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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

.The {other} Boy.

(Go here to read what I posted on facebook last week.)


I come here tentatively, unsure of what words should be written and what ones should be hidden - some parts are too sacred, some parts are not mine to share, and in all of it I come praying that nothing I say exalts Jim or myself. None of this could have come about without Jesus in us. Left alone to ourselves we do not have the capacity for any of this. I will never, ever forget the day that God orchestrated for us to experience with Habtamu. I could hardly sleep the night before our scheduled lunch outing. I was excited and nervous not knowing what to expect.


He was waiting for us as soon as we got out of the van - biting his bottom lip and blinking his heavily lashed eyes in what I soon would learn was an adorable nervous habit. His arms squeezed me tight and I could practically feel the eagerness coursing through his veins. Habtamu took us around to the best shops on his street. Jim put a protective arm around him every time we entered a shop, as beggars and street children are not permitted inside. My heart melted as I watched the two weave in and out of the sea of brown faces while I stroked my sleeping Jamesy who was curled onto my chest.


We walked and talked and learned that Habtamu believed himself to be fourteen. My heart sank as fourteen is the age when children become unadoptable in Ethiopia. This sweet boy, who was still so much a child, walked confidently down the street he called home. He was so protective of me and was careful not to take us to the dangerous parts of the street. He told us that bad men were there and that they knocked the teeth out of the children who entered that section. I shuddered at the thought and tears pricked my eyes at this world Habtamu was living in so foreign from my own, cozy, safe childhood. (Later Jim remarked how he had seen masks being sold in the shops with human teeth in them and speculated that these were what the teeth were being harvested for.)


When we were in our van headed for lunch (Habtamu requested pizza), Habtamu asked to hold Jamesy. My eyes welled with tears as I marveled at the tenderness from a fourteen year old boy for an infant. He was a natural with him, and Jamesy seemed equally comfortable and equally smitten. Habtamu met my eyes with Jamesy secure in his arms. He is my brother. He said. Then he took off the rubber, Ethiopian bracelet that his wrist wore and handed it to me to give to Jamesy when he is grown to remind him of his Ethiopian brother. God, what are you trying to do to me - to tell me? I blinked back burning tears.


The afternoon continued on in a swirl of sweet memories that I will carry to the grave with me. Of teaching Habtamu to use a straw. Of giving him his first taste of iced-coffee - which was too cold for his shocked tastebuds! Of watching him interact with Jamesy and illicit belly laughs that we had yet to receive. Of teaching him how to use my camera and delighting in what he captured through the lens. Of touring the coffee factory because we could not bare to take him back to the street yet. And what stands out the most is the way he clung to us, the way his eyes danced and his shoulders squared when he told anybody and everybody we encountered that we were his family. That he was finally happy because he had a mom, a dad, and a brother. As we sat in the coffee factory waiting for our beans to be bagged my stomach turned with the realizing that shortly our time with Habtamu would be over. How would we just drive back to his street and drop him off? As my mind reeled and my heart bruised Jim began to speak with a man that had become our friend in Ethiopia. I still have no idea how it all came to be, but at the end of the conversation, our contact, Jim and I all had tears threatening to spill through our lashes and a plan devised. A plan that got Habtamu off of the streets that night. A plan where we could financially support Habtamu monthly and meet his needs for food, clothing, shelter, and education, and our sweet friend would be our go-between - our hands and feet in Ethiopia.


I will never forget the look on Habtamu's face when our friend spoke to him in Amharic and told him of our plan to care for him from afar - the way he melted into us and squeezed my hand fighting back the tears. What a brave boy, my Habtamu is, we pulled him from all he had known for the past four years, and now he is living alone as a 14 year old boy - practically unheard of here in the United States. We were flying home that night, and we got permission from the place we had stayed to allow Habtamu to stay in our room with no extra charge. (The next day our friend found him a place, purchased a mattress and gave him money for food.)


He showered and changed into his new clothes and walked around in awe of the electricity, the running water, the stove, the refrigerator, and I was struck with how much I take for granted. We enjoyed several more hours getting to know this boy who was burrowing deeper and deeper into our hearts. Jim played soccer with him in the court yard, we gave him the clothes and food we had brought. Jim emptied his suitcase of all of the clothes he was not wearing home and gave them to Habtamu. We left him with blankets and bandaids and water, with my running shoes (which I haphazardly had thrown in our suitcase at the last minute) because the sneakers we brought were too big - he wears the same size as I. We showed him pictures of our house - of our children. I talked about Jesus and left him a Bible. I rubbed his back and held his hand - noticing that he bites his nails - as he grew increasingly sad with our impending departure. We took turns hugging him as tears made rivers on all of our cheeks. Before leaving we football huddled and Jim prayed. My memory is burned with the image of Habtamu clinging to my husband and calling him dad. He's 14 years old. And yes, we are able to provide for him and meet some very real needs that he had. But the one thing that he is truly longing for is a family. Ironically enough the very thing many 14 year olds here in America take for granted. I believe if Jesus was right here He would tell us to stand up and fight for Habtamu. It's not even a question whether or not we should - especially when I stand back and see all of the details that were sovereignly and divinely orchestrated in order for us to cross paths with Habtamu on both trips. So now with one brown-eyed boy safely tucked next to our two blue-eyed babes we fight with all of our hearts for the other boy. Because if we don't - who will?


Carrie said...

What an incredible, tear inducing story.

Jeff Seevers said...

Wow...God orchestrated.

Christina said...

I am crying. Beautiful.

brandy said...

Amazing! I see the hands and feet of Jesus SO clear!!!!! There are no words! Thank you again for sharing your journey with us!!

Christen said...

I have been following your blog and story from afar and just had to tell you thank you. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus and thank you for sharing and being open. My eyes fill with tears reading and even trying to imagine how impossible it would be to leave him is overwhelming.... praise God for what you have done and praying He moves mountains.

Anonymous said...

The second picture is the one that got me. It backs up every thing that you wrote about Habtamu, how tender and sweet he is.
I love how creative God is and how He is working this real life story out for you and Jim and Habtamu and even Job as he is such a big part in this as well.
So beautiful and and so wonderful, I know you are sleeping better at night knowing Habtamu is in a safer place..I still am hoping he can come home!
You and Jim inspire me!

Love, JO

Unknown said...


We are praying here in Chicago for your son, Habtamu, to come home soon to join your family as well. God bless you.

Love you,
Mrs. Bosket

Heather said...

Wow- I have tears in my eyes. It does seem that God placed him in your path those times and it is meant to be. I will be praying that if it's God's will he will be able to be with all of you again.

Queen Los said...

I can't even find the words to say.. but I will pray for him and you guys!

Theresa said...

Sweet boy. The thing that strikes me most about his pictures is his eyes- he looks so tired. And I am so touched of your description of Jim's interactions with Habtamu. It's a picture of how I imagine Jesus was with those around him as he walked on earth. You two are a beautiful example of God's love and I am so thankful to know you!

Tim said...

Tiffany~I am so glad we got to experience that day with you. We saw Habtamu the next day when we went to the Postal District. He took us around, warned us of where NOT to go, and was just precious!!!...and he was still wearing your shoes! Love your thoughts...thanks for sharing them with us. We are praying for you and Jim! Love you!

Tim said...

Sorry...didn't know I was logged in as Tim. It's me, Anna! :)

Sara said...

There are no words...just tears as I'm in awe of how God orchestrated this for you. I'm praying for your family!

Unknown said...

What an incredible and touching story. I hope that he finds the family that he yearns for.

mosey said...

Continuing to pray every day that soon ALL of your children will be in your arms yet again! God is writing an amazing story for you!

Tammy ~ Country Girl at Home ~ said...

Only God does things like this. I have tears in my eyes now, Tiffany! God is so good! Oh how I would love to see him in your home holding all 3 little ones on his lap! Nothing is impossible for God!


Annie said...

As I've read your story my heart has cried for some way you could bring Habtamu home like {if I remember correctly} you've said you wish you could. And yet I am inspired and humbled and even a little shamed to see that even though you could not give him what he longs for most, you have done what you could.

I am inspired because you have not let your discouragement at being unable to give him a family overtake your ability to give him other necessities. I am humbled because you have done what you could with what you had. I am shamed because I cannot say with certainty that I would do the same were I in your place.

My prayer is that because you have shared your story, I will remember it when I come to a similar situation, and know the right decision is to do what I can with what I have, knowing God is blessing that effort, rather than let the seeming immensity of the situation paralyze me.

Anonymous said...


My heart is breaking as I read this. I pray that the God who orchestrated this meeting with Habtamu will allow you to bring him home someday to you, his family. That the Lord will protect him and watch over him. This is such an amazing road the Lord is leading you down.

Anna said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It has left me with tears in my eyes. I have added Habtamu to my prayer journal and have already prayed many times for Him and your family. What a blessing it is that you were able to find each other again on the second trip. Congratulations to your family for the 2 special boys that God has brought into your family.

Anna Baker
DTE 11/19/2010

Erica said...

The tears flow. Incredible. Praying praying praying that God makes a way for you to bring this sweet one home.

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