You’ll have to read the previous few updates (at least the last one from earlier this morning) to fully appreciate this one. We received some amazing news this morning that might not be so amazing if it weren’t for the news we’d received throughout the last week. Actually, it would be amazing either way because of the consistent inconsistency of this journey. I want to share the story because the details are noteworthy. I’ve summarized the bare facts at the bottom of the post for those who won’t want to read the whole account.
Three families (including the Tatlock’s) had court hearings on Friday with the same judge who presided over our case. What happened in the courtroom was strikingly providential and cannot be explained apart from the mighty hand of God.
Mark Tatlock was the first parent to be seen. The judge started with the regular proceedings, and our lawyer (Betty) began going through the details of the case. The judge stopped her and asked how long the father had known the children. Betty told him that the father was present if the judge wanted to ask him directly. The judge declined. It is very rare for the judge to speak to an adopting parent. But a few minutes later he said that he did want to hear from the father. He asked Mark how long he’d known the children, why he wanted to adopt, and how he’d come to Uganda. I can’t think of a better person I’d want answering those questions than Mark Tatlock. It was no mistake that the judge asked Mark and not someone else.
Mark answered all of the judge’s questions, explaining how he had come to Uganda to teach at a pastor’s conference and how he had met Danyne (co-founder of Amani) and gotten acquainted with the orphanage. At the end of the dialogue the judge smiled broadly and said that he was very pleased with Mark’s answers. He expressed confidence that this certainly was not a case of child-trafficking, an issue that weighs heavily on the minds of Ugandan officials and has received international attention in the past week.
The lawyer then continued reading the details of the case. When she got to the part about the children coming to the United States, she was very specific about the wording that the U.S. embassy wanted to see on the rulings. This is vital because the U.S. embassy recently denied wordings based on the omission of a single word. The judge was very careful to make sure that he knew exactly what was being required; he even reiterated his understanding of what Betty was saying, and she told him he was correct.
At the end of the hearing, our lawyer boldly asked if they could get a written ruling by the following Monday (it was already confirmed that the ruling would be positive). This boldness was especially surprising in light of her customary tendencies and her recent hesitancy to follow the specific instructions of the orphanage (which led to the denial of our ruling). The judge laughed and said, “Betty, you know how busy we are!” She pressed him and asked about Tuesday or Wednesday. Finally he smiled and said that he would write the Tatlock’s ruling on Friday — a one-week turnaround!
After Mark left the room, the other two families came in one after the other. The judge asked Betty if these two cases were the same as the first. Betty answered yes. The judge then asked them the same questions he had asked Mark, giving them the opportunity to share their hearts and explain their intentions (again, very rare). He also gave them positive rulings and said that he would write the rulings on Friday along with the Tatlock’s.
The judge saw Mark for forty-five minutes. The other two cases took ten minutes each. A friend named Erin Littleton also appeared, seeking custody of two children that her and her husband fell in love with while volunteering at Amani last year. The Littleton’s are being required to provide some extra notarized documents for the court, but this is less surprising because their adoption circumstances are different than ours.
During these hearings, the judge also mentioned that he trusted Amani (the orphanage), Danyne (the orphanage director and co-founder), and Betty (our lawyer). This is wonderful news because it indicates the potential for a good relationship with the Jinja court which could lead to a streamlined process for the rest of the families (at least streamlined by African standards, which any family should embrace after observing Judah’s process).
After all three cases had been heard, Betty reapproached the judge. She needed to inform him that the three rulings that he had given on June 15 (including ours) were misworded and needed to be rewritten (even though it was her omission, not his). She said that one word needed to be added to the rulings in order for them to be accepted by the U.S. embassy. The judge laughed and said, “That’s it?” He took the misworded rulings, crumpled them up and threw them away, and immediately signed and sealed the newly-typed rulings that Betty handed to him. The orphanage has already contacted the U.S. embassy and has confirmed that these rulings will be accepted. In fact, the embassy said that as of today, they would’ve accepted the old rulings (apparently some of the conversations with embassy personnel over the past seventy-two hours may have had an effect).
The only difficult news is that there is a brand new law in Uganda (courtesy of child-traffickers) that calls for adopting parents to be present to pick up their children’s passports. This means that one of us has to fly to Uganda again since the passport agency lost our original application for Judah’s passport and therefore it wasn’t completed and picked up before this new law went into effect. Cindi and I both love Africa and we certainly don’t mind being there, but tickets this time of year with such short notice are in the $2,500-3,000 range. This is why we had planned for Judah to return home with another adopting family (which would have been legally acceptable a week or two ago). Now we will be paying for Cindi to get on the exact same flights as our friends who were going to bring Judah back for us. This ate at me for the first few hours this morning as we tried to find out if there were any way to avoid having to fly again, but the Lord has since calmed my heart with thoughts of what His providence must have in store. He is our Father, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. So I will send my wife to go get my son and we will entrust ourselves to our Father who paid with the price of His Son’s life to bring us into His family. I will pay money to go get my son; God gave His Son to go win His enemies. I put my hand on my mouth.
Cindi has reserved a flight for this Tuesday, July 3 to fly to Uganda, pick up Judah’s passport in person, apply for his visa (24-hour turnaround), and bring him home. But she will only get on the plane this Tuesday if the passport agency says that Judah’s passport is already in process. She will come back on July 13 or 16 if everything goes smoothly. You can pray for Cindi’s health, for the timely completion of Judah’s passport and visa, and for grace to walk by the Spirit in the midst of uncertainties and decisions.
This week has been a rollercoaster. But a rollercoaster is different than an earthquake, because the twists and turns of the roller coaster still stand upon solid ground. I am way past thinking that this adoption is locked up and certain, no matter how good the news is. But the more the rollercoaster twists and turns and dips and dives, the more sure I become that we are indeed on solid ground.
- The judge rewrote our ruling and it has been accepted by the U.S. embassy!
- A brand new law says that an adopting parent must be present to pick up the child’s passport, which means that one of us has to go to Uganda again.
- Cindi has reserved a flight for Tuesday, July 3. She will only leave if Judah’s passport is already in process (hopefully we’ll find out Monday).
- We are praying that the passport will be ready for pick-up by Thursday, July 5.
- Once the passport is in hand, we can apply for Judah’s visa (24-hour turnaround).
- Once passport and visa are in hand, Cindi can bring Judah home (hopefully mid-July).
(There’s actually a whole lot on my mind besides the adoption, but we know that at least some people check here for adoption updates and I don’t want to leave anyone hanging. I hope to write a lot more about a lot of other things in the very near future.)