Friday, December 13, 2013

Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

My husband and I recently completed an inter-country adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As with most long journey’s, we learned the true value of waiting on the Lord’s timing. His timing is perfect and He is good, always.

In January 2012, I made the first “official” call to our adoption agency to begin the process to adopt from the Congo . Some might say our journey to adopt our son began there. I would disagree. I believe our journey began my senior year of high school, when my parents adopted my little sister from Vietnam . I will never forget holding her in my arms and trying to comprehend how this perfect angel could be let go by her family. There were many things that I did not understand, but one thing that I knew for sure. I was changed. Forever. I fell in love. From that moment, I knew that I was called to adopt a child of my own.

In the years following, I married my high-school sweet heart. (I know, risky!!!) Within our first year of marriage we went on a mission trip to Nicaragua . Once again, our lives changed forever. We fell in love… again. Not knowing what else to do, over the next three years, my husband and I preceded to go back to that orphanage to visit, volunteer and love on the children a total of 7 more times. When Ryan graduated college we decided that we wanted needed to see and know more. We needed to see more of the world that was unknown to us. So we did. For five months, we traveled around the world, meeting and loving children that had been discarded. We went to Nicaragua , South Africa , and Cambodia . In each place, our mission was to see, understand, and help (any way we could) these children that had been abandoned and then rescued by amazing people, doing wonderful work. I’m sure it goes without saying, but each place we went, each baby/child I held, the passion within me grew stronger. There were so many children that I would have taken home…

After returning home, we quickly came to the decision to adopt a child of our own. At the time, we were only 23 which turned out to be a problem. Most countries have rules that adoptive parents be at least 25. If we found a country that would work with us, we couldn’t find an organization or agency that would work with us. Many wonderful people talked to us and gave us direction, but at the end of the day all the “leads” we took came up empty handed. After six months of trying (but years of dreaming), I was exhausted, crushed, and very disappointed.

My husband and I also wanted to experience a pregnancy and childbirth of a biological child, so we decided to put the adoption on hold and try to get pregnant. 10 months later, we welcomed our sweet, blessing Epsie Marie.

After having our daughter, I was in complete bliss, but my desire to adopt had not withered at all. Being the extremely patient, slow-moving woman that I am (insert sarcasm); I waited until my daughter was seven weeks old to discuss with my husband beginning the adoption again. Looking back now, I crack myself up. He was not quite ready then, but when Epsie was 6 months old we agreed that we were ready to move forward.

That brings us back to January 2012, the big day when I made the call to the agency. I went into the call with all the crazy, pent up passion of the last years of waiting. I remained cool and calm as the agency coordinator told me that we would need to wait… longer. She told me that they prefer to have 9 months between children when a family with has an infant at home. She told me that we would need to wait another 6 months before fully proceeding.

When I got off the phone, I had a peace that this was where God was leading us. But there it was again, the word that I was beginning to hate accept, wait.

When we decided to adopt through the Congo , we of course did a lot of research to what the process was. The Congo is an increasingly popular country to adopt from. In 2008, there were 8 completed adoptions from the Congo to the US . In 2012, there were 240. The process has grown quickly. Based on UNICEF statistics, there are over 4 million orphaned children in the Congo . The child mortality rates are staggering, 1 in 7 children dying before the age of five. Less than half of the population has a safe source for clean drinking water. Less than a third has access to adequate sanitation facilities.

Like many Americans, we knew very little about this central African country. We learned that DR Congo is the second largest country in Africa . The more we learned about the history of the Congo , the more broken hearted we became. Since the late 1800’s they have survived oppression; whether form foreign ruler’s or civil war it seems that group after group has come into the precious country and used her for all that they could take. Not caring what or whom the cost. Even in the last few decades they have lost millions of lives due to civil war. But somehow, through it all, the Congolese people have kept their strength, beauty and passion for life and family.

We knew that God had led us to the Congo to adopt so as soon as the agency gave us the go ahead, we moved forward. We began in April with signing the contract, May we got in touch with our home-study provider, June and July we did the paper chase, and by the end of July we were able to send our entire dossier to the agency. VICTORY!!! I had made it that far and survived! I was so excited! This was much farther than we had ever gotten before. So now what?

Wait. More.

Perhaps none of you can relate to my story. I am sure there are tons of women out there that are patient, respectful women that completely trust God’s timing and understand that through your perseverance you are acquiring a strength that will be worth it. I however, was not so lucky to be born with that beautiful trait. God has used my having to wait, to teach me things that honestly, I never desired to learn. Who needs patience? “God, it would actually work out better, if you would just give me what I want, when I want it. OK?” It is sad, but very true, that this had been my mentality for much of my life. No, I would’ve never said that at the time, but that is the place that much of my drive was coming from, it originated from a discontentment with God’s timing. It was harder for me when what I was asking for seemed like a great, Godly thing. I wasn’t asking for a new car or to win the lottery. I was asking to care for a child that needed a family. It seemed like something God would be in line with getting done quickly.

October 7, 2012 is a day that I will NEVER forget. While waiting with my husband for a flight home from Richmond , VA I decided to do my regular “morning email check” and to my surprise, I had an email titled, “Your Referral”. Many people dream about the day they will get the positive pregnancy test (including myself), but not as many people dream about the incoming “Referral” email, an email that introduces you to the next member/s of your family. I had dreamed about this moment and to my delightful surprise, my husband was there with me to open it!!!! October 7, 2012 was the day that I “met” my son… through an email.

Benjamin Mofia Kyalwe, I have been waiting for you.

Through the following year, we went through the roller coaster that all adoptive parents go through. The seemingly endless policy and timeline changes were exhausting. If I can tell someone one piece of advice when adopting from The Democratic Republic of Congo it would be to be FLEXIBLE. And I mean, very flexible. Because of the rapid growth of international adoptions, the country is constantly changing their policies and requirements. We were in the process for a year. During that year, we had many different timeline estimations: 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, we truly never knew what to think. Honestly, if we had gotten our paperwork a month later our son would still be in the Congo right now. I once read a quote by Anthony Bourdain about the Congo , “ Congo is a place where everything is fine-until it isn’t.” In my opinion, that is a completely accurate description of adopting from the Congo as well. Things are fine, until they aren’t. I truly believe that the Congolese people LOVE their children and they want to do what is best for them; however, there are so many opposing opinions of what the best avenue is, the children end up becoming lost in legislation.

In June 2013, we received an unexpected call from our agency asking us if we could fly to the Congo to file some paperwork. This was our choice, but they believed that this could significantly reduce our adoption timeline. This took me about one second to decide After talking with my husband, we decided that it would be worth the trip if it meant that it could possibly speed up our process. In less than 3 weeks from that call we were on a plane. To the Congo . To meet our son.

This was the moment that I had waited for, for years, the moment that I would be holding a precious baby that needed a mom and it would be me. Me. I was chosen to protect a child that didn’t have anyone to protect him. I can’t begin to explain the gravity of this moment in my life. The moment I met him.

Meet Shepherd Ilo-Mofia Carter, the baby boy that has my heart.

To our surprise the trip was WELL WORTH it! After turning our paper work in to the US Embassy and having them interview our son’s birth mother, a 3-6 month process turned into a 3 day process. We actually received the notice that this step was done within an hour of having to say good bye to Shepherd. It was truly a gift from God.

I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It was looking like we would be headed back to the Congo within weeks to bring our son home, FOREVER! But, of course, nothing goes exactly as planned. The 4 week wait, turned into a 12 week wait. I had 4 different flight dates. Those weeks were definitely some intense times between me and God. Broken heartedly, I continually chose to trust God as the finish line kept being moved back. I was so tired from this long, exhausting journey, but I was determined to not quit on the final lap. I wanted to finish strong, trusting that God was finishing a good work within me. And then, as if this journey had never caused me a bit of pain, I was back holding my son and all seemed right in my world, for the first time in years.

After 9 years of waiting, fighting, praying, crying, begging, trusting and hoping… my promise was redeemed.

I love the term heart sick because it is a perfect word for what a lengthy delay of a dream does to your soul. Have you ever had your hope deferred? As I look back I realize that I have spent a large portion of my life heartsick, waiting for him, my beautiful, precious son. Don’t get me wrong, I did not wait on my dream to be fulfilled to live life to the fullest, but more than I can count I stopped in the midst of my full life and mourned the piece that was yet to be.

For some of you, it is an adoption. For others, it is pregnancy. And others, a career or life dream. But many of us know what it feels like to have our “hope deferred”. It is a human experience that no one enjoys, but I want to encourage you. If you allow God to shape you during the times of wait, He will truly deliver the promise to turn your mourning into joy. And one day, you will realize that your journey of hope deferred has turned into the part of your life that has produced the most joy and life. Continue to run the race that God has set before you. Enjoy all the twists and turns, because when you look back, you don’t want to realize that you forgot to enjoy a large part of this journey called life.

Haley Carter is a stay at home mom of a 2 year-old daughter and 1 year-old son. She has been married to her husband, Ryan, for seven, very eventful years. She is blessed to be able to work one day a week outside of the home as a Cosmetologist. Her life goal is to not go to the grave with her music still in her. She truly strives to live and enjoy life to the fullest everyday. 

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic journey! Thank you for sharing!