Thursday, January 30, 2014

It takes a village...

This post is truly a long time coming.  To some of you it will be new information and to some it will not be a surprise.  It is time for us to finally give you a true update on our adoption process and where things stand today. It is an opportunity for us to let some weight off of our shoulders.  It is time to give you a true glimpse into the crazy world of international adoption and some of the behind the scenes drama.  It is time for a chance for us to once again swallow our pride and reach out to our family, friends and community.  It is a time for us to dig in deeper and fight harder for a beautiful little girl, and her friends, sitting in an orphanage thousands of miles away.  It is time to share the truth.
For starters, we say thank you!  Thank you for all that you have done for us and Gracie up to this point.  Above all, thank you for the prayers.  You would not believe the times that they have literally been felt and answered.  Thank you for the support, both financially and emotionally.  This is not a journey that we were ever prepared to embark on by ourselves, and with God's help you have lifted us out of the muck and mire several times.  Thank you!
Now for the update...That moment when we swallow our pride and share the truth...
One year ago Anne and I decided that we were truly going to put all of our eggs into the adoption basket.  We scratched together all of our savings and told God that if He truly wanted us to go to Haiti that we trusted Him. We invested everything we had, along with donations from some amazing people, and the journey began.  As you know we were quickly matched in April and traveled to Haiti in May to meet our beautiful baby girl, Gracie.  This was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives.

At that same time we had called upon all of you to ask for your assistance.  We knew that this was not something we could do alone and needed to reach out to those that had already offered their help.  We sold bracelets and paintings, had garage sales and held other small fundraisers.  In the end, with our savings and your help, we raised enough to pay the full amount to Giving Hope Rescue Mission to make our adoption official.
 We were on
the road to bringing our baby girl home!
Then over the course of the summer months we started to hear grumblings out of Haiti that things were not as they appeared with our situation.  At first we were inclined to defend the actions of those in charge of Gracie's care.  We wrote letters to senators, the Haitian government, and anyone that we felt had enough pull to help our situation.  There was a real fear that some "crazy parents" were attacking and trying to stop our adoptions out of hatred and malice.  We fought hard and believed we knew the truth.

Over time though, things began to unravel and the truth came to light.  Things were not adding up.  Simple questions were left unanswered.  Money was disappearing and not being accounted for.  And ultimately the welfare of the children was being challenged.  As school began here in South Dakota, things quickly changed in Haiti.  We learned of several things that would make your stomach turn. The children were being neglected.  Some adoptions were being legitimately questioned as to whether the children were even true orphans.  The stories were disturbing and broke our hearts, and most were true.  We worried for Gracie's safety and our process of adopting.
We began to dig in to the details and joined a group of parents that were wanting to find answers to the hundreds of questions that were going unanswered.  How are the kids?  Are my kids even adoptable?  Is my paperwork legitimate?  Where has all of my money gone?  Can I transfer my child to a new orphanage?  The list went on and on.  Thankfully for us, we were surrounded by some amazing family and friends at the time that allowed us to cry on their shoulders, to yell at the top of our lungs, and to be angry, but not vengeful.
We continued to dig in.  We were upset with how things were going and were truly scared of losing our baby girl.  At a few different times were told that the Haitian government was freezing our adoptions, and not planning to continue with them due to the fraudulent activities involved.
All the while we tried to show grace, give the benefit of the doubt and keep open lines of communication with those responsible.    Jon took 6 days off of school in November and traveled to Haiti to move Gracie to New Life Link Creche.  The process while there was scary and unpredictable. There were dark hallways, a major protest in the streets, the same khaki pants for four days in a row, and the uncertainty of will we even get Gracie moved.   By the grace of God only, another family and ourselves, were allowed to move our children. At the very last minute, literally, God stepped in, and in a cramped office our baby girl was handed over with just the clothes on her back.
The next day miracles began to unfold.  Jon was able to meet Gracie's Biological mother.  At the end of the conversation she handed Gracie over and said, "Gracie, here is your father".  Probably the biggest moment in our lives. That conversation could have gone in several directions, and yet God placed a woman who wants nothing but the best for her daughter directly in our path.  She wants her to go to school, to college and to do something successful with her life.  We are able to provide those opportunities, and she trusted us.
After that, Anne, the boys, and Grandma and Grandpa Thomas arrived for a week long stay, and we all had the opportunity of loving and spoiling Gracie.  It was truly one of the most remarkable times for our family.  It was just right! It was perfect! Gracie was amazing and bonded with all of us in incredible ways.
video
We left Gracie the day after Thanksgiving in the amazing care of the New Life Link Staff.  We have received updates from other visiting parents and Jon's sister Missy. (previous post)  Gracie is thriving and doing well.  She will turn two years old on February 5.  This is a day that will be hard for us here in South Dakota, but we know she will be loved!  We just pray that birthday number three is celebrated in the snow!
As for now we wait!  We don't know what the timeline for anything is at the moment.  IBESR and our friend Dr. Bernard are currently digging through dossiers to make sure things are legitimate and are fixing anything that raises red flags.  Once that is done we are told they will meet with Biological parents and proceed.  It's a slow and arduous process that no one has a true plan for.  These are uncharted waters, thanks to a whole lot of deception.  But we continue to pray and stand tall in our FAITH!
Other than the waiting game right now, our biggest obstacle sadly involves a lot of you.  Like mentioned above there were a lot of unanswered questions about funding.  These people are not willing to provide any type of accountability for the money that was given and entrusted to them.  Long story short...everything that we had saved, all of your donations last year, and all of our monthly support we paid for Gracie's care is gone.  15,000 dollars plus is gone!  We have struggled with how to let people know that the money has disappeared.  Was it our fault?  Were we naive?  What could we have done differently?  Deep down, though, we know that through this God blessed us with a little girl, and she is worth more than all of it.  With adoption fees paid, travel costs, homestudy work and dossier preparation, we are further into this than we ever expected.  We have given, and are giving, every cent of our own money that we can, while still trying to provide a decent life for our two boys at home.
So today we are swallowing our pride.  We are admitting that we were snow balled.  We were lied to, blindsided, and our trust in the system was rocked.  BUT, we still have a baby girl in Haiti.  She still has a mom and dad that love her.  She still has two brothers that literally ache to hold her.  Mikah cried true tears of pain as we said goodbye to Gracie in November.  His heart was broken and he literally begged to just stay with her.  Their hearts are in this, and we cannot back out simply because of some misguided people.  We pray for them daily that their hearts will soften and do the right thing.  But those days don't seem to come.
So with a lump in our throats and tails between our legs, we very reluctantly come back to you.  The people that truly "get it".  Our friends, our family and those of you that understand we are doing this for the least of these, we thank you!  The Bible calls us to take care of the orphans and those in need.  Numerous times it says that they need us to stand up for them.  We need your help today friends.  We have lost all adoption funds due to this mess. Praise God today though, that we were able to keep our match!
The hardest thing to do right now is ask for your help.  We are "fixers" by nature, and if there was a way that we could do this on our own, we would slip quietly into the background and do it.  But we can't.  God has given us a call that is real, and her name is Gracie.
With that said we are asking for you help.  We have been blessed with some great people in our lives that have been able to witness the joy, the pain and the triumph in this situation.  They have felt Gracie's skin and they have hugged her tight.  Once again, they have offered to walk with  us on this journey through all of its thorns and ledges.
We have been blessed with a great opportunity to help raise funds for our new fees.  Being that we moved Gracie to New Life Link, which is 100% legitimate, we are back in the same boat.  We need to pay another $12,000 for the adoption fee and her care.  There will also be some travel and other paper work involved while clearing up the mess.  And of course a ticket home in the future for a beautiful baby girl! We were fortunate to have someone offer us a no interest loan for the first half of the payment that was due when Gracie arrived, but beyond that we are in quite a sticky situation. We do have a grant that will cover a portion of the fees, and we are thankful to the Show Hope Foundation for continuing to walk with us through the mess.
With all of that said, we want to keep you posted on some upcoming fundraisers that friends and family are helping us with!
Mark your calendars for March 8, 2014.
Our friends at Calico Skies Winery, outside of Inwood, Iowa, have graciously offered the use of their facility!  What a blessing they are!  We will be holding a vendor fair on the afternoon of the 8th, and then that evening we are excited to announce that the music group "Too Drunk to Fish" will be performing for anyone that wants to hang out!  An amazing duo and led by our friend, Scott Jendersee, they will be signing all of your favorite tunes!  There will be vendors like Frassy Girl, Tupperware, 31, Usbourne Books, Childrens Blankets, ViBella, Scentsy, Pampered Chef and more.   There will also be some raffle items that you won't want to miss out on and of course the opportunity to listen to some great live music!
Please mark your calendars.  More details about March 8th will be coming soon!
We will keep you posted on here as we learn more info about times and other additions to the evening.
Please continue to pray for Gracie, her friends and those taking care of all of them.  This is a tricky situation with a lot of uncertainty, but we all trust that God has His hand on it all. We have been blessed beyond measure to be able to be on this journey, and we are excited for the day that our baby girl comes home!  What a day it's gonna be!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Build-A-Bear and Ms. Gracie!

For starters I need to apologize for the silence of this page.  We have had quite a crazy and unexpected last few months, and the silence has not been easy.  A lot of crazy and unforseen things have taken place since my last post and a whole lot of God has shown up time and time again.  He is just really, really cool and faithful that way, which is why we all wear our Faith bracelets every day.  It's a great reminder that God's plan is so much bigger than our own. So through the silence we also want to thank you for the prayers and support.  Without all of that we know that this message would be a little different than it is today.  God truly does "Got It"!
I have a whole lot of personality!!
You see, this past November, amidst a whirlwind of uncertainty and whole lot of chaos I took a trip to Haiti to move my baby girl to a new creche(orphanage).  Gracie and one of her friends from her old creche were graciously allowed to move to New Life Link, just outside of Port Au Prince. This made it possible for us   to successfully pursue completing their adoptions.  The old place was not meeting the requirements that we had to follow, and a good friend and I left on a week long mission to transfer our babies.  By the grace of God we got them moved and settled in and our process appears to be back on track.  We pray the next steps go smoothly, and that Haiti will allow us to bring Gracie home sooner than later. The hard part is waiting and realizing that we are starting over in a lot of different areas with the process but in the middle of that we rejoice that God has allowed our match with this little beauty to stay intact! (More details on this to come)
We were even able to bring our two boys to meet Gracie for the first time after she was moved to NLL.  They were the best big brothers ever and are so excited to have her in our home forever someday.  

Now, can I introduce you to someone very special?  Her name is Tabitha.  She is just over a month old and already has quite a story to tell.  She is adorable, furry, extremely Frassy, likes sparkly things and when she shares her message it is always straight to the point.  No we did not get a new pet in our house!!
We went to Build-A-Bear! I had always walked right past this store at our local mall and vowed that with two boys we would not be entering!  As a dad it was my job to protect them from the wild world of building your own stuffed bear and dressing it up in cute clothes!  That was until my heart started to see Pink!  Until my heart started to beat for a little girl in Haiti!
We stood in that Build-A-Bear on our Christmas break.  Picking out the perfect one was not going to be easy.  This bear, whichever one the boys chose, was to make a journey that I am not sure another bear of its kind had made before.  It would pave new paths and bring healing to broken hearts.  This bear would have to be cute, obviously, but also durable and able to handle the love that would be poured into.  So there in the bins of hundreds of bears was the ONE!  Mikah found it after scouring the many different options.  He knew it right away and Isaiah, like his dad was too cool to be there, agreed and the process began. 
We stepped up to the waiting Bear Builder, not sure if that is what they are called, and started to follow her lead.  She was amazing.  She engaged the boys and asked questions.  Why? For Who?... Then it started.  Mom began to cry.  Dad began to cry.  And two little boys answered questions with tears in their eyes.  This bear was being created for our sister/daughter in Haiti.  It would be traveling to Haiti inside of a giant glass vase, another long story! Its name would be Tabitha, the name that Gracie's biological mom gave her. 
As we stood there with tears flowing, and a long line of bear builders waiting, it was time for Tabitha to receive her mission.  Placed ever so gently in her foot was a simple little message - an "I love you" from each one of us.  A quickly recorded message for Tabitha to deliver to Gracie.  
Frassy Shoes!!
Frassy Shoes!!
After that came her hearts.  Each of us picked a little cloth heart out of the basket.  We rubbed it on our noses, so it would have our scent for Gracie.  We placed it over our own hearts so she could always feel our love.  We kissed them ever so gently so that every time Gracie holds her she gets a kiss.  Finally we placed them inside the bear and Tabitha was sealed up tightly, with all of the love in the world! 
We spent some time scouring the shelves of the factory for the perfect outfit.  A nice t-shirt with LOVE across the front, a black TuTu like the one Gracie wears on our visits and finally the same exact shoes that her Aunt Sissy bought her in November.  Tabitha was all Frassied up and ready to make her trip.  
We said some prayers over Tabitha and gave her a little extra loving and then sent her on her way with Aunt Sissy, Uncle Rob and Alex.  They were headed to Haiti for a wedding and at the end of their stay would be visiting Gracie for the first time.  Aunt Sissy would finally get to touch, feel and love on the one that we have fallen head over heals in love with.  Due to the craziness of Haiti and it's traffic Aunt Sissy was able to spend just over an hour with Gracie.  Nothing else in the world mattered at that time and it was all about Gracie and the bond between an Aunt and her niece.  The only way I can describe it, from an outsiders view, is that it became "real" that day!  Aunt Sissy has given me permission to show you a small portion of her visit that she and Tabitha made to Haiti!  To be able to witness this and see Gracie looks around when she hears the message is heart melting.  Our prayer is that she continues to grow, be loved and know that she has a family waiting to spoil her rotten.  Thankfully a little bear from a silly factory was able to close some of the miles between our hearts and hers.  
video
We don't know when we will be able to go back to Haiti and visit or how long it will take to complete the process from here.  A lot of things were drastically effected this past fall and the resolutions are tedious and costly.  We simply ask for your prayers and support as we wait.  We are so fortunate to be working with NLL and the director, Dr. B right now, and we ask that you pray for all of those that are caring for Gracie and her friends at the Creche.  Now that things have settled down and we are back on track, we hope to keep you more in the know about updates, prayer requests, praises and even some fundraising that we unfortunately will have to take on.  Please know that we are so grateful for each one of you and can't wait for the day that we can share this little beauty with you in person!