Arriving in Addis…exhausted and excited

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit


Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

We started our trip at 2:00 am Friday morning October 18. 2AM….2AM. I am tired just telling you about the start to our trip. Due to international travel, we wanted to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before our flight which was scheduled to take off at 6:00 am. Of course – as all trips must have a hiccup at some point, ours happened right from the beginning. When we arrived at the airport, we found out our flight was cancelled as our plane had not arrived the night before.

Thankfully, that was really the only glitch in our travel. We were successfully shuffled to another flight and actually left 20 minutes earlier than the original intended departure time of 6:00, and after transfer in Washington DC, we were on our way to Addis Ababa Ethiopia. The flight to get there was 13 hours from Washington Dulles on Ethiopian Air. My son Ethan was happy with the accommodations – we each had our own personal movie screen and headphones, and we were served a total of four meals on the trip, as well as coffee, tea and snacks. The food was really good, considering we were on an airplane miles high in the sky.

We arrived on Saturday at 6:45am Ethiopia time. No time for napping. We grabbed our luggage and boarded a van to head over to our guest house.


Ember Guest House

I was exhausted and so was every one else. But sleep had to wait. We drove through the busy streets of Addis. This is no place to take a nap. Driving through the streets in Ethiopia is an exercise in trust.

There are more than 5 million residents in the capital city of Addis Ababa. At any given point in time, I would swear that half of the residents are in the streets. I have never seen such chaos in streets and highways. There is traffic, of course. But there is also much more: people are walking throughout the streets, literally dodging moving cars and buses in order to cross. There are donkeys, goats, sheep, dogs, chickens and horses in the streets. There are children in the streets. People sleep on the sidewalks and on medians on the highway. Many people are disabled, but that does not keep them out of the streets. Many horses are aged and weak, and left abandoned on the streets to live out their final days. Animals who are deceased may be waiting for their pickup from their final resting place.

ImageA horse taking residence on the street

Ethan pointed out a man on street with leprosy. He had no use of his atrophied legs which he held beneath him while he scooted around on a plastic disc, moving from one car to the next asking for money or food. This is his life. This is how he exists. The average “salary” for such existence can be several hundred “birr” per month, or about $7-$10 US per month. (One US dollar is around 18-19 Ethiopian birr).

Ethan has a million questions – understandably – we all do. Where are the horses from? Where are all of these people going? What do the animals eat? Where do these people go at night when they are not on the streets? (Do they ever leave the streets?). Are these horses sick? Are these dogs someone’s pets? Do they have homes? Where are the kids running to? Where are their parents? Why are there so few gas stations?


Streets of Addis


A mother and her two children, streets of Addis


Streets of Addis, carrying grass for coffee ceremonies


Busy streets of Addis

We arrived at the Ember Guest House and I felt like we had arrived in paradise. We had clean beds, clean sheets, clean (bottled) water and food! We had coffee and tea! As I had only been in Addis for less than an hour, I already realized what a blessing these luxuries were for us there.


We took brief naps but for the most part we wanted to try to stay awake in an effort to get on “Ethiopia time.”


View of Kidane Meheret Orphanage play yard and roof tops

That first afternoon we made our first visit to Kidane Meheret Orphanage. I can only say that I was never prepared for the emotion that came over me when I walked into this place. When the children saw us, they literally ran to us and climbed onto us into our arms. They had the most beautiful precious smiling faces and they felt like Koala bears in our arms. They embraced us in every sense of the word. Our hearts melted.

There in Ethiopia, many children are orphaned as a result of HIV. An estimated 760,000 people are living with HIV in Ethiopia today. Parents are deceased from HIV infection. Treatment is difficult due to no health care access and no funding. Children are born to HIV infected parents and contract the disease before they ever see their first day of life. While in an orphanage in Ethiopia, affected children are treated with HIV medications and for the most part their disease is controlled. Once the children grow and reach the age where they must move on, out of the orphanage, they must rely on their own funding to get treatment – a feat that for most turns out to be impossible. A life is truly saved when a child with HIV gets adopted.

In the orphanage, the children are keenly aware of who can and cannot be adopted. There are requirements by the government for the children to have certain requirements met before that child can be adopted. I am not an expert in the field of Ethiopian adoption, but as I understand it, children who have a living parent must have papers signed by that parent relinquishing parental rights before that child can be adopted. If parents are deceased, a family member must consent to adoption. (These are general principles as I have been told; if you need to learn more about Ethiopian adoption I would refer you to a more official resource or adoption agency). Adoption of siblings or children with infection or special needs will get expedited attention.

So there at our first visit, a little boy grabbed my arm and pointed to his friend and said to me “You can take him home with you! You can take him home with you!” They were quite literally promoting each other for adoption. I felt like my heart might truly break into a million pieces.




Every direction I looked I saw love and joy in these children. They were so happy to visit with us. Ethan was a superstar – he brought a football and a soccer ball. He played with the kids while Jule did magic tricks (the disappearing rock was especially popular). There were no electronics or high tech games, and no high tech playground equipment. The play area was small and concrete, but was equipped with a makeshift soccer goal and basketball goal. The soccer ball the kids had been using was barely recognizable as such, from what I am sure was many many hours of use. The smell of lunch cooking was warm and sweet in that place.


On the surface, before the children came out to play, the place had looked gray and desolate. It felt heartbroken and sad. But when laughter, and sweet voices of children all ages filled up the play yard, the joy in our hearts could not be squelched. I wanted that feeling for us – and for them – to never end. Our togetherness was magical – and miraculous. I realized that God brought us all together – from opposite sides of the planet – to share in that happy moment which we will always hold on to.

Image“For my family: May angels protect you, May sadness forget you, May happy wish for you, May Jesus always bless you…Jesus always love all…Love you, Helen”

4 thoughts on “Arriving in Addis…exhausted and excited

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