This story ends in early April…
How far back do I go?
In late 2007, my husband and I felt led to expand our family of 4. A mom, a dad, and girl and a boy; that was us. By October, 2008 we added a son from Ethiopia. And by August 2009 we added two daughters from Ghana.
So here we are, April, 2010. 18 months ago I left for Africa as a family of 4 and within a year, my husband and I were returning from our 3rd trip to Africa as a family of 7.
This particular part of our story starts with us finding two waiting girls. Two healthy, beautiful, sisters waiting for a family. I don’t know how to explain that when I saw them, I knew they were mine, nor do I know how to explain that my husband thought the same thing. There they were, our two daughters. Next step, a home study. In adoption, one of the first steps to formalize the process is to get a home study. This is the process of a social worker coming in to interview the prospective family and see their home. As the adoptive family, we tell the social worker about our childhood and history, marriage, current family situation and any other extremely personal information they request (note humor- sort of). The home study report contains a lot of details about us our family and the potential child(ren) we hope to adopt.
And it is here at the point of the home study a thread begins weaving into our story. When the social worker asked us our preferences for ages and genders and number of children, the answer should have been specific to what we already knew about these two girls we knew would become our daughters. The answer should have been: 2 children, girls, siblings, ages 5-8, from Ghana. But that wasn’t my answer. I said the report should reflect our desire to parent 3 children from Ghana ages 0-9 boy(s) and girl(s). Three? Why three? There were just two girls. I don’t know why. I felt God speaking to my heart about this. I worried a bit because I was about to become a mother of 5 children less than one year from the time I was only the mother of 2. So WHY would God impress upon me to put 3 on the report? Again, I don’t know, I didn’t know. I just did as I felt I should do.
Next we started preparing to bring these girls home. We had to purchase larger vehicles to hold a family of 7. I insisted one of the vehicles must hold 8. Why? I don’t know. I only know I am holding onto this thread and the thread is there and I have to carry it forward. So I do.
Then we receive a report from Ghana about our girls. I read it, and re-read it. I look at each word and each name and each detail. I am learning about my new daughters. The report says “Other siblings” : Infant brother. What? I call the agency; “it says there is a baby brother.” Yes, but the family is able to care for the child. Good, wonderful… but I feel God pressing me to prepare. So we continue to move forward with decisions as if there might be a third child coming to us from Ghana. We didn’t know if that was what would happen, but we knew it was how God wanted us to proceed.
We went to Ghana. Again we told the agency we were working with, that if the family could not take care of this baby, we would love to bring him to our family. We went to the former home of our new daughters; we met their birth family. We met this baby brother. He looked healthy. We were happy to see it. But, we also had heard that in Ghana, families will care for infants as long as they can before they place them for adoption. We felt, maybe, in a couple of years the family would contact us and let us know if they were unable to care for this child. We continued to stay ready in the background of our minds.
As we spent time in Ghana working to bring our girls home we felt God calling us to do some missions work in Ghana. We felt led to help a missionary family (who we consider our own family now) and an orphanage. So I came home from Ghana and that is what I did, I felt led to continue to find ways to support these people and their work. I collaborated with some friends to set up a non-profit organization to get this work moving, there were needs to meet. And I stayed in close connection with Ghana, I was trying to understand their needs and determine what resources were available. That was my on-going connection to Ghana.
The only sign of the string during this time, was a photo one of my girls placed by her bed. A photo of their birth family. Their grandfather, their mother, and their baby brother.
Our worked continued to grow in Ghana. We missed our Ghana family and desired to see the work God was doing in Ghana. It seemed we needed to return to Ghana. My husband was a bit more adamant about our return than I was. I wanted to go, but there was no rush. As we approached March I told him we wouldn’t be able to go until at least June, I made it clear I was not going to attempt to prepare for a trip to Ghana by the end of the month as he had proposed. No more did I tell him this, no more did I put my “foot down”… and the phone rang. It was Ghana calling. We say “It’s Ghana calling,” like the entire country is on the other end of the line. It was my Ghana mother, she needed us. She explained there were problems and that it would only be possible for us to deal with them when we come. Then the phone rang again, it was the orphanage, they too needed some help, and it appeared that the only way we could help them would be in person. I hung up the phone after those two calls. I rolled my eyes at my husband and said, “Fine, let’s go.” So we bought tickets to Ghana within the week. And within three weeks we were on a plane.
We went to Ghana to help the missionary family. We went to Ghana to help the orphanage. Our schedule included a trip to Togo to take medical donations we had collected to a healthcare worker. We planned to visit another orphanage. We planned to visit schools of some children that are sponsored by us or people we know. I made an agenda, day by day, what needed to be done in Ghana. It seemed to me we should also visit the city the girls were from. We hoped to find the birth family, but didn’t know if we could. Addresses are not a “place” in Ghana, they are more of a “hint/suggestion”. We knew other families that had adopted children from that area and we took some photos. After a good long time of being misdirected, and lied to about how to find the people we were looking for… someone in our group recognized a man. She knew he was the birth father of one of the children who was adopted by an American family. One thing led to another and we found ourselves at the home of a relative of our girls. We asked for their grandfather, but were told he was out. We asked for their birth mother, but we were told she had moved. We were disappointed. We wanted to be able to come home and tell our girls we saw their birth mother. We wanted to tell them she was doing okay. But now we would have to say we couldn’t find her. It wasn’t the point of our trip, but surely would be difficult to explain to our girls.
Our week progressed in Ghana. We accomplished one thing after another, gathering information and photos. We visited the places we needed to visit. We talked through issues we needed to talk through. We were making excellent progress. The trip was definitely needed. In addition to the work we were doing, we knew families that were working with the agency we used to adopt our girls we wanted to help out there too. A few of the families asked if we would take letters or photos, and we even got to tell three children that they had families waiting for them in America. What an honor! So on Thursday night I received an email from a woman who was adopting, but not with our previous agency. She had found me on the internet some time back and we connected several times. She wanted to know if I would try to find the orphanage her daughter was at.
Let me first say that almost everywhere we traveled in Ghana took two hours or more. Usually it’s not the distance, but the insane amount of traffic. And when this adoptive mother asked me to find her daughter, I sighed. It had been a long week already, it was hot, I didn’t want to ride for hours to take pictures of this little girl. I wanted to help, I know the heart of a waiting mother. I didn’t think my husband was going to be on board with the idea of hunting down a random orphanage, who knows where, in Ghana. We had no idea the region or city where this orphanage might be. The adoptive mother sent me a phone number to get more details about the child’s location. I took a deep breath and told my husband I would call the number… if the orphanage was LESS than one hour away we would consider going, if it was more than one hour we would not go. I dialed the number. The man answered. I explained who I was and why I was calling. He said we could visit this orphanage, but I had the dilemma of explaining where I was and figuring out where the orphanage was… it happened to be the same city we were in, but that didn’t mean a lot to me because in my mind it could still take hours to get there. I put my Ghanaian sister on the phone. They discussed locations and found out we were only 15 minutes from this orphanage. Okay… in Ghana time that will run us about an hour so we should go. Sometime later we find ourselves in a car on the way to the orphanage (which indeed was only 15 minutes away).
Now we are in the orphanage. We are sitting and waiting for them to bring the child to us who we are there to visit. We wait. Finally they bring her. She is beautiful. We are happy to meet her. A sweet little girl. A bit intimidated by me and my cameras. But I was on a mission, we were there to get photos and video and go. That’s all. Then I hear someone say the director of the orphanage is coming. I suspect that means we will have to wait to meet him, and since this is Ghana it could be hours…. They say his name… what? I know that name. I ask if he is from the same city as my girls. He is. Wow, what are the chances we are about to see the man who helped make our girls’ adoption possible? We are excited to see him. He arrives. It’s him. We recognize each other immediately. We are very happy to see one another. He tells me he heard we had visited the town where he is from. I told him we did, but that we were disappointed as we did not find the girls’ birth mother. I asked if he knew where she was… He did. Not only did he know… the fact is she was living at his place. So, no problem, he calls his wife to bring the girls’ mother so we can see her. While we wait, I mention to the uncle that I had emailed him to tell him we were coming, but that we hadn’t heard back from him (he was our only source of contact with the birth family). I told him we wanted to know how the mother and baby brother were doing. Hesitation… then a response, “He is fine.” Okay, we are just happy that we are making this connection. How can it be that some lady I met on the internet sends me to see her child and I am able to connect with my girls’ uncle and ultimately their birth mother??? He moves around the place a bit. Then he comes back to me. He says he has to tell me something. He said I asked about the brother and he needed to tell me something. The uncle’s next words, “He is here.” He is in here in this orphanage. What, why??? He says he is there waiting to be adopted. WHAT? They bring him to me. I am holding him. The uncle proceeded to inform us that the child is listed with an agency and that there is a family waiting for him. WHAT? Where’s my string? Where did that string go? No, no, no. WE are the waiting family. I am the waiting family. Can it be that we are brought together by a miracle to find out the child is going to another family?
In Ghana it’s not okay to cry in public. So I walk away. I am holding the baby and I walk to the windows. Looking out the windows so no one can see the tears welling up in my eyes. There is NOTHING in me that can hold back this feeling of shock. Breathe. Breathe. I have to stop the tears so I can ask more questions. Finally I bring myself back. “Okay, tell me about the status of this adoption.” It appears that it has not progressed to the actual stage of court and legal involvement, but rather still at the “matched” state. Nothing about the adoption is finalized. Okay, I can breathe a bit better, I have my string back. We continue or visit with the baby and the birth mother and then we go. We are told that they will try to make it possible for us to adopt this baby; they believe it is right to keep the siblings together.
Now what? Now what should we do? I pray. I pray a lot. I tell my Ghanaian mother what has happened. Because I am crying we have to go into the house, because again, crying in public is not allowed. My sister explains the story. She tells my mum about the baby and what has happened. And my mum begins to cry… why? She is sobbing because the story of the mother and this child remind her of her own situation years ago. She sees how God has brought her out of the place she was and wasn’t able to care for her children. We comfort each other.
Two days later we left Ghana, we left with only a string.
It is three weeks since we saw the baby. Really nothing has changed in Ghana. We don’t know any more today than we did 3 weeks ago. We are in prayer about this. We are seeking God and wisdom about all of this. We are having faith that God will reveal his plan. The papers are being prepared so that if we are to bring him home we can do so quickly. But I am watching to see how God is leading me. There are so many moving parts. Did God bring us there for the baby? Did God bring us there for the mother (she needs support)? Did God bring us there to help this orphanage with their needs? What God? What do you want me to do?
My relationship with God looks a little like a path in the dark. I see something ahead, and God tells me to hold my head up and look to see what is ahead, but then to focus on the ground in front of me. And I begin to walk forward. There is a light at my feet. I can see my first step, but I must take the first step before there is enough light for me to take a second step. And then I must take that step before I can see the next. And after a few steps I look up, maybe God has turned me from what I saw before, maybe I am now walking a different direction. But it’s okay, he reassures me to look for the next step (or just to hang onto that string). I just look down and step into the light once again, and again, and again. Eventually I arrive somewhere, or I pass something. But I can only guess what I am walking toward. It’s too far off in the distance, there isn’t any light. I just have the light at my feet.
God is lighting my path to pursue paperwork here in America for an adoption. I can’t say that I think God wants me to bring this baby home. Because he wants me to walk in faith, I just don’t know what is next. I hope that is where I am going, well because I am still holding tight to that string. I’d love to have this little boy with us and his sisters, I want him as my son. But God only told me to fill out paperwork. Maybe I’ll meet someone on this path who needs God. Maybe God will shift my direction to helping the orphanage and not adopting. I don’t know. I don’t need to know. All I know it what God is telling me to do today. I am walking in obedience and faith.