Listening to the laughter of children, the kids screaming and the splashing of overly-chlorinated water might sound like any group of cousins getting together to play.
But for us, this informal get together was a lot more than that.
When this particular group of cousins get together, it's a reminder that God is good. God has plans bigger than all of us. It's a reminder that WE can make a difference. We can make the difference in the life of a child, and there is nothing greater than that.
Rewind the clock about 5 years.
Imagine, if you will, as 4 cousins are taken to an orphanage in Ethiopia after their grandmother is unable to care for them any longer. They know no one. They cling to each other as they attempt to make sense of their world. Daily survival is the only thing they can focus on. Tomorrow doesn't count. They have no future; at least not one they can imagine.
Rewind even further... 2 years before that and you will find a grandmother suddenly taking care of 4 grandchildren approximately ages 2,4,6,8 when two mothers die a month apart.
Josh was particularly talkative this week. I love it when he talks about his past because it gives me a better picture of who he really is. I hate it because it hurts. It hurts to know I wasn't always there to protect him. It hurts to think about what he's seen. He told me about when his mother died and his step dad and grandmother fought about who was going to take them in. He smiled and said, "Grandma won." I told him Grandma was a strong, determined woman who got what she wanted, and she would be SO happy watching them all play together. He agreed.
This picture shows Menkem, (Jameson) on the left, Mykias (Michael) front, Kalkidan (top center) and Filemon (Josh) on the right. This was one of their first days in the orphanage.
I've looked at this picture a million times... 3 years ago, I looked at this picture daily; not so much now because I've got the real thing to look at here at home. But it still moves me to tears to see them. I am unable to even imagine what they were thinking and feeling.
These cousins stayed together for about a year and a half at the orphanage. The younger two were adopted by a family who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. It was around the time that Michael and Kalkidan were adopted, that our kids found out about us. In a sense, we were a consolation prize for their loss. When the Killeen's came to pick up Michael and Kalkidan, Josh hid in his room and cried and cried. It breaks my heart in half to think about his pain.
But our God is good. He heals. He puts families together who cling to one another and support each other. He keeps these kids together one way or another. I am amazed to look at these pictures approximately 5 years later. Absolutely amazed.