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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our Compassion Meeting

Hey, what is this? a post about our Compassion visit, promised like eleventy five days ago? YES, it IS! Sit down and put yer feet up while I spin you a yarn about a little boy in Southern Ethiopia...


So, a year and a half or so ago when we were investigating adopting from Ethiopia but had not yet committed to it, we decided to add another sponsored child to our family through Compassion. We had other children we sponsor but had room in our hearts and budget for another and we thought it would be great to have a child in Ethiopia since we had a little bit of a feeling of connection there. So we found a sweet little fella named Sultan (which cracked us up) and began our relationship with him through letters. We researched where he lived and things about his village and then talked about how cool it would be to meet him if we ever went there to adopt. Well, we DID decide to follow God's lead to find our little girl in Ethiopia and once we got close to traveling, we contacted Compassion to see if it was even possible, knowing our little guy didn't live anywhere near Addis Ababa. I need to pause here and say that the folks at Compassion are the real deal and they were so gracious and just wonderful to work with. We cannot recommend them highly enough-they do just what they say they do, and then some! Anyway, we were doubtful the meeting could be set up because they also would not have much lead time since we wouldn't know when we were traveling till just a few weeks before. However, we got an enthusiastic reply from Compassion that they would do everything possible to get a meeting set up and to just let them know when we would be in Ethiopia. So the time came upon us and we were concerned because we did not know how to fit the visit in to our AGCI week which is pretty scheduled, so we asked if there was any way to do the visit on Saturday, before we met little Zoe, so that we would not be tired/distracted/possibly ill, etc. They do not typically do Saturday visits, mind you, but they agreed to do it on the Saturday we arrived in Ethiopia anyway because they understood our unique circumstances-see? Incredible organization, really and truly. We put together a bag of gifts for him and also were able to bring gifts for my sister's sponsored children in Ethiopia. After we arrived in Ethiopia, when we arrived at our hotel and did not yet find the Compassion folks there, we called the field office to see what the plan was for the meeting. Well, we were disappointed to find out they were not in fact able to do it that day because of the Easter holiday. Despite our initial reservations about doing it later in the week, we did not want to miss the opportunity to meet Sultan so we agreed to call again on Wednesday morning to see if they had gotten the visit arranged. Wednesday came and we called Yosef at the field office and he said we were on for the next day, probably in the afternoon-what?! Like as in the day we were LEAVING? Something you also need to understand about African folks-they don't really operate on the concept of a specific "schedule" or have a great attachment with "time" so when we tried to explain that we needed to leave for the airport that afternoon and it might be difficult, we were met with the usual Ethiopian response, a chuckle and a thick accent saying "Oh that is no problem!" We were honestly pretty concerned that it would just be sort of rushed and a waste of a trip for the poor boy because did I mention? They were driving him 8 HOURS!!! to meet us. Us! We felt way unworthy of that and felt like it would be terrible for that poor boy to endure that trip, meet our ragged, jet lagged, pasty faces and then have us run out the door 15 minutes later. We went to bed that night nervous about how the next day would go since Dawn and I were supposed to run out with the drivers to do some last minute shopping at 9 a.m., then back for a quick lunch and re-packing, then meet with Sultan right after lunch IF they came at the scheduled time (see above) and then right out the door to the airport. It really was not the way we wanted to spend our last day, running around like crazy, and to make matters worse, Zoe was up that night with her first of several scary wheezing attacks. Needless to say we woke up tired, Pat felt kind of icky, and I felt stressed as I ran out the door of our room to scoot up to HH to meet the drivers. Well, when I got to the lobby AT 9 A.M. MIND YOU, a nice man in a Compassion shirt approached me and asked if I was Patrick and, thrown off by the whole event, I actually said yes. Then I had to fumble and say that no, I was actually Jody, the wife-I was most pleased with my initial impression I had made on him for sure, doh! At that point my mind was racing with what in the world to do because I was supposed to be at HH and the drivers were waiting, Pat was laying down upstairs with Zoe feeling a little like he'd been punched in the stomach, and here was the little guy we had only seen on a 3 x 5 card for a year peeking through the door of the hotel! Fortunately Dawn was still there too and I asked her if she was willing to flip flop our schedule and go out after lunch and not then and it turned out she was actually thinking the same thing b/c she wasn't feeling super, either. She graciously agreed to tell the drivers at HH our plan and I ran upstairs to tell Pat "Hey! They are HERE, NOW! Like, as in right down stairs!" which made him respond the same way out loud that I had in my mind, "what?! I thought they would call us at noon to see if it was ok?? what are they doing here now??" and he jumped into a pair of shorts (no, he was not naked but boxers are also not appropriate meeting your sponsored child attire we figured) and smoothed his hair, grabbed Zoe as I grabbed the bags of gifts and we headed back down to the lobby trying to look relaxed and not at all like deer in headlights. There was Yosef, the Compassion Addis Ababa field office staff member, Abrahim, the social worker from Sultan's project, and Sultan himself at our visit. We all sat in the lobby and got to know one another and it was both wonderful and awkward and funny all at the same time-we had to have our conversations through multiple translations as Sultan spoke one language (Sidama), Abrahim translated that into Amharic (the national Language of Ethiopia) to Yosef, who translated the Amharic into English for us. Each and every question or sentence had to go through this process so it made it a little funny at times. We gave Sultan a bright orange VT baseball hat and a soccer ball among other things and he was immediately smitten by them. Just doing our part to spread the Hokie love throughout the world!! He looked adorable in his hat and he and the guys (Compassion staff and Pat) and the older boys being adopted in our travel group spent awhile kicking the soccer ball around the courtyard of the Union. It was surreal to be standing there watching the boy whose face has been on our fridge for a year running and playing with my husband and some boys from HH who had just days before met their new parents. Truly breathtaking to see the way God works! We ate lunch at the Union where we got Sultan a second Mirinda (Ethiopian version of orange Fanta soda) and he slurped it down as eagerly as the first. He reluctantly removed his new hat during lunch after being forced to do so by the Compassion workers-they are wonderful Godly men who really love the children in their care-and put it right back on as soon as he finished his last bite. We found out more about Sultan's family and asked him what we could pray for for him. Some of those things I have decided not to share because I am not sure if he would want us to and it is about his family so I will just share that God is working mightily in his family and bringing people to know Jesus in a very personal way and that is what he asked us to pray for specifically, that God would continue to do so. We assured him we would certainly pray for that! Then we asked him what he would tell his friends back home about his visit today and he said he would tell them he got to spend the day drinking Mirinda with firenjis (white forigners)-we thought that was hilarious! Here we were praying fervently and nervous to meet him and make a good impression and guess what? He's your typical kid! Ha ha! We asked if he had ever seen white people before in person and they told us one time a sponsor had come to the project, but other than that, no. Isn't that crazy?! We really enjoyed hearing about the ins and outs of how Compassion works in Sultan's specific project and were once again in awe of their ministry-it truly is the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who have next to nothing, yet have great joy because of who they learn God is through what Compassion does. It was such fun to sit next to Sultan with my arm across his tiny shoulders, as he smiled nervously and kind of went stiff like "uh, this overly smiley firenji woman is touching me-yikes!", and just let the reality of the situation wash over me. This was the boy we wrote letters to, prayed for, read about as a family, right there! We took lots of pictures together and showed him how to use our camera and video camera-got some interesting footage there as he "experimented" with the zoom button!! And we got a picture of him holding Zoe, which was very special to us. It was a great visit, humorously ended when Yosef looked at us and said "ok, I think that is enough, yes?" Gotta love language nuances-they may know the words, but not the subtleties of how to deliver them!! We hugged and promised to send him a photo of all of us and to pray for him and thanked them profusely for bringing him up on such a journey (btw, we asked if he was bored on the trip or slept a lot, and they told us NO because he was so excited! totally humbling....) and we watched his sweet little bright orange head bob down the sidewalk to their waiting taxi. God is using Compassion mightily in the lives of these children, and we were beyond blessed to see it firsthand and to be a part of it. If you haven't experienced the joy of sponsoring a Compassion child, go to their website and get on it!! No this is not a commercial for them, but we wholeheartedly support what they do and how they do it. Go, see for yourselves and maybe one day YOU can meet your little one in person too!! Here are some photos from our visit:





(yes, that IS drool o'Zoe on my shirt-jealous??)

8 comments:

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for this post. We started sponsoring a little boy in Thailand while waiting to adopt our daughter from Taiwan. What a neat experience!

Tisha said...

Wonderful!!! We have had sponsor children for 10 years now and I would love to meet them someday. I am so glad that you had that experience and that is great that Compassion was willing to work with you guys. I also love that organization!

How is Zoe doing?

Are These Kids All Yours? said...

Love it! WE are sponsors too! What a touching story! Thanks for sharing, and I hope someone is moved to consider sponsoring a child! God Bless

Dawn said...

what a fun day!!

Kristi J said...

such a GREAT story...how awesome, kj

Troy said...

wow. that is amazing. we have a boy in zimbabwe and have plans, God-willing, to visit him on a future trip to africa.

oh, and thanks for the thoughts of smelly socks. the cuteness factor had us all tricked :)

"Indescribable" said...

thanks for sharing! I love the pics!

Erin said...

I am so jealous, again! I brought my sponsor child some gifts, and even though he lived just ten miles away I couldn't visit AND he mysteriously didn't get my gifts. So irritating! You had such a great trip.