Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Letters from Orphans
Deanna's beautiful multicultural family
November is National Adoption Month and this past Sunday was Orphan Sunday. We dedicated our children at our church in Durham, North Carolina with about 10 other children who had been adopted in the past year within our congregation. Typically in our inter-denominational Christian church, babies are “dedicated” as a way for parents to commit to raising their children with an understanding that they are children of God and to declare a promise to teach them about Jesus. Baptism is something that the children can decide to do as they get older and grow in their faith. I was asked to speak for a few minutes and when contemplating what to discuss, I immediately knew I wanted to talk about the numerous letters given to me by orphans in Ethiopia. They were beautifully decorated and folded up in bulky triangles that bulged from my Levi’s pockets.
When we went to Addis Ababa in 2008 to Layla House, an orphanage that houses about 300 children, most of whom are between the ages of three and 16, our newly adopted children were five, six and nine. The letters were mostly written in Amharic and I had to take them to friends to be translated. In some ways, the letters were like little love letters of gratitude for adopting our three children, but mainly, they were pleas and requests to find them families.
These children saw me as their only hope for delivering a message to my friends to come and adopt them. For my husband and I, this was overwhelming. If not adopted soon, some young teens would be on the streets and never have an opportunity for a family again. Some were sick and knew that they needed a family who could help nurse them back to health. One letter was given to me by two sisters who were nine and 13. Once translated, I would find out that this is what the letter said:
Dear Ejigayehu Mama,
We are so happy that our friend has you as a mother. We think of you as our mother even though we don’t have one yet. Please tell your friends that we are good children and will promise to be wonderful daughters. You are doing such a happy thing to call Ejigayehu, Yared and Kidist your children. God will pay you back. We pray we too can come to find a family. With God all things are possible. But please tell your friends about us and promise not to forget us. We want to know you forever….Tsion and Meskerem
When I stood on that stage on Orphan Sunday, I read this letter. These girls did find a family and have been in America for two years now. But I was saddened that some of the other children who were too shy, didn’t know how to write or were too little or sick to write, will never be able to have a letter read aloud in front of a church congregation of 2000 members.
On the stage of my church that day, six different countries were represented out of the 52 different countries composing our congregation. Children in my family and in the families of my friends on that stage really don’t know that there are families not blended from around the world; they make no judgment on the cultural background of potential parents. What I learned in Ethiopia, with these letters in my pocket, is that children long for love and for someone to call them their sons and daughters. They understand the strength and power of family and do not discriminate based on race or religion.
They also know that God is a good God and is truly the one responsible for them. I was struck by the amount of notes I received that said, “God will pay you back!”, as if they knew that God would not let them down.
I ask that this November, during National Adoption month, we remember the estimated 163 million orphans globally in different countries around the world,† and that we do not forget the over 500,000 children in foster care that have no one to write a letter to. They are all waiting for someone to say, “Yes, I will take you in.”
† UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. By this definition there were over 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005, which has grown to an estimated 163 million in more recent figures. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father. Of the more estimated 163 million children classified as orphans, over 18.5 million have lost both parents.
© 2011 – 2012, Deanna Jones. All rights reserved.
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