Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No pictures allowed

We went to visit the government orphanages today.

The one where they keep the babies, no cameras were allowed. So I can't post a photograph of the police van driving up as soon as we arrived, nor the police women who jumped out of the back of it with a five day old baby girl, wrapped in swaddling clothes, who had been abandoned at a hospital. Which happens sometimes as many as five times a day, we were told.

I can't show you a picture of the bleak room we entered where fifty or so children with shaven heads, all dressed exactly alike in white tshirts and blue pants, immediately surrounded us as we walked in. Have you ever thrown a piece of bread in a pond just to watch the ducks fight each other for it? Imagine that, but with toddlers, literally crawling our legs. They swarmed all of us, including my children, but we mothers were attacked the most voraciously, so desperate were they for a mother's embrace. I can't show you the face of one of them, a boy I think, as I held him tightly, but imagine the purest joy you've ever seen. Then another climbed my leg and I held one in each arm as they clung to me, burying their faces in my neck until they pulled away and laughed.

And I'm sorry I can't show you a picture of the bright sunny small room at the top of the stairs where the walls were lined with cribs. Even if I could, you couldn't hear what I heard, which, aside from the caretakers chatting to each other, was silence.  Except for one chubby little girl who must have been new to the orphanage and therefore still mistakenly believed that if she cried, someone might come. She sat whimpering in her crib with a confused look on her face. In the picture I can't show you you'd see that they were all clean and had dry diapers and were fed and appeared healthy, including the newly born, yet already orphaned babies sleeping wrapped in blankets. The other three in the small room, old enough to sit or stand, just stared at us, silently. All of them curious, except for one.

I can't show you his picture. But he was sitting up, so he must have been about eight months old. He was wearing a hot pink sweatshirt with an American label and a diaper and he had those beautiful Ethiopian almond eyes.  He did not look at us. He stared straight ahead, at nothing. I can't show you a picture of what it looks like for tiny almond shaped eyes to be completely hopeless. I can tell you though that when I reached for him, he flinched. But as I continued to hold my arms out, he cautiously rocked his little body closer, still not looking at me. And when I picked him up he melted into my chest completely and very soon I could tell that his breathing had regulated to mine. And he felt like he was mine.

But then I had to put him down. And he cried, probably for the first time in a long time he cried, painfully cried, and I looked desperately at one of the caretakers begging her with my eyes to please, just hold him. And she did, but she almost immediately put him back in his crib. I can't show you a picture of him banging his head against the sides of the crib in frustration. Or of the worker scooting him back and shaking her finger and fussing at him in Amharic.

Imagine him going silent again. Imagine him staring, at nothing, again. 

I can't show you a picture of the next room, which was sunny and bright, where twenty or so cribs lined the perimeter and were also paired in a line down the center, with two to four infants in each crib. You can't see that the mattresses were raised too high for most of the children, who should have been crawling out at their ages, but weren't. Imagine them all beautiful, perfect. Imagine half of them napping. The other half sat or laid in their cribs, empty except for their tiny bodies. No toys. Most of them were under one year, only three seemed older than that. Twin little girls were in one crib who may have been two. One little girl seemed at least three, and she sat in her crib, making no noise, just smiling shyly, on the too-high mattress.


I can't show you a photo of my son, my firstborn, going from crib to crib, tickling, hugging, kissing, playing patty cake with each baby, just as had been done to him every day of his infancy. I can't show you how their eyes lit up as he bent his blond head over them and gave them each a nickname: Smiley, Cutie, Jailbreak. How they tried to sit up and reach out their little brown hands to touch him. How they drooled and smiled toothless smiles at him. How their coos and giggles broke the silence in the room of fifty babies. How when he left them, they looked disappointed, but not surprised.

I'm sorry, but I can't show you any pictures of this because the government wouldn't let us take any photographs. 













70 comments:

  1. Oh my heart breaks...wish I had words...

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  2. This truly breaks my heart. I just can't imagine...

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  3. Just so you know, Bethie is not in a place like this, nor has she ever been. When she was born she was in a private missionary orphanage called Bridge of Hope and then she was transferred to a Gladney foster care center where the workers love and kiss and sing to the babies all day long. These are the orphanages run by the government, and they are dismal.

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    1. Missy, I'm going to pick up my daughter in a China orphanage in January. I will get to go, and I will be able to take pictures of the 'nice' areas. If only I could show this post to every one who rudely asks us, "Why can't you just adopt from here?"

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  4. Oh, Missy. What do I do as I read this and push that feeling that has been tugging and knocking and scratching its way into my heart down, down, down because my head says "No, there is nothing you can do. People are not adopting from Ethiopia now. Your son won't have a sibling who shares his heritage." ? What do I do with the knowledge of these babies?

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    1. I have lots of friends in the Ethiopian adoption program currently. There are some good agencies still working well in Ethiopia....We also have a son from Ethiopia. -Lisa Gemmen

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  5. I wanted to believe that the orphanages were different in Ethiopia, different than what I saw in Russia...baby house #3 as they call it,where 150 children sounded like none. It was deafly quiet. My Ethiopian dtr. was only in an orphanage for 1 month, and then at our agencies transition home...so I didn't see. I just wanted to believe that it was diffent there, different somewhere. My heart hurts.

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  6. I'm just crying. Over the loss these children have faced and the loss their families have faced and over my hearts burning desire to just GO and be Jesus to a group of brown-faced people. But now isn't the time. God has made that very clear.

    But it hurts. It hurts to read about it. Missy, you've changed your kids forever by taking them. And praise the Lord for it. PRAISE THE LORD.

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  7. This should be on the front page of every newspaper.

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  8. We visited a privately run orphanage in Nicaragua. Although the conditions were good, the workers didn't like us holding the babies or loving on them, because it made it hard for them when we left. It's one of those things you understand, but you don't. I don't blame the workers, they are overwhelmed and it is time consuming just to get the basic necessities taken care of. It's so sad, because every child should be loved and no child should ever have to live this way. I am praying for your hearts today. <3

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  9. Completely heartbreaking. How can anyone read something like this and not be moved to action?

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  10. They don't allow pictures, but your words portray the orphanage as well as or better than any picture could.
    I've felt drawn to adoption for a long time, but didn't know if it really was our calling or not to adopt. But this post may have just cemented that calling. Thank you, Missy.

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  11. Oh, I know this pain. It is what first broke me to my soul and I stood in that orphanage declaring I would do something. We weren't told that we couldn't take pictures...so I did. (this was in 2008)

    I wrote about here.

    http://forsuchasthese.blogspot.com/2012/08/where-my-heart-first-broke.html

    Enjoying your updates. Keep them coming.

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  12. Oh my gosh. Heartbreaking. We are inching closer to our son in Ethiopia, and these words just make me teary and heartsick. So ready to have our little man in our arms.

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  15. My daughter was in one of these for 8 months of her precious little life. From days old to 8 months old. Why they kept her that long makes no sense at all. And I cannot even describe the damage that is the child who comes into a loving family following that experience. I was not equipped to handle what I did not know. And I did not know that she resided in a place like that until the day we left Ethiopia. As soon as we got there I asked where she came from...where was she was for the 8 months prior to our match with her. Nobody could answer because it was all too common and the orphanages could not keep track of where they all came from. The only way I found out was another family travelled to a govt orphanage where they knew their son had been and some how in the process found out my daughter was with him. Now she is 4 and there is lasting damage...just in the past year ahead has learned to trust. Lots of these kids also suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder, my daughter is no exception.

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  17. I could sit here and cry my eyes out. Oh what a weighty reminder of WHY my husband and I are adopting again. I have been frustrated by homestudy updates and dossier amendments lately....but THIS is why we are doing it.

    Thank you for putting this into words for us, Missy.

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  18. Horrifying and heartbreaking. Lord, come soon! I saw similar babies in similar rooms in Ukraine.

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  19. Oh m'lands! You're killing me! I'm trying so hard not to let the tears spill over.

    Why does it have to be this way? And why is it SO BLASTED hard to provide these poor babies with a family and a home?!

    The government, by the way, should fear the picture your words painted more than what a mere picture would have conveyed.

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  20. Oh you just broke my heart.

    Come soon Lord Jesus!

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  21. This is heartbreaking, and yet what comes to mind is "as long as there is life, there is hope." The only reason we don't have orphanages like this in "developed" countries is because we kill all our unwanted and inconvenient babies before they have even have a chance at life.

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  22. This made me weep. four times I have been to Ethiopia. I have visited different orphanages. Twice God allowed me to bring children home to call my own. But as long as I live I will never forget what I saw and what I couldn't take pictures of in those government orphanages. Breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. Thank you for sharing this Missy!

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  23. Dear Missy,
    Thank You for this post. I have been reading your blog for several years. I shared this post on my facebook, I hope that is ok. I am so broken over this post. I will never be the same. -Briana Hatcher

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  24. Just noticed all your little owls have got their Christmas duds on. Too cute! Can't we swing open the door on Bethie's cage though?

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  25. I've read this twice now and am trying to come to grips with the fact that our wait time will be 18-30 months for our daughter. I know the red-tape, I know the scandals; but why-oh-why can't these adoptions be expedited for the sake the of these little ones?

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  26. I can't... I just can't imagine. Tears are flowing and prayers are flying...So many mothers need their babies and babies need their mommies and the red tape just takes too long...

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  27. Oh my word. These images. So powerful. I am going to share this and pray that God uses your post in a mighty way.

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  28. I really just don't understand. I don't. Maybe I haven't read enough, don't know enough, need to learn more, but why? Why aren't these babies with all the people who are WAITING FOR THESE BABIES??? I makes no sense! I am sobbing and terribly sad and horribly angry and I just do not understand....

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    1. I want to know the answer to this, too. Who are the children in the government orphanages and why aren't they being adopted when people are waiting?

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  29. Oh My Lord! Please comfort those babies whose Mothers cannot!
    My heart is so so sad...

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  30. what do you say to this?? Lord, help us all.

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  31. my heart is breaking with yours. tears on the keyboard tonight. praying for all those sweet sweet babies.

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  32. No words, Missy. Only tears. Jesus, be near.

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  33. SO very sad...praying for all the babies..
    Mary, momma to many, including 4 from Ethiopia

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  34. I thought your last post was sad.....but this one is absolutely heart-breaking! Prayers for all of those sweet babies who don't have their mommas.

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  35. I can't even imagine. At least it was clean but oh so sad and how many american families would love to take in a 'baby' or toddler.
    This is just so sad to read about.

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  36. The pain of being a mother is that you can't hear these words and not imagine your own child, knowing their vulnerability, their need, their inherent trust that is so easily abused. It breaks my heart a million times over. And in Christ, these are our children, our responsibility to love....Lord, help us.

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  37. Thank you, Missy. What a wake up call.

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  38. Well, this just breaks my heart. My husband and I are just beginning our journey toward adopting. This post makes me want to adopt ALL the babies...or do what I can do make sure they are loved.
    Thank you for sharing. I know it couldn't have been easy to write all this out.

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  39. Absolutely breaks my heart. I can't imagine actually being there and not being able to take them home...

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  40. The most powerful post I have ever read. I have said so, and shared a link on my blog. I wish we were in a position to do the same as you. God bless you for not flinching from the task to which He has called you.

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  41. Missy - I have only been reading your blog for about two months, so I'm fairly new - please know that your situation has broken my heart - broken it in a good way - we have all become too lazy in our prayer life, our mission life, our go out and "save the world" life - maybe just I have become all of these, but I think not - I said all this to say that, last night while at church, I had the overwhelming urge to pray for you and your family - I didn't know what was going on with your family at that specific time, I just felt the urge to pray and I did - please know that there are people out here who don't even know you who are praying you through this and praying your sweet Bethie home - love and prayers, jen

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  42. THANK YOU for the word pictures! You did a beautiful job... I saw it all very clearly!

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  43. Captured with word pictures that burden my heart and leave me in tears. Thank you for sharing these images.

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  44. This brings back the pain I felt when standing where you are two years ago. Brings it right back and my heart hurts all over again. Yes, come quickly Lord Jesus. Put an end to this madness.

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  45. Missy! THANK YOU for putting into words what I couldn't. We've been there twice. You did about as good of a job as is possible of putting it into words. On our second trip I did sneak some video on our flip cam. That second trip I was on a mission. I posted the video in this blog post a couple of months ago: http://ourethiopiandaughter.weebly.com/2/post/2012/10/fall-festivals-and-bring-love-in.html

    I didn't draw much attention to the fact that I did take video there. There are signs posted everywhere. I was scared, but I was determined to capture as much of it as I could. I had the flip cam stuck down in the front pocket of our daughters Ergo carrier. shhhh....

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    1. Please be cautious in sharing your video. I don't know your intentions in videoing and posting it. But, I can tell you I lived in China when foreigners came in and secretly videoed several orphanages. The only thing that changed when they went public with their video was the increased difficulty in foreign adoption and that adopting parents were no longer allowed into the orphanages. I'm writing this with love and caution, not aggression to stir up controversy.

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  46. Missy, Bethie is beautiful! Thank you for your words. We have "only" been waiting on gladney list for almost 16 months and know we have many more ahead. I feel a renewed patience in knowing that the wait is absolutely worth it. Each one of those children is worth any length of time it may take. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.
    Jenn Blake

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  47. I'm reminded of the times my husband and I sat and played with babies for many hours in China. Come, Jesus.

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  48. Oh, Missy. This just hurts my heart to read, as we have been waiting for our over 2 years on our baby girl in Ethiopia. It is so hard to reconcile this in my heart. Please, Jesus, be near.

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  50. I followed a link from Kristen Howerton's blog to read this (new to your blog). I wept and wept reading this as, in the background, I watched my husband playing with our 4 month old and I watched his little face light up. My heart aches over this broken world and over these little ones who are feeling the brunt of it.

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  51. Those of you who are asking about what you can DO:

    please go here

    http://aderafoundation.org/programs/kebebe-tsehai-orphanage-project/

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  52. Thank you for sharing your story, and I love reading all of the comments and hearts crying out for change. Please step up and be a part of the solution! I am executive director of the Adera Foundation and we are taking steps to make change, thanks to many folk's hearts! Please take the emotions you are feeling and let it move you to action. We will be going in 2013, take a week off and go and rock babies. Pray! Give! We have hired 28 additional caregivers at kebebe and they need encouragement and mentoring, please let all your emotions be a catalyst for change! I will be there Jan. 1-12 and will meet with the director and see what practical things that can be done! Please pray for Adera and how we can make a difference!

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  53. Oh my god. I want to fly there right now, and gather them all in my arms and love them...every single one of them. I want to show them just a small piece of what my son enjoys each day of his life.

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  54. Powerful blog! Yes, all these precious little ones need loving families. But please be prepared, when you bring an orphaned child into your family, that exactly what you're describing here has caused their little brains to develop differently and they will respond unlike babies who have not been traumatized/neglected. The silence you heard is a huge sign. Their wounded hearts can heal, but it's important that adopting from any orphanage or foster care situation (no matter how "good") that we all understand that our adopted children coming out of these hard places will often have sensory, trauma, attachment and language problems. Intensive, quick interventions and strong/nurturing parenting are needed. Be prepared. Attachment & Trauma Network can help. God Bless you all and all these precious babies!

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  55. Is there any way to get information to adopt from this orphanage? We are just starting to figure out the process for all this and would love to adopt from there.

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  56. {tears} I wish I could hop on a plane and bring them back here to a home, hold them all tightly.

    Can you tell us where you were or what orphanage it was? Is there anything we can do to help? I'd like to hear more about this story.

    stephanie@stephaniesheaffer.com

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