by Anne Kalkbrenner

Anne, with her husband Tim, recently returned from Ethiopia with their new daughter, Blin.

When I was in college, my Bible study group studied Nehemiah. We were intrigued by his ability to “see” God’s gracious, invisible Hand at work. We got into the habit of asking each other how we were seeing God’s gracious, invisible Hand at work in our lives. It became a valuable exercise in learning how to notice what might otherwise go unseen.

I have been reminded of Nehemiah’s eyes of faith during our recent adoption experience. I suppose it’s because so much of this experience has forced us to live outside of our usual comfort zone where we become a bit immune to seeing the invisible. Although we prefer to feel a little more “in control” of our lives, we have to admit how much it has strengthened our faith to see God’s invisible Hand of grace and care in our lives as we have gone through the months leading up to meeting our daughter. It has also been incredibly reassuring to look back and see how carefully He had each and every detail under His gracious care. Here are a few examples:

One of the areas of frustration in this whole process was the amount of paperwork that was required. One day, after failed multiple attempts to get a particular bank document for our dossier, my husband made his way to the bank with great determination and a little impatience to make sure this document was obtained. A pure gift of grace to us came in the form of a kind, compassionate bank manager who just happened to be Ethiopian. Over the next months before we left to get our little Blin, this gracious gentleman would call and offer his help, such as giving us the phone number of his sister-in-law in Addis should be need any assistance while we were there. It left us with such gratitude for a culture that goes so out-of-their-way to offer kindness and assistance to strangers. Later, when we were in Ethiopia, we found the same thing… such loving, generous-hearted folks. It was such a comfort to us to meet these people and see the way God had been loving and caring for our child long before we even met her. What beautiful people!

Another gift to us came in the form of the owner of the guest-house where we stayed. In so many, many ways – Tsebay (above) loved us and supported us through our exciting and sometimes overwhelming stay in Addis. Her gracious, gentle actions left a fragrance of God’s love behind her. She walked my husband to the hospital on the day he was ill and I was needed across the city. She helped us give Blin her first bath, she showed me how to boil the bottles to ensure they were clean, and she even helped me clean out Blin’s dirty little nose one day. Looking back on our time now, I realize how much and how well God loved us through this woman.

One of the most precious memories of our time in Ethiopia was going to the orphanage where Blin first lived. We were prepared for the fact that it might be more rustic than what we are used to in the USA, but we were not prepared for the overwhelming love and generosity of the care-givers and of the precious children in this place. Our favorite thing was spending time with the children. The girls took turns holding my hands and showing me all around, while the boys took over showing my husband around. They were delighted to show us everything, speaking wonderful English and showering us with love. They all gathered round before we left and sang in the sweetest voices: “God is so good”. When we finally had to get in the car and leave, I had to cry – partly because I wished so badly I could take them all home with me, but mostly because my heart was so touched by how kind, how content, and how full of God’s love these children were. I prayed that I might have wisdom to teach my child such beautiful contentment, and I prayed that she might be able to return someday and see for herself the overwhelming evidence of the invisible, Gracious Hand of God at work in this place. The kids certainly had it right… God is so good!

I know it’s been said that hindsight is “20-20”, but for any families who are in that difficult place of waiting, I hope our story will bring a little encouragement that, even if you can’t see it yet, God’s Gracious Hand is even now holding you and your child in His tender care.

Oh, and when they tell you that it will be worth the wait, they’re not even close…. it’s so much better than that!