Our Adoption Story Part 18--the Hearing and Near-Death by Elephant

This is part 18 of our adoption story.  I am only about one-third of the way through the story.  If you'd like to read about how God brought Rebekah home to us, go back and start with Part 1 and meet me back here each day as I tell a little more of God's amazing story in blessing us with our daughter. 

We finally had our day in court.  We had to take all our kids with us, Deer, her grandma, a translator, and an orphanage social worker.  It was a hot and steamy courtroom and we had to keep a 5-year-old and 3-year-old and a 1-year-old happy and looking like the children of nearly-perfect parents who should definitely be allowed to adopt.  Mark and I were sweating, for sure.  We were stressed out by our lawyer, worried about the pressure poor Rebekah may be feeling, hoping the grandma was speaking in our favor, and wanting to appear normal to the judges who were really perplexed as to why in the world we wanted another kid. 

The judges wouldn't reveal their ruling for at least one week.  We thought it went well, but we weren't sure.  Once again, all we could do was pray.

Mark was trying to keep the kids happy while we waited hours for our turn. 

Lawyers in Thailand wear robes in court.  Kuhn Joe felt pretty good about the hearing. 

On the court steps after the hearing. We were relieved it was over but really curious about the ruling.  We were in limbo in a make-it-or-break-it moment.  If they ruled in our favor we could apply to adopt Deer.  If they ruled against us we didn't know what we would do. 
Kuhn Joe wanted us to stay in Thailand until the ruling was handed down.  We had a job to return to, but we were able to stay one more week.  We spent a few extra days in Chiang Mai and then went to Bangkok.  
During that last week in Chiang Mai my stupidest parenting moment ever happened.  We took the kids (sans Rebekah because she was at school) to an elephant camp.  The kids really enjoyed watching the elephants play, wade in the water, and paint (they're actually quite good!).  Mark and I had both been on elephant rides on prior trips so we thought Zoe and Abby Grace should ride an elephant. 
At this camp they have riders climb up to the top of a platform and wait in line for the next available elephant.  You take a large step from the platform onto the back of your elephant.  There is a bench for a seat, a back to the seat, and a broom stick that lowers in place in front of you.  Mark and I both knew that elephant riding was precarious and we have both seen very temperamental elephants.  As such, I really don't know why we thought our five-year-old and three-year-old should ride one.  
Mark and the two older girls waited in line while I held baby Hannah.  Their turn was up.  Low and behold, their elephant was the largest one in the camp, by far.  This dude was huge.  For some reason, the kids got on first--another serious and potentially deadly lapse in judgement.  The elephant's master was beating him on the head with a club while holding a cigarette in his other hand.  The beatings did nothing to make the elephant obey and he actually backed away from the platform before the broom stick was lowered and before Mark joined the girls. 
At that point I realized we were seriously stupid.  I was panicking, but it was too late.  I was sort of screaming, but nothing would come out because I was so shocked by what was happening and that it was actually our dumb idea.  Finally the elephant obeyed, tramped back to the platform and Mark got in.  Why didn't they all get out and call it a day, you ask?  I don't know.  Good question.  I couldn't watch the rest of the ride because I was too terrified.  And even if I wanted to watch, the route heads through the jungle, through a river, and out of sight and lasts for about an hour.  
I paced with Hannah in my sling, praying for the second time that week that God would deliver my children safely back to me and begging Him to forgive me for being such an idiot.  They did return.  Thank you, Jesus.  After telling our local friends the story they said, "Oh yes, several tourists die there every year from being trampled by an elephant."  
Walking around the camp.

Feeding the elephants. 

Zoe during the ride.  Happy?  Scared?  Scarred? 

Abby's lovin' it.  Ignorance is bliss. 

Do you see how huge this dude is!?  Abby Grace's head is the same size as the tip of his trunk.  Mark is 6' 5" and looks smaller than his ear!  And why is the trainer off the elephant and taking the picture!?  Get back on and bring my kids back to me! 

The edge of the platform, the not-so-good trainer, and the pathetic bench. 

Here's one last picture for all my safety-conscious mom friends.  This is how we roll in Thailand. 
After an few days in Chiang Mai, we still didn't have a ruling.  We did have tickets to Bangkok, so we left.  Kuhn Joe flew with us to Bangkok so that we could visit the federal government's adoption division while we were there.  If we did receive a positive ruling, we needed to know how they would allow us to move forward.  
We took a taxi to the appropriate government building and asked to speak to a social worker.  She outlined the next steps for us and then gave us what seemed like bad news: we would have to use a Japanese adoption agency.  Even though we are American, because we live in Japan, the agency would have to be Japanese, no discussion.  That felt overwhelming.  
However, that bad news was turned into joy when we received a fax at our hotel on the last evening of our stay in Bangkok. The judges had ruled in our favor!  We were allowed to apply to adopt Deer.  Huge relief.  Thank you God for bringing us one step closer.