Saturday, May 30, 2009

Orphanages and Malachi’s Aunt

The last few days have been incredibly full, so I haven’t been able to make it to the Hilton to get on the internet. Thursday morning, we got to take a tour of the Holy Trinity Church, one of the centers of worship for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The history here is so rich and so ancient, it’s pretty amazing. Belay, who is the country director for Gladney here in Ethiopia, was kind enough to come and act as our tour guide. What made this more special is that Belay’s father was the Commander in Chief of the Imperial Guard in the 70s before the Derg Regime (communist) came into power. When they came and conquered the Ethiopian Emperor, Belay’s father and 59 others were sentenced to death and killed by firing squad. They are now entombed at the Holy Trinity Church and there is a really nice monument to them there as national heroes and martyrs. Pretty cool stuff.

After that, we met up with Peter Abera of Children’s Hope Chest and he took us around to a couple of the orphanages that Hope Chest sponsors. The children don’t live at these orphanages, but do come there for school and for meals every day, but they weren’t there on Thursday because it was a national holiday (one of 29 on the year). We were bummed but made plans to come back the next day.

After a short rest, we went with all of the Gladney families in country to pick up their kiddos to an Ethiopian cultural dinner. The food was just like the Ethiopian food we like so much in Dallas but it was accompanied by music and cultural dancing. If you want to know where the dance style “Pop & Lock” (see So You Think You Can Dance) got it’s beginning, pretty sure it was from ancient Ethiopia. It was a long day, but so much fun.

Yesterday was by far my favorite day so far. We started off by getting the chance to meet Malachi’s aunt at the Gladney Center. It was a very sweet moment, while at the same time a very sad moment. She clearly wanted to hold Malachi, but he didn’t recognize her and clung desperately to Brandy. In the long run, that’s a good thing, but I can only imagine how tough that must have been for her. We had the chance to ask her some questions and for her to do the same through 3 way translation (English to Amharic to whatever language she spoke). We told her we were Christians and she was thrilled to hear that. She is a Protestant (7th Day Adventist) and was so thankful to know that Malachi would grow up hearing about Jesus. I got to pray with her and we exchanged the traditional 3 kisses (believers do this to symbolize the Trinity). We got the whole thing on video which will be such a good thing for Malachi as he gets older.

Speaking of Malachi, he’s doing great. He still has moments where he looks shocked that we are still there, especially after he has been with a caregiver. But we are doing a lot of attachment work with him and are being rewarded with smiles, giggles and snuggles. He is finally eating(after about four days of eating almost nothing except bottles) and so that is a relief. He sleeps like a champ and has not woken up in the night. The doctor told us yesterday that he has tonsillitis, but you wouldn’t know it as happy as he is apart from the congestion and cough at night. He’s really bonded well with Brandy, always looking for her and reaching for her if someone else is holding him, and he’s starting to warm up to me. Mostly, he just thinks I’m funny, which is great with me. One of the funniest things about him is that he knows how to whistle. Josiah will be so jealous!

After meeting Mally’s aunt, Travis, from Gladney, took us and the other families to the Gladney orphanages, specifically Kolfe and another orphanage we can’t say much less spell. We have mixed emotions about the whole thing. On one hand, getting to interact with the orphans was great. Kolfe is an older boys home, so they followed us around and we spent about 10 minutes playing American football with them, and teaching them to throw the football. They told us how much they like Beyonce and one boy even sang a Beyonce song for me(I got it on video!). They all wanted our email, so I’ll have a bunch of random emails from guys at the orphanage when I get back. The other orphanage was a co-ed home for younger children. We got to hold babies, and play on the playground with the other kids. One of the little girls who was hearing impaired latched on to Brandy and wouldn’t let go. One of the saddest things is that Brandy asked what her name was, and one girl answered that the deaf child did not have a name. She was very sweet and just grinned at her the whole time. Another of the girls braided Brandy’s hair (Belay suggested I let them do the same to me . . . the kids are totally freaked and laugh at my baldness). While we loved the boys and the children, the condition of the homes is not at all ideal and there seems to be very little structure other than feeding them and trying to educate them. We are glad there is something for them, but pray that something will be done for these orphanages to improve and to set these children up for success (I may write more in another blog post since this one is already crazy long and I’m not done).

Lastly, and the highlight of our trip apart from Malachi, we returned to the Kichene orphanage that Peter had taken us to the day before and Brandy and I got to throw a party for them. We were so impressed with the staff at the orphanage. One of the teachers, a young man, was absolutely incredible with the kids, engaging, funny, and energetic as he told them stories about Jesus and sang songs with them. The singing of the children was exuberant and so much fun to watch. Peter then asked me to teach them from God’s Word, so I spoke about the wise man and the foolish man from Matthew 7 and then taught them the song. Afterwards, they fed the children and gave each one a soda, a treat for them, and then we joined them in the meal. Again, I can’t overstate how impressed I was with Peter, Nicodemas, the director of this orphanage, and so many others. They clearly love these children and have a vision for them to know and love Jesus in addition to setting them up for success as they get older and leave the orphanage. Please join me in praying for Nicodemas and the others who are working at Kichene and for the children, that they would grow to love and follow Jesus. As the children left, we were swamped with kisses and hugs that make your heart happy. I love the delight that the Lord gives us as He delights in us when we join Him in what He is doing around the world.

OK, sorry for the long post. Lots to say and catch up on. There is no way to describe all that we saw or felt today, but we look forward to telling you all about it when we get home. Today, we are going to go shopping at the market and then we’re hoping to take it easy for the rest of the day and for tomorrow as well. Still not done here in Ethiopia, so we’ll see you soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 2: Visiting the Foster Center and Embassy Appointment

We’re almost to the end of day 2 and it’s been great. The end of the day yesterday was spent with us getting to know Malachi a little better. Daddy and Mally got to play for a long while just the two of us so he could get used to me. He still prefers Mommy over Daddy, but I’m OK with that.

This morning when we woke up, Malachi acted like he was in shock that we were still here. I think he expected to wake up to the usual hustle and bustle of the orphanage. After we ate breakfast we walked to the Gladney Foster Center, which is literally a block over. In fact, one of the homes is on our little street. It was so great to see the caregivers and their love for the kids. We met Beti, Malachi’s “special mother” which is what they call the primary caregiver for each child. He loved her and we really got to see his personality when he was at the foster home. He is still pretty reserved around us, as you can imagine. One of the best moments was when we got to see his room and the crib that he stayed in. The picture book we had sent him was there and Beti picked it up to show him and when he saw the pictures of Brandy and I he said, “Mama” and “Papa.” I think he made the connection with us as Mama and Papa after that, though he obviously doesn’t fully understand what that means yet. It was a great moment. It was really tough on him, and on all the kids, when the caregivers gave the kids back to their families. Malachi kept reaching for the door after we left, which is such an encouraging sign of just how well he’s been cared for by them.

We also got to see the other foster care centers including the one that the Fournet’s twins are at. It was so great to see them and we are praying especially hard that we get to see them again very soon back in Dallas. We weren’t able to see the Tucker’s little boy, but Travis who works for Gladney, was nice enough to take the package to him and to shoot some video of him that we will bring back to Cary and Sarah.

After that, they did a coffee ceremony for all of the Gladney families which was great. They roast the beans in front of you over a little pit of hot coals, and then grind the beans by hand. The coffee was amazing (at least I liked it). Afterwards, we all went to lunch together and then headed out to the Embassy. I was pretty nervous about that, just praying that we hadn’t forgotten some little piece of paperwork. All went well and the Embassy worker congratulated us and sent us on our way.

Today has been great to meet the other adoptive families. We sat next to a really nice family from North Carolina at lunch and got to know them and their journey to adoption. While waiting at the Embassy, I had a great conversation with Jed, who is the Director of the Christian Alliance for Orphans out of California. We had a great talk about all things related to orphan care and churches. He is just getting started in this post, so it will be great to get to know him better over the next couple of days.

Tomorrow, we will tour Holy Trinity Church here in Addis and then Brandy and I are going to meet up with Peter Abera, the country director for Children’s HopeChest here in Ethiopia. We are excited to see the work they are doing here in Addis caring for orphans and connecting the local churches to that cause.

All in all, it’s been a great day and we’re looking forward to the rest of our time here, though we’re anxious to get home. Thanks again for checking in and we’ll try to update again tomorrow.

Wes, Brandy, and Malachi

P.S. We posted a few pics on Facebook. Click here to see.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meeting Malachi

Well we finally made it to Addis after what seemed like the longest plane trip ever. The flight itself was smooth, but the combination of very little space, a warm cabin, and some rather loud Navy personnel who were enjoying themselves a little too much throughout the evening, made for a very long trip with very little if any sleep. But it all fades into a very distant past in light of what I look at as I’m typing this – little Malachi taking a nap with his mommy.

After we arrived at the airport, there were no delays with immigration or customs and we met up with Travis from Gladney who introduced us to our driver, Yasoo (probably a very horrible spelling). We made a quick stop a grocery store to get some water, juice and soda and then we got to the Ayat House where we are staying this week. Mr. Waradu (sp?) showed us around this very beautiful house that is just a block from Gladney’s foster home and we got settled in briefly and took showers.

Then, the moment came. Travis arrived with Malachi and he’s absolutely beautiful, but very uncertain of what he’s doing with these white people. He reluctantly went to Brandy, but refused to come to me once he had latched on to her. The entire time he seemed to be on the verge of tears as he looked around, and I’m pretty sure if I’d taken him away from Brandy that would have pushed him over the edge. Eventually, he fell asleep in Brandy’s arms and only then did I get to hold him. He and I took a short nap together before I went to order us some lunch and now he’s sound asleep with Brandy again.

That moment is such a strange one, but so fun as well. You can see the absolute terror in his eyes as he’s handed to these strange people who introduce themselves as Mommy and Daddy. He never did really burst into tears until Daddy reached over and tickled his belly a little and that pushed him over the edge. He didn’t cry for long, but I said, “Soon that will be one of your favorite things.” Funny how that works. Pray that he adjusts well to us and that all goes well tomorrow at the Embassy.

Thanks for checking in.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello from London

Well, we thought we'd update the blog last night at the hotel until we realized it would cost us $50 US to get on the Internet. Nothing is cheap in London and little is free. Just found this Waffle House with free wifi. So, I'm updating from my iPhone which means this will be short.

We got here safely yesterday around noon, got checked into the hotel and then went to Picadilly Circus yesterday just to look around. We were proud of ourselves for navigating the buses and tube system without getting lost. We had Indian food for dinner which was awesome. That came at the recommendation of many of our friends. We pushed through the jet lag yesterday and slept ok last night, although Brandy woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep.

Today we are taking a bike tour of London with my friends from Fat Tire Bike Tours. We did this last year with our Burundi team during our layover and had a blast so I'm excited to take Brandy this time and do the full tour. Looks like we'll be doing taking the tour in the rain as we watch it fall from the sky right now. Oh well, they do the tour rain or shine, so we will too.

All this is a fun passing of the time until our flight at 9:30 tonight. Can't wait. Hoping to meet Malachi within 24 hours. Hard to believe.

Thanks for checking in and we'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leaving Today

Well, there he is and we're just a few short (or more likely long) days away from meeting him face to face. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity both getting ready for this trip and just living life in the midst of this short waiting period. Brandy would say that the 4 weeks notice we were given was too long, and to a certain extent I agree with her, but once again, the Lord worked out the timing so perfectly and there is not a better day to hop on that plane than today.

We are going to do our best to post to the blog while we're there and update you on different events. Pictures will have to wait until we get back because the internet cafes operate at dial-up speed. I talked to a friend who said it took 3 hours to download 20 pictures . . . we can wait.

We'd love your prayers for us and specifically for us to be able to relax and enjoy this experience. There is a lot of temptation to grow anxious about everything from travel to the Embassy appointment to leaving the kids here and even the meeting of Malachi, so pray that the Lord will give us peace in the midst of this time so we can enjoy this celebration.

We thought it would be fun to have the kids shoot a video for Malachi that we can show him when we're there to introduce themselves to him. Don't tell Josiah, but Selah's video was the best! Thanks again for following along and keep checking in for more news!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

15 Days and counting...

We leave on the 23rd of May to get our sweet boy. We were excited to be able to schedule a long layover in London, so we will get to take a bike tour of the city while we are there. The last week has been fun and stressful, trying to get ready to leave. Our kids are so excited, but a little nervous too. Josiah has a major meltdown on Wed and he told me later "I am just very sad and un-patient for Malachi to come home "....manipulative or self aware? Who knows, but it was sweet. I am "un-patient" too!

As Mother's Day approaches, it is bittersweet...I think about my children and how much delight they bring me. I think back to past mothers days when it was so painful to NOT be a mother. I think about my children's genetic/biological mothers and wonder what that day is like for them. I think about sweet friends who long to be mothers or who have lost children this year. I think about all the moms in my family and in my circle of friends and I am grateful for each one of them. Being a mom is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I continually pray that my children will grow up saying that I loved them, that I loved their father, and most importantly, that I loved Jesus. There is nothing I want for my kids more than for them to have a relationship with Christ and to become like Him. It is such a blessing to see that happening already- today I was frustrated because the kids were playing in the kitchen and I was trying to get some things done and I spoke to Josiah, but it was not a very nice tone of voice. I was not concerned about their heart, I just wanted them out of the kitchen! Josiah approached me and very sweetly said "mommy, can you try next time to use kind words?" OUCH- but true. I apologized and asked for his forgiveness. He forgave me and said "I know it is hard to remember"- that made me laugh!

So Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and moms in waiting!