My sister Sophie arrived in Ethiopia a week ago, and will be working at the Soddo Hospital until August. She sent me this email on Friday.

Dr. Ruth asked us if we would be able to walk a family to the orphanage. A couple had brought their infant to the outpatient department, hoping to give her up for adoption. When I saw them, I immediately knew that the dad had AIDS. He was remarkably thin, with a round belly. Every single bone in his face stuck out, and he looked completely exhausted. The mom was a beautiful petite little thing, openly nursing her gorgeous (no words to express how beautiful this baby is!), chubby baby.

I took a deep breath, chatted as much as I could (about 2 sentences before explaining to her that I only speak a little bit of Amharic and don’t understand what she just said), admired the baby, and started the walk to the orphanage. My heart broke for the family walking behind me. How completely desperate they must be to bring this stunningly beautiful, and clearly cherished, child to an orphanage. I sadly noticed that their clothes were church clothes—they must have dressed up for the occasion. I’m pretty sure I could not have done that.

When we got to the orphanage, we were surrounded by even more gorgeous little ones, all vying for our attention. Even though I held hands and greeted these giggling children, my heart was still with that mom who was holding her baby close to her. We presented the family to the man in charge, who asked a few questions (mostly, “if you are both alive, why are you bringing this child here?”) before telling them that they needed to bring the child to their local kebele (government office), who would take care of the court proceedings before they could legally give their child up. Dad was not happy about it, but I think I saw a hint of relief in the mother’s eyes. Not today, she was thinking.

As I had chai and dabbo (tea and bread) at that orphanage with children crawling all over me, I wondered what would happen with that family. Would the mom convince her husband that they could wait just awhile longer? Maybe she wouldn’t get sick. Maybe the little girl is healthy. Maybe they wouldn’t have to say goodbye to their cherished baby. Maybe their prayers would be answered.

Maybe someday we’ll understand why God chooses to do what He does. Maybe we’ll know why He lets things happen that, from our perspective, could never be “for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” How could a continent full of orphaned children be good for anyone?

Mary here: I want to again thank those of you whose donations to the Blanket Party totaled over $4000. My sister is investigating where to buy the blankets for the babies– our initial project. Some of the money has already reached the hospital and will soon be used for a washing machine. A donation will also soon be given to Dr. Mary, a hard-working doctor in that poverty-stricken region, to be used for the greatest need of the people she serves.

So much work still needs to be done. But I am so grateful you were willing to partner with my family and do the great things that you already did! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


  1. I have tears in my eyes. What a beautiful email, and post. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your sister’s email. Teary-eyed here too.

  3. *Sob*

  4. Words are not enough. Shaking my head at the tragedy. I cannot even imagine.

    Didn’t you post somewhere that if only a small percentage of Christian families adopted, there’d be no orphans?

  5. We can’t even imagine.

  6. I can’t even imagine. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Jeanne A says:

    What a sad, sad story.

  8. This is such a heart-breaking reminder that there is so much pain, suffering and illness going on in the world and we all have so much to be grateful for – I hope you are proud of all that you have done.

    Thank you for the reminder. You and your sister are both beautiful writers.

  9. LOL! That last person who commented (OCDism) was actually me. I just started a design install for her. Forgot to log out! OOPS!

  10. mary – thanks for sharing this…and thank you and your sister for the fundraising project. what a powerful image your sister described. so incredibly heart breaking.

  11. My heart is heavy. Heartbreaking.

  12. Having just returned from Ethiopia with our amazing and wonderful son, I completely relate to the story your sister describes. We took a “tour” of our sons orphanage and it was heartbreaking to see all the little ones still without families – and they do reach up to be held. It’s devastating, simply put.

    On the other hand, I could not stop my mind from wandering to the parents of all those little ones – where had they gone – how hard had it been to leave their child – were they still alive – were they sick – were they desperately poor and no longer able to feed the baby? All these questions pummeled me as we walked through room after room of babies. Such a hard thing for me to see…

    Long ago my Dad said to me “what’s the most important thing? That each one will reach one…” So as we left with our son and left all those crying babies behind – I too thought “we can’t know why God chooses some and not others, or why He allows certain things – but we can do our part to make a difference for even just one. Even Just One. We may think it’s more than we can handle or that we don’t have what it takes – but truly, what a difference ONE DAY made for our son. One day in the orphanage – lost and alone and crying to be held, the next in our arms and on his way to hope and a future. Each one reach one.

    How I wish for more people to take the leap…

  13. Tears rolling down my cheeks… what a heart breaking sight. And to know that it happens over and over again…

  14. Gut wrenching. Thanks for sharing the email. I have linked to it on my blog, hope that is ok.

  15. That is so sad. Having lived in Soddo I can just imagine that walk with that poor family with great clarity, too. 🙁

    I’m glad that mother got a “reprieve” to keep her baby a little while longer. What a horrible situation to be in.

  16. My heart is broken for them, and grateful for you and your sister and all those who find ways to help.

  17. My heart is aching as I sit here nursing my own chubby babe. I can’t imagine that mama’s pain. Prayers.

  18. Thank you for the update. It’s so hard to read and comprehend, it’s almost as if reading in another language and it takes a moment for the words to all sink in. I will be praying for your sister.

  19. I am very aware and respectful of what my daughter, and her Enat lost for her to be mine, now, yet this puts an even more personal “face” on things…

  20. This brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the pain of such a decision.