Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ghana Journal Trip 2: Day 3

This morning Esi and family picked us up after breakfast and took us to the cultural center where they sell all sorts of traditional Ghanaian items. They were selling everything from drums, to beaded necklaces, bags, clothing, wood-carved kitchen utensils, etc.

This was a drum we brought back for Coach Julian....

Jake and Nana Yaw's little brother, Pepra.
The girls went inside the little stores to shop and do the bartering, and the guys stayed outside. :) We purchased a few gifts to bring back home with us and then Esi & fam took us to a wonderful Chinese restaurant for lunch. A few pictures I took as we drove:

Kids playing with tires.

My flash went off when I took this picture, but if you will look closely this lady is carrying all of that stuff and she has a baby strapped to her back. This is a very common sight in Ghana.

On the car ride to the restaurant I saw one of the saddest sights that I have seen yet in Ghana. As we approached a stop light I saw a young teenage boy sitting in the median – his face was staring down at the ground as he drew in the dirt. As I looked down at what he was drawing it was then that I noticed his feet and legs. His feet and legs were blown up about 4 times the size of his other limbs. He had tumors and wrinkled skin from about his kneecaps down. His toes were unrecognizable. I could only describe his legs as looking like elephant legs. I found out later that this is in fact a disease called elephantiasis, also known as elephant leg syndrome. I can promise you this was the most awful disease I have ever seen with my own eyes. The disease is caused when thread-like parasitic worms enter the body, transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is prominent in Africa. Treatments for this disease include surgery/radiation therapy, and antibiotics/creams. This young boy will likely never have access to treatment. His days will consist of sitting there on that curb being galked at by passerbys, and begging for money. He will be pitied, socially outcasted, and will never lead a ‘normal’ life. It is with these sights that I can tell you I have not become numb to the hardships of this country. This trip has had an entirely different focus than our last trip – our purpose this time is to bond with Samuel. And so, the absolute joy of creating that bond has certainly overshadowed the sad and frustrating emotions that I feel in watching these people work endlessly and tirely for next to nothing. It has been solemn for me to come back to Ghana 6 months after our last trip and see that there have been no changes and no progression. These people are artists, craftsmen, hair stylists, athletes, and fashion designers. They can cook amazing dishes with primitive techniques. They are resourceful, innovative, and hard, hard workers. They have SO MUCH talent. And yet, there are no options here of what can be done with it. It is just a poverty cycle here that repeats itself over and over and over, like a hamster running on his wheel. I just want more for them.

I think my mind has fallen into the trap of thinking there is no way this will ever change. But, I am thinking too big. I am looking at the country in its entirety of poverty and saying ‘it’s impossible’. But then I look into Samuel’s twinkling eyes as he splashes in a pool for the first time and I know in his life there is hope like he’s never known before. As he wrinkles up his nose in distaste after trying his first ever bite of pizza I giggle and think back to just a few short months ago when his mother showed me her pot that she used for cooking. When I tuck him into bed and say good night as he snuggles deep under the covers I think back to the night I saw his ‘house’ for the first time – a 5x5 shack with a metal roof. His life will now be forever changed. It is then that I realize that my husband has got this ‘change’ thing all figured out. He knows that he can make a difference in this country with the small little platform that God has given him with basketball. He will help one person at a time. I am so thankful to be part of this wild ride. I am looking forward to seeing what God has planned with Kingdom Hoops Ghana!

Well, after our lunch at the chinese restaurant we had to hurry back to Esi’s house to watch Ghana take on Australia in the FIFA World Cup football match. Let me tell you, this country LOVES their football team. Everyone was sporting Ghana football clothing and colors today. Everywhere we went people were crowded into little shops trying to catch a glimpse of the game on TV.

We were still driving to Esi’s house once the game had already started. We were listening to the game on the radio in the car when Ghana scored its first goal and almost immediately people ran out into the streets dancing and cheering and high-fiving and hugging. It was nuts….reminded me of a movie scene!

My favorite experience from the day was when Esi took me to the market area. You could maybe somewhat compare it to a farmer’s market – only x 100.

Esi buys some lettuce & carrots.

This lady was stirring live crabs.

Esi said this particular market only runs on the weekends – by Monday every vendor will be gone. I just loved taking in all the vibrant colors and varieties of food.

Back at Esi’s house she had a few friends stop by to meet us. One of her friends was observing Samuel & JJ playing and conversing and she asked about Samuel and our adoption. When we told her that JJ and Samuel had just met on Thursday she was in awe – and really so are we! It is hard not to notice the friendship that the two of these have already. Praise God!!

After our time with Esi we went back to the hotel and I asked the boys if they wanted to go swimming (they had only dipped their feet in the pool the past few days and we hadn’t actually gotten a chance to swim). Well, when I asked the question Samuel almost jumped through the roof because he was so excited. I wish I would have had it on video – he clapped his hands, squealed, jumped up and down and shouted YES, YES, YES!!!! Once we got out to the pool I realized that this was definitely Samuel’s first time in a swimming pool. He had no fear of the water, but also had a very tight grip on my hand. The first thing I did was take him out to the drop off for the deep end and pointed out the line not to cross. Then back in the shallow end I let him experiment with the water while I stood right by him. At one point he was jumping and went under without holding his breath….and that was a good learning experience. :) So next, JJ and I showed him how to blow bubbles in the water which was hilarious to him! Once he got the hang of it I showed him how to blow bubbles while going under the water. He tried a couple of times without succeeding so I then showed him how to hold his breath & plug his nose before going under. He quickly got the hang of that and had fun practicing over and over. On a side-note, JJ is now able to go under for almost 5 seconds while holding his breath and blowing bubbles out of his nose! We had fun swimming for almost an hour. I cannot wait to take Samuel swimming back in the U.S. He will love the beach entry pool and the kiddie slide.

After swimming we had the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team over to the hotel for some pizza and a great speech from Jake (which I actually didn’t get to hear because I had two very tired boys on my hands).

Some of the Kingdom Hoops Ghana players (that is Ezekiel in the middle).

Listening to the ipod again. :)

After dinner and a few quick car races it was off to bed!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ghana Journal Trip 2: Day 2

This morning we were up by 9am to go and tour Lincoln American School in Accra. It is the best school in Accra, but unfortunately it has very expensive tuition. We’re talking $20,000 a year and it is just a high school! Most children who attend the school are children of missionaries, children of Embassy workers, and children of large corporations in Ghana such as Coco-Cola. The reason we were touring the school was because Jake is interested in renting their very nice basketball facilities for hosting camps and tournaments. Jake had previously toured the facilities on his first trip to Ghana when considering a partnership with the Right to Dream Academy. This time around we were able to have a meeting with the athletic director of the school, and Jake was asked to write up a proposal for renting the courts. Until the money is raised to build the facility on the land we’ve purchased, we have to have some nice courts for the team to practice on and a place to host events. The outdoor courts and crooked non-10 foot hoops that the team has been practicing on are driving Jake crazy. :)

Indoor courts at Lincoln School

Outdoor courts at Lincoln School

After our tour we went back to the hotel so that Jake could meet with the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team.

While Jake held the meeting, JJ, Samuel & I played! We threw the frisbee, played on the swing for a long time, read books, tested out the pool water and played with toys in the hotel room.

JJ and Samuel’s personalities are perfect for eachother. WOW – God is so good. As I watched the two of them laugh and talk with one another on the swing I was praising God for bringing Samuel into our family.

All morning long I’ve been trying to prepare myself emotionally for what it may be like if Samuel’s visa is not issued on Monday, and JJ and I have to return early without him and Jake. You see, all along this adoption journey I have dreamed and dreamed about this trip of bringing Samuel home….I am sure every adoptive family does. I have been rejoicing in the thought of this trip for months. I have even cried happily over envisioning us going up to the immigrations counter once our flight enters the U.S. I can see us walking up to the counter, handing them our documents, getting our stamp of approval and then – walking through the exit area with Samuel being officially on U.S. soil. On our last trip to Ghana back in December I got to watch an adoptive family get through immigrations. They had just survived the long flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis with their two adopted children from Ethiopia. The mother was tired and disheveled as her new daughter had cried most of the airplane ride. Jake had chatted with the Dad on the plane and found out that they were headed home to Minnesota. They were ahead of us in the immigrations line as we entered into the Minneapolis airport from our flight. I watched as the mother handed the officer behind the counter her manilla envelope full of the adoption documents. I watched as the worker checker their passports and documents – and then – they were in! I saw tears start rolling down the mother’s face – tears of relief and happiness I am sure. And at that moment I thought to myself – I can’t wait to experience that! All the downs of the adoption process can easily be erased in my mind by a moment like that. I am not sure if I will get to experience the high of walking through the immigrations counters with Samuel. But, what could possibly beat this….

Or this?

I mean really, it’s only Day 2! Are we actually adopting him or has he always been in our family? It’s just so natural to have him with us!

After Jake’s meeting with the team we went and had lunch at our new favorite spot – Frankie’s! It is a sort of sports bar & grill with a great menu of mostly American food! Their pizza tastes awesome! And, they even have a kid’s menu with chicken nuggets and fries…..JJ has had it for lunch both days since being here.

On the way back to the hotel from Frankie’s we passed by about a ½ mile stretch of people hand-making furniture. I really can’t even explain it! They were weaving and twisting and carving beautiful masterpieces out of bamboo and wood right there on the side of the road. I could seriously compare it to the wicker furniture that you would see at Pier I. They were making couches, chairs, end tables, dining sets, and outdoor sets. As we drove we even got to watch some young boys weaving a couch together. The arts and craftwork of Ghanaians absolutely amazes me. If somehow they could ship this ½ mile street to the U.S. these guys would make so much money for their work. A set like that at Pier I is over $500. And these guys are making less than a ¼ of that for their handiwork and skill.

Back at the hotel we all took about a 2 ½ hour nap and it felt so good. Samuel loves a great nap, just like the rest of us! We woke up to a phone call from Esi who wanted to stop by and see us. About an hour later Esi and her husband came to the hotel and we sat and chatted and made plans for our day that we would spend with them tomorrow. One of the first things Esi said to me was “Samuel looks a lot like JJ! That is such an amazing coincidence!” Their hair color has definitely grabbed the attention of more than a few people here. :)

Awhile later Big Sam, Prince, Ezekiel and one of the Kingdom Hoops Ghana players, named Mike, came and met us for dinner. We had a great time talking with them and Jake ended up continuing their conversations for another hour and a half after JJ, Samuel and I went back to the room for bedtime.

Listening to the ipod (can you tell Samuel had been playing with the settings on my camera!)
Tonight we also switched our flight back to accommodate our visa appointment on the 21st. They didn’t end up having 6 seats available for the flight out o the 22nd so we had to take the next flight leaving Accra which wasn’t until 1am on the 23rd. On one hand, this was good. Kofi texted us today that if the Embassy doesn’t issue Samuel’s visa on the 21st we will then most likely get it on the 22nd or at the latest on Friday the 25th. So,with our new flight schedule, we will at least have an extra day of cushioning in case they tell us to come back on the 22nd. However, on the other hand, it was extremely hard for me to think of being gone from Jayla an extra 2 days. By the time we get home on the 23rd (9pm) we will have been gone 8 days!!!!!!!! That is a very long dime, especially when we were only planning to be apart 5 ½ days. Ugghh – this is so hard. But, it is what it is. I just keep praying that God will comfort Jayla and that I won’t be consumed by missing her. Tonight when we called to talk to her she heard my voice and got very upset and started crying – so much so that she didn’t want to talk on the phone. I think she is very confused about why she can hear my voice but not see me. Hearing her so upset made me cry, and then my mom heard me crying which made her cry – so all 3 of us babies were crying at the same time! Well, at least God never promised that any of this would be easy. We knew going into this that international adoption could be a long, bumpy journey, and it has been for us. But, today as my reading in the word landed me at Psalm 20, I knew God was comforting me as I had been crying out to him all day long with the stress and hardship of this visa situation.

Good night…..

Psalm 20

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Samuel is doing well!

Just wanted to write a little update…..

On Friday morning before Jake left Ghana he had emailed the Embassy to thank them for their work on our case, and to let them know he had to leave Ghana. He just said we would appreciate any updates that they could give. Later on Friday he received an email from the Embassy with the same information they had been telling us….that they were still ‘processing’ the visa and that they would be in touch. We haven’t heard anything since then. The experience with the previous families who have adopted from Ghana is that they have received the visa within an average of 1 week in completing the exit interview. One family even had the exit interview on a Monday and received the visa that same week on Friday. That is why our situation has been so confusing/frustrating/painful. Samuel, Kofi, and Samuel’s birthmother successfully completed the exit interview on June 10th…..that means this Thursday it will be 3 weeks since the completion of the interview. Other than the death certificate request, we have received no other explanation as to what all this ‘processing’ is. We are also one of the first families within our adoption program who has had the luxury of having a power of attorney working on our behalf in Ghana. Previously the families had to be present for the exit interview and the appointments thereafter on their own. If Kofi hadn’t graciously offered to start working as the power of attorney for the adoptive families, we would have been in Ghana since June 8th. Can you imagine? That being said, we knew going into this that the adoption process for Ghana is new and therefore unpredictable, so just trying to hang in there as we get through the twist and turns and ultimately wait on the Lord and His timing. The month of July is a major bonding time for our family, as we hit the road for ‘live period’ tournaments with Jake’s teams. We have two separate 10 day trips, including what we’ve made into an annual trip to Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun with Jake’s teams. For the past few months I have been daydreaming about Samuel getting to go with us on that trip. And now, knowing how much he LOVES swimming, I am looking forward to that even more and praying that he is here with us by then.

Thank you all for your prayers! On Saturday morning I had a good cry and some sweet time with the Lord and just a few short hours later I felt renewed! It was quite unexplainable. I had a friend stop by Saturday morning and I was saying “I don’t know what has happened, but I feel so much better today than I have the past couple of days…” She said, “Well, you asked everyone to pray that your strength and joy would return, and now you are getting it!” Yeah!

Samuel is doing so well at Esi’s house! We left him a phone, and on Saturday he started calling me at 2am (which is 7am Ghana time so right when he wakes up). When I woke up that morning I had 17 missed calls from my sweet Samuel (my phone was on silent ring)! He was so relieved when I answered and the first thing he said was “Daddy-won’t-answer-phone!” I had to explain to him that Daddy was in the airplane and that he would call him as soon as he was home. That made him feel better, and he continued to call me throughout the rest of the day. Yesterday he called me over 30 times. :) I love it. He’s called Jake just as many times. It’s so cute because he doesn’t want to talk long. I think he is just calling to check-in and make sure we are still here. Our conversations last about a minute and then mid-conversation he will say ‘bye’….only to call again about an hour later. Don’t you just love him? I just talked to him about 20 minutes ago and Esi got on the line. She said Samuel is doing so well and that he and Pepra (Yaw’s little brother) are getting along really great. She also said, “Samuel is very smart. He is most likely to succeed at whatever he does.”

We love you Samuel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom , Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ~Isaiah 43:2-7~

Ghana Journal Trip 2: Day 1

An excited bunch!

Talking to Grandma on the phone. He was telling her that he wasn't sure where our luggage was.....that whole process completely baffled him!

Nighty-night on the big airplane.

Woke up in the morning and we were almost there!

We've arrived!

Today has been an awesome day of highs and only one discouraging low. We had super easy flights, made it to all of our connection flights, and easily collected all of our luggage at the Accra airport. Nana Yaw’s mom, Esi, met us right inside the airport and once we were through the immigrations desk we were out to her car. Then we were off to the hotel for some breakfast – no reason to break tradition! Esi then had to get to work so Coach Mark met us at the hotel for a quick meeting – and then IT WAS OFF TO GET SAMUEL!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!! We were all SO EXCITED!!! Kofi came to the hotel to pick us up and take us to the foster care mother’s house. One thing I didn’t have time to tell you pre-trip is that we had sent over our first sponsored student ahead of us to work with Kofi for a few weeks. We are planning on taking a group of kids to Ghana in the fall, so this was a sort of trial run to see how everything would go. The student’s name is Abigail and it is very much a God-story how we met her….I will save the details for a later post. :) You will see Abigail in some of my pictures, so now you will know who she is. When we got to the foster mother’s house Samuel was outside playing with the other children. We jumped out of the car and gave him a huge hug! He was ALL-SMILES and was so excited to see us. JJ had fallen asleep on the way so he wasn’t quite with it yet when he was introduced to Samuel. He wouldn’t come out from hiding under his blanket. Samuel didn’t seem to mind and went right up to JJ and held his hand. Everyone was telling Samuel “This is your brother!” and Samuel grinned from ear to ear. We went inside the foster mother’s home and greeted the other children there under her care. And we took LOTS of pictures!

Abigail and sweet baby Ian….he’s the little guy we brought the formula for on our last trip to Ghana.

One little boy, who I think was the foster mother’s grandson, was very fond of Samuel. I could tell by watching the two of them that they had a very strong bond.

We chatted with the foster mother and the other helpers in the home and then it was time for Samuel to say goodbye to his foster family. By this time we had walked out to the car. They all gave Samuel hugs and seemed excited to watch him head off to his ‘new life’.

I noticed Samuel had a little back pack packed which held all of his belongings. He practically skipped to the car, put his back pack into the trunk, and gave more hugs. Everyone was all smiles, except for the little boy who was Samuel’s friend. He said something in his language and burst into tears with the saddest little look on his face that I have ever seen. Kofi told us that the little boy was so sad that Samuel was leaving, and he had said that he wanted to come with us too. Talk about a heart breaker. Samuel knelt down to give the little guy one last hug, which made him cry even more, and then it was time to get into the car.

As we drove off and waved out the window I noticed the little boy absolutely sobbing. My guess is that day will forever be etched in his bittersweet.

In the car Samuel played with Jake’s phone for awhile and then he looked at me and said “camera” – he remembered! Then he took a ton of pictures while we drove in the car. He just loves it! After almost every picture he would smile and then show us. At first it didn’t seem that Samuel knew much English, so we communicated a lot by motioning. He did know a few key words which helped.

From the foster mother’s home we drove to the Embassy to see if we could obtain Samuel’s visa earlier than Monday. As we waited to be called up to the window it seemed that JJ had finally warmed up to Samuel (who had been trying his hardest to make friends with him). This was the point where they really started interacting. The security guy had taken our bags and snacks when we entered the Embassy, so we had nothing to keep us busy while we waited. Luckily we found a rubber band on the floor so we made some use of it. This was when I started asking Samuel some things like if he knew how to count to 10. And he did! He and JJ counted out loud to 15. Next up was ABC’s and he got through them perfectly. Then I asked him if he knew how to spell his name and he rattled it off S-A-M-U-E-L! Awesome! After about 30 minutes they finally called our name to the counter. The guy helping us seemed to completely understand our situation, but he said he could not issue the visa until the Ghanaian government ‘finished processing the papers’. It was then that I asked the worker what the appointment was on Monday – I specifically wanted to make sure we would be able to pick up the visa then. He said, “I’m sorry there are no guarantees….” My heart literally sunk. This did not sound good and I was not reassured one bit about the appointment on Monday. Jake and I thanked the worker for his help and walked away trying to talk through what to do next. We decided that worst case scenario would be that we would push our flight back one day, go in to get the visa on the 21st and if it wasn’t printed yet then Jake would stay the extra days past the 21st until the visa would be printed.

So, after that discouragement we went back to the hotel, said goodbye to Kofi for the day, and asked our driver (courtesy of Esi) to take us to a pizza place. :)

All day long I found myself intently watching Samuel. I adored how he talked, smiled, laughed at JJ’s antics, spoke in his language, answered questions – everything! I just couldn’t stop watching him! I could tell that he was used to having younger ones around because of the way he was such a good helper. When JJ dropped his sandal Samuel stooped down to pick it up, when JJ lost track of his blankey Samuel found it under the table and handed it to him, when JJ started eating rice with his fingers Samuel giggled and said “JJ, no” and handed him his spoon. I was just soaking up Samuel’s personality and taking it all in. At lunch I took a pen and wrote Samuel’s name on a napkin while he watched. Then I handed him the pen and motioned for him to write – and he wrote his name perfectly. Wow, this kid is smart! And he doesn’t stop smiling! After lunch we went back to the hotel and played with all the toys that we had brought along….the race cars, Leap Frog hand sets, and we also watched a movie.

He wrote these letters.....

We realized that Samuel loves anything electronic. And you only have to show him how to operate something once and then he knows how to do it. Which is why he so loves the camera. I mean really, what other contraption can bring you such direct satisfaction at the press of a button. And Samuel gave my camera a work out! Here are some of his takes….

The light in our room…

His hand.....

His face.....




The DVD player.....

Our backpacks.....

Get the drift? He’s going to be a photographer right? By 5pm I had over 200 pictures on my camera!!!!!!!

After some quick cat naps we then went over to the hotel restaurant to meet Big Sam, Ezekiel & Prince for dinner. Jake had a great time talking to the boys about ways to better develop basketball in Ghana.

As the day went on, JJ warmed up more and more to Samuel. By nighttime after dinner and showers the two of them were best buds – playing, laughing, and giggling in the hotel room like they had known each other their entire lives.
It’s funny because Samuel will often speak to JJ in twi (his language) and JJ will act like he completely understands him and then he’ll make up some words that sound twi-ish and say them back to Samuel. Then they will both giggle. I have absolutely loved watching these two interact, and it is only day 1! I am so, so, so, so, so glad that JJ came on the trip with us.

I do have to say that I absolutely love Samuel with all my heart already. It just feels like he was always meant to be here in our family. He is so comfortable with us, and us with him. By bedtime tonight we were all snuggled together, reading books, giggling, and praying together. What a wonderful family God has given us. I am so glad he called us to adopt. And I am so glad that God is sovereign and in control and that he knew Samuel would be a perfect fit for our family. Going into this adoption I thought I knew what was best – and that was adopting a little toddler. But God had other plans and I am so glad he did! Thank you all for praying for our bonding time– we can so feel your prayers.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

So we would trust Him

This has all happened so that we would learn to trust God. If God is our God during the best of times, then he is still our God during the worst of times.

My husband is smart. He knew that before he left he had to get Samuel to trust him. It was a priority so that Samuel knew that when we said ‘we will be coming back to get you soon’ that we were not just giving him empty words. Do you remember how Jake taught Samuel to trust him? By luring him to jump into the deep end of the swimming pool where he could not touch. Samuel had to learn that when Jake said ‘I will catch you’ that he meant it. It’s kind of like that old trick where someone stands behind you and you are supposed to fall backwards into their arms, stiff-legged. You cannot see if the person behind you is actually there. And in fact, if they are not there, and you fall backwards, then it will hurt. Really bad. Usually the person who is standing behind you to catch you is saying, “Do you trust me?”

Right now we are in the deep end of the swimming pool. And we cannot touch and we cannot swim. And God is saying, “Do you trust me?”

I’ve been reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. On page 123 he says this:

When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples (Luke 9:3), He told them to “take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” Why do you suppose He said this? Why not let them run home and grab a few supplies? Why not allow them to bring some money along just in case?

Jesus was forcing His disciples to trust Him. God would have to come through for them because they had nothing else to fall back on.

This place of trust isn’t a comfortable place to be; in fact it flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught about proper planning. We like finding refuge in what we already have rather than in what we hope God will provide. But when Christ says to count the cost of following Him, it means we surrender everything. It means being willing to go without an extra tunic or place to sleep at night, and sometimes without knowing where we are going. God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge.

You know I’ve been dreading going to church on Sunday. I don’t want to see anyone that I know. I don't want to explain what happened to those who haven't heard. I don’t want to sing when I feel like sobbing. I don’t want to look around and see happy, smiling people when I am feeling dead inside. But, this is what Satan wants. Satan wants us to look at our circumstances and shout angrily at God. To get mad at God for what has happened. To question God and say ‘How could you have done this?’ Satan wants us to curse God and turn away from Him. He wants us to think that we are in the deep end of the swimming pool, abandoned by God, with no one to save us. My friend emailed me a few days ago and said, ‘Adoption is the very heart of God. So Satan will try all things.’ Do I believe that evil is involved in this? Yes. Satan does not want Samuel to come home. He does not want Samuel to enjoy a new life, with a loving family who will teach him all about the Lord. God is going to use Samuel for great things. God is going to use our adoption story to advance His kingdom. And Satan is trying to put a stop to this. But, we have one who will fight this battle for us. Psalm 35 reminds me that God will contend with those who contend with us, He will fight against those who fight against us, He will come to our aid and scatter those who are our enemies without cause.

And so, you will see me at church on Sunday. I am going to lift up my hands, sing through my tears, and praise my God who is my God in the best of times, and my God in the worst of times. His love reaches to the heavens. His faithfulness to the skies. His righteousness is like the mighty mountains. His justice like the great deep. His unfailing love is priceless (Psalm 36:5-7). He will give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies (Psalm 60:11-12). He will defend the cause of the weak and fatherless. He will maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. He will rescue the weak and needy, delivering them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:2-4). He is a refuge for the oppressed. He is a strong hold in times of trouble. We can trust in His name, for he has never forsaken those who seek Him (Psalm 9:9-10).

He’s been faithful before. He’ll be faithful again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Plan

Well, we still have not heard anything from the Embassy….Ghana is 5 hours ahead of us so the business day there is half over.

Today we are starting to solidify living arrangements for Samuel as Jake and JJ will need to return home on their scheduled flight at 1am tonight. Nana Yaw's mom, Esi, has graciously offered to keep Samuel for us at her house in Sakumono-Tema (about a 30 minute drive from Accra) for the time being. Samuel was so excited to say his goodbyes to the foster family and start his new life that we think it would be taking a step backwards for him if he had to go would be confusing. One of the little boys at the foster care home had an extremely hard time saying goodbye to Samuel. He cried and cried, sobbed and sobbed. Samuel did a very good job comforting the little boy and smiling and communicating that this was a happy time for him. I would hate to put them through that all over again. Jake has set up a meeting with Kofi today in which Kofi will explain everything to Samuel in twi (his village language) to ensure that he fully understands what is going on. Esi also talked with Samuel over the phone yesterday. During our time in Ghana we went to Esi's house twice with Samuel, so he's been there and we think he will be very comfortable there. Not to mention Esi is the BEST cook around! He will be in good hands!

To say that my heart is breaking over all of this is a complete understatement. I just feel this deep anguish inside….Jake and I agree that it feels like we are being put to death on the inside. You just can’t fathom how it feels having a child go through all of this. To put such hope in a child for a new life, and to see his excitement, and then to watch his tears fall when you tell him that he can’t come yet is absolutely the most awful feeling. Especially since we have created such an awesome bond with him. It is just sickening.

I wanted to share Jake’s text messages from yesterday but I realized that I just deleted my inbox. One of the main things was that the front desk clerk noted that he has never seen an African boy love the water as much as Samuel! Jake has been taking him and JJ swimming everyday at the hotel, and they both love it. Samuel is jumping in now off the edge, and this is just days after his first ever time in the swimming pool. Jake also noted in his text that they were jumping into the 3 ½ foot kiddie pool and JJ was jumping in and sitting on the bottom of the pool holding his breath for a few seconds before coming up! Awesome! We are going to have so much fun swimming at the hotels when we travel for tournaments! :)

I have some specific prayer requests

-Pray that Samuel would understand completely what is going on. That he doesn’t think we have somehow changed our minds and are leaving him. Pray that he knows we are coming back for him. Pray that he would trust God through this.

-Pray that we would trust God through this. The enemy tries to put a lie in my head every minute that God has abandoned us, that God wants to harm us, that God is not faithful. By God’s word I know that these are not true, but we are so vulnerable right now and confused.

-Pray that the visa would be issued as soon as possible. Pray that the chains of evil and injustice that have set itself up against our adoption would be broken by God’s supernatural power.

-Pray for safe travels for Jake and JJ tonight and tomorrow.

-Pray for guidance as to what our next steps should be in contacting the Embassy.

-I am having a really hard time just functioning right now. I have been so consumed with this the past week, and it is even harder being home now knowing that Samuel isn’t coming home right now. Some friends are keeping our other Sam for me right now, but soon I will need to get back on my feet and get back to life. Just pray that God would give me strength and joy again. I have none right now.

I am hoping to post my journal entries, pictures and videos from our time with Samuel soon. As bittersweet as that will be, blogging has certainly become an outlet for me, so I think writing about it will help me to process what is going on. Looking forward to sharing our sweet Samuel with you all. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm Back

Good morning to you all – this is Janel posting and I am home. Jake, JJ, and Samuel are still in Ghana, awaiting the outcome of what has been a disastrous visa situation. Looks like my mom has kept you updated since we’ve been gone. I don’t want to at all take away from the WONDERFUL time that our family had bonding together with Samuel in Ghana, but I do want continue to keep you updated on the visa situation which isn’t quite as uplifting. I will most likely start posting my journal entries for each day tomorrow or the next day, which will give you more details of our awesome time spent with Samuel. For now, this is what we are facing with the visa situation:

1) Last Friday the 18th, we went to the U.S. Embassy in Ghana to see if it was possible to get the visa earlier than our scheduled time on the 21st. They said they were just awaiting administrative processing from the Ghanaian government regarding our case, so there was no way they could get it any quicker. They said once the administrative processing was complete they could then issue the visa. I asked the worker if we would for sure be picking the visa up on the 21st and he said, “I’m sorry, there are no guarantees.” This was a SHOCK to us, as we thought it was confirmed that we would literally just be picking up the visa at our appointment time….that there was nothing left to process. This was when we realized there had been a miscommunication between the Embassy, Kofi and our adoption agency as to what this appointment on the 21st actually was.

2) We changed our flights to leave on the 23rd at 1am.

3) On Monday the 21st we arrived at the Embassy for our scheduled appointment. When we were called to the window, we were told the same thing as we were on Friday “I am sorry, I have no new news for you. We are still waiting on the processing to be completed by the Ghanaian govt.” They then gave us an appointment at 3pm for the next day to check on the status again.

4) Later in the day on the 21st we received a call from the Embassy asking us to come in for an appointment at 7am the next day (the 22nd) instead of 3pm. We all felt that this was going to be good news, that they had finished the processing and were ready to issue the visa.

5) The morning of the 22nd we arrived at the Embassy at 7am. When they called us up to the window they asked Kofi and Samuel to go to a side room to be interviewed. About 30 minutes later they called the rest of us into the interview room. This was when they said that the burial permit we had submitted for Samuel’s father with our paperwork was not ‘good enough’ evidence of Samuel’s father’s death. They said they needed an actual death certificate. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. This was something that we could have been notified of MONTHS AGO. Not, this late in the game. I actually couldn’t believe it. How could our case get I-600 approval and all of our documents get approved through the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, and yet not be ‘good enough’ for the U.S. Embassy come visa time. It just made no sense to me. The Embassy told us they were working with the death registrar in Accra to speak with someone to verify the death of Samuel’s father and that they would call us when they had any updates. We left the Embassy in shock and disappointment.

6) The rest of the day on the 22nd Kofi worked his tail off to go to the registrar for Samuel’s father’s village and obtain the legal death certificate. By afternoon time, he had gotten word that he could pick the death certificate up the next morning, on the 23rd.

7) Meanwhile, we had contacted our case worker back home in Iowa for help. She was working hard for us on her end as well. She was trying to find out why the death certificate was needed because the burial permit is essentially the same information, just typed up and labeled differently. We decided that JJ and I would head home on the scheduled flight at 1am on the 23rd, and Jake would stay behind with Samuel to continue to work on the visa. Later that evening, our case worker received an email from the Embassy that the death certificate was actually not needed for our case. So, we were left very confused as to what exactly the hold-up was for our case.

8) A few hours before we were to head to the airport on the evening of the 22nd, Jake decided JJ would stay with him in Ghana so that he and Samuel could continue to play and bond together (they were having a wonderful time). They all took me to the airport, along with Big Sam & Ezekiel, and we flew out on the 1am flight on the 23rd.

9) Yesterday morning, the 23rd, Jake and Kofi obtained the legal death certificate and took it to the Embassy. However when Jake presented the document to the lady handling our case, her response was only to insist that she 'told him he would receive a phone call upon a decision being made'. Jake’s response was that they had also requested a death certificate which he was there to provide. He said the representative further told him that she would 'put the document in the file but it won't change how quickly the decision will be made' (which is contrary to what we were told the day prior when it was stressed to us that having the death certificate would significantly help our case).

10) And that is where we stand. It has just been one frustrating and confusing battle after another. We now sit and wait for a phone call from the Embassy or any sort of updates. Our case worker has gotten the Department of State involved which is the only entity that has authority over the Embassy. Our case is now high priority with the Department of State. Jake, JJ, and Samuel are scheduled to fly out at 1am on the 26th. So, that really gives us today and tomorrow to get the visa printed. Jake cannot miss anymore work, so he and JJ will have to fly back with or without Samuel on the 26th. We are absolutely in complete anguish over this. It is the most awful feeling to think about having to leave Samuel there again, for the 2nd time, not to mention the confusing status of what exactly is going on with the visa.

Here are some text message updates from Jake yesterday:

Text 1: Isaiah 40:27-32 Why do you say O Jacob and complain O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Text 2: Ghana lost 1-0 but advanced on tie breaker so everyone is partying. JJ and Samuel are sleeping, my goal was to wear them out! We swam twice, spent two hours at the Embassy, ate at Frankie’s, spent an hour at the bank trying to get money, had a two hour practice with the team, and had Prince over to the hotel for the Ghana soccer game. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Text 3: The guy at the hotel let me use his computer which is faster than my computer at home so I am getting a ton of work done! I may work through the night! However, having two boys 5 and 3 I may need all my rest. All I know is I am going to buy 2 of everything. Whatever one is doing the other automatically wants to do.

Text 4: I also had a very good conversation with Samuel when JJ fell asleep and I explained everything to him. I think he understands. He got big tears in his eyes and I told him this is a great time to trust in God. I also told him he has to trust us as will never leave him here. I set myself up for the conversation earlier by getting him to jump into the pool where he could not touch. I kept telling him he has to learn to trust me to catch him. It took 25 minutes and finally he started to jump freely.

Thanks for praying for our family regarding this visa situation. I know you guys are praying, and we are praying too. We serve a God who comes through in seemingly dire situations. My hope is in Him.

Psalm 27: 3, 14
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear, though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Big Sam, me & Ezekiel after we got through immigrations & customs in the Atlanta airport. Welcome to the U.S. boys!