The last day in Ethiopia. It happened too quickly. Our itinerary said that we were going to be picked up at 10:00 to spend time at Hannah's Hope, so we slept in a little (7 am!) and started to pack up our hotel room. We got breakfast downstairs and packed our backpack full of snacks so we could stay a bit longer at the orphanage.
It was a pretty silent drive as we headed to Hannah's Hope for the last time. I thought, the next time we make this drive we'll be bringing him HOME! I tried not to think about leaving our son, but the pit in my stomach was already there.
Israel was sitting outside in a moses basket when we got there. He gave us some great smiles and talked to us while he was sunning. He was wearing an outfit that we brought, he fit perfectly in the three month outfit!
Soon it was naptime, so we took him inside and I rocked him to sleep. I love his little half-opened eyelids while he sleeps. After a while, he woke up and was smiling at me. I kept whispering him to go back to sleep or else a special mother would take him from me! I rocked him and he finally went back to sleep. He was sweating so bad, even though he was just wearing a romper and a thin blanket. It was so sweet to feel his warm body and to kiss him. I love that little man.
Several of the babies started to wake up, so Israel woke up because of the noise. I thought he didn't get a full nap, but I was too excited to play with him to try to get him asleep again. Will and I took him to the other Hannah's Hope house (there are two houses on the grounds). The downstairs has a sitting room, so we sat there for several hours. Israel started to be a little fussy, and Will started singing to him and he was in a trance listening to his daddy. We played with him, tried to get him to acknowledge the lovey that we brought (he never cared for it), and changed him into an Auburn outfit for a picture :). We fed him a few bottles and kissed him as much as we could. I tried to get some "detail shots" of his little body, so I'd remember how small he was, what his eyelashes looked like and how his hair had different types of curls.
Our case manager warned us that somehow the kids (even the babies) have a sense when it is the last day of the trip. She said it can manifest itself in different ways, but we found this to be true with Israel. He seemed a little more reserved and fussy on the last day. He was still absolutely precious and gave us some good smiles and snuggles, but he wasn't as cheerful as the day before. I tried to keep a brave face all day, but it wasn't easy!
Around 3:00 we took him to his room for bathtime. We gave him a bath and put his pajamas on, and he suddenly got really fussy. That's when I lost it. All day I'd tried to suppress the thoughts of leaving him, but at that moment it was over. I gave him to his special mother because I didn't want him to see me crying. He was still crying when I walked away into the hallway, and as Will kissed him good-bye. The moment we walked into that hallway to leave him was one of the worst moments of my life. Will held me and we both just cried together, thinking that our son was in the next room yet we were already leaving him. Wass, the driver, came to get us immediately (I think he was walking up the stairs when we left the room). The entire drive home I sobbed. When we got to our hotel, Wass was so sweet. He told me "Mama, don't worry. Wherever he is, someone is right next to him caring for him." I knew that Israel was getting good care, but it is still so sad to think of him in an orphanage.
The evening dragged by. It was so hard to know our son was just a few miles away. We weren't looking forward to the long, long trek home (8 hour flight to Frankfurt, 7 hour layover, and 10 hour flight to Atlanta). It was absolutely terrible to know that we were leaving Ethiopia. I cried so much and also felt so numb. This isn't how it is supposed to be. Parents should not leave their children on a different continent. If there was a way for me to stay in Ethiopia, I would.
Adoption is incredibly beautiful. Don't hear me wrong. Looking at my son and seeing a child who was an orphan, but is now a son, that is such a clear picture of the gospel. God took us in our sin, paid our ransom through Jesus's death on the cross, and made us sons and heirs to the kingdom of God. My son's identity was literally changed from someone who abandoned him to my husband who claimed him. As adopted children of God, our identity is changed from "enemy" to "son".
But, with this picture of adoption, we must see the "before" shot too. Before we were adopted into God's kingdom, there was a separation from God. When God paid the ransom for us, it involved him turning his back on His son Jesus while Jesus paid our price on the cross. Adoption has ugly parts. Like the loss of the birth family. Like the time spent in an orphanage. Like leaving your child in Africa when you go home. Praise God that he WILL bring our story to completion one day. Israel WILL come home and be a testimony of God's faithfulness to us.
So now, I try to forget the ache of leaving him on the last day, and try to remember the goodness of those four beautiful days in Ethiopia. I try to imagine that curly headed boy in his crib here in Jacksonville. I look at the pictures of him all over our house, and re-watch those precious videos of him talking to us. I pray HARD for the Lord to be merciful to us and give us a quick embassy date. And hopefully very soon, our son, the one who reminds us of God's faithfulness to us through the adoption process and even through our salvation... he'll be here in my arms again.