A Package From Home (Part Two)

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… IMG_0561And 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–”

Dulles reunion girls

“everyone who is called by My name…”


“whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”


Isaiah 43: 4-6


A Package From Home (Part One)

It arrived inauspiciously one recent Saturday morning:

A large cardboard box, mis-shapen and crushed in spots, straining at it’s taped seams.  It was stamped with an unusual red stamp and words with foreign characters.  We read ETHIOPIAN MAIL in English on it’s side. And then it all made sense.  Those were Amharic words and the package had made a long journey.   A journey from the East of Africa, across a continent and an ocean to our doorstep in Hanover, Virginia.

Tamer, Kalkidan and Andinet wanted to tear it open as fast as they could.  Frankly, they were amazed and somewhat overcome by it.  I said we should take it in for a few minutes.  We might never see one like this again.


As they worked on the seams, treasures began pouring out.  Bags full of food, photos, a letter.  All reminders of their  home.

The food,  they said,  is called  kolo.   It was a mixture of nuts, seeds and grains.   I would have mistaken it for bird food. The girls sniffed it…and touched it…and ran their fingers through it for a long time… before they tasted it and then savored it.


They savored it.  These girls of mine,  who eat the best of what America has to offer everyday.  The cheeseburgers, the pizza, the ice cream sundaes. They savored the kolo.  Because it was a taste of their true home.


Most of us eat the best of what America has to offer.  It can be pretty satisfying most of the time.  For a while at least.  But then discontent edges in.  Our plenty doesn’t truly satisfy.  We long for more.  More food, more entertainment, more pleasure, , more love…

Because we were created for more than this.  Created with eternity in our hearts, as King Solomon said.  We were created for our true and eternal home… and we’re not there yet.

Along with the food and photos of Ethiopia, was a letter from the girls’ biological mother, addressed to me.  Six years ago, she had made the hard decision to send them to a care center in Mekelle, Ethiopia, in the hope that an American family would adopt them.   She loved them, but was a single mother with no way to support them.  She had to leave them to go find work.


In the letter, written in English by a friend,  Belaynesh addressed us, “Dear to the respected and lovely my family and children’s.”  She thanked God for us. And then her hope, “I wish to you and your lovely family a happy and bright life in the future…”

I want to write back and say to Belaynesh, “Your wish has already been granted.”

For my God and yours,  Belaynesh, has said, “At that time I will gather you;  at that time I will bring you home.  I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes.” (Zephaniah 3:20)

There will be a day, after our long journey,  when you and I are amazed and overcome, when treasures will spill out of the seams.  A day when we will taste and see that the LORD is good and we will savor every moment of our true home.

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