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Remembering Uganda: Court

July 10, 2013

We are telling our adoption story through recounting memories and sharing a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

I woke up early on July 10, 2012, and I walked outside to the the balcony of our guest suite. This was the day that we had been waiting and waiting for. We had accepted a referral for Naomi and Nate over six months earlier, and yet some crazy circumstances with the particulars of our case had caused a major stall which had prevented us from getting a court date within the “normal” 2-3 month wait window that our agency had told us to expect. As the months rolled on with no court date in sight, our struggle against the wait got greater and greater. It was hard having children halfway across the world with no way to get to them. We celebrated Nate’s birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day- all from an ocean away. To say that is was incredibly difficult would be an understatement.

All that to say, that morning I woke up truly amazed that we were there at all, with a court date, that the day had come at last. There had been moments I had honestly thought that day would never come. It seemed pretty incredible to me that it had actually arrived.

I also woke up with a nervous pit in my stomach. Our limited experience with Ugandan courts and procedures let us know that there was a bunch that could go wrong today: witnesses could be unavailable or just fail to show up, heck, even the judge himself could fail to show up, documents could be misplaced or incomplete, just to name a few. So, as I was standing out on that balcony, I just prayed. I asked God to work everything out, asking Him to ensure that everything we needed for our case to be heard that day would be there when it was needed.

The kids woke up soon after, and we were a flurry of activity getting kids dressed and ready to go, packing a bag that would have all our food, water, activities and supplies to be gone all day, and getting ourselves ready somehow in the midst of all that. When we finally got downstairs, we found the van waiting for us. So we piled in and drove to the courthouse.

The courthouse was crowded with lots of families and children lining the hallways, waiting for their cases to be heard. I remember thinking there was no way we were going to be able to wait all day in a hallway, chasing our kids up and down. Well, before I could even worry or pray about it, our social worker led us to a small room. I learned later it was the guard’s break room. I’m not sure what they thought of a bunch of kids in their break room all day, but they didn’t appear to mind. It was so kind of God to provide the perfect place for us to hide out, self-contained, for what would turn out to be a several-hour-long wait.

There would be a lot of this:

The only problem: we only brought one movie to the court house with us. So Winnie the Pooh was watched, oh, about 700 times that day

The only problem: we only brought one movie to the court house with us. So Winnie the Pooh was watched, oh, about 700 times that day

And this:

A dusty, sandy floor to crawl and roll around on? Oh yes please!!!

A dusty, sandy floor to crawl and tumble and roll around on? Oh yes please!!!

And this:

Hanging out by the only window in the room, which provided the only moving air in an un-air-conditioned room

Hanging out by the only window in the room, which provided the only moving air in an un-air-conditioned room

And, sadly, there was not nearly enough of this:

Nate was the only one who napped for any stretch that day, and him for only a short 30 minutes or so

Nate was the only one who napped for any stretch that day, and him for only a short 30 minutes or so

Our friend “A” did stop by our little nook, as he was waiting to see a different judge about something with their adoption case, and it was nice to have a friendly face to talk to, even if just for a little while. In fact, as “A” was talking to us about our whirlwind departure for and arrival in Uganda, and while watching Tim and I manage the swirling vortex of entropy known as our children, he said, “You know, you guys must have a double dose of the Holy Spirit right now or something.” He said it halfway in jest, and yet, as soon as he said it, I knew it was the spot-on truth. The only reason we were able to keep going, with as little sleep as we had had between travel and jet lag, and with as inept as we were at taking care of so many small children, was because of the Holy Spirit’s strength and power. I have never been as aware of truly supernatural strength and power that has no explanation other than God is providing it as I was those first few days we were in Uganda.

At 3pm, after we had been at the courthouse nearly 5 hours, our attorney walked into our little hideout room, and I jumped up. “Is it time?!” He looked at me like I had three heads. “No. The judge is not here. I just wanted to make sure all of you were here.” Oh. Ok.

At around 5:30, our attorney came back again. “Now. It’s time. Can you keep the children quiet?” I was honest and said no, I didn’t think I could keep the children quiet. He explained that then just one of us would have to come in to the court room and the other would have to stay with the children. I told Tim to go in. By now, we had been at the courthouse nearly 7 hours, and our case was just starting to be heard. But, to me, it honestly didn’t matter. I was just so thankful the judge had showed up and that we (presumably) wouldn’t have to return the next day. Another kindness from the Lord.

Tim was gone for nearly 2 hours and then our social worker came to get me because the children (Nate and Naomi) had to be present in the court room. Tim and I had to stand before the court and state their names and ages. I got so nervous that I could barely speak, and I totally forgot how I was supposed to address the judge. And then shortly after Nate started crying, and our attorney gave us the look to take him out, so I had to walk out into the hallway with him.

I felt so bad leaving Tim with the other three kids inside the courtroom, but I knew I couldn’t re-enter while Nate was still crying, and I couldn’t get him to stop. So, I just walked up and down and up and down the hall with him and prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give peace to the other three children, to give Tim wisdom on how to care for them and for them to be miraculously quiet.

As it turns out, God answered that prayer immeasurably. Tim put Eliza on the Kindle, he had Naomi sit in his lap and gave her snacks, and Jude just passed out sleeping on the floor, a combination of missed nap and jet lag finally overtaking him. All three were quiet the entire rest of the proceeding. Truly a miracle.

After feeling like I had walked miles up and down that hall, our little troop exited the courtroom, and Tim mouthed to me, “It’s over.” We followed our social worker out of the building and to the van. As we were leaving the court building, I was so tired that I didn’t know if I could hold back tears, when all of a sudden, Eliza says sweetly, “I had fun at court today, Mommy.” I was so surprised to hear her say that, and I replied, “You did, baby?” She said, “Mm-hmm, my favorite part was when we ‘dopted Naomi and Nate. What was your favorite part, Mommy?”

My heart just swelled. I could barely choke out, “I liked that part too, sweet girl.” God used my precious daughter to remind me what it was all about. The hours of waiting, the exhaustion, the stress and the tears. It was all in an effort to make Naomi and Nate part of our family. And it was more than worth anything and everything we had gone through or would go through.



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