Part 7: The goodness of God

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Looking back, I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must have felt for the young man, answering the barrage of questions from Lidya and Sophie and me.

The goodness of God

The story he told is, I suppose, not so different from many others.  Of a high school student, and young love and a baby. Of wishing to do right by the child, and trying for awhile to make everything work.  And finally of grandparents stepping in and making a decision. He told his story with humility, and in a straight forward way.  His good intent was clear, as was his longing for a happier ending, one that didn’t end with an orphanage and a child lost to him forever.

Lost, that is, until twelve years later a man came to his family’s village asking questions and showing photos of a baby in the arms of a nun.


And the father saw the pictures and knew it was her and the grandfather, in whose home this baby had lived for a year, saw the pictures and knew the same thing.  And they wondered if it wasn’t an ending that God had in mind after all.  Maybe there was more to this story.

And now here we were, hearing the story and looking in this young man’s face– he’s 32 by now– and all we could see was  Emily’s cheekbones, and her incredible, unusually beautiful eyes.

I think our hearts felt it even then. But still we wanted more surety, for the sake of our precious Emily’s heart.

We asked if we could meet the man’s father and talk to him too. And we kept praying. We drove with Dawit to a little house in Soddo.  (This was the family’s town house, where Tarikegn and his brother and father live and work all week, while the grandmother lives full time out in the countryside on the farm.)

Once out of the van as we walked toward the house, I introduced Tarikegn to all the girls, not specifying which we thought might be his. But his eyes lingered on Emily.

Still Lidya and Sophie and I played judge and jury, asking questions and praying God would guide us.   At this point Sophie and Lidya were tag-team translating, since we’d had to leave Dawit back to watch his car.

And Tarikegn and his father continued to answer us with humility and patience, never asking us for one thing.  Each detail fit what we knew or added to the story, answering questions  that Emily and I have wondered for years.  The timing was right. The story fit my momma-instinct that my girl had been well loved. It felt right.

And individually each of us loving Emily came to the same conclusion– the protective momma, and the fierce big sister, and the aunty who’s lived in Ethiopia long enough to be jaded about (many) Ethiopian men. We all believed this was her daddy. And Emily?  She felt it too.

And  when I got the nod from her, I introduced her to him and she gave him a shy hug and he laughed with delight.  And we all didn’t quite know what to do then. Because none of us had ever done this moment before– the one where you realize a stranger is something much more important.  But still for this moment you are unknown to each other.

So we set about to remedying that.

Those eyes

I dug a photo album out of my purse, one I’d prepared JUST.IN.CASE the miracle happened and God opened a door and we found someone.  And his rapt attention on the album…oh… he was such a daddy, looking at his little girl, catching up on years he’d missed.

Looking at the album

After I’d shown him every photo, and we’d clicked a few more pictures of our own, they asked us if we’d like to come inside.  There wasn’t a light in the living room/bedroom and it was getting late, but we went in anyway.  (The man in blue is grandpa, and the one in red is dad’s brother.)

We took turns asking questions then– talking about what he did for a living (knee work– the Ethiopian word for work that takes strength) and what Emily wants to do when she grows up (maybe a teacher– they loved that answer).  And I told them what a friend-maker she is and what a gift she is to our lives.  The grandpa then said they’d been praying they would see her again.  “It is God who brought her to us.”


He did indeed.

When we didn’t dare stay any longer, we went out into the yard again, admiring the pretty landscaping, especially the tall beautiful sugar cane.

Breaking sugar cane

Tarikegn strode up the hill with purpose and broke one down for Emily to take along.  Once he had one broken up, he decided that wasn’t quite enough and went up to break one more down, which he carried back to the van for us.

The time felt so short.  We had just met him and now we needed to say goodbye.  It was hard, and sweet all together.

I thought of the corn earlier in the day given to us by Julianna’s dad.  Now there was sugar cane for our sweet Emily from her dad.  Then there was their American dad at home working hard, graciously making this trip possible for them.

Sweets for the sweetAnd above it all their heavenly Father orchestrating every moment of it all. Fathers just love to give good gifts to their children.

I don’t know if we’ll ever have a day that feels more awash in the goodness of God.  He is good.  All the time. God is good.

Saying goodbye


  1. Wow, I can totally see it in my mind. Thank you Fathers.

  2. How amazing!!! I read this amidst many pauses as the tears fell. God is so gracious!!

  3. Oh my…how absolutely wonderful. This last picture of everyone talking and saying good bye and with Emily looking at the camera is precious. I love how it captures the joy you are all experiencing. What a gift…
    Loving this writing Mary….Xoxo

  4. Wow! Another beautiful story!!

  5. More to come, indeed: Such a beautiful story to relate and read. Amazing.

  6. This is blowing my mind!

  7. How sweet our God is! I’m so excited for Emily. What an amazing day.

  8. This story just couldn’t get much better, could it?!? Thank you Jesus!

  9. So so beautiful! So happy for Emily and her dad. What an answer to prayer.

  10. I have loved reading your story. We took our second trip back to ET this spring and met our son’s family for the first time…your writing makes me want to relive all of that again. Thank you.

  11. Praise the Lord! I am so happy for you and I hope you can keep in touch with the family now.

    We had a happy event this summer when my son was able to connect with a younger half-brother he hadn’t seen in 5 years. We knew he was in and out of foster care and the “Grandma” who lives in that town had been trying to track him down. She took a sleeping bag to a laundry mat after camping and ran into the little brother’s dad. She had tried to arrange visits several times as she has custody of another brother and sister. We went to visit their town, hoping to connect. On the morning we were eating breakfast at the hotel and a woman who worked there recognized our son, took me aside and told me she was the Dad’s girlfriend and was raising the little brother. We were able to arrange a playtime with all 4 kids! It meant so much to our son and we saw God’s hand in it.

  12. Mary, I have been reading your blog for so many years, beginning long time ago with your journey to Ethiopia to bring Emily home. It was the time we were also preparing the adoption of our daughter Bethlehem from the Kidane Mehret Orphanage.To read this story now makes me incredibly happy for Emily and all of you!
    Greetings from good old Germany!

  13. Wow! The other people in the dentist office waiting room must wonder why I’m sniffling. That is such a beautiful story and precious gift for your family.

  14. This is so so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. These stories are blowing me away! What amazing moments in your daughters lives! It must be so incredibly meaningful for them to reconnect with birth family members that have loved them so.

    Did Emily’s birth father say anything about where her birth mother might be? Is she still living?

    • we followed a couple leads on birth mom but no luck

      • I was also wondering about the mom. It’s too bad you could not find anything else out, but I imagine it must be a huge psychological burden lifted for Emily to finally know the who and how of her existence rather then just guessing. The smile on her face in that last photo… priceless.

  16. I’m reading every word, Mary, and sending you love. So many blessings!

  17. What a beautiful story. I’m enjoying it so much! Thank you so much for letting us peek into your lives!

  18. I’m so glad I got behind in my blog reading so I got to read all the stories at once! Wow, Mary. That’s amazing. I loved the stories of finding Julianna’s family’s house (can so relate!) and the story of Emily’s father. I’m sitting here wiping away tears. Such a lovely lovely story. How are the girls processing it all?

  19. Oh I’m so happy for Emily!!!! love love love

  20. Oh my goodness, they look just alike. So beautiful!!
    Was he able to tell you anything about her mom?

  21. Oh Mary.
    These day-stories are just amazing. So precious & beautiful.
    I’m saying a prayer for the tender hearts of those sweet girls, their birthparents & you & John.

  22. Awesome Mare! Well told.