The road to Ethiopia - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

The road to Ethiopia

Jess, Jason and Bereket (June, 2011) Jess, Jason and Bereket (June, 2011)
Baptism day at the Krishna River (February, 1996) Baptism day at the Krishna River (February, 1996)
The beautiful children in India forever changed my heart (February, 1996) The beautiful children in India forever changed my heart (February, 1996)
Gifts of flowers for baby Terefech (January, 2011) Gifts of flowers for baby Terefech (January, 2011)
Terefech’s memorial service at Elstad Lutheran Church (January, 2011) Terefech’s memorial service at Elstad Lutheran Church (January, 2011)

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Over my 15 years at KTTC, I have had the pleasure of telling hundreds, if not thousands of people's personal stories. Some of the stories I have felt most privileged to tell are those involving families who have re-created their family tree through adoption.  Adoption is something I believe in very deeply. It is something I have felt called to do for a very long time.

In January of 1996, I joined a documentary team for two months in India. I was a senior in college and this international internship seemed like an exciting way to wrap up my collegiate experience. While I did have some travel experience in Europe, nothing prepared me for the extreme culture shock I would experience in India.

While living in the city of Vijayawada, I witnessed extraordinary poverty. I saw entire families huddle together at night beneath a small rickshaw. The cold, hard street was the only bed they knew. People in the streets suffering serious afflictions would reach out for me to touch them. Many had never seen white skin before and some hoped I was an angel sent there to cure them.

One day, our team was invited to a baptism along the Krishna River. This is a day I will never forget. It is the day I felt the call on my life to adopt. There were many people along the river banks. Among them, a group of beautiful young girls. As I spent time with them I decided, "I can't change the world, but I can help change the world for just one child." The adoption seed was planted!  It only continued to grow when we later volunteered at Mother Teresa's orphanage in Calcutta. While holding babies at the Mother Teresa Center, my roommate, Karin, also felt called to adoption. She is currently bringing home her second adopted child from South Korea.

I am blessed with a husband who is just as passionate about international adoption as I am. We spent the first four years of our marriage criss-crossing the globe from the Andes Mountains of Peru to the Sinai Desert in Egypt.  Everywhere we traveled, we saw beautiful children in need. Our belief in adoption only grew stronger. In 2008, we finally felt ready to settle down a bit and welcome a child into our family. Had we known the journey ahead, we would have started much sooner!

After months of adoption classes, appointments with social workers, and background checks, we were finally put on a waiting list to be matched with a child from Ethiopia! We were told the wait would be about nine months. As is often the case with adoption in developing countries, one cannot predict how things will go. That nine month wait swelled into an excruciating two-and-a-half years. Finally, in December of 2010, I told my social worker I was at my breaking point. Emotionally, I just couldn't handle the wait any longer. That day our social worker had a surprise for us. She presented us with a picture of our new daughter, a precious three-month-old girl named Terefech.  She was everything we had dreamed of! Every crazy minute of waiting was suddenly worth it!

We went on a shopping spree buying all things small and pink. Nursery furniture was ordered and plans were made. We were about to become parents of the most beautiful girl in the world! We just had to travel to Ethiopia and bring her home!

On a Thursday afternoon, six weeks after accepting Terefech's referral, my phone rang. It was my social worker and immediately I knew something wasn't right. I could tell she was crying when she said in a shaky voice, "Jessica, Terefech is dead."

Terefech had passed away after a battle with pneumonia. We never even knew she was sick. The next few days were the worst of our lives. I will not get into how we grieved, but it was the worst pain my husband or I had ever known. We did the only thing we could think of to try to heal and show our daughter in heaven that her young life meant something. We held a memorial at our church in Lanesboro. The service was beautiful and profoundly sad at the same time. It was filled with special poems written for Terefech. Her five-year-old cousin performed a violin solo for her. I don't think there was a dry eye in the church. Everyone grieved for this little girl from Africa that no one had ever met... that no one would ever get to hold. It was a dark time, but we were surrounded with love.

Five weeks later, there was news. A new little girl would be entering our lives. She was nine months old and her name was Bereket. Bereket means blessing, and that is certainly what she is!

In June, we made our first of two trips to Ethiopia. The purpose of the visit was to go to court, but the highlight was getting to hold this precious little girl.  I can not put into words what that was like! We traveled with six other adoptive families meeting their children for the first time. We all talked for hours about the struggles each couple had experienced and our joy to finally be in Africa. Jason and I are so thankful for this wonderful support system as we continue our adoption journey.

I will never know why a child is allowed to die. It seems so incredibly unfair. But I do know this, God has never abandoned us on our adoption journey. He had a little surprise for us in Ethiopia to show us that he is still guiding every step of the process. On the plane to Ethiopia, we met a young couple from a small town near La Crosse. We hit it off with them instantly. They were adopting a little girl named Kokeb and she was living at the same care center as Bereket.  When we arrived to meet our daughters for the first time, the nannies told us that our little girls were best friends and spent nearly every moment together! We are thrilled that when we bring Bereket home, her best friend will be just across the border! A coincidence? No, I think it is all part of a divine plan all set into place long before our daughters were even born.

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