Sunday, August 31, 2008


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He is my best friend. He is a great listener. He gives fantastic advice. He takes me out once a week. He is an incredible Dad. He genuinely loves playing with our children. He genuinely loves his students. He is an amazing Bible teacher. He agonizes over whether his students really "get it" and is constantly thinking of better ways to teach them. He remembers the things that are important to me. He is a very hard worker. He fixes things that break. He disciplines our children with love. He urges me out of my comfort zone. He makes me try things that I would be too afraid to do. He makes me laugh. He makes my children laugh more than anyone else. He reminds me to relax. He makes me a better person. He loves His Savior.

I love you, Gil. Happy 31st Birthday!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

“Can’t you have ‘your own’ children?”

I heard this today. Gil heard it last week. Others have been brave enough to ask us. But I’m quite confident that pretty much everybody wonders about it and doesn’t think it’s polite to ask.

The truth is, I really don’t mind being asked this question. Now….having it phrased like that isn’t exactly the best way to ask, since it implies that something is wrong with us or that somehow biological children would be more significant in some way.

But I certainly don’t mind talking about it. So. To answer the question on everybody’s mind, here goes:

I don’t know if we will ever have biological children. We haven’t been preventing it for over 4 years now, and when we lived in the States we were tested. There is nothing medically wrong that would prevent us from getting pregnant. I did get pregnant, once, about 3 years ago, and we lost the baby after only 8 weeks. We’ve never tried any method of treatment, mostly because we live in Africa and that’s not an option. But even if we were in the States, I’m not sure how far we would go down that route. Just getting tested was emotionally draining enough. And though the adoption process is long and difficult—as fertility treatments are—at least we have the guarantee of getting a baby at the end—which isn’t a guarantee during treatment.

HOWEVER, adoption has never been a “Plan B” for us. Both of us have been interested in adoption since high school. Both of us talked about it with certainty since before we were married. There was never a question of whether we would want to adopt.

We love adoption with a passion. It’s an incredible, beautiful illustration of God’s pursuit and love for us. Remember, none of us were born into God’s family! All of us were orphans. We were purchased from Satan at an enormous price—despite our own wickedness—and those of us who have accepted His incredible Gift of Grace have been adopted into God’s family. This is why we named our first child Grace.

Adoption is a picture of redemption. Orphans were never a part of God’s original plan. Yet adoption is a way of reversing the effects of the Fall. It is a high privilege. And it is definitely addicting.

Of course, there are “issues.” My children will never be entirely Tanzanian nor entirely American. (Though that would be the case even for biological children that we raised here!) They may struggle with their identity. They may struggle with wanting to know their birth families. But even biological children have “issues”—don’t we all? God never promised that parenting—or life in general--would be easy.

My prayer is that my adopted children grow up loving that they are adopted. That they would see God’s hand in their lives since their birth. That they would relish the uniqueness of their family. That they would have a deep and profound understanding of the gospel because of their adoption. I know this is no guarantee—no matter how “good” we are as parents. That is why it is my prayer.

Do I want to get pregnant? It was pretty important to me a few years ago. And even now, I would love to experience a pregnancy and birth and breast feeding. And if God wills that I never get to experience those things? Thanks to the grace of God, I can live with that. Because the enormous blessings I am experiencing through adoption are greater than I could have ever imagined.

And our next? Maybe from India! :-) For some strange reason, the Tanzanian government doesn’t usually allow permission for a third Tanzanian child (but we will try). But we love the idea of a multi-national family anyway.

Friday, August 22, 2008



What a wonderful day.

Of course, the suspense has been killing me the last couple of days. Yesterday the social worker told me that they hadn't had electricity for over a day and thus the letter hadn't been typed.

This morning I called her about 8 times without her ever answering. Finally, I sent her a text message with an impassioned plea to please try to get us the letter today, because Gil was going to start work again on Monday. She sent a text message back, "It's already been signed."

Uhhh....were you going to tell me?

So off we went! Picked up the letter, drove across town to the orphanage, and picked up our baby!

The details:

His name is Josiah Christian George Medina.

Josiah: the name Gil and I had picked out for our first son since...probably before we were married

Christian: his orphanage name

George: my grandfather's name. We added this name just today, because we found out that the very moment we were picking up Josiah from the orphanage, my 84 year old grandfather slipped into eternity. We knew it was coming--he has been in a coma for a month now, but the irony of his death at the exact time Josiah entered our family is something we will always remember. Joy in the midst of sadness.

Josiah's birthday is November 1, 2007. He is almost 10 months old.

You may remember that there were 5 available baby boys at the orphanage to choose from. Gil and I were both inexplicably drawn to this little guy. God put him on our hearts. We also think it is really special that his orphanage name was Christian, and Grace's orphanage name was Christa.

He has a very different disposition from Grace, who from day one was everybody's best friend. Grace has always been very easy-going, friendly, happy, and full of songs and dances. Josiah is very solemn. During two of the three visits we made to him in the last month, he cried without stopping the entire time! So we figured this would be a different kind of adjustment than we had with Grace. But he did pretty well today, considering all the changes in his little life.

He has giant dark eyes that take everything in. All day today, he has been watching us. When one of us leaves the room, he cranes his head to follow where we are going. He is very serious, but also very alert and expressive with those huge eyes of his. We've gotten some almost smiles out of him, especially during bath time.

He seems small for his age (but maybe that's just because I'm comparing him to Grace!) but seems developmentally on target; he is crawling and pulling up and "talking." (Sigh...unfortunately, no immobile period for me!)

Grace is doing great--a little more emotional than usual, but is very eager to show Josiah everything and teach him everything she knows. Since Josiah he is already 10 months old, it won't take him very long to become a playmate for her!

I praise God for what He taught me while making us wait these extra weeks. Josiah is all the more precious to us now, and my Sovereign God is all the more trustworthy! I praise Him for how He is creating my family.

I am blessed indeed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Okay, okay, I know I said I wasn't going to give any more updates.

But, ummmm....I changed my mind.

Because today was pretty amazing.

I decided that this morning I would visit both the district social worker and the regional social worker. I really didn't expect to get anywhere. Pretty much, this was one of those, "I'm-still- here-and-you're-not-getting-rid-of-me visits."

First I went to the district social worker's office. I didn't know if I would even see anyone I know. The social worker who did our home study (she was awesome) has been transferred. And our lawyer had warned us that her assistant (the one who wrote the letter that was rejected) is at a conference. She was right. Both ladies were gone.

But there was another lady there, named Nelly. I'd only met her once and I don't even know what her official position is. But I explained the situation, for lack of anyone else to talk to.

She said, "Oh, I can rewrite that letter. Do you have a few minutes? Do you want to wait? I could do it right now."

Do I want to wait? Do I want to wait?

Back up a minute. In all my dealings and visits with social workers, for both Grace and Josiah's adoptions, I have never, ever (did I mention never?) had a social worker be willing to write a letter on the spot. It's always, "Come back tomorrow," or "Come back on Monday," or "Call me tomorrow and I'll let you know." It usually takes, on average, five visits to a social worker to acquire whichever letter we are currently working on.

So, duh, yeah, OF COURSE I WANT TO WAIT!!! I wanted to sing and dance and give her a million dollars.

So she found the first letter. Copied it. Rewrote it by hand with the correction.

Then she folded it up, addressed it, and said, "Do you have a car?"


" assistant here will go with you right now to deliver it to the regional office. Just please give her bus money so she can come back."

Bus money? Don't you want a million dollars?

So we delivered it. And the regional social worker read it. And said it was fine. And she said we should call back tomorrow. Because now, once again, we wait for the final-final-final letter. Maybe. You never know.

But it still was amazing.

The last few days have been good for me. Meditating on God's sovereignty. Trusting His good timing. And the truth is, I still don't know when my boy will come home. But today was a wonderful reminder that God can do whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases. He can harden hearts and soften them according to His good pleasure. This really, truly is all in His control.

"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Prov. 21:1)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


We really thought today would be the day.

I called the social worker this morning and she said, "Yes, your letter is ready...come and pick it up this afternoon."

Hooray! We got out the infant seat, got Josiah's coming-home-clothes ready, and put the camera in the car. Grace ran in circles yelling, "Messiah's coming! Messiah's coming!" (She hasn't quite got the "Jo" yet).

At 1:00 we went to social welfare. I left Gil and Grace in the car, and ran up to the office, expecting to pick up the final letter so that then we could drive over to the orphanage and get our little boy.

Not exactly.

I found the regional social worker. She told me, "Oh, the letter to pick up the baby isn't ready....we had to send another letter back to the district social worker because she failed to write in her letter where the baby is currently living. And we need that information for the final letter."

I said, " gave us permission to choose a baby from only the Mburahati orphanage. Wouldn't it be assumed that's where the baby is living?"

She said, "Oh no, we must have the information officially."

I have no idea why two days ago, she told me the final letter was just awaiting a signature. I have no idea why she told me this morning that the letter was ready. And why in heaven's name she couldn't just pick up a phone and ask the district social worker for confirmation on the baby's orphanage, I don't know.

What does this mean? We're back to where we were a month ago. Her letter must reach the district office (which is only 2 miles away, but it takes forever for letters to arrive). Then the district office must re-write the letter they sent two weeks ago, this time mentioning the baby's orphanage. But the district social worker is now a different person than she was two weeks ago, so who knows if this new person will even know what to do. And then that letter gets sent to the regional office, where we then (once again) wait for the final letter. All because they failed to mention, in the letter, at which orphanage the baby is living (even though everyone involved already knows).

And of course, in the meantime, social workers will get sick, or transferred, or sent on conferences for weeks at a time.

Am I sounding bitter? Well...I am. Honestly, I wanted to scream and shout and cry, "Do you have to make this as difficult as you possibly can? Don't you people care about this baby? There are two million orphans in Tanzania and only about 50 get adopted each year! Don't you even care that this baby gets a family?"

But I didn't. In African culture, public display of anger is a worse sin than adultery. Literally. So I held it in and walked away.

We will be fine. Even with all this, Josiah's adoption is still going much better than Grace's. I know we will eventually bring him home, and God's timing and sovereignty are perfect. I am trusting in that. Mostly, I'm just intensely frustrated.

I'm going to stop giving updates because it intensifies the disappointment when it doesn't work out. However, I promise that the very day we bring him home, I will post pictures!

Thanks for your excitement and prayers for us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We May Be in Delivery....

We're just waiting for a signature!

Yep, that's all we're waiting for. I saw the social worker again today, and she said that all the paperwork has been submitted, the final-final-final letter has been written, and is simply awaiting a signature from the commissioner of social welfare (whose office is next to hers).

She said I should call back tomorrow and see if it has been signed. I know, I hard is is to sign a letter? Well...experience has taught us that it actually can take days to get a signature...but we're hopeful!

The minute we have that letter in our hands, we can go to pick up our baby and bring him home. So hypothetically, it could happen tomorrow! Hypothetically.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Aunt S'Nelle

I've known Janelle since our first term in Tanzania. She has spent 7 of the last 9 years teaching at HOPAC, which is pretty impressive considering that the school has only been around for 14 years, and the average teacher comes only for 1-2 years. Janelle has always been my friend, but this last year she lived in the little (emphasis on "little") guest house in our yard, so she entered the "family" category.
Janelle is one of the most Christ-centered people I know. Her passion for the gospel, devotion to her work, and compassion for her students are unequaled. Though she never made a show about it, Janelle prayed for her students, daily, by name. Every year she found prayer partners for each individual student.
During this last year, almost daily I would hear, "Mommy, I go Aunt S'Nelle's house?" And off Grace would run. Janelle was such a special person in my little girl's life--especially in a country where we don't have any extended family.
Janelle just left Tanzania for a new chapter of her life. How we will sorely miss her! All the dinners and chats while cleaning up afterwards, all the laughter and stories and her beautiful example. I praise God for allowing her to be in my life.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Can You Tell Grandma is Visiting?

....because this is what my living room looks like. Don't ask me how Grandma managed to fit all these things into her luggage...I think it's a magic-grandma sort of thing like Mary Poppins' bag.

Dora gets to hear Grandpa's story too. Very important.

On Thursday Grandma, Grandpa (Gil's parents) and Uncle Brandon went with us to Wet n' Wild. East Africa's largest water park. Imagine your local water park 15 years from now but with no repairs....very few life guards....very few rules! It's great fun--and cheap--but I always get a little nervous that something is going to fall apart before my eyes.

Did I mention no rules? Like taking your two-year old on every ride with you?

Her favorite part, though, was the park equipment--since we don't have any parks in Dar.