Adoption Photographer | AFRICA | Saying Goodbye to Covenant House

Our last day at Covenant House was a day of goodbyes…

Nebeyu showed me his room and his bed, and said goodbye to his things here.

 We said goodbye to the room in which we all slept the night before…

 Nebeyu had his last breakfast with his “siblings” at the orphanage…

 And his half-brother stopped by to say goodbye, too. He brought Nebeyu some Ethiopian music CDs 🙂

 Colby helped the girls wash the morning’s dishes. See that water tank in the back? That’s the whole water supply for the orphanage.

 After breakfast, we walked across the street to the little village there. It was the village in which Nebeyu grew up. His sister took us over there so that Nebeyu could say goodbye to the people in the village.

As soon as we crossed the road and into the town, these women came up to us, weeping. They hugged and kissed Rick and Wendi and thanked them. We weren’t sure why they were crying – were they sad? Upset?

 We asked Pochi to translate for us and found out that these women used to sell in the market with Nebeyu’s mother. When Nebeyu was just a year and a half old, she got very ill. Just before she died, she asked these women, her friends, to please take care of her youngest child, Nebeyu. The women did what they could, but being so poor they couldn’t do much. Seeing that Nebeyu is getting a chance at a future in the US has allowed these women’s burden of caring for him to be lifted, and they feel like they can finally go confidently knowing that Nebeyu will be cared for forever.

We walked down another street, and Nebeyu spotted a woman in front of her house. This woman took Nebeyu and his sister in for awhile when they were young. He was able to hug her and kiss her cheek and say goodbye, and thank you.

Then we stopped by Nebeyu’s old home, where he lived as a young boy. This is where his mom and dad lived before she died. After she died, dad brought in another wife who, as Nebeyu’s sister put it, “did bad things” to Nebeyu and the girls. Dad worked as a guard and was often gone for days on end. If dad came home, the kids would, too… but when he did not, the children stayed out on the streets or in the fields all night, because that was better than being home with their stepmom.

5 years ago, Nebeyu’s sister (the one that Wendi gave the ring to) saw that Covenant House was being built across the main road. She, at age 13, went over there and filled out all the paperwork to get Nebeyu a place to live there. When he was accepted, she told her father what she had done, even though it meant that she might get punished (they were muslim and Covenant House is a Christian orphanage). But instead of punishing her, he signed the papers so that Nebeyu would have a better place to live. He died a few years later.

If you are wondering how much it costs to live in a house like this, it’s $1.80. A YEAR.

We continued our walk around the village, saying goodbye to different caretakers and friends…

and then we headed back to Covenant House to say our final goodbyes to his orphanage family…

We took a group photo…

and a photo of our team with everyone…

and a family photo of Rick and Wendi with their boys…

Nebeyu said goodbye to the ladies that kept him fed for the past 5 years…

and, after hugging everyone goodbye, he got into the van to start his new life.

Samane came up to the car to say a final goodbye…

and the rest of the group gave their tearful waves as we drove off. Nebeyu’s sister cried the most. She spent most of the day yesterday putting together a gift for her brother: She went around the village and collected photos of all of Nebeyu’s siblings and half-siblings so that he could remember them. She also bought him a silver necklace, which I am sure cost most of her money that she had. She gave Nebeyu her phone number and he promised to call her and keep in touch.

As we drove off, most of us silently wept for those children left behind, smiled at the prospect of the future of the Cross family, and prayed for the people of Holeta and for the future of the orphanage and the children who will soon be added to the Covenant House family. It was a bittersweet morning…

March 15, 2010 - 11:07 pm

Aunt M Oh my!

March 15, 2010 - 11:42 pm

MO I am so emotional right now…I am so happy and so sad all at the same time. What a wonderful opportunity for Nebeyu and I can see the peace in every photo. We are so excited to see you all soon 🙂

March 16, 2010 - 5:41 am

MaryKay Niedermeyer Thank you again! This was wonderful! I can picture Tamirat sitting at our breakfast table and I can’t wait. What a great story you have captured for Nebeyu.

March 16, 2010 - 5:44 am

Cousin Amy Very emotional and touching

March 16, 2010 - 6:50 am

Beth Sandy Jessie, your blog has been amazing, thank you! And congratulations to Rick and Wendy and Nebeyu, God has truly blessed your family. Thanks for sharing, David and Beth.

March 16, 2010 - 8:01 am

Kathy Roberts Hi Jessie: Just want to thank you again for everything you have done. Wow!! This is so amazing. We love Nebeyu so much. He is so special. These pictures mean so much to everyone. You’re such a BLESSING!! THANK YOU. Love ya!!!

March 16, 2010 - 8:46 am

Stephanie Delacruz Wow, that was BEAUTIFUL!!! So many emotions. Jessie you did an amazing job capturing this story. I know we are all forever greatful for your passion of photography!!!

March 16, 2010 - 12:49 pm

Tisra Once again, I read through, paused. came back, read through again, and finally collected my thoughts enough to comment. Their adoption story is so different than ours- yet both are completely miraculous. How on EARTH did they hold it together enough to hug his sister, and the friends of his mother and actually leave strong and able to lead Nebeyu through his own grieving???? Only the Holy Spirit, surely. Whew.

I won’t stop praying for Nebeyu’s transition and adjustment, it is so very clear that he left much behind. May God give him comfort and peace and the ability to look AHEAD and surrender to love.

March 16, 2010 - 2:58 pm

Erin I just keep getting teary. Very overwhelmed with emotion. I love you all so much.

March 16, 2010 - 5:41 pm

Lynsey This entire blog is amazing and really touching. Great job and thank you so much for sharing this wonderful journey with everyone….it really means a lot! As I looked over the photos and read the blog over the past several days I have teared up many times and have been touched by all the love shown by so many. I cannot imagine what it was like for everyone involved…..amazing.

March 16, 2010 - 6:10 pm

shontell Brewer Sniff. This was the best. Thank you for the updates. It keeps me from stalking Wendi, which is good, as I think she already has a restraining order on me. Just joking.

March 16, 2010 - 6:13 pm

shontell Brewer Also, last night Addison (five) prayed, “Lord, please help Ms. Wendi’s new boy speak English.” That’s the greatest pray God will hear this whole week, I am sure of it.

March 19, 2010 - 7:55 pm

MaryKay Niedermeyer Hopefully you can repost those pics this next week! I will miss them because everyday I come here and look at those pics.

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