As most of you know, we were pursuing to adopt from the Burundi, Africa pilot program. How did we land on Burundi? Well, lots of reasons.... Our hearts are Ethiopia. Always have been, always will be. Ethiopia has always been the plan for adoption #2, even before Mekonen came home. But the process in Ethiopia has changed. It's gotten very long and many, many agencies have pulled out of Ethiopia for lots of reasons. For a couple years we had been keeping our eye on two amazing agencies that were still working in Ethiopia. Both were committed to Ethiopia and its children for the long haul. (And no, this does not mean through just adoption, but through family preservation, sponsorship, and keeping kids in Ethiopia if at all possible). We are super picky about agencies, we over research (although I don't believe there's such a thing), and we look at a lot more about an agency and its work than just adoption.
So over a year ago, we decided to start seriously beginning the adoption process again. Mekonen has been longing for a sibling who "matches" him for quite some time. We've always wanted to adopt again and we knew the next child would also have brown skin. We have been following international adoption, and specifically Ethiopia's international adoption process for years, ever since Mekonen came home. We were well aware that there were only a few agencies still working there, and we were well aware that the process has changed quite a bit. We also knew it was a very long process (like 3-5 years). SO... over a year ago, we contacted the two really great agencies we knew to still be in Ethiopia. We were open to an older child (not just a baby) and were also open to special needs. Some programs were still accepting families for older and special needs children so we didn't think it would necessarily be a problem. But, to our deep sadness, both agencies were not taking any new families. They were still in Ethiopia. They were still committed to Ethiopia for the long haul, but they weren't taking new families because their waiting family list was already really long. Even for older and special needs children. We were devastated.
Then, one day, another agency we had began researching suggested their Burundi, Africa pilot program. They thought we would be a great fit for a pilot program because we had already adopted, we were used to the ups and downs of international adoption, etc. A pilot program basically means that the country is brand new to international adoption, so there's bit more risk involved and you just don't know how the process will go. We prayed about it. The program qualifications fit our family. It wasn't Ethiopia, but it was east Africa. We knew that if God had a child in Burundi that he wanted to join our family, that God would give us a love for the country of Burundi and its people. Our conviction that God wanted us to begin the adoption process never waivered, even though our hearts were sad about Ethiopia. So we started to walk and then kept on walking.
We began our homestudy this past spring and forged ahead with a plan to wait to be matched with a 5 year old boy from Burundi. We applied to the Burundi agency, we went crazy gathering documents for our homestudy, and met regularly with our social worker to complete all the necessary steps. We waited to pay the very large Burundi agency fee, for whatever reason. It just didn't feel right. I chalked up the hesistancy in my heart to be the fact that this wasn't Ethiopia. But we felt SO unsettled about that first very large, non-refundable payment. So unsettled that we avoided it for the entirety of our homestudy process, which is almost impossible to do. But alas, we succeeded. And boy are we soooo glad we did!!!!
Fast forward through the crazy paperchase months with three small children, to Monday, May 18th. I was sitting in the air conditioned car at Mekonen's baseball game talking to our case worker with the Burundi agency. We were discussing the recent political events in Burundi and the upheaval over elections and how Americans were asked to leave the country. This wasn't necessarily alarming. It's often expected to have issues around elections, but I was concerned because something in my heart just did not feel right. Again, I chalked it up to my emotions and heart strings over Ethiopia. Our case worker with Burundi was not concerned and reassured us that we could continue moving forward with Burundi. I hit the "end call" button just feeling sad.
And here's where life changed....
The phone rang again before I could even put it down. A Washington state number was going across my cell phone screen. I thought to myself, "Who on earth is calling me from Washington state?" And then I instinctively did what I never do when I don't know the caller, I picked up the phone.
Alicia: Hi, is Rachael there?
Me: Yes, this is her.
Alicia: Hi, Rachael, this is Alicia from Children's House International
(my heart skipped a beat)
Me: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! REALLY?!?! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
Alicia: No, I'm not kidding. I have a little boy here I want to tell you about.
(Break for background: Children's House International (CHI) is one of the two most trusted agencies still working in Ethiopia. They were one of the agencies we've been keeping our eye on for a couple of years to adopt with in the future. We talked with them OVER a year ago when they sadly confirmed their program would not accept new families, which meant Ethiopia was off the table for us. She told us in a couple conversations to follow way back then, that if they ever came across a referral that no one in their waiting family list was open to, that they would give us a call. I thought to myself, yeah right. That would never happen in a million years. But I said, "ok. that's fine." After that conversation, Alicia apparently scribbled my name and phone number down on a piece of paper and stuck it to the side of her computer. That post-it note has been there for over a year).
As soon as I heard her name and the agency, I KNEW what she was calling about and I simply could not even believe this was actually happening. She went on to say, "I don't even know if you ended up starting the adoption process somewhere, if you have already adopted again, or if you are even still interested in adopting, but I have a healthy little boy who turns two in July and I have no families for him. My mouth dropped and I said, "How on EARTH do you have a referral for a toddler boy and not one family?" She went on to explain how their program has not accepted new families for a very long time due to the wait in Ethiopia and the long process. They did not want to accept new families and have them waiting for years. So they "closed" their program to new applicants and slowly over time, matched the families they had. Every family in their Ethiopia program was matched except for two. CHI offered this boy referral to both families and both families said no because they wanted to continue waiting for a girl. Alicia went on to explain, "We have literally JUST re-opened our Ethiopia program to a very, very limited number of new families. But the problem is that new families would have to wait months to go through their homestudy, get approved, etc. And this little guy doesn't need to wait any longer than he already is doing to. I don't even know if you have a homestudy done, or what your plans even are. But I saw your name on this post-it note on the side of my computer and decided to give you a call."
You see, we aren't adopting to get the "perfect child" to fit into our existing family. Yes, because we have to put something down on paper, we chose a 5 year old boy so he'd be close in age to Mekonen, and we had hoped for them to be buddies growing up. But the more we talked, the more we discussed our kids and their personalities and their expectations of this "new 5 year old sibling" the more we felt like this younger child was a better fit for our family. After all, we aren't adopting just to mold our family into the perfect ages and genders we've always wanted. Our main desire to adopt is to give a loving home to a child who needs one. And here is a child, who has been presented to us that needs a home. No he's not five, but he fits in with our family birth order, and he needs a mom and a dad. And bonus, he's from Ethiopia! I couldn't even wait until the next morning to tell the agency YES, so I emailed and told her, "YES!!!!! We are a COMPLETE and ABSOLUTE YES!!!!!!!!"
CHI is in Washington so they are three hours behind. I could not wait until 12 noon to call. At literally 9:02 am their time (enough time to sit down in her desk chair), I called and said, "Hey Alicia, did you get my email? We are absolutely 100% a YES for this little boy." She was excited. We were ecstatic.
We received the unofficial referral the next day. I was at lunch with a friend and spent the entire day, and lunch, hitting refresh on my phone email app, just waiting, and waiting for his little face to come through. And finally, around 4:00PM the most darling little thing came to my inbox. I pulled over on the side of the road so I could look at his sweet face. Oh mercy, he is gorgeous.
(We can't show his face online or announce his name online until we pass court)
For the next several weeks leading up until now, we paid beginning agency fees, did new applications, and waited for our notarized homestudy and all that happens with it once it's out of our hands. We couldn't announce our referral yet, but I stared at his pictures all day, they were already framed and on the mantle, and we talked about it with the kids all the time and prayed for him every day.
Then finally, this past Wednesday, we got the official referral papework and were given the green light to announce our little guy. But THEN....THEN enters the panic. Along with the paperwork, we were given a deadline of 14 days for ALL remaining adoption fees to be paid. My stomach dropped and filled with knots, and I'm not sure any of those knots have subsided yet! Ha! Because we literally jumped over a year ahead in the process, ALL our fees are now due because all fees are due by the time a referral comes (except for travel and in-country stay). However, we weren't planning on a referral for another year, so we planned on continuing to save money, work our extra side jobs, and fundraise. So when our adoption process moved up an entire year, we found ourselves in a complete bind with a remaining $16,000 to fund in just 14 days. We prayed. Oh how we prayed. And I cried. And Jon reminded me to trust God who clearly orchestrated the insanity of events to bring this child in need of a family, right in front of us. We KNOW this is the road God wants us to walk. We KNOW it. So we reached out. Reluctantly at first, but we reached out, asking friends and family to come around this child and our family, and help us bring him home.
We cannot express enough our thankfulness for how God is working out the remaining $16,000 to complete our adoption fees. I know people say things like this all the time, "There are no words to describe how thankful we are." But really, there just aren't. Since Wednesday evening we've watched funds come pouring in, the generosity exploding through the roof. I can't tell you how many times I've opened my computer and simply began to cry over the outpouring of love that is being shown to our family and to a little two year old boy, waiting in Ethiopia to come home to his family.
So what happens from here?
We have 11 days left to gather the remainder of our adoption fees. Once those are paid, our case will proceed through the long Ethiopian court process. Our agency is projecting a 12 month wait from the time our fees are paid until he is home. Have they seen cases go quicker? Yep. But on average they are seeing 12 months. And boy oh boy, are we going to pray we are out of that average and this little guy somehow flies through the court process and is home faster than we ever dreamed possible. I look back at our story and think, "This was impossible. And God did it. So maybe He will do this to." And if not, that's okay too, we will welcome him with open arms in 12 months.
Friends, family, will you pray for us? Please pray that God continues to provide the remainder of our fees in just 11 days? Please pray for our son- for his heart, his health, his well-being. That God will sustain Him, and that even now, God is drawing him to His heart. Please pray for an extra-ordinary, crazy fast court system that brings him home sooner than 12 months.
Thank you, THANK YOU, for walking this journey with us. Thank you for being part of our son's magnificent story, being written by Creator-God Himself.
If you feel led to donate, please visit our donation site here:
Our website accepts any donations, but I wanted to write and also let you know of a puzzle piece fundraiser we've been doing for quite awhile! This 500 piece puzzle will hang in a double sided glass frame in our boys' bedroom, but it can only be completed with YOUR help! Donation is $10 per puzzle piece! We will write your name on the back of your piece. Once the puzzle is completed, our son will have a completed puzzle with all the names of the people who have helped bring him home.Only ONE person's name per puzzle piece! So buy a piece for each member of your family, or maybe one for each of your grandchildren, or whatever else you can come up with! If you want to get in on the puzzle piece action, when you donate, leave a note saying how many puzzle pieces and whose names are to be written on each piece! We cannot WAIT to see all the people God uses to bring our son home, piece by piece!
And most importantly, please SHARE our story with everyone you know! We've got 11 days to get this ball rolling!