Garrett led us away from the boat and said a few goodbyes to his friends that had gathered near our boat and quickly headed up a path on the island. David and I along with Tia and our other four children followed closely behind Garrett as we started the climb on the hill of the island. Emotionally I was a mess but praying that I could hold myself together in order to enjoy and remember this day forever. As I followed behind my son, I could not believe that I was actually walking on a path where he and our daughter had walked a few years before. A path where their birth family walk daily to gather water for their family and where they bring their animals for water. I was overwhelmed with an unspeakable joy that few adoptive moms will ever feel or know......... to get the opportunity to visit the place where my children were born and lived.
We continued on the path for several minutes when we approached a small community of about four grass huts. Garrett started to open the make-shift door on the front of one of the huts and David stopped him. David had visited the island a few weeks prior to our visit and he knew that this was not Werke's (Garrett's birth mom) home. Garrett seemed very disappointed when David said not to go in. We at the time thought that his disappointment was that he had forgotten where his home was on the island but this was not the case at all.
He continued to lead the way and only a few minutes from the community we passed several of Garrett's friends and they started to surround him. They were all full of joy as they hugged each other and chattered in a language unknown to me. Garrett wanted to continue on our journey and so several of his friends joined us as we walked. They walked hand in hard with our son as I walked hand in hand with our daughter who still seemed to not remember much of the island.
As we rounded a small bend I saw an older man who had a very large smile on his face as he saw Garrett. Garrett seemed to recognize him and they kissed and hugged each other over and over. It was then that Nicco told me that this was Garrett's grandfather. When Nicco spoke those words tears began to flow from my eyes. I quickly took Tia over and he greeted her the same way. As he put his hands on her precious face and looked into her eyes it literally took my breath away. He has such a deep love for both of them and I can't imagine how much he has missed them and worried about them. I couldn't even speak and as Werke's father hugged and kissed me my body was shaking. He was so happy for Tia and Garrett and so thankful to us for caring for them. After a few minutes we continued to walk and he joined us as Garrett continued to lead. As we walked we were informed that the hut that Garrett had tried to enter in the community we had just passed was his grandfathers house- We felt so bad that we had said no when he tried to enter his grandfather's hut but we were thankful that their grandfather had been along the path instead.
Not much further up the path we met a lady who was thrilled to see Tia and Garrett and we later found out that it was their father's mother. She kissed and hugged them much the same as thier grandfather had. Again, I was amazed that we were allowed to give this time to our children and be able to experience it with them. What priceless photos we have with both of these grandparents who Garrett and Tia may never have the opportunity to see again due to their age and health.
Their grandmother joined us and many others as we forged on to Werke's house. Many islanders who are family and friends of Tia and Garrett greeted us and the twins with such love and excitement as we walked. Many were cousins and aunts and uncles who were so excited to see these two amazing kids that they love. Tia and Garrett seemed like celebrities as we continued to walk along with Garrett leading the way of course and many joining in the journey with us.
Garrett stopped a little further up the path and bent over to pick up a precious little boy. When he picked him up I then realized that it was one of his younger siblings. Again tears started to flow as I saw Garrett kiss and love on him. He put him up on his hip and continued the journey not letting him down until we finally got to his house. As he carried him I begin to see a small glimpse of what Garrett must have looked like and what his life was like at two. Tears again as I saw how tattered and dirty yet happy this little guy was and to think that my son once lived this life was again overwhelming.
When Garrett picked up the pace even more I knew we must be close. He had been traveling very fast but his walk almost turned into a run as I saw a community of huts. As I saw the huts I heard a lady begin to make a cultural sound (we have heard this at a church service and other happy occasions in Ethiopia) much like an Indian chant as we approached the small community. I literally got chill bumps as I heard the sound ringing in my ears for I knew that this was a happy sound and that Tia and Garrett's family were overjoyed with us being there.
I then quickly saw Tia's eyes light up as she spotted a girl who was about ten years old. Tia yanked on my hand and pulled me over to this beautiful girl. Tia then said, "Allo!" I then realized that this was Tia's big sister. Allo greeted Tia with a huge hug and many kisses. There is something about a sister's love that just can't be explained and I saw that love as Tia and Allo interacted in those first few moments. I then hugged Allo and noticed that her ears were pierced with large thorns. The thorns were still in her ears to act as earrings. I quickly took out my earrings and removed the thorns from her ears replacing them with my earrings. I have never seen a young girl smile any bigger. I wished that I had a mirror for her to see how pretty she looked.
We then walked up to the hut where we were greeted by Werke. We hugged and held each other again much like the first meeting and I prayed for her heart. I prayed that God would give me favor in her eyes and that she would clearly see Him in my love and care for her. I then took her hand and she led me into her home.........
As I entered the hut I started to cry. This was the room where my children were born, where they played, ate their meals, laughed, cried, where they were hungry, and I was entering it holding Tia and Garrett's birth mom's hand. It was a very real, unreal moment and it took me a few minutes to pull myself together as I looked around.
When I finally wiped my eyes and glanced around I noticed that Werke had a coffee ceremony set up (which is customary when you have guest over in Ethiopia) and several wooden stools set up to sit on. There was one shelf type unit built into the mud walls that held a few pot and cooking supplies, two large vats that held grain, and a few posters on the walls was all that the room contained. The center of the hut was a large tree trunk and at the top of the tree truck many large sticks were hooked together to hold the grass room on. The grass roof had been damaged recently and so on David's first trip Nicco had brought over a tarp to put over the grass to keep out the rain. For several weeks the roof had been leaking and so Werke, the kids and the few things that they have had been getting wet.
As I sat down in Werke's home, I thought back to the sleepless nights last October where I begged God to help us find their birth family in order for us to be able to adopt them- Never in a million years did I ever dream that God would not only help us find them but that we would be spending the day with them. Here we were in the middle of Ethiopia on a small island with the opportunity to love and care for Tia and Garrett's birth family and I was simply in awe. I felt at home there and I felt that even though we didn't speak the same language that I was with family.
In the next hour God showed up in amazing ways and I will continue my next blog about The Meeting-