Going to Prepare a Place for You

Adoption from Ethiopia requires two stages of approvals:  the government and courts of Ethiopia then US immigration.  Prior to this year, US approval was a quick process that traditionally followed within one week of Ethiopian court approval.  Therefore, adoptive couples made only a single trip of around ten days and were able to return home with their new child.  Late last year, US immigration began to conduct more in-depth investigations of each child’s background before approving their entry into the US.  The US approval went from less than a week to four to six weeks to in some cases several months, depending on the case and the individual investigation process.  For several months we have known we would have to make two trips, but we determined not to look ahead to our last visit and goodbyes but instead praise and celebrate each visit and God moving to complete Aseres’ adoption.

We awoke Thursday completely focused on our third and final one hour visit.  Marissa and I decided that if all we had left was one hour with our new daughter, we wanted to spend all 3,600 seconds taking in her eyes, and her skin, and her smell, and giving her all the love we had — there would be plenty of time for tears and mourning after the goodbyes.  As much as I was committed, I was dazed when we arrived, but Marissa went straight to work doing just what we both committed to, scooping Aseres up into her right arm and holding her tight to her as she sought permission from the caretaker to go downstairs and out in the front yard.  It is unlikely that the caretaker understood what Marissa said, but she was warming to us and smiled approvingly.  On the way out, she told us thirty minutes remained before snack.  In the hall, I took Aseres from Marissa as she asked for Aseres’ special mom.  In Gladney lore, the special mom is the original caretaker assigned to each child upon their transfer from the orphanage.  We heard families speak with reverence of their child’s special mom and the bond they shared.  I was still in a daze but loved seeing my beautiful wife go to work; oh how her faith has grown by answering God’s call upon her life.  We heard adoption stressed marriage but I have never loved her more.

We made it to a manicured patch of grass surrounded by plants and trees.  It was wet to the touch but one of the drivers found a twin mattress and placed it in the middle of the grass.  We fell upon the mattress and let Aseres out of our arms to admire her from three feet away.  Marissa had already noticed congestion and snot that traditionally announce a cold, and the coming cold limited Aseres play.  She couldn’t be sick here, not on our last day, not when we couldn’t nurse her and love her to well, not before we could break her out of her germ encampment — but she was.  She kept her thumb in her mouth for comfort but didn’t cry.  I awoke that morning with congestion as well, so my kleenex became her kleenex — all I have is yours baby girl.

Twenty minutes felt like five, and Marissa talked Greg, a brother-in-law to another traveling family to snap some pictures of four of us then three of us.  I still felt nothing but joy; there were other feelings in the background but the forefront was dominated by joy and awe at how God had moved.  A slender, young lady in a white nurse’s outfit appeared and was introduced as Aseres’ special mom.  This is who we were to thank and share with, right?  I couldn’t wait to tell her that our court date was a success and she was ours and we would.. “No, English,” she interrupted.  Marissa stepped forward and I back and she handed Aseres to Special Mom.  We learned that Aseres had been with Special Mom until two months ago when she was moved to her current house across the street from the old one; the caretakers don’t move, just the kids.  Marissa pointed the camera towards the anticipated special emotion that did not come.  Aseres appeared to not even recognise the one woman who was assigned just to her and tasked with loving her until Marissa came for her.  My fading hopes were renewed as Marissa took Aseres back and the special mom pulled out a phone to show us pictures of a beautiful two or three month old little girl.  My heart leapt, because we had never seen baby pictures of our beautiful new daugther.. until Special Mom corrected us, “my baby” and it was hers not ours.  No mom, no home, a distracted special mom; American government can we please take her home now?

Our outside time dwindled, and we wanted to pray over her for longer than what remained, so the four members of our family of six huddled on that small mattress and prayed from deep within and with all we had for healing, for caretakers, for protection, for God to love her and care for her, for God to bring us back to her with his speed, for love, for forgiveness and for strength.  While all four of us remained huddled with six hands in every direction and all focus on our beautiful baby, Aseres held my leg with one hand and comforted herself with her other thumb.  The prayer continued and changed at the same time as I explained to a beautiful angel with words God must have given her ears to understand that we had no choice but to leave but we would be back; God wanted us to go and prepare a place for her — her forever home, predestined for her from the beginning of time — have faith sweet child.  We don’t want to leave, I again assured her through tears which God kept from falling upon her face, but the perfect Father will never leave her and has perfect love especially for her — the former orphan, the least of these.

Back upstairs, we stretched our hour through her meal, until it was goodbyes one at a time — Owen, mom, dad.  Marissa brought some clothes and a photo book which were tucked in the corner and obscured by her tears.  I saw the large plastic bag holding them as I made my first attempt out the door, so I reversed back to where we left Aseres on the floor.  I handed the clothes to the caretaker who tried to assure me with her eyes and smile away my tears.  I got back on the floor and went through each one, “Mommy… Daddy… Roni…. Owen…. Connor…. your whole family.  She grabbed it and I grabbed her head with both hands, wanting to continue a prayer I wasn’t sure had ever stopped, but I couldn’t come up with the words; hopefully God understood my silence and made her to understand as well.  I kissed her on her forehead unable to avoid leaving a few tears this time and turned to rejoin Marissa and Owen who were putting their shoes on in the hall.  Don’t look back; can’t not look back; give right hand folded over wave just as another boy took Aseres new family photo album.  The caretaker returned it and told him no in Amharic, because we are hers; forever joined by God — at least she told him the “no” part.

Out in the driveway, two families stood completely inside out.  I heard the Spirit inviting us to pray together, and we all huddled with arms around shoulders, former strangers now co-workers in the orphan field and we prayed — forgive our unbelief, thank you for moving mightily, thank you for having the orphan’s back, protect these little ones and thank you Jesus for leaving us to prepare our place in our father’s house — until this day I never realized how hard that must have been; give us a measure of that strength to do the same for these former orphans now co-heirs and reunite all of us in your perfect timing, Amen.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. cindy
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 18:02:08

    Read the most recent post…..looked at the lovely, lovely pics…..cried like a baby. So so so great. Praise God for all he is doing to make this family complete and perfect! So excited to meet Aseres. Love and hugs to you.


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