Packages don’t always come wrapped in cardboard. Sometimes they are flesh and blood.
The story of this “package” starts when we were approached by our social worker back in 2008 about adopting Ethiopian sisters who were in need of a family. We were told their Mom left them at a care center so that she could search for work. She couldn’t feed them, the worker told us, and prayed that an American family would adopt them. The number of sisters they described was two.
Kalkidan and Andinet came home to our family in August of 2008. They had no birth certificates–their ages were a guess.
Although they couldn’t speak or understand a word of English, the girls were hit with American life and culture from their first day home.
They learned the joy of being ballerinas… And princesses.
They went to school.
And played American sports.
And as they were absorbed into our family…
…they began to change. Their rapid-fire speech to each other in their native dialect of Tigrinya slowly gave way to words, then phrases, then sentences in English. Instead of pointing and using sign language to communicate with us, they starting to develop the ability to tell us simple stories from home.
There were some colorful stories. Some hard to believe.
But there was one character who kept recurring in the stories; someone named Tamer.
At first they didn’t have the words to tell us who Tamer was. But eventually they did.
She was their big sister. And she had been left behind in Ethiopia.
They couldn’t explain why. I don’t think they knew. But I wanted to know.
I learned that the girls’ mother had originally put all three of them up for adoption. At some point in the bureaucratic adoption process it had been determined that most American families would not be willing to take in three siblings or an older child on the cusp of puberty. Mom was advised to keep Tamer in country and let the agency find a home for the two younger sisters. Keeping Tamer in country meant that she would live alone while her mother left to find work.
I don’t know who made that decision, but I did know a family who would be willing to adopt three siblings and a child on the cusp of puberty.
I knew it would be complicated to pursue the adoption of Tamer, but I also knew that the Psalmist says, “God sets the lonely in families. He leads out the prisoners with singing.”
The tedious year-long process of paperwork became a dim memory when I witnessed the girls, who thought they would never see each other again, reunite at Dulles Airport in April of 2010.
“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.”
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring you children from the east and gather you from the west.”
“I will say to the North, ‘Give them up!” and to the South, ‘Do not hold them back.'”
“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth–”
“everyone who is called by My name…”
“whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”
Isaiah 43: 4-6