Friday, September 25, 2009

I am here for God to send me where He will.

“Jesus Christ demands that there be not the slightest trace of resentment even suppressed in the heart of a disciple when he meets with tyranny and injustice. No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left—I am here for God to send me where He will. Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, September 25.

It’s hard to describe how exciting it is to go on Home Assignment. I suppose it is akin to anyone who goes home after a year or more of not seeing their family, except that it’s more than just seeing family. It’s the relief of being in a place where everyone speaks English and you know where to find things and you know how to operate in the culture. It’s the joy of being with friends and a church who have known you since you were small…people with permanency…significant since our lives here are so full of short-term relationships. Don’t get me wrong—you who have stuck with this blog for sometime know that I love Tanzania and I do love living here. But there’s just something about going home….

I guess I’m just trying to explain why this has been so crushing for us. The anticipation of counting down days…we were down to 12…to only find out that now there will be a whole lot more than 12. The last few weeks have been a frenzy of activity for me…doing so much to get ready….all of my thoughts centered on October 6th. So today, this morning, I suddenly wondered, “What am I going to do today?” None of the things on my list really matter anymore.

But it’s okay. The disappointment is huge, but this is not a life-long tragedy. One thing I have learned through adoptions is how to wait…and how to deal with disappointment. There have been greater disappointments than this. There is far greater suffering in the world than this.

Yesterday I was putting away all the documents I had brought to the embassy, and took a moment to gaze on Josiah’s adoption certificate. After receiving it a couple weeks ago, I was in such a hurry to get his passport that I didn’t even stop to consider the significance of this green piece of paper. Yet it is so significant! And really, so much more important than a visa! That paper says that Josiah is ours forever—what more could we want?

And God is good. He could have softened the heart of the consular officer; He could have put a different officer in place. He could have had the judge sign Josiah’s adoption order weeks earlier, which would have allowed us the time to apply for Josiah’s citizenship and prevented this delay. He could have; He could have. All of those things are easy for Him. Yet He didn’t, despite hundreds of people’s prayers. So. I trust Him. I trust that He knows what is best.

And already we see His hand….in Gil’s substitute, Lisa, who immediately said she could reschedule and flex with us. What an unexpected praise! In school administrators who said they would work with whatever we needed to do. In the prayers and encouragement of God’s people.

And who knows? My parents have contacted their congressman. Oh my. What could be next in God’s unexpected plan? :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not Our Will, but Yours

For now, I'm just posting what I sent out to our prayer list. I will write more later.

Dear Praying Friends,

How incredibly blessed we have been during these hours to hear of so many of you praying for us. We are humbled and honored that you would call upon the Lord so fervently on our behalf.

I (Amy) took the kids to the embassy this morning. It took us an hour and a half to get there, 2 and a half hours of waiting, and five minutes to get Josiah’s visa denied.

I still am not sure what the reason is for the denial, except that there is a new consular officer in the embassy who has it in his power to do so. It’s not only us—he insisted (despite my tears and pleas) that no adoptive family will be issued tourist (non-immigrant) visas any longer, except in cases of dire emergency. He wasn’t even interested in looking at all the paperwork I had brought to prove that we would be bringing Josiah back to Tanzania. His mind was made up before he even laid eyes on us. We have spoken to our lawyer and she thinks it would be useless to appeal.

We are left with only one option: Apply for citizenship immediately for Josiah. This has always been an option, but with Grace we chose a different, less expensive, less time-consuming option to get her citizenship. We thought we could do the same with Josiah, and had no reason to believe otherwise. But now it is our only choice, so we will begin immediately. Unfortunately it will take us at least 6 weeks to complete.

In the grand scheme of things, we know this falls low on the tragedy scale. We (and our families!) are deeply disappointed, and we have a whole mess of scheduling to reconsider, especially when it comes to Gil’s classes and substitute teacher. But we will eventually make it to the States, hopefully before Thanksgiving. Please pray for wisdom and grace for us as we go through all of our plans again.

We were set to leave Tanzania on October 6th. God could have made it happen, of that we are certain. Because He chose not to, we are trusting that His plans are greater than ours. So often when we make plans, Christians include, “Lord willing.” How true that is of us today. May our hearts and minds always be submitted to His will.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

By grace,

Gil, Amy, Grace, and Josiah

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Standing on His Promises

Our lawyer called me two hours ago.

"Have you gone in for your visa interview yet?"

No, I told her. We go tomorrow morning.

"Okay..." she said. "I just want you to brace yourself. A family went in for an interview this morning, and they were told that the embassy is no longer issuing tourist visas for adopted children."

So. If that email I got from the embassy was a splash of cold water in the face, this was a load of bricks dropped on my stomach.

She told me to go in for the interview anyway, hoping that maybe it was an isolated case. Except that, well, the family was told it wasn't.

Twice we received tourist visas for Grace. The consular officer didn't even ask me any questions, didn't even glance at all the paperwork I had brought in to prove that yes, we had solid plans to bring her back to Tanzania. Now she finally has U.S. citizenship, so we don't have to worry about her anymore.

But I never once (until I got that email) even imagined we would have a problem getting a visa for Josiah. Which is why, once we got the adoption certificate, we went forward with our plans with such confidence.

What will it mean if his visa is denied tomorrow? I don't even want to think about it. It means we will have to go through a different process--much more expensive, and at least 6 weeks to complete. It means paying hundreds of dollars to reschedule our tickets. Rescheduling our speaking plans. But most significant is the fact that Gil's substitute teacher is set to arrive a week from today. It is unlikely she can change her plans. Because we are teachers, we can't just pick up and leave whenever we want to. And of course, there's just the plain old devastating disappointment with the thought that we will have to wait even longer to see our friends and family.

God can give us that visa tomorrow if He desires it. He is all-powerful and He is good. So if He doesn't, then I must believe that He has a reason and a plan that I don't understand.

Please pray for us tomorrow. Pray for the visa, but also pray for grace.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Faces of HOPAC: The New School Year

2009-2010 Staff

Do Hard Things: Our theme for the year

I know I'm a little biased, but aren't they just beautiful???

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wherever He Pleases

“The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

I like to be in control. I like to know what’s going to happen and when it will happen and when that is settled I don’t want anything to change.

Never been a spontaneous person. That’s part of my personality. But ultimately, I’ve discovered, I just don’t want to depend on God. What a shocking revelation. But it has to be true.

We have been trying to go on Home Assignment for over 8 months now. We thought that by pushing it back to October, we would be allowing ourselves plenty of time. And even when it looked impossible, Josiah’s adoption was finalized in July. Great! I thought. We’re on schedule. And in control.

Then the judge sat with the adoption order on her desk, ready to be signed, for six weeks. Yep, all it needed was a signature. For six weeks. In faith we bought our plane tickets for October 6th. And we prayed.

Last week, we finally got the signature. I turned right around the next day and put in the application for Josiah’s Tanzanian passport. Sigh of relief. We should be good now, I thought. Back in control.

Knowing I would need to get Josiah a U.S. visa as soon as I get the passport, I wrote an email to the U.S. embassy in Dar, asking them a couple questions in advance. Yesterday I got an email answering those questions, along with the following statement: “You should not feel, however, that a visa is guaranteed.”

Splash of cold water in the face. Of course, I already knew that happy little fact; I just didn’t want to think about it. There is nothing that forces a consular officer to grant a visa to anyone. He is allowed to deny visa applications even on a hunch, if he wants to. Great. Thanks for the reminder that I don’t even have control over whether I (a U.S. citizen) will be allowed to bring my adopted son into the United States.

I am not in control. And I hate that feeling. I want to plan; I want to know; I want to be sure. I want to be in control. So I must come to the conclusion that I don’t want to depend on God. How can I say such a thing? But emotions reveal my true heart.

So what do I do? I talk to myself. I teach myself the same things that lately I have been teaching my sixth graders: The Character of God. “God is everywhere. He knows everything. He is all-powerful. He is perfectly holy and just. He is perfect love. He is Sovereign: He is above all and more powerful than all; He is the highest authority.”

I lay my life on those claims. If I believe they are true, then why do I worry? Even if the worst happens, and the visa is denied, do I still believe He is all-powerful and holy and just and sovereign and love? Yes, I must.

I am writing this here so that you can rejoice with me at God’s provision if we get on that plane on October 6th, and hold me accountable to my belief in His character if we do not.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The House in a Park

That's what it feels like--that we live in a park. Which is great, considering there aren't any parks around here. Most of the plot is not landscaped, so there is a lot of potential!

Front gate and driveway

The yard. It is surrounded by a wall...waaaay back there. Love, love, love those giant trees. Someone told me they are non-producing fig trees. Maybe? I have no idea.

The house

We started Youth Group a couple of Fridays ago. So, so great to see the kids cavorting all over the place.
So thankful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Adventures in Pre-school

I've been thinking about pre-school for Grace for a while now. Pre-school in general has never been that big of a deal to me, namely because I taught kindergarten for a couple years and I know what I need to do to prepare her for it. But there's one thing I can't teach her: Swahili. And that is a very big deal to me.

My Swahili is pretty limited. I can get by on certain topics; my house worker and various store owners and fix-it men usually seem to know what I am talking about, even though I'm sure I'm butchering the language. The problem is that to become fluent in a language, you need to be immersed in it, and I'm not. HOPAC and all of our ministry is done in English. It's also the official business language here, and all the secondary schools in Tanzania are taught in English. So anyone who is educated speaks English.

But it still is very much the heart language of Tanzanians. And since Grace is Tanzanian, living in Tanzania, it's very important to us that she learn it. So, I've wanted to put her in a Tanzanian pre-school.

Problem is that most pre-schools around here are in English. Why? Because anyone who is able to afford pre-school wants his children to learn English, not Swahili.

So finally I found out about a Swahili pre-school. A Tanzanian pastor we know, who is the head cleaner at HOPAC, told me that there's a little pre-school run in his church.

Today Grace and I went to check it out. I knew not to expect much, but well.... Hmmm.

The teacher is a beautiful young woman with a kind heart who obviously is doing this as a ministry. Each child pays 3000 shillings a month. You know how much that is? About $2.00. Per month. Per child.

The children sit in the concrete church building, about a dozen of them ranging in ages from 2-6. The teacher has a flip board up front with letters and pictures and numbers on it. She asks one student to stand. She has him repeat: a-askari, e-eroplane, o-oga, etc. She has him repeat it again. And again. And again. About 15 times. Then she moves on to the next child. All the other children just sit and wait.

And thus it goes. For four hours. The children never get up, never move out of their seats, never go out to play. Just keep repeating the teacher. Again and again and again.

Hmmm. But you know what? Grace liked it. She wasn't as excited about it as Disneyland, but she liked it and wants to go back. So what do I do? I really want her to learn Swahili.

We'll see. There's a HOPAC teacher who has started working with the pre-school teacher and is trying to train her and give her ideas. We only have a month until our Home Assignment, so maybe we'll try it this month and see how it goes.

Once again, as usual....just another reminder of how totally and completely and utterly blessed I am. The contrast between the opportunities afforded to my children, compared to these other precious little ones, did not escape my notice.