Aidan Birhanu Miller Robinson

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Ethiopia?

"Africa will inspire you
and break your heart
all at the same time."

We've been asked this question a lot. To tell the truth, I haven't really been able to articulate the reasons why we've chosen to adopt from Ethiopia very well. We certainly didn't make this decision frivolously or without a great deal of thought and prayer. One of the most obvious reasons to be cautious is the difference in race. I grew up in southwest Missouri and Liam in Ireland. Neither are known for their diversity. How are we, a white couple, going to parent an African child? Would we do a good job, or would we forever scar the very child that we're trying to help and had prayed so desperately for? America has a long history of inequality amongst the races, and while there has been VAST amounts of improvement, race is still a hot topic in our country.

It might seem small, but one of my first concerns was hair! We have made great strides in bridging the differences between race, but as Oprah says, "hair is one area that we will always be different". I have fine, limp hair. I wash it everyday and it takes me about 10 minutes to fix it in the morning- The polar opposite of African-American hair. I had no idea where to even start!

The first time I heard about a place called Ethiopia was in the 6th grade with the release of "We are the World". My friends and I watched Michael Jackson and his legion of fellow singers on MTV, but had no real concept of what famine was doing to that country. To a sixth grade girl living in the United States, Ethiopia seemed as distant as the moon. I'd seen images of starving children on my television set and felt compassion, but didn't know what I could do to help. Fast forward twenty+ years and I still feel that way, but I'm trying. Here's the startling reality about Ethiopia:

  • 33% of Ethiopians are considered severly underweight when the food surplus in the United States could feed all of Africa.

  • One American eats what 520 Ethiopians eat in their lifetime

  • Only 24% of Ethiopia has access to clean water, and some have to walk hours to get it

  • 81% of Ethiopians live on less than $2 a day

  • The average woman gives birth to 6 children

  • 1 in 7 of these women die in childbirth

  • Women who are raped or unmarried and get pregnant are shunned from their tribe and forced to live on the outskirts

  • There are 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia

  • Experts predict that with the rising number in a couple of years this number will be between 25 and 50 million orphans!

  • Out of the nearly 5 million orphans, 720,000 of those are a result of AIDS

  • 1 in 7 children die before the age of ONE

  • 1 in 6 die before the age of FIVE

  • Main cause of death~ diarrhea and pneumonia

  • Median age is 17.8 years, 17.8 years!!!!!!!!

  • 265,000 children die daily from preventable diseases (that's one every 3 seconds)

  • Only half of school-aged children actually attend school.

  • There is only 1 doctor for every 24,000 people

**And probably most disheartening, because I too have been guilty of this: American Christians spend four times as much each year on dietary programs as they do on humanitarian aid.

So, why not adopt from Ethiopia? The Bible says, "Pure and geniuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing the let the world corrupt you (James 1:27)." Nowhere does it state to care for orphans, but only if they're the same color as you or only if you risk nothing by taking on a child that is of a different race or culture than your own. Something as negligible as race seems pretty small in light of the above statistics. Intangible differences such as culture and race are of this world, not of God. God cares nothing of where you were born or what color skin you have.

Our child will be beautiful and loved because he or she is a child of God. And yes, when you see us, you will see a multiracial and multicultural family. However, I hope you see more than that. I hope you see a family where love transpires all earthly differences and a couple, once left broken by infertility, who have found their faith restored through a child. Much like humanity so many years ago, found its most precious gift in the birth of a child...the Christ child.

God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God is with the poor and God is with us if we are with them.
-Bono (lead singer of U2)

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