We are past our due date. Well past. The beginning of Lent marks the start of our adoption journey… five years ago. We prayed and talked and ask God to convince us. Our hearts grew sure as we noticed a conspicuous number of adoptive families in our small town during those forty days.
By Palm Sunday Liz and I were convinced.
“Hosanna in the highest,” we shouted.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” we sang.
“We will adopt,” we announced.
Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday... five years later. Our arms have grown tired holding palm branches so long. Our shouts and songs have grown dim. The end looms ever closer, but ever out of reach. We want to meet our son and bring him home.
The international adoption process is worse than an exercise in patience; it is physical therapy for hurried soul. Every week stretches us, bends us, manipulates our emotions, and tests our limits.
- We've waited for doctor signatures, notary stamps, governmental approval, reference letters, grant monies, progress reports, and agency clearance.
- We've updated our home study four times, taken fingerprints three times, had citizenship paperwork approved, re-approved, denied, and, finally, re-approved.
- We've twice changed agencies and three times altered the age(s) of the child(ren) we were willing to adopt, adding a "special needs" on the latest iteration.
- We've written many checks, made numerous trips to the post office, raised/saved/spent thousands of dollars, and become best friends with a notary of the republic.
Of course, these are simply details. Slogging through paperwork and unraveling the red tape has its benefits: We can do our part, mark our progress, and feign some control.
Waiting is the real pain.
That pain became personal last in September of 2014 when we decided to adopt an Ethiopian boy from a Waiting Child list. He had a face, a name, and special needs. His profile compelled us. Further descriptions from an intern at the orphanage sealed the choice. We signed an agreement with our second agency and started fresh. The match became official in December. Surely, we thought, the waiting is almost over.
Then months passed with nothing more than a handful of pictures and growth statistics.
No news by spring, so we assumed traveling would not occur until summer.
No news by summer, so we pushed back prospective travel dates until fall.
By late August we learned some of our son’s paperwork was missing. No one had been able to track it down from his birth region. And no one was responding to our agency’s requests. Expect another few months.
More bending. More stretching. More manipulation of muscles and emotions.
In the fall, the Ethiopian Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) approved our case. We still awaited Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) approval from USCIS. Having two parties sign off, provides extra accountability. It has also added months to our process.
Since December, I have received emails from the US Embassy in Ethiopia keeping me posted on the PAIR process: 1) An interview with the birth father. 2) An interview with the child. 3) An interview with the orphanage director. Perhaps an interview with the Pope will follow.
In the first email, the official stated, “We recognize the PAIR process can be an anxious time for prospective adoptive parents.” (An understatement, if I may say so.) These emails come in the middle of the night because Ethiopia runs eight hours ahead of the US. They come in two or three week intervals. And for two months they have disrupted my sleep; I regularly wake up at three AM and check my phone for an email notification.
Worse yet, for two months every ring and bleep and flash my phone makes feels like a false contraction. It’s never adoption news. It’s school flyers and church announcements and sales promotions and Twitter notifications. And even if it was an adoption update, it would simply be another interview request. Another two-week delay. Another false contraction.
I'm weary with false hopes. I’m sleep-deprived with uncertainty. I’m tired of this prolonged pregnancy with no due date in sight.
For years and months and weeks, I’ve been setting time tables for this adoption and pushing them back. The depth of my patience is directly tied to my control over its timing. This is true in most matters of life. Whenever we issue due dates for God, we encroach upon his sovereignty. We grasp for control.
This protracted adoption journey has taught me the limits of my control. And the limits of my patience. Fortunately, God, in his gentle manner, revealed this matter to me last week. Roused from my sleep at three AM (yet again), eager (always) for news, I heard God tell me: Trust my timing.
Five years ago… God knew our adoption journey would include false peaks and labor pains. His heart for the fatherless has neverwavered (Psalm 68:4). In the meantime, ours continues to grow.