The greatest experience, the one which shakes a soul with hopes and fears, the results of which are never ending, and incidentally, the one which pays the biggest dividends, is to be found in the adoption of children.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig.....

......sort of. We didn't come home with quite the spring in our step. Ole Montezuma has a fierce hold on Mark, a lesser hold on me and Kels and Maria seem to be faring quite well. To make matters a bit worse, poor Dawson has the same problem Mark and I have. Not sure what caused his. I thought at first, he was just maybe a bit nervous because we weren't here with him for a week but,now that we're home, it doesn't seem to be correcting itself. You can imagine, a big dog, in the house, with the runs, equals a big mess..........and a stinky one too! Yuck!!!

Sorry! Back to the trip. What a fantastic trip it was and an equally fantastic group of people to share it with. We began in Guatemala City arriving Friday afternoon and staying in my favorite hotel, La Casa Grande. We had Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday free so the group mostly rested up and did some shopping and a little sight seeing. Sunday morning, the real journey began. We left the hotel at 8am bound for the orphanage on three school buses. The drive was a winding bumpy one that lasted about an hour. Unfortunately, the streets of the village weren't made for school buses to travel but where there's a will, there's a way. Our drivers were great!

When we arrived and the gate was opened, the children of the orphanage were all lined up, name tags on and ready to go to the zoo. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow pictures in the orphanage so you'll just have to imagine that scene.

I'm still not sure how many kids we took. There were 14 orphanage staff who counted the kids and went with us and kept track.........sort of. We were originally told 100 children would go to the zoo. Then the number changed to 130, and then we were told 30 children from each of four different hogars would be going. You can do the math, that would be 120 but when the kids were all loaded on the buses, the assistant director said to me, "100 children". Now if it hadn't been for the fact that we bought 50 bottles of water and told the children two of then had to share one bottle on the way home but we ran out before all of the kids had water, I might have believed that 100 count figure. I'm inclined to believe we had closer to 120 kids.

Our bus carried all boys. One of them asked if we could pray before we left so Gloria led the group in a prayer in Spanish.......the perfect way to start our excursion.

What a day! We started our time in the zoo with Pollo Campero lunch for everyone. The kids loved it! It was really a treat! I had gone the day before and ordered the lunches and paid for them so the restaurant was ready for us and they did a fantastic job of getting the food ready and out to us.

With the food gone, it was off to see the animals. The plan was for the kids to "stay in a line" with the orphanage staff spaced throughout the line and our group also spaced throughout. I'd say the line lasted about................5 minutes max. At first, I panicked. What would happen if we lost one of them?!?! But it all worked out fine. Eventually, we all made our way through the zoo and back to the buses.

The trip back to the orphanage wasn't without incident. One of the buses broke down so the occupants of three buses were combined into two but we snuggled up and made it the rest of the way back.

Before the boys got off the bus, Hector, a 14 year old who was sitting with Kels and Alex, said he wanted to thank us for such a special day. He said he would remember it for all of his life. Of course, I cried. To think such a simple thing, a trip to a zoo, had such an impact on a young man.

We unloaded the buses and had a quick tour of the orphanage, where we got to see our little Nola for a few minutes, then it was back to the hotel.
Monday morning we were off to Antigua. Our plan was to visit Kairos Christian School which was started by our friend Mayra Garcia's family. Mark and a couple of the younger men of our group went ahead to Kairos School while the rest of us received a tour of a public school. Our youth minister Tim did an awesome job of leading in some skits to entertain and educate the kids. We met with several different classes before we joined the guys at Kairos for lunch.
Mayra's 72 year old mother cooks for the children every day and she cooked for us as well.
We spent the rest of the day with the kids at Kairos. Tara lead the kids in some praise songs in English and then the kids sang one for us first in Spanish and then in English. It was Open The Eyes Of My Heart. A serious goose bump moment! Absolutely precious!

The kids leave at 3:00pm each day and so did we. We headed back to our hotel where some of our group braved the downpours and did some shopping. Most of our evenings were rainy unfortunately but it didn't stop the die hard shoppers.

The next morning it was back to work. The guys continued their construction help. Tim's group went to another public school. A couple of the teachers of our group led some English classes and a few of us painted a mural on one of the walls of the school. The students of Kairos had decided on a mascot of a sheep before we arrived. So we painted a sheep on the wall with the first few words of the 23rd Psalm. The painting was hard on a rough concrete surface but it turned out pretty well.

We signed our work with our church logo and the date. Another day done! It was back to our hotel for our last evening in Guatemala.

The next morning, some of us did some last minute shopping before heading back to the Guatemala City airport.

We owe a huge thanks to so many people. First of all to our church, Shelburn First Baptist. So many people gave so generously to make this dream trip become a reality.
Thanks to Gloria from La Casa Grande for getting our buses arranged for our zoo trip and for the correspondence back and forth until we finally got clearance from the director of the orphanage to make our zoo trip.
And another thank you to Mayra. She arranged for our transportation to and from Antigua and our hotel and meals while we were there.
God has blessed us with wonderful friends in Guatemala and He blessed us with an amazing trip!
Thank you Lord!

I wasn't able to get a meeting with CNA while in Guatemala this trip. Mayra is going to continue to work on that for me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nola's Hearing

I've sat down several times to post an update but have just had too many things going on. I left Thursday morning to drive to Chicago (4 hours) to catch a flight to Guatemala. I arrived in Guatemala at 11pm Thursday night. My hearing was Friday morning at 10am. Mayra's husband was having some medical procedures done Friday so her brother picked me up to take me to the hearing and her sister went to be my interpreter. I took my camera because I knew Nola would be there and I was looking forward to getting pictures. Of course, when we went through security, they took my camera away and locked it in a cabinet. They told me cameras were not allowed in the court. I should have known but the fact never crossed my mind. We went on up the stairs and when I got to the top, I saw my little Nola. I squatted down as she turned around and saw me. I held out my arms and said Yo su mami (that was my best attempt at "I'm your mommy" in Spanish). She came running to me, wrapped her little arms around me and held on tight! What a beautiful feeling! I instantly started crying. I'm talking boo hoo crying. I'm not sure how long we held on to each other but when I looked up from our little embrace, everyone who was looking on was crying too!

Mayra's sister went to the desk and asked permission for me to come in to the hearing and in a few minutes, the clerk came back and said the judge gave permission. I was completely surprised, thrilled and nervous at the same time. Nola and I sat down to wait until we were called into court. I took a little doll for Nola and I pulled it out of my bag. She grabbed hold of it and loved it. I don't know if she'll actually be able to keep it for her own once she's back at the hogar but at least she knows momma gave it to her. I also had a little package of cookies from my flight that I had saved so I pulled those out and she scarfed them down.

Then it was time to go into the hearing. The hogar assistant took Nola from me before we went in. We all took our seats around the table and waited for the judge. After checking who was present, the judge instructed each one to speak in short sentences so my interpreter could interpret for me (another total surprise). Each person around the table took turns delivering their report and soon it was my turn to speak. I wasn't at all prepared so I spoke from my heart. I told the judge from the moment I heard Nola's name, I loved her and even though the paperwork didn't say so, she is my daughter in my heart. I told her our entire family loves her and wants her to come home. I said I know there was some problem with the paperwork but that we had done everything we were instructed to do and neither we nor Nola had anything to do with that problem and shouldn't be punished for it. I said even though the hogar was doing their best to care for her, Nola needs a family to care for her and love her. She needs a mommy and a daddy to love her and that Mark and I are ready for her to come home so we can be a family. I also asked for her to be moved back to a foster home until our process was finished so she could receive the attention she needs. Of course, I cried through my little speech but I did the best I could. The last one to speak was the PGN representative. She reported that they found the birth mother who was listed in the paperwork. The woman denied having a baby and the PGN took her word for it. There was no DNA test done for proof. It was just accepted as fact. The judge accepted each persons report and was ready to make her ruling. She said since the woman who is listed as Nola's birth mother was not, in fact, the birth mother, the birth mother's cedula was not going to be accepted as part of the process. And since they established that the woman who was listed as Nola's birth mother was not her true birth mother, that voided Nola's birth certificate. Nola's birth certificate was also not able to be accepted as part of the process. Since every other document in the process was based on the those two documents, the judge said she was going to have to declare the entire file of notarial documents invalid. She ordered that a new birth certificate be drawn up for Nola listing parents as unknown. The more she talked the harder it was for me to hold back the tears and soon it was impossible. She declared Nola adoptable. That sounds like good news but Nola is now adoptable by any Guatemalan family. Currently, there are not procedures in place for International adoptions to process in Guatemala. She also said the CNA will now oversee Nola's adoption and the CNA will be in charge of choosing the family for Nola.................more tears. The judge asked if there were any arguments (legal arguments) and since there were none, the judge dismissed us. We walked out into a waiting area to wait for the judges official to type up a summary of the hearing and give each of us a copy. While we were waiting the orphanage director came to me and said she was sorry but that since CNA is now in charge of Nola and they are a government agency, she could not allow us to take pictures of Nola...............uncontrollable boo hoo tears! About that time my lawyer came up to me and said he needed his money. The man, who I don't care much for anyway, picked the wrong time to talk to me about money. I went off on him! In a very loud voice I let him know if he cared for our little girl even half as much as he cared about his money, we might not be in the place we were in. I told him he was not to speak to me of money again. Just so you know, we have an agency who is supposed to deal with such matters and he knows that. Anyway he walked away from me and left me alone. He probably thinks I'm a crazy American woman but really what he thinks of me doesn't concern me in the least. After that little episode, I was called into a room with the PGN representative and the door was locked behind us. She told me she overheard the lawyer asking me for money at the last hearing, which he did. She told me my lawyer knew what the outcome of the hearing was going to be and he knew after the judge ruled on my case I wouldn't need him anymore. That was why he was so anxious to get his money. If our case gets accepted in CNA, we won't need a lawyer. The PGN official instructed me not to pay the lawyer another penny. She then told me to go to CNA and talk to them and make them aware of our relationship with Nola. Then the judge's official gave my interpreter a paper with the name of an organization who is helping families in the situation that we are in. I could feel God throwing me a lifeline. We left the room and the CNA representative came up to me and told me to make an appointment as soon as possible with the CNA and go speak with them about our case and our relationship with Nola. She said "no guarantees" but she obviously thinks it could help us...........more hope! We went back to the waiting area and the orphanage director came and whispered that when we get outside, we can take pictures. She got permission from the CNA rep. Again, I felt God giving me a little boost. We finally received the copies of the hearing proceedings and my passport (which they took to make copies of) and we were ready to leave. I got my camera back on my way out and I had a very few minutes to take pictures because I was already running late for my flight home.

Mayra is going to the CNA for me Monday and trying to get an appointment for the time when we are back down there with the church (which is just three weeks from now). I'll be going prepared with a new little photo ablum full of pictures of us with Nola. I'm going to make sure they understand, I'm not giving up. I'm looking at this as a bump in the very long road to adopt our little Nola.

Gordon Mote - Don't Miss the Glory