Paperwork Panic

I must admit that we were caught a bit off guard receiving BOTH things we were waiting for last week . . . which then meant we had a BUNCH of paperwork to fill out. I was thinking that we’d start on it after we got one of the two things we needed, and when they came in within 24 hours of each other, panic set in!

Fortunately, last Saturday was one of the few Saturdays that Ken has off this spring, so we could work on paperwork together. One of the things we needed was to do our 2011 taxes. Since we itemize deductions, got new windows, have a new HSA account, and Ken’s a pastor, our taxes are a little complicated. Ken’s MBA definitely helps! But wanting to have a fair division of labor, I asked him if he would do taxes while did the immigration forms for our adoption.

Three hours later, Ken was done with our taxes, and I was still on the first of 5 forms. Delegating is clearly not my strength.

So with a hefty dose of sleep deprivation, panicked posts on our discussion board, and not-so-nice thoughts about what we put immigrants through in this country, Ken and I finished a few hundred pages of documents to send off to our agency on Monday. We actually had to send them in a box because they don’t make envelopes big enough!

And  thus the waiting begins . . . again. It seems like that’s the story of international adoption. Brief bursts of flurried activity, followed by months of nothing. We are thankful that we are now in a part of the process where the “nothings” should be fewer and shorter. The process is now back in the hands of the Americans who are much more predictable in their processing. In the last few months, cases have been processed faster than usual, and we hope that trend continues with us.

We’re praying that whoever the officer is who reviews our case would find joy in putting a forever family together! And quickly! 😉

 

Advertisements

You All MUST Be Praying. HARD.

This afternoon our agency finally heard from the embassy today, and they are willing to accept our court documents as-is. No further corrections are needed.

So we DON’T have to go back to court.

We DO get to move forward and file our immigration paperwork and begin the process of bringing the kids home!

So here’s what the timeline from here begins to look like:

  • Filing with U.S. Immigration to classify the children as immediate relatives. We hope to have the paperwork completed this weekend. The approval takes 6 weeks on average.
  • Filing for the children’s passports. This has been taking longer in the past couple of months. It’s hard to put a timeline on it.
  • Embassy appointments are requested for the children. Appointments are currently being scheduled 6-8 weeks after they are requested. Passports for the children have to be in hand for the appointments to take place.
  • Visas are applied for and issued, which typically take 2 weeks or so.
  • Then we travel!

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d estimate that we’d be travelling between July and October. I know it’s a broad range, but represents the time ranges that other families have had once they’ve received CONA. 

Thank you so much to all of you who are “not okay” with our adoption not moving forward. I firmly believe that without your prayers, we would still be waiting for paperwork. It’s no coincidence at all that within days of your earnest prayers, we received what we had already been waiting 2 months for, and within 24 hours of each other.

You MUST be praying. HARD! Keep it up! There is more paperwork processing, officials reviewing, travelling and other adventures to come!

One Giant Step Toward Two Small Children

We received word from our agency late this afternoon that our Certificate of Non-Appeal (CONA) came in today! It still has to be translated, but that should just take a “couple days.” 😉  CONA means that the judgment that the childrens’ birth family can no longer change their minds. They are officially OURS.

Our agency is still in communication with the Embassy about the errors in our court documents and what exactly needs to be fixed, and how. But now that it’s the ONLY thing we’re waiting on, I’m hoping that the urgency in figuring this out will increase. Once that fiasco is figured out, we’ll be able to file with U.S. Immigration to start the process of bringing the children home.

So, prayer warriors, cross the CONA off the list! I am 100% certain that the CONA was released because of YOUR prayers! Now, pray for the court documents to be straightened out! God is at work!

Are You Not Okay?

Nearly two weeks ago, we finally got our corrected court documents . . . only the corrections were incorrect. Worse than they were to begin with, in fact. What was supposed to only take a few days took two months, and they were irritatingly inaccurate. Had they only typed what we had said, there would be no problem. They didn’t.

Our other issue is our Certificate of Non-Appeal, lovingly referred to as CONA. It’s the document issued 30-60 days after the final judgment is pronounced that declares the children to be irrevocably ours. We’re now marching toward 90 days, and still, we’ve received nothing.

So we’re stuck on two different fronts: the incorrect court judgment, and the missing Certificate of Non-Appeal. The longer we’re in this process, the more the timelines are getting stretched out. Having been told initially that we would travel by the end of 2011, and now we’re hoping to travel by the end of 2012. Embassy appointments have slowed down. Passports have slowed down. Visas have slowed down. With increased numbers of people adopting from a country with minimal infrastructure, many are travelling 7 months or so after they received CONA, and we don’t even have that yet. We don’t expect even that timeline to hold. Even if we did get CONA, our court documents are still hopelessly lost in translation. Families that we were on a concurrent timeline with are now months ahead of us.

Our agency is trying to help: the U.S. Embassy has been asked for clarification regarding our situation. They’re talking to Immigration. Our CONA has been requested  . . . again.  We’re caught working with a country that does not share our priority of timing, punctuality, meeting deadlines; and working with a U.S. government department that deals exclusively with people with no rights as citizens, so again, there is a lack of urgency.

When we originally started this adoption journey, I was warned: Satan hates adoption.

While we believe that we’re on a mission to rescue the fatherless, Satan is doing everything in his power to disrupt, discourage, disappoint. It is not a battle with a court reporter, an immigration official, or a translator. Ephesians 6:12 NIV says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Is Satan angry that these two children will be raised in a loving home and taught to know the love of Jesus from the minute we embrace? Absolutely.

We laughed today in Sunday School about a Biblical theme that few of us talk about in The Church:

  • God calls.
  • A person answers.
  • Then bad things happen to that person.

To think that we can boldly follow the will of God and remain comfortable and safe is NOT Biblical. When we do anything spiritually significant, Satan feels threatened. Then he fights back.

I used to believe and tell people all the time that our adoption timeline is all in God’s timing and He has the appointed day when the children are ready, and when we are ready, to go and get them just when they were meant to be ours. I now equate that to telling someone whose house burned down that Jesus had chosen the precise day that they would lose all that they had, and shouldn’t they be excited about God’s timing?

God hates the brokenness in a world that causes parents to abandon their children. God hates the war, poverty, and famine that leave children without families. My children had all they knew stolen from them  — even if it wasn’t much to begin with. Every day they are there and we are here, they are being robbed of  loving parents, healthy meals, bedtime prayers, a safe community, an education, and so much more.

So no, it’s not okay that our timeline is getting drawn out, any more than it is okay to watch a fire burn your neighbor’s home to the ground and say, “It must just be God’s will for them.”

It’s simply not okay.

And really, it’s not okay with Jesus either.  The fact that it’s not okay is why He led us to this country, to this orphanage, to these two kids.

I was reminded recently of this by my dear friend, adoptive mom, and orphan advocate, Angie, when she wrote to me, “Please hold on to the happy ending. Someone has to for these children. They need a family. Children thrive in families, and lose hope without them. God WILL not forsake them or you in this process. Hold on to that.”

Someone has to advocate for these children. God has chosen us.

We hope you’ll stand with us. To tell Satan to take his hands off of these kids. To pray for God’s intervention in their court documents, and in their Certificate of Non-Appeal. To pray for every official who will process their paperwork in the steps that follow. To pray for the safety of the children, their caretakers, and for our travel to go and get them . . . . someday.

We need friends who are willing to not be okay.

Are you?

A Divine Appointment with Pastor Dave

What a crazy hard, delightful, heart-wrenching, celebratory few days we’ve had! We drove up to Marion on Sunday and spent the evening with a wonderful friend with whom we had been on staff for five years. The next morning, Ken and I divided and conquered a couple of different visits with friends and colleagues, and then met back together to travel the final 90 minutes to Pastor Dave’s memorial service.

The last few weeks of his life, God woke me in the night to pray for Dave. On this side of heaven, he never knew how many times I was breathless from the pain he was in, or that I was “sitting up with him” praying over him — even hundreds of miles away. I believe God woke me when he breathed his last breath. I had learned when I was in full-time medical practice, God always told me the moment when one of my patients passed into eternity. Each time it happened, the Holy Spirit made it very clear to me that I had just lost my patient, even if I was miles away from the hospital, and even when death came unexpectedly. I would confirm it later in the patient’s chart, and it was always the exact minute. Though Pastor Dave was never my patient, I believe God woke me when He called him home too. The following night, after weeks of insomnia, I was finally able to sleep — until the night before the memorial service. It was time to pray over his family.

Pastor Dave’s family graciously offered to extend “family” status to us, and we met with Pastor Dave’s family, sat with them at the service, and then dined with the extended family afterwards. I don’t think I’ve laughed and cried simultaneously so much in my life. I miss Pastor Dave deeply, and a part of me had somehow hoped that we would be able to work together again — to relive the laughter, to see hundreds more souls come to Christ, to dream God-sized dreams together. I still can’t quite believe he’s gone. Though we’ve not lived in the same town for nearly a decade now, I feel his absence, and the world doesn’t seem quite right.

Pastor Dave preached at his own memorial service on video, and I’ll never forget the seven most important things he talked about. His genuine love for his lovely wife Susan, his family, his church, his neighbors, and his Lord were so clear. In the midst of all the tears as he said his final good-bye to all of us on video, and after the final song was sung, the officiate announced one last crazy plan that Pastor Dave had orchestrated: a treasure hunt. Clues had been placed, treasure had been hidden, and instructions were given to those who wanted to have one last adventure with Pastor Dave. Even at his memorial service, Pastor Dave couldn’t have us leave without smiles on our faces.

We shared more laughter and stories after the funeral with several former coworkers — one of whom is now living in Minnesota, one now living in Maryland — who had also knew they couldn’t miss the chance to honor and celebrate the life of the man who had such clear anointing on his life, and we were each blessed to have been a part of his ministry. Dinner with the family was like being “home” again.

We arrived back in Nashville in the wee hours of the morning, and we spent much of the drive remembering all the miraculous things that happened to Pastor Dave, all the fun times we had sitting at a table with him, how in some very dark days his love and friendship meant the world to us. I never want to forget a single story, a single laugh, a single lesson.

Here is one of my favorite Pastor Dave stories that happened during the time we worked with him in Marion, as he wrote it. Even if you don’t know Pastor Dave, please read –you’ll catch a glimpse of God’s anointing:

I was on my way up the elevator to the 5th floor of the jail chapel wondering what I was going to speak about. Chaplain Brady had called me just an hour ago to fill in as a speaker for someone who had cancelled. For some reason, I was reminded of a tragedy that had happened twenty years ago while pastoring my first church . . . four children were playing near a stone quarry the week before Christmas. Their mother had warned them not to go out onto the ice because it had not been cold enough yet, but as children do, they wandered out on the ice and one of them broke through. His brother tried to rescue him and broke through too. The sister tried a rescue as well, and yes, she broke through the ice also. The only one left on shore was the seven-year old brother and he ran for help. When the rescuers came, it was too late. All three of the children had drowned. I officiated the saddest funeral of my life. Three children, all of one family, three days before Christmas. If only they had heeded their mother’s warning!

Well, I told this story to the prisoners and made the comparison: You are in trouble now because you did not heed warning after warning. When are you going to listen? It’s too late for those children, but it’s not too late for you! You can still be rescued. Come to Jesus! He is reaching for you!

Thirteen men raised their hands to make commitments to Christ that night. When the service was over, one prisoner on the back row stayed with his head down, weeping. The guards were nudging him, but he continued to sit there and weep.

The officer gave me a look that meant, “Come tell this man to go, or we will.” I went over and sat next to him. The prisoner asked, “Are you really the man who preached the funeral for those three children twenty years ago?” I told him that I was. He raised up his head for the first time and looked at me. “I was that seven-year old boy who ran for help.”

By now I was weeping, the guards were weeping, one officer went over and looked out the window so it would not be noticed that he was crying. I asked the prisoner, “What are you in here for?” He said, “A car backed out and hit my car, and when the officer ran a check, he said there was a warrant for my arrest.” When I asked what for, He said, “It was for failure to pay child support, but I have neer been married and I don’t have any children. It’s a mistake, but now I see that God wanted me to be here to hear a message from a man who preached the funeral of my sisters and brothers. Now that I have accepted Christ as my Savior, does this mean I will get to see them again?”

“You will see them again,” I replied.

Now I understand why God would have a volunteer cancel in the last hour, why Chaplain Brady thought of calling me, why a ‘mistake’ in the police computer system held an innocent man in jail, why this twenty year old tragedy came to my mind. God had orchestrated all of these events to create a divine appointment to help heal a wounded 27-year-old man who saw his siblings drown when he was only seven years old.

Coincidence? No . . . A Divine appointment.

–Pastor David Terhune

 

How fortunate we were to spend some of the early years of our ministry with him! I’m so thankful that a Divine appointment caused our paths to cross with Pastor Dave.

Heaven Just Gained a Whole Lot of Laughter

The world lost a great and Godly man in the middle of the night. Heaven gained a whole lot of laughter and some really great stories.

Pastor David Terhune was our boss in Indiana for four years, but he was more than just a boss. He was a mentor, a friend, a pastor, a hero, a father figure. I learned and laughed more in those four years than at any other time in my life.

Being on staff  with Pastor Dave was an adventure, to say the least. Creativity and energy were encouraged, and even demanded. Pastor Dave led the charge well. Creating our own outrageously fun VBS programs on a nearly zero budget, holding block parties for a low-income apartment complex, even doing a Survivor parody on Sunday morning, the possibilities and opportunities were endless. Pastor Dave wanted to ensure that we laughed every day, so he had us all take staff breaks together. But to be honest, it wasn’t just break time, it was Pastor Dave’s story time! He was a phenomenal story-teller and we usually laughed ourselves to tears before heading back to our offices.

Ken and I were fortunate enough when we lived in Marion to be “adopted” by Pastor Dave as well. Ken and I were not just employees, but like family when he opened his home to us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We thought it might feel a bit strange to sit at another family’s table, but it wasn’t. The same laughter rang through the house and we felt right at home.

One of my favorite Pastor Dave crazy plans was for our Christmas Eve service. At our 11:00 p.m. service, he wanted to have a reverse offering. Offering plates were filled with cash, and passed around the congregation. If you had money that the Lord was telling you to give, you put more money in the plate. If you needed money, you could take what you needed.

CRAZY.

As an extremely reasonable and cautious staff, we would counter. “What if someone takes the whole plate of money? What if we become known as the church that just hands out cash on Christmas Eve? We might get all kinds of people here who aren’t here for the service, but just for the money.”

“Then we’ll be known as the church that welcomes people who are just here for the money. But in the mean time, they’ll get a touch of God’s love.” It was God’s money, not ours.

And sure enough, we always had overflowing offering plates by the end of the night, which was set aside for the benevolence fund. We also had people who left in tears because they could get their kids Christmas gifts. One man had stopped to ask for help with gas money so he could get home for Christmas and he was shocked to be handed an offering plate and told to take what he needed! A nurse desperately needed a new pair of shoes for work. She grabbed a handful of cash quickly from the plate as it passed by. Later, when she counted it out, she realized it was the exact amount of the shoes she needed. The stories went on and on.

He had the gift of evangelism like I’ve never seen in anyone else. Pastor Dave led people to Christ at a gas station while dressed as a shepherd on the way home from the Christmas production. He refurbished bicycles for the homeless. He led our church out of a million dollars of debt in less than 4 years.  He dressed up like a homeless man and sat outside our church panhandling. He collected shoes for children Iraq. He dumpster dived behind Dollar General to get VBS supplies. He welcomed gang members from Ken’s basketball ministry to our church picnics. He planted a church in the midst of a terminal illness. He preached each week until he could no longer stand.  Then in the last few weeks of his life, he preached from a chair. He loved the Lord and his neighbor with his whole heart.

And I loved Pastor Dave with my whole heart too.

Pastor Dave is running up and down the streets in heaven with a new body today. And a crowd is gathering around him, waiting to tell him thank you for leading them to Christ, and ready to laugh at some really great stories.

Changing the Face of Homelessness to One That We Know

About 5 years ago, I had the chance to have a conversation with the founding director of Room in the Inn, Charles Strobel, that changed my life. He shared with me how the ministry started, how it has grown, and how God has led along the way. On a cold winter night in 1985, there were several homeless people camped outside his church doors. The contrast of the warm empty church with the cold parking lot and the Holy Spirit’s leading caused him to open the doors of the church and allow the homeless to spend the night in his church.

Now, 170 congregations across Nashville provide similar care for the homeless, not only providing individuals with a warm bed, meals and opportunities for showering and laundry, but providing personal care to each individual in need. I think the most important work of Room in the Inn is changing the face of the homeless from panhandler to person, from drunkard to disadvantaged, from lazy to loved.

The first time I sat at a table as I volunteered with Room in the Inn, I was disconcerted with the fact that I could not clearly distinguish homeless from other volunteers. We talked the same, laughed at the same things, had college educations, wanted health and happiness. And it was only by God’s grace that I got to go back to my own home that day, instead of wondering where I would be sleeping the next night.

It reminds me again of the Shane Claiborne quote, “The great tragedy in the Church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” Room in the Inn changes the church as much as the church changes the homeless.

And Room in the Inn is much more than just coordinating churches to house the homeless. They provide classes on everything from GED training to art classes to computer literacy. Our PA students have been going to Room in the Inn to do weekly workshops for the residents, providing health tips for the participants. (Have you ever thought about how hard it is to come up with attainable health tips for the homeless? Our students do a great job with a nearly impossible task!) 

On Room in the Inn’s main campus, there is also a Guest House for intoxicated individuals as an alternative to jail. And in partnership with the Metro Government, the Guest House offers food and shelter 24 hours a day to individuals undergoing alcohol and drug treatment.

Room in the Inn also has a program that helps chronically homeless individuals gain life skills necessary to move toward stability in their lives  including healing, education, life skills, recovery, job readiness, and housing.

One of my favorite things that Room in the Inn does is provide care for homeless individuals being discharged from the hospital. If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you know that by the time you are released you are nowhere near 100%. You surround yourself with family and friends to check on you, help with food and drink, and do “heavy lifting” chores for you. If you are homeless, you are released to the stress of worrying about where you are going to sleep and find food, and there is no opportunity for rest and recovery. Now Room in the Inn’s Respite program gives homeless individuals the chance to recover from hospitalization and surgery in a clean and safe environment. Medical providers can refer patients to the Respite program, knowing that their patients will have a chance for recovery.

Room in the Inn has a Veteran’s program to help those who have served our country with transitional services, education, and case management.

Room in the Inn has many other services it offers the homeless (for things that we often take for granted) in a relational setting. A place to eat. A hot shower. A mailbox to receive mail. Help obtaining identification documents in order to gain access to government services.

Room in the Inn simply does great work connecting The Church with the homeless of our community, and serving the homeless as Christ himself would.

But such great work cannot be done alone! Last year 5,000 volunteers gave well over 100,000 hours of service to the individuals served by Room in the Inn, and there is more work to be done. In addition, Room in the Inn regularly needs donations of material goods to use directly, in classes, or to give participants a chance to earn as they take part in educational classes.

Here is Room in the Inn’s current wish list. (Click here for a printable PDF.)

  • AA and AAA batteries
  • air fresheners
  • antacids
  • antifungal foot cream (OTC, generic ok)
  •  art gift cards-plaza, the art store
  •  art supplies
  • backpacks
  • baseball caps
  • batteries (AA and AAA)
  • bleach
  • body spray (travel size men’s) 
  • books
  • boots (new only)
  • boxers and boxer briefs (adult sizes, new only)
  • brushes
  • bus passes (one way/all day)
  • calculators
  • canned goods
  • canvas (art supplies)
  • cd players with headphones
  • cd’s
  • chapstick
  • coffee
  • colored pencils
  • copy paper (colored)
  • copy paper (white)
  • cough drops
  • deodorant (travel size men’s)
  • dish soap
  • disposable razors (double/triple bladed)
  • double/triple blade razors
  • fabric softener sheets
  • fast food gift cards
  • feminine hygiene products
  • file folders
  • flip-flops, rubber (new only-men’s sizes L and XL)
  • folders
  • foot powder (travel size men’s)
  • fresh fruits
  • fresh vegetables
  • gift cards (Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart preferred)
  • gloves (new only, adult sizes)
  • gum
  • hair care items
  • hand warmers
  • hanging file folders
  • hats (new only, adult sizes)
  • hooded sweatshirts (new only – adult size –XL to 4XL)
  • laundry detergent
  • leather (art supplies)
  • long distance phone cards
  • long underwear (new only – adult size – L, XL to 4XL)
  • lotion (travel size men’s)
  • magazines
  • magic markers
  • men’s white socks (new only)
  • mints
  • movie passes
  • new computer equipment
  • note pads
  • notebook paper
  • office supplies
  • oil paints
  • paints (art supplies)
  • paper towels
  • pencils
  • pens
  • phone cards (long distance)
  • playing cards
  • puzzle books
  • quality software – MS Office Suite, adult educational software
  • radios (am/fm) with headphones
  • razors
  • reading glasses (all strengths)
  • sewing kits
  • shampoo (travel size)
  • shaving cream (travel size men’s)
  • shoes (new only)
  • sketch pads
  • snacks (non-perishable)
  • soap
  • socks (white, new only)
  • softscrub
  • spiral notebooks
  • store gift cards (Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart preferred)
  • sugar-free candy
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • sweatshirts (new only, adult size – L, XL to 4XL)[hooded preferred]
  • tapes, audio
  • tea
  • three ring binders
  • tiles for art room
  • toiletries
  • tooth brushes
  • toothpaste (travel size)
  • tote bags
  • tote bags with zippers
  • t-shirts (new only, adult size – L, XL to 4XL)
  • underwear (new only)

 

For more information or to sign up for a tour or orientation, please contact Hilary Barnett, Volunteer Manager, at hilary.barnett@roomintheinn.org

***This year during Lent, I’m going to highlight organizations and individuals that are giving to this community, and around the world. Most are faith-based, some are not. All are serving the poor. My focus is drawing nearer to the heart of God, by drawing nearer to those He cares for: the poor, the widows, the outcasts, the foreigner, the orphans.

 

T-shirts Have Arrived!

You’ve been asking for them. We’ve been waiting for them.

Our new t-shirts have arrived! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The gray shirt is a cotton/poly unisex shirt that comes in sizes from youth small up to adult XXL and is $15

The scoop neck shirt is a ladies shirt a super-soft 100% cotton shirt available in adult ladies sizes small to 2XL and is $20.

Money raised will help us raise the $10,000 to $15,000 we will need for travel to go get our kids! We’ll be selling them after church in Ken’s office, you can stop by our house (call first), or catch me at work.

If you’d like to buy one (or five) and you’re not local, don’t worry! We’re hoping to open up an Etsy shop soon. We have PLENTY of inventory! And if we run out of your particular size, we can reorder pretty quickly, as the printer is local.  

Thank you for helping us bring our kids home!

Special thanks to oneof my former students, another adoptive mom, and a very helpful printer who helped us put these together.

Suggestions for Names?

Ken and I are likely going to keep “Rose” and “Emmanuel” for middle names, but are now considering new first names for our kids. He and I have entirely different taste in names, so it’s been hard to come up with ones we both like. We likely won’t make up our minds for sure until we meet them, but I think it would be nice to have a short list of names we like.

What names do you like for our spunky 3 1/2 year old girl, and 5 year old sweet boy?

Letting Go of the Balance Beam

I’m a part of a wonderful adoption message board — a safe place for those of us who are adopting to talk about joys, frustrations, and paperwork blah blah blah that no one else really cares about. Recently, another adoptive mom posted this video of Francis Chan illustrating what it means to live a life that is worthy of a “well done” from our Heavenly Father.

 


 

Pretty powerful stuff! I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life worthy of a “well done” rather than just hanging on to the safest things I know.

Philippians 3:13-14, NIV “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”