Ready for Home

I’d say we’re in a joyful, foggy state of shock. Such is the case when you welcome a new biological baby to your home as well. Feels similar. Except add in jet lag, third world probs, and strong cravings for iced tap water.

When we arrived on Monday, we first visited Farahol, the child we sponsor through Compassion International. The experience was incredible. More to come on that later. For now, I’ll just say, if you’ve been considering sponsoring a compassion child, do it. Oh my word, please do it. Orphan prevention at its finest. Here are some pics from our visit to Farahol’s village.

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This is Farahol’s awesome mom and his house. One room for five people. Stop complaining people.

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After a quick visit with Farahol, we went to the orphanage, and Malachi’s caregivers and friends threw him a going away party. So bittersweet to see him hug the people who have cared for him for so long. Yet, he seems happy to go to “Omerica” and regularly pretends to fly his toy plane there.

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We began the 2-hour trek back to Addis where he will stay with us in the hotel until we depart. Nap time.

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Malachi Yadesa is happy and energetic and full of life, and we love him to pieces. He never wants us to leave his sight. The sounds from the other side of the bathroom door…. “Mom?… Mom?”

We’re dealing with all of the typical orphanage baggage and medical needs we anticipated, plus things we never even considered, like excessive gagging when we brush his teeth. It had clearly never happened before. His eating habits are, well, primitive (think… digging into a bowl of rice with his hands), and he’s still figuring out the function of a straw (so much for the spaceship water bottle I packed for him). He’s also completely fascinated with running water. The language barrier is HUGE so we use lots of made up sign language and try out some survival Amharic we’ve learned. He usually just looks at us funny and babbles something back in Amharic. Nod and smile.

We celebrate lots of victories and answered prayers. Malachi is a great sleeper, a great eater, doesn’t show any visible symptoms of grief or abuse or food hoarding, and already shows some really healthy signs of attachment. Mom!? Dad!?

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When in Africa, you become willing to show the world pictures of yourself like this one. Unfiltered, real life. You’re welcome.

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Yesterday, we went to the US Embassy to finalize immigration paperwork. His visa will be ready earlier than we expected, so we changed our travel plans to leave earlier as well.

We need prayers for the 18 hour plane ride to Washington DC. I mean on-your-knees, hands-to-the-heavens battle prayers, please.

We’re both full of joy and incredibly overwhelmed. Orphan care’s weight is heavier than we could ever bear alone. Jesus, the burden is yours. You’re gonna have to handle the heavy lifting.

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Dancing and Donkeys and Really Sweet Kids

With court completed, our agency treated us to a celebratory Ethiopian cultural dinner yesterday evening. Injera plus all the fixings.

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And dancing too. The cultural dance is something like tribal stomp plus hip hop with serious skill. Totally fun. They made Mitch give it a shot. Well, it was a good try.

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This morning we visited Make Your Mark Ministries, an organization that was started by some mutual American friends. They provide loving environments for kids living on the streets of Addis, work to prevent children in extreme poverty from ending up on the streets, and strive to reintegrate street kids into families. They also work to raise awareness about the need for adoption in local Ethiopian communities.

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With 5.5 million orphans living in Ethiopia, international adoption could never solve the predicament at hand. Make Your Mark is diving deep into the root of the orphan crisis which is quite simply poverty. They are creating local awareness and challenging Ethiopians to think about their own personal responsibility to care for vulnerable children.

These boys at the MYM center were just the sweetest, greeting us like they had known us forever. Catching them during soccer practice was a special treat.

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Roaming donkey servants, please try not to disrupt the soccer game.

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The gut-wrenching stories we heard during our visit to Make Your Mark Ministries opened our eyes and troubled our hearts. I’m so thankful for people like the leaders at Make Your Mark who are willing to sacrifice themselves and devote their lives to serve the least of these.

For four short days, we have lived amongst such a beautiful community of people; yet we are burdened and sickened by the social injustice we have witnessed. Poverty, oppression, disease, prostitution, rape. I flip and flop between feeling incredibly compelled to do something about it and completely overwhelmed that the problem is too gigantic to ever be solved. I will not be ignorant. I will not be indifferent. Yet, I have no answers. Lord Jesus, come quickly and redeem a broken world.

Introducing Malachi Yadesa Kuhn

Ethiopian court is complete and he is ours. Let me introduce you to Malachi Yadesa Kuhn.

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His first name Malachi will be his American name. You might sometimes hear us shorten it to Kai. His middle name, Yadesa, is his Ethiopian name. The name Yadesa means “God knows.” We would love to retain that part of his heritage, for his Ethiopian name truly tells the story of his beginnings. God has known and remembered Yadesa. In Ethiopia, most handicapped people have no future beyond a life of beggary on city streets. Noone knew Yadesa’s future. God knew. And I can just imagine him speaking his promise over Yadesa.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

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He was checking out his family book. It will stay with him until we return.

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And he loves loves loves his dad!

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I’m cool too. Just not as cool as dad.

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Who says orphanages don’t have physical therapy. Rolling suitcase equals walker. And he could totally do it!

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He’s not a fan of animal crackers. He thought it would be better for me to eat them.

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As we pull away from the orphanage. Chow! Chow!

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Malachi Yadesa Kuhn, welcome to our family where you are loved whether you walk or crawl or roll. Welcome to America where you get to be anything you want to be regardless of how well your legs work. Welcome to school, doctors’ visits, dentist appointments, playground trips, church, birthday presents, and family dinners. It might not be what you’re used to, but I think you’ll grow to like it here.

Much more than a humanitarian rescue mission, Malachi’s adoption is a beautiful display of the gospel. It’s what separates Christianity from every other religion in the world. God did not expect us to rise to Him or do enough good works to make him happy. Rather, he sent Jesus to be my rescuer when I did nothing. He relentlessly pursued me when I was helpless. He found me where I was and redeemed me by the blood of Jesus from the universal human problem of sin. He adopted me into his family when I had no hope. The longer we walk this journey, the more I am amazed at the parallels. We don’t adopt to give Malachi wealth. We adopt because we have been adopted.

The Last Leg

We enjoyed some down time in DC yesterday evening. A leisurely dinner and a movie before departing this morning for Addis. We made some new friends in DC. A phillipino shuttle driver who wanted us to adopt our next child from Manilla. A taxi driver from Kuwait who thought us converting to Islam would be a good idea. And a restaurant buddy who was sure that adoption and being Republican were synonymous.

This morning, we headed to the Dulles airport and boarded our plane. 

   
 
We’ll be on the ground in 12 hours.  When we land, it will be 7am in Ethiopia. We’ll meet our driver and then make a couple hours drive outside of Addis Ababa to Malachi’s orphanage in Adama where we will meet him for the first time. Lots of butterflies are happening right now. It feels like the night before your wedding or some other super important life event. Maybe worse. 

Will he smile or cry? Will he hate me or like me? Will he be excited or completely afraid? Will he even want to play with any of the toys we brought? Will he be able to comprehend in any sense what is about to take place? This kid’s world is about to get turned upside down, beautifully wrecked. And he likely will have no clue that it is for the better. Adoption is redemption. Where there is redemption, there was brokenness. Today is day #1 of healing for this little boy. Oh that he might comprehend today just an iota of the wonderful adventure that is to come. And if he doesn’t, may we have the grace and wisdom to gently lead him to understand how much we care for him. 

A long and life-changing day is ahead. Must sleep on this flight. Here’s to hoping the sleep mask + Melatonin do their job.

  

Court Date!!!

Hello from Baltimore where I’m on a quick one-night work trip. This morning, I was having breakfast at the hotel, preparing for our client presentation with Troy (owner extraordinaire), Glen (creative director extrordinaire), and Corinne (account executive extraordinaire), when my phone rings. The screen says Lesley. (She’s the case worker who has put up with my endless complaining and badgering. Thank you Lesley!)

Ring Ring

Me: “THIS IS MY COURT DATE!!”

Get up from table and run to lobby

Ring Ring

Me: Hello.

Lesley: Are you ready to go to Africa?

I’ve been waiting on this phone call for nearly three years, so I felt like ugly crying and screaming simultaneously. I did neither. When in a pressured panic, I put on a calm façade, assess the situation, and get the details! There will be time for crying later. Thanks for the life skill, mom.

So, we’re heading to Ethiopia THIS WEEKEND to meet the little dude we’ve waited an eternity to meet. And Esther 4:14 keeps playing in my head: “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”

It’s really happening. We are really are coming for you Malachi!

Cautious Optimism

Mom has often said that dad and I are pessimists. But I say we’re realists. If the good Lord graced me with a few droplets of optimism at birth, this journey has beaten them straight out of me. Perhaps two and a half years ago I approached this journey with calm and confident anticipation. Now, I’m fresh out.

Today, we were told the one letter we have been waiting on for nearly 5 months could be just days away. Caseworker says, “Get your plans in order and be ready to travel on very short notice.” Well actually, the travel to-do list was completed in February, so I think we’re all set.

Hope has come and gone more times than I can recount. Right now, I have it again, but it is purposefully extremely cautious. I am more than ready to end this paper pregnancy slash non-hormone induced emotional roller coaster. But I’m holding off on my happy dance until my feet are on Ethiopian soil. There have been enough hiccups and delays and dark, “this-might-never-happen” moments to keep us 100% dependent on the Lord.

Most recently, the government office that needs to write the letter was closed for 10 days due to power outages, a common occurrence there. Dear God, keep the lights on long enough for them to write this letter! I never thought I would send up fierce, on-your-knees, tear-filled battle prayers… for electricity.

When it comes to getting ready for the trip, there’s one thing I haven’t done yet, and it’s actually something you could help with. We plan to bring 2 suitcases full of donations for Malachi’s orphanage on each of our two trips. The orphanage needs some very specific items. If you’d like to help by donating some of these items, we’ll make sure they make it with us on one of our two trips. Please only new or almost new clothes, toys, and books.

Baby/Children’s Shampoo
Lice Shampoo
Baby/Children’s Soap
Hygiene products
Oral Hygiene Products
Diaper Cream, Powder, Lotion,
Baby Wipes
Nutramigen baby formula
Pedialyte Packets
Rice Cereal
Diapers – Cloth or Disposable
Surgical Gloves – Size Medium
Children’s Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol
Other Common Children’s Medications
Slip-on Closed toes shoes
Bedding (Crib, twin and full sizes)
Mosquito Nets
Toys
Books
Clothing for children ages 4 – 12
DVDs (learning or Disney)

We’ve walked this road for long enough to know that if the next blog post is a bon voyage, it will certainly be miraculous. I’m calling my warrior prayer people. You call your warrior prayer people. If ever there was a time to go before the throne and beg for a booming miracle, it is now.

The Wait Gets Longer

After wrapping up our home study, and completing our dossier, our paperwork arrived in Ethiopia and we joined the bottom of the waiting list in December. Since that time, we’ve moved one spot on that waiting list. Yes, just one spot. The community of waiting families is pretty discouraged, as a perfect storm of events in Ethiopia seems to have everyone waiting longer than they originally expected… and we all originally expected a long time.

We originally anticipated waiting 18-24 months for a referral after our dossier reached Ethiopia. Because of the recent Ethiopian governmental delays, our agency now anticipates our wait will be approximately 3 years. Mitch will be a year past the big 3-0, and I’ll be closing in on it. Year 2017. Maddox will be turning 5. It seems like an eternity. (And no, I don’t think 30 is old).

In January, we joined other families in prayer and fasting for Ethiopian adoption after rumors were swirling about an uncertain future for the process. Since that time, we’ve heard continually that Ethiopia will remain open to intercountry adoption but that their government will be working hard to improve their process which may cause delays.

It’s crazy to think that God provided the funding so quickly but then would have us wait so long to actually meet the child. We believe that God’s wisdom is rich, deep, and many times “past finding out.” We believe that he intervenes in our lives daily and is orchestrating this chapter according to His will. So for now, we trust that his ways are much, much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and we rest in our faith that his plans are for our family’s good (Jeremiah 29:11).

In the meantime, we’ve found some really fun ways to stay connected to Ethiopia. More to come on that later… or else I won’t have anything to blog about for the next 3 years.

The Kuhn Family Stops Eating for Very Few Reasons

The adoption process is unpredictable and ever changing. Choosing to be blessed by adoption means committing your heart to an uncertain roller coaster.

Perhaps we’re taking our first nose dive on the coaster… one that will lead us to join with many other adoptive families in fasting for Ethiopia’s orphans this Thursday through Saturday.

Here’s why…

In a recent meeting, an Ethiopian governmental committee was given the task of developing an action plan to improve human rights in Ethiopia. The committee has 10 days to deliver their plan to Parliament. Improving human rights encompasses improving international adoption, among other issues like teen pregnancy, poverty, orphaned children, and awareness of local adoption.

This meeting came after a TV broadcast in Ethiopia portrayed a generally negative view of international adoption and exposed improvements needed to the process, including claims that some birth parents have not understood that adoption entails permanent placement and that orphanages have been given money for the placement of children.

These claims are heartbreaking, and one can only hope they are the very rare exception to an otherwise ethically solid system. The Christian orphan care movement is a wonderful reality, but the evil one is lurking, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy the beauty of a gospel-centered act. We have no way of knowing how much corruption exists, but we believe any system under scrutiny is wise to take a step back and evaluate opportunities for improvement.

Ever since this meeting, rumors have been swirling about the impact this plan will have on international adoption. Increasing wait times? Tightening restrictions on adoptive families? Some have gone so far as to assume Ethiopia will completely close to inter country adoption, although most don’t believe that the Prime Minister, Parliament, or the Ethiopian Federal Government would support a shutdown.

Instead of becoming frustrated by increasing wait times and the uncertain road ahead, we will pray for what we can’t control. Truth is we want to see an end to child trafficking even more than we want our adoption process to be completed speedily. We support the Ethiopian government in their efforts to improve human rights and end any corruption that may exist in the inter country adoption process.

We would never want to hound our agency for a faster referral only to feed demand in a very very dark market for children, however large or small it may be. Instead we will bathe our wait in prayer and patiently anticipate the child God is preparing for our family – the one who truly needs a mom and a dad…and Jesus. Maybe you’d like to join us.

Fasting can seem like a weird and intimidating concept. Especially weird for a husband and wife whose happy moods are completely dependent on how much food is in our bellies. But there are many ways to fast, and only one of them is completely abandoning food. This time, our specific brand of fasting is to eat only fruits and veggies. That’s the kind of fasting that prevents our “hangry-ness,” which really wouldn’t be spiritual at all. The point of it all is simply that your hunger or your desire for different foods drive you to pray for the urgent issue at hand. You can pick a brand of fasting that works for you, or else simply join us in the praying part.

We will soon learn the recommendations of this governmental committee and the implications for our family. While they are working, here’s what we’ll be praying for:

  1. for Ethiopian government officials to be convicted of the need children have to grow up in a family and for international adoptions to remain open
  2. for an end to any corruption, deceit, inappropriate work regarding Ethiopia’s inter-country adoption
  3. for any changes implemented as a result of this action plan to be for the true benefit of the fatherless

He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20)” reigns in this corrupt world, and He hears our fervent prayers to intervene in it. May he intervene on behalf of our family and the fatherless around the world.

“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” – 1 John 5:14-15

Getting comfy at #163

At the beginning of this process, someone told us to “embrace the wait.” It’s high season to take that advice. We just received some good news and some bad news from our agency. The good news is our dossier arrived safely in Ethiopia, and we finally have our spot on the waiting list. It’s taken us a lot of paperwork and waiting to get here. The bad news is… our number is 163.

The regional Ethiopian government is required to approve all referrals before they are presented to agencies. Unfortunately, that back up creates a long list of families dependent on the government of a third-world country to move them into the next phase of the process. Being number 163 means that there are 162 families in line in front of us waiting for those approvals to receive their referral. Recently, these government approvals have been taking longer than expected, and we may end up waiting even longer than our initially-anticipated 18 months for a referral.

I think while we’re waiting I’ll enjoy a little break from the full-time adoption job that has consumed us over the last 8 months. I’ll be happy to take some time to prepare our family for a new member, make a list of favorite boy and girl names, and send up many prayers for this baby. Why bemoan what cannot be changed? After all, God has done a pretty good job orchestrating the details and timing of our family up to this point, and I don’t think He’ll stop now.

Just Dress Down

Mitch’s sister is the elementary principal at Lakeside Christian School, and being our chief officer of fundraising, she’s scheduled a special event for the students.

Next week, Lakeside will have a dress down day for orphans. Instead of wearing their normal school uniforms, students can pay $2 to dress casually. All proceeds benefit our adoption fund. Thank you Lakeside students!

To help Steph promote Dress Down Day, we made this video.  Enjoy. And Dunn&Co. friends, please don’t hate on my attempt at production.

(Click on the image below to play.)

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