When are you going to bring home a brother for me?
I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.
I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. I mean, we had just brought Mihret home. And the transition wasn’t exactly going well. Truth is, we were still exhausted from the flight home and from the continual lack of sleep. How could he be thinking of adding another kid to our family already? As I thought about it, though, I understood. The balance of power had shifted. He was the only boy in our family. He was outnumbered. And I started to see his point. He needed a brother.
He had me convinced. All it took was that simple, innocent question.
Some six years later, we took Aiden with us as we flew to Ethiopia to bring his brother home with us. And it was one of the best decisions we could have made.
They became instant friends. In some ways, it’s almost like they’ve known each other for years. I mean….they even have their own secret handshake.
I think Marc Brown is right. Sometimes being a brother is better than being a superhero! It’s also pretty cool to have a brother. I know both from experience.
You know, it’s taken far too long for us to be able to say this, but WELCOME HOME, WELDU! We’re excited to have you part of our crazy family. Our journey is really just beginning, but you’re already a pretty amazing brother. I now there will be some rough days in the future. That’s a given. Everyone goes through them – especially in the teenage years. But there will be some pretty amazing experiences we’ll have along the way, too. During the easy, happy times and the tough, sad times, I know this: we’re going to walk through them hand in hand.
If the statement that a family is a loosely woven and expansive nest, then it’s safe to say that our nest is about to get bigger. It’s already grown in our hearts, but things are about to get real. Real world real. Because that empty chair at our dinner table is finally about to be occupied. Forever.
Rumor has it he’s a pretty good soccer player. And he’s a big fan of Manchester United. So I’m trying to get the hang of it. I was never a very good soccer player. And I haven’t really been much of a fan.
But I am now.
Because he is. That’s kind of how the game is played. So I’m learning about soccer football. We’re also learning how to be fans of Manchester United. It’s a whole new world in the Todd household, y’all.
There is a sudden flurry of activity in our house. In the midst of our busy school and work schedules, we're trying to put the final touches on this house, making room for one more person. So you could say that we're in full-on nesting mode, helping this family container of ours expand some more.
Fortunately, his side of the Boys' bedroom is ready. Chalkboard and all.
But we're not just nesting. We're packing, too. So we're kind of in this weird state of cleaning and rearranging a bunch of things while also pulling stuff out to pack. Fortunately, I didn't really fully unpack from my trip a month ago. But now there's two more people flying out with me and one more coming back with us.
So we're nesting. And packing. And nesting. And packing. And waiting. And getting ready. And nesting. And packing.
Because soon this journey to bringing Weldu home will come to an end.
On Tuesday morning, December 22, I joined a dozen other families from around the world in a small 30 foot by 30 foot room on an upper floor in an Ethiopian courthouse. All of us were there for the same thing. So one by one, families were ushered into the adjacent judge’s chambers for an interview. When the family would complete their interview, they would leave the judges’s chambers with smiles on their faces. And they were greeted by congratulatory handshakes and the occasional high-five from the people around them.
When it was finally my turn, I was escorted into the judge’s chambers. The door closed and I shook the judge’s hand as I sat down in a chair in front of his desk. He began to ask me questions in order to confirm our family’s eligibility to adopt “W.”
None of the questions were tough. And none really came as any surprise. But they have me the opportunity to share my heart and show how we hadn’t entered this adoption journey without serious thought and prayer. I love this boy. And Christy loves him, too. Our whole family loves him. And that’s how it should be. Right?
Weldu Josiah entered the world more than a dozen years ago. He entered our world about a year ago. In our hearts, he’s been our son since that day we first laid eyes on him. He was our son when Christy met him in July. He was our son when I met him shortly after stepping off the plane in Addis.
And on December 22, we were legally declared capable of adopting Weldu into our family. On December 22, Weldu became a Todd.
In a few weeks, we’ll have an appointment scheduled with the US Embassy in Addis. Then we’ll be making one more flight to the Land of Coffee and 13 Months of Sunshine. And we’ll take Weldu into our arms and bring him home.
It’s been a long journey. But this kid is worth it. He’s so worth it.
I think this is my favorite song on Tobymac’s newest album. Because of the reunion of dc Talk on What Love Feels Like, it already made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy all over. But then I heard Mister Mac’s (or should it still be Mister Tobymac’s?) intro to the song at his concert in Indy a few months ago.
He shared that he wrote the song in the wake of his father’s passing. CCM.com has a great writeup on the song. You should just go over there and read it. Go ahead. It won’t take you very long. I’ll wait.
Powerful stuff. Right?
I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Its sound kind of echoes dc Talk’s style from a decade ago. I’m sure that’s an intentional nod to the beautiful music Toby, Kevin, and Michael made together.
But the more I hear this song, the more I think it describes our adoption adventure. There have been times where the process has been frustrating – especially when it has come to waiting. And there have been some days where we’ve felt disheartened and maybe even a little defeated.
As I sit here in the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ethiopia, I m must say that I’m pretty spent. I’m physically exhausted. My nerves are a bit raw. And last night I felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown while helping a guest in the middle of the store. Not a temper tantrum type of meltdown. More like the way you feel when you cry so much that you’ve kind of melted into the floor. Yes. That kind. Anyone else ever feel that way?
I’m completely spent.
And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
But ready to fight tooth and nail for this boy I’ve never met.
Just like I will fight for the rest of my kids. Because in my heart and in my soul, this child is mine. I hope the judge in Ethiopia agrees.
On Saturday, we received a letter from the Immigration office. It included this phrase:
USCIS is pleased to inform you that we have preliminarily determined that the beneficiary child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States as an orphan…
I’ll admit that it’s hard to celebrate some of those words. They’re full of loss. And hurt. And sadness. While that phrase “as an orphan” breaks my heart, this determination is a big deal. It means that we have cleared the PAIR investigative process. It means that one more hurdle has been cleared. We are one step closer to bringing “W” home as our son.
Then we got a call Monday morning. Courts in Addis were closed Monday and Tuesday, but our agency was convinced that there would be a very quick turnaround on the next step, which is a court appearance in Ethiopia. Because Christy already met him, I am to fly out to Ethiopia, meet my son for the first time, and then tell the Ethiopian government that yes, our family does intend to adopt “W” and that we will bring him into our family as one of our own. The agency staff was so convinced about the possibility of a quick turnaround, they were pretty sure that I would be due in court sometime early next week.
That meant that I needed to book a flight out of the States as soon as possible. Of course, there was a chance that the court wouldn’t schedule me to appear that week. So there needed to be some flexibility. But I needed to buy a ticket as soon as possible.
After some drama in trying to find an available seat, we were finally able to purchase a ticket on Monday night, some six hours after learning that I might have a court appearance very, very soon.
And then we waited.
I’ll be honest. Tuesday was a very long, emotional day. It was full of anticipation. But it was also full of caution. We couldn’t wait for the courts to open. Hopefully they would do their scheduling very soon. But in the meantime, I listened in on a travel conference call with our agency, learning as much information as possible in preparation for a potential visit this weekend.
Christy got the email Wednesday morning. She called me right away.
I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!
I get to meet my son for the first time this weekend!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An adoption journey ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all.
It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip. And I’m going to miss out on a few family functions, but I’ll be home for Christmas (hey, isn’t that a song or something?) and holycowIgettomeetmyson!
I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I won’t be bringing him home with me. There’s one more step after this one. It involves travel. Again. But this time Christy and I get to go together. And we get to meet the fine folk at the US Embassy again. And hopefully everything goes as expected during our visit to the Embassy.
And then we’ll head home. And our family of SIX will finally be together.
But first things first. I’ve got to get to Ethiopia and meet my son (HOLYCOW!). And then meet with a judge. And sometime after that, assuming all goes as it should, we’ll (hopefully) be named “W’s” legal guardians in the eyes of the Ethiopian government.
And then the clock starts ticking to that final trip to Ethiopia to bring this boy HOME!
Today is a pivotal day in our family’s story. And we’re asking you to join us in prayer. Here’s what Christy posted on our facebook page:
December 1st, Tuesday… I’ll be doing lots of things. Sleeping. Getting kids out the door for school. Teaching. Presenting my school’s programs to a group of students…
But, my heart will be in Ethiopia. This day could seal the deal, finish the investigative process, and give us a court date for Matt to fly to Ethiopia and legally make this kiddo our son. To meet this almost-grown boy that he loves with all his heart, but hasn’t yet been able to lay his own eyes on.
December 1st, Tuesday, there is a hearing scheduled (not for us) that involves a long trip from the country side to Addis. It involves a final letting go. Adoption is necessary. It is a way God can make beauty out of the ashes of this fallen world. But, it is not easy. It is not without loss. Over the next few days, please pray for those who are making decisions, those who are letting go, those who will walk that road beside them. Please pray the trip can be made, that things go smoothly, so that we can finally transition this treasure into a family again.
This is a pivotal week for the future of our family of six. We would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
We are so in love with this kid that it aches to have to wait so long. Of course, we completely understand the need for the parties involved to do their due diligence. I wish I could just hop on a jet plane today and scoop up this young man and never let him go.
Soon. Very soon.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adoption journey.
**Update** We have received word that the hearing did happen today and that it went very well. Now we wait for a decision from the Embassy. Please continue to pray for all parties involved.
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Our family is about to grow again. Soon, we’ll be a family of six. Our family is about to explode in anticipation of this boy’s arrival. We have his bed ready. We have tons of clothes for him. We already know his name and we can’t wait for him to fill the empty chair around our dinner table. We’ve had one waiting for him for a while.
I mentioned that he’s a teenager. Right? And that he’s currently half a world away. And our waiting has been longer than any pregnancy could ever be. But that’s part of the adoption journey. Christy has already met him. She got to hug him and spend a lot of quality time with him and love on him for almost a whole week. Hopefully, I’ll be meeting him before the year ends. That’s exciting.
That’s how long we’ve been waiting for a document from W’s home region. It’s an important document that’s required for the US Embassy to be able to complete their investigation for the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process. Submitting to PAIR is the final hurdle to clear before we’re able to travel to Ethiopia and bring W home.
We received notice that our case was submitted to PAIR today!
This is HUGE news.
It seemed like the timeline for completing this adoption had been in a holding pattern while we waited for this document to be completed. And now it’s finally submitted and the clock can start moving again!
While it’s not time for me to start packing my bags just yet, we can now confidently say that it should be happening soon. Like, within the next few months (barring any unforeseen circumstances). That’s a big-huge deal.
Adoption ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all. And I am excited to meet my boy! I’m hoping and praying that I don’t have to wait very much longer.
A photo posted by Christy Ooley Todd (@ooleytodd) on
Two more trips are required before he comes home with us. Sometime in the Fall, I hope to be able to meet “W” for the first time. During my stay in Ethiopia, I will appear before a judge and declare that yes, he is the child we’ve been trying to adopt. If all goes according to plan, “W” will then be declared our son in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. Then I’ll return home shortly after that court date. A few weeks later, we should have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis. Christy and I will fly to Ethiopia, meet with the Embassy, and bring “W” home after that. Hopefully that will happen before Christmas of this year.
That’s the way things are supposed to happen. That’s the way the timeline generally goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happens for us. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen that way, either. Because here’s what we’ve learned during this journey: God is writing this story. We are not. And the Author is going to weave this story together in whatever way He sees fit.
In high school, I wanted to do something “big” for God. I never knew exactly what it was, but I was going to shock the world with the gospel. So I kept searching for that big thing I could “do” for Jesus. I don’t think I was wrong in my desire. I might have been a little misguided in my approach. But hey, I was a teenager. I think we all were a little misguided as teenagers, weren’t we?
This desire to “do” something big for God continued into my preaching years more than a decade later. I firmly believe that God can work miracles. I’ve seen them happen. It was my hope and prayer that I could somehow put God on stage and allow the congregation to see what God had done. It was almost as if I was expecting Him to perform some great act so I could shine the spotlight on Him.
Again, not a bad desire. But maybe the wrong approach. After all, God is God. He doesn’t have to perform a miracle in order for us to shine the spotlight on Him. He is worthy of worship because He Is who He Is. And that’s enough.
God orchestrated things in such a way that He provided for Mihret’s adoption in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.
So when we started pursuing “W,” I kind of expected things to work out in a similar way. I mean, that was a pretty cool story the way everything was woven together so perfectly.
But that organization didn’t award us a grant this time. No worries, I thought. There are other opportunities. So we applied for more grants. And waited.
We had the yard sale that was hugely successful. But it wasn’t enough to cover the rest of the fees.
So we waited some more.
Then things started to get a little…oh, what’s the word?….tense…around here. If Christy was really going to make this trip before the courts closed in Addis and school started here, we were going to have to figure out a way to cover the rest of the fees and travel costs. Maybe we were going to have to make this thing work on our own.
Then it happened. God moved mountains.
Not only did God move the mountains, He obliterated them. He caused them to melt like wax.
We were confident that God was going to use the matching grant from Hand in Hand to make a big dent in the need. But we didn’t know how much was actually going to be donated. There was still a lot of uncertainty. And maybe some doubt.
But the donations that were contributed to the matching grant were over the amount necessary.
Then we started getting notifications of approval for grants that I had totally forgotten about. And I’d definitely forgotten that we’d applied for their assistance. But they started sending in money.
And the next thing I knew, everything was paid for. The agency fees. Christy’s plane ticket. Even the in-country travel fees. Everything was covered within a matter of days.
Yes, God is in the mountain moving business.
As I sat and watched the whole thing unfold, I started to realize something. Sometimes “doing” something big for God simply means being obedient and stepping out in faith. You do what you’re supposed to, planting seeds as you go along the way. But in the end, you sit back and watch God do what you couldn’t even possibly imagine what would be done.
All week, I’ve been humming this song. It makes sense when you look back on the events of the last few weeks. It starts at the 5:58 mark…
God is writing a story, friends. And it is bigger than any of us even realize.
If you get a sense that God is calling you to “do” something, then go do it. By all means, do.it. But if you think God is calling you to go and watch and listen, then do that. Watch how He works. He’ll let you know when it’s time for you to do your part. Because He’s already at work. He’s already telling the story.
I hope to have details posted later this evening. — Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) May 28, 2015
Like I said, that was a few days ago. The details were never posted. I’m sorry about that. I had to make sure all our ducks were in a row before making it public. But now? Everything’s a go and I am beyond excited to share this news with you!
Let me catch you up on our story.
It isn’t a secret that there are many joys that come with adoption. But there are many challenges, too. One of the greatest immediate challenges is financial. With updating our home study, all the agency and country fees, and the expected costs related to travel, this adoption journey will add up to thousands of dollars in expenses.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances and some changes in the way Ethiopia handles adoptions, this adoption journey is going to wind up costing significantly more than our first. When all is said and done, the final cost will be around $32,000.
When we announced that we had started the process for a second adoption, we only had enough money available to cover our home study expenses. That was it. We moved forward in faith, though, trusting that God was going to provide.
And God has provided every step of the way.
Through grants, sponsored blog posts, and successful fundraising efforts, God has provided in unexpected ways. And the funds have been there every time they were needed. After watching God move time and time and time again, I have no doubt that He has had a hand in this. He has moved on His own timetable. And His timing is perfect. And through His guiding hand, He has provided an opportunity to cover the rest of the expenses.
We have been awarded a fund-matching grant from Hand in Hand Christian Adoption, Inc.!
What does that mean?
It means that Hand in Hand Christian Adoption, Inc. a non-profit private operating foundation, will match any funds that are donated for the expenses of our adoption. All funds received through our friends and family will be matched dollar for dollar by Hand in Hand up to our awarded grant amount. That means that every gift will essentially be doubled. And all donations are tax-deductible.
We’ve had a lot of people who, for one reason or another, could not participate in any of the fund raisers we held during the last year and a half. They’ve asked if there was another way they could financially support our adoption efforts. We’ve asked them to wait until a later time. Well, it’s later.
Now is the time!
If you have a gift, no matter the size, that you would like to give to help us with this journey, please send a check made payable to “Hand in Hand Christian Adoption,” postmarked by July 2, to:
Hand in Hand Christian Adoption, Inc. Matt and Christy Todd 18318 Mimosa Court Gardner, KS 66030
For tax purposes, please include our name on the envelope only…do not put our name on the check itself!
If you have any questions about the Hand in Hand matching grant program, please feel free to email me. You may also contact Hand in Hand Christian Adoption, Inc. with any questions you may have. They can be reached via email or phone (913-248-5015) .
If the full amount available from this matching grant is reached, we will have seen God provide, through grants and fundraising, $26,000 of the $32,000 necessary to complete this adoption. How amazing is that?
Thank you for your prayerful consideration in helping a child find a “forever” family. We are so close to completing this leg of our journey!