Saturday, April 11, 2015

Embassy. Do or Die.

I have to laugh at the title that popped in my head for this one. It's slightly comical when I think back and remember that day. 

So much of this appointment was that attitude. When we finally found out Thursday, March 19th that we would have embassy on Monday the 23rd, I spent those four days preparing and waiting- in a slight panic. I knew we had everything they could possibly ask for. I knew we were "stacked" (literally) with evidence that our children met the terms and law for classifying them as orphans, so in that, they could be adopted.
I can't even tell you how many times I thumbed through the documents needed and went trough my checklists. I made checklists for my checklists. 

This sounds so minimal compared to what Jesus endured on the cross, but this was the first instance where I remember thinking, "Jesus take this away from me. I don't want to go through with this. Is there any other way?" It wasn't going to be physically traumatic or anything close to what Jesus went though, but it occurred to me that what I was asking, extremely unrealistically, was can someone else go to embassy for me? Can someone else bear this for me? If we get denied I didn't know how I would react or what I would do. I was so worried, almost sick, that we had come THIS FAR. WE HAD WAITED AND WAITED FOR THIS DAY. It wasn't enough that we had hired a fantastic lawyer, passed court with a positive ruling and guardianship order from the judge by the Ugandan government, or that the private investigation and social welfare report were all in favor of adoption, or that living relatives had all testified for adoption. It came down to the US Embassy. It came down to me, filling out the paperwork, preparing everything, and answering their questions. I was almost sick over that. (I totally had the wrong idea about that, it was not "up to me or the embassy" it was up to God.) 

Many of you know we were praying for and over a certain man we knew did exit interviews. We knew from so many others that he is the only one that was known to do those interviews. We had so many people praying over us and him. So many of you were praying we would pass the document check at 9:00am and then get an afternoon exit interview. (During busy seasons, you don't always get a same day appointment.)

I'm going to reflect on "the day". The day we knew we either got to go HOME two days later, or the day we would find out we were denied for one or both children, or if they would do a further investigation. 

Our appointment was set for 9:00 am. I got up earlier that morning, unable to sleep. Read my Bible, got ready, then woke up the kids and got them sat down for breakfast. My wonderful fiends at the guest house offered to watch them while I was gone because the kids didn't need to attend this first appointment.  I knew I needed to leave the guest house at 8:20 to walk to the nearest "bodaboda corner" and get through security by 9:00. There's a certain area where bodaboda (motorbike) drivers hang out under a tree waiting for people needing a ride. It's like hailing a cab. ;) I wanted to save "thousands of shillings" on hiring a private driver like normal. By this time in my trip I felt brave, adventurous, and Ugandan enough ;), to travel by boda- haha! They're quicker because they weave in and out of motorcars (and cause accidents) and you don't have to wait for them to arrive on time. 

The kids started whining when I headed out, I knew it was best, but hard to leave them. I also knew it was good for them to see mama leave, and that she would come back. :) oh adoption.

I found my bodaboda before I got to the corner, you hail a boda by simply nodding your head and raising your eyebrows- fun fact for ya. Just my luck, it started raining as we left for the embassy. Haha!! Well worth it. 

I got to the embassy on time, you have to be dropped off far enough away from the embassy for security reasons. There are signs everywhere that say "NO STOPPING NO PARKING NO PHOTOGRAPHY". Guards and cameras EVERYWHERE to make sure it stays that way.They mean it. (One of my motorcar drivers said he's been arrested several times because previous passengers have taken pictures unknown to him, and "there are cameras everywhere and they know where to find you", so they got his license plate and arrested HIM!) 

I sped walked up to the embassy, got wanded and body searched, bags checked and stored away, handed my passport over to check in, and got my pass to get through to the next set of security measures of an X-ray machine. Wait for the security guy to signal to the control man to signal you on through that door. Walk up a steep hill to be let into the building where my interviews would be. 

I got in, and had a terrifying flashback to IOM. Member when I got there and they said I didn't have an appointment? When I KNEW I did? Ya. The dude inside told me to look for my name on the list- and I was no where to be found. I could hear panic in my voice when I told him I wasn't on the list, and he asked what I was here for. I told him adoption and he said, "oh! Sign this sheet here!"  Phew!!!!!!!!! 

I sat and waited for my name to be called. It was 8:40. All of a sudden an automated voice and alarm started going off. I was so confused. Early in the morning and slightly nervous to start with- the alarm was saying "AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS. DUCK AND COVER" with a loud obnoxious blaring alarm sound. I looked over to the window and there was a man and his son standing there filling out paperwork. I assumed if you stand there long enough it may set off an alarm? The receptionist told them to back away from the windows, and you could tell they were surprised, possibly thinking the same thing. Ha! Until the receptionist got a phone call that confirmed what the alarm was saying. He told us to get on the ground and duck and cover. Apparently none of us thought the automated one was serious. 

So, we all got down on the ground, under chairs if possible, and covered. I remember thinking, "this WOULD happen to me". I have to be honest, my first instinct was "I hope this doesn't postpone my appointment. We've waited so long for this." (You know you're crazy when......? I knew then.) a few minutes go by and a live person comes on over the alarm, and states his name and department and tells us this is not a drill. Continue to duck and cover. The teacher in me was still in disbelief I think? We only have fire/intruder/tornado DRILLS. And now this isn't a drill? I decided to pray as I lay there, for protection, peace, and my appointment to not be moved or cancelled. I was thankful the kids weren't with me. Macy surely would have been screaming with the loud alarm and neither understand to lay down. Can you imagine? 

I looked up and another American man was in there (mostly Ugandans were/are normally in there. Both staff and people needing whatever service). He too had his eyes closed, I assumed and hoped, praying. When he opened his eyes later I asked where he was from and why he was there. He was a missionary. :) how neat! If we died, I got to die next to and enter the gates of heaven with a fellow brother! 

Eventually the alarm goes off and the same man came over the intercom and told us the threat was taken care of and further investigation was taking place. Someone had been arrested. We could now get up from the floor. Whew! What a morning! All before 9:00. 

Shortly after 9:00 the receptionist got a phone call and told me to go into one of four numbered doors. It's like a game show. Doors labeled 1-4, who and what is behind which door? When you walk in it's a teeny tiny room, with a Ugandan employee standing there behind a thick glass window, and a little slot at the bottom for you to pass things back and forth. Here is where she asked me for all my documents. She had a little check list that goes through everything you need and goes through each item to make sure it's filled out, and filled out correctly. I was so thankful it wasn't a "strike, you're out!" if something was wrong. She told me to go back to the waiting room as she went through it more meticulously. Then the receptionist got a call telling me to go back in the door.  It lasted about 35-40 minutes. (Mostly because we had two unrelated children- so two separate files to go through.) She told me to go pay for the visa fees (this doesn't mean you pass embassy) and the additional i600 fee for the second child in the next window, and that she had everything and I could come back at 2:00pm with living relatives and the children. I did. Then left. Breathing a sigh of relief and thanksgiving for a same day appointment. I looked up into the rainy sky, "Thank you Jesus, thank you!" 

From 10am to 1:30pm I was in sheer panic mode. I couldn't rest. I was slightly irritable. This next appointment was it. Do or die. I get to see my husband in a few days or I stay here for who knows how long until the kids were cleared for visas. Fighting till the end. 

I was shaking. I at one point, had a near panic attack on my bed and had to go to the porch off my room for fresh air, as the kids slept soundly away for a quick nap. (Doesn't the embassy know better than to schedule appointments for kids in prime nap time? Haha! I kid, I kid.)

It was morning at home in the USA and praise God a friend of mine who had to be up before most for work, Facetimed me and talked me off the ledge (almost literally ;) ha!) She gave me scripture and spoke truth to me. Praise God for her. Soon after I started getting a flood of texts of people waking up to pray for us. Such a gift. THANK YOU! 

I stayed on the price, with the Word of God open in my hands pacing back and forth- heavily breathing, when He brought 1 Peter 5: 5-11 to mind.
I read it out loud over and over while pacing. Carver woke up from his mini-nap and paced right along with me. Eventually, starting to repeat some of the words sporadically with me. I started rebuking the enemy, praying for my brothers and sisters being persecuted, and even Pastor Saeed came to mind to pray for. I was all of a sudden on the same side of the world as him. Pretty neat in those moments through His Grace, able to take my eyes of myself and the affliction I was feelings, to others going through a different and severe suffering for the name of Jesus. 

Finally, it was time to strap Macy in the baby carrier and walk with Carver to the boda corner. We stopped one who had no idea what I was saying or where the American embassy was. So on to the next guy. Eventually we're on our way to the embassy and see the living relatives and social worker there going though security. Phew!! 

We followed suit with security, my little 3 year old and 16 month old getting wanded as well. We all pile into the building where interviews take place and wait. It was so good to see the relatives again. It was a rather eerie feeling knowing if we passed, it would be five years before we saw them again. (Our ruling, most adoptive family's rulings from the judge, state we have to visit every 5 years with the kids until they're 18 years old.) 

We waited, and soon the receptionist told me I could go into one of those do or die doors. I went in with both kids where I was surprised to NOT see the expected man for exit interviews. This immediately made me uneasy, THIS ISNT WHO WE PRAYED OVER! Ha! I'm sure God was rolling His eyes at me. ;) "oh ye of little faith, and oh so much need for control, Kendra!" Haha!! She was a superior to the man we thought we would have who was on leave. 

Here, she went through the medical and financial aspects to ensure neither of those issues rule us out as qualified. My goodness, I hope by this point we would have passed or failed this part. Lol but alas, the formalities continue. We passed that part, and on to combing through the kids' files. This took awhile. (If you would like to know more about this part of the process if you're going through this process you can email me personally. I would love to help prepare anyone going through this to ease and nerves, and pray over your situation.) 

After about twenty minutes she told me I could return to the waiting room and send in Macy's living relatives where they would be interviewed, with an interpreter on hand to help. Another 15 minutes pass. I'm called in again to then tell Carver's living relative to come in. We wait another 20 minutes. 

To make matters even more nerve racking, it's "known" that the embassys (plural, around the world) can be very very unkind to the living relatives testifying. I was so worried for them. I had prayed for them to not be nervous and that the embassy workers would be kind, explanatory, and patient in their questioning. I was so thankful for the baby home social worker who speaks English waiting with me, and that he speaks the language the relatives speak, and would ask the relatives how the embassy workers were and if they were kind in their questioning. (Rather than in an accusing and twist their words way. We are to report to authorities if they're unkind.)  He was able to tell me that it went well. He reported that the relatives said they kept asking the same questions and the same questions the judge and investigator asked- "we just told the truth, like we did the other times". Praise the Lord for their strength and sacrifice. 

And finally, the moment had come. 

I was called in again, I knew this was the moment I would be told pass or denied. I was shaking. I walked through that door, face to face with that woman once again. Macy in my arms. Wondering what our "fate" was. I smiled, and I'm sure looked like a mess, with this quivering, nervous smile. 

She started out saying something that I 100% thought we were being denied. I'm not kidding. Looking back, it was like I all of a sudden I was watching The Bachelor finale. Looking for facial expressions and certain words, "was she getting the final rose, the best day of their lives, or ditched and sent home packing empty handed". (I have to make this moment lighter somehow.) 
Her face, tone of voice, and things she had been saying up till now never ever made me think we were going to pass. Like the judge, it's so hard for me to interact with people like this, "poker-face-people". I'm such a feeler and people reader- Oof. Eventually through a blur of words, she said, "with the evidence we have, these children do qualify and meet the terms of an orphan status- I am going to go ahead and process the visa applications, if the network that prints visas doesn't crash, you may pick up visas at 4:00pm Wednesday.........congratulations." 

Notice no exclamation point. Because she said it with a complete stone face and monotonous tone of voice. I think I stood there 5-10 seconds processing. I heard her words. But with the intonations of her voice and facial expression it didn't match the excitement that it *should* have been said with. Once it clicked......."congratulations", I got tears in my eyes and told her, "Thank you SO much", tried to keep calm, packed my bag with all of the paperwork she gave back to me, as fast and nonchalantly as I could. Told her, "this is a dream come true. Thank you!"  She cracked a quarter? Eighth? of a smile, turned around and walked away. (I'm sure it's their job to be serious and have become jaded over the process....but STILL!) 


I walked out the door, to a full waiting room of Ugandans, Macy in arm. As soon as I got that door closed I gave a thumbs up and giant smile to the social worker and relatives. None of them recognized what the thumbs up meant. So I quickly said, "We PASSED!" in a whisper/shout! The social worker translated, and Macy's grandmother raised her hands in the air! I got over to them as quick as I could and hugged them each, when I got to Macy's grandmother I just said thank you, thank you, thank you. The incredible thing she said in return was, "thank you, thank you, praise God, praise God- HE did this!" I was someone she was thanking. ME. The tears came harder, faster, and hotter. It wasn't me, we were just doing what God had asked us to do.

I quickly told them, we can leave now! Let's go! We all walked outside and to the front entry of the embassy, where in my excitement and hustle, asked the social worker if he would take a picture of the kids and I and the relatives. COMPLETELY forgetting, until guards starting coming towards me- NO PHOTOGRAPHY! They gave me a smile and others around me giggled, as I frantically put my camera away. I didn't even care. I was so elated. 

We grabbed the rest of our things and walked out of the embassy zones and took some pictures along the street. I also gave each relative a photo album and picture frame of our family and of all the pictures we had ever received or taken through the process of the kids. In that moment it seemed like such a tiny trivial gift of thanks and remembrance- adoption is so bittersweet. We are parents, a family, because of tragic and traumatic things in our children's lives with their birth families. 

God is still good. 

Those moments after approval, in the waiting room of the embassy and the chaotic streets of Kampala, were so filled of the presence of God. I'm not sure I can ever adequately explain or put to words verbally or written what it was like. 

All I can process and profess is the goodness and faithfulness of our Father in Heaven. The almighty God, who holds you and me, Uganda and the United States of America, in His hands. 

Beau and I are so grateful for this adoption journey. It was grueling, hard, heart-breaking, wonderfully sweet, refining, so full of grace and mercy, and His love poured out to us in a whole new way. I will learn for years and years, as long as the Lord allows me life on this earth, from what He asked us to do and walk during this time period. 

We love each of you who prayed us through this day. 

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