Sunday, November 12, 2006


It’s been well over a month since we arrived back home with David and Mihret.

Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention the name change... While we were still in Addis, we asked Manyazewal if he would like an English name, then started down the predetermined list Julie and I had settled on “…like David, or Daniel, or…” We didn’t make it past David before he started jumping up and down laughing with glee, “David? Really? DAVID?? YES DAVID!! ME DAVID!” You have to picture it in your mind with increasing volume and pitch. He was a little excited… We did keep Manyazewal as his middle name, which is good since Mihret still calls him by it now and then.

Anyhow, it’s been some time since we’ve returned, and it is this account of our trip home that has been keeping me, well, blocked. I’ve tried and tried to weave it all together into a nice, neat, well-flowing account, but I’m stumped. But I don’t feel like I can write about anything else until I have faithfully recounted this last bit of the trip, and our experiences (and my thoughts) just keep coming. So here it is, in all its raw, unpolished messiness. I wish I had the pictures to give you a glimpse of these wonderful people. I can see them still in my minds eye, and when I do, I give thanks.

There were the drivers. I know they make their living from shuttling people like us here and there. But each of the three different drivers gave us far more than what we contracted for. It was never just business, never just a fare. They spent extra time talking with us, and, more importantly, talking with David. They explained to him in Amharic what to expect on the trip and in America. They joked with him. They reminded him to mind his mom and dad, to be a good and honorable boy. They blessed us, thanking us not for the patronage, but for the gift we were giving the children.

There was the couple we met at church. They’re from Whidbey Island (in fact, they lived not more than 5 minutes from where I grew up) and had adopted a son from Ethiopia some years ago. They have just moved to Addis Ababa to stay with him for awhile. They shared with us how their son had changed their lives, and how they had gone from being the teachers to the learners as he brought them to live in his culture. Their joy was an encouragement.

Once we had finished packing, we stopped by the orphanage one more time. While I had a mild heart-attack trying to play basketball with some of the boys (Addis Ababa is about 8300ft in elevation) Julie sat and talked with some of the other kids and one of the volunteers. The older kids once again surrounded us and blessed us by blessing our children.

One on one with Haptamu. I had intended on sharing some of my admittedly pitiful knowledge of basketball, but soon found that I needed all my breath just to stay on my feet.

There was the kind couple after us in line at the airport, who held Mihret while we frantically unpacked and repacked our things because the airline officials needed to confiscate Mihret’s Benedryl (even though the signs had all said “up to 4 ounces” were allowed, and Mihret had a visible rash.) They were from Canada, and had new grandchildren adopted from Russia. Every time they saw us in the airports or on the plane they had a ready smile and words of encouragement.

There was the couple in line behind them, from Florida. They were in the process of adopting from China, and would be leaving (they hoped) in about a month to pick up their little girl. Their hearts had been transformed by the time in Ethiopia, and they felt called by God to come back in a few years to give a home to an Ethiopian child too. Just sharing our stories was a blessing to us all.

About 10 rows back on the plane was another couple who were on their way home with a 8 year old brother and 6 year old sister. They had adopted through a different agency and were heading back to Michigan (I think.) It was fun to chat with them about the challenges we were already facing. It was comforting to hear that someone else had a boy who kept switching the seat-back video from the one cartoon being offered to the “action” movie.

On the other side of Manyazewal from me was an elderly woman. She looked like she was sewn from a wrinkled leather bag, with hands that knew work and a no-nonsense look about her eyes. She didn’t speak a lick of English, but we seemed to establish an understanding right away. For her part, she understood I was a helpless English-only American with an Amharic speaking boy in a strange situation, while, for my part, I understood her to be a skilled and experienced grandmother. A few smiles and nods and she was set free to unleash her “grandmothering” on David. The poor guy was surrounded and outnumbered. Even when my back was turned he couldn’t change the channel to the “action” movie because he’d get a scolding in Amharic (doubly difficult because he couldn’t pretend to not understand it.) At one point at dinner she was cutting his meat while I was buttering his roll… he didn’t stand a chance.

Then there was the row of college age girls in the row behind us, all Ethiopians living in Seattle. They were more than happy to charm Mihret when we needed to have a break. Between the three of them, with their command of the language, their natural babysitting skills and their shiny jewelry, we were rescued from some potentially difficult situations.

There were the airline personnel who saw our need and responded with more than professional courtesy.

There were the kind people who adjusted their seats, their place in line, their path, to make our path smoother.

And waiting at the end of a very long trip, was the immeasurable blessing of our family, our friends, our social worker, our church, all of whom stood ready to help or give us room (or both), and whose blessings can never be repaid (at least by us.)

Oh yes. And there was these two amazing kids who just took everything in stride. David, who is such a loving brother, and Mihret, who charmed every official between Addis and Medford (except those security guys who really needed her medicine) with her big beautiful eyes and ready smile. We do have a picture or two of them...

A brave new world, just one more plane ride away.

I suppose if there is a theme to be found in all this, its that we never would have made it on our own, but, thank God, we were never asked to. I am more convinced now than I ever have been, that when God asks you to do something, more help than you would ever need will be given at the same time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Editor's note

Well, I've finally pulled out my notes/writing from the end of our trip 'til now and am trying to dust them off and make them presentable. I'm sorry for the delay. I hadn't realized how much time and energy it takes to even edit one's writing, let alone write more. I will try and be faithful about writing or publishing an old piece at least two or three times a week so you can be updated on the family. The adoption process is so much more than the paperwork and the trip. Now we have the joy of becoming a family. Hmm... that sounds like a good topic. More later!

A Dark and Stormy Night... in Addis

It’s 8:30 Saturday night. I stand in a sort of top-floor courtyard looking out across Addis Ababa. The city is cloaked in damp mist that it just cannot seem to shake after the days torrential rains. Flashes of light against the gathering darkness speak of storms waiting their turn to unleash their water on an already sodden city. From my vantage point, I can see inside the mosque, where white robed figures have gathered again for prayer. They’ve been praying for well over an hour (or rather the Imam has, broadcast for all the neighborhood over loudspeakers), now standing, now falling face to the floor. While the sound of the prayers at the various hours of the day was at first a novel reminder that we were in an “exotic” location, embarking upon a new chapter in our lives, the novelty wore off last night (it was their equivalent of Sunday, and the evening prayers went on for hours.) Now, I’d just like to fall back asleep in peace… I’m exhausted on so many levels.

On one level, today was yet another day that my body woke me up at 4am and my mind wouldn’t let it go back to sleep. There are just too many things to try and process, but it sure makes for a long day. It’s a kind of torture to sit and think about how long the day is going to be, but be unable to go back to sleep to avoid what you know is coming. And now, when everyone else is asleep, I still can’t find enough peace to drift off. Tomorrow we’ll go to church and make one last visit to the orphanage, then we’ll pack up and get on the airplane for the 36 hour journey home. While I am really feeling ready to see our kids again, I still feel like there is so much I could or should have done here.

And I think that is where much of this exhaustion really comes from. Feeling is hard work. It takes a certain amount of energy to go about life when all around you there are people who are struggling so hard. I think so often we Americans take our privilege as a God-given right; as if somehow we earned it all ourselves, and that any response to a world that is broken and hurting is because we are just good people in sharing what is ours. I don’t deny that we can be very good people. But at the same time, I wonder about our responsibility to the world. I wonder about our so limited response, a response that more often than not comes from our overabundance, and really costs us very little. I wonder about how I will live my life when I have returned to my comfort zone, where I can go about life on a daily basis without having to wrestle with the raw emotions brought by a continent where there are 15million children without parents, a continent where a person is statistically more likely to die young than live, a continent where 80% of deaths can be related to simply not having access to clean water to drink. I suppose what I am feeling is some form of despair for this place, or for this world. There is just so much for us to do...

Of course on top of the suffering and the rain there is the real challenge of parenting two new kids. I love them so much already, but I also have to admit that this process is not for the faint of heart. Parenting an 8 year old and a 2 year old with different language, different cultural expectations but with the same needs of any 8 and 2 year old is not an easy task. These kids are literally STARVING for contact. They need to be touched, to wrestle, to play, to talk, to test the boundaries of who you are and how deep your love is. Manyazewal and I spent the day making up various ways to try and get exercise while confined to a small room. We destroyed a coat hanger to make a hoop for balloon-basketball. We played baseball. We wrestled. We did push-ups and sit-ups and stretches. We wrestled some more. It was fun and served as a release from the rain and from my thoughts. It was also tiring, but in a good way. Given the choice of being tired from wrestling with the above thoughts or the choice of being tired from wrestling with two dear kids who are excited to have a daddy to wrestle with, I think you can imagine which is the clear winner. Enough for now... I'm sure there will be more sports before church tomorrow, I'd better get my rest.



This may help to put my comments in proper perspective. These are the pictures of the kids adopted from Layla House this year. Little bits do add up... that's about 90 more kids who have homes now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Party Time/Grieving Time

Friday September 22

Yesterday we had a party at Layla House so that the children could say goodbye to Manyazewal and Mihret, and to Sammy and Ashenafi (who left for Chicago at 4am). It was a fun time. The energy as 130 other children gathered to sing and clap and give us their best wishes was powerfully uplifting. At the same time, though, there was a real sense of loss for so many of these children. Even as they blessed their friends, they also wrestled with reality that they would not be getting on an airplane and going to be part of a family. They would be staying behind; some in the knowledge that a family had chosen them, but that they needed to wait a little longer, but many more knowing that they still had no family, that for some reason they had been passed by again.

Helen, Tadiku and Jonas clap and sing while the children gather for the party.

I have to admit that I hid behind the camera for awhile. It is not proper for men to cry in Africa (not that it is much more accepted at home in the US…) These are bright kids… sweet, wonderful kids. It is hard to read the pain in their eyes; to look them in the face and say, without words, I didn’t choose you. It was so much easier when we adopted Imani, because none of the dozens of souls in the cribs around her could ask “What state you go? What state I go?” None of her crib-mates could talk to you, could say “I am a person! I have a personality. I have hopes and dreams. I have a past and enough knowledge to know that I am somehow missing something right now.”

Julie and Mihret are surrounded by an enthusiastic bunch of well-wishers. Everyone wanted to give Manyazewal and Mihret kisses and hugs, they were truly excited for them.

And it is not just that there are a lot of good kids who are without families and so need to be loved (in some distant idealistic way), it’s that I have already fallen in love with some of these particular kids. In the few times we’ve been there just to say hi and let the kids visit, we’ve met some spectacular children who I would (if I was legally able) take home with us right now. I’ve only known these kids for a few hours, but they are so precious to me that I just cannot stand that I will walk out the gate and leave them behind. I guess that's the danger of getting in too close. You can't cling to the illusion that these kids are "statistics." They have names and faces now, and I will look at the world differently because of them.

I know that our little family cannot save the world. I know that we cannot even save all these little ones. Adoption isn’t really about “saving” anyway. And, in some sense, these kids have already gained so much. We see so many orphans just driving across town. They surround the cars at stoplights trying to sell gum or pens or packages of Kleenex. They beg on the street corners. They do not go to bed having had a hot meal or a shower. They don’t have adults who care for them. They don’t get to attend classes. They don’t have clean clothes, or even adequate clothes sometimes. Compared to their fragile existence, the kids at Layla have a relative paradise. But it still isn’t a family, and “research shows” that until they get that one, key ingredient, these kids don’t have a discernable future.

Our camera was a big hit. The ability to instantly show the kids their picture in our digital preview window was a quick way to break the ice, and moments after you started clicking the shutter, a group would form. Every kid, without exception, loved seeing themselves imortalized in the tiny window of the camera.

The pain is real, and it is difficult for me to deal with. So, I hid behind the camera, then let them see themselves in the little preview window, and, for the moment, distracted us both from the hard reality of their situation. I prayed that their family-to-be would find them soon and that there would soon be a party with their name on it, and that room would be opened up for some other lost child to find a way into the caring arms of Layla House.

I suppose when you cannot do enough, and you know you cannot do enough, you can either be defeated by your inadequacies or you can do what you can, adding your little bit, and praying that others will be called to add their little bits until it is enough. There is an Amharic saying I found in my phrasebook (I knew it would be useful!), “Spiderwebs joined together can catch a lion.” The orphan situation in Ethiopia, much less the world, is one heck of a big lion… I guess every little strand counts.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Drive Across Town

Thursday, September 21

The light changes and the line of cars surge forward about a foot, engines revving. They can’t go any farther, though, because a donkey, loaded down with bags of charcoal, is hobbling across the road in front of them. The poor animal shuffles its hooves, puffing and straining, so loaded that it seems any moment it will collapse. But on it goes, burdened but determined. In many ways it reminds me of the character of this country.

Ethiopia is one of the 10 poorest nations in the world (according to my guidebook, anyway.) The children of that poverty and of the AIDS pandemic take the extra moments given by the slow moving beast to press around the cars for a few more moments, begging or trying to sell pens, gum or small packages of “soft” (Kleenex). There are women as well, small babies tied to their backs, children clinging to their legs; and the crippled, leaning on crutches if they have a good leg, scooting on pallets if they don’t. These are the “least”, the most vulnerable of this vulnerable nation, filthy and broken, and they can be found anywhere traffic has to stop. I had intended on taking pictures, but it just seems wrong to try and capture their suffering on film, even as a way of sharing their plight with others, without first knowing their names or their stories. Besides, there are some things that words, picture or even video just cannot hope to capture or explain.

It’s hard. I could buy enough Kleenex to last us a year (even with all our colds) and still not scratch the surface of the need. One day we stopped and were surrounded by a group singing “This is the Day” in broken English. I think seeing them is hardest on Manyazewal. “Daddy, they hungry,” he says, his eyes full of sorrow. We’ve tried to talk about it, but it’s not an easy conversation under the best of circumstances, let alone when you share only a few dozen words in common.

The beast has moved on, and the cars, the taxis and the trucks invade the intersection, weaving in and out (“lanes” being more of a suggestion than a rule) trying to avoid both potholes and one another. We hurl up the road, passing shops and embassies (Addis Ababa is like the Washington D.C. of Africa… everyone has an embassy here.) A few minutes pass, and then the skies open up and we are inundated by rain. In less than 10 minutes there is a small whitewater stream running down the edge of the road, which adds to the excitement of the drive. The hundreds of pedestrians scurry from the street. Those who have a place to go seek cover to wait it out. (Today they will be waiting a long time… the rainy season is supposed to be coming to an end, but the rains have been very hard this year, causing flooding and other problems.) It is an interesting place, where the combination of altitude (8300ft here in Addis Ababa) and climate mean that a person could go from suffering from hypothermia to suffering from heat stroke in five minutes. Today feels like a hypothermia kind of day.

As we start moving out of the center of town towards the guest house at the edge of town, the few paved sidewalks give way to dirt. The rain and the passage of hundreds of feet (or hooves) churns it into a sticky, fragrant mud. A few minutes later and we are turning up the road/driveway to our guesthouse. We’ll have lunch there, then head over to the orphanage for a goodbye party for Manyazewal, Mihret, Sammy and Ashenafi.

As we get out of the car and open the door of the guesthouse we are greeted by the rich, pungent aromas of Ethiopian food. The earthy spices of spicy lentil “wet” (a sort of stew) banish the cold of the rain, and we settle in to our safe haven. I know there will be more food than our little family can eat, and that it will be delicious. But as I listen to the rain pounding on the tin roof and think about all those little kids lost somewhere in the city, I wish I had a bigger table.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All in the Family

Today was a pretty intense day. We went to Layla House after breakfast to look around a bit, give Manyazewal a chance to see some friends (and, I think, to show off a bit… new back-pack, new shoes, new parents), and, oh yeah, to meet Manyazewal and Mihret’s mother. She had traveled overnight from Harar (East of Addis Ababa) to meet us and say goodbye (again) to the children. I think we were almost more nervous about meeting her than about meeting the kids. It was with great trepidation that we made our way into the social worker’s office.

She greeted us as one greets friends in Ethiopia (kiss right cheek, kiss left, kiss right, kiss left, “Seulam”). She looked tired. She had been very sick over the last few months. The antiretroviral drugs, while extending her life, were also taking a great toll on her body. But that toll, I think, was not as great as giving up her children. The pain in her face when Mihret did not recognize her conflicted with the joy in seeing her children and the peace at knowing they would be taken care of. She was so very gracious with us, but it was obvious it still hurt her when Mihret called Julie and I ‘mama’ and ‘abba.’ As hard as we thought the meeting might be, for her it was so much harder.

We talked for a while about how she was doing. We talked about her choice to give her children up for adoption. We talked through the social worker, who translated for us. (All this while Mihret wanted the camera, and the water bottle, and the door knob, and…) She pulled out a wonderful gift: a photo album with pictures of her family, and of the kids. She asked about Oregon, and we gave her the book we’d brought for her showing all the faces of the state. She gave us a sack of peanuts (a specialty in Harar) and we gave her a box of chocolate, a specialty of Harry and David. It was all very hard but very nice but very formal.

And then we started talking about faith, and suddenly everything went deeper. We asked what church they had attended in Harar, and she said “Emmanuel.” She said she was Protestant (much rarer in Ethiopia, where most people are either Ethiopian Orthodox or Muslim) and said how much Manyazewal had loved church. We said we were Protestant too, and that I was a pastor, so Manyazewal would be spending lots of time at church. She got a surprised look, “A pastor?” It was only then, when we realized we had a family connection, that I truly felt she was looking at us, opening herself to us, and when I felt able to shed the discomfort of feeling like I was taking her children away from her. As we prayed together and cried together and shared together in the promises of the family of God… the promise that we are bound together, even now, by the Holy Spirit’s power; the promise that we will meet again, and sit at table together in the Kingdom of Heaven; the promise that not HIV/AIDS, nor intercontinental flights, nor barriers of language, nor even death itself could keep us from one another as we share in the love of Christ… as we shared the truth of our common identity, we all found a peace that we had not expected when we entered that room. “God has done this,” she said to us. “My fears for my children are gone now. Thank you.”

I cannot imagine how impoverished our lives would have been if we had decided against meeting her. I cannot imagine how much pain would still be in all of us if we had not sat and prayed together, claiming our common heritage and embracing as brothers and sisters in Christ. It was not easy, and I am sure there will be more tears shed on all sides. But this I know: by the grace of God, this story has a happy ending for ALL concerned.

The Family

At the gate we embraced again. She blessed us in Amharic; we blessed her in English. She went to find a taxi for the long overnight drive back to Harar. We turned to be swept up in the energy and chaos of a mass of kids who all seemed to want to have their picture taken (at the same time)… kids who, most likely, have very similar stories to ours. Our worlds, for the moment, diverged. But all roads lead to home, and someday, when our journey is complete, we will laugh and celebrate together as we join in the greatest family reunion of all. I’m looking forward to it.



Monday, September 18, 2006

The Big Day

We woke at about 5am, and could not get back to sleep. While it would be convenient to blame it on the imam of the mosque next door (prayer starts early), it had more to do with my mind racing at a million miles an hour. In just a few short hours it would be time.

There is so much to think about, when you are about to meet your children for the first time. The room was spinning. Would they be happy, or would they be afraid? Would I be able to speak to them, or would they just stare at us blankly, lumping us in with the many strangers that have passed through their lives lately? After about an hour, we gave up the fight and got up to make tea and coffee. We would have answers soon enough.

There were about a dozen of them waiting for us when we pulled in through the gate. No turning back now! We got out the car and stood sort of bewildered while conversations in Amharic flew around us. The children smiled shyly and went back to their activities (though they somehow managed to keep at their P.E. class while not taking their eyes off of us.) Suddenly, a ball of energy came flying around the corner of the car yelling “Julie! Mama!” Manyazewal almost tackled her with his running hug, then turned to me. “Daddy, I love you! Come!” Holding hands, we were led (dragged) down through the compound to his room. “Here is my bed. Here are my gifts!”

Roomates: Basfkad, Maneyazewal and Bashir

He scooped up the ziplock bag we had sent him weeks ago, opened it and pulled out the photo album. “This is Andrew, my brother! This is Iman, my sister! This is Oregon!” His English is good (in fact, he has already started teaching me Amharic), and we went through the entire photo album before we could go get Mihret (Mi-hi-ret… I’ve been saying it wrong.)

In the special ward for the little ones, we were greeted by smiles and giggles. Mihret came right to us and wanted “up” (we are still struggling to understand her toddler-Amharic… but Manyazewal is a wonderful translator.) She showed us the water, a tree, a window… a typical toddler tour. We had a quick look around and then we were back in the car on our way to the guesthouse for some bonding time.

Mihret's room, BUT NOT ANY MORE!

Julie & Co

So, that’s the first day. There is so much more, of course, but it’s all I have time to write. Every second I spend writing is time I’m not playing, and these kids are STARVED for some playtime. I have to say… these kids are WONDERFUL. They are sweet, kind, full of energy and oh so loving. Sure, Mihret sometimes knows how to throw a tantrum when she doesn’t get something she is sure she needs, but show me a 2 year old who doesn’t. They have a great deal of love to give, quite a lot to say, and are absolute sponges for learning. I can’t wait for you all to meet them and be charmed.
God bless, Chris

Footnote: I’m not sure how often I’ll be updating. We had to drive across town to the Hilton to connect (which is OK, the kids get to swim, so they’re happy) so it may only be every few days. It looks like pictures are going to take too long to upload, which is too bad because we have some good ones! We’ll look around and try to come up with a solution… in the meantime the reports will have to do.


Samwel, Manyazewal and Ashenafi

It was late when we finally made it to the Guest House. We were exhausted from 22hours of flying (plus the time in airports going from plane to plane), but still quite awake. (The white knuckle drive from the airport may have had something to do with that, though I suppose we may have been a LITTLE excited about seeing the kids in the morning.)

We were met at the gate by two wide eyed boys, Samwel and Ashenafi. They are close friends, ages 8 and 9, who are being adopted together to Chicago. They are not blood-brothers, but did come from the same village, lost their parents at about the same time, and spent more than 2 years together in the orphanage. They have seen others come and go, while they grew older and harder to adopt.

You might think that they would be hardened by an experience like that, but we’ve found quite the opposite. They are the most welcoming, sweet, hospitable young boys you could imagine. We hadn’t even started unpacking and two of them were making us eggs and tea. We sat while they served us, two weary travelers being blessed at the hands of two orphans not even 10 yet. We talked while the two of us ate our “snack.” They had known Manyazewal at the orphanage, and were excited that he would be coming to the guest house so that they could play together.

Our eggs consumed, they finally released us to unpack while they did our dishes for us. Then they said goodnight and were on their way back up to their room while we settled in, already feeling at home.

Adoption Blues

It is the night we are to leave, and I think this just may be the hardest part of the trip. We just tucked Imani and Andrew into bed, kissed them goodnight and told them we would see them in 10 days.

Now I know that it is much easier to say goodbye this way (at least for us), but it sure is gut-wrenching. I’m just in the other room and already I miss them. I know that I will have plenty of snuggles in a few days, but it’s going to be a long few days.

I also know that it is much better to leave the kids behind, where they will be spoiled rotten by grandma, grandpa and auntie, and where they will have their regular food, regular routine (3 and 6 is just too young to get the most out of international travel), but I also feel like we are somehow abandoning them so that we might bring Manyazawel and Mihret home.
It gave me new insight into the passage where Jesus talks about seeking the one lost sheep. “Does he not leave the ninety-nine... and go after the lost one until he finds it?" (Luke 15:9) I always thought it a beautiful passage about God’s love for the lost. I never thought of what it would feel like for him to leave 99 that he loves with all his heart so that he might begin that search. What wondrous love is this…

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane...

Ok, I suppose I need to come clean... The REAL reason I'm starting the blog (well, at least right now... I mean I've thought about it for a long time, but I never made it happen 'til now) does revolve around THESE two:

Manyazawal (8)

and his sister Mihret (2)

We leave in two (2), that's right TWO days, to go pick them up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They've been legally ours for about a month, but sometimes the wheels of life turn more slowly than we'd like. Of course the past weeks have still been frantic as we have tried vainly to get everything in order for the trip and for our return with two more kids to add to the family. I'm not sure if any number of weeks would have been long enough for us to truly get everything in the house ready, but who says parents need to be, or even GET to be, prepared? One thing is sure... we are READY to have these two be with us. We are ready to start being family. It's so hard to already love someone who, A.) you've never even spoken with, B.) who is legally tied to you and C.) who is on the exact opposite side of the world. There is so much we don't know about them, so much we'd like to say to them, so much we want to share with them. Two days isn't nearly enough time to get prepared, but it is FAR too long for the heart to bear with easy patience.

I'm pretty sure God looks at us in a very similar way. I think we truly own our faith when we look at God in the same light. I just pray that our adoption of Manyazawal and Mihret reflects even the smallest bit of God's action in choosing and claiming us.

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has feely given us in the One he loves." Ephesians 1:4-6

So we're actually looking forward to that 22 hour flight from here to Africa, and the 24 hour flight back. Whatever this trip is like, we are FAMILY now, and that's a pretty amazing thing.

God's blessings on you and your family,

Pastor Chris