A few days ago, I received an email mentioning three names and a telling story. One of the names was one I’ve come to know and love. A girl I’ve been praying for over the past two weeks. Two of the names I couldn’t pronounce, but that doesn’t really matter.
And as I read it this message, I couldn’t stop crying.
These names wouldn’t have meant anything if it wasn’t for the way so many of you have loved so selflessly, gave so willingly–expecting nothing in return.
You see, the email I received shared the story of a girl. A girl who now has a family. A girl with a broken story that has become a story of hope because of you.
Because of your response to a small challenge made just a few weeks ago. Because of a small gift of a few dollars or fifty. Because of a heart full of love it overflowed onto a life of one you’ve never met. Ruth has been adopted.
Her parents’ names are these names: Ephrem and Yealemalga. Her daddy. Her mommy. And my goosebumps and tears aren’t going away.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever before been so overwhelmed and overjoyed for a life of one I’ve never met.
There is only so much I am able to understand being halfway across the world. I haven’t met these children. I haven’t even been to Ethiopia. I can’t share these stories first hand–but I know someone who can.
I asked Seth Haines, editor of A Deeper Church, if he would share today. He has met these children. He has been to Ethiopia. He has witnessed the hope and change that Kidmia is bringing to the lives of these children.
And today he is sharing their story–please don’t miss this.
“What was her name to be?” he asked.
“Your Ethiopian daughter. What was her name to be?”
“Abrihet,” Amber said and tears filled her eyes. He pulled us close, invaded our personal space with unbridled Ethiopian compassion and said, “I know you feel like you have lost a daughter, but think of the many Ethiopian daughters you can save.”
One year later I sat beside Aschalew in a rickety passenger van, and we rumbled down the washed out roads of Gurage territory in Ethiopia. There were nine of us–four Americans, Aschalew, the driver, a worker from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and a couple from the church in Addis Ababa, who were hoping to adopt an orphan from the Kidmia center in Gunchire. There was a palpable nervousness in the cab of the van because, as Aschalew explained, this was to be the first domestic adoption in Ethiopian history. A lawyer by trade, I salivated at witnessing this seminal case, a formative precedent in what I hoped would be a long line of domestic adoption proceedings. As a follower of Christ, I was even more excited. After all, this act would pave the way for Ethiopian families to adopt their own, to fulfill the scriptural metaphor of kinsman redeemer.
We pulled to the courthouse, and my heart raced as we exited the van. Aschalew asked us to wait outside as he entered the courthouse to speak with the judge. Moments later he returned, informed us that the judge was concerned that Americans had been brought to the proceeding. “He is worried,” Aschalew said, “that the locals will believe the Ethiopian family is only a scheme, that they will believe the children are being sold to Americans. I am sorry, but you will not be allowed into the proceeding.” Crestfallen, my American contingent loaded into the van, leaving the adoptive family to attend the legalities of the day. The parents smiled, told us not to worry. We would see their united family soon enough, they said.
“Yes,” we said. “Good luck.”
We were transported from the courthouse to the local Kidmia care center where children awaited our arrival. They ran to us from the spacious and lush yard, met us under a thatched-roofed pavilion. They spoke staccato Amharic, faces puzzled as we tried to explain that we could not understand their language. The children dropped all attempts at verbal communication, opted instead to swing on our arms and instigate games of tag. One child took me by the hand and led me proudly to the to the community garden where ensete grew tall as Indiana corn. There were mango trees, vegetable plants, grains, and nut trees. I kneeled down, scooped soil into my hand and smelled it, rich as Mississippi mud. There was a chicken coop beside the garden, and the child tucked his hands under his arm pits, flapped his elbows up and down and said “bwawk, bwawk.” We held hands like relatives. Laughed boisterously.
The lunch call rang out, and we returned to the pavilion, where nurses and caretakers came with rolls of injera–that Ethiopian flat bread that tastes like sour crepes. There was chicken and Coca-Cola, and we, along with the children, ate and drank to our hearts content.
After lunch, we continued to play with the children and waited for the adoptive family to arrive. It seemed like hours before we spotted the white passenger van pulling up the driveway. Aschalew exited the van first, followed closely by the couple that had traveled those many kilometers from Addis. They were all smiles, and the wife embraced a smallish bundle wrapped in a blanket. I ran to the van, smiling wide with hope. Aschalew hugged me, pulled me close like only an Ethiopian brother could and said, “I want to introduce you to Eve, the first mother of the Ethiopian orphan. And to her new daughter, too.”
I stared at this Ethiopian Eve, this native mother full of furious love for her new-claimed child. I watched the child snuggle, nuzzle into the soft spot between her mother’s collarbone and neck. I cried unashamedly. Eve and her daughter, they were beautiful. The Ethiopian church, she is beautiful, too. She is ready, willing, and able. She is capable. She is fierce. She is the mother of her children. And we? We can participate in the redeeming, in the celebration of a lost child finding her belonging. We can participate in uniting the orphan of Ethiopia with her first family.
Yes, I’m in. What about you?
One question I ask myself often is,
have I become a clanging cymbal.
I’ve always wanted to be more quest, so that people would really listen when I speak.
I’m asking you to listen–just this once. I’m not going to beg.
I’m just asking if you would take a few minutes and think about it. And then before you think too long, remember that we are commanded to love, care for the orphans, and protect those in need.
psst! Remember how I told you I wanted the quote from Les Miserables for my next tattoo? I’ve decided that if we complete this challenge–that tattoo is happening. If you happen to have a recommendation in the Pittsburgh area, let me know! But it’s only happening if we can do this together. I really think we can.