*** Warning: this is a long post, full of many details. Read on if you want to see God weaving every little thing together. :)
Ok, so I confess. I did a little more than just praying and waiting during the week after talking with the orphanage director. Can you blame me? This was incredible news and we knew that it was going to be a miracle just finding an agency that was not only willing to work with us, but one we could trust to handle everything ethically and who would be honest with us as well.
The first thing I did was to call our former agency, whom we loved, and ask them again if there was any way they could work with us. Of course they said no, but their suggestion was to contact an adoption lawyer to get some counsel on whether or not it was even a possibility. I ended up getting a hold of a local attorney who just happened to be a Christian and had adopted herself. She couldn’t actually work with us, but she was very helpful and let me know that adopting pre-identified children is possible- it was just going to be twice as difficult and much more complicated than an adoption under normal circumstances. Difficult? Complicated? Bring it on!
After much research and calling around, we decided to talk further with a certain agency. They have a very good reputation and I could not find anything negative about them in all my searching. Turns out they have completed close to 2,000 Ethiopian adoptions and are known for placing a lot of older children and sibling groups with families. That’s good news. I received the initial packet via email and among several other files, I found and studied closely the one that specifically addressed pre-identified children. Not only was this agency familiar with this, they had a document that laid out just about everything that would need to happen for it to possibly work, that they could not be directly involved in most of that process, as well as a place to sign acknowledging that they were not going to promise anything. I was liking them already.
I talked with the agency’s Ethiopia program director for probably a good hour about our story, the details we knew about the children and their orphanage, and the complicated process that we may be jumping into. She was so sweet, but was completely honest with me about how many things needed to happen. First, based on what I had told her about the children’s orphanage and the fact that their mother was still living, she thought that the mother must still be their legal guardian and not the orphanage director. This was a huge deal. For this adoption to even begin, there are several very important documents that need to be found and processed by the government. And ONLY the child’s legal guardian can be the one to request those documents. The in-country staff cannot do any of that or really help her in any way except to give advice. Which means that if she is still their legal guardian, she would have to find a way to get to multiple offices and request documents, not to mention pay for any fees that might come up herself. Also, most likely because they are a poor family she may never have registered the children’s births which is common because it costs $, which means they wouldn’t have birth certificates. A birth certificate is absolutely necessary for the adoption process- which means SHE would have to go and do the work of filling out the necessary paperwork to register their births. Did I mention she is very sick as well?
Things were not looking good. After hearing this, we were both pretty discouraged. There was no way we could expect this mother to do all of that. It was going to be hard enough for her just knowing that her children would be on a completely different continent- it just didn’t seem right that she had to be the one to do all the running around. Besides, she may not even be in any condition to go anywhere- we just don’t know.
So before I got off the phone with the agency, I was asked if I was ok with discussing a few things with the older-child adoption coordinator. She said that she has to have this conversation with every family that is adopting a child over 6 or 7 and so we might as well get it over with now. For about the next half hour she pretty much laid it all out on the table. I was told about every worst-case scenario and reason for disrupted adoptions. It is not pretty. She warned us of things that would make you absolutely sick. In fact every horrible situation you can think of has happened to some families who have adopted older children. Which is not surprising. The older the child, the more time in their life to have suffered trauma, grief, loss and many other things. And lest you think that this took me by surprise- it didn’t. In fact I was SO appreciative that this agency is straight forward and blunt about what could potentially happen. We don’t want someone to sugar-coat the reality and just tell us “what a good thing we’re doing” by adopting older children. The reality is that we have NO IDEA what they have been through in their lives of 10 and 12 years. There could be no major issues, and we will certainly PRAY HARD for that, but we also are not going to be naïve in thinking that any one of those scenarios couldn’t ever be true of our kids.
The main point of the agency going over all of that with families is not to scare them so much as it is to educate them. There are far too many well-meaning parents that want to “save a child” but fail to do their research and prepare the rest of the family for potential issues. We as family will try to be prepared as possible to recognize the warning signs and to get help when needed.
Although I was glad that the agency was honest, I am not going to lie- it still felt like a huge blow to be discussing all of this. No one should have to think about those things, but because we live in a fallen sinful world- it unfortunately can be a reality.
So here we were, only one day away from it being a week since I had had the amazing conversation with the orphanage director in Ethiopia and we were a bit discouraged. It was getting more difficult by the hour to see any hope that this was going to work. On top of everything else, we really couldn’t do anything to move forward paperwork wise because we needed to schedule our visits for our home study. Well our local agency has a policy that we can’t even schedule our visits until the remaining home study fee is paid. They already had all of our paperwork and a portion of our $ from 2 months ago, but we still needed close to $3,000- just to schedule the visits. No exceptions. And really nothing else can happen until that home study is written. Ugh. We knew that there was no way we would have that $ in the next week with Christmas and everything going on, so I said I guess we will have to wait until sometime in January just to schedule the visits.
In the meantime the Lord kept bringing that Chris Tomlin song into my mind over and over. You know, the one with the words, “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us then what can stand against?”
As I called the director in Ethiopia on Thursday morning, that song came to my mind as well as Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Our God was for us and if He is truly the One who was calling us then not only would He be with us every step of the way, but somehow He would work out all these seemingly impossible details.
Again, He is in the business of doing the impossible, right?!!
As I talked with the director again, I found out that he had gone to visit their mother again a few days before. She was so happy to hear the news, but now she had a few “contingencies.” Oh great. I thought now this is where it’s going to get shady or be clear that it can’t happen. I was bracing myself for the worst. Well that never happened. Instead her requests were to ask us if we would write to her and have the children write to her and send pictures when we can. Um yes. I think we can manage that! :) The director then told me she had one more request that he answered for us already. She asked him if we would love the children as our own. He told her that we were Christians and we love God and that we already love the children as our own. I am glad he already knew what our answer to her question would be!
My heart was about to explode already and I hadn’t even heard the best part yet!
After discussing the conversation he had with their mother, I then asked him if she was still their legal guardian or if by some chance he was. He said that every child that comes into their care must have paperwork from the government that the parents give to him and the paperwork says that he is responsible for the children. So yes, HE is their legal guardian- which means instead of the mother having to do most everything, he can do a lot of the paperwork himself! AND when I asked if he happened to know if they had birth certificates, he said “yes, I have those here too.” WOW! I mean that is INCREDIBLE!
I was still recovering from my shock of hearing this fantastic news when I asked him if he were willing to go to the effort of going to government offices and court for us and even paying for fees out of pocket if needed because even beyond these two important documents, there is still a lot that needs to be done. He then told me in a very serious voice, “I love these children. They are my children and I have always thought of them as my children. I would do anything for them. And because I know that this is what is best for them, I am willing to do whatever needs to be done in order for this to happen.” And if all that wasn’t enough, he then tells me, “I know this is God’s will. From the very first time I heard about you and your husband I just knew it was God’s will, I could feel it in my spirit. But then I got your email and I said ‘Lord, what are you doing?’ and I didn’t understand. And then out of nowhere you called last week and I knew in my spirit it was going to happen because it was God’s will.”
I asked about the children and how he thought they might react. After all, this would be quite a shock to them and we didn’t even know if they remembered us! He told me that they had gotten our letters and pictures and that they were so happy and that they would be excited to come with us and join our family. He said in a few months he will tell them, but for now to keep writing and sending pictures with the sponsorship. We agreed that plan seemed best for everyone involved. Yet one more detail that the Lord worked out was to ease our concern for when the children would be moved to a different orphanage. The absolute worst thing in the world would be for them to be moved to a different orphanage and then something happen that made the adoption not able to go through. Originally we thought that they would have to be moved to the agency’s orphanage as soon as paperwork started. That meant that they would have to leave their home where they have been for 5 years, their school, friends, etc and live somewhere different for many months while everything is processed. Well, after discussing this with the agency, we were assured that there is a new policy saying that all children remain at their original orphanage until after the family passes court- which is the first trip. This means that the kids would only be moved while their visa’s were being processed, which can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. MUCH better than 6 months or more that is could have been!
It was like the Lord was saying “See? Am I not the God who moves mountains? When you call on me, I will answer you. Just how big is your faith?” We were seeing His hand in every little detail and it was just incredible! And the icing on the cake was when I get a call from our social worker from the local home study agency asking me if we could go ahead and schedule our interviews because she was taking a few weeks off. I told her we hadn’t paid the large fee yet and she said as long as we paid it before the first visit, we were ok. And so we got 3 interviews scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd week of January! Amazing! So we have a few more weeks to come up with the $ and boy that is a relief!
And there you have it.
It is end of THIS miracle story that God has weaved for His good purpose to begin this journey to our children.
But of course it is most definitely only the beginning of the next miracle that He will do in our lives throughout this journey and beyond. And we have seen with our own eyes the impossible be made possible, so we cling to that as we forge ahead in faith.
These events have confirmed what we already knew in our hearts almost 3 months ago. And so we take one more step- walking by faith, not by sight. So many of you have seen their pictures already. I will not be posting any photos of them until we have passed court, which could be many many months from now, but please remember their beautiful faces as you pray for them and for everyone involved.
Over the next several months, we will be doing many things to help with the cost of this adoption, which as I am sure you know can be expensive. Pictures for a Purpose and African bead necklaces are two of those things, so please let me know if you are interested. If you are led to give any amount, tax-deductible donations can be made to Lifesong for Orphans in our name, which will be used to pay the fees directly. Our family reference # is 1760.
Thank you all for your prayers and sweet words of encouragement. Our family feels so blessed to be able to share this journey with so many others who will go to the Lord on our and our children’s behalf. May our story bring you closer to Him and His word.
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…