Sunday, January 3, 2010


Its taken a few days to gather our wits about us, but we are, actually, at home. The flight from Dubai to Houston lasted three and a half years. Including our ground wait at departure it was only 18 hours, but those were long hours! We had visited the Emirates office twice in Addis Ababa to confirm our seating for our flights. They had given us the next to last row, which was no problem since we were together. Imagine our surprise when we boarded to find that we were all in middle seats on different rows! We talked to the flight attendant (and asked if he was going to take care of Bereket on the flight!) He picked a center section and asked other passengers to switch with us. Three were very gracious about it, but one man was not giving up his aisle seat. He may have regretted it when Bereket was standing next to him, looking across the aisle, shouting “Dada.” The boys again did remarkably well, given the circumstances.  

We landed in Houston where both sets of parents met us along with the Seays, who have two children from Bright Hope. We spent the night with Darcie’s family and flew home on the first. Bereket fought sleep on that whole final leg, finally giving in as we started our descent. It was such an encouragement that so many of you came to the airport on New Year’s Day. Bereket actually slept through the greetings, through the drive home, and finally woke up at our house. It was the equivalent of the middle of the night for him, and that was one of our toughest times yet. We had dragged him to so many new places with so little sleep, and he had a pretty good meltdown. We were all able to pull it together, though, for a good day and a good night’s rest.

Bereket had two very pleasant surprises about the Raines’ household. The first was that we have two dogs. His face lights up around them with excitement tinged with a little fear. This morning he worked up the courage to let Phoebe give him a “kiss” on his hand. The second big surprise was the garage. He just can’t get enough of looking at our “Beep beep’s.” We haven’t gone for a ride yet, but he loves climbing into the backseats of our cars.

I’ve wondered in these first couple of days how many times parents say “no” to their children in the first 21 months of life. I think a conservative figure might be 5 “no’s” a day--probably not so many in the first year but really accelerating past that after 12 months. If that’s the case, 21 months would be 3200 “no’s.” We’re fitting those in a couple of days as Bereket’s exploring every cabinet, drawer, and door and picking up every item! I’m so glad we have a playroom which can be a room of “yes’s.”

We’re doing well and getting to know each other better every day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Headed Home

We're in Dubai, waiting to board our 16 hour flight to Houston.  Some of you have asked about our arrival.  We get in on the 1st at 1:05pm on the Continental flight.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Today was a test of endurance. We drove 2 hours southwest to the town of Bantu to visit a Buckner/Bright Hope ministry sight. For about 3/4 of the drive, we were on a great highway that passed through towns and fields with small mountains around. Like many African drives, we shared the road with buses, goats, donkeys, horses, cows, and horse driven carts. The other 1/4 of the drive was on a washboard dirt road that jarred us half out of our senses! From time to time we pulled down onto the “service road” dedicated to horse-pulled taxis because it was smoother. We appreciated it, though the cart drivers didn’t seem to. Bantu is tucked in a beautiful valley with farmland and hills. The school was great. We were greeted by 200 children chanting “welcome, welcome” as we pulled in the gate. They have a total of 400 students, 200 in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. We toured the facilities and enjoyed talking to the administrators and the staff. This school has been supported by several churches in East Texas in a partnership much like FBC Amarillo’s partnership with the Baptist Children’s Center in Nairobi. Bereket really did well on the journey until about the last 30 minutes. He’d missed lunch and a nap, which isn’t a great combination for any almost-two-year old. Returning to the guest house and running in the yard was sweet relief. It didn’t take long for him to forgive his parents and for the smile to return.

Tonight is our last in Addis, as we’re taking off tomorrow at 7pm. I asked Mark tonight if he was ready to go home, and he said, “Not really.” He truly has been a trooper in a wide variety of circumstances and a big help to his parents. He was a little uneasy with the driving today, and Darcie told him to just think of it like a ride at Six Flags. His response was that he doesn’t like a lot of the rides at Six Flags! He was quite a hit at the school. All the children wanted to shake his hand, and he handled his “rock star” status well.

We’re excited to get Bereket home. We were talking today about how you’ll probably have to just take our word for it about his big smiles and his charming personality. We have the pictures to prove it! Around new people, however, he gets serious and observant. He’ll warm up over time, I’m sure.

I know that many have already asked about Bereket’s past and his birth mother. She made clear to us that she had no option for taking care of him, and that she wants him to have a better life. We recorded that conversation for Bereket so that when he’s older he will know about his past. Someday he may share more of that with you, but until then we’ll honor the fact that it is his story.

Thank you so much for praying for us! Our bonding with Bereket has exceeded all our expectations. We’ve been amazingly healthy, and Darcie’s back even endured the washboard road. As we were driving through the Ethiopian countryside, Darcie brought up the unexpected nature of God’s paths. To have suggested five years ago that we would be with Mark in Ethiopia, adding a toddler to our family, would have seemed a remote possibility, indeed. We are so thankful for this path, in spite of (and perhaps because of) the difficulty and the waiting.

Tomorrow we pack, run a few errands, and start the 50 hour journey home.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Picture


Today we had to hit the ground running for our trip to the US Embassy to finalize things from the US side. Our appointment was at 10, but the Buckner folks wanted us there early to perhaps get things moving along. After two security screenings we turned the corner into a waiting room packed with about 20 families with (mostly crying) Ethiopian babies. Since we had the only toddler, we had the little play area in the corner to ourselves as we settled in for our long wait. We alternated eating snacks and playing with the broken toys provided. We did get to meet some great families at a special point in their lives. One by one, the other families were called until we literally were the only ones left in the waiting room! After a two hour wait, we had our five minute appointment with the nice lady on the other side of the glass.  

After lunch we went to another appointment, one which was in some ways more intimidating than the embassy. We met Bereket’s birth mother. A friend made the comment that the decision to relinquish a child is made when there are no choices left. In that conversation our joy at this wonderful blessing in our lives was met with the pain of a mother saying goodbye. It is a tragic irony that love lay behind a mother’s release of a child. The conversation was every bit as wrenching as we expected, though it will be important for our son’s understanding of his life and his past.

We returned to the guest home where another family had picked up two boys, age 8 and 2, today. We played in the yard with them, and Mark and the older boy (without the benefit of a common language) defeated their dads by a healthy margin. Bereket was a delight, chasing Darcie around the yard and laughing with abandon. After dinner, Bereket started to wander around the room, and one of the workers (who is very sweet) picked him up to talk to him. After a few seconds he gave her the arched back treatment and ran back to us. Later she tried to tell him goodbye, and he pushed her toward the door! She seemed a little offended, but to us this was a great indication that he’s bonding well with us and has a proper orientation toward strangers.

We’ve noticed that his strong preference is for tables cleared of all items. I guess there weren’t a lot of knick-knacks at the Baby Home, or maybe its just his sense of modern design. He’s making strides at recognizing what he’s allowed to move and what he’s not, but near bedtime that breaks down a little as he works on “cleaning” with gusto!

We’re seeing our serious little boy of a few days ago change into a funny and even joyful toddler.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Bereket again slept better than his parents last night. The boys were so tired last night that we had antiphonal snoring from each end of the room. We spent most of the day at the guest house, playing and getting to know each other better. Darcie and I are suckers for him walking up and throwing his arms in the air. He gets carried and held a lot! From the literature on toddler adoption, we were prepared for him to not really enjoy or tolerate being held. It has been a sweet surprise that he wants to be held close.  

Our most questionable purchase at the market yesterday was a brass horn that Mark just felt he needed. It’s a little loud for my taste. Typically it is used for Ethiopian weddings and funerals, but Mark decided to play it from our balcony. We discovered that it is also useful in calling cows. A big black and white bull trotted up the road, looked at Mark as he blew on the horn, and bellowed in response. Two cows quickly followed. We asked Mark to stop playing since the cows clearly weren’t supposed to be there. The cows then trotted off in the opposite direction from whence they came. A minute or two later the owner went running by. I thought he might be annoyed at us, but he smiled and gave us the “thumbs up” sign. I hope the horn has the same effect in Puckett.

Our only real plan for the day was for Tegist to pick us up at three for church and then eat at a “cultural restaurant.” It ended up being 4:30 before she made it the guest house (flat tire). My fears that church would be over by the time we got there were unfounded. It had been going since 3:00, and we still made it for the last hour and a half. I was picturing slipping into the back for the preaching time. Instead we were led onto the platform in the midst of a healing service with a guest evangelist from Nigeria. I can’t imagine a more different worship time than FBC Amarillo. It was a slain-in-the-spirit, demon-rebuking, prophesying hurricane. Those who needed extra treatment were taken to an area just feet behind our chairs, separated by a curtain. I’m not sure what was going on back there, but it was loud, shook the curtain, and the demons were getting the worst of it. Mark’s eyes were as big as saucers, but he handled it so well. His question to Tegist after the service was, “Is your church always that loud?” I was holding Bereket during the service with one ear against me and my hand cupped over the other, and shockingly, he fell asleep! If he could sleep through that, Howie’s sermons will be a piece of cake. The service ended with a praise song with the worship leader dancing back and forth across the stage. Darcie leaned over and asked Mark if he thought Dan Baker could do that dance. He replied, “Probably not, but Jonathan could.”

The cultural restaurant was a great time. Under normal circumstances we would have considered it loud, but not after worship! They had music and dancing from each part of the country, and we had very traditional, foreign-looking, but delicious Ethiopian food. We were so proud of Mark. He dug right in! Bereket enjoyed it as well. At one point he had a huge piece of injera--a moist flatbread like a thick tortilla or pancake. He was waving it to the beat of the music like it was a tambourine.

We have the embassy appointment tomorrow to make things official from the US side.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday, when Tegist and Darcie were talking about taking Bereket back to the guest house that afternoon, I admit I was a little hesitant. I’ve known all along my life was going to be changing, but I didn’t know if I was ready right then. It’s been a great 24 hours, though (other than Darcie, Mark, and me not sleeping). We had a leisurely morning at the guest house and then went shopping at the market. I’ve commented before that I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than go to another market for bartering, etc. I was thinking it was going to be even worse with Mark and Bereket along. Both did very well. We went to one little shop as our home base, and I sat with Bereket most of the time. He was perfect! Bereket slept in Darcie’s arms for our three drives today. I don’t think he’s ridden in cars often, and he finds it very soothing. (I hope 16 hour plane rides have the same affect!)

From the market we drove to Bright Hope for his “going away” party. We brought streamers, balloons, bubbles, and gifts for the children (great idea) and party noise makers (terrible idea--at least in my opinion. They seemed to love them!) We had pizza and played games. It was a bittersweet time with the children who are waiting saying goodbye to one who now has a family and with us trying to say thank you to those who took care of our little boy until our family was able to be together.

I had the most unexpected feeling when we first arrived at Bright Hope today. One of the workers wanted to hold him, and I was hesitant to give him up (and Bereket was hesitant to go). They took him upstairs, and I kept thinking, “I need to go check on him.” 24 hours ago I was hesitant to take him. Today I hardly give him up--even for a few minutes!

Back at the guest home, we’ve seen more spark and bigger smiles. He has a great impish grin that makes his eyes light up. He’s already figuring out Mama, Dada, and Mark. We discovered that his word for truck is “beep, beep” (lots of horn usage in this country) and every animal from dogs to cats, to pandas, to zebras make a quietish roaring sound. We’ve also seen a pretty fiercely independent spirit, and he’s starting to express some of his opinions. Just a few reminders that he’s almost two!