"I was in your bible study a year ago and we were praying for your daughter to come home. So, where is she? When did she come home?"
It is Orphan Sunday in America. Outside my home church's front doors, a gracious retiree has stopped me to inquire about my daughter, one of the international fatherless children, but this one with a name, one whom my community can picture: a future daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter, playmate, church nursery attending, Goldfish cracker-eating, grinning former orphan they have been praying home for almost 2 years now.
"She is not home yet.", I tell her, seeing shock register in her kind eyes, "it is just a long process." Then I add too brightly, with a smile I keep reserved for this moment of falsely optimistic salesmanship: "But, keep praying!"
Her sad smile and sympathetic pat to my shoulder are meant to make me know she will pray and that she is touched by what I must be going through but I feel nauseated.
I am sick of sympathy. I am sick of praying the same prayers. I am sick of holidays passing without my child here, of her siblings aging while she is overseas in an orphanage. I am sick of questions about why it takes so long, why "their government" won't just "let these poor children go home to good families as soon as possible". I am sick of defending a nation that holds my daughter's life in their hands as month after month go by with no movement
I am sick of this.
I am sick of treading water that is 200 feet deep, with no shore in sight. Sick of waiting. Sick of my children praying she will come home as we tuck them into one room at night, all 4 of them still sleeping side-by-side by choice, wondering how long after she finally, finally comes home this season of common childhood among our 5 babes will end and how much of it she will have so needlessly missed. Sick of singing "Oceans". Sick, sick, sick of longing.
Hope is expensive, and we have been hoping for so long now that many days I feel bankrupt.
Good, kind, people who inquire after my daughter are very dear to me - dear to us all who share this journey. People who ask give me the opportunity to hear her name, the one I still cannot post online or blog about, a chance to show them a photo of my child which I have stolen from a fundraising Instagram account, my darling girl visible through the lens of someone else's camera but available to me and a hundred other strangers at least this way….but after they shake their heads, tsk-tsk the situation, promise to pray, even love us in the waiting, sometimes so very well, anyone else can leave this journey behind as soon as I am out of sight, maybe out of mind. Parents do not get that chance.
Parents sit on the flat, concrete roof of the guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, under the blazing sun, gazing at the green mountains in the distance littered with crumbling shanties and rage at the Lord. Parents grieve, and mourn, and wish and beg on their knees every, single day. Parents fight. Parents hear the arguments about other American children needing homes instead and wish those children's stories completed in grace, too, but parents know: my child is my child, their location has no bearing on that. Parents know that a child stuck overseas can feel like an anvil tied to your ankle, or a missing, phantom limb, or like a misplaced kid at a soccer game…nothing is right until this is relieved. Nothing.
Parents know this is the wilderness, and as much as we would like to leave, this is where God meets us and sends manna, what we absolutely need to survive the drought of waiting.
This particular wilderness of Haitian adoption under the New Process and the New Law is outstandingly barren because almost nobody on Earth has traversed this particular process. This is like climbing the magically misdirected Grand Staircase at Harry Potter's Hogwarts: it constantly shifts and drops you at an impossible-to-predict location no one can determine how to leave. This wilderness would be impossible without Jesus. Some days it feels like He is 30,000 feet high in the air, and we wonder WHY? WHY delay? WHY not act? WHERE is the justice? WHY not today? Never once have I heard an answer, never once have I audibly heard His voice in the whispers of my prayers or the shouts of my praises or the screams of my demands. He sends manna, though. Jesus isn't here on Earth, but His Body is, and they hand me manna and I can survive.
My once ambitious pioneering spirit has given way to the exhausted survivor's deadpan stare. There's no getting out of this journey for Parents, we are in it till the end because there is no withdrawing from our own child - our own flesh and blood in a Haitian body - and there are no actions to change the course, speed it up, cause it to happen. There is just wilderness and as we straggle along there is always manna.
The manna is the Body of Christ Himself, in the form of His other children. Some of the sweetest manna comes in the form of other Parents of the children who live with my daughter at her orphanage. These women, my sisters, the mothers of my daughter's Haitian "cousins", who share with one another every victory, every homecoming, every prayer request, every agony are my lifeboat in these waters. We have found one another, almost every last one of us, and share life intentionally now, daily, speaking in shorthand, holding nothing back. We know the joys, the exhaustion, the tears well and there is no need for us to explain to one another. We understand all the lingo, the timelines, the steps, the judges and mayors and social workers all involved in the arduous job of completing our families. In this tiny demographic of adoptive parents, shrunk to the size of only Haitian adoptive parents, even further the parents of the 15 children of the same orphanage on a single street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti - we have found one another her in the United States, and we hang on for dear life. We know our children are being raised as siblings would be, so we invest in one another's lives, one another's children at home and at the orphanage, hoping our children will be linked permanently as seek to forge our bond for always. We steal away time to cry together, time to vent, time to celebrate, building traditions and reaching for ways to hold up one another's arms in the midst of the greatest wait of our lives. We are incredibly blessed to have each other and you'd better believe we know it. When someone comments on a photo on Facebook or Instagram, that orphan at my child's orphanage isn't "Nicodette" or "Steevenson" or "Gregory" but my friend's son, my friend's daughter. We have each other and we are the manna Jesus has given to us in this wilderness as we circle, waiting for deliverance.
All the prayers, all the hopes: we need them all, we beseech you to keep it up, to hold up our arms because we are so, so tired, so weary of waiting and circling in a holding pattern, so ready to land. Jesus is near. He is nearer still when His Body draws close and huddles and cries out together and the 3-strand cord braids further. He is Deliverer and He is Creator. He is creating still.