Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meeting Roland

Today we got to meet our son for the first time...via Skype.  The experience was just about as awkward as I had imagined it would be. It was difficult to keep the attention of a very energetic two year old when it  was very clear he would rather be off playing instead of watching a couple of faces on a screen. However, after a while the whole thing seemed to click for him and he realized the faces on the screen were actually interacting with him. Roland would blow us a kiss and then we would blow him kisses and he would blow us another kiss. This went on for several minutes and it was very sweet because it was one of the few times we felt he was actually acknowledging us. Later on his caretaker was telling him that we are his mama and papa and Roland even said "mama" and "papa" a couple times. I don't think he knew what he was talking about, but it was heartwarming nonetheless.

For two years we have only seen Roland through still pictures so it was wonderful to experience him as a real- life child, full of energy and personality. He looks very healthy and happy. Several times while we were Skyping, Roland would run off. It was a relief to see that he doesn't have any trouble getting around. His caretaker told us how active he is and jokingly told us we need to be strong to care for him (he said that as he was picking Roland up before he ran off again). Well, that is exactly what we want: a lively toddler to keep us busy. Even though the whole thing was a little awkward, the minute our session ended I started to miss that precious little boy who so enjoyed blowing us kisses.

Last week we mailed out Roland's Christmas presents. It is so sad that he won't be with us for the holidays again this year, but I am glad he is living with a loving, capable foster family who wants to give all 12 of their "stuck" kids as nice of a family Christmas as possible.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Roland Everett!

Today our son turns two years old. (Just for perspective, he was just 5 months old when we became his legal parents). Another birthday missed and the start of another holiday season with an incomplete family. A couple of nights ago I had a dream about Roland. It was a pleasant one, not like the usual dreams where there are endless things keeping us apart. We were playing and snuggling on the bed and Roland was smiling and we were gazing into each other's eyes and everything was right. Just as all good dreams end too soon, this one was sucked away from me by waking and I was forced to face the world and all it's bitter realities feeling hollow. It is so painful to yearn to hold your child and not be able to. I am still praying for the day that the depressingly quiet, empty void in our home and hearts will be filled with a full- of- life toddler named Roland and that he will finally be able to experience all the love his mom and dad have for him. Happy Birthday, sweet little Roland. Your parents love you and miss you every day.

Monday, September 1, 2014


It is finally September. A year ago, the estimated year- long adoption delay was unthinkable, but here we are, hopefully in the final stretch. Throughout all of these months, a part of me has been holding my breath, waiting for Congo adoptions to officially close. But, that never happened and that is definitely something to be grateful for. There is still HOPE. I am praying that we hear some real *positive* news this month. Hopefully the Congo Parliament will get busy with the new laws when they get back into session in a couple of weeks. I am hoping and praying from the bottom of my heart that Roland and all the other adopted sons and daughters will finally be able to join their families by the end of the  year. Already, a year of their lives has been stolen from us- a year they could have been nurtured and supported and loved and cared for by their families. That is hard to reconcile. I know that Roland coming home will not be a magical cure- all pill. All three of us will have pain, disappointment and grief that we will need to process. It will take time, but the first step is for all of us to be together. So, for right now I choose to put my mental energies into believing we are coming to the end of this heart- wrenching journey. Forgiveness for the injustices bestowed on my son will come later, after he is safe at home with us.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

We're Still Here

I have been pretty quiet on my blog lately, but we are still here, praying through every day that we will be allowed to bring our son home. We have been in this adoption process now for 2 years and 4 months. Roland received his immigrant visa (the final step before applying for an exit permit) 9 months ago (2 months after the suspension began). Roland turns 21 months old today (he was 3 months old when we were first matched with him).

For the last 18 months, Roland has been cared for at our adoption agency- run transition house. However, that is sadly coming to an end. By the beginning of October, our agency will close our transition house because it is just too expensive for them to keep running. The 42 children who have been living in the house will all be moved into foster care. This may save us a little bit of money on the monthly childcare fees, but I am not happy about this situation at all. Honestly, I just do not trust "foster families" in Congo to care for my son. Our agency says they will screen them, but I do not know if anybody holds them accountable after that. Just the culture difference makes it unlikely they would raise our children according to our standards and customs. Not to mention that the families could possibly be dishonest, abusive, neglectful, etc. (just like people are in every part of the world). I feel quite uncomfortable with this situation being forced upon us, but there really isn't any other option beside me moving to Congo to care for Roland myself. I do toy with the idea, some days more seriously than others, but finances will always be the limiting factor. We just keep praying he will be able to come home as soon as possible.

Over the past few months all of the adoptive families with children stuck in Congo have banded together to get our story to the ears of the public and those in power. In April, 171 members of Congress sent a letter to Congo's President Kabila asking for the adoption crisis to be resolved. In May, John Kerry brought up the exit permit suspension during his visit with President Kabila. In June, a few of the children were allowed to come home, but shortly after the door seemed to be slammed shut tighter. At the end of June, 56 families gathered together in Washington, D.C. to meet with nearly 100 members of Congress and to raise more public awareness of the Congo adoption crisis. In July, Jill Biden traveled to the DRC and requested that the ban on exit permits be lifted. A few days later, the House of Representatives passed a Resolution calling on the DRC to end the suspension of exit permits. Following that, 167 members of Congress wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to personally engage with President Kabila to end the suspension.

President Kabila is expected to attend the African Summit in Washington, D.C. in a few days. If you have not already done so, we ask that you sign and share the petition that asks President Obama to bring up the adoption crisis while President Kabila is here. Our cause has gained a lot of momentum the past couple months and we need to keep it going until every last one of these adopted children are safely home.

Here is a video describing the adoption crisis in Congo. It was taken when the adoptive families gathered together in Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 13, 2014

From Bad to Worse

In my last post I wrote about how we have to wait for Congo to write new adoption laws before we could bring our son home. It was our assumption that was something they were currently working on. However, our newest tidbit of news is that the Congo Parliament will be out of session all summer. They will not even begin writing the new laws until the fall. It is unclear who needs to adhere to these new laws and who gets "grandfathered in", but for some reason we all have to wait for them to get written. Who knows how long it will take them to write and pass the new adoption law and then process the hundreds of adoption cases.

At the end of this month dozens of adoptive families who have children STUCK in Congo will be making a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with their senators and representatives. It is not possible for us to make the trip, but our prayers will be with them. We don't know what all they may be able to accomplish, but hopefully at least more awareness and support will be raised for our children.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some movement, but not for us

It has been quite the roller coaster of a day. Tidbits of positive news have been trickling in since yesterday, but the U.S. Embassy did not send out their official adoption notice until this evening. The good news is that 62 Congolese orphans get to come home. This is the first time adopted children are being allowed to leave Congo since last fall. The bad news is that the rest of the children are not coming home now. There are hundreds of adopted children in Congo who have parents in the United States waiting for them, but only 15 of those are being allowed out of Congo. [The rest of the 62 children are going home to other countries.]

The remaining hundreds of children and their families now have to wait for Congo to re-write their adoption laws. Nobody knows how long this will take or what will be in them, but we are all required to adhere to whatever they may say (even those of us with finalized adoptions!). No timeframe was presented at all. This is getting really ridiculous. This morning we thought things were starting to move again because a few families were receiving exit permits, but now we realize that is not the case. Congo just wanted to get rid of a few of the oldest adoption cases before continuing to hold the rest of our children hostage while starting the process of writing new laws. I guess we just continue on with no timeframes and no promises while we wait for this never- ending adoption to finally come to an end.

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Update with No Real Updates

Sadly, there is not much adoption news to report. Officials from the U.S. and Congo are meeting to discuss the future of Congo adoptions. It is a good sign that there is still an ongoing dialogue. However, DGM still claims the exit permit suspension will last at least until September. That means we are halfway through the year- long suspension. What are the chances that the suspension will actually be lifted in September? I really don't know. DGM isn't even specifically holding themselves to that so we don't have any promises to cling to ourselves. Also, when/ if they do lift the suspension, they still do not have any plan how to efficiently process all the adoption cases that have been accumulating all these many months. I really don't know how all this is going to play out.

Based on the information we have, Roland seems to be faring well enough. Most months we receive pictures and an unreadable medical report. We can make out his weight and he is only a couple pounds smaller than a child should be at his age so we don't think that is too bad. In the pictures he looks pretty healthy. He has full cheeks, his arms and legs aren't skinny, he has a cute little round belly and a full head of healthy hair, at least in the front.  Unfortunately we don't have any information on things like talking, walking or eating (they may be briefly addressed in the medical reports, but we can't decipher them). In the last pictures we received, when he was 15 months old, he was unsteadily standing with assistance. So, he is a little delayed, but that is to be expected. He hasn't had the luxury of parents doting on him every day of his life. We do get notified when a doctor prescribes medicine for something, like diarrhea or a rash. As far as we know, he has not come down with malaria or anything else serious. That is something to be grateful for, especially since adopted children are not allowed to leave Congo, even for medical emergencies.

In a couple weeks we will reach the two- year mark since we first applied to our adoption agency. Hopefully Roland will be home with us well before the three- year mark approaches.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Year Ago...

A year ago, on Matt's 29th birthday, we accepted a referral for a tiny 3- month old baby boy. Over the past year we have watched Roland grow up in pictures. We have seen him sleepy or sad, alert and curious, and happy and smiling, in pictures. The first several months we only received pictures of him laying in his crib. Then, for a few months we saw him sitting upright, either on the floor or in a chair. In the last pictures we received of him, he was standing, with a supporting hand from one of the nannies. In one picture we have even glimpsed new baby teeth emerging.

The three of us have missed out on so much together. We have missed an entire year of gazing into each other's eyes, and reading, snuggling, playing, singing, teaching, comforting, laughing, and building lifelong bonds of love and trust. Young children yearn to be adored by their parents, but I doubt if Roland realizes that such a thing as parents even exists. From what I hear, the nannies at the transition house are capable and kind, but they have 80 children in their care so I know they do not spend all day doting on our little Roland.

Last Fall I was really hoping we would be celebrating Matt's 30th birthday in Congo, meeting our son for the first time. However, it looks like we will have to settle for dinner and a movie again this year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Be Careful What You Pray For

I just finished reading Kisses from Katie and I am so glad I finally got around to it. I'm sure many of my blog readers have already read this book. If you haven't, it is about an 18- year- old girl from Tennessee who quits her normal American teenage life and moves to Uganda. Over the next few years she teaches at a school, serves the poorest of the poor of the area, starts a ministry that educates and feeds the community's children, and legally adopts 13 orphans. Reading this book stirred up a lot of thoughts and emotions in me. Of course her story is truly inspiring, but as I became immersed in the pages, I also felt guilt, jealousy, and even a little anger with God.

I have been pretty depressed lately. What was making me even more sad than the anguish of being separated from my son was the feeling that God wasn't working in my life. There are many areas that I know I am not called to serve, as I am not a college graduate, I am not musically inclined, I am not a leader or public speaker and I don't have any obvious special skills. So, for a long time I have felt that the best use of my life is to be a mother, specifically to children who do not have a family. It just seems like the perfect fit, but for some unknown reason it has not worked out yet. I've begged and pleaded with God to bring Roland and other future children to me so that I can be their mom and so I could start serving Him. Even though I believe adopting Roland aligns with God's will, I also believe he asks us to serve Him in the here and now, not in some undetermined time in the future. In my desperation I have talked to Matt about pretty impossible options: moving to Congo to care for Roland until he is allowed to leave the country, or starting another adoption while we wait for this one to finish. I have been very conflicted about not yet being able to do what I feel I was made to do for God. I just did not understand why God was not helping the adoption situation, since I thought it was His plan for my life. Why was He not using my life for amazing things, like He was for Katie and other people?

I have been wrestling with these thoughts for a while, but reading Kisses from Katie really emphasized them. One Saturday night I felt especially moved after reading the book and I prayed with more openness and surrender than I think I ever have before. I did not ask for Roland to come home soon, like my usual prayers. Instead, I asked God to take my life and use it. I told Him I was available and willing to serve him now. I asked Him to work through my life in a way that would glorify Him. I told God that this was the only thing that really mattered to me anymore and I would do whatever he asked of me.

The next morning I felt led to read the Book of  Jonah while I ate breakfast. I sleepily thought to myself, "That is a really weird story," but the main theme was not lost on me- When God clearly asks you to do something, you should do it! When I arrived at church I was fairly amazed that our guest speakers were the local directors of Royal Family Kids Camp. I had never heard of this organization before, but I felt instantly connected to it. I had tears in my eyes the entire time as they talked about how the goal of the camp is to provide a week of safe, carefree fun to children in foster care, and teach them about God's enduring love. I knew this must be an actual answer to my prayer so right after the service I wiped away my tears and told one of the directors I would like to volunteer and he handed me an application.

When I got home I was excited to share the news of this opportunity with Matt, who had just woken up (he works nights). I just briefly told him about the camp and how I was thinking of being a counselor ("big camper") and his first response was, "Can I help too?". {Love that guy!}

To tell the truth, by the following day the "high" of God answering my prayer mostly faded away and my humanness crept in. My concerns were based on: self- doubt (I don't know what to say to these hurting, troubled children. What if something comes up and I don't know how to handle it?  What if my campers don't like me and they don't have any fun during camp?), reluctance to leave my comfort zone (The camp schedule looks really busy and I doubt I will get much sleep; I will just be really tired the whole week), and practicalities (We can't afford to pay the camp fees or to board our dogs for a week).

Fortunately, I have a husband with a servant's heart as well as the confidence to follow through with things. It is a lot harder to talk myself out of going to camp when Matt is already committed to going. A few days later, we watched the movie CAMP, which is specifically about Royal Family Kids Camp. It follows the story of pretty much the worst counselor ever during his week at camp. The movie boosted my confidence a little because I figure I will at least be better than that guy. I have a couple other thoughts I keep reminding myself whenever doubt starts creeping in. First, I prayed for an opportunity like this and God provided it to me and I feel like He is leading me to do it. I better follow through with it if I don't want to end up like Jonah! Also, if 18- year- old Katie can leave her life behind and completely move to Uganda to serve God and some of His neediest people, then I should be able to handle working at a summer camp for a week, located 30 minutes from my  house.

For a while I have felt that the puzzle pieces of my life are floating around aimlessly in the air, not fitting together how I had planned. I do not know if this camp will just be something to be involved in while we wait for Roland to come home or if it will be the start to a new path in our lives. Either way, I definitely feel it is a step in the right direction. I am very interested to see how God will use this one week in the grand tapestry of our lives. I pray that God will continue to lead, guide and use us according to His will (and that maybe I will be able to get at least a little sleep at camp).

If you are ever in the mood for some inspiring entertainment, I highly recommend reading Kisses from Katie and watching CAMP (available on Netflix). Be warned, though, they may move you to do something!

The trailer for CAMP

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Congo: Violence, Heartbreak, Beauty & Possibility

Time keeps on passing by, but sadly there is not much to report on our adoption. There was a rumor floating around the adoption community that the exit permit suspension would end in February. We let ourselves get a little hopeful over this for a couple weeks, because really, what else are we going to do. If somebody dangles a piece of hopeful information in front of us, we are going to jump on it. Unfortunately, the embassy met with DGM (the issuer of exit permits) and found out this rumor is false and the suspension continues as usual (which is to say until September, or whenever else they feel like issuing them again).

As we keep going through the daily motions, life in Congo continues as usual also. A few weeks ago a rebel group (made up of "youths") launched an attack on several places in Kinshasa, including the airport we will be flying into. The attack was shut down pretty quickly- 46 of the child soldiers were killed and another 20 were arrested. This event is unsettling on so many levels. It is scary that the rebel violence made an appearance in Kinshasa, the largest city in DRC and located in the usually calmer western part of the country. It is also very sad that the children rebels were killed. I understand the attack needed to be stopped, but these children probably never had any opportunity to do anything different with their lives. If given a real choice, I doubt many of those young people would have chosen to join up with a violent rebel group and go on a useless suicide mission in Kinshasa. It is just such a waste of life.

A couple of days ago there was a lightening strike in the city that our son Roland was born. The lightening struck a munitions building on a military barracks, which created an explosion. More than 20 people died and around 50 people were injured. Exploding shells hit homes as far as 4 miles away. Considering the DRC receives the highest frequency of lightening strikes in the world, they seemed oddly unprepared for the occurrence. It is sad that one bolt of lightening created so much havoc on Roland's city of birth.

While Congo is full of violence and sad stories, it is also a land of unappreciated beauty. Apparently it is even possible to ski in Congo. You just have to take a risky in- country flight, go on a motorcycle ride, drive down a cow path and take an arduous mountain climb first. I really wish that when we travel we could see more than just the congested streets of Kinshasa. I would love to experience the beautiful landscapes and diversity of life that my son's birth country offers. If only it was a little bit safer and more accessible, it would make a great eco- adventure travel destination. For now I will have to be satisfied by the short videos made by some adventuresome travelers. Watch and you will be pleasantly surprised that a video about Congo can focus on more than just poverty and violence.

Click on the link above for a 15 minute video on the "Congo Ski Club".