Thursday, June 28, 2012

Horn Happy

Ethiopia has one of the highest death rates for car accidents in the world.  But it’s not from cars hitting cars.  The cars in the city don't go very fast.  The roads are too crowded and rocky and muddy.  The death rate comes from cars hitting people more than two-vehicle accidents.

First of all, hardly anyone owns a car.  Here’s why:
(by the way, that 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser with $120,000 car he bought would be about $25,000-30,000 American dollars here in Ethiopia)

Second, there are no working traffic lights.  I have seen traffic lights at two intersections, but they don’t look like they have ever worked.  At those two intersections I have seen a traffic cop a couple times.  Other than that, it’s just your horn that does the driving for you.  Blinkers are non existent and most cars are really old and may or may not run well, but they ALL have working horns.  It’s a necessity. 

In Ethiopia, you honk your horn for the following reasons:

1)      I’m going first at this intersection.

2)      I’m moving over now.

3)      I’m passing you.

4)      I’m going to hit you if you don’t move, people, because I am not slowing down for you.

5)      Look up, person crossing the street, because I am not moving over to let you cross.

6)      You can go first. 

7)      Don’t park there.

8)      Move your car.

9)      I’m backing up.

10)  Since you’re backing up, I want to let you know I’m here so you don’t hit me.

11)  Run, little person crossing the street, because I am about to hit you now!!

12)  Move and let me go, person selling stuff during traffic slow downs, because you are annoying me with your begging.

13)  Move, cows, sheep, or donkeys, or all of the above, so I don’t make you roadkill.

14)  Get out of my way, man wearing sheepskins like a backpack, so you don’t become a person-skin.

15)  Guard, please unlock the gate so I can let these people in their house.

These are just a few of the reasons you honk your horn.  It really is unlimited.  If your mind thinks it, your hand responds by laying on the horn, baby. 

This is our driver, Bahilu.  He has been such a blessing to our family.  He loves kids, is very good and patient with them, and knows some English, so he has translated for us on many occasions.

This is the inside of a taxi we rode in.  There are no seatbelt laws for passengers, only for drivers.  Most cars are so old they don't have working seatbelts.  Taxis cram as many people into their un-airconditioned insides as possible. 
We are going to have to teach the "buckle your seatbelt!!" rule again to our children once we get home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Discrepancy. defines it as “the state of differing or being inconsistent”.  I believe in a free market system.  I believe that you should be able to keep the money you earn without being too heavily taxed.  I believe if you take the ability to make money out of a person by taking too much of his wages, he won’t want to work anymore.  I also believe that God has told us to share with others out of our excess.  Not be forced, but because we are supposed to do that.  He designed us to be able to share and to have good feelings when we give to others.  We are made in His image, and he has shared with us, entrusting us with all creation.  We are His stewards.

But, that being said, we are naturally selfish.  You can see it in the toddler that says, “mine” and takes things from others and whines and cries when she doesn’t get her way.  As adults we may sometimes be better at masking it, but in our hearts, we still cry and whine when we don’t get our way.  I do that.  I am being made aware of my selfish tendencies more every day here apart from my comforts of home.  I am thankful for that.

For over 24 hours yesterday, I was sick.  Really sick.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I was throwing up, among other things.  I’m sure you can figure it out.  It was a 24 hour virus and Scott and Natalie have both had it over the past week and a half.  As I alternated between the bed and the bathroom, I had a lot of time to think about being sick, being sick away from home, and how blessed I am.  At home if I was sick like that my dad would bring me chicken noodle soup and Gatorade, I would be laying on my Tempurpedic mattress in my king sized bed, and sprawled on a thick bathmat in the bathroom.  Here I was thankful that I had a bed to lay in at all with a comforter on it to keep me warm when I had chills from the fever.  I lay on a wet towel on the cold tile floor in the bathroom and was extremely grateful for the toilet I had to sit on or throw up into.

It’s not like that for most people here.  Even here, I am living in excess. 

We were at the store the other day and my kids had to go to the bathroom.  An employee took us to a room in the back where the employees go.  It was a hole in the floor.  The smell was atrocious and there were flies.  My oldest child looked at me and said quietly, “Mom, I just can’t do it.”  I understood. 
I thought about our guard, Tesfi, who lives in a house with no bathroom, made of sticks and aluminum and tarps with a dirt floor, and I wondered how he feels when he gets sick.  No comfy mattress.  No toilet seat.  When it rains, is he cold and wet to the bone?  Does he worry about his little baby during rainy season?  It is just beginning here and I’m getting an inkling of how disastrous it could be for some families that live with dirt floors, tarp roofs, cook everything on an outdoor fire, and dry their clothes on rope strung between trees.  Think of camping during a rainstorm, but prolong it for 3 months, day in and day out, in cool weather.  Even my camping supplies are nicer than some of his belongings.

As I lay there, I thought about my own selfish tendencies.  I remember getting irritated before we left when one of the kids would accidentally bump the knob on the gas hot water heater and my shower would not be very hot, which happened frequently.  But after not standing under a real shower for 3 weeks and just having a burning hot or freezing cold trickle to wash off with, like someone turned on a waterhose halfway, I am humbled.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And I have it so good here.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  –Phil. 2:1-4

I see the discrepancy between those who have and have not here.  I think about the discrepancy between those who have and have not back in America.  But, wow, who knew the difference between the two countries?  I have seen pictures and been told, but until experiencing it, have not been fully changed.  Will I be changed when I go home?  If this is how I feel after being here for 3 weeks, how will I feel 3 months from now when I finally arrive home?  I don’t have answers. 

All I know right now is that even those who are considered “poor” in America have massive abundance compared to the “poor” here.  It’s indescribable.  I can’t paint an accurate picture for you, no matter how hard I try.  I just don’t have the words.

We are visiting programs here that are doing good for the people of Ethiopia.  And I would challenge anyone back home to give some stuff up and support programs that would make a huge difference in the life of another. Like, whether they eat tonight or not.  Whether they are living on the street or under a roof.  Whether they can keep their child or have to give them to an orphanage.  YOU can make a difference. Either overseas or back home. You can.  It may not seem real to you right now sitting in your nice car reading this on your iphone or lounging in your kitchen at the computer surrounded by a plate of breakfast, but trust me, it’s real.

Proverbs 24:12 say, “Don't excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn't know." For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Court Date Coming??

We may have a court date. Or not.  But maybe.  Or maybe not.  This has been the roller coaster of the last couple weeks.   The Minister of Women’s Children’s, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA), who we need an approval letter from to pass court, is supposed to have our letter written by Friday. If that happens (and it is NEVER definite, it may or may not happen), then our agency would ask that we be allowed to go to the court on Friday and give our consent and do our paperwork.  If our letter is not there, our court date will not be until July 10th.  Why?  I have no idea. 

If you think of it this week, please pray that our letter has arrived on Friday.  Alan needs to come home to work, and the sooner we pass court, the sooner the boys can live with us. 

In other news…… we’re moving!  Here in Ethiopia, that is.  Our temporary home will no longer be the Selah Guest House, instead we will move into Levi and Jessie Benkert’s house.  It is working out very well.  Levi and Jessie are leaving Thursday to travel to the U.S. to do a fundraising and awareness tour and will be gone until October.  Here is there schedule, if you’re anywhere near one of these cities, go listen to them speak!

The Benkert’s offered for us to move into their house while they are gone.  We will have a room for the boys, a room for the girls, and a guest room for grandparents or guests who come to visit.  (Hint, hint- any takers?  Anyone want to come stay with us in Ethiopia? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!)  We will take care of the house for them, and they can rent out the portion of the guest house that we are currently living in to other families to make money for Bring Love In.  It’s a win/win situation!  Thursday is the official moving day.

During Sunday services in the church we are attending, the pastor is going through the book of Colossians.  Chapter 3 was our text yesterday.  Some of the points hit home for our situation.  Verses 12-15 caught my eye, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

Eric (the pastor) read a quote from an Esther Bible study that I loved.  He said, “In the eyes of the world, it’s not your relationship with Christ that counts, it’s your resemblance to Him.”  I, as a Christian, know that it is my relationship with Christ that counts.  But outsiders don’t know that.  How do I look to them?  Am I conforming to the likeness of Christ? 
Eric charged us as a congregation, and I’m going to charge you, with this statement: “Is your life consumed with compassion for the people around you, no matter where God has you?”  Whether you are here in Ethiopia or in Plant City or in New York City or anywhere else on the face of the earth, are you treating people with love?  Compassion?  Timothy Keller talks about how if you act like you love someone, the feelings always follow, but sometimes it takes months or years of acting out of love to be able to feel love.  Are you forgiving others?  That’s a big one.  Forgiveness does not mean you have to like someone or forget what happened, it means letting go of that feeling of judgment and wanting revenge.  Giving it over to God.  I have learned how hard that is and sometimes you have to ask daily for the ability to forgive, but just do it!  There are people who have been harboring bitterness toward someone in their life for so long that it seeps out of their pores.  It is impossible for a bitter person to fully love the people around them and show them grace. 

Once again, at the end of those verses, it comes back to being thankful. 

So, today I am thankful for popcorn, a clothesline, flowers that Alana picked and wore in her hair, a place to worship on Sunday, and toilet paper.

Here are scenes from the last few days…….

Alana wore her new Ethiopian dress to church:
We were allowed to take “Y” and “P” on a field trip to get ice cream.  Ice cream here is a real treat.  There is no ice and drinks are not usually cold.  But, guess what?  They don’t like ice cream!  Bwahahahaha!  They don’t know that the end of most outings in the Kicklighter family ends with either a trip to You Say When Yogurt shop or in the purchase of a half-gallon of ice cream to take home and share.  Obviously this is something we will have to work on. 

We gave Wide an extra night off this weekend and I cooked for the first time since arriving.  It was wonderful to be back in the kitchen!  The sauce, rice, and green beans were good, but the steak was really hard and chewy.  Oh well, at least I tried.  Jayde requested potato soup today, but I was missing the majority of ingredients that I use at home, so I made it up.  It worked pretty well and was tasty.  Not as good as would have been with bacon, cheese, and chives, but that's okay.  Yesterday I made ginger cookies.  Someone at church brought Natalie baking soda (we went to 3 stores looking for it and could not find it anywhere).  The recipe called for molasses and brown sugar, neither of which I had.  I used honey instead, and it worked!  The kids ate them up (so did the adults) so I made two batches yesterday and another one today. I'm looking forward to cooking more once we move into Levi and Jessie's house.

Remember when I said we were bringing a bit of redneck to Ethiopia?  You can rephrase that to be "Southern" instead of redneck.  I'm about to tattle on Scott and Natalie.  They are from Northern California.  We were talking as they sat on the couch, and Scott said something that included the words, "all ya'll".  We laughed and laughed when it came out of his mouth.  I think he was shocked.  Then, about 2 minutes later, Natalie said it!  We have 3 more months to fully convert them.  I think we're off to a pretty good start.  Now we just have to teach them the words to some of the country songs on our I-pod. (Natalie- you have a beautiful voice, I'd like to hear you sing, "Big Green Tractor", okay?  By the way, Zumba is just a different form of line dancing.  Right?)

I have a post coming about driving in Ethiopia.  It is flat-out CRAZY.  I thought I was scared when Alan drove us through down town New York City years ago.  NYC has nothing on Addis Ababa.

Thank you for praying for our court date!  Love you all!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Week 2: Helping and Healing

First order of business:  Fun stuff.  Then comes the hard stuff…………..

This week we were able to work with Smile Ethiopia (started by Dr. Moody, and orthodontist from Texas), a dental mission team that came to a church facility and set up to see 250 patients a day.  People were bussed in from surrounding areas to have their teeth looked at and they also had a dermatologist and eye doctor there to see patients as part of the team as well.

Alan, Jayde, Natalie, and I worked.

Alan took some pictures and he was the “bouncer”, getting people to where they needed to be and finding translators when we needed them. 

This is the dental team setting up.  The pressure cookers were used to sterilize instruments. 

There was a check in table, where girls wrote each patient’s name on a sticker along with what they were being seen for.  Then the patients waited. 

When it was their turn, they were escorted by a patient buddy. Jayde and Natalie were both patient buddies. The patient buddy made sure they were in the right place and held their hand and comforted them if they needed it. 

The patients laid on stacked plastic chairs put together to make a dental chair or table. 
When they were finished, each patient was brought to the table I manned where we gave them a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and Ibuprofen and antibiotics if they needed it (because they had an extraction).  The translator told them how to brush their teeth and when to take the medication. 

It has begun to rain pretty much every day at some point.  The roads have become muddy and I can see how as we move into rainy season many roads will be impassable.  This is a picture of one of the roads leading to our guest house. 

We are very thankful we purchased rain boots for the kids. They are already getting a lot of use out of them. Yesterday we stopped for ice cream on the way to the Transition Home and the kids had on their boots.

Easton had a surprise in his boot- a toad!

“P” put stickers on Daddy this week …..

…….and “Y” took pictures with Mommy’s camera.

We had the privilege of meeting and spending time with Eric and Anna Miller this past week as they were here for court.  It is such a joy to meet other families going through the adoption process.

Natalie and I have been going out on the roof every morning at 6:30 to exercise before the day begins.  Alan made us weights this week!  He used oatmeal cans and filled them with concrete for the smaller ones and old paint buckets for the larger ones.  Jeff Foxworthy would be proud!  You might be a redneck if........use your imagination.  Our floor mats are blankets.  Everything gets reused here, things that would be considered “trash” back home.

Now onto the hard stuff.
Yesterday we were able to meet “Y” and “P”’s birth mother.  As soon as we walked into the office where the interview took place, she hugged me, and we both cried.  She is my age.  If it weren’t for different circumstances, I could be in her position.  She loves the boys .  She gave us her blessing over and over and thanked us for taking care of them repeatedly.  Her heart was hurting, but at the same time, she was telling us how glad she was that the boys will be together in a family again and told us she was transferring her boys from her heart to ours. It was very emotional. We asked her a lot of questions about her life, the boys’ father, and things we thought the boys would want to know when they are older.  She was given a chance to ask us questions and we told her about our home, where we live, our desires for the boys, and that we are raising them in a Christian home to know Jesus.  I will not share most of the details about her.  That is the boys’ job as they get older. 

After the interview, she was allowed to see “Y” and “P” for a few minutes and take a picture with them so we have pictures for the boys.  That was the hardest part of the day.  The boys were heartbroken.  They cried.  We’ve seen them cry before but this was different.  It was grieving.  Raw and painful.

I came home and looked up the verse I kept singing in my head about being brokenhearted, and what-do-you-know?  It’s in Psalm 34 again!  The Lord is using that Psalm to speak to my heart in a special way while we are here in Ethiopia.  Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Our boys and their mother are definitely brokenhearted.  Healing will be a long, hard road, and there’s nothing I can do to mend them.  I can’t put the pieces back together of the puzzle of their emotions.  Only God can do that.  He can make them see how He is going to weave the tapestry of their life with beautiful thread.  They can love their birth mom, and they can love us.  It does not have to be one or the other. 

Please pray with us over coming months for this healing to take place.  Pray for bonding that will be tight between us and the boys.  Pray that they will know the love of Jesus most of all.  That Alan and I will be able to be His hands and feet and know how to minister to them. 

When we come home, please be patient with us.  Be patient with our boys.  “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Trauma does not go away overnight, if ever.  Years of painful memories will never fully recede.  But we’d like them to remember the good stuff about their family and homeland and we’ll keep reminding them of all the goodness of God.

So join us in praying for peace, that the boys will “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

Thankful for:  my toothbrush and toothpaste, rubber boots, a husband willing to make what his wife can't find in a foreign country, God's Word that never changes. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Disappointment vs. Praise

Disappointment.  That’s life sometimes. What are the famous parental lines I find myself repeating to my children?  Oh yeah- “Life’s not fair.”  My husband and friends know that my other favorite line is “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.”  I have napkins at home with this phrase printed from my sister.  No one likes to be around a complainer.  Today I found myself wanting to complain.  But then I wouldn’t want to be around myself and neither would anyone else.  So instead I opened up my Bible and asked God to reveal Himself to me once again.  Show Himself to this “chief of sinners”, who frequently fails miserably at not complaining and needs to read the napkin to herself.

Our birth mother interview did not take place today.  The judge didn’t sign the document needed for her to come be interviewed, so it couldn’t happen.  In-country staff here is supposedly going this afternoon to get the needed signature.  Then they will reschedule.  But I was disappointed, after asking for prayer for today, putting on a nice outfit in the hopes we could get our picture taken with her, rehearsing questions to ask, thinking of things to convey to her momma’s heart.  So I changed my clothes into jeans and a t-shirt, took some deep breathes, cried a few tears in the bathroom, and went to the Lord. 

I ended up on Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Did you read those key words?  ALL TIMES.  What is the line in the movie “Facing the Giants”?  Something like, “If we win, we praise Him, and if we lose, we praise Him.”  All times. 

I went back to Psalm 34 and noticed I had underlined several verses previously at different times in that chapter.  I have read the Bible cover to cover, and yet the Spirit reveals different things at different points in my life.  It is impossible to know it all.  I realized today that Psalm 34 contains some of the verses I turn to in lots of circumstances and I never paid attention to the fact that they are all continuous until now. 

The Psalm in its entirety says (the underlined passages are ones that I underlined at different points in my Bible),

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.  Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!  The lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. 

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.  The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.  When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.  Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”

I had already read in I Thessalonians 5:18 this morning, “..give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

So there it is again.  Praise God at ALL TIMES.  Give thanks to Him at ALL TIMES.  I need to get over it and turn my disappointment into thankfulness.  Because God is good when things go my way and when things don’t.  When circumstances seem bleak and I am weary, God is good.  Jesus takes my burdens upon His shoulders.  What else can I do but be thankful?

Today’s thankful list includes:  sunrise over the rooftop as I shake my hips with Natalie and Jessie, Scott and Alan purchasing a washing machine for the guest house with money the Putnam family raised, a husband who brings me coffee, kids playing in the dirt with new friends, and God who reminds me to be grateful for His blessing at All TIMES. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Today I have mixed emotions.  Sadness because I am not spending Father's Day with my Dad.  Happiness because Alan is soon going to have 2 more children to call him "Daddy".  Actually, they already call him Daddy. 

I am thankful to have been blessed with the absolute best father in the world growing up.  My Dad is patient, wise, has a servant heart, and is a man of integrity.  He thinks before he speaks and always puts others first.  He was the kind of dad who always attended events, took us to church and modeled Christ, sang bedtime songs, and told stories.  Thank you, Daddy, for showing Ginger and I what a godly man looks like. 

Now God has blessed me with a husband who is a wonderful father.  Alan spends time with our children, plays with them, teaches them, and provides for them.  And he's about to be blessed with two more little hearts to mold, sing loudly to, tickle, tease, embarrass, and hug.  God is good.

Yesterday our family and the Putnam family went to AWAA (America World Adoption Association)'s Transition house where Jayde and Natalie painted faces.  Jayde did a great job and the kids were lined up for a long time to receive colors on their cheeks and foreheads. 

Scott and Natalie received paint as well.  What fun!

Alana painted girls' nails bright pink.

The I-pad that we borrowed for the trip was a huge success with not only our boys but their friends as well.  (Thanks, Matt!)

Uno is the favorite of many and it's a good learning tool to teach colors and numbers.

This morning Natalie started teaching me Zumba.  It was the second time we worked out on the roof.  The first time I thought I was going to die.  I could not catch my breath.  She says it's the altitude, not just the fact that I am not in shape.  I think she's just being kind.  Did you all know that Natalie is a Zumba teacher in California?  I'm not showing you a picture of us doing our hip shakes.  There were no witnesses and I intend to keep it that way for a while.  Well, actually, there may be witnesses from the pastures as people walk by.  I'm sure they were wondering what those two white women were doing up on that roof! Can't you picture it?

After Zumba we attended church again and it was nice to see familiar faces from last week.  This afternoon we went to a restaurant called Top View and ate the best food we've had so far here in Addis. Levi and Jessie came along with a dental ministry team that is here this week working on patients at a local church.  We are going to be trained and assigned jobs tomorrow morning to be able to assist this week with the patients. (Here's Natalie on the left and Jessie in the middle.)

Our children played soccer this afternoon with the neighborhood children.  Easton and Joel (Scott and Natalie's son) are still out there as I type this.  You don't have to speak the same language to play soccer, you just have to be able to kick the ball. 

The neighborhood children made goals out of eucalyptus sticks nailed together with rocks for goals.

Please remember to pray for our birth mother interview tomorrow and for the dental ministry team this week, which will be seeing about 250 people a day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. 

"Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him."- Psalm 127:3

Thanking God today for:  my Heavenly Father, my earthly Father, my husband, and soccer balls.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Adoption Update: Day 5

"In most ways parenting is parenting, and growing up is growing up.  It's always hard.  Some unique challenges go along with adoption- challenges related to finding a sense of belonging, to discipline and discipleship, to answering questions about origins.  Count these as all joy.  They point all of us- not just kids who were adopted- to the gospel.  The gospel welcomes us and receives us as loved children. The gospel disciplines us and prepares us for eternity as heirs.  The gospel speaks truth to us and shows us our misery in Adam and our glory in Christ.  The gospel shows us that we were born into death and then shows us, by free grace, that we're adopted for life." - Russell Moore

This afternoon we received information that was a huge surprise and I am so nervous!  Monday afternoon at 1:00 (6:00 a.m. Florida time) we will be able to interview our boys birth mother with an interpreter.  This is a complete shock.  The boys father is deceased and their mother was taken from them (I can't give details, just know she can not see them until after they are adults) and can't take care of them.  We were told from the beginning that it would be impossible to ever meet her.  But today we found out the court is bringing her in to interview her (required for adoption with a living birth parent) and we will be able to talk to her first.  That's four days from now.  Four days from now we will look in the face of the woman who gave birth to our boys and be able to talk to her, hear her testimony, and reassure her.  Usually families are allowed to video tape the interview.  We're hoping this will be the case with us as well.  We'd like to have a tape of the boys' mother for them to see one day.  Please pray before you go to bed Sunday night, for us, the birth mom, and our boys. 

I've been thinking a lot today about the boys' past: father's death, mother taken away, abusive situations, things they may have witnessed that even though they were young, and those are enough to haunt them.  I think about how Satan could use all these details to ruin their lives:  giving them bitterness, unforgiveness, even hatred in their hearts.  I can not change their past, so I pray.  I pray that they will know the only thing that can remove them from the enemy's grasp: Jesus.  The relationship that will mean the most.  The only one that really counts in this life.  Do they know Him yet?  Do they know the One who made them in His image, who breathed life into them, who placed them in their mother's womb?  And I beg for them the way I beg for my other 3 children. In the end it all comes down to salvation.  Not a college degree, not material success, not a perfect husband or wife, not well behaved children.  Do they know, really know, the author of life, the creator, the Saviour ?  So for every day of their lives I will appear before the throne room of grace to plead on their behalf.  That is the only thing I can control.  My words to the Father. I can not control any other aspect of their lives or mine, but I will be thankful. 

"The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips.  Because gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love, and all power to change the world resides here in His love.  Prayer, to be prayer, to have any power to change anything must first speak thanks:"in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God"(Phil. 4:6) "First, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him" (1 Tim. 2:1).  Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks.  How did I ever think there was another way to enter into His courts but with thanksgiving?" - Ann Voscamp, 1000 Gifts.

Scenes from today:

This is Jayde's favorite post, the top of our courtyard wall overlooking the neighborhood children playing soccer.  Alan and Scott took the kids down there one evening and played soccer with them.  There was quite a crowd.

We stopped at this stand for laundry baskets and night stands for the guest house.  The man uses his teeth to shred eucalyptus and weaves it into baskets and short shelves.  The kids thought it was cool (so did I).
Alan has learned the words for "too much"  to be able to negotiate prices down.  That's my hubby, alright. 
The basket makers were having coffee (as usual) and burning incense.

Part 2:  Internet went out again last night as I wrote this post, so here's the rest.
We were invited to a going-away party for a family at the church last night.  This is a slab of raw meat that is considered a delicacy here:

Yes, my husband tried this delicacy, and ended up being violently ill in the middle of the night.  It was not pretty.  I don't foresee any more raw meat in his future. 

Today I am thankful for: cool breezes through open windows, socks on cold feet, and sore muscles from working out with Natalie for the first time yesterday morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 4

Thought you'd like to know we smell better tonight.  Our water came back on this morning but there was not enough time for everyone to get a shower before we left to visit the boys.  After visiting the boys we went swimming at the Sheraton Hotel.  Walking into the hotel was a bit like stepping into America. It's definitely not something we will be able to do frequently, but we would like to take the boys one time after they come to live with us. The Sheraton lets you pay a fee per person to swim in their pool for the day and they provide the towels.  We met Levi (remember- founder of Bring Love In) with his children and also a woman named Tracy with 2 of her children and swam for a few hours.  Tracy needs prayer today, please.  She came to Ethiopia to bring home the two children she and her husband are adopting, but the Embassy did not clear them to come home.  It's been 7 weeks and she's still here, without her husband and 4 young bio children that are at home in California.  She is very homesick and lonely.  Please pray the Embassy will clear her THIS WEEK so she can be reunited with her family. 

Levi found out that the children from the orphanage that are being placed in their homes are being made by the government to wait until they finish this school year, even though some of them are much younger than school age.  There is another month of school to go here. In the meantime, they are now on call to receive any children that are called in emergency situations to be placed in the orphanage.  At any time of day or night, they can receive children.  Consider being a sponsor for a home!  Our family along with the Putnam family will be organizing some details of the new homes opening this summer.  Details like plumbing, painting, etc.  We won't necessarily be doing the work ourselves, but we will help make sure it gets done by local people.  (Aren't you glad we aren't attempting all the plumbing?)  Here are pictures of the first child in the first home:

Water tanks here are on top of houses. This one is next door.  I took this picture from the roof of our guest house.
 Water that is used for cooking goes through a filter that looks like this:
Our drinking water comes out of this:
Levi says we have the nicest looking kitchen in this guest house of all he's seen here.  Apparently the house was built by a man who was going to move in with his family, ran out of money, then moved (or something close to that, anyway). 

There is a lot of new construction going on in the city.  It's funny to see all these sticks everywhere, it's eucalyptus.  They use it for everything here!  Scaffolding, walls, telephone poles, etc. The frame of the houses are made of eucalyptus sticks nailed together, then they put concrete over the sticks. 
This is a typical road here in Addis- rocks and mud (sometimes some concrete on the main ones to go with the rocks and mud):

This is the stand next to our house where the kids walk to buy a soda or lollipop.
Please keep praying for our family.   We will meet with the in-country coordinator tomorrow to find out more about our case.  Love you all!

Today I am thankful for the feel of water on my skin, chapstick, dry towels after a shower, and goodnight kisses from my husband.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 3

Today was a busy day.  This morning Natalie and I went to the Shola market with Wide (pronounced Wi-day), the cook for our guest house.  Here is a picture of Wide - she is very sweet and has been helping me with my Amharic:
 The first order of business at the market was to find pots, pans, and plastic bowls, etc., for Bring Love In's guest house, which has now officially been named Selah Guest House.  Wide tried to negotiate prices for everything, but every time the people in the market noticed there were white women with her, they raised the price and Wide would not buy from them.
Finally, Natalie and I separated from Wide so she could get some deals. :)  I purchased a traditional Ethiopian coffee service to take back to America.  I would like to purchase another one at some point (one for each of our boys).
At the spice section, I purchased some Ethiopian spices to bring home to try my hand at preparing ET food for the boys later.

Here is a picture from the market.  I must tell one story of my ignorance.  Injera, an Ethiopian staple, is made from a grain called Teff.  I wanted to purchase some to bring home and show my family what it's made from, so I went to a stand and asked to purchase 5 kilos.  I received a thorough scolding from the woman running the stand because she insisted I needed to have it ground into powder to make injera.  I tried to tell her that I didn't intend to use it now and that in America I have a grinder.  She didn't speak English and I didn't speak Amharic.  Finally she let me buy the teff.  She charged me 85 birr.  When I brought the teff back to the van, Wide shook her head and began to tell me that I could not use that teff because it was not ground.  Once again I tried to explain that was okay.  Then she and the driver asked me what I paid for the grain.  I told them 85 birr, and they both began laughing at me.  They spoke rapid Amharic, then the driver turned around and informed me that if Wide had purchased the teff, she would have received 100 kilos of teff for 85 birr, not 5 kilos.  Thankfully that was only around a $5 mistake in American dollars.  From now on I will try to have someone with me to bargain for food.

One of the other stands we went to was a dressmaker.  He makes traditional Ethiopian dresses by taking measurements.  I picked out my material, he measured me, and then I will come back in about a week to pick it up. 

After the market, we drove to two stores to get other food items.  They happened to be located right next to Kaldi's coffee.  It's the "Starbucks" of Ethiopia, and it was delicious! 

After lunch we visited the boys again.  We were allowed to walk them to the local stand to buy a soda.  Both boys chose Coca-cola.  They are so smart!  They already fit in with their momma.  :)
Aren't these beautiful feet?  The boys have been playing soccer with crocs or barefeet.  I am excited to give them the tennis shoes we brought once they come to live with us.

A lot of learning is taking place on my part on the other side of the world, away from my comfort zone.  Two things I have learned so far are:

1)  Clean is relative.  When things are "clean" here, they may still be "dirty" by American standards.  Roads are dirt, mud is everywhere and there are only scattered patches of grass that people have planted on purpose in front of the nicer homes, like our courtyard.  There is dust and smog in the air, making Addis appear grey all the time.   There's a layer of dust over everything, inside and out. 

2) Water is a precious resource.  It is to be used sparingly.  The guest house is on city water and you can not drink it.  People bathe in it!  We drink bottled water only, even use it to brush our teeth with.  Showers are nice to have but the hot water heater is plugged in before we use it and then unplugged after to conserve electricity.  The water is either very hot or very icy, so you get in, splash some water on, throw some soap there, then spash off.  Then every few days, the water goes out.  At this point, the water has been out for two days.  What do you do when the water is out for two days?  You use a baby wipe to clean your feet so your sheets have less grit, use bottled water to brush your teeth again, wear your hair in a ponytail because you can't wash it, put on lots of deodorant, use hand sanitizer after you use the restroom, and plug your nose when you enter the bathroom. 

Tomorrow we are taking the kids swimming.  It will be the first bath since Sunday night!  No soap, but at least they'll be clean.  We are bringing a bit of redneck to Ethiopia.  You southerners know you've bathed in the pool before, right?  Admit it.

Today I was thankful for:  coffee, bottled water, baby wipes, and "Y" calling Alan "Daddy" without being prompted for the first time. 

Bring Love In received it's first child today.  Go to to read about it.

1 John 3:16-17, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."