This will be along post so go get your cup of coffee. I could stretch this out over several more posts, but with Good Friday, the Cupcake Stand, Easter, and flying to Thailand on Monday it's time to wrap it up! I want to blog next week what it's like for Rebekah and me to visit her birth family, so the adoption story now has to come to a close. It's really fitting that I would close out during Easter weekend, when we celebrate God's adoption of us through His son.
My last post recounted how our family decided to move to Thailand to bring our daughter home. We had legally adopted her in April 2009, but as of February 2010 she still did not have a passport and we still could not have her home with us. I forgot to mention part of the story, though. In August of 2009 our second lawyer presented our case in court to get permission or Deer's grandma to get her a passport. This was denied. So, our second lawyer went back to court for us in November 2009 to petition the court to allow the orphanage director to get her a passport. The judges verbally agreed to it and then one week later changed their ruling and once again denied Deer access to a passport. We were crushed in November 2009 when we heard a second "no" on the passport. It was in the same week that we had received Mark's mom diagnosis and it was a dark time for us.
I went out to visit Deer in December 2009 to see her, hug her, and make sure she knew we were going to keep doing our best to find her a way to get a passport. Somehow--and I cannot remember how, but it was definitely by God's hand--we stumbled into the offices of the Chiang Mai District Attorneys. We told them our story and about our inability to get Deer a passport. They had compassion on us and a whole team of them took on our case. They secured a court date of March 22, 2010 to present our case once again to a panel of judges. So we went to Thailand at the end of February to be with Rebekah and to wait for the hearing. Also, if the hearing was unsuccessful then we knew that if we resided in Thailand with her for 6 months total we would then be allowed to apply for her passport, so we wanted to get the six months started just in case.
Our time in Thailand up until that hearing on March 22 was sweet. Rebekah was on a break from school and so we home schooled, went on lots of fields trips, went swimming, and began bonding as a family of six.
Cheap smoothies at every restaurant
Monkey zoo visit
Two-year-old Hannah feeding a baby monkey
Our borrowed wheels
Rollin' in the truck with popsicles--it was the hottest time of year in Thailand.
We met with our dream team of lawyers a few times, grew friendships with other missionaries in the area, and waited for our hearing. A mission team from the Harbor arrived just before the hearing and it was a real blessing to have a bunch of allies in town praying for us.
In mid-March things in Thailand became politically very tumultuous. The Red Shirt party staged a coup. The Red Shirts are primarily from Chiang Mai and they left our area and went south to Bangkok to protest the government and attempt to takeover by force. We heard reports of bombings and police violence in Bangkok. It gradually moved north and became an increasing problem for us, as well.
Despite the political upheaval, March 22nd arrived and the hearing went seemingly well. We couldn't be sure because it was all in Thai and the judges said they would give a ruling in about two weeks. We were accustomed to waiting but it was still very difficult to wonder what would be. Just imagine leaving your home and wondering when you may or may not return--it's fairly unsettling!
Our best friends the Rathmells arrived to visit. Mark and Buddy went with another colleague to preach the gospel in Cambodia. Jen Rathemell and I, along with a combined 7 kids, played in Chiang Mai and passed the time with all kinds of shenanigans. The Rathmells live there now as missionaries, so it's cool to think that their first exposure to that place was during this visit. Be careful when you visit the Oshmans.
One thing I did was take my kids white-water rafting. That was life threatening and memorable. It matches the elephant ride the year prior. Mark was in Cambodia, the Harbor team was going, and for some ridiculous reason it seemed like taking a 2-year-old white-water rafting wasn't a big deal. But when we were in the rapids, it was in fact a big deal. But they made it!
As of April 5th, we still had not received a ruling from the court. When we went to Thailand we traveled on frequent flyer tickets that were gifted to us by generous friends. We were scheduled to fly home--with Rebekah in tow--on April 13th (if all went smoothly). But by the 5th, that was 8 days away and she still did not have a passport or visa to get into Japan. By God's hand, United Airlines allowed the girls and I to change our tickets to April 27, so as to give us two more weeks to wait on the passport. These were the only frequent flyer seats from Chiang Mai to Okinawa until June. If we weren't able to fly then, we would have to wait or pay around $5,000 for new tickets. We booked the 27th and kept trusting God for the passport.
On April 7th, City Hall in Chiang Mai was bombed by the Red Shirts. City Hall is where you get passports. When and if we got permission to get a passport the building we needed to go to was bombed. Wow. Fiction doesn't get better than that.
The Red Shirt situation grew worse and worse. The protests grew bloody and people were killed. The streets were occupied by military tanks. Police in full riot gear were everywhere. I wanted to lay down and cry, "I just want my child's passport and to be able to get out of this place!"
Red Shirts and Police Face Off
Images like these were all over the news
On April 9th, the Im Jai Director finally received the ruling from the judges that said she could indeed secure a passport for Rebekah. Thank God!
As I said, City Hall was bombed on the 7th, so it was closed for several days. I wondered if it would open ever again. Our Thai friends, including those with the Im Jai Director, were convinced that City Hall would be closed for a long time and they weren't willing to go find out in person. City Hall was where most of the political action in Chiang Mai was happening and all of our Thai friends were steering clear of there.
But we Americans, who take action into our own hands, went straight to City Hall. We packed up the kids in the truck and drove right into the tumultuous part of town to see for ourselves if it was indeed closed. We weren't going to rely on second hand news. As we rolled near City Hall we saw cops in full riot gear everywhere. Yellow tape and razor wire kept us far from the building. We parked the truck and Rebekah and I got out to investigate. It was scary. But I was a woman on a mission, "I've been waiting for a passport for a year! I've been waiting for my child for 3 years! Your silly bombs and riot gear are nuthin'!"
Hundreds, if not thousands, of police dressed like this were surrounding City Hall. But there was only one way to find out if business was still happening inside those walls. Rebekah and I walked right up to the front line and said, "Excuse me, is this open?" Based on the scene, I was doubtful. There was office furniture strewn about, glass shards on the ground, windows blown out and duct-taped--it didn't look hopeful.
However, the answer was, "Yes." I pulled out my borrowed cell phone and started calling all the necessary players, "It's open! Please, please, please come down here! Right away! Please!"
Mark and I took the little girls home and he stayed there while Rebekah and I returned with the necessary staff and applied for her passport. Yippee! I never thought the day would come.
Amidst the violence and upheaval, Mark left. We had decided to keep his ticket on April 13th so that he could return to the Harbor. We did have a job there, after all! We celebrated Hannah's 3rd birthday that morning and took him to the airport that night. All of us were sad to see him go, especially Rebekah who sobbed uncontrollably for a long time. Undoubtedly, saying goodbye again was painful for her. I, too, wasn't super excited about being alone in Thailand during an attempted coup with four girls in my care. But, somehow, it seemed like the best option.
On April 22--one year to the DAY of our legal adoption of Rebekah--her passport arrived on the desk of the Im Jai director. Hallelujah! We made a beeline for the Japanese Embassy. Our flight was in 5 days and she still needed to be allowed into Japan.
We girls celebrated the day the passport was issued!
Her visa into Japan was processed and granted on April 27--FIVE hours before our departure. So typical for our adventure! I had counted and found that our family had applied for a total of 14 visas in one year and ALL of them arrived in our hands within less than 14 hours of our departure times. It was a stressful year. God was always on time, but never early!
Here we are having a goodbye lunch with her grandma on the day we left. I'm just a little taller than her. We were so glad she could come see us one more time and say goodbye to Rebekah.
Later that afternoon we went back to the Japanese Embassy and got her passport complete with a visa!
Her Im Jai "sisters" came to the airport to say goodbye.
And away we flew into the sunset, er moonlight--me and four sweet daughters, through the night on three planes, back home to Okinawa. Whew. The Lord did it.
There is so much more to add to the story, but I will close for now. We have many friends who have adopted and I have yet to hear a "tame" adoption story. They are never easy but always worth it. I look back on ours--her grandma, the Starbucks summit, sickness and lice, many trips back and forth, three lawyers, a bombing, and countless other details--and I still can not wrap my mind around what God brought us through. And that was only the beginning! Now we're her parents.
Thank you God for bringing us such a gift in Rebekah. We are blessed.