Friday, June 10, 2011
My heart is in Ghana!
This is a moment like on ER where they call a code and pull out those shocker paddles, and shout CLEAR! and ...SHOCK! I am doing that to my blog today. Bringing it back. Maybe not for forever, but to share our adoption journey.
Just to summarize who we are very quickly: Rusty and I live in College Station, where Rusty works as a Family Practice Doctor, and I stay home and school our four children. We have two biological children and two we have adopted domestically. Rusty is an elder at our wonderful church, New Life Baptist Church, and I also volunteer as an advocate for Compassion International. One of my biggest life projects has been Run For Compassion. It is my joy and privilege to work with Compassion!
Adoption has been a beautiful part of my life for a long time. My sister Jessica was adopted when I was a teenager. She was like my first baby. I took that sweet girl everywhere I went. My Mom has worked for New Life Children Services, facilitating adoptions and working with pregnant women in crisis for over 20 years. Adoption is woven into the fabric of who my family is.
We adopted Justus and Treston, the first of the grandkids to be adopted. My brother Brian and his wife Amy adopted two beautiful kiddos from Ethiopia, so now we have two more: Yeneneh and Sosy. They are definitely a piece of this journey for us. Brian and Amy's adoption journey to Ethiopia changed who we were and God used it to open our eyes to what the reality was for children around the world. We read a book, per Brian and Amy's request, called There is no me without you by Melissa Fay Green. God used this book to turn us inside out, break us, change us, call us.
So we responded to Him. We asked God to show us if we were to adopt internationally. We felt sure that this was where He was leading. We asked God to give us faith in starting that journey, and plunged in. We decided...decided sounds kind of strong...it was not even a question, really, that we would adopt from Ethiopia, from the same agency and home that our niece and nephew came from. It made perfect sense to us to continue adopting from Ethiopia. We began the process, and were very excited. We had read about Ethiopia, prayed for Ethiopia, learned a few Amharic words from Yeneneh and Sosy, and began a long-distance love relationship with the beautiful people of Ethiopia.
The adoption paperwork phase took over. Ugh. It overwhelmed me for a while. We were stuck on several points, just stupid things. Getting me life insurance...finding our marriage license...(I seriously went to bed one night thinking Rusty and I were not even married at all. Then I realized that we were common-law married if this was true, and that did NOT make me feel better. The bright spot was I was planning our wedding in my head.) Turns out we indeed did have a marriage license. Good news. It took us forever, and I was discouraged. I did not think of us as slackers. But our progress was slow. It was stagnant. It took us FOREVER to finish our second paperwork stage.
God had a plan.
Just after we sent in Part 2 (sigh of relief) we were ready to get our homestudy done and get the ball rolling! But news came in from Ethiopia. Adoptions were coming to a screeching halt. The Ethiopian government was concerned with some corruption discovered in their adoption processes. Understandable! So they cut back on their adoptions by 90%. This is devastating for orphans in Ethiopia waiting to be adopted. But with petitions signed and prayers for change, this is where we sat. We did our home study, but honestly didn't know what to do. Our time would run out due to an age requirement with Ethiopia before long.
We went to the Lord. What does this mean? What was His plan for this adoption? I felt like our adoption was falling apart in front of our eyes, and I didn't know what it meant.
We talked through our options with our social worker. Dillon International, our agency, had just opened up a brand new program in Ghana. They were looking for pioneer families who would be willing to give Ghana a try. We were very set on staying in Africa. So I called the Ghana director to get some more information on Ghana. In our conversation, I asked her about special needs they may have encountered in Ghana. Her answer took my breath away. She said they had really just encountered one...Deafness.
Did you say Deafness? She said that they were encountering a prevalence of deaf children in Ghana.
I was an interpreter for the deaf when I worked outside of the home, and a Deaf Ed teacher for Pre-K and Kindergarten. Rusty and I had always talked about adopting a deaf child. In fact, I had recently talked with a Dillon representative about specifically seeking a deaf orphan in Ethiopia if there was one that needed a home. For many people, deafness would be a huge hurdle to jump. For us, it was do-able. I am fluent in ASL (though I still have plenty to learn) and my husband and children are decent beginner signers. I have always loved deaf people and deaf culture! I enjoyed working with deaf children SO MUCH! It would be hard. NO DOUBT. But I felt like it was something we could do.
So we switched to Ghana. We knew we had to expect the unexpected, with it being a brand new program. We started to work on Ghana paperwork, and we prayed that if God had a deaf child for us in Ghana, that He would send her to us.
Last week we were matched with Emmanuella. (We will call her Ella.) It's amazing how much you can love a little girl by seeing four pictures and reading her medical history. But you can.
Emmanuella attends a residential school for the deaf in Ghana, and goes to her orphanage when they are on break. She is said and documented to be four years old. However, she looks much older and we believe she is older.
So here we are. Each day brings in a new piece of information that we try to digest. We are riding the roller coaster of information, about her, her family situation (of which I will share very little of for the sake of discretion and protecting her story), travel requirements, paperwork requirements, and the new 100 questions we have each day.
I will chronicle our journey here. Our projected time frame, which could change at any given moment...seriously...I could check my e-mail after this and it could shift it all around...but we hope to bring her home by the end of the summer.
We will likely travel to Ghana twice.
And we are working on getting every person in this house completely fluent in sign language! Lord help me!
Will you pray for us? For Emmanuella? For the details and for us to trust God with every detail?
This is what we already know.
ADOPTION IS BEAUTIFUL.
ADOPTION IS A PICTURE OF THE GOSPEL RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES.
ADOPTION IS HARD, AND IT'S MESSY.
IT STARTS WITH LOSS AND GRIEF AND FLESHES OUT REDEMPTION AND BELONGING.
ADOPTION IS SANCTIFYING AND A CALL TO FAITH.
And we're all in.
(Here is a video made at Ella's school, Ashanti School for the deaf)