Today we got to see our sweet Grace! Grace is in secondary school now, and she boards there. Ms Agnes sent for her and had her come to see us today. I met Grace on my first trip to Agnes', when she was 7. We formed a special bond, and now she's 12, and I still love her so much! The children at the orphanage were all really happy to see her too.
Here's the thing: I came home from Africa after my first trip sure that we should adopt Grace and Joshua. I had fallen instantly in love with them, and could imagine how perfectly they would fit in our family. Keith was not convinced. It's not that he was opposed to adoption (which, at that time was not even allowed in Uganda), it was that he was prayerful, and told me that he felt like they both needed to stay in Uganda, and we would have to love them and care for them from afar. I can't tell you how many tears I shed over this -- How many prayers I prayed for God to show him differently, and how many family portraits seemed to me to have two people missing. Once Robert met them, he and the other kids joined in too, wanting Grace and Joshua to come and live with us. By then, international adoption had become legal in Uganda. Because I respected Keith's decision, I didn't push, but often wondered how we could be so differently called.
Over the past two days, I've realized something huge: he was right. He was listening to and obeying God, even when it seemed hard. He wasn't clouded by his own ideas and emotions about these children, and he wasn't swayed by my tears. He had heard God in his spirit say that these two children needed to stay in Uganda, and he trusted that.
You see, while Grace and Joshua are both true orphans (in Africa, you are considered an "orphan" if you have lost one parent, so many "orphans" here still have a living parent), they both have families here. Joshua has a sister, Joanita, who is Grace's age, and he now lives with his grandmother's sister in Jinja while he attends secondary school, so that he can be near one of his older brothers. Grace came today with her Grandmother, Lovisa.
Lovisa is an absolutely precious woman who was not in a position to care for Grace when she was younger, but now is helping her as she attends secondary school closer to her grandmother's home. In fact, today when we were talking about Grace's school fees, Lovisa said, "I can pay half if you can help with the other half." What a blessing! I love it that her grandmother has taken responsibility for her and can support her now. Lovisa clearly loves and is very proud of Grace.
A life with the Blackmons in America might have been "better" for Grace and Joshua in some ways (clean water all the time, no malaria, and more "stuff"), but it would have robbed them of their true families, and perhaps of the life God is calling them to in Uganda. Both are doing well in school, and with our continued help, they can finish secondary school and beyond.
Because Keith listened to God, and I listened to Keith (admittedly not with a pure heart at first, but with a trusting one), Grace and Joshua will grow up in their country, with their extended families, prepared to do what God is calling them to do.
Jen Hatmaker has written a great series on "adoption ethics" on her blog: jenhatmaker.com. It's worth a read. She talks about the importance of keeping kids in their natural families if at all possible, and how we can support them there. It spoke to me a lot about what we're trying to do at Agnes', because about half of her children have extended families who cannot care for them full time, but the children still go see them on the holidays. We want, as the children grow up and head off to secondary school, to continue to support them and send them to school close to their families.
I am thankful to have a husband who listens to God, four children in Texas, and two children in Africa.
Here are more great pictures of our day today:
Remember the garden we planted last year? Today Agnes and Lovisa (and me with a few lessons!) harvested greens from the garden and cooked them with lunch! The kids loved them!!!