Monday, January 21, 2013

Ethiopia November 2012 Day 8

Tuesday November 13th

The long journey home begins.  We spent our last day packing up and preparing for the 32 hours it would take to fly back across the world.  I was ready to go home, introduce everyone to Eli, see our other kids and start life as a family of 9, but it was also kind of a bummer that we were leaving Ethiopia and I knew that it would likely be a while before I would be back.  This was my fifth trip in less than three years, so the thought of not being back for some time was sinking in.  It's the weirdest feeling as I mentioned in a previous post to feel so at home in a place that is so different from our home.  Ethiopia is never far from my mind and I really look forward to the time I am able to return.

We woke up to this little cutie.

And his cute big brother.
 So, back to preparing for our mega journey home. We had gotten GREAT ticket prices this time, but the route was a little longer--the trade of.  So, we hurried to get to the airport early so that we could request bulk head seating and an infant bassinet.  We had some confusion at the ticket counter (like they didn't have Eli's ticket in the system???).  Nick handled that and we were on our way.

And we're off--Addis to Dubai, Dubai to New York, New York  home!
We had a five hour layover in Dubai--it's a really nice airport, so that was nice, but it was 2 am Ethiopia time by the time we boarded the plane--that wasn't so nice.  I ended up taking a little nap right next to Eli while we waited.

When we got on the plane, another little hiccup-I was seated in bulk head with a bassinet, but Nick and Caleb were sitting in another isle.  I was seated by three business men and you can imagine how happy they were to see me settling in for the 15 hour haul.  LUCKILY (praise God) the flight was not full and we were able to switch seats.  We actually ended up with 4 seats instead of three, in bulk head, with the bassinet--AWESOME (and those business men were a lot happier too:-).

Eli took full advantage of our extra seat--chilling like an old traveling pro--he lasted like this for almost 2 hours!

Before we knew it, we were in New York-the boys scarfed down some burgers and fries, I had a salad (fresh vegetables, how I missed you) and we took our last uneventful flight home.

Our great friends and family were waiting for us at the airport, but I unfortunately don't have any pictures of that (email me yall :-) because we didn't take any with our camera.

This was our first morning home--at 5 am--it was like Christmas morning.  The kids were all so excited to have Eli home--doesn't get much better than this!!
(ignore that pacifier in Colton's mouth--that was a quick "I'm not the baby anymore" phase :-)

Blessed, blessed, seven times blessed!!!

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

Ethiopia November 2012 Day 7

Monday November 12th

This day started with a bonus trip to Kind Hearts School.  Of course we wanted to go to Trees of Glory while we were in Ethiopia, but because the HopeChest team was going to visit several care points on their trip, we also got to join them for a day at Kind Hearts.  Kind Hearts is a school in Addis that severs over a hundred kids in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.  The school has been growing and is now out of room and in desperate need of additional classrooms so that they can continue to serve the surrounding community, add higher grades and enroll the many students who eagerly await their turn to start school.  This school year, they had to teach 3rd grade in an old storage building just to accommodate the kids they currently have.  I wrote about this in a previous post and I'm SO happy to report that all of the funds needed to expand the school for next year have been raised!!!

Nick had visited Kind Hearts on a mission trip in 2010 and was amazed by all of the change that had taken place since then.

The kids are amazing here.  They are all so happy and loving.  I was literally covered in children the moment I sat down.  They sang me their ABCs and all kinds of other songs and I had two kids holding each of my hands as I walked around the compound.  Talk about being showered with love.  It was awesome!

  One of the highlights of this trip was the tour we took of the water well and the community water point that is served by the well at Kind Hearts.  As we walked the hilly path to the water point, we crossed over a muddy river that is polluted by a near by factory-the only water source around.  The people can no longer use this river from my understanding, so they must walk 3 miles one way everyday to haul water for their families.  This is a job that falls on the women and the girls.  Girls would often have to miss school to complete this labor intensive and time consuming job each day.

When we arrived, some of the women of the village were waiting with a coffee ceremony, bread and popcorn to thank HopeChest for the clean water source that helps keep their families healthy and has given them much relief from the daily task of gathering water.  It was such a humbling experience to again see the life changing difference that something so simple as clean water can make.

Here are a few more pictures from this day.  Caleb really had a blast here as he spent most of the day playing soccer with the boys his age.

Caleb joining up with his class

We cut our time at Kind Hearts a little short as we had a very important little guy to pick up.  We did a little more shopping this day and Caleb met a friend Siga who has lost both his parents and sells gum on the streets to survive.  This really hit home for Caleb.  This boy is 13 years old, but the size our Caleb who just turned 9.  He still talks about him and prays for him often.  This is the reality of so many kids and this is why we advocate for programs like Children's Hopechest that can give kids like Siga a chance and a hope for a different future.

 Finally, it was time to pick up sweet Eli.  I couldn't wait for this part.  We had so many things planned, so many people we wanted to see on our trip, but this was the big reason we were here.  To bring our little son home to his family.
He looks almost as happy as I was.

Eli's precious nanny in Addis took such great care of him
This is his nanny in Mekele-taken when he was about  5 months old (love that pink )
-we are so thankful for the care he received while he waited for us to come.

 These women work tirelessly (and I can't imagine how exhausting it must be) to care for the kids while they wait and they do it with such love and joy.  Such a blessing!

A few last minute snuggles before we go. 
One last bottle.

Time to go--such a hard thing for them to have to let go after investing in these kids for months.

Such a good feeling to finally have him with us for good.
 When we got back to the guest house, Eli got his first bath.  He was a little suspicious (he loves bath time now).
All snuggled up and ready for bed.
 First we had dinner and said goodbye to our HopeChest friends.  

Eli and Misikir

Nick, Fikre and Caleb

Then we settled in for what would be Eli's very best night sleep ever.  He slept from 8pm to 5am, woke up for a bottle and then back to sleep until 7am.  I thought we were set.  I totally had this baby thing down.  What a good sleeper.  This was awesome!!!  And, that's the last time that has ever happened in the past 2 months.  I don't know what the magic trick was this night, but I sure do wish I could duplicate it.  Our boy likes to visit a couple times a night still-up for a yummy bottle and some mommy time.  I don't really mind it, but it is getting a little tiring.  I'm just trying to enjoy and embrace this stage with my last little one.

What a sweet blessing he is!

Next, our last day in Ethiopia (at least for now :-) and our long flight home.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ethiopia November 2012 Day 6

Sunday November 11th

One of the best days of the whole trip started early Sunday morning the almost 2 hours drive to Trees of Glory.  It was our first time really being with the HopeChest team and we really enjoyed the ride getting to know everyone and catching up with our HopeChest friends.

When we arrived, they had the whole place decorated--a true celebration was in store.  Singing, drums, beautiful children everywhere--it was amazing.

I don't know what it is, but every time I hear children singing it makes me tear up.  Magnify that by about nearly 200 and I was a watery mess.

Prior to our last trip, we raised money for books and bookshelves.  We weren't able to purchase the bookshelves while we were there, but we left the money with Simret and this is what was waiting for us just three months later--a wall to wall bookshelf with the books we had ordered on them.  Simret is hoping to fill the shelves with more and more books for the kids.  So THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the TOG Back To School Fund back in August--you really helped make a difference for the TOG school!!

Just so you can experience the pure joy these children have, click the videos below to get a glimpse of the welcome celebration.

This one really got me--"I Have Decided To Follow Jesus"--in Amharic.  Just beautiful and you can tell, these kids mean every word they are singing.  I want to follow Jesus with the same pure heart as these children do.

My dear friend Simret--I just love her!

This trip, my friend Devin (who traveled with me in August) sent curtains that she and some of her friends sewed for Simret.  We had asked her when we were there if there was anything she wanted or needed.  She immediately said curtains.  It sounds like a simple request and what I love about it is that it was something that we could bring to her that was for her.  She has literally given her life to help the kids and community of TOG and this was a simple way to show her that we appreciate her.  Devin had asked her what color she would like--she said PURPLE!  So she got her purple curtains and LOVED them (so much so that she requested curtains for the whole compound ;-)

Then the best part of the day--spending time with the kids.  We are lucky that so many of our friends and family sponsor kids at TOG and that we have been able to visit three times so far.  We now know quite a few of the kids and I always love seeing them and how they have grown.  The difference in these kids is unbelievable from the first time we saw them in their profile pictures until now.  Sponsorship makes a difference here--no doubt about that!

Nick and his little brother-his parent's sponsor child.

Sweet Muse-the Lesley's sponsor child.

Fonosa-Devin's sponsor child.

The Bracken's sponsor child-they are also adopting a little girl from
Ethiopia and will hopefully get to meet him soon.

One of the cutest girls there-my Aunt Debbie's little girl Muri.
My little sister--always wanted one--my parents sponsor Zewditu.

The Armstrong's sponsor child Tigist-such a sweet girl.

And then, the most special one to us-our precious girl Meseret.

She looked so sad in the first picture we saw of her in 2010.  With each update, she emerged a little more.  Even the first two times we met her in person, she was so different.  Shy, reserved, very quiet and definitely a little unsure of us on our first visit

Meseret summer 2010
Meseret November 2012

But this time, it was different.  Maybe it was because Caleb was there to break the ice.  Or, maybe it was because it was our third trip in a year and a half.  Whatever the reason, I sure was glad to see our girl full of life, playful and smiling with us. I thank God that we have been able to visit her so often.  He must have known that she needed that in order to warm up.  I am just amazed at what a beautiful girl she is.  We have been so blessed to have her in our life!!!
Meseret in the green jacket.
We have watched this girl open up and become such a beautiful, happy and hard working girl.


It was so great for Caleb to be able to finally meet Meseret after years
of praying for her and hearing us talk about her.

Before we left, we helped Meseret put on the new tennis shoes we had brought her.  I had traced her foot the last time I was there and I was so glad that they fit her perfectly.  

Her little feet had been crammed into these shoes that had to have been a few sizes too small.  They were even swollen around the edges from all the walking she had done that day in them.

After one final picture, she literally jogged off with a spring in her step we had never seen.  

Such a beautiful girl and such a beautiful day.

If you're interested in making a difference in the life of a child served by Trees of Glory, please contact Karen Wistrom at and visit her blog at for more information and updates.

There are currently about twenty new kids recently enrolled at TOG who are waiting for sponsor families.

Up next, Kind Hearts.