Friday, May 8, 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plane

The last few days I've had two songs that are constantly in my head....."Leaving on Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul & Mary (or John Denver depending on who you like better) and Leann Rimes' "One Way Ticket"....

"leaving on a jet plane....don't know when I'll be back again...."
"bought a one way ticket on an [east] bound [plane]..." (I just change Leann's lyrics a little to fit our situation!)

In case you haven't guessed already, our flights are booked!!!  And yes, they are one-way tickets!!!!  After a lot of thought and prayer, we are planning (Lord willing) for our whole family to stay in Ethiopia until we are able to bring "A" home, instead of breaking it up into 2 trips!!  (Some of you know, Jon's parents are coming too, but they do have return tickets!)

On May 6, we received the call from AWAA that we had been assigned a court date for June 4, which meant we needed to be in Ethiopia by June 1!  Most of the rest of that day was spent emailing & calling a travel agent, who found us good deals on tickets for May 29.

May 29 = Jon's Birthday, and also the 1 year anniversary of accepting A's referral!

God's timing = wow!

So, our basic schedule is.....May 29 leave from Harrisburg to Dulles to Addis Ababa.  We will arrive on the 30th, at 7-something Ethiopian time.  We will be able to visit with A at our agency's Transition Home each day, and then after we pass court on the 4th, we will have full custody of him, and he will come live with us at the guest house.  Typically it takes 3-5 weeks after court to gather the needed documents to submit to Embassy.  Once we submit to embassy, it will be several days and then we will be able to come home.  We have no way of knowing how long we will be in Ethiopia, which is kind of scary but we are trusting God has a plan for that too!

Here are a few things we would love you to be praying about....

*Because of our longer stay, we needed to apply for a different type of visa - so right now, we have no passports :)  They should make it back in plenty of time, but it just gives me an uneasy feeling!

*"A" needs to have some medical testing done and have the right results in order to come home!  If the results are not what we anticipate, it would delay things many more months and of course our plans would drastically change.

*Our fingerprints expire mid-July.  I have talked to our officer at USCIS and she told me she would resubmit our fingerprints.  I am anxiously awaiting something in the mail that would tell us if she was able to resubmit our last fingerprints or if that is something we will need to get done before we leave.

*Pray for our little guy's heart.  We know he is SO excited to come to America and have a family, but please, always remember that adoption begins with huge losses, and is really bittersweet.  We are excited about all the time we will have while still in Ethiopia to bond & attach before we come home to life in America.

*There are so many little things that need to be done before we leave, even silly things like hanging pictures on his walls and buying him shoes, that I was expecting to have time to do in-between trips.  Pray that all the little things come together!  :)

*And of least a month in Ethiopia?!  Honestly it's a dream come true for me.  But there are definitely lots of obvious prayer requests that go along with it, especially when considering there will be 5 of us!

Thanks so much for your continued prayers! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The News We Have Been Waiting For!

It's hard to really describe what the last several weeks (or even months) have been like for our family.  Trusting in God, most definitely.....feeling a peace.....yes, 95% of the time.  But hard.  Emotional, stressful, draining, doubting, wondering, waiting, wishing, without an end in sight.  Sleepless nights, or at the very least - waking up in the middle of the night, realizing what time it was in Ethiopia, and praying.  The burden I had to pray in the middle of the night was unbelievable!!  Towards the end of last week we heard from another dear family in very much the same situation as us that they received a new MOWCYA date, and it wasn't until May 27.  We knew that if we received a negative from our 4/6 date, that our new date would not be until May 27 or later.  We also knew that all the paperwork we had redone had made it to Ethiopia, but was not yet in the hands of MOWCYA - meaning that it was likely we would be getting a negative on our review if it happened anytime soon.

We had decided earlier that we needed a little family getaway - a respite from all the stress, so we planned a weekend to the Frederick & Hagerstown areas.  We had SO much fun - swimming in the hotel pool, exploring beautiful Frederick (everything you see on this bridge is PAINTED....the ivy, the gate, even the bricks!),
 eating yummy Cuban food,

 Going to a minor league baseball game,
 (where it just happened to be Star Wars Day),

and Carly won the stadium Smile Cam prize....

playing games back at the hotel room, and then exploring Antietam National Battlefield and the surrounding area.  It was a FUN, stress-free family weekend and such a blessing to us.  We almost dreaded coming back to real life!!

Monday morning around 10 my phone rang.  Glanced to see who was calling and it was AWAA.  I was filled with 99% dread and 1% hope, especially since we had just been told the previous week that our letter would most likely be negative.  Then to my astonishment, Lauren told me that she had some good news for us - MOWCYA had written us a positive recommendation.  Even WITHOUT our new paperwork being there.  It was AMAZING the weight that if I could actually feel it!  There were 2 minor issues (not concerns) - the MOWCYA director was not in the office so our file was still lacking her signature.....and the judge was not in his office, so we couldn't be assigned a court date.  No matter - we knew our letter was positive!!!!!  It was so exciting to start telling people the good news!!!  I called Jon right away, and couldn't wait until after school to tell Jackson, so Carly & I took him lunch :)  We have been floating on Cloud 9 ever since.

This morning I received an email saying that the MOWCYA director's signature has been obtained, and our file was given to the court!  We are waiting for the judge to return, and then we will be assigned a court date - most likely in June.  Just in case you didn't realize, COURT = TRAVEL!!!!!  We couldn't be more excited and thankful to be meeting our son SOON!!!!!  Thank you, Lord!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Updating our Timeline

Just so I can keep track of all that's been going on recently, I'm going to do a little timeline update.  You probably already know that we did not get MOWCYA approval on March 6.  Here's what's been happening since....

3/6 - 2nd MOWCYA Date - received an email from AWAA saying that MOWCYA is closed - no reasons why or dates when they will be back
3/9 - MOWCYA is back open, but behind on their files
3/17 - email from AWAA saying that due to MOWCYA writing negative letters for families, we need to update more paperwork - birth certificates, marriage license, employment letter, unemployment letter, financial statement, and get a few others certified
3/24 - sent all documents to AWAA, also found out we received a negative letter from MOWCYA, but not for any of the reasons we were expecting.  The problem has been fixed and we have been assigned a new MOWCYA date.
4/17 - all documents have their certifications & authentications and are on their way to Ethiopia.....will they be needed in order to receive a positive letter??  Only time will tell!

Praise God that He continues to give us comfort & peace through this very discouraging time.  One verse that I have been repeating over & over is Proverbs 21:1.....I may have taken some liberty with changing a word or two, but the meaning remains the same :)  "MOWCYA's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases."

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The past several weeks have been difficult and frustrating.  Knowing that at any point we could be hearing about a new MOWCYA date, I was literally checking my email every 15 minutes.  The anticipation mounted each time quickly followed by disappointment.  While many families in our agency were hearing of new dates or approvals being written, we hadn't heard ANY updates.  Many times I wondered if MOWCYA had somehow lost our paperwork!!! 
This past Wednesday, we were able to pray with our small group.  I woke up Thursday feeling like a brand new person, KNOWING that God was going to be doing something!!!  I rejoiced to hear from a friend who finally got their new MOWCYA date (I had just prayed for them as well as us earlier in the day), and by the end of the day, I was still rejoicing for them although had a slight tinge of jealousy since we didn't hear any good news.  Thursday evening I took some friends grocery shopping and asked them to be praying.  They were such an encouragement, reminding me that NOTHING is too hard for God!!!  The next day, the kids had a 2 hour delay.  I happened to check my email before school (for the first time in forever not thinking about hearing an update) and there it was!!!!!! 

The news we have been waiting to hear for several months!!! 

Along with several other families from our agency, we have a MOWCYA date for March 6!!!!  

Just 2 weeks away!!

There are no guarantees, and so far not much as gone smoothly with our process!  BUT, if things do go as planned, and MOWCYA approves us on that day, we should hear about a court date by the following week.  We could travel soon after that.  To summarize -----> we *should* be meeting our son in March!!!!

Please continue to pray that MOWCYA would approve our paperwork on March 6 or before!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quick PAIR Update

Just wanted to give a very quick update -- the Embassy interview went smoothly on 1/14!  The very next day we received an email from Embassy that the i-604 investigation was complete.  We were told it could take 1-2 weeks for our PAIR letter to arrive, but we were thrilled to receive it 1/20.  What does this all mean?  We have been CLEARED on the United States side of things.  We are waiting on only ONE thing - MOWCYA approval. 
Our original MOWCYA date was back on 10/29.  It did not happen that day, and instead we were made aware of several documents we needed to redo and resubmit.  Since then, we have not heard of a new MOWCYA date.  Many other families from our agency have had theirs, so we are hopeful we hear something soon.  We have no sense of a timeline, because EVERYTHING is contingent on MOWCYA.  If the review date is soon, and they approve, we could travel 1-2 weeks after that!!!!  We are praying that we hear something soon!  Please join us!  We so badly want to meet our sweet A!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Latest

It's been almost 3 months since my last blog update, and since then we have had to re-do more documents, pay more bills, and mostly just continue to "hurry up and wait."  In an effort to keep this update somewhat short, I'll just do a timeline of sorts of what's been going on.  To make things easier to understand, keep in mind that anything to do with "PAIR" involves the investigations on the part of the United States, and anything with "MOWCYA" deals with the Ethiopia side of things.

11/1/14 - Received an RFE (Request for Evidence) from USCIS.
11/19/14 - MOWCYA is requiring new POA (Power of Attorney) paperwork that needs to be notarized, state certified, and authenticated.  We immediately got it notarized and sent it to be state certified.
11/25/14 - our new POA arrived at our agency.  They take it to the State Department & Ethiopian Embassy to be authenticated.
12/2/14 - received a grant from the RubyMyles Fund!!!!
12/5/14 - POA sent to Ethiopia
12/10/14 - documents needed for RFE received and immediately printed off & sent to USCIS
12/21/14 - received our updated i-171h (this had expired in mid-November) - need to notarize, certify, & authenticate a copy.
12/23/14 - received notification of PAIR filing - our case has moved to Embassy
1/2/15 - received certified i-171h and sent to agency to be authenticated.
1/5/15 - received request from Embassy to set up interview with relinquishing relative/finder.
           - also received notice that MOWCYA is requesting another new document - agency's commitment to post-placement services.  This is something that our agency's Pennsylvania office will fill out & get notarized.  MOWCYA is not requiring us to certify & authenticate this!!
1/6/15 - notified that Embassy interview will take place 1/14.
           - also on 1/6, received notice that MOWCYA is also requesting new application letters.  We needed to write a new letter & have it notarized, but do not need to certify & authenticate.  MOWCYA is allowing copies (for a limited time) so we can scan it immediately to AWAA.
1/10/15 - Travel vaccines
1/12/15 - received notarized Agency Commitment to Post Adoption Services, scanned & emailed to AWAA.

That pretty much brings us up to date!  Lots of redoing documents, which always means lots of money!  We are so thankful that our grant from the RubyMyles Fund covered it all!  And isn't it neat that we found out about it on the 3rd anniversary of when all our paperwork was originally sent to Ethiopia?  :)

Our i-171h is in the process of being authenticated, and should be on it's way to Ethiopia on Friday!  We are still waiting to hear when our MOWCYA date will be rescheduled from it's original date of 10/29. 

TOMORROW, at 5am our time (1pm Ethiopian time) a very important interview will be taking place at the US Embassy in Ethiopia.  If all goes well and no RFEs are requested, we could be completing the PAIR process within the next 1-2 weeks!  We are very cautiously optimistic that we will hear good news tomorrow, but there is always a possibility an interview will not be able to take place.  Please pray along with us that a favorable interview happens tomorrow! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

In reality, we know that all things are working together for good in our adoption process!  But some days are easier than others.

There are 3 things that need to happen before we can go to Ethiopia for our court date:  
1)  Letter from MOWCYA (Ministry of Women, Children & Youth Affairs), 
2)  Birth Relative/Finder Interview
3)  PAIR letter

The first 2 are things that need to happen on the Ethiopian government side of things, and the PAIR process is US.  We were finally submitted to PAIR 9/29.  So far we have not heard any updates.  We are hopeful that we will at least hear that we have been assigned an officer soon. 

A few weeks ago, we heard from our agency that the first two things had been scheduled for 10/29!  Even though we were told approximately 40% of people do not get the MOWCYA letter on the first try, our hopes were high!  Especially because it also meant there was a *very slight* possibility we would not need to renew our i-171h, saving us over $700.  Things were finally moving!!!  (I even bought "A" a Christmas stocking yesterday......just in case!)

Unfortunately, our excitement was short-lived.  We started hearing rumors, and then our agency confirmed, that all MOWCYA are involved in a meeting that started October 20.  It is anticipated that these officials will be back in their offices the first week of November.  However, during these meetings no MOWCYA letters have been written.  Along with this information, AWAA provided us with new information that MOWCYA is going to be changing the way they write these important recommendation letters....

"MOWCYA announced a new procedure regarding recommendation letters that we would like to explain.  Previously, recommendation letters were written following the review of a case by a single MOWCYA expert.  Due to concerns about the thoroughness of the review, a new system is now in place that requires multiple MOWCYA experts to review a family’s case in order to write recommendation letters.  The Director of MOWCYA must also approve all recommendation letters.  Once the recommendation letter has been approved it can then be released to the court in order for the adoptive family court date to be issued.  MOWCYA hopes this new procedure will result in more comprehensive reviews of adoption paperwork and reduce the likelihood of unethical processes."

And then of course.....  "The new procedure of writing and approving recommendation letters will lengthen the time it takes for them to be issued.  This is due in part to the schedule of MOWCYA’s Director, as her duties require that she attend regular meetings and trainings throughout Ethiopia."

We are happy - really honestly happy - that Ethiopia continues to take steps to make sure adoptions are ethical!!!  Terrible, horrible things can happen in the world of adoption.  We are so thankful to be adopting from a country who loves and cares for their children so much that they are continually improving their adoption regulations.  We know that ultimately God is in control of all timing!!  Sometimes though, monthly updates are just not enough.  We just want our boy home.