Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Next?... Adami Tulu!!!

Our last blog post ended with these words:

"God, what plans do you have for us next?"

In reality, this has been a prayer item for us through each major (and minor) journey that He has set our feet upon. When we were asking this question, when we said "next" we were thinking... after our adoption is complete and our family is finally all together!

Ever since our first trip to Ethiopia in February of 2008, Ethiopia has become a signicant part of our lives. Not only have we been blessed with an incredible daughter, we have been blessed by her precious heritage. We fell in love with the people, the amazing history, the land...

And yet, as we traveled back to Ethiopia in December of 2010, we prayed that God would open our eyes and hearts in a new way. For years our hearts have been burdened by the sheer statistics of orphans in our world. There is, in fact, a global orphan crisis. But, what would He have us do? One by one we see families being blessed by God uniting them together with sweet children as "Forever Families"... and we long to advocate for the miraculous beauty of adoption, both domestically and internationally. Our family has been twice-blessed now by adoption, but how else could we make a difference?


Our prayer was that God would lead us to an organization that provided for three key areas: physical, spiritual, and educational well-being for orphans and vulnerable children. And a "bonus" would be one where we could stand side-by-side other adoptive families and perhaps one day become involved with our hands and feet (in addition to financially).

God has answered our prayers and we are so excited that God has clearly showed us what he has for us "next"! (Funny... His timing was not for us to have our adoption complete and our baby girl home in our arms... rather to go forward now... as His children need us now... not just once things are "nice and tidy"!)

Without further adieu, we'd like to introduce you to the Adami Tulu Project through Lifesong for Orphans! This is a project that meets our prayer areas perfectly... meeting the physical, spiritual, and educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia! And, YES!, God gave us our "bonus" request... as we are partnering with at least three other adoptive families at this time! He is GOOD! Aaron & Casey Klein, Holt International adoptive parents, are spear-heading these efforts and we are thrilled to join them.

In short, this is an opportunity to raise funds to build and expand a Christian school in a primarily Muslim area just about 100 miles south of the capital city of Addis Ababa. David and I are thrilled that on our next trip to bring our baby girl home, we will actually be driving by this village on our trip back to Addis from Durame! Not only do these precious children receive a strong faith-based education, they are provided 2 nutritious meals every school day!

Our team's goal is to raise the entire $35,000 needed for the project. David and I have committed to being one of seven couples aiming to raise $7,000 each for the project. Some will raise more... some less... but together we are working to make a difference.

Are you interested?

Will you join us?

Is God calling you to help look after His children? How will you answer?

Need more information?

Click here for more detailed information on the Adami Tulu Project!

And...

Click here to learn more about Lifesong for Orphans...

And FINALLY...

CLICK HERE to help make the first donations to get our fundraising effort started!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Beautiful Ethiopia... Life is precious!

On November 30th, we began our first trip to bring our 2nd sweet baby girl home!

While I don't feel it necessary to take a trip down memory lane day by day here on our blog, I do finally feel ready to share just a bit... of our pictures... and my heart.

We had prepared ourselves for an emotional journey, knowing we would meet the little one God intended for our family, only to leave her behind and in His arms once again. We prayed that our eyes and hearts would be wide open to what God would show us and teach us on this leg of the journey. Though we had thought we were prepared, we surely weren't. What a blessed, trying, joyful, heart-warming, heart-breaking trip we took!

There are simply no adequate words to describe the emotions of meeting your child for the first time. We had loved on her picture for 4 months and now met her face to face. She is simply precious. Calm. Alert. Endearing. Cuddly. She has the biggest brown eyes (and that is saying A LOT coming from this brown-eyed mama of two other brown-eyed babies!)! She fell in love with Daddy and watched his every move. Precious... just precious.

Our large travel group was such a blessing to be a part of. So many of us had connected before arriving in Ethiopia, others we met as we waited in line through immigration... all became family. It's an unexplainable experience how God draws families together so easily as you walk the same paths. Watching each family meet their child was simply precious.

When we first found out we would have to travel twice to Ethiopia, it was a bit discouraging. When we found out that we would travel 18,000 air miles round-trip to appear before a judge for approximately 2 minutes, it was... a bit unthinkable. However, having been there/done that, we consider it a great priviledge! We were with the judge 62 seconds, stated our desire for our sweet baby to join our family forever, and at the end of our questioning heard these precious words, "Then I have nothing to worry about. She is yours." Precious.... just precious.
(Note to other adoptive parents: while the judge may say this to some families, no one "passes court" until the written court decree is complete.)

Saying goodbye to our sweet girl was indeed a heart-challenge. While in country, we learned how precious and fragile life is. Several of our travel companions were struggling with having their children in the hospital, and united by God's love for one another, it was impossible not to feel the pain that they were feeling, leaving their children with so many unknowns. (All in our travel group are healthy now... Praise the Lord!!!) David and I felt incredibly fortunate that our sweet girl was healthy and cuddled her extra knowing what a sweet blessing we were being given in those moments with her.

As we put her down in her bed for the last time, she turned over, got to her knees, pulled up on the back of her crib, pulled to stand, reached up and pulled her nametag off the wall... as if to say, "I'm outta here! Mommy and Daddy are here!" A heart-challenge for sure! :)

The next day we began a tour of Northern Ethiopia that was simply incredible. On our first adoption journey to bring Shani home, we did not have the chance to travel much outside the capital city of Addis Ababa. We are so glad that we took the opportunity to SEE Ethiopia this trip. In 3 days, we traveled over 750 kilometers (about 470 miles) north to Bahir Dar and Gondar and back (yep... that's 1,500 kilometers or about 900+ miles roundtrip). It was simply incredible! The landscape beautiful! The villages amazing! Life so simple and so full of joy!Toiling with joy! Thankfulness for littlest assistance! The history incredible! Did I say it was an incredible trip? I'll let the pictures tell more of that story...

A bit more of heart... God allowed us to see and learn (and perhaps re-learn) so much that when we returned to the U.S., it was an incredibly difficult transition. Culture shock doesn't even seem like the most appropriate description. It was just simply hard for my heart to function in this seemingly complex life with so many "worries". My "worries" now seemed so petty. My "needs"... simply wants. Walking into Costco... I could barely handle knowing how much I had at my fingertips while I'd met a woman and daughter who would walk for miles and miles carrying their own weight of wood on their backs to earn $.30 that day.

However, what David and I learned on this journey is that poverty is not the "end all". Joy abounds!

What is now on our hearts... not to bring "abundance" to His children, but to bring them comfort in their distress, food and water for their survival, education and the living Word of the Lord... More on this to come, we pray...

Let's get on with the pictures...
So many of the sights and smells made it feel as if we were coming home... I loved waking up the first morning to find bright sunshine and to be greeted by this "cat on a hot tin roof" just outside our guesthouse.



A familiar sight... seeing the children's clothing all lined up to dry...


Meeting our baby girl... just precious... don't worry... it won't be long until we can post her precious face... until now, feel free to "oooh" and "ahhh" over her adorable hands and feet...
.

Watch out Shani... baby sister is going to LOVE your shoes... in fact, she's only half a toe length away from sharing the same size as you!!!


After giving her a bottle, sweet baby girl lovingly on her own reached out to hold my finger... I nearly squealed and begged David to grab the camera QUICK!


Our tour guide... Tsegaw... YOU ARE AWESOME!!!


The Blue Nile Gorge... a bit hazy from the pollution of Addis, but a simply amazing landscape... think Grand Canyon, albeit wider! God's majesty so alive in His creation!




We were driving on a Saturday and as we "climbed" up out of the base of the Gorge, literally hundreds of people were carrying loads just like this to the top of the Gorge for market day. Miles and miles and miles... most with no shoes... most with beaming smiles... to earn less than a dollar that day...


Beautiful farmland... all done by hand... all done by hand... endless miles...

Market day in just one of hundreds of villages we passed through...


The highlight of Bahir Dar... Lake Tana. We took a boat ride across the lake to two different islands to visit monasteries. The first one was closed due to construction, but I will never forget our visit to the second. When we got off the boat, we were greeted by a sweet young boy. He led us across wiggly rocks to the main part of the island and as he did I began to ask him a few questions. 25 families live on the island supporting the monastery. He takes a boat ride each day to attend school in Bahir Dar. He is 11-years-old. And, when I asked him what he wanted to do when he got bigger, he replied, "Oh ma'am, whatever God chooses me to be." Precious...








Lake Tana hippo! Yep... we were in the boat... just about as close as comfort allows! tee... hee...






Along the journey, we stopped several times for coffee (so much for decaffinating myself this summer... there is NOTHING like Ethiopian coffee... Yum!!!) and yummy food. This particular stop we were given a full coffee ceremony along with yummy injera, eggs, chicken and goat (yep, I ate the goat... much more outgoing than our first trip... and didn't even get sick this time... imagine that!).

Precious children everywhere we went...



A very proud mother... wanting to show me her baby...


One form of transportation... in fact, we had a close run-in with one of these! Alas, all is well!


Incredible views...





Gondar... think Ethiopian Camelot... six 16th century castles in one location... the construction was simply amazing and the history given by our hired tour guide... unbelievable! If only I could remember a tenth of all he shared with us!




Church...




Our tour guide in Gondar! What a memory! Wow!!!
He loved this picture and seeing the height differential!

The ceiling inside the church... a multitude of angels... singing "Glory to God in the Highest!"





The city of Gondar with the castles in the far distance...





On our drive back to Addis (all in one day... a 14 hour drive...) we stopped along the way handing out small birr bills. Sometimes we would be "blessed" by priests/monks, always we saw pure joy, sometimes we were able to stop long enough for a "story"...

"May your journey be blessed... your travels safe..."



A sweet humble shepherd working to make 2 birr (16 birr = $1) a day plus one meal.


A mother and daughter climbing the gorge with hopes of making 5 birr that day.


Babboons...

While we say goodbye for now...

We will return beautiful Ethiopia...



You will never leave our hearts...


God what plans do you have for us next?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27