Thank you for praying for our situation. When we requested prayer, we weren’t able to fully express the gravity of the situation. Last week on Thursday afternoon we had a visa interview at the US embassy in Ethiopia. From pretty much everything we had heard, this was a formality and the majority of families got their children’s visas without any problem.
When we went to the window for our interview, everything seemed fine. Then we were asked how are children came to be relinquished. We answered what we knew – that their parents relinquished them because of severe poverty. At this point the woman at the window went to her supervisor. After a few minutes they came back and told us that because our children did not meet the US’ definition of orphan, they could not issue the visas.
When we passed court in October the Ethiopian government legally established us as their parents. So Ayana and Siqare are our children. But, we are being told that with the current information that had been given to us and the Embassy, they would not be given visas to return to the US. So, not only we were facing a potential delay in returning (we were suppose to be flying out the next night at 10:15), we were facing the potential of never being able to bring them home.
We left the Embassy appointment in tears and distraught. Thankfully, in God’s sovereignty, he had placed 2 other families from our agency their with us. Both families embraced us and held us up during this awful time. One family had an international cell phone with them. When we returned with them to where they were staying, they allowed us to use their phone to make whatever calls we needed to. Our first 2 calls were for prayer. John called his parents, who immediately put the word out through their church, facebook, email, phone calls. Then I called our friends, the Rylanders, who emailed several groups and called the our church. Val and our new friend, Angel prayed together.
Almost immediately we could feel God’s strength returning to us. John's mind cleared and with the help of the other families we decided on who we should contact. Thankfully, by this time the US was beginning their workday and people were easy to contact. After many phone calls we had a clearer picture of what needed to be done and we had some action from stateside that might help move things in Ethiopia. The clearer picture, though, was that we had to legally prove that these children truly were orphans. Nobody could just say “put it through.” We had to find evidence – which at this point we didn’t even know what that evidence could be.
After about 3 hours of sleep we were up and ready for action. Unfortunately, it was another 5 hours before the Embassy opened. At about 7:00 am I checked email. Surprisingly, there was an email from our International Agency director in our box. Even more of a surprise was what it said. It was the story of Ayana and Siqare’s parents. The father was in jail for trying to murder their mother. The mother was left to support 5 children selling injera. While the story sounded like evidence to support that they were orphans under US law, the problem though was that this was an email from our agency director to the Embassy. There was no documented support for it in the children’s file.
Shortly after this we received a phone call from the Consulate’s office. They said they had seen the story and if somehow substantiated, this would prove that they truly were orphan’s under US law. They had requested the children’s complete file from our agency. Unfortunately, the agency was not complying. So, we went to our agency’s office in Addis; got the file and proceeded to take it to the Embassy. By the time we arrived it was 10:30 am. The consulate’s office closed at noon. In talking with the consulate officer we were told that they would look through the file and that for the next 30 minutes they would be trying to make phone calls to the rural area that our children were from to try to get confirmation of some part of this new story. She told us if they didn’t get anything by then they would have to just try over the weekend and maybe by Monday they would be able to get some sort of confirmation. Val and I prayed together. Our hope was that we would all be able to return that night to the states, but by now we were not very confident.
At 11:10 the officer came back to the window and told us that they had reviewed the file and nothing in it supported this new story – no contradictions, but no support either. But, that they were going to continue to try and make contact until 11:30. If they didn’t by then, they would not have time to complete the visas before the office closed. At 11:30 our agency’s assistant director leans over (after he had been sitting by us for about 5-10 minutes) and show’s a phone number written on his hand and asks if they might want this cell phone # of a MOWA government official from the area our children were from. We said yes and took him up to the window and got the number to them. He was worried that the consulate might not cooperate with him (hmmmmm, I wonder why).
Another 10 minutes went by (the times are clear in my head, because that was all we could do was watch the clock). At 11:40 the consulate officer comes to the window. She has a pretty serious look on her face – so we thought we were done. We would have to figure out what our plan B would be. We get to the window and she tells us she has good news. They were able to make not just one, but two contacts to officials that were able to confirm that Ayana and Siqare’s father was indeed in jail. She told us she would keep her staff there long enough to finish the visas and we would be able to go home with our children. At 11:59 the visas were slid under the window and we had them in our hands.
We were crying great tears of joy. So much so that the Ethiopian guard in the room asked if something was wrong.
God’s hand has been on our adoption process the whole way through. When Satan made this last minute attack, God said no way, this is my plan in my time and you lose.
All 7 of us (our complete family) were on the 10:15 flight that night. After 34 hours of travel we arrived back at our home, exhausted but joyful at the work God did.
Thank you so much for praying.