"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A New Day

What a great...and surreal... day for our family! Elias was so calm and comfortable with us last night and slept for over 12 hours. I didn't sleep nearly that long though because I was up half the night staring at this precious boy, this amazing blessing we'd been given. I had longed for this day for almost a year and a half. It was so hard to believe that our sweet son was actually in our room, in our care, beginning his new life with us - finally!!



Elias really started to warm up to us today, and we had some great breakthroughs with him... a few smiles, some laughs and even a couple of words! There was one moment at dinner that Elias was actually being silly to try and get us to laugh at him! Its so exciting to see his personality start emerging.


We also attended our visa interview today at the US Embassy. We were asked a series of questions, given some of Elias' official documents, and then were told these most wonderful words, "This adoption is now considered complete and final." I could barely catch my breath over the lump in my throat. Finally, officially our son. Thank you God!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Gotcha Day!!

Heading to the Transition Home this afternoon felt surreal. It was familiar, yet different. We had taken this same trip seven times before, but today would be our last time. We would leave the Transition Home today with our son. He would never again live in an orphanage. Praise the Lord for this day that we had so long prayed for!

We arrived at the TH during nap time and as anxious as we were to hold our boy again, we decided to wait and let him sleep. We filled out all of our Embassy paperwork, met with the TH doctor, received Elias' medical records, and reviewed his daily schedules. Finally, we saw one little sleepy head up and out of his bed, and we knew it wouldn't be long before all of the toddlers started to wake up! Would he remember us? Would he be happy to see us? Would he cry? Anxiously, we waited.

And then we saw him! He had gotten out of his bed and was walking hand-in-hand with a nanny, towards the door, towards us. For a moment he continued walking, but when he saw us there waiting, he broke free of the nanny and began to run.... in the opposite direction, back to his bed. We noticed immediately that he had started to cry. It broke this mommy's heart to see him so upset to see us, BUT he knew that we were there for him. He recognized us!! One of my great fears was that he wouldn't remember us and that we'd be starting all over again, but he actually remembered us.

After the nannies changed him, they handed him out to us, and that was it. He was ours. Forever.


The feelings of excitement and rejoicing were ours alone. Our son was leaving everything he knew: his home and the people he loved. He was being taken from all that was comfortable and familiar to him and being placed with people who didn't look like him or speak his language. It was extremely overwhelming to him and he responded by becoming withdrawn and reserved. It was so hard to put him through all of these changes at once. It was heart-wrenching to see him so confused and overwhelmed, and even though his emotions and reactions were exactly what we had expected, it didn't make it any easier.

Leaving the TH for the final time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Amazing Race

Let me start by saying that you would be wise to not ever ask me to be your partner on the Amazing Race... I crack under pressure!

Last night we had dinner with my parents, prayed over our trip, and kissed our girls good-bye. It was surreal to be leaving them again and knowing that when we saw them next, we would (finally!) be a family of six!

This morning we woke up (actually, I don't think either of us slept enough to really have to wake up), packed our final items, and met our friend Ronnie in the driveway in the wee, dark hours of the morning. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and joined the other passengers in the check-in line. I was feeling positively giddy at this point! Were we seriously at the airport on our way back to Ethiopia to pick up our son?!?!

We were standing in line, ready to check our bags, when one of the airline employees loudly asked, "Is anyone here heading to Washington, DC?" Yes! We were. We raised our hands with several of the other passengers, and she asked us to step to the side. "Your flight has been cancelled," she said casually. She asked us to give her our names and then she'd tell us when the airline had rescheduled us. At first, I really wasn't worried. I figured that we'd just get on the next flight to DC and still make our flight to Ethiopia. BUT THEN.... the two passengers in front of us were told that they had been rescheduled for flights tomorrow. Tomorrow?!? There was no way that would work for us. I knew how few flights Ethiopian Air had available into Ethiopia and we were lucky to be on the one we had... the one that left today. There was no way we could get into DC tomorrow. We wouldn't have a flight into Ethiopia. We'd miss our Embassy Appointment to get Elias' visa. I began to panic and instantly burst into tears. Yep, that's the way I roll. Tears. When it was our turn, the not-so-lovely airline employee said simply, "We weren't able to reschedule you because today is the only day for your connecting flight to Ethiopia. There's no other way to get you there. We've cancelled your ticket. You'll just need to head home." Waaahhh!!! Serious sobbing at this point. I called my parents, bawling, woke them up and asked them to pray for us. I was just devastated. One of the other passengers asked where we were trying to go, and I choked out that our son was waiting for us to come and get him in Ethiopia, and that he had already waited long enough. Bawling, pacing, wringing my hands... none of it helpful, but it was all I could do. My dear husband, on the other hand, kept such a cool. I don't believe he could stomach the idea of having to tell me that we weren't going. He went right to work exploring other options. He ran around the airport looking at the departing boards and saw that there was another airline going to DC shortly. They were flying into Reagan, and we needed to be at National, but we would at least be in the right city! He quickly got us new tickets, checked our bags, and with a brief 10 minutes to spare, we went running through the airport to catch our new flight! Thank you, God, for my level-headed, problem-solving husband!

We arrived in Washington DC, collected all of our baggage, and hired a taxi for the 45 mile drive to National Airport. We got there just.in.time to catch our ET Air flight to Ethiopia! I don't think I started breathing again until we were in our seats, ready to depart to Addis.

The rest of our trip was, thankfully, uneventful. We arrived in Addis on time, saw our good friends, David and Job, waiting for us, and felt instantly grateful to be back. The familiar sights and sounds were so comforting. We were finally back in the same country as our son. We went to the guest house to check in, unpack and shower. David, Job, and Yonas picked us up an hour later for lunch and then it was time to head to the Transition Home to pick up Elias for our "Gotcha Day!!"


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Embassy Clearance!!!

Whew... what a week it has been! My brother once said after reading this blog that my emotions on here are all over the place. And let me tell you, its not just here on the blog. My emotions truly are all over the place, especially as we have entered this final stage of our adoption. (Doesn't this make you feel some serious sympathy for my husband??) Its a constant struggle between feeling excited about being so close to bringing our son home and yet feeling heart-broken at being so far away from him.

Last Friday, we got a call from our adoption agency that the embassy had opened our case for an investigation, and that they were requiring some additional testimony from our son's birthmother. It seemed that we were randomly chosen since there was no reason or explanation given as to why they needed this additional testimony or why the testimony she had already given in the Ethiopian courts or the testimony she had given to our adoption agency was not sufficient. It all seemed so senseless and cruel, and was the hardest news we had received throughout this entire journey. I was absolutely heart-broken for her to have to endure yet another round of reliving her loss, and I was heart-broken for us that we were being delayed in going to get our son.

We had already purchased tickets to leave for Ethiopia the following morning, but these embassy investigations can take up to 12 weeks to process, and our adoption agency felt it would be too risky to travel at this point. Devastated is about the only word I can find to describe the way it felt to be told that we were not cleared to pick up our son. We had our bags packed, schedules cleared, childcare worked out, and hearts set on finally picking up our son and bringing him home.... it was a total bawling, sobbing, melt-down kind of day.

Our agency worked quickly to arrange travel for our son's birthmother to come to the city, and she was able to testify at the embassy on Wednesday morning. We are eternally grateful for the many sacrifices she has made for her son and in awe of her strength and courage.

Defying all expectations, the embassy cleared our case right on the spot, as soon as she had completed her testimony. We received the call this morning that the embassy had approved us to travel!! We were shocked... elated... overjoyed... thrilled to know that it was finally time to bring our son home FOREVER!!!!

We leave on Sunday, February 27 and will have a March 1 embassy appointment to receive Elias's visa!!! OUR SON IS COMING HOME!!!!!! We leave in just three days to go get our sweet boy!!!!!!

To our dear friends and family who have prayed us through this entire journey... we are incredibly humbled and grateful for your love and support!!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Submitted!!

Yesterday we got our miracle!! We had prayed, along with so many of you faithful prayer warriors, that we would be submitted to the embassy yesterday. We were up against some pretty steep odds, with MOWA being closed last week, but our God is bigger, and we are praising Him, the One from whom all blessings flow! Our file is now in the hands of the embassy, and we are finally nearing the end of this journey!!!

I am embarrassed to admit that as the morning turned into afternoon yesterday, I began to doubt and my faith in this miracle began to waiver. I had prayed and prayed that God would allow us to be submitted to the embassy and when I hadn't heard anything from our agency by 1:00, I began getting worried, discouraged, and frustrated. Around 3:00, I checked my computer and saw in my e-mail inbox these words... "Embassy Paperwork Submitted." Simple. Direct. To the Point. Our miracle. Our answer to prayer.

Thank you, Jesus, that despite my impatience and lack of faith, you answered our prayers in such a mighty way! You have redeemed Elias's life. He is no longer an orphan. He is our son, and You are now paving the way for him to come home!

What happens next? It will take the embassy up to a week to review our file. If all of our documents are in order (and we are assuming they are), then they will clear us to travel and bring Elias home. We will know for sure next week, but we are currently planning to be in Ethiopia during the last week of February!!

Baby boy, we are coming for you SOON!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

So Close and Yet

still feeling so far away.

When we passed court on January 18, we were told that it would take 1-3 weeks to gather all of our post-court paperwork and submit our file to the embassy. Our agency can only submit files to the embassy on Wednesdays, so we were (unrealistically!) hopeful for the best case scenario of January 24. This date came and went without any news and we were told that they fully anticipated our file to be ready on the following Wednesday, February 2.

I woke up on the morning of February 2 with all the anticipation and excitement of Christmas morning! I couldn't wait to hear that we had been submitted to the embassy. I stalked my e-mail all morning. And finally when I couldn't stand the waiting any longer, I e-mailed our adoption agency. Unfortunately, our file still wasn't ready. We were apparently missing one signature. The Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs (MOWA) needs to sign off on all of our post-court paperwork, and it hadn't been done yet. I was just crushed.

I miss our son desperately. My heart aches for him to be home with us. I want nothing more than to hop on that plane and go get him. I cried for him. I cried for me. I cried for the frustration of this whole situation.

The very next day we received an e-mail from our agency that said that MOWA had decided to close for a week in order to relocate all of their files (yikes!!) and that our file would most likely still not be ready on the next Wednesday, February 9. That news was just about more than my heart could take. I fought with some serious discouragement and disappointment this day.

In my logical head, I know that God's got this, and I'm just along for the ride. This is all in His timing and His plan, and we have chosen to simply take His hand and follow along. It doesn't mean that its easy, though. We are waiting on Him with the full trust that His ways are best, even when they aren't our ways. Waiting on Him means that I am not in control and that is a hard lesson that God's been teaching me throughout this journey. I am trying to find strength and patience in this time of waiting, and trying to do it gracefully. But it hurts. I long, I ache, I am desperate for our son. Its time for him to be home.

We are praying for a miracle this week... that our file will be ready to be submitted this Wednesday, February 9. Will you join us in praying? And if our file isn't ready, and we have to wait another week, I pray that we will do it praising Him along the way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Meetcha Day Video

Meeting Elias was one of the most amazing moments in our lives. We are so blessed that God chose us to be his parents, and we cannot wait to bring him home!

video

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Seven and...



Today I walked away from my son and left half of my heart in Ethiopia.

I had been dreading this day from the moment we found out that Ethiopia had become a two-trip country. I knew it would be devastating to leave him, and I knew I would need God to give me the strength to walk away.

I had already started crying at breakfast this morning, just thinking that our next visit with him would also be our last for quite some time. We met our guide, Yonas, in the lobby after breakfast, and as soon as he made eye contact with me and asked if I was ready to go, I broke
down... and cried all the way through town... and through the gates that lead into the Transition Home... and into Elias's room.

Today was the first day Elias looked truly happy to see us (yes, even with his crazy momma crying hysterically!). He smiled and reached out for us as we walked into his room! I loved bonding with him this week and seeing the progress he's made with us, and it gives me such great hope for all that we'll see when we finally bring him home!!


Our time with him today was very similar to the last two mornings - feeding, nap, playtime - physically the same routine, but emotionally so very different. I tried so hard to push pause on these moments, to freeze time, to stop the clock from moving forward, to memorize his smell and the way he felt in my arms. We took a few last pictures with him, and then it was time to say good-bye. I lost my delicate tears, and went straight into the ugly, sobbing tears.


I walked Elias back into the Transition Home and down the hall to his room. Those few steps were some of the longest ones I've ever taken. When we walked into the room, I noticed that all of the nannies were crying just as hard as I was. I love their hearts and the love they have for our son. I handed him off to one of his nannies, and through his tears, Charlie asked her to take good care of him for us. For the one-millionth time, we told Elias how much we love him and that we'd be back for him soon, to finally bring him home. Sobbing, we left the Transition Home and left our son.


Today I am clinging to John 14:18. "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." We are not leaving Elias as an orphan. We are leaving him as our SON, and we will return soon to bring him home to his forever family!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Six and...

God broke my heart for what breaks His.

But first....

The day started for us with the realization of a dream ten months in the making! My DTE buddy, Jackie Mullis, and I first met each other through our adoption agency's Yahoo Group in March 2010 when we both submitted our paperwork to Ethiopia on the same day, both of us requesting baby boys. We began e-mailing, texting, and calling each other regularly throughout this crazy adoption journey and became such great friends along the way... without ever having met in person. We talked often about how great it would be to finally meet each other in Ethiopia and wondered what the chances of that would actually be. And here we were... both of us in Ethiopia... together! Our two families went to the Transition Home together this morning, and as we sat on the front porch holding our babies, I was just in awe of all God had done to make this moment possible.

Our time with Elias was so sweet this morning. We fed him and held him, and he fell asleep in our arms just like yesterday morning. We are so loving these precious moments with him. Once he woke up, we had some great play time with him. He is so much more content being with us that we are now able to stay outside with him during our whole visit, and we don't have to rely on taking him inside his room each time. Charlie tickled him and blew raspberries on his tummy, which got some huge smiles and laughs, and Emma introduced him to the joys of the Nintendo DS! We also had the chance today to stamp his footprints so we can know what size shoe he'll need. (The shoe man will finally be able to order his boy some shoes!!)

The remainder of the day was spent visiting the Trees of Glory care center and meeting our sponsor child for the first time! Trees of Glory is about two hours north of Addis Ababa, and we really enjoyed our drive. It was great to get out of the city and to see Ethiopia's rural countryside... complete with mud huts, small villages, children herding cattle, and vast fields stretching across the beautiful backdrop of mountains.

Remember God breaking my heart today?? Here it comes...

When we arrived at Trees of Glory, we were met by the most amazing woman, Simret. Simret is the founder of Trees of Glory and is truly the hands and feet of Jesus, loving and caring for over 100 orphaned and impoverished children each day. We had stopped along the way at a produce stand and bought hundreds of bananas and mangoes to donate as well as the 100 goody bags we had put together for each of the children at the care center. The love and gratitude from Simret and her staff was so overwhelming to us. We met for a few minutes longer, discussing the history and vision of Trees of Glory, and then she asked if we wanted to meet some of the children. (Because we were visiting in the afternoon, most of the children had already gone home for the day. The only ones who remained were the 11 permanent orphans who live there full time and our sweet sponsor child, Webit, and her sister.) We have been sponsoring Webit for about six months now. We have her picture hanging up, we've exchanged letters with her, we've sent her a care package, and we pray for her daily. We love this little girl as if she were a member of our own family, and we couldn't wait to meet her!

The children were led out of one of the buildings in a single file line to meet us, and Simret mentioned that our precious, little Webit was the first one in line. I was so excited to know that she was there and that we were about to meet face-to-face, that it took me a minute to realize that she was disabled and limping toward us. None of that mattered in that instant as I sunk down to her level to hug her, but I quickly realized how tiny and frail she was, probably more the size of our four-year-old instead of the seven-year-old she is. Simret was explaining to me as I was still embracing her that she is very sick. She said that Webit was almost too sick to make it today to meet us and that she had been carried on the back of her older sister all the way from their village to the care center. One of the other staff members explained that her leg injury had started as one small sore on her foot and had now spread to the point that her entire leg was lame. As the other children gathered around us to receive their goody bags and treats, Webit sat on the ground, unable to stand and in considerable pain. At one point, Charlie noticed her shoes were on the wrong feet and he gently knelt down to switch them for her, but she began to wince and cry, and so did I. It was truly heart-breaking, and I couldn't contain my tears for this sweet girl whom we love so much. It absolutely wrecked me to see her in so much pain.

The staff members explained to us that Webit comes from a witch-craft village and that the original sore had spread into this leg deformity because of the witch-craft that had been done on her. They also explained that this type of illness/deformity is seen as evil and that some members in her village had wanted to kill her. This sweet, darling, precious girl is the same age as our daughter and all of this was just too much for my heart to take in. I was completely broken and could not stop crying for her. We quickly asked about getting her into a hospital, but were told that we would have to contact Children's Hopechest back in the States to get this arranged, although they did feel hopeful that since Webit's parents had seen that the witch-craft hadn't worked, that they would likely be open to the idea of medical treatment for her.

After a traditional coffee ceremony, we said our good-byes to Webit and her sister, and later to Simret and the staff at Trees of Glory. I am absolutely positive that God brought our family together with Webit as her sponsors, knowing that we would be the ones to be there with her in person to see her need. I am confident He orchestrated this long before we ever considered child sponsorship, and I am incredibly grateful to be used by Him. On our way back to Addis, I told Him that He had broken my heart, and now I needed Him to show me what to do in order to help this sweet girl.

*** UPDATE *** When we got home from Ethiopia, this was one of the first stories I shared with my parents. The following day, my dad felt a very spontaneous prompting while he was preaching to mention it in his sermon. He and my mom have since been approached by several of the members in their congregation wanting to help Webit. It looks like there will be many donations given to help get Webit into the hospital. Praise the Lord for moving His people into action for this girl! We contacted Children's Hopechest right away, and they immediately went to work getting in touch with the staff at Trees of Glory to help get Webit the medical attention she so desperately needs. The staff in Ethiopia met last week with Webit's parents and they gave their permission for her to be treated! On Monday (January 31), one of the Trees of Glory staff members will pick her up and take her into the hospital. We will be updated on her prognosis and treatment while she is there. Please join us in praying for her healing and for wisdom for the doctors treating her. ***

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day Five and...

We have been culture-ized!

Today was the Ethiopian holiday, Timkat, and we were so excited to be here for it. In English its known as "Epiphany," and it is the celebration of Jesus' baptism. Timkat is the most popular and highly-celebrated holiday in Ethiopia. Our guide, Yonas, took us this morning to participate in one of the celebrations in Addis. We went to a large field where a great crowd of people were gathered (somewhere between 100,000 - 200,000 people). Many of the people had spent the night in this field singing and worshipping. The priests of the local orthodox churches were all there on this morning spraying the crowds with holy water. There was so much to take in... from the gorgeous traditional Ethiopian outfits everyone was wearing, to the beautiful singing and the large variety of items being sold. It was wonderful to be a part of this occasion!

After the Timkat celebration, we went to the Transition Home to visit Elias. This was our first time to visit him in the morning, and I was so glad to not be waking him up from his afternoon nap! We had a few minutes of play time with him and then the nannies brought out his morning snack. Charlie took this feeding, and it was his first time to feed Elias. I am so grateful for all of the bonding moments we're having this week. I could tell that Elias's eyes were getting heavy while Charlie was feeding him, so when his snack was finished, Charlie laid Elias's head down on his chest, and he fell right to sleep. After about half and hour, Charlie passed him off to me, and I had my first moments holding our sleeping son. Ahhhh... it was so sweet watching him sleep in my arms!! I am so anxious to bring this little boy home so we can do this every day!! After he woke up, we had some more play time with him, and I know I mentioned this before, but this boy loves his daddy! He gives Charlie the biggest smiles and laughs and simply loves being around him. He is perfectly content to be held by me... unless he sees Charlie. He turns to look for him when he hears his voice, and if he sees him, he reaches out to him. It is so awesome to see these two together, and I can't imagine how much better it'll get when we bring him home. I know in order for us to bring him home, there will have to be a good-bye, and I am already dreading Friday.

After we left the Transition Home, our group went out to lunch at a restaurant/art gallery. It was another great meal and more great conversation with our new friends in our travel group, our driver and our guide. We have so enjoyed our time with these people! They have helped to make our first trip in Ethiopia such a success!

After lunch it was time for souvenir shopping. Shopping in Ethiopia was a whole new experience for us, definitely an eye-opener and a true glimpse into this culture. When we pulled onto the dusty, shop-lined street, we were immediately surrounded by people; store owners asking for us to come into their shops, beggars asking for money, children asking to shine our shoes, street merchants trying to sell us everything from gum to beaded necklaces. It was instantly overwhelming. The shops were all super-tiny, super-crowded spaces, where everything is bargained for... no set prices. Luckily, I married an incredible negotiator and we came away with a lot of greats deals on our treasures. I was quickly exhausted from all of the despair and begging, the bargaining, and the crowds of people surrounding us. We never felt unsafe because the Ethiopian people are so warm and friendly, but it definitely wears you down to be faced with such poverty and in-your-face crowds surrounding you at every turn, begging and pleading for your help. This is a very real part of the Ethiopian lifestyle and is one of the more heart-breaking.

After shopping, we went for coffee at Kaldi's (the Ethiopian Starbucks) and then went back to our Guest House to rest. We later walked to the Zebra Grill for dinner... it was our last dinner as a group. Our dear friends whom we have shared everything with this week had flights out this evening. It was so hard to say good-bye to them and to realize that our week was soon coming to an end, too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day Four and...

We are praising God that there is one less orphan in the world!! Today we PASSED court, and Elias Getiso Herwehe is officially and forever our SON!!

Let me start back at the beginning of this amazing day... The three families in our travel group all met downstairs in the lobby at 8:30 to be ready for whenever the judge would call us in. We had been told the day before that it would most likely be an early morning court appointment, so we were all nervous, excited, and ready to go! One of our guides, Job, came in on his cell phone and said that the judge would not see us until 2:00pm. What a disappointment. I was so ready for court and didn't think I'd have the patience to wait all day. Job said that the birth families were in court giving their consent at this time and then would be coming to the guest house where we were staying to meet with us.

We had been so anxiously anticipating this moment. Last night our adoption agency gave us a DVD interview with our son's birthmother, so that we could be prepared for this meeting. They had also advised us to prepare about 5 questions we wanted to ask. The story of Elias's birth and adoption are his alone and are not details that we will share publicly. But we will say that meeting his birth mother was incredibly emotional. We hugged and cried together. We talked and shared (through two different translators) and even took a few pictures together. We were beyond grateful for this opportunity, and we hope that this will be an invaluable gift to our son in the future.

After our birth family meetings, our travel group went out to lunch. I was incredibly nervous at this point for our court appointment. I just wanted to know the outcome. It was finally time to leave and we headed into the court building. When we arrived, the judge was not there yet, so we all waited outside of her office. The film crew was there and spent time interviewing each of our families on our feelings and expectations.

The judge arrived around 2:15 and called our family in first. The film crew was allowed unprecedented access and was allowed in the room with us. The judge began by asking us questions such as how we had prepared for becoming an interracial family, had we discussed the adoption with our biological children and how did they feel about it, had we taken any training on international adoption, and did we understand that Ethiopian adoptions were irrevocable? We were so nervous as we answered each of her questions. Very quietly and very quickly she then said the following words that forever changed our lives... "All of your documents are here. They are in order, and he is yours." Just like that. He was our son! Charlie and I instantly burst into tears and fell into each other's arms for what felt like an eternity. It was an incredible moment that I will never, ever forget. "He is yours!!" The words we had been longing to hear since we began this journey 15 months ago. We walked out of the room and shared our news with our travel group. We all hugged and cried together! Even the film crew was moved to tears! There was such joy and rejoicing!! It will forever be one of our greatest life moments.

Unfortunately, the other two families in our group had missing documents in their files and did not pass court. We were absolutely heart-broken for them and we all shared in their disappointment.

After court we were able to go visit Elias at the transition home. We couldn't wait to tell him the news that he was now a Herwehe, but he didn't seem quite as excited as we were! : ) He is warming up to us more and more each day, and is feeling so much more comfortable around us. I love seeing him every day and the bonding that's taking place! We are oh, so in love with this precious boy! He is absolutely perfect for our family, and there is no doubt God chose him for us and us for him... we are so grateful to now be a forever family!!!

Thank you so much for all of your prayers for this day!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day Three and...

I am emotional.

This morning we had a meeting with the America World in-country director, Duni, to help prepare us for our court appointment tomorrow. When we arrived in the lobby, we were shocked to be met by a film crew. Duni had given them permission to follow us during our week here in Ethiopia for a documentary they are making on international adoption. (I, of course, immediately ran for my lip gloss! Ha!!) The film will debut later this year at different film festivals around the world (like the Heartland Film Festival in our hometown), so I'll keep you posted on when you'll want our autographs! : )

Our meeting with Duni went really well. She explained the court process to us and really helped us understand what to expect. She also talked to us about meeting with the birth families after court and how to prepare for that. (In Ethiopia, a birth family member must be present in court to give their consent for the adoption. They attend court first in the morning, and then the adoptive families appear in court later to give their consent. After the court proceedings, the birth families and adoptive families are able to meet.)

After our meeting with Duni, we went to visit two government-run orphanages here in Addis Ababa. When a child is abandoned or relinquished, they are taken to one of these orphanages (there are many throughout the country), and once they are matched with an adoption agency, they will move to that agency's transition home. (That's where Elias is now.) Many of you helped us collect donations for these orphanages, and we were so blessed to be able to deliver them today! Our first stop was Kingdom Vision. When we arrived, the older children immediately came out to greet us. They were so excited for our attention. They loved giving us hugs, taking pictures with us, giving high-fives, etc. They sang several beautiful songs for us, and we passed out treats to each of them. They were ecstatic! Next we visited Kids Care. When we arrived, we were taken into a small room where the older children were having school. They were so well-behaved and respectful. We were all so impressed with them! They, too, sang songs for us and we handed out treats to them as well. We went to the baby rooms next and held and loved on many different babies. The staff at the orphanage then provided us with a traditional coffee ceremony. It was such an honor.

I wasn't able to process everything emotionally until we were back in the van. These precious children with gorgeous smiles and huge eyes and beautiful laughs deserve homes and families just as much as our own children. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, and I wonder what the chances are for these children we met today to be adopted into loving homes? It truly wrecked my heart.

After lunch, we went to the Transition Home for our time with Elias... always the highlight of our days! We walked in to his room, and he was sound asleep. The nannies asked if we wanted to wake him up, but we decided to let him sleep for a little while longer and really enjoyed the opportunity to watch him sleep! We finally woke him up, and he rested quietly in my arms for about 15 minutes. When he had fully woken up, he got a bit fussy and Charlie and I took turns walking around with him. Elias definitely prefers Charlie over me... a total Daddy's boy in the making! He tolerates me well, but is actually reaching out for Charlie. Its really special for both of them!

Today was also our day to meet with the social worker and psychologist who are on staff at the Transition Home. We took Elias back with us to their offices, and it was great having him just sit in my lap the whole time. The social worker and psychologist began discussing issues such as bonding and attachment and personality, etc. They talked a lot about what to expect when we get home, etc. It was at that exact moment that it really hit me that we would be leaving him. I asked if they thought he would remember us when we left after court, and they said we could leave pictures that they would go through with him to help him remember us. I really broke down at that point and the tears were streaming down face at the thought of having to say good-bye and leave him. Ugh. Today was such a tough day emotionally, and having the film crew with us, made it even harder because I felt like I always had to be "on."

After we left the Transition Home, the ladies were taken to a spa for manicures and pedicures... a strange juxtaposition to all of the poverty and despair we had seen earlier today. As much as I just wanted to go home and crash, it actually turned out to be very relaxing and a nice end to this day.

Tomorrow we go to court, and we are praying to hear the words, "He is yours!"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day Two and...‏

My spirits are high!

Today was Sunday in Ethiopia, and we started the day by attending an amazing international church service here in Addis. There were people from all over the world worshipping together. It made me think about what heaven will be like one day... all different ethnicities and nationalities worshipping our savior together. We sang many of the same songs that we sing back home, but it was different here somehow. So beautiful and uplifting.


(Let me digress a minute and tell you that the chef at our guest house is amazing! Every morning he serves fresh squeezed pineapple juice, strong Ethiopian coffee, amazing sweet breads, yogurt, cheese, and eggs cooked just for us whatever way we like them. I'm not sure if its the fact the eggs are so fresh or if its just that Chef David is wonderful, but they are The. Best. Eggs. we've ever had! We're getting totally spoiled here and will have such a hard time when we return home to cereal each morning!) : )

On with day two... After church, we went to lunch at an awesome little restaurant called Island Breeze. It was hands-down the best Mexican food we'd ever had! (Who would've ever thought that in Ethiopia!?!) Although the food was terrific, all I could think about was getting back to the Transition Home to visit with Elias! I was so anxious and excited to see him again!
Today was our day to deliver care packages and take pictures for families who are back home waiting for their children, so we did this first when we arrived at the Transition Home. This was a huge blessing to us when we were waiting, so we were so excited to do this for these families! We know what a lifeline new pictures and updates are! It was so much fun to meet these precious children, knowing that they have forever families anxiously waiting to bring them home!

When we were done with care packages and photos, we simply walked inside to get Elias. The pressure of "Meetcha Day" was gone, and it was very relaxed. I wouldn't say Elias was happy to see us, but he tolerated us well! He's pretty withdrawn when he's with us and just likes to sit and cuddle. We realize how completely normal this is because we are still strangers to him (strangers who don't look like him or speak his language), and its all very confusing to this sweet boy. After some time, we took him back inside to his room and played with him there. The wonderful, amazing nannies (oh, how I could go on and on about these ladies!!) tried so hard to get him to laugh and smile for us. One of the nannies laid him down and started to play a little tickle game with him so we could see and hear him laugh. It was absolutely adorable to see this side of him, and totally made my day!

After our time at the Transition Home was up, we came back to our guest house and got ready for dinner. Tonight was a traditional Ethiopian dinner with dancing and singing. I love Ethiopian food, and actually eating it here in Ethiopia was awesome! We also tried Ethiopian honey wine, which was the strongest alcohol I had ever tasted and may explain what happened next. The Ethiopian dancers did a lot of unbelievable tribal dances (head spinning, body jerking, shoulder lifting, story-telling kind of dances), and then they left the stage and came into the "audience" where we were all sitting and eating. Our table was front and center and one of the female dancers came a picked Emma out to dance with her. Emma did a great job following along, and it was adorable! And then the male dancer came to our group and picked out Charlie. Yes, Charlie! (Seriously, have you ever seen him dance before?!?!) It was hysterical! Our travel buddy, Dave, said it looked like he was having a stroke, but, I was so proud of him for living in the moment and experiencing all that Ethiopia has to offer!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day One and...

I'm in LOVE!!

This morning we arrived in Addis Ababa after almost 15 hours of flying. We slept a total of about 3 of those hours, so we were running on pure adrenaline! Our driver, David, picked us up at the airport and drove us to the Yebsabi Guest House where we checked in and met the other two families in our travel group. David then said he'd be back in an hour to pick us up for lunch and then we would go to the Transition Home to meet our son!

I had dreamt of this moment so many times, it was hard to believe it was finally here!! It was our Meetcha Day!! After lunch (which was at a wonderful little Italian restaurant), we loaded in the van and made our way to the Transition Home. Driving through the bumpy, unpaved roads, dodging cars, pedestrians, goats, and sheep was an experience all in itself! But finally... there it was!! The America World sign standing tall in front of the gates that lead into the Transition Home compound.

The America World staff had decided that we would meet our kids in alphabetical order... which meant that we were last out of our travel group. We all exchanged cameras and then the first precious child was brought out to meet his mommy and daddy. I cried so hard that the guide who was with us started rubbing my back, comforting me like it was my own meetcha day moment! But then, as if in the blink of an eye, it was our moment!

One year and three months waiting for this... to finally meet the son God had chosen for our family. I had so often imagined what he would look like in person and wondered what he would feel like in my arms. I was completely filled with excitement and anticipation as we took our place outside of the doors to the Transition Home. And then he was there. In front of us. Being carried to us in the arms of his nanny. I instantly started my "I'm so emotional, I don't know whether to laugh or cry sound," as I reached for him. He began to cry which I was completely prepared for, but it only lasted a second and then he melted into my arms. He rested his head on my shoulder as I embraced this precious child who was meeting his forever family for the first time. Tears were streaming down my face as I held this sweet baby boy, kissing him, hugging him, and rejoicing in this moment! Eventually, I handed him to Charlie, who was just smiling from ear to ear and couldn't wait to hug his little man! Emma wanted her turn too, so we knelt down to embrace as a family. It was completely surreal and amazing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Transition Home with our little sweetie. He was very unsure of us and spent most of the time just sitting quietly in our arms. He didn't cry at all, but he did whimper a few times when we passed him back and forth or changed positions with him. He was very reserved and quiet, but never once did he try to move away from us. Eventually we took him back inside his room at the Transition House, and he was instantly more happy and relaxed. We got to see him play with his friends and his toys and begin to smile and laugh. Charlie started a game of peek-a-boo with him, which got lots of smiles!

It was so hard to say good-bye when our time was up, but knowing that we would be there again tomorrow was a great feeling! What an amazing and unbelievable experience today was! I met my son for the first time and completely fell in love!!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Would Love Your Prayers

10 days!!! We leave for Ethiopia in TEN days!!!

This will be the first of our two trips to Ethiopia. On this trip we will finally meet our son!!! We will spend several hours a day with him at our agency's Transitional Home, bonding with him and getting to know him. We can't wait to finally hold him in our arms! The rest of the time will be spent sight-seeing, touring, visiting orphanages and delivering donations.

Most importantly on this trip, we will go to court. On January 18, we will appear before an Ethiopian judge in the hopes of making Elias legally and officially our son!

We would love to ask for your prayers for our trip. Whenever our family comes to mind in the next two weeks, would you please lift us up in prayer? The following are some specific prayer requests we have...

  1. Traveling mercies: Please pray that we will not have any unforeseen delays or missed flights and that we will be safe throughout our flights and the time spent traveling in Ethiopia.
  2. Health: Please pray that we will all remain healthy and will adjust well to the time change. We are especially concerned for our seven-year-old, Emma, who will be going with us.
  3. Bonding: Obviously Elias has not been falling in love with us like we have been with him over these last few months. As much as I'd like to picture our "Meetcha Day" in slow-motion like a movie with us running into each other's arms, I know this is pretty far from reality. The families who have met him have all described his as very reserved and subdued and several times he's even cried when he's been placed with these families to receive a care package. We know he has a happy, content, even silly side to him, but we also know it may take awhile before we're able to see it for ourselves. We have been told by the nannies that he is uncomfortable around new people, which is exactly who we are to him right now. Please join us in praying that his heart will be open to us and that we can begin bonding together. Please pray that he will warm up to us and that our time with him will plant the seeds for us to grow as a family.
  4. Court: In order for our family to "pass" court, we will need several different factors to all be in place. This is excruciatingly difficult in a third-world country without the efficiency or urgency that we're used to here. Specifically, we need the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWA), to write a favorable letter of recommendation for our family. This coveted letter is rarely written on time, and the majority of families do not pass court on their first try because of this reason. We would love for you to join us in praying that our MOWA is written on time and in our file before the judge! We are so longing to hear the judge say, "He is yours!" Once we pass court, we can then be submitted to the embassy which is the final step to bringing Elias HOME. The longer it takes us to pass court, the longer we will have to wait to bring him home. Please, please pray that we are able to pass on our first try, on January 18.
Thank you so much for continuing to support our family through your prayers! We are so incredibly grateful!!

~The Herwehe family

Saturday, January 1, 2011

December Update

We received our December update this week! It is the last one we'll get before we travel to meet our little guy! We were so excited to learn more about him as we are preparing ourselves to spend a week with him in January. Here are some of the highlights...

  • Elias weighs 24 pounds and is 31 inches tall! We love how much he's grown since being in the wonderful care of our adoption agency's transition home, even though its hard watching him grow up so much in pictures.
  • He is still taking formula 5 times a day, but is learning to drink it from a cup by himself.
  • He has been healthy all month! (Praising God for this as it is quite uncommon in a orphanage setting!)
  • He is described as being content, although sometimes afraid of strangers. He likes to cuddle with his nannies.
The questions we asked this month...

  • What are G's favorite things to play with? Does G* have a favorite toy? "He likes to play with people and plays with any toy he gets."
  • What makes G* smile and laugh? "He laughs when tickled and when the nannies cuddle with him."
  • Does G* have a special friend he enjoys playing with? "No, he plays with everyone."
  • What is G's favorite food? Is there a food he does not like? "He eats all of the food at the Transitional Home. He likes pastini (baby pasta)."
  • How does G* act around new or unfamiliar people? "He is sometimes afraid, quiet, and reserved to new people."
We also got some new pictures of our little sweetie! He had his first haircut this month, and it was such a shock to see him without his curls! Charlie really liked his new look (but then again, he's got a shaved head too!), but I sort of miss the 'fro he had. The haircut definitely makes him look more like a little boy and not so much of a baby anymore. In Ethiopian culture, its believed that if you shave a child's head for the first two years of life, the hair will grow back in fuller, thicker, and curlier. I hope that's true because I am so excited to play with his curly hair!!

We just cannot wait to meet this amazing little boy for ourselves! TWO more weeks!!!