Monday, May 13, 2013

Travelogue Ethiopia Part 2

We met the girls on Wednesday and slept very well that night.  We woke Thursday to the sounds of Addis construction, children laughing and running, the rumble of cars and trucks, animals of all kinds and the occasional call to prayer over the tinny loudspeakers.

The view from our guesthouse window.

One of the (many) different and cool things about adopting older children instead of babies is that we were able to be a family on this first trip.  Usually, adoptive parents get to meet their children on the sly, pretending to be nothing more than everyday visitors to the orphanage.  Until the court date and a declaration from the judge anything can happen....and the tender hearts of the children must be protected from the potential, however small it may be, of yet another loss.  But the word "usually" hasn't figured much into our story!  Right from the first day we began talking about our girls, our adoption workers would tell us what protocol is for adopting older children, and then with the next breath say, "But your girls are about 10 years older than the normal 'older child' we'll have to talk it over as a staff and get back to you with how we should handle it for your family."  Blazing new trails, forging new paths....for us and our girls!  So, our girls were able to "meet" us long before we even came.  They were told that they have a family and given pictures of us soon after our referral acceptance was complete.  That was a giddy day in Michigan while we imagined them coming home from school....and being met with life changing news!

So when we met them on Wednesday, we were able to meet them as Mom & Dad.  And when we woke up on Thursday, we woke up as Mom & Dad and they woke up as daughters.  We had plans to spend the afternoon with them again at the orphanage, but before then had a few appointments, the most important of which was a visit to the Bethany offices to meet with the lawyer.

He briefed and explained in a very professional manner, preparing us for our court appointment the next day....telling us that it would likely be a very smooth appointment.  The usual reason for a case to be put on hold and not immediately cleared was if a judge felt in-country family options had not been explored enough for a child.  As is our habit, we asked more questions than the average person which led us to a discussion about the system and the orphan problem as a whole.  His "on-the-ground" assessment confirmed the conclusions my reading and wondering had led me to assume.  The recent slow-downs in the adoption process in Ethiopia have been born out of good intentions.....intentions to  exhaust all resources that might keep a child with extended family or at least place them with a family in country before international adoption is considered as an option.  The new system adds double-checking to that end, which is a good end.  But the reality right now is that it's leaving children stuck while the kinks are worked out.  Too little staff and too little training at the beginning of the learning curve have slowed the flow of children to families while the flow of children to orphanages or the streets has remained the same.  The Ethiopian system is feeling the strain between big picture goals and right now needs.

It was at this point in our "big picture" discussion that our lawyer's professionalism cracked a bit and he told us, with obvious emotion in his voice, that he felt a lot of gratitude toward our family for adopting Asnaku and Ruth....that it meant a lot to the whole Bethany staff.  His words referee-ed another wrestling match that had been happening in my heart since we set foot on the Ethiopian red dirt. 

 Even with the poverty of the orphanage and the other hardships in my girls' lives, my heart had been heavy these past few days with the pain of them having to leave all they've every known behind in order to have a family.  Ethiopia is a place, a people and a culture that is very easy for me to love.  It bothers me that the girls have to lose this in order to gain us.  I wish I could scoop up part of it to bring home for them. 

 The lawyer's next words brought me peace and answered our prayer that God would lead us to a child that truly needed us.  He told us he was confident that the judge would approve our case the next day because we were the only chance the girls have at a family.  "Really??" we asked.  "The only chance?"  

His expression and body language made his answer emphatic, "They'll never have a family here."  Disease, poverty, stigma, and too many birthdays had stolen that chance in the country of their birth. family from across the world had become their only chance because God sees, He hears, and He speaks.

It was a strange peace to my heart.  It was awfully hard to hear your children described in such dire circumstances.  But it was also good to hear.....good because it confirmed our steps.  Having a family and belonging to someone trumps culture and hometown every time.  That reality explains our girls excitement for us so dramatically overshadowing the fears of the unfamiliar and a new language they must also have.

We boarded the van and headed out for our afternoon with the girls.  We played and laughed.  Scott had the bright idea of a two on two soccer match.  Ruth was game, but Asnaku had to be persuaded!  Scott used his  Daddy charm to plead and convince.  Finally, with a little roll of the eyes, she relented.  It felt very much like a typical Daddy Daughter moment to me and made my heart swell.

We played the "English/Amharic" game that's popular with adoptive families and on missions trips!  They point and speak, we repeat, everyone laughs.....we point and speak, they repeat and we cheer and tell them they're awesome!  The game ended with Ruth explaining to Scott that Addis Ababa means  "new flower" and Abaye means "Daddy" so Addis Abaye means "New Daddy."  More sweetness!  New Daddy also found out that one of his girls is pretty tickle-ish and can't help smiling big when Abaye's got a finger poked into her side!!

It was a good, good day.   My journal entry for that day ended with this, 

"So the list of confirmations and hearing from the Lord grows....not to mention how great our time spent with the girls has been.  If each day keeps continuing to get better and easier with them, everything will be more than fine.
God is good....I'm so glad He brought us to Ethiopia...."

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