"Mom, I don't want to leave", I heard him say as we made our way through security. Looking over at my beautiful 11 year old whose eyes were filled with tears, I realized it had happened to him too. Those darn Ethiopians had done to him what they do best, those thieves had stolen his heart!
This was my prayer ... THIS was my greatest prayer! That my family would see in them what I did - JOY, LOVE, and HIM!
75 LONG hours of travel chaos into a new culture they had never experienced, into orphanages and into the lives of children that now had become a face rather than a statistic gleaned more than any $ amount could tell. Too much money to mention to make that all happen and yet, watching my children come alive was the most priceless gift the Lord could have ever given me is still indescribable!
He arrested their hearts. He showed them himself in the children they loved. They couldn't necessarily put it into words at 11 and 9, yet then again ... at 37, I find myself stumbling through trying to find the perfect ones to summarize it all. Impossible!
Our trip to Ethiopia is one that will not soon be forgotten in our home. I watched as my blue eyed beauty came into her own. As she handed her water (and her lollipops and granola bars) to the homeless man with elephant feet, it hit me ... she doesn't see him ... she sees HIM! Isn't that what the Lord tells us about his Kingdom - like little children. Isn't it why he tells us to be more like them - they see past what the world sees and loves without abandon. My little girl showed me that on the side of the street of Ethiopia, Africa. This trip, it wasn't just a gift to them ... it was a gift to me!
As my sweet boy handed out cars to the children at the orphanage who all had HIV, I realized, he doesn't know what HIV is and well, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter! As Dakota held hands and danced away with her precious new friend, it dawned on me ... she doesn't know her story, she doesn't care that she is an orphan ... it doesn't matter. Every single one of those children are HIS!
As Canyon went to EVERY street kid he could find, I watched as he watched them. Judgement wasn't on his face. No, compassion and love were written all over him. He sized them up and all I could think that he was thinking is that "that could be me". "Daddy, Daddy, can I have some burr" he would say. "I want to buy some gum". We already had 10 packs ... but what is a few more when it means you get to support a child whose eyes you have just encountered. It wasn't about the gum, Canyon was dying to play and know those children! As he stood in the court building against the window, I saw him making sign language out into the street. Looking out I saw a sweet street child he had befriended. Never mind that they were probably signing to each other in two different languages ... it didn't matter.
"Yonas, can you pull over so I can buy that soccer ball" he would say. Thinking that he had bought himself a souvenir, we all worried as it got the tar beat out of it during a game of soccer at the transitional home. Adults all apologized that his "new" ball was now torn. Canyon, looking at us with confusion of why we'd be so upset said "I didn't buy it for me ... I bought it to bless the man I purchased it from and to give to the kids so they could enjoy it". That ball ... it didn't matter!
I will never be able to put our trip into words. I will never be able to write on paper or on a blog what we experienced together. Oh sure, the highlight was meeting our new brother and son, but what we had prayed would happen ... DID!
When asking Canyon if he could tell his friends one thing about Ethiopia, what would it be? He responded "They live in greater poverty than I have ever seen and yet they have more joy and compassion than anyone I have ever met".
JOY ... complete dependence on HIM = JOY
Indeed, it is true what Matthew says "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me".
Canyon and Dakota had many encounters with their Savior during their sweet 11 days. They saw him, they felt him and they loved him, with each smile and embrace of their new friends that had forever changed their hearts! This was our biggest prayer ... and God answered it more than we could have ever asked or imagined. Priceless!
*There were so many moments along the way that were those "perfect" picture moments in time. But in our keeping with trying to love others (and not make them out to be like animals in the zoo - taking from them something as we "take" their picture), those moments were simply captured in my mind, but here are a few along the way that I did take*
|Shopping at the "post office" - Canyon's favorite time to talk with all the street kids and "Shop" from their boxes of gum|
|Dakota shows the girls at the transitional home how to do crafts with pipe cleaners|
|Dakota and her new friend, Sentauyu|
|Fast friends, you would have thought they had known each other for years|
|Sweet kids at the transitional home who sang us some great songs|
|A visit to "AHOPE" (an orphanage with HIV+ children only) stole our hearts. One little precious girl that climbed into Daddy's lap will not be soon forgotten! Canyon enjoyed giving each little one a new car toy to play with|
|Ashenafi - soccer buds|
|Play time with new friends|
|Zebene meeting us for the first time. I can only imagine what his little mind is doing in that moment|
|If only Maliah was with us ... this would be a PERFECT picture|
|Our beautiful boy. Those eyes and his smile stole our hearts!|