Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ethiopia Day 1

We slept through the night our first night in Addis, which was wonderful! We woke up between 8 and 9 and started getting ready. Ben began calling the number we were given for our agency in Ethiopia around 9am, and we could not get through. It was kind of frustrating because you can't call out yourself - you have to call the front desk and ask them to call out. That guy was probably really annoyed with us. :) Finally, after about an hour and a half, I took matters into my own hands. I looked up the number for the American Embassy in Addis and got through to them. They transferred me to a super helpful lady in Consular Affairs, and within 30 minutes our driver from Hope called our hotel room. Crazy! He picked us up about 10 minutes later, and there the adventure really began...

Our driver's name is Ermias {pronounced "Air-ah-may-us"}. It's Jeremiah in English, so he said we could call him Jeremy if we wanted to, but we stuck with Ermias. Gotta be authentic, right? He was really friendly, and he immediately put us at ease. He had a little white car that he apparently rents from someone so he can drive families around for Hope. We started off toward Hope - not knowing if we were going to meet Abe there or what. Ermias told us he needed to get some gas, so we headed toward the nearest gas station. This is what is interesting...when you need gas, you pull up in the general direction of the gas station and honk. If they have gas they signal to you, if not, they ignore you. They did not have gas. Ermias
seemed frustrated, but he said he had enough to get us to Hope, which was back the other direction. So we started out again and passed our hotel, and then had to go up this hill which was also a big curve. We didn't make it up the hill. The car stalled out about's a little video for you.

We were there for about 10 or 15 minutes. Ermias was frantically calling all of his friends with cars to see if anyone had one he could borrow. At this point, we had no idea what was about to happen. But, we surprisingly stayed calm. And I didn't even take a Xanax that morning - it was all Holy Spirit. :) He's definitely capable. Finally, he got a hold of a friend who could help a
nd within minutes we were back on our way in a new car. Lots of people had warned me about the driving in Ethiopia - honestly, it didn't phase me at all. It's not that much different from the driving in Dallas - except we actually have regulations you're supposed to follow. Ermias says, "The government gives us regulations for driving, but we drive by negotiation." Perfect way to put it. It works. He drove us through the city and to Hope and we had some good conversation along the way.

We pulled up to Hope and were escorted inside.
Everyone is SO friendly. We met Tsige {pronounced "seh-gaye"} who works in the office. I had heard her name before, so I felt some sense of relief at a little familiarity. She asked us who our child was, we told her "Adane," and she left the room.

After a couple of minutes we were taken into the Infant Room at Hope - Adane was there! We thought he was still in the orphanage, so we were so excited! We got to meet him for the first time! It's difficult to communicate the emotions and thoughts of our first meeting. We both will tell you they are not what we thought they would be. A picture was painted for us of our first meeting before we left - we thought there would be this little boy who would be anxiously awaiting his parents and he would run to us and we would embrace and weep with tears of joy and excitement. There was definitely joy and excitement, but our little boy was much smaller and younger than we had anticipated, and didn't quite understand the situation. Also, we had immediate concern over his health and welfare as soon as we saw him. He's healthy, but does have some minor health issues as all of the children do. We immediately knew and felt that he was our son, so we were curious, concerned, excited, humbled...overwhelmed. I held him and we asked questions about him and just tried to get to know him a little bit. I can't post our initial video here until we pass court, but that will say it all and explain a lot. Abe was very scared - his little mouth tips down, and every once in a while a silent tear would come down his face. Poor baby. It took him a couple of hours to relax and warm up. We have videos from later that same day where he really starts to open up and take to us. It's just a process...but a good process. It's like any other new family - whether you just gave birth and are bringing your baby home for the first time, or you're adopting. You all have to get to know each other. We are a family. We were immediately hit with that truth - Abe is not a project, or a mission, we're not the rescuers....he's our son and we're his parents, just like any other family God puts together. It was awesome to immediately know that and feel that. We praise God for that truth.

We spent some time cuddling and playing with Abe in the Infant Room. At one point, his daddy says that he felt this overwhelming sense of warmth while he was holding Abe. {don't get too excited...Abe had wet his diaper all over Ben's legs} It was actual warmth, haha! They use cloth diapers at Hope, and they just don't do the job. We got one of the nannies and she took him off to change his diaper and his clothes. Tsige invited us to come into another room where the rest of the nannies were. Apparently, they were preparing a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony for us! This was awesome!

{Tsige is the one on the right} They roast the beans on the flame, then boil the water, then crush the beans outside {can't show that video yet b/c Abe is in it}, and then combine everything again on the flame. They also make popcorn on the same flame. This coffee is seriously the best coffee I've ever had. We tried other Ethiopian coffee in Addis, but this lady makes the best!

We had a really great time in this room because all of the workers were there and then they brought in all of the babies. That's when Abe really started warming up. We learned a few things about him on Day 1:
1. He's not a big crier - he won't pitch a fit (at least not yet) to let you know he's sad or upset.
2. He is a "wimp" - he'll do this little (CUTE) whimper cry when we wants something or doesn't like something. But he gets over it really quickly.
3. He likes his Mommy. :)
4. He thinks Daddy is funny. :)
5. He's a cuddler!!!!
6. He's really content.

All in all, it was a really great day. When we left he waved "bye" to both of us. {can't wait to post those videos! he has the cutest wave!} It was hard to leave, but we were both emotionally and mentally drained. Ermias drove us back to our hotel, and we holed up processing the events of the day. We got to Skype with some family and friends, and we ordered room service. We were exhausted! But so thankful for the first day of the rest of our lives.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preparing for the Trip

Well, we are now back from our first trip to Ethiopia. It is strange to be back, but good. It seems like we were gone much longer than a week. It is really difficult to describe just how foreign it felt to be there - in so many ways. We really had to depend on the Lord for every single thing, as we really have had to do throughout this entire process. It's been such a great lesson for us. You know, Ben said something in one of his Facebook status updates before we left that really struck a cord with me:
"I sometimes wonder at a God that would call someone who is afraid of flying to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia. Our 'limits' are not His limits. He is faithful."
I remember being 17 and at a youth camp in Tyler, Texas when I really understood the Lord's call on our lives to live completely for Him. At that time we called it "being called to the ministry" - I later learned that each one of us are called to ministry (obedience, fulfilling our purpose to glorify God in all things, spreading His Gospel). I remember having an immediate fear that this might mean God would call me to Africa. I would sometimes pray and ask that He not call me that far. I shudder at the thought of that now. What if I had decided to disobey? Or to simply ignore what He was showing me? I would have missed out on
so much - namely, MY SON. We do not know the Lord's full plan for our lives, but we do know that it is a good plan. We have to trust Him and walk in obedience - no matter the cost. For me at this time, that meant facing one of my biggest fears 4 times in one week. It meant traveling halfway around the world to meet a little boy whom I've never met and call him "son." It meant learning to sacrifice and give of myself in so many ways - being stretched and molded in areas of my life that I did not want to give up. It meant a complete change of perspective, blind faith, and exposing all of my weaknesses. It has meant so much.

When I first began to struggle with anxiety, I would sit in my closet at home weeping and begging the Lord to take this "thorn from my flesh." I did not understand why God would want me to endure this struggle. In the years since, I've seen tiny glimpses of His purpose, but this adoption process has blown the cover off. I won't pretend to have complete insight into His plans and purposes, but I will tell you that I have seen and experienced the hand of God at work through this weakness in me. About 2 days before we left for Ethiopia I pleaded with the Lord to take away my panic and fear. I was an emotional and mental wreck. The thought of the long flights, all of the unknowns, the fear of not bonding with Abe or him not accepting was just almost too much to bear. But therein was the problem - I was trying to bear it all alone. Sure, I asked for prayer, I prayed
myself, but there was a disconnect. It wasn't until I actually had to step out in faith and obedience that I began to see the Lord's purpose. Where I used to fall to my knees and beg the Lord to have mercy on me and remove this struggle from my life, I now bow on my knees before Him and thank Him for entrusting it to me. When we cast our cares upon Christ, it enables us to be obedient. He will carry our burdens so that we can be about His work. I do not wish to be boastful - for this is all about Christ. I know that I must rely on the Holy Spirit to continue this work in me, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to suffer so that I can learn what it is to be dependent on Christ and to trust Him. I pray that I can pass this on to our son.
"I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:5b-10

This process is difficult, but it is amazing. I am in awe of how God creates families and instills love inside of us for a child we've never met. We miss our little Abe so much already, but we trust the Lord's timing to bring us together. I am thankful that we had a week with him, and because I know my God is a good God with
a good plan, I can also be thankful for this time apart. He is going to teach us something new, and He'll be revealing Himself in a unique way to us in this time. We are so grateful to each of you who have been holding us up in prayer. I think of you as my Aaron and Hur from Exodus 17. When I could not pray for myself, you prayed for me. When we felt all alone, you lifted us up. When we've had a need, you've been there. I feel like a broken record in these blogs because I constantly thank you...please know I am not repeating myself. We are truly grateful for each of you, and we thank our gracious Lord for you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Ethiopia..."

So, before we left my mother-in-law came up with the great idea of keeping a list of all of the funny & random things we experience and any neat things we can be thankful for. So, I've been attempting to make said list. Here are a few funny things and some pretty neat ways God has shown Himself on our trip so far. ENJOY!

1. We are rock stars – we boarded and de-boarded the planes in Germany via those super cool outdoor stairs.
2. Germans eat weird stuff for breakfast (sorry to my German friends).
3. We heard a lot of “Auf weidersein” on the flights and it made us think of that Mary Tyler Moore episode….(look it up)
4. Met a lady in the airport bathroom (if you can call it that) that works for the Clinton Foundation. I think Hillary is here in Africa now.
5. So thankful English is a second language here…although we have learned some Amharic and like to trot it out with the locals. They always smile and laugh. ☺
6. So much for getting our visas beforehand to avoid the long line of people getting it at the airport. Guess which line was longer?
7. Some foreigners do not understand the meaning of “single file line.” It creates havoc in airport customs lines. Pretty sure the customs officers do not want you approaching their desks in a horde.
8. Getting out of the airport in Ethiopia was CRAZY. I mean CRAZY. I have stories.
9. Finally got to our hotel….the bed was so close we could smell it (not really smell it, but you get the idea)….almost finished checking in…..and then…..they guy’s stapler ran out of staples. Really?
10. It literally took 2 hours to get a hold of our adoption agency here on Tuesday morning. *Note: Ethiopia does not have Call Waiting. ** Also: They are not in as big of a hurry as you are. *** So, how did we get in touch with them, you ask? I called the American Embassy Consulate, of course! We got the job DONE, American style! Driver called us and arrived in 10 minutes. BAM.
11. We LOVE our driver, Ermias (pronounced like "air-ah-may-is" Jeremiah in English, but we call him by his real name). He picked us up and immediately made us feel comfortable, BUT…a few funny things happened. A) He needed fuel so here’s what happens…you pull up near the “gas station” and honk. They signal you if they have gas. This one did not. He says, “No worries.” B) About 3 minutes after that we’re driving up a hill and the car quits working. Yeah, we looked like idiots on the side of the road. People kept walking by, shaking their heads…it was funny. Ermias called a friend who met us and leant him his car. (the people here are really nice). So, it ended up fine, but it was an interesting first morning here, for sure. ☺

Ben and Abby

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Items for the Orphanage

If anyone would like to contribute to Abe's orphanage, here is a list of supplies they accept and that we can fit in our suitcases. We will try to take a load over on both trips:

Baby powder
Hand sanitizer
Antibiotics syrupMulti Vitamins syrup & tablets for different age groups
Anti fungal ointment
Diaper rash cream
Coloring Books and CrayonsChildren’s books
Baby bottles
Baby t-shirtsBaby sweaters
Hats for the babies
Towels for the babies
Pictures to be colored
Tooth past and brushPedialyteLice shampoo
Alcohol swab

**** EMAIL ME @ to arrange getting the items to us before this Sunday. ****

Thank you!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Catching Up on Summer

So, it is definitely summer. I know this because A) It's HOT and B) Ben and I are never home. Since my last post about our court date we've been to South Carolina for a mission trip and New Mexico for youth camp. We leave again Sunday for our first trip to Ethiopia! We'll be home for about 2-3 weeks and then it's back to New Mexico for Collegiate Week (one of my favorite weeks of the year). We could very well turn right around to head to Ethiopia again after that trip...It's a crazy summer!

I just wanted to catch you up on a few things. First of all, let me just say that I L-O-O-O-O-V-V-V-E youth ministry. It's my passion, and I am so thankful to be able to minister to and hang out with our students. It's super fun to be part of this with my incredible husband too. Summer is crazy, but it's so fun and so special. Here's a little taste of what we've been up to so far:

Ben and I and one of our youth leaders took 10 girls to Victory Ranch in South Carolina last month for about a week. Victory Ranch is a retreat center for the military serving at Fort Jackson. Each weekend groups of either male or female soldiers get to come to the ranch for 25 hours of rest, Bible study, fellowship, fun, and home cooked meals! We went up earlyto help prepare the ranch for the incoming female soldiers and to spend time with them during their stay. We also had the opportunity to hang out with male & female soldiers at the Fortress Coffee House on the base at Fort Jackson. Many of us were able to build relationships and share the Gospel during the weekend. I think each of us came away with a new perspective of the military, and a great respect and appreciation for those who serve and sacrifice for us. It was an incredible week of relationship building within our own group as well. We all hope to go back again!

Last week we took about 60 students to FUGE Camp at Glorieta, NM. This year our junior high students participated in Centrifuge, and many of our high school students and leaders had the opportunity to do hands-on mission work in M-Fuge (Mission Fuge). That was a GREAT experience, and one we'll continue to offer to high schoolers. We had the opportunity to choose from different mission tracks: Childrens Ministry, Social Ministry, Creative Arts, Games & Rec, or PCY (painting/construction/yardwork). We had students and/or adults in just about every category. Everyone was stretched, encouraged, worn out and blessed. The band for the week was Downhere (one of our group's favorites), and they were really great and very personable again this year. I have a lot of respect for them, and of course I LOVE their music. :) Our speaker was Landon Dowden - check him out if you've never heard of him. He brought the Word of God each night and exemplified what it means to really live a life centered around the Gospel. Our students really related to him, and he showed us that you do not need to add anything to the Gospel. That's one thing I really love about our students. They are mature in their faith, and even those that are not quite there yet have a desire to be there. Our group always stands out when we are at camp. One of our seniors even said on the way back, "I would be really disappointed if we had things like Wii's or gaming systems in our youth room. We don't need that distraction." We know we're so blessed with these students who want to walk alongside us and pursue Christ. If you are a parent of one of our youth - THANK YOU. There were so many things that stood out to me in the morning and evening sessions. I'm going to list just a few things that really grabbed me.

1. RELATING TO THE LOST: "Lost people do lost things. If we are going to be in their lives, it's going to be messy. But praise the Lord someone related to us when we were lost." - Landon Dowden preaching from Colossians 1:21-23

2. RELATING TO THOSE IN AUTHORITY: "When you create everything, sustain everything, but need nothing, then you can be King." - Landon Dowden preaching from Psalm 95
"We are a country obsessed with our rights, but we should be obsessed with our Gospel responsibilities." - Landon Dowden
"Disobedience is never worth what it costs us....we should fear disobedience more than death." - Landon Dowden

3. RELATING TO FAMILY & FRIENDS: "Do our family and friends think of us as people who refresh their hearts or burden their hearts?" - Landon Dowden
"Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they don't reap holiness...God is not mocked" - Landon Dowden in response to Galatians 5

4. RELATING TO THOSE THAT HURT US: "The Gospel of Christ transforms the way we treat those who have hurt us the most." - Landon Dowden

It was really an incredible week. The Lord allowed me to have some great conversations with a few of the girls, and He began accountability between a few of the students. Many called their parents in response to the session on Relating to Authority. It was just a week filled with service and obedience. I pray that continues in all of our hearts and lives. I hope each of you have had a great summer thus far! I'm sure I'll be blogging more as we approach our trip and when we return. Thank you so much for your prayers!