Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Year Ago Today. . .

A year ago today, my Aunt and I left for Uganda. I left on the physical part of a journey that had already begun emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I would not have changed a minute of it. Not the roller coaster of emotions, hours stuck in Kampala traffic, or cold showers.
I have finally managed to get our adoption story finished. It's long. I hope you enjoy it. To those of you who shared part of the journey, THANK YOU!!! My children and I are better people for knowing you. You are now family for life. If there is anyone out there who is considering adopting, Pray!! I hope this story helps your decision.

My adoption story began over 3 years ago. I felt God calling me to adopt. Not just to adopt, but to adopt from Africa. I met with my pastor and asked him 'How do you know the difference between God calling you to do something and loosing your mind?' His answer was to pray and to move forward, if doors opened it was Gods will and not mine and to continue to pray. That was the best advice I could have gotten.
I started doing research and praying and was led to the country of Liberia. I found an agency that I wanted to work with and contacted them. They were doing a lot of humanitarian work that I thought was great. I made preliminary plans to help them with donations for the area school. There was also a chat group of people that had or were adopting through the agency that I joined. It was through this group that I later learned that the agency had some questionable practices and were being investigated. It became clear to me that this was not the agency or the country for me. It was through one of the women in the group however, that I was introduced to Jena and Keith Penner.
When I contacted Jena, she told me about their experience. She also said they were going to do more work on the process. In the meantime I started raising money and praying, praying mostly.
In February 2009 Keith returned to Uganda to do more work with orphanages and attorneys to see who would be willing to work with people on guardianships. When he came back with good news about Sanyu Babies Home, I kicked things into high gear.
I started my home study in February and was told it would take 3 months. That did not fit in to my summer traveling time line. God stepped in and my home study was completed by the end of March. My I-600a approval also moved along quickly. I actually got my letter of approval on my birthday, May 12.
During this time I was emailing Peter Nyombi and Barbara at Sanyu to make sure I had all of my documents and that traveling in May was a good idea. They both gave me the green light, so I started looking at flights. I was planning on leaving the first week in June after school was out. For some reason the price of airfare jumped about $500 from the end of May to the beginning of June. I prayed again and God told me to leave earlier. ( I know this airfare stuff doesn't seem important, but it is all about God's timing).
My aunt Martha and I left Birmingham on a sunny Alabama morning and by lunch time we were in Houston(yes I know Houston was in the wrong direction, but it was the best flight we could get). We spent the evening flying to Amsterdam and arrived there in the early morning. We arrived in Entebbe late at night. I think we must have been the last ones off the plane, through the health check and visa lines. Thankfully our luggage all made it and best of all Godfrey was waiting on us. We finally got to the guest house at midnight.
I took the coldest shower in my life and was so very grateful to have it. (First lesson of the guest house, you have to turn on the water heater.) We crashed into our beds and awoke a couple of hours later, we even beat the mosque singer up. We were greeted outside by some of the older kids in the orphanage and then I met with Barbara, the administrator of the orphanage, before we went to meet Peter. She told me there were only 3 girls in the age range I was hoping to adopt. She also said they had only been there a short time, I didn't know what that meant, but she said to let Peter know. We then went to meet Peter.
The meeting with Peter went so quickly. I had been told that things would go so slowly in Africa. I gave him my paper work and he told me to go back to the orphanage and pick a child that day. WHAT!?!?!? Today?!?!? He explained, that because the girls had not been at the orphanage long, there was extra work that would take extra time, so we had to get started quickly. I had to get back to his office with all of the information on the child that afternoon. I think my mouth must have been hanging open at this point. So back to the orphanage we went.
I met with Barbara again and explained that Peter wanted me to pick a child today. She had us taken to the classroom where I was shown the children that were available. I prayed that God would show me the child that was to be mine. I had been praying this for the last 4 months and now the time was here. Only two of the girls were in the room to begin with and I spent some time in prayer with both of them. Then they brought in Irene. She was so adorable. She ad on a rubbled dress with the lace trim coming off in places over sweat pants and nappy. She was completely bald and had the chubbiest cheeks you have ever seen. She had NO expression on her face at all. I continued to pray and god said "She is your daughter."
So it was back to Barbara's office to tell her my decision. She then sent for Irene to be dressed. Off we went with Godfrey, and a social worker from the orphanage. The whole time we were out Irene's expression never changed. It was during this time we discovered that Irene had only arrived at the orphanage on Sunday. Here is where God's timing comes into play. Before I left the US there had been information going around that there were NO GIRLS AVAILABLE at Sanyu. Some people had suggested I wait and go later, but God's timing was perfect!!!
After that whirlwind of activity it was a waiting game. We waited for all of the documents we needed and we waited for a court date. While we waited we worked at the orphanage. We helped in class and at meal times. Martha even helped organize the clothes closet at Sanyu. Everyday I grew closer to Irene. She was coming out of her shell more and more.
We were in class one day when the brought in the saddest looking little boy. He was so weak all he could do was sit in the same spot while all of the other kids played around him. His name was Andrew. He had just gotten back from the hospital. Everyone said he had Sickle Cell Anemia. We began praying for his healing and for a family to come to take him to the US, where he could get the medical care he needed. No one came and we grew closer every day.
About a year before I left, God had told me I would adopt 2 children, a girl and a boy. Because I didn't have the money and because it was against the law in Uganda I didn't think this would be possible. We continued to pray for a family for Andrew and God told me I was supposed to be his mother. I went and talked to Peter to see if he thought it was possible to get guardianship of Andrew because of his medical condition and he said he thought we had a case. I then asked Barbara's permission to seek guardianship for Andrew also. She said yes!!! so now to come up with the money. I can never thank my parents or friends enough for raising the money for Andrew's case. Peter filed the paper work and told us to get started on his blood tests. We went to the clinic for the tests and waited for the results. A few days later the results were in. Andrew was NOT Sickle Cell Anemic, not even a carrier for the condition!!!!!! I have never been so happy and so scared at the same time. He was healthy, but would I still be able to proceed with his case? I met with Peter again and he said we would proceed.
In the mean time we went to court for Irene. We went into the judges chambers and sat while the lawyers and the judge did all of the talking. he told us to come back in a week for our ruling. A week later we returned. The judge granted me guardianship, but added that in the future, he wanted the children to have been in the orphanage for 6 months before they were adopted out. Once again it was the combination of joy and fear. Andrew had only been in the orphanage for 1 month. thankfully Peter said we would continue on with his case. So we prayed and worked and waited until Andrew's court date. This court appearance was a little more stressful, because the judge started saying he was going to deny the petition. Peter and he traded arguments, which included leaving Andrew in Uganda for 6 months(not a good plan from my point of view). At last the judge gave my aunt and I a opportunity to speak. We basically became the emotional wrecks we were and tearfully asked/begged for the honor to become Andrew's family. Thankfully the prayers and tears worked and he asked us to come back in 2 weeks for our ruling. Praise God, when we went back he granted me guardianship.
Adding Andrew's case and waiting for visas delayed our travel plans. After a couple of flight changes and more time in airports than I ever want to spend again, we came home on August 3.

I would not trade on minute of the time I spent in Uganda. It allowed me to bond with my children, learn more about their beautiful country and to see the great needs that exist there. The people I met have not just become friends, but I consider them family. I can never thank them enough for the support they gave us during our time there.

Words cannot express how faithful God has been through out this process!!!! Seek God, listen to God, follow God and the blessings are so much better than you could ever imagine. His ways are higher than our ways!


laragordon said...

I'm just so glad that I got to share your incredible journey with you first hand, reading it I still remember the days that you came back from court - especially the court date for Andrew where both you and Martha came back to the guest house physically and emotionally exhausted. The picture that will never leave my mind is one of the photo's I took, Willa Rae on one hip, Andrew on the other, you were already a little family before the ruling's came in. I'll also never forget the trauma that both of your kids came to the orphanage with and how they changed over the months you spent there with them (OK maybe Andrew still balled his eyes out every time you stepped a foot away). And finally the last photo I have of Willa Rae in her pretty orange dress + hair band smiling and crawling and laughing on the guest house table. Who'd have thought these two babies would have come so far and it's all because of you. I'm so glad you're in my life and I can't wait to see you all next year at our wedding.


Melissa Carter said...

Tanya, Can you believe we have been home almost a year!??? Been so busy I've not had a chance to blog or look at blogs. Maybe we can get together before school starts back. Melissa Carter

Melissa Terry said...

I was so encouraged by stumbling upon your blog post, thank you for sharing! We are beginning our adoption process in Uganda with Peter. I have a million questions for you.

Do you think you could email me?

My email is melissa at heartlinesranch dot com

I would be so grateful for your insight, experience and encouragement.

Bless you!

Erin McCoy said...

This is great! :) thanks for sharing and yeah for adoption!