Sunday, January 31, 2010

Allenni and Andrew's FIRST Gotcha Day!

Well, last night we celebrated Allenni and Andrew's First Gotcha Day. Though I wanted to blog about it last night, time did not permit and so I have a few moments while Isaiah is napping to write.
As I reflect back on what has happened in order for us to have these kids in our home, I am amazed at the journey that God has taken us on. What great lengths OUR God will go on to grow us, show us his love and his power and to show us Himself.
Every adoption has taught us new things spiritually and has built upon lessons we learned from previous adoptions as well. Just as I talked recently about digging for our treasure when we were pursuing Eli, in this adoption of Allenni and Andrew, it was more like being a tree that would not be moved no matter how hard the wind try to blow us away.

Their story actually started in China. Yes, while we were picking up Eli, God slyly (or as Duane says, "Jehovah Sneaky" ) planted a seed in our hearts by mentioning Uganda. Of course another adoption was not even on our radar screen. But God who knows all things and plans all things, set us up to meet a family from Arizona who we instantly bonded with. They were in our travel group and had told us about some friends who worked in Uganda. This interested me because of my growing up in West Africa as a missionary kid. It was just casual conversation, or so we thought. I see God chuckling right now even as I write this. It was a seed planted. No more was Uganda thought of with all the adjustments of bringing Eli home until one day in April, three months later, I had some free time and thought hey, I'll go look at those missionaries' website in Uganda. After searching for the website and not finding it, I decided to shoot my friend an email. Just as I was about to do this, the phone rings and it is my friend, who lives in Arizona.
"Hi this is H. I wanted to call you and tell you that my friend in Uganda contacted me and told me about these two kids and I just knew that you were their parents. " Well, I didn't jump in the wagon that fast and told her, "There is no way! We just got home with Eli and he is having surgery soon and we are broke." She insisted we look at their pics she was sending in an email and pray about it. I hung up just totally surprised.
A little later I got the email and the pics. The kids were definitely cute.
"Oops! there went a little water droplet on that seed!" That God of ours!

After that I could not get those kids off of my mind. I told Duane about the events and He laughed, "She is crazy! How can those kids be ours??? No way! We are broke and our hands are full." I think God probably chuckled, "Those humans."
A week later I still could not get them off my mind, so I figured God must be up to something.
"Drip, Drip, Drip, Oh look, a little sprout. Now we have something going here"

Now, I have looked at hundreds of orphan pictures, but I don't just keep thinking about them unless somehow I end up involved with them. I "accidentally" left their pics and info and web pages of HFU up on the computer screens so Duane might happen to read them. A few days later I asked him, "Did you read that stuff on those kids?" Sighing, he said, "Yeah, and this is crazy, but I can't get them off of my mind. I have been praying about them. Maybe we are supposed to adopt them. I told God, I was willing but we really needed to get some debts paid off and He needed to give us the money for the adoption fees and the debts."
The next day, Duane walked in the door, home for lunch, with this look on his face and I knew something was up. He showed me a check stub of a deposit he had just made. I couldn't believe it! Before I knew it, I had slapped him on the arm, laughing, "You, have got to be kidding! Where did you get that kind of money?" "It was on my desk, our office manager said it was owed to me." It was enough for the lawyer fees and the debt he had wanted to pay off.
"That sapling is growing into a nice strong tree"

Fast forward to May: We inquired and things got set into motion. Uganda rarely had adoptions happening so had no adoption programs, so this was going to be an independent adoption.
We first were going to adopt Allenni and a little boy named Michael. But in the end, Andrew was found and taken in from the streets and reunited with Allenni and when another family asked to adopt Michael, we released him and decided to take just Allenni and Andrew. We definitely knew that these kids were ours.
So started the journey to Uganda. Paper work takes time and in our case, The Ugandan paperwork surprisingly went quickly but the US paperwork did not.
In July 2007, we had gotten all the paperwork gathered and home study had been updated and then everything was sent to DHR in Montgomery, AL and from there it would be sent on to Homeland Security to get approval to bring them to the States. We expected this to take a few months but were hoping that they might honor an expediting request and get it done sooner.
Well, 3 weeks passed with no word from anyone, so I inquired. I found out that our home study had not been sent to Montgomery because there needed to be criminal checks on all of our teens living at home and our home study needed some corrections in it. Then we got word from our Ugandan attorney saying we needed a letter from our Mayor and/or Senator saying we are good people and would be qualified to take these kids in.
Here's an excerpt from my journal on July 21, 2007:

"NOW, we WAIT. I totally dislike that action. Waiting is boring! When you wait , there is nothing to do. I guess, that is why God uses it as a lesson for us. When we wait, we DO have to put it in His hands. At first , I was irritated with all the delays, but then God reminded me, "Melissa, you still have not learned this lesson after all the other adoptions. My ways are not your ways and neither are my thoughts your thoughts. Trust in me and I will finish the task." Ok, I am not fretting about a timetable here. God will do his work. It is all up to Him now anyway."

"Good their roots are getting stronger. That's going to be a nice tree. I think I'll move it by the river here. It's going to need a lot of good water."

Ten days later, on Friday we had the criminal checks back and the letters from the Local Family Court Judge and Mayor and was ready to send our home study to Africa or so we thought. Come Monday, we found out that our medicals for the DHR file were lost and so we had to go get medicals redone.
"I'm teaching them to drink from the River, that way they get stronger when a rough wind blows their way."
In August we heard that our home study went through Montgomery and was being sent to Atlanta so we just waited to hear that we could come and get our fingerprints done.
In September, we found out that our home study GOT LOST somewhere between Montgomery and Atlanta after I inquired on the status of our case.
Our Social worker sent in another copy. Finally about two weeks later we got our letter to get fingerprinted but it came only two days before the appointment and Duane couldn't get off of work so we had to reschedule for another week. We got that appointment for October.
I had to keep relying on God for patience with all of this.

"Yes, that tree is getting nice and stronger, little do they know what terrible storms are ahead and these small wind trials only mean to make them stronger."

November came and was almost over and we had not heard anything about our finger prints. After calling ATL and checking, it was discovered that our fingerprints had not been forwarded to Homeland Security so there fore our application had not been processed!

"Look at those roots dig deeper, this tree is growing nicely"

I'm glad God had a plan because I wasn't following and it was quite frustrating for these nit picky things to be happening. All we could do was to trust his timing. Two weeks later, our fingerprints were located and four weeks later they processed our approval letters. We were finally able to make plane reservations to leave January 21, 2008 to Uganda.

We left fully hoping we only had to be in Uganda for about 4 weeks. Our court date went just fine with out a hitch and here is an excerpt form my journal:
"We awaited upon the balcony, with butterflies in my stomach as I went through all the emotions of what this day would bring. "Would they like me? Am I sure I can handle two more children? What am I doing? Do they understand what is going on? Will skin color matter to either of us? Will the judge agree to let me be their guardian?" A little later, K. and Be arrived from HFU. A few moments later, In drove a SUV carrying Allen, Andrew and K's little girl, S. My heart pounded as I strained to see them through the car window. They parked and got out and came running up the stairs. First, they ran into K.'s arms and when she told them, "There is your mommy", they ran into my arms and what a meeting! All the questions that had been running through my mind melted away as I felt love flood my heart and I had MY children in my arms! They were beautiful! They knew who I was. It was awesome!"

When we started working on the kids passports there were many things that went wrong and it would take a book to write about. (Which I hope to do one day) I ended up staying 4 months instead and boy I think those were the hardest of my life ever! God really taught me about Himself and deepened my relationship with Him. Even though I ended up coming home without my kids during this time, I can look back now and see many things that God worked to our benefit. One of them was getting baby Isaiah. His life was saved because God's timing was perfect.
There were many times when I just felt that I could not do this anymore. I had nothing left inside of me. I was very sick, the baby was very sick, I was very lonely, I missed my other kids, and Allenni and Andrew had behaviors, I wasn't sure how to deal with. I pictured myself, hanging onto the last string of a really big rope, crying out to God. I was stripped of everything I knew identified me. But what God wanted me to do was for me to find my identity in Him. Emotions well up inside of me as I write because this space is not enough to write what turmoil and fights against depression I fought in those days in Africa. I had to fight to get out of bed to take care of the kids. Through it all though, I never gave up on God and the thought that these were my kids. I thank God everyday for my friends S. & B who spoke into my life and encouraged me and fed me scripture when I was too weak.

"I knew those strong winds would not knock that tree over when it got stormy, Now that tree is even deeper rooted and drinking my Living water."

It took me three months to recuperate physically after returning and even longer to get back into the sync of things with my kids and family in the States. All the time we kept asking God, When? When do we go back and get them? "Not yet he would say, Wait." I was glad God had opened up good foster homes for me to leave them in and so I did not worry about their care.
Finally in April, I told Duane, it is getting time for me to go. It is going to happen soon. Finally in May 2009, one year later from the time I left, I got on a plane with my daughter Maggie and headed back to Africa fully planning on bringing my kids home. My faith was not to be wavered. Those kids were mine. And I was going to claim them. I ended up staying three months, but God was awesome and Faithful and I kept knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, I would leave with them. It WAS VERY hard again. There were lots of times, I cried and prayed and told God I did not understand, Storms raged and sometimes I felt like giving up but then again I'm not a quitter. I was certain of what God had spoken to me. "Those are your kids, I have given them to you."
In the end we saw God perform miracles and throw open doors and give us favor. He granted those passports and not only that but changed a country's policy on the matter which would allow children in their same circumstance to be granted passports immediately. In the past many children never made it to their adoptive families because they never received passports on ethnic problems.
So, there believe it or not is the short version of our journey to celebrating Gotcha Day for Allenni and Andrew. God planted a seed of perseverance, faith and trust in HIM and watered it and tended it and it grew and grew. At times it hurt to grow, there were times we thought we would break under the pressure and snap in half, but in the end we were strong because of His might and power. And For this we are glad.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:2-4

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-9

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