Our family has been called to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia. Here we'll chronicle our journey to her and life with her.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Difference A Few Weeks Makes

It is amazing what a difference a few weeks can make! And how we can go from fear to joy in so short a time! We received the phone call less than 2 weeks ago letting us know that the Southern government had signed off on the letter granting their approval to adopting our little girl. Upon hearing this I was overcome with joy and awe of God for what He has done. God has been good to us in granting this little girl to be our daughter and in clearing the way through a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Now we are impatiently waiting to hear when we are cleared by embassy and can go over to pick her up. It looks like we have a decent likelihood of having her home by Christmas! We hope and pray for this, anyway.

I would like to thank everybody who has been faithful in praying for us through this tough time. You guys have been a blessing to us -- particularly my wife as she has had other shoulders besides mine to lean on and with whom she could talk (or type, as the case may be) things out.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obedience and Sorrow

(A summary from the begining to now by Scott)

I’ve heard if you’ve never had sorrow in life you haven’t lived long enough. I’ve finally lived long enough. I’ve never really had sorrow in my life. Until now. And even then it is mostly fear of sorrow and not sorrow in full measure. Sure, I’ve had grandparents die, but that just resulted in sadness at the separation with understanding that their life had been fully lived and they were heading to the ultimate end of us all. Yes, I had a close friend die back when I was in college, but again that was just sadness and a sense of loss – a sudden deep pain that healed with time. But when you are in danger of losing a child you love, sorrow and fear take on entirely new meanings.


This all started about 5 years ago when my wife came to me hesitantly and asked if I would be interested in adopting from Ethiopia. Hesitant, I think, because she knew this is where God was leading her and was afraid of my response. The idea got into her head from a side comment mentioned by a friend and would not let go of her. In her usual methodical and meticulous manner, she researched thoroughly before even approaching me. I thought it was the coolest idea ever because I would get a daughter out of the deal. Only later did I realize the clear leading of God in this. So we filled out all the paperwork and wrote a huge check and mailed it all in. I was on a high at the time – not only getting the desire of my heart but following God’s leading in getting it!


Debbie started being wracked with doubts from the moment we mailed it in. And the doubts were for all the wrong reasons: What will people think? Can I deal with her looking different? With what people will say? Will she have problems? Because of these doubts, she backed us out of the deal. My heart was torn in two. I so much wanted a little girl. I was SURE by this point that adopting a little girl from Ethiopia was God’s leading. How can I do this if my wife is not willing to do this with me? After that first week of sadness and confusion we didn’t talk about it for almost three years. The topic too sensitive. The sense of loss on my part too great. While I did not pray for God to change my wife’s heart every day, I did pray often. And my heart never moved from our desire to adopt.

At this point I had never before seen God move in an impossible situation which He had commanded me into. I just hadn’t been patient enough…

Debbie came to me three years later and let me know she was ready to go ahead with the adoption. At this time she let me know that ever since she backed away from it in fear three years earlier, the idea would not get out of her head – the desire would not leave her heart. She was reading adoption blogs and searching the internet for adoption information and following other peoples’ adoptions. She shared her old fears with a friend and finally found the courage to mail in a second application (and a second huge check). This time, though, the old fears evaporated and she had a sense of peace about the whole thing. Amazing.

After a few months of hard work (mostly by Debbie), our paperwork was submitted and we were on the waitlist. We waited patiently through program changes to require two trips instead of one and a major delay that we thought might threaten the entire Ethiopian adoption program while procedures were reviewed and further delays that left us on the top 5 of the waitlist for months after moving swiftly down from #59. But when we finally got our referral just over 12 months later for a sweet, tiny, little girl, the impatience at waiting faded. She was perfect! The few photos we had were treasured and shown to any who could tolerate such things. But we were beginning to worry that we would be caught in the annual rainy-season court shut-down (which would be 2 months this year). Something miraculous happened to move the court, though, and six families from our agency got in on the last day of court – and we were the last to slip in. The family right behind us was assigned a court case two months later. Little did we know at the time just how miraculous this would ultimately be.

Debbie’s parents came down to watch our boys and we both flew over to Addis and drove out to the orphanage to meet our 3-1/2-month-old daughter. We fell in love instantly. When I held her for the first time it was like holding one of my boys when they were born. I thought I would have to choose to love her. But she is my daughter. In the next few days I think we took more photos and video of her than both boys combined. We had a great time visiting with her and watching other families come in after us and meet their babies and children for the first time, too. It was an awesome time – a precious 6 days that were all about getting to know her.

Something Not Quite Right

That Friday we went to court and passed provisional on the Women’s Ministry submitting an approval letter after they reviewed our paperwork. About what we expected. But when we returned to the orphanage that afternoon the director had some news for us that shook us up. The regional government in the Southern part of Ethiopia where our daughter was originally from had shut down several orphanages and put a hold on children being taken into or adopted out of all the other orphanages that were associated with the affected organizations. Because of this, the Women’s Ministry placed a hold on all letters for children from that area. In addition to us, three people we went to court with and at least three that had been there a couple weeks earlier with our agency were impacted. We had to leave Ethiopia knowing that we might have to wait a very long time for this mess to be sorted out and the letters to be issued. Normally it takes about 3 weeks or so. There were a lot of tears on that last day, but they were because we’d have to leave our children behind not knowing how many months it could take to return for them. We had no idea at the time how bad it was going to be.

As it turns out, the Southern Region appears to be guided by outside anti-international adoption forces. I suspect it is UNICEF, but nobody knows for sure. UNICEF seems to view such adoptions as cultural genocide and would rather kids rot in third-world orphanages than have a small percentage escape to parents in other cultures or countries. They are the racist 800-pound gorilla behind pummeling and destroying international adoption programs around the world – usually by digging until they find the inevitable problems or abuses and then politically capitalizing on them by trying to eliminate the program rather than the problems. But, that venting being done, I have to say that the only thing we know for sure is that some money has been pouring in from an outside source to fuel what happened next.

Shock and Fear

Since the day of our court case when the hold was placed on adoptions, the international adoption agencies in Ethiopia had been trying to arrange a meeting with Southern Region government officials for weeks to determine how to proceed so they could clear the path for continuing adoptions from their area. They finally got this meeting in Addis on Thursday, September 15 and, as it turns out, it was more of an ambush than a meeting. They requested all the children from their region be returned from all the various transitional orphanages in Addis that were holding them. Many had referrals to families. Some had even passed through court and, like us, were waiting letters from the Women’s Ministry. All in all, they took back 38 children (including a 5 year old who had been in the system for a year and a 10 year old who had been referred out only recently). One of the families with our agency lost their referral because of this. We would have, too, if we would not have been granted that last court appointment on the last day of court for the season. The Southern Region government apparently plans to try to return these children to their birth families if they can be found or encouraged to take on guardianship of their relative’s child. They even are offering them payment (this is where outside money comes in) to encourage them to take them back.

What saved our little girl (and 4 others) from being taken was the guts of our orphanage director and her liberal interpretation of the “request” not to mean those children whose birth families and adoptive families had not already been to court. Our little girl’s birth mother had already officially surrendered her rights in court and we had already appeared and received a provisional approval pending the Women’s Ministry letter. This kept us from losing our daughter that day. But her fate is so tenuous now because of this.

Needless to say we were devastated and fearful of losing her. This was highly likely given the political climate. The thought of her being stuck in an overcrowded, third-world orphanage in an area struck by draught and famine while a political group half-heartedly searches for a distant relation to send her home with is horrible to even think about. I have never been so afraid in my life – losing my daughter and helpless to stop it. I was driven to my knees often in those first few days pleading for God to spare her and seeking His comfort in our pain. Every time the phone rang our hearts would race out of fear that this would be the call to inform us that the men from the Southern Region had returned to claim the few they missed in their first trip – including our daughter.

Trust and Comfort

During this time I confirmed what I had only seen in others – that the promises of God are true. He will not forsake you. He will be there to carry you in your time of need…

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. –Psalm 121:1-2

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38-39

He is there when I am on my knees in fear of losing my daughter and begging for Him to give me the gift of bringing her home. He is there when I am holding my sobbing and fearful wife in the middle of the night trying to give her what comfort I can. He is there when I play songs on my guitar such as “Blessed Be Your Name” and “Praise You in the Storm” and “I Will Lift My Eyes” and understand them for the first time – actually understand praising God when times are bad. I came to the point where I thought I could praise Him no matter what ultimately happens. Yet I remain fearful of what might happen to my daughter.


A small sign of hope came in the form of the family court judge returning to work 3 weeks early before the court would officially open. She started reviewing and approving cases. She got to ours and finalized our adoption. This is the first adoption we know of that had been finalized before receiving the approval letter from the Women’s Ministry. It gives our little girl a measure of protection against being taken should the Southern Region officials return to take the children that were not surrendered when they were last in Addis. It has been a couple of weeks now and still no others we know of have received such an approval. To be honest, we are not sure if this helps us or not. Any peace we get from it is a false peace, to be sure. We can’t get a birth certificate or passport for her so she is stuck in the country until a political fight unfolds and resolves around this mess. We could still lose her. We are still at the whim of political forces in a country where we do not understand the system. But those political forces are in the hands of a sovereign God. He can move them as He wills. And I pray that He will grant us a precious gift and move to spare our daughter.

What Now?

So here we stand just over 4 weeks after getting the call that our daughter was in jeopardy. Will God move to protect her? I do not know. Governments are fickle and I do not trust them (Psalm 146: 1-3), but I do trust the Lord. When Job first heard of the major tragedies that hit at one time and took everything he had, his response was:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. –Job 1:20-22

Nothing can happen to us that is not in God’s timing. And He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, those called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). So if God does not intercede now for my little girl, I will grieve and pray for her and hope to meet her again in heaven. I will be shaken and grieve her loss. But should such a thing occur I hope that, like Job, I can trust in God and not sin in my grief. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. If all he grants me is that one precious week with my little girl, I will grieve but will also treasure that week and try not to be bitter about any future time that (from my perspective) I’ve lost. But if He grants me the happiness of bringing my little girl home, the real work will begin and I will value her all the more because of what was overcome to get to that point.

Time is precious with our children. None of us are even sure that we’ll have tomorrow with them. I could die in a traffic accident on the way to work and none of my family see me again. Disease could take one family member from us in what we think of as “untimely”. My eyes have been opened more to the value of my relationship with my two older sons and now my daughter – much more than they would have if the adoption had been “normal” and without problems rather than becoming “that case” that everybody who is adopting fears becoming and hopes never happens to them. Sure, I grieve over the thought of possibly losing my daughter. But that is because I know her and have fallen in love with her. How many unnamed and faceless children have already suffered the fate I fear for my little girl? We do not grieve for we do not know. We have no “skin in that game”. This leads me to ask myself, can I take this little girl (or another) home and forget about where she came from? Can I turn my back on Ethiopia and never think of it and its problems again? Before, I possibly could. Now I don’t know if I can without guilt chewing at my soul.

But for now we wait. And we hope. And we fight the temptations to dwell on the outcomes and thereby borrow sorrow before its time. And we focus on God and not the circumstances (as a wise woman told us recently). And we pray for the precious gift of our little girl coming home and coming soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We've Come and Gone

We found out about a week and a half before we were to leave that our court date was August 5. We thought there might be a chance, because other families that received their referrals on the same day or the day after had already gotten their call to travel. I "calmly" answered the phone on July 21 and our caseworker told us that we also had a court date of August 5. The next week was a blur of packing our things, donations, making sure our boys were taken care of and leaving lots of directions and instructions for my parents for while we were gone. We never considered an August court date, so this whole thing happened a lot sooner than we expected. In a way, getting ready to travel to Ethiopia in about 10 days was easier than having several weeks. It all had to get done and it all did and we didn't forget anything. The only bad thing was the huge cost of our airline tickets, but she's definately worth it.

We drove from here to Atlanta on Saturday, July 30 to spend the night there, leave the car in the hotel parking lot and get a shuttle to the airport at 4 a.m. I slept maybe an hour or two rather restlessly, we got up and dressed and headed to the airport. The United ticket counter doesn't even open up until 5 or so there, so we sat in line for about an hour waiting, checked our luggage, found our gate and waited some more. Our flight from ATL to IAD was uneventful and very short compared to the next flight. When we got to IAD, we found our next gate and waited there for about four hours for our flight to Ethiopia. We saw the people who had just spend the last 13+ hours of their lives disembark and head to customs and met up with another family in our travel group, who were on our same flight. We visited with them, shared photos and stories and got some lunch before we boarded around 11 a.m. We flew Ethiopian Air, which compared to Delta, which we took on our way home, was a lot nicer. Nicer plane, better food, better service, better headphones for 13 hours of movies, socks and a toothbrush, which felt really good when we were finally getting closer. Both of us slept a little, but mostly we caught up on every single movie that we were even slightly interested in. We played solitaire, visited with the woman sitting next to me, and stood to stretch from time to time. Overall, the time went pretty quickly and faster than I thought it would. We landed in Addis, got our tourist visas, found our luggage, went through customs, found our driver and other fellow travelers and all head to the hotel bus for our ride to the hotel. Truthfully, the whole Addis airport thing was the most stressful time of the whole trip. I felt out of my element, desperately needed a shower and was exhausted.

Our hotel was about 20 minutes from the airport and we just stared out the windows the whole time taking it all in. Very different from our little world in Tennessee, but after reading blogs and looking at pictures for the past 12 months or so, I pretty much expected to see what I saw. We checked in, found our room and immediately unpacked stuff so we could take a shower. Our schedule, which we picked up when we checked in, said we'd be going to Hannah's Hope, our daughter's transition house, at 1. We had about two hours at that point. We got cleaned up and went downstairs to wait for the van to come get us along with the same famiy we met at the airport. I fell asleep on the hotel lobby couch waiting, but quickly jumped up when Scott said the van was there. HH is about five minutes from the hotel. We turned off the main road and onto another road, which was unpaved and very bumpy, and before we knew it pulled up to the big black gates of HH.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

T-shirts Still Available

We still have about 40 t-shirts left, including lots of kids sizes. If you'd like one, send me an email (or leave a comment here) and I'll check for the sizes you need. We are selling them now for $10 so please don't order off the blog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Referral Call

We got our referral call Thursday, June 23 right around 3 p.m. after 12 1/2 months on our waitlist. I knew we were getting close, because the family in front of us called the day before to tell us they had just received their referral and we knew our agency's orphanage had lots of babies going home recently and that there had to be more referrals coming.

I had a homeschool co-op meeting at a park about 20 minutes away yesterday and brought my laptop just in case. About 45 minutes into our meeting my phone rang and I recognized the area code. It wasn't the phone number I thought she'd call from so my "special" ring tone didn't happen. But I casually looked down at my phone, saw the number and knew what it was. I squeezed the arm of the mama next to me and told all three of my friends this is my referral call. I could barely hear Brandi, but I think the first thing I said was something like, "Are you calling me about a referral?" I was sweating, shaking, and so nervous. I tried to write down her name, age, etc., but could barely do it. I told her that I'd have to call Scott to come home and go home myself to call her back. I hung up and then I almost lost it. I remembered that all three of the other mothers sitting with me are also adoptive mothers and understood exactly what I was feeling.

A long drive home. Once we got home, we had to crank up the generator, because our power had been our for about 40 hours at that point from a bad storm on Tuesday night. So we got it going, turned on the computer, plugged a fan into the generator, because our AC was also out and the house was really hot. We set up our video camera to record our conversation. We called Brandi back and she went over all the paperwork with us first. We found out her name, age/DOB, weight, length, medical information, personal history, etc. That all took about 45-50 minutes. Then we had to wait about ten minutes for the next email which contained all her pictures. We stayed busy those ten minutes putting clean sheets on the beds and picking up the house. Of course, I checked my computer several times while we waited.

The email came through and we got to see about 9 pictures of our little girl. Next we were off to Walmart to get them printed and buy me a new phone charger. Mine got lost and my phone was dead. I had lots of numbers in it of people I needed to call. We printed pictures and then went to Target to get a charger. I plugged it into the car and starting making phone calls. We ate supper out and came home and started our paperwork and emailed our file to an international pediatrician to review. Our power came back on around 7 and we were so thankful to have it back on. While I was up still at 1:30 am working on paperwork a really bad storm rolled through and our whole family ended up in our basement bathroom waiting it out along with the computer and our adoption binders and paperwork. I ended up getting to bed around 2 am.

This morning I still hadn't heard from our doctor, so I emailed our information to another doctor and got busy with more paperwork. I met up with our social worker to have her sign her form, came home and jumped into the car with Scott to find a notary. Four banks and one UPS store later, we found a bank that would help us. We forgot one piece of paper at home and she actually met us on her way home from work with her stamp to notarize that document. Still waiting on our pediatrician review. Once that is done, we'll Fedex it all back to our agency and let them know Monday that we're ready to proceed. Then our agency will contact the courts in Ethiopia and get the ball rolling there. We probably won't travel until October. Their courts usually close for about two months beginning in August. Our best case scenario would be to have her in November.

In many ways, this wait has been a really long one, but we know now why we waited. We waited for her. We think she's beautiful, but you'll have to trust us on that one. We can't share pictures until she is home.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February Update

Our family is now number 19 on the girl's list for our daughter. We've moved 40 spaces since June 2. There have been very few referrals in the last two months. I really believe there will be a flood of referrals soon. Not ours quite yet, but we've made a lot of progress and the time really has flown by. This is a much different road than pregnancy. Easier in some ways, harder in others, but, oh, how I am so thankful we're on it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November Numbers

We just got an email with our new number and we are "officialy " 30, but another family is in the midst of referral paperwork, so we're actually 29. We are down 30 spots from number 59 in June when we started this part of the process, halfway there!