Friday, June 11 - Saturday, June 12
On Friday we got to visit a coffee factory. What a fun experience for a coffee-loving family! Coffee is Ethiopia's largest export, generating 60% of its total export earnings. So learning more about coffee was an important cultural experience as well as just being fun for us.
We first visited the coffee shop and had our daily dose of caramel macchiatos. Yummy! Then we got to visit the warehouses with unbelievable stacks of burlap bags stuffed with coffee beans. All along the way our guide taught us about how the beans are processed, sorted for quality control, roasted, and shipped. Some of the beans are shipped "green," and some are roasted first at the factory. The beans for Starbucks Ethiopian blend come from this factory! (I believe he said that they are roasted elsewhere, though.)
My favorite part was seeing the large room where rows and rows of women sit on benches all day, combing through the coffee beans that continually pass by them on a conveyor belt. Quality control. At first I felt sorry for them. It seemed like it wouldn't be a very fun job. Then I realized that they seemed happy. Most of them were talking to each other as they worked.
This coffee roasting machine looked like something out of a movie
After this we spent the afternoon packing up and preparing to leave. We had to be at the airport at 4 pm for our 7 pm flight to Dubai. We had brought 4 large bags (3 duffel bags and a suitcase) with us. Three of them were filled with donations, so we thought we would have plenty of room for our souvenirs. They just barely fit, though! We bought 30 pounds of coffee to bring back with us, both for ourselves and to give to others. That is a lot of coffee!
Our bedroom at the Yesabi Guest House
The sitting room and kitchen area that we shared with another family
By Friday, I was so ready to go home. Ever since we picked up Benjamin, I had been ready to just hop on a plane and get back. I'm thankful that we went early for that reason. It was hard to enjoy being there, soak up the culture, go sightseeing, etc., when all I wanted to do was get my baby home and have our family together.
But it was more than that. I had seen so many difficult things over the last week. There was so much that my heart needed to process, and I had just had all that I could take. I had seen so much suffering that I felt like I couldn't breathe anymore. My heart was about to cave in from the pain. The unspeakable poverty, the street kids with so little hope for their future, the orphanages, the disease... I felt overwhelmed and hopeless.
However now, three weeks after returning home, I am reminded that my feelings of hopelessness are not from God. He is a God of hope, of life, of healing. I cling to the hope that he he has a plan for Ethiopia. He sees their suffering and has compassion. However, you and I are his hands and feet. He works through us. For God's purposes to be accomplished, WE must be obedient carry out his plans. We must use the gifts that he has given us - of money, of talent, of freedom and opportunity - to help others who have none of those things.
How do you want to use us God? We have seen and heard and our hearts have broken. What shall we do now? That is what we are asking constantly. We don't have complete answers yet, but we are trying to be faithful to just keep taking one step at a time. We are trusting that he will continue to show us the next step to take.
The journey home was long. Very, very long. But we made it, and that's all that really matters. Benjamin did amazingly well for a nine-month-old baby. He slept in our arms a lot, even as we walked around airports. We had a bassinet on our long flight (Yea Emirates!), and it was a life saver. He slept for about 4 hours straight in it. But then he was awake. Very awake. He was just being a normal, noisy, happy baby, but the sleeping people all around us didn't appreciate the squeals too much. It was stressful, but we survived. We stood up in the kitchen area quite a bit, and the flight attendants were so nice to us. They played with Benjamin and gave him toys.
Sleeping on a bench in the airport
Arriving home at the Nashville airport was a day that I will never, ever forget. Ahead of time I was a little afraid that I would regret inviting people to come since I knew we would be so tired, but that's not how I felt at all. The closer to Nashville we got, the more excited I got. I couldn't wait to get there! I couldn't WAIT to see Madeline again (oh, I missed my sweet girl SO much!), to introduce her to Benjamin, to introduce him to so many family and friends who were all there waiting for us and excited to finally see him in person. We had quite a welcoming party, and it meant so much to me. We felt so loved and supported.
And the day just continued to be wonderful! When we got home, we discovered that my Aunt Sarah had been there and had decorated our mailbox with a sign and balloons, cleaned our house, did laundry, left flowers in several rooms, and filled our refrigerator and pantry with fresh food. What a wonderful gift! Then later, some dear friends came over to meet Benjamin and bring us dinner. It was the first of many yummy meals delivered to us over the next couple of weeks.
9-year-old Mattie made this cake to welcome Benjamin home
I want to say thank you, once again, to every single person who has come alongside us during this long journey. So many of you donated money, others helped with fundraisers, and others supported us with their prayers and encouragement. We thank God for every one of you. The adoption process is finally over (thank goodness!!!), but the ADOPTION has only just begun.