Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wow, What a Day - May 21 Won't be Forgotten

Wednesday, May 21 will be a day we will never forget, but first, here is what has happened since our last blog post on May 12. 
  • May 12-15: Our lawyer investigated what would the best route to take in amending Katie’s official documents.  The embassy would not accept all of the documents we provided, as the names did not completely match (Katie Miracle, Miracle Katie, Ketty Miracle, Miracle Ketty). :)  This appears to be a common thing in Uganda especially as various American, English, and Uganda personnel were involved when she came to the orphanage, but nevertheless, we had to amend her documents to all match.  Either change her birth certificate and passport or change the court documents.  We decided to go with the first option; however, after two days of negotiating with the immigration office, he was told that it will take more than two weeks.  So rather than go with this option, he applied for the court documents to be changed. 
  • Monday, May 19: Our lawyer appeared before the judge, and she reluctantly agreed to change the court documents per the embassy’s request, mainly because our lawyer agreed to do the work for her, and she would simply sign, stamp, and seal the new documents. :)  We received this news midafternoon, and thankfully we succeeded in scheduling a US embassy appointment for another document drop for Wednesday, May 21.
  • Tuesday, May 20: At around 10:30pm at night, we received the amended court documents, and went to bed, knowing the next morning would be an early one.

And now to Wednesday, May 21: What a day of emotional roller coasters.  At least the day ended well, because it certainly started off awful.  Jeremiah, Katie, and I left GSF at 5:30am to head to the embassy for our document drop.  This would eventually be our first of three appointments at the embassy on this day.  This first appointment was at 9:00am.  We were told that though the court documents matched in name spellings, but they could not be accepted because of the name order (first and middle names).  We were not given much help other than, change your documents to match exactly and come back.  Needless to say, I left in tears, and I called Sarah and Claudia from GSF to give them this awful news.  More tears and frustration ensued, and we were so confused as to the whys…

Claudia called our lawyer to see what could be done but he was in court, so we went to do some grocery shopping, as it appeared at this point we would be in country for at least another week, as the embassy would be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.  (The embassy only allows adoption appointments on Mondays and Wednesdays).  While in the grocery store, Sarah and I were texting back and forth, and she suggested that I go to the lawyer’s office and talk to him directly to see what could be done.  While in the checkout line, Claudia called and said go directly to the lawyer’s office as she just talked with him.  There was a longshot-type document that might be a solution to Katie’s name mess.  We left the store around 10:00am and arrived at his office around 10:20am.

I worked with our lawyer to create, sign, and stamp, a statutory declaration, which appears here to be one step higher than an affidavit, explaining that we had done everything possible per the Ugandan government requirements regarding Katie’s name and documents.  He said this type of document had been used before in a similar situation, and he was hopeful that it would work for our situation.  We left his office around 11:20am praying that this would be true.

It only took us 10 minutes to get to the embassy (I truly believe that was a God-thing because normally it would take much longer in the middle of the day).  They reluctantly let us in, as we technically did not have an appointment, but I told them we had been there earlier and that I had an important document to give to them regarding our paperwork.  We had to wait about fifteen minutes in the lobby, and I was praying again for favor and mercy.

At 11:45am, we were called back into the interview room, and not only was the document accepted to clear up Katie’s name mess, but we were also told to come back at 2:45pm for our visa interview.  Wow, though we were praying that this could happen, we had no indication until this point that it would even be possible.  We left the embassy again, called Sarah and Claudia (who also called our lawyer), shed some happy tears this time around, and then went to find some lunch.  What a turn of events within just three hours!  The only possible hiccup is that the embassy asked for the biological mom to show up for the interview.  Also, just because you receive a visa appointment does not necessarily mean that approval will be granted.

At 1:30pm, Claudia called to let us know that mom was obstinate and would not come (at least this time she was not violent and aggressive).  Remember she suffers from major mental illnesses, hence the reason Jeremiah and Katie first came to GSF, and of course, they have never been placed back with her.  Claudia said that the embassy would either require more investigations with mom not coming or they would accept our documents to be clear enough on describing the mom’s situation.

We arrived at the embassy (round three) at around 2:15pm.  Claudia suggested getting lollipops on the way to keep Jeremiah and Katie busy, and she was so right.  We were called into the interview room at 2:45pm.  The consulate official asked about my employment, our family, what I knew about Jeremiah and Katie’s past, GSF, the court process, our adoption process of 2 ½ years, and then what we knew about the biological mom.  At first the consulate official seemed a bit upset that the mom did not come and said this would need investigated.  All I could think when she said this was that we would be delayed 4-6 more weeks because all cases requiring investigations are sent to Kenya.  She initially could not find the most recent mental evaluation completed for the mom in March, which did not help either.  I had a bit of a panic moment too, as I did not have a copy.  I asked her to search the court ruling documents again as I was sure it was there, and indeed it was.  She reviewed it (thankfully it was clear and confirmed what was in the court documents), asked a couple more questions, and at the end (the interview lasted about 30 minutes and both Jeremiah and Katie were amazing – the lollipops did their job), she said something like: “I see no reason to not support the court’s decision.  The mom both in the past and present has not been able to take care of her children, so in the best interest of the children, no further investigation is necessary, and I am going to rule in your favor.  Your children’s visa applications are approved, and come and pick them up at noon on Friday.”  Woohoo!  I immediately called Sarah and Claudia (who also called our lawyer again), and shared this amazing news with them, and yes, more happy tears were shed. 

Over the next few hours, I talked with Sarah multiple times, and we decided it best for her to return to help bring Jeremiah and Katie home.  We used the same amazing travel agent (go Tabitha at Adoption Airfares!), and by 10:30pm Uganda time last night, we had Sarah’s ticket completed to get here.  Today will be our last day and night at GSF, and we will continue making our rounds of goodbyes.  Sarah will arrive around 1:00pm Uganda time on May 23, about an hour after we are scheduled to pick up Jeremiah and Katie’s visas from the embassy.  We will spend a couple days together around Kampala and then travel back to the US on Monday.  If all goes well with our flights, we will arrive into Philly around 3:30pm.

Thank you so much for reading this long post.  God so clearly moved and made it possible on May 21 for major hurdles to be cleared, and He continued to fulfill the promise of Philippians 1:6.  We appreciate your prayers, and we continue to ask that you would pray that we would leave Uganda well, that we would safely return home to be reunited as a family of seven, and that God would continue to give us wisdom and strength to lead our family through the next season of adjusting to Jeremiah and Katie being a part of their forever family. 

Blessings to you all!

Joey, Sarah, Zoe, Micah, Caleb, Jeremiah, and Katie

Monday, May 12, 2014

Working Through Disappointment

So, today was a bittersweet day for us.  Joey and Jeremiah dropped off Sarah at the Entebbe Airport to return to the States.  Whether you just heard this for the first time, or if you saw the quick posting on Facebook, this was probably quite a surprise.  It was for us too.  Here is a brief recap of what brought us to this tough decision. 

Sarah had been on her own in Uganda for nearly a month, and she simply needed daddy’s help.  Thankfully Brian and Hazel (Sarah’s parents) were able to watch Zoe, Micah, and Caleb again.  Joey arrived back in Uganda late on the night of May 1, and it was such a sweet reunion with Sarah and Jeremiah.  Then, the next day, we moved Katie out of the babies house at GSF to come and live with us.  Our time of bonding with our new kids is going well; we have our sweet times and our rough ones.

Then, we had our document drops at the US Embassy in Kampala on Monday, May 5, and Wednesday, May 7, and this process appeared to go well.  Next, we were waiting on our visa appointment/interview, as it appeared that this would happen today, May 12, and we could potentially come home together as a family around May 15.  However, we received some disappointing news on Thursday afternoon from the US Embassy.  There was a problem with Katie’s paperwork (her passport and birth certificate now needs updated), and this must be fixed in order for us to be able to get our visa appointment/interview.  Unfortunately, it may take a week or two for these documents to be updated.

Sarah has now been away from Zoe, Micah, and Caleb for eight weeks – way too long.  Also, Brian and Hazel have been watching our kids for a while, and whether they will admit it or not, they need a break.  So, we prayed through should Sarah go home or not?  We decided that she should, especially not knowing now how long it will be before Katie’s paperwork gets fixed.  Thankfully, Joey’s dad was able to get her return ticket completed last Friday for today, May 12.  Delta thankfully did not charge us a $300 change fee, and no fare difference was required too.  So, Sarah left today, and Lord willing she will be home on Tuesday afternoon.

Oh, and we did obtain the “wrong” documents today from the US Embassy, and we took them to our lawyer’s office this afternoon to start the process of them getting updated. 

Amidst this disappointment, we continue to treasure the dedicated time that we are able to have with Jeremiah and Katie and work with them in developing an understanding of what it means to be in a family.  We also were able to participate in GSF’s 20th anniversary weekend.  This was an amazing time of hearing many stories of how God has used this ministry in the lives of so many children. 

Here is how you can pray for us at this point:
  • Continue to pray for our process to end soon.  We want to be together back in Pennsylvania together as a family!
  • Continue to pray for Jeremiah and Katie’s transition to being in a forever family.  Pray specifically that the time Joey now has with them would go well.
  • Pray for a safe return for Sarah (she leaves in a couple hours of when this was posted) and then the same for Joey, Jeremiah, and Katie.
  • Continue to pray that God would meet our financial needs.  The longer we have to stay in Uganda, the more expensive our process becomes.

Blessings to you all!

Joey, Sarah, Zoe, Micah, Caleb, Jeremiah, and Katie