Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Today was the day to do Lael's hair. Tori told Laurance that someday when we are in America she wants to be the one to do Lael's hair (We'll see about that later!). So...she watched Laurance at work and little by little began to follow her instructions. It was fun to watch. Tori did not do the whole thing..Lael's sweet head requires 15 pony tails! The whole process takes about 30 minutes. Tori hung around for the whole process and did 3 pony tails herself!!! Posted by Picasa
Tori making her first attempt at following Laurance's directions..it took a few tries but she began to get the hang of it before too long. Tori demonstrated a lot of patience and so did Lael! Way to go girls! Posted by Picasa
Whoops! Don't know if Tori was holding too tight or too loose!
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Trying again with a little help from Laurance Posted by Picasa
Tori is really taking charge at this point!  Posted by Picasa
Tori doing her best to keep Lael entertained while Laurance finishes the job
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A job well done! Posted by Picasa
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Can you see some personality in this face or what? Posted by Picasa
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Timothy is so tired that I stepped right in front of him to take this picture and he hardly blinked. He had just come inside and stopped to watch something on TV Posted by Picasa
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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Today at church, our family was given a gift of oranges. Timothy carried them in from the car. Is this how you carry oranges in from the car? This is the African way! Posted by Picasa
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Our African friends always say that Timothy is a photo copy of Randy. What do you think? Posted by Picasa
Before church this morning... Posted by Picasa
Randy bought these flowers for me last week and they are beautiful. Randy is kind, thoughtful, creative and romantic. I love him so much! Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tori and Bensha had a great day together Posted by Picasa


Today, Kelly and I spent the day in Cotonou with our oldest son, Timothy.  All the other kids stayed back with Laurance and Sossa who were more than happy to watch the kids…we are so blessed with much more than babysitters…they are our Benin family!  Laurance’s daughter, Bensha, also got to come over this afternoon and she and Tori have had a blast together (they are the same age).

We first went to visit a new attorney who will walk alongside of us in this journey of adoption.  Although it is possible to do this independently, we felt in our case it would be best to obtain the services of a lawyer who can facilitate the formalities according to the law and be our representative in the court who will hear our adoption request.  Months ago, we had spoken with another lawyer.  Felt good about him, but something always made me wonder if he was going to be the best for our situation.  But we obtained his name from a list from the American Embassy who had used his services in the past…plus, he was also fluent in English.  But when I called earlier this week to meet with him again (we did only one consultation several months ago), he was out of the country until mid-September.  So that told me God was preparing someone else to take his place!  So we called another name on the list and went to see their offices today.  Turns out it is within walking distance of the Baptist Guesthouse (where we normally stay when we overnight it in Cotonou).  While it turns out most lawyers and the courts are on a 2-month hiatus (some until mid-October), there remained one lawyer who we met with who was super nice and answered every one of our questions.   Although he himself didn’t speak much English, he said there were others (currently on vacation) who did and he assured us that, anytime in the process, if we had difficulty understanding accurately the French, there would be people explaining the process in English.  But the Lord graced us today with complete understanding even in French!  We felt very good about this lawyer we met today.  He was very encouraging about our case and was positive that we wouldn’t have any trouble formalizing the adoption of Lael within a short period of time (at least by the first of next year).  He explained to us the process which lies ahead….while daunting with all its details, it is so thrilling to be on the road of progress and not sitting back and doing nothing.   The Lord is in control and even when we are called to do nothing, He is active in the heavens!  Forgive me Lord for seeing the progress only through my earthly eyes.  God is growing our faith through this process!

Afterward, we drove across town to the Notary’s office.  Today was supposed to be the day for Ega to sign his consent, but like Kelly said yesterday, the Notary herself would need to be present, not just one of her colleagues.  But we stopped by to greet the staff (whom we had not met in person) and to know where their office was located.  When arrived, they invited us in to discuss further the proceedings and how they would go in another week or so when the Notary returns (everyone’s on vacation!)  He clarified that the Notary will return on September 4th, and then subsequent to her return and review of our dossier, she will inform us of the date we can arrive for Ega’s signing (her assistant said it would likely be the 5th or the 6th, or sometime that week).  Speaking of signing, I had asked repeatedly about the need for witnesses to accompany Ega….repeatedly I was told, “No, the father’s signature is all that required.”  But I heard a key word in that response, “father’s signature” that made me ask a follow-up question.  Because of Ega’s disability, he cannot sign his name, but instead affixes his thumbprint as identification (as is common in people with disabilities and with non-literates as well).  So I asked my follow-up and sure enough the answer came back, “Oh, if he cannot sign his name and only uses his thumbprint, then he needs to bring 2 witnesses with him.”  Thank you Lord for the thought to ask!  If not, we might have arrived there on the 5th of next month only to find out he needed witnesses (resulting in yet another delay).  So now we’ll inform Ega about the need to find two witnesses to accompany him on that day.  In both cases today, both with the lawyer and the notary, we were affirmed in our efforts and encouraged regarding everyone’s advocacy on our part.  We were at lunch today and couldn’t stop talking about how much “progress” it felt like we made today….sometimes just information itself, in this country, is advancement!  Without offending our country folks living around us here in rural Benin, it is much easier to progress through things in the larger city where things actually take place according to laws, rules, and procedures.  Out here in the bush, things are done in ways that never seem to make sense to anyone, but that’s the way they are done (as with all the hassles of obtaining Ega’s birth certificate recently).  So as we move out of the rural chaos (I’m sure I’m offending even my own parents who live in rural West Texas…sorry Mom and Dad!), we get more and more clarity about how things are going to progress with Lael’s adoption.  

Simultaneously, we are working on all the necessary formalities for U.S. Immigration…once we get Lael’s adoption finalized, and we are ready for our return to America next year, then we will need to get her an immigrant visa.  But in order for us to be approved to bring our adopted girl into the U.S., we have to be approved by a U.S. adoption agency and that includes the homestudy we asked you to pray about last week.  So in 8 days, our social worker will make his on-site visit here with us and then we will continue our conversations over several weeks.  Once complete, he must submit the homestudy to the approving agency in Texas who will make recommendation to U.S. Immigration regarding our capacity to adopt and to immigrate our adopted daughter into the U.S.   Ten years ago this month, just a couple of weeks after returning from our first ever visit to Benin (1996), Kelly started a job in Abilene (TX) at Christian Homes, an adoption agency.  She worked at that job for 18 months while I worked toward my M.S. degree.  She loved that job…but who knew that a decade later, we’d be reunited with CH.  This week, we are in the process of completing all the necessary paperwork to have Christian Homes (Abilene) be our approving agency in Texas.  What a blessing and what a remarkable convening of our lives with the good people of Christian Homes & Family Services.  They have already been so very helpful to us!

This month marks the time to begin announcing to everyone here of our intended departure next year.  We called together two of our dearest friends, Sossa and Laurance, and told them this past Wednesday night.  It was very emotional and yet we were so impressed with their responses…I know it is overwhelmingly sad for them to hear of our plans to leave Benin in 2007, yet they spoke blessing over our family and told us how they would be praying for us...that for the remainder of our time here, we would enjoy good health and that we would leave with joy in our hearts.  These are the best people in the world!  We will talk to Louise tomorrow (she comes only 2 days a week).  While I can only expect Louise to offer similar thoughts (she is a godly woman with a rock solid faith), please pray for all of these dear friends of ours.    

We are not specifying an exact month/day to them at this time because, in all reality, who really knows!  Probably toward the end of the year, when we have a better idea and more likely to actually be talking of purchasing our airplane tickets, we’ll announce the exact date.  Tomorrow, I will inform our leadership committee as well, and Ega will also hear then as well.  That is not going to be easy to talk to them about.  It is not the first time we’ve ever talked about my departure…we actually all refer to it frequently, but it is “whenever Randy does leave us.”  Tomorrow, “whenever” gets a new name and that will hit hard.  But God has shown us how faithful He is in every step, so we can all know that our Comforting Father is with us all!

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Tonight when we arrived home, Jonathan was in nice clothes and looked so handsome. Randy and I started talking to Sossa and we looked away and in a matter of seconds, Jonathan had jumped into our pool. Timothy decided that was a great idea and he jumped in! They played for awhile and then decided to help Sossa water the grass.
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nothing is ever late

In Africa you must always carry with you the expectation that things might not got as planned.  The Africans have a phrase, “Nothing is ever late” and one must adopt this attitude if you are going to maintain your peace and press on.  

This afternoon the notary’s office in Cotonou called our home. They said upon further investigation of what we were requesting be done, (A Full Adoption of Lael) someone with higher authority must be present.  That person is not available tomorrow and we have now been rescheduled for Monday September 4.  We are thankful for the phone call with this information. Our past experience has been to arrive at an office with the expectation and urgency that something is about to be done, and then be told that we are missing a certain piece of paper or that we have all the necessary documents but the person who needs to witness them or sign them is unfortunately not available today. UGHHH!!!  So, we are very thankful to have received the phone call today.

We already had an appointment arranged tomorrow with our lawyer to discuss the adoption and to make sure that we have a complete understanding of all that we need to be doing in order to make sure Lael’s adoption is secure as soon as possible.  Randy and I are still going to Cotonou for that appointment.  We also plan to stop by the notary’s office and make sure we have all the necessary papers for our meeting on September 4th.

Please continue your prayers for our family. Staying on top of the adoption and all that we need to be doing is at the forefront of our minds.  At the same time we maintain all of our other responsibilities in ministry, in home school, and as parents to 4 precious children.  This is not in any way meant to be a complaint, just a statement that alludes to the sometimes overwhelming, exhausting moments that sneak into our days.  For your encouragement and prayers, we continue to be very thankful.

This morning Jonathan decided it was time for him to start doing what he can to help out around here. Here he is feeding Lael some yogurt. Posted by Picasa
Timothy is not going to be outdone by Laurance! Posted by Picasa
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Jonathan is almost always happy! Posted by Picasa