This is unbelievable! I have been working on this blog since we got home in APRIL! Motherhood is tough ya'll and I am so sorry that we are so far behind in our blog! Thankfully, the kids are in school now and I can work during the day, which means I can update our blog while they are outside playing or in bed sleeping! YAY! Okay, so I am going to recap all of the amazing and hard things that have happened. Be prepared! This is going to be a longggggg one!!!
For those of you that haven't heard, we arrived home with the kids on April 17th. Michael and I were in Liberia for 6 weeks and everything that could have went wrong with our adoption process did, but God was SO faithful and worked SO many miracles to get us home when He did.
God started working from the moment we stepped on the first flight to Chicago. We were so nervous that we might have to sit next to a crabby person, but God had everything already worked out. He sent us a new friend and her name is Mary. She's a wonderful Christian lady that was in Minnesota visiting her sick dad. We ended up talking the entire flight and shared our story with her. It was so crazy to us that God thought about every little detail even who we would sit next to on our flight. Once we landed, we exchanged numbers with Mary and headed on our way. As we were walking through the airport, we saw Frances Chan! No lie! Unfortunately, he was on the phone, so we didn't get a picture or get to say hi. But, still pretty cool! Our flight to Brussels was pretty uneventful and very long. Unfortunately, we were both uncomfortable, so we didn't get much sleep. We also were running a little behind schedule when we landed, so we had to rush to our connecting flight and didn't really get a chance to move around or check out the airport. The accommodations on the Brussels flight were amazing and we really liked the crew, but it was still a tough flight. Michael and I were extremely sore and tired, so we had to get up a lot to stretch which made sleeping difficult. As we neared Sierra Leone, they gave us paperwork to fill out for customs which freaked me out! No one prepared us for that, so we had no idea what we were doing and on top of that, the forms were super confusing. Thankfully, God had that under control too. He sent us two angels that helped us fill out the paperwork and walked us through what to do. It was cool too because one of the guys was visiting Liberia from Minnesota. The last part of our journey was from Sierra Leone to Liberia which was pretty cool. The skies were clear so we could watch the terrain change between the countries and we were SO excited to see the kids! Can you tell that we were just a little excited!?!?!
About 30 hours later (with time changes and layovers), we arrived in Liberia and our plane pulled up in front of the tiniest airport we have ever seen. It reminded us of something you would see in a movie. Anyway, we grabbed our carry-ons and headed for the front of the plane. There were no gates or doors to go through. We climbed down the stairs and got onto a bus that brought us to the building and then utter chaos ensued! I guess because we were white and looked like missionaries; we were ushered into the VIP line. AWESOME! Michael and I were SO nervous! People were shouting and there were guards all over the place, but we went through customs without a hitch and everyone was really nice! We were lead to the baggage area which was absolutely crazy! People and bags everywhere! Thankfully, a nice young man helped us find all of our bags and get everything scanned before we headed outside to find our kids. Our hearts were racing as we approached the door and we were greeted by a large circle of people. Michael and I quickly searched for any sign of Oretha or the kids. After what felt like an eternity, Oretha and the kids came running towards us and into our arms! The utter joy is hard to put into words, but there were a lot of smiles and some happy tears too! We finally had our babies in our arms! God is GOOD friends! Unfortunately, it was about 11 pm in Liberia and too dark to get a picture of the joyous occasion, so we loaded our 6 bags into the van and started making our way back to the orphanage. It was such a blessing to listen to their giggles while praising Jesus that we finally made it! After we dropped the kids off, we made our way to the apartment and came up with a game plan for the next day with Oretha. Our landlord, Wayne, also came over and said hi. Finally, we were alone in our new home and the reality of it all set in. Michael and I kissed each other goodnight and slept harder than we had in a long time.
The next day we set out with Oretha to find SIM cards for our phones as well as stopping by a local store to purchase some groceries for our stay. After Oretha dropped us off, she said that she would be back later with the kids and asked if we wanted them to spend the night. We were overjoyed and happily exclaimed "YES!". What we didn't know was that the kids would never leave us after that point, so we were instant parents on our 2nd day in Liberia. I came under a heavy spiritual attack that first weekend, but thankfully we serve a powerful God and I have an amazing husband and mom that helped me through it. As it turned out, I believe that I went through this so I was prepared to help the next person that arrived in Liberia to adopt her 2 daughters. She was a single mom and went through the same spiritual battle that I did. Isn't it amazing how God works!
We spent the next few days trying to adjust to the heat without much success! Thankfully, our landlord had a pool and would let us swim in it from time to time. On March 7th, we had our court date and met with our lawyer. We were completely unprepared for what was going to happen, but we got all dressed up in the scorching heat and headed off with Oretha. On the way there, we found out that we would be meeting with the kids biological father, Benjamin and that we would be going in front of the judge for our court decree. All of the sudden, we were both scared to death! We headed into the court room and tried to keep the kids busy while we waited for Benjamin and the judge to arrive. Oretha was frantically on the phone trying to find out where the bio dad was. Thankfully, he finally arrived and sat next to me on the bench. I was so nervous, but mostly worried about the kids. Fortunately, the kids really didn't have any emotion towards their bio father at all. He was just some guy they knew, so that was actually a blessing in disguise I think. After what felt like forever, we were called into the judge's chambers where a whole bunch of people were. We all quickly sat down and the judge started questioning Benjamin. It was a pretty intense conversation. Then the judge asked Melvin a couple of questions. My mama heart wanted to jump in and answer the questions, but I kept my mouth shut and he did a great job! After that, it was our turn. The judge asked Michael a bunch of questions and God really spoke through him! It was amazing to witness! Then the judge asked me if I agreed with everything Michael said and if I wanted these children to which I replied "Absolutely!". He looked at both of us and told us thank you before signing off on a couple of documents! We were so overjoyed that it was done and we were well on our way to finalizing our adoption.
The court decree took longer to receive than it was supposed to because we had the misfortune of having two holidays fall in the following week, so we didn't get it until the 16th. Once we had it, then we started working on the kids passports and birth certificates. We had the passports after 3 days, but ran into some big problems with the birth certificate office. The staffing had changed after the new president took office and they were refusing to give us the certificates until they had done their own investigation which they said would take 3 weeks. UGH! We tried so hard to get someone to help us, but it did take almost 3 weeks to get them. I have to tell you about the day we got them though because God performed a HUGE miracle and we have to give Him the glory. We had our interviewed scheduled, so we headed to the office and waited for our time to meet with the people. It didn't take long before the you know what hit the fan. They were complaining that a document hadn't been signed even though they had been sitting on the file for 3 weeks and didn't say anything. Then they started arguing with Oretha and my blood was boiling! We were so nervous, but also angry. We wanted to jump in and defend Oretha, but were scared to death that we would make things worse if we said anything. Thankfully, the lead guy finally agreed that he would sign off on the certificates, but we had to get 3 things done that afternoon. It was impossible, especially when you figured in traffic in Liberia. We left the organization and headed to meet with our lawyer to get her to sign the document, then we went to the Department of Justice to have them stamp it before we headed back to our place to get the kids passports. As we were leaving the Department of Justice, we could tell that traffic was starting to get bad and we had no idea how we were going to make it, but God did. Just then a huge storm came out of nowhere and it began to pour outside. The traffic quickly dispersed like God was parting the Red Sea for us! It was INCREDIBLE!!! We made it back to the apartment, quickly gave Oretha the passports and she took off for the ministry. Michael and I paced for what felt like forever, but then Oretha called and we held our breath! She had the certificates!!! Hallelujah!! We were ready for our appointment with the Embassy which was GREAT because our agency had told us to purchase our tickets to go home on the 15th! We were going home or so we thought...
On April 6th, we piled back in the van and headed for the Embassy, which did not disappoint. It was something straight out of the movies! An absolute fortress with a TON of security, but it was somehow comforting to know that we were on American soil! Another cool thing was that as we walked to our interview, we went by these huge trees that were covered in bats. Big ones! It was a little creepy, but cool at the same time. Since security had our phones, we couldn't take pictures, but it was something we will never forget! Unfortunately, the day went pear shaped after that. We met with a very nice lady that informed us that we would not be going home on the 15th because it normally takes 2 weeks to get your visas and the following Friday was a holiday. I managed to keep from crying, but the kids instantly knew something was wrong and started asking questions. As we explained to the lady our journey, she became very angry and decided that she was going to help us go home on the 15th. She scheduled a special meeting for us to come in for our interview and Oretha picked up our visas 2 days later! God sent us another angel that day and I told her so!
By now, we had been in Liberia for almost 6 weeks and had only prepared to be there for 4 or 5, so our finances were really starting to get tight. We were starting to panic that we were not going to have enough to pay the director and cover our electric bill as well as other misc. expenses, but God had that covered too. Just then our landlord knocked on the door and said he was having trouble transferring funds to his wife back in the states. He gave us money and asked us to transfer it to her when we got a chance. Thank you Lord! That happened 2 times which gave us the money we needed to finish out our time in Liberia. Oretha got our exit permit and we spent our last day together at the Tropicana Beach. It was a great day, but the excitement wasn't over yet. God needed to put an exclamation point on our story!
That night we headed to the airport and shortly after arriving, Oretha realized that she gave us the wrong paperwork. She had left the visa packages at home and gave us something else. We freaked out because the plane was scheduled to leave in a little over an hour and her house was over an hour away. She ran out of the airport and I called her on her phone to tell her to have someone from her home meet her half way. That was the only way that we were going to pull this off. It was the longest 60 minutes of our lives. Everyone was yelling at us to hurry up and I was shaking so bad that I could barely fill out the custom paperwork. Thankfully, people started calming down a little when they realized it wasn't our fault and held the flight for us. We received a personal escort through security and had to run through the airport to reach the bus that took us to the plane. The Granica family was the last to board, but we made it! We quickly sent text messages to family back home, thanked Jesus and finally started to breath again. The kids did great on the flight other than Marie really didn't like the take offs or landings. Favor slept on a nice Muslim man on the first flight and didn't even wake up when the plane touched down in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam airport is HUGE and we quickly discovered that they only use Euros everywhere, so we had to exchange some funds in order to eat some breakfast. We took our time eating, bought some souvenirs and then headed for our gate. The kids let us sit for awhile, but then Melvin started getting anxious and wanted to get in line so that we could be the first people to board the plane. There was no way that he wanted to be last again and I can't say that I blame him. When there was about 10-15 minutes until boarding was going to start, we decided to humor him and get in line, which ended up being a huge mistake. As we were standing in line, Michael and I are noticing that they are checking out the engine of our plane. At first, they are just looking at it and removing a few small parts, so we believe the flight attendants that it will just be a little while and we will be boarding the plane. In the meantime, Favor has fallen asleep on Michael and we have all been standing for at least an hour. The chairs are all gone because everyone has arrived and things continued to go downhill from there. The next thing we know the mechanics have the whole engine ripped apart and then they finally announce that our flight has been cancelled. At first, Michael and I are thinking that it was going to be okay. They would just put us on another flight or bring in a back up plane, but nope. We were going to spend the night in Amsterdam and catch a flight the next day back to the states. To make matters worse, we had $200 in cash which was less in Euros and we couldn't get our credit card to work. The airline had promised that we would receive a hotel on them, but we ended up getting stuck in immigration for 2 hours to get the kids temporary visas to be in Amsterdam. Our US visas were good there, but the kids weren't because they came from Liberia. It made no sense to us, but we did what we were told. By the time we got through, all of the available hotels were gone and I really started to loose it. They gave us some vouchers, so we were able to eat dinner and then I called my mom! Our guardian angel that helped us get a hotel room and contacted everyone at home to let them know that we would be late. The hotel room ended up being amazing and was a special treat after everything we had been through. We all slept like rocks and then ate a nice breakfast before catching our train back to the airport.
I would love to say that it was smooth sailing from there, but we weren't out of the woods yet. We arrived at the airport and were told that we missed our flight! No! We didn't! Thankfully, we had a wonderful man helping us and he worked his magic to get us on the next flight. The only catch was that it was about to leave, so we had to run once again! I felt like that family from Home Alone. Constantly running to catch some flight, but we made it!! The last flight was wonderful! There weren't many people on the flight, so we got to spread out and relax. The hours home seemed to take forever because we knew who was waiting for us! We couldn't wait to be back on American soil and to hold our loved ones in our arms again! Finally, we touched down and everyone cheered! We were all so happy to be home. It took forever to get through customs and our family is eagerly awaiting us! They were texting none stop, but getting through customs turned out to be the easiest part of the whole process. I got emotional when one of the officers looked at us and said "Welcome home!" We had done it! Our babies were finally home! God's so AMAZING!!! We walked through some doors and we startled when our family began shouting! We were home and now the real adventure begins!
I think I am going to close this blog here, so you can enjoy the picture of our beautiful family! We've had a lot of mountain tops and valleys since being home, but God has been with us through it all and we know that He is always there right when we need Him most. Keep a watch out for our next post! I promise it won't take me as long to write the next one!
Michael, Carey, Melvin, Marie & Favor