My Greatest Adventure

August 29, 2013

The summer after my junior year of high school was spent in Ethiopia.  It was an amazing time – being completely soaked in Ethiopian culture, bonding with my new brothers and sister as I helped at their orphanage, and truly learning so much about myself. The last week I was there, I was finally joined by my parents.  They had flown over to pick up my brothers and sister in the capital city just a few days after I had left that city, heading about seven hours south to help out at a hospital.  We missed each other by a few days but I wasn’t going to put off the work I was doing in order to see my parents.  Finally, though, they had to come down south for my mom’s work and it was wonderful to reconnect with them after so long apart. DSC01638 The southern region, the region of the hospital I worked in, was the region my brother Andrew was from.  The thing was, though, that he was a village kid.  His birth village was somewhere out in the African wilderness and we didn’t think there was any way we’d have the opportunity to find it.  That didn’t stop us from trying. All we knew was that Andrew had brought his baby sister to a medical clinic and the medical missionary, on discovering that he was an orphan, had him take the paperwork back to his village elders for them to sign, confirming that he and his baby sisters were orphans.  She then had taken them to the capital and placed them in the orphanage.  Since the medical missionary and my parents were in contact with one another, my parents asked her if we could at least be taken to where her medical clinic had been so we could learn at least a little more about Andrew’s life before joining our family. The day we were going to drive out there was full of excitement!  The missionary, my parents, an Ethiopian man, a nine year old Ethiopian boy, and I all loaded into the truck.  We drove and drove – a few hours out of the little town we had been in – across unpaved roads.  It was a beautiful drive through the African landscape and I was full of excitement over what I was seeing and full of hope that we would have pictures to bring back to Andrew that would remind him of his home. Finally, we got there.  The missionary showed us where she met Andrew and pointed out the direction from which he had come.  We all decided to drive that way and see what we could find.  Back into the truck we piled.  Every little while we’d come across individuals walking by the side of the road.  We would stop, our interpreter would show them Andrew’s picture and ask if they had known that boy, they would say “no”, and we would drive on.  Finally, we met a man who didn’t say no!  He had known my brother! He told us he knew the village my brother had grown up in and happily jumped into the truck to show us the way.  Now, of course, a few of us *cough my dad and I cough* were skeptical.  How did we know this man didn’t just think that we were a way of getting some money.  He could take us to any village that he could claim was my brother’s!  We hoped he was being honest but we didn’t know for sure. We welcomed him into the truck with us and again we drove and drove, finally coming to a creek we couldn’t drive over.  It matched up perfectly with Andrew’s story.  He had told us that to get to the medical clinic he had to cross a creek on a log.  Here was a creek and there was a log.  What to do about the truck, though?  It definitely couldn’t be driven over the log. It wasn’t safe to leave the truck alone so the missionary said she would stay with the truck.  It wasn’t safe to leave the elderly female missionary alone so we had to leave the adult Ethiopian man (OUR INTERPRETER!) with her.  Who did that leave to go hiking through the bush?  My parents, me, an elderly Ethiopian man who supposedly knew my brother’s village, and a little nine year old Ethiopian boy who spoke a little English and a little Wolayttan (the regional language).  He wasn’t fluent in either language that he was now supposed to translate for!  There was no other choice, off we went, not knowing what would happen. We hiked over the creek and into the bush.  We had been told it was a fifteen minute walk and yet forty minutes later we were still walking.  My dad was starting to break branches of trees so we would be able to find our back if this “guide” had set us up for an ambush and we had to escape.  He may or may not have also been humming the theme song of Roots.  Still, we walked with the hope of finding my brother’s past. Finally, we came into a clearing with many huts and a “town square” of sorts.  A woman was walking in the square, holding an umbrella to shield herself from the sun.  We went over to her, holding out Andrew’s picture.  The moment she saw the picture and before we could say anything, she had thrown the umbrella, thrown her arms into the air, and began screaming “Hallelujah Yesuah!” Out of nowhere people came running – wondering what was going on.  She passed the picture around and everyone screamed in delight!  Their lost boy had been found.  This truly was his village.  Years ago, when Andrew had left the village, they thought they would never see him or hear about him again.  And here were three white people carrying a picture of their boy. In time – and with a lot of sign language and attempted translation – we found out that the woman we originally met was his aunt.  We met uncles, cousins, friends, and other extended family.  We received hugs, kisses, embraces, and smiles.  It was as if we witnessed the joy that would come of someone rising from the dead. DSC01826 And yet, in all the joy, there was something that hadn’t been spoken.  The people of Andrew’s village were rejoicing in the news of him until finally, one woman brought out an old, ratty picture of Andrew and his baby sister.  The group quieted down as they all realized that we hadn’t said anything about little Tshynesh.  What did that mean?  We had to explain to them the best we could about her death.  It was heartbreaking to see these friends and relatives realize what we were saying to them and understand that their little one had passed away.  Their joy turned to heartbreak before our eyes.  Their was wailing and tears.  It broke my heart about baby Leah’s death all over again. DSC01839 As the grieving subsided, the people told us that they wanted to show us around.  It’s had to explain, but the mood was both somber and yet full of joy.  They showed us Andrew’s former tent.  They took us to the village coffee field he used to help work.  We found the mango tree he told us he used to hide in to get out of working.  We got to experience pieces of his life in an amazing way. Since then, Andrew’s had the opportunity to visit his village twice.  He has been able to reconnect with family members and friends and truly has a heart for going back to Ethiopia someday and using the nursing degree he’s working toward to help his family.  It’s been a blessing for him, knowing that our family supports him 100% in his desire to help his birth family.  We feel as though we’re all one now. And that, my friends, was my greatest adventure.
Check out my blogging “Little Sister”:


  • Charity

    August 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I totally bawled when you guys had to tell them that his sister had died. But God is so good that even out of death came life. He brought back together a family so your brothers previous life wasn't lost. You all were truly a blessing to him! Marvelous story thank you for sharing this.

  • Jen

    August 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    WOW! The experience you had is something I know you will never forget. I spent time in the Dominican Republic and being with all the people was amazing for me.

  • Always Maylee

    August 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Wow what a truly amazing experience!

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

  • Jodi

    August 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    What an amazing, amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hena Tayeb

    August 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    What an amazing experience..

  • Savvy WorkingGal

    August 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    What an amazing story.

  • Kelly Lamborn

    August 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    How exciting! I love that he has been able to go back as well. Who knows, maybe my brother will end up in Ethiopia over the next two years 🙂 His mission area is called the "Uganda Kampala Mission" so he could be moved anywhere in Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea or Rwanda.

  • brooke lyn

    August 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    this experience is so beautiful and awesome!

  • Katie

    August 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    oh this story blew me away!!! I was just enjoying the way your wrote the beginning, so funny and cute– and then I was alternately overjoyed and heartbroken, following what happened next.. how wonderful that your brother connected with his birth family and continues to build his relationship with them… such a dream come true.

  • Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly

    August 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    What a beautiful story, Susannah! Your stories about Africa and your family are simply amazing. The pictures are so awesome. I am glad your brother got to reconnect with his family and his heritage, that his African relatives got to learn about his fate (and unfortunately about that of his little sister), and that you all could visit the places Andrew told you about. How amazing!

  • Ashley

    August 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    What a great story. I love hearing all the stories about your family's adventures and experiences. Thanks for sharing. It has been too long since I've visited your blog. That wont happen again =)

  • Bailey Kay

    August 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    That is so amazing! I'm so glad your brother gets to reconnect with his roots and your family grew closer to his family as well.

  • Rebekah Mann

    August 29, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Wow! That was amazing and truly a God-thing!! Though, it was terribly sad that Andrew's sister died. But, truly amazing that he can connect with his birth family again!!!! Awesome adventure!

  • The Dose of Reality

    August 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    What an incredible story…so glad to have read it. Thank you for sharing it.-Ashley

  • kristyn

    August 30, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Wow, what an incredible experience. That is so amazing for both your family and Andrew to be able to reconnect with the home of his past! 🙂

  • Trish

    August 30, 2013 at 2:13 am

    What an amazing experience to get to have with your brother, really. You guys made it possible for him to stay connected to where he's from. That's beautiful 🙂

  • Angel The Alien

    August 30, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Wow, that is a really emotional experience for all of you to have had! It is great that your brother got to go back and see his family members, and that he wants to use his education to make life better for others in his country of origin!

  • Jayda

    August 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Beautiful story!! So wonderful for your brother to be able to connect with his village; and so great that you and your family were able to be a part of that.

  • Katrin

    August 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Oh wow, that really was a great adventure! Thanks so much for sharing! Usually you only see things like that on TV! I am so glad that your brother was able to visit his village again!

  • Rachel

    August 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I think the title of this post is very apt. And it's awesome that you were able to experience this with members of your family, too!

    The Random Writings of Rachel

  • Adrian’s Crazy Life

    September 1, 2013 at 6:32 am

    What a oool story and it ties in so nicely with your blog title – Simple Moments Stick. How amazing that you were able to locate these people and manage to connect with them. I've been reading the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series all summer and it has given me a special feeling for Africa and it's people. I think it would be a wonderful place to visit!

  • Sam M

    September 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    What a wonderful story. That is so amazing when things like that connect. I'm so glad that you were able to find his village and that he has been able to go back there.

  • Elsha

    January 30, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    That is so incredible!! Such a great vacation story 🙂 I admire your love for the work so much, you are so dedicated and strong

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