Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I will continue to blog later about the rest of my day on the island but the last few days have been filled with more important things that I can't seem to get my mind off of. It started two nights ago at bedtime when Tia said, "Mom, Allo (her 10 year old sister) come to America?" I knew when she spoke those words that she was trying to ask if her sister Allo could come and live with us. I quickly reminded her the best I could that Allo now has enough to eat and that we are making sure that her needs are being met. Tia and I prayed for Allo and the rest of her birth family and as I left her room tears started to flow from my eyes. Our precious daughter so longed to share her new life with the one she loves the most.

What made this so very hard for me is that Kaylee has fallen in love with Allo as well. The day that we were on the island Kaylee spent most of her day with Allo and Allo melted her heart. As we were leaving the island Kaylee said to me, "Mom, I will do anything to bring Allo home with us. I will share or even give up my room for her." It broke my heart to say to my thirteen year old that there was no way for us to bring her home. I later heard her asking our friend Nicco if there was any way to get Allo an education visa in order for her to come to the US and live with us. When Kaylee gets something on her mind and in her heart she becomes unstoppable and this is something that I love about her. To think that two of my daughters want Allo in our home simply breaks my heart yet I know that for the time being Allo has to remain where she is. It is times like this that I wish I had an endless supply of financial resources to help my children fulfill their desires........not to have more for them but to have more for others.

I pulled myself together as I have found myself doing several times the past few weeks in order to go in and tuck the boys in. I said prayers with Jacob and then climbed up into bed with Garrett. As I settled in next to him he said, "Mom, America tellec (big) food and Ethiopia tinish (small) food. Island hungry and America no hungry." I agreed with Garrett and explained that God had provided plenty for us to eat and I am so glad that he is no longer hungry. He then said, "Werke no birr and no food." I then explained to him that we were helping to provide Werke and his siblings with food and that he didn't need to worry about them being hungry. He seemed to understand and just as I did with Tia I prayed with him for his birth family.

As I left Garrett's room I found myself again in tears. It broke my heart that my two youngest children were so concerned for the well being of those that they love. David was not at home and so I went into our room and spent time crying out to God on the behalf of those who are half way around the world yet right with me in my heart. I prayed that God would use our family to make a difference in the life of this family that we will forever be connected with.

Fast forward to tonight at dinner. Today is Tia and Garrett's birthday and so we decided to celebrate by taking them to a local Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. They were both so excited when we walked into The Red Sea and they were greeted in Amheric. We were the only people in the entire place (Ethiopian food must not be a big hit in the Queen City) and so the waitress took our order and then sat down with us to chat with the kids.

Garrett loved the fact that he could talk with someone other than Tia. I was thrilled that we had this opportunity to ask Garrett and Tia some questions and get real answers more than yes or no for the first time in three weeks. David and I ask them many questions and the waitress loved being our translator. She fell in love with Garrett and I could tell she loved talking with him. After many questions and answers our food arrived and Garrett started eating.

Our waitress continued to sit and talk with us and as Garrett was finishing his meal he started speaking to this lady for what seemed like forever. I noticed as he was talking she seemed to be very quiet and she started to look sad. When he finished I then ask her what he had just said to her. She looked into my eyes and she started to cry. It took her a few minutes to speak and then she said, "He just shared with me that every time he throws away any food he thinks about his mom and his brothers and sisters." She then said, "He is a very wise little boy and has a huge heart. He is really worried about his family and wants to make money as he gets older to send back to them." Again as everyday on this journey, my eyes filled with tears.

My son eats breakfast at our table each morning and as we clean our plates he grieves for his family, he goes to school and at lunch sees more food thrown away by his class in one day than his family has to eat in several months, he sits at our dinner table and wonders if his birth family has eaten today and his little heart breaks. My heart breaks for him and my broken heart will not allow me to just live life as if there isn't a great need in the world around me. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that Garrett knows that his birth family's needs are being taken care of. These are not wants that they have but their basic needs of food, water and shelter.

Notice the picture at the top of this post...........this is Tia and Garrett's younger sister. Notice the water in the bottle that she is carrying. This is the water that Tia and Garrett's birth family drink everyday. The water that Tia and Garrett drank the first four years of their lives. Not only are they hungry they drink very dirty and unsafe water everyday because that is all they have.

So as Tia and Garrett's mom I must do something......... I can't allow our precious six year old twins to have to worry about their family everyday while they are here living a much more comfortable life. I am asking everyone I know to get involved in making a change on the island for not only their family but for all 1500 people who live as their family lives. Enough money has already been given to build a clean water drinking well. I now just need for you to pray for the organization Water is Life to find clean water as they begin to dig the well. Pray that quickly the well can be dug and clean water be found for everyone who lives on the island.

The next need that needs to be met is for a medical clinic to be built and supplied. If the medical clinic is built and supplied the government will provide a health care worker to run the clinic each day. This would be amazing for this island in so many ways. At this time many women die in childbirth and most men on the island die at a very young age due to a bacteria found in the lake water where they fish. The men have no other means of making money other than fishing, and just like Tia and Garrett's father, the bacteria that could easily be cured with medical help kills them. The cost to build and supply the medical clinic is around $10,000.00.

The next step to help the island is to teach and provide them with irrigation. At the present time they only have one growing season and so they harvest only one crop to last the entire year. With a few generators, water pumps and someone instructing them they could easily be growing crops year round. This would dramatically change the hunger and poverty on the island. Nicco is looking into the cost of supplies in order for us to make year round harvesting a reality on this little island.

Each of these needs will be shared in the blog about the meeting on the island. The elders of the island all voted and the things that I have mentioned above are what they labeled as their greatest needs. I know that as a family we are called to be the voice for those who live half way around the world and have no voice. I am asking for your help- It will take everyone we know to reach this island in the way that they need to be reached. It will be my goal that no woman, man or child would ever go to sleep (on their dirt floor because their is not a bed on the island) hungry, that no one on the island would ever die due to not having clean drinking water, that no child would lose their dad early in life due to a bacteria that could be treated by medication, and that no woman would die giving birth to a child.

More importantly than any of these physical needs my prayer is that this unreached people group would come to know the One who loves them and gave His life for them. I know that as we provide for each of these physical needs they will come to know the great love of our Savior. Please pray about what part you can play in reaching this island. As you throw away your uneaten food the next couple of days think about how you can help and when you drink your clean water pray for those who don't have that gift.

Please contact me if you want more information on how you can join our family in caring for those who call Zadacha Island home and when we do this together I can tell my son and daughter each night as they go to bed that they do not need to worry...........their family is taken care of!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life Changing Day............Part 2

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-

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life Changing Day...........Part 1

Three weeks ago today my life was forever changed. I woke up very early and eagerly got ready for this day that I had been waiting on for months. Our family had plans to meet the team from UCF (our church) for breakfast at 6:00am in order to be out to Lake Zway to get on the boat by 7:00am to visit the island where Tia and Garrett were born and lived for the first four years of their lives.

I didn't sleep very well the night before as I wondered what the next day would hold. Would people welcome us, reject us or even care that we were there? Would Tia and Garrett remember their home, family and friends there on the island? Would their friends and family want a relationship with us and so many other questions swirled in my mind as I tried to sleep.

I wasn't able to eat breakfast and so I sat quietly and prayed that God would show up big as we visited the island. I prayed for protection for Tia and Garrett's hearts and minds as we faced a day that was so uncertain. I prayed that God would give me strength for the day and a very clear mind to remember all that we would see and hear. I long to share so much with Tia and Garrett about their birth family and their home for the first four years and I wanted to miss nothing. When everyone finished eating breakfast we all 29 headed out to the lake.

As we pulled up to the shore of the lake we drove down a very narrow rock path. Our van was in front and we were stopped by a young man who told Nicco that we needed to pay in order to travel out to the lake. Nicco spoke to the man and I saw no birr exchanged and so I am sure that Nicco sweet talked our way out of having to pay. As we arrived at the end of this gravel path I notice only two empty boats on shore. We had been told that the fishing association in Zway had a boat that would seat fifty people and so we had it reserved for the day. Neither boat that I saw would hold fifty people.

When we started to get out of the vans a crowd started to form. I looked around that there were many locals gathering to see why all of these foriengees (foreigners) were there. We had purchased forty mango seedlings to take out to the island with us and so as we unloaded those from the vans and gathered our things for the day the crown continued to grow around us. Mostly young boys carrying dead fish and might I add that Megan loved the sight of yucky, dead fish.

The smell became somewhat overwhelming as I walked over to the lakes edge to find David. When I found David he and Nicco were talking to a man who was out on one of the boats. I noticed that the man was throwing dead fish out of the boat as another man was washing out the boat with the lake water. It was then that I realized that this was our boat for the day. I moved a little closer to get a better look and literally thought that I might get sick from the smell. I then looked down to notice the large pile of dead fish by my feet and realized that the smell was not from the boat but from the dead fish. The men working on the boat covered the boat with a large tarp to shield us from the sun and/or rain as we took the five hour round trip out to the island.

As the men worked on the boat I and many others questioned if all 29 of us would fit on the boat. I had my doubts but when it was time to climb (and I do mean climb) on board we decided to give it a try. Just about the time we were to board the boat I noticed a man who was standing on what appeared to be a long log rowing towards us. He rowed his narrow log "boat" right in front of our boat and that is what we walked on to get close enough to the boat to climb up onto the back in order to get in.

We all managed to fit perfectly onto the boat and took off toward the island. It was a wonderful day to be on the water and that was something that I had prayed for. It was rainy season in that area and Nicco had explained to me how bad it could be to get caught out in the middle of the lake in a rain storm and so I was so thankful for the sunshine. The water was very calm and the boat was very slow! It took us about two and a half hours to reach the island and along the way we saw hippo, birds and God's amazing creation as we passed a few islands on the way. I continued to pray during the ride out that God would go before us and make this day an amazing day for all who were traveling with us.

It was such a joy to watch Tia and Garrett as we were on the boat. Garrett took his place at the front of the boat with our good friend and taxi driver, Eskel. Tia sat close to me and she seemed a little more unsure of the whole boat ride. Garrett was super excited and loved being at the very front of the boat where he stood the entire time being sure to miss nothing along the way. I cried several times just watching and seeing the anticipation on his face. I wanted to know what was going on in his little mind. Was he scared, excited, or nervous? I couldn't imagine what he must have been feeling and thinking during those couple of hours as the boat headed to the only home he had known.

As we got close to the island Garrett started speaking very fast to Eskel. I wanted to know everything he was saying and so Eskel was wonderful to translate for me as quickly as he could. Garrett was saying, "I remember" over and over. As we got closer we could see kids out on the waters edge and they started to run along the lake over to where we would "dock" the boat. As we grew closer Garrett said, "This is where we would bring animals to give them water." He also pointed out a place where he would play football to Eskel. Garrett was so excited and you could see the joy on his face. Meanwhile Tia was very quiet and really seemed to not remember much. She sat quietly beside me and just looked all around.

As got closer to the shore I noticed a group had gathered to great us. We literally pulled up as close as we could onto the ground in order for us to get off of the boat. There are no docks in Ethiopian lakes and so you just use long poles and literally push the boat up onto the ground as the local islanders pull the boat from in the water. All 29 of us had to move to the back of the boat in order to get close enough to shore that we would jump off of the front of the boat and land on dry ground.

I was the first to jump (literally) off of the boat because I knew that if I didn't jump quickly that Garrett would be off and I wanted to make sure of how his friends and family were going to react to him being there. As I jumped off I noticed that he was right behind me. As soon as my feet hit the ground his were hitting as well. He quickly recognized a few friends and they seemed so excited to see him. He was smiling from ear to ear and so were all of those who were surrounding him.

David came off of the boat soon after the two of us followed by Tia and as soon as Tia jumped off Garrett wanted to start walking and showing us around the island. We made him wait until most of the 29 people were off of the boat and then we headed off to what will always be a life changing day for all 8 in the Henderson family!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


So many of you have sent me messages this week wanting an update and between 12 suitcases of dirty laundry, soccer, football, 3 dental appointments, hair appointments, losing the dog, purchasing school supplies for six and MANY other things I haven't had a chance to blog until now. I am hopeful that when school starts I can blog every other day and so we will see how that pans out next week!

It is hard to believe that we have been home a week. In some ways it seems like yesterday yet I feel that Tia and Garrett have been part of our family forever. They both have fit so well into our family and for that we are so thankful. They both are so full of life, super busy, and into everything! I really feel that they are two year old's in six year old bodies as they explore their new world. Here are some neat highlights from the week:

When we drove home from the airport last Saturday Garrett said, "Dad, fast! No Police in America?" We were going about 60 miles an hour on the interstate and this was faster than he had ever traveled in a car (remember prior to being with us only one car ride in their life). We all laughed and explained that we do have police but in America cars travel much faster than in Ethiopia.

We arrived to our house and it was all smiles. They both saw the basketball goal in the driveway and got super excited. As we walked up on the porch they both were saying "Tulek (meaning big) house." We opened the front door and they both took off exploring. They were both running all around not sure where to go or what to do. It was a very tearful time for me knowing that I had prayed for so long to bring them HOME.

As a family we took them upstairs to show them their bedrooms. They both were so happy and loved the fact that they had a bed that was all theirs. They have been sharing bunks on a bunk bed with others and so a bunk alone made them overjoyed. When we entered the playroom they both laughed out loud. Tia went straight for the baby dolls and Garrett went to the matchbox cars. They were thrilled to have a place to play. The orphanage had one soccer ball that was shared by all and other than that no toys for kids their age.

They turned on every (and I mean every) light in the house and kept saying, "Power", each time they turned on a light. They had no power on the island and very unreliable power at the orphanage. You should have seen Garrett as he discovered the remote controlled ceiling fan and light in our family room. He turned it on and off at least one hundred times that first night.

Tia also really liked the bathrooms. She counted each of our 4 bathrooms and laughed harder with each one. She turned the water on and off in all 6 bathroom sinks. Something we take for granted each day yet for her it was amazing that she had six bathroom sinks to brush her teeth in when she has never even had one. Another thing she loved was the bathtub in my bathroom. She and Lindsay had so much fun splashing and playing while she enjoyed her first bath ever. The bubbles added to the fun and she didn't want to get out when it was bedtime.

Garrett loved the garage and all of the fun things that he found in there. He got out every ball he could find along with every bat, helmet, and frisbee and played with each one. He sat on every bike and pretended to ride each one. He is so active and I know that the garage and outside is where he will spend most of his time.

The kitchen was another favorite place that first night. They had never seen an oven (much less two) in the wall, a refrigerator with water and ice in the door, or a pantry full of food. They had fun exploring around the kitchen and enjoyed some bananas and blue berries while they took it all in. We have a built in desk in the kitchen with a computer on it and they both quickly found their way over to play on it. It was so cute seeing them see photos of our visit with them in November on the computer screen.

They both loved the basement and Garrett was amazed by the Wii. They both loved Megan and Kaylee's queen size beds and thought that it was funny that only one person slept in them. So many things we take for granted and they remind us that everything we have is a blessing!

Bedtime was so much fun that first night home even though we were all exhausted we got to tuck them both in, say prayers and praise God that He brought them home to us. They both were so excited to be in their own beds and both giggled as we tucked them in. Such a precious memory and reminder to us all that in God's perfect time He answers our prayers. God has been so good to our family!

Other quick highlights from our first week:

Our fridge is often a waterfall.....they love to watch the water pour out of the front and cascade down to a large puddle on the floor.

I have found the toaster oven on several times this week and now we unplug it after use.

I taught Garrett how to fill up his cup with water from the front of the fridge and you should have seen his face the first time ice came out instead of water. He thought that he had broken the fridge.

We went to a sports store to purchase cleats for soccer and this was their first real store experience. We walked up to the front of the store and they both couldn't believe that the doors were sliding open for them to walk in.

Garrett's eyes were huge as he walked into the sports store. He started jumping up and down with excitement. He couldn't believe that he was going to get to pick out some cleats for soccer. You should see the ones he picked...... the most shiny ones on the shelf.

Tia giggled with delight as she put on her pink cleats. She laughed really loud when David tried her shin guards on her. When it was time to pick out a soccer ball of course the bright pink one was hers!

Back to school shopping was also fun. Their first trip to Target- They couldn't believe that we were buying all of those school supplies (and neither could I)- Six kids equals tons of school supplies!

Tia went with me to get groceries at Walmart one day this week and I was so thankful that Megan was with us. She had never seen anything like Walmart and so everything she saw she wanted to touch and then she wanted to put in out cart. I have never said no so much in my entire life as in that one hour.

Garrett loves to know how things work and so the liquid hand soap pumps at our house made him very curious. He decided to take apart the one in our guest bathroom and while doing so the entire thing broke (I had refilled it less than an hour before). He decided that this was an emergency and so he carried the broken container all over the house until he found me as the soap spilled everywhere he was going. Have you ever tried to clean up liquid soap?

The large framed fabric in our living room was in the floor right before the younger three's first soccer practice on Thursday night. I couldn't figure out what had happened and then Garrett brought me his soccer ball and took my hand. He then took me in the living room and replayed for me what had happened.....he now understands not to play soccer in the house. I would love to have seen him when that huge thing fell down. I am sure he was scared to death!

Garrett found some green sunglasses (big and not real attractive) that were given to Lindsay by Dr. Massari-Wilson at her last dental appointment. He put them on last Saturday and would not take them off until we bought him a pair of Spider man sunglasses a few days later. He and Tia both love their sunglasses and have them on from early morning until bedtime.

Soccer Practice for Tia, Garrett and Lindsay was also a big hit this week. Garrett and Tia have never played soccer on grass only on concrete at the orphanage and so it was great to see how excited they were to play on a real field!

So many neat things this week but the neatest by far is at meal time.......Garrett always leads our family in thanking God for our food and each time I almost cry. I am so thankful that Garrett's heart is thankful to our Father- I can't wait until the day that all 6 of my kids have accepted Him. Praying daily for Tia and Garrett to quickly realize their need to trust Christ completely with their precious lives. Join me in praying for them! So much more to share...... off to see what they are into!