The next morning, we awoke from what seemed like a nightmare from the day before. Only it wasn’t a dream. Exhausted from sleeping with our tiny fighter and from the stress of the day before, we just wanted to stay put at the convent.
Maybe the kids playing in three inches of dirt next to a pile of garbage, a giant hole, a burn pile, and clean laundry hanging on a line wasn’t so bad after all.
We knew what was on the agenda for the day: meeting with a member of the kids’ birth family. Questions plagued my mind: Would I have to peel the kids away from their Congolese family? Would they ask for money? Would there be evidence of abuse or neglect? But there were just as many questions about the lives that our children had lived prior to the orphanage. We literally knew nothing about their past, or why they were surrendered to the orphanage. This was our only chance to find out.
As lunch was ending, we found out that a member of kids’ birth family was on the way. So we took the kids upstairs, got them cleaned up, and brought them back down to wait in the snack bar area.
Soon after, our bodyguard and our interpreter walked in with a beautiful African woman. The children ran to her and hugged her legs. She patted them gently, and came to sit down at our table. The children sat in their own chairs.
At first, she looked at Emmanuel, and began to speak to him. Our interpreter told us that she was telling him that she was no longer their family, that we were their family. She gave him very specific instructions about obeying, working hard, and being good.
Then she looked at “Rosa” and began to speak gently to her. She told her not to be a troublemaker and that we were her new parents. I was her mother, and Ken was her father. At one point, Addie Rose asked her to help with something, and she told her that she needed to ask her mother, and pointed to me.
She gave each child a lengthy speech, and blessing, and transferred authority to us. The children sat and listened intently. They clearly understood what was going on, but there were no tears, just nods.
We had the opportunity to ask lots of questions, which she graciously answered. When we asked what her hopes were, she told us that we were the ones to now dream dreams for them, as they were now ours. We found out much about where our children had come from, what they were like when they were infants, and we found out the depth of their grief goes much beyond being surrendered for adoption. Our children have experienced things no child should ever have to go through.
But our childrens’ story is not ours to tell. Someday, you can ask them if they would like to tell their story, but you will not hear it from us.
We showed her where we live on a global map on the wall in the snack area.
We posed for a picture all together.
She hugged us goodbye.
She didn’t hug the children goodbye.
Just a little wave and a smile.
And then she was gone.
Her blessing and her transferring of parental authority were such tremendous gifts to us. She could have undermined our authority, or clung to the children desperately, asked us for money, or ignored us completely. Instead, she was as gracious and kind as anyone could ever be. The children will always remember that our relationship was not one of animosity, but of curiosity and gratitude. Though their birth family situation was filled with tragedy, somehow, miraculously, God has brought us into these tiny lives to facilitate the healing of the hurts that they have experienced, and show them God’s grace to bring them hope and a future.