Saturday, October 19, 2013

Our Referral and First Trip to Ethiopia

Currently it's 7:30 am, and I've been up since 3:30. The jet lag has my body confused, which creates a disorienting and unwelcome feeling. As I type a pot of coffee is talking with spurts and pops, but I know somehow it will be a disappointment. After being to Ethiopia and having the best coffee in the world, the java brewing doesn't stand a chance. But, I'm moving too fast. Let me go back to July 2nd. On July 2nd I, Brandon, was running a youth camp for my church students at El Shaddai Ranch in Missouri. The camp thus far was wonderful. I'd seen students draw closer to Jesus, recommitments, and a joy that is only found when one separates from the world. Amid everything I received a message from my wife, Julie. She had tried to call others as well, but the lack of cell reception made it almost impossible to get the call. Fueled by fear I quickly accessed my phone. My first thought was that Julie or another family member was in some sort of accident. Perhaps she was hospitalized. Maybe a loved one had died. At any rate my fingers scurried to get in touch for some answers. When Julie picked up the line she was breathing heavily. My fear darkened. Julie sounded exhausted or as if she was hyperventilating. In quick breaths she muttered the words, "We got... the call." Her message was clear, but it didn't register. "What call?" I asked. My mind was a million miles away from hers at the time. With a brow covered in sweat and students running around me, I couldn't put two and two together. Julie replied, "We got.. the call... the agency has a little boy for us! I need you to get home as fast a possible, and they will give us details." The trip home was a blur. I made a 30 minute drive in about 20, weaving in and out of cars. My heart was beating out of my chest as I thought about the possibilities. After all the work put into this adoption I was about to see a picture of the child God picked for us. My tires screeched as I halted in the driveway, winded and mindless I ran in. Julie and I quickly made the call. We sat in front of laptop as the agency requested. Both of us were excited, but possibilities loomed in the air. What did he look like? How old was he? Did he have 10 fingers and toes? So many questions cluttered my mind. After connecting with the agency we were told we would be the parents of a beautiful five year old boy from Ethiopia. We saw his picture and fell in love. His tall and thin frame beckoned for our arms to surround him with hugs and kisses. As my wife said, "He's perfect." The following three months was like a dream. We were waiting patiently to visit our son for our first trip. Ethiopia asks adopting parents to take two trips. I worked continuously, Julie planned our trip. We collected donations for orphans to take with us. Our church gave us an incredible "baby" shower. Julie worked on little T's room, and I prepared my ministries for the time I would miss. We left on October 11th to go see our son. Nothing would be able to stop our desire to unite with him. We flew through several countries, our luggage was lost, our bodies fatigued by time changes, but nothing would stop us. On October 13th early in the morning we sat in the guest house of Hannah's hope. Julie was dressed in my clothes, which swallowed her. All of her clothes were in the lost luggage. We could hear children playing outside. I wondered if one of those happy voices belonged to my son. My heart yearned to walk outside, but I held strong. After breakfast the opportunity came. With the smell of eggs and french toast lingering in the backdrop, we walked out of the front doors of the guest house. As we did this a gorgeous child walked up. The collar on his striped shirt was bent and half was turned up. He smiled as if he knew us, but didn't really know us. We felt the same. I managed to spout, "Hi T...." T smiled and looked at me and said, "Mommy!" Then turning to Julie he said, "Daddy!" I quickly corrected him, but I'm sure we'll treasure that moment as he grows up. The next few days were wonderful. We spent as much time as possible playing with our son and the the other kids. Little T preferred to have us alone though. He would grab my hand, and we'd follow back to the guest house. There we played board games, hide and go seek, and just cuddled. T stuck to a schedule that Hannah's Hope maintained as well. During his nap or meals, we'd get away and see Addis Ababa, which I'll talk about in a different post. October the 16th was a day of rejoicing and sadness. That morning we went to court and came before a judge that would decide if T would be our son or not. Julie and I, and another adoptive couple, sat in a worn down waiting room. Surrounding us were families from all over the world that were adopting. I could hear a buzz of languages all around me. Each parent a little worried and nervous. Even through the language barrier I could tell that. Then the moment arrived. Both us and our friends went before the judge together. She was a sweet looking lady, nothing like one might expect. Her black robe draped a coat rack, as she sat behind a desk flooded with papers. Only a few simple questions were asked, nothing we hadn't prepared for, and, as quickly as it had begun, she pronounced us the parents of our children. A rush of emotion overpowered me. Tears formed in my ducts, but I pushed them back down. I had said that October 16th was day of sadness too. The reason being that this was also the day we'd depart, and I dreaded it. Julie was noticeably frustrated and sad about leaving our son behind. We both felt helpless, like bad parents, as if we had some sort of choice in the matter. That night an interpreter came and explained to T what was about to happen. We would leave back to "America", but would come back soon to take him with us. T took it well I think. I had hidden a couple gifts under his pillow that we hoped would help him while we were gone. These included a photo album of us, and a talking photo frame. We gave them to him earlier, and Julie was already worried that the frame's batteries would die in a matter of weeks from T pushing it to hear our voices. Maybe those gifts would help a little. They were all we had to lighten the burden of our departure. Finally, We put our retrieved luggage and odds and ends in the van then, and headed for the airport. After getting home we slept, and the next day began opening all of our luggage. It smelled of Ethiopia. It smelled like our son. We just left everything out and reminisced. Another day has passed. Although the smell is almost gone, our bags still sit on the floor, and soon I will have that lack luster cup of coffee. Little T is stuck in my thoughts now. I miss my son.