In April of 2008 I was invited to join a missions trip to Ethiopia and Rwanda to visit orphans through an organization called Visiting Orphans. When arriving in Ethiopia we were met by to of the translators from the Ethiopian Guest House, Aklilu and Hanna. They had greeted us with a warm welcome and helped us with all of our donations and luggage.
The next day we started visiting the orphanages. Our translators, Aklilu, Hanna, and a third Zide joined us. After a few days of I began to ask the three of them about their culture. Hanna would spend most of the time talking to me and filling up my curiosity. This is how our friendship began.
When our team returned from Rwanda to spend 3 more days in Addis, I noticed how Hanna began to pay more attention to me. We always sat on the bus together and when the team ate somewhere, Hanna and I would always sit together. As much as I enjoyed Hanna’s friendship and the time we spent together it was hard not to entertain the thought of maybe having a life with her, but I would cease the thought because I would return to the States and she would remain in Ethiopia.
Shortly after I had returned to the States, I had a friend request on Facebook that would change my life. Hanna had requested me on Facebook. We had continued to talk through messaging on yahoo messenger and on Facebook. We continued to share with each other about the events in each other’s lives. As this happened, the thought of us being a couple would come to mind, but I would push it out because I could not see how we could be together being so fat apart.
I would shortly be invited again to return to Ethiopia in January of 2009 with Visiting Orphans for a trip scheduled for June 2009. I shared this with Hanna, but she did not believe it until she seen our schedule to stay at the Ethiopian Guest House. We were both getting excited to see each other, and Hanna had requested that she be our translator.
Shortly before our team had arrived Hanna was no longer working at the guesthouse. When we had arrived in Ethiopia Aklilu was there to meet us. I looked around to see if Hanna would have come, but she was nowhere in site. I was saddened that I did not get to see her. The next day after arriving the team went to Kaldi’s Coffee to have some cake and coffee. As we were there I was remembering the year before of Hanna and I having our picture taken together with her sitting by my side.
As I sat there I felt two things in my heart. One was I could bury the thought of seeing Hanna and seeing where it would go if anything at all. Two, I could embrace the thought and see what would happened. I cannot say that if I chose the first thought that it would not consume me again, but I can say that I am excited and happy that I chose the second.
I went to Aklilu and asked if he could call Hanna. He dialed her number and gave me he phone. When Hanna had answered I asked her if she knew who I was and she said that she did not. When I told her the excitement was ear piercing to say the least. We met up later on that day in the Post Office district. There she bought me a bracelet because the one she had bought me the year before broke.
She had taken me to meet her family who I had fallen in love with. We had so much fun and enjoyed ourselves so much. When the time came for me to return to the guesthouse it was hard for me to leave good company. She got us a taxi and so we made our way back. On our way we took some pictures in the back of the cab. The next day we spent some time together at the airport before I left to go to Uganda. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to keep me there with her, but we both knew that I had to go. I had arrived in Ethiopia as a single man and was leaving as a boyfriend.
I did not know where this would go or how we could make this long, long distant relationship work, but I was willing to try. (I would like to say for the record that I am so happy for every decision that I have made up to this point that involves Hanna in my life.) When I returned to the states we spent our time talking on the phone and making plans to see each other again.
We wanted to make plans for Christmas and wanted to spend Christmas together here in the states. Sadly as we looked at it and the possibilities were few and far between we decided to spend it there. Sadly with work and finances I was not able to do it. This is when marriage started in our conversations. It started out just some small talk and then we began to get serious about it. We knew that we wanted to be together and I had started to ask myself if I really love this woman then why not marry her. If not, then I need to let her go.
About this same time I felt the Lord began to ask me to lead a trip to Ethiopia and Uganda for the summer of 2010 with Visiting Orphans. I emailed them and told them what was going on in my heart and they needed a leader for a trip that summer. The trip was only two weeks long, but I would stay a bit longer so that I could spend it with Hanna.
I had told my mother about my decision to marry Hanna and surprisingly she offered her ring to give to her if I wanted it. Of course I took it as a gift to the both of us from her. When we had arrived in Ethiopia Hanna was there at the airport this time around to welcome me. We had such a sweet reunion. This time upon my returning I had a girlfriend and knew before I left she would be my fiancé.
I waited until the Visiting Orphans trip was over before I would ask her to marry me. I knew we had plenty of time together and I wanted it to be special. It was just a few days later after I had returned from Uganda that I took the ring out of my backpack. Before I could get the whole question out of my mouth Hanna responded, “of course I will marry you!”
Two days later Hanna and I had gotten a taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to seek out the process of applying for a fiancé visa. We got the proper paper work and she filed out her portion so I could bring it all back with me to begin the process to spend the rest of our lives together.