Friday, January 23, 2009

Visiting Bright's Family and Village

[Written Thursday, January 22, 1:30pm]

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of seeing where my son comes from. Not just the orphanage he was at, but where he lived the first 11 months of his life. The place where he was born. The place where his mother died. The place where, despite his family's best efforts, he went 9.5 more months slowly starving to the point of death. When I walked in that place it almost brought me to my knees. The visions of Bright's life before he went to the orphanage, and before he joined our family, were very hard to "see." I could see his family mourning upon his mother's death. I could see his family's anguish as they tried to keep him alive. I could hear Bright's cries, going out into the bush and not being answered with what he needed (food).

I was able to meet Bright's family at the orphanage before I took him home almost 2 years ago. That in itself was much more than I could have ever hoped for. Over 10 family members came to meet me and see him off to his new life. But at that time I was so preoccupied with Bright's health (wasn't good) that I neglected to get any sort of contact information from the family. All I had was the village he supposedly lived in--and the hope that if I wanted to see his family again the orphanage could arrange it.

The last few years my relationship with the folks at his orphanage has gone downhill. They went down an ethical path that I vocally disagreed with. I delivered a few small gifts to Bright's brothers about a year ago, and had a very cool reception from the orphanage director. Since then it has become a heavier and heavier weight that I couldn't contact Bright's family myself.

I feel like it was a God thing yesterday that I was able to finally go to his village and get contact information. It couldn't be a priority for the day, because I am here in an official capacity. I can't just use AAI's resources however I would like. But because we ended up only a few minutes away, and because we had extra time after our official tasks, I was able to go.

First we went to the orphanage, where I immediately saw Bright's next oldest brother (Wise), and met with the director's daughter. Steven wasn't around until right before I left, so I only got one picture of him. The director's daughter told me they would send someone with us to show us where Bright's village was. Yea!

I was very sad to learn that the last photo album I had sent to the family actually caused a great argument between them. There was a conflict over who had a right to OWN the photos. His uncle (who provided financially what little he got and made the adoption plan) thought he should get them. The grandparents (who provided his daily care and probably sat up nights with him) thought they should get them. His father (who had issues I won't go into here and wasn't around) thought he should get them. In the end, after a great clash in the family, the photos went back to Bright's orphanage so that whomever wants to see them can go and see them but nobody gets to "own" them. It breaks my heart that this happened. I'm glad to know that next time I should send at least 3 sets of photos! It just goes to show how much they care about Bright, and how proud they are now that he is with a family in America.

We set off from the orphanage and took an immediate turn down a dirt path. It wound around until a village came into view. This was a typical African village. This is the type of village you don't usually see from the side of the main paved road. It was surreal. We drove to the back of the village until we were sitting in front of a small mud and thatch house, and I saw Bright's grandparents sitting outside. It was obvious immediately that they recognized me, but also that they were shocked to see me. Grandpa and Grandma sat in sarongs covering their bottom halves, and that was it.

Immediately all of Bright's family started gathering around and welcoming me. They took me to a small shelter (poles covered with palm leaves) so I could be in the shade. They went inside of a house and pulled out their best chair--a molded plastic lawn chair. When I began to sit on a wooden bench they all jumped up and insisted that I sit on the nicer chair. Humbling. Everybody put their best clothes on (Grandpa cracked me up with his suit coat) and we took pictures.

Through broken English and a bit of translation I told them about how Bright was doing, and apologized for not bringing any photos. Of course they wanted photos--but I didn't think I would have this opportunity so I didn't come prepared. I told them that Bright looked just like Wise and that he is still fat like his mommy. ;-) They like to hear that. We talked about the older boys, and what they want for them in the future.

I asked for contact information and there was a bit of a blank stare. Cell phones are rare in this village. And email was completely foreign. There is no mailing address. In the end I was given the number to an "uncle" and told I could reach the family through him. I also wrote down the name of the village (different than what is on Bright's adoption information--but that is likely because they registered him at a more proper village). The important thing is that now I know where they are. That family has probably been there for many generations, and will probably be there for many generations to come. It's just that kind of place. Fifty years from now I fully expect that I could walk into that village and ask for an Anagbo, and be taken directly to one of Bright's relatives. I love that we have that information for him. I love that Bright's history was not lost and that he has something real to return to, should he decide to visit or live in Ghana when he is older.

Because they could give me very little contact information, I did end up giving them my full contact information. I don't think this is always wise, and am not sure it was wise on my part. I think there is a good chance that I will now receive calls or letters asking for continued support for the family. After all, I made a point of telling them that I see them as my family now--that Bright has connected us. In Africa, family comes with obligations. We will take it one step at a time, and hope for the best. I don't want to be seen as Mrs. Moneybags that takes all of their troubles away, but in my heart I DO want to help where I can. At the same time, We have to be very careful with what we do (if requested) because I don't want any family in Ghana to think that by giving their child for adoption their family will then be supported by the adoptive family. So...some tough situations are likely to arise because I gave my full contact information.

In the end, I feel very blessed to have spent time with Bright's family, in his village. It is a rare privilege for we adoptive parents. Thank you Lord, for allowing it to happen.



Ericka 6:50 AM  

wow anita. wow.
so much info. must process.
praying for you, praying for peace in your heart.

Christina 8:45 AM  

Wow, what an amazing opportunity. I wish so much I could do that for my kids, especially R. But I know I would also be conflicted about being seen as the new source of income for the birth family or of being an unintended influence on others relinquishing their children. It's a hard path to walk, but I think it's great you were able to make that connection for Bright.

Nichole, Mia's Mommy 10:41 AM  

I am SO glad yougot this oppurtunity for you and my Bright man... :) I KNOW someday he will cherish the info and pics you were able to get of his birth family.

Love you sis be careful and looking forward to seeing all the pics and hearing the stories when you get back.


Awo 11:56 AM  

Anita, bless your sweet heart! What a wonderful opportunity for you and for Bright that you got to visit with his extended bio family. I understand the pull that you feel to do more for them. I feel that way when I visit my own family in Ghana. But, I could hit Lotto tomorrow and it would be impossible for me to do everything for them financially that they would like me to do. I DEFINITELY agree that you need to be careful not to be seen as Ms. Moneybags, for yourself and also for Bright. As a child, I would feel a terrible sense of survivor's guilt after every visit to Ghana - asking God why do I have so much when they have so little? After all, I don't DESERVE it. It's a terrible feeling for a child to have. I remind myself that it is not MY job to help people, it is my job to allow God to use me to do what He wants to do in the lives of oters. Because there is a real belief that having a relative in the US is a way to fiancial security, I think you're right that we need to guard against that perception in adoptions. And above all, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. There is poverty and disease because we live in a fallen world. Pray about what God would have you to do for them financially, if anything, and about how much contact to continue to have, if any. It is wonderful that you can preserve this conection for Bright. But guard your heart and guard your son's heart.

Peace and blessings,

Amy 8:35 PM  

My beautiful friend Anita. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. I am so glad for you that you got to make this wonderful connection and just really wish I could hug you right now. :)


Laurel 10:18 PM  

What a blessing!

This brought back so many good memories of our visit to our kids' village. While their family does have our address, we have not received any requests for help. But, Jacob and his older brother have exchanged a couple of letters this year. While their family does not have an address in their village, they do know someone in a nearby city that has a PO Box.

Blessings to you as you continue your "official duties", but so thankful that you had a few minutes for "family duties:. Bright will be blessed to have the pictures. I can so imagine Grandpa putting on his suit coat.

Laurel :)

PS: Thanks, Awo, for your great insights!

jackie kingsley 3:27 PM  

Hi Anita, I have been reading your blog since I returned from Ghana in June 2008. I recently went back to Ghana in Nov and just returned two weeks ago. Both times I was in Ghana I volunteered at and spend tons of time at Eugemot Orphanage. My first visit I was there for 6 months and the second time for 9 weeks. While I was there the first time, I fell in love with Sarah and expressed my intentions to adopt her. I live in Portland Oregon and have contacted a local adoption agency to proceed. I'm curious what your experience was like working with Eugemot. I have had some frustrations with their responsiveness and now that Ernest is living in the UK not sure if it will be better or worse.. Also, I know Stephen and Wise very well. I volunteered in the class that Stephen was in.,,. I would love to chat with you!!!

Thanks, Jackie

A. Gillispie 11:21 AM  


I'd love to talk! Email me at agillispie @ or let me know your email address. =-)