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Remembering Uganda: HOME!

August 29, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 29, 2012

I just wanted everyone to know that we are home. HOME. We are home. It still feels a little surreal that we’re really here. We just hugged necks and had real-time, live, in-person conversations with people we love dearly and have missed terribly, and we just tucked our children into their own beds in their own rooms. We are about to go to sleep in our bed in our room in our home. HOME.

So amazing. God is so good.

Our travels went well considering none of the 6 of us slept that well or that much over the 26-hours of traveling. Our children’s behavior on the flights was really not bad when you take into account how sleep deprived they all were 🙂 We are praying we all get good rest tonight, recover from jet lag quickly and for a smooth transition as we figure out what it looks like to be a family of 6 here in our own home. Thank you so much for your prayers and for being with us all along the way.

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Remembering Uganda: Got That Right

August 28, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 28, 2012

When I made the subject of the last email “Down to the wire,” I had no idea how true that would be. Oh, what a day we have had. Our paperwork arrived at the embassy this morning (praise the Lord!!!), but all the officials and officers were in meetings all day and could not prepare our visas. We were told just before noon that they wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow. We pressed just a little, explaining our situation with moving so many airline tickets, my brother’s wedding, etc., and one of the officials agreed to “see what I can do.” We waited and prayed and waited and prayed. She called us back at 3:30pm (an hour before the embassy closes) and told us she would have them ready, even if she had to stay late to get them done. True to her word, she got them done, and Tim just walked in the door with the visas AND the corrected birth certificate. Which means….

WE ARE COMING HOME TONIGHT!!!!!!!

HUH?!?!?!??!

A few weeks ago, our children’s visas were denied by an official at this same embassy, and we were told we would be in-country 4-6 more weeks while we waited on a decision from USCIS Nairobi. Less than three weeks later, we are heading home. How is that possible?!?!? Well, it’s not possible. Not for us. But we have a God Who is infinitely more mighty and gracious than we are. Nothing is impossible for Him. He has done it, and we will never stop being amazed at this story that He has written and how He showed His power and love in such an incredible way.

This will be my last email from Uganda. I’ll update y’all when we get home. Please pray for smooth travels, peace and sleep for Eliza, Jude, Naomi and Nate, supernatural strength and patience for their parents and safety. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support and prayers.

Remembering Uganda: Down to the Wire

August 27, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 27, 2012

We had a great day, hanging out with some friends and getting a few things done. We dropped the birth certificate off to get corrected and are hoping to pick it up tomorrow, and we dropped our children’s passports off at the embassy so that the visa process could at least get started. The official who is helping us with our visas has told us that if our paperwork arrives in Kampala tomorrow, she will issue our visas tomorrow. She wants us to get home as badly as we want to go home, and she is doing everything in her power to make it happen. So awesome. God is so kind to provide a more-than-helpful embassy official to assist us. We know our paperwork is somewhere in between Nairobi and Kampala, and we are eagerly tracking our package on DHL’s website, hoping and praying it makes it to Kampala tomorrow so that we can get on our flight tomorrow night. But we won’t know until tomorrow if it will make it. We’ll just have to see. We are packing tonight, almost in shock that there is at least a possibility we might actually leave tomorrow night. When we booked that August 28th flight, we did so on faith, hoping and praying that God would blow through the 4-6 week timeline we had been told to expect. The fact that He did exactly that still has us in complete awe. So crazy. So amazing.

Pray for us- tomorrow could turn into quite a circus, as we try to pack, get out the door and on a plane with four children under the age of four. It could also turn out to be another big-old hurry up and wait day, as our package may not make it in time for our visas to be issued. No way to know. Just pray that we will be flexible tomorrow and put our hope in the Lord rather than a package of paperwork or an airplane flight. We are truly so thankful that going home tomorrow is even a possibility. We just can’t get over how gracious and powerful our God is.

We hope and pray to see many of you in person very, very soon. Thank you so much for your prayers.

Remembering Uganda: Incredible News

August 24, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 24, 2012

We just received an email that both our children’s visas have been approved by USCIS Nairobi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have no idea what timeline we are looking at as far as actually getting their visas printed and in hand, but it doesn’t matter. GOD HEARD AND GRANTED OUR REQUEST FOR APPROVAL!!!

We will let you know more as soon as we know.

In the mean time, please join us in praising God from Whom all blessing flow! ONLY HE COULD HAVE DONE THIS!!!!!! ONLY HE COULD HAVE BY-PASSED THE NORMAL/EXPECTED TIMELINE OF 4-6 WEEKS AND GOTTEN US OUR APPROVAL IN A MATTER OF A FEW DAYS. THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OTHER THAN HE HAS DONE IT!!!!!

Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Remembering Uganda: Short Update

August 23, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 23, 2012

I just wanted everyone to know that our attorney “M” received a very brief reply from Nairobi today. It basically said that they are aware of our case and are looking into it and will be in touch with us soon. We were so thankful to get confirmation today that Nairobi is indeed aware of the fact that we are under a time crunch and that we believe our case was sent there by mistake. We are hoping this will prompt them to give us a very swift (and positive!) decision. Please continue to pray for the person/people reviewing our case, that God will turn his/her/their hearts toward us and move them to give us quick approval and to swiftly return our case to the embassy to issue our visas…. I’m feeling a little under the weather today, similar to the way Tim was feeling this past weekend with stomachache issues, so I think I caught whatever he had. Please pray it passes quickly and no one else gets it…. Thanks so much for your prayers.

Remembering Uganda: Nothing Yet

August 22, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 22, 2012

I just wanted everyone to know that we didn’t receive a reply from Nairobi today. “M” didn’t receive a reply to her email, either. We were expecting this, as “M” told us it usually takes a couple days for them to reply to emails. So, just in case you were wondering, there it is. We are waiting for a response. We promise to let you know as soon as we get one. In the mean time, please continue to pray for the individuals who received ours and “M’s” emails and are considering our case, that God will move their hearts toward us and give them eyes to see that our case doesn’t belong in Nairobi.

We had a good day, just hanging out at the hotel after a few days in a row of a lot of activity and tasks, getting our case ready to send to Nairobi. It as a nice change of pace. We will probably do more of the same tomorrow. Continue to pray for our little ones, especially Eliza and Jude. The care packages we received were a huge boost to their morales (THANK YOU!!!), and yet they continue to ask to go home. And we desperately want to take them there. Please pray. We can feel our longing to go home is turning into discontentment with being here. Longing and discontentment- it’s really a fine line, isn’t it? We can tell when we cross from longing into discontentment because we begin to sin against each other and against our kids. Things that should be overlooked or corrected gently are responded to with frustration and annoyance. We know our weariness and longing creates a weakness in us, and so we just need prayer that when we are weak, we will be strong, because God’s grace is sufficient. (2 Cor 12)

Here is another installment from my “What I’m Thankful For” list. This installment is more abstract, less about people, places and things and more about the gospel and Truth.

The cross: so many aspects of the cross have comforted us all along on our adoption journey in general and during our time in Uganda specifically. I am just going to list a few of the ways meditating on the cross of Christ have provided strength and comfort to us:
-the cross reminds us what our biggest problem truly is. With all the cares of this fallen, broken world in general, and the cares of this adoption journey specifically, it’s easy to get distracted and bogged down with all the problems we face. The cross reminds us that our children’s visas getting denied is not our biggest problem. Being stuck in Africa and unable to bring our children home is not our biggest problem. Even missing my brother’s wedding, while heartbreaking, is NOT our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is that we are sinners, that we are unable to save ourselves and that our sins condemn us to death. Indeed, our “heart[s] are deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17); “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6). There. Sin = Death. That’s our biggest problem. BY FAR. The reason the cross provides comfort for this is because as soon as it reminds us what our biggest problem is, it also reminds us that our biggest problem has been solved. Jesus, the perfect, righteous, holy Son of God, took our sin upon Himself and paid the penalty for it. He died because of our sin. He died so we don’t have to. We have placed our faith in Jesus to save us from our sins, recognizing He is our only hope for salvation, and He has done it. He has saved us. Our biggest problem has been solved. And not because of anything we did to deserve it, not because of any good works we have done, only because God is merciful and gracious and loving. If God solved our biggest problem before we even asked Him to or wanted Him to, how can we doubt He will do the same for all of our smaller problems?
-the cross reminds us how far God will go to be good to us. God sent His Son, whom He loved, in whom He was “well-pleased,” (Matt 3) to die a horrible death. For us. Sinful, wretched sinners who were his enemies (Rom 5). “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things?” Truly, nothing, not life or death or angels or demons [or having our children’s visas denied] can separate us from His love (Rom 8). The cross is our assurance of that.
-the cross reminds us that God is truly able to use all things, even evil/sinful/wicked things, even horrible suffering, for our good and His glory. He proved that at the cross. The cross was the most horrific evil and injustice, the worst suffering ever, and yet God used it to bring salvation to the world. If God can redeem the suffering and evil that happened at the cross for our good and His glory, He can certainly redeem the suffering we are going through now. No doubt.

The empty tomb: the sacrifice and love that happened at the cross is truly amazing, but without the empty tomb, it wouldn’t bring us any hope or comfort. Indeed, if Jesus is not raised, we are to be pitied more than any other (1 Cor 15).
-the empty tomb reminds us that suffering and death is not the end of the story. After pain comes healing. After darkness comes light. After grief comes laughter. After suffering comes joy. After death comes LIFE. Redemption. Restoration. This the the way of the gospel. Blind eyes see. Deaf ears hear. Lame legs walk. People dead in their sins come to life in Jesus. The empty tomb reminds us that the hardship we are dealing with now is not the end of the story. That “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom 8)
-the empty tomb reminds us how powerful our God is. Satan, sin, death: none of these are a match for our God. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8). No one. Nothing. Period.

These are just a couple of truths that have truly sustained us here, and they are powerful to bring hope in the midst of pain. We are so thankful.

Remembering Uganda: PRAY!

August 21, 2013

We are telling our adoption story by posting a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Sent August 21, 2012

We had quite the day. “M” really wanted us to get everything we needed to collect so that we could send an email with all the attachments “making our case” for inappropriate/unnecessary referral to Nairobi by the end of business today. The last big thing we needed were certified English translations of a couple of key documents. We already had English translations of everything, but they were not certified, which is not good enough for Nairobi. Our Kampala attorney was not confident he could secure those for us today, so we called a friend in-country who knew someone who knew of a place for us to go (did you get that?): Makerere University’s Institute of Linguistics. We called our awesome driver, and he came immediately, and we all piled into the car and headed over there. Tim went in with our documents and explained our situation. The woman he spoke to explained that it usually takes a day or two to do translations (which is the same thing we were told by our Kampala attorney and that’s time we didn’t have), but she would check to see if there was anyone there who could help. In the awesome way that He does, when the lady went to check on availability, God provided a translator in the office at that very moment who did not have anything else to do and could translate our documents immediately. So we walked the university campus, played, looked around, had (a fantastic and cheap) lunch at a on-campus cafe, and after about an hour and a half, our documents were translated, signed and certified. AMAZING! We raced home in order to get the documents and translations assembled and scanned and to do the final edits on our email. We sent everything to our attorney, and she gave us a couple slight changes to make and then told us to send it. We sent the final draft of the email with all the attachments at 4:45pm our time, just before business closed. We have no idea if someone saw it today, but it was important that it was sent because the plan is for “M” to send a follow up email to the USCIS Nairobi director tomorrow. This is someone she has worked with before, and she is basically going to reference the email we sent today and “vouch” for our case, saying that she agrees it was sent inappropriately. And we will just see what happens from there.

We are thankful for:
-Our driver “B.” Did I mention that his wife had a baby yesterday? Yeah, crazy. When Tim called him to come get us, “B” didn’t say a word about it. He just showed up to get us and casually mentioned that his son had been born the previous day. WHAT?!?!? He told us his mother-in-law is taking care of his wife and his baby and he came to drive us. So. Nuts.
-That God provided a way for us to get what we needed immediately in a place where nothing happens immediately. Nothing. It was truly miraculous how quickly and easily we got the translations we needed.
-That “M” thought of this new idea for getting our case expedited and that she has a good working relationship with the director that allows her vouch for us
-That we got an email today from USCIS Nairobi confirming receipt of our case. This allowed us to simply reply to the email confirming receipt, which makes it easier to identify which case our email refers to

Please pray:
-For the person who reads our email tomorrow (or who read it today before they left the office). That God will give us favor with this person and move his/her heart toward us
-For the director who will be receiving an email from “M” tomorrow. That God will use the favor “M” has with this woman to move her heart toward us.
-For our hearts. We are hopeful that God will use this approach to expedite our case and get us home faster than anyone thought was possible. While we want to be hopeful, we don’t want to put our hope in this. Our hope should always be in the Lord. Pray that we will guard our hearts to place our ultimate hope only in God.

We’ve been here before, praying for the Lord to turn the hearts of particular people toward us, since “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov 21) I quoted that verse when I asked y’all to pray for the embassy official who denied our visas. Being in the same spot again just two short weeks later is making me recall all the emotions and thoughts from those few days when we were pleading with the embassy official to grant our visas and not send our case to Nairobi. I’m just going to try to articulate what was swirling around in my heart and head back then, just because I don’t want to forget. It was so hard, such a struggle, but I still want to remember that part of our story.

When Tim went to plead with the embassy official for the third and final time on Wednesday, August 8th, I stayed behind with the kids and was just a wreck. I mean, a big, fat mess. I was fighting fear and anxiety, and I was losing, big time.
I was so anxious and fearful that I could barely pray. It was like I had forgotten how to pray. Out of nowhere, my prayer became, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I knew that was from the Bible, though I couldn’t remember where at the time, but all of a sudden I knew that my fear and anxiety were rooted in unbelief: a failure to believe that what God has revealed about Himself is true- God is good, God is in control, God is able to work all things for my good and His glory, etc. So I just kept praying that prayer over and over.
As I was praying that, another Scripture came to mind. In the book of Luke, Jesus is talking to Peter before Peter’s denial and He tells Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned, strengthen your brothers.” So I added, “Jesus, I pray that my faith may not fail” to my desperate prayer.
As I was praying that, the Holy Spirit brought another Scripture to mind: Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane right before he was unjustly arrested, tried and crucified. “Lord, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.” When that verse came to mind, it struck me in a way that it never has before that Jesus asked something of His Father that His Father chose not to give Him; that is, Jesus asked to not go to the cross, and His Father said no and sent Him there. Of all people that God should have said yes to, it should have been Jesus, His perfect Son, right? Here’s the thing: God knew He would get greater glory by having Jesus go to the cross, because Jesus going to the cross would be the way He would provide salvation for the whole world. So, in His perfect wisdom and love, God denied His Son’s request.
I suddenly realized that the embassy official would say no. That our visas would be denied. That our case would go to Nairobi. That God would say no to our request to change the official’s heart. And you know what? As soon as that thought occurred to me, another one did too, this time from the book of Matthew: “I am the Lord’s servant, let it be to me as you have said.” You know who said that? Mary, the mother of Jesus. A teenage girl who had just learned she was going to become pregnant without a husband. She knew that was impossible and yet she believed. She knew the disgrace she would suffer and yet she embraced it.
I realized that it would all be OK. Our case would go to Nairobi, and God would be glorified. And so “let it be to me as you have said” became my prayer.

If you got through all that mish-mash of random thoughts, heart cries, prayers… well done. I needed to get all that out. Recalling all that does my heart good. Our case is now in Nairboi, exactly where God intended for it to be all along. God can do whatever He wants to do with it there. Just because He chose not to move in the heart of the official to keep it from going to Nairobi, does not mean that He can’t move hearts now. He can, and we pray that He will. And regardless of what He decides to do, He will be glorified. Let it be so.