Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why we are going to Ethiopia {The story}

 As you know, about a month ago we finished our dossier paperwork for this adoption and sent it off to our agency. Everything is complete except for immigration (which seems to be taking forever- ugh). Once that is complete and approved, our agency handles the rest and eventually all of the paperwork will finally get to Ethiopia. So from here, the next step in the process is usually just waiting for a referral. Depending on what age range and special needs you are open to, that wait can take anywhere from a few months to well over a year. Well, because we have some "special circumstances" and we already know the two children we hope to adopt, we don't wait for the agency to match us with random kids- we feel that God is the one who has already "matched us." :) 

This is where it gets a little complicated. Although we have already identified the children, we still have to wait until we have an official "referral" of these two kids. A referral is basically the history, medical information, and legal paperwork they have on the child/children from the intake orphanage and it is required by the government in order to begin the processing for adoption. In normal cases, the orphanage already has all of this information and legal paperwork and it doesn't take long for a family's dossier to be matched with the child's in Ethiopia and then it is just a matter of waiting for the court to approve the match. 
Well, of course we never seem to fit in the "normal" category of anything and this is no exception! 

The orphanage that N and M are at is an amazing place. It is in the beautiful countryside up the mountain and away from the loud, smog-filled city. It is a place of love and laughter and where all 65 kids are "brothers and sisters" to each other. They go to school, are fed regularly, have clothes to wear, and get many wonderful visitors. And most importantly, it is a place where they hear about Jesus. If you want to see the effects of sponsorship first hand- go visit here. It is incredible. Every child I met there made a tremendous impact on me.

BUT, as great as a place that it is- it is still an orphanage. Which means the children who live there are still orphans. Which means that the children who live there still grow up without a mommy and daddy.

Ok- I am going to go off on a tangent here. Bear with me though because I think this needs to be said:

You can build the greatest orphanage in the world, but ask any child who lives in one- they would most likely rather live in a shack if it meant that they could have a family to love them for life. This particular orphanage is not set up or licensed for adoption, which makes it even harder in some ways. They are so well taken care of as children, but then when they hit their mid to late teens- where do they go? Who do they turn to? Yes, they might be considered adults in their culture, but they are just as fragile as the 5 year old. Sometimes more. 

Please hear me in saying this. I am not saying at all that the best thing for every orphan in the world is to be adopted into a middle-class white family in the U.S. No! That is ridiculous! As Americans, we get WAY too prideful and pompous even, and we think we are going to rush in and save the day because WE know whats best. It is embarrassing sometimes.  

No, we should step back with humility and look at the situation and prayerfully ask God what His best for the child is. Obviously, the ideal situation would be for a child to be raised by his or her birth family if that were possible. In my opinion the next best thing would be maybe a relative or close friend of the family who would hopefully love them and raise them as their own. Next would be domestic adoption within the same country/culture and if that were not possible, maybe foster care in a loving, Christian home. And then if none of those were possible, THEN international adoption should be considered. I believe that every child deserves to be loved and every child longs for the love and acceptance of a family. But it is prideful and downright rude when people assume that just because they live in the U.S. (or Canada or Western Europe) that they are automatically the BEST thing that could happen for a child living in another country and so many parents do not even stop ONCE and consider where it is a child has come from! These are the same people that make demands of agencies regarding the age/gender/perfect health of the child they want to adopt and could even be the same people responsible (though unknowingly) for the trafficking of children. Their adoption is all about THEM.

So then when these same people adopt the child, whom they thought they were saving, and the child comes into their home bringing everything from their past with them including all of the pain, trauma, and emotional scars... the parents are completely in SHOCK! Bewildered that this precious child who they assumed would be grateful for the great thing they did is now acting like a terror, has major attachment problems, and cannot even communicate with them. They might even wonder and doubt their decision to adopt.

I am going to make my point and then I'll move on- sorry!

My point is this: Adoption is beautiful, it is wonderful, but it is also extremely messy and painful. It is born out of LOSS. In international adoption especially. The child has lost not only his birth family- which is reason enough to have major feelings of rejection- but his relatives, culture, language, and EVERYTHING familiar to him. It is not something a person just "gets over." An adoptee will have to face that loss for the rest of his/her life and as their adoptive parents- it is OUR responsibility to come alongside our children in helping them not only feel as loved and accepted as possible, but in giving them any and all information we have about their country, culture, and most importantly- their specific past and history. (at an age-appropriate level of course) And most of the time, that information includes part of their abandonment or relinquishment story. Even if it's not much, we still have something. For some, it may be that your daughter was found as an infant in front of a hospital or orphanage and that is all you know, for others it may be that both of your child's parents died and there were no other living relatives. For others it may be that your child does have one living parent, but they are so ill that they cannot physically care for their child and therefore had to relinquish them to an orphanage.

No matter what the circumstance- the child whom you've adopted has a story and it began way before you came into the picture! Therefore the adoption cannot be all about YOU. Understanding this I think is the KEY to helping your child to heal and eventually feel unconditional love and acceptance.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Yes, I told you I would eventually get back to the story of why we are going to Ethiopia! :)

So because Randy and I understand the importance of being open with our children about their history and adoption story and because we don't see adoption as "saving a child " we feel that this is not something to be taken lightly at all. We see adoption as the gospel lived out. As Christians we are told to go and make disciples and also to care for orphans and widows in their distress. It is thrilling and humbling to listen to God's  Word and ask Him what He wants us to do about it and to be open to where He wants to take us.
And it is also scary sometimes. Ok, most times. But to quote John Shedd:
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." 

You already know the beginning of this crazy journey that we have been on in the past 7 months. I first wrote about how we thought the Lord had closed the door way back in November of 2010. Then amazingly, incredibly, God flung the doors wide open and just one month later I was sharing the miracles He had done here and here.   And of course a lot has happened since then and we have hit several roadblocks along the way, but we have seen His faithfulness throughout all of it.

One of the more difficult things about this journey has been finding out that the children do indeed have to move to another orphanage in order for the adoption to be processed. In fact, NOTHING can even start on the Ethiopia side until they are moved. It is very complicated, but basically it is just the way things are done and there is nothing that we can do about it. And it stinks. As you might guess, this is a huge deal for the children. I already described their current orphanage to you above and they have been there for several years. It is their only home and it is all that is familiar to them. When we first heard that this would have to happen, we were so saddened and even questioned (again) whether or not we were doing the right thing. From the very beginning we have always wanted what is best for the children and every time I talk with the orphanage director I ask him what he feels is best for them, because he knows them MUCH better than we do! He feels that this is God's will for them to join our family. And as incredibly difficult as those transitions would be, when it comes down to it- the only other option is for us to end this and let them stay where they are at, which we have considered too. I will say it again: you can build the greatest orphanage in the world- but it will never take the place of a mom and dad and family who will love you forever.

So if N and M really do have to go all the way to live someplace else in an unfamiliar orphanage, we feel that is is critical for them to understand WHY they would have to do that. And we think that they are old enough to be told the details and make the decision if it is worth it or not. They are not babies. They are 10 and 12 years old with a history that we honestly know next to nothing about. They have been under the care of this orphanage for many years and have grown up with the same "brothers and sisters" and caregivers for all of those years. With the slowdowns in Ethiopia, there is the possibility that they could have to stay at the other place for quite some time until we came to bring them home and that just breaks my heart even more. They have already experienced tremendous loss in their young lives and if they did eventually join our family, the loss would multiplied many many times. They would have to say goodbye to everything familiar to them and all they have ever known to come all the way across the ocean to a strange world. (And yes, America is definitely a strange world!)

So when I say that we are not taking this situation lightly, I mean it! It has been months of agonizing, praying, crying, and just waiting to know what the right thing to do is. All of this, and then add to it all of that crazy, discouraging news about cutting adoptions in Ethiopia... it was just about enough to make me go insane. And I'm not gonna lie. It has been hard. Not hard as in "this waiting sure is hard" but HARD. As in after looking at every possible scenario, there was just not one way that it was going to turn out to be the "fairy-tale" ending that so many others seem to portray adoption as being. No matter which way it turned out- someone was going to experience deep loss and it was not going to be pretty at all. The question remained- if God had truly called us to pursue these two children, would He cause ALL things to work together for good? Would this experience be another opportunity for Him to show His might and power and faithfulness? And would WE praise Him even if the outcome was not what we had hoped for?

It wasn't until about two weeks ago that we just knew what we needed to do.

Because nothing could happen to start the adoption process in Ethiopia until the kids were moved, and because we didn't want them to be moved without knowing the full extent of why and be given the chance to say no, we decided that we need to GO.

We felt that we wanted to be there to tell them in person what this was all about. We felt that in September, we were there with a team on a mission trip to love on many many orphans and this time we wanted to go as a mommy and daddy who loved them individually as a son and a daughter and who came all the way across the world just to tell them that. Not as a sponsor family who occasionally sends them letters and a few pictures. But as a family who would have no greater joy than to love them and to watch them grow up in our home with 4 siblings and many extended family and friends who have their picture and pray for them by name all the time. We wanted them to be able to hear our hearts and the details of the process and be able to have some time to think about it and talk about it together with the director.
And we wanted to be there in person to hear whether their answer was yes or no.

And so last Tuesday after deciding with the orphanage director that Easter would be the best time to come, we booked our tickets and began the whirlwind of activity and list-making that comes when you decide to go to Africa in only 2 weeks! :) Crazy!

This trip does not mean that anything will speed up in this process. It only means that during the next several months of waiting that we know that our two children are on board right along with us. Some may read this and see it as unnecessary and frivolous. Some may be thinking that we should just quit and even wonder how two "older children" in another country could be worth all of this. Some may be wondering how we still have faith when all of this seems impossible.

Some just won't get it. And that's ok. We're not doing any of this for them. :)

I will post soon about the details of the actual trip and the few things that we hope to do during our short time there, but of course you already know the main reason that we are going. And that alone is reason enough.

If you got through this whole thing- thanks. I know I ramble on, but someday I will be glad that I took the extra time to add the details of this journey. I think too many times we don't think we see God working in our lives, but that is only because we fail to pay attention to the details. I want to be better at this. I hope you will read this story and discover that the Lord is working in your life as well... you just have to look around.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 


Mel said...

We really appreciate your heart to do this with "best practice" in mind and to be aware of the loss, trauma, and grief in the midst of beauty and redemption. May God Bless your trip and we'll be praying for a smooth transition.


Leah said...

Beautifully written. Looking foward to seeing how God continues writing His story in your family's lives as well as N and M's. I will be praying that God prepares hearts, grants safe travels, and His ultimate will be done.

In God's love,

Leah said...

Beautifully written. Looking foward to seeing how God continues writing His story in your family's lives as well as N and M's. I will be praying that God prepares hearts, grants safe travels, and His ultimate will be done.

In God's love,

Kim said...

I can definitely see how much you LOVE them and want only the best for them.. I'll be praying that you come back from your trip with a new sense of peace about moving forward!

traill said...

May the Lord bless and keep you, May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace, now and forevermore. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.

My prayer for you, Cynthia

Rebekah said...

This is a beautiful post! I could not agree more with everything that you said! Candice, I will pray for these precious children. I will pray that God will give them hope, peace and joy, and that He will prepare their hearts and minds for this tremendous transition and for their new family. God can move these mountains, and I pray that He will, for the sake of two, precious ones who have undoubtedly been through so much already in their short lives. Blessings and much peace to your heart as you wait and agonize.

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