Monday, March 31, 2008

We're Home

Sorry it took so long to say this - but made it home safely Saturday Night to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Everything about the trip home went well. But obviously trying to catch up on sleep and overcome jet lag. It was so good to see everyone and to be back with our baby girl. I will post again soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Made it to Brussels (for the final time)

Well Gabriella and I are in Brussels waiting for our connection. But my adoption journey would not be complete without one more stress-filled situation. Buster from AoH picked me up around 6:15 for my 9:30 flight. It's about an hour drive and we got there around 7:15. Buster gave me my documents for the necessary clearances and said he would be outside if there were any problems. Well I get through security and proceed to the ticketing counter and the attendant asks for my final destination. And I explain Brussels, and that I had two itinerarys and that I would be going from Brussels to Amsterdam on another airlines. He informed me "no you won't" because Gabriella would need a Visa to enter Amsterdam because she's a Liberian citizen. American citizens don't need one, but Liberians do, so my hopes to save money using my Frequent Flier miles back fired. So I proceeded to the Brussels airlines office which is outside the terminal, all the time leaving my luggage in the terminal (wondering whos going to walk off with it). There was nothing the Brussels airlines attendant could do. So I proceed to go out in the parking lot, and someone calls Buster for me, while I have another guy get me a $5 Lonestar cellphone card. Fortunately I had asked Julie to leave me her phone, which is really Lauries. Anyways, I proceed to call Golden Rule and get a new itinerary. But even with the new itinerary, the Brussels travel agent could not print out my boarding passes. Well three $5 cards later, and several phone calls to Golden rule and 3 hours, I finally had my tickets and still had all my luggage. The only saving grace was that the flight coming in was delayed otherwise I would have never made it. And because the flight was delayed, had not the agent questioned my itinerary, I would have missed connection toAmerstam or had I made it, i would have been stuck there. We did not get on the plane and take off until 12:40am and Gabriella was up this whole time. She had some meltdown moments (who wouldn't) but we managed to get through it. But I found out she can get awefully sassy with no sleep. I began to really worry about the flight. I prayed for an empty seat next to me (because she was still on a lap ticket on the first leg) and that there would be a kind person next to me - and God answered both those prayers. And my last prayer would be that she would sleep. Amazingly enough, she fell asleep as we were taxing just before we took off. She woke up once and cried while we were eating dinner and i had to take a walk down the aisle, but 2 minutes and she was back asleep and slept the entire flight. She's being a little fiesty as I type here because she's still tired and i'm ignoring her, but we should make it to Chicago by 6:30 tonight where Kim will pick me up and we'll stay at her mom's in Milwaukee. So thanks for all the prayers, looking forward to being on American soil very soon with my little princess.

Friday, March 28, 2008

All Smiles - I'm Heading Home

I haven't heard otherwise so assuming I will be boarding the 9:30 flight tonight. I'm packed and ready to go. I'd appreciate your prayers for the whole trip. Gabriella is very "fiesty" today. Very determined and quick to express her displeasure anytime things aren't going her way. So I expect the 30 hr travel time to feel more like 60. But this too shall pass - can't wait to get home!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good News

I received Notification that my DNA confirmation arrived at the DHL facility this morning and is already with the courier and should arrive at the Embassy today. I received the notification while Chris was doing paperwork with Christian Lindsay. So I informed him and he will follow-up on it. Also although I didn't meet with Alma yesterday (thought I had to), I met with one of the other employees of the Embassy and according to Chris, since I signed all the papers yesterday, that I do not need to go back to the Embassy. He will just pick up the Visa when it's ready. We'll see how it all plays out, but I should be able to fly out Friday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Liberian Time

Before the Embassy Appointment
After the Embassy Appointment Time works different here. The wonderful people of Liberia have learned not to worry too much about tomorrow or even the next hour. I've come from a country where we dream about our kids going to college before they are even out of the womb. We worry about retirement and whether we have a rock solid portfolio when we are 40. I've come from a country where 'things' can be fixed when broken or can be replaced with a new 'thing'. Liberia barely has an education system, they have no retirement plan, and if you get to be 40, you are not at mid-life you are old. They've learn to make due with whatever is available. If it's broke and you can't fix it you better learn to live without it because chances are there is no store to buy another or even if there was, you probably won't have the money to afford it. Life's priorities are different here. We both have the same basic needs - a job, food, shelter and a good education for our kids. But those very basics are attained with much difficulty here. So as a result, Liberian Time is very much controlled by taxis that breakdown, meetings that are not on schedule, by electricity not coming on at certain times, by loveds ones ill by a various many diseases, by gasoline running out at the gas station, or your own vehicle choking on watered down gas. So things just get done in a Liberian minute.

I've had time to evaluate my situation a little more, and I'm doing much better. The selfish part of me wants to be home with my wife and kids and to just be "done" with the adoption. But from day one, this adoption has never been about me. And so I've been trying to really see what God is trying to teach me through all of this. The obvious is that nothing is under my control but everything is under His. But there are others like learning true dependence on God, and not psuedo dependence of what I can accomplish in the name of God. And there will be more that I'm still trying to process.

So I tried to focus on the positive and see good in what has happened. Today was an absolute great day with Gabriella. She is really starting to open up with me. She's "jibber-jabbering" much more. Some words I think I make out and others I may just be inferring. But I enjoyed reading books with here and eating cheerios. She's certainly letting me kiss her cheeks and head more, and to touch her arms and legs and feet. We have a routine with nap and bedtime now that I really love about the day. I stand up holding her as I rock back and forth with her head on my shoulders. After a few minutes of that and a song or two, I lay down with her on my belly and her head still on my shoulder as I gently caress her untill she falls asleep. I love this precious girl and she's worth everything it costs.

So I took a gamble and rescheduled my flights for Friday night. The Embassy is going to try to fax a letterhead document to the DNA lab, and hopefully they will accept that and get it back to the Embassy today. If that happens then I would be able to go back to the Embassy on Thursday and get the necessary clearances by Friday, fly out Friday night and be home Saturday night. If that doesn't happen, then I'm stuck waiting on DHL, which means new Embassy appointment next Tuesday and flying home next Wednesday. So I'll be praying to for God's mercy in working that out.

An Unplanned Extension in Liberia

Well unfortunately thanks to DHL and a number of other circumstances to numerous to mention, I am not leaving Liberia tomorrow. I so want to be home, but now is not that time. First I went to the Embassy this morning and waited for over an hour, only to be told to come back at 2 - that Alma (the US Consulate) was not in. Meanwhile Julies friend Mark (and now mine) went to the DHL office to see what's up. He was informed that the DNA results will not be here until Friday. So I returned at 2 and waiting another hour fifteen only to find out they didn't even know I was there. So I finally get in, and Alma would not meet with me. They would not accept my electronic copy of the DNA, and also 2 new clearances required to leave the country with Gabriella had not been received. So I'm hanging out here for as long as it takes - not happy about that but nothing I can do. I'm now in the process of trying to reschedule flights and all that. I have so much more to share, but I may have to wait to post that until I get back. I have a lot of frustrations, and now is not the time. Thanks for praying!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Quick DNA Update

I just happened to check out the DHL tracking of our DNA. The last update I gave on Friday it was in Brussels. Yesterday it made it to Lagos, Nigeria, and from there it went to Libreville, Gabon. Today it left there and made it to Douala, Cameroon which according to DHL at 11:51 Sunday evening "Shipment arrived at incorrect facility. Sent to correct destination.". There is still plenty of time to get it here, but it's like de ja vu all over again. If you think of it, please pray for this final step to be completed without a hitch. Thanks much!

He Is Risen

Those are the most important three words in all of creation. All other religions are just that – religions, and what they worship a dead god. But that first Easter proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Son of God, and t.hat we serve the one true living God. And the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that can work in you and me if we will only call upon the name of Jesus and be saved. The cool part about celebrating Easter in Liberia, is that Christ is the true melting pot, because we all serve one Lord and Savior, and he defies economic boundaries and racial boundaries and language boundaries and geographical boundaries. I celebrated the Risen King with my brothers and sisters at First Church in New Kru Town (African Christian Fellowship Int’l). Even though in song I did not know the Kru language I took part in the universal language of worship. I hope your Easter was filled with wonderful worship.

Other than that didn’t do anything else today except sweat. It felt especially hot today (about 95 with 80% humidity). I also daydreamed about being back home. Thanks to my mom, Easter is a wonderful culinary experience at my parents. My mother is a wonderful cook (Kim is too) and she goes all out on Easter. There is a wide variety of fresh bakery – caramel rolls, pecan rolls, Norwegian kringle, decorated cut-out sugar cookies, polish sausage, scrambled egg dish, French toast sticks, ham, decorated boiled eggs, fresh homemade rolls, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. So I was feeling a little jealous over my peanut butter and jelly for lunch and rice and butter beans for supper. But I know I ate much better than a lot of Liberians today.

Gabriella is doing great. I feel very blessed. She still hasn’t said many words. She seems to open up more with Teddy (Julie Redman’s son) but still is quite cautious with me. We played with cheerios and the cheerio book and played some fisher price which was progress. But she got mad enough at me today where she hit me. Teddy was trying to be nice and gave her a piece of hard candy, but I was afraid she might choke on it, so I wouldn’t let her have it and she was extremely mad at me. Also putting her down for her nap took some work today. But overall she’s a great eater, and very easy going, and I know the rest of those things will come with time.

Only 3 more days in Liberia. I meet with Chris to do the paperwork for the embassy tomorrow, and I’m having a local school girl do Gabriella’s hair. Also I’m heading to the markets tomorrow to get the long list of things Kim requested I get, including a drum and some outfits for future birthdays.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's In The Bag

Today we scheduled a trip to Cooper Beach. We got there and we were the only people there except 2 guys under another thatched umbrella beach hut. I set my bag down and immediately Claudia Felando warned me that I needed to keep all my things at the center of the hut or they will be stolen. The beach is about a 20 foot slope to the water based on the differing levels of the tide. They had some awesome waves that were taller than me, and Gabriella was petrified of the ocean (as the picture shows). The water was a little cool and with the waves being so strong, we didn’t stay there long. Maybe 30 minutes. The 2 guys I did not trust though so I stayed up near the top near our hut. Occassionally one of them would walk buy but they’d return to their hut about 30 or 40 feet from ours. Anyways we decided to go to the lagoon which is shallow and warm (like bath water). And I grabbed my camera out of my bag and was taking pictures of the kids in the water. Maybe had my back to the hut for one minute. And I walked back up to the hut to put my camera away and my bag was gone. I experienced the Liberian Entrepreneurial Spirit first hand. They saw a business opportunity and seized it. The bad news: they got $50 US (about $3050 LD) a cell phone (worth $100 US plus $12 in minutes), 4 packs of Juicy Fruit, all my baby wipes, my only bottle of Aveno lotion for Gabriella, 2 diapers, a baseball cap, a dress of Gabriellas, and her Elmo phone. I of course was upset, but I still was able to pray for them. Normally the Felando's bring a dog to guard things becaus most Liberians are afraid of dogs, but didn't this time. The good news is, I had my passport in there yesterday and actually more money yesterday, but felt led this morning to remove them. And I had just grabbed the camera, which after my passport, is probably my most prized possession right now. And I was not harmed nor my daughter, and everything is replaceable. I of course thought nasty thoughts about praying a curse on them or wishing bad things but ultimately I know the biblical principals of being destitute and how that can lead to stealing and all sorts of things. To be too rich or too poor are both bad. Anyways, I’ve been able to laugh about it several times and forgiven them for what they did. I’m waiting for my bag to show up in one of the markets. If I see it, I’ll buy it back.

On the way back I saw the orphanage for the first time. Because of the uncertain future of Liberian adoptions (they are supposed to announce something in a week), all the orphanages have been combined into one facility. So was able to quickly meet Gabriella’s and Josiah’s nannies. Everyone that I met at the orphanage was pleasant and helpful and wonderful servants. Also a good sign was when Gabriella’s nanny held out her hands to her, Gabriella didn’t want to leave me. But she did eventually and of course when it was time to leave, she didn’t want to leave the nanny. But I felt good about the first part anyways.

Went to a market and ordered matching handmade batik shirts for me and Josiah and dresses for Kim and Gabriella. They are all chocolate brown and gold batiks with a Christian message. A really neat Liberian explained the message behind each work.

Other than that, I went to a Liberian restaurant this afternoon and had dry rice with fish (with the head and eyes and teeth in tact) and some hot spicy pepper, eggplant and oil (the dark stuff). It tasted good and Gabriella loved it, but made my nose water. The best part about the whole thing was 2 cold cokes. One thing I miss with being in Liberia is cold drinks. Typically the water is warm, and don’t have milk, and so soda was a real treat. As I’ve mention before, electricity is off from 3:30 – 6:30pm Mon, Tues, Thur and Fri. On Wed it’s off from 3:30 – 12:30am. On Saturday though, the electricity is off from 6:30am – 12:30am Sunday. And Sunday it’s off from 6:30am – 6:30pm. So Refrigeration of food doesn’t work to well without electricity. So everyone has some sort of generator or backup power supply. At the guest house we have some florescent lights that work on the backup power - but no fans and no refrigerators. We did figure out how to get internet though because the internet is wireless off of the cell towers. So anyways I savored my cold cokes.

Two other funny things about our stay at the guest house. Our neighbors own exactly 3 CDs – Celine Dion, Kenny Rogers, and Don Williams. So every night we hear the same CDs playing – could be worse I guess. Also each night a tiny little mouse begins work traveling from somewhere in the living to the somewhere in the kitchen. Must be how he gets his midnight snack.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Today I went to New Kru Town for Good Friday service at Julie Redman's friend Mark Nimley's church. It was an awesome experience. But I have to confess, I was fearful traveling into New Kru Town. It's the most poverty I have ever seen. I think my fear is based solely on the unknown. Fear that someone will jump me and rob me. I was confessing that with David Felando and he said he experienced the same thing the first trip here. Every Liberian I have met have been wonderful. So we travel about 45 minutes by taxi to get to new Kru town and when I arrive and get out of the taxi, Gabriella starts crying hysterically. I don't know if it stirred a memory in her or what but she was genuinely afraid. But after about 3 minutes she calmed down. We arrived at church ( a one room church with about 10 rows of pews) at about 11:15. They were having a time of teaching - like sunday school. Service started at noon. Fortunately I'm getting back in the hang of this infant thing, but i brought a couple diapers, toys, and a change of clothes. Gabriella's first poop was in church, when we were all on our knees in prayer. Since everyone's head was bowed, I just changed her right there on the pew. The pews are wooden, but only 2/3 wide as what I'm used to in the states. My butt kept getting numb on them. Julie experienced the same thing. I'm used to having room to slouch. But I was asked and gave the opening prayer/invocation for Good Friday service. So that was a privelege. They were very welcoming at the church. Mark and his mother both attend the church. Church lasted until 2:30.

As I looked outside occasionally during church, i noticed these children ages 6-8 carrying 6 foot timbers. Not sure if it was for play or for a home, but this one little 6 yr old was balancing one on her head and dragging one in her arms. Then I saw another boy come by with just a t-shirt on and another in just his birthday suit. Just outside the church was the well - a busy place as each family was drawing their water. The other thing I noticed is that even though Liberia is a dusty dirty place, these women had on these beautiful white (I mean the whitest white) outfits and hats or headdresses. Most of the ladies in the choir had flip flops or sandals on, but each one’s toe nails were painted. For how poor, they were all dressed so nice. And then when it came time for offering, everyone gave. And as I observed, I probably gave the most monetarily, but like the woman who gave two mites, I know that each of them was probably giving sacrificially out of their need, while I was giving out of my abundance. The only thing different than the states, is it’s quite common to make change out of the offering plate. Do that in the states and people will think your robbing the church.

After church we headed to Rock Hill. The pictures above are the children from Rock Hill. I started by taking a picture of two, and soon the kids came running. They loved having their picture taken. And especially after I showed them the back of the camera and they could see their picture, they all wanted their picture taken. They were all so beautiful. We took a walk with Pastor Charles as we toured the whole town and got to see the new church they are building as well as Pastor Charles house. A couple serving with Spirit Liberia is helping to get a well built there. I just loved the children and could have taken anyone of them home. Rock hill is a very difficult place to see. My worse day is nothing compared to the work they do pounding and mining for rock. The top workers just make pennies per day (20 to 40 cents I think) if they can sell their rocks. I saw a group of teenage girls walk through carrying big boulders on their head and then someone else breaks them into smaller and smaller rocks. I saw another part where they burn tires – so this thick black highly toxic smoke – to heat up the rock to make it easier to break out of the earth. It’s a tough tough life is all I know.

This evening I got a scare. I layed down with Gabriella at 7:30 to put her to bed. She did not want to lay down. Meanwhile I had a headache and so I did want to lay down. I was falling asleep faster than her. I opened my eyes to see her asleep sitting up. So I layed her down next to me and I fell back asleep. I wake up about 10 and she’s gone. Didn’t think anything of it so I go out by Julie and ask her if she has my daughter and she asks “are you serious?” and I said “She’s missing”. So I run back in the bed room and her she was tangled in the mosquito netting asleep on the floor under the bed. Don’t know if she fell out or crawled out or what. But I put her back in bed without waking up and that’s where she is now.

Well there is no electricity on the weekends, so the next update will be on Monday. Have a great Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So Many Firsts

I had the priviledge of changing the first diaper, feeding her the first meal, giving her the first bath, and putting her to bed for the first time. All things that I wish so much that Kim could have enjoyed with me. She cried throughout the whole bath (the only real noise she's made) but didn't mind at all as I lotioned her up and put a onesie on her for bed. My favorite part was putting her to bed. I was standing up and rocking back and forth and she was obviously tired so I laid her down and she didn't object. We laid and her foot was touching my thigh. And she kept moving it back and forth. And periodically opened her eyes and in the darkness looked at me with those big brown eyes and said "your not going to leave me are you?". Even though I did need to make some calls, e-mail some pictures and blog, but I looked back at her and assured with a smile "No Gabriella, your daddy's never gonna leave you". And I gently stroked her legs as she peacefully fell asleep. I just took in the moment of her heart beating next to mine, and in an instant, it erased months of struggle and frustration. I love this little girl even though I still don't know her and am so thankful to finally be at this point.

I have my daughter

I took a trip to downtown Monrovia today to ride along with our Missionary hosts the Felandos. They had to run to a supermarket and hardware store. So I took my camera and took it all in. My first impressions were it is very congested. Every stop your car is surrounded with street vendors of every sorts: ties, floor standing fans, pillows, newspapers, gum, water, chocolate, nuts, plantains. The most interesting vendor I saw was a man pushing a wheelbarrel full of snails in the shell the size of rats. I have to get a picture those so you can see what I mean. Though very congested, its very orderly and civil. Driving in Monrovia is an art. It's a combination of being aggressive with the gas pedal, brake and horn. It's certainly not for the faint of heart. Occasionally you'll have a police officer directing traffic, but there are no street lights.

When we got downtown to the supermarket, it was a very nice supermarket in "Liberian" terms. They have guards on the outside of it, so it's very much of a status symbol to walk inside. I felt very much like a rich spoiled American, when there were amputees sitting just outside the door begging for food. They sell dog food and cat litter inside and outside there are thousands who don't have their basic needs met. They even sold Fruit Cake fruit. Not sure what demand there is in Liberia, but we only see in the states around Christmas time. So after shopping I took $5 US and got $305 LD (Liberian Dollars) from a corner exchange rate booth. It's not the Bank of Liberia, but it worked for me. When I was in the Brussels airport I stopped in a shop to buy a pair of sunglasses (because I don't own a pair) and the first pair was $107 EU (approx $160 US). So I said no thank you. So right after I exchanged my money, a sunglasses street vendor approached me. $150 LD (about $2.50 US) so of course I bought them. Only to be told I was ripped off by Julie's Liberian friend Mark. There was also a street vendor selling smoked fish for $10 LD (approx .17 cents) and ground Cassava root (instead of rice because it's thicker and leaves your stomach more satisfied) which was also $10LD. David bought lunch for several of them, and then everywhere we stopped I gave out $20 LD. So I was able to bless two amputees and all the others were children. Every place we stopped I gave money. And how much did I actually give - $2.50. That's not even a happy meal or another menu item at fast food. Yet everyone of them thought I was giving them $100US.

There was this young boy who came up to us and asked if he could come with us. It broke my heart. David asked where his mother was and he said at home resting. But the poor boy chased after us for at least 1 mile and half through the slow congested downtown traffic. I finally gave him some money and we gave him part of our lunch. There was also this very skinny mother with her child who stopped us before the supermarket. We didn't have anything at that time. But she found us again at a different intersection and Claudia gave her some food and I gave her some money. The poverty is so great - and we are so blessed.

The only other excitement was the Presidential motorcade came right in front of the guest house. So from my 2nd story balcony I watched and there were only 2 cops leading and 4 black SUVs and Hummers formed a diamond around the presidential vehicle which was also the same. So in one day I've gotten closer to their president then I ever have in 40 years of living in the US.

Lastly I picked up my daughter today. Of course she's absolutely beautiful. She hasn't said "boo" yet. But she has rubbed my face and pulled the hair sticking through the neck line on my shirt. I knew she was getting tired so I was going to try and lay down with her in my bedroom. But when I attempted to crawl through the mosquito netting, she began crying hysterically. So I came back out and she was falling asleep sitting up and Julie asked if she could rock her and so that's where she is. So we'll she how she does tonight but I'll work through it. Just glad to be to this place. Made every tear, every frustration, every anxious moment worth it. I'm blessed to be a part of her life. But this world is filled with so many children who don't have this chance.

For dinner tonight we ate traditional Liberian. It is a traditional butter rice, with water greens with red palm oil and then cut up fresh mango. Water greens are like potato greens - green leafy part from sweet potatoes shredded - but these are supposedly better and a staple in Liberian diet) It was wonderful! I got a chance to feed Gabriella for the first time. She was eating well and all of sudden she clamped up and didn't want anymore. Turns out she wanted a drink. Then she would eat some more. Then all of sudden she had had enough and spit the last spoonful out. So evidently she's a woman who knows what she want.

P.S. We have a DHL tracking number for the DNA results and they shipped out yesterday and and left New York this morning, so I don't see a problem with them arriving in time for the Embassy appointment on Tuesday. Also I head to the AoH office tomorrow to do my paperwork and will be able to visit the orphanage tomorrow.

Greetings from Liberia

Well I arrived safely last night around 6:35 (1:35 CST). Everything went smoothly traveling over here... just a long trip. I slept some on the Liberian leg of the trip, so I felt ok, probably a little excited to be here too. The airport is completely different then the last time we were here. Much more "modernized" - but still somewhat chaotic. Got my luggage and proceeded to go outside only to find noone with that friendly "AoH" sign waiting for me. I had no phone and no number to call - so not exactly the situation I was hoping for. There were mobs of people behind barracades with a few uniformed men keeping order. So i certainly didn't want to cross that line looking for anyone. So someone asked who I was looking for and asked for a number, while another guy went looking for them. I had forgot that Kim gave me a number of Julie Redmans friend Mark, so the only numbers I had were the 2 from the AoH website that I put on my Liberian visa application. So he called one, I got an answer and they said they would try to get someone over to the airport, but just then the other man returned to say he had found them. So that was the extent of my excitement. The drive to the guest house seemed like it took an hour and fifteen. Just looked around and took in everything.

Got to the Shepherd's house around 8:15. Met David Felando (my missionary host), Julie Redman, Mark Nimely, and Teddy (Julie's son). They were all very welcoming and great to meet and see. The electricity was out when I arrived so no fans and no internet. So i borrowed Julie's phone for a 2 minute call to Kim to let her know I made it. I visited for a while, took a much needed shower and headed to bed by 9:15.

By 2am I was wide awake. So I got up, tried the internet again, and no luck. So I figured I might as well get some work done on the computer. Around 3am the dogs started barking and man walked right past the windows of our second story flat. It was the night watchment. The AoH compounds are all "gated communities" and they have 24/7 watchmen the "guard" the place. So I met the night watchment. Anyways I worked for 3 hours until 5am before I forced myself to go back to bed. Slept another 4 hours so I'm feeling very refreshed. Today they are going to bring Gabriella over so very much looking forward to that. We are going to head to some local markets today and are trying to plan a trip to the beach tomorrow or sometime while i'm here. Met Claudia Felando and a couple of the Liberian's who help at the guest house.

Other than that AoH sent me the DHL tracking number for the DNA and it should arrive in Liberia Monday. I will pray to that end. Looking forward to sharing much more of my experience of the next couple days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hello from Brussels

I've made it safely to Brussels. I've been traveling for 16.5 hours so far if you count the time I left my house. My flight to Monrovia leaves in 2 hours and it's a 7 hour flight. Very much looking forward to sleeping tonight.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I'm On My Way

All praise and glory be to My Lord who is able to do so much more than we could ever ask!

I just got the call from AoH. And although the lab does not have the hardcopy in their possession, they do know the results and Gabriella and her mother are a MATCH. The lab should have the results this afternoon, and if they get them shipped DHL today, the embassy will receive them Friday. If they ship them tomorrow, the embassy should have them Monday. In either case it will be before I need them on Tuesday. AoH will e-mail the tracking number when they have it and e-mail the official results when they have it, so that I have a copy should they not get the hardcopy in time. But everything is a GO and I'm gearing up for the long trip.

We appreciate you all so much. I can't tell you how difficult a week it has been. Wanting to trust, trying to be at peace, but feeling so much anxiety and frustration. So I've struggled with doubt and know that your prayers have held us up during this time. THANKS AGAIN!

Still No DNA Results Yet

AoH has been in contact with the Lab, and they are trying to locate the hardcopy of the results. Not sure what that means if they have in their building but can't find it to sign off, or if they are still in transit from some place or what. But we are still waiting - thanks for waiting with us...

Today is the Day the Lord Has Made

Let us rejoice and be glad in it. I set my alarm for 3:30am and got up and once again called the consulate's office, only to receive no answer and be forwarded to a full voice mailbox. I proceeded to call the US Embassy switchboard where I was asked to call back at 2:00 (9am local). So I went back to bed and prayed and eventually fell asleep.

Well I was awakened to the most wonderful news. I received an e-mail at 6:22am from the US Embassy that I have an appointment for next Tuesday March 25th. Thank you to all who prayed when I felt too weak and emotionally drained and didn't know how to pray.

Still anxiously awaiting the DNA results. Gabriella is almost home!!!!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Passport In Hand - Supposed to Take Off in 24 Hrs

Well my "rushed" passport arrived today. Down to two major roadbloacks to overcome and I just received my check-in reminder for my flight which takes off in 24 hours. I feel quite hopeful about the DNA results, but now the major road block seems to be the Embassy Appointment I need on Tuesday March 25th. On the US Embassy in Liberia website it clearly states:

- Adopting Parents -
We will be unable to assist adopting parents without an appointment. Appointments are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please make an appointment before arriving in Liberia by emailing

Well I have sent several e-mails, I stayed up until 3am (8am in Liberia) this morning and called and there was no answer and the voice mailbox is full. I reached the switch board and they forwarded my call and it rang for 5 minutes before I hung up. I then called the switchboard another time and did leave a voice message. I'm in the process of trying to get the Office of Congressman Steven Kagen 8th District, Wisconsin to try to fax the Consulate on my behalf. But I'm not very hopeful i'll have the appointment I need before I'm supposed to hop on a plane. That's where you come in - Please Pray! Thanks

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Caleb's in Biloxi

Our son Caleb (on the left) flew to Biloxi this morning with a group from our church. They are serving with Compassion First a ministry founded by Beaverton Four Square church from Portland Oregon. Kim and I have both gone on two trips to help rebuild homes devasted by hurricane Katrina. In fact for those of you who have followed us from the beginning, you might recall I had to alter one of my trips due to our Federal Fingerprinting being scheduled during one of them. So already back a year ago, it's been somewhat of a logistical nightmare. So we'd appreciate your prayers for Caleb. He's very young (10) to be on a trip like this, but from the beginning it's been his hearts desire to be there. He, on his own without Kim and I knowing, submitted a prayer request at church that somehow he would be able to go, and one of the coordinators approached us about it. Normally they don't let anyone under 12 go, because they can be more work then they are help. Also East Biloxi is not a safe place. Prior to the hurricane, even the police didn't like going to East Biloxi. High crime, gangs and drugs. But the hurricane forced some of them out of the area. But as the rebuilding continues, more and more of it is returning. But there has been somewhat of a revival in the area, as churches have been the cornerstone of the rebuilding effort. Anyways, pray for his growth, success and safety. He flies back next Saturday and will be back for Easter. It's been a blessing to see Caleb's maturity and appreciation, but also to see the rest of the family rally around him. We were all up at 5am this morning to pray for him and see him off.

Also got good news regarding my passport. It left the Milwuakee post office facility last night at 9:26, so I am confident it will be delivered tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers regarding all these details. I'll be pressing AoH to contact the DNA lab to make sure everything is still on schedule to get our results faxed Tuesday morning. Also I'm going to try to get up at 3am monday morning to call the US Embassy in Liberia, as I still need an Embassy Appt for March 25th for Gabriella. In 36 short hours this will all be settled.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Well - Still No Passport

My tracking number shows the last place my package was scanned was in Maryland and according to the USPS website...

For your extremely urgent shipments, Express Mail is the ideal choice. Items are delivered directly to the addressee at home or place of business. Delivery occurs by noon or 3 p.m. the next business day, or in the case of deferred service, the second business day.

So the next business day is Monday. So if by 3 o'clock Monday I don't have my passport, I'll be making some urgent calls. Also still praying for those DNA results Tuesday morning, and praying for an Embassy Appt Tues March 25th.

Thanks again for hanging with us...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Passport En Route

Great News! The tracking number for my passport finally shows that its at a post office in Maryland on it's way here. It should arrive tomorrow (i think) but at the very latest Monday. Unless of course FedEx gets involved, then who knows where or when it will show up :)

Still Very Much In Need of Prayer

I called the Liberian Embassy yesterday to make sure my cashiers check was received and it was and they said the passport was in an envelope ready to go out yesterday. Well it did not. I called again today, and a different person assured me the same thing. But the USPS tracking number I have (because i supplied the prepaid express/priority mail envelope) still shows no record on the USPS website. I'm down to Monday if I don't receive it tomorrow. If they ship it express monday, I could still receive my passport before the flight on Tuesday afternoon. I'm so glad I paid the extra $50 for 24 hour processing. Last time I sent it in on a monday without the extra $50 and received it back by Friday. This time I sent it in last Saturday, and I still don't have it. Go Figure.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Down to the 11th Hour (and 59th Minute)

First let me start by giving God all the glory in our situation. If everything works out it will be because of Him and for Him, and if it doesn't, it will still be because He has something better planned. I've seen already in how well Josiah is doing that there was definitely divine planning in only having Josiah for the last 6 weeks. He is doing remarkably well and I believe part of that is because we've had only him to focus on. Was that how we planned it - No! Also are other children have had some time to adjust to the changes as well, and so we are so very thankful for where we are at and how we have been blessed.

But I wanted to share a couple encouraging things. First I called the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC this morning and my passport has the visa in it and is in an envelope and will be mailed out today. So I should probably get it tomorrow, but at the very latest by Monday. Secondly I e-mailed AoH this morning to see if our DNA actually made it to the Lab yesterday. And it arrived last night. The AoH represenative is out today, but they spoke with her Supervisor and she said the results would be ready on Monday. Unfortunately the Supervisor is out on Monday and has to sign off on the results, so the sign off will not occur until Tuesday. They will fax the results to AoH, and they will in turn scan them in and e-mail them to us. My flight leaves Green Bay at 1:30pm Tuesday, so there still should be enough time for me to know the results and make the necessary decisions before I have to be at the airport. And there should be plenty of time for the results to get to Liberia for me to make an Embassy Appointment on Tues March 25th, the day before I'm to fly home.

I currently do NOT have an embassy appointment for March 25th, and just sent an e-mail today requesting one. So hopefully in the next couple days i'll get confirmation of that appointment, otherwise I'll be making a few visits to the Embassy in person when I'm there.

So I appreciate your continued prayers. God has already chosen to answer some of them, and we look forward to seeing how he will work it all out. THANKS AGAIN!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Going In Faith

Well, we only had one submission to name our last post, and I thought it was perfect (thanks Katy). But wanted to pass along another update on our situation.

According to FedEx, our DNA is on a truck and should be delivered to the lab today. Originally what happened was the wrong label was placed on the DNA causing it to be shipped through Memphis. Compounding the situation, the package apparently became "stuck" to another package. FedEx lost the shipment until the other package was delivered with the DNA and the recipient allerted FedEx of the error. AoH has contacted the DNA lab, and their representative was very helpful and sympathetic to our case. She said that if the DNA arrived today as scheduled that she would request that it be put on the top of the list. There are no guarantees, but it is possible that we could have the results back by the 17th, before I travel. This would also allow plenty of time for the DNA to be shipped to the embassy in Monrovia before my flight back to the US. She is also going to use AoH DHL account to ship the DNA back to Liberia which is faster than FedEx. If we don't have the results by next Monday Night, then I have to make some decisions. So obviously prayer is the key.

Also, Mark Schultz is a Christian artist who wrote a song entitled "Everything To Me" about his own adoption story, and held a contest to have someone provide the video for it, and this is the one that won. To me it summarizes the amazing gift of adoption and why Kim and I are doing what we are doing. And no matter the cost, the frustration, or difficulty, it is truly is all worth it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Name This Posting

Well I tried to come up with an appropriate name for this posting and they are...
* Wake Me Up When Its Over
* "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord
* The best laid plans...
* Murphy's Law of Adoption
* FedEx - When It Absolutely Positively Has To Get There Overnight
Well Kim and I hung around our computer all day today, just waiting for that e-mail that would affirm a positive link between Gabriella and her mother. By 4pm we had had enough and so we called AoH only to find out that our DNA labwork is still in Tennessee. My outward appearance was rather controlled, though I could feel my temperature rising and knowing I was about to blow a gasket. The DNA was taken on 2/27. It never got picked up until 2/29. Normally the Embassy ships DHL, but for some reason they used FedEx and put the wrong label on the package. Last Thursday it was in Tennessee so should have been delivered to it's destination on 3/7. On 3/7 is when we asked about making travel plans so I could get my Visa. AoH gave us 3/22 - 3/29. Because Gabriella turns 2 on 3/29 it was going to cost $3400 for her one way ticket back, so yesterday we asked if it was possible to come earlier in order to save costs by a lap ticket. They said "yes" make it from 3/19 - 3/26 and that we should have the DNA results today or by tomorrow (3/11). So needless to say, this leaves us in quite a predicament. So we would certainly appreciate your prayers. We need to expedite getting the DNA to the right lab and processed. So goes our continuing saga... all we want is our little girl.

Monday, March 10, 2008

To Go or Not To Go

Well in my haste to get my Visa application mailed out on Saturday, I inadvertantly sent a personal check for the application. Fortunately I caught my mistake on my own on Sunday as I was balancing my checkbook. So I sent a cashier's check today and called the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC to let them know my mistake. So hopefully it gets there by noon tomorrow and I'm set. Because today I made new flight arrangements to be in Liberia from Wednesday March 19th thru Wednesday March 26th. By doing that I was able to use my frequent flier miles from Green Bay to Brussels and back, and only had to pay $210 for Gabriella's lap ticket for the return trip. Much better than the $760 or $3400. So hopefully my Passport and Gabriella's paper ticket arrive safely by next Monday because I leave at 1:30pm next Tuesday. So now all we need are those positive DNA results tomorrow. We will be sure to share the news as soon as we have it. So hopefully I'll be celebrating Good Friday and Easter with my daughter in Liberia. Stay Tuned...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Here I Go Again (Literally)

Well still no results on Gabriella's mom's DNA test, but we should have the results this week. If all goes well (as we hope) I needed to be ready to travel again. In order to travel, I needed another Liberian Visa, because I only purchased a 1-time entry the last time. And in order to get a new Visa, I needed to send my itineray to the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC. Well in order to send my itineray, i actually had to have one. So I contacted AoH on when I should expect to travel, and they gave me dates of arriving in Monrovia on March 23rd and leaving Liberia on March 29th. So to that end I booked my flights in faith. When we returned with Josiah a month ago, we returned on Caleb's 10th birthday. This time I will be returning on Gabriella's 2nd birthday. So all the feelings I felt 2 months ago when we starting the process of making my first trip to Liberia, all resurfaced. It seems nothing about the travel goes smoothly - at least for me. I was booking with Golden Rule Travel, and due to the timing of the trip, Spring Break travels are making flight availablities limited. I happened to have 100,000 Northwest Frequent Flier miles, so I worked it out to have Golden Rule book the flight from Brussels to Monrovia, and I was booking the flight from Green Bay to Brussels and back for free using my Frequent Flier miles. I called before I made the reservation to make sure that adding Gabriella as a lap ticket would work and the agent assured me "yes". I was to make the reservation online and call them back. So I called them, and after calling 2 agents and spending nearly 45 minutes on the phone and holding, the lap ticket was going to cost $761. Then they asked for her birth date, and since she turns 2 on the return trip, she doesn't qualify to be a lap ticket. So her ticket would instead cost the low low price of $3480. So needless to say, I have cancelled my trip, and I'm back to square one. I'll have to talk to Ronald Miller on Monday and try to work out something else. I hated to say it, but "Here we go again" :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Anxiously Awaiting DNA Results

That's me - a brave soldier in the Army of God!
Here's me posing with the most beautiful woman in the world - my Ma!
Here's me and Olivia having a beach party.
This is my favorite spot to sleep - next to my Pa.

The girls were playing Make-Up Artist so I thought I would take my turn. Aren't I cute?
Olivia shows off her make-up too
And here's my make-up artist - Elizabeth.
Well Gabriella's mom had her DNA drawn last week and the samples are already in the US. So within the week we should know the results. We are trusting God with those results, since He knows them already. If they come back confirming that she is indeed Gabriella's mother, I can book a return flight to Liberia. Just I will be going to get her with a Power of Attorney for Kim. I'm praying that things work out for my friend Steve to accompany me. We thought me leaving would be less traumatic on Josiah then if Kim did. If the results don't come back the way we hope, then we'll be looking to AoH to see what our next step might be.

Josiah had more doctor visits and is catching up on his immunizations. He was walking like an old man this weekend after getting 2 in each thigh. So needless to say, he doesn't like doctors currently because they represent pain. He had a positive reading for TB, but his chest x-ray came back clean. So they did another test to determine if he received a TB vaccination in Liberia. But still waiting to hear back on those results. But all of the results back from Children's Hospital so far are that he is a normal healthy little boy.

In less than 2 weeks, our second son Caleb will be traveling to Biloxi, MS on a mission trip with church. Our church has made several trips to Biloxi to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and Caleb really wanted to go help. He is a little young for the trip (10) but thanks to our wonderful friends Jim and Gale Barshaw, they will be chaperoning and supervising him in our absence. Kim and I have each gone twice, and are glad that Caleb will have this opportunity to serve.

Well that's it for the quick update. Things have been very busy, so sorry updates have been so sporatic. We look forward to sharing the good news with everyone as soon as we have it.