Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ethiopia 2015 Day 1

I'm a pretty lucky girl to have travelled to Ethiopia so many times in the past 5 years.  On June 11th, 4 friends and my oldest daughter Rahel set out on a great adventure to Ethiopia. This trip marked my 7th time to visit this country that I have grown to love so much.  It was special for many reasons.  The biggest reason was that I got to take Rahel along with me.
 
Many, many people supported her efforts to return to her birth country, visit with her family there as well as work with our amazing sponsor kids and for that we can not thank you all enough.
 
This was a truly life changing experience for all of us, but especially for Rahel.
 
So for all of you who prayed for us and gave so generously financially, we thank you!
 
 Here we are looking pretty happy to be traveling.  We had just landed in Toronto and were gearing up for our 13 hour flight across the world.


 
 Thirteen hours later, we arrived, a little tired, but ready to hit the ground running.  It was a good thing too, because we still had another flight ahead of us to get to Rahel's home town of Mekele. 

 
Finally, 26 hours after we left home, we arrived in Mekele, Ethiopia for the first leg of our trip (and it was quite the crazy little flight and landing).  We were all happy to be back on land.
 
Me, Aimee (one of our first timers), Jeanie, Rahel and Heidi
Within minutes of leaving the airport we saw a camel just walking down the road. We acted all tourist-like and our driver slowed down so we could take a few pictures.  I mean, you don't see that everyday at the bus stop!
 
After we settled into our guest house and freshened up a bit, we left to get something to eat before the main event of the day, meeting Rahel's birth family.
 
I've written about a similar experience that Nick had when he took Hermela to Ethiopia last summer here.
 
When Nick decided to take Hermela, we actually told Rahel first and explained to her that her time would come too and that we would also take her back one day.
 
Well, we would have never imagined how important the timing of Hermela's trip would be.  Her mother passed away less than 5 months after they had been reunited.
 
That news really stirred something in Rahel and we could tell that she was worried something may happen to her family members before she was able to get back to see them.
 
So, even though we had not planned to take another trip to Ethiopia less than a year after Nick and Hermela's trip, the timing seemed right to go this summer.
 
We were so lucky to share this portion of our trip with close friends, two of whom had also adopted from Mekele, Ethiopia and who could understand all of the emotions that go into a trip like this.  They were a great support to both of us and really helped to put Rahel at ease.
 
Moments like I am about to share are sacred and I'm sharing them only with Rahel's permission and approval as this is her story to tell, not mine.
 
You never know how this kind of meeting will go and I had played it over in my head many times.  We had prepared Rahel (and ourselves) the best we knew how and had many people praying for these moments.  I know that it is because of these prayers that this meeting went so well.
 
Here we are waiting with are awesome guide Fekadu who helped make this meeting possible.
 
 
Testing the lighting for pictures (we have all of these amazing photos thanks to Heidi's awesome camera).

Then the moment we were all waiting for.  The taxis pulled up and I think all of our hearts started beating a little faster as the butterflies flew around in our stomachs.
 
 
The first member we met was Rahel's brother in law Mogos.  Mogos has been instrumental in our communication as he speaks some English and has access to email which has allowed us to exchange updates over the years (such a blessing).
 
 
Next was his wife and Rahel's oldest sister Sara.
 
 
Followed by her other sister Lula.  That' her brother Esais holding her cute niece in the background.
 
 
And finally, the moment her mother locked eyes with her.  I love this picture. 


 
And this one.  You can see the joy on her face as she hugged her little girl who is not so little anymore.
 
 
Then we sat down to talk and broke the ice by showing pictures of Rahel over the years.


I had a couple of favorite moments during these discussions.  One was when they saw pictures of her 13th birthday and I explained that she had wanted to wear make up when she was 12, but we had made her wait until she was 13 and how we thought she really was already so beautiful that she didn't need any makeup at all.  Her mom fully agreed with me and said she didn't need to be wearing any makeup, to which Rahel promptly requested that we change the subject.  At least both of her moms were on the same page!

 
Another favorite moment was when they admired Rahel's braids (that I had stayed up until 12:30 am on the night before we left doing).  They all fussed over them and then asked who did her hair.  Rahel pointed to me and then I raised my hand with pride.  That was a full circle moment for me.  I had arrived and gained hair approval from her Ethiopian mom and sisters.  That made all two hours of braiding (and the countless hair hours over the years) completely worth it!

 
Later, her mom made my most favorite statement of the whole trip.  When Nick and I had met her at our court date, we told her that we would always tell Rahel about her Ethiopian family, do our best to maintain her culture and some day bring her back to visit Ethiopia.  That was over four years ago. 
 
 On the day that we met up with her, she looked at me and said, "Thank you.  You said you would bring her back, and you did."  "And you did!" That was so big for me.  The majority of birth families have very little, if any, contact with their children after the adoption process.  I know how lucky we are that we have been able to have contact with all of our children's birth families.  I am especially thankful that we have been able to reassure them that their kids are safe and thriving and so loved.
 
That was totally a God moment for me and I am so thankful that He allowed me to experience it.
 
Then it was off for a little fun.
 
Aunt Rahel and her two nieces.  Little Bersebe was pretty suspicious of the forengie paparazzi.


We met at a very unique location which served as both a "kids play ground" and a "wedding palace."
 
It happened to have this ride, so all the kids, big and small took a ride.

Rahel's brother looks so much like her.


We ended the day with a family photo session and agreed to meet again at her sister's home the next afternoon.





 
What a beautiful set of siblings.

 




A special bond that only God could make.

 
And then they were off.

 

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.
Psalms 126:3

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nine is Fine Take 2

So just 12 days after Caroline turned 9, Meron turned 9. My twins are twins again.

 Our parents pitched in and got us water park passes, so we went to celebrate. So much fun.


Meron is our hip-hop girl, and we are clearly still rockin the coolness factor with her.

She was easily pleased with new socks (a matching pair of socks is a hot commodity around here).


She requested a cookie cake with lots of icing flowers. Nick ordered it and boy did they deliver.

Just a few short hours after her birthday day ended, Rahel and I were off on our Ethiopian adventure. More to come about our trip next.

Happy 9th birthday Meron!!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Instant Birthday Bash

When you have 3 sisters and 3 brothers,  it's always a party.

Caroline turned 9 and wanted a pool party.

Just add water!








 When we were done, she asked me to hold  her. She's still my baby, even if she is 9!
 She will hold the spot as our favorite 9 year old for the next 12 days before her "twin" joins her. Then she becomes our favorite 9 year old born in May ;-)

She practiced surfing on Memorial Day with a friend's board and picked it right up.
                    Now she's got her own
                      board to practice on.

      Happy bithday to our determined,  strong-willed,  perceptive, generous, smart surfer girl!