Merry Family is Adopting Joseph from Uganda

Todd and Molly Merry
Todd and Molly Merry Renton, Washington

The Short Version:

 

We are so excited to be in the process of adopting Joseph. Many of you know about Vivien, our youngest daughter who was born with Trisomy 18, a severe chromosomal disorder. We have been so blessed by her life and God put it on each of our hearts separately to adopt a child from a third world country with special needs. Both of us didn’t think that the other person would be willing, and we were surprised to find out that the other was wanting to do so.  We knew that this must be from God. Soon after telling the kids, we found out that Silas had been praying that we’d adopt a brother for quite a while, but he also didn’t think we would ever do it. God was working in all of our hearts!

We began praying about where and when and in another slightly miraculous turn of events, God brought Edith Lukabwe to our house. Edith is the director of Home of Hope, a home for children in Uganda with severe disabilities and we met her through our cousin. We asked about adopting one of the children from her home and to make a long story short, the process of adopting Joseph, a beautiful little 4 year old (or so) boy with cerebral palsy has begun.

The story is much longer, much more detailed and the miracles God has done through this process are truly life changing for us.  We also encourage you to read the longer version below as it has been amazing to see the details of how God has brought all this about. This is also on our blog, merry-musings.blogspot.com. 

We have been active in fundraising for Home of Hope, the home where Joseph is from, and for this reason, we have not done much personal adoption fundraising because we didn't want to pull from this cause.  However, we have been encouraged by a friend to apply for this grant towards our adoption of Joseph.  We've been awarded a $4000 matching grant from Chosen & Dearly Loved Adoption Fund, administered by Lifesong for Orphans.  So everything you give to this fund will be doubled up to $4000.  We would be honored if you would pray for us and be willing to give toward bring Joseph home.

 

Long Version:

This was originally written as blog posts so if you see references to “posts” that is why.

The story of Joseph – Part 1

by Molly

I keep a prayer list. There are a lot of names on my list, but foremost I pray for each one of my kids. I have a few paragraphs that are specific to the strengths, weakness and needs of each child and then I have words I pray and think on for all of them. On November 2nd of 2017 I had 5 children on my prayer list. On November 3rd I woke up praying for 6 kids. God kind of blew our minds on November 2nd. But in order to tell you about November 2nd, I need to back up a bit. Three years in fact.

In early September 2017 we had a play date with a friend of mine. She has four boys and we’d been meaning to get together for a while and were finally doing it. Silas is always super eager to have boys over as the estrogen can be a little thick at our house. As the kids played happily in the backyard Sanae shared a story with me that really affected me. Both of us were crying by the time she was done. She’d had a rough patch with homeschooling her four energetic boys. She’d been sick for several weeks, and felt woefully behind, frustrated and she felt like she would never catch up. As she was praying about it, she felt like God spoke to her and asked her why she homeschooled. What was her purpose? She knew it wasn’t just about academics, getting into good universities or having amazing careers. After thinking it through she gave Him what she felt like was the bottom line. ” What I want for them is to love You and serve You…. I want them to have the kind of faith that would make them drop everything in life to obey you when you call.” She felt like He spoke back to her, “Very good! Now, YOU live like that.” That was the end of the conversation…. for a time.

Soon after that she attended a funeral of some good friends of hers. Their family had adopted quite a few children with special needs from other countries. Recently they had adopted a little girl who passed away 4 days after she arrived. She had been sick with a cold but still very active. The doctor had been called and while advice was given, there was nothing terribly alarming enough to bring her in. She didn’t even have a fever but passed away very suddenly and tragically from what was determined later to be pneumonia.

At the service, the father of this family was talking about children who have special needs all over the world, waiting to be adopted. As he was talking Sanae felt the Lord whispering to her, what she called the “A-word”. She felt like He was speaking to her heart about adoption. She was totally opposed to the idea, reminding God that they had a small house, small means, and that she was already overwhelmed with homeschooling their boys. How could He ask her to do something like this? Yet He kept speaking to her heart so she told Him that she would obey, but she needed Him to change her heart and help her to be willing. To her surprise He did. He actually made her excited about the idea. She prayed about it before telling her husband but when she did and he prayed about it as well, God made it clear. They were in the process now of adopting a baby girl with Downs-Syndrome from China.

As she shared her story with me, at the same time, I felt God speaking to my heart as well. And He reminded me of something that had happened three year earlier. Something I’d written in my journal and forgotten about.

As you may know from what I wrote in my book, when we had four kids and were praying about a 5th, Todd and I were not seeing eye to eye for a time. He felt done and I felt like we were supposed to have another. I remember specifically jogging, near my Mom’s house while she watched the kids. I was listening (as usual) to Lisa Bevere and she was telling the story of when God spoke to her to have more children. As I was listening I felt like God said clearly to me, “You are going to have another baby and then you are going to adopt another one.” I thought that was the strangest thing ever. I had been feeling for a while like we were going to have another and I was trusting God with this and praying that He would change Todd’s heart in His timing. But I had no idea why He would say adopt. In my mind, if we wanted another child, why would I not just have another child? Why would we adopt? And how in the world would I ever convince Todd we were supposed to adopt when he wasn’t even ready to have another one of our own?” At the time I took the assurance about another child from God, and I wrote in my journal what He had said about adoption. But I didn’t feel like He was asking me to do anything about it. I just felt like He was telling me it as a fact that was going to happen. So I just wrote it down and forgot about it. I didn’t even tell Todd. I basically told God at the time – “if You want this to happen, You have to be the one to tell Todd. I’m still working on the next baby. If adoption is supposed to happen, You have to tell him.”

As you know if you’ve read the story in my book, He made it clear to Todd and I through a series of events that we were supposed to have a 5th baby who turned out to be Vivien and worked so beautifully in both of our hearts about that. But as Sanae was speaking He reminded me of what He’d told me about adoption. Suddenly it all began to make sense. He wanted us to adopt a special needs child. My heart would never have been open to adopting a child with special needs before Vivien came along.

I have always said, “I’m not a special needs mama.” It is not me. I am Vivien’s mama, because she is MINE and I love her and though our journey with her has been difficult at times, in other ways, it has turned out surprisingly natural and easy and good. I know that is because of God’s grace though, not because of me. There are people who are truly “naturals” at taking care of babies and kids with special needs. With his medical background and passion for meeting people’s practical needs and doing it well, Todd is one of those “naturals.” These are people who have hearts for it and who find deep fulfillment in working in the arena of special needs. Being Viv’s mama, I have met a lot of people – both moms and professionals alike who are “naturals” and gifted and drawn in that way. I know that I am not one. He has given much grace with Vivien. And yet…..

I knew in my heart as my Sanae was speaking that God was asking us to adopt a special needs child. I knew that was why I was crying as she told me about it. I knew that that is why He put this word about adoption into my heart three years ago and I knew that it was supposed to happen as she spoke to me that day in September. I would have not been open three years ago to a special needs child adoption, but as I was sitting there, I felt like He was reminding me, “Sanae is saying yes to me and her house is smaller than yours, her means are less, and you have lots of help with homeschooling. And you have experience with a special needs child.” Sanae was a beautiful example of trusting Him and He was taking away all my excuses.

At the same time, I remembered what I’d said to Him before. I basically told Him again, “The deal is still the same. You have to tell Todd.” After Sanae left, I mentioned to Todd how much her visit affected me and I told him some of the story. I kept saying that we had to have them over and let them tell their story to Todd. I kept meaning to do it too, but life gets busy and so I just kept it in my heart and prayed about it.

To be continued…..

Part 2

The first week in November was a bit rough. For some reason I was just feeling more overwhelmed and anxious than normal – about the kids about the house and about life. I felt like I was just not getting caught up and I so anxious about it I was having trouble sleeping. When I woke up on November 2nd, I hadn’t fallen asleep before 2:00am for the past two nights just feeling like life was out of control. I have struggled with insomnia that in the past but it is uncharacteristic of me. So that Wednesday morning I was tired and still felt a bit overwhelmed.

Todd too, was feeling it. As most of you know, he is pretty amazing at all the things he does. He home schools all of our kids and even though he has help from me, the grandparents and our wonderful tutor, he oversees it all and still does quite a bit of teaching. He takes care of all the yard work, several rentals, is on the board of our co-op, teaches a unit at our co-op every year and works full time as a paramedic. He is very involved in our home life. We love that his job affords him having work two or three 24hr days a week, which gives him more time at home, but nevertheless there are moments that we have conversations where tells me he sometimes feels like he is barely holding on. After a day when the kids are particularly cranky or life is just crazy, often sings to me with smirk, “it’s the most wonderful time, of the year”. At least he keeps his sense of humor.

We had a meeting with several of Vivien’s therapists that week. She has a lot of therapy and doctor appointments and this time several met at once to discuss her yearly progress. It was a great meeting with the therapists oohing and aahhig over her and talking about all the great progress she has been making. These are people who are passionate about what they do, who love the kids they work with, are incredibly smart and gifted and are what I’d call “naturals” in the special needs world. Maggie recently said about Vivien’s physical therapist Mollie, “I feel like she’s our friend, not only a therapist.”

Afterwards Todd and I were in the kitchen talking and getting the kids lunch. Todd was saying a great meeting it was and how thankful he was for the support we receive for Vivien and how much they care about her. He was just overflowing with gratefulness. He looked at me and said rather hesitantly, “I know that you would never go for this….. but sometimes, with all the good support we receive for Vivien, her therapists, our great insurance and with our proximity to Children’s Hospital and all of the wonderful care we have received there – it just makes me wish we could adopt a child with special needs from another country, who would otherwise not thrive. We have all of these resources and are so blessed. I would love to adopt.”

I looked at him sideways rather incredulously, then grinned. I said, “Let’s do it.”

He stopped and looked at me. I said again, “I think we should do it. I have been praying about this and God has already talked to me about it. I’ve been asking God to show you if we are supposed to do it.” He said incredulously, “I have been thinking about this for a while, but you’ve always said you’re not a special needs mama. You don’t have a heart to adopt special needs kids like other families do.”

I then proceeded to tell him all that God had been doing in my heart over the last few weeks. It turned out that he has been thinking about this and wishing for it for a while. He just thought that I would never go for it. He knows it’s not “me”.

Yes it’s not me, yet God has a way of taking our weakness and saying “this is where I want to show my power in you.” He takes the areas that we are weak in and makes us strong. 2 Cor 2:19 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Because I am so lacking in this area (and I know it), I have to rely on His strength. And he makes me strong for what I do with Viv. He not only makes me strong but he has given me joy in it (as I’ve written here and here). Even when I feel inadequate. Todd and I were both amazed and excited as we spoke about what God was doing. He was so surprised to hear what God had spoken to me.

As the day went on, I decided to look up what I had written in my journal. It took a bit to find it, but in May of 2013 I’d written all about the experience I’d had when God talked to me to me about adopting. At the end I wrote to God. “If You want us to adopt…I’m willing. The miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me about it. Afterwards I wondered if I really heard from You, and thought I was silly….but I felt a peace about it because if You want it to happen, You will speak to Todd and I can just wait for now. Maybe two or three years from now.” It struck me that I’d written “the miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me” and that was exactly what had happened. Secondly I’d written “maybe two or three years from now.” And it has been about 3 1/2 years.

As I said before, at the time I had no idea why God put this into my heart. I wasn’t particularly looking for adoption and I was just thinking about a typical child, not a child with special needs. But God knew what was coming. God knew who was coming in Vivien and he was preparing me ahead of time even though I didn’t know it.

I read it to Todd, marveling at what God had done. Then an hour or so later, Todd called me into the office. “You have to see this.” He opened his laptop. He and a friend had been studying Galatians and he was reading through Galatians 4. That morning he thought since he was studying it, he should look up a John Piper sermon on Galatians 4. He loves Piper and always learns from him. This was the sermon and it’s 8 points….

Adoption; The Heart of the Gospel

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly.

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child.

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship.

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit.

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father.

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned.

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations.

8. Adoption meant (for all Christans) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

We both sort of threw our hands up in the air. God couldn’t have been making things more clear to us. We spent quite a bit of time discussing and thinking. We knew for sure that we wanted a boy. Silas has wanted a brother for a long time. We weren’t sure specifically about the kind of special needs that our boy would have. We wanted to be open to any boy God has for us, regardless of his needs. We didn’t want to decide completely ahead of time that we would rule anything out. We know we want God to lead us to the boy He has for us and He has proven, clearly, that He can do this.

And as I said at the beginning, we woke up the next morning praying for 6 children instead of 5.

But God speaking to us and to my heart to do something doesn’t always mean immediate joy and fulfillment in what He is calling us to. For the next few days or so I struggled emotionally pretty thoroughly, as I processed the implications of what this could mean. In fact, I almost felt depressed. It was such an odd mixture of , anxious thoughts, and a heaviness in thinking about what this could entail while at the same time great peace and excitement in knowing that God had spoken.

I recognize that we do have an enemy of our souls and when God calls us to something and asks us to obey, our enemy, doesn’t want us to obey. I believe in God and I also believe that there are is a physical real devil who wants to lie to us about God’s plan and His goodness. There is such a thing as spiritual warfare and I realized why I’d felt so overwhelmed and anxious and lost sleep for those two days beforehand. I also knew that I was under some attack afterwards. Those few days after we decided to obey were difficult to say the least. It seemed like the kids were more out of control, there were more messes made in the house, and things broken and chaos than is typical around our house. I felt like I wasn’t parenting well and exhausted and overworked. This coupled with some anxious thoughts about what this decision would practically look like gave me pause.

To be continued….

Part 3

First of all, I am not one to have unrealistic expectations. I knew many people who have adopted special needs kids with hope and joy at the beginning and sometimes find the load to be extremely hard.

As I started processing what this could actually mean. I kept thinking of adoption horror stories I’d heard or read about…. Not a good place for my mind to go but I knew that the reality was that adoption was very difficult for some people. I also knew that if we do get a boy who is a little older (even somewhere between 3-8 for instance) that there could be some big behavioral issues. Often times the reason adoption is needed, is because of the extremely difficult circumstances behind the child’s life and with special needs children from a third world country, it could be even more so. The workload of physically caring for a child could also be small in comparison to the behavioral, emotional and spiritual needs a child could face if he has been mistreated or even just institutionalized.

I knew that I wanted to go into this completely committed to the welfare of our boy, as well as to our biological children and willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to do so. I didn’t want to do this halfway, but I knew that this could entail suffering. John Piper’s sermon points were hitting home.

However, over and over the Holy Spirit kept speaking the truth to me about Vivien. He reminded me what it was like when we first got Vivien’s diagnosis at 20 weeks. I was so depressed, distraught and truly devastated at the thought of having a child with special needs. I was scared. I didn’t want her to die, while at the same time, I feared how my life would change if she lived. Would we be in constant fear and worry for her health and that she was going to die? Would she require so much work that I wouldn’t have any freedom? I pictured myself as a drudge at home, continually caring for her medical needs, without a life of my own. I felt selfish even in thinking this, but knew that there is often a great workload. I wondered if we’d be able to go on vacation ever again. I just thought that if she lived, my life would end as I knew it.

Being on this side, it is almost laughable how worried I was, even though my pain felt real at the time. I love my life with Vivien. Truly she is not burdensome. I love her so dearly and she is such a wonderful content little person. She fits beautifully into our family. Caring for her now feels natural, easy and normal. Just a part of our everyday life like caring for any other of our children. The workload is time consuming and sometimes inconvenient – but that is true for our other kids as well. Even my fear of travel was unjustified as she has been to 6 different states/provinces with us. Truly, God has made the yoke “easy” and the burden “light.” with Vivien. He has given great grace. He kept reminding me how he has made life with Vivien beautiful and He will also do this with our boy. It doesn’t mean that we might face different challenges than we’ve faced with Vivien, or that our life won’t change or even be difficult at times. But it does mean that God can make it good and beautiful.

I wanted to believe the best about God’s redemptive power in regard to the boy we adopt. I knew that the very heart of the gospel is that He takes our brokenness and heals us – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in our behavior. He brings beauty and joy and hope. I wanted to believe the best about our boy and not expect that everything would be difficult and gloomy and heavy. I wanted to believe that God is good and powerful and that He can and will work in the lives of all of our children, including our boy to come. I absolutely believe in the regenerating power of Jesus and the gospel in every person’s life.

I wrote this in my journal to God, “The furthest thing from my heart and head is to want to or expect that something bad will happen. I so don’t want to raise him up always feeling suspicious of him or feeling like he is different. Of course he will be different than all my kids – but all my kids are different with different personalities and issues. The last thing I want to do is go into this with a biased or suspecting heart toward a boy that will be my child and will hold my heart. I want to love him well and freely and expect the best and speak good things over him and believe good things of him, that he will be Your child all the days of his life and that all my kids will be YOURS heart and soul. I know that I will be stretched emotionally, in knowing how to both love and discipline him and how and what that will look like and where the line is and what he will be able to handle and how to help him know his boundaries. I know that in some ways, because he will not have bonded with me as a baby there will be attachment issues and I will need to really listen to your Holy Spirit in what is best for his…heart. Lord, there are just so many unknowns. But… I feel a settled resolve and depth though and trusting in you. But there is a part of me that feels like what was said to Mary “and a sword will pierce your own soul”.

That morning I was reading about Abraham. Gen 17:9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” I want this for all my children including my boy. I wrote, ” So Lord – prepare me and make me ready. Help me to trust You for what the future holds. I feel inadequate to love well and correctly and fully but I know that Your grace is there for me because You have ultimately called us to this so we can trust You in it. I keep going back to how I felt when Vivien was going to be born and how so many of my fears were unfounded and you have made this life with her so good. You “made” me have her, and yet we are choosing this child. There is a part of me that feels like you are “making me” even in this. There is a part of me that doesn’t want this. But there is another, stronger part of me that knows that YOU ARE FAITHFUL and you will give the grace and joy and strength and love that I desperately need. So I thank You and I give this to you.

Just like my blogpost about “Growing some Love” for Vivien, Jesus is in the process of growing my love for our boy, who I haven’t met yet.

The Sunday after we had made the decision to adopt, Todd was working 24 hrs so I had to get all the kids to church. When Todd is gone, this is at the best – a challenge – at the worst a nightmare sometimes and by the time I settled into my seat with Viv after 3 days of feeling such struggle and warfare and depression about our decision I was ready for God to speak to me.

It is funny. A theme of our marriage – and really our life – has been found in Deut 30 which speaks of “entering into the land” that God has put before us. The passage the pastor was in that morning was Deut 9, which also speaks of entering into the land that God has for us. This adoption will be an entering of new territory for us – one in which we need God’s help. Pastor Jay Haugh was talking about the reliability of God. When he calls us to do something difficult – we can look at the past, and see His reliability – His goodness and faithfulness – and know that He will be with us for the future as well. Again, I sat back, amazed at God’s perfect timing of this sermon for me. It was exactly what I needed.

Just as the Holy Spirit has been reminding me about His faithfulness and reliability with Viv, this sermon reminded me that He will be faithful in the future for our boy. My favorite quote from the sermon was this, “Our courageous obedience (for the future) is based on experiencing Jesus predictability.” In obeying Jesus, we look not to our own strength but to His past faithfulness.

In Deut 9 (as well as Ezekiel 36:24-28, another important passage in my life) it talks about how this is not based on our righteousness. We don’t “enter the land” because of our own strength or goodness. We aren’t adopting a child because we are awesome or righteous or capable. We will adopt him out of obedience to Jesus, knowing that it is His righteousness, not ours, His strength, not our own. Again – His strength is made perfect in our weakness. That morning I knew I was weak. Yet that sermon gave me courage. God’s timing is perfect.

The other incredible thing that God did that week was not only in our own lives but the lives of our children. We weren’t the only ones who had to process this. And it has been a process….

To be continued….

Part 4

As I said before, the kids were in the room when Todd and I had started talking about adopting. We were all in various parts of the kitchen eating or making lunch. Silas was excited about the possibility of getting a brother. Lucie took it nonchalantly and positively. She seemed happy about it and thought it would be fun but wasn’t as serious or interested as Maggie and Silas about it. Iva seemed to feel the same, not fully understanding it I think.

Maggie however is SO my girl. Sometimes her responses to life are so much like my emotional responses it is just amazing. She really struggled with the idea. (She’s given me permission to share this.) She told us she likes our family as it is and it would feel strange having someone who isn’t from our family in it. It would be weird and hard. She cried for a while and we asked her questions and prayed with her. Her friend Emma from co-op came over and that stopped the tears for a while but they came back afterwards. Todd and I sat down on the couch with her. As Todd kept asking her questions and probing deeper we felt like we got to the root. It was kind of an aha moment as he probed. Her real struggle was that if we adopted someone outside of her family, she wouldn’t have the freedom to be herself around them. She wouldn’t know them and they wouldn’t know her so she would feel like she had to be on her best behavior. She said sometimes when she is around other people she doesn’t always feel like she can be herself, but at home we know her, accept her and lover her no matter what. We know her, Lucie and Silas know her issues and mistakes and love her anyway. She loves the familiarity and dynamics of our home and this would change everything.

I feel like I know how she feels about knowing and being known for who you are. I remember talking to my mom in my early twenties about a part of me that didn’t want to get married because I liked being at our home and with our family and knowing who I was and being with a husband would be weird. He would be different. It wouldn’t be as comfortable as it was now. Mom assured me that I would be comfortable with my husband (and I am) but I know how Maggie feels.

We were really praying for her and I kept talking to her about how I was feeling some of the same things. I talked about the truth that I had all of this sadness and difficult feelings about Vivien and even though we have had hard times – God is trustworthy and he can bring joy and beauty when we are obedient to Him and how GOOD he is and how he changed my emotions and how He could change her. We kept talking to her about praying and being willing tell and ask God to change her heart and her emotions. She said that she would do it, but she didn’t want Him to change her and that she didn’t want it to happen. Finally in the evening she really did pray a sincere prayer asking for His help.

She had calmed down a little bit and I read her the excerpt from my journal in May 2013. When I said, “The miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me about it.” I stopped and looked at her and said, “what happened today?” It was like a light bulb went on in her head as she had been standing right there when Todd spoke those words to me. She seemed to get more excited and then when I read, “” Maybe two or three years from now.” And when I told her how long it had been, her eyes widened. She seemed to be a little more accepting and she even smiled. Then I brought her to the page of John Piper’s sermon that Todd read in the morning and she smiled more. Then she said that she could get excited for Silas to be able to have a brother. Then as the night went on she got happier and more excited about it.

We went up and told Todd how she was doing and I asked her if she had prayed that her heart would change and she said yes, and then Todd told her that just about the time that God was working on her heart and making her happier, he had been upstairs praying for her. It was a huge building of our faith to watch Him change her heart right before our eyes.

Then when it came to Silas’s response, we were rather blown away. A couple days after we’d talked about the idea Silas and I had a date. We’ve been trying to spend one on one time with each of our kids once a month and this was my time to be with Silas. As we were chatting about life, he told me that he had been praying two things. He had been praying 1. That we would adopt a brother for him, and 2. that it wouldn’t be “too much for us.” When I questioned further, and was asking about this it turns out that he had probably been praying for about a year. He said that recently he had stopped praying because he felt like it was never going to happen. What a faith builder for our son! An encouragement to continue to pray. We would have told him “it’s not going to happen” and yet God hears the prayers of a child and is already at work. It completely melted my heart to hear that he had also been praying that it would not be “too much for us.” He knows we work hard and the stresses (and joys) that come with lots of children and a special needs child, and he cared enough to pray for this as well. I love that boy so much!

We don’t know what our boy will be like, and because of this we don’t know how he will be able to relate to Silas but we are praying that God will work this out. There have been some questions and discussions with him about what this will look like, but at this point, there are many things we can’t answer so we trust God to show us and make it clear and give Silas grace for whatever that looks like.

Part 5

In the couple of months that followed Todd and I continued to pray about what God had for us. We met with several families who had adopted children from overseas, and a few that had specifically adopted special needs kids. We asked lots of questions and began to read about, familiarize ourselves with and learn all we could about special needs, overseas adoption.

We talked to our family and a few close friends who responded with caution. Knowing our busy life with Vivien and the kids, they were cautiously optimistic. Yes, the word “crazy” has escaped people’s lips more than once as we’ve shared, but mostly in jest thankfully. Well maybe half jest. But when God speaks, as He clearly had, we don’t want to be deterred. We wanted to be wise in moving forward, but both Todd and I did not feel a need to rush. Instead we prayed and thought and talked and learned.

In the past year, with some of the racial tensions that I had seen across the American landscape, I felt like my heart was really drawn to African adoption. I want to support and love those who may feel marginalized or let down and learn more about their difficulties and know how to help bring positive change. As you know, my cousin Rachel lives in Africa and she and her husband are building a hospital there. They are studying in Uganda and they had told me about a friend of theirs, Edith, who had a home for special needs children in Uganda. We couldn’t help but think that one of those children, who, while they are being cared for well, could have a huge opportunity for better medical care here.

But we had heard a lot of negative things about Ugandan adoption. It is a difficult country to adopt from because there is so much controversy about adoption, with some officials and leaders being pro-adoption and others being anti. There has been past corruption where children are trafficked and adopted our without the parents realizing that their children would actually be gone forever and that they had rescinded their rights. The law in Uganda rnow says that you need to live in Uganda for a year and foster a child before you adopt them. We had also heard nightmare stories of disrupted adoptions where people poured their money into adoption and then did not end up with a child. At first, this was discouraging to hear, but my heart continued to think about Uganda..

In January after the holidays were over Todd and I had a serious conversation about what our next step was going to be. Todd was thinking about China for several reasons. The need is great. There are a lot of children with special needs there waiting to be adopted. The process is very streamlined and much less uncertain than Uganda. Usually only one trip is involved with one parent. It seemed like it could be a good fit. But at the same time my heart was drawn to an African child and I kept thinking of Edith and her home for kids with special needs. As we talked back and forth I told Todd I was willing to move forward with China if he chose, but I really felt like I wanted to adopt from Uganda, despite the difficulties. I had spoken with an adoption agency who was very clear about the difficulties of Ugandan, yet given the connections we had in the country and the fact that we wanted to adopt a child with special needs vs. a typical healthy child, she told us about an “exceptional circumstances” clause in the law. She felt like we were good candidates for this.

As Todd and I talked and it appeared that we were looking in opposite directions, he felt like it was best to continue to wait and pray about it. We both knew that in the past, often God brought us together in unity in the right timing when we were willing to wait and pray. Todd reminded me that we weren’t in a hurry. On the one hand, I felt frustrated about waiting, but on the other hand, there was also a sense of relief emotionally. I was still getting used to the idea of thinking of caring for another child with special needs.

As I look back on this I see God’s kindness to me. In the same way God allowed time for my heart to grow with love as Vivien grew inside of me, he was allowing my heart to grow toward our future boy as well as we waited. I appreciated His timing.

In addition to this, I asked God about the fact that He had seemingly given us direction to adopt and yet, we weren’t moving forward. I wanted to make sure that our indecisiveness wasn’t somehow disobedience to what He’d asked us. He reminded me of the story in I Samuel of how there was a battle going on and King Saul agreed to meet with Samuel the prophet at an assigned place, where Samuel was going to offer a sacrifice to God. It was only right for priests to offer sacrifices but Samuel was late in meeting Saul. Saul began to fear because the people were starting to get restless and desert from the battle lines. So instead of doing what Samuel – and by extension God – had asked him to do and wait, he moved forward and offered the sacrifice himself. It was a move that was disobedient, despite the appearance of good intentions. It was motivated by fear.

God reminded me that He has told me what to do and I need to wait on His timing. I can trust Him that there is a time to wait instead of push forward, and a time when moving instead of waiting is actually disobedience. When I realized that it was God asking us to wait, it gave me a peace and a settled-ness, despite the fact that it felt like we were doing nothing. I was ok with that and it helped in my emotional process of thinking about our boy trusting God for the future. We continued to pray and ask God for wisdom.

While Todd was still thinking about China, he was also open to exploring the option of somehow talking with my cousin’s friend Edith about the possibility of adoption. We weren’t sure how this was supposed to happen. She was in Uganda, we were here. We talked with Rachel more about it and she said that she would ask her about adoption in general, but not specifically.

Todd and Maggie had been planning going on a medical a trip to Uganda in the fall of 2017 for almost a year and a half, before adoption had been on the table. We have sponsored an orphan girl in Uganda and were connected with her when we went to City Church briefly a few years ago. So it was natural that when they were considering where to go, that they decided to go to Uganda with City Church. They would have the opportunity to do medical missions as well as meet the girl that we have been sponsoring for several years. So I was wondering in January if God was going to make us wait until September for Todd to somehow connect with Edith and approach her with the idea of adoption. It seemed like a long ways away. But we had put it in God’s hands and He had said wait. So we waited.

God is so amazing. Truly. Edith had never been to the US in her life. We have never been to Uganda. But in December we’d sent a gift to Home of Hope so she had our e-mail. We were on a family trip to Disneyland in February when I got an e-mail from a lady named Christa Preston. She told us that her organization was sponsoring Edith to come to the US in order to raise funds to buy land to expand Home of Hope. She said she’d be on the West Coast in San Francisco April and wondered if there was any way we could connect with her. As Todd and I talked it over, we realized that we had just enough air miles to fly her up here and back. We decided to go ahead and do a couple fund raisers from our home and ask if she could speak at any churches while she was here. And while she was here….. we could ask her about adoption.

Again – God just has this sense of humor. He tells us to wait and in the meantime we are thinking and wondering how we can talk to Edith. She is a half a world away. God figuratively says, “You want to talk with Edith? E-mail and phone calling seems awkward? Ok. Fine. I’ll just bring her to your house, a month and a half from now.” We just sat back in awe and shook our heads. I love how He writes stories and puts things together.

We set about contacting churches and figuring out flights and dates and wondering what it would be like to meet her and ask her about this. And wondering how she would respond….

Part 6

The spring of 2017 felt very busy. We lead busy lives but as the time drew near and we were making preparations for Edith’s coming, there just seemed to be so much to do. We planned on hosting two pizza nights at our home to give people the flexibility to come when they needed to. Todd spoke with local churches that we are in contact with and we were able to set up time for Edith to speak at Redeemer Eastside the Sunday she was here. She was flying in on a Thursday and leaving the following Monday.

Never having met her, we weren’t sure what to expect – and yet we were expectant that God was working. Even though Todd was still thinking a bit about adopting from China, he was open to us talking to Edith about the possibility of adopting from her home and at least having a conversation about it.

We were also hopeful to be able to raise a lot of money for the overcrowded Home of Hope and did what we could to spread the word. We had several meetings for her, a few speaking engagements and places for her to attend. Looking at the schedule the most time we had to just sit down and talk with her was right after she arrived. When she came Thursday afternoon, we loved her right away and she loved meeting our family, but what surprised her the most was Vivien. She didn’t know that we had a child with special needs and it was clear that she was enamored with Vivien from the moment she met her.

Edith didn’t know that we were going to approach her about adoption, but what we didn’t know (and found out later) was that Edith was planning and praying about asking us something as well. Edith was looking for someone to start a board for Home of Hope. Someone who would establish a US presence for Home of Hope and give a means for a 501c3 status. She didn’t know us but she had been praying and asking God if we were the ones that she should ask. She said that when she saw Vivien, she knew we were the ones.

The amazing thing is, as the weekend went on Todd was starting to talk and think about offering to help somehow with Home of Hope here in the US. We just weren’t sure about all that would entail.

But as we sat down to chat that afternoon, we heard more of Edith’s story. I know that I have chronicled some of it here but I will summarize again for you. Edith has several children, but when her son Derek was just a baby he contracted a sickness that left him with hydrocephelus, cerebral palsy and severe special needs. As you may have heard, in Uganda when children have special needs, they are considered curses. Many think they are demon posessed and often the mothers and families and those who care for them are shunned and looked down upon. Many told her she should send him away to a home but Edith loved her son and cared for him. The story is much longer, full of miracles and God’s working, but eventually Edith started caring for other children with special needs. Just a few. But then people started dropping off children and babies with special needs at her house – abandoning them on the grounds. Home of Hope was born from this.

We were talking more specifically about her son Derek. He lived 14 years and she loved him dearly. She shared more about his life and his death. Even the circumstances surrounding Derek’s death, were quite amazing and miraculous. God’s comfort was clear and He showed her his love through it. But as we were talking about Derek’s death, I was asking her how long ago it was. He died in 2014 and I asked her about the time of year. She said it was September of 2014. I inquired more about the date and as we talked we realized that the day of Derek’s funeral, the day they buried him, was the day that Vivien was born.

We of sat back in awe and realized that God was connecting us inexplicabley with Edith, Derek and Home of Hope in many ways. After she told much of her story, we sat down with her and began to tell her some of our story of praying to meet her and a bit of the backstory of God talking with us separately and together about the possibility of adoption. Todd came to the conclusion of our story and asked her if she had ever considered allowing one of the children from Home of Hope to be adopted and would she think about adopting one to us.

Edith sat back and said, “No one has ever asked to adopt one of my kids before. God has spoken to you and now I need to pray and ask Him to speak to me about this.” But she told us that even when we were sharing with her, she kept getting a picture in her head of the face of a little three year old boy with cerebral palsy at her home named Joseph.

As the weekend went on and Edith spoke several times, telling the story of how the Lord moved her to begin home of hope. The last day, before she left, I asked her what she thought about the possibility and she said that she had been praying and definitely felt a peace about moving forward, when we were ready. We also told her when she asked that we would be willing to do what we could to give Home of Hope a U.S. presence.

After she went home from Uganda, we continued to pray about the next steps. While it seemed clear that God was leading toward helping Home of Hope as a whole, forming a board and moving forward toward that, Todd still was hesitant with jumping in and beginnning a Ugandan adoption…..

Part 7

Spring (2017) was coming quickly and we were continuing to pray about where to adopt from. It seemed clear that God was working to bring us together with Edith and it certainly seemed like he was opening doors to adopt from Uganda, in my mind.

Todd is a wise man. He thinks things through, is careful of risk and wants to be cautious before he makes a decision. He completely believed that God brought us together with Edith to help Home of Hope establish a US presence. But as I said before he was hesitant about a Ugandan adoption. We had been warned specifically about Ugandan adoptions, and how difficult they are. We’d heard of adoptions where people put a lot of money forward and then the adoption was halted or completely stopped, and others where the parent ended up being responsible for the child but unable to bring them home because of complications. The government system is far from streamlined and there are so many hurdles.

What he didn’t want to happen, was to use the money God has given us to adopt, have an adoption halted and then have that money be wasted and unable to be used for another child. He also didn’t want to rush into something. Adopting from Uganda seemed like a big risk.

My heart was still drawn to Ugandan adoption and Joseph and I really felt like if God was behind it, it was a risk that we could take. So we kept praying.

I had talked several times with Myriam, the lady from the adoption agency we were planning on working through. I felt confident that she was knowledgeable about the process and though she very strongly warned us about the risks and complications, she felt fairly confident that Joseph was adoptable because of the “exceptional circumstance” clause we had heard about before. I thought maybe if Todd was able to talk with her as well it might speed things up so we set up a meeting with her that ended up needing to be a phone conversation because of our crazy schedule. The kids were home and we had the conversation in our room just to be able to avoid distractions.

I was hopeful and expectant that this conversation would move Todd’s heart to be willing to move forward with the possibility of adoption Joseph and but it ended up having the opposite effect. Myriam was again clear about the risks and complications and as she shared with Todd, he told me afterwards that he felt even more strongly that it wasn’t a risk we should take. He wanted to be wise.

After he went downstairs, I remember specifically leaning back on our brown love-seat in our room, with a few tears talking to God. I truly felt like adopting Joseph was God’s will for us, and even felt confident that it would happen, but I wondered if it was going to take until the following September when Todd and Maggie took their mission trip Uganda, for him to change his mind and it just seemed so far off. I said to God, “You have to give him a word Lord. Please give him a word.” I didn’t want to wait that long.

A few hours later that afternoon during Viv’s nap Todd and I had an appointment with some of her therapists in Bellevue and we were in the car by ourselves with no kids, and able to have a conversation. He smiled at me and began to tell me a story.

I knew that that evening Todd was going to be speaking to a youth group of a friend of ours. He was speaking from Joshua 1 about being strong and courageous. He was planning on talking about about how when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, God gave them a clear path. He opened it up and they walked through. But when the Israelites crossed over the Jordan river into the promised land, God had them line up, and move forward when there was no clear path. It wasn’t until they started walking and the feet of the priests actually touched the water that the Jordan parted. In addition to this, it was the time of the year when the Jordan was overflowing it’s banks. It was a huge risk and even danger to try to cross over when it was flooding. Even if it was what God had promised.

Todd told me that he was planning on talking with the youth about doing courageous, strong risky things for God. About not being satisfied with the status quo but being willing to take a risk in obedience to Him. As he was preparing to teach, God said to him, “you are teaching this to these kids – but are you willing to do it yourself? Are you willing to take a risk and move forward with this adoption because I ask you to?”

Todd said he felt like adopting from Uganda was like crossing the Jordan when there was no clear path. And not just no clear path, but when it was overflowing it’s banks. It was clear that God was reminding him that He needed to do this in regard to this adoption. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was willing to move forward in obedience to God, despite the risk. I love that I am married to a man who is wise and who isn’t easily persuaded (even by his wife in this case) but listens to God and responds when God speaks.

The other thing that was just beautiful and sweet – a little “extra” from God was the fact that when we were married, the theme of our wedding, the theme of our future marriage and life was “entering the promised land.” God had given us so many Scriptures – separately and together throughout our life together having to do with entering the land that He had prepared for us – a future that He held. My Granny made the banner to the right that was in our wedding. Once again, without even realizing it until afterwards, He was giving us this analogy when it came to adopting Joseph.

I wasted no time in calling the adoption agency and filling out the application! When I prayed “God give him a word” I didn’t expect it to happen 2 hrs later. Sometimes God answers our prayers quickly and sometimes we have to wait. I had faith that He would answer but I had no idea how suddenly.

After we called the adoption agency, things got underway quickly. Everyone talks about a “paperwork pregnancy” and how much there is do do and accomplish in an overseas adoption. I was expecting it, but still wasn’t prepared for how many hours and hours of work there was. I pretty much spent every spare moment of downtime in our summer on paperwork. We still scheduled fun things with the kids and trips, but anytime we weren’t doing something already scheduled, I knew I needed to be at the computer. I am grateful for sabbaths and I tried to be good about taking them, but it felt like a lot of pressure for quite a few months because anytime I had a to spare from doing family / children household stuff – I knew I needed to spend it on paperwork. It felt like there was no end and it even carried over into the fall.

The one part about the paperwork that both Todd and I actually enjoyed was writing out and answering questions about our lives. Sort of a life-story book of ourselves, which was both reflective and cathartic (as Todd described it). Both of us loved to write so there was at least one part that we appreciated doing.

Thankfully near the end of summer and in early fall most of it was accomplished. The fall was full for Todd with putting together a board and creating a 501c3 to help Home of Hope as well as working on a fundraiser. Both of us had a ton of paperwork, but I focused mainly on adoption and he focused on Home of Hope as a whole. Edith came to visit to do more fundraising for Home of Hope in November and it was wonderful to see what God did. Todd and the board put together an amazing fundraiser.

In September came Todd and Maggie’s never-to-be-forgotten trip to Uganda. During these almost three weeks, I didn’t have my regular babysitter/helper with Maggie gone. I am so glad for the grandparents who helped out so much as well as Bestie, who helps tutor the kids a few times a week. I had anticipated for it to be difficult but to my surprise, I actually ended up enjoying my time more than I thought I would. We had simplified our schedule during that time out of necessity and it was so great to be home more and feel a bit caught up on home life things. I love being at home with the kids and it seems like we are always running from place to place. I appreciated the slower pace.

The most stressful part was that the trip happened during Viv’s first week of school, but as I have written earlier, it went beautifully. I went with her every day for the first week and arranged different things for the rest of the kids each day.

One of my favorite parts about those three weeks was how much my relationship with Silas grew. I depended on him, but we also had a lot of fun together. He and Maggie entertain each other most of the time, and are rather inseparable. They are such good friends and they get so silly together, but with Maggie gone, Silas and I really bonded. When the little girls go to bed, normally Todd and I talk and Maggie and Silas hang out. But during this time, Silas and I just hung out together, played cards and enjoyed being together. He told me that he was even a little bit sorry to see them come home because in his own words and way, he told me that he really liked our closeness. I love him so much. In addition to this, right before they left for the trip, we had some difficult things happen circumstantially. We expected warfare and we definitely went through some. One of them was a huge struggle for Silas that he and I got to work through emotionally and spiritually. He came out on the other side, hearing from God in a significant way, closer to Him and wanting more of Him. I loved what God did in his life and how He spoke to him.

The other bonus of the trip was just the sense of fulfillment I felt and unusual satisfaction that I took from doing my little part to make the (comparatively small) sacrifice at home so that Todd and Maggie could do what they did. They absolutely were thrilled in serving the people of Uganda in both a medical and a teaching capacity. The work they were doing was beautiful and they met God there in a new way. Maggie loved the Ugandan people and told me afterwards that she wished she could live there. They loved meeting Brenda, who we have been sponsoring for years, and the orphanage. Maggie flourished in a way I have never seen her flourish before. And Todd told me he felt so blessed and excited to be there. He loves helping people medically and practically.Meeting Joseph at the end of the trip was incredibly significant. You can see in the picture on the left that Todd was trying to hold back tears. But I will let them write it in their own words in part 8 to come….

Todd Meets Joseph by Todd – Sept 2017

After having spent nearly two weeks in Uganda, Maggie and I had planned to stay another four days with family and to meet Joseph for the first time. It was hard to say goodbye to our fellow group members, as we had become like family. Our cousins, Rachel and Isaac, their twin boys and Rachel’s parents took us in at their home in Kampala. We spent the night, then headed out to Jinja in the morning. Jinja is about a four-hour drive East of Kampala. The drive out to Jinja gave us opportunity to see more of the varied country of Uganda. While Kampala is very over-crowded and noisy, Jinja is a bit more spread out and slower.

Joseph lives at Home of Hope, just outside Jinja. Home of Hope was started by Edith Lukabwe after her own son was born with cerebral palsy. Edith has a huge heart for kids with special needs. Home of Hope currently cares for 56 children. Joseph was found one morning wrapped in a sheet under a banana tree in the front yard. As with other children, he had been left there because someone knew he would be well cared for. He was about a year old at the time and his cerebral palsy was evident. Most anyone with special needs is seen as a curse in Uganda.

I had heard from others who had been at Home of Hope, that it can be a bit overwhelming to see so many children with severe needs in a relatively small amount of space. While Edith and her staff care very well for the kids, they are short on space, beds and equipment. Knowing this, I told Maggie that if she didn’t want to come in she could wait out front for a bit. Once again, I had underestimated how strong Maggie can be in these situations.

Having seen so many pictures of Home of Hope and the kids, it seemed a bit surreal to be pulling up. As we walked in the front door, I heard Edith coming from the back of the house shouting! She and some of the other nannies came out singing a high-pitched, loud (very African) welcome. While I had never heard it before, Maggie and I couldn’t help but laugh and give hugs to Edith. She was in tears and was obviously grateful we had come. It was on this trip that I realized what a remarkable work Edith was part of.

After we spent some time in her office, Edith wanted to take us around to meet every single child. She was like a proud mother showing off her beautiful kids. Children with hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, twisted bodies, or cognitive levels of infants. Their culture had said they were outcasts, not worth their attention. But here, they had found a home and love.

We spent a few minutes with each child, getting down at their level, interacting with them and learning about them from Edith. I had wondered when we would meet Joseph. After about a dozen kids, we met him, sitting with one of the nannies. Edith said “And this is Joseph….”. I asked the nannie if I could hold him and picked him up. As Maggie and I both stood their looking at him, talking too him, I couldn’t help but cry. Here he was. A boy that we had been talking about adopting and we had finally met after flying halfway around the world.

As I held him, I could feel how different he was from holding Vivien. Cerebral palsy had made him a bright, interactive little boy with all the appropriate mental capacities, yet unable to control his body. His huge, happy eyes communicate a joy beyond his disability. We spent some time with just him in Edith’s office. Maggie made him laugh and I continued to cry. It was already a trip of so much emotion.

After some time, it was lunch time and we got to feed Joseph some rice and beans. Can you imagine what lunch time is like for 56 kids with disabilities? While some can self-feed, many (like Joseph) need assistance. He continued to laugh while Maggie blew bubbles with a bubble gun we had brought. As we fed him, he would cough about every third spoonful. I could tell he had some swallowing difficulty, but he seemed to manage.

We returned again the next day, this time doing a brief physical on Joseph. Since Isaac is a doctor, he was able to sign some of the forms we needed for the adoption. Our stay that day was shorter and it was hard to leave Joseph. I think leaving him to lie on the mat when we left was the hardest. CP is a terrible disease that makes a person a prisoner in their own body. Still, we knew we’d be back. This whole encounter confirmed all the more why we wanted to adopt Joseph in the first place.

Maggie Meets Joseph Sept 2018 – by Maggie

We first went on a missions trip and afterwards we went to stay with our cousins Rachel and Isaac. From there we went to Jinja to see Home of Hope, Edith and to meet Joseph.

The drive to Home of Hope it was pretty. Jinja is a beautiful area of Uganda. As we were driving up I started getting butterflies in my stomach. I felt nervous and even sick to my stomach. I know a lot of people have cried when they see Home of Hope and that it can be overwhelming. As we pulled up Dad asked me if I wanted to stay in the car for a bit. I wanted to say I would but I heard Edith and the others coming out giving the traditional Ugandan welcome call. It is a high pitched sound almost like yodeling. I decided to get out and I let Dad go first I talked with my little cousin Ezra. When I came in it wasn’t as overwhelming as I’d expected. I’d been prepped so much that it was almost easier than I thought it would be.

I met a lot of the kids as Edith showed us around I noticed there was one little boy that I wanted to play with. I kept on playing with him and when I asked Edith which little boy was Joseph, she said it was him! He was so cute. I had played with him for a little while and I knew that Dad wanted to spend time with him so I let him. I could see him getting teary eyed so I gave him a little time alone with Joseph and decided to wander and play with the other kids more too.

We had brought some gifts so I gave out some of them to the kids. I looked in our gifts and there was a bubble blower and I brought it outside and all the kids loved the bubble blower. They had a blast and so did I.

After the bubbles I wanted to come back in and spend some more time with Dad and Joseph so we did in Edith’s office. He was giggling some of the time and he reminded me of Vivien with the noises he was making. He was so cute and we had such a sweet time with him.

I think what the hardest part of meeting him was knowing that he was a 3 year old boy inside who may be able to think clearly but not be able to express it with his body. It felt sad to me that there was a three year old boy inside his body who was bouncing around wanting to play and couldn’t.

I’d seen these documentaries of kids with cerebral palsy who would try to communicate through different parts of their body. There was a little girl who could tap out things with her toe on a computer and she could express that she was sometimes sad that she couldn’t do what others did or talk like others did and she at times felt trapped. It made me sad to think that this could be the case for Joseph.

We only got to spend a couple of days with Joseph. I’d tried to spend time and interact with him, but I felt like we didn’t have as much time to bond as I had wanted.

I really hope that next time I can bond with him a lot more. I’m excited because we are planning to go back and see him next year and I can hardly wait to see my beloved Uganda and see Joseph again. I loved Uganda and told Dad I wanted to live there. I also can’t wait to bring him home and have him forever.

January 2018 Molly Meets Joseph by Molly

I arrived in Uganda at around 2:00 in the afternoon Sunday, Jan 21st. Because I was meeting a friend afterwards to spend a few days in Europe, we flew together to London, had a long layover with the plan to do a little sightseeing and then I’d continue on to Uganda. We had a wonderful day, then more flying and I ended up reaching Uganda with about four hours sleep in 40 hrs. Needless to say I was a little loopy.

I met the driver that Myriam (the lady from the adoption agency) sent for me and we were off to our first hotel. The plan was to stay the night in Kampala and then Myriam would find a driver to take us to Jinja to meet Joseph. I actually felt a little embarrassed when I talked with Myriam because I had such a hard time tracking and even having a decent conversation, forgetting things that seemed very simple. I could hardly wait for bed. But before bed I got to meet Brenda.

Several years ago we started sponsoring Brenda through an organization started by a pastor at City Church, now Churchome in Kirkland. Todd and Maggie met her last the last time they were here. She is soft-spoken, beautiful, sweet and affectionate. Ivan and Linda who help care for those orphans in the organization brought her and came with us to dinner and they were wonderful people. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at a place Myriam found for us. I have prayed for Brenda so long and it was so wonderful to actually see her in the flesh instead of just pictures. She is working hard at school and has aspirations in the medical field. I loved meeting her.

Bed was glorious and I woke up the following morning feeling fairly decent for how long I’d been awake during my travels. We headed out at 10:00am for Jinja and to meet Joseph at Home of Hope. On the way there though, we found out that Edith thought we were coming the following day. She was excited to have us coming sooner, but was meeting with Joseph’s probation officer that afternoon. Myriam felt this was perfect because she needed us to meet with him as well. He would need to sign the some of the first documents we needed for the adoption so instead of going to Home of Hope, we met Edith in town and then to see Mr. Opio, the probation officer.

I came in thinking it was just a meeting, but I didn’t really realize the significance. It didn’t seem to start well. Mr. Opio talked with us about how he was the one who had the power to allow us to foster Joseph. He said that he would see if we were fit to care for him. He told us the law says that we have to be there for a year and live with him. He also quoted us a price to do the paperwork. In addition to this, I believe Myriam told me later that I crossed my legs and apparently that is a sign of disrespect (too causal?) in Uganda. I’ll remember next time.

But as I realized that this was not going as well as I’d hoped, I began to pray like crazy…. Myriam, remained polite and knowledgeable. As they talked, she mentioned the exceptional circumstances clause and other parts of the law and was able to firmly but kindly negotiate a price as well as an understanding about what was required.

Basically afterwards she explained to me that he went from saying that we have to foster, to we have to visit, to we have to visit and if were fit we might even get a court date in less than a year. They talked a bit about the price and together they found an amount that she felt like they could agree on. She thanked Mr. Opio as she left and he gave us the paperwork I needed to fill out and sign. We left with a verbal agreement that we could come back the next day and bring the paperwork, along with Joseph for a picture with him and he would sign. Afterwards as we talked Myriam said that she was surprised that we got as far as we did, even with the paperwork in hand that we needed.

I was so thankful to God for the way it ended. One thing that seemed frustrating at first was that the “year” of fostering begins when everything is signed. Even though Todd had met Joseph in September, it didn’t count as the start of the year. If he had seen Mr. Opio then, it would have shortened the process. I felt like it was an opportunity missed, but after understanding, I realized that it was a blessing in disguise because Myriam knew how to negotiate. She also understood the law according to Hague principles and if any money is exchanged in the wrong way, we could violate that and lose any opportunity. So in retrospect, God was (of course) at work and it was a blessing that Todd did not go to see Mr. Opio back in September.

The way the “system” in Uganda works, is once Edith’s home is registered with the Ministry of Gender (and even before), children are given to her to care for when they have disabilities and are abandoned. If someone finds them, the police can bring them to her, and hold her accountable to take care of them, but she is not given any money to care for them which is unfortunate. Mr. Opio is responsible for those children in his district and Edith does the district a great service by caring for them. Mr. Opio often brings dignitaries to see Home of Hope and all they are doing. The one thing Home of Hope did get from the government was a cow to give the children milk and apparently Mr. Opio lobbied hard for this for her and Edith was grateful.

It was late afternoon by the time we finished with Mr. Opio and actually drove to Home of Hope. It was much as Todd had described and the pictures I’d seen. Colorful murals dotted the wall around the compound and as we entered the main area there were children everywhere, those with the ability to walk or scoot around coming out to greet us and others lying on plastic mats on the floor.

Almost as soon as I walked in Edith brought me Joseph. He is a beautiful, happy boy who seemed delighted to see me. As I held him, his head was the largest thing about his body and because of the cerebral palsy, his head needed support. He is long and thin and maneuvering him was a bit difficult but he seemed very happy to be in my arms. I said “hi” to him at the beginning and he answered with a very clear “hi” back. I got to bring him into Edith’s office for a little time alone with him and we had a little conversation in jibberish back and forth for a bit with lots of smiles. He was clean and well cared for.

I had been so focused on Joseph that I didn’t really notice a couple of other people who were in the office with me. There was a boy that I recognized and as I looked at him it dawned on me. His name was Blessing and I knew him through pictures because his mother and I have become good friends online. Elizabeth is a sweet woman that I’d met in a cerebral palsy Facebook group. We have talked a lot online and she wanted to see me when came to Africa. She traveled by bus all the way from Kenya to meet me. It was so amazing to see her face to face and meet her boy, Blessing, who is Joseph’s age and has cerebral palsy as well. She cares for her son so well and loves him fiercely.

Edith showed us around Home of Hope and to see the land that they were able to purchase with the funds raised by many of you who are reading this, as well as the house in the process of being built to expand Home of Hope. We even got to see the washing machine that has saved their staff lot of time and energy, thank to a generous donor from our church. It was amazing to meet all the children who I’d seen pictures of online and heard about from Todd. So many familiar faces that I now know in person.

Myriam was admittedly overwhelmed. In her adoption work, she has seen many orphanages, but there are few like Edith’s that will take children with disabilities as opposed to healthy children. She was impressed however, by the care and work that Edith and her staff are doing with the resources they have.

I also got to meet the staff worker at Home of Hope who found Joseph.

The following day I was able to bring Joseph to my hotel room and spend time with he and Elizabeth and Blessing on our own. We did go see Mr. Opio and he did sign the forms. Myriam was again, quite pleased by how well it went and I really believe that God’s hand was in this. We took pictures, as we will always do to document our visits with Mr. Opio.

Edith had a meeting in the afternoon so she brought us back to the hotel and Joseph, Elizabeth, Blessing and I had the afternoon together. Spending the day with Joseph without Edith was an experience. We were able to order some mashed potatoes and baked beans for he and Blessing to eat and I had an opportunity to care for him, change his diaper, and feed him, which was a bit of a challenge. The physical therapist at Home of Hope had showed me the night before how to hold him in the most effective way for eating but it was still difficult. I was thinking a high chair at home will be a bit easier but we did it.

He was the happiest smiling-est, content little boy. We exchanged a million grins and there was one time, as I was feeding him, that he got the giggles. He was laughing so hard that he was squeaking. He made me laugh back. I’d brought a couple of small toys for him to look at, one that lit up and made sounds and he was very interested.

Elizabeth and I talked about some of the things that she has been through with having a child with a disability in Africa. She brought gifts of shoes that she had made for the whole family and I had brought her some things from America as well. I know it was a huge sacrifice for her to make them for all of us. She’d asked for the sizes ahead of time and they were beautiful sandals.

When it was almost diner time, Edith came and picked us up and we went back to Home of Hope for the final time to say goodbye. I got to meet Edith’s husband Richard who I hadn’t met before. He was a gentle, smiling man who I believe is very proud of his wife and helpful in the cause. I said good bye to the staff and to some of the children I was beginning to know by name. One little girl who was deaf, Harriett, was so sweet. I was able to sign for her a bit. There were two girls who were twins with autism who wanted their picture taken. When I showed them the picture on my camera, they laughed like it was the most hilarious joke ever.

Most of the children had eaten their dinner, and they brought me food for Joseph and I fed him for the last time and then it was time to put him to bed.

As I put him into bed the most extraordinary thing happened. Edith had been telling Joseph that I am going to be his mama. She says that the staff joke with Joseph, calling him, “American Boy” and they tell him to not forget them when he travels to America. Of course he can’t comprehend this completely, but as I put him to bed, I smiled at him, and said, “bye bye” cheerfully. To my surprise, his lower lip came out and the corners of his mouth pointed down. He swallowed a few times and I could tell that he was trying to be brave and hold back tears. I exclaimed, “oh are you sad? I have to go, but I am going to come back. It will be a long time but I will come back.” I prayed for him and then went out to see Edith.

I exclaimed, “He understands! He knows what is going on and is sad that I am leaving!” I had no idea that he would understand and how smart he was. I had been thinking he was just enjoying the attention of a stranger and the toys and the hotel, but I didn’t expect him to actually miss ME.

I couldn’t resist peeking at him one more time and giving him one more love. As I said good bye again, the corners of his mouth went down and his lips quivered. I prayed for him again and then left, but as I was talking with Edith, we heard one of the children crying. When we went into his room, we discovered it was Joseph. He was arching his back and big sobs were coming out of his body. He was almost screaming. Oh my heart! I picked him up out of his bed and held him and he immediately calmed down. I know that he was most likely he was over tired from the long day of going places that he doesn’t usually go. It was a lot of excitement for a little boy who rarely leaves Home of Hope. I knew that this was an extreme response but my heart sank and I felt physically ill leaving him.

I again said goodbye, telling him that I would be back and prayed for him and told him I loved him. This time instead of putting him into bed, I gave him to Olivia, one of the workers who had spent time with us that day. Instead of screaming he just cried softly and settled down quickly in her arms. I will never forget his face when the corners of his mouth turned down like that.

I went out to the lobby and cried a bit myself, and prayed for him some more. Edith told me later that Joseph almost never cries. It is very rare. She said that he must love me, because even when there are workers at the home that he doesn’t like, he won’t eat for them. My heart was heavy, but at the same time touched that he had attached to me in such a short time and it did something in my heart that wasn’t there before.

You see that afternoon, as I played with him at the hotel and fed him, I was really struggling emotionally. I felt homesick and tired and a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation and what was ahead. I knew I was choosing Joseph and that I loved him, but it wasn’t an instantaneous emotional bond. He was a little boy that I didn’t really know. While I was caring for him and playing with him and doing my best to love him, it didn’t feel deeply emotional and it felt like lots of work. I knew what we signed up for and I was ready for it, but at the same time I was struggling with doubt. In retrospect, I believe that God is real, but I also believe that the enemy of our souls is also real and he was trying to attack my thoughts and discourage me. I kept reminding myself of what God had spoken to us and all that He had done. I knew that this was His work and that Joseph was his gift to us. Joseph’s name means God’s gift / increase. I believed that in my heart but it was still a struggle to continue to believe the truth.

But that evening, that hesitancy and doubt went away. Seeing his little body racked with sobs and seeing that love that he has for me already did something in my heart. The nausea in my stomach at having to leave him was real and my heart was being drawn to this little boy. I knew that God was working, that He had good plans for us and he was moving me a very real way to love Joseph – not just by choice but fully in my soul and my emotions. It made me want to deal with whatever necessary to bring him home. I felt so badly for him, but at the same time, I knew that God was already bringing our hearts together and as we drove away I had a deep sense of gratefulness for what God was doing in my heart and what He was going to do in this journey.

I am praying for the right amount of attachment over the next year as we come to visit. I want him to feel loved, but at the same time I don’t want him traumatized when I leave. I am praying for God to help his heart (and ours) during this waiting period.

We left Uganda with a plan in place after talking with Myriam and Edith. We want to help Mr. Opio see that we are “fit” to care for Joseph and this translates into with seeing him several times in the next year. Todd would go in March, then I would return in May with my cousin Rachel and stay with them, and then Todd and Maggie will go back in October again with Churchome. These visits will both teach us how to care for him, and also be good for documentation for our “fostering”. As of that signed paper by Mr. Opio, we have temporal custody of Joseph to “foster” him by visiting him throughout the year and we are now his guardians.

I am excited for the opportunity to go again. Uganda, though there is a lot of poverty and the cities can be dirty and crowded, is a very beautiful country. With its lush countryside, rolling hills, palm trees and tropical greenery it reminds me quite a bit of Hawaii without the water. Maggie says she loves Uganda so much she wants to live there. I am grateful for this experience and excited to go back and see Home of Hope and Edith (who I am so proud of). But mostly I am excited to eventually bring Joseph home!

Our next visit to see Joseph came in the form of Todd traveling by himself in March. While he was there we received some surprising and exciting news….

Todd’s Trip to See Joseph March 2018 – by Todd

“That the works of God might be displayed…” John 9:3

Until four years ago, I never really considered God’s purpose for people with disabilities. I had just never given it much thought. That all changed when Vivien was born and I began to give more careful thought to how a person with significant disabilities plays a vital role in the kingdom of God.

On this most recent trip to Uganda, I was able to spend three days with Joseph, Edith and others who surround themselves with disabled children. I’ll admit, it can still be alarming to see the depth of “disability” within a small building. While many of the 61 children can respond and interact, a significant number are totally reliant on others to help them with the most basic of tasks.

While I had been able to spend some time with Joseph last September, I am still getting used to holding him, feeding him, communicating and interacting with him. With my other children, I got to daily see them grow into the people they are, but with Joseph I’m having to learn quickly. It’s messy quite frankly – literally and figuratively. I make mistakes and it can be awkward, but there are also smiles and giggles.

At one point, after feeding him in the hospital cafeteria while sitting him awkwardly on my lap, I found myself covered in rice, beans, urine from a leaky diaper and my own sweat from the tropical heat. I admit this was uncomfortable for my conventional self and I couldn’t help but ask, “God – what are you doing?”

With Vivien and now Joseph, I’m having to re-orient my thinking. The pragmatic part of me values the ability to work, skill and ability. So how does one who is completely unable to perform even the most basic of life functions “display the works of God”?

First – I’m reminded that it was not God’s intention that any of us would be sick or have a disability in the first place. Because we as humans chose sin long ago, our fallen, broken world causes children to be born with extra chromosomes, have traumatic births or blindness. None of these illnesses were His desire for us. Like all of you, I prayed against any illness or complication with all of our births. And, while I would still much rather have Vivien be whole and well, I have come to see a sweet redemption in her condition. I know that God has done a powerful work in our lives through caring for a child with disabilities – and I can’t imagine life any different.

During one of the nights in Uganda, I awoke with a passage in my head – John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus’ answer followed the question from his disciples about a man with a disability (blindness). “Who sinned – this man or his parents?”

I can’t help but think of the perspective of one of the disciples standing there. Jesus sets the stage by saying “Look everyone, this man has been born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in his life. Now watch this…”

He then spits in the sand at his feet, makes some mud, rubs the mud on the eyes of the blind man and tells him to go wash it off. What!?! How is there any hint of the glory of God in what just happened? You just embarrassed this guy on so many levels and now he’s going to go stumbling to the fountain to wash mud off his face while others are probably jeering at him! What just happened?

When I think about the mess that comes with having a child with disabilities, I think of feed pumps, carrying her everywhere, propping her up after falling, doctor appointments, frequent illness, all-nighters in the ER, stares from others, etc. While my other four have had their complications, nobody has been as messy and complicated to raise as Vivien.

And yet….. And yet I’ve seen a whole new side to humanity, to the heart of God for my disabled self. I’ve seen that in the same way I would die for this girl who is just able to be and not do, so God is content with me just being, not having to perform for Him. Despite her disability, she’s been able to move mountains in my own heart. She’s shown me my own hang-ups with God. Her life has been used by God to shape my own.

I admit I have had moments during this adoption process where I may ask “God, how did we get to this point and why does it have to be so messy?” But I’m comforted by the fact that it was messy with Jesus as well – quite literally. To be truthful, the works of God don’t always look like the works of God. They look messy and awkward. In our attempts to imitate Him, we stumble at times and make messes. I love the fact that He got involved in the mess of our daily lives in order to bring us redemption. He took on the grit and grime to bring purpose, joy and freedom. At the very least, the cross shows the messiness of redemption.

As I look forward, I know there will be times of joy, hope, frustration and despair during this adoption. In the same way, I look back on these past four years and see seasons of these as well – and He has been there for us all through it. God has been faithful and I know He will continue to be faithful. I look forward to the future, not because I know all the mountains and valleys ahead, but because I know He will be with us wherever the journey may take us.

May 2018 Molly Visits Joseph Part 1 – by Molly

This time I traveled to Uganda with my cousin Rachel, her husband Isaac who is from Uganda, their 2 year old twin boys and newborn 3 month old baby girl. Isaac is a doctor and they are in the process of ministering there and building a hospital in a rural area to bring medical care to those who need it outside of the city. I stayed with them in Kampala and they were a huge help to me while I was there. Isaac drove me around and strategized with me on paperwork as we visited the lawyer, the probation officer and doctors, trying to complete adoption paperwork tasks. Rachel’s has a degree in special education and her purpose in coming to Africa originally was to help with children with special needs. She helped me so much with Joseph, understanding what he needed, talking with him in both English and Lugandan and giving me advice and encouragement on how to care for him.. And I hope that I was at least a little help to them with their little ones also, especially on the plane right over there. I got to snuggle Lois (baby girl) and try to entertain the boys some of the time. Because they were bringing back as many supplies as they could we had 16 suitcases! to check. It was pretty crazy.

We didn’t get much sleep but survived the transferring of planes and when we landed we were met with 3 cars of friends of theirs who were able to help with the luggage. We arrived at their home quite late and tried to get as much sleep as we could the first night, though our bodies were on opposite schedules and so were the kids. There wasn’t much sleep happening between Lois and the boys. Several times I got up in the night to find Ezra or Aaron up and about.

The next day we unpacked and got settled. We had no electricity for the first part that I was there, and no running water for the last part. Things like this that even the poorest in America take for granted here, can be luxuries in Africa. Not having wifi, at the beginning either, I really missed talking with Todd especially. We tried to take it easy and just do the minimum of things that had to be done because we were quite exhausted. Laundry is a process, cooking is a bit more of a process, washing dishes is more of a process even in a modernized house in Uganda.

As you might remember from our social media posts, many of the children at Home of Hope, including Joseph had contracted the measles before I came. Joseph had been over it for a while, and Edith had just gotten out of the hospital so Mercy and a couple others from Home of Hope brought Joseph to us instead of us going there, as we didn’t want to expose Lois who hadn’t been vaccinated yet.

Joseph arrived Thursday afternoon. Mercy and the others stayed for a bit and gave us some medication for him and said goodbye. I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about them leaving. His lower lip came out once or twice but I reassured him and he seemed to do fine. He is such a beautiful child and it was good to hold him again. My heart is still learning what it is to bond with him and more of that definitely happened this week as I learned how to care for him.

At Home of Hope they’d taught me before how to hold him and feed him at the same time, but it was incredibly difficult. First of all, he can hardly hold his head up, but he is not a baby. He is most likely around 4 years old and though he is skinny he is tall. It was too hard for me and we ended up putting him in one of the boys’ car seats and that worked better. Feeding him almost felt like an overwhelming challenge over the next few days. First of all – figuring out what he could eat with Ugandan food that needed to be mashed and soft enough for him to eat was a challenge. Next, the sheer amount food he needed seemed to take quite a while for him to eat. Third, figuring out his rhythm was hard. Because of his Cerebral Palsy the neurons that fire in his brain don’t always work to tell him to open his mouth. When it was time to eat he was ravenous. He would get so excited that he’d clamp his mouth down on the spoon and I couldn’t take it out. He would clench his whole body and clench his teeth. He was trying to open his mouth but his brain was telling his mouth to close down harder. You could see the frustration in his eyes, and a couple of times he’d almost start to cry. Sometimes he’d get a rhythm of sticking out his tongue and opening his mouth, but other times his teeth would clench again and he would just begin grinding them. It was difficult too because his head was all over the place.

Joseph is well cared for and though he has spent time in therapy and in a wheel chair, he has lived a lot of his life lying on a mat. He cannot even lift his head up if he is lying down, or turn it side to side well. His head is shaped long and narrow from the back to the front. If you lie him on his back, his head will flop either to the right or to the left so he is stuck looking in one direction. In the same way, when I am trying to get him to face forward to try to feed him, his head will automatically get stuck to the right or to the left. So we always had to prop him up with a towel between his face and the wing of the car seat. At the same time, he would wiggle also and clench and have jerky movements typical to those with CP. Sometimes the food would come out. I would always end up with it on me, despite his bib, blankets and towels. Feeding him took about 45 minutes or so and by the end I was sweaty, he was sweaty and we were both exhausted with quite a bit of laundry to do after each feeding.

The first day I fed him dinner, let him play a bit, gave him a bath, which he was fairly happy about, and then put him in bed. He fell asleep easily and though he woke up in the night and wiggled quite a bit, he was quiet and seemingly happy most of the night. We slept in a double bed together so I kept tabs on him all night. He slept great but rest of us didn’t sleep so well. The little boys and Lois were still on Seattle time which means day and night is switched. They had napped during the day and were literally up most of the night, talking and calling for mommy. Lois has a cold and would cough and cry as well. Everyone was taking turns. I felt badly for Rachel and Isaac. At least I could lie in bed when they were waking up every two minutes. They had to get up and deal with things. None of us got much sleep. Maybe four or so intermittent hours.

I woke up early and took a shower and got myself and Joseph ready. Then came the wrestling match of trying to get him fed. We needed to go to the lawyer’s and then the doctor’s. Isaac was taking Joseph and I to both places. I had to think of diapers, and changes of clothes and figure out what we’d need for the day along with food. In Kampala, Rachel says that really all you should do in one day is one activity. Traffic makes it very difficult to do two. We did the lawyers at 10:00 (and we were slightly late – 10 minutes) and the doctors at 3:30. We were going on about 4 days with travel time of hardly any sleep. On the way to the lawyers I just felt completely overwhelmed with anxiety. I knew the paperwork we had to do was important. I knew I’d be carrying Joseph and trying to figure out the next time to feed him. I was just so exhausted I remember thinking that if it were possible explode from anxiety, I would! Both about what had to be done in the next week or so, but also thinking about bringing him home and what caring for him would entail. In my head I knew that the enemy wanted me to fear the future and be overwhelmed by the present. Isaac was so kind and prayed for me on the way, as he could see that I was struggling a bit.

But the meeting with Peter, the lawyer went well and we came up with a bit of a strategy for some things we could accomplish while we were here including the report from Mr. Opio and a letter, very specifically written, from the doctor who would examine him. It was so helpful to have Isaac there because he understood from a Ugandan perspective what we needed, and how to ask for and communicate it to the right people.

We found a restaurant that served mashed potatoes and some things that Joseph could eat and again, feeding him was a process. Then we headed to the doctor. The doctor was wonderful and eager to help out. He had written letters for other adoptions before. One of the things that concerned me, and him as well was that he was malnourished. Edith does a wonderful job with all the children at Home of Hope. All the food is prepared for all the children and it is a healthy size portion. Joseph is very thin but we didn’t realize he was malnourished. In getting to know Joseph however, we began to understand.

Joseph is continually moving and twitching. When you lay him down he is agitated and wiggling all over the place. His hip bones don’t ever both touch the floor at the same time because he is arching his back and pushing with his feet continually (unless he is asleep.) At Home of Hope they prepare all the food for all the children at the same time. Joseph gets what everyone else gets and it is probably the right amount for a boy his size. But not the right amount for a boy who never stops moving. His caloric needs are probably two or three times as much as normal. We found this week that the only time he is really relaxed is when he is cradled in arms. If he is on the floor (or even in the car- seat) he is continually wiggling. He strains and stretches and beads of sweat break out on his forehead and he clenches his fists. We know that Edith has done well in caring for him, but in thinking about his movements it is understandable that he has a greater caloric need than the other children who do not struggle with the twitching.

Rachel determined that this week we would do our best to fatten him up. It was interesting because right after food and when he was held, his movements seemed to calm down a little. When we fed him, he would get so agitated and excited he can hardly sit still. And in his desperation for food he just gets almost panicky which makes it more difficult to feed him. We made the decision to feed him every two or three hours or so. Which made for a lot more time and work. In addition to this, we purchased some extra dry cereal that can be made into mash to leave at Home of Hope when I left so that Joseph can be given more calories every day and which Rachel can help supply until he comes to the US.

We also found out that he really hates the doctors. Even when I was holding him and the doctor was doing simple things like checking his back with the stethoscope or measuring his head he was cringing. And when I put him down on the table to be measured he just totally erupted in panic fussing and crying. I tried to explain to him that it was going to be ok but it was difficult. Then there was the long car ride home. That was when I realized how hard the car seat was for him. He does have physical therapy at Home of Home and some time in a chair, but most of the time he is lying on a mat.. Just sitting upright in the chair was exhausting him. When we’d talk with him and try to cheer him up he got this pleading look on his face. Thankfully after the first day or two, Rachel was able to find a rear facing car seat that reclined more for Joseph, because we had to do quite a bit of traveling and this made things a little easier for him.

But by the end of the first day I was just feeling exhausted and weepy about everything. And in thinking about the difficulties in feeding him alone and the time it took and the lack of bandwidth we already have at home I just felt so low and scared about the future. Overwhelmingly so. Over the course of the trip I kept speaking truth to myself (and Rachel and Isaac reminded me also.)

When we bring Joseph home, I will not be living in an unfamiliar place and we will develop routines that will work for him and for us. We will have proper equipment, like a wheelchair and high chair. At Home of Hope they do their best and he is on some calming medications for twitching but I have a feeling that he will be put on different medications that will perhaps be helpful. We will have lots of services for him. There will still be a lot of work at the beginning but things will be different and Rachel kept reminding me of this. And I wouldn’t be going on 4 days of hardly any sleep. All of life looks different with sleep.

Unfortunately the next night wasn’t the greatest either. Joseph fell asleep easily like he had the night before. It took awhile again for us to sleep because the little boys were still awake but then at around 2:00am Joseph woke up. He was crying and completely panicking. He was sweating, arching his back and looking at me with these terrified eyes. He seemed like he was in pain. Isaac and Rachel came in to try to figure out what it was. We decided to give him his pill for agitation that Mercy had given us and Rachel also have him a Tylenol suppository. We prayed for him and eventually he did settle and go back to sleep but again, I got about 4 hrs sleep. I also woke up early again.

I was incredibly low that morning. I felt like I was at the end of myself, I’d used up all my physical and emotional energy and adrenaline and I was ready to go home….. and the week was just starting. I felt like I should be at the end. By now we did have wifi and I was able to call Todd and spend some time with him crying and talking. He had some issues with the rentals at home and was also having a difficult time, but he prayed with me and was so comforting. He remembered a medication that Edith had said they were giving Joseph that he hadn’t received. When he told me this and suggested giving him that, and things made a little more sense as to why he may have been so panicky. So Isaac wrote a prescription and were able to give that to him.

We were beginning to realize how much the spasms and twitching are a part of Joseph’s life. It is hard to describe but think about a little toddler who never stops moving and is wiggly with high energy. At some point though, a normal healthy toddler will slow down and relax. However, only time Joseph really relaxes is when he is in someone’s arms or asleep. Again this knowledge is overwhelming. When Joseph is by himself, in a chair or on the floor he twitches and spasms. However, as soon as you pick him up though, he calms down and his body relaxes. I was thinking about how busy things are at home when I am trying to get a million things done and attending to the kids. At the same time, the only thing that really calms Joseph down is holding him in arms. Which takes a lot of time. But I want to do it!

His needs are similar to a little baby’s. But even in this I know God has a plan. We learned in our adoption classes and book that when children are adopted they will have gone through trauma. Bonding happens so much through physical touch. Joseph was abandoned at age one. Little babies are often agitated and moving until you hold them and then they calm down. Little babies need to eat every few hours. We will have a chance to meet his needs and bond with him. His needs are going to be all consuming for a while but at the same time, it will remind us that he need to experience bonding and love.

I felt this strong drive and desire to love him well. It is so important to me that we not just meet his physical needs, but also his emotional ones. If this means being held often, I want to do that. At the same time, between the length of time it takes to feed him and hold him I just don’t know how we are going to do it. To be gut honest, with the lack of sleep and physical exhaustion of carrying him, the heat and preparing meals and being in a foreign country – I just wanted to get out of dodge.

But at the same time, God kept bringing me back to how overwhelmed felt about Vivien and her needs at the beginning. I remember when the nurses were trying to train me on how to feed her through her tube, and feeling completely inadequate and like I wanted to run. I was, exhausted from trying to give birth and having a c-section. I remember being secretly grateful and guilty at the same time that I caught a cold, which would put off my caring for her for a while because she couldn’t risk the infection. And yet caring for her is now not too much for us at all. We have routines and though she is time consuming, life is truly a joy with her. I knew I needed to trust God for His faithfulness in the past. He has made life beautiful and good with Vivien. It was hard at first. It took so much but we are at a happy place with her.

I told God that I was going to trust Him that He is going to do beautiful things with and in Joseph and that He would continue to grow my love for him, deeper and stronger. I am grateful for the drive he has put in my heart to meet his physical and emotional needs. In my devotions that morning very morning I read, in the Passion translation: Lk 9:23-24 If you truly desire to be my disciple, you must disown your life completely, embrace my “cross” as your own and surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your lives for my glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more of true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourself, you will lose what you try to keep.” I knew He was calling me to this. Joseph is not a “cross”. The work of caring for him however is part of the “cross” that we are called to but Joseph himself is a blessing and he is going to be a blessing to us. We know that as we His very name means gift or increase. We have embarked on a discovery of more and more of true life with Viv and we know and believe that God will do that with Joseph too. We know that surrender leads to more and more true life. But my week was only beginning…

Sept 2018

Molly will update the second half of her May trip soon. In the meantime, Todd and Maggie are getting ready to head to Uganda in one week. They will go again with Churchome and host a medical clinic and visit Joseph again. We are praying that we will receive a court date while we are there. The court date is when a Ugandan judge reviews all the information that the lawyer has put together and then decides whether or not we can officially adopt Joseph. If the Ugandan courts say yes, then we can begin the US side of the process – applying for the visa etc, which can take 1-3 months. We are nearing the end and we would appreciate your prayers for a timely court date while Todd and Maggie are in Uganda.


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Raised to date by 4 people
 of  $4,000
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My Story

The Short Version:

 

We are so excited to be in the process of adopting Joseph. Many of you know about Vivien, our youngest daughter who was born with Trisomy 18, a severe chromosomal disorder. We have been so blessed by her life and God put it on each of our hearts separately to adopt a child from a third world country with special needs. Both of us didn’t think that the other person would be willing, and we were surprised to find out that the other was wanting to do so.  We knew that this must be from God. Soon after telling the kids, we found out that Silas had been praying that we’d adopt a brother for quite a while, but he also didn’t think we would ever do it. God was working in all of our hearts!

We began praying about where and when and in another slightly miraculous turn of events, God brought Edith Lukabwe to our house. Edith is the director of Home of Hope, a home for children in Uganda with severe disabilities and we met her through our cousin. We asked about adopting one of the children from her home and to make a long story short, the process of adopting Joseph, a beautiful little 4 year old (or so) boy with cerebral palsy has begun.

The story is much longer, much more detailed and the miracles God has done through this process are truly life changing for us.  We also encourage you to read the longer version below as it has been amazing to see the details of how God has brought all this about. This is also on our blog, merry-musings.blogspot.com. 

We have been active in fundraising for Home of Hope, the home where Joseph is from, and for this reason, we have not done much personal adoption fundraising because we didn't want to pull from this cause.  However, we have been encouraged by a friend to apply for this grant towards our adoption of Joseph.  We've been awarded a $4000 matching grant from Chosen & Dearly Loved Adoption Fund, administered by Lifesong for Orphans.  So everything you give to this fund will be doubled up to $4000.  We would be honored if you would pray for us and be willing to give toward bring Joseph home.

 

Long Version:

This was originally written as blog posts so if you see references to “posts” that is why.

The story of Joseph – Part 1

by Molly

I keep a prayer list. There are a lot of names on my list, but foremost I pray for each one of my kids. I have a few paragraphs that are specific to the strengths, weakness and needs of each child and then I have words I pray and think on for all of them. On November 2nd of 2017 I had 5 children on my prayer list. On November 3rd I woke up praying for 6 kids. God kind of blew our minds on November 2nd. But in order to tell you about November 2nd, I need to back up a bit. Three years in fact.

In early September 2017 we had a play date with a friend of mine. She has four boys and we’d been meaning to get together for a while and were finally doing it. Silas is always super eager to have boys over as the estrogen can be a little thick at our house. As the kids played happily in the backyard Sanae shared a story with me that really affected me. Both of us were crying by the time she was done. She’d had a rough patch with homeschooling her four energetic boys. She’d been sick for several weeks, and felt woefully behind, frustrated and she felt like she would never catch up. As she was praying about it, she felt like God spoke to her and asked her why she homeschooled. What was her purpose? She knew it wasn’t just about academics, getting into good universities or having amazing careers. After thinking it through she gave Him what she felt like was the bottom line. ” What I want for them is to love You and serve You…. I want them to have the kind of faith that would make them drop everything in life to obey you when you call.” She felt like He spoke back to her, “Very good! Now, YOU live like that.” That was the end of the conversation…. for a time.

Soon after that she attended a funeral of some good friends of hers. Their family had adopted quite a few children with special needs from other countries. Recently they had adopted a little girl who passed away 4 days after she arrived. She had been sick with a cold but still very active. The doctor had been called and while advice was given, there was nothing terribly alarming enough to bring her in. She didn’t even have a fever but passed away very suddenly and tragically from what was determined later to be pneumonia.

At the service, the father of this family was talking about children who have special needs all over the world, waiting to be adopted. As he was talking Sanae felt the Lord whispering to her, what she called the “A-word”. She felt like He was speaking to her heart about adoption. She was totally opposed to the idea, reminding God that they had a small house, small means, and that she was already overwhelmed with homeschooling their boys. How could He ask her to do something like this? Yet He kept speaking to her heart so she told Him that she would obey, but she needed Him to change her heart and help her to be willing. To her surprise He did. He actually made her excited about the idea. She prayed about it before telling her husband but when she did and he prayed about it as well, God made it clear. They were in the process now of adopting a baby girl with Downs-Syndrome from China.

As she shared her story with me, at the same time, I felt God speaking to my heart as well. And He reminded me of something that had happened three year earlier. Something I’d written in my journal and forgotten about.

As you may know from what I wrote in my book, when we had four kids and were praying about a 5th, Todd and I were not seeing eye to eye for a time. He felt done and I felt like we were supposed to have another. I remember specifically jogging, near my Mom’s house while she watched the kids. I was listening (as usual) to Lisa Bevere and she was telling the story of when God spoke to her to have more children. As I was listening I felt like God said clearly to me, “You are going to have another baby and then you are going to adopt another one.” I thought that was the strangest thing ever. I had been feeling for a while like we were going to have another and I was trusting God with this and praying that He would change Todd’s heart in His timing. But I had no idea why He would say adopt. In my mind, if we wanted another child, why would I not just have another child? Why would we adopt? And how in the world would I ever convince Todd we were supposed to adopt when he wasn’t even ready to have another one of our own?” At the time I took the assurance about another child from God, and I wrote in my journal what He had said about adoption. But I didn’t feel like He was asking me to do anything about it. I just felt like He was telling me it as a fact that was going to happen. So I just wrote it down and forgot about it. I didn’t even tell Todd. I basically told God at the time – “if You want this to happen, You have to be the one to tell Todd. I’m still working on the next baby. If adoption is supposed to happen, You have to tell him.”

As you know if you’ve read the story in my book, He made it clear to Todd and I through a series of events that we were supposed to have a 5th baby who turned out to be Vivien and worked so beautifully in both of our hearts about that. But as Sanae was speaking He reminded me of what He’d told me about adoption. Suddenly it all began to make sense. He wanted us to adopt a special needs child. My heart would never have been open to adopting a child with special needs before Vivien came along.

I have always said, “I’m not a special needs mama.” It is not me. I am Vivien’s mama, because she is MINE and I love her and though our journey with her has been difficult at times, in other ways, it has turned out surprisingly natural and easy and good. I know that is because of God’s grace though, not because of me. There are people who are truly “naturals” at taking care of babies and kids with special needs. With his medical background and passion for meeting people’s practical needs and doing it well, Todd is one of those “naturals.” These are people who have hearts for it and who find deep fulfillment in working in the arena of special needs. Being Viv’s mama, I have met a lot of people – both moms and professionals alike who are “naturals” and gifted and drawn in that way. I know that I am not one. He has given much grace with Vivien. And yet…..

I knew in my heart as my Sanae was speaking that God was asking us to adopt a special needs child. I knew that was why I was crying as she told me about it. I knew that that is why He put this word about adoption into my heart three years ago and I knew that it was supposed to happen as she spoke to me that day in September. I would have not been open three years ago to a special needs child adoption, but as I was sitting there, I felt like He was reminding me, “Sanae is saying yes to me and her house is smaller than yours, her means are less, and you have lots of help with homeschooling. And you have experience with a special needs child.” Sanae was a beautiful example of trusting Him and He was taking away all my excuses.

At the same time, I remembered what I’d said to Him before. I basically told Him again, “The deal is still the same. You have to tell Todd.” After Sanae left, I mentioned to Todd how much her visit affected me and I told him some of the story. I kept saying that we had to have them over and let them tell their story to Todd. I kept meaning to do it too, but life gets busy and so I just kept it in my heart and prayed about it.

To be continued…..

Part 2

The first week in November was a bit rough. For some reason I was just feeling more overwhelmed and anxious than normal – about the kids about the house and about life. I felt like I was just not getting caught up and I so anxious about it I was having trouble sleeping. When I woke up on November 2nd, I hadn’t fallen asleep before 2:00am for the past two nights just feeling like life was out of control. I have struggled with insomnia that in the past but it is uncharacteristic of me. So that Wednesday morning I was tired and still felt a bit overwhelmed.

Todd too, was feeling it. As most of you know, he is pretty amazing at all the things he does. He home schools all of our kids and even though he has help from me, the grandparents and our wonderful tutor, he oversees it all and still does quite a bit of teaching. He takes care of all the yard work, several rentals, is on the board of our co-op, teaches a unit at our co-op every year and works full time as a paramedic. He is very involved in our home life. We love that his job affords him having work two or three 24hr days a week, which gives him more time at home, but nevertheless there are moments that we have conversations where tells me he sometimes feels like he is barely holding on. After a day when the kids are particularly cranky or life is just crazy, often sings to me with smirk, “it’s the most wonderful time, of the year”. At least he keeps his sense of humor.

We had a meeting with several of Vivien’s therapists that week. She has a lot of therapy and doctor appointments and this time several met at once to discuss her yearly progress. It was a great meeting with the therapists oohing and aahhig over her and talking about all the great progress she has been making. These are people who are passionate about what they do, who love the kids they work with, are incredibly smart and gifted and are what I’d call “naturals” in the special needs world. Maggie recently said about Vivien’s physical therapist Mollie, “I feel like she’s our friend, not only a therapist.”

Afterwards Todd and I were in the kitchen talking and getting the kids lunch. Todd was saying a great meeting it was and how thankful he was for the support we receive for Vivien and how much they care about her. He was just overflowing with gratefulness. He looked at me and said rather hesitantly, “I know that you would never go for this….. but sometimes, with all the good support we receive for Vivien, her therapists, our great insurance and with our proximity to Children’s Hospital and all of the wonderful care we have received there – it just makes me wish we could adopt a child with special needs from another country, who would otherwise not thrive. We have all of these resources and are so blessed. I would love to adopt.”

I looked at him sideways rather incredulously, then grinned. I said, “Let’s do it.”

He stopped and looked at me. I said again, “I think we should do it. I have been praying about this and God has already talked to me about it. I’ve been asking God to show you if we are supposed to do it.” He said incredulously, “I have been thinking about this for a while, but you’ve always said you’re not a special needs mama. You don’t have a heart to adopt special needs kids like other families do.”

I then proceeded to tell him all that God had been doing in my heart over the last few weeks. It turned out that he has been thinking about this and wishing for it for a while. He just thought that I would never go for it. He knows it’s not “me”.

Yes it’s not me, yet God has a way of taking our weakness and saying “this is where I want to show my power in you.” He takes the areas that we are weak in and makes us strong. 2 Cor 2:19 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Because I am so lacking in this area (and I know it), I have to rely on His strength. And he makes me strong for what I do with Viv. He not only makes me strong but he has given me joy in it (as I’ve written here and here). Even when I feel inadequate. Todd and I were both amazed and excited as we spoke about what God was doing. He was so surprised to hear what God had spoken to me.

As the day went on, I decided to look up what I had written in my journal. It took a bit to find it, but in May of 2013 I’d written all about the experience I’d had when God talked to me to me about adopting. At the end I wrote to God. “If You want us to adopt…I’m willing. The miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me about it. Afterwards I wondered if I really heard from You, and thought I was silly….but I felt a peace about it because if You want it to happen, You will speak to Todd and I can just wait for now. Maybe two or three years from now.” It struck me that I’d written “the miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me” and that was exactly what had happened. Secondly I’d written “maybe two or three years from now.” And it has been about 3 1/2 years.

As I said before, at the time I had no idea why God put this into my heart. I wasn’t particularly looking for adoption and I was just thinking about a typical child, not a child with special needs. But God knew what was coming. God knew who was coming in Vivien and he was preparing me ahead of time even though I didn’t know it.

I read it to Todd, marveling at what God had done. Then an hour or so later, Todd called me into the office. “You have to see this.” He opened his laptop. He and a friend had been studying Galatians and he was reading through Galatians 4. That morning he thought since he was studying it, he should look up a John Piper sermon on Galatians 4. He loves Piper and always learns from him. This was the sermon and it’s 8 points….

Adoption; The Heart of the Gospel

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly.

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child.

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship.

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit.

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father.

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned.

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations.

8. Adoption meant (for all Christans) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

We both sort of threw our hands up in the air. God couldn’t have been making things more clear to us. We spent quite a bit of time discussing and thinking. We knew for sure that we wanted a boy. Silas has wanted a brother for a long time. We weren’t sure specifically about the kind of special needs that our boy would have. We wanted to be open to any boy God has for us, regardless of his needs. We didn’t want to decide completely ahead of time that we would rule anything out. We know we want God to lead us to the boy He has for us and He has proven, clearly, that He can do this.

And as I said at the beginning, we woke up the next morning praying for 6 children instead of 5.

But God speaking to us and to my heart to do something doesn’t always mean immediate joy and fulfillment in what He is calling us to. For the next few days or so I struggled emotionally pretty thoroughly, as I processed the implications of what this could mean. In fact, I almost felt depressed. It was such an odd mixture of , anxious thoughts, and a heaviness in thinking about what this could entail while at the same time great peace and excitement in knowing that God had spoken.

I recognize that we do have an enemy of our souls and when God calls us to something and asks us to obey, our enemy, doesn’t want us to obey. I believe in God and I also believe that there are is a physical real devil who wants to lie to us about God’s plan and His goodness. There is such a thing as spiritual warfare and I realized why I’d felt so overwhelmed and anxious and lost sleep for those two days beforehand. I also knew that I was under some attack afterwards. Those few days after we decided to obey were difficult to say the least. It seemed like the kids were more out of control, there were more messes made in the house, and things broken and chaos than is typical around our house. I felt like I wasn’t parenting well and exhausted and overworked. This coupled with some anxious thoughts about what this decision would practically look like gave me pause.

To be continued….

Part 3

First of all, I am not one to have unrealistic expectations. I knew many people who have adopted special needs kids with hope and joy at the beginning and sometimes find the load to be extremely hard.

As I started processing what this could actually mean. I kept thinking of adoption horror stories I’d heard or read about…. Not a good place for my mind to go but I knew that the reality was that adoption was very difficult for some people. I also knew that if we do get a boy who is a little older (even somewhere between 3-8 for instance) that there could be some big behavioral issues. Often times the reason adoption is needed, is because of the extremely difficult circumstances behind the child’s life and with special needs children from a third world country, it could be even more so. The workload of physically caring for a child could also be small in comparison to the behavioral, emotional and spiritual needs a child could face if he has been mistreated or even just institutionalized.

I knew that I wanted to go into this completely committed to the welfare of our boy, as well as to our biological children and willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to do so. I didn’t want to do this halfway, but I knew that this could entail suffering. John Piper’s sermon points were hitting home.

However, over and over the Holy Spirit kept speaking the truth to me about Vivien. He reminded me what it was like when we first got Vivien’s diagnosis at 20 weeks. I was so depressed, distraught and truly devastated at the thought of having a child with special needs. I was scared. I didn’t want her to die, while at the same time, I feared how my life would change if she lived. Would we be in constant fear and worry for her health and that she was going to die? Would she require so much work that I wouldn’t have any freedom? I pictured myself as a drudge at home, continually caring for her medical needs, without a life of my own. I felt selfish even in thinking this, but knew that there is often a great workload. I wondered if we’d be able to go on vacation ever again. I just thought that if she lived, my life would end as I knew it.

Being on this side, it is almost laughable how worried I was, even though my pain felt real at the time. I love my life with Vivien. Truly she is not burdensome. I love her so dearly and she is such a wonderful content little person. She fits beautifully into our family. Caring for her now feels natural, easy and normal. Just a part of our everyday life like caring for any other of our children. The workload is time consuming and sometimes inconvenient – but that is true for our other kids as well. Even my fear of travel was unjustified as she has been to 6 different states/provinces with us. Truly, God has made the yoke “easy” and the burden “light.” with Vivien. He has given great grace. He kept reminding me how he has made life with Vivien beautiful and He will also do this with our boy. It doesn’t mean that we might face different challenges than we’ve faced with Vivien, or that our life won’t change or even be difficult at times. But it does mean that God can make it good and beautiful.

I wanted to believe the best about God’s redemptive power in regard to the boy we adopt. I knew that the very heart of the gospel is that He takes our brokenness and heals us – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in our behavior. He brings beauty and joy and hope. I wanted to believe the best about our boy and not expect that everything would be difficult and gloomy and heavy. I wanted to believe that God is good and powerful and that He can and will work in the lives of all of our children, including our boy to come. I absolutely believe in the regenerating power of Jesus and the gospel in every person’s life.

I wrote this in my journal to God, “The furthest thing from my heart and head is to want to or expect that something bad will happen. I so don’t want to raise him up always feeling suspicious of him or feeling like he is different. Of course he will be different than all my kids – but all my kids are different with different personalities and issues. The last thing I want to do is go into this with a biased or suspecting heart toward a boy that will be my child and will hold my heart. I want to love him well and freely and expect the best and speak good things over him and believe good things of him, that he will be Your child all the days of his life and that all my kids will be YOURS heart and soul. I know that I will be stretched emotionally, in knowing how to both love and discipline him and how and what that will look like and where the line is and what he will be able to handle and how to help him know his boundaries. I know that in some ways, because he will not have bonded with me as a baby there will be attachment issues and I will need to really listen to your Holy Spirit in what is best for his…heart. Lord, there are just so many unknowns. But… I feel a settled resolve and depth though and trusting in you. But there is a part of me that feels like what was said to Mary “and a sword will pierce your own soul”.

That morning I was reading about Abraham. Gen 17:9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” I want this for all my children including my boy. I wrote, ” So Lord – prepare me and make me ready. Help me to trust You for what the future holds. I feel inadequate to love well and correctly and fully but I know that Your grace is there for me because You have ultimately called us to this so we can trust You in it. I keep going back to how I felt when Vivien was going to be born and how so many of my fears were unfounded and you have made this life with her so good. You “made” me have her, and yet we are choosing this child. There is a part of me that feels like you are “making me” even in this. There is a part of me that doesn’t want this. But there is another, stronger part of me that knows that YOU ARE FAITHFUL and you will give the grace and joy and strength and love that I desperately need. So I thank You and I give this to you.

Just like my blogpost about “Growing some Love” for Vivien, Jesus is in the process of growing my love for our boy, who I haven’t met yet.

The Sunday after we had made the decision to adopt, Todd was working 24 hrs so I had to get all the kids to church. When Todd is gone, this is at the best – a challenge – at the worst a nightmare sometimes and by the time I settled into my seat with Viv after 3 days of feeling such struggle and warfare and depression about our decision I was ready for God to speak to me.

It is funny. A theme of our marriage – and really our life – has been found in Deut 30 which speaks of “entering into the land” that God has put before us. The passage the pastor was in that morning was Deut 9, which also speaks of entering into the land that God has for us. This adoption will be an entering of new territory for us – one in which we need God’s help. Pastor Jay Haugh was talking about the reliability of God. When he calls us to do something difficult – we can look at the past, and see His reliability – His goodness and faithfulness – and know that He will be with us for the future as well. Again, I sat back, amazed at God’s perfect timing of this sermon for me. It was exactly what I needed.

Just as the Holy Spirit has been reminding me about His faithfulness and reliability with Viv, this sermon reminded me that He will be faithful in the future for our boy. My favorite quote from the sermon was this, “Our courageous obedience (for the future) is based on experiencing Jesus predictability.” In obeying Jesus, we look not to our own strength but to His past faithfulness.

In Deut 9 (as well as Ezekiel 36:24-28, another important passage in my life) it talks about how this is not based on our righteousness. We don’t “enter the land” because of our own strength or goodness. We aren’t adopting a child because we are awesome or righteous or capable. We will adopt him out of obedience to Jesus, knowing that it is His righteousness, not ours, His strength, not our own. Again – His strength is made perfect in our weakness. That morning I knew I was weak. Yet that sermon gave me courage. God’s timing is perfect.

The other incredible thing that God did that week was not only in our own lives but the lives of our children. We weren’t the only ones who had to process this. And it has been a process….

To be continued….

Part 4

As I said before, the kids were in the room when Todd and I had started talking about adopting. We were all in various parts of the kitchen eating or making lunch. Silas was excited about the possibility of getting a brother. Lucie took it nonchalantly and positively. She seemed happy about it and thought it would be fun but wasn’t as serious or interested as Maggie and Silas about it. Iva seemed to feel the same, not fully understanding it I think.

Maggie however is SO my girl. Sometimes her responses to life are so much like my emotional responses it is just amazing. She really struggled with the idea. (She’s given me permission to share this.) She told us she likes our family as it is and it would feel strange having someone who isn’t from our family in it. It would be weird and hard. She cried for a while and we asked her questions and prayed with her. Her friend Emma from co-op came over and that stopped the tears for a while but they came back afterwards. Todd and I sat down on the couch with her. As Todd kept asking her questions and probing deeper we felt like we got to the root. It was kind of an aha moment as he probed. Her real struggle was that if we adopted someone outside of her family, she wouldn’t have the freedom to be herself around them. She wouldn’t know them and they wouldn’t know her so she would feel like she had to be on her best behavior. She said sometimes when she is around other people she doesn’t always feel like she can be herself, but at home we know her, accept her and lover her no matter what. We know her, Lucie and Silas know her issues and mistakes and love her anyway. She loves the familiarity and dynamics of our home and this would change everything.

I feel like I know how she feels about knowing and being known for who you are. I remember talking to my mom in my early twenties about a part of me that didn’t want to get married because I liked being at our home and with our family and knowing who I was and being with a husband would be weird. He would be different. It wouldn’t be as comfortable as it was now. Mom assured me that I would be comfortable with my husband (and I am) but I know how Maggie feels.

We were really praying for her and I kept talking to her about how I was feeling some of the same things. I talked about the truth that I had all of this sadness and difficult feelings about Vivien and even though we have had hard times – God is trustworthy and he can bring joy and beauty when we are obedient to Him and how GOOD he is and how he changed my emotions and how He could change her. We kept talking to her about praying and being willing tell and ask God to change her heart and her emotions. She said that she would do it, but she didn’t want Him to change her and that she didn’t want it to happen. Finally in the evening she really did pray a sincere prayer asking for His help.

She had calmed down a little bit and I read her the excerpt from my journal in May 2013. When I said, “The miracle would be You speaking to Todd and him speaking to me about it.” I stopped and looked at her and said, “what happened today?” It was like a light bulb went on in her head as she had been standing right there when Todd spoke those words to me. She seemed to get more excited and then when I read, “” Maybe two or three years from now.” And when I told her how long it had been, her eyes widened. She seemed to be a little more accepting and she even smiled. Then I brought her to the page of John Piper’s sermon that Todd read in the morning and she smiled more. Then she said that she could get excited for Silas to be able to have a brother. Then as the night went on she got happier and more excited about it.

We went up and told Todd how she was doing and I asked her if she had prayed that her heart would change and she said yes, and then Todd told her that just about the time that God was working on her heart and making her happier, he had been upstairs praying for her. It was a huge building of our faith to watch Him change her heart right before our eyes.

Then when it came to Silas’s response, we were rather blown away. A couple days after we’d talked about the idea Silas and I had a date. We’ve been trying to spend one on one time with each of our kids once a month and this was my time to be with Silas. As we were chatting about life, he told me that he had been praying two things. He had been praying 1. That we would adopt a brother for him, and 2. that it wouldn’t be “too much for us.” When I questioned further, and was asking about this it turns out that he had probably been praying for about a year. He said that recently he had stopped praying because he felt like it was never going to happen. What a faith builder for our son! An encouragement to continue to pray. We would have told him “it’s not going to happen” and yet God hears the prayers of a child and is already at work. It completely melted my heart to hear that he had also been praying that it would not be “too much for us.” He knows we work hard and the stresses (and joys) that come with lots of children and a special needs child, and he cared enough to pray for this as well. I love that boy so much!

We don’t know what our boy will be like, and because of this we don’t know how he will be able to relate to Silas but we are praying that God will work this out. There have been some questions and discussions with him about what this will look like, but at this point, there are many things we can’t answer so we trust God to show us and make it clear and give Silas grace for whatever that looks like.

Part 5

In the couple of months that followed Todd and I continued to pray about what God had for us. We met with several families who had adopted children from overseas, and a few that had specifically adopted special needs kids. We asked lots of questions and began to read about, familiarize ourselves with and learn all we could about special needs, overseas adoption.

We talked to our family and a few close friends who responded with caution. Knowing our busy life with Vivien and the kids, they were cautiously optimistic. Yes, the word “crazy” has escaped people’s lips more than once as we’ve shared, but mostly in jest thankfully. Well maybe half jest. But when God speaks, as He clearly had, we don’t want to be deterred. We wanted to be wise in moving forward, but both Todd and I did not feel a need to rush. Instead we prayed and thought and talked and learned.

In the past year, with some of the racial tensions that I had seen across the American landscape, I felt like my heart was really drawn to African adoption. I want to support and love those who may feel marginalized or let down and learn more about their difficulties and know how to help bring positive change. As you know, my cousin Rachel lives in Africa and she and her husband are building a hospital there. They are studying in Uganda and they had told me about a friend of theirs, Edith, who had a home for special needs children in Uganda. We couldn’t help but think that one of those children, who, while they are being cared for well, could have a huge opportunity for better medical care here.

But we had heard a lot of negative things about Ugandan adoption. It is a difficult country to adopt from because there is so much controversy about adoption, with some officials and leaders being pro-adoption and others being anti. There has been past corruption where children are trafficked and adopted our without the parents realizing that their children would actually be gone forever and that they had rescinded their rights. The law in Uganda rnow says that you need to live in Uganda for a year and foster a child before you adopt them. We had also heard nightmare stories of disrupted adoptions where people poured their money into adoption and then did not end up with a child. At first, this was discouraging to hear, but my heart continued to think about Uganda..

In January after the holidays were over Todd and I had a serious conversation about what our next step was going to be. Todd was thinking about China for several reasons. The need is great. There are a lot of children with special needs there waiting to be adopted. The process is very streamlined and much less uncertain than Uganda. Usually only one trip is involved with one parent. It seemed like it could be a good fit. But at the same time my heart was drawn to an African child and I kept thinking of Edith and her home for kids with special needs. As we talked back and forth I told Todd I was willing to move forward with China if he chose, but I really felt like I wanted to adopt from Uganda, despite the difficulties. I had spoken with an adoption agency who was very clear about the difficulties of Ugandan, yet given the connections we had in the country and the fact that we wanted to adopt a child with special needs vs. a typical healthy child, she told us about an “exceptional circumstances” clause in the law. She felt like we were good candidates for this.

As Todd and I talked and it appeared that we were looking in opposite directions, he felt like it was best to continue to wait and pray about it. We both knew that in the past, often God brought us together in unity in the right timing when we were willing to wait and pray. Todd reminded me that we weren’t in a hurry. On the one hand, I felt frustrated about waiting, but on the other hand, there was also a sense of relief emotionally. I was still getting used to the idea of thinking of caring for another child with special needs.

As I look back on this I see God’s kindness to me. In the same way God allowed time for my heart to grow with love as Vivien grew inside of me, he was allowing my heart to grow toward our future boy as well as we waited. I appreciated His timing.

In addition to this, I asked God about the fact that He had seemingly given us direction to adopt and yet, we weren’t moving forward. I wanted to make sure that our indecisiveness wasn’t somehow disobedience to what He’d asked us. He reminded me of the story in I Samuel of how there was a battle going on and King Saul agreed to meet with Samuel the prophet at an assigned place, where Samuel was going to offer a sacrifice to God. It was only right for priests to offer sacrifices but Samuel was late in meeting Saul. Saul began to fear because the people were starting to get restless and desert from the battle lines. So instead of doing what Samuel – and by extension God – had asked him to do and wait, he moved forward and offered the sacrifice himself. It was a move that was disobedient, despite the appearance of good intentions. It was motivated by fear.

God reminded me that He has told me what to do and I need to wait on His timing. I can trust Him that there is a time to wait instead of push forward, and a time when moving instead of waiting is actually disobedience. When I realized that it was God asking us to wait, it gave me a peace and a settled-ness, despite the fact that it felt like we were doing nothing. I was ok with that and it helped in my emotional process of thinking about our boy trusting God for the future. We continued to pray and ask God for wisdom.

While Todd was still thinking about China, he was also open to exploring the option of somehow talking with my cousin’s friend Edith about the possibility of adoption. We weren’t sure how this was supposed to happen. She was in Uganda, we were here. We talked with Rachel more about it and she said that she would ask her about adoption in general, but not specifically.

Todd and Maggie had been planning going on a medical a trip to Uganda in the fall of 2017 for almost a year and a half, before adoption had been on the table. We have sponsored an orphan girl in Uganda and were connected with her when we went to City Church briefly a few years ago. So it was natural that when they were considering where to go, that they decided to go to Uganda with City Church. They would have the opportunity to do medical missions as well as meet the girl that we have been sponsoring for several years. So I was wondering in January if God was going to make us wait until September for Todd to somehow connect with Edith and approach her with the idea of adoption. It seemed like a long ways away. But we had put it in God’s hands and He had said wait. So we waited.

God is so amazing. Truly. Edith had never been to the US in her life. We have never been to Uganda. But in December we’d sent a gift to Home of Hope so she had our e-mail. We were on a family trip to Disneyland in February when I got an e-mail from a lady named Christa Preston. She told us that her organization was sponsoring Edith to come to the US in order to raise funds to buy land to expand Home of Hope. She said she’d be on the West Coast in San Francisco April and wondered if there was any way we could connect with her. As Todd and I talked it over, we realized that we had just enough air miles to fly her up here and back. We decided to go ahead and do a couple fund raisers from our home and ask if she could speak at any churches while she was here. And while she was here….. we could ask her about adoption.

Again – God just has this sense of humor. He tells us to wait and in the meantime we are thinking and wondering how we can talk to Edith. She is a half a world away. God figuratively says, “You want to talk with Edith? E-mail and phone calling seems awkward? Ok. Fine. I’ll just bring her to your house, a month and a half from now.” We just sat back in awe and shook our heads. I love how He writes stories and puts things together.

We set about contacting churches and figuring out flights and dates and wondering what it would be like to meet her and ask her about this. And wondering how she would respond….

Part 6

The spring of 2017 felt very busy. We lead busy lives but as the time drew near and we were making preparations for Edith’s coming, there just seemed to be so much to do. We planned on hosting two pizza nights at our home to give people the flexibility to come when they needed to. Todd spoke with local churches that we are in contact with and we were able to set up time for Edith to speak at Redeemer Eastside the Sunday she was here. She was flying in on a Thursday and leaving the following Monday.

Never having met her, we weren’t sure what to expect – and yet we were expectant that God was working. Even though Todd was still thinking a bit about adopting from China, he was open to us talking to Edith about the possibility of adopting from her home and at least having a conversation about it.

We were also hopeful to be able to raise a lot of money for the overcrowded Home of Hope and did what we could to spread the word. We had several meetings for her, a few speaking engagements and places for her to attend. Looking at the schedule the most time we had to just sit down and talk with her was right after she arrived. When she came Thursday afternoon, we loved her right away and she loved meeting our family, but what surprised her the most was Vivien. She didn’t know that we had a child with special needs and it was clear that she was enamored with Vivien from the moment she met her.

Edith didn’t know that we were going to approach her about adoption, but what we didn’t know (and found out later) was that Edith was planning and praying about asking us something as well. Edith was looking for someone to start a board for Home of Hope. Someone who would establish a US presence for Home of Hope and give a means for a 501c3 status. She didn’t know us but she had been praying and asking God if we were the ones that she should ask. She said that when she saw Vivien, she knew we were the ones.

The amazing thing is, as the weekend went on Todd was starting to talk and think about offering to help somehow with Home of Hope here in the US. We just weren’t sure about all that would entail.

But as we sat down to chat that afternoon, we heard more of Edith’s story. I know that I have chronicled some of it here but I will summarize again for you. Edith has several children, but when her son Derek was just a baby he contracted a sickness that left him with hydrocephelus, cerebral palsy and severe special needs. As you may have heard, in Uganda when children have special needs, they are considered curses. Many think they are demon posessed and often the mothers and families and those who care for them are shunned and looked down upon. Many told her she should send him away to a home but Edith loved her son and cared for him. The story is much longer, full of miracles and God’s working, but eventually Edith started caring for other children with special needs. Just a few. But then people started dropping off children and babies with special needs at her house – abandoning them on the grounds. Home of Hope was born from this.

We were talking more specifically about her son Derek. He lived 14 years and she loved him dearly. She shared more about his life and his death. Even the circumstances surrounding Derek’s death, were quite amazing and miraculous. God’s comfort was clear and He showed her his love through it. But as we were talking about Derek’s death, I was asking her how long ago it was. He died in 2014 and I asked her about the time of year. She said it was September of 2014. I inquired more about the date and as we talked we realized that the day of Derek’s funeral, the day they buried him, was the day that Vivien was born.

We of sat back in awe and realized that God was connecting us inexplicabley with Edith, Derek and Home of Hope in many ways. After she told much of her story, we sat down with her and began to tell her some of our story of praying to meet her and a bit of the backstory of God talking with us separately and together about the possibility of adoption. Todd came to the conclusion of our story and asked her if she had ever considered allowing one of the children from Home of Hope to be adopted and would she think about adopting one to us.

Edith sat back and said, “No one has ever asked to adopt one of my kids before. God has spoken to you and now I need to pray and ask Him to speak to me about this.” But she told us that even when we were sharing with her, she kept getting a picture in her head of the face of a little three year old boy with cerebral palsy at her home named Joseph.

As the weekend went on and Edith spoke several times, telling the story of how the Lord moved her to begin home of hope. The last day, before she left, I asked her what she thought about the possibility and she said that she had been praying and definitely felt a peace about moving forward, when we were ready. We also told her when she asked that we would be willing to do what we could to give Home of Hope a U.S. presence.

After she went home from Uganda, we continued to pray about the next steps. While it seemed clear that God was leading toward helping Home of Hope as a whole, forming a board and moving forward toward that, Todd still was hesitant with jumping in and beginnning a Ugandan adoption…..

Part 7

Spring (2017) was coming quickly and we were continuing to pray about where to adopt from. It seemed clear that God was working to bring us together with Edith and it certainly seemed like he was opening doors to adopt from Uganda, in my mind.

Todd is a wise man. He thinks things through, is careful of risk and wants to be cautious before he makes a decision. He completely believed that God brought us together with Edith to help Home of Hope establish a US presence. But as I said before he was hesitant about a Ugandan adoption. We had been warned specifically about Ugandan adoptions, and how difficult they are. We’d heard of adoptions where people put a lot of money forward and then the adoption was halted or completely stopped, and others where the parent ended up being responsible for the child but unable to bring them home because of complications. The government system is far from streamlined and there are so many hurdles.

What he didn’t want to happen, was to use the money God has given us to adopt, have an adoption halted and then have that money be wasted and unable to be used for another child. He also didn’t want to rush into something. Adopting from Uganda seemed like a big risk.

My heart was still drawn to Ugandan adoption and Joseph and I really felt like if God was behind it, it was a risk that we could take. So we kept praying.

I had talked several times with Myriam, the lady from the adoption agency we were planning on working through. I felt confident that she was knowledgeable about the process and though she very strongly warned us about the risks and complications, she felt fairly confident that Joseph was adoptable because of the “exceptional circumstance” clause we had heard about before. I thought maybe if Todd was able to talk with her as well it might speed things up so we set up a meeting with her that ended up needing to be a phone conversation because of our crazy schedule. The kids were home and we had the conversation in our room just to be able to avoid distractions.

I was hopeful and expectant that this conversation would move Todd’s heart to be willing to move forward with the possibility of adoption Joseph and but it ended up having the opposite effect. Myriam was again clear about the risks and complications and as she shared with Todd, he told me afterwards that he felt even more strongly that it wasn’t a risk we should take. He wanted to be wise.

After he went downstairs, I remember specifically leaning back on our brown love-seat in our room, with a few tears talking to God. I truly felt like adopting Joseph was God’s will for us, and even felt confident that it would happen, but I wondered if it was going to take until the following September when Todd and Maggie took their mission trip Uganda, for him to change his mind and it just seemed so far off. I said to God, “You have to give him a word Lord. Please give him a word.” I didn’t want to wait that long.

A few hours later that afternoon during Viv’s nap Todd and I had an appointment with some of her therapists in Bellevue and we were in the car by ourselves with no kids, and able to have a conversation. He smiled at me and began to tell me a story.

I knew that that evening Todd was going to be speaking to a youth group of a friend of ours. He was speaking from Joshua 1 about being strong and courageous. He was planning on talking about about how when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, God gave them a clear path. He opened it up and they walked through. But when the Israelites crossed over the Jordan river into the promised land, God had them line up, and move forward when there was no clear path. It wasn’t until they started walking and the feet of the priests actually touched the water that the Jordan parted. In addition to this, it was the time of the year when the Jordan was overflowing it’s banks. It was a huge risk and even danger to try to cross over when it was flooding. Even if it was what God had promised.

Todd told me that he was planning on talking with the youth about doing courageous, strong risky things for God. About not being satisfied with the status quo but being willing to take a risk in obedience to Him. As he was preparing to teach, God said to him, “you are teaching this to these kids – but are you willing to do it yourself? Are you willing to take a risk and move forward with this adoption because I ask you to?”

Todd said he felt like adopting from Uganda was like crossing the Jordan when there was no clear path. And not just no clear path, but when it was overflowing it’s banks. It was clear that God was reminding him that He needed to do this in regard to this adoption. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was willing to move forward in obedience to God, despite the risk. I love that I am married to a man who is wise and who isn’t easily persuaded (even by his wife in this case) but listens to God and responds when God speaks.

The other thing that was just beautiful and sweet – a little “extra” from God was the fact that when we were married, the theme of our wedding, the theme of our future marriage and life was “entering the promised land.” God had given us so many Scriptures – separately and together throughout our life together having to do with entering the land that He had prepared for us – a future that He held. My Granny made the banner to the right that was in our wedding. Once again, without even realizing it until afterwards, He was giving us this analogy when it came to adopting Joseph.

I wasted no time in calling the adoption agency and filling out the application! When I prayed “God give him a word” I didn’t expect it to happen 2 hrs later. Sometimes God answers our prayers quickly and sometimes we have to wait. I had faith that He would answer but I had no idea how suddenly.

After we called the adoption agency, things got underway quickly. Everyone talks about a “paperwork pregnancy” and how much there is do do and accomplish in an overseas adoption. I was expecting it, but still wasn’t prepared for how many hours and hours of work there was. I pretty much spent every spare moment of downtime in our summer on paperwork. We still scheduled fun things with the kids and trips, but anytime we weren’t doing something already scheduled, I knew I needed to be at the computer. I am grateful for sabbaths and I tried to be good about taking them, but it felt like a lot of pressure for quite a few months because anytime I had a to spare from doing family / children household stuff – I knew I needed to spend it on paperwork. It felt like there was no end and it even carried over into the fall.

The one part about the paperwork that both Todd and I actually enjoyed was writing out and answering questions about our lives. Sort of a life-story book of ourselves, which was both reflective and cathartic (as Todd described it). Both of us loved to write so there was at least one part that we appreciated doing.

Thankfully near the end of summer and in early fall most of it was accomplished. The fall was full for Todd with putting together a board and creating a 501c3 to help Home of Hope as well as working on a fundraiser. Both of us had a ton of paperwork, but I focused mainly on adoption and he focused on Home of Hope as a whole. Edith came to visit to do more fundraising for Home of Hope in November and it was wonderful to see what God did. Todd and the board put together an amazing fundraiser.

In September came Todd and Maggie’s never-to-be-forgotten trip to Uganda. During these almost three weeks, I didn’t have my regular babysitter/helper with Maggie gone. I am so glad for the grandparents who helped out so much as well as Bestie, who helps tutor the kids a few times a week. I had anticipated for it to be difficult but to my surprise, I actually ended up enjoying my time more than I thought I would. We had simplified our schedule during that time out of necessity and it was so great to be home more and feel a bit caught up on home life things. I love being at home with the kids and it seems like we are always running from place to place. I appreciated the slower pace.

The most stressful part was that the trip happened during Viv’s first week of school, but as I have written earlier, it went beautifully. I went with her every day for the first week and arranged different things for the rest of the kids each day.

One of my favorite parts about those three weeks was how much my relationship with Silas grew. I depended on him, but we also had a lot of fun together. He and Maggie entertain each other most of the time, and are rather inseparable. They are such good friends and they get so silly together, but with Maggie gone, Silas and I really bonded. When the little girls go to bed, normally Todd and I talk and Maggie and Silas hang out. But during this time, Silas and I just hung out together, played cards and enjoyed being together. He told me that he was even a little bit sorry to see them come home because in his own words and way, he told me that he really liked our closeness. I love him so much. In addition to this, right before they left for the trip, we had some difficult things happen circumstantially. We expected warfare and we definitely went through some. One of them was a huge struggle for Silas that he and I got to work through emotionally and spiritually. He came out on the other side, hearing from God in a significant way, closer to Him and wanting more of Him. I loved what God did in his life and how He spoke to him.

The other bonus of the trip was just the sense of fulfillment I felt and unusual satisfaction that I took from doing my little part to make the (comparatively small) sacrifice at home so that Todd and Maggie could do what they did. They absolutely were thrilled in serving the people of Uganda in both a medical and a teaching capacity. The work they were doing was beautiful and they met God there in a new way. Maggie loved the Ugandan people and told me afterwards that she wished she could live there. They loved meeting Brenda, who we have been sponsoring for years, and the orphanage. Maggie flourished in a way I have never seen her flourish before. And Todd told me he felt so blessed and excited to be there. He loves helping people medically and practically.Meeting Joseph at the end of the trip was incredibly significant. You can see in the picture on the left that Todd was trying to hold back tears. But I will let them write it in their own words in part 8 to come….

Todd Meets Joseph by Todd – Sept 2017

After having spent nearly two weeks in Uganda, Maggie and I had planned to stay another four days with family and to meet Joseph for the first time. It was hard to say goodbye to our fellow group members, as we had become like family. Our cousins, Rachel and Isaac, their twin boys and Rachel’s parents took us in at their home in Kampala. We spent the night, then headed out to Jinja in the morning. Jinja is about a four-hour drive East of Kampala. The drive out to Jinja gave us opportunity to see more of the varied country of Uganda. While Kampala is very over-crowded and noisy, Jinja is a bit more spread out and slower.

Joseph lives at Home of Hope, just outside Jinja. Home of Hope was started by Edith Lukabwe after her own son was born with cerebral palsy. Edith has a huge heart for kids with special needs. Home of Hope currently cares for 56 children. Joseph was found one morning wrapped in a sheet under a banana tree in the front yard. As with other children, he had been left there because someone knew he would be well cared for. He was about a year old at the time and his cerebral palsy was evident. Most anyone with special needs is seen as a curse in Uganda.

I had heard from others who had been at Home of Hope, that it can be a bit overwhelming to see so many children with severe needs in a relatively small amount of space. While Edith and her staff care very well for the kids, they are short on space, beds and equipment. Knowing this, I told Maggie that if she didn’t want to come in she could wait out front for a bit. Once again, I had underestimated how strong Maggie can be in these situations.

Having seen so many pictures of Home of Hope and the kids, it seemed a bit surreal to be pulling up. As we walked in the front door, I heard Edith coming from the back of the house shouting! She and some of the other nannies came out singing a high-pitched, loud (very African) welcome. While I had never heard it before, Maggie and I couldn’t help but laugh and give hugs to Edith. She was in tears and was obviously grateful we had come. It was on this trip that I realized what a remarkable work Edith was part of.

After we spent some time in her office, Edith wanted to take us around to meet every single child. She was like a proud mother showing off her beautiful kids. Children with hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, twisted bodies, or cognitive levels of infants. Their culture had said they were outcasts, not worth their attention. But here, they had found a home and love.

We spent a few minutes with each child, getting down at their level, interacting with them and learning about them from Edith. I had wondered when we would meet Joseph. After about a dozen kids, we met him, sitting with one of the nannies. Edith said “And this is Joseph….”. I asked the nannie if I could hold him and picked him up. As Maggie and I both stood their looking at him, talking too him, I couldn’t help but cry. Here he was. A boy that we had been talking about adopting and we had finally met after flying halfway around the world.

As I held him, I could feel how different he was from holding Vivien. Cerebral palsy had made him a bright, interactive little boy with all the appropriate mental capacities, yet unable to control his body. His huge, happy eyes communicate a joy beyond his disability. We spent some time with just him in Edith’s office. Maggie made him laugh and I continued to cry. It was already a trip of so much emotion.

After some time, it was lunch time and we got to feed Joseph some rice and beans. Can you imagine what lunch time is like for 56 kids with disabilities? While some can self-feed, many (like Joseph) need assistance. He continued to laugh while Maggie blew bubbles with a bubble gun we had brought. As we fed him, he would cough about every third spoonful. I could tell he had some swallowing difficulty, but he seemed to manage.

We returned again the next day, this time doing a brief physical on Joseph. Since Isaac is a doctor, he was able to sign some of the forms we needed for the adoption. Our stay that day was shorter and it was hard to leave Joseph. I think leaving him to lie on the mat when we left was the hardest. CP is a terrible disease that makes a person a prisoner in their own body. Still, we knew we’d be back. This whole encounter confirmed all the more why we wanted to adopt Joseph in the first place.

Maggie Meets Joseph Sept 2018 – by Maggie

We first went on a missions trip and afterwards we went to stay with our cousins Rachel and Isaac. From there we went to Jinja to see Home of Hope, Edith and to meet Joseph.

The drive to Home of Hope it was pretty. Jinja is a beautiful area of Uganda. As we were driving up I started getting butterflies in my stomach. I felt nervous and even sick to my stomach. I know a lot of people have cried when they see Home of Hope and that it can be overwhelming. As we pulled up Dad asked me if I wanted to stay in the car for a bit. I wanted to say I would but I heard Edith and the others coming out giving the traditional Ugandan welcome call. It is a high pitched sound almost like yodeling. I decided to get out and I let Dad go first I talked with my little cousin Ezra. When I came in it wasn’t as overwhelming as I’d expected. I’d been prepped so much that it was almost easier than I thought it would be.

I met a lot of the kids as Edith showed us around I noticed there was one little boy that I wanted to play with. I kept on playing with him and when I asked Edith which little boy was Joseph, she said it was him! He was so cute. I had played with him for a little while and I knew that Dad wanted to spend time with him so I let him. I could see him getting teary eyed so I gave him a little time alone with Joseph and decided to wander and play with the other kids more too.

We had brought some gifts so I gave out some of them to the kids. I looked in our gifts and there was a bubble blower and I brought it outside and all the kids loved the bubble blower. They had a blast and so did I.

After the bubbles I wanted to come back in and spend some more time with Dad and Joseph so we did in Edith’s office. He was giggling some of the time and he reminded me of Vivien with the noises he was making. He was so cute and we had such a sweet time with him.

I think what the hardest part of meeting him was knowing that he was a 3 year old boy inside who may be able to think clearly but not be able to express it with his body. It felt sad to me that there was a three year old boy inside his body who was bouncing around wanting to play and couldn’t.

I’d seen these documentaries of kids with cerebral palsy who would try to communicate through different parts of their body. There was a little girl who could tap out things with her toe on a computer and she could express that she was sometimes sad that she couldn’t do what others did or talk like others did and she at times felt trapped. It made me sad to think that this could be the case for Joseph.

We only got to spend a couple of days with Joseph. I’d tried to spend time and interact with him, but I felt like we didn’t have as much time to bond as I had wanted.

I really hope that next time I can bond with him a lot more. I’m excited because we are planning to go back and see him next year and I can hardly wait to see my beloved Uganda and see Joseph again. I loved Uganda and told Dad I wanted to live there. I also can’t wait to bring him home and have him forever.

January 2018 Molly Meets Joseph by Molly

I arrived in Uganda at around 2:00 in the afternoon Sunday, Jan 21st. Because I was meeting a friend afterwards to spend a few days in Europe, we flew together to London, had a long layover with the plan to do a little sightseeing and then I’d continue on to Uganda. We had a wonderful day, then more flying and I ended up reaching Uganda with about four hours sleep in 40 hrs. Needless to say I was a little loopy.

I met the driver that Myriam (the lady from the adoption agency) sent for me and we were off to our first hotel. The plan was to stay the night in Kampala and then Myriam would find a driver to take us to Jinja to meet Joseph. I actually felt a little embarrassed when I talked with Myriam because I had such a hard time tracking and even having a decent conversation, forgetting things that seemed very simple. I could hardly wait for bed. But before bed I got to meet Brenda.

Several years ago we started sponsoring Brenda through an organization started by a pastor at City Church, now Churchome in Kirkland. Todd and Maggie met her last the last time they were here. She is soft-spoken, beautiful, sweet and affectionate. Ivan and Linda who help care for those orphans in the organization brought her and came with us to dinner and they were wonderful people. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at a place Myriam found for us. I have prayed for Brenda so long and it was so wonderful to actually see her in the flesh instead of just pictures. She is working hard at school and has aspirations in the medical field. I loved meeting her.

Bed was glorious and I woke up the following morning feeling fairly decent for how long I’d been awake during my travels. We headed out at 10:00am for Jinja and to meet Joseph at Home of Hope. On the way there though, we found out that Edith thought we were coming the following day. She was excited to have us coming sooner, but was meeting with Joseph’s probation officer that afternoon. Myriam felt this was perfect because she needed us to meet with him as well. He would need to sign the some of the first documents we needed for the adoption so instead of going to Home of Hope, we met Edith in town and then to see Mr. Opio, the probation officer.

I came in thinking it was just a meeting, but I didn’t really realize the significance. It didn’t seem to start well. Mr. Opio talked with us about how he was the one who had the power to allow us to foster Joseph. He said that he would see if we were fit to care for him. He told us the law says that we have to be there for a year and live with him. He also quoted us a price to do the paperwork. In addition to this, I believe Myriam told me later that I crossed my legs and apparently that is a sign of disrespect (too causal?) in Uganda. I’ll remember next time.

But as I realized that this was not going as well as I’d hoped, I began to pray like crazy…. Myriam, remained polite and knowledgeable. As they talked, she mentioned the exceptional circumstances clause and other parts of the law and was able to firmly but kindly negotiate a price as well as an understanding about what was required.

Basically afterwards she explained to me that he went from saying that we have to foster, to we have to visit, to we have to visit and if were fit we might even get a court date in less than a year. They talked a bit about the price and together they found an amount that she felt like they could agree on. She thanked Mr. Opio as she left and he gave us the paperwork I needed to fill out and sign. We left with a verbal agreement that we could come back the next day and bring the paperwork, along with Joseph for a picture with him and he would sign. Afterwards as we talked Myriam said that she was surprised that we got as far as we did, even with the paperwork in hand that we needed.

I was so thankful to God for the way it ended. One thing that seemed frustrating at first was that the “year” of fostering begins when everything is signed. Even though Todd had met Joseph in September, it didn’t count as the start of the year. If he had seen Mr. Opio then, it would have shortened the process. I felt like it was an opportunity missed, but after understanding, I realized that it was a blessing in disguise because Myriam knew how to negotiate. She also understood the law according to Hague principles and if any money is exchanged in the wrong way, we could violate that and lose any opportunity. So in retrospect, God was (of course) at work and it was a blessing that Todd did not go to see Mr. Opio back in September.

The way the “system” in Uganda works, is once Edith’s home is registered with the Ministry of Gender (and even before), children are given to her to care for when they have disabilities and are abandoned. If someone finds them, the police can bring them to her, and hold her accountable to take care of them, but she is not given any money to care for them which is unfortunate. Mr. Opio is responsible for those children in his district and Edith does the district a great service by caring for them. Mr. Opio often brings dignitaries to see Home of Hope and all they are doing. The one thing Home of Hope did get from the government was a cow to give the children milk and apparently Mr. Opio lobbied hard for this for her and Edith was grateful.

It was late afternoon by the time we finished with Mr. Opio and actually drove to Home of Hope. It was much as Todd had described and the pictures I’d seen. Colorful murals dotted the wall around the compound and as we entered the main area there were children everywhere, those with the ability to walk or scoot around coming out to greet us and others lying on plastic mats on the floor.

Almost as soon as I walked in Edith brought me Joseph. He is a beautiful, happy boy who seemed delighted to see me. As I held him, his head was the largest thing about his body and because of the cerebral palsy, his head needed support. He is long and thin and maneuvering him was a bit difficult but he seemed very happy to be in my arms. I said “hi” to him at the beginning and he answered with a very clear “hi” back. I got to bring him into Edith’s office for a little time alone with him and we had a little conversation in jibberish back and forth for a bit with lots of smiles. He was clean and well cared for.

I had been so focused on Joseph that I didn’t really notice a couple of other people who were in the office with me. There was a boy that I recognized and as I looked at him it dawned on me. His name was Blessing and I knew him through pictures because his mother and I have become good friends online. Elizabeth is a sweet woman that I’d met in a cerebral palsy Facebook group. We have talked a lot online and she wanted to see me when came to Africa. She traveled by bus all the way from Kenya to meet me. It was so amazing to see her face to face and meet her boy, Blessing, who is Joseph’s age and has cerebral palsy as well. She cares for her son so well and loves him fiercely.

Edith showed us around Home of Hope and to see the land that they were able to purchase with the funds raised by many of you who are reading this, as well as the house in the process of being built to expand Home of Hope. We even got to see the washing machine that has saved their staff lot of time and energy, thank to a generous donor from our church. It was amazing to meet all the children who I’d seen pictures of online and heard about from Todd. So many familiar faces that I now know in person.

Myriam was admittedly overwhelmed. In her adoption work, she has seen many orphanages, but there are few like Edith’s that will take children with disabilities as opposed to healthy children. She was impressed however, by the care and work that Edith and her staff are doing with the resources they have.

I also got to meet the staff worker at Home of Hope who found Joseph.

The following day I was able to bring Joseph to my hotel room and spend time with he and Elizabeth and Blessing on our own. We did go see Mr. Opio and he did sign the forms. Myriam was again, quite pleased by how well it went and I really believe that God’s hand was in this. We took pictures, as we will always do to document our visits with Mr. Opio.

Edith had a meeting in the afternoon so she brought us back to the hotel and Joseph, Elizabeth, Blessing and I had the afternoon together. Spending the day with Joseph without Edith was an experience. We were able to order some mashed potatoes and baked beans for he and Blessing to eat and I had an opportunity to care for him, change his diaper, and feed him, which was a bit of a challenge. The physical therapist at Home of Hope had showed me the night before how to hold him in the most effective way for eating but it was still difficult. I was thinking a high chair at home will be a bit easier but we did it.

He was the happiest smiling-est, content little boy. We exchanged a million grins and there was one time, as I was feeding him, that he got the giggles. He was laughing so hard that he was squeaking. He made me laugh back. I’d brought a couple of small toys for him to look at, one that lit up and made sounds and he was very interested.

Elizabeth and I talked about some of the things that she has been through with having a child with a disability in Africa. She brought gifts of shoes that she had made for the whole family and I had brought her some things from America as well. I know it was a huge sacrifice for her to make them for all of us. She’d asked for the sizes ahead of time and they were beautiful sandals.

When it was almost diner time, Edith came and picked us up and we went back to Home of Hope for the final time to say goodbye. I got to meet Edith’s husband Richard who I hadn’t met before. He was a gentle, smiling man who I believe is very proud of his wife and helpful in the cause. I said good bye to the staff and to some of the children I was beginning to know by name. One little girl who was deaf, Harriett, was so sweet. I was able to sign for her a bit. There were two girls who were twins with autism who wanted their picture taken. When I showed them the picture on my camera, they laughed like it was the most hilarious joke ever.

Most of the children had eaten their dinner, and they brought me food for Joseph and I fed him for the last time and then it was time to put him to bed.

As I put him into bed the most extraordinary thing happened. Edith had been telling Joseph that I am going to be his mama. She says that the staff joke with Joseph, calling him, “American Boy” and they tell him to not forget them when he travels to America. Of course he can’t comprehend this completely, but as I put him to bed, I smiled at him, and said, “bye bye” cheerfully. To my surprise, his lower lip came out and the corners of his mouth pointed down. He swallowed a few times and I could tell that he was trying to be brave and hold back tears. I exclaimed, “oh are you sad? I have to go, but I am going to come back. It will be a long time but I will come back.” I prayed for him and then went out to see Edith.

I exclaimed, “He understands! He knows what is going on and is sad that I am leaving!” I had no idea that he would understand and how smart he was. I had been thinking he was just enjoying the attention of a stranger and the toys and the hotel, but I didn’t expect him to actually miss ME.

I couldn’t resist peeking at him one more time and giving him one more love. As I said good bye again, the corners of his mouth went down and his lips quivered. I prayed for him again and then left, but as I was talking with Edith, we heard one of the children crying. When we went into his room, we discovered it was Joseph. He was arching his back and big sobs were coming out of his body. He was almost screaming. Oh my heart! I picked him up out of his bed and held him and he immediately calmed down. I know that he was most likely he was over tired from the long day of going places that he doesn’t usually go. It was a lot of excitement for a little boy who rarely leaves Home of Hope. I knew that this was an extreme response but my heart sank and I felt physically ill leaving him.

I again said goodbye, telling him that I would be back and prayed for him and told him I loved him. This time instead of putting him into bed, I gave him to Olivia, one of the workers who had spent time with us that day. Instead of screaming he just cried softly and settled down quickly in her arms. I will never forget his face when the corners of his mouth turned down like that.

I went out to the lobby and cried a bit myself, and prayed for him some more. Edith told me later that Joseph almost never cries. It is very rare. She said that he must love me, because even when there are workers at the home that he doesn’t like, he won’t eat for them. My heart was heavy, but at the same time touched that he had attached to me in such a short time and it did something in my heart that wasn’t there before.

You see that afternoon, as I played with him at the hotel and fed him, I was really struggling emotionally. I felt homesick and tired and a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation and what was ahead. I knew I was choosing Joseph and that I loved him, but it wasn’t an instantaneous emotional bond. He was a little boy that I didn’t really know. While I was caring for him and playing with him and doing my best to love him, it didn’t feel deeply emotional and it felt like lots of work. I knew what we signed up for and I was ready for it, but at the same time I was struggling with doubt. In retrospect, I believe that God is real, but I also believe that the enemy of our souls is also real and he was trying to attack my thoughts and discourage me. I kept reminding myself of what God had spoken to us and all that He had done. I knew that this was His work and that Joseph was his gift to us. Joseph’s name means God’s gift / increase. I believed that in my heart but it was still a struggle to continue to believe the truth.

But that evening, that hesitancy and doubt went away. Seeing his little body racked with sobs and seeing that love that he has for me already did something in my heart. The nausea in my stomach at having to leave him was real and my heart was being drawn to this little boy. I knew that God was working, that He had good plans for us and he was moving me a very real way to love Joseph – not just by choice but fully in my soul and my emotions. It made me want to deal with whatever necessary to bring him home. I felt so badly for him, but at the same time, I knew that God was already bringing our hearts together and as we drove away I had a deep sense of gratefulness for what God was doing in my heart and what He was going to do in this journey.

I am praying for the right amount of attachment over the next year as we come to visit. I want him to feel loved, but at the same time I don’t want him traumatized when I leave. I am praying for God to help his heart (and ours) during this waiting period.

We left Uganda with a plan in place after talking with Myriam and Edith. We want to help Mr. Opio see that we are “fit” to care for Joseph and this translates into with seeing him several times in the next year. Todd would go in March, then I would return in May with my cousin Rachel and stay with them, and then Todd and Maggie will go back in October again with Churchome. These visits will both teach us how to care for him, and also be good for documentation for our “fostering”. As of that signed paper by Mr. Opio, we have temporal custody of Joseph to “foster” him by visiting him throughout the year and we are now his guardians.

I am excited for the opportunity to go again. Uganda, though there is a lot of poverty and the cities can be dirty and crowded, is a very beautiful country. With its lush countryside, rolling hills, palm trees and tropical greenery it reminds me quite a bit of Hawaii without the water. Maggie says she loves Uganda so much she wants to live there. I am grateful for this experience and excited to go back and see Home of Hope and Edith (who I am so proud of). But mostly I am excited to eventually bring Joseph home!

Our next visit to see Joseph came in the form of Todd traveling by himself in March. While he was there we received some surprising and exciting news….

Todd’s Trip to See Joseph March 2018 – by Todd

“That the works of God might be displayed…” John 9:3

Until four years ago, I never really considered God’s purpose for people with disabilities. I had just never given it much thought. That all changed when Vivien was born and I began to give more careful thought to how a person with significant disabilities plays a vital role in the kingdom of God.

On this most recent trip to Uganda, I was able to spend three days with Joseph, Edith and others who surround themselves with disabled children. I’ll admit, it can still be alarming to see the depth of “disability” within a small building. While many of the 61 children can respond and interact, a significant number are totally reliant on others to help them with the most basic of tasks.

While I had been able to spend some time with Joseph last September, I am still getting used to holding him, feeding him, communicating and interacting with him. With my other children, I got to daily see them grow into the people they are, but with Joseph I’m having to learn quickly. It’s messy quite frankly – literally and figuratively. I make mistakes and it can be awkward, but there are also smiles and giggles.

At one point, after feeding him in the hospital cafeteria while sitting him awkwardly on my lap, I found myself covered in rice, beans, urine from a leaky diaper and my own sweat from the tropical heat. I admit this was uncomfortable for my conventional self and I couldn’t help but ask, “God – what are you doing?”

With Vivien and now Joseph, I’m having to re-orient my thinking. The pragmatic part of me values the ability to work, skill and ability. So how does one who is completely unable to perform even the most basic of life functions “display the works of God”?

First – I’m reminded that it was not God’s intention that any of us would be sick or have a disability in the first place. Because we as humans chose sin long ago, our fallen, broken world causes children to be born with extra chromosomes, have traumatic births or blindness. None of these illnesses were His desire for us. Like all of you, I prayed against any illness or complication with all of our births. And, while I would still much rather have Vivien be whole and well, I have come to see a sweet redemption in her condition. I know that God has done a powerful work in our lives through caring for a child with disabilities – and I can’t imagine life any different.

During one of the nights in Uganda, I awoke with a passage in my head – John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus’ answer followed the question from his disciples about a man with a disability (blindness). “Who sinned – this man or his parents?”

I can’t help but think of the perspective of one of the disciples standing there. Jesus sets the stage by saying “Look everyone, this man has been born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in his life. Now watch this…”

He then spits in the sand at his feet, makes some mud, rubs the mud on the eyes of the blind man and tells him to go wash it off. What!?! How is there any hint of the glory of God in what just happened? You just embarrassed this guy on so many levels and now he’s going to go stumbling to the fountain to wash mud off his face while others are probably jeering at him! What just happened?

When I think about the mess that comes with having a child with disabilities, I think of feed pumps, carrying her everywhere, propping her up after falling, doctor appointments, frequent illness, all-nighters in the ER, stares from others, etc. While my other four have had their complications, nobody has been as messy and complicated to raise as Vivien.

And yet….. And yet I’ve seen a whole new side to humanity, to the heart of God for my disabled self. I’ve seen that in the same way I would die for this girl who is just able to be and not do, so God is content with me just being, not having to perform for Him. Despite her disability, she’s been able to move mountains in my own heart. She’s shown me my own hang-ups with God. Her life has been used by God to shape my own.

I admit I have had moments during this adoption process where I may ask “God, how did we get to this point and why does it have to be so messy?” But I’m comforted by the fact that it was messy with Jesus as well – quite literally. To be truthful, the works of God don’t always look like the works of God. They look messy and awkward. In our attempts to imitate Him, we stumble at times and make messes. I love the fact that He got involved in the mess of our daily lives in order to bring us redemption. He took on the grit and grime to bring purpose, joy and freedom. At the very least, the cross shows the messiness of redemption.

As I look forward, I know there will be times of joy, hope, frustration and despair during this adoption. In the same way, I look back on these past four years and see seasons of these as well – and He has been there for us all through it. God has been faithful and I know He will continue to be faithful. I look forward to the future, not because I know all the mountains and valleys ahead, but because I know He will be with us wherever the journey may take us.

May 2018 Molly Visits Joseph Part 1 – by Molly

This time I traveled to Uganda with my cousin Rachel, her husband Isaac who is from Uganda, their 2 year old twin boys and newborn 3 month old baby girl. Isaac is a doctor and they are in the process of ministering there and building a hospital in a rural area to bring medical care to those who need it outside of the city. I stayed with them in Kampala and they were a huge help to me while I was there. Isaac drove me around and strategized with me on paperwork as we visited the lawyer, the probation officer and doctors, trying to complete adoption paperwork tasks. Rachel’s has a degree in special education and her purpose in coming to Africa originally was to help with children with special needs. She helped me so much with Joseph, understanding what he needed, talking with him in both English and Lugandan and giving me advice and encouragement on how to care for him.. And I hope that I was at least a little help to them with their little ones also, especially on the plane right over there. I got to snuggle Lois (baby girl) and try to entertain the boys some of the time. Because they were bringing back as many supplies as they could we had 16 suitcases! to check. It was pretty crazy.

We didn’t get much sleep but survived the transferring of planes and when we landed we were met with 3 cars of friends of theirs who were able to help with the luggage. We arrived at their home quite late and tried to get as much sleep as we could the first night, though our bodies were on opposite schedules and so were the kids. There wasn’t much sleep happening between Lois and the boys. Several times I got up in the night to find Ezra or Aaron up and about.

The next day we unpacked and got settled. We had no electricity for the first part that I was there, and no running water for the last part. Things like this that even the poorest in America take for granted here, can be luxuries in Africa. Not having wifi, at the beginning either, I really missed talking with Todd especially. We tried to take it easy and just do the minimum of things that had to be done because we were quite exhausted. Laundry is a process, cooking is a bit more of a process, washing dishes is more of a process even in a modernized house in Uganda.

As you might remember from our social media posts, many of the children at Home of Hope, including Joseph had contracted the measles before I came. Joseph had been over it for a while, and Edith had just gotten out of the hospital so Mercy and a couple others from Home of Hope brought Joseph to us instead of us going there, as we didn’t want to expose Lois who hadn’t been vaccinated yet.

Joseph arrived Thursday afternoon. Mercy and the others stayed for a bit and gave us some medication for him and said goodbye. I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about them leaving. His lower lip came out once or twice but I reassured him and he seemed to do fine. He is such a beautiful child and it was good to hold him again. My heart is still learning what it is to bond with him and more of that definitely happened this week as I learned how to care for him.

At Home of Hope they’d taught me before how to hold him and feed him at the same time, but it was incredibly difficult. First of all, he can hardly hold his head up, but he is not a baby. He is most likely around 4 years old and though he is skinny he is tall. It was too hard for me and we ended up putting him in one of the boys’ car seats and that worked better. Feeding him almost felt like an overwhelming challenge over the next few days. First of all – figuring out what he could eat with Ugandan food that needed to be mashed and soft enough for him to eat was a challenge. Next, the sheer amount food he needed seemed to take quite a while for him to eat. Third, figuring out his rhythm was hard. Because of his Cerebral Palsy the neurons that fire in his brain don’t always work to tell him to open his mouth. When it was time to eat he was ravenous. He would get so excited that he’d clamp his mouth down on the spoon and I couldn’t take it out. He would clench his whole body and clench his teeth. He was trying to open his mouth but his brain was telling his mouth to close down harder. You could see the frustration in his eyes, and a couple of times he’d almost start to cry. Sometimes he’d get a rhythm of sticking out his tongue and opening his mouth, but other times his teeth would clench again and he would just begin grinding them. It was difficult too because his head was all over the place.

Joseph is well cared for and though he has spent time in therapy and in a wheel chair, he has lived a lot of his life lying on a mat. He cannot even lift his head up if he is lying down, or turn it side to side well. His head is shaped long and narrow from the back to the front. If you lie him on his back, his head will flop either to the right or to the left so he is stuck looking in one direction. In the same way, when I am trying to get him to face forward to try to feed him, his head will automatically get stuck to the right or to the left. So we always had to prop him up with a towel between his face and the wing of the car seat. At the same time, he would wiggle also and clench and have jerky movements typical to those with CP. Sometimes the food would come out. I would always end up with it on me, despite his bib, blankets and towels. Feeding him took about 45 minutes or so and by the end I was sweaty, he was sweaty and we were both exhausted with quite a bit of laundry to do after each feeding.

The first day I fed him dinner, let him play a bit, gave him a bath, which he was fairly happy about, and then put him in bed. He fell asleep easily and though he woke up in the night and wiggled quite a bit, he was quiet and seemingly happy most of the night. We slept in a double bed together so I kept tabs on him all night. He slept great but rest of us didn’t sleep so well. The little boys and Lois were still on Seattle time which means day and night is switched. They had napped during the day and were literally up most of the night, talking and calling for mommy. Lois has a cold and would cough and cry as well. Everyone was taking turns. I felt badly for Rachel and Isaac. At least I could lie in bed when they were waking up every two minutes. They had to get up and deal with things. None of us got much sleep. Maybe four or so intermittent hours.

I woke up early and took a shower and got myself and Joseph ready. Then came the wrestling match of trying to get him fed. We needed to go to the lawyer’s and then the doctor’s. Isaac was taking Joseph and I to both places. I had to think of diapers, and changes of clothes and figure out what we’d need for the day along with food. In Kampala, Rachel says that really all you should do in one day is one activity. Traffic makes it very difficult to do two. We did the lawyers at 10:00 (and we were slightly late – 10 minutes) and the doctors at 3:30. We were going on about 4 days with travel time of hardly any sleep. On the way to the lawyers I just felt completely overwhelmed with anxiety. I knew the paperwork we had to do was important. I knew I’d be carrying Joseph and trying to figure out the next time to feed him. I was just so exhausted I remember thinking that if it were possible explode from anxiety, I would! Both about what had to be done in the next week or so, but also thinking about bringing him home and what caring for him would entail. In my head I knew that the enemy wanted me to fear the future and be overwhelmed by the present. Isaac was so kind and prayed for me on the way, as he could see that I was struggling a bit.

But the meeting with Peter, the lawyer went well and we came up with a bit of a strategy for some things we could accomplish while we were here including the report from Mr. Opio and a letter, very specifically written, from the doctor who would examine him. It was so helpful to have Isaac there because he understood from a Ugandan perspective what we needed, and how to ask for and communicate it to the right people.

We found a restaurant that served mashed potatoes and some things that Joseph could eat and again, feeding him was a process. Then we headed to the doctor. The doctor was wonderful and eager to help out. He had written letters for other adoptions before. One of the things that concerned me, and him as well was that he was malnourished. Edith does a wonderful job with all the children at Home of Hope. All the food is prepared for all the children and it is a healthy size portion. Joseph is very thin but we didn’t realize he was malnourished. In getting to know Joseph however, we began to understand.

Joseph is continually moving and twitching. When you lay him down he is agitated and wiggling all over the place. His hip bones don’t ever both touch the floor at the same time because he is arching his back and pushing with his feet continually (unless he is asleep.) At Home of Hope they prepare all the food for all the children at the same time. Joseph gets what everyone else gets and it is probably the right amount for a boy his size. But not the right amount for a boy who never stops moving. His caloric needs are probably two or three times as much as normal. We found this week that the only time he is really relaxed is when he is cradled in arms. If he is on the floor (or even in the car- seat) he is continually wiggling. He strains and stretches and beads of sweat break out on his forehead and he clenches his fists. We know that Edith has done well in caring for him, but in thinking about his movements it is understandable that he has a greater caloric need than the other children who do not struggle with the twitching.

Rachel determined that this week we would do our best to fatten him up. It was interesting because right after food and when he was held, his movements seemed to calm down a little. When we fed him, he would get so agitated and excited he can hardly sit still. And in his desperation for food he just gets almost panicky which makes it more difficult to feed him. We made the decision to feed him every two or three hours or so. Which made for a lot more time and work. In addition to this, we purchased some extra dry cereal that can be made into mash to leave at Home of Hope when I left so that Joseph can be given more calories every day and which Rachel can help supply until he comes to the US.

We also found out that he really hates the doctors. Even when I was holding him and the doctor was doing simple things like checking his back with the stethoscope or measuring his head he was cringing. And when I put him down on the table to be measured he just totally erupted in panic fussing and crying. I tried to explain to him that it was going to be ok but it was difficult. Then there was the long car ride home. That was when I realized how hard the car seat was for him. He does have physical therapy at Home of Home and some time in a chair, but most of the time he is lying on a mat.. Just sitting upright in the chair was exhausting him. When we’d talk with him and try to cheer him up he got this pleading look on his face. Thankfully after the first day or two, Rachel was able to find a rear facing car seat that reclined more for Joseph, because we had to do quite a bit of traveling and this made things a little easier for him.

But by the end of the first day I was just feeling exhausted and weepy about everything. And in thinking about the difficulties in feeding him alone and the time it took and the lack of bandwidth we already have at home I just felt so low and scared about the future. Overwhelmingly so. Over the course of the trip I kept speaking truth to myself (and Rachel and Isaac reminded me also.)

When we bring Joseph home, I will not be living in an unfamiliar place and we will develop routines that will work for him and for us. We will have proper equipment, like a wheelchair and high chair. At Home of Hope they do their best and he is on some calming medications for twitching but I have a feeling that he will be put on different medications that will perhaps be helpful. We will have lots of services for him. There will still be a lot of work at the beginning but things will be different and Rachel kept reminding me of this. And I wouldn’t be going on 4 days of hardly any sleep. All of life looks different with sleep.

Unfortunately the next night wasn’t the greatest either. Joseph fell asleep easily like he had the night before. It took awhile again for us to sleep because the little boys were still awake but then at around 2:00am Joseph woke up. He was crying and completely panicking. He was sweating, arching his back and looking at me with these terrified eyes. He seemed like he was in pain. Isaac and Rachel came in to try to figure out what it was. We decided to give him his pill for agitation that Mercy had given us and Rachel also have him a Tylenol suppository. We prayed for him and eventually he did settle and go back to sleep but again, I got about 4 hrs sleep. I also woke up early again.

I was incredibly low that morning. I felt like I was at the end of myself, I’d used up all my physical and emotional energy and adrenaline and I was ready to go home….. and the week was just starting. I felt like I should be at the end. By now we did have wifi and I was able to call Todd and spend some time with him crying and talking. He had some issues with the rentals at home and was also having a difficult time, but he prayed with me and was so comforting. He remembered a medication that Edith had said they were giving Joseph that he hadn’t received. When he told me this and suggested giving him that, and things made a little more sense as to why he may have been so panicky. So Isaac wrote a prescription and were able to give that to him.

We were beginning to realize how much the spasms and twitching are a part of Joseph’s life. It is hard to describe but think about a little toddler who never stops moving and is wiggly with high energy. At some point though, a normal healthy toddler will slow down and relax. However, only time Joseph really relaxes is when he is in someone’s arms or asleep. Again this knowledge is overwhelming. When Joseph is by himself, in a chair or on the floor he twitches and spasms. However, as soon as you pick him up though, he calms down and his body relaxes. I was thinking about how busy things are at home when I am trying to get a million things done and attending to the kids. At the same time, the only thing that really calms Joseph down is holding him in arms. Which takes a lot of time. But I want to do it!

His needs are similar to a little baby’s. But even in this I know God has a plan. We learned in our adoption classes and book that when children are adopted they will have gone through trauma. Bonding happens so much through physical touch. Joseph was abandoned at age one. Little babies are often agitated and moving until you hold them and then they calm down. Little babies need to eat every few hours. We will have a chance to meet his needs and bond with him. His needs are going to be all consuming for a while but at the same time, it will remind us that he need to experience bonding and love.

I felt this strong drive and desire to love him well. It is so important to me that we not just meet his physical needs, but also his emotional ones. If this means being held often, I want to do that. At the same time, between the length of time it takes to feed him and hold him I just don’t know how we are going to do it. To be gut honest, with the lack of sleep and physical exhaustion of carrying him, the heat and preparing meals and being in a foreign country – I just wanted to get out of dodge.

But at the same time, God kept bringing me back to how overwhelmed felt about Vivien and her needs at the beginning. I remember when the nurses were trying to train me on how to feed her through her tube, and feeling completely inadequate and like I wanted to run. I was, exhausted from trying to give birth and having a c-section. I remember being secretly grateful and guilty at the same time that I caught a cold, which would put off my caring for her for a while because she couldn’t risk the infection. And yet caring for her is now not too much for us at all. We have routines and though she is time consuming, life is truly a joy with her. I knew I needed to trust God for His faithfulness in the past. He has made life beautiful and good with Vivien. It was hard at first. It took so much but we are at a happy place with her.

I told God that I was going to trust Him that He is going to do beautiful things with and in Joseph and that He would continue to grow my love for him, deeper and stronger. I am grateful for the drive he has put in my heart to meet his physical and emotional needs. In my devotions that morning very morning I read, in the Passion translation: Lk 9:23-24 If you truly desire to be my disciple, you must disown your life completely, embrace my “cross” as your own and surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your lives for my glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more of true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourself, you will lose what you try to keep.” I knew He was calling me to this. Joseph is not a “cross”. The work of caring for him however is part of the “cross” that we are called to but Joseph himself is a blessing and he is going to be a blessing to us. We know that as we His very name means gift or increase. We have embarked on a discovery of more and more of true life with Viv and we know and believe that God will do that with Joseph too. We know that surrender leads to more and more true life. But my week was only beginning…

Sept 2018

Molly will update the second half of her May trip soon. In the meantime, Todd and Maggie are getting ready to head to Uganda in one week. They will go again with Churchome and host a medical clinic and visit Joseph again. We are praying that we will receive a court date while we are there. The court date is when a Ugandan judge reviews all the information that the lawyer has put together and then decides whether or not we can officially adopt Joseph. If the Ugandan courts say yes, then we can begin the US side of the process – applying for the visa etc, which can take 1-3 months. We are nearing the end and we would appreciate your prayers for a timely court date while Todd and Maggie are in Uganda.


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$1,000

Jeff and Christi

Dec 28, 2018

$250

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Nov 5, 2018

$250

David and Tiffany

Oct 30, 2018

“You guys are such an inspiration to us, and we are so privileged to walk alongside you both and watch your story unfold!”

$54

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Sep 25, 2018