We're back from Ethiopia and had a trip filled with so many amazing experiences! I could never summarize it in one post but will hit some highlights and then fill in the details in coming days.
We loved meeting our new little girl! It was fun playing with all the kids in the toddler room of the care center our agency runs and seeing their personalities. Some were shy and didn't really approach us and seemed intimated if we approached them, some were shy but smiled huge when we initiated play with them, and then some were in your lap after about 20 seconds in the room! Our girl was in the outgoing, friendly, lap-sitting group!
At one point the caregivers played some music and a few of the kids danced. Our new daughter danced the longest, bending her knees over and over again with her little hands on her hips! Seriously, it was the cutest thing ever! We were able to record it on video.
She is precious and definitely has a spunky side, after about 20 minutes with her we all had the thought, "There's going to be a new boss in the house soon!" Let's just say even with a language barrier, she makes perfectly clear what she wants and doesn't want you to do! We will have our hands full for sure but absolutely can't wait!
Our court appearance went completely as expected, we were just lacking one letter from the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWYCA), the ministry is behind on writing letters for nearly all families. But, on Friday we got news that the courts (scheduled to close for the 2 month long rainy season last Friday, just days after our court date) were remaining opened for one more week in an attempt to finalize more court cases as MOWCYA letters came in. The timing of the news was sweet after having to say goodbye to our little girl at our last visit with her that morning. Now we're praying to pass court before the end of the week so we can bring her home sooner!
While in Ethiopia, we got to visit our friend who is a missionary there and see the work she is doing for the people around Korah (an entire community situated around a large trash dump). It was something to sit with an HIV+ mom and her little girl who just finished kindergarten, like our oldest daughter, in their mud hut smaller than our closet and pray with them. They are able to get food and the little girl is able to go to school due to a sponsorship program through the organization Transformation Love.
Then later in the week we got to meet the boy we sponsor through Compassion International and his mother. They came to Addis Ababa from Awassa with a translator and we met with them in addition to a Compassion staff member. We gave Mathews a backpack of goodies, including a Houston Texans shirt, which he immediately put on, and a soccer ball. Our 2 older kids played soccer with Mathews on the lawn outside our guesthouse and we were just so amazed at the actuality of meeting in person this boy we've grown to know for years only through letters and pictures! We took them to lunch (the first time Mathews and his mom had ever been to a restaurant!) and to the Lion Zoo. His mom had a pretty shy, serious expression most of the visit but I loved the smile she couldn't hide upon seeing those lions! Then Mathews really came out of his shell at the playground and rides area. I will never forget his huge smile riding the ferris wheel with me and 2 of my kids! All of our language, cultural, life style, and background differences were stripped away for a few minutes and we just had fun! Of course I also did a bit of making sure everyone was holding on tightly -- no seat belts or safety bars on those Ethiopian rides!!
So many adventures! We toured the government orphanages where conditions are much worse than the care center where our daughter now is; our hearts break for the staggering number of children in those orphanages, and their joy at just being able to hug us and hold hands was humbling. We were so impressed with how well many of the older kids spoke English!
We especially connected with a 12 year old boy named Moses, he was so friendly, sweet and articulate, wants to be a pilot when he grows up. He has lived in an orphanage as long as he can remember. The boys were just so happy we were there to visit them and so excited to show off their soccer field (a completely mud covered yard), the monkey who was running loose in their cafeteria!, their beds (several rooms row after row after row of bunk beds, only one blanket and a mattress to call their own), and their gymnastics abilities (back flips off a rock wall). There were no parents, really very, very few adults at all, except us and the 8 others in our travel group. So for a few minutes I filled in the role as mom, worrying they'd get hurt during the back flips, yet cheering wildly and yelling "Gobez" (means "good job" in Amharic).
The girls orphanage had over 300 girls with again, no obvious adults. Sweet, sweet giggly girls. One latched on to me immediately hugging me with both arms for most of our time there, only stopping for a few minutes to braid my hair! Our 5 year old daughter was very popular there as the girls loved carrying her around. Our 8 year old son was popular for a whole other reason he was not particularly comfortable with as the girls giggled and whispered that he was beautiful!
The baby orphanage undid us. So many babies, two to a crib, some with arms and legs not much thicker than my finger! The caregivers were doing the best they could, they are just too outnumbered. All the babies needed to be changed, fed, held, and loved. We'd pick some up and cradle them in our arms, talking to them with our faces close to theirs and they'd stop crying, some even smiled and cooed, of course we eventually had to put them down and then the crying began again. If we hadn't left a child behind in the U.S. (the child who told me today he missed our 8 month old puppy while at his Nana & Papa's house more than he missed the rest of us!) I think I would still be there now, caring for those babies.
I really appreciate your support and prayers for our family and hope to be able to share with you pictures of our new daughter very soon (just as soon as the court case is final), until then here's a glimpse: her little fingers holding my husband's hand!