Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Embracing Hope Ethiopia

During the last 2 weeks of my time in Ethiopia, I was blessed to stay with the Shannon family. Jerry and Christy, along with their 4 children, moved to Ethiopia a year and a half ago to plant a church. But, it wasn't long before God pulled their hearts in a different direction as they witnessed the poverty and needs around them. They have now started a daycare in one of the the poorest areas of Addis where they care for young children and their mothers who are on the brink due to poverty. To be eligible for this program, families have to make LESS than $20/month. The Shannons have such huge hearts for the people of Ethiopia and it was absolutely inspiring to be a part of their life during my short time there. I learned so much from them and got to watch a beautiful family following God's heart and reaching out around them. They have some great ways you can get involved through their ministry. I encourage you to go check out their website and learn more by clicking here http://www.embracinghopeethiopia.com/  Here are some pictures of my time with them.
This is me with the Shannon children (left-right) Joshua, Micah, Kaia, and Hanna. I had a blast with these guys while I was there!
This is me and Christy, a dear friend.

 This is one of the kids at the daycare. If she's sitting in that box, she's a happy girl.
 Here's Josh and one of the babies. This little guy is adorable and such a peanut! 
 Here's Micah with one of the kids, teaching him a little patty-cake game. It was so sweet to watch Micah and his siblings play with the kids.
This is Solomon, the happiest boy there...he has the best smile and laugh ever!
They had a birthday party with lollipops, cookies, and of course popcorn. Each child who had a birthday in April and May got gifts and a very special celebration in their honor.  
 And here is Kaia with one of the babies. She's the little mommy of the daycare.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When do They Come Home?

The thing that everyone wants to know, including us:), is when do we get to bring our children home. Our adoption agency is in a step by step process right now of applying for and attaining the needed paperwork for the US Embassy. The date of our 2nd trip will actually revolve around our "embassy appointment" that will be given to us eventually. The adoption is final and they are ours, but now we just need more paperwork so they can come home. Here's a quick step by step process of what happens after you pass court which happened April 21st for us.

1. Receive the court adoption decree
2. Apply for and receive 2nd MOWA letter
3. Apply for and receive Birth Certificates
4. Apply for and receive Passports
we are currently at this step waiting for passports
5. Final Medical Check-up
6. Submit all completed paperwork to US Embassy (can only happen on Tuesdays)
8. Wait to hear back from the embassy (usually takes 1-2 weeks)
7. The embassy will either clear us for travel OR will request more information or do an investigation which can take days, weeks, or months. We're hoping and praying our case is in order and properly prepared so we are cleared!

We're thanking God that every day we're closer and that most of our paperwork has come through. The kids just need passports and a final trip to the doctors and then we can be submitted! Then there's one final wait to see if the embassy clears our case. We are so close now! All these months and months of dreaming about bringing our kids home will soon become a reality!!!

There are several other adoptive families we've gotten to know who are waiting right alongside us for their little ones to come home at different stages of the process. We actually met a few of those families while in Ethiopia for our first trip, such a special opportunity! Whenever you pray for our family, please pray for these other waiting families too. It's hard to explain how agonizing it is waiting on an adoption process that's totally out of your control and happening in another country. We're all trusting God together to bring our precious children home!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gurage: Our Day in the Countryside

One of our days in Ethiopia, we were able to get outside of the capitol city and into a rural area called Gurage. The 5 hour drive, half on dirt roads, was absolutely incredible. Our destination was a small dirt floor church. While there, we met with several pastors/elders to share our hearts for the gospel to be proclaimed in the indigenous peoples of Ethiopia. It was an incredible time of open honest discussion. We learned so much from these humble men during our time with them.

 Absolutely beautiful views...the pictures really don't capture our Creator's majesty.

 This is a traditional Ethiopian home. We saw tons of these on our drive.
We stopped many times while a herd of animals took their time crossing the road.
Many times you saw the Ethiopian homes in clusters, set-up as a small community.
Here we are in the church where my dad is sharing with these local Christian leaders.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ethiopian Culture

One thing that made us very excited to have two trips to Ethiopia was the opportunity to really soak in their culture. We thoroughly enjoyed learning as much as we could leading up to the trip and then while we were there. It was really helpful that we had already learned a lot through books, documentaries, and an Ethiopian family we're friends with. A few words I would use to describe Ethiopia: strong, happy, friendly, content, hard working, and beautiful. In some ways I was surprised how much it reminded me of Mexico and Peru, but in other ways it was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The poverty is unimaginable...there's just no words for it. Ethiopia is forever a part of our family now and we love that. Here are some random pictures that capture some of their culture.

 This is a traditional coffee ceremony. They serve coffee there like they do water in the USA. The Ethiopians we were with kept laughing at us that we would actually buy and drink water. Coffee is served in small cups and you drink 3 rounds for the full ceremony. I had a total of 13 coffee ceremonies while I was there!!!
 This is called Kaldi's Coffee. It's pretty much Ethiopia's equivalent to Starbucks. We ate here several times and really enjoyed it. It truly is like Starbucks in every way except it's WAY cheaper.
 This is an awesome little coffee shop called To.Mo.Ca. We bought tons of coffee here to bring home and have been enjoying it since we've been home.
 A very common thing in Ethiopia is to have animals all through the streets/sidewalks. I'd say goat herds were the most common. We stopped our car several times to let animals pass by.
 Power outages were very common while we were there, almost daily. But, our wonderful guest house had candles set-up that we could light, wa-lah. We spent many evenings in candlelight which we thoroughly enjoyed.
 The Easter tradition is to buy a goat, slaughter it, and eat it for Easter dinner. We watched Easter weekend as the goat herds got smaller and smaller and many goats were hauled away on shoulders, pulled by a rope, or riding on top of trucks. Come Easter morning the streets were filled with piles and piles of goat skins, heads, hooves, and other lovely remains. You can see in the picture there's one of those piles. For some reason our camera went into sepia mode for this picture.
 Here's another traditional coffee ceremony we had at a ministry called Children's Heaven.
They serve popcorn with sugar on it and a barley/peanut mix along with the coffee ceremony. There's barely any sugar in their diet except for their coffee ceremony. The put lots of sugar in their coffee and of course the sugar on the popcorn.
 These are the cheapest form of transportation around the city, van taxis. They cram these little vans FULL of people...I mean the idea of personal space is non-existent when you ride these. We only rode them while we were with Ethiopians and it was a fun adventure. If we were on our own we would take taxis or hire a driver if it was a longer period of time.
 A Coke bottle in Amharic.
This would be a typical corner store you'd see. 
There are so many more pictures and stories we could share, but hopefully this just gives you a little taste of what Ethiopia's like. Or for those of you who have already been, it brings back some sweet memories of your time there:). 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our Guest House: Addis Kidan

We chose to stay at the Addis Kidan Guest House and loved it. The couple who runs it is so sweet and we had a great time getting to know them. They asked many questions about our adoption and were even praying for us throughout our stay there. The accommodations are comfortable, but you don't feel like you're staying in a western hotel/home. We wanted something that was more authentic "Ethiopian". We did lose water for a few days and had no power quite often, but I think that's pretty common for all of Addis Ababa. We would recommend this quaint guest house for anyone traveling, especially for your first trip. I know choosing where to stay is important, so if you have any more questions about this place, feel free to comment or email me.  
That black gate leads into the guest house. They have a 24 hour guard/gatekeeper who's always there to let you in. It's in a really nice quiet area of the city.
This is me and the woman who runs it. She is the sweetest lady and we became instant friends.
Here's what it looks like when you walk in the gate. They have a nice little courtyard area with tons of flowers growing everywhere; it's so peaceful there.
This is a common living room area.
Right beyond the living room is a dining room area. 
They have a kitchen you're free to use. They will also cook meals for you for a small fee. We never had a cooked meal there because we were so busy running around town. There's a great pizza shop, Metro Pizza, within walking distance where we ate a lot. There's also a small grocery store and several other restaurants within a 15 minute walk. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Travel Day

The night before our flight we drove down to spend the night with family in DC so we'd be fresh for our big travel day. It's hard to explain all the emotions we felt leading up to the moment that plane took off. We were in shock that we were ACTUALLY going to Ethiopia...we were super excited about meeting the kids...we were nervous about court...and ultimately we just had a sense of awe at God's faithfulness as we watched America's soil disappear beneath us, knowing that when are feet hit the ground it would be our children's birth country! Here are some pics from that first day.
 Here we are with our 6 bags (3 of which were full of donations), bright eyed and feeling good.
 Our Ethiopian plane which we thought was very nice.
 Getting ready for take-off. 
 So long US of A!
Our first view of Ethiopia before we landed.
I'll pause to let you know we had no plans of seeing our kids until Tuesday. We landed Monday morning around 8am ET time, got Visas, gathered our bags, changed money, and then met our driver who asked us if we wanted to go meet our kids. With mouths hanging wide open we answered with a resounding YES! We loaded into the CWA van and drove through Addis Ababa to a little side street where we came to the orphanage where our kiddos have been since December. 
Here's the orphanage. Everything in Ethiopia is gated with barbed wire on top. 
And here we are shortly after we met our kids...pure joy. Meeting them was INCREDIBLE. We had an awesome visit with them this day and despite being exhausted, God gave us the grace to soak up every moment of it. My biggest fear was that I would be so tired that the whole memory would be a blur, but it's not.    It's a memory sweetly forever written on my heart.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Meet Our Son & Daughter

We've been sitting here trying to come up with some profound way to introduce this post. But, how do we begin an introduction for 2 little ones that have transformed and filled every corner of our heart? We've determined words are just inadequate, so on with the pictures. Here they are...our son and daughter!!!

Malachi Justice Teshale Erb

Hadassah Joy Belaynesh Erb

Brother & Sister

A Forever Family

More pictures and trip details coming soon!!!