In 2005, I had my little six week old baby, Selah, in my arms and my husband, a youth minister at the time, was watching an International Justice Mission video in the other room. I overheard it teaching about modern day slavery and the sex trafficking of children. Something in my heart broke like it never had broken before.
Five years previously, I had lived in a poor little village in Mali, West Africa, as a short term missionary. My year there was really hard, and I saw short life spans and absolutely zero ease of daily life, but I also saw joy, hard work, family, loyalty, and a precious culture. I loved the poor already. I loved nations and languages already. But I did not love justice yet, because I was so unaware of the lack of it.
There I was, 27 years old, newborn baby in my arms, the first time in my adult life that I literally couldn’t go anywhere I wanted around the world to try to meet a need. It killed me. I wanted to RUN to those people and I didn’t know what I would do once I got there, I just knew I didn’t want to be here, doing “nothing”. I lived in that real tension for a couple of years, my journals and songs and friends could tell you. It was such a slow and painful work the Lord did in me. But the outcome was life changing; it changed me from the inside out.
God did these things, in this order…
He allowed me to SEE. He opened my eyes to what I had been unaware of, sheltered from. I became educated. Because of my relationship with Him and call to the nations already, it wasn’t hard to also SEE in another way: That these people were just as precious to God as I was, and they were deserving of justice, hope, and help. I asked God to help me see them as actual family.
He made me GRIEVE. I thought, “How is crying and mourning and just being sad for these people–refugees, orphans, starving children, the persecuted–helping them at all?” But this grieving was part of the process to being changed from the inside out. This will sound crazy, but I even wore black most of the time for that season. My heart was half there, half here.
He led me to PRAY. I began to pray for ministries helping people and the people groups themselves that were affected by war, slavery, trafficking, poverty, etc. I asked Him–no, begged Him–for more than “just prayer”. Eventually, this season of prayer and lamenting brought me closer than ever into union with the heart of God and it was in prayer that He gave me part of His heart. (And the same is true for millions of other believers!!)
He made me dependent on the HOLY SPIRIT. The Church is really good at pep rallies, but that is not how God speaks to me. He made me wait on Him, and little by little the path of how I could tangibly “help” came into clear view. Some of what we started doing was with our church community, some of it was as a family, and some of it was personal. If ever I wasn’t listening to the Spirit, and just did what I wanted, it would be made clear– it just wouldn’t bear fruit, or it would feel like I was tugging something along that didn’t want to move. It was like I would say, “God, why is this not working? It’s a good thing!” And He would say, “I never told YOU to do that.”
He led me to join in their suffering through TANGIBLE SACRIFICE and GIVING. Yep, we finally got there! We started our adoption of Yemi, from Ethiopia, when Selah was 2 years old. Parts of this were excruciating, as we fundraised, gave all of our savings, saw her health deteriorate while still in Africa, and eventually it would again be so painful as she realized her early losses in life. We got to adopt again from Haiti, this time two sweet girls, Eva and Zoe, who just got home 1.5 years ago. Again, we shared in personal suffering as we went through these long processes and became a trans-racial, bi-cultural family. As a family, we write letters, pray, and give to two sponsored children through World Vision and Compassion International. When we receive any unexpected money, we pray and find out where God wants us to give some or all of it. We pray through Voice of the Martyrs magazines, and when friends or family are going on mission trips or collecting items, we try to be a part of that. We financially and prayerfully support missionaries and organizations we believe in, like International Justice Mission that literally kicks down the doors of brothels and sets innocent prisoners free. We started a ministry called Sister Bridge where we partner with artists/women in third world countries and sell their items here, sending all of the money back to the artists, in hopes they can make enough money to keep their families together. We work with ministries that are sharing the gospel with these women/artists as they train them in these crafts and skills! We try to have a view of our money and belongings that they are God’s, and while I think we are probably failing at it, we want to live in equality with the least of these. It’s important to me that we always have before us this absolute tangible reality that we shouldn’t seek more comforts and privileges while others don’t have their basic needs met. I don’t feel guilty for my needs being met, or for gifts given to me, but anytime the “American dream” starts to sneak in my heart, He sends something to snuff it out. May He EVER continue to do so, and may He show me more and more and more ways I can be faithful!
I don’t say ANY of these steps, especially #5, to “toot my own horn.” There are so many people doing SO MUCH MORE. I still feel the tension of the needs around the world, the reality of hurting people, and my comfortable life. But I know for sure at this point that I am walking in obedience with an open and completely available heart and life. That’s all I can do, and when the Spirit gives me more opportunities to be an advocate, give, serve, suffer, or go, I will do it.
This song–The Other Side of Night–is a heart cry. It was written in tears. There is such a disconnect between the Church and the least of these. We are so, I AM SO, individualistic and independent and set on personal success and comfort and fun for my family. But I believe God never intended such a disconnect, such a great divide between us. I’ve heard this phrase and I love it: “Live simply so that others may simply live.” It’s a personal conviction I pray that I grow in and see how to live out.
May He do so much more in our hearts than the little I have written about today! But lets not be afraid to “do little”! Thinking nothing will change is not for the minds of children of God. We carry His love and hope in each little thing–each tear, each prayer, and each act of obedience.
I was just reflecting today on all that has changed in the past seven months…well, I can go back even further and say the past year. This time last year, we had learned on Spring Break that there was a mistake in some paperwork which ended in a month-long delay, followed by very bad news in early summer that Orlanka would have to stay in Haiti another 3 months for a TB test. Multiple trips, multiple phone calls to doctors, and multiple prayers finally got our girls, Eva Orlanka and Zoe Woodjina, HOME at last. Our Gotcha Day was August 31st and we landed in Kentucky on September 2nd. Leaving the creche with them that day was just as sweet as I ever had dreamt it would be. They were overjoyed…no more goodbyes.
In seven months, we have definitely had joy but we’ve also definitely had sorrow. One child more than the other really misses the people she loved in Haiti (as expected). There is insecurity at times and lots of need for gentleness and affection, which sometimes in my rush to teach and take care of four kids I’m sad to say I have to be reminded of. Stories and memories come to their minds often about their life before us, and I am recording those. I often ask them to draw pictures and try to remember details. We are blessed they have each other, so they’ll never lose those precious pieces of their identity. Nighttimes can be hard sometimes; I still sit with them until they fall asleep (thank you, my friend Melatonin!) At first, one child complained that at the orphanage the nanny would sleep on the floor of the kids’ bedroom, so she liked it better there. (I kind of wish I had a picture of my face at that moment. It would be funny now.) We definitely work through strategies for fear at times, and those times are becoming less often. There have been a few instances where they had an idea in their minds of how something would be, only to find out it’s not–such as ice cream. They just recently got to where they can actually eat it. Before, it was too cold, and it wasn’t purple and sparkly like they had seen in pictures (darn Lisa Frank)! They can definitely have their picky moments, their complaining moments, and their unreasonable moments, like all kids.
But the joys…wow. These girls in themselves are an absolute joy. They love to go, they’re also happy to stay. They are quick to obey and want to get along well with their sisters. They have enjoyed every friend we’ve gotten together with and LOVE their grandparents (how could they not though?) They are thankful and they are loving. I didn’t share this with many people before they came home, but the personality and behavior of one of our girls (while living in the creche) was beyond challenging. I was truly worried about how her moods would affect our home. She is honestly the most stable and easy going person in this crazy household!! It is amazing and God gave me a wonderful surprise in her!! They love to learn, and oh how they love their Daddy. One day when I was in the other room, I heard Eva say to Jack (my husband, her dad), “I said to God, ‘God, will you give me a Daddy?’ And He DID!” We all cried…imagining her praying that prayer, the joy of it now answered. Yes, God does settle the lonely in families; yes, He does hear their cry!!
I remember when the girls first came they were so fascinated with/we kept running out of:
Eggs (they would eat 4 or 5 at a sitting, and 2 or 3 a couple hours later!)
Barbecue (yes, the meat, the sauce, anything bbq related!!)
These things have calmed down now. They still always want to know what we’re having for each meal, and always want to know if they can have more (long before they’re done with what they have). We’ve finally figured out how to handle some of the more difficult “meal issues” and they only overeat pizza and spaghetti (understandable?!) They do so well with rewards, chores, homeschool, imaginative play, asking with respect, and even talking about their feelings and sharing their problems. Their ability to speak English has increased exponentially, and most sentences they say are about 50/50 Kreyol/English. I’ll end this blog today with two English sentences said to me recently. The first is so completely precious, it’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me:
Eva (6): “Mom, your face, my present.” (I know!!! Heart melted!!!)
And another, sweet in its own way:
Zoe (5): “Mom, I coming, but I not want to bring my fart to you.”
Thanks for journeying with us. There are lots of ups and downs, just like with any family, but we are certainly learning to love and lean on Jesus and therefore are very, very blessed. 🙂
Right now, as I write, there are 4 girls (Selah, Yemi, and two of their friends) upstairs making cake pops while soup for dinner boils on the stove top…and I am downstairs keeping the little sisters out of their hair!
So, I guess that means: We have found our normal?!
Really, it means that things are going well. We are enjoying Fall Break, and have been very happy to see how easy going the girls can be with going places and missing a snack time here and there. Before Fall Break, we started each day with worship, breakfast, playtime, connection time, then school with Yemi while the girls played quietly, and then school with the littles on the kitchen floor. We really enjoy it, but there is a lot of “herding cats” in those hours! Then a few days of the week we have some activities we go to after lunch. So, we’ve enjoyed a (even more) laid-back routine and several trip to playgrounds, stores, seeing the Little Mermaid at the PAC, and even two restaurants. They thoroughly enjoyed it all. One of the best things to happen this week is that we met up with some friends of Eva and Zoe from Haiti!!!
Yes, Eva and Zoe! I’m surprised but they already are asking to be called by their English names. We gave them these names because of their spiritual meaning–they are a prophetic blessing over them. They mean newness of life and abundant life. I didn’t know if they would use them or not. They’ll always have the option in the future as well.
Let me tell you a little bit about Eva. She’s a really good helper and enjoys being a big girl SO much. She loves to help in the kitchen and she does a very good job! Every day at supper she still says, “I want BIG chicken!” No matter what it is, whether they’re asking for ice or pushes on the playground, they want “anpil, anpil” which means “a lot, a lot!” She loves to play Memory and is really good at it! She likes to sing and sings along at nighttime and in worship time! She has a really tender heart. She can be stubborn and pouty, like every kid, but is reasonable and lets me hold her and help her get regulated again.
And Zoe. She’s hilarious. She loves to laugh, run, and just be silly. She has went from very silent crying and avoiding eye contact in that first week, to tons of affection, hugs, and nice loud wailing when she hurts herself 🙂 She comes to be comforted, and she enjoys lots of snuggles especially from me and Selah! It’s bad but it’s also really funny…when she gets mad at someone, she says “kaka” (poop) under her breath. She’s also singing along to songs…especially (thank you so much, Yemi) “Shake Your Booty”. She and Eva both are good at art, and love Barbies. Their major investment of time one day this week was to put the entire head of hair of several Barbies into braids and beads. Zoe can also get stubborn and pouty, too, but it’s usually short lived with a few minutes on my lap.
We’ve had to start on the medical stuff…bloodwork, immunizations, seeing some followup docs from the whole TB mess. I’m not ready for this and I do not like it one bit. I would have liked to have waited until they had been home at least six months but it wasn’t under my control unfortunately.
The hardest things for me have been the same as any mom, i think!
Being an introvert but having no time alone…I literally ate an ice cream bar that my friend brought me IN THE BATHROOM and they said, “ou fini? ou fini? ou fini?” outside the door until I came out! I never thought I would do that! Ha!
Helping siblings learn to love and accept one another. For the most part, everyone gets along very well, but I think this transition has been the hardest on sweet Yemi. She’s 8 and starting to grow up, but still loves all the small child stuff, too. She’s trying to decide: “Do I want to be a triplet with these littles?” or “Do I want to set myself apart a little as a big sister?” She’s the same size pretty much as the girls, even though they are 2 and 3 years younger than her. She’s done such an amazing job sharing SO much of her stuff!! Room, clothes, all the toys except what is on her “special shelf”, and, well, her parents! That’s not easy but sharing hasn’t been an issue for her. All the kids need a lot of one-on-one support right now.
Going back into “real life.” For a few weeks, I didn’t clean, cook, shop, or pay any attention to my phone or emails or calendar. It was so blissful…I thought, “I can do this!!” But then I started to realize all that I couldn’t leave to grow weeds forever. You know, like the checkbook and the refrigerator…Now we are putting things on the calendar and going places and while I make precious few commitments, with 6 people, there are commitments. And it’s good. It’s real life, and I love all we do…it’s just that this is the real transition for me.
I can’t believe I have been with the girls for two weeks already! Our Gotcha Day was August 31st. In my mind, my “worst case scenario” of the latest we would get the girls was September.
Haha, God. You’re so funny.
As September got closer, as we went through this summer of questions and difficulties with getting the girls home, my idea of a worst case scenario of course changed to November? December? 2017? Today I joyfully deleted about 100 screenshots of tuberculosis testing info I had gathered over the past few months…don’t need those anymore! Neither do I need to hear my email ding or stare wistfully at my phone. It’s truly as blissful as I had dreamed!
So I wanted to write a little about our two weeks, to remember it someday but also for others who may be adopting. I love it when people share details, so…if there’s anyone out there I could help prepare, I’m happy to share.
It’s interesting to me how they handle the food issue. These girls were starving before they came to the creche 2.5 years ago, and then once they got there they ate beans and rice two times a day, so they definitely want to make sure there’s food available to them in the quantity they desire. But at the same time, they’re picky and won’t mind to throw food away. That part surprises me! The first few days, meal times were the hardest times of day for me. And when I say “times”, I mean like 5 times – sitting at the table, plates, forks, napkins, the whole nine yards. They would ask for 4 eggs (they still do), bread and jam, rice and chicken, etc., all at once, but then sometimes when I would give them what they asked they would say they didn’t want it. Sometimes what they loved yesterday, I would put in front of them the next day and they would cry like I had given them Miss Hannigan’s cold mush! I knew I didn’t want any power struggles, so I had available alternatives if they didn’t like something, but at the same time I had a struggle in me because I wanted them to at least try things and I didn’t want to waste so much food and time! After just a week and a half at home, we’ve figured out a groove. If they ask for food, they can eat, but there have been a couple times now after a week or so when I’ll say, “You just ate, we’ll eat again soon!” and they know it’s true and they run away happy. We practice meal time when it’s not meal time! I offer a few choices to them, they tell me which they prefer, and I keep a bunch of their favorites as leftovers always ready in the fridge so it’s easy to make. If they have asked for something and then won’t eat it, I ask them to at least take 3 bites. Thankfully, they’ve been willing. Also, because they literally say “ban’m anpil” (give me A LOT) when I spoon anything onto their plate I tell them they have to eat what’s on their plate before asking for more of anything. They get up out of their seats 50 million times per meal, but it’s getting better. They learned right away that we pray at meals, and lately have been reminding us to pray if we forget in all the crazy rush of dinnertime. Sometimes little Woodjina gets to pretending she’s a preacher, closes her eyes and shakes her head and babbles a whole bunch of thank Yous to Jesus. 🙂
They say thank you for every every every every thing. They love having a closet full of dresses, and they wear them everyday, no matter what we are doing. The biggest surprise is how important socks and underwear are to them. They LOVE them. They take 2 baths a day (their choice of course…Yemi has NEVER been so clean in all her life!) They are really big on having clean socks. Both have cried over socks. Woodjina cried because her basket didn’t have any socks in it anymore (they were in the laundry, I guess she thought they were just all gone forever?) Orlanka cried because her white socks were “soiled”, she said. Running around in socks without shoes will do that and apparently our washing machine needs to be fired. Woodjina washed her own socks in the bath one day; she was really proud. She was like, “Look, Mom! WHITE.” Not really, but I’m sure that’s what she was thinking. 🙂 I took them to Target (we went to Target, WOW, I would have never thought I would do such a thing in the first 2 weeks but I did prepare them thoroughly about what we would and would not be looking at or buying) for new socks–dark colored socks, and plenty of them. Today was the first day there was any problem with 3 girls sharing clothes, otherwise it’s been totally fine, and that situation worked out with more maturity than I actually expected. I was impressed. Oh also yesterday at Target, they got tennis shoes. Last night, they slept in them. So. Happy.
Each girl has a tall bookcase with shelves, and we told them when they first came that that was their “special shelf.” I told them anything on their shelves is just for them, but everything else in the house was for sharing. This has worked out well! They’ve went around the house and put a few random items on their shelves, but when they tried to bring whole sets of toys to their special shelf we had to have a little talk. They handled it well, once I reminded them those items will be there daily for them to play with. They do imaginative play SO WELL! I honestly don’t know when they have had the chance in their lives to do this. They take towels and blankets and make tents, and play for one or two hours at a time with babies, doll clothes, doll food, etc. They love to braid their babies’ hair. I asked them to ask me before getting something out, and they faithfully do…they are so excited when I say yes to things they think I won’t say yes to. I say yes a lot, as much as possible! I am shocked by how well they clean up. Shocked. They pick up, clean up, organize, everything. They set the table. They have never been upset about being asked to clean up an area before going to another activity. Amazing!
What We Do
They couldn’t care less about TV. I know it was on a lot at the creche, but they just don’t care about it. They’ve got toys to play with and art, music, playing outside, dolls, etc to do! I’ve discovered just this week that they sure do love art! They say “I can’t, I can’t do it, do it for me” but as soon as I give them some encouragement and a little direction, they have drawn and colored the cutest pictures! These kids have had NOTHING. Their practice hours with crayons or markers are next to none because they would lose, break, or share anything we brought them. They painted at church on Sunday and we did stamps today. Orlanka especially just really loves things like this. She is so ready for school! Total surprise to me, they asked to do school already, so we’ve done 3 days. For about 45 minutes, they color the letter of the day, make the letter with clay, practice writing or tracing, and we look at books and videos about words that start with the letter. I’m trying to teach 2 English words a day, too, like big and little, up and down. I try to say everything in Creole and then in English, but I do forget sometimes. They’ve been getting up around 7:30, and we sing a worship song (YouTube!) together and pray around 8:30, then have breakfast. They eat for.e.ver and then take baths, get dressed, fix hair (I am sweating buckets at this point – I can walk 2 miles and just have a nice glow, but fixing three little brown girls’ hair, my shirt is WET), brush teeth, and then we have “sensory and connection time”. Lately, that has been outside…so I can cool off 😉 Right now, sensory time consists of playing on playground, swinging, monkey bars, and also having a tactile outlet such as playing with beans, sand, or water with small toys. Today we took a sheet outside and shook it up and down with balls on top, which was great for their muscles, coordination, and relationship building as we had to work together. Connection time means working on things like eye contact, building relationship, snuggling, talking, practicing what to do when certain difficult things happen, and talking about feelings. We use feeling cards and we role play what to do when feeling certain ways. We talk about accomplishments and things to work on during this time, and I try to make it as one-on-one as possible. I follow TBRI/Empowered to Connect as closely as possible, which has helped us incredibly with Yemi (age 8, adopted at 8.5 months from Ethiopia) who started grieving and feeling a lot of complicated emotions and stress at the age of 6.5 years.
Then we eat again around 10:30. While they’re still eating, I start school with Yemi and the girls really surprised me how well they could play quietly. The first few days being home I made them take naps, and they hated it so much. That was really the only time Orlanka has had a “fit”, so I told them we could try playing quietly while I did school with Yemi and it worked. Now, when we’re done, I do school with them on the kitchen floor and they love that, too. Afterwards, you guessed it, we eat again around 1!
That’s mostly our schedule. Then around 5:30 we have things to do to get ready for supper and bedtime, and they are in bed around 8. I stay with them until they fall asleep. I sing and pray over them. I’ve noticed they each (all 3) want and need special snuggle time, so I hold them and rock back and forth on the bed singing and praying, after reading a book together. I’m usually in there a whole hour for this, but there’s no place I’d rather be! Of course Yemi has had this for the past 7 years, and still craves it–I lay in bed with her every night until she falls asleep–but the little girls, I don’t know when the last time was they had this.
I had been told “Orlanka wants a mother so badly. She remembers what it’s like to have a mother. She needs you.” And that is incredibly true. She immediately fell into the normal relationship of nurturing mother and little child. She loves being held, she loves being taken care of, she loves helping me, she pats my back when I hold her, she’s just happy with mommy. I am so grateful–so grateful she finally has the desire of her heart, and all I can think is this beautiful worship song my friend wrote that says “You sing Your song over my life, it’s ‘I love you'”…God sings over me, and I sing over her.
With Woodjina though, she is just now beginning to realize how nice it might be to be held by a mother. She is only 4 now so she wasn’t even 2 years old when brought to the creche. We had to practice hugs and being held at first. Every day has gotten better and better, but sometimes she does still resist, and that’s okay. She’s just never had anyone wanting to hold her, rock her, sit with her as long as she wants before. But I see her daily warming up, and she also is really joyful. She has a special bond already with Selah – she’s a little more familiar with girls around Selah’s age than she is adults. In our Connection Times, she at first talked about being scared, and she is already feeling a lot more comfortable and relaxed. You can tell…because she runs through the house naked, plays tricks on people, and laughs a LOT.
My biggest surprise has been how positive they’ve been. It’s not that they’re happy every minute, but they’re just normal kids – ups and downs, highs and lows, disappointments and excitement, misunderstanding and making up. When visiting the creche, those downs for them were so low, those disappointments were so earth shattering…They have been through so much. They have experienced such loss. I just really wondered if they would be skeptical, think negatively, wait for the other shoe to drop, be able to trust us, etc. I really wondered if they’d be tormented by their past. And maybe that is going on and I don’t see it, or maybe it will happen later–there will definitely be things to work through later, but honestly on the whole they seem content and at peace. There’s every now and then a rebellious spirit (it’s way better when they’ve slept enough), or something that looks like being spoiled (which is really just inflated dreams being dashed!!), and they cry a couple of times a day over hurt feelings, but since I was expecting constant drama like we had at the creche, this is going really well! (Happiness is all about expectations after all!)
My biggest joy is just being with them all the time. I’ve wondered for over a year what that would be like, and it’s awesome. They give just as much as they receive, and they are precious, fun, and a joy to get to know, just like Selah and Yemi have always been. However, in these first weeks I have struggled sometimes and I’m sure I’ll struggle again! There are times Orlanka and Yemi are having a problem and crying and needing me at the exact same time. There are times I expect more, even perfection, from the older siblings who “should know better” and have to apologize when I realize I’m putting too much pressure on them. There are times when people are talking to me all at the same time and my brain just can’t function over all the noise. I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath but sometimes I have gotten really angry. (Sorry, Karyn Purvis, please don’t be watching me from above every moment!)
But the Lord spoke to my heart that the joy is in the engaging, not in the managing. A mom has to manage things…it’s how we have food in the house that actually is meant to be eaten together on the same plate, it’s how there are clean clothes on the days they are needed, it’s how our people don’t hurt each other with words or fingernails, it’s how so many important things happen–because we plan and schedule and make it happen, we keep an on time train the best we can. Managing is valuable and necessary, at least it is in this house. But engaging still wins. Engaging to me means both feet in, really listening, really looking, really being there, really loving. One of the joys of this adoption process being over is I don’t have anything else I have to think too much about right now! I can be ALL here. Now, I believe in having time alone. I believe in taking breaks. I believe in naps and chocolate and friends, hallelujah, praise You Jesus. I believe mommies can only give so much before they have to recharge and refuel in their own way, and no one is going to make that happen for the mommy except the mommy. (Can I get a witness?) But throughout the day, I have the choice to either manage my kids or engage with them. When I’m managing, I am thinking to myself, “How can I possibly do this every day for 10 more years? Like, seriously, I will die!” When I’m engaging, I’m thinking, “I love these people. Their needs are really coming out in their words and behaviors; I’m so thankful God is showing me their heart. I want to know them more today than I did yesterday.”
Isn’t God just SO GOOD?
This is quite possibly the longest blog I have ever written, maybe the longest blog anyone has ever written. Sorry. I’m wordy, and it’s past my bedtime, and I had a whole two weeks to write about! If there’s anything else anyone would want to possibly know that could be helpful in an adoption transition, do let me know and I’ll write again after awhile with another update! 🙂
The summer of 2016 did not go at all how I had planned, but apparently God had a different type of story in mind! I guess the best stories have a big climactic nail-biter at the end, so we can definitely say it hasn’t been dull! (I would have happily taken dull though!)
We thought we would finish our adoption process and go to Haiti at the end of May, but instead we found out that Orlanka “needed” to have a TB test that would take 8 weeks to get back from the lab. Every bit of information we got in that time was like pulling teeth…eventually mid-summer, our adoption agency representative was visiting Haiti and while she was there, she took Orlanka to the hospital to meet with a doctor with whom we were very blessed to get in contact. This doctor, Dr. Rouzier, turned out to be such an angel through the summer, as she personally emailed and called me to keep me in the loop. The week after Orlanka had some additional testing (because we wanted to find out if there was a true concern regarding her health), I went to Haiti to get the results, visit the girls, and get to the bottom of the some of the confusion we had met along the way. While I was there, Orlanka had a fever and we had blood work done. At that time, she had a lung infection and started antibiotics, and we also saw her CT scan and X-ray which shows her left lung with permanent damage from multiple infections in the past. But thankfully, no sign of TB, even though the nurse at the creche was still giving her medications for the disease. I could not wait to get her out of there! Those weeks from the end of May until the end of July were so excruciating!
Finally August 19th, 2016 came, and we waited anxiously for word from the panel physician, lab, and Embassy. We found out her TB test was negative and praised the Lord for that, but another issue had come up. On Saturday Aug. 20th, the physician said we needed to wait another 4 weeks for a 12 week lab. Dr. Rouzier stated clearly there was no such test. There was just confusion and frustration all around! We all prayed, talked with our Senator’s office (again), and contacted the Embassy for ourselves. Finally, by the next Monday, Aug. 29th, the physician had been convinced of his error (I suppose? I actually don’t know how it happened) and sent a completed medical report to the Embassy. The next day, Tues the 30th, we got the visa scan we had been waiting SO LONG for!
That day was crazy. We needed to buy 4 tickets going and 6 coming back! I was telling the family, “I could just go get them right now if I was going by myself” because I knew how quickly and easily I could get one ticket…And they all agreed to just have me go. So, the next morning we got up at 3 a.m. and I went to Haiti to GET OUR GIRLS!
August 31st was our Gotcha Day, and it was an awesome day! I dropped off my stuff in the room when I arrived and went straight to the creche to get them. We went from room to room, giving out toys and taking pictures and saying goodbye. I have come to love the children at that creche, especially the older group, ages 8-13 or so. I talked with those that I know have parents waiting for them, encouraging them, because I could tell it was really hard for them to see me but not their own parents. Orlanka especially wanted to say goodbye and get pictures. Woodjina wasn’t very interested in that, but just was overwhelmed by the excitement. It was an amazing moment when they climbed into the white van. Two nannies stood on the steps, waving, with the biggest smiles on their faces. They were so incredibly happy for these girls to be going home.
We went back to the guest house and I learned quickly how much they love to eat! They had a very hard time sitting in their chairs to eat; they stood in their chairs, walked around, got under the table, it was crazy! They wanted everything, and more of everything, all on their plate at the same time. They were just so excited to have choices and so much of everything. They sat to eat for about an hour at a time! I also learned quickly how much they love to take baths! They giggled and laughed and stood in the bathtub washing themselves and each other. It turned out they liked to take short baths both morning and night; they really care about being clean and I think it’s wonderful for their sensory needs!
The next day, Sept 1, we had to go to the Embassy and meet with some other people. They were very well behaved even as we sweated hard and ate melted chocolate protein bars all day. I was so thankful of how well we could communicate with each other! I can understand almost everything they say, and if I don’t understand, I can ask them to explain and they will. They loved their little backpacks I had brought them, which were full of toys, and they absolutely loved the underwear, outfits, and hair bows I had brought. They were just really overjoyed about everything.
Then Sept 2, we got up at 4:30 a.m., had some breakfast, and got to the airport! God intervened to help us in some scary moments there…Haiti has a way of making my heart race sometimes! No matter how late everyone and everything is in Haiti, the planes are not. In fact, sometimes they leave early. It’s crazy. So when I saw the longest line ever—literally going out the door—for security, I wanted to cry! And then a man with a sheriff badge on looked at me and said, “Adoption?” I said, “Yes.” And he escorted me to the very front of the line!!! We didn’t even get to sit down at the gate, we just moved from one thing to the next and the plane was ready to go before we knew it. The girls were beyond excited! They watched a movie, took naps, and played with ice and water in their cups. We went from Port-au-Prince to Atlanta, Georgia, and things went very smoothly at Immigration. When their Haitian passports were stamped, they became U.S. Citizens!!
In the Atlanta airport, Orlanka cried because she wanted to get right on the next plane, no waiting. Well, I did, too, but we had several hours to go! We went in a restaurant, and they ate chicken and fries…they loved it! We sat next to a really nice man who talked with us a little. He got an appetizer and a meal, and Orlanka yelled really loudly, “Manman, l’ap manje de fwa! DE FWA, Manman!” (Mama, he is eating two times, two times!!) I didn’t tell him what they said, but I had a good laugh. Later, he found us again in the airport and had bought the girls a Mickey and Minnie doll. They were also amazed (and a little scared) by the automatic flushing toilets and sinks! They yelled at the water faucets thinking they were voice activated. They jumped like 4 feet back the first time the toilet automatically flushed. They did NOT like the escalators, elevators, or moving sidewalks at first, but by the time we were in Louisville, they were more okay with it!
So, finally, on Friday evening, Sept 2, 2016, we had the moment we had been waiting for for so long…All six of us were finally together and HOME! Lots of sweet friends and family were there at the airport waiting for us, and I had had about 16 hours of sleep in 4 nights, so I was just sort of floating on fumes. Woodjina was frozen in my arms. She just didn’t know what to think at all, I felt so bad for her! Orlanka was a social butterfly, meeting everyone. Eventually, they both were running around playing with cousins and church friends! We also had a special visitor at the airport, their dear friend Katiana, who used to be with them at the creche in Haiti and now lives in Kentucky, too!!
No one could have written the ups and downs of this story except God, and we rest in the fact that whether we understand or not, His timing was perfect! Our journey belongs to the Lord, and I’m excited about Chapter Two. He did provide daily strength in His Presence while we waited, and that is my hope and joy because I will continue to need Him every hour in Chapter Two!
The Lord is good, and all of His promises will endure. Forever.
I wanted to share a quick update with my precious friends/family/prayer warriors:
First of all, Orlanka was able to get in with a wonderful new doctor and she had all the necessary TB testing (and more) at Gheskio, a good hospital in Port-au-Prince. The two ministries that helped this appointment happen were Ti Kay Haiti and Empower Haiti Together. New friends from these ministries truly were a vessel for the Lord to answer so many prayers!
Secondly, the first two TB tests came back NEGATIVE (praise the Lord!!) and I was there in Haiti to get that report personally a couple of weeks ago. Orlanka did have a fever at that time, and some kind of lung infection was detected while I was there, and she started an antibiotic immediately. I had a really good visit with Orlanka and Woodjina. There were certainly some hard parts, but our goodbye was calm and peaceful, which shows trust is being built and that’s possibly the best I can hope for in these absurd circumstances.
Today, I actually got to FaceTime with Orlanka, who was at the hospital for an appointment with her new doctor. This doctor could not be more of an answer to prayer. She called me while Orlanka was in her office so that we could FaceTime!! She said she was finished with her antibiotic and looking much better. She also told me she personally checked on Orlanka’s sputum sample, that it was still negative at this time, and that the lab technician said the test will be finished August 19. (Basically, the lab has to wait a full 56 days to make sure her sample doesn’t grow bacteria/”become positive.”) That’s a couple days later than I had thought, but still in the same week I was expecting. I don’t know the exact steps or who does what afterwards, but when the time comes, our associates in Haiti will be getting the report to the Embassy and Lord willing within a week or two, we’ll get her visa and bring both girls home. Lord willing, that means they could be home early September if not before. (There I go saying dates again…I know better…but I can’t help it!!)
Knowing the challenges ahead with language, personalities, grief, culture shock, changes, food, and only God knows what else, we are praying and preparing…but also feeling really ready. It’s kind of like training for a race. At some point, you’re just like, “ENOUGH! I’m as ready as I’m going to get! We’ll deal with whatever when it comes.” This whole journey I’ve imagined as an ocean, and I keep stepping farther and farther away from the shore. Sometimes I have felt like I was drowning and sometimes like I was walking on water, feeling okay with the waves, feeling resilient. It requires so much faith to have no idea what kind of needs or personality or age or the history of a child God will chose to be your son or daughter, or how high and rough the mountain ahead to get to them will be. It’s just a blind jump of obedience. And we keep going further into the unknown as we choose to love those people He gives us. It is always and completely His miraculous life at work in us to do this.
The miracle of getting them home is INDEED a miracle. The miracle of loving them with the love of Christ all of our days is a much greater one. Keep praying for us, and know we are SO grateful for the love, prayers, and support we have received! I feel like, together, we have lived out so many portions of Scripture through these hard times…and may we continue doing so!
We’ll keep everyone updated; hoping to have some great news to share soon! 🙂
Thank you, prayer warriors! I believe in the power of our prayers and our warfare against the enemy! I have some answers to a few of those prayers today.
I got in touch with Orlanka’s new and wonderful doctor! She called and talked with me for 30 minutes this afternoon after finally getting her contact info and emailing her. The most important thing she had to say was that the sputum sample she gave back in June (when all this fun began) is in the lab and is still negative at this time. They have to give it eight weeks to see if it becomes positive; it’s been four. This is a HUGE relief, as we thought it was possibly lost.
If her culture does come back positive in August, at least I know she will have a doctor who knows what’s going on and who cares about her AND who will communicate with me! That has been just as stressful as the possible sickness itself.
Orlanka is finishing up the TB testing at the hospital tomorrow morning. They should have the reports of the CT scan and the gastric aspiration (poor baby!) by the time I go see the doctor myself on Monday. I’m going this Saturday through Wednesday. It’s a short trip, but it’ll be three days in country where I can connect with the girls and also meet with the doctor. I’m happy that I can comfort Orlanka very soon after all she has been through this past week.
Thank you for all your prayers, and please continue to ask with us for excellent communication between the creche, the doctor, and us; complete recovery for Orlanka and that test results from this week will provide insight and direction; and a visa in August if that is the Lord’s will.
In all honesty, it feels like a very long time since my faith has been “on the shelf.” I need the Lord all the time and am lost without Him, even on a normal day. Either I’m a wimp, or He has called me to some big tasks, I don’t know which, but it doesn’t matter. He puts me in situations, and has since I gave my life to Him, where I must have faith, where I must believe His word is true even when all I feel is fear and all I see are obstacles. In job situations, relationship issues, learning how to parent kids from hard places, the decision to go back to homeschooling…I kinda thought I was at my full faith potential already!
And then God allowed our adoption to go on a really unexpected path, as if it hadn’t taken enough scary and hard turns in the past 2.5 years! Just when I thought I could not take anymore (and by the way I totally let God know this status update), He did allow things to get worse. At this moment, I have no idea what He is doing or why He hasn’t delivered us yet. I can’t see one step in front of me. There’s nothing else I personally can do, at least not right now, besides pray. I don’t know how or when we’ll get past this, but I know the Lord has a plan. There have been moments I wasn’t sure though.
I needed two major components to come together at the same time in the same intensity.
This confusing, painful trial (component one) had to go head to head with the promises in the Word of God (component two)!
And when they do, even in the worst moments, even in the darkest news, there’s a light.
Faith is activated when we speak and believe God’s Word in a situation that begs to differ, in a situation that looks like quite the opposite of His heart, His character, and what we understand to be His will.
There are dozens of promises God has used to activate my faith here and now in this nightmare with my girls–Isaiah 43, John 14-17, Romans 8, & so many more. But there are two passages in particular that have challenged me to hold on to them:
Luke 18:1-8 The parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow: The widow day after day tells the judge her case; eventually even though he really doesn’t care, she wears him out and he gives her justice. Then Jesus says: “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly! However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
John 20:29 The story of Thomas’ moment of doubt: Jesus has risen from the dead, everyone is super excited, and Thomas says ‘no way, not until I touch where the nails were will I believe He’s alive!’ And all of a sudden, there Jesus is, standing before him, in the flesh. He says, ‘go ahead, friend!’ Then Thomas believes, after touching his side. And dear Jesus says: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I can tell God all day long what I believe His job is. He is so kind to let me. But He also wants to tell me my job.
He invites me to persevere in prayer, He wants to find his children asking, showing they haven’t grown bitter and too disappointed to come.
And He invites me to believe He is good, wise, loving, and in control long before I see it with my eyes.
“I am not ashamed, because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” 1 Tim. 1:12
Thank you so much to those who are remembering us and our little girls in Haiti in prayer. I learned today that Orlanka will have the full TB testing and a CT scan this coming week. This is an answer to prayer, because we weren’t really sure what to do next. The doctor she saw on Wednesday pretty much made the decision for us, which is very appropriate in this situation since she is the specialist! In fact, she called our agency representative and told her what was going to happen. Our rep really likes this doctor, and is thrilled we were sent to that particular lab and hospital. A nanny will go with Orlanka to the overnight testing at the hospital.
Please pray for Orlanka as she goes through another few days of testing. I’m sure it’s scary and unpleasant.
We are so thankful to finally have a proactive, caring, and even English speaking doctor. The ministry that helped us get this appointment in the first place is Ti Kay Haiti (www.tikayhaiti.org). They have been corresponding with me and answering questions; they’re a ministry in Port-au-Prince that helps both TB and HIV patients.
Please pray the results we get back will be clear and communicated well to us. Please pray we will soon be in direct contact with this doctor ourselves, whether in person or by email or phone.
She has been on medicine a long time for TB.
Please pray that these tests will reveal that she is now recovering instead of still in active TB.
No matter the result of the tests, she won’t be cleared for a visa until the 56 day test comes back (supposed to be August 17th). If the tests are positive, either now or at the end of August, we have a fight ahead of us to get her home. But right now the focus is on the medical end; next it will be the government end.
Please pray that the sputum sample she gave in June will be safe and sound in the lab, and that in about four weeks from now it will come back negative! If so, they’ll be coming home at the end of August. If these two things happen, friends, you can say you saw an absolute miracle.
We want to visit the girls, but Jack has started a new job in addition to the production company he co-owns. So I will probably go alone for a short visit soon. That’s hard on our family, especially Yemi.
Will you lift us up and ask for wisdom about dates of travel and appointments with the doctor and the consulate?
“The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the work of Your hands.” Ps. 138:8
Today, right now as I write this, my agency representative and my daughter in Haiti should be going to a doctor and lab. There are so many questions to be answered, and so many moving pieces to put together, such as figuring out her past treatment for TB, current meds she is taking that she’s probably not supposed to be taking, getting old x-rays in hand to compare, having tests run to prove that she doesn’t have TB right now, and getting the ear of the Embassy doctor as we ask for him to re-consider with all this new information.
God has sent help and advocates to make this doctor appointment happen, please pray that they are successful in their goals today and this week! These steps would be hard enough in the U.S.; in Haiti, it really will take a miracle. Fortunately, if this is the way God wants to do it, it’s as good as done! If it’s not, He has another plan. That’s the beauty of being a child of God! Hallelujah!
Take home: The best case scenarios are still possible. Please continue to bring this before the Lord, asking for favor, way-making, peace, and ultimately HEALING and a VISA!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God!” Phil. 4:6