Saturday, April 24, 2010


I’ve always considered myself fairly resolved. As a teenager, I didn’t need much proof of friendships. I never consumed myself with thoughts of exclusion or inclusion. As an adult, I’m not compelled to question if I belong with or am included by those I know and love. However, parenting in general beckons my heart for proof of being enough, offering enough, loving enough, and meeting enough needs. I look for proof that my children see me as the parent I aspire to be. I am not proud of this. I am aware of it. And becoming a parent through the miracle of adoption leaves me looking for “proof” once again. Yesterday, God allowed me one of these glimpses.
For each set of traveling families, Gladney hosts a tour of the Gladney foster homes and a coffee ceremony. At the coffee ceremonies, the adopted children’s “special mother” (from their time in Gladney’s care) has special time with the child alone. They say goodbye. They dress the child. They mourn. A chapter of love, friendship, and parenting comes to an end. They share their last kisses and hugs, their last words of promise, their last memory. Many of the caregivers were orphans themselves. They relate with our adoptive children in a special way. The special mothers treasure this time. Tigist is Mezekir’s special mother. She loves Mezekir. And the story goes, during Meze’s time at Gladney, he loved and preferred Tigist to all others. On Wednesday, we attended the coffee ceremony. Tigist peered out the front gate as we approached the Gladney home in the van. She could barely contain herself. The evidence of her joy prevailed. She could not wait for us to disembark the van before taking Mezekir in her arms. And then, as quickly and magically as Mezekir was placed into our arms 2 and ½ weeks ago, he was swept away. Tigist’s time with him marked the beginning of the end for them. Mezekir appeared unaffected. He smiled at me as they walked away. I felt a lump in my throat. It began to grow. I was not sure why.
We toured the foster homes. Tigist and Mezekir stayed together. An hour later, we returned. From outside Gladney home #1, I could hear a familiar cry. Mezekir wailed loudly. He was unhappy. I hurried through the front door of the red brick house in the Ayat neighborhood, and Tigist saw me there. She held Mezekir tightly, but it was clear she knew things had changed. She looked to me, sadly, but certainly, and handed Mezekir to me. Mezekir’s cry had been inconsolable. His tear-stained face and red hue proved his cries were a long time in the making. Then, a surprise, a moment, the moment I had dreamt of happened. Mezekir looked at me, his cries quieted; he buried his face in my shoulder. His wailing softened to a whimper and then ceased all together. Tentatively, Tigist said in broken English (and a mix of Amharic), “I’m not mamma anymore. You are his mamma now. He loves you. Go to America and be happy.” The sweet but sad moment was the proof in the pudding; he did know me. He wanted me. He loved me. And, if even for only a moment, he knew I was his mom, and he longed to be with me. I’ve known for so long he was my son. And God granted a glimpse of Meze’s heart melding into mine.
Thursday, we attended Embassy. We expected an uneventful but long experience. I determined ahead of time, it would not be an emotional experience. But truth be told, all of the emotions of knowing Mezekir’s story, remembering his relinquishment, speaking about his birth mother and her story, remembering the time waiting for him, recounting each profitable and failed step in our adoption journey, praying for him and his country and his birth family, knowing soon we would depart this place and people, which we have grown to love, and looking toward the future together culminated when we approached the window for our embassy appointment. The man performing the interview was surely caught off-guard by my tears and smiles. His gentle voice did not lighten the blow as he asked about Mezekir’s background and his birth mom. My answers were brief. I provided what he needed. Inside, though, I remembered each detail of the pain and heartbreak surrounding his life before entering our family. After answering his questions, he looked at us and matter-of-factly reported, “Congratulations. You are free to take your son home with you to America.” Tears flooded and my smile beamed as I cried and thanked him. Even though he does this everyday and is accustomed to the miracle of adoption as it plays out in front of him, for me this experience cannot be replicated. I cannot imagine this journey without tangibly feeling and visibly seeing God at work in every step along the way. He has answered our prayers in the moments of our trials. His name proves to be our strong and mighty tower. He answered our hearts deepest dreams and desires. Each time we call on Him, He faithfully responds. We rejoice today more than ever as we recount our steps in this journey, His journey. He led us across continents, over oceans, to a situation of need and desperation, which evolved into hope and joy. Ethiopia, we love you! Thank you for the gift of a son, of friendships, and of unmatched kindness and love.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friendship and Love

Driving through Ethiopia, in the country or in the city, I've seen many profound things. One I never tire of seeing is the love people share openly. This love is not contorted and misused in a sexual manner. Rather, the people here seem to understand and embrace friendship and love in a very tangible manner. I think in situations where possession and money are lacking, far greater gifts friendship and love.

Looking out of my car window and walking down the street, I observe women walking hand in hand. I see men walking in full embrace. Arms wrap around shoulders. Hands interweave with hands. Bodies rub shoulder to shoulder. When greeting one another, we exchange kisses on the cheek, hugs, and the occasional shoulder bumping. One never departs without reminding each other of the gift they are and their appreciation for the time together. People do not concern themselves with the "appearance" of friendships or the love they share. Instead, there is full on embrace of one another and willingness to vocalize and exhibit the love shared. And people ALWAYS find time for one another. Conversely, it is not common to see boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives openly displaying affection.

Yesterday, we drove to the country side. A continuous flow of people lined the streets. At every turn, friends embraced. Children with only the shirt covering them, no shoes, and no personal effects played together and hugged one another. We would stop to give away small packs of food or candy or water bottles. In the states, I would imagine those in need would hoard what little they were given. Here, the friends immediately beckoned their other friends to share their limited resources. I saw one boy caring his friend on his back when he tired of walking. And in turn, when that friend tired, they would change positions. I saw a small girl and her friend sharing the weight of the water they needed to transport to their homes. When they would stop for a rest, their hands immediately interlaced. A group of men loaded their infirmed friend on a portable mat and carried him from their village to the closest hospital. Many of them traveled together. Those whose hands were not occupied with the weight of their friend walked in full embrace. They waited to exchange positions and share the burden of care. I am touched and encouraged to display my love for others in a similar manner.

God has supplied friends for me in Ethiopia that have permanently touched my heart. Solomon, our driver, our friend, our brother, daily lays down his own desires for ours. He goes above and beyond all measure to communicate to us his commitment and friendship. Preston calls him Agot Soli, Uncle Soli. The name is fitting. He shows up with surprises, he delivers groceries without being asked, he takes the children to the toilet, he carries bags, he helps with bath time (only Preston), he asks about my heart while Josh is gone, he carries the babies, he plays games, he kisses the kids, he hugs, he goes without lunch and dinner without complaint in order to do whatever needs to be done. As we drove last night, I told Solomon I praise God for interweaving our lives. I asked him if he knew our hearts would have a hole when we were apart from him. He quietly teared up. He said, "We not friends. We are family...(bateseb)." I cannot begin to explain how his quiet, simple nature and his humility are a clear picture of his love for Jesus. Although our lives are literally a world apart, our hearts are knit tightly together. Marta, Genet, Aster, and Blein mirror the same kindness and sacrifice as Solomon. These women look after us daily. They never complain about the extra work our presence brings. They fellowship with us. They love our children. They are a gift. This reminds me of the deep gift of friendship in America, which awaits our return. Leaving will be brutal. Returning to the love and friendship waiting in the US will be bliss. WE MISS YOU.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Special Friend, Caleb

Yesterday, I made a new friend. We will call him "Caleb" because I can't share his given name. He resides at a Gladney Foster Care center. Most often, when families visit the orphanages, they fall in love with babies. They are cute. They hold promise. Their future still waits to be written. But in a small crib, tucked close to the corner, a small boy captured my heart. Caleb is not "cute". He doesn't have a bright future. It's hard to know how to interact with him. Caleb has special needs. He has severe CP and a brain atrophy. Caleb's frame is bent, his limbs are stiff, and his hands are drawn up. The bending of Caleb's frame causes and will continue to cause progressive breathing problems. Eventually, Caleb will know a painful death from the inability of his lungs to expand. But for now, Caleb is content to stare at a dull, blank wall and wait for a visitor to find the beauty in him that God sees and created. When I approached his crib, I was immediately captivated by his smile. Although he cannot utter a word, Caleb smiles with his entire face. His eyes light up when anyone talks to him. He coos when you take the time to gently rub his small, small body. Caleb cannot eat. He receives small amounts of food from a feeding tube. And his little body, at three years old, is smaller than Mezekir at seven months.

Preston is often overcome by the activity of the foster care homes. So many children and babies live in these homes, he is not sure of himself. When we visited the home where Caleb lives, Preston instantaneously was drawn to Caleb's crib. Preston found a stool. He took it over to the crib. He climbed up and stared at Caleb. At first, I was concerned Preston was gawking. Within minutes , I could see Preston talking to Caleb. Preston looked up at me and said, "Mommy, his smile is big like my friend Cademon at church. He is happy. I love him." Then for more than half an hour, without prompting, Preston stood and talked and sang to Caleb. Caleb celebrated each moment. Preston told him the story of Noah and the Ark and about Spiderman. Preston sang "Jesus Loves Me" to Caleb. He told Caleb, "Jesus loves you, Caleb." Then, Preston and I stood together and celebrated the fact that God had given Caleb three years on this earth to bring Him glory.

Because Caleb's body is rigid, it is not easy to hold and cuddle him. But I loved picking him up and turning him and the moments of holding that were allowed. I wondered if anyone has ever told him the promise of fullness of life God offers. I wondered if Caleb knew one day he would be made whole in Jesus Christ. As I held him, I whispered in his ear. I told him I could not wait for the time we would meet in eternity and celebrate that he too knows a father, the most perfect Father ever, who claimed him before the foundations of the world. I told him I was sure God had a special purpose for him. And I told him I love him. I do. I will always pray for Caleb. He touched my heart. Caleb has a special way. His eyes draw you in if you take the time to embrace him. He may not have the ability to share words, but he can share so much love.

Monday, April 12, 2010

To Him Be The Glory!

My awe for Ethiopia and its people has not diminished over the past 16 days. The culture, the people, the joy in the midst of circumstances cannot be described. We've enjoyed time fellowshipping with the abesha, or local people. Relocated Americans, who we met at the beginning of our trip, offered to get together any time we tired of the locals. We haven't called them yet. I don't believe we would (due to tiring of locals) even if we lived here a lifetime.

Today, we had the privilege of visting The Hamlin Fistula Hospital. For those who have read the book "Hospital by the River", you could not imagine the beauty of the grounds, which Dr. Catherine Hamlin built and describes in her book. And although the words she writes are profound, there is no way to put into words the work going on at the hospital. As we found out today, at the age of 86, Dr. Hamlin still operates and heads up the gardening. In all of Ethiopia, The Fistula Hospital proves to be an oasis to the downcast, who are stricken by fistulas, both in beauty and for rehabilitation of the emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, and financial needs. Photography is prohibited. Pictures are engraved in my mind. I will never forget. The women. The sounds. The smell. The sadness. The joy. The hope. The loneliness of some. The friendships formed by common pain. God gave Dr. Hamlin a calling. She obeyed. He has touched so many through her. There is a new book, which was written by John Little after "The Hospital by the River." I believe is it "Catherine's Gift." I will read it upon my return to the US. I recommend both.

Tomorrow, we will return to the foster care homes. The children enjoy visitors. We love the children. It's always nice to hold babies. But, oh, to love on the older children and see the hope it gives them...priceless. Last visit, our group visited Gladney houses 3 and 4. We sang and danced with the kids. We shared candy. We took loads of pictures. The caregivers love pictures. We held the children and shared the little hope and love we could. What we offer is so little. But each hug and kiss is treasured. I trust the Lord will use it to encourage the least of these one day when life seems hopeless. He has used it to encourage me to continue to love in His name, in His perfect love, and His perfect way and timing. What I offer in my flesh proves over and over to be useless. What is done in His strength and love abounds beyond measure. I remain grateful, indebted, for His faithfulness.

Months ago, Ann told us she believed "God told her in her heart that she has a sister in Ethiopia, and she believes she will know her when she sees her eyes." We've prayed and asked for God's guidance in this. Not knowing what is ahead, no promises have been made. Ann approached me as we left the older foster care home and whispered, "Mom, I think the little girl I danced with and held might be who God has for my sister. I need to pray and see." Shock! I trust His leading. Ann continues to think of and pray for her sister. She is sure the Lord's word is in her heart.

Hunter and Mark's safari sounds fabulous. They wrote of chasing elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich, hippo, lion, grants gazelle, and many other animals (in a car of course). Their truck backed away from a charging elephant just in the nick of time. Supposedly, they visited a village, Massi Burma, and they met the chief. He holds ten wives and more children than he can count. Mark reported to the chief his one wife was more than he could handle. The chief enjoyed this. A village girl then tried to take Hunter as her boyfriend or husband. She continually pulled him back to the camp. Hunter was not as flattered as she hoped. They report top notch service and food and many bugs. Hunter's toe swelled up after a sting from a local wasp. This didn't prohibit him from climbing a stream to natural waterfalls where they swam. They will be hard pressed to top this adventure.

To all of you, we miss and love you. Our hearts are full. The letters you have written lift our spirits. The encouragement according to the word of the Lord could not be sweeter. We wait anxiously to join you again and tell you of the beauty of God's creation and the work He continues to do in us. He is faithful to all measures. To Him be the Glory!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gotcha Day!

Dear Western World,
So sorry our correspondence lacks greatly. It is not an indication of our love for you or our longing for our loved ones. The Internet is difficult to come by. The extra time I have is spent loving on our newest, most perfect gift from above. Easter Sunday at 1:15 p.m., Mezekir entered our arms and forever family. I cannot tell you how well God scripted our meeting. Our family enjoyed our Easter lunch on the lawn at the BeJoe Guest House. As we sat outside BeJoe, we could hear the passing traffic from Bole Rd. We knew Travis planned to bring our son to us. I suppose I thought I could determine "the car". Thousands of cars frequent the street, so there was no distinguishing each passing car from Travis' car carrying our love. Finished with lunch, we took up a game of tag and foot racing in the lawn. The beep of a horn begged entrance from the guard of BeJoe. Without much warning, a white Land Cruiser pulled into BeJoe's parking lot. Immediately, the family rushed together. Tentatively, we walked down the stairs toward the car. None of us were sure if we should wait or rush Travis, who was driving. Travis rather cavalierly pulled the pudgiest, perfect baby boy from the back seat. Mezekir was "chill"...just as Gladney so often described him. He looked at us. We all stared at him. Years of waiting didn't prepare us for the moment. I'm sure not an eye was dry when we finally got him into our arms. I don't think anyone has actually died of dehydration due to crying, but I made a decent attempt to be the first. Mezekir is every ounce of 18 lbs. His lips are full. His cheeks are fuller. His deep brown eyes warm up a room. And everyone comments on the tuft of hair atop his round head. Travis handed this perfect baby to me. It was like the moments after birth, when you've labored so long, anticipated each moment, and finally the small, precious child you've waited for arrives. This scenario offers too many opportunities for disappointment. There wasn't a moment of that here. Mezekir easily transitioned into our brood. All of the Knights and Brookshires showered him with love. He didn't seem overwhelmed. Instead, his little mouth curled up perfectly on the edges, and he smiled for the first time in our arms. My only regret was the absence of those we love, who seem to belong at these life changing moments.
We delighted in the remaining moments of the afternoon. Mezekir hung with us on the lawn while we played; he visited all the laps available, and he smiled and giggled his way into our first evening. He is the easiest baby the Knight family has ever seen. By rubbing his eyes at 7:00, he let us know he was ready for bed. he laid down easily in his crib. He slept until 4:00 when he wanted a bottle. Mezekir went back to sleep immediately. He naps without protest. He whimpers and makes sucking noises for a bottle. He readily accepts bedtime. REALLY EASY BABY...FINALLY!
Over the last few day, Mez has become more accustomed to his family. During a game of peek-a-boo, he laughed for Ann-E and I. When his burly, big brothers come into the room, he wriggles in delight and squeals. We went to the Gladney foster care house #1 on Monday to see the doctor. We had to leave him there for a few hours. When I came back and he saw Mommy, he cried as I turned away from the crib to snap a picture of a friend's baby. He really is adapting well to this idea of family. I'm sure he will have moments of protest, too; but now, he is simply a delight and happy to be loved. God's faithfulness is clear. So many prayed for our trip and our transition. We can see HIM at every step. I love to see the Lord at work.
Thank you to each of you. Please, continue to lift us up. Josh departs for America tonight. Hunter leaves for a safari in Tanzania tomorrow. I don't like my guys being stripped away from my side. It is necessary though. And it only offers more opportunity for me to find God sufficient. Pray for health. Pray for strength in parenting four while Josh is away. Pray for Josh's heart as he is apart from those he loves. Mostly, please, pray for those who care for us on a daily basis, that we might be a light to their lives. Our greatest desire is to see them know the Lord fully and intimately.

Many Moments of Loving Thoughts to You and Yours,
The Knights, 6 strong

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Only One More Night Waiting for One More Knight

Thanks to the recommendations of Ms. Donna in Tyler, Texas, we are searching out an original dinner of caterpillar salad and hippo burgers (true story). Although the foods we are eating are not as uncommon as Ms. Donna may believe, we are expanding our pallets. Last night, Baby Tiger (Preston) cried for raw red bell peppers, raw carrots, grapes without seeds, and cottage cheese (his standards at home). Instead, he had to settle for some heavily coriander, cumin, and cinnamon seasoned chicken from a spit and curried vegetable soup and a "cheese sandwich" with a strong edam cheese. This morning we enjoyed the lovely buffet breakfast the Sheraton offers. Preston looked at his egg whites and cried, "They just aren't like at home; these are different but good." Emphasis was placed on the different, not good! Hunter and Josh have yet to complain about the foods. They LOVE the diversity and adventure. Today, we may splurge for a snicker bar; these are at least packaged like Texas snickers.

We headed to the market again today. Because tomorrow is Easter, we bought traditional white Ethiopian dresses and pants to wear to church. Our menagerie always stands out. It's better to blend in. We are trying our best. But loud, white Texans inevitably stick out in a crowd. Yesterday at the market, our group of foreigners was obvious to all around. A grandmother spotted Paula. She handed her granddaughter to Paula. The lovely, little lady was about 2 or 3. Paula loved on her. When it was time to depart, the little girl cried. She wanted to stay in Paula's arms. I'm sure she sensed the love of Christ emanating from Paula. The grandmother begged Paula to take her. The little girl would have easily agreed to the grandmother's plan. Paula's heart broke. She had to hand the little girl back to the grandmother as the girl protested. Who wouldn't want Paula to be their mother? Today at market, we visited many vendors. Solomon, our driver and friend, acted as our negotiator for prices. He's such an asset for MANY reasons. He's kind. He's protective. He's generous. He loves our kids and loves on us! He's another one of God's blessings. We will miss him dearly.

After market, we went to get some formula. Mezekir has been on Ethiopian formula. Since we are here for such a long time, we believe it best to allow him to continue on with this familiarity. The market was small and decently stocked but not to American standards. I believe if an American were to walk into their supermarket with it stocked like the market here, we would obsess over lack of food and begin rationing. Not here. Each person is grateful for the amount of food they need. People do not hoard. Tomorrow we become a forever family. I believe we are to meet at the BeJoe house at 1:00. I can't believe after years of waiting, months of knowing a name and face, we will finally be together. I'm longing to hold Mezekir. God will sustain me for another 18 hours; I am sure! Bon Voyage to a family of five. Hello sixth Knight. Truly waiting for one more night for one more Knight.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Another Day in Addis Ababa

Ahh, another breath taking day in the city of Addis Ababa. We are still staying at the Sheraton. We have still not met or held our Mezekir. I think our entire party is enjoying the luxurious environment but despising the immeasurable differences in our conditions and that of those around us. Positioned directly across from the Sheraton property sits a stadium. We awoke to the chanting from a stadium full of worshipers, most likely Orthodox, as they celebrate Holy Week. The chanting mimics Islamic prayer and worship. I've found it difficult to become accustomed to these sounds. After breakfast, we enjoyed a slower paced day at the Sheraton aqua club and pool. While sitting at the pool, Travis and Joanna Norwood, who are American Gladney representatives, and another adoptive family from Gladney showed up. How nice to connect with both Gladney families and Americans. This adoptive couple chose to stay at the Sheraton and visit their son daily. Without telling me, Josh slipped them our camera. They took pics of our sweet Mez and even video. I couldn't have dreamt up a better surprise. I'm telling you, he's just perfect. He laughed and cooed and stole the show; I'm sure.

This evening, Josh, the 2 older kids, and the Brookshires visited with a man by the name of Mogus. He is the leader of Young Life in Addis Ababa; we were connected via a mutual friend. Rumor has it he ministers to over 15,000 kids. As we were to meet at 4 o' clock, we had to excuse ourselves from conversation with the Norwoods in order to make the visit with Mogus. Unsolicited, Joanna shared with me that she knew of Mogus. According to her, Mogus had shared the gospel with a shoe-shine boy week in and week out. After many months of sharing of Jesus love, this shoe-shine boy accepted Christ as his savior. Now this young man is gainfully employed by Gladney and one of their most trusted reps. I love hearing the family of Christ and its far reaching effects. Mogus took our group to an Orthodox church, which was very busy due to Holy week, to the Market, and to a handful of other locations. I believe Mogus' exuberance for Jesus draws others to him; it surely did in our group.

After returning to the hotel, all of us decided to leave the Sheraton on foot (okay, Mom and Dad stop reading or turn off your parental concern here). As I've mentioned before, directly outside of the Sheraton are slum "homes". With a backpack of prepackaged cakes, a bit of candy, and very few Birr, we went to visit the locals in this area. Within feet of leaving the Sheraton, a group of 20 to 30 children surrounded us. "Hello. How are you? Fine? You have food, Birr?'", the children asked. They danced around as we handed out goodies. A group of local men quickly approached. We made broken, but friendly, conversations, and then they invited us to come to their homes and visit. Tentative (but trusting Jesus protection), we agreed. I cannot begin to explain the sights and smells. We walked over open sewage and past the dumpsters they rifle through for food scraps into a 10 by 10 one room "house", which shared walls with 2 of the many other homes comprising this community. Three boys lived in this home. Ranging from 11-15, the boys had moved to Addis from Gondar, a city in norther Ethiopia, by themselves in hopes of an education and better life. I cannot imagine either aim was achieved; but they did not complain or let on this was the case. 20 of us squeezed into their humble home and talked of their dreams, hopes, and lives. They asked of America and Texas. Their joy was clear but confusing considering their surrounding and needs. But this is typical of Ethiopia. They offered a coffee ceremony in our honor. Since the only water available runs when an official comes and opens the water spout close to their homes, we chose to ask for another opportunity. The men were so gracious. The children embraced and kissed our children. We put off the concern of scabies and germs in exchange for the opportunity to really love. They held their hands and walked together as lifelong friends. They mutually admired one another. Before leaving, our husbands were able to bless these men with some Birr and remind them of the love of Christ. And we returned to the Sheraton, full of food, and beds and empty rooms, which was only physically separated by an iron gate and a parking lot but truly separated by more than many in Addis will ever know.

Before coming to Ethiopia, I wondered how our children would do in the midst of such need and heartache. God has given each of them a desire to love the least of these. They do not mind the smells, the lack of food, or the luxuries they forego. They love this country and its people. They love seeing Christ in the people they encounter. I love seeing Christ in them.

And, yes, it is T-minus 2 days for gottcha day! Easter is our day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Mekele, Mezekir's home town, is only an hour and a half flight from Addis Ababa, but it is worlds away. Addis' streets swell with people. It has all the markings of a big city (over 5 million people). Addis' street are dirty. The drivers needfully shoo away the beggars to protect them from oncoming traffic and themselves from being ticketed. Staring from the five star Sheraton, the horizon is littered with the shanties of the middle class workers and then dotted by palaces of government official and royalty. Mekele's streets are well kept and it has a home town feel to it. The nicest of the Mekele hotels are much closer to the living conditions of the people of Mekele. While there, we were blessed to have running water in our rooms. The children of Mekele throng the cars of foreigners as we pass by, and they are welcomed by the drivers and the few visitors, who make their way to Mekele. The children in Mekele love pictures and ask foreigners for "mastica"...gum. It seems they judge foreigners as fairies offering up small treasures, safe and promising of the enchanted. We cautiously snapped a few shots of a group of children. Quickly, we noticed they were unattended by any adults. The oldest child seemed to be no more than 8 and carried a toddler on her back. It occurred to us she was the acting parent. She knew when to offer the small child a ride, when to put her down, and when to give her the small piece of bread she pulled from her dress.

Tucked away in an alley off of an unmarked street, the Bana Center sits beckoning all women, who lack the ability to parent, need help, or are HIV positive but want to be informed how to birth an uninfected baby. Bana, although humble in all appearance, holds the most precious of Mekele's treasures...children. These children, from the age of 2 days to 4 years old, shine from the inside out. Visitors easily coax smiles and hugs from these small faces. It is clear the caregivers at Bana love the children for whom they care. Last night, we spent the evening at Bana with Mezekir's birth mother. After our meeting (which I'm not ready to share about), we stayed and loved on the children at Bana. All I could think as I stared into the crib, which was once Mezekir's, into the eyes of a 3 month old girl, who was smaller than most average American newborns, was one day she will know a family. Gladney is preparing referrals for the majority of the children in the Bana Center at this moment. How I wish I could find her parents and share with them the love she knows even now, the joy we experienced to dote over her malnourished body, as we caressed her small feet, and stared into her bright eyes. Another little girl, 22 days old, slept peacefully wrapped in a blanket and covered with sheets. Paula would have tucked her into her bag and left were she sure not to be incarcerated. Our children made special friends with a sibling set of a boy and a girl. Hunter, Ann-Elizabeth, Preston, and Ava played peek-a-boo with the older brother. They cheered for their 3 year old friend as he mastered "hook em' horns" and "bye-bye". Hunter chose to leave him with a small memento of their time together, his favorite UT hat. He hasn't missed it, either!

Next, were able to visit the hospital where Mezekir was born. Imagine a compound filled with small cinderblock buildings, which are connected by a few covered passages. The dust from the hospital grounds blows freely into the patient rooms and surgical areas. And although the dust can be overwhelming, the breeze does provide a moments break from the heavy smells of body fluids, waste, and en patients. Two beds with stirrups comprise the delivery room. It seems these beds have not been cleaned since the last round of patients passed through. The boards, which cover the sink, give the appearance that they lack running water. The medicine cabinets are bare; and there are no surgical instruments, draping cloths, anesthetics, or niceties in sight. Behind a set of thin curtains, Josh and I can hear a mother laboring. The postpartum wing is within a few steps of the delivery room. Post postpartum mothers occupy three of the five beds in the room, and the babies sleep on the foot of the beds wrapped in large blankets and covered fully by a sheet. One of the nurses, a sister, arrives to check on a very young mother and her small baby. The baby arrived two months early. He is a blue color and not doing well. The sister tells our case worker he will be lucky to make it through the night. I can only think the difference geography and money would make on such a small life. We swooshed the flies away, off the baby and the mother, before leaving the room and the hospital. My heart can't take in the goodness of God to protect our small, sweet Mezekir from complications. But I am reminded, once again, what is truly common to 80% of the population is not the American standard.

I can't put into words the experience in Mekele. All in all, the time was joyous, emotional, beautiful and necessary. It is amazing to experience such extreme joy in the midst of undeniable loss and need. The simplicity of life offers its own level of peace. But the peace God has provided extends all explanation. How fortunate are the people of this small city and how fortunate are we to experience the beauty of Mekele and it's people. Cheers to Tirhast, Lydia, Caleb, Emmanuel, Samita, and Awtash, the jewels of Mekele.