We had finished our last social worker visit on February 25th, and when she left our house, she told us that we probably wouldn't hear anything further for at least a month. She had to write the report, send it off to the main office in Oregon for approval, get an approved copy back in the mail and have it notarized. She said that we might be on the waiting list by early April.
David had been having some Crohn's issues since the middle of January, and a routine test on March 4th showed what looked like a possible abcess in his abdomen. The doctors were very concerned and thought that he was probably going to need surgery to remove the remainder of his colon, (he'd had about 2/3 of it removed 4 years earlier) but they decided to treat him with antibiotics for two weeks and do another CT scan on March 20th. We were hoping and praying for healing, and had made the decision not to call Julie (our case worker) about the potential surgery until we knew for sure whether he actually needed it or not. If the test results were better, nothing would have changed in our file; if they were worse and surgery was imminent, we'd have plenty of time to let her know before we even made it to the waiting list, right?
Imagine my utter shock on the afternoon of March 18th when I learned from David that Julie had called him at work to tell him that she "had a little guy that she needed to talk to us about." I stammered out all kinds of things like, "But our home study isn't even approved yet!" and "We can't possibly take a referral now! What if you need surgery?" and "David, what in the world are we going to do?" He calmly said, "Honey, God knows the future. I don't know any more details than what I told you, because I asked Julie if she could please call us back this evening to talk to both of us at once. When she calls back, we can ask her all of these questions, okay? Hang in there."
I was in my car at the time, and when I hung up, I had tears streaming down my face. I felt absolutely overwhelmed and panicky. After praying desperately for awhile - "Lord, please help us know what to do here! I'm not ready for this! Why is it happening right now?" - I turned the stereo back on as I continued to drive toward home. The very first words that I heard were from Steve Green's "All Is Well":
He's ordained the paths we take,
What father would his child forsake?
Immanuel, God is with us, all is well.
When life is like a tempest sea,
His Spirit calms the storm in me.
God sets my anxious soul at ease
When the winds of trouble blow.
Peace is a place, a harbor safe
For riding out the storm.
For each there's a grace, a strong embrace,
The comfort of the Lord.
He's ordained the paths we take,
What Father would His child forsake?
Immanuel, God is with us, all is well.
Those words reassured me that God knew exactly where I was right then, and He knew all about the little boy that Julie had mentioned. Still, it was impossible to think clearly for the rest of the afternoon until David got home. We prayed together and discussed possibilities until the phone rang. As soon as we answered, before we could get a single word in about our situation, Julie started spilling information! "We've got a little guy to talk about! His name is...let's see...Yikky-Ay-Lo? I'll have to find out how to pronouce that for sure..." We learned about his mother's leprosy, that he had an older brother, and that he was from the Tigray region. He had just arrived at Hannah's Hope on March 5th, and he was healthy, except for some ringworm, which was being treated. When she paused for a breath, I said, "But we haven't even heard that our home-study was approved yet!" She answered that it had been and then looked down at her paperwork for confirmation. "Actually, it was just approved yesterday!" When she finished talking, she said that she would e-mail his entire file to us, including photos, and we should let her know the following day whether we wanted to proceed. If so, she would then send us the official referral packet. That's when I was finally able to discuss our predicament: "Ummm, Julie, we're actually having a CT-scan done in two days that may show that David needs to have a very serious surgery that could require a lengthy recovery time. Knowing that, I'm assuming that you probably don't want us to have a referral yet?" After talking a bit more, she decided that she would "hold" the file until we called her about the results on Friday. If surgery was not necessary, we could proceed, but if David DID need an operation, then they would give the referral to someone else, and our file would be put aside until David was fully recovered.
We spent the next day calling our family and some of our closest friends to ask for their prayers - for David's health and for the little boy that was now firmly in our thoughts. On March 20th, David's 35th birthday, our visit to the Cleveland Clinic confirmed our fears: David needed surgery and would have a temporary stoma for possibly up to 6 months. The surgeon stated that it would be possible to travel with the stoma, so the adoption hopefully wouldn't need to be put on hold until after the second surgery. We spent the whole day meeting with various doctors and nurses and going through pre-op testing. When we were finally able to leave the hospital around 5:00 that afternoon, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. We had planned to spend the night at a hotel in Cleveland to celebrate David's birthday, and as we moved our luggage, we were both grieving the loss of a little boy named Yikealo. Why had that referral call come on Wednesday? Why had we learned so many details about someone that now we would never meet? Why had God led us to adoption at the same precise time that David was having a health crisis of sorts?
Once we checked into our room, we called Julie to tell her the news. She reaffirmed what she had told us on Wednesday - that our case would be put on hold indefinitely until David was back to health following his surgery. She was excited that the stoma didn't seem to be an issue as far as proceeding eventually, but said that for the time being, they would give Yikealo's referral to someone else. Right before she hung up, she said that she would need to verify her decision with Hollen Frazier, one of the directors of AGCI, but Hollen was out of the office for several days, and we probably wouldn't hear back from her for a week or so. When we got off the phone, I was really struggling with my emotions: "Here we go again, Lord. I just hate the thought of sitting in that hospital waiting room for hours upon hours while I wait to hear how my husband is doing. How am I going to take care of a stoma anyway? Ugh! Why did we learn about Yikealo just in time to find out that our adoption is being put on hold indefinitely? What are You trying to teach me here?"
As I paced the room, trying to gain some equilibrium, David's phone rang. To our surprise, it was Julie again, "Hey guys! You're not going to believe this, but Hollen just stopped by the office for a few minutes to get something. I happened to run into her in the hall, and I told her about your situation. After discussing it, we've decided that we'd like to go ahead and proceed with you. We need you to get your doctor to send a letter to us stating that this surgery will not affect your ability to parent a child. Once we get that letter, we will go ahead. Could you possibly see if you can get it to me early next week?"
HUH??? What happened to putting our case on hold, you ask? We believe that it was God - weaving together a very complicated set of timelines and circumstances to join us with our son. There are so many reasons why Yikealo becoming our child shouldn't have been possible in the "normal" scheme of things, but we serve the God of the impossible, and He delights in stretching and molding us more fully into His image. He cares about the most minute details of our lives, and His plans are perfect even when - maybe especially when - they seem too hard. The following weeks got more and more precarious for us - and I may write more about that at a later date - but as we look back over the last year to the day when we first heard Yikealo's name (sort of!) we stand in awe of our holy, powerful Father and what He has done for us! Praise His name!