A single stocking from last Christmas is still hanging up in the Canton home of Chris and Meggan Graves. Although the couple and their three sons Marshall, 7, Fisher, 5, and Harrison, 2, were all able to celebrate the holiday together, there was one member of their family missing. Since last year, the Graves family has been awaiting the arrival of a boy named Bereket, who they are adopting from Ethiopia. The process has been long and difficult, but it is a journey the family might never have gone on at all if it hadn’t been for a dream Meggan had nearly a year ago. “I started having these crazy dreams,” Meggan said, describing dreaming that she was getting off of a plane with her children, except there were four sons there instead of three.
She said the sign in the airport read, “Welcome to Ethiopia,” and when Meggan’s son Marshall asked where they were, she answered, “We’re showing your brother where he’s from.” Meggan said she knew the dream indicated she had adopted a son; however, she and Chris had discussed adoption before and decided it wasn’t right for them.
But the vivid dream was hard to forget, and Meggan found she couldn’t quite dismiss the idea.
Another family member was in the process of adopting a little girl from China, and when Meggan went to the adoption website to see pictures of the child, she noticed a link to an Ethiopian adoption site. She clicked on the link and began looking through dozens of photographs of Ethiopian children looking for a home.
At number 17, she stopped.
A boy, about 8 or 9 years old was shyly smiling out at her.
“She was drawn to him,” Chris said. “She showed him to me, and I was drawn to him as well. Immediately when I saw him, I said, ‘You know, I think he looks like Marshall.’ They really look alike. Other than the color of his skin, they really look alike.”
They learned that Bereket’s mother had died from malaria, and at the time, Bereket was also sick from the disease. His father, who is suffering from kidney failure, was too ill to take care of his son, and he gave Bereket up to the hospital, where he knew his son would receive treatment.
None of Bereket’s other family could afford to take him in, and he was put up for adoption. Older children Bereket’s age usually have a more difficult time finding homes than young or infant children, but the Meggan said they felt he was the one they were meant to adopt.
Still, the couple was unsure that they were emotionally or financially ready to take on adopting a child. They decided to pray and think about it individually before discussing it further with each other, but in the end, they came to the same conclusion.
“We both said that the answer God was giving us was, why not?” Meggan said. “We’ve got plenty of love to go around for another child. Why would we not do this?”
The next obstacle was wading through the paperwork and finding the needed money for adoption fees, government fees and the two flights to Ethiopia the couple would need to take in order to adopt Bereket.
They estimated they would need about $25,000 to complete the adoption process, but that number has quickly grown to $30,000 over the last year. Knowing they couldn’t come up with the money on their own, the couple has reached out to their friends, family and community to ask for help.
It’s an experience that Meggan said has been humbling and rewarding.
“The amazing part for us is to see how other people have responded,” she said. “It’s been really, really neat.”
Offers of donations, fundraising ideas or simply words of support and encouragement have been coming from people close to the family and from some unexpected directions.
Chris said even his co-workers at Haywood Community College have generously given of their time and ideas to help with fundraising.
“I thought I was part of a family (at Haywood Community College), but now I know I really am,” he said. “It goes to show that people are willing to help.”
The Graves have only lived in Haywood County for four years, and Meggan said the support from people in the community has been wonderful.
“This is by far the first time I felt connected to the people of Haywood County,” she said.
In the midst of the bake sales, jewelry parties and fundraising dinners, the Graves raised enough money to take their first trip to Ethiopia to meet Bereket. And the first thing Meggan noticed on their arrival in the country was a sign that read, “Welcome to Ethiopia,” just as it appeared in her dream.
“That just blew my mind,” Meggan said.
From that moment on, the Graves knew their decision to adopt Bereket had been the right one for them.
“I don’t think we ever had doubts once we decided to go through with it,” Chris said.
On their arrival at the transition home where Bereket is living, they could immediately pick him out of the crowd of children.
“Chris didn’t even wait for the van to come to a stop. When Chris yelled out his name, he came running down the stairs and hugged him,” Meggan recalled. “When you hug him, he hugs you back. It was incredible to hold this child.”
The meeting confirmed the perceptions Meggan and Chris had of Bereket from a short video of him they had been given by the adoption agency.
“He’s shy with a sweet personality,” Chris said, adding he was particularly impressed when Bereket let a younger child play with the new soccer ball they had just given him as a present. “That was cool because even for a nine year old, it’s hard to give up a new toy.”
Chris immediately hit it off with Bereket by playing games of soccer and joking around in a way that “let him know we were going to have a good time.”
Returning home after their visit without Bereket was difficult, but the Graves are determined to raise the final $4,000 they need to bring their son home as soon as possible.
Their current fundraising project is selling T-shirts online through their Facebook adoption page at Facebook.com/helpithappen. T-shirts are $15 with shipping. Locally, they are available for $10 if they are picked up in person.
People can also make donations to the adoption agency by going to the Christian World Adoption website at cwa.org, where the donation can be designated specifically for the Graves family.
Being so close to their goal is exciting and a little scary, Meggan said. They both have concerns about how well Bereket will adapt to a new country and family, but she said she knows it will work out in time.
“All the issues are so miniscule compared to the love (we) feel,” she said.
“There are some major challenges that we know are ahead, but we believe in God’s grace,” Chris added.
Bereket’s new brothers are mostly concerned with the games they’ll be able to play once he arrives.
“I’m most excited about playing with him, playing soccer,” Marshall said.
Harrison, the youngest, added, “I’m going to be on Bereket’s team.”
In the meantime, it is for Bereket that the lone Christmas stocking is left in its spot on the wall. It, just like the Graves family, is waiting for him to come home.
“It’s a good reminder for them,” Meggan said, nodding toward her sons. “Christmas this year, he’ll be here for sure.”
Klapper, C. (2010, August 25). Adopting Ethiopian child literally a dream come true. The Mountaineer. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from http://www.themountaineer.com/article/adopting-ethiopian-child-literally-dream-come-true database.