John and I have some very exciting news. We have officially begun the process for an adoption from Uganda! We are so excited and our heads are spinning....all at the same time.
Although some of you may be thinking...."I'm not the least bit surprised", you may be wondering how we got here. I'd like to take the time to share that.
I've had a heart for Africa for some time. If you ask my Mom, she would say that God has been preparing me for this since I was a child. I honestly never expected to "GO" to Africa though. As I grew into an adult, and began having my own children, I could hear a voice of a child that wasn't my own. This child would say "mama", but it wasn't with an American accent...it was different. I never gave it too much thought though.
Towards the end of 2007, a couple brought their newly adopted son to church. He was from Ethiopia and one of the most beautiful babies I had ever seen. My youngest was just 7 months old at the time but I remember saying to my husband on the drive home "there was just something about that boy". Again, I didn't give it too much thought and safely tucked it away.
In May 2009, our church was going on a mission trip to Zeway, Ethiopia to help orphans. My heart was stirring but it wasn't "GO to Africa", rather, it was a "make jewelry". I prayed to God and asked him if there was anything I could do with my hands to help these orphans. By His grace, He led to the creation of the Tesfa jewelry collection.
As 2010 was approaching, I knew in my head, heart & gut that I was supposed to go on the next trip to Zeway. Several times people would ask me "are you going to adopt from Ethiopia?" or would say "you are going to bring a child home, aren't you". I would always respond with something like "maybe someday, but I don't think it will be Ethiopia.
Then March of 2010 came. A gentleman came to our church to share his testimony. He was from San Diego and he brought two of his associates with him. One from Jamaica, one from Uganda. We were having an event for the Zeway partnership and we were all wearing our Zeway shirts and I was wearing jewelry from our Tesfa jewelry collection. The one gentleman, Robert (from Jamaica) inquired about our shirts and specifically asked about my jewelry. I told him about Ethiopia and explained the jewelry and paper beads. He told me he knew about the paper beads and that they had a ministry in Uganda with women making them. Of course, my intrigue grew.
After John (from San Diego) shared his testimony, he asked Richard to come up and pray. When I heard him pray, I fell apart. That was it. That was the voice. I knew the voice I'd been hearing say "mama" was the same accent.
After the prayer, my husband got up immediately and left; which in itself was nothing new as he was leading our church's hospitality ministry and had responsibilities to attend to. After the service, I began frantically looking for my husband and found him in the kitchen.....weeping. He couldn't even talk. Neither one of us knew what was going on. More on that later.... :o)
Richard & I exchanged emails and we'd email often regarding beads & the Women of Destiny. One day he sent me an email and it went something like this "WHEN, you visit Uganda, I want you to know that you have been invited to stay at my parents home." When I visit Uganda? Thanks for the offer, but I'm knee deep in jewelry for Ethiopia, I don't think I'm going to Uganda.
"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared" Exodus 23:20
I was wrong. And boy am I glad I was wrong. In January 2011, I found myself in Uganda with my good friend Cathy. We were blessed beyond words and I fell in love with Uganda. On our last night there, we had car trouble so Richard called his good friend, Benon, to come and drive us into Kampala. We were asking Richard all kinds of questions and I began asking about adoption. Richard responded "Oh, you should ask Benon those questions...he is an adoption attorney". I had to bite my tongue to fight back the tears. I knew God was up to something.
In March, John and I began SERIOUSLY praying about adoption. I returned to Zeway in March and came home fairly confident that we weren't supposed to do anything...yet. Again, we both have been open to adoption but we were never both in the same place at the same time. Ethiopia, Uganda, now, later, before Seminary, during Seminary, after Seminary, before we move, after we move? We also had to make a decision that was best for our family. We couldn't decide to do this for social justice or because it's what everyone else was doing. It had to be right for us and more importantly what GOD wanted us to do.
John was asked to return to Zeway in May for an Adoption conference for Ethiopian church leaders & pastors. He came home very confident that we were not adopting from Ethiopia.
I wait for you, O LORD...Psalm 38:15
Then an opportunity came from Samaritans Purse to help host a mama and her sweet 9 month old baby from Uganda. The baby was having life saving open heart surgery. They also came with a Samaritans Purse employee from Uganda. What a joy it has been walking through this experience with them. Ok, is anybody else sense a theme with Uganda? :o)
During this time, after our morning prayers, John looked up at me and said...."no more excuses, I'm ready". My heart jumped. Ready as in, ready, ready.....like ready for us to take the adoption plunge? Yes, He was ready and so was I. I looked at him and said "Ethiopia or Uganda" and he said "it's Uganda....that is where our son is". There was a conviction and confidence about John's decision that he hadn't had until this time. More on that when John writes his side next...
"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:5
We immediately began praying for the Lord to confirm our decision while at the same time the brainstorming process began.....how much jewelry do I have to make and sell to get back to Uganda to be able to start the inquiry process.
One week later, I got a phone call that took my breath away. I feel like it was God's way of confirming everything. It was from Samaritans Purse. They asked me if I would be willing to take our Ugandan guests home. My response "to UGANDA?.....you are asking me if I want to go back to UGANDA....in 18 days....are YOU KIDDING ME?" Yes, they were asking me to travel back to Uganda, fully paid! Originally, they asked if I would be willing to stay "in country" for 3 days. John and I both saw this as a confirmation from God and that He was sending me to Uganda to begin the inquiry process. As I learned of the Samaritans Purse itinerary for myself and shared it with John, he kept mentioning, make sure to take time to investigate the adoption. We were a little concerned that there wasn't going to be any time left for that, so we prayed. It always amazes me to see how the Lord works to accomplish His will. Samaritans Purse called me back and explained that the cost of airfare was more $4,000 more expense if I stayed for a standard period of time and they asked me to consider staying an additional three days. Confirmation request confirmed, and confirmed again. And wouldn't you know it, the adoption attorney asked to meet me on Saturday. Saturday. If the original itinerary would have played out, I would have been on my way back home on Saturday.
After that happened, I told John that we needed to let our family & closest friends know our plans. I knew I needed to begin doing some research and would be wanting to ask questions to adoptive parents via Facebook. So, we sent out a letter. We were so encouraged by the support and outpouring of love we received....more confirmation from God that we were, indeed, following Him.
Ok, this is real now. How in the world are we going to afford this? How much jewelry do I need to make and sell to pay for our homestudy?
Then my phone rang. One hour after the email was sent, once again, my world was rocked. A wonderful friend told me to open a Paypal adoption account because she wanted to make a donation. I was not prepared for what happened next. We now had the funds for our home study. I cried. All day long. I will never have enough words to thank her.
I was reminded of Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this." says the LORD Almighty. "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
So, here we are. Excited, anxious, nervous, emotional...you name it....but trusting God. I had a conversation with a friend about this. I said "I don't deserve this, any of this" and she replied "it's not about you". She was absolutely right. It's not about me. It's about God and glorifying HIM. He is providing and paving the way. He is the ONLY reason we are here today, able to share this story. I give HIM praise and I am humbled by His love and more importantly His GRACE.
Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise.....Isaiah 42:12
And our journey begins......