It is just after eight o’clock in the evening, and tonight we have guests staying with us and so Jessie and I are sleeping upstairs in Luella’s bedroom. Everly is sleeping on the floor with Nickoli in the next room over, and I can hear them talking quietly as they get ready to sleep. She keeps erupting in laughter.
“Do you like the funny pictures in that book” He says, his voice almost inaudible through the wall that separates the two rooms.
“Yes, he is silly” She says, letting out another tiny giggle in her high pitched three-year-old voice.
I sit here in the room with the glow of the yellow night-light casting shadows across the room that is strewn with girly toys and colorful drawings, and I cannot help but think back to the stark contrast with the dingy room I sat in earlier today.
Not four hours ago.
The walls were dirty with years of sticky hand smearings, the floors bare concrete, instead of pictures papers were posted with schedules and rules to follow.
“Do not take a picture” one said in large black letters with the Amharic version of the same sentence underneath it.
I squirmed in my chair as we sat and waited for our turn in the office, we had been here many times before but still the children’s faces as they walked past us spoke directly into my soul.
One small boy stopped and shook my hand as his friends continued on through the door.
“Tenastyalen?” I asked, greeting him as I held on to his hand that was not half the size of mine. His eyes lit up and he came in closer.
“What is your name?” I asked, in Amharic.
“Dawit” He replied, growing more comfortable as the seconds passed.
“How old are you?”
“I am five” He said, as he straightened his back and stood just a little taller.
“Where is your home?” I asked, immediately wanting to take the question back.
“I live here” He said, gesturing to the concrete building the surround the both of us.
“Are you in school?”
“Yes” He replied. “I am in KG”
Just then the door opened behind us and Yabi and I stood to enter the room where we would be getting the news we had so desperately been waiting for.
“Dawit, it was very nice to meet you” I said as I rested on my knee and wrapped my arms around his fragile five year old body, I held tight and breathed in deep. Already feeling the rush of emotion from the past disappointments and struggles we had gone through in so many similar meetings. I considered for a brief second scooping this small boy in my arms and running for the door.
Can’t we just rescue this one?
I release him, and look once more into his eyes. “I will pray for you” I say in english, knowing he will not understand me, but wanting the words to stay in the air forever.
“Are you coming?” Yabi says from behind me.
“Yes” I say as I rise and walk through the door with him.
Inside we sit on chairs behind the one desk that is placed in the small office, Yabi and the director speak for about twenty minutes in Amharic, they are talking so fast that I am having a hard time keeping up with them, I hear a few words but cannot seem to piece together what is happening. The woman keeps gesturing towards her computer screen and saying “Ten kids” and then something about a “committee” and then talks more about the kids she has in her care “Too many” She says. “Too many”
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Yabi turns to me and says. “Things are good.” His tone is calm, reassuring, in a way that leaves me wondering if there is more here that I am missing.
“Are we ready to take kids into the families” I ask, almost ready to jump from my chair.
The director answers instead. “I have selected ten children that I am assigning to your new families.”
“Really!?” I ask, ready to climb onto the roof so I can scream out praises to God.
“Yes, but there is a new law that we have been working through understanding for the past few weeks, and we now have determined how it applies to your organization”
“Okay” I say, leaning in to hear every word clearly.
“We are no longer allowed to place children in permanent care without the consent of a committee, so even though I have selected ten children who are from the ages of three to six who will be placed in your families today, you will have to wait until our next committee meeting on Thursday so we can make this placement official.”
She swivels her screen towards me briefly and I see the names and information for the ten children who she has selected to be placed with us.
I lean back in my chair and try to weigh her words. Yes we are getting kids, yes they are here in this building somewhere, and waiting to be brought into their new families, but… not yet..
“Okay” I say, wanting to speak something more…more deep but cannot find words amongst the thoughts and emotions that are filling my head. I consider for a moment the reality that I might cry right here in this place.
“Thank you so much” Yabi says as he stands and grabs my arm for me to rise with him.
“She is busy, so we should let her get back to work”
I stand with him, and all I can notice is that my knees are week beneath me. Together we make our way out to the car, but my steps are unsure. We drive back to the intake center in stunned silence, neither of us wanting to break the beauty of this moment, both of us have silently chosen to focus on the fact that we have real placements happening, and not the fact that we have to wait another 6 days until we can get these new, wonderful, beautiful children.
I consider for a moment while Yabi slows the car to allow a donkey to cross in front of us. I don’t even know these kids, yet I am already in love, hopelessly in love, and then I realize that in the middle of all that I forgot to even notice the names of the kids on the list.
“We are getting ten kids, and I don’t even know their names!” I say as we get out of the car at the office.
“Soon, we won’t be able to forget them” Yabi says as he smiles at me, a smile that speaks volumes about the battles that we have fought together.
“Thank you for everything” I say as I wrap my arms around Yabi in a hug that is long overdue.
Back home a few hours later Jessie and I sit at the dining room table and look at the beautiful faces on my children before us, I look into her beautiful blue captivating eyes and can see that we are both thinking the same thing. I close my eyes for a moment and say a silent prayer.
“Thank you God for what you have given me and my family, and thank you that today ten children are this much closer to coming into families of their own.”
I am brought out of my thoughts and back to reality by Nickoli who is at the door asking if he can read for a while longer after Everly goes to sleep. “Are you ready to go to bed?” I ask Everly from across the wall that separates us.
“Yes, I am sleepy” She replies, in a muffled voice from beneath her special pink blanket that her Grandmother lovingly made for her when she was adopted into our family three years ago.
“Okay sweetie, Nickoli is going to read for a while, and you can get some sleep” I call out and her silence is all the answer I need. Nickoli comes in and wraps his arms around me for an awkward eleven year old hug. “Goodnight” He says, and he slips bacl to his room.
I lay my head back down on the pillow, looking at the yellow tinged walls around me, soaking in the child like artistry that playfully put this room together.
A painting with several different kind of dresses in every color imaginable, dresses with no bodies, but all the design trimmings and somehow emotion that an eight year old can muster.
Pictures of family back in America, who Luella rarely gets to see because of the kids that we are here to help.
A doll house made of cereal boxes, boxes that were brought by a family who wanted to bless our kids, and has no idea that the packaging was as much a gift as the contents that it once held.
Small short poems scratched onto scraps of paper, short stories of hope, beauty, innocence.
Innocence that the boy in the dingy concrete building has never dreamed of.
Innocence that ten children from that place can start to see, start to hope for.
Last week we had Jon Morton here in town and he was working on a video for the project, one that we will use to help raise funds for more forever family sponsorships. In one scene he was filming our family on the couch, and he leaned in and asked Ruth our five year old what she thought of Bring Love In. Jessie and I both looked over, curious what she would say.
I think her reply so beautifully sums up the emotions that I am feeling right now.
“I think it is good for kids to have families, and mothers, because everyone needs family, and every needs a bed. If you don’t have a bed, then you don’t have anywhere to sleep, and that is not good.” She paused for a second and looked up at Jessie and I who were both wiping tears from our eyes and then she turned back to the camera again.
“Everyone needs a bed.” She said, and her shoulders shrugged like this was something that everyone should know.