November was packed with rehearsals for Ivy's professional ballet production premier (she was cast as a toy soldier in The Nutcracker). We celebrated Thanksgiving with Sam's family on November 22nd and with my family on November 24th. Nutcracker dress rehearsal was November 23rd and performances were November 24th & 25th...and she was outstanding! So proud of Ivy!!!
Then, on November 26th, Sam & I boarded a plane to Ghana to meet the precious girls God spoke to us so many months ago. We had no set agenda and were trusting in God entirely. It was the most unnerving week of my life!!! We arrived in country on the night of November 27th. We had daily communication with the Department of Social Welfare (the governing body that oversees adoptions in Ghana), but were unable to actually meet the girls until the afternoon of December 3rd...but I'll get back to that in a moment.
Each day, as we waited longingly to hold the girls in our arms, we did the best we could to distract ourselves while also serving God in Ghana. We spent many hours at an orphanage that was walking distance from the guest house we were staying at, and had the joy of loving on several children in that home. We also spent time with the most wonderful, Godly woman...her name is "Auntie Comfort," and she operates a crisis pregnancy/maternity home called The Fern House. It is such a marvelous ministry and I am so blessed to have met Comfort and her family during our time there!
While we were in Ghana, we also were able to visit with Liam & Cora's first mother and the in-country coordinator that helped us complete their adoption. We had prepared & taken photobooks with us of the kids' first year in America. They were so appreciative and really seemed to love that Liam gets to play soccer here! There was a lot of drama surrounding that encounter, but I am truly thankful for the opportunity. She gave me her phone number, so we will be able maintain a relationship with her when it is healthy for the children to do so. What a potential blessing that most internationally adopted children never have!
We learned a lot about the girls even before we met them. We learned about their situations and the truth behind their stories. I will share more about them in a future post...I'm still processing all I've learned. I'm still praying about what information is mine to share, and what is uniquely theirs and needs to be held in confidentiality. There is much that NEEDS to be shared...but it must be done right.
The day FINALLY came...the day we were going to get to see the faces in front of us that until now we had only seen in photographs...and then we were promptly reminded how EVERYTHING in Ghana operates on "Ghana time"!! Talk about frustrating!!! We were asked to be in Accra for noon. We hired a driver and planned ample travel time, accounting for traffic delays (which we experienced on our drive into the city earlier in our stay) and actually arrived at the office around 11:30am. I texted the woman whose office we were going to and she advised me to stay in the car until the girls arrived and she would call me. 3 HOURS of sitting in a taxi cab on a hot Ghana afternoon with anxiety bubbling over before we got THE CALL. When that phone rang, my heart skipped a beat. I'd waited for this moment for SO long! We were actually going to meet them! We practically jumped out of the taxi and ran (ok, power walked) into the office building. As we turned the corner on the flight of stairs, I saw them...there they were...in their school uniforms...walking toward us. My heart raced. How were they going to react? What would I say? And then...they saw us...and they knew who we were and they smiled! They were tentative, of course, because they weren't told why they were being brought to Accra. They had NO IDEA that we were in Ghana to see them. And as soon as they knew it was ok, they hugged us and smiled and held our hands and played games and asked questions and just let us love them. It. Was. AMAZING.
A piece of me that had been missing, was filled. My heart was happy. For a few moments, my life felt whole and complete. Then we were ushered into the office...where R's birth mother, baby sister and aunt sat alongside A's maternal grandmother and 3 government officials. We sat there for roughly an hour and a half, with the girls on our laps, as their future was awkwardly (and in my opinion, inappropriately) discussed in front of them. At times they were asked their opinions and the girls were incredibly frightened. They didn't want to answer "wrong" or upset anyone. It was traumatizing for them (and us)! A was on Sam's lap and R was on mine. They snuggled and tickled and were affectionate with us. They played with my camera and took silly pictures. They understand adoption and knew we were there to become their American family. They were so excited for us to be there...but the tension in the office could be cut with a knife and they clung tight with fear whenever a question was asked of them directly.
When the meeting eventually ended, we knew our time with the girls was running out. We asked if we could take them to dinner before they had to be returned to the orphanage and our request was granted. We took them, and their case worker, to KFC (yes, there is an actual Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ghana!) and discovered that R really loves the American spin on chicken & chips (fries) whereas A is much less impressed and would have preferred good old fashioned Ghanaian chicken & rice. Oh well...at least we got some quality time with the girls before having to say good bye. When we walked out to our taxi, it had a flat tire, so we literally just stood on the street corner and talked with the girls while the driver went to get the tire fixed. What a pleasant God-incidence. Truly a blessing to have even just an extra 30 minutes with them.
Once the tire was repaired, it was back to our guest house...where we had to say good bye to these beautiful, precious little blessings. A was sad, but R...oh my sweet, sweet R...she was devastated. She sobbed and sobbed. She did not want to go, nor did I want her too, but it had to be done. With many hugs, a little prayer and a lot of "We Love You"s, they walked away. There has never in my life been a worse moment than the one pictured below.
The next day, Sam & I boarded a plane to head home.