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Ethiopia changed us…

As in…forever changed us. I haven’t updated this blog in forever. I had every intention of updating it while we were in Ethiopia, that obviously didn’t happen. So I’m going to back up to November and go from there. During the early part of November I started feeling a tug to go ahead and go to Ethiopia despite the fact that we didn’t have Embassy clearance yet. It was taking far longer than anticipated for the U.S. Embassy to clear us for their Visa’s. A birth relative needed to be interviewed. Once we got notice as to when that interview was going to take place, we made arrangements for Ali and I to fly over. We decided it was best if T.C. stayed at home with Clark since we were not sure of a time frame. We knew this had been the last step in all of the cases we had heard about. So…if I was already over there when we received clearance that meant I could take the next available appointment to apply for their Visa’s. God orchestrated it so perfectly. Ali and I flew in on a Tuesday and we had Embassy clearance that FRIDAY! The next available appointment was…get this…that coming Monday (as in the next business day!!). T.C. called me with the news and I of course said that yes we would definitely be there. We had our appointment that Monday (the week of Thanksgiving) and picked up their Visa’s that Wednesday (as in the day before the Embassy would have been taking their Thanksgiving break!). Yahoo. I was so relieved. We were only in country for 8 nights. We were anticipating the worst case scenario could have been several weeks. On the way to Ethiopia, Ali and I spent two nights in Dubai for a little mother/daughter adventure. It was so much fun! We were picked up at our hotel only 30 minutes after arriving for an Arabian Adventure. T.C. and I had taken the same tour back in July and Ali was very much looking forward to being able to do it herself. We went 4 wheel driving out in the desert and ended up at an Arabian encampment for dinner and camel riding. (ok, so we didn’t do the driving…we were riding! ha) The next morning we enjoyed a double decker sight seeing bus tour where you hop on and off where you so desire. We saw the Persian Gulf, the Atlantis Resort, Palm Island, Ski Dubai, and another mall with a HUGE aquarium inside, took an evening boat tour down Dubai Creek, then on foot we explored the Dubai souks (gold, spice, etc.). We made memories we will never forget.

After we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we were escorted to Acacia Village where the children lived. I was able to take custody of them that first day. They stayed with us at our guest house for the entire length of our stay. The children did so good leaving the transition home. There were two sisters that were upset with Hana’s leaving. But they are at home with their new families in the states as of a couple of days ago also. Praise God! Hana and Haile said goodbye to their caretakers, they gave us a traditional coffee ceremony, some staff prayed over the children, and we were on our way. Just like that. The children were excited to be leaving. All in all they did very well with the huge life change of having a new family. Thank goodness there were a few other American families in our guest house and also right down the street at another house. There was a family that adopted a sibling set of 3 from the same transition home. What a blessing. The children were able to play together and we also took some outings together. Ali hung out with them like they had known each other for years. It was precious. Friendship just doesn’t have language barriers. It was beautiful to watch.

As time went on, the family with the other sibling set flew back to states. We got to know a family staying in our guest house that adopted a little precious 2 year old boy. As we were talking, I learned that they had gotten involved in a ministry involved with Korah. (google it…Korah trash dump in Addis Ababa) It was break your heart and leave you amazed that people are forced to live in such horrific conditions. It is most literally a village surrounding the local trash dump. The people living there get their food supply from digging through the trash dump.T.C. and I had already been made aware of Korah and were interested in visiting it for ourselves. However, since he wasn’t with me…I hadn’t planned on going with all the children. As it turned out, Jenny invited me to go to Korah with her one day to deliver some items that she was purchasing with money her church at home had raised. It was such an incredible experience. We first met with a pastor there that helps meet the needs of families and arranges Bible training for children. We happened to go on a Saturday and got to see some of the classes in action. We then toured the surrounding area and met with several families that Jenny’s church was able to financially help. The stories were heartbreaking. (a woman about to be forced to start begging due to her husband leaving her with a small child, families whose income included what items they could resell from the trash dump, a woman who was dying with HIV and TB and leaving behind children and medical bills, etc.) It made me evaluate all that we take for granted on a daily basis. Every time we turn our water on at home we know we are going to get clean water. We know that…but do we really think about it? We had a young man tell us on our first trip that he had to start drinking the tap water (highly contaminated) because he could not longer afford bottled water. He had no other choice but to drink that which he knew was contaminating his body. Wow! One of the drivers I had on the second trip told me that even though he might only get one meal a day (two if he was fortunate that day) but that he completely trusted in God to meet his needs. It was very sobering for me to hear. And now we are home and I’m not sure what to make of all of this. We take so much for granted. I get so annoyed with people now………you know the “Oh I MUST rip out my entire kitchen because I WANT custom cabinets and granite…I mean our cabinets are white laminate and WHO does that…who builds a house and puts that in?” Yeah I heard that conversation last week at Clark’s gymnastics meet. I was so annoyed that I wanted to turn around and rip her eyes out….don’t get worried…I didn’t really do it. 🙂 Things like that just annoy me now. I mean it annoyed me before going to Ethiopia, but it really annoys me now. Oh a side note, while we were there we were able to have lunch with a sweet family that have a church plant in Addis. They moved there from North Carolina and we have a mutual friend. We got connected through our friend and had a nice lunch with them. They are about to start the adoption process also!!

I’m also reading through Advent Conspiracy (thanks Jenny!!) and T.C. happened to be teaching a Bible study on it. It is SO good, if you were wondering. 🙂 Read it…it will challenge you to make a major change with the Christmas season. We made a choice to scale back our Christmas buying this year and give more to organizations that do great things. Don’t feel sorry for our children….they are still getting spoiled….we just opted to spend less and point to the manger more. It’s a win/win all around. If we can point our children to look beyond the end of their own noses to the needs of others and to Jesus…than we have succeeded. It isn’t easy. It is everywhere…this obsession with Christmas buying. The commercials that tell us we need the latest and greatest. It attracts our children…sadly. They see the commercials, the catalogs, the me..me..me mentality. We can’t sit back and be ok with that. For our family, we MUST take back CHRISTmas. To be in awe of the babe in the manger that changed history so many years ago. To enjoy simple family time. Making cookies, looking at Christmas lights, make gingerbread houses, Christmas movies. Children will remember these times far longer than they will remember what toys they get.

Hana and Haile are doing remarkably well so far. We arrived home on Thanksgiving. Only God…the giver of all good gifts….could have planned it like that. Thanksgiving….I mean wow. We had so much to be thankful for. T.C. cooked us a turkey and the fixings and we enjoyed our first Thanksgiving meal as a family of 6. It was amazing (jet lag and all). Hana and Haile are settling into their new lives. Haile has some issues with crowds and getting overwhelmed which manifests into anger and a tempter tantrum. They do not happen daily. We are trying to learn the cues and what exactly he can’t handle. Hana has handled everything like a champ though. They are both high energy and into everything. 🙂 They got to experience the Nutcracker this week and loved it. We also had a few friends over and decorated Christmas cookies. Everything is new and exciting for them. They had a great time decorating the tree. Hana wanted me to buy Christmas decorations at Target before our tree was up. I guess she thought we didn’t have any.

Clark had his first gymnastics meet last weekend. He came in third overall in in his age division and placed in every individual event. He was pretty proud…though he did say that he wanted 1st instead of 3rd. But it gave us an opportunity to talk about being happy for his friend. (it happened to be a good friendon his team that got 1st) He has another meet the first weekend of January.

Ali had a swim meet last weekend as well. T.C. ended up having to work all weekend with the National Guard, so it was my first taste at juggling two big events with 4 children. When you don’t have family in town, there is no option except to drag them all. Everyone did well though. Oh and they were in opposite ends of town. (an hour apart from each other) Ali did well at the meet and has another the 2nd weekend of January.

Ali and Clark are all looking forward to our upcoming family vacation to Disney. We have plans to head to Orlando the end of January. We are playing it by ear though as to whether we think Haile can handle the crowds. I think he will do ok as soon as he sees Buzz Lightyear. 🙂

This week my sweet cousin, Cheryl, and her daughter, Georgia, made a quick trip down here to meet the kiddos. We were able to go to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. We had such a fun time! Love great memories with family. Last weekend a friend that works with TC at the guard hosted a small shower for the children. They got some clothing items and the boys got lots of hot wheels cars so you know they were in heaven. It was so sweet they even remembered Ali and Clark and TC and me! We got a wonderful gift certificate to a parent/teacher store so I can get books for the kiddos. We got a fun game bag with lots of games and even a “couples” bag with a Starbucks card, cheese, candle, etc. So fun!!!

Our cup runneth over this Christmas season as we are so thankful and blessed that God has finally united our family. May you and your families enjoy a God filled Christmas this year as we focus on the babe in the manger so long ago. Let us join in the Christmas story and not just have it as a side dish.


1 Kathy Bryson { 12.11.11 at 11:28 pm }

Beautiful pictures and beautiful family!! You all are amazing and inspiring. Have a wonderful Christmas together!

2 Kay { 12.13.11 at 9:41 am }

Great post Rach!!! It is a great reminder for all us Americans that we are blessed in so many little ways!! I am truly enjoying sharing ‘big family’ fun with you!!! Now we are both crazy 😉

3 stacy kirkland { 12.13.11 at 2:01 pm }

So happy for you and your family. Hope you all have a wonderful first Christmas as a family of 6!!

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