Archive for October 2013

Successful Appointment

It’s mid-afternoon in CC (code for “capital city,” in case you forgot from my last post), and we’re both emotionally and physically exhausted. But, the most important thing is this: tomorrow afternoon we will be able to pick up our finalized referral paperwork for the precious 11-year-old (almost 12-year-old) girl who will soon be our daughter. We are so excited!

We woke up bright and early this morning. (Or really, we just got out of bed bright and early. Arturo and I were both so anxious and jetlagged that we weren’t able to sleep much.) We gathered all our documents, double- and triple-checked every list, and were on our way to the offices with the other adopting family by 8:30. Their appointment was at 9:00, so we traveled to the offices together.

When we arrived, our facilitator happily told us that the officials had agreed to squeeze us in at 9:30, just after the other family, so that we wouldn’t all have to wait around for our later appointment at 11:00 … and a good thing it was, too! While we didn’t find any surprises in Shawna’s file, it was a surprise that at first we couldn’t find her file! Her file had been mis-sorted into the incorrect binder, and our government official, along with our facilitator, searched high and low for over an hour and a half before Shawna’s file was finally located. Let me tell you, that was the LONGEST hour and a half I have every experienced!

In the end, we spent less than 5 minutes in the office after Shawna’s file was finally located. The contents of her abbreviated file were read to us, and we learned some valuable information about her birth family, her “first family.” We will not share this information on the blog as it is private information for Shawna’s knowledge only. We also received a photo of Shawna when she was 8 years old, when she first became a ward of the state. This is likely the youngest photo of Shawna we will ever see or have, and we will treasure it forever. There was nothing in her file to concern us — quite to the contrary, several things we learned are good news and bode well to our future together as a family. We joyfully accepted her referral.

(Sidenote: the file we viewed today is Shawna’s abbreviated file kept at the government agency’s central headquarters. We will see a much expanded file that will include detailed medical information for Shawna on Friday, at our appointment with the regional social worker.)

Unfortunately, we were not able to learn any additional information about Seth. He has been in the foster care system long enough that his file is not even accessible by the government agency responsible for regulating international adoptions. We were hoping that his file would still be in the system so we could get a bit more information right away, but along with viewing Shawna’s full medical and social file, that will have to wait until our appointment with the regional social worker on Friday.

So, what’s next, you ask? Well, right now, we’re resting at the hostel and waiting for another family to arrive. Another family using the same facilitation team had their second appointment this afternoon, to receive a referral for their second child, and as it so happens, both parents are Chilean! We’ve been in touch with them through Facebook for months, and we can’t wait to meet them. We’re going to enjoy a celebratory meal together this evening.

Tomorrow afternoon, the referral paperwork will be processed and finalized by the end of the day. We’ll stop by the government offices around 4 to pick up that paperwork, which we will hand-carry with us to the region where Shawna is currently living. Let’s call that region “KR.” We’ll then take an overnight train tomorrow evening to KR, where we’ll meet with the regional social worker on Friday morning. Then, sometime on Friday, perhaps late morning or early afternoon, we’ll travel with our facilitator to Shawna’s orphanage and meet our daughter for the first time. We are overwhelmingly excited!

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I can tell you that the comforting knowledge of your prayer support is the only thing that carried me through that nerve-wracking 1.5 hr search for our daughter’s file. We’re going to spend the evening rejoicing that one more very big step has been taken in our adoption journey, and we’ll spend tomorrow preparing for the next step in line: meeting and getting to know the precious, incredible girl who will soon be our daughter.

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We’ve arrived!

Hello dear friends and family!

As the title of this post suggests, we have arrived in Eastern Europe! Hallelujah! Our plane touched down in the Eastern European capital city (from here on out, called “CC”) on Monday afternoon, and by early evening we were settled into the hostel where we’re spending our first few days. The amenities here are quite bare-boned, even for a hostel (and we’ve stayed in lots of hostels around the world), but the other guests are quiet, the showers are hot, and the wi-fi is great, so it’ll do until Thursday, when we head out of CC to meet Shawna in the city where she is currently living.

One advantage to the sparseness of our accommodations is that it’s forced us to get out and explore even more than we normally do. We’ve had a great time! Today, we spent several hours walking along one of the main commercial streets in CC, and we enjoyed two delicious meals at a traditional Eastern Europran restaurant. We even successfully completed several transactions in Russian, including asking for and receiving help from shopkeepers, so our little bit of Russian knowledge is holding up better than we had dared to hope.

(Sidenote: I would normally insert lots of photos from our explorations at this point in the blog post, but it’s getting late here, and we still need to gather our paperwork in preparation for tomorrow’s appointment. Right now, I don’t have time to edit and format photos for posting on the blog. I’ll share photos at a later date, I promise. :) Also, when I downloaded the photos from today’s excursion, I realized the camera lens has a fingerprint on it …. that shows up as a smudge in EVERY PHOTO I TOOK TODAY. Boo.)

This afternoon, another family using the same facilitation team arrived for their appointment, and we’re sharing a 4-person room at the hostel with them for the next two nights. It’s great to meet with a fellow adoptive family, especially one also familiar with the world of special needs adoption. This is their second adoption trip to Eastern Europe, as they also adopted a child from Eastern Europe two years ago, so they’ve shared little bits of wisdom and experience with us that will certainly come in handy. We’ve had a wonderful time getting to know them. Their appointment with the adoption regulators is just before ours tomorrow morning. Bright and early, we will travel to the government building together for our respective appointments.

Our appointment with the adoption regulators is tomorrow at 11:00 am our time, 5:00 am EST. Please be in prayer for us! It is possible that we could get some concrete information at our appointment tomorrow about whether or not we will be able to adopt Seth (for more information on this situation, see this post), Tomorrow’s appointment will also be the time that Shawna will officially be “referred” to us. The practical aspects of the referral are that tomorrow we will be able to see her full file, rather than just the little bits of information we’ve received up to now, and after tomorrow, her file will officially be “linked” with our application to adopt, allowing us to meet her and continue the adoption process. It’s an exciting time and we can’t wait, but we are also a bit nervous. A few other families we know have had nasty surprises waiting for them at their appointment — problems in their child’s status making child more difficult to adopt, unreported health issues that the family isn’t prepared to handle, etc. We don’t expect any of these surprises in our case because we have more information about Shawna that most families, thanks to the thorough background work performed by our facilitator on our behalf to make sure this adoption can happen, but it is a nerve-wracking time nonetheless.

I will post an update tomorrow after our appointment to let you know how it goes. Hopefully I will be able to report no surprises with Shawna’s file and a big green light to pursue adoption of Seth, but only time will tell. Your prayers that God’s will may be accomplished in this whole situation would be much appreciated!

Thank you all for surrounding us in your prayers on our journey to this point. I can truthfully say that we could not have made it even this far without the prayer support, encouragement, and love of our friends, family, and church family.

Now it’s time to go get those kids!

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Leaving in THREE DAYS!!

We’re leaving in three days ….. oh my goodness how exciting! We’re frantically trying to finish up the last-minute packing and cleaning. Leaving your home for over two months is not an easy task! We’re also playing a concert with the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony this weekend, so we’ve got rehearsals and a performance thrown into the mix of pre-trip to-do items. Let me tell ya, there’s nothing like performing a concert the night before leaving on a two-month-long journey to keeping life interesting. :)

In the midst of that craziness, yesterday evening we got a precious glimpse of the reason we’re on this journey. After last night’s rehearsal, I checked my email on our way home to find this in my inbox:

2013.10.23 Shanti 1.jpg

Shawna is in her country’s capital city right now for her TB testing (see our last post here for those details). This photo was taken yesterday afternoon in the hotel room where she and several other children from her orphanage are staying during their testing.

There may be nothing like a concert to keep us busy, but there’s also nothing like the radiant smile of our daughter to remind us of what is most important in this life.

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A Quick Note

Oh my goodness, we’re leaving in barely one week. Time has FLOWN by since we last posted. Since then, we’ve cleaned and rearranged our house, we’ve made travel arrangements, we’ve arranged for Arturo’s visa, we’ve booked rooms in a hostel for our first few nights. We’ve made financial arrangements, we’ve printed papers, we’ve gone shopping for our travel supplies. The list of our completed tasks goes on and on …. but somehow the to-do list seems to always have more things on it rather than less, as we keep thinking of more items that need to be done.

Slowly, we’re reaching the point where we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and today is probably the first day when I can confidently say that, yes, we will have made all necessary arrangements and completed all necessary tasks in just over a week to be ready to leave the country for several months. We’re almost there.

Earlier this week, we received some amazing news, but several other families adopting from the same orphanage received heartbreaking news, so it’s been a bit of an up-and-down kind of week. I’ll start with our incredible news, which actually has two parts. The head of our facilitation team visited Shawna’s orphanage earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, to speak directly with the orphanage director in the hopes of reaching some sort of compromise about the TB testing situation and about the other requirements for our adoption that were being help up. (Read the background of this situation here.)

To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from our facilitator’s trip to the orphanage, but boy were we surprised! Our trip is so close that we had given up hope that Shawna’s TB test would begin before we arrived in-country. We had resigned ourselves to a stay of at least 10 weeks in Eastern Europe. But Wednesday morning we got the miraculous news that our facilitator’s visit paid off big time, and the orphanage director has agreed to allow Shawna to travel to the capital city under the care of an orphanage chaperon next week to start her TB testing, before we even get there! While Shawna’s testing will only be started about two weeks earlier than we had expected it would begin, the earlier testing date will actually cut about 3-4 weeks off of our stay because of how the dates fall over the holiday season, when the embassy will be closed for several days each week. We are overjoyed. We can’t guarantee anything, but we will likely be home for Christmas as a result as a result of this earlier testing date.

While this news alone is miraculous, we got even better news on Wednesday, in that same phone call. Our facilitator was able to meet one-on-one with each child from this orphanage who has a committed family and discuss with them their future. Because these children are all older kids, they are allowed a say in whether or not a family will be permitted to adopt them. Our facilitator wanted to make sure that each of these children was ready and willing to accept the love offered to them by an adoptive family. When he asked Shawna if she wanted to be adopted, Shawna said yes. Did you see that? Did you read that? Our girl now knows about us, and she said yes. This next week can’t go by quickly enough. Our daughter knows about us now, and my arms are aching to give her a huge bear hug. I’m dying to letting her know that she will never be without a family again.

Now for the agonizing news I mentioned at the beginning of this post … Our news was great, but the news for 3  of the other families hoping to adopt from this same orphanage is absolutely gut-wrenching. Three other girls said no. They turned down the families preparing to provide them a loving, caring, nurturing home. They said no. These girls have a variety of reasons for making this decision, which I will not share here as it is not my prerogative to share these girls’ stories. But I can tell you that the heartache these families are experiencing right now is real and will never go away. Many have likened it to the pain of a miscarriage late in pregnancy, or the pain of a stillborn child. These families were all extremely close to their travel dates and are now trying to pick up the pieces, trying to figure out what God has in store for them. Please be in prayer for these three families and for these three girls. The families are reeling in pain, and the girls will never know what it means to have a loving, supportive family. I pray they beat the statistics and escape the life of crime and prostitution experienced by most orphans who age out in this country. I pray they beat the odds. I pray they find the love and support they need.

In the midst of our rejoicing — we’ll be home by Christmas! Shawna said yes! — is heartache and pain for these other families. One of the girls who said “no” is Shawna’s best friend, which we know because Shawna describes her as such in a video we have of Shawna. Another of the girls is Shawna’s age and is in the same group at the orphanage. I’m sure we’re going to meet both of them when we’re at the orphanage in two week’s time. It’s a tragic situation, and all I can do is pray.

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On a completely different note, we will continue to post to our blog while we are in-country over the next 2 months, but because of the regulations of the Eastern European adoption system, we will not be able to publish anything identifying where we are (so no touristy shots with buildings in the background) and we will not be able to post any photos of Shawna, Seth, or any other children, other than the ones you’ve already been seeing on the blog for the past 6 months. We are going to post those photos and publish that information in private, password protected posts only for those people we know personally. We’ll do our best to publish as much as we can on the public side of our blog, but the reality of the regulations is that we just can’t say a whole lot about where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing. As soon as the adoption decree is final and the children are officially ours, we’ll go back and remove the password protection so you can catch up with everything we’ve been doing. Just wanted to give you fair warning. :)

And if you do know us in real life (as opposed to all our virtual friends out there, who are much appreciated but with whom we can’t share this information) and would like to know the password for our posts, please just drop me an email and I’ll send it along.

Happy Friday, all.

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