On the Occasion of Our Son’s Dedication
Greensboro, North Carolina
One year ago today, Johnny Tibebu Pell, we carried you off a plane and introduced you to your sister Emma and our family changed.
In the year between that day and today we have had a lot of time think about what it means to be the parents of someone as special as you. You bring so much to our family—joy, laughter, curiosity, an adventurous sparkle in your eye, and an Afro. And, while we may never be able to give you as much as you give to us, today we want to publically express our commitment to you and our desire you create a safe place for you to grow and learn about what it means to follow after Jesus and to live in the awe and wonder of his creation.
John Tibebu, you came into this world under challenging circumstances, and, perhaps, will always wrestle with what it means to be adopted; what it means to be Ethiopian; and what it means to be loved, in unique ways by two families—including one you may never see. These are and will be elements of your story that will always, to some extent, inform how you navigate your life.
And, while we wish every day that you never had to experience any of this, we know we can’t take this from you—cannot bear this burden for you. We know that someday the world may seem unkind, filled with injustice, a place where God feels far away; We know that someday you may face curious stares and biting remarks; We know that some day your beautiful skin may feel like an unbearable burden and your bouncy curls a remainder that part of you is far, far away from this place; and We know that we will not have all of the answers, we cannot help you through every struggle and every question because your journey, Johnny, is unlike anything we have experienced.
Yet, while our promises are few, they are certain and they are solid.
We promise to love you more everyday, to hold you in high regard, as a unique and wonderful creation of our God.
We promise never to leave your side as you explore, and question, and grow. As you struggle, we will lift you up. As you question, we help you find answers. We will try, to best of our ability, to demonstrate the love of God’s Kingdom—a love that is patient, kind, slow to anger, and quick to forgive.
In world of injustice, we promise to speak often of God’s Kingdom—a place in which our hope rests, a dream, an idea, and a reality in which our differences forge us together and love is, regardless of what the cynics say, strong enough to overcome.
When you feel alone, we promise to rest by your side. To slow down the pace of an ever-quickening world and allow you experience the comfort of family. And, if the day should ever come when you need to find answers for yourself then we will support you along the way never begrudging you for wanting understand the plans God has for your life.
In all of this, Johnny Tibebu Pell, we promise never to be so arrogant to believe that we can raise you alone. Already, the people in this room have loved and supported you, and we will continue to look to them for strength and support; Moreover, we promise to rely on the strength of our God, the creator of good things, the sustainer of life, and the one in whom our hope rests.
It is our hope for you that you grow into a man of God. A man with unique giftings and a desire to serve others above yourself. A man that is confident but also humble—always changing and growing, always becoming. We want you to be a man that sees life as an adventure and takes advantage of every moment. A man that is thoughtful and kind; always curious about others and the world around you. A man that is quick to trust and even quicker to forgive. A man that is following in the footsteps of the One that goes before us, the One that has made our paths straight.
Today, we dedicate you to the Lord, and in doing so we are reminded that families are built in strange and miraculous ways. And, if nothing else, remember that every time we call your name it reminds us that you are a fourth-generation John Pell, you are bound up in a family and a history that spans oceans and continents, and you are our son.
May the Lord Bless and Keep you, John Tibebu Pell.
We dedicated Johnny in our home surrounded by our good friends in Greensboro; the community of believers that God has blessed us with for this season of our life. It was such a sweet time for us and a wonderful way to celebrate Johnny's first Homecoming Day. Thank you to all of our good friends that made this day so special.