When you live in Puyallup, you start to take The Fair in stride. In September, you’ll have 17 days of horrible traffic somewhat offset by the great time you’ll have on those couple days you actually attend. In March, there’s the Spring Fair, which is a much smaller event taking only four days with much smaller daily attendance (some would say more reasonable daily attendance).
This year’s Spring Fair gave an opportunity to expose Ermias (pictured with David) to the experience in a perfect setting. He loves spending time with his cousins and they love showing him around. The kids played games, ate fair food, and generally had an awesome time. Welcome to America, Ermias.
Randy’s sister Julie & Cindy, Grammy and MacKenzie, traveled to Ethiopia to bring newly-adopted Ermias home. Ever the adventurer, Julie set her mind to tracking down Daniel’s and David’s older sister Tigist. Despite having virtually no shared language or contact information other than “somewhere in or near Adama,” they set out. Naturally, they had no problem locating her and arranging to meet her at a hotel with WiFi. Those who know Julie understand.
It was time to introduce Tigist to Skype and to give her a first-hand visual look at how her brothers are doing! What an amazing time we had (although it was about 2:00 in the morning our time on a school day). The only thing that could have made it better would be if the boys could communicate in Amharic which, unfortunately, they don’t remember. But with Julie’s host as a translator, all the messages got through just fine. There were plenty of tears on both continents as we visited. Tigist had never heard of Skype and was probably wondering how we fit her brothers into that little thing called an iPad.
We also got to see Tigist’s son Naol. What an adorable little boy! Tigist is doing well, and showed our family to her home. There, they met her husband and brother (yes, that makes him Daniel’s & David’s half-brother also). Additionally, Julie was able to take pictures of some of Tigist’s pictures. So we now have baby pictures!!! And pictures of the boys’ mother and father. This visit was such a blessing to all of us; we can’t thank you enough, Julie (and the rest of the traveling crew).
We posted a few of the pictures. Click on the one shown and take your time enjoying these pictures. We still look at them often.
The boys’ annual birthday party / fundraiser was held at Bradley Lake Park. What amazing weather! It was a beautiful day and many friends joined us for the event. As usual, the kids spent the bulk of the time playing soccer and other active games, while the parents visited with each other and enjoyed the food. We continued the tradition of inviting our family and friends to honor Daniel and David by contributing to the Adoption Ministry campaign. Funds used go to support the orphanage in Ethiopia. We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of love and support, with the financial contribution exceeding $1,500! Thank you.
The party did experience one mishap, with Andrew on the receiving end of a large bump from a collision with David. The size of the bump gave us serious concern for a while, but he recovered nicely.
Above all else, our prayer for the boys has always been that they will follow the Lord their whole lives. When we first adopted them, we were thrilled to learn that they had both accepted Jesus as savior and lord of their lives. We quickly became aware that they were quite familiar with the Bible. Both have demonstrated wisdom – Daniel to a very impressive degree – and an ability to apply Biblical principles to every day life.
So it was really not a huge surprise when they expressed interest in being baptized. But it was a huge joy! Our friend and pastor, Paul Moffett, performed the baptisms. Paul wrote one of our reference letters leading up to adoption, so it was a special treat all around. As he spoke with the boys, he mentioned our personal history as well as the story of the Ethiopian official mentioned in the book of Acts. Ethiopia was one of the earliest places to receive the gospel, so we think of our boys as spiritual descendants of that man.
The BIG DAY finally came – Daniel’s last day at Karshner Elementary School (and David’s last day of 4th grade). Karshner sends their graduates off in grand fashion, with an assembly on the last day which includes the entire staff lining up to celebrate the kids.
It’s amazing to think of how much growth and learning has taken place during the 3 1/2 years Daniel spent at Karshner. When he started, in January 2010, he spoke little English and had virtually none of the home and family experiences that his classmates had. He jumped in to the middle of third grade with much less preparation than all of the kindergartners. He barely knew his parents and, I’m quite certain, did not yet have a grasp that his new family and living situation would last. He was surrounded by kids who didn’t exactly look like him, yet they were kids! They loved him and accepted him and he thrived!
Over time, they would experience his tremendous contributions. We think of Daniel’s athletic skill and achievements and I think that helped him build relationships. But Daniel’s huge heart and concern for others, and for doing what is right, is what really drives him and has led to his tremendous success.
Thank you so much to the staff, volunteers, and students of Karshner Elementary School.
Although we don’t have direct contact with Daniel & David’s older sister (1/2 sister technically) in Ethiopia, we are blessed with occasional updates about her – sometimes with pictures. Last year, for instance, we learned that she is in good health and is now married. This year, we learned that she has a baby boy. And we did, indeed, get pictures. We are comforted by knowledge that she is doing well, and truly thrilled to receive these updates. Since the boys were older when we adopted them, they have clear memories of life in Ethiopia and, specifically, time spent with their sister. In the picture shown here, she is looking at pictures of the boys that we were able to send to her.
As an added bonus, if we ever need a baby picture of Daniel, his nephew’s pictures could be used and nobody would be able to tell that it’s not him!
Two things we knew were thoroughly confirmed on this trip: 1) Charleston and the surrounding area are very interesting, and 2) Sarah really knows how to plan and host a trip (no slight to Kyle; I just think Sarah does the logistics on these things). Every day had just the right touch – we had rest when we needed it, but were on the go the rest of the time so we could see as much as possible in the time allotted.
On the 26th of December we went to downtown Charleston, toured a historic home (Edmonston-Alston House) that is just amazing, enjoyed walking around the waterfront area including White Point Garden Park, and finished with another fantastic home-cooked meal. This time dinner was Ceviche and Charleston Boil.
The tour of the Edmonston-Alston House includes a lot of discussion of history. One can imagine watching the Civil War break out on Fort Sumter out in the harbor. And of course, with South Carolina on the wrong side of that struggle, there are statues and other tributes to the Confederacy. We took a picture of the boys in front a statue labeled, “To the Confederate Defenders of Charleston” and refer to that picture as “Irony.” We are so blessed that our country has moved in the right direction. Even in the South, our family’s diversity rarely caught anybody’s attention.
The notable exception happened on the freeway: Kyle was driving his truck with David sitting next to him and me (Randy) next to David. I can’t recall who was in the back seat. Another pickup passed us with a black man in the passenger’s seat. I watched him as he was casually looking our way until he saw David in the middle and his mind had a great deal of difficulty processing what he was seeing. He just completely locked on to David until his truck was well ahead of us. The look on his face seemed to be one of pure bewilderment. I wish I had video or pictures of the moment. But otherwise, the looks we got were just like home meaning, really, that people are quite comfortable with mixed-race families.
None of us had eaten Ceviche or Charleston Boil before. Both were fantastic! And, keeping with the Jensen way, there were multiple varieties. My favorite Ceviche was the shrimp.
Click the photo above to see more. Watch the video below (there’s a fair amount of wind noise).
I’m sorry for the late posting; I thought I had posted this months ago. In June we received an update from the boys’ sister, Tigist. Joy and Abebe met with her on about May 31. During their visit, they shared a letter that we had sent and pictures of the boys. We are very grateful that Joy is able to keep us informed about Tigist (and their grandfather). This year we learned that Tigist is now married. In the pictures here, you can see her looking at recent pictures of the boys. She seems healthy and all accounts are good.
We stopped by the Adoption Ministry office to check in with Joy Casey, the Executive Director, and to drop off the generous donations that were provided through the boys’ birthday party / fund raiser. It’s always great to see Joy and, even though she sees Daniel and David a few times each year, she still seems a bit amazed by their growth. We are truly blessed to have Adoption Ministry so close to home.
As in previous years, we were pleased to host a gathering / fundraiser to honor the boys on their birthdays. Our goal is to continue to connect them with their heritage, and to teach them that there are things they can do help other kids that are currently in the situation our boys were in just a few short years ago. We ask our family and friends to consider donating funds to support the orphanage in Ethiopia as a birthday gift. We also gather at Bradley Lake Park so all the kids can run around, kick a soccer ball, and do the other things they like to do (and, really, there’s nothing they like to do more than kick a soccer ball).
This year, we had amazing weather (last year we had a downpour). And we were (are) overwhelmed with the generosity of our family and friends. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise about $1,500 for Adoption Ministry’s Orphan & Widows Home. The orphanage provides a safe place for many who desperately need one. And it united us with our sons!