Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two years ago I posted about a baby boy that would be joining our family. He was named Jephté, meaning "whom God sets free"in French. At the time, it seemed fitting but we wanted to give him an American name as well. Miles was at the top of our list and so it was decided. We introduced him to you all as Miles. What we didn't realize was just how significant the Congolese name he had acquired at the orphanage would come to be.

What began as an adoption estimated to take 12 months turned into a heart wrenching ordeal that was drawn out over 30. Hellos and goodbyes laced with empty promises and apathetic officials on both sides caused us to wonder if our son would ever be released to come home.

By late spring, I made plans to go back to visit Jephté. His birthday was approaching in June and his visa needed renewing.

In the middle of May there was a glimmer of hope. The Congolese officials decided to release exit letters for some 60 children. Surely, our son would be included. The announcement was made that families would be notified via email. I madly refreshed my inbox for two days straight- no new messages from the embassy. I discovered several of my friends who were also waiting on letters had been overlooked.

It was yet another insult to add to the festering injury of separation. Why we were denied letters is still unclear. Hundreds of legally adopted children continue to wait as I write.

I finally arrived in Kinshasa, hopes low, but not crushed. Over the course of a few weeks, the ambassador advocated on behalf of Jephté, a politically connected friend spoke with the director, a new friend I met in the airport met with the officials on our behalf, a lawyer presented our case yet again, and our faithful friend and agency rep continued to jump through the hoops of submitting documents and arranging meetings.

For over a week, we were promised the letter. As the days wore on, my hope once again began to fade. Finally, on Friday night I got a text from Pascal to book my ticket. I would have my letter in the morning.

On Saturday morning, Jephté and I went to the DGM to meet the secretary. He reviewed the file, pulled out the signed letter and relinquished it to me. It may as well have been a winning lotto jackpot powerball scratcher mega ticket! (clearly, I know nothing about the lotto... though in DRC you can play the lotto for a greencard to the US!) We floated back to the hotel where the staff was anxiously waiting. I gave a thumbs up out the window of the truck and the cheering began. There was dancing and singing and chanting, there were tears and hugs. What seemed impossible had finally happened.

Mike called me and told me he had had a strong impression about Jephté's name. We knew his Congolese name would remain his middle name, but Miles had never really quite stuck on him. Over the crackled phone I heard Mike say "Moses, it means Who God Sets Free."

That evening we walked across the tarmac to the jet waiting to whisk us away. While it seems I should've bolted to the front of the line, I lingered. I stood at the base of the steps, drinking in the warm night air, praising God, and mourning the fact that we were leaving his first home. I held him close, promising to bring him back again. "Nalingi Yo Moses," I whispered, "I love you Moses Jephté." We boarded the plane, crossed the globe, and landed in San Francisco on Father's Day.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

At the end of December, I knew my time with Jephté was ending. I had done everything I possibly could, but the circumstances were tearing us apart. I fought and I cried as he looked on in confusion and terror at the reality of being left alone.

The morning of my flight, I opened my puffy eyes to find him tangled up in the sheets next to me. We were trapped by a mosquito net in a moment I will never forget. As he began to rustle, I snatched my phone to catch a video. His eyelids fluttered softly, not yet resigned to the dawn of a new day. I called out to him, "psssst!" Big brown eyes locked with mine and a smile spread across his face. "Mama," he whispered, "mama, mama!" He lunged across the bed, knocking my phone to the floor, smothering me in his slobbery kisses.

I must've watched that video a hundred times before it was accidentally deleted. It was one of the few things I could touch and see to remind myself that our time together was real, that it wasn't an illusion. That he knew who I was and what it meant to be loved.

I hoped and prayed that some impression of our time together would remain, despite my absence. As the months dragged on, I began to wonder if we would be given the gift of time together again. Even as I boarded my flight in May, I knew there was no guarantee he would be granted the freedom to join our family. We hoped and we prayed, but our hearts were tempered with the overwhelming brokenness we had experienced in Kinshasa.

When I met Jephté again, he looked at me as if I were a stranger. He screamed and he fought against me. I took him back to the same hotel, to the same bed, under the same mosquito net and waited for my boy to return. And he did. The same eyelashes fluttered, the same brown eyes met my gaze, the same smile melted my heart with the morning light. And it has everyday since we've been home.

During our three months together last fall, we lived. We swam, we ran, we read, we learned, we sang, we watched Thomas, we ate tortillas, and we savored chocolate. We experienced pain and we were showered with grace. I don't want to forget that.  Those days were a gift- in the crucible of uncertainty and heartache they forged a bond that I can't quite describe to you. He remembered, when it seemed impossible, those memories lived on. The joy born out of those days lodged itself deep in his soul, nothing can undo or take that away.
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