It's taken me two weeks to be able to sit down and write what I'm about to write. Two really hard weeks. We never think that we will be the ones to have to share the really hard things, but then the hard things happen to us, and we think, "Oh yeah. God is writing this story, not me. And I need to tell it." I don't want these to be my words. I've been praying that they will be His words, and that the hard things will bring Him glory.
Two weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon, we got a call from our agency that we were never expecting or hoping for. The girls that we fully believed were our daughters and haved loved and prayed over from afar for the last six+ months, will not be coming into our family. After some red flags were raised and our agency did some investigating, it was discovered that the orphanage director and chief of a particular village were running a scam. They had found children, told their families that they were finding them American families that they would go live with, send them to school, feed them, take good care of them, and then send them back to their actual families at some point. When the people that our agency hired went out to the village to talk to the families and explain to them that the kids were being put up for adoption and would not be coming back, this is not what the families wanted.
So, there it is in a nutshell. Jonathan and I were together without the boys when we got the call that day and I know that was not an accident. We were driving in pouring down rain, and I eventually pulled over to be able to hear what the lady from our agency was telling us. I wasn't sure how to even respond to what we were hearing. I had had a bad feeling for days, and now I knew why. We asked some questions with what sense we could muster up, but we mostly just listened, trying to process. I kept it together until after we got off the phone, and then after a quiet few minutes, totally lost it. Where I lost it the most, honestly, was at the thought of having to tell the boys. These boys believed that Lulah and Jovia were their sisters. They have prayed for them daily, they draw pictures of our family that include the girls in it, they have worked hard at helping us raise money to bring them home, they have loved them well. The thought of telling them that they would not be coming to live with us and the parts of the story that exposed the evil behind the whole thing- I just couldn't even stomach it at the time. I didn't want their faith that has grown so much during this two year journey to be shaken. I didn't want them to think that God was not answering our prayers. Because I knew in that moment, even through the sobs, that He was, and that our faith was going to be made even stronger through all of this. But I didn't know if they would see it that way. How could they? When we got to where we had been driving to, thankfully I knew no one there, except one sweet friend that has become so dear in a short time. She was the first person I saw when I walked through the doors, which again was not an accident, and I just fell apart. She hugged me tight and said some beautiful things, but the one thing that I will remember most and gave me so much encouragement was this:
"Think of all the people that have been praying over those girls that never would have been before. God is faithful and will answer those prayers. Maybe not in the way that hoped, but He will answer them. If the whole time we thought we were praying them into the Sheahen family, we were actually praying them back into their own families, then it was worth it." And yes, we absolutely know that it was worth it. All the heartbreak that we are feeling now, is worth it to expose what was going on and save these kids from being stolen from their families. As much as we wanted them, we would have never wanted to take them from their families that wanted them. We believe that is where they belong. Although the families situations may be desperate enough to believe such lies, they are families nonetheless, and they want them. Praise God for that.
A few hours after finding all of this out, we went to the wedding of two people that we love dearly. We wanted to go and needed to go. Most everyone there were people that we don't see that often, so as you can imagine pretty much every single person asked us about when the girls were coming home. We absolutely know that everyone's questions were well intended, and we so appreciated everyone's interest and excitement, but boy, that was pretty torturous. We really were not ready to talk about it, and we deflected a lot of questions and I'm sure acted pretty weird at times. I'll go ahead and apologize to those who might be reading this that wondered why we seemed like we didn't have much to say about that subject, but now you know why.
The next day we told the boys, and they took it better than I expected. That's not to say they weren't sad and didn't quite understand, but I prayed that God would give us the right words to say to them to try to help explain it all, and I believe He did. We stressed that this doesn't mean that we will stop praying for them and we fully trust that God is going to take care of them. And we trust that He's got a greater plan for all of this that we just can't see right now, and He can take people's bad choices and evil intentions and use them for good. I think simplifying it like that was just what we needed.
So where do we go from here? We are pressing on. Not sure what that will look like, but moving forward with unwavering faith and hope in the promises of God. We have been grieving, with some days being harder than others. But, more than that, we are believing in a God that is bigger, trusting that He is working out everything for good and knowing that He will redeem this. He will use this broken mess and heartache and turn it into something beautiful. Let me just say that we absolutely believe that we were led to Lulah and Jovia for a reason. It was no accident that I found Lulah on that waiting child list, with the same name that we had picked out for our future daughter a year before. This outcome DOES NOT CHANGE THAT. Why, you might ask? I may not know the exact answer to that on this side of eternity, but I do know that I don't have to, and that because we have an eternal hope, we will know one day. Right now, we have faith that He will show us what our next steps will be.
Just a few weeks after we started this adoption journey, we were able to hear Francis Chan speak at a Show Hope dinner, and his message centered around this one verse that I have "adopted" as our theme verse over the last two years. I didn't realize at the time how much it would come to mean to me.
"I pray that God, the source of HOPE, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident HOPE through the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
Would you like to guess what the message at church was about last Sunday morning?
<<< HOPE >>>
And then Sunday night, a different speaker at a different church, told us that he had been praying Romans 15:13 over us all week leading up to that service. Of course he had.
If we had an earthly perspective of hope, then what has happened would be devastating. When the world would ask why are we continuing on this journey after two years with nothing to show for it, we rejoice in the hope of God's glory. We move on knowing that in the end, He will get all the glory for this story. He is developing patience in us and He is strengthening our character, which is producing confident hope. Even when there is no reason for hope, we keep hoping. Like Abraham did, never once wavering in believing God's promises to him. In the face of insurmountable obstacles, Abraham believed. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. Hope was real to him, and so it is to us. Abraham's hope allowed him to see far and wide the innumerable amount of people that would come from that promised child. And this is what we see. Our flesh cries out, "God, we can't get there from here! We can't keep this up much longer!" And that's right, we can't, without Him. But we have to hope against human hope; a hope that springs from God's perspective. The belief that God will do what He has promised. God WILL DO what He has promised.
What you can do for us is continue to pray. Pray for those precious girls that you have already been praying so hard for. Don't stop. We're not sure of exactly what is going on in their lives, but we know that God does, and He hears our prayers for them. Pray for Jesus to be in their hearts and evident in their lives. We may never know here the impact our fervent prayers will have on their lives and what kind of forces for the kingdom they might turn out to be, but we trust in a God that has already written their story, and we are honored to be a part of it. Pray for our family, that we will continue to follow Him wherever He leads us, no matter what. We are still 100% planning to adopt children who actually need a family. And we still feel strongly that those children are in Uganda, and that is where we are staying for now. Although part of me feels strange to be moving forward when our emotions are so raw, the other part of me knows that the door on adopting Lulah and Jovia has closed and moving forward is the only thing we can do. Pray for our boys and their tender hearts. Pray that this will only make their faith bigger, their trust stronger and their hope more confident. And pray for those who intended all of this for evil. Pray for their hearts to know the peace and joy and confident hope that only Jesus can bring. Because He not only died for us, and for Lulah and Jovia, but He died for them too. And praise God for that.