Sunday, August 17, 2014
We are rolling into another school year around here. All the supplies have been bought and backpacks packed. Teachers have been met and classrooms visited. This will be the first year we send all four of our kids here off to school. I am excited for them and happy that they are growing and thriving little people who are more than ready for this. But, I will still have a stash of tissues next to me in the van as inevitably the emotions will come. And, this year I expect they will be BIG.
We attempted to keep our commitments this summer to a minimum. We had so hoped we would be welcoming home our kids and did not want them to be overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle that so often becomes our norm around here. However, our home and our family continue to wait for the two little kids stuck in the DRC. I will attempt to touch on some of what we did to advocate for them as well as hundreds of other kids stuck in this exit letter suspension.
Starting in March we began working with Both Ends Burning and Kelly Dempsey. We made contacts in Representative Bruce Braley's office as well as Senator Grassley's. Senator Harkin proved to be much harder to contact and get on board. In April 170 members of Congress sent a letter to the DRC President and Prime Minister - all six of Iowa's elected officials signed on to the letter. To date we have not received any response.
In May we had another phone call with the Department of State. It has become the norm that these conference calls leave us angry, frustrated and defeated. This was no different. However, over Memorial Day Weekend we heard news of Italian families bringing home their children and soon we learned that 15 kids adopted by American families would also be issued exit letters and allowed to come home. We believe this to be a direct result of Secretary of State discussing this with President Kabila during a visit to Kinshasa.
In June nearly 70 families converged on Washington DC and over two days we had nearly 100 meetings with Members of Congress. This was an amazing experience! We were able to share photos, stories and plead with our elected officials to HELP us. And many of them were on board. We were able to meet with staffers from the Foreign Affairs committee and Rep. Ed Royce - the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations - personally met with us and shared his commitment to finding a solution. We learned that Kabila would be in the USA in August.
While in Washington DC we held a candlelight vigil on the capitol of the United States Capitol. It was an incredibly emotional experience seeing all of these precious children's faces and hearing from so many parents begging and pleading for action and for their children. We were able to attract some national media attention as well.
The next day several parents stayed behind to represent us as the House Foreign Affairs discussed House Resolution 588. They brought pictures to show the Members of Congress who these kids were and they were strongly supported. Everyone agreed and spoke strongly that this suspension must end and that these children must come home. On July 8 this resolution passed the house without opposition. The Senate passed a similar resolution unopposed a few weeks later.
On July 16 - 167 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking for his personal involvement in find a solution to this crisis. On July 23 we held a nationwide White House Call In Day - the volunteer operators said the majority of their calls had to do with DRC adoptions.
Mike and I along with another family from Des Moines met with Bruce Braley to further discuss things he could do to help us and advocate for our family and kids.
In August President Kabila was in Washington DC for the Africa Leader's Summit. We have learned that in every meeting the adoption crisis was brought up and discussed. I call that a job well done of getting the word out that this IS a problem. We believe it to be a political problem - it is clearly not about what is in the best interests of the children. That was made clear when one family lost their son due to not being able to get him out. He lived when he should have died and he died from something that could have been easily treated had he been able to get the medical care he deserved. It was a senseless, tragic and unnecessary death. And it illustrates how urgent this really is.
We are making preparations to travel to Kinshasa once again. When we started this process two years ago we thought it would be a 6-9 month process with one short trip. Obviously that timeline has been blown out of the water and we have no idea how many trips it will take to finally be able to bring them home. For now we are anxiously anticipating the day we have our kids back in our arms and the day we are back in Kinshasa. It's a vibrant and beautiful place. We are praying with all that we have that God would move mountains and make a way for these kids to come home. We have already renewed their visas once and are hoping and pleading to not have to do it again. Our God is a God capable of miracles and we are hoping for one and praying for one.