Monday, October 8, 2012

I gave her back today.

I took Kadiatu back to her village today.  The original agreement was that I would keep her for two months and at the end of that time would return her to her parents.  Since I know there isn’t a huge emphasis on time here, I reminded her mom when we were at the half-way point.  Last week I reminded her that there was just one more week and told her that I would be bringing Marie to stay on Monday.  Today.
I’ve been preparing for today since the day I took her from the village, two months ago.  At the beginning she would often get really quite and sometimes her eyes would well up with tears…apparently for no reason.  After a while we realized that these were the times she was thinking about her mom.  The first few times we went back to the village it was torture as she cried and cried when we left.  But that gradually started to change.  After a few weeks we would spend time with her mom and brothers at the hospital and she wasn’t glued to their side like she was before.   She started getting really shy when she saw her mom and brothers and would hide behind me, sometimes starting to cry if I left her with them.
From the very beginning, I did everything I could to combat that.  For some reason people here love seeing a white girl with a Sierra Leonean child and were always asking if she was my child. My standard response was, no she’s not my child, she’s my friend.  They would always ask her who her mom was.  She started pointing to me.  She would often call me “mama.”  While of course this absolutely melted my heart, I always corrected her.  “Kadi, who’s your mom?”  “Aminata.”  “Yes!!  Are you going to stay in  your village again?  Are you going to go stay with Aminata and your brothers and your daddy again???”  “Yes!”  “Yeah!!”  Nearly every day we would have this conversation.  At night we would pray for her family and thank God that she was able to come stay with me for a short time and also thank Him that she got to go back there again.
As today grew closer and closer, my roommate and I started talking about how to handle this.  Do I just take her and leave her?  How best do you explain what’s going to happen?  We decided that honesty would just have to be best.  So last week we started telling her that we were going to her village (she always gets excited about that) but that this time I was going to leave her there with her family and I was going to come back to the hospital.  But I was going to come see her!!  At first her response was always “No, no no no no!”  Gradually though, she started becoming more agreeable.  In the last few days she would even bring it up.  “I’m going to the village?  You’re going to leave me there? You’re going to come see me?”  Yes yes yes! 
Although she seemed to be understanding, the fact was that she is still just 4 years old so I wasn’t sure how much she was really understanding, and there was still that darn language barrier!  As we set out this morning, I really had no idea how this was going to go.  When we were packing her things last night she’d been really excited and all morning she kept asking if we were going to her village. 
I was nervous about how I was going to handle things.  I’d been a bit of a wreck throughout the week and had been crying spontaneously. I prayed that I would be able to keep it together for her, because I knew that she would take her cues from me.  I packed on the excitement.
When we arrived at the village I got her out of the car and handed her a bag of her things.  She marched right off to see her mama.  When we reached her mom, there was no smile.  No “so happy to have you back!!”  I didn’t know what to think. 
Unfortunately Kadi started coughing on Friday. Since it only seemed to be getting worse over the weekend, I decided to start her on an antibiotic.  I pulled it out and started explaining to her mom how to give it to her.  After I finished explaining that, a man came up to me and said, “We don’t really understand why you’re coming back with this child.”  Oh dear.
A part of me had been expecting this.  Nearly every time someone asks if she’s my child and I explain that I’m just keeping her for a couple of months to get her healthy, they will ask me what I’ll say if her parents ask me to keep her.  I’ve been asked that countless, countless times.  My response has always been that she has a mother, she has a father, and I haven’t been asked to keep her.  But as the time grew closer, I was counseled to be prepared with an answer just in case they did ask.  To be honest, when I reminded her mom last week that the time was almost complete, I wondered if her husband would show up at my door.  Since no one did, I kind of put it out of my mind and just focused on getting ready to let her leave. 
Back to the situation at hand.  When the man told me that he didn’t understand why I was bringing the little girl back, I went over the agreement that we had signed that stated the time would be for two months.  To make a long story short, Kadi’s uncles, Kadi’s father and (although she doesn’t have a say I insisted that I wanted to know what she wanted ) Kadi’s mother, all asked me to keep her and raise her because they just couldn’t.  They told me that if I hadn’t come and taken her when I did, she would have died and that she’s just going to get this sickness again.  They also pointed out that her younger brother also has “the sickness “ (malnourishment) so how are they going to manage? I was blunt with them and told them that I’m going to America for two months in a couple weeks and when I come back I’m not sure if I’m going to be coming back to this area (another long story…blog about it to come).  They wouldn’t be able to see her as much then.  Her mom’s face dropped a little but was still adamant and said that I should take her. 
I’m very fortunate that God has placed wise people in my life.  First my friend, who advised me to be ready with an answer in case this came up, and then other people (in this case mostly my dad….Hi Dad!) who helped counsel me as to what that answer should be. 
You see the thing is, I would seriously consider it.  I love this little girl.  But there are SO SO SO SO SO many questions, problems, etc.   It would drastically change my life and it would drastically change hers.  My inclination at this point is that if I took her, I wouldn’t want to take her to America, but would want to raise her here.  That dramatically changes my time commitment to Sierra Leone. Now a lifetime?  If I stayed here and raised her as a Sierra Leonean, she’d be a horrible African woman because I can’t teach her all the things that African women need to know how to do!  I don’t know how to cook their food. I don’t know how to wash clothes, how to plant hair, etc.   I’m afraid she would always have an identity crisis, as she would be neither fully American or fully African.  Could I do that to her?  What about the fact that I’m single?  I know that there are millions of single parents in the world and my hat goes off to them because this is hard!!!  I can easily see why, although unfortunately things happen, God did design this to be done by two people.  What about my ministry here?  I didn’t come to Sierra Leone to be a mother.  I came to serve the people using my medical skills and to show people how awesome Jesus is and what it looks like to follow Him.  How would this change when I came here to do?  I couldn’t keep working 6-7 days a week at the hospital as I’ve been doing.  I’ve done that for the last two months while I had her and I’m just about at the end of my rope.  Something was going to have to give.  This is just a fraction of the things that I’ve been thinking about, but I won’t bore you with the rest. 
My roommate Erin and I right before I took her home
So what did I say?  I said I was going to need to think about this.  I told them that this was a big decision for me and one that I wasn’t going to take lightly.  I want to take a month and think and pray about it.  It’s just me. I don’t have other kids, I’m not married so I need to go talk to my people and ask their advice.  So I prayed with them, and then left Kadiatu there with her family.  As I kissed her goodbye, she didn’t look at me.  I got in my car and started sobbing.  I wasn’t sobbing because I was missing her, like I was expecting. I was sobbing because I have no idea what to do.  I have a month to decide. I have a month to get away from the situation, get some emotional space and seek my Jesus to see what He wants me to do.  So if you want, I sure would love you to pray for me!!  I’ll do whatever!!  I gave my life to Jesus a long time ago and if He wants me to give it to this child, I’ll do it.  If He wants me to let her go, I’ll do it.  I just want to know!!  J


  1. Replies
    1. My heart breaks for her mom...and Kadiatu...and for you.

      I will continue to pray. Jesus will provide a way...and it will be prefect.

      With love, comfort and blessings for you in the Fathers arms,

    2. My heart breaks for her mom...and Kadiatu...and for you.

      I will continue to pray. Jesus will provide a way...and it will be prefect.

      With love, comfort and blessings for you in the Fathers arms,

  2. I just so stumbled on your blog this morning through facebook. I decided to look at it because I have a co-worker at our church office that has a huge connection in Sierra Leone. Can't remember exactly what her connection is but I think it has something to do with setting up a school or orphanage in that area.
    Anyway I recently adopted a son from China at an older than preferred age. We faced many obstacles along our 6 year journey. Many times I was ready to throw in the towel. Each time I had to ask the question, "God did you really call me to be the mother of an orphan or is it just a selfish desire?" Each time our reasoning came back to God did call us to do this so we had to stick it matter what the circumstances were. We had to trust that God would provide and meet our every need....and that is just what He did. I am so grateful and honored that God chose my family for such a task.
    I am praying that God will give you clear direction. And if it is for you to be her Earthly mother, then He will provide for your every need.
    Praying, praying, praying!

    1. Thank you so so so much Kind Stranger! :)

  3. Well, my inadequate say you did not come to Sierra Leone to be a mom. I guess that is the real question you have to answer. Not why YOU think you are there, but why you are really there. And do not worry about what you can not do for her, think about what you can do for her, IF taking her is what you are called to do. You can come and go as you need, she can go with you. you can give her a broad,varied childhood. Home school 10minutes here, 5 minutes there. Whatever you do, you are definitely a girl that can think outside the box and do what you need to. And, I do not want to influence your decision, but, I know you know her family is right. Of all the things you think you can not do, you can give her a better chance to live, from what I have read of life in this brutal and beautiful place you now call home. Sorry, I know that sounds like I am trying to influence your decision in a definite direction, and in an unfair way, but I felt like I had to say it. I don't pray much, but I will be praying for you.

  4. Hi Emily - I have been praying for you and Marie since we talked on 9/24. I pray that you will be confident and at peace with whatever decision you make... which is entirely between you and God. Whichever decision you make, you are a hero in my eyes and I will never forget you...or Marie. You have been a much needed inspiration in my life - thank you. God bless you Emily.