Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Testing our patience...

I was not blessed with patience as a virtue, so I'm thanking the good Lord that he is giving me the opportunity to learn patience through the adoption process.Many people ask us how our trip was, or how things are going,and I have to say that it is a difficult question to answer right now. 

As for the trip, with the exception of the return trip and our court appearance, it couldn't have gone any better.  Combining serving, friendships, and meeting Zion for the first time made for a dream come true for us (especially me).  It was a great experience for me to watch the people of Ethiopia capture my wife's heart and to see God work in her.  As nice as it is to share wonderful time together sitting on a beach or other vacation spot, I have come to believe that it is as good, if not better for a relationship, to be able to serve together and share God's love to those less fortunate.

We obviously are dreaming of our little Zion who remains in Ethiopia for the foreseeable future.  He is a sweet and wonderful little spirit and I can't wait to get him home.  As hard as it was to leave him, we are comforted by the fact that he is getting great care and in a very nice care center.

As for the court issue, we are still in limbo.  We happened to be one of the first 2 couples (we appeared together) to be caught up in a new Ethiopian guideline regarding adoptions involving children from the sounthern region.  Apparently they now need a letter from the southern region government, verifying the status of a care point which Zion spent a short time in. 

Initially, our attorney in Ethiopia stated that it would set us back 1 week, so not to be alarmed.  The magic question is whether that is American time or African time.  In African time, that week could go on for a long time.  Currently we are at 2+ weeks with no word and Holt is not able to predict when the letter will get taken care of. 

It is frustrating, but we are trying hard to keep in mind that things don't happen on our time.  He will decide when it is time for Zion to come home.  Please join us in praying for a quick resolution to this bump in the road.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trying to keep perspective...

We are trying hard to figure out what God is trying to teach us. Traveling to and from Africa is never easy, but this has been downright ugly. We were scheduled for about 32 hours of travel, but we have far surpassed that.

It started poorly when the first meal came to me an hour into the 6 1/2 hour flight from Addis to Frankfurt. I chose the pasta because my experience with the meat on earlier flights wasn't so good. Within 1 hour of eating my stomach went crazy. The vomiting and diarrhea began. Just what you want to be doing on an airplane. It continued throughout the flight and into the 6+ hour layover in Frankfurt. Not sure how I was going to survive the 10 hour flight to Denver, we boarded. It went okay and I only had a couple of issues. The whole time I was thinking, "get to Denver and we're only 1 1/2 hours from home. In Denver, I was finally able to hold down food so things were looking up.

Then the delays began...

They pushed our flight back every 15 minutes for 4 hours. Finally they cancelled it and rescheduled it for 7:00 this morning. As only the US airline industry can do, they begrudgingly reserved a room for us in a hotel 30 minutes away and told us to grab the shuttle. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how long it will take to get a planeful of people to a hotel 30 minutes away with 1 15 passenger van with luggage. Getting sick of waiting in the 20 degree temperatures, I used my African negotiating skills to find a van which would take us and 2 of our fellow travelers for $40.

We made it to the hotel, hoping for the first 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep for several days. At midnight, a text came from United stating that our 7:00 flight was now cancelled. So at midnight I pleasantly spoke to a United person on the phone so they could reschedule us.

Currently I am sitting on the wheel well in a van full of new friends. They were planning on putting all of us on their bus until it didn't start in the cold weather.

But, at the end of the day, my wife has reminded me of our family montra in these situations..."I get to..."

I get to ride on the wheel well of a van because most people in the world don't have that ability.

I get to travel 46 hours to get home because most people in the world would travel 2 weeks to get to the US if they could.

I get to reach into my pocket for my last $20 to pay for a van that I shouldn't have to buy last night because many people in the world don't make $40 in a month.

I get to put on dirty clothes today which smell of a combination of coffee (from the packed gifts for our family) and vomit, because many people in the world struggle to compile multiple sets of clothes to put on their back.

I get to miss my kids at home for one more day because there are many people who desire to have kids or more than 1 and can't or aren't allowed to.

We are trying hard to keep everything in perspective and stay positive. Hoping to be home soon!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zion Day

We met our beautiful baby boy today!  He is so amazing!  We were able to spend five hours with him, which was so much more than we thought we could. We left for a lunch break and to let the kids nap.  We had lunch at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant with two other couples that we have met here.  This is a picture of our meal.  It is eaten with your hands and injera, the country’s staple food. Keith & Holly and Anka & Andrew were able to share today’s special moments with us and have helped us document it well. 

I bet we gave Zion hundreds of kisses.  He took two short naps on us, but otherwise was so content to be held and rocked.  He did a little tummy time. He has great head control and can push his weight up on his arms.  He drinks milk from a cup, which was so surprising.  Yes, a cup, not a bottle!  We are unable to post any pictures of him until the adoption is final but we took a lot of incredible ones.  I am certain that I am in love with this tiny being, but there is so much more……

I love his long eyelashes.
I love kissing his cute cheeks.
I love his tiny toes.
I love his curly hair.
I love his homeland.
I love his beautiful smile.
I love his warm dark skin.
I love his milk breath.
I love his soft cry.
I love his little bottom.
I love his culture.
I love his “almost giggle”.
I love his snuggles.
I love his big brown eyes.
I love his grunting.
I love his story.
I love his stares.
I love his dried boogers, I do.
I love being his mommy. 

What a blessing he is to us!  Leaving him was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I cried our way home to the guesthouse and long for the day to bring him home.  Then I cried with immense gratitude and sadness for the birthmother who had to leave him just five months ago.  Please pray for her healing and comfort.

Court tomorrow, hoping to pass it without delays!!

Love, Shannon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Korah...Part 2

Another amazing Ethiopian day!  The day started with a return visit to my old friends in Korah.  I was a little unsure going back to it would feel.  My good friend Brady (who has been there multiple times) told me that each time he returns it is better and better.  He was right.  Seeing all of the people, homes and small market when we were pulling in brought a lot of good memories back.

The instant we got out of the car in front of the Great Hope church, we were greeted by a host of children, many of whom I recognized and recognized me.  We were instant friends again – holding hands, hugging and getting kisses on the cheek.  What a great way to start the day!

I shared some of my pictures with the children that I had taken in August and brought back to give them.  They were very happy to receive them and had a lot of fun seeing them.  We were able to talk with the band of brothers and show Shannon the dorms, kitchen, clean water project which was recently finished by One Child Campaign, and saw where the Mission Ethiopia women make their beaded necklaces. 

Then it was time to worship at the Great Hope church.  I wish we could have understood more of it (the only words we knew in the 90 minute service were Amen and Alleluia), but there was no doubt that God’s presence was in that building.  We sat with many of the kids that greeted us and one young boy crawled up on Shannon’s lap and fell asleep (snored through much of the service).  She is obviously a natural at this.

Many of my Man Up friends will remember “Brady’s girls”.  They are two young girls (kindergarten age) who have made a great friendship with Brady.  We were able to meet up with their older brother who wanted us to come visit their house.  Upon our arrival, we were blessed by their mother with wonderful coffee and popcorn, while the kids played, sang, and acted crazy for iPhone video recordings.

After leaving there, we headed to Mercy’s house.  Mercy has a very special place in the hearts of Man Up and Simply Love mission teams.  She is a beautiful 15-year old girl who has a heart and seizure condition.  Thanks to the great work of Kari Gibson over the past year, she has done well with new medications and is prospering in school.  Her mother, Mulu, is a very sweet woman also.  Upon our arrival, Mulu indicated to us that Mercy is sick and sleeping.  She told us that yesterday at school someone hit her and it triggered her heart condition and she is not doing well.

We sat with Mulu as she made us coffee and talked with her, trying not to disturb Mercy from her rest.  After coffee, we prayed over Mercy, asking for God’s help in healing her.  Mulu was so appreciative of our visit that she prayed over us, blessing us and praying for a safe journey home. 

Our final stop in Korah was back to the house that my team renovated last summer.  It was great to see the kids again, because the oldest is usually at boarding school, but was home for a short time to complete some paperwork to return to school.

Unless you have been to Korah, it is hard to explain what it is like.  It consists of 130,000 people living in very close and difficult (to put it lightly) situations.  Korah is where the people of Addis go when the city wants to forget or ignore them (i.e. Lepers).  As my good friend Maste says, “No one comes here, not the police, government…no one.  That’s why it means so much to them when you come, even just to visit”. 

They are such wonderful people in the most difficult of situations, but they don’t complain and for the most part, they aren’t looking for a hand out.  They are just seeking love, hope, and a little bit of help to find their own way out.  I can’t put it into words the amount of happiness it gave me to return and to share Korah with my wife.

The day finished with something else that brings me great happiness…Island Breeze.  For whatever reason, this local Ethiopian restaurant makes the most incredible brick oven pizza (not to mention onion rings and nachos, and I’m sure a whole lot of other things that I haven’t been able to taste yet). 

As much as I loved the day, I know it will only get better tomorrow.  We finally get to meet Zion!!  According to the schedule, we will have almost a full day with him (much more than anticipated).  I remember meeting Landri for the first time and if this experience is half as good as that, I won’t be able to contain myself.

Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we travel, meet baby “Z”, and try to serve these people and God in some little way.

With great Love, Mitch.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 1...

Our flights went well, LONG but well.  By well I mean no major delays and the gift of an exit row.  I was wishing I were one of those people who can just sleep anywhere, in any position, like the guy next to me, or like old men at the mall.  We got to the guesthouse around 11:30 pm and crashed. 

The first day of our “court trip” in Ethiopia started with breakfast at the guesthouse.  Banana bread and coffee.  Then our driver, who we will call “Z”, took us to a boy’s orphanage.  It is called Mark 10, named for Mark 10:14 which reads:

Let the children come to me, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as they”

What an amazing group of young men!  Ages 10-17, they were invited off the streets and are choosing to better their lives through school and worship.  Mitch played some futbol (soccer) with them.  Quick ‘lil guys, he got schooledJ  Such a  humbling experience to see these people who are so poor in material things but rich in the greater things, love and hope. 

We then went on to a town favorite, Kaldi’s Coffee Shop.  Delicious frappuccino!  
Next, we went to a transitional home for Children’s Hope Chest.  This home had 15 boys and 2 girls. They are there to depart from the drugs and crime on the streets, in hope to return to their own families or on to a long-term orphanage.

Mitch really enjoyed playing foosball with them.  I taught them a clapping game and my heart melted a little more with each of their giggles. 

We rounded out the day with a little souvenir shopping and came back to the guesthouse for dinner. 

This being my first experience of “mission work”, it was a difficult, painful yet rewarding day. A few promises were made:
I promised to those young beautiful faces that I will be back to see them again. 
I promised to those warm little hearts that they are worthy and deeply loved.
I promised myself that I will always pray for them to the Lord our God for peace and comfort.
I promised God that I will continue to support those in need, however I can.  My work here is not done.
I promised Mitch that my life is forever changed……….for the better!

Love,  Shannon