We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked.
Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his spring break to visit Ethiopia for the first time since I brought him home in 2012. Our mission was to find his grandma. I had visited her once before, a friend of mine went the year later to update her with photos and such and I felt it was time for Mihretu and I to hop on a plane and go in person. The only problem was - the phone number I had for the neighbor no longer worked and I didn't have an address or anything. We couldn't let anyone know we were coming and we didn't even know exactly how or where to go. I knew what town it was and thought I would possibly recognize the area and know where to go. I didn't. Once I got there, nothing really looked familiar. But I had this book that I had made from the first time I met grandma - a book of photos of her, photos of family from photos she showed me and I had made a book for Mihretu with all of those photos in it and I brought that with me. That book helped tremendously. We drove around the town, stopping and asking people if they knew or recognized her. We went to town offices. One local even hopped in with us both days to try and help. The town was bigger than I thought and I wasn't at all sure where to look but strangely had a peace. As it turns out, our driver/translator/friend was super stressed out about it and wasn't sure we would even find her. I was just sure we would. I had this overwhelming peace that we would find her. And praise Jesus - we did - on Mihretu's 9th birthday. During that visit, we found out that grandma is actually great-grandma. We met uncles and aunts and neighbors and were welcomed into this beautiful family. They were so happy to see Mihretu and it was the most beautiful experience... for both of us. I was welcomed in so sweetly, told that I was now part of the family and showered with hugs and kisses and blessings. There is no other way to describe it other than a holy experience. They didn't know we were coming but they dropped everything to spend a few days with us when we showed up out of the blue. Mihretu's great aunt told us that if we came again we had to stay with her. She brought us to her home one of the days and made us a yummy meal and some awesome Ethiopian coffee. She gave Mihretu foot rubs and covered him in kisses. She even came to Addis Ababa the last day so she could come to the airport and see us off. It was so sweet! I adore her. That was last year (March 2018) and we knew we had to go back as soon as we possibly could.
We just returned in June of 2019. I work for Go Be Love International and I planned a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia that I would lead. My co-leader, Karen, would bring the team home so that Mihretu and I could stay after the team left and see the family. We had an awesome week in Uganda followed by 6 great days in Ethiopia. We had a super fun team and a great experience. It was such a great trip. But nothing quite compared to our extra 5 days after the team left.
We stayed in Mihretu's great aunt's home and it was one of the sweetest weeks of my life. I adore her. I adore the whole family. I can't even describe how wonderful they are. This time we got to meet birth mom, 3 uncles, a second cousin (his great aunt's son who speaks English and was staying in the home with us - him speaking English was super helpful in the evenings when the translator wasn't there and Mihretu hit it off with him instantly), more neighbors, friends, grandma, even Mihretu's aunts pastor. We stayed 4 nights in his aunt's home. I felt like she rolled out the red carpet for us. She was so welcoming and sweet and oh my word, she is the best cook ever. Seriously - every single thing she made was so delicious. She even taught me how to make some Ethiopian food. It was so beautiful getting to stay in her home and getting to be around the family so much. I absolutely love Ethiopian culture. I love the slower pace of life there. I love sitting in a circle around coffee being slowly made and just being together. Even though I often didn't understand what was being said unless the translator told me (so thankful for our translator friend who came every single day from morning till about 6pm), I still loved just seeing the family interact with each other, and with Mihretu. I loved how comfortable he was around them. I loved how comfortable I was. My heart is so full and I feel so incredibly grateful that we can know them. What a beautiful gift.
Usually once a year, we visit my family in Michigan. And now, we get to also visit Mihretu's family in Ethiopia. How awesome is that? We are definitely going back. As often as we possibly can.
I know people sometimes get fearful about these kinds of things. And honestly, I literally have never even heard of anyone staying in the home of their child's birth family. But I'm not one to follow the norm. And I'm so glad because I would have missed out on the most amazing 5 days ever. I would have missed getting to see that although we are different in many ways, we're also very similar in other ways. As I was sitting there watching all the uncles throw cubed beef in a pan over an outside fire and watching them interact and talk with each other - it reminded me of bbq's at my dad's house and all my uncles and my 2 brothers all around my dad doing the same thing. As photos from our time there had been printed out and were being passed around among the ladies and they all started laughing and I asked the translator why and he said they were teasing Mihretu's aunt because she was making a really silly face in one of the photos - it reminded me of the ladies in my family and how we would do the same thing. We're not really all that different. And I feel 100% completely at home with this family and so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to know them.
We share a love - a love of this precious boy named Mihretu. He's part of their family. He's part of my family. And now we are all connected together as family. It's a beautiful thing and I thank God for this most amazing and rare gift. I love that I get to be part of that family simply because I became a mom. I had no idea when I said yes to adopting Mihretu that I would be adopted into his entire family. I love our Ethiopian family more than words can say.