Ethiopia Time

Ethiopia time is different than American time. Did you know that when my clock says 6 am, it is really 1:00 here? They start counting the hours when the day starts, at 6 am. And then they just start over the next day at 6 am. Did you know that in Ethiopia, it is 2004? Yep. According to their calendar, that is the year we are currently living in. And the dates are different too. Today is not May 31, it is actually May 23 here.

Ethiopia time is different than American time in other ways too. When they say today, it might really mean today. Or it might mean tomorrow. Or maybe next week. The upside to this is that people here take time for each other. If they have an appointment at noon, but at 11:30 someone invites them in for a coffee ceremony, then the appointment can wait. People come first. And they are not rushing from one overscheduled activity to the other. They take time to talk and laugh and visit. When they greet someone, instead of a rushed “Hey!” as they move on by, people stop and clasp hands and kiss each other’s cheeks…3 or 4 times. Left cheek, right cheek, left cheek, right cheek.

The downside to this is that we have been waiting 15 weeks.

Since we have been in Ethiopia, we have gone into and emailed the adoption agency’s local office every day. There are have been big government/court/adoption meetings here in Addis for the last 3 days so we have had a hard time getting a hold of anyone. We haven’t heard anything new about our case. And then today, as we were hugging and kissing our children goodbye and getting ready to go to lunch, we got a text message from the in-country director of our agency. It said, “Meet me at the court at 1:30. We will go before the judge to discuss your case.”


It was noon. Meet her at the courts in an hour and a half? Okay!

We rushed down to the court house and found the waiting room. It was overflowing. Literally. Overflowing with people who were there for their court dates. Every chair was full. People were standing along the walls and between the aisles. People were outside in the hallway. It turns out that everyone who had a court date scheduled anytime in the last 3 days (those same 3 days where everyone was in the government/court/adoption meetings), was re-scheduled to show up today. We settled in for what we assumed would be a long wait. Instead, we were the second case called.

We walked into the judge’s chambers (or maybe it was the court room. I am really not sure). Our adoption agency director and the judge then started discussing our case – in very rapid and very undecipherable Amharic. 90% of the time we had no idea what was being said. Every now and then the judge would switch to English and ask us a few questions. The outcome of the whole unexpected meeting is this….

The judge is giving the local court (the court we have been waiting on for 7 weeks to finish our last document) until next Wednesday to submit that document. We have an appointment with the judge next Wednesday at 2:00. At that point, we will proceed with or without this needed document. We are hoping that “proceed” means that she will assign us a court date. We asked how far out our court date would be scheduled. While making no promises, she seemed to imply that it would be very soon. In fact, our agency director said that it was a possibility that our court date would be within days.

Hallelujah! Information and forward progress!

Best case scenario….we meet with the judge next Wednesday. She assigns a court date. That court date is Thursday or Friday. We are home with our kids by next weekend.

Worst case scenario….actually, I don’t really want to think about that.

As I think about my frustration with Ethiopian time and my expectations of American time, I am reminded that I can trust in one thing. No matter what, this is all in God’s perfect time. I read a quote by Elisabeth Elliot this week that really struck me.

I don’t know, when I’m asking for something here on earth, what is going on in the innermost shrine of Heaven (I like to think about it, though). I am sure of one thing: it is good.

God’s timing is good.

No….God’s timing is perfect. And I just have to trust in that.




*For our case to find favor with the judge

*Next Wednesday at 2:00

*Our petition for Naomi

8 thoughts on “Ethiopia Time

  1. barbara harrison

    Wow interesting and helpful for you guys to understand a little more of the process and time frame and how it works. Love the updates and pictures. Everyday is an adventure.

  2. summer

    praying. praying. praying. how amazingly encouraging is this small (okay large) bit of information. thanks for sharing your joys & struggles with all of us. it is truly beautiful. i love the elizabeth elliot quote. i needed this today.

  3. Chastity

    I hold a prayer in my heart for your family each and every day. I too know that God’s time is perfect and when all is said and done you will be able to look back and know it happened the way it did for a reason.

  4. Amanda

    Thank goodness!! Some progress no matter how small or confusing is better than none…so glad!!

  5. Liesje

    Progress!!! I’m holding in my heart and prayers that all six of your children will be home before next weekend. It’s happening. And it is happening soon. Your wait will be over soon Natalie. Can’t wait to see the pictures of all your children’s smiling faces.

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