Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More photos...

Silas, my Kinyarwandan tutor, is so excited to welcome Nathanael. He will be officiating at Nathanael's Rwandan naming ceremony on April 17. We've tried to explain to our friends that Nathanael has to attach to us, so we don't let anyone hold him except us. However, our Rwandan friends don't understand that at alla nd literally just take the baby from our arms.
Usually he smiles when Lian plays with him, but I couldn't quite catch him on camera when he did. Lian is a great helper for her little brother.
"Son, I think we need to have a little man to man conversation."
The overprotective sister already.
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Photos from Nathanael's First Days Home

Here is our wide-eyed wonder. He loves those two fingers.
Laurel Greer, Christina and Alana from 4 for More, an organization committed to coming alongside Rwanda's orphans by providing clean water to orphanages and supporting adoptive parents, came to visit. Laurel's husband, Peter, is the director of Hope International, a microfinance organization that also works in Rwanda. Laurel and Peter adopted their son, Myles, last yaer. It was so fun to meet them.
Sleepy baby. He was awake every two to three hours for the first five days. Then last night he slept through the night. We were so grateful.
Devoted Sister. Anna loves to play with her baby brother.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Video of Nathanael's Adoption

We visited Nathanael five times before the day we were allowed to take him home. Here is a video of yesterday's homecoming.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome Nathanael Niyonzima Jukanovich!

We are pleased to announce that Nathanael Niyonzima Jukanovich is home with our family. We started this process officially on August 6 with our homestudy. Received our approval in record time from Immigration and the RWanda embassy on September 29. Submitted our dossier on October 14 after we had moved to Rwanda. Received our non-objection letter on January 19. Received our match on March 15. And here we are - the week of my birthday - receiving him into our home on March 25. We are overjoyed and feel very complete.

I was able to go the sector office last Thursday to fill out our act of adoption. We received our court date for today and I asked if I could attend the hearing. It was very brief, but we asked the judge if he would complete the judgment today - usually it takes at least one day. I was still under the impression we would have to then take the judgment to the Minister's office, receive a travel letter and then bring that to the orphanage, so was hoping for a Friday homecoming at best - braced myself for Monday. However, the attorneys that were present there told me that onec that judgment is signed, the child is ours. It is up to the nuns however if the child can stay the night. Technically they need to have that letter from the Minister. He said yes and we showed up at 2 pm to receive the judgment. Of course, nothing is as simple as receiving the judgment and go to the orphanage. We had to first drive to the district office nearby to find out the bank account to which we would have to pay 800 RWF to purchase copies of the judgment. Then we had to go to the bank and pay the fee and today there were very long lines. Then we had to drive back to the district office to hand in our payment - again another long line (Rwandans are scurrying to get their identity cards finalized for the election this summer). I pulled the Muzungu with two small children card (which was really true - my kids would not have lasted another five minutes in that crowd) and found myself at the front of the line with a nice woman. Of course, then we had to have the bank receipt photocopied before handing in the receipt. Finally got that done and headed back to court. Got the judgment, then ran to the printers to get the documents printed for the orphanage's files. We started at 2 and by 4:45 pm we were standing at the orphanage with Sister Catherine and Sister Teresa so excited to welcome us.

After visiting Niyonzima for the past week, it was such a joy to look at him and tell him he was coming home forever. The girls were so excited and were already telling me they had his bottle, could help situate his blanket, and they are trying to understand why it is so important that mommy is the only one who holds him right now.

His name came to us as we were reading the first book of John with Caroline the other night. Jesus is calling his disciples and he says to Nathanael,"Here is an Israelite in whom there is nothing false." Nathanael asks him, " How do you know me?" And Jesus replies, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree, before Philip called you." Having adopted three children now, Dano and I would both say that we really do believe the Creator of the universe knows his children by name. He knew our son before we even called him to be a part of our family. Amazing. Nathanael also means gift of God. He truly is.

He has already had his first bottle, first bath, and first bedtime story. There is still more paperwork to be done - medical exam, Ministry travel approval, passport, etc., but for this evening we will focus on the grander scheme of things and simply relish in this new life that has joined our family. Life has changed...for the better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We Have a Court Date!!!

We received our referral last Tuesday, March 16. I volunteer at the orphanage every Wednesday, so they told me I could visit with Nyunzima Moses on Wednesday. Dano came with me just in case they did let us meet him. He is precious. Eyes full of wonder. Whenever I would sing to him, he would tap me on the back. He has beautiful long fingers and long eyelashes. He seems very tiny to me for 9 months, but we'll know more once we have him checked out by the pediatrician here.

Since then I've been able to visit with him four times, feeding him his bottles of millet and milk, and each time it gets harder to place him back in his crib next to the other 20 infants. He has cried when I've placed him down, which breaks my heart. I sang the song to him that I still sing to my daughters when I leave for a trip,

This momma comes back, I always come back, I always come back to get you
This momma comes back, I always come back, I never will forget you.

Yesterday we were able to introduce him to his sisters. I so wish I could post pictures, but that will have to wait a few more days. They were so excited to see him. Anna wanted to feed him and take care of him. Lian wanted to feel his fingers and toes, measuring them against hers, playing silling games with him and reading to him. And when they left the room to play outside, he seemed to be searching for them. I had the hardest time feeding him yesterday because he just wanted to turn his head towards their voices. I felt complete.

Today we received word that our court appointment is for Thursday morning at 8 am. I've been scrambling the past few days to get all of our docs notarized and to the appropriate offices - nothing is simple. Hopefully we will hear that he is ours by Friday morning, if not sooner. The Sisters said we could bring him home when we have the court approval since I've been visiting him almost every day.

Stay tuned : )

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Miracles of Access

This weekend has been one of so many emotions – on Friday evening I was finalizing my mother-in-law's eulogy, while also painting a lion's head for a prop for my daughter's 7th birthday; on Saturday evening, I was literally placed in the front row for the funeral via a laptop and Skype and my connection was only disconnected once in three hours (a major miracle here). I was able to cry and laugh with my family and friends as we reminisced about the life of Dano's mom. This morning, I had the incredible honor of witnessing miracles take place through Operation Smile – one miracle will effect the future of my two-year old neighbor, Claudina. I am so full of joy right now that I had to share this with a broader audience.

Claudina

is my neighbor. She is often at our home with her brother, Pierre, and five year old sister, Diani. When Claudina was only a month or two old, she was laying in her bed in their one room home. Diani was only three years old and accidentally knocked over the oil lamp that lights their home (there is no electricity for their home even though they live two doors down from us). The petrol fell on her bed, lighting it on fire. Her mom was outside, but ran in and was thankfully able to save her, but her right arm was completely burned. It is deformed now as the skin continually contracts, thus pulling her wrist inwards towards her arm. If she can't use her hand, she can't write or cook, thus she can't pursue an education, and she has no future.

Three months ago, we were introduced through a friend to Beth and Robert Riviello who are doctors from Boston. Robert is a burn and trauma surgeon. They were volunteering with Partners in Health in Rwanda and while here they also received their adopted son. It was beautiful to witness what they do. When I found out about Claudina's arm, I just asked Robert for his advice since he was here and this is his specialty. He asked me if he could come and see her wounds for himself. He did this the day before they left Rwanda and as they were in the midst of finalizing their adoption. We visited

Claudina, he saw the wounds, and I saw him take his own arm, form it in a crooked fashion and then straighten it out slowly, telling her mother that he would take her arm from its current state and make it whole. I couldn't believe it – what if he couldn't, he was leaving, were we making false promises? But he said no, he had a plastic surgeon friend who was coming in July and he thought he could do the surgery.

This morning we met with that surgeon. He was in Rwanda with Operation Smile, so four months before he'll come back with Partners in Health. Operation Smile was doing a clinic for cleft palates, but he thought they could fit in her surgery and he asked us to come to their screening. I have been to medical clinics in the States, but have never experienced anything like I saw this morning.

After only one day of seeing patients, we were number 233. And there were at least another hundred people waiting outside, if


not more. Children and adults with cleft palates, a 10 month old whose head had a huge hole in it and whose face was completely burned on one side, overwhelming. I was there with my girls and I had forewarned them that they might see some really sick people. But in the midst of that place, I turned to my girls and said, “This is a place of miracles.” This place is giving people hope, it is changing their lives. These doctors are miracle workers and what was wonderful is there were Western and African doctors volunteering.

They truly are working miracles. Yesterday as I was finalizing pick-up time with Claudina and her mom, Clementine, a neighbor stopped by. Last month a neighbor had told me that if this surgery worked Claudina would have a future. Yesterday, a neighbor came by and said no one would marry Claudina because she was deformed. I didn't know what to say, but I told her I believed that the good husband would see her heart and that we were working to correct her crooked arm. She didn't believe us. I can't wait for her to see the transformed Claudina.

The plastic surgeon told me and her mom today that her arm can be fixed. It will require much aftercare – she will have to wear a splint for up to six months to straighten the arm and she will have skin grafts that will require much attention, but it can be done. Her surgery will be this Tuesday or Wednesday. Her mom cannot believe this is happening.

As Westerners, we often do not realize how much access we have just because of the friendships we have. It was a friend from Boston who connected us to the Riviellos, who connected us to Steve Naum, the plastic surgeon. We are connected to such educated and accomplished people who are using their skills to serve the poorest of the poor. And in return we have the privilege of seeing miracles happen. I am overwhelmed and humbled by that reality.