Archive for July, 2017

Adoption Update and Timeline

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

First picture we ever saw of Ethan.

An early picture of Ethan we got with his file

One of the first pictures we saw of Anna.

Picture we got later of Anna – my favorite

Picture we received of Anna and Quinn when we found out she has a foster sister.

A picture we received in an update on Ethan

Anna getting her cake – this is how the kids learn they have a family coming

Ethan getting his cake too – wish these were in focus!

One of the many update pictures Anna’s foster mom has sent, this one with Quinn

We’ve had so many questions about our adoption, so I just wanted to put a little outline of what has happened and now what’s going to happen. Just yesterday evening we got the final approval we needed to actually plan the trip, so I bought our plane tickets this morning, and we are on our way! Here’s where we’ve been and where we’re going:

August, 2016 We see a picture of Ethan for the first time and feel like we’ve been hit by lightning – that’s our kid! We send an email but realize with a sinking heart that he’s with a different agency, and will likely be matched within that agency and we will not be considered.

Early October, 2016 We got an email out of the blue from Ethan’s agency. They had several interested families but felt they weren’t a good fit for him because of the ages of their kids or whatever. They thought we were the perfect fit. Were we still interested? We would have to change agencies. We prayed about it, and knowing they were an ethical agency (they had been on our short list before too, but Noah was listed with a different agency), we decided to switch. You can read more about that here.

October 20, 2016 We submit an official letter of intent (LOI) to China asking to be pre-matched with Ethan. We can do this because he is considered a special focus child because of his age and health status.

Nov. 1, 2016 We are granted pre-approval to adopt Ethan. This means we have six months to complete our homestudy and dossier and submit it to China.

Nov, 2016 – Jan, 2017 We work on updating our homestudy. We were actually finished with everything we had to do in the first few weeks and our social worker was done with the update by mid-December. But first a supervisor couldn’t find the time to sign it because of the holidays, then she did but four words needed to be changed and it needed to be signed again. This took that supervisor 7 more weeks. It was very hard not to be angry. This was our first setback.

Dec., 2017 While we were waiting for the signature, we had also gone through extra steps to request approval to adopt two children at one time. We were granted approval and sent Anna’s file the same day. Apparently there were no other families in our agency willing to accept a child her age (6). We started to pray about Anna, and also to look into her health needs. There were some concerning things in her file, and we needed to research and find out what was involved. You can read more about that here.

Jan 9, 2017 We feel we’ve gotten answers about Anna’s medical needs, and have prayed and feel she is to be our daughter. We submit our LOI to China for her.

Jan 13, 2017 We are granted pre-approval to adopt Anna.

Mid January, 2017 We submitted our I800a which is a request for US immigration to allow you to classify a child from a foreign nation as a relative – essentially approval to adopt a child and have them become a US citizen when they immigrate. We couldn’t submit this until we had our homestudy. Since that had taken an extra month and a half, we estimated we would just barely make the summer for travel before Rinnah left for college.

Early February, 2017. Really hard news. Our I800a was rejected because the US government changed the fee on Jan 1. Since we thought we would have our homestudy in December, we had prepared the packet and had it sitting on my desk with the old fee – we never thought to check it. You cannot just pay the new fee. The whole packet must be rejected and you start over. This cost us 2 weeks and fees to overnight, etc. Now I was scrambling to make up any time I could to get to China before Rinnah was scheduled to leave for college.

Feb 16th, 2017 We found out a few days ago that Anna lives with a foster sister and they have been described as “inseparable, best friends, two peas in a pod.” We are devastated at the thought of them losing each other, but aren’t allowed to bring the foster sister home ourselves. We share the girls’ story on Facebook and it’s seen by nearly 12,000 people. In a miracle, Anna’s foster sister, Quinn, finds a family who live just minutes from ours and they start the process to adopt her. You can read that story here.

March 20, 2017 After an excruciating wait for our I800a we are finally approved. We had prepared our entire remaining dossier while waiting for this last piece of paper needed. I was so glad we did this early because staples fell out of some of our paperwork at the consulate which thereby voided them and we had to start over. We are beginning to feel like this adoption is a fight. We overnight our approval to get it notarized, state certified, and Chinese consulate certified. Even that process had problems when the consulate decided not to accept documents one day for no reason and then FedEx apparently forgot to pick up at the consulate the next day.

March 24th, 2017 We get it back and our dossier is finally sent to China. We feel that we may still make it before the end of summer, but everything will have to go perfectly from here on out.

March 27th, 2017 We hear from China that our dossier is logged in, the first thing that has happened quickly since we started. Now we wait for the translation of our dossier, its approval, and our official match with Anna and Ethan called LOA. The average at this time was 35-45 days. We were praying for 35.

May 12th, 2017 We finally hear that we have our Letter of Approval (LOA) for both Ethan and Anna! It took 46 days. Still praying to make the summer.

May 15th, 2017 We send our LOA with our I800 application back to US immigration. This is telling the US government that now you have the identity of the children you want to adopt and are asking for their approval of those specific children to become citizens. Average for this step is 14 days.

May 26th, 2017 More news, and at this point devastating. Our I800 is also rejected because our agency never informed us of an additional fee for the second child. We are crushed because we had asked them to review everything so we would be sure this wouldn’t happen. I was literally sobbing on the phone. They feel terrible but there is nothing that can be done. We will lose a minimum of another 2 weeks, and possibly up to 5 weeks. I feel that the summer is now not possible and we will have to push back the adoptions and our other children will not be able to make the trip. Rinnah will not meet her siblings until Thanksgiving. We are all heartbroken. Our agency says they will do anything they can to help us get there, but there isn’t much they can do. They promise, though, to get us out the door as fast as humanly possible, but I worry that the cost of flights will be so high that close to travel that we will not be able to bring the kids anyway. When we send the new fee, FedEx loses our paperwork. They do find it eventually, but we lose more days – I am really struggling with the stress now.

June 8th, 2017 After getting a kind officer and overnighting every possible thing and sending him proof of payment from our bank, we finally get our I800 approval. We have only lost 10 days. We are so close, we hope it may still be possible, and it all depends on how long China takes for the last step.

June 14th, 2017 We receive our GUZ number which means we can apply for the new children’s visa interviews at the consulate in Guangzhou.

June 16th, 2017 We receive notice that our case is being transferred from the National Visa Center in the US to the US consulate in Guangzhou where it will be finalized.

June 19th, 2017 Our Article 5 is dropped off meaning our case is in review to make sure that everything is in order and meets Hague criteria.

July 1st, 2017 We have the amazing opportunity to WeChat (Chinese skype) with Ethan! We cannot believe permission has been granted. We are all nervous and they are 40 minutes late which seems like an eternity. The video doesn’t work for us to see him, but he says he can see us. He is so incredibly sweet! He asks us 4 times when we are coming and how long until he can go “home to the USA.” We asked if he got the pictures and letter we sent and he said he did and he loves us! He laughs when we make the dog wave at him. He is just the sweetest boy. We realize he is trying very hard to make a good impression, and he understands the gravity of this – he has seen many children leave the orphanage with their families, and he is ready for his turn! I can tell he is afraid it won’t happen, but he is hopeful. He practices saying all our names in English. He practices saying “mom” and “dad” several times.

July 3rd, 2017 Our article 5 is picked up and has been approved. It will now go to Beijing to the CCCWA (China’s overseeing organization for adoption) to await the final step, travel approval to enter the country. We are allowed to travel 2 weeks later and TA usually takes 3-10 days. We are praying to get approval in 3-4 days so we can travel on the 20th and get home one week before school starts. We also get news that we are going to be able to WeChat with Anna too on the coming Thursday!

July 6th, 2017 Absolutely terrifying day. This morning, CCCWA announces many changes to the China adoption program, effective immediately. One of the new rules is that families are no longer allowed to adopt two children at once. When we woke up, we thought we were two weeks from travel and just waiting for the final piece of paper. Now we do not know if we will even be able to complete our adoptions. Since we are scheduled to talk to Anna tonight, we don’t know what to do – if we tell her we are coming, are we lying? It’s unthinkable. Because China is 12 hours ahead of the US, this news hit when all of China was asleep, so it was impossible to get answers. Agencies were making emergency calls to their China reps, there was a lot of chaos and many rumors. After agonizing hours waiting, we were told that we were likely grandfathered – we were too far along in the process. But it was not actually confirmed until 9pm – 9am China time when the offices opened up again, and only 30 minutes before we were supposed to talk to Anna.

We were very relieved for ourselves but the truth is that the new rules are devastating for many families. Many were still working on their homestudy or dossier, and they will now not qualify and cannot continue. I am very grieved for the children who now will not have families. We are praying that more families who qualify will step up. We are traveling with 6 families we’ve met on Facebook, and after talking we realized only one of the families would still qualify. These regulations are going to drastically change who can be in the program.

We did talk to Anna that night, and it was very sweet. We are very grateful for the opportunity since she had not heard anything about us. She never got our letter or pictures. She knew she had a family, but nothing about us, and she didn’t know about Ethan, something I really wanted her to be prepared for. Our friend, Fanny, came over to translate for us, and we ended up connecting with her foster mom who started sending me so many pictures. She is thrilled that Anna has a family! And Anna was very twirly and chirpy and the epitome of a kindergarten girl. 🙂 She asked to show us a dance she’d learned in school. I don’t think she really understands what is happening, but I’m hopeful that now that her foster mother knows we are coming, she will help prepare her. We should have been very happy after this call, and we were, but I am still reeling from the day. This no longer feels safe and we just want to get there and get them home.

July 12th, 2017 This is the last day our agency told us we could receive TA and still be allowed to travel on the 20th. Our TA is not granted. We are getting nervous as it has been 10 days, and we can’t help but be concerned because of the changes in China. We will have to push back a week, which gets us home only 36 hours before Toby has to go back to school. But, it does get us home. We thank God that with all the setbacks, it is still possible to make it, even though it wasn’t when we wanted to go, and we pray for the approval to come just to know there isn’t a bigger problem.

July 13th, 2017 The very next day, our approval is granted. We are so thankful to have it in our hands! And it feels like God was just making it clear that for some reason, this is the time He wanted us to go. We may never know why, but we are thankful He does! Within 24 hours, we also had our consulate appointment and confirmation that we will meet our children on July 31st, both on the same day.

So now, all that’s left is to plan the whole trip. We leave in less than two weeks, and will be in China for 15 days this time start to finish. We cannot believe we’re making it before school – the last possible week we could go. But God makes the impossible possible, and we can’t wait to meet them and have them join our family!

I’ll be blogging from China, so don’t forget to follow our journey here. 🙂

New Album Coming!

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Okay, you all. This is a big announcement. We are making a new album! It’s my first major album in 5 years, and I am super excited to share the songs with you and to see how God will use this! I’ve needed new songs for a while because my ministry topics have changed a lot over time, but frankly, an album is a huge expense and undertaking, and the music industry has changed so much that we weren’t sure whether we should do it or not.

I basically had to stop and ask the Lord if He wanted this ministry to continue. We really need new music if it’s going to continue, but I’m also looking at two more adoptions, and maybe this is God gently telling me to stop this ministry now. After all, it’s been 11 years.

So I took it to the Lord in prayer, and we prayed hard about it and for a long time. I’ve been praying about this issue for two years, really. And what I’ve come up with is that we are still supposed to be doing this. I’ve written the songs – they are already here. They just need to be produced. Just this past 5 months alone, I counted it up and I have presented the Gospel to nearly 12,000 people. I’m taking 6 months off to get the kids settled, but I already have so many requests for when I come back. And I love what I do.

To be very honest, it all comes down to money. I absolutely adore the creative process of making an album. I love everything about it. I love the writing, the arranging, the production (love, love, love!!). It’s like painting with sound. I love seeing how the songs fill out and the collaboration with other amazing artists. I love seeing what the studio players bring. Okay, I don’t so much love the packaging and design, but I love the people who do it!! But the cost of doing an album professionally is very high. And we have adopted 3 kids in the last two years and been through an open heart surgery with one. It’s the worst possible timing.

I’ve decided to step out in faith in two ways. One, we’re making the album. I feel like God has called us to, and so we will, whatever happens with the money. But two, for the first time ever, I’m going to ask for help. I really don’t want to – it could be embarrassing, it could hurt my feelings, it could look unprofessional. All things I really don’t want. But I realize we are supposed to count on each other. I’m hoping you will want to support our family in this way. And I’ve decided to be humble and open enough to ask.

I launched a Youcaring page to fundraise and am hoping to get half the costs covered – you can find that here. There’s tons of info over there including song lists and descriptions and gifts we want to give to those who support us. I’ll also be updating with the stories behind the songs, and even stuff from China as the fundraiser will be going on while we are in China adopting our two new children, Ethan and Anna. The songs are written, production has started, we just need help getting to the finish line.

Thanks so much for your support!!