Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 10...Africa (Our Journey Home)

AKA, the day that never ends! :)

Saturday, February 20th, would be our last day in Ethiopia and it would be a LONG one!

We were up for our normal breakfast. I sure would miss the awesome pancake and omelet breakfast we were spoiled with every day! After breakfast we went out for a final round of shopping at the shopping area they call "The Post Office". We had a goal to get a gift for each of Sam's 18 birthdays and his wedding. We didn't get it all, but were able to get most of it. Just another reason to go back!! After shopping we went to metro pizza for lunch (we had been told to go and we weren't disappointed) and a macchiato from the coffee shop next door. Yum! After we got home it was time to finish packing. It sure went faster than the original packing that took me about a month, but was still no easy task! After we were packed and ready to go we had time for a dinner before heading to the airport. Matt, Madison and I went to the Zebra grill and left Nani with Yacob to babysit. Along the way we stopped at a couple silver shops and bought the girls each a silver cross necklace to someday celebrate their baptism.

A few images from the roof of our guest house...

We were so happy to be traveling home with the Wells, for at least the first leg of our trip! We loaded up the vans (I think at this point it was maybe nine o'clock at night) and headed to the airport. Our guide "T" and driver David, whom we had grown to love, couldn't go even across the street to the airport with us and we had to say our goodbyes in the parking lot! It was extremely stressful being on our own and going through security twice and dealing with the pushy and unfair airport people. After about two hours later we were finally on our way home. Our flight left around midnight and we had about 20 hours of travel left ahead of us. The first flight was pretty cramped but we were grateful that Yacob slept most of that flight to Khartoum where our plane landed for about an hour. Then it was off to Amsterdam. I can't remember for sure, but I think this was about a 10 hour flight. I probably slept off and on for about 2-3 of those hours. Yacob was doing well, with minimal fussing! When we got off the flight Paw Paw and Mamaw were waiting to meet Yacob.

After a quick in airport breakfast we made the trek across the airport to catch our flight on to DFW. I purchased a couple water bottles for the flight and realized they costs me $10 when it was too late. Going through the line to get on the plane the costly bottles were confiscated, Yacob peed through his outfit and in the process of boarding Matt and I got separated and he had the diaper bag with the change of clothes etc. By the time I found our seats and we got situated it was too late to change Yacob's diaper/clothes so I got to take off with a soaked baby strapped to me. And, during take-off Matt said while he was boarding the plane two security guards were escorting a man off the plane. That was a fun plane change...let me tell ya! :) But we got situated and the sweet, sweet stewardesses moved Matt and I from our cramped seats to a center row of three seats at the back of the plane...PERFECT!!! The final leg of our journey had begun! Yacob did a great job with lots of sleeping and minimal fussing! We were getting oh-so-tired, but knowing we were so close to introducing Yacob to our family and friends was exciting!

When we landed we had to go through customs at the airport. I was a little anxious because I knew lots of friends and family (probably 40-50 people) were waiting for us) but once we got through all of that and got our luggage and headed through the doors the cheers of so many people that we loved dearly melted away all the anxiety from the trip! What a welcome home. I am still so completely humbled at all of the people there to celebrate Yacob coming home. Each of the people had supported us in this journey in so many ways and were a huge part of bringing him home and I will never forget!!!

* this little guys was SOOOO relieved to see his daddy again...the feeling was mutual!

My best friend from high school surprised me with a trip all the way from Austin. Well, actually I think she was at a family reunion maybe even farther away and drove straight there to see him and followed us home, helped us settle in and picked up dinner! I think she has loved Yacob from before we even had a picture!!! How did I ever deserve such a friend???

When we got home Abby didn't want to leave Yacob's side. Actually all she wanted to do was hold him and love him. She has always loved babies, but I had no idea that she truly felt like he would be her baby. We are still having to set boundaries for how much she can hold him...LOL! I was amazed at how well Yacob did at the airport with all of the people holding him and all of the noise, but he did amazing. I just knew we were due for a breakdown so when he began to fuss and Abby begged to hold him I thought it would last about a minute. Well, she climbed on the bed, turned him backwards on her tummy so he was facing out and could see, and began to rub his cheek and quietly sing to him. It was the most precious thing ever! And, wouldn't you know it, Yacob was asleep within a minute or two! She was so proud...such a GOD moment!!!

As I ponder my parting words, I feel a sadness that it's over! A big part of my heart is still there and always will be! I hope and pray that God brings us back in some capacity...still not exactly sure His plan there, but can't wait to find out! I do know that both Matt and I love the people and feel the pull!!! This was an amazing blessing and we are so grateful that God allowed us to be a part!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 9...Africa

Once Yacob fell asleep, he was out for the night...Yay!! I slept much better. So grateful my throat pain was much more bearable! We were up at our usual 8:45 for 9:30 breakfast. It was a low key morning with some packing and visiting. I did have a minor breakdown though. I hadn't gotten to Skype or call my kids hardly at all because the connection was not working well and because of the time zone. But, I remembered it would just be a couple more days until I would have them in my arms.

It's funny, when I read the journal entry for this day I didn't have anything written down about the coffee factory tour. I must have been so tired that night that I forgot to journal it. I do remember that it was a really neat tour!! Coffee originates from Ethiopia. Soooo cool!! They can make a mean macchiato (sp?) too!!! It was really neat seeing all of the beautiful Ethiopian women hand sorting the coffee beans. What patience!! And, the aroma...Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

We got Yacob's visa and said goodbye to about half of the families who headed out that afternoon for the airport.

Later that afternoon the Johnsons picked us up for dinner to celebrate Tracey and Andrea's birthday at a restaurant called "The Family Restaurant". We even stopped at a real grocery store on the way.
Crazy enough, the restaurant was Tex_Mex food. I even got a real, yummilicious margarita! We ended the evening with Mezeret's homemade chocolate birthday cake! It was DELICIOUS!!
We got to take a few pictures and say our thank yous and goodbyes to the Johnsons.

This night Yacob fell asleep easily! I took some great advice from one of the mom's and gave him the last bit of his bottle in the bed. He was out for another "all nighter" of sleep, that is! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 8...Africa

A little explanation is in order. My last post was about a month and a half ago. Life got busy and then my external hard drive crashed. I had all of my client images backed up but every picture I had ever taken of Sam, including all 1100 (or so actually) Africa pictures, were gone. I went into denial for a bit, just ignoring the problem completely. But, I had a sweet friend who offered her husband to look at it for me and he eventually sent it off to a clean lab to be dismantled and they were able to save almost all of my pictures. Praising God for that!
So, my precious images are back and it's on to Day 8.

This is going to be an emotional post for me. It was the most heart-warming and heart-breaking day all mixed together! I have learned that life is like that. I used to avoid the things that were hard to see and hear in the world, but this trip and a few books (i.e. "The Hole in Our Gospel", "Radical" and "Crazy Love") have opened my eyes that when we allow God to break our heart for the things that break His, we are drawn closer to Him and grasp His love so much more deeply! I would encourage anyone feeling the tug of the spirit to move towards a ministry or mission or situation in life that is hard to take to jump in with abandon and trust God to catch you and bless you in the process!

Okay...onto the day.
Because I was in such pain (sores on my throat) we decided to let me sleep in, in the morning and fore go the trip to the orphanage. We had planned a day of rest. Well, God's plans were oh so much better. I woke up about 9:00 and went downstairs for breakfast and found out they weren't leaving for the orphanage (Kingdom Kids) until 10:00. I decided that it was meant to be and ran upstairs to get ready. Nani stayed back and Matt, Madison, Sam and I were on the vans ready to go by 10:00 (and I was rested and feeling better...thank you God!!) We thought our donations for the orphanages were supposed to be turned in with our donations for the transition home so all I had to bring were some granola bars. When we got there I gave them to Madison to pass out to the children and there were EXACTLY ENOUGH FOR EVERY CHILD!!!! Loaves and fish!

Madison handing out granola bars...

oh...those eyes!!!

the kids LOVED to see the pictures we took of them on the backs of our cameras...

I spent the first few minutes watching Madison with the kids. She is a natural servant. Her heart is full of compassion and she is naturally comfortable, non judgemental and giving! It was humbling and inspiring! After passing out the granola bars, she mingled with the kids (focused completely on them) and then she noticed that there were granola bar wrappers everywhere so she took the bag we brought the bars in and began picking up the wrappers. Almost immediately several of the kids joined her and it was an instant bond. Common oral language not required. My heart full of joy, I began wondering around the orphanage grounds. There were so many precious children and my heart broke for them. Not because they looked sad, but because they didn't (and many will never) have a family. Then my heart broke for myself and all of us who take what we have for granted and, even worse, complain that we don't have enough. Oh, I so wanted to soak this reality in. I knew that heading back to the USA I would again be desensitized to the reality of a majority of the world, but I so don't want to. I want to have this perspective and I want my heart to be broken for the things that break His heart. I don't want to lament over not having a bigger house, or nicer clothes or more free time, I want to have a passion for serving and loving others!! The people (adults and children alike) of Ethiopia have such kind hearts. It's because they have perspective. They know what is important and they aren't distracted by all of the junk that we are in America. Okay...I am rambling now, back to the story!

a sweet driver loving on Sam so we could mingle with the kids...

a bond...


They love each other...

Madison began playing pat-a-cake with the kids and several of the adults joined in the fun. Then the nannies held a coffee ceremony for us served with popcorn and Duni's mom (who founded the orphanage) talked to us a bit about the orphanage and how they raise money. Next it was on to an restaurant for lunch.


coffee ceremony...

does my heart good...

oh so precious!!

I left lunch early with one of the families to get back to the guest house so they could meet the birth mother of their child. I wanted to capture these images for them, especially their son. What a gift to be a part of this moment! The birth mom was so young, only 15. In order to relinquish her child she had to lie and say she was 20. My heart broke for her(as it would and will continue to break for Sam's mom)and I have such a desire to go back and be a part of strengthening the communities there so that more families can keep their children!

back out the guest house...

We had a short rest before heading to a second orphanage, Gelgela. This is where Sam stayed for a short time before going to the transition home. When we got to the second orphanage there was a little girl that struck me immediately. Her name was Ricket (I think...unless I didn't hear right). She and an older little girl came up to us. She looked sad and looked down at the ground, not wanting to look into my eyes, but somehow wanting to be close. Her friend ran off to play, but she didn't move. I tried talking to her and kneeling down, but she was quiet and looked away. Matt had Sam and he was standing by the van window showing Sam his reflection. Ricket seemed interested in this so I held out my arms to see if she wanted to look and in she went. She didn't leave my side until we left a couple hours later, and she hasn't left my heart since!!

when I first met her...

in love...

makes me cry...

After some play time with the kids, Matt, Madison, Sam, Ricket and I headed upstairs to see the room where Sam stayed. The nannies were sooooo kind and gentle. There were several babies in this small dark room. I don't think there was any electricity or hear or air conditioning. We didn't have an interpreter with us, but we found the nannie who cared for Sam. She showed us the crib he shared with another baby and held him and played with him for a few minutes. Such a precious time. We are so grateful to know he was so loved during his time there!!

Sam's bed...

Sam's angel...

Later, Ricket and I headed upstairs to photograph another family who was able to meet their birth mom. While we were waiting for picture time Ricket and I played hide-and-seek and she learned how to take a picture with my camera (no easy task). She turned from this still, quiet, sad angel into this spunky ball of energy! PRECIOUS!

when it was time to take pictures of the birth mom and the family Ricket sat and waited patiently for me. The pictures were so touching as the birth mom put her arm around one of the families older boys. She also kissed each of the older boys (her little girls new big brothers). I know her heart was breaking and full of gratitude at the same time. She had a big smile and lots of hugs for them, but she had a hard time saying goodbye to her little girl. Her strength inspires me!!

and her personality begins to immerge...

okay, you can't pose something this precious!

a lesson in true joy...

I love how kids don't need a common language to bond...

That night we took one of our guides, Robel, to the Zebra (a popular restaurant near the guest house) where he told us his story about working with the UN and how it led him to start a street ministry for boys on the street. Again, a person who has given his life away to serve God! He teaches these homeless boys a craft where they sell things in order to make an income. He has also found a way for them to go to school. In Ethiopia, if you don't have parents to enroll you, you don't go to school. He also has learned to give them candy if they tell on their friends for not going to man! He has even bigger plans for this ministry. You can find out more about it and how you can help here

After a long, emotional, thought-filled day it was time to get some rest. Poor Yacob was over-tired and beginning to grieve for his nannies and cried for over an hour before finally going to sleep. Oh, precious son how we love you!!!

Sooooooooooooooooooooo sleepy!!!