Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'm Legal!!

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!!
As I was driving home last night, I started thinking about the last week. When I arrived in Makeni and found the man I’d been dealing with in jail, I was devastated. Surely this meant I wouldn’t be going home!  As I thought about it though, I realized that if they hadn’t gone to jail, their boss probably wouldn’t have shown up.  (Their boss is the regional supervisor so travels a lot and has never been there when I’ve been there).  If their boss hadn’t shown up, I never would have known that I had the wrong paperwork. I would have gone to the interview and been told to go take a hike. I had this mental image of me sitting in the office crying, thinking all was lost when God was there saying, “Emily….this is for the best! I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but wait and see!” I don’t like to get all philosophical….because I’m just not that good at it. But it really made me think about all the other times in my life that things seemed lost, doomed, destroyed.  And I cry and fuss and grumble (sometimes the things really are HARD!!)  But Emily (sometimes if I use my name when I talk to myself it makes me pay better attention to myself)….don’t you think that God is still saying, “Emily…this is for the best! I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but wait and see!” 

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! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Final Musa Update

Musa died early Sunday morning. For the last two weeks, he hasn’t been doing well. He got another kidney infection, was in a lot of pain (suspected a sickle cell crisis which is often precipitated by infection) and wasn’t peeing, no matter how much medicine I gave him. I kept offering to have him admitted to the hospital because they would be able to manage his pain easier and he would be closely monitored. But he kept putting me off and settled for my daily visits to give him pain medicine injections and IV Lasix (to try  and make him urinate).

I had to go to Makeni on Tuesday for some custody stuff for Marie and ended up being delayed there until Friday. I called to check on him on Wed. and he didn’t sound great. I encouraged him to go to the hospital but when I called the next morning his mom told me that he was afraid to go if I wasn’t there. I pushed it and he started feeling badly enough that he finally agreed.

I got back Friday afternoon and immediately went to see him. He didn’t look well.  The next day was Saturday and I had to work. It was initially slow so I got to spend some time with him.  He wanted to go outside so we spread a mat for him and he and I went to sit outside so he could feel the sun on his face.  He was having a lot of trouble breathing but he started talking about Job (from the Bible).  We’d done a study about Job and his suffering and the following Sunday he’d gone to church with my friend Peter and they also preached about Job. I guess it stuck.  He said that Job suffered a lot but didn’t understand why.  He said he also didn’t understand why he had to suffer so much, but that he was trusting that God had a reason.  Somehow.  He then started quoting the twenty-third psalm.  As I write this I’m realizing that this was the last conversation I had with him.

Shortly after this I got a critical patient and was busy doing an emergency c-section.  Musa started seizing. He would seize and then go into his post ictal state (kind of unconscious---like a deep sleep). He would then wake up for a few hours but would seize again. His seizures were violent and at one point he broke off two of his teeth.  His faithful brother held the guard in his mouth for hours so he wouldn’t chomp down on his tongue.

After he seized he would wake up enough to make eye contact and I knew he saw me because he would do this little eyebrow raise that we always did to each other.  That night I went home for a couple hours but went back around 10pm. I wasn’t sure if he would die that night, but I knew I had to be there if he was going to.  At around 11:30 I laid down on one of the extra beds and dozed on and off until 1am. I heard his breathing change and sure enough, he’d started seizing again. After this one he never regained consciousness. 

It was painful to watch.  I honestly don’t know how his mother did it.  I was begging God to be merciful and take him home quickly.  His mother would leave periodically and his brother sent me out to encourage her if she was crying. At 1:30 I told her that he was sleeping. It was hard to watch him struggle for each breath like he was, but he wasn’t feeling pain. He wasn’t suffering. Shortly after that she took some of her things and went back to the house. I think she knew he was going soon. Sure enough, at 1:45am his breathing started to ease and he died.

At 2:30am I went back to my house to try and sleep. Musa’s family called me at 5am just to check on me and see if I’d stopped crying. I couldn’t believe that in the midst of their grief they were calling to see if I was ok.  Later that morning, around 8 I was getting ready to go down and check in at the hospital (I was supposed to work that day) when the family called to tell me they were waiting for me to do the burial preparations. Wait. What?!?! I have no idea what the appropriate stuff to do for a burial is. Why do they need me? I called my friend Peter and we went down to see the family.

I’d only been part of one burial here before.  This was a lot different because, as I came to realize after spending about 10 minutes in the house, instead of being the one to sympathize with the loss of the family, everyone was treating me as if I was one of the family that lost a child as well.  After the greeting formalities we all gathered in a circle and the Imam (who was also Musa’s grandfather) explained that they didn’t want to proceed in the burial plans without my approval and wanted to know if there were any special prayers or anything that I would want to do.  It was sweet that they wanted to show me that kind of respect, but I was quick to assure them that whatever they wanted to do, I was fine with.  I explained that I believed that because Musa had trusted Christ for his salvation, he was already in heaven and that my prayers were for those of us left behind who were in pain because of his absence. 

We stayed at the house for a few hours while they built a little house outside to wash the body. As they took his body out of the room to wash it, everyone stood up. I assumed it was out of respect, which it was. But Peter also explained that some people believe that if you don’t stand up when the body passes by, that you’ll be the next one to die.  Yikes.  

Periodically a new woman would come to the house and would start wailing.  People would allow her to cry for awhile and then would say “That’s enough. That’s enough.”  As we were all sitting around we started talking about Musa and sharing things about him that were nice, or made us laugh.  Some things are the same in any culture.

The burial was scheduled for 12 noon. We all met back at their house and they had a little service where they talked about Musa and his family. Then we headed for the burial site. Peter and I went ahead on his motorbike and watched as they carried the body towards us.  As they were coming, I realized that there were no women among them.  Islamic funerals don’t allow women to go to the burial site, so I stayed put and Peter joined the men to go to bury him. 

Afterwards we went back to the house where they women had been cooking up a storm and all sat around and ate rice.  We hung out for awhile and then I went back to my house to take a nice, long nap.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with Musa’s family this week. His father arrived the day after they buried him and they’re planning to do another memorial service in November. Yesterday the entire family came up to my house to “greet” me.  They just wanted to tell me that even though Musa’s gone now, they don’t want the relationship to end. At first, I thought they were talking about money, but Peter clarified and Musa’s mom said, “No, no! We’re not talking about money. I just want to be coming to greet you and I want you to be coming to greet me.”  It’s amazing to me how grief can bring people together.  My prayer is that I’ll continue to be able to love this family and that they will see Jesus!!