Monday, May 23, 2011

The Whole Story - the End!

Now that we’re nearly six months removed from the beginning of our ill-fated adventures in Sub-Saharan Africa, I figure it’s time I finally start wrapping things up.  I’ve told most of the story starting here, and ending here at the point where we left the orphanage that was home to the boy we thought would be our son.  What I’ve neglected to relate are the specifics of just how well God cared for and protected us through what was and is a very difficult trial. 
Looking back, we wonder at the ways God protected us from Annie, the dishonest orphanage director.  Though our initial concerns about the adoption centered around whether we felt equipped to parent a child with Ernest’s level of needs, we quickly realized that the real question was whether we could complete an ethical adoption of any child with her in control.  Annie was our only link to the lawyer, the courts, and Ernest’s surviving family.  She obstinately and repeatedly asserted that a boy who cannot utter a sound was a talker and a leader.  She maintained that a boy clearly exhibiting many signs of Cerebral Palsy was perfectly healthy.   She never waived from her obvious lies, even when those who know Ernest best contradicted her.  If she was willing to lie about what we could see, what else had she lied about?  Had she bribed officials?  Had she really obtained the necessary consent from Ernest’s uncles and aunts?  Had she told them the truth about what adoption would mean?  Had she told us the truth about the results of Ernest’s HIV tests?  There was just so much we began to doubt once we realized we couldn’t trust Annie.  God protected us through her refusal to make any other child available to us for adoption.  He protected our wallet when she refusing to meet with us on the night we were to pay her for her services and those of the lawyer.  And He even protected us through the loss of our cell phone shortly after leaving the orphanage.  (We later found out she tried frantically to contact us that day… but oddly hasn’t initiated any contact since.)
Another evidence of God’s grace lay at the end of the road away from the orphanage:  our dear friends, Brian and Anita Biedebach.  In our moment of need we had a home to go to, friends to hug, and their children to love on.  They loved us in such practical ways, opening their home to us and preparing one of the most delightful meals we’ve ever had.  We arrived at their house in Lilongwe on Thursday afternoon, December 2nd, and we really hadn’t eaten a meal since leaving Los Angeles the previous Saturday.  Anita prepared what she knew from Danny’s previous visits to Malawi to be his favorite dishes, and while the food was very tasty, it was the love contained therein that made it especially delicious.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to eat Malva pudding again without tearing up at the thought of their kindness towards us. 
We were able to stay with the Biedebachs for 2 nights and then moved down the street to the home of another missionary family from our church, the Floreens, to make room for Anita’s family who were gathering in from around the world to spend a rare Christmas together.  Matt and Rachel welcomed us without hesitation, though they could barely distinguish us from Adam.  Unbeknownst to them and us at the time, they’d be stuck with us for another two weeks!  There are only 5 flights a week out of Malawi, and there was no room for us on any of them.  Despite our best, and sometimes desperate, efforts, we were forced to return home on our original flights, scheduled for December 19th.  But even in that, we can see God’s amazing grace towards us.  We spent those two weeks seeing and enjoying Africa - an opportunity we never would have taken if not forced.  Though some of the hardest days of our lives were lived out in Africa, we also made some of our happiest memories there.  (I’ll later post pictures of some of the wonders we experienced.)        
Another of His graces in the fact we were “stranded” was the realization that Alyssa, Parker and Reagan were not missing us one bit.  I was somewhat miserable at times, wishing that since I could not hug and bond to Ernest, I could at least cuddle the three precious treasures God had already blessed us with.  But He had other plans – plans to comfort me without their aid, and plans to give our children a very special three weeks with their grandparents.  Papa and Tilly volunteered to move in to our home in our absence and the kids were beside themselves with excitement.  I truly think they all would have been disappointed if we had come home early, and looking back, I would have been too.
Our marriage was yet another recipient of God’s grace and mercy.  Trials like this could easily tear a marriage apart, but our hearts were knit even closer.  We were in agreement throughout this process and we’ve never blamed one another for any of the hurt (yet another reason to be glad I didn’t nag Danny into a 2nd adoption!).  Our only conflict was over whether we should go home if given the opportunity.  I wanted to go home; he didn’t.  As it turns out it didn’t matter, but my heart was quickly pricked by Scripture to submit to Danny, and Danny was gently encouraged by a friend to love me no matter the cost.  What started with conflict became another opportunity for our marriage to be grown.
There’s really no end to what could be said about the ways God demonstrated His love towards us.  We even see His grace in all that He’s allowed us to forget in these succeeding months.  But it can all be summed up in the song we sang that first Friday morning in Lilongwe, during chapel at African Bible College.  I will never be able to forget the way we worshipped, singing these lyrics from the depths of our broken hearts: 

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name

There was indeed great pain in the offering, but by His grace, we chose to bless His name on that road marked with suffering, even when He took away the thing we wanted most. 

4 comments:

A Complete Thought said...

My heart praises God with you for His blessings abundant even in dark trial and hardship. He is always good to those whom He loves. Ernest has not left the Father's sovereign control and that is also another reason for praising His Name. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably all that happened.

Laura said...

An excellent point Elle. We are SO grateful we left Ernest in excellent care and pray that he will know real love both from his caretakers and his heavenly Father.

By the Brook said...

Absolutely, He is in COMPLETE control! We love you guys so much.

Leveta said...

Laura:
So glad that the Lord placed people in your lives to comfor and guide you all through this difficult time.I know your hearts are probably still tender and I will continue to lift you all up in prayer.Praying also for Ernest and that he continues to get loving care with his care takers.
Leveta