In an attempt to answer the question “What happened in Africa?” I’d like to try to explain a few of the goings ons we experienced. I’m sure this will bring more questions but here’s the gist: Last year in Africa we started our adoption with a lawyer at the Court of Ouidah. It’s a big courthouse in a somewhat “major” city in central southern Benin. After several months of putting us off again and again, the judge ruled against our case. In prayer one day, our friend PulCherie got a revelation from the Lord to go to the court in Lokossa and try again. Lokossa is a smaller city close to Elisee’s mother’s village on the far west side of Benin (4 hours from PulCherie’s home and the orphanage). She drove out there several times a week and acted as our lawyer. She made excellent progress within the court towards our adoption. This led to us being summoned to the court to meet the judge and our last minute trip commenced!
Once in Africa, nothing was easy. Our meeting with the judge was more of an interrogation with no promises made of adoption and the judge seemed to think of quite a few MORE papers necessary to progress that we would need to bring him. On top of that, it was the parliament’s election time and all judges (including ours) would be campaigning for the next few weeks before the actual election. “Come back in a few weeks” he said. Not an option! We want to fly home in a few weeks!
Next we knew the visa would be difficult. It is not possible for just anyone from Benin to leave the country and more specifically, from Elisee’s family’s village. Long ago in the “birthplace of Voodoo” (this very village near Lakossa) agreements were made with Satan himself to “protect” the people and keep them safe from the slave ships. Ever since the time of the slave trade this village and many others have been marking their children upon birth with the sign of the snake. Almost every single person we met in Benin had some variation of this sign which is three scars in a row that have been bled, filled with powdered snakes blood and healed to a scar over time. This sign proves a child’s inheritance of the snake’s protection. Elisee has this sign (faint and small yet still evident) on each cheek. He has been “given” the snakes protection which (obviously to a believer) is bondage. This spiritual battle was overarching every meeting and plan we had in Benin. We were fighting for every step forward.
Also, we found out an appointment is needed to be made for a US citizen to meet with the US Embassy. This we did not know since PulCherie (& even both of us) had been several times for her visa and never had an appointment. So when we tried to set an appointment there was only ONE available during our three week stay and it was 5 days before we left. (Please consider the fact that 2 of the 5 days were a weekend and one was the 4th of July. NO TIME for adjusting paperwork if needed!?) Little did we know the Embassy was moving to a new building on the other side of town and was completely shutting down during the transition. SHUT DOWN. Great.
The second week we spent in Africa the amazing PulCherie traveled hither and yon collecting new copies of the paperwork we had already done (since the first judge had confiscated it). She felt it best to go alone since most officials in Africa are eager to charge double or triple the price of anything if a “Yovo” or white man is present. She searched and dug and drove until she was worn out. She dragged along the mother and grandmother of Elisee for signatures and photos and help searching in their village archives. All the while she rose at 3 am to make pate’ with the older girls in the orphanage which could be sold in the market for enough money to buy the next days’ food for the children. At the end of the week, Elisee’s grandmother called and said she had some things that “might be helpful.” When PulCherie took the envelope of papers she discovered it held every single paper she had just spent a week and hundreds of dollars to gather. The grandmother knew all along.
The third week was the charm we had been waiting for! Finally our appointments with the Judge and the Embassy had arrived! We had spent a chunk of week 2 in prayer and felt fully confident that the Lord’s favor was upon us. We just knew that the downhill slide was about to turn into an airplane ride home with our little man. We met with the judge Monday and had all the wonderful papers collected and copied. He in turn requested more information, more paperwork and remembered the need to send a social worker to Elisee’s mother’s village for interviews. This would take more than two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Our flight out is in 6 days. We paid the social worker triple the fee and he headed off to the village immediately- he actually left the building before us, PTL, he understood our urgency! We left believing for a miracle.
Tuesday was our appointment with the Embassy. It was actually the first day the new building was open to “the public” (or those with precious appointment papers). We were literally kept outside the main doors until one minute past our appointment time and then entered into the chaos of the first day. This is where the nightmare began. Once we made it through the minor glitches of security and got our “misplaced” passports back we waited for a meeting which turned out to be a bank teller window with an audience of a whole room full of waiting appointment holders. We were informed that unless we had applied for adoption in the US before May 14, 2014 we did not stand a chance due to the incoming Hague Convention Act. This is NOT what their website had told us a year before, I might add. And it shouldn’t matter since the adoption in Benin was almost finalized, right? We wanted to speak directly with the consular. She was in a meeting, but we were more than willing to wait no matter how long it took. She did come forward at long last but informed us in no uncertain terms that she would NOT be offering our son a visa either today or any day and no, there was no other way to get our boy home. She did after some consideration offer us the opportunity to move to Benin and adopt him. “I know an American family who did that and loved living here so much, they’ve stayed and it’s been seven years.” How lovely for them.
So thanks to the lack of US paperwork (which, might I add, is simply not possible since we can find no agency or attorney in the US who works with the country of Benin) and thanks to the adoption of the Hague Convention Act (which won’t be in place and active for several years) and thanks to the US government and their inability to accept a bribe and look the other way (jk, we didn’t even try) we have no visa. There. The end. Or so it seems… Praying for some crazy miracles to align and bring to fruition this adoption story, because to quote pretty much my favorite book of all time:
“The God who created the universe did NOT create too many children in His image and not enough LOVE to go around…[And] He doesn’t ask me to take them all but to stop for just one.” -Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis