Friday, June 5, 2015

Happy Gotcha Day, Jaden Biyagegn!

One of the first pictures we had of Jaden
One year ago today, our lives were changed forever. It was three hundred and sixty five days to be exact; we walked out of the Hilawe Foundation Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with our precious Jaden in our arms. We will never forget that day. This day, June 5, we will celebrate each year as our “Gotcha Day.” It was the day that Jaden Biyagegn Smith joined his forever family.

We don't want to forget a single moment of this day that changed our lives for the better. It was a wild day. As some of you may remember, we went to Ethiopia on faith. Usually when a family travels on their second adoption trip, they already have an Embassy appointment. The Embassy appointment is the last step before traveling home with your child. A family goes to the United States Embassy to get their child’s visa to enter into the United States. Many had joined us in prayer begging God for an appointment on this day. It took 24 hours to get the visa so if we didn’t get the visa on this day (Thursday, June 5, 2014) we would not have been able to travel the next day.

Looking at his family book
with Tarikua (Ella Kate)
So we got up that morning, and ate breakfast at the Bethel Guest House. The breakfasts at the Bethel Guest House were the best. After breakfast, our driver, Abey, was there to take us to the orphanage. Before we left, we checked our email one more time, and still had no response from the Embassy. So, things didn’t look good for our Embassy appointment.

When we got to the orphanage, Jaden was excited to see us. We played with him all morning … from coloring and blowing bubbles to throwing balls in baskets and sometimes at people. We played until naptime. While Jaden was napping, we decided to go grab lunch at a place that had Wi-Fi, to see if we had received an email from the Embassy. We did not have Internet in Ethiopia unless we found Wi-Fi. When we sat down at our table and checked our computer we realized {by a miracle} the Embassy had scheduled an appointment for us at 1:00 PM that day. The problem is that it was 12:45 PM, and we didn't have Jaden with us. We called our agency, and they told us to just go to the Embassy without him. We jumped up from the restaurant, and left. It took us 25 minutes to get to the Embassy.  We got there at 1:10 PM; however, when we got there they would not see us without Jaden. We were now in a mess. They told us that we could come back that day, but we needed to be back no later than 4 PM. If we didn't get to Embassy with him that day, we would be in Ethiopia another week. We frantically left. The problem was … we were 45 minutes from the orphanage. For those of you that have traveled in Addis Ababa, you know the difficulty going across town. There are not many traffic rules, and traffic is terrible. Abey, our driver, did an amazing job; he got us as fast as humanly possible to the orphanage. The orphanage sent a caregiver with us because Jaden wasn't in our care yet. We didn’t know how he would respond leaving the orphanage either. By God's grace, we left, and Jaden didn’t cry at all. We made it to the Embassy with Jaden in ONE hour (UNBELIEVABLE), and it took us only 5 minutes to get the approval we needed from the Embassy for our visa, which meant we could leave the next day. This was huge and our agency said it had never happened before. We left the Embassy extremely emotional, and headed  back to the orphanage to get ready for Jaden's coffee ceremony.

In Jaden's traditional Ethiopian clothes
The coffee ceremony is the final thing that happens before a child leaves with their adoptive parents. It is a very special time as the child is dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes. There is coffee, Ethiopian bread, popcorn and soda. This was a beautiful time. It was so evident how loved Jaden was there. We took lots of pictures, and the caregivers cried. The administrator of the orphanage asked us, "please, always keep him in church because he was very spiritually minded." This blew us away, and we assured them of our commitment to this. As we went to get in the van to leave, Jaden got very upset. We were taking him away from all that he knew, and the ladies who had loved him so well. He was leaving his very best friend, Tarikua, his bed, people that looked like him and all the security he had in the world. We drove probably 30 minutes to our guesthouse, and he cried all the way there. It was an incredibly heartbreaking time as he must have been so terrified.
Hilawe orphanage gave us a gift

Ethiopian bread cake
One of the administrators from the orphanage that
adored Jaden and often shared her food with him
So many emotions with these pictures as we left the
Hilawe orphanage with our boy!

First night - at Bethel Guest House
Gotcha Day 2014
When we got to the guesthouse, there was a lady, Tite, that worked there that we will never forget. She was a huge help to us. She was able to speak to him in Amharic and explain as much as you can to a 2 year old. She helped us bathe him and asked him what he would eat for dinner. We facetimed our older kids, but Jaden was very frightened by this. We played a little, but we were all exhausted. When Tite heard him crying in our room, she came up there. She held him. She rocked him for hours until he fell asleep. She said he kept saying in Amharic, “Please don’t leave me.” We did our best to love on him, but we were basically strangers. Tite finally got him to sleep, and Ashley sobbed.

Adoption is beautiful. But there is so much loss too. There was no way for Jaden to understand that we would take him to a home in Arkansas where he would be absolutely adored. There was no way to help him comprehend that we had cried, prayed and begged God for him for 4 years. There was no way for this precious little boy to grasp that we had loved him with all of our being since the very first time we saw his face 10 months earlier. All he understood was two people, who looked and smelled completely different than anything he had ever known, had him in a room all alone. We prayed and asked God to comfort Jaden and thanked HIM for the miracles that occurred. We would be able to leave the next day to go home, and we had in our care our long awaited baby boy. What an unbelievable day that we will never forget!

As adoptive parents, we always desire to be real and help other adoptive parents to realize that in the middle of a day that you have dreamed about …. planned in your mind … anxiously awaited for, there may be trials and bumps. There were times that we didn't think we would ever get our boy. There were times that we would cry, and question the Lord. HOWEVER, God's timing was absolutely perfect, and that little person you bring into your home will be worth it!

As we reflect on this day, we can only thank the Lord for all He has done for us. There are so many things that God did that we could not have ever done on our own. Only GOD!

Jaden Biyagegn Smith, you bring us so much joy. Your mommy and daddy love you so very much! Your brother and your sisters adore you. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins think you are the greatest! Our love for you is unconditional! We pray that as you grow, you will grow in the love and knowledge of our Lord, and we pray that your life will always point others to Jesus and bring glory to our Father in Heaven!

Jaden loves swimming this year!
Spent the day swimming at our friend's house
Jaden at his Gotcha Day celebration

Jaden chose Jason's Deli for his
"Gotcha Day" celebration!

Happy Gotcha Day, Jaden Biyagegn Smith!

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