Flood Update

I am so sorry that I haven’t posted any updates on the crisis at our children’s orphanage.  Honestly, this week has been such a whirlwind that I’m not sure I had the ability to articulately write before now.

RECAP: On Wednesday, October 26 at approximately 2:00 AM, Christ Outreach Orphanage in Kasoa, Ghana, experience severe flash flooding that destroyed most everything the orphanage owned.  The buildings are secure, though there is obvious cosmetic damage to walls and such.  All the food, clothing, shoes, games, school supplies, and more were completely lost.  Some of the top bunks in the dormitories and a few of the school desks were able to be salvaged…but that’s it.  By the Grace of God, all the children were safely evacuated…but they have been displaced.

UPDATE: By the amazing works of our Heavenly Father, our friend Eric happened to be staying in Ghana this past week to visit his son & daughter (you can read their story HERE).  His initial plans were not able to be carried out, and he was “stuck” in Accra for the duration of his trip.  Because of this, when the flooding occurred, Eric was able to be the hands and feet of Jesus…and not just to our children, but to all the children at the orphanage!  We sent money to Eric & he matched it.  Honestly, it wasn’t a lot of money at all, but God does AMAZING, AWESOME things when you give in His name!  Eric was able to take this money and follow where God led him.  He hired a taxi to take him to Kasoa (normally about an hour drive took over 4 hours because of flood damage & traffic).  The events, as they unfolded, are nothing short of a miracle.

At a gas station, Eric met a man who was willing to sell him mattresses for the orphanage at an unheard of discount.  Essentially he was able to get TEN brand new mattresses for the orphanage children to sleep on for the equivalent of about $160!!!

After that he continued on to purchase 100kg of rice for the children to eat (about a 2 week supply) at nearly 1/2 the regular price.

With what little money he had remaining, Eric asked his taxi driver if he had enough to get clean drinking water for the children, since their well was contaminated by raw sewage in the flood.  The driver must have laughed, because that little bit of money was enough to order a TRUCKLOAD of water for the orphanage!!!!!!!!  It couldn’t be delivered until the next day, so there are no photos, but it was a 2-3 MONTH supply of clean drinking water!!!!  PRAISE GOD!!!!!

A classic story of Loaves & Fishes.  God is SO good!!!

There is still so much that is needed.  The children have only the clothes they were sleeping in when the flood swept through.  None of them have shoes.  The rice supply Eric was able to take will only last a few more days…they need food!  There are some mattresses for the children to sleep on now, but not enough.  The school at the orphanage lost all their supplies.  The need is great.  Our God is greater!  Please, pray for provision for these beautiful children.  Pray that they will remain safe & nourished a midst this crisis.  Pray over whether you are being called to “care for widows and orphans in their distress” (James 1:27) with a financial contribution.  If so, instructions are HERE for tax-deductible giving to benefit the children of Christ Outreach Orphanage in Ghana.

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Washed Away

Just days after saying goodbye to their new Mommy & Daddy and returning to the orphanage they’ve called home for far too long, Liam & Cora’s lives have been rocked once again.  Last night, at approximately 2:00 AM, all the children were evacuated from their orphanage due to severe flooding.

Reports indicate that all the children are safely on higher ground, but they are displaced.  The loss suffered by the orphanage is great.  There is extensive damage.  Sitting water remains and poses major health concerns due to the prevalence of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in that region of the world.

Thankfully there are already people at work in Kasoa trying to clean-up the orphanage and better assess the damage to the classrooms & dormitories.  If you would like to assist in recovery efforts, tax-deductible donations can be made to Compassionate Journeys by clicking the link HERE and selecting “Christ Outreach Orphanage” from the drop down menu.  The founder/director of this wonderful organization will be in Ghana beginning next week and will be personally assisting in the clean-up & repairs.

Please keep all those affected by this crisis in your prayers.  Thank you.

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Days 11-12

When titling this post, I realized that I didn’t begin numbering the days of our journey until we actually landed in Ghana.  Hmmm.  Oh well. If you prefer to think of this post as days 12-13, be my guest.  I’m too tired to go back and re-number each post from the last 2 weeks.

Friday was one of the longest, most difficult days I have EVER endured (and I say that after spending 47 hours in labor with my first born).  The day began like the one before…with breakfast on the hotel patio.  It was the hottest day we had experienced during our stay, with highs reaching near 90 with ~95% humidity.  I had packed our bags the night before while the children slept, so as not to upset them.  After breakfast we walked to the local basket vendor for a few more gifts.  Mind you, I had bought several items from this woman the day before, so I knew what she was willing to take on certain items.  This day, however, she had decided she didn’t want my money.  She was not willing to budge on her price and it was FAR too high for the items I wanted.  I was disappointed, but have the benefit of knowing I will be returning to Ghana to bring our kids home, so I can go to a full market for a day and buy all the souvenirs and gifts I wasn’t able to get this time.  My apologies to those who have to wait.  I didn’t even get anything for myself!  Just a few little things for the girls.

After our unsuccessful trek to the basket lady, we headed back to the hotel for some quality time with the kids before their caretaker from the orphanage, Jeannette, came for them.  We played with balloons and a beach ball, snuggled, skyped with Ivy & Mya, and watched VeggieTales.  Oh how those two love VeggieTales!  It cracks me up watching Cora sing along with the songs.  Too cute I tell you!

Both Liam & Cora were asleep when P & Jeannette arrived, but they said there was no hurry and they just waited on the patio, talking, until the kids woke from their naps.  When we took the children outside, they became shy & sullen.  They knew.  They were not happy.  Either was I, but I tried my best to put on a brave face for them.  I was able to stave off the tears until their taxi pulled away (at which point I crumbled).  I hurt so badly.  I never want them to have to spend another day in an institution!  I ache for them to be home, HERE, with us.

We got into P’s car to head to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:30 pm, so we needed to be at the airport no later than 6:30.  Traffic was worse than usual and we didn’t make it to the airport until about 6:45pm.  We made our way through the initial Delta security area, checked our bags & proceeded through the standard airport security.  As the technology in American airports (full body scanners) haven’t made their way to Ghana yet, each and every person goes through the old-school metal detectors then gets a full pat-down.  So thankful Michelle had given me a heads up on that…as I am VERY uncomfortable with strangers touching me!  Once we cleared security we grabbed something to drink & a snack and proceeded to our gate.  Because it’s an international flight we are supposed to be at our gate no later than 2 hours before departure.

SURPRISE!  Delta requires you to go through yet another baggage search (after clearing airport security) AND another pat-down!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  To top it off, they confiscated the UNOPENED bottle of water & can of Fanta we had JUST purchased, telling us we could not even have them at the gate!

Now, I’ve already had a rough day…and then they confiscate my water (that was still sealed & I had the receipt to prove it was purchased AFTER security in the airport)…then we find seats in the gate area (locked down, no restroom, no beverages, NOTHING)…and our flight was 2.5 hours late!!!  SO we sat…with no hydration…in Africa…in an airport gate area…for over 4 hours before finally boarding our plane.  It was midnight before we took off, and then there was a slight time lapse before “dinner” was served.

Ahhh…dinner.  I was so looking forward to something American on this long flight home.  Unfortunately the beef I was served was so spicy I took 1 bite and couldn’t take another!  So I ate the rice it was served with, drank my tiny cup of Coke, and wanted to watch a movie and go to sleep.  Joke was on me!  My television monitor didn’t work!!!  When it was turned on, only a bright white screen appeared.  No sound…no picture…NOTHING.  I honestly began to weep.  I was so broken.  My wonderful hubby was willing to let me cuddle with him & share his headphones to watch Z**keeper, but he was sound asleep before the movie ended & I couldn’t get to the controller to watch anything else.  On the 11-12 hour flight to Atlanta, I sat in my seat, unable to get comfortable, unable to watch any shows or even listen to music (my mp3 player was packed in the checked luggage accidentally), and unable to sleep.  Not that I didn’t doze off occasionally, but on a red-eye transatlantic flight, it would have been nice to get more than a combined 2 hours of rest.

Once we finally arrived in Atlanta (2 hours late), I was SO thankful I had thought to plan for delays and scheduled a 5 hours layover…which, after flight delays and immigration/customs, was only about 2 hours.  Plenty of time to grab breakfast before finding our gate for the final leg of our journey.  Fast food has never tasted so good!!!  Seriously, the highlight of our trip home was getting to have Chick-Fil-A for breakfast.  Oh how I love Chick-Fil-A!!!  mmmmmmmmmmm

We were back in the good ol’ USA.  It was bittersweet.  I was super excited to get home & hug Ivy & Mya…but I was so sad for having to leave Liam & Cora in Ghana.  As we waiting for our flight to board, the announcement was made…our flight to Buffalo, like EVERY other flight on this trip, was DELAYED.

I have never felt so deflated in all my life.  I am still…almost 2 days later…exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.

I’m jet-lagged and still operating on Ghana-time.  I am thrilled to be holding my girls and sleeping in my own bed…but my heart is broken for my children who are sleeping in an orphanage tonight.  Praying the Father of compassion and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) holds Liam & Cora in His almighty hands until I can hold them in mine once again.

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 10

We started this beautifully hot, sunny day with breakfast on the hotel patio…ravens circled in the distance, the pungent aroma of wood burning next door, goats meandering down the street.  Ok, well, with the wall surrounding the hotel we couldn’t actually SEE the goats, but trust me…they were there!  They’re ALWAYS there.

After breakfast we walked up the street to a little vendor selling hand-woven baskets.  Oh how I love African baskets!  Each of the kids wanted tiny ones to carry like satchels, and after some bargaining on price, I was perfectly happy to get them each that little gift (which will go home with us for their bedrooms).  We got a few other little gifts there and brought everything back to the hotel before grabbing a taxi and heading to the Accra Mall.

Though we’ve stopped at the mall on two other occasions, we had not previously taken the time to actually shop.  I found today to be utterly disappointing in that regard.  There were only a few shops with merchandise I was interested in and they were INSANELY overpriced.  Beyond that, half the stores in the mall were closed!  The highlight of our trip was ordering pizza and watching the kids try that for the first time!  We ordered what was called the “Four Seasons” pizza…each 1/4 of the pizza (2 slices) had different toppings.  Liam really liked the green peppers & onions slices (after he pulled the cheese off…he does NOT like cheese) and Cora ate slices with meat toppings…but she picked at them & mostly ate crust.

All in all I think pizza was a welcome change of pace from their daily chicken & fried rice diet (which they still had for dinner).  We found a taxi outside the mall and took the LONG drive back to the hotel.  Traffic was a mess today.  I don’t know how long the commute actually took, but it felt close to two hours.  Not fun with tired children!

It was close to 3pm when we finally reached the hotel, and too late for naps, so we skyped with the girls back home, then changed into swimsuits and enjoyed some family time in the pool.  Cora can not get enough of the water now that she’s overcome her fear.  I’m actually nervous that she’ll try to jump in without floaties one of these times.  EEEEK.  We eventually got the kids out of the pool and back up to our room…where energy abounded and was difficult to wrangle in.  Enter Veggie Tales!  Oh how these kids love Veggie Tales!  Liam seems to enjoy the characters, while Cora just loves to sing along with any songs that she hears.

That brought us close to dinner time, so Sam & Liam walked over to Home Touch for the kids’ dinner (carry out) while I re-polished Cora’s nails.  She loves that her fingers & toes look pretty in pink.  After dinner we snuggled together watching UP for our last night together until … whenever we’re allowed to come get them for keeps!  Cora fell asleep on my chest.  She’d still be there if Ivy didn’t skype us, but since I’m up I figured I might as well get this post finished, so I can snuggle back into bed with the kids for this, our last night together.  ((tears))

Tomorrow might possibly be the most difficult day of my life.  I heard it once compared to a child just born, who has to remain in the hospital long after the mother is released to go home…but that is not the case.  That mother could visit her child in the hospital every day if she chose…I can not.  I do not know when I might see these little pieces of my heart again.  I know God has His hand on all of this.  I do.  I know that He will hold my children in His hands, even when I can’t hold them in mine.  I know that His timing is PERFECT.  The day they are finally home…will be PERFECT.  Having faith in these things provides hope, but it doesn’t mean it’s not painful.

Tears have been and will continue to be shed.  But I hold strong in trust that God is in control.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  ~Ecclesiastes 3:10

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 9

I’m still not feeling well, and because of such have spent nearly the entire day in bed.  Although I enjoy snuggling my little African prince & princess, I am acutely aware of the fact that our hours together in this trip are quickly drawing to a close and the memories we’re building with them need to last until we return…so I’d much rather be experiencing their culture or in the pool having fun.

Thankfully, Cora & Liam LOVE to snuggle close!  When they got fidgety we broke out the coloring books & crayons, which kept them entertained for quite a long time.  Daddy and Cora went for a walk at one point, returning with juice boxes and plantain chips.  Boy did that go over well!  I thought the plantain chips were pretty good…the kids LOVED them!  They must be a special treat here.

We had the opportunity to skype with Ivy & Mya this afternoon…which is always such a blessing.  I love and miss those girls SOOOOOOO much!  I know Mya’s having a particularly hard time with us being away…so the opportunity for her to see us and talk to us is the glue that’s holding her together in these latter days apart from us.  Ivy seems to be doing fine.  She loves the extended time with Grandma & Papa and has made it clear that, although she misses us, she will gladly stay at Grandma’s house beyond our return on Saturday.

The best part of our day was when our POA called, unexpectedly, to tell us he has our kids’ passports in his hands!  YAY!  It’s only a baby step, but it is a necessary one.  We can’t have a visa interview without the kids’ passports, so it’s comforting to me to know that there is one less thing that could delay us from bringing these precious little loves home.  P also informed me that he will take the kids for their visa medicals next week, so that they are done & ready for the interview, whenever that is granted.

Please continue to hold our family in prayer as we near the hardest day we will have to encounter on this journey…the day our children are returned to an orphanage while we fly home without them…Friday.  Please also pray that the US Embassy will approve our I-600 VERY quickly so that we may get the kids’ visas processed in time to bring them home for Christmas!  Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.  Good night from Ghana…

 

 

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Love

I have spent the last 15 years with Sam.  We’ve had rough patches, no doubt.  The valleys in our history were tumultuous and sorrowful…but they made way to the peaks.

When Sam & I were married, 12+ years ago, we discussed having children.  Being an only child, Sam was happy having just one to call our own.  We had agreed very early on that we would never seek fertility treatments or any other medical intervention if God did not bless us with children in my womb.  There are millions of children in this world in need of a family, and we never cared if children came to us the old fashioned way.  We just wanted to be a family.  Well, God did bless us with not only one, but two AMAZING “fruits of our loins.”  Both came into this world after long, complicated pregnancies.  Not both were planned by us, but they were planned by the Maker of the Universe…and we are so very thankful for that!

Even with two beautiful girls, the idea of adoption had never left my heart.  Sam, however, had no interest.  Remember, he made it very clear that ONE child was all he desired originally & we had already doubled that!  I let it go & focused on our daughters.  Thanking God each day for them.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda on a mission trip.  As part of an all-female mission team, our focus was compassionate ministry.  We did our best to be the hands and feet of Jesus…visiting widows, orphans, the terminally ill.  It was on this trip that God opened my eyes, and broke my heart for children residing in orphanages around the world.  That heartbreak planted a new seed in my heart for adoption.  Before walking through the largest orphanage in Rwanda, I had been completely sheltered from what orphan existence truly looked like.  I had never before seen children so emotionally scorn…so emotionally absent.  Silence filled the nursery that house over a dozen babies.  And then there was Maria.  Oh sweet Maria.  I have no photos of her other than the images that never leave my mind.  She was the same age as Mya…at that time, 2 years old.  She had a tattered pink dress and bare feet running across the lava rock ground that is innately Rwandan.  She held my long,brown skirt…following wherever I went…breaking my heart into a million tiny pieces each time I gazed down at her precious, fly-covered face.  Oh that face…God, let me never forget that face…for it was that tiny, gooey, dirty face that opened my heart to international adoption.  That little angel had done nothing to deserve the life she was handed.  She was abandoned alongside a road.  Someone found her & brought her to the orphanage…when they could have just let her die.  Thank God for that good samaritan!  I wish I could say there is some fabulous happy ending for Maria…and maybe there is…but I don’t know it.  I’ve tried reaching out to the orphanage, but have not had any luck finding that sweet little girl that stole my heart 4 years ago.  But it is because if her, that I sit here in Ghana, typing this blog.

When I came home from Rwanda, I was gung-ho ready to take on the world…adopting every child I could fit into our (then 850 sq ft) house…starting with Maria.  Much to my dismay, Sam was NOT on board.

Crushing blow there.

I had been praying for Sam’s heart to be open to this before I even set foot on the plane back to the States, as I knew deep within my soul that this was our future…but my timing and God’s were VASTLY different.  Sam saw no need to grow our family.

I couldn’t shake the depth of this ache, so I continued to pray…and began to research adoption.  I gathered information about foster adoption and international adoption.  We had no need for a baby.  There are thousands of parents out there longing to adopt the newborns born in the US…we (or rather I) felt called to older children…the ones considered less likely to find a home, simply because of their age.  Did you know that children are labeled SPECIAL NEEDS or HARD TO PLACE simply because they have a sibling or are over the age of 4?!  Seriously!!  In my research I learned that Rwanda was not open to international adoption.  Another crushing blow, as I wanted desperately to bring Maria out of that orphanage and into our home.  Again, God’s plan, not mine, was unfolding.

After about 6 months of zero progress in Sam’s heart, I stopped talking about it.  I stopped researching.  I stopped trying to convince him.  But I never stopped praying.  “Please God, change his heart!!” I would cry out, time and time again.  NOTHING.  Eventually, however, my prayers evolved.  The pain was unbearable some days, so I would plead with God “Please, if this desire is truly from you, change Sam’s heart to be in willingness to obey.  If this desire within me is not from you, then please change my heart and take away this pain.”  Amazing how things happen when the heart of the prayer is truly seeking God’s will and surrendering our own!  In December 2009, Sam allowed his heart to be opened and he told me he was ready to pursue adoption!!!!

THANK YOU JESUS!!!

Well, needless to say, I went into full-blown research and analysis mode.  I requested information packets from at least 30 different agencies, representing about 20 different country programs.  After learning that Rwanda had since opened to international adoption and that we met all their requirements as a prospective adoptive family, we applied to an agency & officially began our “paper chase”.  God closed that door abruptly when Rwanda suspended adoptions in August 2010, before our dossier was submitted.

More heartbreak.  Lots of tears.  NOW WHAT GOD???

More research lead us to Ghana…and our children.  We first saw their photo in February of this year.  We have been formally matched with them since March and they became legally ours on September 16th.

We arrived in Ghana, and met OUR CHILDREN on October 11th.  In the week and a half we’ve had together, I am in awe of what God can and does do for those who allow him to.  You see, as much as I love these little angels lying next to me, seeing my husband love and care for them in the same way he loves & cares for the girls we’ve birthed into our family…WOW!  I couldn’t be happier that we’ve added William Charles Schrecengost and Cora Miriam Esi Schrecengost to our family, but seeing God answer my prayers in the way He has molded my husband into the adoptive Daddy beside me is, quite possibly, the single greatest thing I could have ever wished for.

I am so in love with this man it is beyond words.  Thank you for choosing to marry me, Sammy!  Thank you for trusting God with our lives and for following HIM, even when it doesn’t make sense.  You are my everything…and I’m so glad all FOUR of our children are blessed to call you Daddy! ♥

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 8

Off to a rough start, I woke in the middle of the night not feeling well.  When I tried to climb back into bed, the children had sprawled out again, limiting space for me to squeeze into.  I eventually managed to maneuver under the covers and fall back asleep.

When we all woke for the day, I was still feeling ill, so Sam took care of feeding the kids (and himself) breakfast while I stayed in bed.  We skyped with the girls at home before we eventually had to leave the room so housekeeping could tidy up…so out to the pool we went!  I stayed on land & took photos.  Boy am I glad I did!  Cora got over her fear of the water like magic today.  She has been VERY hesitant in the pool to this point, only going in with a firm grip on Mommy or Daddy.  Today…all fear went away & she started jumping into the pool (with floaties on) over and over again!  She still wants Daddy to be near her, as she can’t quite make it where she wants to go so she needs her Daddy to push her in the right direction (she squeals like a howler monkey when he jokingly pushes her away from the ladder instead of towards it…it’s quite comical).  Liam has also found his fins and is much more confident in the pool without hanging on one of us (still wearing floaties, of course).

The kids also got a chance to try out the jump ropes we brought…that was an, ummm, experience?!  They liked swinging them around double-dutch style and Liam was quasi-successful in actually jumping rope himself.  Cora doesn’t quite have the coordination needed yet (she is only 3-1/2).  One of the guards here at the hotel was adamant that Liam needed to learn and he sort of pushed us aside in order to “instruct” our son.  We had already been telling him the same things (it’s not like the guard was teaching him in Twi as opposed to English).  The hard part is culture…I don’t know what is/isn’t acceptable in regards to these situations.  At home I could have politely said “thank you…we’ve got it under control” and that would have likely been the end of it.  Here, however, we walk on eggshells.  We still reside at this hotel for 3 more days, so I really don’t want to offend anyone.  When the guard went off to do something, I quickly gathered our belongings and we returned to our room for showers & nap time.

Cora fell asleep on my back, so I didn’t get much of a nap…but I did get some emails returned, so at least I was productive while everyone else slept.  With the sun setting around 6:30 each night, we like to go to dinner early so we aren’t walking back to the hotel in the bitter dark of night.  In order to accomplish this today, we had to wake the children to go.  UGH.  That did NOT go well.  Cora whimpered and whined all the way to the restaurant and until her food came (which she wasn’t even willing to feed herself).  Thankfully she cheered up after devouring about 1/2 of her dinner and then happily walked “home”.

As I type this, the kids are in their jammies watching Veggie Tales (Cora LOVES to sing along with Larry) and snuggling Daddy.  I’m feeling marginally better than when I awoke this morning…but I have yet to find food in Ghana I actually like and my snack supply is nearing depletion.  As much as I don’t want to leave these kids, I am SO looking forward to some American food!!!

Tomorrow has no plans.  Maybe we’ll head to the mall or a market.  Maybe we’ll just enjoy this time together at the hotel.  Only time will tell.  For now…I’m off to snuggle my little Ghanaian angels as they drift off to sleep.  Good night from Ghana!

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 7

Today has been a lay-low at the hotel kind of day.  We woke up late and went downstairs for breakfast, after which we hung out on the patio while housekeeping cleaned our room.  It’s absolutely beautiful weather today…as has been every day in my opinion.  A little cooler today, probably only about 80 degrees with much lower humidity and a steady breeze.  After watching Finding Nemo and skyping with the girls at home, nap time was warmly welcomed.

When Cora & Liam woke from their naps, we headed out to the freshly cleaned swimming pool, where we swam & played for an hour or so.  Being a cooler day, the children were shivering after their swim, so they were eager to take a hot shower & get dressed…wearing sweaters!

A short Veggie Tales sing-a-long led us to dinner time…LEFTOVERS!  The food portions here make American restaurant portions seem small!  I’m actually glad, since having leftovers means not having to go anywhere…and today I really just don’t want to.

Beyond the emotions of yesterday still raging through my mind, we have now watched two families come to Ghana, get their children, and head to the airport to take their kids home.  It’s a blessing.  I am unbelievably happy for both of these families…truly I am…but that doesn’t make it any easier knowing our kids have to be returned to an institution on Friday when we make our trip to the airport.

I came here knowing we had to send them back.  I knew it.  I tried to prepare for it…but I don’t think you ever really can.  I mean, we still have the rest of this week with them, yet I tear up thinking about the inevitability of what Friday brings.  I miss my girls back home.  I am eager to hold them again.  I’m “dying” to have a good ol’ American cheeseburger!  We’re going stir crazy in this little hotel room.  But the idea of returning our children to an orphanage is painful beyond words.  Not knowing when we will return for them.  Not knowing if they understand that we WILL return for them.

Heartbreak.

Maybe I’ve had too much time in our hotel to think.  Maybe I’m still an emotional basket case after meeting their first family.  Maybe I’m just sick and tired of waiting (we did begin this process 22 months ago, after all).  Maybe.  Whatever it is…I pray that God fills my heart with the peace that passes all understanding…His peace…because this is all happening in His timing, not mine.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.  ~Psalm 27:14

 

**side note**

Yesterday, Cora kissed my cheek for the very first time.  She now does it constantly…with a little “hehehe” giggle with each kiss.

Today, Cora said “I love you” for the first time.  She isn’t saying it because she understands it…just because she’s repeating it after hearing us say it & her sisters say it on skype…but it’s still one of the sweetest sounds this mama can hear.

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 6

In typical Ghana fashion, our day started on “Africa time”.  For those who are unfamiliar with travel on this continent, rarely in Africa is a clock followed.  The only consistent exception I’ve found would be the US Embassy (because we Americans can’t function without a schedule).

Our POA had said he’d pick us up from the hotel at 10am to travel the hour plus to the kids’ orphanage in Kasoa.  He arrived just after 11am.  We proceeded to drive to the institution our children have called home for at least 1 (possibly 2 or more) years.  What a range of emotions that held.  We weren’t given a tour or anything.  We were quickly greeted by “Auntie Rose”…the sweet, grandmother figure that opened the orphanage in the late 90s to help care for the neediest children in her community.  Truly a remarkable, Godly woman.  She ushered us into what I can only assume to be a neutral meeting space with a sofa and some chairs.  It’s a small space, maybe 6 feet wide by 12 feet deep.  We seat ourselves on the sofa and Auntie Rose sits across from us.  The children pile in.  It always amazes me how many kids will squish into a small space to be part of something…anything…they think might be worthwhile.

Mind you, not ALL the children were happy we were there.  Specifically, ours weren’t.  Liam quickly retreated to a corner with his friends.  He was afraid we were leaving them there today and he did NOT like that (can’t say I’d blame him.  It’s going to be devastating to leave them on Friday!!)  Cora was a completely different child while we were there.  It became VERY clear, VERY quickly that she was not happy there.  She was quiet & sullen unless Mommy or Daddy was holding her…then she was ok.  Not sure if she just had the same fears as Liam or if there’s something more…but I can see why we were told she’s so quiet.  She didn’t speak the entire time we were at the orphanage!

In stark contrast to our two, another pair of children named Prince & Emmanuella, were extremely happy when we arrived bearing photo books from the family that is in the process of adopting them.  Well…E is young, and she looked like someone woke her to come see us, so she wasn’t THAT excited, lol, but her soon-to-be-big-brother was THRILLED!!!  He was so excited to see that, not only does a family love him and want him…but also that they get snow!  He’s never seen snow and is VERY excited to!  Thank you L family for allowing us to experience that moment with your children!  What a blessing it was for all of us!  Can’t wait to see them in your arms!

After treating the children to some candy from home, we piled back into P’s car to head to the home of our children’s first mother.  You see, she wasn’t JUST a “birth mom.”  This woman didn’t place her child(ren) into the arms of adoptive parents immediately following delivery.  This woman, Jennifer, was a wife and MOTHER.  She loves her family dearly.  She had cared for her children for years even after her husband died…but made the courageous, selfless decision to place her children…my children…in an orphanage so they MIGHT have the food they need to survive.  She relinquished her parental rights, knowing full-well that she may never be able to see these tiny pieces of herself ever again…so that they might LIVE.  This, my friends, is a sacrifice I find humbling and brave.  I don’t honestly know that I would be able to make the same decision.  I mean, I would give anything & everything I have to save my kids’ lives…but could I give THEM?  Would I be strong enough to admit I couldn’t parent them because to do so would surely result in their death…so instead, some family I’ve never met & have no say in choosing will take them to the other side of the planet so that they will have food and medical care and maybe even a shot at receiving an education?  Can you even imagine a situation so desperate?!

We drove to the neighborhood where Jennifer resides.  We were greeted at the road by Cora & Liam’s “foster mother” Jeannette (she is charged with their primary care within the orphanage).  She knows the family & was there with them when we arrived.  We continued driving over the rough terrain (not even a road, just a worn out walking path that P took with his little Toyota.  lol)  We drove to the furthest point attainable by vehicle…which ended near a long, narrow adobe building which appeared to have 3 entrances, indicating 3 families likely call this building home.   As soon as the car came to a stop the shouts of “MIRIAM!!  MIRIAM!!” began.  Kids were running to the car to see her.  But just her.  It was horribly sad to see no one running to greet Charles (Liam).  He did wander over and sit with another boy about his age, but his aunt scolded him (I assume for playing in the dirt).  It was CRUSHING to this mama’s heart to see one child so loved and adored while the other is cast off without regard.

We were first introduced to the children’s aunt and her daughter (their cousin) Millicent.  Millicent & Miriam (Cora) are more than cousins…I could tell they are the best of friends.  They’re about the same age and play so very well together.  It’s painful to realize that connection is being severed.  When we sat in the chairs beneath the tree outside her home, J offered us water and then joined us to talk.  Our meeting was brief.  It was awkward to tell this woman whom I have never met how much I appreciate her.  To share with her just a glimpse of how much I love her children…my children.  To help her feel safe & comfortable with us as the ones chosen by God to raise her son & daughter.  And then confirmation came.  When I asked her “what is the most important thing we can share with the children as they grow?  What do you never want them to forget?”  Her response was that she wants them “always to worship God”.  I can do that!!!  Ok…well…I can’t force them to worship, or it isn’t true worship…but I CAN instill the values of our faith and that includes worship!  I also assured her that they will have all the food they’ll ever need, top notch medical care, education…and, of course, a lifetime of unconditional love.  I asked her if we could take a few photos and I promised to bring them to her when we return to Ghana to bring the children home.  I actually am hoping to make a little scrapbook for her that includes the photos taken today, as well as a letter from me – mom to mom, misc other photos of the kids, and photos of our home & family so she can see what the children’s new life will be like.  I have also told her that we are fully open to her sending letters to the children through our POA if she ever feels the desire to do so.  We will send photos to her of the children as they grow via our agency too.

When we had to get in the car to go, Charles (Liam) jumped right in.  Another sign that he hasn’t got a strong attachment there.  Breaks my heart…it really does.  Miriam (Cora), however, clung to her mother.  She cried, but did get into the car and snuggled me after Jeannette gave her some pineapple juice.  It’s hard to see her want to stay with her first family, yet it shows me that she was cared for & that she has bonded.  That’s actually a really GOOD thing in the adoption world.

We grabbed take out on the way back to the hotel.  We were (are) all exhausted.  This day has been so filled with emotions…especially for our children.  After dinner we swam for a while (in the dark) then skyped with Ivy & Mya back home.  Cora & Liam were SOOOO excited they couldn’t stop bouncing around yelling “Ivy and Mya!!  Ivy and Mya!!”  They absolutely adore seeing their big sisters on the computer!  I’m hoping to be able to skype with them at the orphanage a few times while we wait for their visas to be issued…but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to or not.

So that about wraps it up…I think.  So much happened.  So many thoughts & emotions have been experienced since waking this morning.  It’s quite possible I forgot something.  If so, I’ll add it to tomorrow’s update.  Until then…sweet dreams from Ghana!

 

Ghana ~ Trip 1, Day 5

We woke to find Liam’s fever had broke, so we decided to try to make a trip to the market.  P came to drive us…we went first to Global Mamas, then briefly to the Art Center.  The Art Center is a major tourist market filled with VERY high pressure sales attempts.  Sam doesn’t handle that setting well, so I quickly bought a few yards of fabric and we left.

As soon as we got back to the hotel, one of the sweet ladies here, Esi, helped tie Cora on my back with the new fabric.  Little Miss LOVED it!!!  She is definitely happiest on Mommy’s back.  Of course…that just makes her big brother jealous!!

(please disregard all the big black trash bags…they’re filled with donations for the orphanages we’re visiting so we don’t have to take all our luggage)

 

We took the kids swimming until Liam started shivering (it was only about 80 out, which felt cool with the breeze when wet from the pool), then headed to Southern Fried Chicken for dinner.  New lesson learned: when taking a taxi to dinner, have them wait, even if it requires you to buy them dinner!  Waved down 3 cabs before 1 said he knew where our hotel was…then proceeded to drive us to the WRONG hotel!  We called P who gave our driver directions…and after stopping for gas, we safely arrived “home”.

While we were getting the littles ready for bed, Ivy & Mya called.  They were so happy to be able to talk with their brother & sister!  Apparently the weather back home is treacherous, 38 degrees with rain, sleet & hail.  I already appreciated the beautiful mid-80s & sunny weather here in Ghana, but that weather report reminded me just HOW awesome this weather is!  The humidity is high, so Sam’s been miserable, but I’m loving it!

Tomorrow’s the big day…we travel to the kids’ orphanage in Kasoa (Central Region) to see where they have been & will continue to be living until the fateful day when we can bring them home.  We will get to meet Cora & Liam’s caregivers, friends, and birth mom!  I am still a bit overwhelmed by that last one.  I mean, I wanted this…I asked for it…but I am nervous about how she will receive us.  I have so many questions to ask her…yet don’t want to make her uncomfortable or cross any lines of what is appropriate to discuss in these settings.  Please God, let this meeting go well.  All I *REALLY* want to come of it are 2 things…

1. to share with her how much we love these children and that we will give them all that they will ever need, and

2. to gain from her any information that she wants her children to know about her (and hopefully some photos too)

Please pray for our time in Kasoa tomorrow.  Thank you!