Marie came to live with me in January. I inquired about the custody process with the Child and Social Welfare office in Makeni, which is a 4-5 hour drive from my village. It was quite the process as I had to first get her birth certificate, her passport, bring both her parents for an interview, etc. I started in March because I know how slow the government can be here, and wanted to have PLENTY of time to get everything in place before I hoped to travel home with her in November. In March I was granted custody for six months as a preliminary step before beginning the adoption process. I was assured MANY times that this was all the documentation I needed in order to travel with her. I even went to the American embassy to make sure I had the right documents.
My six months custody was supposed to end mid-November so they told me I needed an extension so my custody wouldn’t finish while I was in the States. The two men at the office assured me that it was a simple matter of getting the magistrate to sign a form. Simple. Ha. During the last month I’ve made three trips down to Makeni to try and get this precious signature. First, the magistrate was out of town. Then they had changed magistrates, so the new one hadn’t started coming to court yet. Last week was the third time we’d went down. We tried to call the men to tell them we were coming, but neither were answering their phones.
When we arrived, we found out why. One of the men was in jail, and the other was nowhere to be found. Apparently some motorbikes were missing and they were locking up all the suspects. I couldn't believe it! The men’s boss, who we’d never met before was at the office. When we explained why we were there, he told us that he had to sign off on all such cases and had never heard of our case. When I showed him our paperwork he looked at the signatures and said that the man who was locked up had signed his name, but had used the boss’s stamp. So it was a forgery. He said that anyone who wants to take a kiddo out of the country has to be referred directly to Freetown. No one had ever told us that. I was devastated. My interview for Marie’s visa is next week. And the last eight months of work for all the custody stuff had all been for nothing. I broke down in the office.
We went to the man’s house who wasn’t in jail to see if we could talk to him, but he was MIA. So what the heck do we do now? After talking with the bossman for a couple of hours he finally agreed to write a letter for us to the Freetown office. I wanted to go down to Freetown on Monday, but wouldn’t you know malaria struck again and I didn’t think I’d be able to drive that far. So Tuesday morning I woke up bright and early to head to Freetown.
Several months ago Marie’s mom and dad started having some marital problems so she went to stay in Freetown with her brother. Her father decided it was time to reconcile, so I picked him up on the way down so he could go see her family in Freetown. (Dropping him off is worth a whole blog in itself as I found myself in one of the most uncomfortable positions I've ever been in. And that's saying something!)
Wednesday morning I headed to the office. My dad is coming early Tuesday morning and Marie’s visa interview is for the day after he leaves. This meant that I had four days to get this paper done. Four days. Dealing with the government. Impossible.
I went to the office and they told me that sure enough, the paperwork I had wouldn’t get me anywhere. Except maybe Pademba Road (the prison) for child trafficking. NOT where I wanted to go. They told me what I needed and praise Jesus I had everything I needed INCLUDING both of her parents in Freetown. What are the odds???????
After two VERY long days of waiting at the office, I emerged last night at about 6pm with my official, court mandated custody paper and a letter from social services saying that I was permitted to travel with Marie. And the only money I had to give was the “fee” for the magistrates signature. I wasn’t sure if it was a bribe or not. I’ve always had a strict no bribing policy so I wasn’t sure what to do. I talked with some other people who had gone through the same thing and hadn’t paid any money either, except this magistrate “fee.” Apparently there’s not a way to get around it. So I paid it. For better or worse…..God judge me as You will. All in all I couldn’t BELIEVE that everything had gone that well….that fast, without greasing the palms of everyone involved. They really really really tried hard for me!!
|My precious document!!|
Things worked out really well this time. And by “really well” I mean that they ended how I wanted them too. And I’m SO SO SO thankful for that. There are other things in my life that I’m still “waiting to see” how they’re going to end up for my good. But I’m thankful for this little reminder that THEY WILL!! Even if I don’t see how until I’m in heaven. Thank you, Lord Jesus, SO much for your faithfulness!