It has been a hard day.
Geoff and I were picked up this morning at 9:00 by Germatchew, one of Imagine's staff. From here we went to the KVI Guesthouse to pick up the other three families with court dates today. Finally, we made a stop to pick up Marta (Imagine's Power of Attorney), who attends court with families. When Marta came to the van, she said that she had just been notified that court had been postponed until 2:00 in the afternoon. A bit of the excitement bubble burst.
We all drove back to KVI guesthouse, and Geoff and I hung out there while we passed the time. Shortly before 2:00, Germatchew and Marta came to pick us up. Once the families were loaded into the van, Marta stood at the door of the van and said that she had some bad news. Apparently MOWA had changed a rule this morning, effective today.
A few years ago, when Geoff and I first completed paperwork for the Ethiopia program, we signed a document called an undertaking. Essentially it said that "I Geoff, and I Ruth, undertake" to send annual reports on the children to Ethiopia, until they are eighteen years old. No problem. Right? Except that the new rule pertains to this document. The document apparently should read, effective today, that "Imagine Adoption undertakes...". This rule (thankfully) did not affect the other Imagine families who passed court as recently as two days ago.
When Marta had explained this, she added that she would talk to the judge when we reached court, and ask her to consider that we had had no notice of this rule change, etc etc. But it was a very somber three minute drive to court.
When we got to court, we had to wait for about 90 minutes before being called in by the judge. Finally, the door to the judge's office opened and Marta was invited in to talk with the judge about our situation. Minutes later, the four adopting families were called in.
The judge herself is an attractive, youngish woman wearing a head scarf loosely draped over her head. She asked us to sit down on the chairs facing her, at the other end of the long room, and her assistant gave her our passports for verification. She then asked us a series of yes/no questions: do you have other children; have we told our children about this adoption; did we understand about the identity issues our Ethiopian-born children would face and would we prepared to help them with those; did we understand that adoption is irrevocable; had we met the children; did we want to proceed with the adoption; etc etc. Then she said that we would need to update a document for our files, and that she would set a second court date for us, which we would not have to attend. The earliest date she had available was six weeks from now: March 21.
We left the courtroom five minutes after we went in. We were a sober group driving back to the KVI Guesthouse. Geoff and I hung around there for a little while and then grabbed a taxi back to our Lodge, where we were expecting phonecalls from my family at 5:30pm (morning their time). Of course, when I'd arranged for them to call, I'd hoped that we would have good news, but that was not to be. It was when I was talking with my parents and speaking the words out loud that I finally lost control and started to sob. I had a hard time getting through the phone call. Next up, my sister called, and I was able to talk with Matthew for the first time since we left him last weekend. I had warned Matthew before we left that things might not go as we planned first time 'round, and had spent quite a bit of time preparing him for what that meant, so I'm glad that I was able to tell him the news myself. He seemed ok, though I know we'll be doing a lot of talking about it next week when we get home.
Which brings us to the challenge of what to do now. We have had to cancel our planned trip to the children's birth region, because families are only permitted to do that once they pass court. We will also not be allowed to visit the children again, which we'd hoped to be able to do on Monday once they'd be moved to Imagine's transition home in Addis (which won't happen now until we eventually pass court). We need to figure out how to spend the next three+ days until we leave. Do we try to change flights? Do we stay here? Right now, I feel like running away, but that's just a temporary thing, I know. So we need to talk and work out what the best plan is for us.
I am so sad and frustrated. I still believe that ultimately we will pass court and be able to bring our children home. But I have a 5.5 year old and a 3.5 year old who need to be out of institutional care now (as good as that care is) and I admit that I am anxious about what a further six-week delay (assuming we pass on date #2 - there is no guarantee of that) will mean in their lives. These children have been through so much; they need to be home.
So many people have prayed faithfully and hard for us, and so many have wished us well and supported us - particularly in these last 2.5 months since our referral. We are very grateful, notwithstanding today's result. In this, too, God has a plan and a hope for our future.
I will end by reprinting part of what I wrote on January 31, as we prepared to travel for today's court date. I feel exactly the same as I did on that day, and bears repeating, if only to reassure myself that it's going to be ok.
...[T]he thing is, it's going to be ok. Maybe not on February 11th, but it's going to be ok. As desperately as I want to pass court while we're there, as much as I want to hear the judge grant us the right to parent these beautiful children, as devastated as I'll feel if we don't pass on the first try...it's going to be ok.
Here are two thoughts to consider:
1. God is in control. As a friend wisely said to me on Friday morning, He already knew that this wrinkle was going to materialize, and He's already got it figured out. Nothing can happen that is counter to His will. So I can relax.
2. God is in control. If we don't pass court while we're there, there is no doubt that Geoff and I will be very disappointed...crushed may not be too strong a word for that emotion. It will change the trajectory of our trip, and have a number of implications for our second, pick-up trip. But you know what? We'll deal with it and get over the disappointment, or at least reconcile ourselves to it, and we will prepare ourselves for a longer wait until we get through court. I have a deep and abiding sense of peace that we will pass court...whether it's the first time or not. God gave us the vision for these children; he will be faithful.
If I want to be a person of faith, then I need to choose to live my faith now. Now, when it matters. It won't mean lot if I say this stuff after we pass court. It's easy (well, easier), afterwards, to say that I believed God would be faithful to the plan I believe He gave us for our family. I want to go out on a fragile limb of faith and say now that I believe God has a plan for our family and that it was He who provided this vision for our family. I choose to rest in the knowledge and belief that He will see it through to completion.
So bring on our court date. I'm ready for whatever happens. Either we celebrate together, or we pick each other off the floor, give each other a dusting off, and move forward. Let's get this show on the road.