This morning Alethia and I woke early and headed back to the US Embassy to make one last ditch effort to explain our case with the consulate officer, to try to discover whether there is any detail we or they have missed, and then to find out what options we have left. I tried to think of every possible scenario. I stayed up late last night researching adoption visa laws in non-Hague countries–researching the economic condition of the Mayuge district where Alethia’s biological parents live–trying to find out how far they live from the nearest clinic where they could potentially get help for their physical conditions–trying to dig up any bit of information that might help our case. But I felt so inadequate. I’m no lawyer, and I kept beating myself up for not knowing more and not trying hard enough to fight for my daughter.
My meeting went as I suspected. They wouldn’t budge. No visa. I actually talked with two different officers for about thirty minutes each, and as time went on it became very clear to me that our only fighting chance is to let them go ahead and submit our case to the USCIS headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
The hangup, very simply, surrounds the word “abandonment.” In a case where both parents are still living, there has to be clear proof that the child was, in fact, “abandoned” in the legal sense. I explained that it’s hard for me to look at this case objectively, but when I really try, I continue coming to the conclusion that she was, in fact, abandoned. She was placed in Bukaleba Babies’ Home with no intention from the parents to ever take her back because of their economic and physical conditions (their words, not mine). The officer agreed with me that, in a non-legal sense, it looks like abandonment. But she disagreed that it meets the legal requirements.
I finally asked bluntly, “So, what about the best interest of the child? Will that come into consideration when we take it to Nairobi?” She said, “No. Even in Nairobi they will only look at the legal requirements of abandonment.” In other words, “No, the best interest of the child is no one’s concern. Only that we uphold the law.” (my words, not hers).That’s not the word I wanted to hear. We had heard from several other sources that Nairobi was more considerate of the case as a whole and the welfare of the child, but now, who knows? We can only pray that she’s mistaken.
We left the meetings on good terms. I was as cordial and nice as I knew how to be and I don’t think I made further enemies of the two officers. And although I probably would have normally left there feeling defeated and discouraged, I had an unexplainable peace come over me. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t confused. I wasn’t even sad. Just at peace. I can only attribute that to the vast amount of prayer that was being lifted up on my behalf this morning. The Holy Spirit was once again busy at the work of comforting.
We’re so grateful to all of you who have lifted up prayers on our behalf. Many of you have fasted many days. You’ve shouted it from the social media rooftops. And we can’t thank you enough.
So, what now? Well, we wait for our case to get submitted to the USCIS office in Nairobi. The officer assured me it would be mailed out this week, and then the office there would be in contact with us. I asked for some kind of time frame but she couldn’t give me any. We’ve heard of some cases going as long as 11 months, but as quick as 2 months. We’ll pray for the 2. In the meantime, we need your prayers as we try to decide what’s the best living situation for Alethia while we wait this out. At some point, I’ve got to return to life in the US and fulfill duties and obligations there. Tasha’s having a baby in February. And there are numerous other factors that come into the equation. We ask for your prayers as we make these difficult decisions in the days ahead.
One more thing: For my last question to the officer I asked, “American to American, what final word can you give me?” The business face came off and I could see that there was genuine care and concern. She said, “Sir, this is the absolute hardest part of my job, to have to stand here and refuse to grant visas to perfectly great families, and I don’t like doing that.” And then she said with a smile, “You know, you’ve got a lot of fans back home. We got slammed with emails today!”
That made my day!