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Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another tough day ...

Somehow, I was just a little bit prepared for the possible disappointment today. And yet it is still remarkably painful and disheartening. Around 9:30 am, Duni called to let me know that the judge did not review our case today and so we must wait until November 7. Evidently, when a judge agrees to an appeal, they are agreeing to add additional paperwork to their already heavy workload that day. When the judge saw that our regularly scheduled court date was only 8 days away, she waived off our case until next week rather than take on the extra paperwork today. That 8 day delay now means that our travel dates will get bumped back an additional week because of the Thanksgiving holiday. So instead of travelling Nov 15, we can't travel until Nov 28, which happens to be the day after Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year. Sigh ....

Our dear friends, the Hutchinsons, are also in the same situation. We were all looking forward to having our children home for Thanksgiving.

Once I was home from work and able to check the chat group, I discovered a wave of disappointments today. Several families with court dates today, did not pass court because letters of recommendation from MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs) did not arrive on time. So their court dates were re-scheduled in December (about a one month delay) and a few other families in line right after them, were also bumped back. A kind of ripple effect I guess.

I am reminded of the many times we were told before we even started this journey that international adoption can be an extremely difficult journey with lots of bumps and jolts along the way. We certainly have been experiencing that lately.

At this point, we will travel to bring our sons home 6 MONTHS after referral. That is an exceptionally long time (I think it is the longest wait yet within our agency for ET adoption - and it's a record I never wanted to achieve). But again, the situation is out of our hands and I am absolutely confident that our adoption agency has been stellar in working on our behalf to try to expedite things. It just hasn't worked out that way.

And yet, when we are finally able to close this chapter and bring our sons home, in hindsight, I still would have chosen this journey regardless of the difficulties. The outcome is just to precious and valuable - two little boys will be woven into our family forever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Court Date!

We received some wonderful news today from Duni and our focus and prayers have turned to Thursday with great anticipation and hope! Here is an excerpt from that email ...

Hello families,
The founder of Kids Care orphanage went to court today to appeal your case. The premise was that it is hard enough to find homes for older children and the court should cooperate with families who adopt them. A new court date has been set for this Thursday at 10:00 Am. I will let you know how that goes. May the Lord grant you and the children favor on Thursday. It has certainly been a long and hard journey. I thank God for your perseverance.

So dear friends and family and blog readers - please pray specifically for favor in the courts on Thursday morning in Ethiopia. Remember, they are 8 hours ahead of us so our court date will take place while we are sleeping at around 2 am Wednesday morning. We should hear news of the court day by mid-day on Thursday. And if we pass - we will be leaving for Ethiopia around November 15.

Also - One of the families in Ethiopia right now blogged specifically about several of the kids they met at the Transition Home. Here is an excerpt from Amy's blog ... Karen Wistrom & Family: I already could tell that your oldest boy was very sweet and kind, but Rachel then confirmed it and said he was the sweetest boy there. He came and hugged me and looked at pictures of himself on my camera before I even knew he was your son. When I found out, I couldn’t stop touching his face, smiling and hugging him, and telling him how much his family loves him. Your little guy is so cute too and it seems like they both love each other a lot. The little guy is quite busy though and always running around. I spoke to Fortuna and today (Tuesday) I will give them their packages and read the letter to them.

We are so anxious to have our sons home with us. The entire adoption journey has been extremely rewarding but these last few failed attempts at court (before the court closure and after) have been especially difficult. We are looking forward to Thursday - and hoping to be able to begin the final chapter of this journey!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Loving on our sons!!!!

Five families are in Ethiopia RIGHT NOW and they are blogging about their experiences today! Today was the first day they met their children and it was an emotional day!

One of our dear friends, Amy Lusse, emailed a picture of our sons with this note "Your boys are amazing!!! So loving and smart!!" Now if that doesn't warm a mom's heart I don't know what will!! And its a beautiful picture of our sons, wearing the shirts we just sent them, smiling full into the camera, with their arms wrapped around each other. I can't wait to share the photo but it will have to wait until both of our sons pass court. Thank you AMY!!!

Reminder - Please pray for success and favor from the judge as our agency tries to petition the courts to review our case earlier than our Nov 7 court date. They will try to appeal on Tuesday or Thursday this week. If we pass court, we will leave for Ethiopia around November 15!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Golden Ticket ...

In adoption speak, the "Golden Ticket" is known as Form I-171H. It is the approval from USCIS (U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to adopt an orphan or orphans. A dossier cannot be submitted without this form and families often wait weeks and months for this form to arrive.

Our first approval arrived in November of 2007, and we were finally able to send our completed dossier to Ethiopia, and officially begin waiting for a child or children to be referred to our family. In June, when we found out about our 6 year old son who was soon to be 7 - we had to ammend our age range to include a child up to the age of 8. Once again, we waited months for the new I-171H Form to arrive.

Most recently, with our recent delays, we needed to update our fingerprints, which were to expire on November 7. So once again, we found ourselves waiting for the Golden Ticket to arrive. We were re-fingerprinted in September, and today .... we have the Golden Ticket in hand!!! Our updated fingerprints will expire in December of 2009 - and I certainly hope to have our children home by then! It's good to have this form in hand and know that everything is once again in place to finalize the adoption of our sons.

Also - 5 families are enroute to Ethiopia right now. It is a strange feeling watching dear friends leave ... and being left behind. And at the same time, I am following their journeys with great anticipation and looking forward to their celebrations. We are also looking forward to the possible court appeal next week so that we can gather D. into our family along with T! (Please pray for favor in the courts next week for 4 specific children who have been kept waiting way too long - VanWetten, Hutchinson & Wistrom!!!!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane ...

Five AWAA families are leaving on Thursday or Friday for Ethiopia to bring their children home. This is the travel group we would have travelled with if we would have passed court on Oct 8.

There is a possibility for a court appeal next week - most likely Tuesday or Thursday. The VanWetten family (their baby passed court but their older daughter did not) will be travelling to Ethiopia to bring their baby home and will try to appeal the courts to pass their older daughter while they are in-country. The VanWetten's, along with the founder of Kid's Care Orphanage will be petitioning the courts to review the cases early so that our children are not made to wait any longer. All of the paperwork is complete - and we are only being delayed now because the courts have been too overloaded after the closure to review cases sooner. If the appeal is successful - we could travel as soon as November 15. Otherwise, our travel dates will likely fall right after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Amy Lusse, one of the families travelling this week, will be delivering a care package from us for our sons - and she will be reading a letter to D. (our 7 year old) so that he understands what has happened and that we WILL be coming soon. I'm so thankful to Amy for delivering this message from us! We will be blog-stalking regularly next week and praying for good news!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

AWAA families are celebrating!

Five AWAA families passed court today and the celebrations are in full swing! The following families will be travelling on November 1 to Ehiopia to bring their children home: Laughner, Britton, Hammond, Nunez, Terwilleger. Click on their name to link to their blog, and follow their incredible journeys to Ethiopia.

On Oct 25 (one week from now) the following families will be leaving for Ethiopia: Redfern, Wempe, Schmidt, Lusse, VanWetten. This is the travel group we would have been with if we would have passed court. VanWettens, who are in the same situation as us (with one child passing court, and the other not passing due to the paperwork change) will be travelling to bring their baby home (and return at a later date to bring their older daughter home). While they are there, they will try to appeal the courts with the orphanage director, to make an earlier favorable decision on their older child, as well as ours and Hutchinsons. We are praying for their success. This has been such a difficult journey lately. Being so happy for the families who passed court today, and saddened that we are still waiting. The wait is so hard - and has been so long.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happenings ...

Many families began receiving their tentative travel dates today. It is amazing to see the large number of families that will be arriving, wave after wave, to bring their children home. Of course each family will have to pass court, but now that the paperwork change is known, the files are being reviewed so that they can pass court the first time. Travel groups will be departing on the following dates; Oct 25, Nov 1, Nov 22 and Nov 29. There will be travel groups in December as well. Right now, if our appeal for an earlier court date is not successful, we will be travelling the week of Thanksgiving.

The day after we found out that we did not pass court, I had a conversation with Duni and found out that our youngest son actually DID pass court - but our older son did not pass court because of the paperwork change. So our 2 year old, Tariku, is officially our son and his adoption decree has been finalized. And although this is wonderful news, it is bittersweet because I don't feel like I can fully celebrate (or post pictures yet), until BOTH of our boys pass through court, and legally and officially become ... our sons!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Teetering on the brink ...

Please pray for the Forrest family. They waited so patiently for a sibling referral under the ages of 2 - a rare occurrence. Their prayers were answered when the call came with a referral of a little boy around 2 and his 4 month old sister. They recently found out that their tiny daughter had been hospitalized with pneumonia. Initially the prognosis was dicey - and she did not seem to be responding to treatment. After much prayer, she rallied and seemed to be making a recovery. Today - the Forrests found out that their precious daughter who they had grown to love so much, and yet had never met, passed away. Our entire adoption family is deeply saddened by this news. We are grieving with them - and it is another frightening reminder that all of our children are teetering on the brink of life and death (sickness and heath) until we can bring them home. See their blog in my blog roll list at right.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coming together to make a difference!

Our adoption agency and the 30+ families with referrals had a 2-hour conference call on Thursday. This is a monthly conference call that takes place in order to answer questions and share information. In this particular call, we were informed of the dire need right now for infant formula. Food prices have dramatically increased and at the moment, formula is not even available. In a matter of days, the orphanages our agency works with will have to begin using regular milk to feed desperately malnourished, sick and under-weight babies. Instead of bringing clothing, shoes and other supplies, they have requested that we only bring formula - because that is the immediate and desperate need.

Ethiopia and much of Africa experienced a drought during the rainy season - which is affecting food prices and food availability now. The children arriving in orphanages are exceptionally malnourished and sick. Food supplies can be shipped into the country, but unfortunately it can take months to arrive after getting through customs, and the taxes and fees to get it into the country are enormous. So the easiest way to alleviate the immediate need is with the families travelling in the coming weeks and months. We have been asked to load up our suitcases with formula first - and then whatever else will fit!

With this information in mind, many adoptive families across the country are appealing to friends, family and church families to ask for help. Alone, we can only do so much - but together we can make a larger impact!

This morning, I shared our adoption story with our church family, and explained the immediate and ongoing needs in Ethiopia and what our adoption agency is doing. Speaking in front of a large group can be daunting. Speaking about something this personal/emotional to us - and then asking for financial support for our agency and for supplies for the orphanages, was exceptionally difficult. I prayed for the right words to touch hearts and encourage action. I hope I was able to appropriately convey the needs. Not for us - our adoption expenses are paid in full except for our travel, but for the children in orphanages and the transition home right now.

Another adoptive family, the VanWettens, held a large fundraiser last night and we just found out that $40,000 was raised. AMAZING!!!!! Ray VanWetten works in the grocery industry, and when several vendors found out about their upcoming adoption, they offered to donate non-perishable food supplies, diapers, etc. Suddenly, the accumulated response was enough to fill a container! Overwhelmed by the response, the VanWettens were now faced with how to ship a container-load of supplies to Ethiopia - about an $8000 expense. Duni, the Africa Program Director for AWAA, flew to OR to speak at the event and several AWAA families attended as well. Initially, there were concerns about a small response and many last minute cancellations from sponsors and attendees ... and then we received word moments ago about the outcome. $40,000 raised to ship the container and to help with immediate needs at the orphanages and the Transition Home! Again - AMAZING!!!!

The response from our church family has been rewarding and encouraging. I thank you - and I am humbled by your generosity and willingness to help - either financially and/or with prayer. I am hopeful that we will continue to see financial support in the next few weeks as we prepare for travel. Every dollar will be used to purchase desperately needed supplies for the Transition Home and orphanages. We will keep everyone informed of our upcoming travel dates and the impact your generosity will make for hundreds of orphaned children in Ethiopia.

As for our recent delays and upcoming court date - it is in God's hands and it will happen in His perfect timing. As hard as that is to comprehend and understand, I am at peace knowing that it is in His hands. And that is a perfect place for it to be - I can trust in that!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Numb ...

Dear family and friends - your love, prayers, and support right now is so appreciated. Already my email box and chat group is overflowing with prayers and encouragement for the sad news we received today.

There were 3 families that did not pass court today - all of the families with older, sibling children (3 families, 6 kids). Evidently, during the court closure, the courts and MOWA changed a paperwork requirement and orphanages and agencies did not get informed. Our agency found out only as they were presenting our cases to the judge. Previously there was different paperwork for children that were abandoned and children that were relinquished to the orphanage by a parent. (The older children were relinquished because the parent could not provide for them or the parent was dying.) With the new rules, relinquished children need the same paperwork as the children that were abandoned. It will take a day or two to get the new paperwork from the orphanage, but now the courts are overflowing/backlogged due to the closure and the earliest court date we can get is Nov 8. Duni will continue to work to appeal for an earlier court date, but she did not sound optimistic. In fact, she sounded very sad.

So today is a bittersweet day - we are so happy for all of the other families that had a successful court date today!!! And we are so saddened (and quite numb) at this turn of events. These older kids have been through so much already, and now to have this delay added to all the other delays. One of our sons has been at the Transition Home since March. That's a long wait for a little boy.

Now we will continue to pray for a breakthrough on a court date, rejoice with the other families as they are united with their children, and look forward to the day we meet our children for the first time. That day will be long over due and so very precious!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In a few hours ...

The photo is supposed to represent tranquility and peace - which I am trying hard to hold on to right now as I glance at the clock - knowing that the courts in Ethiopia will be in session in a few hours (Ethiopia is 8 hours later, at midnight here, it is 8 am there). With a favorable ruling from the judge, two little boys in Ethiopia will become our sons. It is just that simple - and yet so very complicated. There are a lot of details to pull together and 7 AWAA families wait with baited breath and prayer tonight. A long wait for these families may be just about over - and then only the journey to Ethiopia awaits and meeting our children for the first time!

As I was reviewing the flight itinerary from our travel agent, I realized that although we would be departing Ethiopia on Oct 31 (Halloween), we would be arriving in Mpls on Saturday, Nov 1. I'm happy to have Halloween behind us - can you imagine arriving home just in time for the doorbell to start ringing, as costumed kids fill the doorway, and we hand out candy to the little ghouls, goblins, spidermans and princesses? Imagine trying to explain this to our 2 Ethiopian kiddos who don't speak English. What would their first impressions and memories be of their new home?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Time feels like a freight train!

Time is rushing by like a freight train! When we were initially delayed for 2 months by the court closure, it felt like the next few months would just crawl by. Instead, there have been so many details to take care of and the next thing I know, our court date is barely 2 days away (Wednesday) and we will finally be able to book our travel right after that (travel dates of Oct 24 - Nov 1).

In the meantime, the boys' room is now ready (and its cozy and cute!), school conferences start tomorrow (I almost forgot) and we are still packing and trying to pin down our flight itinerary. Not to mention all the other details like notifying teachers, arranging for doggie daycare, prepping things at work to function while I am gone, and then I hear from Duni today that the Ethiopia consulate has not received our updated USCIS approval which changed our age range to 0-8 years old. So among all the other details, we are once again attempting to converse with USCIS!

We received news today that Duni, the gal that makes everything happen at our agency, will be leaving the U.S. next month to permanently reside in Ethiopia and handle all the details in country. Wow - the families here will miss her terribly but she will be able to accomplish so much more in Ethiopia!

We had a wonderful fall weekend with my family (parents, brother, sister and all the nieces and nephews) and enjoyed some great conversation, backyard football and the apple orchard!

With a successful court date on Wednesday, I will be able to post pictures for the first time ever on our blog of our 2 sweet little boys!