We’re back, and I’ve got LOTS to share. First and foremost, I know you are all so curious to hear how Justice handled his first trip back to Ghana, so I am making that my first trip post...here you go:
Justice was a SEA of questions during our day of travel. He was especially interested in the entire process of getting checked in at the airport, and kept saying “I remember this!” On the first flight which was a quick one hour connection to Chicago he and JJ sat together in the row right behind me and Jake. They chattered the entire time, and pretty soon before we were even up in the air I heard a ding coming from their row. In a split second the flight attendant had walked up to them saying, “Yes, did you need something?” Justice has a pretty loud voice so the entire plane heard him respond by saying, “No, I just wanted to see what that button does.” (Yes, he had pressed the button to call the flight attendant). The way he said it sounded so innocent and curious that the ENTIRE plane erupted in laughter, and I myself could not stop giggling.
Here is my journal excerpt from Day 1 of our arrival into Ghana….
The first familiar face we saw in the airport was of course Esi [if you are just joining our blog, Esi is the mother of our first host student from Ghana, Yaw, and she and her husband also kept Justice for us after his visa fiasco from June 2010 until he came to the U.S. in September 2010]. Esi could not stop smiling at Justice and commenting on how much he had grown and how healthy he looked. She kept saying that his face looked different, especially something in his eyes. I know what she is seeing. He has a light in his eyes now that was never there before he was adopted. He always looked so lost and sad before. Now his eyes dance with this mix of health, joy, and well – lightness, that is so easy to see when we compare before and after pictures. I love how God so involved Esi and her husband Nana in the process of Justice’s adoption so that they too could rejoice in what God has done in his life.
It is such a strange feeling being on the streets, watching the village children and knowing that this is how Justice would have grown up had he not been adopted.
Many of the boys here should be as big as Justice. They are the same age as him, but so tiny and skinny in comparison. By the time nighttime rolls around they are begging to come to dinner with us at the hotel. We are able to pick out a handful of the kids to eat with us at the table. The hotel staff advised us to have two kids share a serving on a plate, because if each of them gets their own plate their stomachs grow over the week we are here. Then when we leave and go back to the U.S. they will be even hungrier because their bodies will have adjusted to more food intake.
I also had noted…
Justice has very quickly forgotten that the way the street children act was also how he used to be. Some of that forgetting is good, but I do hope that he will never forget how God has picked him out and saved him from this life of day by day survival. Jake had to remind Justice a hand full of times tonight that “that was once you”. All the village boys wanted to hold Justice’s hand (very common here – boys hold eachother’s hands while walking as well as girls), hang their arms on his shoulders, etc. There is no personal space here – and it’s very easy to feel smothered if you aren’t used to it. Justice told Jake that he didn’t like how all the kids kept wanting to touch him. Jake gently reminded Justice that he did the same exact thing to us when we first met him. There was also a point tonight when Justice asked me why all the kids love cameras and taking pictures so much! Um, hello dear son do you not remember how you constantly had to take pictures on my camera and play with the settings because you were so excited to hold something electronic in your hands? I’ve got evidence!
Just for giggles, here is Justice experimenting with my camera back in June 2010….
With this being the first night here we are cutting Justice a little slack. We really had no idea of how he would react to being back here. So far we aren’t sure if Justice is pretending that he doesn’t remember these details of his former life, or if he really has pushed it/blocked it all out of his memory. I am so interested to watch his reactions and interactions with the village kids the next few days…
By the next day Justice had fully entered into wanting to help, play with, and interact with the village kids. We had one full day in Asikuma to just be around our little friends, and Justice eagerly settled into a role of leading a lot of the play….
[That’s Jake picking up little Adjoa when she fell near the middle of the video – I’ll do a separate post on a different day to update you on her and Yaa]
Justice and JJ were both SO EXCITED to meet Yaa and Adjoa in person because we had been praying for them as a family for months. Justice and Adjoa....
Of course, the highlight of Justice’s visit to Ghana was to be visiting his hometown of Larteh and his birthfamily for the first time since his adoption completed over a year and a half ago. This was reserved for one of the last days of our trip. Kofi, our in-country case worker who handled Justice’s adoption, drove us up the beautiful mountain once again to the town of Larteh.
During the drive Kofi stopped to buy a coconut, which Justice had also wanted ever since we got to Ghana. So he got to finally have his coconut milk!
We all exchanged hugs and watched the eyes of Justice’s birthmother absolutely dance with pure joy upon seeing her son again. She excitedly led us through the alley back to her house and she began setting out plastic chairs for us to sit down, as she had the very first time that we met. From there we took a load of pictures, handed out the gifts we had brought for Kwasi (Justice’s little bro) and his birthmother…..
After we took pictures and exchanged gifts Justice’s birthmother began setting up a little table. Kofi translated for us that she had prepared Justice his favorite Ghanaian dish – fu fu! Is that not the perfect example of a mother’s love or what?
Justice told us later that at this point he got nervous and would have eaten more but everyone was staring at him and watching him! :) As he talked with his birthfamily, we noticed that he understood what they said in the language he grew up with (an eatern-region dialect called ‘larteh’) but that he was not comfortable speaking it back.
After awhile it became time for us to head to a celebration that Kofi had planned with the other orphans in Larteh that he has just started to identify and begin helping. Sadly, in Larteh there are 24 orphans who have lost both parents either to death or abandonment, and there are many more considered extremely needy who have one surviving parent. We all hopped back into the car and went to the center of the town where the orphans of Larteh and many people in the community awaited our arrival. Justice was the honored guest, and he was asked (with no time to prepare) to speak to the orphans, encourage them, explain adoption, and talk about his new life. He was very, very nervous, and quite honestly was really put on the spot, but we were so proud that he displayed such courage and didn’t back down. He answered questions, explained his life in the U.S. compared to Ghana, defined adoption, and the segway that he chose for each new topic was “…and God will start changing your life…”
From there we served a meal to the orphans…
And then we reached the stream…
And that was our time in Larteh!
One of the questions we’ve been asked a lot is why Justice’s little brother was not also put up for adoption? People wonder what the situation is in why he is still living with the birthmother. The answer is two-fold. Justice’s birthfather is deceased. Kwasi’s birthfather is not. In addition, the two biggest factors that played into Justice’s adoption were #1 – The family’s poverty, which resulted in Justice’s severe malnutrition. #2 – Justice’s condition of albinism. He was rejected by the Ghanaian society because of his red hair and lighter shade of skin. Although our trip to Justice’s hometown was full of joy, there were also many points where Jake and I were confronted with the reality of Justice’s rejection. Every neighbor, relative, and person that saw him called him ‘obruni’, and they did not use it as a term of endearment. ‘Obruni’ is the Ghanaian word for ‘foreigner/white person’. This is what the Ghanaians call us - the Americans - and they tease Justice by labeling him ‘white man’ and calling him this word. This was something that sickened me on our first trip to Larteh back in 2009 when we first met Justice and Kofi explained to us his nickname in the community. It was as if his fellow Ghanaians wanted him to know – ‘You are not one of us.’ In some African countries, like Tanzania, an albino’s life is even in danger as they believe that albinos have magical properties in their limbs (and will therefore kill an albino in order to sell their limbs). Thankfully they don’t practice this in Ghana, but albinos are still mistreated. In America, with our rainbow of beautiful shades and colors of skin, eyes, and hair, nobody would ever notice this or see Justice as unfit to be a part of society. In Ghana it’s different. Although on the outside Justice may not look traditionally Ghanaian, on the inside his heritage remains, and we will continue to rejoice in the rich country that he comes from, and know that God has given us a very compassionate, intelligent, joyful, son who fits into our family perfectly.
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7~