Many of you know that we have been interested in adoption in Tanzania for a long time. This last Sunday, we met with an American lawyer here in Dar es Salaam who has helped numerous families with Tanzanian adoptions. She warned us that the process would be long and arduous, that it would take at least a year to get a baby in our home, and another year to finalize the adoption.
That was Sunday. Then came Tuesday, when we were driving to meet the lawyer to turn in our application. She called us on the way and said, "Uh, I have a baby I want you to meet. She's available for immediate foster care and then adoption." We arrived and she immediately placed a one-month old baby in Gil's arms.
After we picked ourselves up off the floor and our heads stopped spinning around, the lawyer explained that this baby was an exception to the rule, because she had not been turned over to a government orphanage. Thus, her family could hand her over to us immediately, and we could go through the process of becoming foster parents and then adoptive parents while we were caring for her.
This process has more risk than the "long-way" of getting a baby from an orphanage, because the family could change their minds and want the baby back before the adoption is complete. But the baby's mother has died, the father is nowhere to be found, and the remaining relatives are very poor. They have adamantly expressed that they want the baby to be adopted. She is currently being cared for by a middle-aged (white) South African woman who loves her, but wants her to have a good family.
What does this mean? We have a significant decision to make within the next couple of days! If we decide to take her, as soon as we have received written consent from the family, she would be in our home--as soon as two weeks from now.
October 14, 2005 email prayer update:
To update you: We have decided to move forward with the process of getting this baby! We're not getting our hopes too high yet. This Sunday, at 3:00, we will meet with the baby's uncle, who represents the family.
Then, on Tuesday (hypothetically), the uncle, the baby, the lawyer, and us will go to meet Miss Moyo, the regional social worker.
Once all these consents are done with, we will shortly be able to take the baby into our home! She will not be legally adopted for a number of months. So please also pray that the family does not change their mind before the adoption is complete. We are trusting God with this, but we still want to pray about it!
October 16, 2005 email prayer update:
Unfortunately, the meeting this afternoon with the baby's relatives did not go well. Adoption is a very foreign process in Tanzania; in fact, there isn't even a word in Kiswahili that is an exact translation. The woman who rescued this baby and is fostering her is not Tanzanian, and even though she thought the family had made it clear they wanted the baby to be adopted, we found out today that isn't true.
The uncles were very clear about the fact that they did not want to relinquish rights to this baby; they only wanted someone to care for her for a while. Unfortunately, in Tanzanian culture it is more acceptable to let a child live in an orphanage for her whole life than to have her be adopted by another family.
We are, of course, very disappointed. But we are thankful that this came out before we had taken this child into our home, named her, and had our hearts set on her. We prayed that God would make this very clear to us, and He has answered that prayer.
We were crushed, of course. I cried a lot that day. It felt the same way as my miscarriage.
That baby's name was Lisabel. For a week I thought she would be my Grace. But she was not. My Grace was not born until January 2006. And I did not bring her home until November 2006.
But Lisabel's story did not end there. The woman who had taken her in as a starving infant (a white South African lady whose children were grown), though she wanted her adopted into a good family, had then cared for her for 4 weeks and was not willing to give Lisabel back into the terrible situation from which she had come. So she kept her, even though she knew that the uncles did not want her adopted. After about two years of this, she finally, finally, finally convinced them to let her adopt Lisabel, and it even came down to the very last wire in the court room.
During the last five years, we have run into Lisabel and her adoptive mother twice, very briefly. It was always strange to see the little girl who, for a week, I thought would be my daughter.
So who would have thought, that out of all the roads in this city of 5 million people, Lisabel and her mother would be living on the same road as us. And who would have thought that out of the thousands of pre-schools in this city, and even the dozen or so on this road, that Lisabel would be going to the same pre-school as my Grace.
And now they are best friends.
Sometimes the ways of God make me a bit dizzy.