Monday, March 17, 2008

CHFS invests in eternity

It’s Monday late night March 17th.
I’ll tell you all about the events of today… but let me first fill in some of the gaps from the last couple days. Honestly, after writing until almost 3am on Saturday … that whole day is kind of a blur… but it was a good day. After breakfast we headed over to the CHFS Office and met with the social worker who’s been assigned to Tariku from the time he was brought there on Nov. 21st. During that meeting, went over a few other details about the transition for Tariku, and then we were shown a video produced by CHFS staff and the CHFS Journalist. The video included every detail that they could find about our son. We are so thankful and very impressed at the thoroughness of the CHFS team to get the most accurate information possible for not just our son, but also for all the other orphans in their care as well. The Journalist went to Butajira and interviewed the Farmer who first found Tariku. They even played out a reenactment of the events from the time the farmer heard Tariku crying to the time the police got involved. The journalist did a great job with the filmed interviews and helping us understand as many of the missing pieces as possible. Through those interviews and documentary account of the first few days of Tariku’s life, we were given more information than we thought was available. We are so incredibly thankful for the intentional effort by the whole CHFS team to better prepare us as a family to help Tariku learn the details of his story as he grows up. We learned a little about the farmer who found him, and that he dropped everything he was doing and got in touch with the Butajira police. Two police officers, Genet and Alemayue came back to the site where Tariku was found to do some additional investigation and it was quickly determined that until they found the birth mother or decided what to do with the little guy that Genet, one of the two officers would take care of him temporarily.
ON a short side note: Amy and I are still processing –with the help of our agency – how to best communicate Tariku’s story to our close friends and family… please be patient with us as we learn what to say… and how much to share about his story before he knows his own entire story.
Genet took care of Tariku like one of her own children. We are so grateful for the farmer and for Genet and Alemayue who made sure Tariku was safe and placed in the hands of folks who could and would care for him.
After that meeting, we all went out to the local open markets to pick up a few things… can’t wait to see how much our suitcases are gonna weigh now?! …lol… they just can’t weigh over 50lbs. After we had a good time haggling for goods, we went to a famous Coffee Shop here in Addis. Starbucks…eat your heart out. I promise you’ve never had real coffee until you’ve come to Ethiopia! There’s long told story that Coffee was first discovered and developed here into a drink. More details on that later… The Coffee show put us at almost 7pm that night so Amy and the girls and I opted to remain at the Guesthouse and eat there instead of heading out to a local hotel for dinner and dancing.
When we talked later about Saturday nights activities, most everyone was thankful for the opportunity to learn a few other Ethiopian traditions, but wished they were able to rest more because we all headed out in a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers at 5am Sunday morning for the three hour ride south to Hosanna. Sunday morning had been carved out for everyone to meet our children’s birth families if they were able to be there.
Most of us thought we were going to be in for a very bumpy slow going ride over rough roads all the way to Hosanna, but over the last few years the Ethiopian government has worked with international contractors and their own government contractors to begin building major roads throughout the most traveled areas of the country. Maybe picture the equivalent to a wide 2 lane country highway in the US and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the road we sped south on from Addis to Hosanna. It was obvious though that even though the roads were newly paved, they were established roads from long ago because every several miles we’d have to dodge crossing sheep and goats or wait for livestock ‘driven’ by children - literally kids, most between the ages of 4-16yrs old - to readjust the herd as they guided the animals from one village to the next along the highway. It was kinda chilly on the way there. It was really dark when we left from Addis and was probably about 60 degrees, but is cold when used to dry 80+ degree weather. We didn’t see much except an incredible sky of countless stars as we sped along the desert mountain road, however, as the sun came up we did manage to catch a baboon headed into a treeline. I got a picture and some video of him just before he disappeared. It was a great experience too - heading south – because we got a better idea of how MOST of the country lives as Addis and other larger cities are just a small proportion of the people in the country. We got a chance to see small towns and rural areas and areas pretty isolated from towns it was a way to see how most of the rest of the country lives.
Of the 7 families in our group, all but two made the trip to Hosanna. We all knew it was going to be a very special but difficult time for us. We arrived at the Hosanna CHFS Office about 8:30 on Sunday morning and two or three families at a time got to meet their birth families for almost 30 minutes. Amy and I didn’t know if anyone would be there to meet us until Saturday night when we learned that they were able to get in contact with Genet, the policewoman who cared for Tariku for the first two and a half days of his life.
When we walked into the small plain room with our translator, we introduced ourselves and shared a little about us and our family. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked with Genet about the first few days of Tariku’s life, her family, and her hopes and dreams for Tariku. Genet is a police officer and her husband works in a local bank and they have two children. She explained that when the farmer brought her and a fellow police officer, Alemayue to Tariku, the three of them determined the next course of action for him. Genet readily agreed to care for him temporarily until they could bring him to someone that would provide permanent care. She gave him her child’s clothes to wear, bought milk and water for him, and made sure he felt safe and loved. She and her husband already had a six month old little girl and another small child and even though she wished they could care for Tariku permanently, they knew they could not afford to properly care for him too. It would have been too much for them, and they knew that he could be adopted and cared for by a family that would provide a caring and loving home for him. The meeting time with Genet was very special, and we will always treasure it. After we met with Genet we gave her recent pictures of our family, and of Tariku along with a map of the world showing the areas we both lived so she had an idea where we were from too. We able to get a picture of our family with Genet too.
After meeting with Genet, all of the birth parents’ met together with all of we adopting parents for a short ceremony. We read a prayer to each other that was translated for both of us to read and understand. When the prayer was finished each of the birth parents lit a candle and gave it to each of the corresponding adoptive parents as they kind of spiritually gave over their children to us.
We’ve learned recently that everything from the video that we’re provided, to the connection that we’ve shared with birth parents, along with the very special ceremony we shared on Sunday – that that is all very unique to our agency and to Ethiopia. Evidently, no other agency goes into this much detail. We have all been more impressed with CHFS as the days have passed. Now we know why this agency is so highly regarded and respected by not just folks in the US trying to adopt from Ethiopia and other countries, but their reputation precedes them as children are brought to their care centers from all over the county because families know that as difficult as it is to give up their own children or a member of their extended family, they will be provided the best love and care available! After that time together we were all pretty ‘drained’ but just before the ride back to Addis from Hosanna we were able to visit another satellite orphanage run by CHFS. Again, everyone of the children there were loved and cared for in a special and individual way.
You know, when Amy and I first looked at CHFS, we were a little bit hesitant because there was some additional costs associated with working with them. However, after seeing how they not only care and provide for our children, but SO many more… I don’t know if I’ll ever recommend working with a different organization!
We got back Sunday evening and most went to bed early to prepare to pick up our kids on Monday morning to spend half the day with them here at the guesthouse!
Today - Monday (3/17) was a great experience… at least for most of us. I’m really glad that the agency only allows us a half day at first to spend alone with our kids because especially the older kids can have an incredibly difficult time adjusting. For us, we had a great morning with little Tariku. He was a little baffled by the idea of leaving the familiar sights and sounds and smells of the orphanage, but his wimper died down in a short while as we held him close. He is really enamored with his big sisters, and he loves the carrier we got for him too. We all went up to our room and laughed and played together. We even got to feed him a bottle and put him to sleep for a little bit before we left to bring him back.
Most of us had a great experiences this morning, but I’m sure the parents with older children would really appreciate your extra prayer. For older children the transition is many times much more difficult, especially if the older child remembers their birth family. Can you imagine… consider a child almost 3 years old, Mom (or Dad) finally admits to herself and the rest of the family that the only way she can love her child the best is to give it up for adoption. That is not uncommon here. It is hardly ever a quick or easy decision. Sure there are some parents who die young from various reasons, or some moms who die during childbirth (that almost always would not if in the US, Europe or Canada). Many times parents come to the point that they love their kids so much that they want them to have a better life so desperately; their prayer becomes: God please provide a loving home for my child to have the life that I wished I could provide. I wish it didn’t happen either but it does… what can we… what can you do about it?!
After we dropped off our kids back at the care center, we headed off to visit two places. First a womens’ and baby’s hospital and then a school – both funded and operated by CHFS sponsored staff. This hospital was not completely up to Western Standards in many ways, but it is the most state of the art facility in the area right now, and they are raising the standard of care as they bring on more trained staff and doctors. The Supervising Doctor that gave us the tour of the hospital was so excited that we were there and was so glad to show us the entire facility and its capabilities. It was a huge privilege to see how far they’ve come in a short time. They’ve only been open since October 2007!
After the hospital tour we headed over to an elementary school funded largely by CHFS. More and more there are individual investors and companies that fund it as well. The great thing is that they are able to keep the tuition about a third of what other comparable schools charge with the same level of education that other schools like them provide. As I said, I am even further impressed with CHFS for not just caring for our children in the care centers but investing into their communities in such orchestrated and intentional ways!
After that hospital visit we went to visit the Ethiopian National museum. One of the premiere exhibits there is this skeleton they call “Lucy” don’t ask me why they call it Lucy … maybe it was named after the archeologist… I donno. Anyway “Lucy” is supposed to be the oldest known homo sapien skeleton on the planet. You know you’d think that the silly thing would be behind more than a sheet of plexi glass in the basement of a museum in a country that struggles with their own security. I guess the real skeleton is in Houston, TX …”on tour” – I guess they’re trying to find similarities in early humans, in Texans. … who knows. I guess “lucy” will come back to Ethiopia some time. We had fun taking all kinds of pictures of Ethiopian history and archeology stuff. I must admit… T’was kinda cool.

When we got back from another long day, a few of us took a walk over to a local pizza joint… yeah it WAS good pizza. It was good to decompress some too….
The next couple days will be jammed packed for us, so I’ll write as soon as I’m able. Tomorrow, all of us go pick up our kids from the orphanage, and go to the local court to finalize the final Ethiopian documents releasing them into our permanent care. It will be a long day, and depending on a few things, it could be a stressful day. CHFS does an incredible job, but sometimes things change it seems almost at the drop of a hat in this court system. We’d appreciate your prayer for all of us as we get through court tomorrow. I’ll try to post something soon so you know at least we all got through court ok.
Wednesday will be kind of a chill day for us, and Thursday apparently we have a final meeting with CHFS. Then as most of the other families head to the Airport to fly out with Ethioain Airlines, our family will actually head back to the SIM guesthouse because we don’t fly out until Friday evening the 21st. with Air Emirates. We would love to hear from you via email… let us know if you’re enjoying following this crazy story.
Until next time…Pete for the girls and Tariku !


  1. Dear Pete, Amy and family,
    The photos are great...the Chronicles of Africa get more and more inspiring to read...and we can't wait to see you ALL on Saturday. God bless you for the remaining days in Addis. We love you.


  2. Hey guys - I love checking your blog every day! Sounds like you're having a wonderful experience with the culture and Tariku's caregivers. He is a blessed little man. Have a safe trip home and we'll see you on Sunday! Deb & the McKinneys

  3. Hey guys....I check your blog everyday for new updates!! It sounds like you are all have a wonderful and blessed experience. I loved seeing you guys actually there! You all have been in my prayers!! I can't wait to meet Tariku!! Much love to all!! Tara

  4. Lucy was named by the archaeology team who found her and she got that name because "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" was on their radio during excavation and examination. - you'll find the story of Lucy there as told by the archaeologist, Donald Johanson.


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