Though we brought our son home in January 2008, we were not done facing that reality. Or with waiting. In his first year in our home, Eli had 3 surgeries. Since then there has been another, and more await him. Somehow an out of work pastor adopted a child who had 3 surgeries without going into debt. God continued to work in ways we could never have anticipated. If we had not adopted a special needs child, we’d still be waiting and estimates for those with our log in date were recently 2015/6. That would be almost 10 years of waiting.
Waiting for these things is not like waiting on a late friend or appointment. You have no idea how long you will wait. Waiting for a new pastoral position would stretch us in ways we never imagined. I knew the economy was tanking and more pastors would end up looking for new positions as churches closed. I started doing some pulpit supply to stretch the severance package. Though this time would be hard, we saw God sustain us. An opportunity fell through right before the severance ended. Then I was stated supply for a local church for about 6 months. Then I had 2 part time jobs and preached whenever I could. Then one of the 2 jobs went full time while I kept the other job and preached regularly.
During the wait, we came amazingly close to a few other positions. We became very acquainted with many passages on waiting. There were many tears due to disappointment and frustration. Yet it was a time in which we saw God provide for us financially and emotionally through various friendships accumulated through years of ministry. We were in the best place for us to wait.
After 2 and ½ years, we packed up the Pods and moved west. It was not what we planned, but it was The Plan. One of the things that happened while we were waiting was the desire to adopt again.
With China not an option we, like many others we knew, looked to Africa. A number of countries had just begun permitting international adoption. It was difficult deciding which country from which to adopt. We ended up choosing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recovering from 2+ years of under-employment meant we wanted to keep costs down. The DRC did not require a trip. You could hire a courier. We would learn that given enough time, anything can change in international adoption.
Although the paperwork was easier, everything took longer to compile the dossier. We experienced delays on numerous fronts. This would be par for the course. The situation in much of Africa was unstable. There was a coup attempt in the DRC. So while we wanted to move faster, it moved slower. It was like trying to rush during rush hour. We seemingly expended lots of energy to go nowhere.
After we completed our dossier around late Spring 2011, we learned the line we were in was fairly short. Quickly we were asked about sibling groups. One had 4 kids. The minivan would be insufficient and we didn’t have money for a 15 passenger van. The minivan became my quiver. Since this was our final adoption, we were open to adopting 2 siblings to fill it. While on vacation, we were asked about a brother and sister. He was about 1 and she was 4. That was pretty much perfect for us. The agency held out the possibility of wrapping it up by the end of the year.
But this meant updating our home study to reflect her anticipated age at the time of adoption. We didn’t think that through initially. Now we waited because of our own error. There was also a financial crunch as we waited for our tax refund which was needed for the increased referral fee. Congress had made the 2010 adoption tax credit into a refund. We could finally get back the adoption expenses from Eli’s adoption. But the IRS wasn’t sure how to process it. Many people were initially denied. Our accountant’s office stopped submitting them until they knew exactly what the IRS wanted. So instead of getting our refund in May or June, we were still waiting to even file that Fall. You don’t want to wait on the government, but we kept having to wait on the government.
But it wasn’t just our government. Before the referral could be granted, a court in the DRC had to make a ruling of non-appeal. There was a new judge who was learning the ropes, and an election essentially closed the courts for a few weeks. A change in administration could result in drastic changes in policy. Nothing was in our hands. We were weak, powerless and subject to the whims of others. It is scary. But we believe in the providence of God. These matters were ultimately in His hands. Our task was to trust and pray.
Our plan for adopting by the end of the year was coming apart. The ruling was handed down favorably in November, but it still had to be translated and verified and … we kept waiting. Everything took longer than expected.
According to the DRC court, the kids were ours: but not according to the U.S. government. It took so long we had to update the home study, again. We had to get fingerprinted, again. We had to continue to pay orphan support for 2 children. We were waiting for the DRC to issue passports. It was turning into a never-ending pregnancy. We kept praying, and waiting.
Finally the passports were issued and an appointment was set with the U.S. Consulate. First they would “interview” the kids. Then they would interview the birth mom. We were preparing to go on our annual vacation. Our hope was that the visas would be issued so CavWife could travel from NY instead of AZ. Yes, they no longer permitted the use of couriers.
What happened next is unclear. The stories vary. What is clear is that the lawyer for the agency missed some appointments. Our frustration was mounting. We were so close! But so far away! Our (artificial) deadline was drawing near. We were making preparation for Amie to leave. We’d traveled to NY with all she would need (having learned from Eli’s adoption). We felt lied to. We had no idea what was going on, and were not sure if we could trust what the agency told us. We began being more proactive: hiring a consultant to make sure our paperwork was complete before submission so there wouldn’t be more delays; applying for Amie’s travel visa instead of waiting for the agency to do it after the kids’ got their visas; calling the Consulate for updates. This meant getting up quite early before the Consulate closed for the day.
This mattered. We saved time when the woman at the Consulate contacted us about the financial information we provided. We didn’t meet the minimum income, they thought. I walked them through the realities of pastoral compensation and how it appears on a W-2. My accountant dashed off a letter to them explaining this. The Consulate investigated the rules and procedures. Would all this come to naught in the final days? Waiting for those early morning calls or e-mails (due to the time difference, thankfully we were in NY and not AZ!). We were tired from anxiety and lack of sleep.
The approval came just in time as CavWife now scrambled to set up travel arrangements. Our agency didn’t want her to travel when we wanted her to travel (the last day of our vacation). Finally they relented when they realized she was going anyway.
It all seems surreal now. Waiting is the hardest part of the adoption process. You wait for a variety of reasons. You wait on social workers, agency workers, and government workers. But who would we be if we did not have to wait?
The waiting is part of the process by which God sanctifies us. Apparently my wife and I have needed to be sanctified a great deal over the course of our lives. We continue to need that process. We hate the waiting. It feels like death to us. And it is- the death of the old man in Adam. But it is also the birth pains of the new man in Christ.
The waiting, the disappointments and the defeats are being worked together for our good by the God who did not spare His Son, but offered Him up for us. He is making us in the image and likeness of His Son. He who is patient is patiently at work to make us patient.
Waiting also sifts our goals and priorities. Our own begin to sink, but God’s goals for us continue to bubble up and call us to trust. Waiting is important to consecration or submission.
All of this might be in the context of vocation. It might be in the context of marriage. It might be in the context of infertility. It might be in the context of adoption. But it will be. And that is good.