Nov 16, 2008

HOMESTUDY IS HERE!!! I600A on its way!

Finally!!! We received our revised homestudy, YAY!!! We had a complete homestudy since February 2008, but when we changed countries from Liberia to Ghana we had to have our homestudy completely updated. Then we added Comfort to our group, so it was a good thing we were in the process of getting our homestudy updated because our social worker was able to change the number of children from 2 to 3 at the same time.
Also, interestingly, we had been expecting our homestudy in the mail for days but it had still not arrived. On Wednesday I was talking on the phone to my friend Laurel when our homestudy arrived. I mentioned that I was going to mail our I600A form right away and she told me not to mail it because it would take a few months and if we went to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) in person it would only take 2 weeks. If we would have received our homestudy the day before, I would have already mailed it! We then would have been stuck for a couple months! Thank you Laurel!!!
So, I went online to find out how to visit the USCIS and it looked to me like you have to have an appointment, but I called Laurel back and she told me that they went without an appointment a year ago, (she even had an email from them saying that you don't really have to have an appointment) so we decided to take a road trip the next day (3 hours each way). Both Mark and Kelcey were off work that day (we all needed to be fingerprinted) so it worked out perfect! Of course being the research person that I am, I continued to try to figure out if we really needed an appointment so I emailed the USICS and I called and left a message for our social worker. Neither of them got back to me so away we went.
When we arrived at the USCIS we were met at the door by a very 'secure' security guard who obviously liked his job of guarding the entrance. Of course you can guess what he said. Yeah, "you need an appointment". I explained that we just drove 3 hours and couldn't they make an exception and he said "wait here" and disappeared into his totally secure building. We began to pray, pray, pray that God would work this out and the security guard came back to the door and told us to come in. YAY!!! So all 6 of us filed through the door, filled up his tub with our cellphones, wallets and all the contents of our pockets and then passed through the metal detector. We were told to go to the counter and the nice lady behind the counter would help us. When we got to the counter the lady behind the counter asked us if we had an appointment. GRRR. No, I explained, we do not have an appointment but the nice security guard told us that you would help us, can you? As she typed away at her computer trying to figure out how to get our names in without an appointment (and mumbling the whole time, "you really need an appointment, this is not going to work, all my spots are booked, nope can't do it") we prayed, prayed, prayed! All of a sudden she looked surprised and said "Oh, how did that happen? Hmmm, why did it let me over book?" BECAUSE GOD WANTS THIS ADOPTION TO GO THROUGH AND GO THROUGH QUICKLY!!! That's why!
So, we were in and out in 20 minutes, our I600A is all filed, fingerprints are done and it should be back in a couple weeks instead of a couple months.
By the way, right when we left the USCIS office our social worker called us on our cell phone to tell us not to drive there without an appointment because they have recently changed the policy and we won't get in without an appointment.
Oh, and when we got home we had received an email from USCIS saying that we needed to have an appointment and would not be seen without one.
I can't say if we were walking by faith or ignorance, but I can say that God totally took care of everything. I know I've said it before, but God is amazing!
One more step closer to getting our kids!!

Nov 5, 2008

Comfort........God is good!!!!

This is Comfort. Isn't she adorable? Comfort is our third child! Technically she is our 8th child, but she is our 3rd child from Ghana. Do you want to know how this happened? OK, it's a long story, but an amazing story! Enjoy............
Mark and I both felt called to adopt, so we began to pray that God would make it clear to us which child or children we were to adopt. We knew this summer that we were adopting 2 children, Brian and Josephine. In August we had to have our home study updated to change countries from Liberia to Ghana and we both were really feeling like we were suppose to change our homestudy to approve us for 3 children instead of 2, but we never said anything to each other because we both thought we would cause the other to have a stroke or heart attack!!! 3 days after our homestudy visit I woke up in the middle of the night feeling urgently that we must change our homestudy. This feeling did not resolve by morning, so in the morning I mentioned it to my girls who both said "Wow, that's really cool. Did you tell dad?" Of course I had not worked up the nerve to tell him but 10 minutes later Mark came to me and told me that he needed to tell me something that had really been nagging at him. He said that he was really feeling like we should change our homestudy to approve us for 3 kids not 2!!!!!!!!!! I almost fell off my chair. I called our homestudy guy and he said that it would not be a problem. I contacted Lois, who is helping us with our adoption, and asked her if Brian and Josephine had any siblings. It was the only thing I could think of that would possibly cause us to add another child to the group. But she said that they did not have a sibling, so we resolved to just wait and watch for God to work, assuming that we would probably find our third child while in Ghana.
A few weeks later, Lois visited the orphanage where Brian and Josephine are living. When she returned to the US she called us to share wonderful stories about Brian and Josephine. I again asked her if they had a sibling and she said "No, but let me tell you about this little girl I met while I was there"

Lois then told me about a little girl who was very sick so she took her to the doctor. The doctor determined that she had a hole in her heart because he could hear a whooshing sound with every heart beat. When Lois told me this I had the strangest feeling. I knew that this was my daughter, and I knew that we had to do something or she would die in Ghana. Without being adopted, this was a death sentence for this little girl.
What Lois did not know when she told me about Comfort is that my mom had passed away in February from a heart attack. She had her first bypass surgery when I was 6 years old and had numerous heart issues throughout my life. Mark and I had already discussed medical issues and what we thought we were capable of handling. We decided that the one thing we could handle was heart related issues because we had cared for my mom and feel knowledgeable and confident in that area.
I did not tell anyone that I thought this was the third child that God was preparing us for, I just told everyone that she needed help and needed someone to adopt her. I think I was in denial. All of my friends have since told me they knew right away that she was ours, they were just waiting for us to realize it.
Knowing that she would need to be evaluated before the US would allow her adoption, I began researching, looking for cardiologists in Ghana. Guess what??? There aren't any!!!! But, I knew that God was going to move mountains and work things out so I kept looking. Amazingly I found a Ghanaian man who grew up in Ghana, came to the US as an adult, went to Harvard Medical School and works at Boston Children's Hospital as a pediatric Cardiologist, AND he goes back to Ghana every 6 months to evaluate and do corrective surgery on children with heart defects!!!! I called his office and he was actually on a plane for Ghana at that very moment. I explained the situation to his nurse and told her about Comfort and she was able to contact him in Ghana and get the OK to give me his email address. I emailed him and told him about Comfort and asked him if he would evaluate her so that we can have a diagnosis and know what needs to be done when she gets to the US. He emailed me back and said that he would be happy to evaluate her. The orphanage director drove her 4 hours to be evaluated and she had a full evaluation, even an EKG!! In Ghana!! You can see the story that Good Morning America featured Dr Fynn-Thompson in here Be sure to watch the video. He is an amazing man. We are so grateful to him.
This is a picture of Comfort that Dr Francis Fynn-Thompson took the day he evaluated her.

The first thing that we heard from the orphanage director was that the doctor said to tell the people who are adopting her that they should not be afraid. So, we decided to step out in faith and believe that this was the third child that God had for us to adopt. Then we began to panic. How could we possibly adopt 3 children? How could we take a child with medical needs? How could we pay for a HEART SURGERY? Amazingly, we just had witnessed God weaving together a miracle for Comfort, yet we still panicked and doubted. We continued to pray and asked God to provide a way.
That was last week. This week God has once again provided a miracle for Comfort. We received her medical records with her diagnosis on Monday. It turns out that she does have a heart defect, not a hole but "an obstruction of blood flow to her lungs on the right side of her heart, relatively easily corrected by surgery." Good outcome in the US, not so good if she stays in Ghana. Now that we had a diagnosis I really needed some answers about getting it fixed so I called Children's Hospital which is close to our house and asked them if they could give me an estimate of the cost of surgery. At first I was told that we would need to bring her in to be evaluated once she got here then they would talk to us about finances. I then explained the situation. I told the lady on the phone all about Comfort and what a miracle it was that we had a diagnosis and that we really needed to know if this was even remotely financially feasible for us. I explained that her adoption by us really was contingent on whether or not we could pay for her surgery once she arrived here. She took all our information, family size, income, etc. and put me on hold. When she returned she said that she had shared this information with her supervisor and they were going to do the surgery for no cost to us!!! "Not one dollar will come out of your pocket, the evaluation, surgery, check ups, they will all be covered" Praise God !!!!!!!!!!! Our insurance has also committed to covering a portion of the surgery, but the hospital assures us that we should not worry because even if our insurance backs out they will still cover all the costs.
Now that is a miracle!!!
So, now we just have to get our kids here. Oh, our homestudy had been misplaced by our social worker until last week when we decided to add Comfort to our family. Isn't that interesting?
That's our long, amazing story and the story isn't over yet. God still has mountains to move and we will try not to panic while we go along for the ride!

Black Powder Hunting

This is Mark, Kelcey, and Tyler and Big Nathan Obregon all dressed for hunting in Eastern Washington. They had an awesome time! They hiked many miles and even had to hike out in the dark, which Mark thought was a great adventure. I am glad I wasn't there for that hike!
This is Tyler checking out the area. Maggie, Nathan and I were disappointed that we did not get to go this year. Last year we all went and we had a blast!

Hike to Source Lake

This is probably our last good hike of the season. What a great day we had with the Knox family! We hiked to Source Lake, a beautiful, reasonably easy hike, then on the way back I twisted my ankle and fell, landing with my hand on a nice sharp rock. My hand was cut open and it swelled up huge! We all thought it was broken, but it recovered in a few days. I actually have a picture of it, but I'll spare everyone.

Here we are at the trailhead.
These sharp rocks were all along the trail.

Halfway there!

We made it to the end!!! Don't we live in a beautiful place? This hike was only about an hour from our house.