February 10, 2011 is a day I will never forget. Many times I write and have tears. This is not different, but today they are because of pure joy. I got to be a part of a family reuniting that had not been in contact with each other for over 20 years.
It all started January 27 with a comment on my blog. It read,
I am hosting a family who just arrived here from the camp in Kenya. The father is from Soddo and… has 2 brothers and hopefully his father as well is still there in Soddo. His father was a well known evangelist in Soddo who also ran a medical clinic. He has not seen them in many years and would like to let them know he is ok and has 2 daughters. Is there any way you can help me or refer me to who can help me find his father and brothers in Soddo?
This came from Jim, a man who works with refugees and is helping the family settle in America. After spending seven to eight years in Somalia and then 13 years in a refugee camp in Kenya, Dawit and his two daughters flew into Boston on January 21, 2011. When Dawit and Jim googled Soddo, they found my blog.
I was eager to help. Jim sent all the information he had: the names of Dawit’s father, two brothers and his two sons in addition to his father’s previous workplace. I brought the information to the administration at our hospital. One of the gentleman said he knew of Dawit’s father and knew who to talk to to find him. There is no such thing as a phone book here. Everything is by word of mouth. You go to the churches, mosques, or neighborhood associations and ask if they know them. I also asked all of the Ethiopians I know if they knew his family. The lovely girl who works at my house, Groomnesh, said she knew one of his sons…. or so I hoped. Same name, wrong person.
Monday morning while I was rounding and making farting noises to ask my patient if she was passing gas after her surgery, I was interrupted by Gabayu, a man in the administration. He said, “I want you to meet some people. This is Daku, Dawit’s father, and his two brothers.” I couldn’t hold back my tears and hugs. It is a hand shaking and shoulder touching place, but I am just a hugger. I brought them to my house and showed them the picture of their long lost Dawit. They told me it had been 21 years since they had seen him and they didn’t know if he was dead or alive. I invited them to skype with Dawit. They had no idea what skype was, so I introduced them to it by calling my mom. We sent an email with a picture to Jim and Dawit and waited for a response.
Thursday night, we finally had a time that the family could reunite. Dawit’s father, two brothers, one of his sons, a cousin, Sophie and I sat outside staring at the computer screen as the phone rang. I cannot explain to you how amazing it was. Shortly after we got on Dawit was telling his family what the last 21 years of his life had been like. All six men were brought to tears. Almost all of the conversation was in Wollaita, their tribal language, so I missed most of the words, but their faces told the story. I can just give you a snap shot of it. Daku, Dawit’s father is 83 years old. Dawit never thought he would see his father on this earth. The average age life expectancy for a man in Ethiopia is about 52 years. Daku said several times that this is like the reunion of Jacob and his son Joseph. Buruk, Dawit’s son, was about two when his father left. Buruk has no memories of his father. Dawit asked his several times, “Who is your father?”, “Tell me stories about yourself.”, “Come closer to the camera. I want to see you.” Buruk also got to meet the two sisters he never knew he had. They didn’t speak Wollaita, but they spoke Amharic, the national language, so the siblings were able to communicate. The reunion lasted about two hours with only a few internet glitches. It was dark and the men here needed to go. They walked away with an extra hop in their step and many praises to God.