Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We Have Birth Family Interviews Scheduled

Well, I stayed up until 2:30 again last night trying to reach the US Consulate and was unsuccessful. I tried right when they opened at 2 (8am Liberia) and was only able to leave a voice mail. Tried again at 2:30 and only got the answering machine and did not leave a message. So I sent another e-mail and went to bed. This morning we woke up to 2 e-mails from the US Consulate. They responded to Kim's e-mails and gave her an appointment on Tuesday January 22nd and responded to my e-mails and gave me an appointment on Thursday January 24th. We essentially stated the same things in our e-mails, so I really think one of the appointments will be cancelled, but I will let AoH decide. So our prayers now turn towards "no surprises" from these appointments and that no DNA tests will be ordered to delay our VISA appointment which we will need scheduled sometime Feb 3-8 when we are in Liberia. But we give all the praise to God for working this out. Please continue to pray for us through this last stage of our adoption.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope the joy of Christ fills your heart this Christmas. As I was singing an old familiar carol O Little Town of Bethlehem at Christmas Eve service today, the third verse really struck me.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

For the gift of a Savior is still as real today as it was then, if you will only open up your heart to receive Him.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7
He desires to govern your heart and life and then you will know peace and joy beyond what the world can offer. Hope whatever you do this holiday, is fun and filled with family. God's Blessings!
A quick adoption update: I did not get a hold of the consulate on Friday. The US Consulates voice mail box was full and other attempts to other numbers at the US Embassy switchboard went unanswered. Kim and I have sent 3 e-mails in an attempt to reach her as well. I set my alarm and got up at 2am this morning and called Liberia because it was our understanding the consulate was open from 8-12 today. And they are now 6 hours ahead of us since daylight savings. Still didn't reach the Consular, but was able to leave a voice mail on her answering maching. I also called the switchboard number and did talk to a native Liberian that asked that I call back after Christmas (on Wednesday) to try to reach her. We were encouraged by another family who found theirselves in our same position, to write our Congressman, so I e-mailed 8th District US Representative Steve Kagen today explaining our situation, and asked him to try to aid us in scheduling our birth family interview and Visa appt with the US Embassy. AoH is going to help us in whatever way possible. But I am extremely confident that God will work out the details, and that I will be sure to give him the glory when He does. Until then I will pray and ask you to join us.
Please pray for AoH. It was been an emotion packed week, ever since I posted the a letter on December 17th from another couple's experience. It has stirred up a hornets nest of emotion and verbal attacks. Some of which hasn't been glorifying to God. Some of it I feel is a spiritual attack and so please pray for the leadership and staff of AoH, and all of us involved, for our precious children, and whatever else the Lord leads. We do appreciate it.
Once again - Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Step of Faith

The LORD sustains all who fall
    And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
    And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
    And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all His ways
    And kind in all His deeds.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
    To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
    He will also hear their cry and will save them.

    Psalm 145:14-19

Well we are trusting God to work out some details. We have sent several e-mails to the US Consulate in Liberia and have not received any replys. Also tried several times to call and reach her personally but were unsucessful and her voice mail box is full. Our understanding as to the slow down in adoptions over the past several months has been related to understaffing at the Embassy office with the implementation of many new requirements to complete adoptions. So although we didn't get the information we had hoped, we have went ahead and scheduled our flights to Liberia, trusting God to do what He does best - work out the impossible in a way only He can. The only change from the previous post, is that we will fly out Friday (Feb 8th) night rather than Sunday, so we'll arrive back in Wisconsin on Saturday February 9th (our son Caleb's birthday) raher than Monday. So please join us as we pray for God's mercy and hand of grace to accomplish the "impossible".

Merry Christmas Everyone

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tenative Travel Dates Set

That's a picture of Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, Liberia - pretty modern huh? Anyways, Kim spoke with a travel agent today and tenatively scheduled our flights to Liberia. There is a whole bunch that we are trusting God for with this, but right now I am tenatively scheduled to be in Norway on business from Jan 26 - Feb 1. Kim has scheduled to meet me in Brussels on Friday Feb 1. She will arrive in the morning and hopefully i will arrive in the evening sometime. It is a 2hr flight from where I will be in Sandees Norway. Then hopefully we'll enjoy Saturday in Paris, and on Sunday take a flight out to Liberia. Monday is typically a day to sight see and shop in Liberia. On Tuesday Feb 5th would be our "gotcha" day where we'd see Josiah and Gabriella for the first time. Thursday Feb 7 most likely will be our embassy date. There were no flights available that Friday, so we would be stuck in Liberia until Sunday afternoon, which would give us a chance to worship at a church "Liberian Style". Then the long flight back would bring us home to Green Bay on Monday Feb 11 around supper time. We've currently just reserved a lap ticket for Gabriella. The good news is with me being in Norway on business, it will cut about $500 off of my ticket. Again all of this is tentative. We are awaiting word back from the Embassy tomorrow and need to clarify some things with AoH. Also I have to clarify some details on my business trip and schedule those flights. All of it is very exciting and scary at the same time. But if all goes as planned (which everything up to this point has :) we should arrive back on Feb 11th, meaning our adoption trip took 1 year, 2 months, 1 week, and 4 days to complete. So hopefully on Friday we'll be able to finalize our tickets meaning from that point on any changes would cost us money. But we are hopefull that our time has come, and the real journey will begin.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Put Everything into Perspective

Bathroom Update - dry wall all taped and plastered. Second coat of plaster tomorrow - so it's coming along.

The next three pictures show the house of one of the nannies that works at the orphanage (borrowed from Donna Barber who used to be the US coordinator for AoH - ). Take a look around you. How many people live in your house? What conveniences do you enjoy? What things do you own just for decoration to make your house look nice? This shanty is shared by 20 people and no bigger than Donna's dining room. They are so poor and we are so rich.

Where do you work? Do you like your job? What benefits do you have? Is it a nice place to work? The next two pictures show the rock hill. They pound rock all day long into tiny rocks and then sell it. They make .40 a day.

Regarding the letter I posted on our blog yesterday, I have another perspective from someone who has lived in Africa, worked in a lot of villages and seen a lot of African culture and day to day life. As Kim and I are working through our adoption class With Eyes Wide Open - one of the things I realized, is that I know very little about Liberian culture. One of the homeworks asked us what we knew about dating and marriage customs, how children are disciplined, how teens are controlled, what holidays they celebrate, what they think of police, etc. Anyways, what we view as appropriate or inappropriate is completely different in a different culture. Does it mean one is right and one is wrong? Usually not - just that they are different. Anyways, here is an African perspective on what I shared yesterday.

An observation was made that when a parent went into the baby room at the orphanage that it was quiet-with babies just sitting in cribs with their faces pressed against the bars. That their baby, who I believe was 8 months old, did not cry when picked up, and did not try to stand on their legs. I can tell you from living in Africa, that an African baby does not cry. They are raised in a culture of appeasement (even the nannies will take instruction on this, but like any African I have ever met, they will end up doing things the only way they know) and Africans are GREATLY disturbed when their babies cry. When we were fosterparenting, and taking care of special needs babies for AOH, we endeavored to put them on a regular nap schedule, to help them get ready for their new life. African babies sleep and eat when they want,there is no schedule. Well, our day guards would come to us all agitated that the baby was crying. We tried to explain we wanted to help the baby get better sleep and waking habits, but they did not understand.

They govern their lives on meeting their needs, and they believe that babies are the same. No training of the baby to a schedule, but rather a quieting of the baby no matter what. I have seen multiplied infants and babies on mom's back, as young as 6 months, with suckers in their hands, ink pens, straws, candy in their mouths, just anything to keep them quiet. I have seen toddlers given pens and allowed to rip up Mom's Bible in church just to let them have their way and keep quiet.

We saw this not only in Liberia, but in South Africa as well. When we adopted our two South Africans as babies, they never cried! In fact, I always had to check to see when they were awake, as they never cried to be picked up when they woke up from naps.

Africans do not understand about the stimulation and play a baby needs. The nannies at the orphanage are doing a good job, but they probably are doing things the Liberian way. Much the same way as a Chinese orphanage worker would do things their cultural way. For us, we would play and hold and sit up the baby, work with the baby to stand, and on and on. To them, well, they do not do it! If you think about it, they come from places where all they have is a dirt floor, or ground, so they don't give the child real movement they need. I know this from long experience with kids there.
Also was brought up the fact that the baby's picture album wasn't apparently shown to him. Only a picture was seen of him with the album, I believe that picture is taken so that you see that the album has arrived, and he is seeing it. But it is unrealistic for nannies to sit with the picture album for the babies in the baby room, as they would really look at that as a waste of time to their eyes. It is a busy room, and for them to be showing the babies the picture albums every day or even every week would be time consuming, and they probably would not do it.

I do know however, that scores of older adopted kids do have their albums with them, do look at them daily, and do know the faces of their new families. I don't think it is reasonable to think that the infants would even remember the facesshown to them in a book. Perhaps even the albums would be unnecessary for children under 1 year.

Also mentioned was the fact that the nannies were listening to 'rap' music, and had to be asked to put on praise music. This made me smile, as I know from experience that Liberians (yes, Christian Liberians) are not very picky in their music. They listen to the gamut of music, they live for the beat, and in fact, they do not prefer our western style praise music. And they don't have an understanding of problems with lyrics. Theirs is a whole different world my friends.

They are very indiscriminate when it comes to music taste. This comes from a true lack of teaching in the country on how to really live the Christian life. You find compromise all over the place(But then, we have that problem in America too!)

However, it is a fact that the children do get Bible stories, lessons, and learn Sunday School songs, as many of your kids come home singing them! You have posted many heartwarming stories of your kids talking about some spiritual truth, or singing songs. So I don't believe the spiritual atmostphere at the AOHL orphanage is lacking.

I would like to also mention that scores of AOH children have intake pictures that tear your heart out. Weak, dirty, sickly, thin, and raggedy. Many of you have these pictures. Then look at the pictures you got every few months, if you got an update. Your children are filling out, clean, nicely clothed. This does not look like a place where the children are malnourished in any way to me. In fact I personally know they children eat very well. I am not sure why the pediatrician diagnosed the 8 month old as malnourished at some time in his past, or how they could tell that, but I do know the children are fed, and fed well.

Lastly, I might add a statement was made regarding an AOH employee seen giving money at the airport to someone. I really have to smile over that one. My friends, have you ever lived in Liberia? Did you take the time to ask what that was all about? We gladly paid extraamounts to Liberian to help us through airports, and the like, because they see it as a way to earn extra money. There is an excellent book calld African Friends and Money Matters, written by a missionary, that really clearly outlines the challenges of living in these countries. It is not something that you can just take at face value and call bribery. Not at all! The Liberians have a system of taking care of your needs, and taking care of theirs. Granted it is not always good to give out money, but if you have an arrangement with a trusted person who helps you out through office situations or airport situations, then you have a working business relationship in their eyes. If someone finds you a parking place, and makes other wait while you park, well, they have done you a service (especially in downtown Monrovia!!!) They 'worked for you' and you can pay them.

The whole country runs on 'contacts.' In fact, you get nothing done in Africa with out your contacts. And of course, they are doing a job for you, so you do give them something. Remember in Liberia some of these poor friends work day after day and no paychecks come for months at a time. There is SOOOOOOO m uch Liberian history to all of this, it isn't possible to cover in this post.

Monday, December 17, 2007

We'd Appreciate Your Prayers

Bathroom Update: all the drywall is up and tomorrow we'll be taping and mudding.

Another couple who recently returned home from Liberia with their son two weeks ago, posted the following letter on their blog that they sent to Acres of Hope whom we are adopting through. I post it here (with permission) to help you understand some of the difficulties Kim and I are experiencing over the past couple weeks (even months). It's been a difficult period of waiting for us, and if you feel compelled to pray, we'd appreciate it. After the letter I'll share some info about what Kim and I plan to do about it...

We have thought and prayed long and hard about how to approach this, so here goes… We have decided to make public our letter detailing our experience (positives and negatives) with Acres of Hope-Liberia (AOHL). Although some might view our letter as non-supportive or non-uplifting, we rest in the knowledge that God uses accountability for His best purposes. Accountability IS a gift, when brought with a heart for restoration. We know that we have a responsibility to the truth, and we take that seriously. We have been very uncomfortable being silent for so long, but we selfishly worried about our adoption being negatively affected by voicing our concerns, and we also wanted to suspend comment until we had traveled to Liberia. Our decision to write this letter, and in this public manner, was informed by the Biblical principal of bringing things to light for the purpose of restoration. It is very tempting for us to re-create our memory of events, and simply cling to an idealistic picture of the agency that helped unite us with our son, now that he is home… but we feel compelled to bring to light some issues that the enemy has clearly been having his way with in the silent shadows. It is our prayer that God will use our testimony to better serve the children in AOHL's care. We have been home two weeks, and have very carefully deliberated and sought counsel as to how to conduct ourselves in this. We hope it will be received in the Spirit with which it has been written.

Prayerfully,Corey and Jamie

To Whom It May Concern:

The purpose of this letter is to share about our experience adopting through Acres of Hope-Liberia (AOHL), with the goal of bettering the process in general, and ultimately playing a small role in inspiring positive changes that will benefit the children involved. We regret that we are unable to be concise or conclusive, because we’re certain there are many pieces to the puzzle that we do not have. Clearly, there are significant problems within the organization when so many key leaders and potential fund-raisers are discontinuing their relationship with AOHL. Nonetheless, we feel a responsibility to the truth, and we are committed to relay our first-hand experiences in an effort to provide those who can affect changes with information they need. (This letter will be made as public as possible; to AOHL staff both in the U.S. and in Liberia—so they can consider our feedback as they seek to implement changes, to Adoptive Parents—so they can consider which agency they want to support, and to Government Officials—so they might assist AOHL in bettering their practices as they are able, etc.) The information we’re providing is in no way exhaustive; we’ve tried to strike a balance between seasoning our words with grace, yet providing enough detail to be useful. We have supporting evidence (e-mails, voice mails, etc.) for many of the events listed here, and will provide them if necessary. For now, we have chosen to keep individual staff members’ names and written words private, as it is not our intent to single out any one person—in fact, we’re confident that would be counter-productive, as the problems are clearly systemic. Actually, we have voiced our concerns at different points to several of the key staff members at AOHL, to no avail, which is in part why we have had to resort to writing this public letter. We have organized it in outline form, so readers can focus on portions that are pertinent to them.

About us:
We are Corey and Jamie Z. We live in Oregon, where Corey Pastors a church of about 200 and Jamie works for a non-profit pregnancy center. While we are not world travelers, nor international adoption experts, we have adopted previously, and we have education (Bachelors Degrees in Business and Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations, etc.), and experience (10+ years in non-profit ministry work) that enable us to assess this process with some degree of understanding. We started our journey with AOHL in May 2006, received a referral in January 2007, and brought home our son in November 2007.

Communications With the U.S. Office in Wisconsin:
Aspects we liked:
1) We were thrilled with the amount of pictures we received as we waited to travel to bring home our son. We will always be thankful for his full Memory Book!
2) We appreciated the formation of the Yahoo Group for AOHL families, as it proved to be an invaluable resource.

Concerns we had:
1) We were frequently given mis-information. Following are three examples:a. We received our referral in January 2007, but the Affidavit of Consent/Relinquishment was signed May 1, 2007.b. We received an e-mail the second to last week of June 2007 stating that our son’s adoption had been finalized, and that AOHL was submitting for his passport the following week. Our son’s adoption was not finalized until August 17, 2007. As far as we understand, a passport can not be submitted for without finalization having occurred, yet we were expressly assured that the passport had been submitted for, and was expected at any moment, in early August—before the finalization actually took place.c. We received a phone call a few days before our flight was scheduled to leave for Liberia, on approximately November 14, 2007, saying there was a problem with our son’s Birth Certificate, and that it would have to be re-done. We later learned that his Birth Certificate had been issued on November 8, 2007, without error.
2) We were frequently given conflicting information. Following is one example:a. An apology was issued to us in September 2007 for the extended wait we had had in bringing our son home. We were told that he had been forgotten in the chaos of crisis after crisis, but that we were now the top priority along with one or two other families. Following that conversation, our son’s case was “bumped” three times due to other more urgent cases, and in November we were encouraged to make our own appointment with the Embassy to procure our son’s visa. We expressed that we did not want to “go it alone”; hence our decision to adopt through an agency instead of independently. We said since we were the top priority, we would just wait a week or two and do things the standard way. At that point we were told that not only were we not scheduled for the next week or two, but that no estimated travel date would be provided whatsoever. We were strongly encouraged to re-consider making our own Embassy appointment. Feeling we had little alternative, we proceeded as we had been urged. We received several encouraging, supportive e-mails from AOHL as we prepared to leave, including one the morning of November 15, 2007 which admonished us to work with the AOHL Staff in Liberia when we got there. Those positive e-mails were sent only to us. Later that day, we received an e-mail from the same AOHL Staff Member, insinuating that we were traveling without AOHL’s approval, which basically said, “Don’t think you will get special treatment from the staff in Liberia just because you’re deciding to show up.” That e-mail was also sent to a staff member in Liberia.
3) A lack of professionalism was sometimes demonstrated.
a. On the Yahoo Group, Adoptive Parents were sometimes chastised for “breaking” unwritten rules they couldn’t possibly have known.
b. In multiple phone conversations, different staff members slandered other Adoptive Families by name, and other AOHL staff as well.
c. Posts that call for any degree of accountability, or even just transparency, from AOHL are routinely removed from the Yahoo Group, often along with their authors. Any basic Public Relations course will tell you that it is imperative to be open and prompt in addressing concerns. The “stuff and cover” technique is not taught! Or rather, it is highlighted as what not to do. There is a wave of discontent regarding AOHL, and we’re certain it could have been avoided (and can be in the future) by readily taking responsibility for problems, and outlining a proposed remedy. We do not expect any person or agency to be perfect. Organizations are not static; they are always getting better or getting worse. We do not expect perfection, but rather clear movement toward getting better. But unfortunately, we have been seeing a downward trend, and we believe it is largely due to this apparent disdain for accountability and transparency.
d. Via Yahoo Group posts, and also in phone calls, the current Consular was denigrated. AOHL asked us to write letters to the Consular, for which they provided content guidelines. We now believe, especially after our personal experience with the Consular, that our concern was mis-placed. It seems clear now that AOHL’s descriptions of the Consular, the Consular’s agenda, and the Consular’s relationship with AOHL, were false.
4) A lack of integrity was sometimes demonstrated. We have heard AOHL talk of their desire to set a standard for Liberian people by their conduct, but we have also seen them conform to questionable “cultural norms” to get things done. No doubt it is a very difficult balancing act, walking that line; it seems to us AOHL has crossed over from influencing to being influenced, which may seem advantageous in the short term but will surely be detrimental in the long term. Following are two examples:
a. In an effort to transport some medical supplies from the U.S. to Liberia, a key staff person “brainstormed” ways to get it past airport security in conversation with us. We said, “We don’t want you to have to lie!” and the AOHL staff person said, “I do what I have to do. I do anything for these children.”
b. We observed a Monrovia Airport Staff Person being “paid” by an AOHL staff person for special treatment.

The Care of Children in Acres’ Custody:
Aspects we liked:
1) Several staff members, both in the U.S. and Liberia, went the extra mile to coordinate health care for Micah that was outside the scope of AOHL’s standard procedures. Even if our adoption had fallen through, we would still be thankful for the extraordinary effort that was made in this regard. Those efforts quite possibly saved Micah’s life.
2) Some of the Nannies were obviously motivated by their true love for the children, and it was wonderful to see their interactions with the kids.
3) The orphanages seemed safe, and the children seemed to be in a much better situation than many we saw on the streets of Liberia. The new Special Needs Orphanage in particular was very nice.

Concerns we had:
1) In our opinion, AOHL paints too rosy of a picture for Adoptive Parents. We were told many stories of the Nannies singing Christian Songs to the children as they tucked them into bed, etc. While some of those things are no doubt happening, we also witnessed the Nannies blaring rap music when they didn’t realize they had an audience. And they had to be persuaded by AOHL Staff to turn on praise music. The rap music wasn’t so much an issue for us, as was the false image we had been given.
2) The Infant/Toddler Orphanage, where our son was, was much worse than we expected. Again, we felt like a false image had been presented: We received many pictures of our son sitting on a play mat, and with his photo book that we had sent over next to him. After visiting the Infant/Toddler Orphanage, we had to wonder if he spent most of his 8 months in a crib, and rarely saw his photo book. We wanted to take pictures of the pages in the photo book to be able to re-create it when we got home, and the Nannies fumbled through every book in his room, obviously having no clue which one was his. They eventually found it in another room. When we got him, he did not cry whatsoever. If a peep started to escape his mouth, he would quickly insert his fingers and start sucking to comfort himself. When we visited the orphanage, all of the babies were awake, sitting in their cribs, most with their faces pressed against the bars. And it was completely silent. When we put our hands under his arms to give him a chance to bear weight on his legs, they just crumpled underneath him. We also noticed that he was gulping his bottles (often two 8 ounce bottles in a sitting) so quickly that he was frequently throwing up. We wondered if he was worried about when the next bottle would come, and our fears were confirmed when he had his first exam with his Pediatrician here. She said she could tell by examining his tummy that there had been times when he had not had enough to eat. AOHL can not argue that our son’s malnourishment was due to his circumstances prior to coming into AOHL custody, because he had been with AOHL since birth. We understand that we chose to adopt from a 3rd world country, and while we do not expect perfection whatsoever, in our opinion things are not good enough. Hence, our letter. We were told by AOHL staff that adoption funds are the primary source of income for the organization, and yet we got the overall sense that the children being adopted may not be the ultimate priority right now. We were given a tour of the complex that is to be the Executive Director’s personal residence/Missionary Housing/Guest Accommodations, and there were many workers actively building the structure, with a substantial quantity of supplies on hand. Immediately following this tour, we were taken to the abandoned, crumbling Orphanage foundation. It would take very little money, relatively, to greatly improve the current orphanages. The contrast of the luxurious structure being worked on with the sad state of the orphanages, particularly the Infant/Toddler Orphanage, said to us that adoption money is being used to fund other projects, rather than prioritizing the children as we’d like to see.As we said in the beginning, we have kept this somewhat general—particularly in not naming names or printing excerpts from e-mails, etc.
We welcome any follow-up questions to our letter, and ask that you e-mail them to us so we can add that correspondence to our records. Thank you for taking the time to read about our experience, and thank you in advance to those of you who are willing and able to use this information to better serve the children at the heart of this.

So what does all this mean for Kim and I? The most important thing we needed was credible information about our adoption and what the status of our children really is. So Kim called the AoH office in Wisconsin. She spoke with Aaron. Aaron Wilson and his wife Rachel have been placed in an extremely difficult position taking over all these adoptions with all of us wanting/needing info all at the same time. Plus we are dealing with a 3rd world country who is trying to recover from a 20 yr Civil War and a US Embassy in transition. So please remember them in your prayers. They are our brother and sister in Christ who are serving God from a sincere heart.

But our plan of attack with the approval of AoH is to go ahead and schedule the bio family pre-Visa interview on our own as soon as possible after January 15. If everything goes ok with that, (i.e. no complications, no DNA ordered or questions about the relationship of family and child) then Kim and I can schedule our travel 2 weeks after that. So that still means 2/1 at the earliest, but without any complication, we will have our children home in Febraury. I probably will be in Norway on business late January/early Februrary, so probably 2/8 is when we will travel. But we will continue to keep you posted.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Diversion Strategy Working

Well our strategy to take our mind off of the adoption is working. We made some great progress on the bathroom today. All the electrical work is done, all the construction waste was removed, and most of the plumbing was completed including installing the new wrap around tub/shower. The next order of business is drywalling which should get tackled on Monday. But unfortunately the tile we ordered ("not so" coincidently named African Slate) may be the hold up in the whole process. Kim still needs to decide on the vanity we are going to install. Since we had an electrician here to rewire the bathroom, we decided to take care of some other needs. As I mentioned in a previous post, our house is 94 years old. So none of our bedrooms have closets (by design because armoires were the style in that era) and each of them only have one outlet. In our bedroom, the only outlet was attached to the lightswitch about 3 ft up the wall next to our door. So we always have extension cords either going up over the door frame or under our bed. So we now have another outlet in the standard position on another wall. We also added another light in our hallway so that Kim can see in her closet.
We moved out our armoire and our dresser to our spare bedroom, and set up Gabriella's crib today in our bedroom. And we have a toddler bed setup for Josiah also. We don't know how long we'll keep it like that, but as long as it takes until they've adjusted and attached to us. So that was somewhat exciting. Right now we can only imagine tucking them in, but hope to experience it soon.
We had Olivia's Christmas program at school this past Thursday, have the children's Christmas program at church tomorrow morning, Joshua's violin recital tomorrow evening, and then two more Christmas programs at school this week. So it will definitely be a busy week. But what a great time to celebrate - the birth of our Savior.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to Cure Those Adoption Blues

We've been silent on the blogging front because we have really not had any news to report. Of course we had hoped we would have had our little ones home by now, but that was not part of His plan. So Kim decided to take out her frustration on our bathroom and began destroying it this week. We live in a wonderful 94 year old home with lots of character. But with lots of character comes lots of old "stuff" that needs modernizing. Our downstairs bathroom was one of those things. When we first moved in 9 years ago, the first thing we did was redo the bathroom upstairs. But it was finally time to do the downstairs one. It was a full bath, but just a bath tub and old fixtures and tile and the works. So we are putting in a wrap around tub shower to meet the needs of our expanding family. I grew up in a house with 5 kids and just one bathroom and no shower. So you couldn't always wait until the last second. And our kids our just realizing that. I've seen them run to the downstairs one, before remembering it's out of commission and then running even more frantically to the upstairs one. But in one short week we are down to studs, have insulation up, and some basic framing. Tomorrow we are getting it re-wired, and on Saturday the plumbing. We are switching the location of the toilet and sink and building in a small closet for towels so hopefully it will continue to progress quickly.
As part of adopting from Liberia, we are required to earn 18 credit hours of classes to prepare us for adoption. Each country has it's own requirements. To this point we have 14, but we were kindly reminded by our Foster Care agency which did our home study and is responsible for seeing that we meet those requirements that we still needed 4 more. So we've signed up for 2 classes on-line - With Eyes Wide Open - A Preparation Guide for International Adoption and Medical Issues in International Adoption. We thought we could knock 1 off a week, but it's more work than we bargained for. 20 chapters and each chapter has a homework sheet of about 15-20 questions, and some have multiple homeworks. But in all honesty it's gotten me to think about some things that i hadn't thought of up to this point. My focus has been on how wonderful of a dad i'll be and how much i'll be able to give to Josiah and Gabriella. And in the long run I believe they'll discover that, but the whole adoption will be quite a shock to both of them. Everything they've known will be gone - smells, sounds, their nannies. And even though a family and home are better for them than the orphanage, they will miss that place and greive the loss of their biological family, their homeland, and the orphanage. So you can pray for that adjustment, and that we won't be hurt by any of that, because it's a natural process they will have to go through. But pray that we would be sensitive to their needs.
It is our understanding that the US Embassy will be closed from December 20th through the end of the year, and that after that the US Consulate has a two week vacation scheduled through January 14th. So please pray that we would indeed travel by February. I'm afraid if we don't that Kim will destory more of our house :)
Thanks again for your support, encouragement, and prayers. We certainly couldn't do it without you.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Update on Our Adoption (Finally....)

For all of you who have been patiently checking for the past two weeks, and found no update, I thank you for hanging with us and checking back. It has actually been a difficult stretch for us. As much as we have tried to be patient and continue to be faithful and trust God's timing in all this, it has been difficult to see family after family get the news they've been waiting for and begin to make travel plans. Don't get me wrong, deep down we are so excited for them. We know first hand the process and when you finally get to that stage, it makes it all worth it. But as we've waited, we felt like we were being passed by family after family wondering "what about us". You begin to doubt. You think the worst. And jealousy can creep in quickly and even anger or frustration if you don't snub out the lies. So a little information can go a long way towards fighting back all those negative feelings. So we got just that yesterday and today.

We received official word that Gabriella finally has her passport. 2 weeks ago we were told she would have it by the end of the week. They had applied for 13 passports and within the week had 9 of them. But of course Gabriella's wasn't one of them. They have to hand caligraphy them, and there is no reason why she didn't get hers with that group. But without the passport we couldn't progress to the next step. But we have hers now and are ready for our final step before we can travel.

That final step is birth family interviews. There are 11 children coming home in the next two weeks. We are at the top of the list after that group (mainly because we have been waiting the longest of all remaining parents at this final phase - today is the 1 year anniversary of us travelling down this road of adoption). So tenatively on the 15th or 16th of December our cases will be reviewed by Liberian Social Workers to make sure everything is in order before the US Consulate interviews the birth moms. So depending on how long it takes them to accomplish this and whether the interviews at the US Embassy go well, then we travel 2 weeks later. Now this could take a day, a couple weeks, or a month or two. The Embassy closes for 2 weeks in January sometime, so that will add to the delay if it doesn't happen before that. So the absolute best scenerio is we travel that last week of December. The most likely scenerio is we travel in February.

So we are in our final phase of waiting. We appreciate your encouragement and prayers. We look forward to the future with much anticipation. We know a much more difficult period awaits us once we get the children home. But it is our hope that a year from now that Gabriella and Josiah will be a well-adjusted part of our family and we'll be trying to remember what it was like before they came.

Monday, November 19, 2007

So Much To Be Thankful For

We have SO MUCH to be thankful for.... yet so many around the world have so little. The latest gross national income per capita data for the US is $32,476.60 compared with Liberia which is $143.66. So the average American makes as much as 266 Liberians in a year. Some of the images above are quite disturbing, and may make you feel uncomfortable. But they are reality to much of the world, and so I would encourage you this Thanksgiving holiday to take time out to give thanks for all that God has blessed you with. But also pray how God might direct you to become more involved with those less fortunate. There are many needs local and abroad that God could use you to be a blessing to others. God bless you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Luke 12:48

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Have you considered...

In celebration of National Adoption Month have you considered how you might become involved. You might not be in a position to where you are called to adopt, but there are so many ways that you can still support or participate in the support of the orphans. Perhaps you might feel lead to start an adoption ministry at your church like we recently have at ours. Or maybe you have what it takes to be a foster parent. Perhaps it is with your financial support of our adoption or some other adoption or by supporting wonderful organizations like Acres of Hope or Compassion International which are on the front lines ministering to the world's neediest children. I would encourage you to pray and consider what blessing might await you if you do. I know first hand through our participation in foster care and Compassion, that there has been much blessing in giving to the children God has connected us with. And we hope to know first hand, very soon, the blessing of Josiah and Gabriella. The biggest hurdle is yourself.

P.S. On a side note, if you get a chance and they are showing this movie in your area, I would encourage you to see the pro-adoption movie name "Bella". Kim and I saw it this evening and really enjoyed it. Make sure to bring kleenex. Greatest line from the movie "if you want to make God laugh.... tell Him your plans".

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Have you ever been presented with the question - "I've got good news and bad news - which do you want first?" Well in this case I'm going to present the good first.

They ran out of booklets for Passports so Kimberly does not have hers yet, but they have promised she will have it by the end of the week. So that's good news and puts us one small step closer.

The final leap we need is an appointment with the Consular at the US Embassy in Liberia. Because of them further limiting adoptions to 2 per week per agency, that means 8 per month - 96 per year. Because Josiah has been ready for 2 months now, we discussed the possibility about just getting him, but with the further restriction, it doesn't make sense for us to use 2 of those limited appointments when we really only need one. That being said we do not expect to get our children home this year. We are planning to that end and we are at peace with that.

But we would really appreciate your prayers. Every family is affected by this and it is a very difficult thing. But God is bigger than all this and He will be glorified in this in some way. We are in a position to see God at work and to see how he will take care of His less fortunate children. Please pray for God to direct you on how you might get involved to advocate for better service from the US Embassy.

Our kids WILL come home and they are healthy, and for now, we must trust in God's timing for all this. Thanks again for your support.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Discouraging News out of Liberia

I'm in Texas this week on business, but Kim forwarded this e-mail from AoH this afternoon with the only statement "Feeling Hopeless"

We have just received word this morning that the US Consulate in Monrovia has chosen to further limit adoption-related appointments at the US Embassy. She will now take only one appointment (for the required biological family interview OR for the adopting family to file their I600) per day, and only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That means rather than four appointments per week, there will now only be two. To this date, every Acres of Hope-Liberia family has received their child/ren's visa from the Embassy. And, we expect that trend will continue, despite having fewer opportunities to apply for visas.

Please understand that this is out of our control and our hands are tied. However, Patty and this agency are doing all that we can to advocate for change in this policy. Upon Patty's return to the US later this month, we plan to fly to Washington, DC to see what we can do to effect change. And, in the meantime, we will be contacting our network to explain the situation and require change. We are extremely disappointed in the Consulate's decision because we have been face-to-face with mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers who are desperate to provide a better life for their children. Thousands of children in Liberia remain in need of loving, permanent homes, aside from those we are able to care for in our programs.

Acres of Hope-Liberia exists to serve God through serving the children who truly are the "least of these" in the world. We stand together with you in that commitment and we will not be daunted. We recognize that our struggle is beyond that of flesh and blood. We have an Enemy who hates the uniting of God's most precious ones with committed, loving, Christian families. Indeed, we are in battle "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12b) We are united with you and with Christ in this battle, and we will carry through our commitment before God.

Throughout our lives and the life of this organization, we have found that spiritual growth thrives on challenges. Every obstacle we face is an opportunity for personal growth and for our growth as an organization. In fact, one of our goals for Acres of Hope-Liberia is that we would be constantly improving in our ability to meet the purposes of Christ through this organization. We are encouraged that our organization, as well as the entire process of adopting from Liberia, is being sharpened, honed, and improved through these challenges.

We are more than grateful for your dedication to the nation of Liberia, particularly her children, and your commitment to Acres of Hope-Liberia. We know that the families that partner with us in adoption and humanitarian work pray for the nation and orphans of Liberia, and for this organization regularly. We cannot thank you enough for standing and battling with us in this most significant way. We feel the power of your prayers. Now is the time to band together, to encourage one another in faith and hope. In the face of this challenge, we ask you to reflect on your original desire to invest your lives in Liberia. Draw strength from that commitment and expect our God to do the marvelous and miraculous on behalf of his beloved children in Liberia.

I responded to Kim with the following e-mail

I’m praying for you and us. I don’t want you to be hopeless. This is a the perfect situation where only God can work. In spite of our situation, we must just trust in God and not lose heart.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7.

Please know that God knows our entire situation. God is protecting us and God will provide for us. So please just stand beside me, and we’ll continue to give God glory through this all, and wait to see how he works it all out.

On a side note, November 12-16 is Cry of the Orphan week on Focus on the Family. Follow along on-line or on your radio or check out their website.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Liberian Babes

That pretty much sums it up. Thanksgiving is just around the corner (and is officially celebrated today in Liberia - one of only 7 other nations that celebrate Thanksgiving) and we have much to be thankful for. But with Thanksgiving comes thoughts of Christmas and Christmas "wish lists". Our children are diligently filling theirs out. And Kim and I have a very short list - and one of the few times they are exactly the same. We feel like kids with that dreamy eyed wishing, that we'll wake up on that magical morning and find that one thing we were hoping and hoping for. We know it will be a lot of lot work - filled with sweat and tears, but also much joy and we can't think of anything else. We want so much to get to the business of loving and caring for Josiah and Gabriella, and to working out the dynamics of their special part in our family. We've been preparing for almost a year. So I'm thankful to serve a God who know's all my needs before I even speak them. I was reminded of an important verse today

Cease striving and know that I am God - Psalms 46:10

So as much as we try, as much as we wish, and much as we think the US Embassy is a road block to bringing our children home - God is ultimately God and in control of everything. Nothing in our situation is outside His control and grace. And He will deliver our children exactly at the time He appointed. And so I rest in that knowledge. He sees way beyond my limited view, and has Kim and my best interests as well as Josiah and Gabriella's in mind.

So we wait.......

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fighting Fear

Thirteen years ago on October 28th, 1994, Kim and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first son, when joy turned into tragedy and a birth followed with a funeral. I don't mention this for your sympathy, for God has carried us and blessed us many times over since. We have 4 healthy beautiful children and are anxiously awaiting bringing home our two from Liberia. But the baby shower on Saturday resurfaced many of those same feelings for Kim. Two weeks after her shower in 1994, Kim and I lost Jeremy. She was 36 weeks pregnant, and all the clothes and gifts she imagined using with our son, she soon afterward had to put into storage. So each of the beautiful outfits she has already imagined Josiah getting dirty in or wrestling in, and Gabriella she imagines as a sweet, innocent princess, all braided and bright smiled. We can't wait to squeeze each outfit with them in it. But fear has creeped in. What if we loose our referrals? What if some complication is found with the embassy interviews? What if some family member comes and takes them back? What if? We remind ourselves of verses like

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18

Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you." - Isaiah 35:4

We're just being vunerable when we say "it's not easy". So we'd just appreciate your prayers for us to continue to be faithful, to continue to trust, and to continue to be patient. We don't want fear to rob our joy. Thanks!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Showers of Blessings / Getting Kids Pushed Back

Kim's best friend Cari hosted a surprise baby shower for Kim today for Josiah and Gabriella - and trust me, that was no easy task. Kim and Cari have been friends since high school(over 25 years) and her whole extended family are our adopted family. They have become aunt and uncle to our kids and vice versa. Also Cari and her husband adopted a sweet little girl from China, and two of her sisters have adopted from Ethiopia. So not only do we have a great resource for questions, but a wonderful source of encouragement.

So about a month ago, Cari called me on my business cell phone, but I was on another call at the time, so instead of listening to the voice mail, I proceeded to tell Kim "could you call her back and see what she wants, i think she meant to call you". She replied "Cari wouldn't make a mistake like that, perhaps she's planning a surprise birthday for me" because Kim turned the big 4-0 on Oct 13th. So i listen to the voice mail as Cari explains she's planning a surprise shower for Kim and that I can't let Kim know. So here I thought I blew it before it even started.

So I got Cari a list of friends and family and the ball was rolling. She picked today - Oct 27th as the best day that worked for every one. Now the trick was to get Kim to Cari's house. Cari and Kim meet quite often for lunch or go shopping but they typically don't meet at each other's house, because Cari and Kim are 45 minutes apart. And in the past they've gone away over night once a year for a "girls getaway". So Cari thought she could pretend to have a getaway south of her house (because she lives south of us), so that Kim would have to drive to her house on the way there. So the plan was to go shopping just south of the Wisconsin border at Gurnea Mills Shopping Center. Kim said "that sounds great, we are going to be at my mom's that weekend and you can swing by Waukesha and pick me up". On the side, Kim was planning an early Thanksgiving in Waukesha because of some family things going on. So Cari's first attempt was foiled. So she quickly had to devise two plans - one to cancel the fake shopping trip that wasn't going to happen, but also to still get her to her house. So due to some scheduling conflicts that came up in her family, they could only go shopping in Oshkosh (still south of her house). But Kim was still insistent on going to Waukesha early (because the kids were off a school thursday and friday). So we had to arrange for Kim's mom to become suddenly sick with the stomach flu, so that Kim would not be in Waukesha until after the party. Shortly after receiving the "unfortunate news" my mother called to see if Elizabeth could spend the night, so that she could join my mom at the surprise.

So Kim arrived at Cari's house around 1:45 this afternoon. Cari said, "come in I have to get something", and as Kim walked in there was a large group of women in the kitchen that yelled "surprise". There were no cars in the drive way so Kim was trying to figure out what was up before it finally clicked. A lot of time and effort was put into it. Everyone brought a bead for a necklace for Kim. They had a special cake. Cari made a framed african themed collage of our children with an African runner on the table. After they ate there were a couple games they played. 1) 20 questions about Liberia 2)Multitasking - they had to balance a basket of rice on their head while hanging up clothes on a clothes line 3) sculpt Josiah and Gabriella out of play dough. And then the gifts.

We were tremendously blessed by people's generosity and thoughtfulness. Kim and I had given away most of our younger clothes to friends having kids because we knew we were done having our own. That was before God changed our hearts about adoption. So many of the gifts were clothing which were much needed and appreciated. Kim said "now I just wish we had our children to put in them". We also received a double stroller and gifts of money. We plan to purchase a dresser for the clothes with the money. Anyways, Kim had a wonderful day, was completely surprised, and we were humbled by the generosity.

Unfortunately we received the following news today regarding scheduling our kids pre-visa interview at the US Embassy in Liberia. Once this appointment is scheduled, we will most likely travel two weeks later: "This date has been pushed out a little due to some emergency cases (Darling Boy, Johema...) where these children needed to get home due to severe medical conditions. This has bumped everyone's appointments at the Embassy. I know it is hard to keep waiting, but know that waiting a few more weeks to get your child home has saved the lives of other children. You can be sure that you are on the schedule and we will let you know as soon as possible when you can schedule travel."

We would rather wait knowing our children our healthy in order to save and help those who are much needier. If you have a moment, I would encourage you to read the story of Darling Boy at - (post from 10/15 The News-Charity is Home)regarding the Alonso's incredible journey. I was deeply touched through their testimony.

Again thanks to all of you who support and encourage us, many of who blessed us today with your generosity. We appreciate it all so much!!!!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blessing or Burden?

Kim and I were discussing the reality of having 6 kids and the changes that will need to take place once Josiah and Gabriella get home. And one of the immediate realities is that we can not all travel in our current van. The Lord blessed us with a Honda Odyssey 6 years ago and it has served us well, but unless we get a new vehicle, we can't legally all ride together. There will be much "bigger" things that will have to change as we adjust to not only having 2 more children, but children from a different culture with much different needs. So we began discussing that and the issue of what a "burden" they will be came up. As we've travelled down this road of adoption we've received all types of responses. Especially having 4 beautiful healthy children of our own (which is already "crazy" you know) why would we ever want 2 more. Of course our Christmas vacations in Bermuda will have to take the back seat for awhile, and my new Corvette, well perhaps i'll be able to afford it on Social Security when I'm 65. But in our society, children are an inconvenience. Children interefere with a "preferred lifestyle" and some parents just can't wait until the children are out of the house. But God has an entirely different view...

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5).

So the next time you kiss your burdens good night, Thank God for the blessing they truly are. And someday very soon, we hope to experience kissing Josiah and Gabriella good night. And soon after will come the runny noses, and dirty diapers, and spilled milk, and we'll thank God for each of those too!

P.S. Saturday night we carved the pumpkins we picked a couple weeks back and wanted to share them with you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lots of Snapshots

We were blessed to receive so many updated photos of our children - enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gabriella's Adoption Finalized

Just wanted to share some exciting news. We hadn't heard anything since September 13th about the status of either our kids adoption process. So we finally felt the need to request for some info. We know AoH does a wonderful job in all that they do, and many of them go way above the call of duty in many cases. So we didn't want to be just one more burden of asking. But couldn't help ourselves anymore so asked, and we were delighted to find out that Gabriella's adoption has been finalized. They have applied for but have not received her passport yet, so we are still waiting on that. Also the plan was to have their pre-Visa interview in mid-November, but there are no guarantees. AoH received the Visa schedule from the embassy for appointments through November 6th, and our kids names are not on there. So we need to continue to be patient. But we are yet another step closer.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Orphan Reports

Boimah Mambu
Outgoing, very active, and still a baby at heart, Boimah adds a lot of spice to the toddler room. Boimah (pronounced Boy-muh) is a strong willed boy, who is also strong physically. Boimah is very active and energetic. Whether indoors or outdoors, Boimah is almost constantly on the move. He prefers being outdoors, but if he's allowed to run around inside, he's content with that too. Outside Boimah really likes sports. Though he's young, he's already learning how to play soccer and loves participating in relay races. As far as toys goes, he loves cars, balls and just about anything designed for little boys to play with.

Kimberly Peters Calm, even-tempered and reserved, Kimberly is a sweet baby who loves to be held. Kimberly, which is pronounced by the Liberians like
"Kee-muh-lay" is smart, playful and a very good-natured 18-month old. Kimberly is quiet and easy going. She is quite shy in new situations, acting even quieter than usual and not saying a word. But when she's comfortable she will talk to herself, smile, and play with her friends. Kimberly loves to be held and if she had her way she would almost always be on a lap or a hip of one of her nannies.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bath Time for Brie

Here are some cute pictures of Gabriella (on the right) sharing a bath with two of her friends - Tracee and Bess.
They are all so cute and looking like they are having a fun time washing up.

We are hoping to be getting some more pictures over the next couple days, and with any luck even an update. We are trying to be patient at this stage in our adoption. Thanks for being patient with us.