9am (Tues night 1am-ish for you) and our meeting with S’s birth father and S together.  Oh, it is going to be an emotional day.  I’m afraid I will cry more than anyone.

God is paving the way and blessing all that He has planned, but I believe your prayers are part of that plan.  We are humbled by it all.  And I am praying that God is sending you, His people Israel, home with joyful and glad hearts because of what He is doing for us all.


Trip to Southern Ethiopia

We saw a lot of these donkey-drawn carts on our trip
We saw a lot of these donkey-drawn carts on our trip to southern Ethiopia


We left early Friday morning for our trip to Woylata, 7+ hours south of Addis.  Because of lack of good sleep, issues with motion sickness, different foods, and not yet having a normal tummy after the plane trip, Maura got sick a couple times along the way.  But she is a trouper and always manages to catch it in time (we saved some bags off the plane—we are calling them “Bob” because somehow it bothers me when she asks for the “barf bag” :)), or can tell us to stop the car in time.  She bounces back pretty quickly, but please say a prayer for her if you think of it.

On the way, our guides stopped at a random home to show us the inside of a typical Ethiopian hut.  Inside we were surprised to see two donkeys eating, along with the owners’ bed and cooking area.  We gave them some money and a baby blanket as a thank you.

The purpose of our trip was to see the region where Aidan and Eva were born and where Aidan spent his first years growing up.  We wanted to take pictures for their baby books and have some context for ourselves of their background.  We didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but we were able to meet up with their birth mom (we will call her A).  Our time together was so blessed.

When we got there, A (and about a million kids) met us at the van and she and I gave each other a very long embrace.  It felt like she was letting go of 1 1/2 years of concern as she wondered how her babies were doing.  I took her eager hand and we walked to her tiny home with the translators (we have to use two to get to her language).  I felt like the Pied Piper as more and more people came out to see the “ferenges” (white people).  And all of them wondering why we came to see this not-so-highly-known young lady who does odd jobs to make ends meet and lives with her two brothers in an apartment not much bigger than most Americans’ bathrooms.

She made a place for the 8 of us to sit (Gowin 3, she and her brother, two translators, and one boy who sneaked in).  We had to leave the door open as there was no light in the room, and it was funny to see the neighbor kids inch their way in little by little.  She seemed eager, but nervous, to tell us about her life and say that she was always wondering about what kind of family the kids were in and how they were doing, so she was so happy to hear that we were coming to see her.  Evidently, AWAA has given her pictures from every post-placement report and she had those saved in a special place and showed them to us.  We brought her two small photo albums and she kissed Aidan and Eva on several of the pages.  They will be treasured.

During our conversation, she explained to us that she had been shunned in her village for having two children out of wedlock and then giving them away, so she had to move to this new village.  As we walked back to the van, with by now half the village in tow, I realized from more of her conversation that our coming to her may, in some way, be helping to redeem her story.  She went from an outcast to the most interesting person in the village because some white people made a trip all the way from the United States to see HER.  In their minds, we were celebrities, and now she must be important as well.

As we got to the van, I wanted to give her some things that would help her life.  We really are not allowed to give birth parents gifts because then it looks like we are buying children, but I thought it would be OK to give her some used things I was going to give away anyway.  I handed her two sets of towels (they were from our home—I had just put them in our luggage last minute to fill in the spaces), the princess blanket that Maura and I used in the van on the way down (surprisingly it is 50-65 degrees here now), and my sun-discolored but otherwise very useful rain boots.  (It is the rainy season here for 2-3 months and the downpours and mud make life difficult.  We each brought our boots since we heard we may need them.)

I’m not sure I will ever forget the big smile on her face as we drove away, arms full of love wrapped in a princess blanket.  Today she was the Queen.

A little ways down the road, Job, our guide, saw a market that he said he wanted to “experience.” We asked if he was sure, knowing we were going to be a disturbance.  He said he didn’t think they would pay much attention to us because it was the market, so we went with him.  If we thought we had seen all the village, well, we hadn’t.  They crowded around as we walked touching and laughing and fighting to hold our hands.  I stuck close to Princess Maura, who couldn’t smile any bigger and yet held very tight to me.  We couldn’t even make it to the market and realized we needed to go back to the van.  I wouldn’t say we were afraid—these people are all so very loving—but it was a little overwhelming.  Here’s a picture Michael made just before we got into the van showing the market crowd that gathered around us.

That night we stayed in the last room in town because of a university graduation.  When I woke at 1:00am, it was all suddenly clear to me that our room was available for a reason.  We were the last room on the top floor (only stairs to get there), we had two twin beds (Maura and I shared) that weren’t actually mattresses but box springs, and our cold porcelain toilet had no seat.  The ironies were all too clear.  We went from royalty in the small village, to the servants’ quarters at the hotel.  And yet as I lay there wide awake for a couple hours (which is not like me AT ALL), I was all too aware that even this room and bed were royal compared to the room and bed in which Queen A was staying tonight.

And as I laid in bed and listened to the rains start to come (which we had yet to see up to this point), I was aware of the fact that I was going to miss my boots tomorrow.  But with every soggy step I was going to take, I would picture proud Queen A wearing her Royal Boots as she trudged through the flood waters to find work for the day, as the others looked at her with a new esteem.

It did rain a good portion of the day as we took a different route back to Addis via Awassa, where Eva has some history.  After lunch we were fortunate that the rain stopped in time for us to take a boat ride to see some hippos “up close and personal” and feed monkeys out of our hands.  Then it was another 6-7 hours back to Addis.  Ethiopia is such a beautiful country and we truly enjoyed seeing this part of it and learning so much about it from our guide and driver.

It has been a long couple days, but so rich with memories and blessings.  We are so grateful to have had this experience.  And we are excited to see Big Brother again tomorrow and every day till we leave!  He actually has asked our guide several times (before we came) if he thought we would be willing to see his family when we come to get him on the next trip.  So though we hated to leave him just after we got there, it also gave him hope—that we would, in fact, be willing to travel and do the same with him.

We will post more about our time with “S” later, but for now we want to share some good news:  We have a positive MOWYCA letter at the court!!!  For those of you not aware of this jargon, this important piece of paper is necessary but often missing on the day of court, and then the family does not pass.  Though it still does not guarantee that we will pass, it is much more likely with this letter already there!!  Please keep up the prayers and thank you so much!!!

Donations for Orphanages in Ethiopia

We leave for Ethiopia in a little over a week (July 17) and we would like to take some donations to the orphanages.  Since there are three of us going (Maura will come on this trip), we will have six 50# bags we can check, and we can use at least half of them for donations, so lets fill them up!  Here are some ideas if you would like to help:

  • baby wipes (only sensitive skin or unscented)—PRIORITY
  • crocs for big kids and nannies—PRIORITY
  • bath towels (not heavy)
  • toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • scrubs for nannies and nurses
  • first aid (bandages, gloves, baby/children’s Tylenol, iron drops, etc)
  • baby formula (especially lactose free: Enfamil, Similac, Parent’s Choice, Target)
  • multivitamins for babies and kids

If we receive more than we can bring on this trip, we will bring it on the next trip which will hopefully be in another two months or more.  Thanks for your continued support and prayers on this journey with us!