by Joy Casey
You would think after the decades I have worked in the adoption field stories of how God places children in just the right family would be old hat. Same-ol’-same-ol’ … or something like that. Just the opposite is true. Each adoption is like a brand-new miracle to me and I am caught off guard when emotions come unbidden when I see an orphaned child happily playing in the home of his adopted family.
When NewLife was pondering what tag line would encapsulate our ministry – Partnering with God to Rewrite Life Stories – summed up so much of what we do, but it especially describes adoption. Life stories of children are most certainly rewritten, but the whole family is changed when hearts open up to a little child.
Replacing tears with laughter
That certainly is the case with Zewditu and her family. A year ago, Zewditu’s husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack. They had raised five children but felt God wanted them to adopt and had started the process when the bottom fell out of Zewditu’s world. After a year she began to again think of adopting as a way to honor her husband’s dream.
I visited Zewditu and Hangatu (who is now named Achlil, which means ‘prize’) and heard from Zewditu how this baby girl has turned her mourning into laughter. Achlil has brought joy to her and her four adult boys in a way she never dreamed possible.
She and her husband have raised some pretty incredible children. Two of her boys are college graduates, one in architecture and one in computer science, and two other boys are currently attending university. Her daughter is married and lives in America. We met her sons in their furniture workshop. The oldest son, the architect, runs the family furniture making business and brother #2 works for a company remotely using his computer degree. Their parents were both hard workers and “taught us to be industrious.” Zewditu works at the furniture shop and also fattens sheep and goats and sells them. It was obvious the two sons I met today adored their mom. “The adoption of Achlil brought joy to our whole family, but especially to Mom,” the eldest son said with his brother nodding in agreement. “We all fight over who gets to take care of her and now I can’t imagine our family without her.” One thing for sure, Achlil will be raised with a strong sense of family and will have many big brothers looking out for her.
The joy of obedience
Tigistu and his wife Birzu are a remarkable couple who I had the joy of visiting with over a cup of buna (coffee). They adopted 2-year-old Firoli only a month ago, but I could tell he is feeling very comfortable with his new family. Theirs is an incredible God-story – a story of joyful obedience.
The couple attended an adoption conference we hosted in Shashemene four years ago. After the conference, Tigistu prayed asking God what He wanted them to do. He said the answer was very clear: adopt two boys and a girl. Birzu wasn’t so sure. At that time, they were very poor and raising three biological daughters. She was very active in her church and knew a little child would slow her down. However, she agreed to pray about it. That night she was restless and couldn’t sleep, so spent the time praying; by sunrise she knew raising three more children was the work God wanted her to do. How they would manage … well, that would be up to God.
They adopted Motuma from our Mana Gammachuu (Joyful Place) orphanage and changed his name to Eliab. It warmed my heart to see how affectionate father and son were with each other. Tigistu is a warm, out-going man and Birzu is a confident, capable woman with a dry sense of humor. With a wry smile she commented, “Now I am raising 2 sons, a husband and 3 daughters!”
Tigistu lost one of his legs in an automobile accident, but it has not slowed him down at all. He said that after they adopted Eliab their finances began to dramatically turn around. I have never met a couple so obviously happy and content with their lives and what they have. They used to be very poor – in fact, Tigistu said he had to sell some items just to buy clothes for Eliab when they brought him home. But now, he beams, “We are rich! Obedience to God brought us much joy, and He has blessed my business, too.”
Firoli, now called Ab Lecew which means ‘sent from God’, is fortunate indeed to be part of this busy, happy family. He certainly will never lack for love or attention and will eventually have a little sister. “We’ll have a half-dozen … just right!” Tigistu announces with a big smile.
From selling drugs to selling coffee
We were ushered into a tiny, dark room to meet the couple that adopted Rabira from our orphanage. Tashale and Selam had been married twenty years and were unable to have children. They thought their poverty would preclude them from adopting. Ephrem, our orphanage director, got to know Tashale serving together in church. Ephrem came to understand this man’s gentle heart as well as his longing to be a dad. He helped Selam and Tashale through the homestudy and adoption process.
The humble room I sat in used to be a khat* house until seven years ago when Tashale and Selam became Christ-followers. They stopped selling khat and opened a small coffee shop in front of their house instead, but coffee is not as lucrative as drugs and they lost a lot of income. Tashale is plagued with remorse for what he used to do and refuses to be tempted to make easy money selling khat not wanting to be responsible for ruining any more lives. It was hard for me to envision this tender man as a drug dealer.
The next part of their story took me by surprise. A lovely little girl came in and stood next to Tashale who introduced her as their daughter. A year ago a lady with a baby and this little girl were living on the streets barely making enough to eat by begging. Tashale asked the lady to consider allowing him and his wife to raise Tigist saying she could come and visit anytime she wished.
They now are legal parents to Rabira, who they have renamed Ebeneezer, and guardian parents to Tigist who is 6 years old and a wonderful big sister to Ebeneezer.
Selam and Tashale need help to expand their business so it can produce profit enough to adequately care for their family. Aside from that, Teshome kept expressing how blessed they are to have children – how abundantly God has poured favor on them. They have very, very little materialistically, but their hearts are full of love and compassion. With great joy they have taken on the task of nurturing two little people who came into their home from less-than-ideal beginnings.
It is late and I am tired, so I’ll not say a lot more about my day at the orphanage other than the fact that I got to cuddle and kiss some of the most beautiful babies in the world. We decided to host another adoption conference. Ephrem is eager to visit all 30 evangelical churches in Shashemene to share God’s heart for adoption and invite qualified couples to attend the full-day conference in June. We are about our Father’s business – rewriting life stories.
*khat (pronounced ‘chat’) is a legally grown hallucinatory drug that is chewed and is highly addictive.