Sixteen years ago, today, a woman gave birth to a baby boy in Guatemala. I don’t know anything about her other than her name. I don’t know what circumstances drove her to give up her child but, in her sacrifice, I have a son. A child that I could not love any more if I had given birth to him myself.
The rest of this story is small in comparison to that.
I want to frame this story with a lesson that God taught me early Tuesday morning as I was praying over a day that was to be a monumental. I was so angry about the events of the day before (see below) and I was feeling as helpless as I have in this entire process. God reminded me that this is his battle, not mine. This is not my fight. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 With this reminder, my foot, that had been incessantly tapping, stopped. The vibrating tension in my body drained. God’s got this. But that didn’t mean that the day was easy.
One month ago, a judge ordered the beginnings of a change in Guatemala, he pushed a door open, cracked it for the possibility of a new chapter in international adoption between the United States and Guatemala. Seventeen days ago, an adoption agency agreed to put aside everything they knew to be true in order to help us. Seventeen days ago, a home study agency agreed to do the impossible in pulling together our entire report in a short two weeks. We have filled out 150+ pages of applications, had fire inspections, the dog to the vet, obtained doctors reports, completed educational courses, and burned the candle at both ends to prepare for today. A 16th birthday is a milestone marker birthday in the world of international adoption. Adoption visas are only granted to children whose paperwork has been filed prior to this monumental day. Today we have reached that day.
Last Friday, the day I boarded a plane to Guatemala, every last paper was in order to file our adoption application with the exception of a letter from Guatemala’s central adoption authority, CNA, to the United States central adoption authority, the Department of State. As the hours ticked by and the letter didn’t arrive, we needed to start making a plan B. Monday morning, Phil and I, and our attorney, showed up at CNA with paperwork in hand and a request for our “letter.” Even without an appointment we were granted an audience with the sub-director, the highest power in CNA at the moment. His immediate answer was no. This is something I have become accustomed to and our lawyer wasn’t going to stand for it. Each of the three of us had an opportunity to have our voices heard, and I had the chance to pour out my heart to the two highest powers overseeing adoption in Guatemala. When we finally left it was with the commitment to send a letter to both our adoption agency and the Department of State. As the hours again slipped by the letter never came. A phone call to CNA revealed that they had lied to us. They had no intention of sending the letter and didn’t even as they ushered us out of their office. I have never experienced deception on this level before. I didn’t even know what to do with it…How do you hold the highest power accountable? Especially when time was our biggest enemy.
This is a man who has the power to help these children, to clear the path for their best interests, and he remains defiant. All the passion and anger that rose up within me. I was seething.
A phone call to the judge unearthed his anger and he assured us that he would remedy the situation during our court hearing on the following day. We had 24 hours to have a letter delivered and our application overnighted. This was becoming a process of counting minutes.
Phil left for the airport in his rental car at the same time that we left for our court hearing on Tuesday. As we were nearing the court, I got a phone call from him. He had been pulled over in a random checkpoint and informed that Avis had not paid a fine on his car. He was being detained until someone from Avis could come and take care of the situation. As he called me, he said, I am sitting on the side of the road surrounded by Guatemalan police. I am not sure what to do. As time was running out to make his flight the officers informed him that if he wanted to pay the fine they would release him. I can only assume that the $40 that it cost him to secure his freedom will never make it to any official beyond those who were surrounding his car.
As I was sitting in the lobby of Children’s Court, I realized how in over our heads we are in this. We are doing this whole other thing down here that is beyond anything I would have ever even realized as a possibility. I was sitting in children’s court in Guatemala City, watching a parade of broken and hurting children, hot, loud, the tension palpable. I was feeling in way too deep, alone, while I waited on so many things, Phil to be released, a judge to speak justice into our situation, with zero language skills, the basis of my functionality. All I could do was pray, and even that was failing me, all I could come up with in the moment was a mantra of “Please, God. Please, God.” The last two days have been an extreme in living outside the realm of my reality.
An hour and a half after our little band of warriors walked into court, they walked out with a judge’s order in hand that CNA produce a letter. We were now down to 4.5 hours before our paperwork had to be put in an overnight package to be delivered to a lockbox for USCIS. CNA had sent a rookie lawyer who was completely out of step with the judge’s previous orders from a month ago. In addition, CNA had failed to do any of the things that the judge had ordered them to. As of the writing of this, CNA has 48 hours to produce a list of children that would be available for international adoptions and to make that available to the Department of State. If they fail to do this, they will be breaking the law and the judge will hold them in contempt of court. For more than just us, this is so, so, so big.
As we arrived at CNA, both of the men that Phil and I had met with the day before passed through the area we were waiting and did double takes as they saw me. I wanted to tell them, you see? My God is bigger!
As the hours passed, we waited, and waited some more. I introduced JC to the dot game and we passed the time connecting dots. CNA kept inviting us to leave and we kept declining their offer. Intent instead, to stage our peaceful sit-in, 4 of us, until we had in our hand the letter that was promised to us the day before. (We even ordered McDonalds to be delivered to us while we waited.) After 3 hours, as CNA employees were leaving for the day, a letter was finally prepared, and it was hand delivered to the US Embassy. We didn’t get to see it; we couldn’t have a copy of it. But we did receive a call from the office of the First Lady of Guatemala and were informed that CNA followed every detail of the judge’s order and assured us of their continued assistance in the process.
This morning we have received word that our application was received by USCIS and our adoption agency has requested a phone call with a supervisor of USCIS to try and talk though all of the minutia of this mess of a process.
Yesterday morning, I dug into Exodus 14. The chapter begins with Pharaoh changing his mind about letting the Israelites go. This felt so familiar. The edge of the Red Sea, no place to turn, nothing more that could be done except just sitting in faith and waiting on God to redeem the situation. The Red Sea parted, the Israelites were saved, and Pharaoh drowned. The victory belongs to God! But I really want to know, was Moses sad when Pharaoh drowned? I honestly want to see the Red Sea crash.
We weren’t looking for a fight, but we are on the front lines. The scariest thing, is to be standing there, bombs falling, and not be able to do a thing. God has made it clear though that this battle for me is though prayer, not in anything that I might be able to “do.” And in this His power and glory will be on display for all to see. I am longing to see the God of the Old Testament bring justice.
Beth Guckenberger wrote, “Noah’s story teaches us to listen even when what we hear doesn’t make sense. Abraham’s story says God is always ‘on time.’ “ JC’s story tells us that nothing is beyond redemption, and our God is still a God of miracles.
My mind, my body, and my heart are tired but I am rejoicing in all of the ways God is redeeming this child’s story and restoring justice. Tonight I get to light the candles on his cake and celebrate his birthday with him and no matter what else happens, we are already a family.