Monday, March 24, 2008

Training Wheels

I had to buy some training wheels for a bike for Sammy the other day. Don't get me wrong, I already had two sets of training wheels in the garage. We had one set on JoHanna's bike and one on Michaela's old bike, now ridden by David (formerly Yoftahe), we didn't have any training wheels to throw on the bike that some friends very generously donated to us for Sammy. He and JoHanna were sharing her bike, but that wasn't always peaceful. But who in the world keeps three sets of training wheels in their garage? Well, I guess, for now, I do!

I got to thinking a little bit about training wheels and the first thought that came to mind was that I felt like an experienced parent who should be able to "ride" the parenting role pretty comfortably. But when you throw in multiples, not much previous exposure to discipline of any sort, and a language barrier that is frustrating them even more than it is frustrating us, somehow, this time around seemed very different from the first five. Training wheels - that's what I need - training wheels for parents. Praise God, He is more than that for us. He supports us and when we don't have the balance to keep moving forward, he sustains us with his mighty hand. We still feel like we fall a lot and some days we feel pretty beat up by it, but we are so grateful for the sustaining strength of God's loving arms - our training wheels for now.

It wasn't but a couple of days later that David found himself complaining that his training wheels were still letting his bike lean too much. They weren't making things as easy as he wanted them. That sounds familiar right now as well. When the boys have nightmares (something that's happened about three or four times since we've had them), I sometimes wish God's sustaining arms would put them back to sleep so I can get rest instead of having to sit on the floor with them for an hour or so until they fall back asleep. He is so powerful and can communicate His love despite any language barriers. In fact, if there ever was a good time for the gift of tongues, where it could edify those who speak and those who understand, this would have to be an optimal time - yet he lets us struggle through the communication process. We knew it wouldn't all be easy and some days we wish it were easier than it is. But I guess that's the way training wheels are supposed to work. Because the very next day, we took off the training wheels and David took off on his bike, without any supports at all. My analogy falls apart here a little, because we will never not need God's support and sustaining power. But it is worth noting that we grow stronger in our faith the more God allows those tough things to come at us and to be overcome in His power.

Can God make His Glory known in training wheels? Well, yes. But He is proving Himself to be worthy of our trust and He is keeping us upright as we learn to ride this parenting bike all over again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Glory of the Lord Every Morning

So much for blogging throughout our trip. We could not access the blog except for one time during our entire trip. So I have some catching up to do.

For the most part, we saw the Glory of God appear through an uneventful process. With the exception of a couple of last minute scrambles to collect paperwork that we didn't bring because we didn't think we needed it, and the Lord's creative supply of other needs for some of other families who were with us, the trip ran very smoothly. God was glorified in both the smoothness and the moments of turmoil. Even in the way He resolved the potential meeting with the birth mother, which ultimately involved Delisa spending about 30 minutes with her and one of the orphanages in Addis giving her a job to support herself, God was making himself clearly visible to us.

We also saw the Glory of God at work in the church and in missionary/medical ministries in Addis. One church plant by SIM, which started slow about 80 yrs ago is now a denomination of 6 million believers, in part thanks to the fact that the missionaries had to leave a couple of times during the fascist Italian occupation and the communist regime in the 80's. Another church is reaching members of the leadership of the African Union, which sits in Addis Ababa. The "Fistula Hospital" for women is a charity hospital that serves thousands of women a year who are otherwise ostracized because of unpleasant consequences of complications during rural child birth. Delisa was particularly moved with compassion over the role this hospital was playing to meet the needs of these poor African women and girls.

Our daughter, Bemnet, is a bit temperamental and is willing to scream when told "no". This has presented us a few challenges. Delisa's back isn't used to constantly carrying a 2 yr old, and when her back and Bemnet's desires weren't in sync, we got screams, looks, and an elevating "frustratometer". It was really hard in Ethiopia where every experience was in full view of the public, and because we were obviously not "from there" the stares were intense as people wanted to see how we would handle it. She doesn't like me much yet - probably because I told her "no" more in a week than she has heard in her lifetime so far. But even in this, God's Glory was revealed in her willingness, at times, to go to Luke. There is a reason this 12 yr old is so big and strong - he was made for such a time as this, and served with gladness, to carry Bemnet when needed.

The trip home was long (almost 30 hours of travel). We purchased a "kids' potty" because Bemnet is potty trained (Glory to God), but she will only go in a kids potty - she will not use an adult toilet. We were successful in getting this on as "carry on" on the plane (a first for all three sets of flight attendants), and apart from one tense moment with a senior flight attendant who questioned whether it was sanitary and threatened to fire all her staff for letting us use it instead of having Bemnet urinate all over her regular seat which is what she would have done if we hadn't been able to take it on, the Glory of God was revealed in the way he allowed this to unfold. He also kept us on time (delays on a 30 hour itinerary seem like 40 yrs in the wildnerness) and he kept our bags with us the entire time.

So, now we're home. Everyone is doing well. Sammy doesn't like any of the food we prepare for dinner, so for now, every family meal ends with a reminder that he'll get for breakfast what he doesn't try for supper. So far, he is getting the message and beginning to at least try his main entree'. Bemnet is throwing fewer temper tantrums and is more wiling to go to other members of the family when needed. She even gave me a kiss yesterday morning when no one else was up. Yofta (short for Yoftahe) seems to be doing well, although we anticipate that the language barrier will soon prove to be a source of escalating frustration for him in particular as the newness of his surroundings wears off.

And if they are feeling overwhelmed, they are not alone. Every challenging disciplinary issue, every time we sit at our table for six with ten people or more crammed around, every time we walk through the house and see the remnant of not five, but eight kids' toys and litter, and every sick or hurting child, regardless of whether a doctor's visit is actually required, is causing us to fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day with thoughts of desperation for God. When Israel grumbled about their hunger and longed to go back to slavery so their stomachs could be filled, God gave Moses the promise of Manna and Quail. These were provisions of "daily" need. They couldn't be stored up for a day when God didn't show up. They were God's provision and He had to be trusted every day for that provision to show up. Moses put it this way to the Israelites, "At evening you will know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of the LORD" (Ex 16:6-7). So this morning, I am writing this at 5 am (because that's when Sammy came to tell me that he was "hungly" and wanted "blekflast"), and I'm tired. But the sun will come up soon and with it, I have the promise, that "in the morning you will see the Glory of the LORD".

Monday, March 3, 2008

Met the Kids

It is Sunday afternoon and we have just returned from lunch after visiting the Beza International Church for morning worship. Between the altitude of the city (about a mile high) and the time change, we finally got a good night’s rest last night and are getting over jet lag.

We met the kids yesterday morning and spent about 3 hours with them. They are very affectionate, enjoyed playing with us and loved to take pictures and play with our video camera. Yoftahe (the Ethiopian name for Jephthah, from the book of Judges) enjoyed a wrestling match with Luke and me. Sammy and I got beat by Luke and Yoftahe at a game of two on two courtyard soccer (we would have come back but I got tired). Beimnet (the Amharic word for “by faith”) was happy to get into whatever anyone else was into. She loved blowing bubbles and became quite possessive of everyone else’s bubbles when she ran out of her own. We were delighted to learn that she is far along in the potty training process, but covet your prayers as we begin to introduce discipline – she doesn’t appear to be accustomed to much of this.

An interesting twist was introduced to us, though as we learned some about the kids birth mother. She is indeed still living and works at one of the orphanages associated with our agency. She doesn’t appear to have changed her mind about giving up the kids, but she did want to come visit with them one final time today, Sunday. We initially struggled with the invitation to come meet with her, and about the time we decided that we would indeed meet her, the invitation was revoked by our agency as there are concerns at the U.S. Embassy of adoptive parent-birth parent meetings creating the impression of child-racketeering. A friend from our travel group did go to the home this morning and has taken pictures and video that we will be able to have as a keepsake of their final visit. We did learn that the mother was very glad to hear that we were a Christian family. It continues to be difficult for us to comprehend what it must be like for her to say good-bye to her children for a final time, especially knowing that the reason for giving them up is simply one of personal finances. Please pray for this woman who loves her children so much that she is willing to see another woman raise them and love them as her own in a distant country, knowing that this decision will give them a much better life than they would have with her here in Ethiopia. We are not sure if she is a true believer or simply “Christian” by name and tradition. Please pray that she may some day be reunited with her children, if not on this earth, in heaven.

It is interesting, as I am reading about the life of Moses here in this land so close to the Nile, to think of his mother who also surrendered the right to raise her own son in order for God to use that son to make such amazing impact on history and on God’s people. We pray that for Yoftahe, Samuel and Beimnet a similarly great role in the building of His kingdom might be made possible because of the loving sacrifice of this poor, loving Ethiopian mother.