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"God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." Ephesians 1:5
"We love because he firstloved us." 1 John 4:19

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Did We Choose the Congo? ... we didn't, it chose us

     Well, to allay the suspense, I will say in a nutshell that after much begging and pleading with God to somehow lead us to "the right" children, He spoke!  We were in Uganda at the time, the Democratic republic of Congo's neighbor to the east.  I will unfold the details as we remember them as God shifted our focus from Uganda to the Congo.  Don't miss the journal entries at the bottom, as they reveal the catalyst for change.

     Our original plan was to take steps in the only direction we felt drawn to in our hearts.  Chuck was feeling pretty sure about Uganda as he already had a love for the country and it's recent history.  They have an estimated 3-5 million orphans and had been traumatized by the LRA and the Aids epidemic.  I saw Uganda as a place of great need and had no other place in mind, so we set off to find a reputable Adoption Agency with a Uganda program.  We settled on Lifeline Children's Services out of Birmingham, AL and could not be more pleased!  We shortly thereafter began filling out the mountains of paperwork and making a financial commitment.  Simultaneously, we had the opportunity through Chuck's campus ministry work to accompany a group of 15 Princeton students to Uganda to do mission work and begin gathering information and experience for developing a long-term relationship and ministry and service work among them.  We were thrilled to go along and thought... maybe we will even meet our children there and then know who to adopt!  I also was hoping for more clarity because I was still spending many days and nights wondering what didn't feel right.  Were we doing the right thing?  We prayed many times that this trip would help form for me some attachment to the people and country of Uganda and that I would gain a peace and excitement about Ugandan adoption.  From the time the plane landed in Entebbe, the very opposite happened.  I began feeling very uneasy and an inexplicable feeling of "this doesn't fit".  I did gain a deep love and appreciation for the beautiful and exuberant people of Uganda.  But, as far as adoption was concerned, each day felt more like our children weren't here.  We were learning on a moment by moment basis that the Ugandan people were making great strides to care for their own orphans and considered international adoption a last resort.  In a country where 70% of the population is under 30 years old, many Ugandans are courageously taking up the mantle of caring for these orphans and see them as the future of their own country.  We saw astounding projects and children's homes caring for tens of thousands of orphans.   Meanwhile, I was taking every opportunity to form bonds and relationships with the beautiful people of Uganda.  And this I did with great joy.  Despite their daily struggle, there is a characteristic "Ugandan smile" that has enough wattage to light up any dark place.  Our time in Africa became for us a paradox of gracious welcome and unity among our new Ugandan friends alongside our own inner struggle and confusion concerning the adoption.

Living Hope - a ministry dedicated to help restore dignity to women either HIV+ or war effected
This little boy was roaming around outside at about 10pm.  He came with me, spoke not a word of English, and snuggled in my lap for over an hour before he headed back outside.  Where was he going I wonder?

Who says I don't belong here?  A fabulous group of University students who lavished us with love.

This little boy from one of the Watoto Children's Villages was so very proud to show off his dominoes.

An impressive 8 yr old girl with a heart the size of Africa itself.  She could do anything we could do!

Where are their mommies and daddies?  Double time for Chuck today!
These Ugandan babies are fortunate enough to be in the Watoto Church "system".  They will be placed in a Watoto village which provides a permanent home with a widow as "MaMa" and cared for through college.  All supported by the local church!

One of Watoto's babies' homes.  GENIUS.

     As you can see, we loved our time with our Ugandan friends.  All the while, something just was not right.  It was like Chuck and I both had gates over our hearts saying "these are not your children".  Though it was easy to just love on the children in front of us, we felt lost and a bit unsettled.  Where are we going?!  Three days before the end of our time in Uganda, God broke through and answered in an unexpected way.  Below are excerpts of my journal entry of what we now understand was God's hand reaching into our lives to bring us to the children He intended for us all along.  They weren't in Uganda, but right next door.  Our own "Macedonian Call" ( Acts 16:6-10 ) was the catalyst to our shift from Ugandan adoption to Congolese Adoption.  In this passage, Paul saw a face and was told a place and the same thing happened to me! I too saw a face and was told a place!

Journal Excerpts recording the events that led to an undeniable shift to the Congo, aka "Zaire"!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011  "So many vascilating thoughts about adoption, particularly Ugandan adoption these past several days.  Been praying for the Lord's good and perfect will to be accomplished no matter what.  I had a great time with the Lord this morning early before others awoke.  He gently and kindly revealed to me that I haven't been trusting Him.  His ways are always good! He is fully trustworthy.  I have no need to worry or be anxious..."

Thursday, August 25  "Last night, Wednesday, we prayed with our dear friend and student, Sabrina.  We were praying specifically (at her offer) for the Lord's guidance in leading us to potential Hetzler adopted children.  As we prayed I saw a picture of a girl in my mind.  I am not certain this was from God but I will record it.  It was a picture with motion at the beginning (like live action video a few seconds, maybe 5).  This little girl was so beautiful, sitting in the back of what I understood to be a wagon.  There were other children in front of her and she was squeezed in the back but I only saw her. She was darker than us, possibly even light/golden skinned black.  She had beautiful brown eyes ... and her hair was very dark.  She was smiling and laughing and I remembered thinking she IS the right fit, she BELONGS with us.  Even though I think she could be mixed or a different nationality, brown skin, she somehow"belonged".  She was about 4 years old.
     She could still be Ugandan but her features were not much like what we have seen here and her skin was not the same color.  So we are wanting to remain patient and wait on the Lord.  I also remembered wondering "where is your brother?" and kind of looking to see him but she was close up and I could only see her.  I got the impression that he could have been near by but I'm not sure.  She had striking brown eyes and a very round face.  We have prayed lots that God would lead the way.  We know that what He has for us is right and good and we certainly don't want ANYTHING but that!  His ways are unsearchable and He is so good and loving and kind."

Thursday, August 25th pm  "Well, I'm here on the bed in Kampala, Uganda under the mosquito nets listening to the soothing beating of rain outside our open window, trying to piece together crazy bits from this crazy day.  This entire day has seemed very long and we even contacted our travel agent to see if we could move our flight up a day sooner.  Kampala is pretty filthy and the air is difficult and even painful to breathe at times. 
    I have much less peace bordering on discomfort.  Uganda feels wrong for adoption for our family.  Instead of clarity, there has been confusion.  Instead of confirmation, Ugandans really desire and work toward keeping their own orphans in their own country...
    On the flip side of things, one thing I did not mention with the vision of the girl was that the country/word "Zaire" also came to mind, more than once.  I know nothing about Zaire and hesitated to mention it to Chuck because it seems so wierd, crazy, out there and the most significant event was the vision.   I didn't want him (or me) to discount the vision for the craziness of a random "Zaire" popping into my head.  Eventually I couldn't stop thinking about Zaire and blurted out to Chuck "where's Zaire?"  He wasn't sure but he looked at a map (later of his own volition) and learned that Zaire was the former name of the DRC - Democratic Republic of Congo. 
     We spent all day kind of moping around, feeling lost and out of place, and discouraged that we had had a plan and now we don't.  Still adopt?  Domestic? How do we know?"

     Chuck suggested that we ask God if He in deed was speaking to us, that He would confirm.  So, we prayed and He confirmed twice in the same day!
  • We went back to Lifeline Adoption Agency's web-site to explore other options.  To our shock, alongside the Uganda and Ethiopia programs was now listed CONGO.  Chuck kept hitting refresh and I was wondering if I was still in the twilight zone.  Was I seeing this for real or seeing it in my head as I had seen the girl and understood that she was in Zaire?  When we returned to the states we called the agency and were told that they had been working on a Congo program for months and had just posted it that week.
  • As we looked at pictures on the internet of Congolese children versus Ugandan children, there are distinctly different characteristics.  I was floored and my eyes teared up many times as I saw different facial features that matched that of the little girl in my vision.  There is also a distinctive "Congolese eye" that is undeniable.
Still, this was a big change to be made and we wanted to give it some time to settle before making the change for sure.  After we had been home for a few days, we called our agency and made the change.  By God's blessing, had we been successful in completing our home-study before leaving for Africa, we would have been country specific and locked into Uganda.  By God's grace, though we tried, our agency representative was booked for final interviews until we returned from our trip.  The final confirmation was in my heart.  Ever since that day in Uganda, the uncertainty about the adoption has gradually come to an end.  I was realizing that this was meant to be.

We live in a natural world and we are accustomed to the natural.  When the supernatural reaches in, we don't always know how to recognize it.  I now understand that God was being kind in whispering Zaire rather than Congo because I would have always wondered if the Congo was my own idea.  Since I knew nothing of Zaire, I know I didn't come up with it!  I laugh at how well my Father knows me and loves me enough to use my weaknesses to reveal His plan.  We pray because we believe God answers.  Our faith is not a religion but a relationship with the God who is our Father and the Father to the Fatherless.  Now we believe even more and recognize that the supernatural Creator and Sustainer has indeed reached in and changed the course of our lives and the lives of 2 precious orphans in the Congo who are awaiting a home.

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