More Time in Africa (Part 4 of Our Adoption Story)

July 31, 2013

How did a family with three *fairly* normal birth kids morph into a family with twelve *crazy* kids with a nineteen year age range?  It’s an amazing, God-filled story with so many crazy twists and turns.  Like I promised, I’m here to share my part of the story and give you a little insight into the brain of one of those birth kids.  I’ll be including some tips for adoptive families for things to do and not to do to attempt to make your adoption a good experience for the whole family.  I’m no expert but I feel that I’ve learned a lot from talking with other birth kids, leading workshops on the topic, and experiencing it myself.  If you have question about what I suggest, don’t hesitate to email me at susannah.kellogg (at) If you missed part one – adopting my two sisters, part two – adopting my brother, John, or part three – adopting Andrew and Dinah – you should check them out! ——– As I left off in part three – the trip to bring Andrew and Dinah home spurred in my mom the desire to work with Ethiopian orphans.  She began working with an adoption agency helping place orphaned children in homes and travelling to Ethiopia a few times a year. During this time, we found out about an eleven year old girl from Ethiopia who had been adopted by a family in New York.  That family had chosen to disrupt her adoption (meaning not going through adoption finalization – don’t get me started on how unbelievably wrong I think it is for families to choose this!) after she had been brought over to America so she was in a crazy conundrum.  She didn’t have a family here in America any more but she also couldn’t go back to Ethiopia.  The agency placed her with a temporary foster family and was scrambling to find her a forever family. Of course, my mom told us kids about this devastating situation and Andrew’s ears perked up!  He asked a few question about the girl and finally told us that he knew her from the orphanage.  Sure enough, they had been in the same orphanage and Andrew had specifically remembered her because her baby brother had died in the orphanage around the same time his baby sister had.  He told us that he thought we should be the family to adopt her. julia Now, my parents weren’t even considering another adoption at this point but, as they did when Peter suggested the consider adopting Deborah, they prayed about it.  The girl’s foster family only lived a few hours south of us so they loaded all of us into the van and drove to meet her, hoping that God would make it clear whether or not she was to be the newest member of our family. As I’m sure you all can guess, she did join our family.  It wasn’t long after that meeting that our parents told us that they were adopting her.  One problem was, though, that we didn’t have a name.  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, all the kids in my family have names that come from the Bible and all the girls have names ending in the “ah” sound – Susannah, Rebekah, Deborah, and Dinah (and even baby Leah – the name Andrew’s baby sister was going to have).  I was reading my Bible one evening in the book of Romans and, in chapter 16, the human author, Paul, is greeting the believers to whom he is writing.  One of those women he was greeting was named Julia.  I quickly told my parents that was what I thought we should name her and they decided it was a wonderful idea!  (Yep, I do still regularly remind her that I named her) Julia New Since the agency was trying to place Julia quickly, it wasn’t too long until she was in our home – a true member of our family. Not long after we adopted Julia, my mom travelled back to Ethiopia on one of her regular trips for work.  On this trip, as she was interviewing orphans, she met a precious little boy – a boy she fell completely in love with.  She wanted him to be her son.  IMG_0087 The thing was, this boy also had a younger brother.  There was no way my parents would want to separate them so a decision had to be made if we were ready to welcome not just one, but another two kids into the family. IMG_0088 After a lot of prayer and thought, my parents decided that yes, we were going to welcome both the boys into our lives and on top of that, since we’d already be doing all the paperwork, we “may as well” choose a three-ish year old girl so Dinah wasn’t the only little one in the family.  She was so much younger than all the rest of us and my parents didn’t think it would be good for her to basically have twelve parents (mom, dad, and ten siblings)  Little Meron was available for adoption and my parents decided that this last adoption would be the two brothers – Philip and Nathanael – and little Meron. Leah New After a lot of work (adoption is always a lot of work!) our paperwork was all finalized and ready to go the summer after my Junior year of high school.  I decided that I wanted to spend my summer in Ethiopia, helping out at the orphanage my siblings were in and a hospital.  I worked at Pizza Hut all through high school so I had the money saved up to pay my way over.  Since my mom knew so many people in Ethiopia, she arranged for me to stay with an Ethiopian family she knew.  It was an amazing experience for me!  This family did speak English but, other than that, it was complete cultural emersion.  I had the summer of my life! GARDNERB (300) It was also such a blessing to be able to work at the orphanage and bond with my siblings a few months before my parents joined us to pick them up.  Little Meron latched on to me and bonded with me so quickly.  My mom still jokes that she loves me more than she loves our mom (and often she’ll even admit herself that it’s true).  We have the most special relationship and she has said many times that she wants to be me when she grows up! At the end of my time in Ethiopia, my parents joined me.  They were able to combine their trip picking up the kids with one of my mom’s work trips and invited me to join in on the work.  I got to sit in on meetings, offer my input, interview orphans, and simply be a part of the team.  It really was such a blessing to be treated like an adult and to truly get a taste of what a ministry like that looked like. DSC01638 By the time we had gotten home from that trip, Meron still hadn’t received her American name.  There were a few names my parents were still tossing around but none of them worked quite right – especially after meeting her.  The first full day we were home, Andrew came to my parents very seriously.  He asked them if they would give Meron the name Leah.  He knew that was the name his baby sister was going to have and thought it would be a special tribute to her memory to have another sister of his given that name.  As soon as he said that the “name game” was over.  She was Leah. Twelve kids.  Six boys and six girls.  Sounds like a complete family to me. And that’s the story of our adoptions!  I’d love to do a Q&A post since I’ve already received some wonderful questions regarding my family, our adoptions, adoption in general, my thoughts or even simply clarification.  Please ask your questions in the comments and I’m more than happy to answer them! 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