How did you decide to adopt from Ethiopia?
I have heard this question asked of other adoptive families, and I have heard it answered in this way: "Because that's where my child was." While I completely understand the heart of that answer (more now than ever!) that answer doesn't completely get to the heart of the question... How did you know that's where your child was?
When I was pregnant, even before we found out "officially," I just knew I was pregnant. I knew. Not only did I know there was a baby, but I knew where he or she was! Physiologically speaking, it seems obvious, but now that we are adding to our family another way I see a correlation (at least for me.) Once I realized I had a child somewhere, the next thing I needed to know was where that somewhere was! The decision to adopt was solidifying, but to continue taking steps it was necessary to pursue a particular program for a particular country. Whether domestic or international, we couldn't just apply to receive a baby from "somewhere." The requirements vary from country to country, paperwork has to be submitted to a particular country, travel arrangements have to be made. There wasn't some Global Adoption Agency where you submit general paperwork and get your child from... Somewhere. So, the question was... where???
My husband and I came at this from two different angles. I believe this was by God's design and would ultimately confirm this decision for us. Of course it was a major matter of prayer, one of utmost importance. At first it seemed like it might be China. It seemed we were seeing news and video of Asian orphans at every turn, we had at least one family friend pursuing a Chinese adoption and knew of several others. Additionally, my daughter and I made our first mission trip to China in 2005 and our whole family's hearts were captured by a growing love for the people and country of China. That year we were in the beginning stages of praying about adoption, and while I was there I looked intently at precious Chinese babies, checking my heart to see if I felt any "tugs." Then, I wondered, would I feel it? Is that even a reliable way to know? Is that relying too much on emotion for a decision this big? The next summer, in 2006, our then-12-year-old daughter spent 6 weeks over there without us, staying with our sweet missionary friends. Never before had my heart been in China to that degree! For a month and a half, I knew I had at least one daughter in China! But, did I have another? I continued to pray. Both my daughter and my son felt like it was China. My husband was pretty sure as well... but not me. Why was that? Why couldn't I just get on board? I purposed to pray specifically about it in China on our 2007 trip. And I did. Along with the other myriad of things to pray about on any type of mission trip, I spent a significant amount of time before our trip last May, on the plane on the way, and on the ground in China praying about our potential adoption. Is she here? God, will you tell me? I didn't want to have a child somewhere and not know it! I asked God to please tug at my heartstrings, or in some tangible way show me where my child was while I was in China. Of course, He was not obligated to give me a "sign" but there are Biblical examples of Him graciously doing so for others (Gideon comes to mind) so I prayed those Biblical precedents and asked Him to please do the same for me.
Before I tell you what happened in China, I will say that I had been praying through all the countries. When I say "all the countries" I mean, countries with programs in reputable adoption agencies that my husband had found. So there was a veritable UN council living in my head! Many countries were represented, and pictures of precious children from those countries were burned into my heart. Would one of those children be mine? I was still praying. Meanwhile, my husband was looking seriously at agencies. He boiled it down to a few agencies that he felt really "knew their stuff" and with whom he felt comfortable working. So, while I was praying through the countries, he was praying through the agencies. The two would eventually meet!
During the time I was praying through the countries, begging God for some sort of "sign," my heart continued to be drawn to Africa. Of course, after our family's first trip to Ghana in 2004, a large part of my heart never came back! I had been thinking about Africa every day, in some form. Of the agencies my husband had found, none had a program for Ghana, but the continent of Africa was always pictured prominently in my mind as I prayed about where we would adopt. And then I began to see it... everywhere.
I wish I had pictures of all the places I saw it. I wish I had written it down! One that comes to mind is an Africa-shaped grease spot at a gas station not far from my home. (I'm not kidding. The kids verified it.) Another was perfectly Africa-shaped bunch of grapes. A commercial here, a song there, a photo in a magazine... Africa everywhere! But, meanwhile we were going to China again (as I mentioned above) and at this point the other three members of our family still felt like she was in China. Which brings me back to our trip there last May. While there I prayed and prayed. I looked at precious Chinese babies right in the face. It was as if I was searching for her. No matter what task was at hand, it was in my mind at all times. And I felt I was getting an answer: Not China. I just knew it wasn't. Three days before we were to leave the country, I felt like I had my answer, or at least part of it. The "not China" part was only half of the question.
We spent the last 2 days in Beijing, our trip was winding down. I was with two other women on a bus, the rest of the team was elsewhere, including Bethany who was at a market with some friends. The two other women I was with were talking with each other and I took some time to look out the window and take in some new views of Beijing. While we were riding, I also decided to pray. I prayed for a few moments, for my husband and son back at home, for our travel, for the people of Beijing, for Chinese Christians, and once again, for some clarity on the adoption issue. After I had finished praying, our bus continued toward our destination, and I looked out of the window to my left and saw a sign. (I'd been praying for a sign, right? God may have given me a literal "sign!") This particular sign was written in English and in plain letters, simply said, "ETHIOPIA" What? A sign in China that said the word "Ethiopia? In English? Where did that come from? Was I seeing things? I turned to my friend (who lives in China) and said, "Um, J.? Did you see that sign back there that said 'Ethiopia' or am I seeing things?" (I was wondering if perhaps God had put that sign there just for me.) She told me that that was the Ethiopian Embassy. So, there were two good reasons for that sign to be there!
I wondered if perhaps the second part of the "not China" answer could be "It's Ethiopia." I took that answer home with me and began praying for God to tell the rest of the family.
And, He did!
I decided to continue to pray and wait, much like I had during the decision to adopt. I didn't want everyone to come to the same conclusion I had simply because I kept yapping about it (my usual M.O. ;) Slowly, one by one, throughout the summer and fall, the other three members of the family began to say, "Yeah, I think it's there, too." First was my daughter, then my son, then finally my husband. (The agency he wanted to work with had a program for that country.) I'm not sure how each of them came to that realization, I just know we all finally landed in the same country.
And we haven't looked back. We are so excited about this new direction we are headed, to a place we've never been. A new people group to embrace in our hearts, a new country to fall in love with, and most of all, the one who's been missing from our lives will come home to her forever family!
We know where she is.