|Waiting for our breakfast|
Well, finally it was time to load up and drive to the Holt offices. Another couple joined us, so there were four families altogether. We arrived at the Holt offices and were ushered in to a large room where we were greeted warmly and watched a short power point presentation reminding us of some of the cultural issues and informing us what to expect that day. Then the attorney spoke to us about our court hearing and explained what would happen. Before we drove to the court, we filed upstairs to one of the large offices where we noticed rows and rows of large 3-ring binders, each one representing a child who was in the process of being adopted. Each family had the opportunity to view their child's binder, which included all the paperwork , (everything from our dossiers, too), health reports, pictures, etc that had been gathered up to that point. It struck me how much work had been poured into little Joseph's life just to get him to the place where he was ready to be adopted. And thinking of my wonderful afternoon with him...was it already two days ago?...and glimpsing his magnetic personality made me pause and wonder to the Lord that He must have some special plans for Joseph's life! I am in awe that God would consider me worthy of rearing up such a precious child. Truth is, I'm not, but I just have to trust Him to be sufficient in me.
Anyway, we didn't have a lot of time, just flipped through the pages looking for anything that wasn't in Amharic or was a picture. Then we filed back downstairs and into the van for the short ride to the courthouse. It wasn't much to look at, just a plain multi-story building. We entered and immediately began trudging up who knows how many flights of stairs on a narrow winding staircase. I lost count. We followed the attorney down a long hallway and into a fairly large waiting room. It had chairs placed all the way around the room but was mostly open in the middle. The attorney told us that normally the judge holds court in that room, but for some reason had decided to meet with people in her chambers that day. We waited as group after group was called in for 10 minutes or so and then exited. While we waited, Pat glanced around the room and all of a sudden leaned over to me and said she thought she recognized Joseph's birth mother, from a photo we had seen in his binder, sitting across the room. My heart started pounding as I stole a glance. She looked so forlorn sitting there and my heart went out to her as I thought about all this day meant for her. For me it was the possibility of the judge saying, "The child is yours!" For her it was the certainty that Joseph would never be hers again. Oh my heart felt like it was breaking!
As we waited, each of the families in our group began to realize that the birth parents were all in the room and they began to recognize them from photos. Finally all of the birth parents were ushered as a group into the judge's chambers and after they had met with her, they left the courthouse. We were also ushered in as a group and asked a series of questions, which we answered as a group. One couple had already adopted before from Ethiopia and the judge was particularly interested in their child and how well he had adapted to his new life, but the rest of the questions were for the group. We were asked if we had met our child and if we still wanted to proceed with the adoption. Of course, we all said, "YES!" After only about 5 minutes, the judge declared to two families, "The child is yours!" But to us and one other family, we were told that we would need another court appointment because a particular letter of approval had not been sent yet. The attorney assured us that it was nothing to worry about and that we would not have to appear in person again. It was somewhat disappointing, but I had already steeled myself for the possibility that Mitch's absence might present a problem (which it thankfully did not!) so hearing that there was a delay wasn't crushing.
More agonizing to me was the prospect of our impending meeting with Joseph's birth mother. As we drove back to the Holt offices, where the meeting would take place, Pat reassured me that the Lord was with me and it would be okay. I had so many anxious thoughts, though...would she resent me? or would she approve me? would she be emotional or stoic? would I break down and cry and if I did what would she think? I tried to think of anything I could say or show her that might reassure her that she had made the best decision given the circumstance. I think I was the most nervous at this point in the trip, more than meeting Joseph or the court hearing! We came back into the waiting room at Holt and were told that there were only 3 interpreters so the fourth family, which of course was us, would have to wait until one of the others was done and then we would meet. More agonizing! I am more the type of person who would rather just get it over with first thing than have to wait to be last! But finally we were shown in and introductions were made. The conversation was slow because the translation went English to Amharic to Wolayita to Amharic to English through two interpreters. Instead of really asking many questions, I felt like I was just telling her about our family and how I would take care of Joseph. When I showed her pictures on my camera of Jack and Beth, she showed a faint smile and later, when I asked about Joseph's siblings, she said he has birth siblings who are the same ages as Jack and Beth! It was otherwise such an emotional and personal conversation that I mostly want to treasure it in my heart. Suffice it to say, she loves Joseph and truly wants him to have a better life, to know Jesus Christ, and she wants him to know about her. I pray that God will give her peace even in her grief.
After a somewhat awkward photo session with all of the birth and adoptive families together, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. They had a long drive back south. We were driven to a restaurant high up on a hill overlooking the city. It was quite a nice place and as we drove higher and higher, there were fewer and fewer ramshackle houses along the alleys. The menu had both pasta dishes and traditional Ethiopian fare, so I ordered a lamb stew with the traditional flatbread. Yummmmm! It was delicious! When our escort from Holt dropped us off, he said he would be back in 2 hours so we could just relax and debrief together. I still wasn't wanting to talk much. I would have rather had some time by myself to process everything and maybe journal, so when the meal was done, Pat and I decided to go out to the outdoor seating and enjoy the view with our dessert and macchiatos. What I really wanted was to talk to Mitch about everything. Sigh.
Our driver finally returned to pick us up and then we headed to a market for a whole 45 minutes of shopping! Talk about a change of pace! It was a good thing we had limited space to take things home because it made it easier to choose. I splurged on space a little bit when I chose a drum for Jack and some baskets for myself and for thank yous to a couple of people, but otherwise kept it small and simple. It helped to know that I would be returning and could always do more shopping the second time around. I suppose we should have haggled a bit over prices, but the prices were so reasonable to us that we didn't argue, just paid what they asked. Besides, we didn't have much time. When we made it back to the van, we discovered that our driver was Ciyun again and he asked if we wanted to get coffee. At first I thought he meant to drink coffee at a coffee shop, but then realized he meant to buy coffee to take home. How could I pass that up!!? So we pulled over in front of a little shop on a busy street and ran inside to get a couple of bags of coffee. While the others waited in the van, the van got swarmed by beggars and by street vendors. It was so sad to see them trying so hard just to sell us a little package of gum or tissues! We had been warned, though, not to give in because then we would really be swarmed once everyone saw that we would buy. We have so much for which to be thankful here in America...
So it was back to the hotel, eat an early dinner, pack our bags and wait for the hotel van to drive us to the airport. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the hotel, the view, and the restaurant under construction behind the hotel which is built like a traditional round hut...okay, so my pictures won't upload tonight. I'll just have to try again, maybe tomorrow.