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Archive for July, 2012


When I finally stopped trying to sleep around 4 am, I checked e-mail.

We left a bit late from Newark. Had a smooth and uneventful flight to Brussels where I had to pay for internet access because apparently they don’t do free wi-fi hotspots.

Flight leaves at 10:41 local time for Kinshasa.

Currently 6 hours ahead of you and will be 5 when I land in Kinshasa.

She would be leaving Brussels about the same time we would leave Newark. But she wasn’t done.

Arrived in Brussels. Confusing airport. Had to pay for internet. Be on the lookout for a fraud alert on credit card.

We made our way to the airport via the shuttle, again. This time we tipped the poor guy. H was moving some heavy bags. We got some breakfast at Dunkin Donuts before going through security. This is when I realized that most of the food service workers at the airport looked Indian or Pakistani. With their accents, I was hoping they just read out the number instead of trying to say what you ordered. I couldn’t understand anything.

We got separated from CJ during the security screening. We were in different lines. I, again, chose poorly. I realized it had to be at least twice as long as the other lines. So we switched, and that line slowed down as every one seemed to wear hats and belts and moved really slowly. Slugs crawl faster.

CJ said they checked her hands for explosive materials, and patted her down. Odd that the different lines would have such different protocol.  Her flight was scheduled to leave 15 minutes before ours. We said our goodbyes and got ready to board ourselves.

Eli was in rare form all day. I think there must be a bull’s eye on my privates as I endured elbows, knees and who knows what else. But that wasn’t it. He did just about everything but bite me. He’d scratch, slap and who knows what else in the name of play. I’ve mentally blocked it out. I might need therapy when we get home. I need to work on my MMA skills. This is his way to deal with the stress, and chewing on everything and anything. He did both ALL DAY LONG. Of course all of this is in public. A few times I had to make it very plain to him that what he was doing was unacceptable. But I felt like the (un)parent of the year. He was also operating on 4 hours sleep. Not a good combination for him. But it was pulling on what little reserves I had after getting about 4 hours of sleep.

Somehow I didn’t realize our flight went from Newark to Phoenix, and then to Las Vegas. Then we switched planes and went back to AZ and home to Tucson. Who thought of this? I felt like Ulysses on the Odyssey. The tired boy finally fell asleep on the final flight. Not much of a nap. But we arrived safely despite Eli’s best attempts to kill me.. He decided that driving me crazy was not good enough and upped his game.

Amie arrived in Kinshasa before we arrived in Tucson.

We arrived in Kinshasa tonight. The airport is quite an experience …

Immigration took quite some time and baggage claim is a zoo.

I met up with John and Karen in Brussels and they are wonderful.

Lord willing, I will meet Micah and Asher tomorrow around lunchtime.

Tomorrow is a holiday, so we cannot go to DGM until Thursday. Please continue to pray about that.

Matt picked us up at the airport in our van. We dropped him off at home. Lulu was so excited to see us. I dragged the luggage upstairs and unpacked. I had to face the fact that the house was really hot, the router reverted to default settings and I had to get dinner ready. But first it was Wal-Mart. Did I mention the 2 exhausted kids with me and the fact that due to sleep deprivation I had an IQ of about 25. Oh, it was fun. Again, I picked the wrong line. But we had food for breakfast. Soon I was home and making dinner- chicken patties, broccoli au graten rice, and salad. As we were sitting down, the doorbell rang. Steph had to pick up something from Bookman’s, and decided to stop in an see how we were. Perfect timing! So she joined us for dinner (yes, she ate vegetables!) before heading home to do battle with the cold assaulting her.

The kids showered and fell asleep quickly. Lots hope the stay asleep…

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We got off to an early start- but that is to be expected at the Farm since there are no blinds to block the morning sun. There was much to do before we left. Final packing, cleaning the shower, vacuuming, removing the banned materials etc. Then a quick breakfast with Trena and the kids before we began the trip to Newark.

Our new friend, Ousman

Amazing things can happen; I was allowed to drive. So we made pretty good time. Daddy D is notoriously slooooooow, and takes many a ribbing for it. We didn’t make as many stops as I anticipated having to make with 2 kids and a grandmother in the car. We had lots of laughs along the way.

We had lunch in NJ at the Chili’s just off 287 on 23 North. I had the Express Lunch, but they must not have gotten the memo because we waited forever and a day. And back on the road so we could enjoy all the road work in Newark. Just saying that place is an embarrassment to America. It looks like Tucson will in a few years if things stay the same.

We arrived at the airport earlier than expected. So the kids, CJ and I checked in early at the Marriott. Then we all headed to the airport to drop off Amie. After the usual tearful goodbye, her parents left and we went in with her. That is where we met Ousman. He looked like an ordinary airline employee, but he had superhero powers.

We had only been to Terminal A for the last 10 years, flying Southwest in and out of Newark. But Amie was flying United. It was like culture shock. They use an open concept, so it was very confusing to us. We didn’t know where to check in for international flights. So we asked Ousman. He was vague but then asked where Amie was going- “to the DRC to adopt 2 kids”- and everything changed. He brought us to a self-service kiosk and checked her in with her bags. Brought them to where they could be sent to baggage handling. Then he gave her info on Brussels to make sure her bags arrived in Kinshasa. If the security line was too long after our good byes, he would get us past the line. Turns out he was from Gambia and has a soft spot for people who adopt orphans from Africa. Lots of the baggage handlers and other positions are filled with man from Africa. So many cool accents.

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Packing


Amie has been busy packing, after being busy setting up travel plans.

We were fortunate to obtain missionary fare tickets. They are easier to change around. Adoptive parents are able to use them as well. Sorry, you can’t use them to have fun in the Bahamas.

We got a big surprise. Someone we’ve known for many years gave  us a check to cover the travel expenses. That is, as some might say, some serious coin. We are quite thankful as the Father continues to provide above and beyond what we every could think or imagine.

The agency wanted us to wait before finalizing our plans. Didn’t happen. This should have happened months ago, so we are wasting no time as Amie plans to travel home right before Asher’s 2nd birthday (when we’d have to buy him a ticket). They are more responsive now that they understand why we are acting so quickly.

She has her confirmation for St. Anne’s. This is essentially a retreat center that many adopting families stay in while there. It is near the Embassy.

Someone I know also has a contact with the Bible Society there. He may be able to spend some time with Amie and the kids, provide help in case of emergency an just plain be a friendly face there.

I helped make sure she had the dossier ready to go, pulling documents from a few sources. The Agency sent us the documents which were translated into French. We had some technical difficulties printing them, but eventually her friend who traveled with her to China brought Amie to another friend’s office to print them all out.

I got the joy of spraying her wardrobe with Permethrin. If I get cancer in 5 years, you’ll know why. Just loving the news of an Ebola outbreak in Uganda. So glad she’s not going there!

There are all kinds of things to pack, as you can see. One suitcase is filled with food to eat and toys for the kids to play with. Another suitcase is filled with clothes for the kids and Amie, as well as some toiletries.  The third suitcase (a carry on) contains a change of clothes, vitamins, medicine and dossier.  Not as easy as you might think.

This is not as stressful as when Amie traveled to China. We were on vacation, but had to go home first. When we traveled what out of our control, and some things needed to be done (we posted about this so we can check the archives). We came knowing she might travel. So the stresses are different.

We ‘ll try to keep you up to date on what is happening. We are not sure how often Amie will be able to reach me. Now both of us have Skype accounts since we heard this was the easiest way to stay in touch. We can video chat if she has a WiFi signal. We have heard it is a bit spotty. So, we’ll see.

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We didn’t get much sleep this week. That’s what happens when you’re in communication with a place with a 5 hour time difference.

The Embassy in Kinshasa was focusing on our documentation this week after finally having interviewed the birth mother. That is another story that we may share in the future.

5 am Tuesday morning Amie got an e-mail from the Embassy employee that they did not have our 2011 tax return. We submitted all that paperwork prior to filing our tax return. We had forgotten that we should have that in there. Apparently it slipped the mind of the agency as well since they never asked for it. This is one of my frustrations, they are supposed to stay on top of all this stuff. It is what we pay them for.

Getting them that information was not as easy as it would be if we were home. But we are currently 2,000 miles away from our files and our computer. Thankfully we have an accountant. Thankfully he wasn’t on vacation like we are. He was able to send that in when he got into the office, after responding to our early morning e-mails.

5 am Wednesday morning we got another e-mail. Oddly, it was in her spam file and she “just happened” to scan that after getting a message from the person watching our home and hanging with Lulu. We were informed that they had our info, but it revealed that we would be $4,000 below the poverty level if we adopted these kids.

I was pretty certain they were only looking at my salary. As a pastor, my housing allowance is non-taxable income. So it doesn’t show up in my adjusted taxable income. We got through to the Embassy employee on the phone and talked with her about this. She ended up transferring us to the Consul and we talked about it.

What is frustrating is that this always comes up. When we buy a home. The other 5 steps in the adoption process when our income is relevant. It seems like I have to walk people through this when they should know this. Am I the only pastor who ever adopted a child? What was strange was that we have approval from DHS. Shouldn’t they have the same income regulations and standards as the Embassy?

It was a good conversation. I understand, he’s doing his job. I understand he’s not just supposed to rubber stamp it. As he said, the DHS ruling is not binding on him. But he was going to check into it and get back to us.

I was confident that he’s find out the same thing the others had and approve the adoption. Amie was not so certain. Others advised her to be proactive and send supporting info (like a letter about my raise this year which would cover the difference). We did that.

Thursday morning I was awakened around 5 am again (aren’t I supposed to be on vacation?!). This time it was good news. The adoption was approved, and the visas will be issued on Tuesday.

I’ve been saving a special “imported” cigar to celebrate this day. Sadly, it rained all day. And we had plans all day. But now we are working on Amie’s travel plans. We are hoping that she will leave Monday (or possibly Sunday). We want to do this for a few reasons.

  1.  We don’t want her to go home to AZ on Tues and fly right back out a few days later. Her body clock will be messed up enough as it is. And we don’t need to spend the money needlessly.
  2. We want to travel back before Asher turns 2 and needs a ticket instead of a lap ticket. That saves us a big chunk of change.
  3. We don’t want to have to spend $ on orphan care for an additional month.

One agency employee was hesitant about our plans, wanting to check with their DRC staff to see if too many people are already in-country. We basically told them we’ve waited long enough, and it makes no sense for Amie to crisscross the country.  We need plenty of wisdom as we sort all this out. We’ll both need grace as well. Amie as she crosses an ocean and a sea, landing in 2 different continents to pick up 2 kids she has never met. I need grace returning home with 2 kids needing to prepare a sermon, care for the kids and get the house ready for Amie’s return. I’ve never had to get the kids ready for Sunday morning, when I’m preaching, before. Should be interesting.

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I have been meaning to blog on this for awhile, but always got distracted by something else. A recent post by Trillia Newbell, Do I Have What It Takes to Raise an African Child?,  put this back in the front of my mind.

We are no strangers to transracial adoption. Our son is Chinese. But it is different. We don’t get sideways glances from people as the cute little Chinese boy hangs onto us.

I am preparing for something different this time around. Why?

I’ve seen too many posts by people that white people should not raise black children. It is mostly about culture. We would be raising them in “white” culture. This assumes a uniform “black” culture. As a result, I’m expecting some level of resistance from well-meaning people who have issues with white parents raising African children.

I’ve also seen posts by politically active Conservatives who have been attacked for raising black children in such an environment. These people think that all blacks should vote the same way, I guess. While we would not consider ourselves politically active (we don’t volunteer or attend rallies, though I talk politics often), I know some people might take offense at this too.

I know I am not prepared for the racism my children will experience. The scene from The Blind Side comes to mind. You know, they are in the stands and a parent from the other team is tossing out racial slurs toward Michael. I will deal with my own responses to such hatred and stupidity. I will have to deal with my anger. I will have to help my kids to deal with their own responses to racism.

I’ve been called a few names based on my ethnic background. But this is a different level. And you actually have to know my name to guess at my ethnicity (though many in FL and the Southwest wrongly assume Hispanic). My kids will face it simply by the color of their skin. There will be tears, anger and more.

I will have to help them cope with pressure to be “black” and with the taunts of “Oreo” and other foolish things.

Are we crazy? From one perspective, we are putting our children at risk of attacks from both sides of the cultural divide in our nation, and the political one. Is it worth it?

I don’t think we are. That is only part of the picture. They will have opportunities they can’t even imagine right now as they play in the orphanage.

I have to teach them that sometimes it is good to suffer. It depends on what you are suffering for.

We are blessed if we are persecuted because of Christ. What, some may ask, does this have to do with Jesus? If it wasn’t for Jesus, we wouldn’t be doing this. We’d be content with our middle class lifestyle and have more money to spend on ourselves and biological daughter. Perhaps we’d have our adopted son. Who knows.

It is because we have been adopted by God that we have decided to adopt. Our actions point to the far greater reality of God adopting sinners to be His sons thru His Son. If we do suffer at the hands of racists of various kinds, it will be because we have been loved by God in Christ, now love God and have been changed so that we imitate Him in caring for orphans. The person persecuting us doesn’t need to understand that. By our response to the gospel, and our desire to witness to the greatness of the gospel, we put ourselves in the path of suffering.

It isn’t just adoption and persecution. We think of Jesus, who though He was rich He became poor to enrich others. Jesus is radically generous, and works in us to make us radically generous. This takes on different forms. One form for us, among others, is raising children who are not related to us, unless you go back to Noah, and embracing them as our own.

We also have a hope rooted in the Book of Revelation. In the multitude worshiping God there are people from every tribe, tongue, nation and language. Heaven will look like our transracial family. God is working in our world to save people from every culture and background. He doesn’t just save them, but brings all of them into His one family. He’s not like some disreputable men who have more than one family. We are not eternally segregated by race, language or culture. We are eternally united in Christ. Our family is merely a manifestation of God’s eternal work here on earth.

I’m sure we are a little crazy. But not about this. We know it won’t be easy. We anticipate hardships along the way, even if we don’t know what shape they will take. But, we are confident that our God will always be there- after all, He was not willing to spare His own Son, but gave Him for us (Rom. 8).

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This is essentially a follow-up to my previous post.

Apparently there was a big dialogue between the Agency, the Embassy and the lawyer in the DRC. What happened may depend on who you heard it from.

“What? Why? When?”

We were told by the agency that there were communication failures, largely due to cultural differences. Based on what the Embassy says, I think something different is going on.

These problems are not particular to our case. As we interact with others in the process, we hear a strangely familiar story. Missed appointments. Same excuses- the Embassy told me to come back later (it might be because you didn’t have the proper paperwork).

I think I have a really good idea of what is going on, and am frustrated that the agency does not seem to see it too. Perhaps they are just saving face, but that is never a good long term strategy if your business relies on trust. I’d like to see some ownership of the issues, and movement to correct the problems. Instead I get “let’s just focus on getting your children home.” And why haven’t we been doing this the last year?

I go back and forth about addressing this. As I noted before- I feel vulnerable. Amie’s about to travel to a foreign country and have to rely upon the very person I suspect is the problem. But if I call him out now … he could make this drag on even more.

I also recognize that I am not in the best state of mind to address this. I am understandably angry. I’m raw. I am prone, right now, to sin in my anger. I’ve been studying Colossians in preparation for a new sermon series this Fall. The old self wants to vent that anger. I want to go all Hulk on these people. The new self, united to Christ and in the power of the resurrection, knows that I need to be patient and gentle even as I admonish. I have a hard enough time doing this with my son who has a Ph.D. (or is it black belt) in pushing all my buttons. How much harder when dealing with people who are keeping me from my kids. There are months of their lives we can’t get back. I feel robbed of more than money.

So, I feel like Vinnie Barbarino, except my confusion is emotional instead of intellectual. Being on vacation doesn’t help. We have too much time on our hands. Our minds are not occupied with other matters and turn it over too often. I know that realizing this is half the battle, or more. But it is like a whirlpool, a vortex, a black hole sucking us in because we are unable to withstand the gravitational pull. Or is that centripetal force?

Either way, it weighs upon the mind. So, today is a 2-fer. Just because I’ve got too much time…

Perhaps I need to keep in mind the passage from Proverbs I was talking about with Jadon the other day- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

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Beat the System


Strange times in the adoption process.

We feel quite vulnerable because we are so close to being done. We want it to be done with for obvious reasons, like we want the kids home and being integrated to the family. But instead of being excited about this, we feel like we are between a rock and a hard place. There are no easy answers.

A number of red flags are popping up with regard to the agency and how they are handling things. It is always difficult when you cannot verify things. But some similar things keep coming up. We have far more questions than answers at this point.

One issue we have is how slowly this whole thing is happening. We aren’t sure there is a reasonable explanation for this. For instance, Amie has been asking for a Letter of Invitation for the last few months. You need a Letter of Invitation to apply for a Visa.  Once you get a Visa to the DRC it is good for two months. Her requests became more serious in the last few weeks since the kids had their embassy appointments. The story is that the lawyer in Kinshasa is working on them.

Many of those phone calls to the Embassy were for the purpose of receiving a “confirmation of appointments” from the Embassy. That would have taken only one day, but the scanner was down. We received that confirmation on Tuesday and sent our request for a Visa in Wednesday. Saturday we received the Visa! I doubt the lawyer is busier than the Embassy staff.

While the agency seems to work on the Visas consecutively (kids then parents), we want to do this simultaneously. Why they do this consecutively is beyond us. Why make it take even more time? It has already been much longer a time frame than expected and we pay $200/child each month for orphan care. Oh, we just learned it jumps to $3oo/child next month. I can’t help but connect the dots.

It is better for the children, and us, for the process to move quicker, not slower. But there are numerous delays that don’t always have something to do with the DRC.

Some people who have already adopted find their concerns not addressed. They think those still in the process have more leverage over the agency. But, do you raise these issues when the process is already moving so slowly? We feel over the barrel, not wanting to do anything that might drag this out longer.

So, instead of taking the direct approach we are trying to beat the system, so to speak, by taking some matters into our own hands. Hence the contact with the Embassy on the visa. But isn’t this what we are paying the agency to do? As soon as those visas for the kids come thru, Amie is on the plane and gone.

I hate that we feel the need to do this. But we believe we need to actively advocate for our kids. Doing what is best for them doesn’t begin when they arrive in the States.

Here are some memories…… but where is Bob?

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