Cindi called me around 3:00am today to tell me the outcome of her court appearance. The judge heard both our case and the Littleton’s case, which is very good news, but he said that he would give his ruling on Wednesday, June 5. He didn’t say what that ruling would be or why it’s being delayed.
Everything else I could say is speculation at this point. It may be best to attempt to answer some of the questions you might have. My thoughts will be intermingled.
Why would the judge delay the process like this? Any answer to this question is mainly speculative. There are a number of potential answers that seem reasonable enough to us to be possibilities, but nothing is certain. A few of those potential answers are: (1) a desire to know the orphanage and its purposes in order to be sure that these children are being placed in good homes; (2) job-related busyness that prevents him from giving and writing the ruling immediately; (3) typical African slowness; (4) prideful enjoyment in exercising power over white people by making them wait and wonder; (5) strategically keeping white people in the country for the sake of the economy; (6) waiting for a bribe (though he’s never said or hinted at this). I could tell you which reasons are more probable in my mind and which are virtually impossible, but I think it would be uncharitable to cast any specific judgment on the judge since we don’t know his reasoning. At the same time, it’s not unfair to say that he knows what he’s doing and how it effects those under his authority. At the end of the day, though, it’s decisions and not reasons that will move things forward. That’s why we keep praying.
Is there anything you can do to speed up the process or transfer to a different judge? Not that I know of. A few friends who know people in high places in Uganda have offered to talk to those higher-ups, but anything outside of the normal process would be the prerogative of the orphanage. If there were some alternative that had a good chance of smoothing things out, the orphanage would already be pursuing it. Plus, doing something rash could jeopardize the whole process. If the judge is really waiting and feeling everyone out (which seems to be the case), it wouldn’t help to try to force the issue. That’s more of an American customer-service mentality that doesn’t work the same way everywhere else. There are many other families arriving in the next couple months, and creating waves certainly wouldn’t make anyone else’s voyage any smoother. It’s simply best to wait at this point. The orphanage administrators are doing everything they can do and they certainly share our sentiments about these unexplained delays since they’ve been at this for three years and have a vision that is far broader than one family and one child.
Is this normal? There isn’t really a “normal” in this situation. Some families have been postponed and later denied and have spent a year in Uganda in the appeals process only to come home without their children and begin looking into other non-conventional ways to finalize the process (like living in Uganda for an extended period of time which can qualify you to adopt). Others have returned with their children after six weeks. Last week a family adopting out of a different orphanage was approved by our judge and left for the States within the week. So, yes, this is normal in the sense of being unpredictable and uncontrollable. But it’s certainly not what the orphanage is hoping for, and it’s obviously not bureaucratically efficient or prudent, cultural differences aside. My take on it is that while I’m not ashamed to say that I wish things were different, I have read enough Scripture and lived long enough to not expect life to be easy or tame. I am happier to define normalcy by the will of God than by predictability and comfortability (though I have to crucify my love of comfort every day). He is good, and that colors everything. These are not just theological niceties or spiritual platitudes. They are the foundation of my life and the fuel of my worship. They are what make me worship at 3:00am with the words of Job. How can I worship God in anything else if I can’t worship Him in the midst of disappointment and difficulty? Gift-centered worship does not show that God is a treasure. Gut-wrenching worship does. My heart is not perfect or unwavering, and my worship is not consistent or pure, but my heart is held by the hand of God and my worship is sustained by His grace.
How are you and Cindi doing? I only talked to Cindi for a few minutes this morning, but she’s doing OK. She’s a very strong young lady whose heart God has strengthened through significant trials over the last decade. She said that the hardest thing for her at this point is knowing how to freely love Judah while guarding her heart with the knowledge that he might never come home. As for me, I feel pretty steady, though the stream of thoughts is unceasing. Aside from missing Cindi and Judah and awaiting the outcome of this process, my main difficulty is being the center of attention since arriving home after being so calm and under-the-radar for three weeks in Uganda. We are so blessed to have so many people in our lives who love us and pray for us. It is genuinely incredible how much support we have, and we cherish it. It humbles us. It also presents me with the personal challenge of being in the spotlight for the next week as everyone sees me for the first time and wants to hear the latest news. But what a wonderful problem to have. A related difficulty on the heels of the current news is answering the “How-are-you-doing?” questions honestly and succinctly. Everyone reading this has experienced that when you say that it’s hard, people assume that faith is wavering, and when you say that faith is strong, people assume that it’s not hard. I have found that both can be true at the same time, and often should be. It’s hard at times, and we trust God.
How can we help? The best way to help is to pray. We know that literally hundreds of people are praying for us, and we know that God hears. Also, don’t be overly self-conscious about encouraging us. Every Christian has experienced the awkwardness and even disillusionment of well-meaning friends making cliche comments about God’s sovereignty or God’s goodness or even atheological things like “It’ll all work out” or “Hey, look on the bright side…” But my conviction is that no matter how much I think someone understands about my situation and no matter how broad or cliche their encouragement is, if they’re telling me something about who God is and what He says (which excludes the latter two cliches), I’m going to listen and go home and think about it. So remind us of who God is and what He says, not because you assume that we’re downcast, but because it’s always good to hear even if we already know. Even cliches became cliches for a reason. They’re not worthless.
One final thought: This really isn’t a big trial, all things considered. Not like Josiah becoming king at eight years old. Not like Hezekiah and Isaiah praying down the angel of the LORD when faced with Sennacherib and his 185,000-strong Assyrian horde. Not like Paul’s litany of sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11. Not like Richard Wurmbrand’s torturous years in Romanian prisons. Not like Bunyan in jail or Spurgeon in controversy or Brainerd spitting up blood all day in the New England winter as a missionary. Not like Hebrews 11. It’s really a small thing. I really believe that. I believe that very few Americans truly understand trials and suffering and sacrifice and faith, and I don’t think that I’m one of the few. American Christianity hovers above the surface of suffering — we haven’t even touched the surface, much less scratched it. So I want to be careful about allowing ourselves to think of small things as big trials lest we get de-cleated when the big ones come. This doesn’t mean we don’t need prayer or that this situation is unimportant. It just means that exaggerating hardship won’t lead to greater spiritual strength and stamina in years to come.
I don’t know who all reads these things, but I can sincerely say that we love you all and deeply appreciate your interest, concerns, emails, support, encouragement, partnership, gifts, comments, and prayers. Don’t think those things are valueless or quickly forgotten. They’re not.