Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Whole Story - Lystra

(So this has proved to be a very long retelling of our adoption adventure in Malawi. I know I've probably lost many of you by now, but the telling is theraputic, so I'll continue if only just for me.
This is part 7, so if you would like to catch up, just click on the titles for An Intro, Getting There, Meeting Ernest, Still Day One, The Choice, and Annie)
Before following our counsel’s advice to take a step back and away from this most difficult of situations, we welcomed Ernest’s teacher, Lystra, into our guest house for the meeting Annie had promised. When Lystra arrived, it was obvious she had been coached. Though she proved to be a warm and loving person, she was initially hesitant to answer any of our questions. Over and over she said “I can’t talk about that.” (We don’t have too many doubts about who instructed her to keep her mouth shut.) Now Danny and I are pretty conservative as far as our theology goes; rather far removed from any charismatic touchy-feely stuff. However, as we continued to talk with Lystra, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was convicting her of her obligation to tell us the truth about Ernest.
As we sat there with my parents, all five of us in tears, Lystra eventually implored us to think beyond the moment to what our lives would look like many decades down the road. She reiterated what we already knew – Ernest does not talk. She described the time she spends with Ernest one-on-one each day, and how little progress he’s made in even simple tasks like sorting blocks. I think she would have laughed when we told her Annie had described him as a leader in the school if it hadn’t just been so sad. In every way she could think of, without actually saying the words herself, she tried to talk us out of bringing Ernest home – especially when she heard that we already had three children. At the end of the hour she hugged us and prayed such a sweet, tender prayer for us – people she didn’t know “from a can of paint” (her words, which did and do make me smile… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at another paint can without thinking of Lystra!).
When we awoke that morning we were already definitely leaning towards walking away for good. Our conversation with Lystra really just confirmed what we had already concluded on our own. In the weeks since those dreadful two days, when we have replayed the situation in our minds and hearts, we have thanked the Lord for bringing her to us. She loves Ernest. She knows him. She wants what’s best for him. But even she was convinced that leaving him at Kondanoni was the right thing to do. When we’ve wondered whether we were crazy; when we’ve wondered if we were just seeing things; when we wonder if we overreacted… we think back to our conversation to Lystra. She knew the truth, and at great personal risk, she shared the truth with us. I still tear up when I think about the love she expressed to us – complete strangers – knowing what a tremendous impact she might have on our lives, yet also knowing that crossing Annie could have a devastating impact on her life.
We still don't know the effect of that conversation on Lystra's life or position, but we would soon have the opportunity to find out for ourselves how challenging dealing with Annie could be.

(Never mind the tears, lack of make-up, dirty clothes and unshaved faces... just praise the Lord for our angel in the middle!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tummy sandwich

Reagan loves her play kitchen and often goes around the house taking breakfast, lunch and dinner orders. Today I responded that instead of a meal I would love to just eat her up - she's just that cute! Such a request usually gives me the opportunity to tickle her tiny little tummy, but she took me more literally this time. Upstairs she ran to find her wood toast, with which she presented to me this delicious (and adorable!) sandwich:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

At least he's consistent.

Danny's old shirts, meet Danny's new shirts. (In case you can't tell, the old t-shirt is on top, the old polo to the left.) The boy likes what he likes, which I guess is good news for me since he can't trade me in!

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Whole Story - Annie

(Thanks for bearing with me through what has become an incredibly long telling of all that transpired for us in Malawi! This is part 6, so if you need to catch up, just click on the titles for An Intro, Getting There, Meeting Ernest, Still Day One, and The Choice)

The only black spot on Kondanani Children’s Home as far as we’re concerned is its director, Annie. We requested a meeting with her Wednesday evening, December 1st, where she continued to insist that Ernest is a normal, healthy, talking three-year-old. She stood behind her earlier representations to us that he has great leadership potential, is the leader of his nursery school, and regularly talks. (Back in November we were able to have lunch with her here in the States and that was her response to “Tell us more about Ernest.” Additionally, when we first accepted his referral, we were told that he was perfectly healthy, normal, and had only ever needed medical attention for a perceived hip problem). When we gently (by God’s grace!) confronted her with the fact that his nannies said he doesn’t talk at all at home, might have cerebral palsy, and appeared to be older than three, she said that any delays are simply due to the fact that he lives in an institution where the nannies are just in it for the money. Annie then changed her story to insist simultaneously that he speaks at school, and is a late talker (though according to her, not speaking at "three" is not a big deal). Wanting to believe the best, we asked if we might speak with his school teacher. Annie agreed, but wouldn’t send her to see us until the morning.
That night, we hoped we might have the opportunity to make some phone calls to get council from someone a little removed from the situation. We hoped we might be able to use the internet to research Ernest’s needs. But God wanted us to depend on Him. An overwhelming rainstorm engulfed the region, cutting off both cell service and internet access. We were left to discuss the situation with my parents, read, cry and pray. We knew we were weak, tired, and not thinking clearly, so we kept asking ourselves “what would we have done if we’d know the truth before we left?” The answer to that question had come months before. We knew it would have been “no – we can’t adopt this little boy.”
God gave us the grace to sleep a little that night, and we awoke to clear skies, clearer heads and 3 bars worth of cell service. Before we even got out of bed we used that priceless cell phone Kondi had delivered, to call our friend Brian Biedebach in Lilongwe. We knew we’d be waking him up, but we didn’t care. Given the circumstances, neither did he. Brian quickly got in contact with Danny’s parents, our pastor, and some of our closest friends, the Dicks, who are missionaries in Croatia and were living with us this summer when this whole saga began. They were all able to use Skype to call us back and give us love, support and wise counsel. They basically all said the same thing: to leave Ernest or to adopt him – neither option would necessarily be sin. They asked us to consider whether God was challenging us to take on more than we thought we could handle, or if God was just asking us to walk away from something we really really wanted. Perhaps the best advice we received was to walk away - temporarily. Danny’s dad suggested leaving the orphanage for the Biedebachs four hours away, take some time to rest and recover, and perhaps return for our court date the following Monday. That became the plan, but God had ordained a couple of life-changing meetings to take place first.