Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

After an incredibly long trip home (29+ hours), we arrived at the Nashville airport to Danny and the kids waiting for us at the gate. This was an unexpected surprise as people usually have to wait at the security check. It also gave our immediate family a chance to hug and cry and still get ourselves together before we greeted the dear friends who came to meet Asher.

I cannot tell you how sweet it was to see those smiling faces and colorful banners and balloons waiting on us. It reminded me of child birth: after all the pain, you hear the sweetest sound, and you get to hold this precious child in your arms; that moment makes you forget all the suffering that you just endured. Walking out hand-in-hand with our entire family and seeing all the kind souls who came to meet us was just that moment for me: it redeemed all of the tears and anxiety that our family had been through.

Asher was quite shy at first, but he soon warmed up to the crowd and began laughing and giggling. The part that made my heart sing, however, was watching Mac, Owen, and Sylvie love on Asher and take care of him. It felt like there were five parents loving on Asher instead of just two. I was so proud of them and how they received their new brother. I know (having just been through the same thing in Uganda) that they are still in the "honeymoon" phase, but it was still nice to have that affirmation when we first arrived.

I cannot get over how much Mac, Owen, and Sylvie have grown in just two months. I think Mac is at least three inches taller than he was when I left. And Sylvie seems so grown up! I know that my being gone has been hard on them both physically and emotionally, but God has used this time for good in their lives. I am thankful that He has redeemed all of the moments that I have been away.

I think that is my takeaway for the entire journey: God is a Redeemer. He has redeemed me, He has redeemed the time our family has been separated, and He is redeeming Asher and giving him status as a child of the Covenant. While it has not been easy and I would not wish the process on anyone, God has shown me that He can make all things new and that He can use all things for good. It is never easy and usually painful, but God promises that He will redeem all things.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday With Katie

We spent out last Saturday afternoon at Katie's house. This was the first time that I really got to help because Asher was finally warming up to the dogs and the abundance of children. He even got in the mix and helped us bag food for the children to take home. It was a special time. I am so glad that I got to share it with Lindsey and Ryan as well. My whole day was made, however, when I walked into the gate and saw Josie; she squealed, "Auntie!" and started climbing over children to get to me. I guess eight trips to Kampala is enough to bond anybody for life! I am going to miss Josie, Katie, Mary Pat, Christine, and all of Katie's girls. I don't think I realized how much I had grown to love that family over the past six weeks. I pray God's blessings over them. Here are just a few of the pictures we took.

Before lunch, Raoul leads the children in worship and a Bible lesson

Kids waiting in line for food (that's better than the lunch line at CPA!)

The whole gang serving food

Ryan and Lindsey

Asher and I

Katie's kids enjoying a hot meal (notice the CPA shirt)

Food for the kids to take home

Helping serve today was truly a privilege. Thank you, Katie, for opening your home and for letting us be a part of what God is doing through you and your ministry. We love you, sister.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Hard Day

Asher and I left for Kampala at 6:00 a.m. this morning all by ourselves. Amy needed to be in court with the families at the same time I needed to be at Immigration, so I traveled by myself. I felt independent and scared to death at the same time. After waiting an hour, we were issued Asher's passport, and then we headed to the mall.

While eating lunch and filling out some more paper work, I received a call from Amy saying that the judge never showed this morning for the Doyles' (along with two other families') court date. The judge apparently had a conference to attend, but no one bothered to inform the families. If I hadn't been here five weeks, I might have been shocked.

The Doyles joined Asher and me as we headed to the U.S. Embassy for our exit interview. The Assistant Consular was wonderful: she was kind and helpful and made me feel at ease. Everything went very smoothly until I realized that they had never received Asher's medical papers, and they could not issue his visa without these forms. Apparently the papers had been delivered, but they were lost in transition. We rushed (a strong word for Africa!) to the Surgery, and the doctor was kind enough to complete another set of papers for Asher. Even though the Embassy had already closed, they let us drop off the papers. They also told us that Asher's visa would be ready tomorrow. Thank you, Jesus!

Today was another one of those days mixed with joy and sadness: joyful that it appears I could be going home on Sunday, but sad that the Doyles have to wait for another court date. I know how much Lindsey misses her children and Ryan needs to get back to seminary. They, however, were troopers and chose only to see the silver lining. I need to be more like them!

Tomorrow I go back to Kampala to (hopefully) pick up Asher's visa. This is the last step before the real journey begins...thanks again to all who have walked this trail with us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Know You're in Africa If...

1. You see a camel at the Shell Station...and I am not joking!

2. You wait in line at the bank for an hour because the network is down, receive your receipt, and find out that it is only the receipt to get the real receipt. For the real receipt ( a necessary document), you must come back in 2 1/2 hours, at which time you find out the network is down again, so you wait another hour.

3. You break for a bull crossing the road in rush-hour traffic.

4. You see random goats and cows tied to trees lining the road.

5. Fast food is people rushing to your car window with fried chicken on a stick, grilled sweet bananas, and airtime minutes.

And all of this is from today only! For those of you who have been here, please feel free to add to the list...I bet you have some good ones too!

We are still waiting to hear about the passport. I will know something tomorrow morning. As soon as I hear, I will post. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Batting 500

Asher and I rode with Danny to the airport on Sunday and then spent the night in Entebbe to surprise Lindsey and Ryan when they arrived early Monday morning. While it was sad (really sad!) to see Danny leave, it was so sweet to see Ryan and Lindsey and help them get acclimated to Uganda!

The van dropped Asher and me off in Kampala for another full day. We had planned on getting the Otim letter in the morning and then heading to get Asher's passport in the afternoon, but as usual, things did not go according to plan. Mr. Otim's secretary said that he was in meetings all day and would not be in until tomorrow or the next day. She told us to leave and come back another time. Amy, the adoption coordinator, would not take "no" for an answer, though. We hung out in the hall of Mr. Otim's office for two hours, waiting for word from Mr. Otim. With no news, we headed to the local mall for lunch. Amy tried to call Mr. Otim every fifteen minutes, and praise be to God, Mr. Otim came in the office after lunch! We ran back to his building and waited another three hours for his secretary to type his letter of recommendation.

With letter in hand, we rushed to the passport office, but to no avail. It was too late and the people we needed had already left for the day. Therefore, we will have to drive two hours to Kampala again tomorrow to begin the passport process. I am told it takes 4-5 days to get a passport, but I need it on Thursday in order to be able to leave on Sunday. Please pray that we can expedite this process, that God would move in that office just as he did today. None of these details are outside of God's sovereignty, and I know that He can move these mountains.

Danny should be arriving in Nashville in the next few minutes. I was so sad to see him go...we had such a sweet time together. In fact, I found myself constantly wanting to hold his hand or have his arm around me while he was here...I know it sounds silly, but I was storing up that comfort for this week. Anyway, I was sad to see him leave, but I am so thankful that he will be back with our other children. I know they have done remarkably well while I have been away (thanks to all of you!), but it is an awful lot to expect from them. I am ready for their daddy to come home and love on them until I can get there.

I want to thank you for praying for us. I really felt your prayers, today in particular. I had a peace and joy that I have not experienced since I left the States. I really believe that your prayers moved the Wind of Heaven today and allowed us to get the letter we needed. Please continue to pray for tomorrow. It all comes down to this day: if we can get Asher's passport processed by Thursday, I will be able to get his visa and come home on Sunday; if not, I won't. Please pray that God will boldly move tomorrow and that He will be glorified through these details.

Mac, Owen, and Sylvie, I love you so much and I am so proud of you! I am coming home soon! Hang in there!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Asher's Birthday Boat Ride on the Nile

The rocks at the end are the "true" source of the Nile

Can you see the monitor lizard? It was about five feet long and creepy!

We had a nice snack at the Kingfisher Resort...we plan on taking
Asher and Judah swimming here next week

A picture of our boat

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Day in Africa

What a fun day we had yesterday! After breakfast, we walked into town to look about. While we were eating at Ozzie's (a restaurant owned by Mama Jude, a retired missionary from Australia full of personality), all the preschoolers from Amani came by to get a snack. Asher enjoyed seeing his buddies out and about in town.

After lunch, we walked back to the room and had some "down" time watching The Incredibles. It was good for the three of us to just relax and cuddle in bed. I think Danny needed the rest more than Asher did! Afterwards, we walked down to Michelle and Adam's house so that Asher could play with Sterling and Danny could meet our new friends. I can't resist a little iced tea from the States! We had a sweet time of fellowship.

It was off to dinner and bathing after that. It may not sound like a very eventful day, but it was a wonderful time spent together bonding and enjoying each other.

Today is actually Asher's birthday. While we plan on celebrating when we get home, we have sung him "Happy Birthday" and opened a few presents. We are about to take a boat ride across Lake Victoria and to the source of the Nile. Danny, the history teacher, is all fired up about that. Hopefully, I will have some pictures to share soon.

Tomorrow Danny will fly home, and I will be here for one more week to get Asher's passport and visa. Right now, I plan on flying home next Sunday night (10/18) and arriving Monday night around 5:15. Please continue to pray that all the details will fall into place so that this will work. You all have been such faithful friends to us. I cannot wait to get home and hug all of your sweet necks!

Will post more pictures tonight!

Danny's First Day in Uganda

Would you believe that my camera died, and I have no pictures of Danny's "Gotcha" moment? These pictures are from the next day when we arrived in Jinja. Asher loves having "boy" time with Danny after spending three weeks with me. We all know that Danny really is the "fun" one!

Asher eating mango from the tree and playing a little "football" with Daddy

Danny says Asher catches great and could be a good soccer player

Danny tries to teach Asher to head the ball

Mommy saves Asher from Daddy

Daddy helps Asher with his "boo boo"

Rough housing is good for the soul...

Asher playing the drums with Grace and Jane at Aunty Katie's house

Danny playing with Katie's girls (or are the girls playing with Danny?)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Danny and Written Order on Same Day!

There is so much to say, but I am too tired! Just know that today was fabulous! I felt like I was on vacation with my hubby. We got to tour the forest, take a piki into town, play soccer and hide-and-seek with Asher, visit with Katie and her girls, and finish the day with a candle-light dinner overlooking Lake Victoria. I am still amazed at how just having Danny here has changed my whole perspective: what was hard and fearful before is exciting and adventurous with him. What a blessing to have Danny here!

Wouldn’t you know that my camera would die just when Danny arrived and met Asher? Therefore, I have no pictures of his “gotcha” moment. That’s okay, though. It was very late and Asher was rather shy. I did charge my battery, and I have some great pictures of Danny and Asher playing this morning. Since I am unable to post pictures on the blog for some reason, I will post on facebook.

Danny and Asher are bonding quite well. Danny has been full of energy and optimism, always handling Asher with love and patience. His presence has truly been a breath of fresh air for both Asher and me. If I ever doubted that darling husband of mine, I will never do it again. His giftedness is shining through!

Amy called and said that our written order and ruling are in…woo hoo! I later found out that the letters are still not “sealed” (not really sure what that means), but we are headed to Kampala in the morning in the hopes of getting them sealed, meeting with Mr. Otim, and then heading to the Ugandan embassy to work on Asher’s passport. After that, all we have to do is get Asher’s visa and we are good to travel. While it is out of the question to fly home with Danny on the 11th, I am going to try to fly home with Lindsey and Ryan on the following Sunday. Please pray that I can do that.

There is so much more to say, but alas I must get to bed. I am still giddy that Danny is here, and I don’t want to be away from him for too long. He truly is my helpmate for life. Right now, life is pretty good!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On my Own in Africa

Well, it has been a while since I last posted, but it is rather hard to find time when it is just Asher and me…he likes to keep moving! Even at night, by the time I get him down, I am down for the count!

The last two days have been different for us because the rest of the gang has gone home. I must admit, I was nervous about entertaining Asher by myself all day in a hotel room. But the days have gone by relatively smoothly. Saturday was fun as we just hung out in the room, playing cards, listening to music, and enjoying some of Asher’s toys. We did go into town for lunch (thank goodness for Flavors!) and then spent the afternoon at Michelle and Adam’s house so that Asher could play with his friend Sterling. Dinner was at the hotel, and then we settled down to a bath and Barney.

Sunday was a very enjoyable day. As we were eating breakfast, I heard an older woman ask the staff if any of them knew where a local church was meeting. When the staff responded in the negative, I told her that Asher and I were on our way to church and we would love for them to join us. As it turned out, this couple is a missionary couple in a village outside of Kampala with the Rafiki (?) Project. Art and Nancy were very kind and invited the two of us to lunch. We went to a place called 2 Friends where they served pizza and had a very rude putt putt area with a swing set. When Danny gets here, we will definitely go back for a night on the town!

After lunch, we were able to go to Amani and play with Asher’s friends. I had a nice time talking to Mama Georgina and Mama Betty. They are sweet souls who love the children and the Lord. This was the first time that Asher really enjoyed going back without being fearful that I was leaving him. Perhaps this week we will be able to play with his friends at Amani even more.

I am getting so excited for Danny to arrive. However, my hear ACHES for my three children at home. When Danny was there, I missed them, but I never worried for them. All that is changing with Danny leaving. I pray God’s blessing over them for the week that we are both gone. A special thanks to all of you who are stepping in and loving them well, especially Sally and Tara.

I am eagerly waiting word on our written order and ruling. Prayerfully, Amy will call today with the news that we can move forward. As it was, we just sat for two weeks waiting for the verbal ruling, and we have been sitting for a week waiting on the written. It would be so much easier if we just had something to do! Danny leaves on the 11th, and we pray that we can leave with him. I know that God can move mountains…please pray with me that this will happen!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And They're Off

We went into Kampala today with the hopes of receiving our written order so that we could meet with the Commissioner, a necessary step in procuring our passport. For the second day in a row, we went into Kampala with no success. The good news, however, is that Suzanne did get to tie up all loose ends and was able to get on the plane knowing that she had done all that she could to insure that Josie would be taken care of while she was back in the States. Our prayer is that Josie will be ready to come home soon. In the meantime, she is in excellent hands in Uganda. I know that when Suzanne and Mike see their little girl again, they will be shocked at how much she has changed. I know this to be true because of the change that I have already witnessed medicine and a mama’s love make in just two short weeks. It truly is a miracle.

Today when I saw Suzanne holding Josie for the last time before she headed to the airport, a picture from our first trip to the Surgery came flashing back. From the time we all arrived on Saturday to this particular moment on Monday, Josie would go only to her mama. To be honest, she would have very little to do with Mike. Therefore, he usually sat in the front of the car, talking with our driver Wilson. However, after they received the shocking news about Josie and headed back to the van, I witnessed Mike, with silent tears trickling down his face, cradling this precious girl in his arms. Without any explanation, instead of sitting in the front, Mike quietly sat next to Suzanne in the back of the van and would not let his little girl go. I am not Mike, so I have no idea what thoughts were running through his mind; I only know what I saw: a person who had gone from a man adopting an orphaned child to a Daddy holding and rocking HIS little girl. The transformation was remarkable…and brought about by sheer pain and suffering. There is a lesson for all of us in this picture: pain is hard and seldom welcomed, yet it is the catalyst that God uses for our growth and deeper capacity to love. This trip has been very painful on many levels, and yet God is using this pain to teach me many lessons and to draw me in deeper relationship with Him and others, in particular Asher.

On a different note, today was a turning point for me. With the news that Danny would be coming on Tuesday, my spirits immediately were lifted. I cannot explain it: his coming has not changed our wait, it has not changed the adjustments with Asher, it has not changed the burden I am feeling for all of my friends who are adopting and waiting, and yet my spirit has been lifted. Danny is truly a source of strength and encouragement to me. I know he will love playing and running around with Asher, he will welcome every new sight and smell, and he will love all the kind people of Uganda…it will be a joy to share it all with him. I want to thank our dear friends (you know who you are!) who even made it possible. You are family to us. Sometimes I feel as though you are the parents who continually pour into their children with no expectation of anything in return and we are the children who, as much as we appreciate you and love you, have very little to give in return. Please know how much we love you and how thankful we are to have you as friends who will walk with us through life. You have been the hands and feet of Jesus to us.

I am headed to bed now…I must confess that it is a little strange being in this wing of the hotel all by myself. Over the past week, we have had Mark and Carly, Mike and Suzanne, Mary Pat, and Renee all staying on this hall, laughing and crying at different times. Tonight it is rather quiet. The good news is that Asher went to bed without any real fuss, the first time in a few nights. Hopefully, he is settling into the routine. I plan on getting out these next few days and visiting some new friends. Thank you to Michelle and Lori and all those sweet souls who are reaching out to me and Asher. You too have been such a source of encouragement!

Thanks to Sally and all those friends back home who are minding the gap as Danny leaves to come to Uganda. You are so appreciated! If any of my students are still reading at this point, I miss you guys. Hope you are being good for Mrs. Wampler. I cannot wait to get home and get knee-deep in ANIMAL FARM and another essay! You just wait!

I’ll post again when Danny gets here. Love you all!