Processing has been slow for me. I came home with a headcold and ears that stayed plugged up for 2 weeks....that put my thinking skills in molasses mode. It's been 3 weeks since we've been home from the trip of a lifetime. I realize I've left many of you in the dark, some thinking we already have the girls home, everyone wondering how the trip went and what's next. I'm sorry. I've realized as I've been praying for anxiously awaiting the next installment of my high school friend's blog who's just brought home 2 little sweeties from China, that I've left all of the Florida family prayer warriors in the dark. Although I realize God's not in the dark and can convert your prayers to reflect the things you don't yet know....I want you to know because my heart needs you all with me.
I want to take you along to Africa and let you meet my girls. But first, let me tell you what's next. Our last formality, last document driven hoop to jump through are the immigration requirements to get a United States Visa stamped into the girls' passports. Our country is thorough and requires their own full investigation into the orphan status of our girls. They also require complete, independent medical evaluations that include a TB test that can take up to 8 weeks to show results. The Bethany team in Ethiopia has been on their toes checking off boxes and gathering requirements. We have new birth certificates that list Scott and I as the girls' parents. We have an official adoption decree from the Ethiopian government. We have 2 Ethiopian passports of girls who's last names are Florida. These documents (and a 2nd trip to Homeland Security for fingerprints) were the last things needed to apply for visas. Our case was submitted to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa on my birthday, March 26.....and the deadline we've been racing for, submitting this paperwork before Asnaku's 16th birthday, has been met with almost a month to spare. What we're waiting for now is:
- For the investigation to be completed. Best case scenario it could take a couple weeks, worst case it could be forwarded on to the African headquarters in Nairobi to be reviewed and could take a lot longer. We're not anticipating any hold-ups.....but you just never know what twists and turns could arise.
- For medical testing to be completed, particularly the TB sputum test. This test is required because of their age and special needs instead of the the more simple, quick TB test you're probably familiar with. The tests were begun March 20 and the results will likely take 8 weeks from then.
- Once the Embassy approves our case, they will issue us an invitation to travel and we will be able to start making plans to leave.
In the meantime, we're finishing a basement, rearranging and redecorating bedrooms and gathering "teenage girl" supplies. God keeps pouring the blessings on us.....one of our church's Bible study small groups gave us the gift of professional drywallers to help us with our basement re-do. What a blessing! Progress has been happening down there without Scott burning the midnight oil....and fast too! Our church is also throwing an adoption shower for our girls in April. They've had me filling out baby registries and making wish lists. I'm feeling completely surrounded by other people who are "in it" with us, and it feel good, really good.
Ok, plan B. Looks like this post's name is going to be changed from "Ethiopia Travelogue - Part 1" to "What's Next?" Combining those two thoughts was biting off more than I could chew. I promise......next post you see from me will take you straight to Addis Ababa. But until then.....here's how you can pray right now:
- Pray for Florida hearts....the ones in Michigan and the ones in Ethiopia. All of our hearts need to be prepared to be thick with our love and ability to assume the best and not easily take offense as we forge a new family. I believe God can be doing the prep work now as we wait. Also, pray for healing for our girls. Any way you look at it and whatever "best case scenarios" might be, there's no way to need to be adopted without walking through some serious pain. Pray that God, who speaks fluent Amharic, will be filling in gaps and slathering on healing salve, even before we bring them home.
- Pray for communication skills....us in Amharic, them in English. We're gonna need a lot of help and it's gonna be hard. God has brought us just the right contacts we need to make a plan, and that's on my list of things to do.
- Pray for timing. My worrying gene can go into overdrive if I look too closely at my list of things that need to be organized, painted, emailed or called about or my calendar. God knows the plan, and He'll make it for my good - so I'm ok.......and I'm choosing not to think about the fact that I have my firstborn graduating and am throwing an open house the last weekend of May. It's important to God too, and He knows how far I can stretch.
- Pray for our homegrown kids. They all would really like to travel with us when we bring the girls home. (Except for Ginger....a trip to visit her Grandmas sounds much more exciting to her!) After a lot of praying and seeking advice of adoption people, we feel like there would be a lot of positive benefits to having this journey we've gone on as a family be able to end with us all experiencing the big finale together. Bonding and understanding between siblings can only be helped by seeing and feeling where their sisters came from, and then traveling home together as a family. Seems impossible when you think about how much it will cost to take 5 extras with us.....but then again, we've seen God do some pretty impossible things with money these past few years, haven't we? So, we've decided to start working toward that goal and lay it at God's feet. The kids have been listing things on craigslist and ebay, selling candy bars door to door and babysitting. We're going to do everything we can to make it happen and will accept God's answer based on the bottom line of the bank account on the day we need to buy tickets. So pray for God's will to be done, and for the kids' hearts (and mine!) to be ready to accept whatever that is......and for miracles and cheap tickets too!!
Thank you for walking this road with us. There is just no way that I can express how soul-strengthening it is to feel such an army around us!