Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why Ethiopia?

Since we decided to adopt, many people have asked, "why Ethiopia?" The answer, I think, is both complex and simple. This may be a long post for blogging, but I want you to get a sense of where we have come from.

After praying through the summer about our desire to adopt and ultimately deciding that we wanted to do it, we were literally left with the entire world in front of us. At the time, we were open to everything from domestic to international adoption and really did not even know where to begin. However, through many different conversations with wise people - those who had adopted both domestically and internationally, those who understood the highs and lows of adoption, those who had counseled or known others who adopted and those who were natives of other nations and cultures - we gained a greater understanding of the processes involved and some of the big issues we needed to think about.

While need was not the only determining factor in deciding between international and domestic adoption, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of orphans internationally.

Disclaimer: Please don't walk away with the impression that I am saying that international adoption is more important than domestic, because I don't think that at all. The fact is that a child in need of a home represents the greatest of needs whether in the richest and most modern nation in the world or the poorest and most destitute.

However, for us, the idea of hundreds of thousands of orphans, sometimes packed in sub-standard government run institutions, was simply too much to ignore. For example, did you know that Ethiopia alone, a country that is just a little bit larger than Texas, will have more than 5 million orphans by 2010. 5 Million!!!

So, with the decision made for international, we still had a daunting decision ahead of us. Thankfully, we were able to quickly narrow down the list based on the logistical requirements of different countries. For instance, some countries have age or religion requirements that we did not meet. Others had age restrictions of existing children in the home or extremely long time periods that adoptive parents are required to spend in the country waiting for the judicial system to approve the adoption. Through this process we narrowed our list down to five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, El Salvador and Ethiopia.

In my mind, I thought the process would get easier from here, but I was wrong. Going from these five countries to Ethiopia required some of the deepest soul searching I have ever done in my life. I say "I" because Leah was in the Ethiopia camp much earlier than I was. However, she did a wonderful job of allowing me to process and refine some of my own thoughts on the issue before we made our final decision together.

If we are honest, one of the biggest issues to surmount was the concept of transracial adoption. Generally, kids from Russia and Kazakhstan are of Caucasian decent and would probably look very similar to Leah, Ellison, Ansley and I. All other considerations being equal, this seemed like a natural thing to do, while transracial adoption just seemed so difficult. Yet, we could not help feeling like we were being urged towards something different - something other than what might feel "natural."

Our problem was that we just did not know what "different" meant. Also, we did not feel like there was any way to make this type of decision. As much as I want the ability to draw out a graph with emotionless pros and cons for all choices in my life, it often can't be done and you must simply deliberate, pray for guidance and then go with your gut.

Unfortunately my gut remained confused and it was not like there was some clear directive from Scripture or the Lord. I knew that the Lord loved the poor and the needy and desired us to love them to. I also knew that adoption was one of many ways to love the poor and the needy and that He was going to be pleased with anything we decided. Yet I was still vexed with questions.
How would we be able to understand the burdens that our future son might experience from racism? How much should we factor the life experience of our existing children into the decision? Is there a difference in the severity of stigma a child from a Hispanic, Asian or African nation might experience? Are we willing to live in a multicultural way????

All this was just too much, until I had a conversation with a trusted friend who is from Ethiopia. He observed that every question I was focusing on involved only negative consequences of transracial adoption. He counseled that we needed to think about all the benefits of a multicultural family.

Benefits, positive thinking - What a concept!

At this point I was both ashamed at my negative focus and thankful for such a helpful bit of advice. I realized that transracial adoption actually fit us quite well. What an adventure this would be! How amazing to have a family that is a little different than most! How wonderful that our biological children would not have to be taught later in life about the different world that exists outside their sheltered lives - they would live it from day one! Transracial adoption was surely not going to be easy and there would be plenty of bumps in the road, but the road would not always be bumpy and it may be a road that we would never experience if we did not choose it deliberately.

After a few more days of this positive processing and thinking about the countries on our short list, it became as clear as day. We would adopt a little boy from Ethiopia and our lives would be changed forever.

We are so thankful that the Lord brought us through this difficult but amazing decision and we are so excited about the journey ahead. Thanks for reading all the way through this and I can only hope that it helps some other poor sap think through a similar decision in his own life.


Lu said...

hello Carpenter's

Lu here....I just know that God will bless you family and this child in so many ways! It will be amazing! Congrats!

Hope to see you guys has been too long!


Kyle W said...

so excited for y'all. God will bless your family formthis decision. I hope to adopt from Africa some day as well. Cheers!

How was the trip to Africa? When did you go?


jason b said...

Great blog Tom and Leah. Congrats again on the coming adoption. Kyle, I haven't talked to you in's it going?

Michael & Donia said...

I just read through your explanation of Why Ethiopia? My husband and I are just at the beginning of the adoption process and have just gone through very similar questions that you were asking yourself. I wanted to thank you for your honesty. It helps knowing that there are people out there with the same concerns and at the same time; the same positive ideas. Thank you and I look forward to a great journey.