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Friday, August 16, 2013

.From Jim's Journal.

I was organizing our documents yesterday, and I found these excerpts from Jim's journal. They were written during our very first trip to Ethiopia in January 2011. I had never read this before, but it brought everything back and solidified our heart's desire to spend our lives for the King and His Kingdom in the country buried in our soul. (yes, this is shared with permission.)

.First morning in Ethiopia.
Wow, what a stark contrast already. I woke through the night to the sounds of Timkat, the most important festival in Ethiopian culture. It is the remembrance of Jesus’ baptism. All night there were horns droning a low, almost eerie rhythm. People chanted… all to celebrate the occasion John passed His authority to Jesus… on a day when Ethiopia begins the process of passing Jamesy’s authority to me.

When we woke this morning I smelled the scent I have been desperate for… one I had only gotten a brief waft of from the fabric on Jo’s prized package. It smells like a camp fire… but more than that, like dirt. This morning I stepped into the shower with the water running and I could smell it in the water… the earth. It is certainly a more basic way of life here… but it is my hope to discover that Christ permeated poverty… for the earth is Yours.

One of the great symbols of the American dream is the white picket fence… here in Ethiopia, they have their own version of that… It is scrap metal, all rusted out, but sufficient to mark out your plod of soil. What a stark contrast, beautifully painted picket fences versus tattered ugly scrap metal (or did I get that backwards?)

As we drove in last night I tried to see all I could. Homeless men and women were everywhere. What gripped me particularly was seeing a woman carrying her child at 11:15 at night, I was thinking “where are they going to settle down? What street corner or back alley was to be their bed tonight?"

.Wednesday in Ethiopia.
Today was our official “Meetcha Day.” Picture this: we go out to lunch at a nice Italian restaurant that features Ethiopian art; a queasy stomach from nerves, but managed to eat my filet mignon; beautiful art, didn’t buy but wanted to; my first Coke in 2 years, it was awesome; and a nagging sense of the unknown. 

About 15 minutes after lunch we arrived at the transition home.

Cue the “This is one of the top 5 moments in my life” sound effect.

Walking into the journey I wanted to be a learner, not full of expectations - like he will wrap his arms around me and call me “daddy.” Learn I did. I learned that adoption, like surgery, involves pain before healing can come. When we were given Jamesy, he wept… he cried tears of fear, tears of loss, of the unexpected and certainly unknown. He sensed that in this moment, his world was changing forever… and while for me that was a very exciting thing, for him… it was plain frightening. I knew, like a surgeon knows, that after the pain, there is healing, and after the healing, you are whole. He sensed that he was in for change; all he knew was going to leave him. He is losing the opportunity to grow up in his homeland, beautiful Ethiopia; he is losing his culture, its values, its distinction... for what? For something more valuable than all that: Family. Oh, I will try my best, and probably fail, to foster his sense of culture, many of its values, certainly its beauty and distinction.

One other thing I am learning… “it’s fun to share.” If you did not know this about me, I am a complete germ-a-phoebe. I was not initially sure how I would respond to my son, but as time went on in the early stages of the adoption process and paper-chasing, I knew that I loved him and that none of that mattered. Today, a very compassionate, loving nanny came to me with her hands stretched out, full of popcorn. (A real treat in Ethiopia.) I said, “no thanks.” I thought she certainly would enjoy it, plus she handles many sick kids daily, plus it is a developing country and I did not see it prepared, plus… then she said, “it’s fun to share” to which three other nannies looked at me and said, it’s fun to share.” So, I sheepishly took two kernels out of her hands and she passed the rest on to Tiffany. Phew… but it wasn’t over. She was back with a plate-full for me. So, I sat down and ate… every piece, even ones that fell on the floor that nannies walk on and babies drool all over all day. And you know what? It’s fun to share.

Many other mixed feeling I am processing at the moment, but I will leave it at that. Seriously, one of the best days of my life!!

.Jesus in Poverty.
One of the things I was hopeful to see was how the Gospel existed in poverty. What did it mean to its people? What is He to them? On Wednesday, I got my first glimpse. While sitting with the nannies in the room full of babies, I was asked whether Jamesy would grow up to know and understand Christ. 

What a powerful, humbling question. 

Powerful because it showed how much these people cared for each child. Humbling because I am not sure I would have ever heard that question posed in that kind of setting in the States. And when I said "yes", I was greeted with huge cheers and several expressions of “Praise the Lord” and “God is good.”

 As the conversation continued its winding road that follows me, even to Ethiopia, the nannies discovered I was a Pastor. They were thrilled. They promptly brought me infant after infant, expressing to me ways in which I could pray for that child. One girl in particular was of great concern to them. Her mother and father died, and her adoptive parents had already come for court. Apparently, it did not go well. The little girl cried every day for five days. So, I took her in my arms. I told her she was loved. I held her tight, kissed her cheeks, and prayed: Oh God, she has already experienced such great loss. May your hand of healing be in her heart. May she bond with her new family and know you love. May she be twice adopted, once to her forever family and once to You. I realized somewhere in the mix that that room was full of more pain than my 30 years had known. That child alone had experienced more loss than I can fathom. How sheltered I have been. And yet, one thing is the same: The power of Christ.

Jesus is here in Ethiopia. Ethiopians and Americans share struggles on the government, social, moral and economic levels. Their burden is poverty, ours wealth… and yet, the Gospel prevails. Praise the Lord, God is good.

.To My Son.
Jamesy, I was looking at pictures of the day we met. You wept. There were tears as big as raindrops rolling down your face. It made me think: there is One that will come who will wipe every tear from every eye. He has promised not to leave you fatherless. He cares for you. He desperately wants to make you whole. While I am not Him, I want to be like Him for you. I care more deeply for you than I ever thought possible for another human. I have a love for you so intense it overshadows my deepest fears and insecurities. Jamesy, I love you and it is my life’s mission to show you, along with your brother and sister, the love of the Father. I am a poor reflection, but I am desperate to be more accurate. I have found you in distress, and I am desperate to care for you!

.Drawn in by the Rhythm.
As a special gift, we bought Jamesy a recordable book. Hopefully he will enjoy it while we are away. But in the meantime… It’s so funny how, no matter what, we expect kids to respond a certain way to a gift, and no matter what, they don’t respond the way we’d hoped. Jamesy looked at the book, we turned it to the page with our voices; he shut it… and began to bang away. And, yes, he was right- it made an excellent drum. I tapped out pattern after pattern to his delight… and when I looked up, every baby in the room was either crawling to me or dancing along. It was uncanny. The craziest part was that I am certain they understood the rhythm much better than I.

.Oh, My God.
 I saw hell today. Live and in person. It was not as I thought… I thought I would look on the streets and see lame and crippled men, women, and children and gasp at the reality of their life without Christ. I did see them, but it was not them that moved me. It was him [Habi]… and right now I am angry. Not bitter- motivated. He is maybe 13, legal to be adopted, but too old for an orphanage. His chances of adoption: 0%. He faces the impossible task of growing up on the streets of Ethiopia, begging, crying out for help… and my initial response? “Don’t look at him. His words to Tiff, (I want to go to America with you and be your son) are mere manipulation.” 

Sick? Me too. Who am I?

It’s been said that you cannot deny the plight of the orphan when one is sitting in your lap. Well, you cannot deny the travesty that is this young boy’s future. He is on a path to hopeless poverty; capped by an eternity apart from the only One Who can show him true love. Oh my God… when will I wake to Your call for my life (all of our lives). I feel the weight of Matthew 25 pressing on me.

The truth? I was nervous to give him food, which I had, and money, which I had, because I feared for my safety. {gag} Doesn’t sound like Luke 9 or 14, or a host of other calls on my life. Thankfully, he came back to our car and Tiff was able to give him food and gum, etc. In return, he gave her a simple bracelet. I honestly think she would sooner lose her engagement ring than that bracelet. Me too.

.I Don’t Know How.
Comfort zones… mine, his. His, in a room with 12 or 13 other infants cooing, playing, sleeping, crying. Mine, in a place full of excess, plush surroundings, fear of the unknown, greed, self-righteousness. How do I shatter my comfort zone while simultaneously leading him out of his? How do I love him deeply enough this week so that he knows that when I leave him, I am leaving only to prepare a place for him? That even though I must go to a place where I am unseen, my words will ring true to him… “I love you… I will be back… this is the only way.” What do I say???

I am not God, but oh do I better understand His challenge… How do I do it? I am insufficient, He is all sufficient.

Adoption, like redemption is messy, painful and hard to understand… but, on both counts, so worth it! Oh that I may see You today as I long for my son to see me. May I trust You as I grope for him to trust me. May I rest in Your Words the way I am desperate for him to rest in mine… but I don’t know how, please help me Lord.

.Cheap Help.
I finally got to go on my walk. I have been nagging Tiffany to walk downtown with me for days and she finally said yes.

Before coming to Addis Abba we were warned on several occasions not to give anything to the beggars – not to speak to them or look them in the eye. We were informed that it was not safe, that we would be mobbed. So, for fear I did not. Then, the Spirit of God hit me like a ton of bricks… what are you doing, Jim?

So as we walked I began responding to the Spirit and ignoring the warnings and pulling money out of my pocket, one birr at a time. I was not mobbed, I was thanked. I was not endangered, I was blessed. Time after time looking into the eyes of people who had hope for the day… One birr at a time.

And the cost you ask? One birr is roughly six cents. Hope at the cost of six cents. Wow. I am exasperated of the sentiment that those living in America just cannot squeeze it into their budget to help the poor and needy of our world. It has got to stop. At least in my heart!

Jim, never forget that man, lying on the blanket, holding his hands out with his lone leg curled beneath him.

So attachment and bonding has been trickier than I imagined. Even after all of the reading and research, I thought it would be relatively easy, but it has not been. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was possible there could be struggles… I just didn’t think with my son. Tiffany and I looked at each other after the first day and said our attachment time will be at least six weeks!

Today was a good day. Jamesy looked both Tiffany and I right in the face! We had heard from many people who took pictures and loved on them that he must have lack of sight because he did not look them in the face.We have learned he lacks much more trust than he does sight. He is coming along though, every kiss, every bottle, and every spoon of pasta screams, “I love you and I will not leave you as an orphan.” Even if he never attaches to us, we are forever attached to him!

God, may you show Jamesy that he can rest in my arms, that I will always be here to comfort him. 


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