3 months home

April 8, 2012

Here is an email I sent out last night, it pretty much sums up where we are. Happy Easter, thankful for my redeemer.

It has been almost 3 months since we have had custody of Melawit. For the first time, she has a little cold. Her nose is stuffy, she has a yucky cough. She just feels lousy. Like a typical 4 year old, she is a little fussy and demanding. Last night, her cough was really bothering her. She likes to lay flat in bed, no pillow, which doesn’t help the congestion. Around 4 a.m., she was tossing and turning, she couldn’t stop coughing. I gathered her in my arms, to prop her up. To help give her some relief, and to comfort her. When I pulled her into my arms, she opened her eyes and she flashed me the biggest smile. She put her hand on my face, and she said “thank you mommy”. She snuggled down with this little grin, and had a look of contentment on her face, even as she struggled to quiet her cough.

That little moment, that little piece in time, it was priceless. I lay and wept and held my baby girl. I know that she had excellent care the year she was with Gladney. However, There is only so much a caregiver can do when they are taking care of multiple children. I know her life before entering the center, was hard at best. This sweet, chubby cheeked girl has had sickness in her life, and I wondered who had been there to comfort her? Who had wiped her nose, or kissed her forehead to check for fever, held her when she ached? Who woke up in the middle of the night to give her medicine, or hold her tight, who rocked her back to sleep? The answer is: probably no one.
No one. Oh, how that makes my heart ache. I’ve read books, listened to lectures, sought advice from professionals. But no one has to tell me how important a parents nurture and love is. I see it in her little face. I see it when her eyes look in amazement at something new, I see it in the tenderness of her embrace when we comfort her. I see it when she belly laughs at the kitchen table. I see her leave her shell behind, and come alive. Simply from being loved.

I think of her birth mom daily, and I pray she knows how much we love Melawit. Her desire was for Melawit to be loved and cared for, to never know the devastation of poverty. I’m talking bone tired, belly aching, rag wearing, unable to read, corner begging, street sleeping poverty. That is what my daughter faced. So, I pray the Holy Spirit comforts her with a super natural peace. That this brave woman knows her sacrifices were not in vain, that we cherish and love this gift that has been given.

She IS our gift. It isn’t always easy. There are times where I feel defeated. There are moments I miss my quiet days. It isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. However, I still can’t believe I have been chosen to do this. That I get the honor of being her mother. That I get to be the one who gets these precious moments…AND the struggles.
And my blessings are tripled as I see my older kids enter into her story. As they love and care for her. As they give up space, and time, possessions, and the remote control. Then I see my sweet, tender husband fall completely and utterly in love with his daughter. I am blessed watching him teach her how to peddle a bike, or change her babies diaper while playing, take her swimming for the first time, and rock her to sleep. We are all in awe of this dazzling little one.
So, thats where we are. Tired, but full. Enjoying this journey together. If I forget to email or call you back, if you think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, just know you are in my thoughts and prayers. We thank you for your continued prayers, for being a part of our story. Thank you for loving her, and loving us. We are grateful.


February 25, 2012

Well, I can’t believe that it was 6 weeks ago that I left for Ethiopia, and 4 weeks since we’ve been home. Life is beautiful and crazy. I hope to soon share a little about my time in Ethiopia. It was so special, and I am so thankful that I took the chance and went early. My love for the people there really can’t be described.

Melawit is doing great. We are transitioning just nicely. She of course has the kids wrapped around her fingers. We’ve been pretty much homebodies, just now starting to journey out. She is still very shy and quiet around strangers….but, that is not the real her. She is NONSTOP from 6 a.m. when she wakes up until 7:30 p.m. when she goes to sleep. Our hearts are full, and we really can’t imagine our lives without her.


loved by so many


Getting Ready

January 11, 2012

So. I’ve shared most of my emails detailing our court trip in November. We are still laughing, crying, sharing our experiences. It changed us, but I think life has a way of creeping back in. It will have to be an on going reminder. It will take more visits, our hearts have a way of creeping back to old hiding places. Places such as envy, greed, jealousy, pride, self. At least mine does. To be honest, mine can much quicker than I’d like to admit.

Anyway, the second leg of this journey is about to begin. The journey to bring her home. In 4 days time (on my big baby girls 13th birthday) I board a plane to Ethiopia to take custody of my daughter. I am anxious, scared, overwhelmed, and thankful. I have been so blessed by friends and family who will love and care on my big “babies” while I am gone. Josh is manning the fort until we officially “clear” (not sure why I’m using so many quotations) then hopping on a plane to join me. We are praying this is sooner than later.

Because of the generosity of so many I will be taking money to buy basketballs, a suitcase full of soccer balls, dodge balls, jump ropes, air pumps, needles, hand sanitizer, and diapers. Some very amazing kids held bake sales to raise funds, part will be spent on humanitarian aid, the other to provide a special meal for the women who care for Melawit (most of these women aged out of the orphanage themselves. It’s one of the main things I love about Gladney).

I feel a little selfish, it is because of so many that I love and so many that love Melawit (before we even knew her) that this whole journey has been possible. I get to be a “hero”, but these things have come from the compassion and generosity of others.

My desire for this blog has been to keep a record, or love letter if you will, for Melawit. Along the way, I’ve been blessed for others to write “chapters” in her story.

So, I’m not sure I’ll be able to update this thing from Ethiopia. I will keep our status posted on Facebook. Please pray that the 6 of us will be united sooner than later, actually first pray I actually make it there by myself, then that we’re united. I can’t wait to share the end of this part of our journey!



Court Day

January 10, 2012

So today we woke up knowing that our girl could officially be ours…. Our nerves were in jumbles. I could hardly eat, the boys couldn’t get enough. Funny how different people process things 🙂 Solomon picked us up and we headed to the Gladney offices. We met with Belay and headed to the courthouse.

We entered a small room that was filled with adoptive parents, and birth parents who were waiting to relinquish. It was so hard. I searched the eyes of the people sitting there…some with hopes of a future with a child and others releasing their child so that they may have a future. It was so emotionally charged, I don’t know how I made it through that wait without losing it.

The judge finally called our case back. We entered her office and she proceeded to ask us questions. Of course my voice was quivering the whole time. I was so thankful for your prayers because I was able to confidently answer all of her questions without being a blubbering mess. I was so happy to be able to share that we had a community of adoptive Ethiopian parents, and especially a beloved niece from Ethiopia as well. She then asked us if we realized that when this was done, Melawit would be ours forever and couldn’t be changed. I wanted to stand up and shout YES!!!!! However, I was able to practice restraint.

We went to eat lunch at Top View to celebrate, but honestly all of us were so emotionally exhausted we were just in zombie land. However, it was nice to sit and have a coke and laugh at the fact that we could finally say she was ours. So VERY thankful for His love to give us this gift in her.

We left lunch at came back to the Bejoe to change clothes and catch our breath. Then we headed to Kolfe the boys orphanage in Addis. Most of the boys were at school, so it was kind of barren. We toured the bunk houses, and talked with the few boys who were there. They were between 9-13 and they took the kids to the soccer field to play a little. As a mom I wanted to hold each of these boys and tell them they are loved and worthy.  I looked at my sons and couldn’t imagine them sleeping on the cold, hard bunk…bathing by a faucet outside, responsible for washing their few pieces of clothes themselves and hanging them to dry  outside. When I return we want to have a party for these boys and buy an ox to feed them.

Speaking of Belay, he is like Santa Claus in Ethiopia. All the children flock to him and yell his name. He cares and loves for each of them, and my heart is so touched by how he cares for his people. He truly is a gift here, and I am so thankful that we have had the honor of getting to know him.

We then went to Trinity Church with Belay as he took us through Ethiopian history, and the practices of the Ethiopian Orthodoxy Church. We were all transfixed as we learned so much of Melawit’s heritage. Belay prefaced one event with “make sure you remember this, it’s important to tell Melawit”. Of course, we were hanging on every word.

He then shared his own story, of how at the age of 11 his father was assassinated with 60 of the most powerful men in Ethiopia (including their last emperor) by the Communist party. This time period is known as the “Red Terror”, and it lasted 17 years. His mother was put into jail for 10 months. Their houses and cars were confiscated. He and his 4 sisters were able to seek political asylum in the U.S. There they worked there way through school, paying for their education. They are an amazing family.

The last government orphanage in Addis, Kebebe Thisaye. This is were infant boy and girls go through age 8, before going to Kechene and Kolfe.  I will leave out the descriptions, but it was hard. Find me in person and I would love to share. Wells rocked and fed a baby that was 1 day old, he had to leave the room twice to cry. Bella our stalwart rocked a tiny baby until we had to leave. This little one had cried every time a person put her down, so Bella rocked her to sleep and gave her comfort. Josh played with a little one named Mimi, who just stared into his eyes. Orion loved on a little boy who was precious. I fell in love with a little one named Christina who was 7 weeks old, but probably only weighed 6-7 pounds. She was beautiful. Once I comforted her to sleep, I picked up a little one who I am guessing was 7-8 months. She was laying in her crib just whimpering, wanting attention. I whispered prayers of her body, and told her of her Father’s love. I prayed for a family that would share that love with her.

When they finally told us it was time to leave we were shell shocked. We had planned to go to a nice dinner to celebrate, but could hardly eat the bread as we ALL sat and stared and wept for those who are waiting, big and small. We have a lot to process together, and I am definitely thankful for this gift that we were able to share together. It has brought us so close together, and united in our desire to help the beautiful people of Ethiopia.

I pray these updates reach you and make sense, they are just my stream of conscious. Tomorrow we plan for our final visit with or sweet cheeks, then the long journey home. Our hearts are changed forever, and we are so thankful for His provision that we were able to share in the beauty of all of HIS people.

much love,
Josh and Jen
Hanging with some of the boys at Kolfe


Ethiopia Day #4

January 8, 2012

resting from the journey down the mountain with 100 pounds of firewood

We woke up this morning to Bella not feeling well. She stayed in bed through breakfast, but when Solomon got here she rallied to ride up the mountain. Probably not such a good idea, steep and winding, not to mention we are already at a higher altitude than Colorado. We stopped to take pictures and she got sick 😦 She felt a little better so we continued our journey up the mountain. When you are in Addis you think the poverty is more than you could imagine seeing, then you have your driver tell you the poor people live up the mountain and it kind of rocks you.

After our journey, I took Bella back to the guest house to rest and the boys went out exploring with Solomon. You can tell the boys were exploring with their Dad….Wells came home with a goat hide bean bag chair. He told me he liked shopping with the guys way better, because apparently men never think A. how will we fit that in our luggage and B. what in the world will we tell customs. We rescheduled our visit to Korah to tomorrow after our court date, Solomon didn’t want any of us to miss it.

After sleeping all day Bella was feeling well enough to go to Kechene. Kechene is the government run orphanage in Ethiopia for older girls. A group from Washington was providing the girls with a pizza party. They also brought little goody bags. These girls were so excited! The bags held travel size toothpaste, a lotion, soap or body wash, chapstick, hair band, 2 pieces of candy, and a toothbrush.The joy of a gift was so apparent, even when they didn’t know what some of the items are used for. We had fun using gestures to explain how to use the products. Their excitement was humbling. It was like Christmas.

The girls then formed a large circle and started clapping and singing. They would take turns dancing in the middle. Then they started a game where they would point to a person and they had to dance inside the circle. They had already been going crazy over Wells and his hair, calling him “Justin Beiber” and basically petting his head. So, imagine the chaos when they pointed to him and he started doing the worm in the center. He was kind of a rock star.

I met a special girl there. She is 13 and just beautiful. Her english was broken, but we could communicate. She has a shy, sweet smile….and when I asked what she likes to do she said she loves basketball!!!! I asked if she played there and she said no, she didn’t have a ball. It is so hard for me to wrap my head around this. At the end of the night she asked me if I was the kids mother and I said yes. She smiled and nodded, then got teary and told me that her mother and brother died, and she didn’t know where her father was. I don’t even know what to say. I sat and held this teen-age girl and my heartaches to bring her home. She asked for my email and if I would please come back. I am praying for a way to invest into her life.

The kids were pretty tired after the orphanage visit. We sat and tried to process what we had seen…but, not sure that is possible. All of our hearts ache for these kids. Not that they would have material things, but that they would be warm and their bellies full…and more importantly feel loved.

Tomorrow is court. We go to bed filled with hope and excitement. That we might be able to shout to the world we belong to Corrie Melawit!

On Etoto Mountain


Ethiopia Day #3

December 18, 2011

We visited the ALERT hospital today.  The hospital was built in 1965, it serves as a treatment center for men and women suffering from leprosy. Leprosy is still wide spread, but with diagnosis and treatment patients aren’t contagious. Unlike biblical times, most lead normal lives. Unfortunately, if people waited to long, or had a severe case, extreme disfigurement can incur. The hospital houses and employs some of the more severe patients. We watched these men and women hand embroider linens and work looms, as they created beautiful pieces to put into the gift store.  One woman was able to spin cotton to be loomed, and she didn’t have any fingers. The kids handled these tough scenarios with such grace and compassion. I really don’t know what to say, just heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. We purchased a table cloth and napkins to give to Melawit on her wedding day.  As well as several scarves to take home as gifts.

We then went to the silk factory, and that was cool to see. We saw how it went from larvae, to caterpillar, to cocoon, to silk….each part is used from the dead pupae to the feces. An interesting observation the kids had was that there wasn’t any waste of this natural process, that every bit was used.  Unlike the trash you saw in the city from day to day that was man made.  Just shows God’s creation and cycles are perfect.

At the end of the day we went to the Mercado, the largest market in Africa. It was CRAZY. Like straight out of a Indiana Jones movie :). People everywhere, cars everywhere, donkeys everywhere. You could buy anything and everything there. They let nothing go to waste, the even rinse out and resell water bottles. Some food vendors sell food by the bite for those who can’t purchase the entire meal.  We bought some spices and a ground chickpea mixture called Shirro to be able to make some traditional dishes (or attempt to make) for Melawit.

Tomorrow morning we ride up Entoto mountain to see the view….which includes women who make the hike up and down the mountain  carrying 150 pounds of wood on their backs. The wood provides fuel to those in the city, but this laborious job nets about $2 a trip.

We will then go to Korah. This is the community of people (approximately 100,000) who literally live in the trash dump. We get to serve lunch there to kids at a feeding program by Hands for the Needy. Please pray for our hearts (josh and I and especially the three kids). I have heard that this is very very very hard. We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve, and feel blessed to be allowed to share in this.

After lunch we are going to the church to hear the story of Belay, our in-country director. His father was the head of security for Emperor Selassie (the last of the Solomonic empire),  when the communist party took over in Ethiopia.

Our night will end at a pizza party for one of the government run orphanages called Kechene.

We are all exhausted at the end of the day, and the kids are taking naps for the 1st time in years. I am not sure if the exhaustion is from the time difference, the emotions from all of this, or a combo of both. I do know that it is one of the best things we have ever done as a family, and are so thankful for this opportunity. All I can say is Africa is beautiful and hard, and it is forever etched into our hearts.

Thanks for all the positive notes and prayers. They have been felt. Please continue to pray for us to pass court Friday, so we can shout to the world that Melawit is ours!!!

love to you all!
The Foreigners in Ethiopia (we are called “foringe” a lot here)

Spinning cotton at the Alert hospital.


Ethiopia Day #2

December 17, 2011

Day #2 with Melawit was good. Orion woke up at 2 a.m. getting sick, very sick. He continued to throw up every hour for 12 hours :(, so he didn’t get to go see sister. When we got to the care center, Yohanna Robbins was in the courtyard getting some sun with the babies, so we stopped to love on her for a minute. Solomon, our driver entered the care center before us. He said Melawit ran up to him and was saying in Amharic “where are they, where are they”. She was waiting at the door when we entered, ready to play. She was less shy today, and Solomon had taught us some phrases, so we were able to ask for kisses, to hold her, and to play. That seemed to make the transition easier. She is much bigger than we thought she would be. Josh says she is a brick house 🙂 She just seems healthy to me. Her skin is beautiful, she does have 2 molluscum on her eye (which are very contagious between the kids there). Genet told us what to do when we got her home to treat them. Her hair is healthy and a very loose curl, she is happy to sit while her special mamma fixes it. Of course, her speciall mamma is very fast, so not sure how well she’ll do for us. She laughs a lot, and she might be a hoarder. The kids brought their backpacks, because the kids had loved to go through Josh’s the day before. Melawit would go through the stuff and made a pile of the things she wanted to “keep” and moved her pile from place to place not wanting anyone to touch them. I’m sure this is a normal behavior from a child who literally shares everything in her care center (and the fact that she is 3 and may just not like to share). We brought suckers for the kids and they were a hit. Melawit was so afraid she would lose hers, it took some time for us to convince her to let us take the wrapper off. It was a great visit, and leaving was less traumatic for all of us. I think it helped that we came back, so it makes me sad thinking of her anticipation of our return when we leave Saturday.

The next three days are filled with seeing the country. We are visiting the leprosy hospital today, going to the largest market in Africa. Tomorrow we drive to the top of Entoto mountain, visit some churches with Belay, and get to go to a pizza party at Kechene the government orphanage for girls in Addis. Friday is court, then 2 more orphanage visits. Saturday we will have our last visit with Melawit…hopefully we will officially be her parents.

Thank you for all the prayers, Orion is feeling much better. We continue to be healthy and our hearts are strong. The girls at the guest house are amazing, and have been teaching Wells how to shoulder shimmy (Ethiopian traditional dance). The kids LOVE it here, and it has done my heart good to see them care for one another and those around them. Truly seems to bring out the best in them. Please continue to pray for us.

Josh, Jen and crew

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