Saturday, March 29, 2014

Another Hurdle Cleared, and, Introducing Our New Children!

As we communicated in our last blog post, the internet here is quite slow, so it is difficult sometimes just to even check email, let alone provide regular updates and upload photos.  We have decided that when Joey returns to the States in a few days that we will then upload photos from our time so far in Uganda.  For now you will have to pretend there are photos to go along with the text below. :)

Before we get into the highlights of our time in Uganda since our last blog post, we can finally announce on social media the names of our children, since we cleared the latest hurdle of the judge verbally ruling that we were their legal guardians!
  • Jeremiah is four, his birthday is in November, and he came to GSF around his second birthday.  He lives in the toddlers’ house at GSF and currently attends preschool here too.  Though he was apparently really quiet until he started preschool about six months ago, he is now developing well in his language and confidence.  We have seen some great progress even in our time here so far. 
  • Katie Miracle is two, and her birthday is in October.  She came to GSF around when she was a week old.  She lives in the babies’ house, and she is quite the little leader.  She has a fun personality, is affectionate, and loves getting the attention of us.  While we probably will end up calling her Katie, most of GSF has known her as Miracle up to this point.

Ok, so back to what’s been happening recently.  On Tuesday, March 18, we had our first court appearance, which was the hearing, and during this appearance, the judge told us that our second court date, which would be our verbal ruling, would occur on Friday, March 28.  Ten days at times seemed to fly by, but at other times, it seemed to crawl.  Thankfully there is a wonderful team of missionaries here at GSF who are so hospitable and helped the time go by quicker.  Daily visits to the babies’ house to see our daughter and her friends, and then to the toddlers’ house to see our son and his friends helped too.

Here’s a few of the things we were able to do during our ten day wait:
  • Read to the toddlers some of the fun books we brought with us, as well as get to eat some meals with them – usually posho & beans or rice & beans.
  • Taking some of the children from the babies’ home for a walk in the morning – they love getting to do this.
  • Help some of the newer children at GSF go to the local hospital for immunizations.
  • Spend time with Mark’s mom, aunt, and niece who came to visit for two weeks.
  • Get to know a short term missions team who is here from a church in North Carolina.
  • Attend a local seminary and meet some of the students who are nearly finished with their training to be pastors and specifically hear two of their testimonies (students at this seminary were from Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Kenya).
  • Read and teach a song in the preschool class at the GSF school – 44 children in one small room with one teacher and one aide (and they behave so well too!)
  • Going to the market and shopping for souvenirs in Jinja (and eat some good food and have some great coffee too).
  • Take a boat ride on Lake Victoria and the Nile River – we were able to see the Source of the Nile marker and a lot of local wildlife.
  • Attend Light of the World Church; what an experience to worship with mostly Africans; their church just this week finally installed a permanent roof and is in the process of paying off their land payment.
  • Setting up an appointment and then going to the US Embassy in Kampala, and trying to fill out the required forms; the instructions were often more confusing that the forms.
  • Seeing the village (not too far from GSF) and the home where our children were found before they were rescued and brought to GSF – unbelievable: we will post the stories in upcoming blog posts about the awful condition that our children were found; it truly is a miracle that they are even alive.
  • Running with our son in the pouring down rain and playing with his friends on the playground – the toddlers also enjoyed some temporary tattoos we brought for them.
  • Spending a morning with some of the missionary kids on their spring break and doing some cleanup work at Light of the World Church.
  • Saying bye to Mark & Amy and their family, as they headed off for a week on a safari vacation; they were also gracious enough to let us stay in their home while they are away .

Friday, March 28 - The Ruling:
We left GSF at 8:30am to go to our second court appearance, the ruling.  It was Claudia, our children, a driver, and us.  Our children were a little nervous again in the car (remember this is only their second car ride in their life) for the 2 ½ hour ride to Kampala.

We arrived at the lawyer’s office, and he said we may not need to go to court, so we should wait at a local coffee shop for an update.  The actual court time was noon.  Around 12:30pm, we received a call from him to meet him back in his office and that he was finished in court.  In his office he said the judge did read the entire ruling (a four page document) and as the judge read it, he was not sure which was she was going to rule.  We are glad we were not there, as we would have been nervous wrecks.  Anyways, the judge did rule in our favor, and she made is clear that the biological mom was not fit to be able to take care of the children!

We now wait for the written ruling from the judge, which will make us the official legal guardians of Jeremiah and Katie Miracle, and we will apply for their passports; this process should begin as soon as this Tuesday, April 1.  Lord willing it takes about a week or so.  Joey heads back to the States on Sunday (arrives home on Monday).  While he is excited about seeing Zoe, Micah, and Caleb soon, he is not so excited to leave Sarah, Jeremiah, and Katie Miracle. 

Please continue to pray for the following as we continue in this process:
  • That the official written ruling arrives on Monday or Tuesday.
  • That the passport filing and processing goes smoothly and that there would be no delays.
  • That the upcoming US embassy process of interviews and visa applications goes smoothly and that there would be no delays.
  • That we can secure flights for Joey to be able to return around the end of our time here and that we can all be on the same flights home.
  • That our time apart will be smooth.
  • That Sarah’s time with Jeremiah and Katie Miracle will be positive and their transition into their forever family will start well.

Blessings to you all!

Joey, Sarah, Zoe, Micah, Caleb, Jeremiah, & Katie Miracle

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Last Crazy Week...

Last week, Joey was on spring break from Cairn University, which meant it was time to catch up on house projects and to have more time to spend with our kids.  We made some good progress the first few days of the week, though because of the all of the work, our house was a complete disaster.  Then on Wednesday morning, we were removing wallpaper from our master bathroom, when a +256 number (which of course by now we know means an adoption update from Uganda) came up on Joey’s phone.  We answered it, and our friend Mark from GSF gave us the news we have been waiting on for 2 1/2 years.  We had a court date.  And, not only do we have a court date, but it is in six days on March 18, and we need to be in country by Sunday night.  Yes, we only had three days to work out arrangements for Zoe, Micah, and Caleb (thanks Sarah’s parents for looking after them on such very short notice), put our house back in relative order, purchase airline tickets, pack our bags, buy last minute things for our children and the missionaries at GSF, and leave. 

We said our goodbyes on Saturday afternoon, and headed to the Newark airport.  We flew to Amsterdam, Nairobi, and then arrived in Entebbe (Uganda) on early Monday morning around 1:00am.  Other than a delay in our flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, our trip was very smooth, and all of our bags made it.  We had no problems with immigration and customs, and we were so happy to see Mark and Amy.  They took us to a guest house about ten minutes away, and we crashed for the night. 

Our first impressions on our arrival into Uganda and even since then, is that this country reminds us so much of Indonesia – the airport, the traffic and lack of rules for driving including motorcyclists who drive wherever they please, the roadside stalls, younger people who approach stopped cars in traffic to sell snacks and drinks, children in their school uniforms, the weather (around 80 each day), the beauty – tea fields, banana trees, cassava plants, sugar cane fields, some rice paddies, and of course the wildlife and bugs. 

Quick FYI – we are not yet able to share our children’s names or pictures yet on social media, but the day that we can is coming soon…also, the internet is pretty slow, so we cannot upload pictures yet. :(

Monday, March 17:
We spent most of the morning and afternoon with Mark and Amy – breakfast at the hotel and catching up on the latest at GSF and our new children, finding a wifi hotspot, grocery shopping, getting our local phones set up, going to the ATM, eating a great western-style lunch, and spending lots of time in traffic.  We arrived at GSF around 4:00pm, and we were welcomed by over 400 people.  This is a tradition they do for all guests, whereby the orphanage children, the students at the GSF school (who do not live here), the missionaries, and staff, all welcome you with song, dance, and lots of greetings when you arrive.  It was overwhelming for sure, especially as at the front of the group at the gate were our children.  After gaining our composure, we exited the van and said hi to everyone, being careful not to cause a scene with our children and ignoring everyone else – wow, was that difficult!  We then unpacked and got a quick orientation to GSF and then ate dinner with Mark and Amy’s family.  Before crashing for the night, we got a quick update from Claudia on what to expect with our court date, who is the primary point of contact at GSF for our adoption process.

Tuesday, March 18:
We woke up to no power in the pitch black dark, and we left GSF at 7:00am to head to Kampala for court.  We were able to ride in a car with our children, and this was our first “alone” time with them.  They were so sweet and so well-behaved the entire day (which would not end until we returned to GSF around 6:00pm).  Our son was noticeably nervous and scared.  He clutched our hands tightly as we were in the car and walked to court.  This was their first car ride, and a day of eventual other firsts.  Riding in an elevator to get to the courtroom, and later eating french fries and ketchup at lunch.  The court proceedings lasted around 2 ½ hours.  Claudia testified first, and then the judge wanted to hear from the family and local officials.  Our children’s birth mom was present as well as the children’s grandfather and uncle.  It was so sad to hear about the drama and problems within their family, and specifically their inability to care for our children and even themselves.  Hence the reason that our children were brought to GSF over two years ago and have never left.  Three others testified, and then it was our turn.  We were able to tell the judge about our desire to adopt, our connections to GSF, our desire and ability to provide a caring forever family for these children.  The judge told us that she would make her ruling on Friday, March 28, and the only thing that was needed after our hearing was for the mom to undergo another medical/psychiatric evaluation.  This occurred yesterday afternoon, and again, it was found that she is not in a position to provide proper care for her children.  According to our lawyer and others present representing GSF at the court, they believe things went very well for us.  We now eagerly await the ruling, when Lord-willing, we can officially become their parents. 

Do be praying especially for our son with his transition to our family.  It was clear that he was uncomfortable seeing his biological family, and who knows the kinds of trauma he was forced to endure in his first two years of life before coming to GSF.  Our daughter was only a week old when she was brought to GSF, so thankfully she has only know a loving, Christian environment.  Our children warmed up amazingly well to us throughout the day, and they do not appear to know yet what is going on.  Once the ruling is made by the courts on March 28, they will then be informed of the situation.

Wednesday, March 19
Today was our first day to relax a bit; we spent the morning catching up on life.  We also were able to tour the babies house, where our daughter lives, and then the toddler house, where our son lives.  It was a joy to see them in their comfortable element, specifically their personalities, and to also meet the house moms who have provided amazing care for them over the past two years.  We were able to see where they eat, their beds, where they play, where our son goes to preschool, etc.  We were then invited to stay for lunch at the toddler house, so it was fun to eat with our son and his friends.  Later in the afternoon, our son has a short study time before he goes down for a rest, so we were able to go back and read some books to him and two of his friends.  We will continue to be able to spend time with each of our children in group-type settings between now and our second court date on March 28.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our family.  Please continue to pray for the following:
  • Zoe, Micah, and Caleb as we are away from them.  We were able to talk with them on the phone earlier today.  Many thanks again for Sarah’s parents as they look after them.
  • Continued favor with the courts and that the judge would rule in our favor on March 28.
  • Time this week for us to be able to see our new children and continue to get to know them.

Love you all,
Joey, Sarah, Zoe, Micah, and Caleb