I'm closing in on the last third portion of our adoption story. Thanks for reading about the incredible journey of faith that God ordained for us to bring Rebekah home. If you'd like to read the whole story, scroll down and start with Part 1.
In March of 2009 the Harbor sent a mission team to the Im Jai House, which was Rebekah's orphanage. By this time, we had sent many teams there and we had a core group of volunteers who led a VBS for the kids at Im Jai. Mark and I joined the team, without our other daughters, so that we could give some personal TLC to Rebekah, as well as possibly make some progress on the adoption.
Mark and Rebekah enjoying shrimp at a favorite BBQ-at-your-table restaurant, which our teams always take the kids to.
Our dossier was already in Thailand and our Japanese agency had already done what they could do. The Thai Adoption Board was almost ready to review our paperwork, but they wanted a few more documents. I knew exactly what they wanted because I called them every single day. Two years into this process I had learned that if I wanted anything done, I was going to have to be a squeaky wheel. And I wanted our dossier reviewed now. So I called and called and called everyday. People who adopt through a normal American adoption agency would never be allowed to do that--so working with a Japanese agency and spearheading our own adoption process allowed me the luxury of calling the Thai government and demanding/begging/pleading for whatever I saw fit. I always heard my dear friend and fellow adoptive mom Carrie's voice in my ear, "You are your child's best advocate. If you want something done, who better to do it than her mom?"
The social worker who I bugged each day (after calling at least 6 times before the connection was actually made, plus an additional 8 or so attempts to get an English speaker) informed me that they needed the death certificate for both Deer's mother and father. This request felt like a large blow to our progress. Deer had left her hometown over 6 years prior to that. I knew the living conditions of her grandmother. I was convinced that a long drive to her hut would not be beneficial because, to me, the chances of her opening a file cabinet and pulling out legal paperwork seemed slim to none.
But what choice did we have? The government wanted those certificates and without them they would not look at our dossier. We had no choice but to do our best to get them. The orphanage director and her husband escorted Deer and me, along with an Im Jai house father who drove us on the long drive to Nan. We left well before sunrise. Mark decided to stay with the team because we knew it was a risky drive through the mountains on windy and ill-repaired roads and we didn't want to risk us both being killed in an accident. In fact we never traveled together on that trip for that very reason. We five set out on our quest for death certificates and I had very little faith that we would be successful.
I learned about 30 minutes into the drive that Rebekah gets car sick. Poor girl.
We drove and wound and sped through the hills for over five hours. We reached Nan by lunch--it's an eight hour drive, but our house father driver had a lead foot. When we got to Nan, no one knew where to go, as none of the adults had ever been there before. Deer didn't remember exactly how to find her grandma's little home either. The driver pulled over and--just like our lawyer had--asked a few people if they knew her grandmother and where to find her. Sure enough, someone did, and then we did.
We parked the van and Rebekah began to remember where she was and we walked down a few mud-caked streets and right into her grandmother's dusty yard. The women were frying bananas--the family trade. I heard cries of "Nong Deer!" coming from a few different directions. "Nong" is an affectionate title that is said before a child's name in Thailand. Deer didn't appear apprehensive at all and walked right into her grandmother's home. It was pretty awkward for me, as I didn't understand any of the conversation and was quite obviously "one of these things doing her own thing..." White, six feet tall--not exactly blending in.
Thankfully, I did not have to say, "Oh, hi. It's me--that tall American lady who has been called by God to adopt your granddaughter. Do you happen to have any death certificates in here? Would you mind checking and then perhaps running up to Kinko's and having them copied for us? That'd be great. Then we'll just be on our way. Thanks so much."
The Im Jai director seemed to do a great job speaking on my behalf and Deer's family very warmly received us and invited us in for a visit.
Me and sweet Grandma--she told me that day that I had put on some weight--I'm still trying to figure out if that was a compliment or insult based on her culture. I wonder what things she'll say when I see her again next month!
Rebekah on the lap of her aunt (her mom's sister) and her cousin
Rebekah's half sister is on the chair and her aunt it in red. They are looking at photos of her mother's funeral.
At some point our meeting's purpose was evidently revealed and people began to rummage about the hut. I was floored when I watched one of them walk to a corner of the wooden-slat house, pull a grocery sack off the wall, look inside, and pull out official-looking paperwork. Lo and behold, right there in that sack was her mom's death certificate. I would not have been more shocked if they had pulled a live alligator out of that bag. There it was. Holy cow. One down, one to go. You are amazing, Lord. How did You do that??
The certificate was taken by the Im Jai director who promised to take very good care of, bring it back to Chiang Mai to be copied and have it returned to them quickly. There was much conversation and concern in Thai as to how to obtain the father's death certificate. His family lived in the same neighborhood, but the two families were not on speaking terms, so they weren't sure how they would go about trying to get it. We did not go home with that certificate that day, but I was thrilled with what we had.
Apparently, some kind of story was presented to the father's family within a few days of our visit. His family surprisingly agreed to provide the certificate--another testimony of God's hand in all of the details. The Thai government received a copy of his certificate within a few weeks time.
Here is Grandma posing in her doorway on our way out.
My faithful and sweet Im Jai helpers.
Deer inspecting a leaf bug during a potty break on the drive home.
Momma-and-daughter-to-be at the end of our visit.
Once again, the Lord had required us to walk by faith and not by sight. And once again, He alone provided what we needed. And once again, the adoption inched closer to the finish line.