Let me take this opportunity to brag on my wife. She’s the hero of the story today, well … the whole trip, but especially today. Today was the day of our court hearing. You know … the one originally scheduled for October 5th. Four weeks later, here we are.
We showed up at the Kampala family court around 10:30 for our 11:00 scheduled hearing. After what happened last time with our judge not showing up, we’ve been asking all of you to pray that the Lord would allow everything to fall into place, that the judge would be there, and that the Lord would give us favor in his eyes.
Since my mom and sister are here for a couple of weeks to help with the kids, we only had Shabby with us, and thankfully so. We waited in a tiny room from 10:30 until 5 pm when we were finally called back. A few hours before being called back to the court room, one of the lawyers representing us briefed us on a few things to expect. She brought to our attention that our judge was a devout Muslim, and since Shabila’s parents are both Muslim (well, now her mother is a born again Christian as of 2 weeks ago when my buddy Austin got to lead her to faith, but that’s another story) she told us to expect some difficult questions regarding the faith issue. So, thankfully we weren’t blindsided by what was to come, but neither were we fully prepared either.
We were called back to the court room around 5 pm, so we gathered our belongings and our sweet little Shabila who patiently occupied herself for SEVEN hours, and headed back. We found our seats and the hearing began.
The judge first questioned the lawyers and significant parties regarding the importance of Bukaleba (the location of the babies’ home) in Uganda’s history. He made it clear that this was crucial to the case by stating that if no one could significantly answer his question, then we could all just go home! What?! Side note: We had also been told that the judge enjoys getting off on rabbit trails and that he’s a bit of a jokester, but seriously, … on the first question? So, after a few failed attempts and answers that did not seem to suffice, Nelson, the babies’ home director, stood up and respectfully and matter-of-factly listed off at least four significant facts regarding Bukaleba’s importance in Uganda’s history. The one that the judge had been fishing for surrounded a war that took place between Muslims and Christians in the late 1800s in the Mayuge district–an event that apparently divided the nation of Buganda and caused a deep-rooted schism between Muslims and Christians that continues up to the present day. At least, in his mind. Nelson got an A+. Meanwhile, Tasha and were wiping buckets of sweat.
The judge then proceeded with questioning the biological father. Most of this conversation was in the local dialect so we were left reading body language and voice inflection. Whatever the judge was saying, he was most definitely not pledging his undying love for the man. His tone was harsh and critical. We would find out why later.
He then moved to Tasha, inviting her to approach his desk. I began praying. We had determined together earlier that if the judge had no preference, I would be the one to answer. Well, that plan went out the window. Tasha approached “Your Lordship” with incredible grace, dignity, and composure. I was stunned. As he began asking preliminary questions about our family, our biological children, and about why we wanted to adopt, her composure never wavered. Her voice never cracked. Her face never flushed. She spoke briefly, yet confidently, answering what he asked, and not offering information that he did not ask. She was on fire.
Then, it happened. THE question. The question to end all questions. The defining question. The question on which everything else hinges. The question of faith. He asked, “What does your husband do?” I began praying harder. What would she say? We had been prepped by the lawyer to try to dodge these kinds of questions as much as possible. Yet, with a humble confidence and a glowing Christ-like countenance, she looked at the judge and said, “He’s an evangelist. He travels the world and tells people about … (she paused for just a split second, as if she knew the next word would open Pandora’s box to which there was no going back) JESUS,” she said. There it was. It was out there. No more wondering. No more guessing. No more turning back. Our colors were exposed, and I was so freakin’ proud of my woman!
Well, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that he was not at all pleased with this answer. He leaned back in his chair and was quiet for a moment. You could hear a pin drop in the room. He removed his reading glasses– a gesture that means the same in every culture. A move that says, “I’m annoyed and displeased and I want to indicate that to you by removing these glasses and placing one of the earpieces in my mouth.” It’s universal.
He then began his 5-minute lecture on the consequences of a Christian family adopting a Muslim girl. Tasha stood there respectfully. He talked about the taboo foods that we would eat in our home that would be an “abomination” to a Muslim. He talked about how she would never truly have an opportunity to investigate the Muslim faith and be brought up under it’s teaching. He talked about how incompatible it is for a Christian family to adopt a Muslim child. Still, Tasha was unmoved. He mentioned the fact that there are many good “christian” babies ready for adoption all over Uganda, and that any of these would and should be a viable option for us.
(Later, Tasha would tell me that during his 5-minute diatribe that felt like an eternity, all she could think was, “Jesus loves you too. Jesus loves you too!”)
Finally, he told Tasha she could sit down, never giving her a chance to respond. Never allowing her the chance to remind him that it was the parents’ choice to place her in a “Christian” babies’ home in the first place. But nothing needed to be said. God was already vindicating her.
For the last few weeks we’ve been praying that God would give us favor in our judge’s eyes. We prayed specifically this morning before we left the hotel that God would allow us the opportunity to be a shining light for Him in that court room. And I believe that’s exactly what happened. Nothing else needed to be said. Tasha’s countenance said enough. She walked away from his desk not as a defeated soldier, but as a confident warrior, firmly trusting that her God would vindicate her. I don’t think I have to keep reiterating how proud of her I was, and am, but I will. I’m so proud.
After Tasha sat down, the judge said a few more things in the local dialect that we couldn’t understand. His demeanor was stern. And his voice seemed completely void of compassion. As he was speaking those last words, Tasha and I began resolving in our hearts and minds that we just might very well be heading back to the U.S. with only the three children we came with. And we were trying to be okay with that. We were trying to reconcile in our hearts why God would allow us to get this far into an adoption process that breaks all the molds and standards for normalcy, and to leave empty-handed. I couldn’t find an answer. But as we walked out of that room, I kept thinking about that verse in Proverbs that says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, and he directs it like a stream of water wherever He pleases.”
As we made our way back to the car, we said goodbye to the biological parents and thanked them for making the long journey to Kampala. We thanked Nelson for arranging their travel and for orchestrating so many of the details. As we drove away with our driver, Furuq, we weren’t quite sure what to say. Furuq, who has sort of a Santa Claus-like jolliness about him, broke the silence with some belly-jiggling laughter and talked about how quirky and funny of a guy our judge was. Since Furuq was in the court room, we asked him what the judge was saying toward the end of the hearing–the part that seemed void of compassion. Furuq said, “Oh, he was just basically giving you guys a positive verbal ruling!”
We sat stunned. “Furuq, what did you say?”
He repeated, “Yea, the judge said, ‘How can I NOT allow this little girl the chance at a life!? When her parents are ailing and unable to care for her, how can I not allow her this chance!? It is in her best interest!'”
We thought, “What about all that stuff about Islam and Christianity not coexisting?”
Furuq continued, “The judge said that even though he is a devout Muslim and he cannot reconcile the fact that a Christian family could adopt a Muslim girl, he cannot, in good conscience, release her back to the orphanage. It would be in her best interest to allow us to adopt her.” Furuq further told us that the scathing lecture that the biological father received had to do with the fact that he, as a Muslim, had completely dropped the ball as a father, and that it was on his conscience. Case dismissed.
That was it! The answer to the prayer we had been asking all along–that God would allow us to find favor in the sight of our judge–and a Muslim judge at that. In addition, we had been praying that since we’ve been in country for 5 weeks already, our judge would have some compassion for us and expedite our ruling. Sure enough, he did … by giving an unofficial ruling on the spot, and then by scheduling the official ruling for next week, November 2.
Over and over again, God has been answering our prayers and yours. We’ve been praying that God would move mountains today, and He has. Thank you all for your prayers. We can feel them. And we are so grateful. Thank you for following our journey with such concern and compassion. We love all of you so much! Oh, and did I mention that I’m so freakin’ proud of my wife!? 🙂