Friday, August 24, 2012

"Dossier En Route"

In the middle of all the papaer-chasing, I've had the labels "Homestudy In Progress", "Compiling Dossier", and "USCIS Approved" on our Reece's Rainbow grant page.  While I am excited about having the label "Already Home", I'll settle for "Dossier En Route"!

Yep, after 7 months, the stack of paper affectionately known as "the baby" is heading across the ocean, where it will wait with other dossiers to be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.  We are praying for the minister to be very swift with the pen, signing for us to be allowed to travel to meet our children!

Here I am, with one of the fantastic women at the agency, passing off the baby!  (I'm on the right, in case you have no idea what I look like.)

I am so, so relieved to have those documents out of my hands, knowing that puts us so, so much closer to our kids!  But at the same time, there is so much money invested in those documents, so much time spent working on that 2-inch thick stack of paperwork.  And it's no longer filed in my accordion file, no longer safe in my home.  It's crossing an ocean very soon, and you'd better believe I'm praying for it to arrive safely!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Update on the Bicycle!

I'm sure some of you read my A Place at Our Table post about our new friend in Africa, a pastor with only his feet for reaching the people in his community.  Well, at long last, God has answered his prayers for a bicycle!

I read something recently, though I cannot seem to find it again, that the timing of God answering our prayers is not solely for our benefit in having them answered, but also for the benefit of the ones who are used to answer the prayers.

My friend has prayed a long time to have a bicycle to more easily travel to those who need to hear about Christ, and he had to wait until we heard his story at a VBS program, for our hearts to be burdened for his need.

We are so incredibly thankful that we had the opportunity to open our wallets, stretch our hearts, and be a vessel to answer a prayer!  I've had several people ask if we'd heard from the pastor since he received his bicycle, and I am happy to say YES!  We email daily, and I cry at the wonderful things he shares about what that bicycle and cart are doing in his village and in the compounds, where the very poor live.

Even more have asked me if I've seen him with the bicycle, and I'm happy to say that I have several pictures of his family, and this one is my favorite!

What a beautiful family! 

As much as I love seeing his children climbing into the cart, I especially love the mental image I have of the children in the compounds, waiting on an anthill for him to come riding the bike with the cart to visit with them!  He shares about Jesus, and takes them for a ride in the cart!  There are around 30 children he's been able to minister to this past week!

I hope to have more updates on Christopher, his ministry, and the needs in his area, especially in the very poor compounds farther from town.

***While we purchased this bicycle and cart specifically for Christopher, ZAMBIKES has a ministry of their own, where donations are received through their company, and bicycles, carts, and even ambulance carts are given to people in Zambia.  See how you can help, and learn more about this wonderful company!***

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adoption Speak: 101

Before December, I'd read an adoption-related update and think, "What in the world is a dossier?"  "Who is USCIS, and why are some people saying I-800A and others saying I-600A?"  Even after beginning our own process, I asked several adoption friends "Why is I-797C on my dossier checklist?  What happened to the I-800A?  I don't understand why I subtracted 3 and went up two letters!"

Now that I'm in the process, I can speak adoption fluently!  But I am forgetting that I have friends following the adoption that don't speak adoption, so I'm turning this blog post into a sort of crash course in my new lingo, as well as a big catch-up post for those of you new to reading over here.

Our homestudy was complete and in our hands in July, and required fingerprinting for state background checks, child abuse clearances, driving records, tax returns, home, auto, life, and health insurance policies, education requirements being met, and so much more.  There were 24 items on my checklist, I believe.  This is simply a thorough investigation on our family, to make sure we're good candidates for adoption.

Once the homestudy was in hand, we needed to submit our homestudy and I-800A to USCIS.  The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services reviews the homestudy and approves us to bring foreigners into the country as US Citizens.  The I-800A is an application to adopt from a Hague Convention country (meaning everything is above the table, fees are determined in the beginning and are clearly outlined, and I'm sure there are other differences, but I've been too wrapped up in this process that I haven't looked into others).

We received our I-797C (the thing on my checklist that I just didn't get for what seemed like a long time, which is our I-800A approval) in the mail today!!!  We now need to have it notarized and apostilled, then it will go into our dossier, which is nearly complete (just waiting on some apostilled documents to come back).

Oh, boy, the dossier.  Months of paper-chasing, all for the dossier.  The stack of paperwork that every paper-pregnant family loves almost as much as the children they're adopting, after working so hard to pull it together.  The homestudy, FBI clearances, marriage certificate, medical certificates, agency licenses, fee agreements, powers of attorney for two agencies, photo pages, and more (and some of it in triplicate)!  Sending it off is much anticipated and much dreaded because, for a few days, a package worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars and months and months of time will be headed across the ocean.  It goes beyond "tracking" a package, to "stalking" every move that box makes until you know it's safely on the desk at the Ministry of Justice.

Where it waits.  Or at least ours will.  The MOJ is currently shut down for six weeks, and will re-open in mid-September.  I'm still confused about what happens during the six-week shutdown, because they aren't closed, but it seems almost like a catch-up time.  If you sent your dossier in before the shutdown, then they'll get to it during the shutdown, but if you send it during the shutdown, you'll wait until they re-open.

I really have no idea how long it will take before they get to our dossier, but I would love to travel in late October/early November.  So, we're hoping for around 6-8 weeks after the MOJ re-opens.  And I have no idea whether or not that's a realistic goal, it's just my hope. 

After our trip to meet the kids, we'll come home and file our I-800 (different from the I-800A), which is our petition to adopt our two kids, specifically.  We'll have a visa interview (and by "we" I think I mean our attorney), get our Article 5 letter (I have no idea what that is yet, but I think it comes from the visa interview), and submit that with all our second stage documents (more medical certificates, and other things I won't worry about until I'm done with the dossier) to the MOJ.  We'll be assigned a judge, who will assign us a court date, and our attorney will go to court for us.  At that point, I'll finally be able to show pictures!

After all that, we'll be invited to come back and bring our kids home!  The times between travel seem to average about 5 months, so I'm hopefully still good with my "As long as they're home by Mother's Day, I'll be happy" statement. 

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it's not always busy and chaotic.  There's a lot of waiting, and then there are crazy busy times.  The busy times are almost easier than the wait, because at least when you're busy you feel productive.

Got any questions about the adoption?  Just ask, it's one of my favorite topics of conversation!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I-800A Approval!!!

I'm having a hard time focusing today, because the first email I saw in my inbox was from "NBC Hague" and it was a message from our officer, saying that our I-800A was approved!!!!  Once it comes in the mail, I'll send it off to be apostilled, and it will go into our dossier, which will be ready to mail!

(For other paper-pregnant people interested, we mailed our application on July 12, the check cleared the bank on July 19, we received our biometric notice on July 28 (appt. date was for August 7), we walked in early on July 31, and I called just this Monday to see if we'd been assigned an officer, and we hadn't.  Three days shy of one month for USCIS!)

I keep going over my dossier checklist, making sure I've got all my ducks in a row.  I've got a stack of documents out for apostille, and that leaves only one document for the dossier that I need to take care of, and I'm waiting on our foreign agency to send that document for us to have notarized and apostilled.

The MOJ (Ministry of Justice) in our kiddos' country is shut down until mid-September, so that means if we mail our dossier out in two weeks (accounting for apostille times), it will be translated and waiting to be submitted the day the MOJ reopens!  I'm sticking with my late October guess for travel, and we need $3,448 to do that, not counting the current facebook auction that's running through August 18, which has just passed $400 in bids!

Okay, I'm off to try to be productive today, but all I can think of is "We're I-800A approved!!!!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quenching the Spirit

Over the past week, I have to believe that the Holy Spirit has been whispering to my heart.  I have no other way to explain these four things, all separate from each other, and all the same.

First, my pastor's sermon last week was on Quenching the Holy Spirit, and how we, as human as we are, have the ability to limit what the Holy Spirit can do through us.  Is that not amazing?!  We can limit God.  The Creator of the universe can be held back my me, and what I'll allow Him to do through me.

Second, I'm in a very short 3-week study with a group of women on "The Prayer of Relinquishment," an article written in 1960 by a woman who realized she needed to give up control over specific things in her life in order for God to work in those areas. 

Third, my new friend in Africa, the pastor with a bike on the way, posted on facebook on Friday (with his donated cell phone to keep in contact with his "family" here in the US).  His words were: "We quench the Holy Spirit by refusing His authority over us.  In other words, by choosing not to yield to Him.  He therefore retreats His activity and fullness in us, sometimes even to the point that we may not sense His presence."

Last, my very good friend, Mandy, wrote this just now:  "There are no limits on what God can do, except for the ones we ourselves create. Don't put yourself in God's way. Allow Him to accomplish His good and perfect will in your life. He won't force you, you have to let him." 

Whoa.  I don't even have anything more to add, I just need to chew on all this, pray about all this.  Good Sunday morning, I'm off to church!