Monday, October 4, 2010

My last day in Addis Ababa

Court Date #2

I awakened early so I could get ready and have breakfast before meeting in the lobby at 9am. Yonas and Eyob greeted me and told me they were still waiting for word of my court appointment so we stood outside and chatted for a while. Around 10:00 word came that my appointment was to be at 1:30 so we decided to go ahead and go to the Transition Home so I could see Little Sister one last time. She greeted me with smiles and hugs...she is definitely a morning person! She had freshly braided hair, arranged in perfect rows, and was wearing the giraffe print dress with green trim that I had sent to her in a care package. It was so sweet to actually see it on her...and at a size 2T it was still big on her tiny frame. I pulled out her bear from my backpack (and I came armed with carmela...learned THAT lesson!) and showed her how to press the paw to hear her brothers and sisters says “We love you!” Boy, did that ever elicit the smiles! She pressed the paw over and over, happily showing it to the other children who came out of school for a break. We bounced a rubber ball for a while and she ran and skipped around the playground before showing me that she wanted to ride the merry-go-round. I sat her in a seat and began spinning it slowly. When she was on the opposite side from me I would say, “I see you!” and then when she got close I would say “kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss!” then smooch her on the cheek. She loved it. We did that at least a hundred times and after a while she would say “I see you!” on her own. She is so smart. Eyob gave me the 10 minute warning of our impending 11:45 departure and it just hit me that this is it. I am leaving today. I picked her up in my arms and just looked into her face. I held her close from head to toe and told her, “I will be back for you. I will not leave you an orphan. You will come home and be with Mommy, Daddy, and your brothers and sisters forever.” I kissed her little knows and breathed in her earthy scent. Eyob came to fetch her so we could go, but she clung to me. He said in Amharic, “You want to go with her?” and she replied, “She is going by herself.” So apparently she understood what was to happen, but just didn't like it. I kissed her face all over and carried her back to a room with toys and she was easily distracted by a deck of colorful cards so I slipped out, tears running down my face.
Eyob and Yonas drove me to Makush for one last lunch. They remembered me telling them that it was my favorite restaurant we had eaten at so far. I had lasagna again, but it tasted like cardboard because my stomach was in knots about the impending court appointment. I drank Coke out of the bottle one last time and bought a small painting of a church with crosses from the art gallery. The owner came up to me, introduced himself, and took my hand. He started speaking:
“I just want to tell you how, when Americans come here to adopt children, I am thankful from the bottom of my heart. Anything you want to buy...I give you a discount. I believe that individuals can change the world, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I was speechless.
Then we headed out to the courthouse.
We arrived and I was thankful to see the door was open. Hallelujah! We walked in and entered a tiny elevator...4 people made it feel very crowded. We went up to the third floor and walked down the hall to the waiting area outside of the courtroom. There were only a handful of people there, but over the course of 30 minutes it filled up and soon there were no seats left. I kept watching the faces of the women who were obviously coming in from the countryside. I knew sweet girl's birthmother would appear in court with me, and I studied faces to see if I would recognize her. Duni feared that, because of the full waiting area, we might be there for a while but we were the third case called in.
I entered the room after Duni, which was not more than a glorified office. I turned and behind me, with her head lowered, entered a frail, thin, sad woman. It was her. It was Ribka, her birthmother. I cought her eye and smiled, and she smiled back. A beautiful sight on such a weary face. My heart broke for her as the judge asked her questions through the interpreter who shifted from Amharic to Wolaytegna with ease. Then she quietly left the room and it was my turn. I sat in the seat where the interpreter had been. The judge greeted me and asked,
“Do you have children?”
“Yes, I have four.”
“Wow.” Seriously, she really said Wow!
Then she asked, “And you want to add one more?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Have you studied about Ethiopia and Ethiopia history? It is very important as she will have questions when she is older.”
“Have you taken any training on issues regarding international adoption?”
“Are you prepared for the changes an Ethiopian child will bring to your family?”
I wanted to say, “What changes? She looks just like her siblings!” but I just said, “Yes. I am.”
She then asked, “Have you met her?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And you want to adopt her?”
“Yes, we do. Very much.”
Then she took a stamp in her hand, pressed it to the document on her desk and said the words that will forever change our lives...
She is yours.”
Signed, sealed, delivered.
Mission accomplished.
I left the courtroom and saw Ribka sitting on a wooden bench. She looked at me with huge brown eyes that were trying to speak what our language barrier would not allow. I walked up to her, and put my hand on her cheek. I kissed her cheek and wrapped my arms around her as she did the same. She is so thin. So very thin. I smiled at her, hoping she could see in my eyes that I was so grateful to her and so sorry for her at the same time. She looked into my eyes and I could see hope, relief, and gratitude. We stood there for a long time...two mothers loving the same daughter. One who was resigned to the hardship she has faced, the other wishing she could bring health to this frail body so she could someday see her daughter again.
I followed Eyob and Yonas out of the courthouse, and this time we took the stairs. My knees felt like Jell-o, and my heart was a strange mix of and sorrow all mingled together. We passed. She is ours. I have five children! But her sweet birthmother also has five children...and will never forget her youngest whom she has entrusted to God...and to us.
It was planned for us to meet back at the guest house so I could visit with Ribka and ask questions. How awkward. We had to wait a while for the translator to arrive, so Eyob and I walked down to a CD store where I could buy music that miss priss knows and loves...a song called Chembalala. After my purchase we walked back to the Guest House and within a few minutes Ribka arrived with the translator. She wore a ragged, long skirt, a plain gray shirt, and a traditional scarf with faded colors in the trim was draped around her shoulders. On her head she wore a green and white bandana tied at the nape of her neck. We sat at a table, she at the head, me next to her around the corner, and I longed for the ability to talk directly with her. After a few awkwardly quiet moments Eyob told me I could ask questions. So I asked the only thing I could think of...
“What to you want her to know?”
Through two translators the answer came...
“That she has two older brothers and two older sisters. I want her to remember them.”
I promised her that she would remember them.
She told me that after her husband passed away she could no longer work. She moved in with her father, but had to sacrifice much to provide for her youngest.
I showed her the photos I had printed for her and she said, “I am happy that she is with you.”
Then she told the translator and Eyob that what affected her the most was when I came up to her after court and embraced her. That had made her feel very good. Eyob said he, too, was affected by it. But I can't imagine doing anything else...
Eyob translated the letter I had written to her into Amharic, then the translator did the same into Wolaytegna. As they worked through each sentence she would nod and say “ashi...ashi...” which means “Yes” or “Ok.” She then told Eyob that she had to sacrifice much to take care of her daughter, but now her daughter would be in a family where she would know God. That made her happy.
It made me want to weep. I promised her that our daughter would know she loves her, and that she would love her as well. I also told her that I love her, and she nodded again saying “ashi...ashi...”
Eyob took a couple of standing next to this tiny, frail, starving woman who was growing old before her time. She carefully removed her scarf and tried to arrange her hair, which was braided much like her daughters. I hugged her and kissed her, and she did the same to me. She stepped back and bowed, and I wanted to kneel at her feet and wash them. We embraced once again, looking into each others eyes and trying to speak with our hearts what our words could not say, and she retied her scarf before walking out with her head down.
I watched her go with a heavy heart. I looked at Eyob and said “She is so thin.”
“Yes,” he said. “Life has not been good for her.”
What a sacrifice. What love from this precious child of God who put the needs of her daughter before her own. What faith to trust God and us to put her little girl on an airplane and raise her up in, what is to her, a completely different if not unknown culture. In this moment, I was living the reality of our adoption in Christ. Bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, snatched out of the claws of death by our loving Father, and placed into the family of God where all things are made new.
Lord, raise sweet Rebka up out of her circumstances. Give her health, and joy, and the necessities of life so she can live to see her daughter again.
And help us live up to this raise our children to be willing to do anything for You.

As I finish this journal, I am sitting in my room at the Yebsabi Guest House. It is 4:57pm, Ethiopia time. It was a warm day today, but a light rain came around 2:30 and cooled things down. I can hear children playing outside and the sound of hammering off in the distance. My bags are packed for my flight home and I will meet Eyob downstairs at 6:30.
I can't believe this journey is over. I am so ready to go home, but will miss many things about this country which is now forever in my heart. I wonder what God will do with this? My mind will be processing what I have seen and experienced for a long time. What do I do with what I have learned?
When our little girl comes home, I will have so many things to tell her. I want her to remember as much as possible about her country, to be proud of her heritage and for the Lord to use her to reach out to her people. I pray I will never forget what I have seen, smelled, heard, and tasted during this week. Through it all I can say the Lord is faithful. He is mighty to save. He is here amongst the poorest of the poor as much as he is present in our beautiful American churches. Joy is evident the faces of the people, in the hospitality and care they offer to strangers like me. Joy is not a result of wealth or good circumstances, but it is a result of being part of something bigger than yourself...being part of a community, the Kingdom of God coming together to take care of its own.


  1. praying for you on this journey! so excited for you all.

  2. Thank you, thank you for sharing... We are currently waiting on our Court Date. I have often wondered what it will be like when I meet our children's birth mother. Thank you for giving us all a glimpse into your heart. Praying for R, praying for you and your family.

  3. I am weeping, tears of joy and tears of sorrow. My adoptive momma's heart is bursting at the seams with emotion and with connection. Oh, the joy I feel that she is being adopted by YOU. Specifically YOU. "She is yours." God predestined it. She is hers and she is yours always, just as He willed. PRAISE HIM! I believe with all my heart that you WILL raise her (and ALL your children) to serve Him.
    p.s. I giggled at your comment about her changing your family; that she "looks just like her siblings." So precious!

  4. Oh, I can hardly type for the tears. Thank you so much for sharing this. I cannot wait to see it with my own eyes, but your words painted beautiful photos. Thank you for taking our care package to our sweet boy and loving on him a bit. That warms my heart so much. Praying you arrived safely home.

  5. Beautiful. Heartbreaking for her birth mom, but so much beauty as well. I've forgotten when you get to go back and actually get her... Congratulations!!!!!!!

  6. This was beautiful. Keep praying. I believe you will receive the desire of your heart. I will follow you as I am also in love with Ethiopia and have a husband and children who are Ethiopian.


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