A year ago this week we were in Aaron's country. We were on our second trip. Our first trip, in July 2010, had ended in disaster-- we were sent home without a court date and without any assurance that a judge would hear our case. We returned one month later, much wiser and much more frightened about what might happen. The reality of adopting a child from a closed mental facility weighed heavily on our minds. We had a judge, but knew that she didn't support our adoption. Nor did the prosecutor. We walked into that courtroom on August 26, 2010 hoping against hope that she would agree to let us take Aaron home. Our blog title at the end of that day was: The Only Way It Could Have Been Worse....
After a tense round of questioning, she left the room. When she returned, she told us that our next court hearing would be in two weeks. Then she handed down a list of demands that shocked and dismayed everyone in the room:
- She demanded that someone from the SDA attend the next court proceeding. This was unheard of-- the SDA did not have extra staff to send to adoption proceedings all over the country. Our facilitators ended up hiring a local social worker to stand in for the SDA. Our facilitators did NOT charge us extra for this, nor for the extra time and energy it took to find her and prepare her for court.
- She demanded that Aaron attend court. This was against all of the rules for special needs adoptions. Although Aaron had just turned 6, he was NOT in a normal internat, but in a mental institution. By law, he was not required to sit in court. By bringing him to court, the judge was implying that he was mentally competent to answer questions-- yet he had been relegated to a mental institute because he was supposedly mentally incompetent. Again, this demand put our facilitators in a difficult position. None of us wanted to put Aaron through the trauma of a court appearance; but the fear of angering the judge forced us to go along with her. So our six year old son was dragged into court to be questioned by the judge. In the end, Aaron couldn't have cared less about the court proceedings, and his only answer to the judge's questions was stone-faced silence. But he did thoroughly enjoy the car ride.
- She demanded signed, certified papers that Aaron had no siblings available for adoption. There was no paperwork available to meet her demand, and getting that paperwork finished in 2 weeks was nearly impossible. The judge did agree to apply for the paperwork from her office. Unfortunately, by the next court date, the paperwork had NOT arrived, and that glitch alone almost derailed our proceedings.
- She demanded that in the two weeks before our next court appearance, Rob and I were to learn Aaron's language. Our facilitator was absolutely astounded at this request and honestly didn't believe that it was real. We did not take it as lightly: we were pretty sure she was serious. When she tested us in court two weeks later, everyone else realized how serious she had been. We failed her language test, even though Rob spent numerous hours during that two-week period studying as best he could. Her disgust at our complete inability to learn Aaron's language was evident in her words and facial expressions.
Remembering all of this doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. The agony of those weeks is still fresh enough on my mind that to ponder too deeply is to experience the trauma anew. Still, remembering is good: not to rehash our bitter feelings, but to remind us of God's faithfulness. When we first saw Aaron's picture in December 2009, when the Holy Spirit first breathed "son" into our hearts, we had no idea what the path before us looked like. We took a leap of faith, and then prayed for God to stick with us. God heard every single one of our prayers.
To look back is to marvel at His Grace. To review those memories is to rejoice at His Faithfulness. To reminisce is to stand in awe at His Presence throughout the entire process.
We don't remember in bitterness. We remember to rejoice. We serve and love a God who served and loved us first. In this week, in these days, as I think back to the terror of a year ago, as I ponder how lonely and scared we were in that village, as I remember the horror we felt as we drove away from that courtroom, I am bathed in the wonderful reality and the beautiful testimony that my God hears and answers prayer. He listens. He responds. He does not leave us alone and lonely. Whether we are in a courtroom pleading for the life of a child, or in a prayer closet, pleading for a marriage or a sick loved one or a wayward son-- the reality of a Living and Loving God is woven throughout the entire tale. It is for that reason that I sit back and remember. To sing His praises. To give Him glory. To be reminded of His faithfulness. To experience anew the wonder of His love.
Aaron's adoption story is a story, not of tragedy, but of Grace. It is a story of Love. God's love for one little lost boy. It is a story designed so that in the end, all of the Glory goes to God. As His children, we had the honor of being part of God's story.