Uganda Update: One Month In!

I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long…partly out of uncertainty of what to say, and partly because of fear. Fear because of what people will think; fear due to the openness of the internet, and I don’t want anything I share to negatively impact our case in any way. We are being closely scrutinized here, and even behind a locked hotel room door, Nate and I must be very careful of every little thing we say and do, as to protect our case, protect our baby, protect our family. But now, with a softball-sized sprained ankle propped up in front of me, and nothing but time to burn in our future, I felt like it was probably the right moment to begin sharing at least a snapshot of where we are. I’ve been praying God would give me the right words to share, and I want you to know that the majority of the details we have gone through will never be posted publicly online, for safety reasons.

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We have been here in Uganda officially one month and 2 days. And everything that has happened since we got here has been 100% different from what I expected. Day 1, we went to visit the orphanage Kellen had been living in, and within a matter of 10 minutes, to our surprise, we were whisked away again in the van, driving away with a fear-frozen, non-English-speaking 3-year old boy sitting on my lap, him forever leaving the place and the people he has known for much of his short life. Fast forward to just 3 days later, we were in court (Big Step #1 of the in-country adoption process), pleading our case before the judge. And again, to our surprise, the judge asked zero questions of either Nate or I (miracle!!), only speaking to our lawyer and the orphanage director for confirmation of the investigations and paperwork that has been worked on for the past 2 years. One week later, we were given another miracle: the judge ruled in our favor, and we were legal guardians of our son, Kellen Dembe Bradley!!! Thank You, God!!!

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With that step behind us, we began Big Step #2: getting Kellen’s passport. I’m trying to forever block out of my memory the muddy outdoor passport “office”, and the Disneyland-like lines of people wrapping around inside the enclosed premises, just waiting to get the same thing we were: a Ugandan passport. The weapons-drawn, bouncer-sized, uniformed guards made sure that everyone was right exactly where they were supposed be, even when it meant shoving us together onto benches like sardines. The first time we went, we found out as soon as we got there, that they had “lost” Kellen’s passport photos, and so at a gas station across the street, a random guy attempted for 30 minutes to take another set of photos for us to use. Praises to God that the new photos were accepted, that we only had to go to the “office” twice, and were able to get that precious little blue book in about a week’s time.

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Big Step #3 (Kellen’s birth certificate) was much more of a challenge to obtain. Right now, there is a country-wide protest against abandoned Ugandan children leaving the country…one way that government officials are preventing the children from leaving, is by refusing to sign their birth certificates. Our certificate travelled to different offices, our lawyer pushing at each one for a clerk’s official signature. Day after discouraging day passed, important appointments had to be cancelled and rescheduled, because that single sheet of paper was required of us, in order to do anything more. Again, to God only be the glory, one clerk did finally sign the certificate, and we were once again able to proceed. 

Big Step #4, the IOM medical examination, passed in a few days without too much fuss, just plenty of hours of waiting.

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And here’s where we are now, at Big Step #5: the U.S. Embassy appointment, to get what we need to finally bring our family home: Kellen’s visa. We know we need at least 2 appointments at the Embassy before they will issue Kellen a visa: an appointment to file paperwork (essentially just a set time for us to go there and drop off paperwork), and a 2nd appointment for a visa interview. Then from there, they will tell us what they want us to do to proceed. They may need nothing more, or they may choose to do additional investigations. We just don’t know until we get there. About a week ago we applied for an appointment to go file our paperwork, and due to how backed up the Embassy is right now, our filing date is not until January 21st (Ack!!). Which means that the remaining appointment(s) will be sometime after that date.

 

Once we found out that we were still a full month away from our filing date, we felt…discouraged, to say the least. An entire month full of…just waiting? We have no other responsibilities, no other requirements to be done before that time. We talked to our lawyer about the possibility of petitioning to get an earlier date, but she said that we should just feel thankful we got an appointment at all, since other families who have been here longer than us, are still waiting to hear about getting their appointments. So, I guess when you put it that way, we do feel very thankful that we do have a set appointment time. But at the same time, we still are very much struggling with this wait…Like I said, we’ve been here over a month, and already we are just aching with everything inside of us to get home. Many Ugandans have been so kind and welcoming to us, but others have been…exactly the opposite. People here do not like to see Americans coming and adopting Ugandan children, and they have made that crystal clear. We are staying in an itty bitty hotel room (with so many breakable things!) with a crazy active 3 year old, and it’s a challenge to say the least! I’m not sure if this is only a cultural difference (but it is still so frustrating!!), but we have had hotel staff here just barge right into our closed hotel room during tantrums to pick up our screaming child, thinking we are somehow treating him horribly…when in reality, Kellen is a 3-year old (still definitely in tantrum central-stage!), who has left all things comfortable for him, is still figuring out what it’s like parents for the first time, has never had real boundaries before, and even though he’s quickly learning English and we’re learning his language—still has a language barrier! So (extremely loud!!) tantrums are to be expected…and we’ve already had about 69 of them today, and it’s only noon! (His last tantrum lasted 20 minutes, and was because the Velcro latch on his shoe came undone! So he just gets frustrated easily, but his life has been the opposite of stable up until this point)…his poor tummy gets upset a lot with all the foods he’s not used to having, but we don’t have a kitchen, and the hot plate we brought caught fire the first time we used it, so we’re at the mercy of the hotel or ordering out for all our meals…and we don’t really get a choice most days on what we get to eat. Yes, there are things to do around town, but getting a driver to take us places is quite expensive (like it was $30 just to get a driver to take us to church not far away), and we’re doing our best to stretch our dollars so they last for the remainder of our trip…so most days we just spend in our room, and when it’s not raining (it’s rainy season here), we can play in a little grass area in front of the hotel. My life verse: My heart and my flesh may fail, but the Lord is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26), has become the verse for this Uganda trip for me as well. God’s got this entire thing, for sure…no matter what happens. He’s walked with us this far, and will continue to walk us through what is ahead…even when I don’t quite understand everything that is happening.

 

There have been frustrating times for sure, but we truly have so much to be grateful for…a wonderful adoptive family lives just down the hall from us, and another lives just down the road; both with similar experiences to ours, so it has been such a blessing to be able to spend time with them everyday. God has provided miracles all throughout this process, and we are blown away by His power and the way He truly is involved in all the little everyday details of our lives. Kellen is learning more and more English with each passing day, he has such a happy and playful spirit, he is attaching with Nate and I so well, and is finally starting to interact and play with the other kids. We love him so much.

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We do have many prayer requests on our hearts right now, and we’d like to invite you to pray with us as well:

  1. That God would give us wisdom to be the parents He wants us to be.
  2. That God would heal Kellen of past trauma, and that He would give us wisdom to help him through this healing process.
  3. That Kellen would continue to bond, connect with, and trust us as his parents; that he would know that even though his location or surroundings may change, that Nate and I are constants that he can now count on to meet his needs.
  4. That God would give us favor in the eyes of the US Embassy, and that we would be able to obtain Kellen’s visa and come home SOON!
  5. That God would provide the means for us to stay here, and help us stretch our dollars, as Nate has to take so much time off from work.

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I apologize for how long this post was…like I said, I should have done this earlier, so there wasn’t so much to write about now! One more thing: Many of you have asked about the little girl we were working towards adopting, and I am so sorry to say that we will not be able to adopt her. God’s plans are higher than our plans, and His ways than our ways…so even though we don’t always understand the big picture, we can be sure that He DOES! And we thank Him every day for that.

 

Thank you all for your loving and constant support throughout this process!!

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