For Our Good and His Glory

When we arrived in Africa 17 days ago, Brad and I were blissfully unaware that we wouldn’t be returning home together, Jecoah in tow, three weeks later. DGM officials had assured us that we would receive our exit paperwork. After all, our adoption had been approved before the September 25th cutoff. Our name was on both of their lists.
After we missed our connecting flight from D.C. to Brussels and lost more hours of sleep than we imagined we could handle we thought the worst was behind us.
We landed in Kinshasa and the fun began. No amount of second-hand information can prepare a person for the difference between the United States and a third or fourth world country where being white becomes so intensely uncomfortable.
The airport in Kinshasa is…interesting. Droves of people pour off of the plane, pack themselves like sardines onto a shuttle on the Tarmac and wait to be driven to the immigration lines.
We made it through immigration within mere minutes, a pleasant surprise as we expected it to be a bit of an ordeal, and headed out to baggage claim. We were thrilled that our bags, all five of them, arrived with us in DRC. A young man gathered them for us and we headed out front to meet our agency rep and our driver, who would take us to the guesthouse that has now become our home.
Driving (or, more accurately, riding in) a car in DRC is nothing short of a terrifying adventure. While one stretch of road is somewhat nicely paved, the next is nothing but dirt that’s been dangerously washed away by the seasonal, heavy rains. Drivers have no regard for one another and pedestrians are lucky to make it safely from one side of the road to the other without being honked at or forced to wait for oncoming motorists.
And, there are people, very literally, everywhere you look in this overwhelmingly overpopulated city. Even as we drove through the streets at nearly eleven o’clock at night from the airport, people lined the streets, gathered around trash can bonfires, dodging cars as they crossed busy roads.
We arrived at the guesthouse within an hour of our plane landing. Our accommodations are not fancy, but our 216 square foot room is clean and comfortably air conditioned. The Italian-Congolese man who owns it is kind and fair and takes exceptionally good care of us.
After three days of virtually no sleep and some of the most intense body odor we’d ever experienced, we were grateful for a shower and a place to rest our tired bodies. We awoke the next morning to the sound of fairly heavy rain and the expectation of meeting our son at 9:00 a.m.
By 11:00 a.m. he still hadn’t arrived with our agency rep and we were starting to feel pretty anxious. At one point, I decided to give Brad a new look. I separated his beard and mustache into tiny sections and secured them with rubber bands. Yes, we know we’re strange. Wouldn’t you know it, just as I finished, we saw our rep pull in to the lot. We scrambled to yank out every rubber band, along with much of Brad’s hair, grab the video camera and get ready to meet our son for the very first time.
Much like I’d fallen in love with our girls via sonogram printouts, I’d fallen more and more in love with our boy with every new picture we received as we waited for him the last 16 months. And, just as I spent hours examining every feature of the girls after they were born, so I did with Jecoah. I rubbed his head and kissed his squishy cheeks, rubbed my hands up and down his spine and admired his beautiful, dark eyelashes.
He’d arrived in a diaper and, it was at that moment, I was so glad that we’d packed and brought a few hundred with us. So as not to completely freak him out, I waited a good six hours or so to offer Jecoah a diaper change. I was pretty surprised to find that it was absolutely dry, even after the three sippy cups of water he’d chugged since his arrival. I changed it anyway and continued examining my new “baby”. It wasn’t long before he started to whine and grab at his diaper area. I’ve only ever diapered girls and I’m not always the swiftest, so it may have taken me a bit to realize that the poor kid needed to pee and he wasn’t interested in doing it in a diaper. I walked him into the bathroom and, as soon as he saw the throne, he began spraying it down like it was on fire. What fun to not have to potty train this time around.
Aside from his bathroom adventure, Jecoah hadn’t left my arms. I asked Brad at one point if he wanted to hold his son. We agreed that the time wasn’t right just yet.
The next several days were difficult. We met a couple ladies who are also staying here at the guesthouse. Each is here alone with their African children while their husbands and other children are home, many thousands of miles away. As we listened to their stories and heard the stories of other adoptive, American families that we’ve met since we arrived, it started to become very clear that we would not be leaving this country with our son any time soon. Some of them have now been here for ten weeks or longer and others have left their children here, returned home only to come back and try again. Adding insult to injury, Jecoah wasn’t the least bit interested in Brad and he’d started throwing frequent tantrums that we weren’t quite sure how best to handle.
There were many, many tears that first week. The last three years since we’d started the adoption process had been wrought with ups and downs, trials of every kind, high highs and low lows. We thought we’d finally reached the end of the process and the beginning of our new normal. We’d cried and cried with our daughters and my parents the morning that we boarded the plane for Africa, but found comfort in reminding them and ourselves that it was “only three weeks”.
Now we were faced with some of the toughest decisions we’d ever had to make as parents. The girls miss us and, no matter how wonderfully capable my parents are to care for them, they can’t replace Brad and I. And, being away from our daughters is even harder than we ever could’ve imagined. I keep thinking about moms and dads who are deployed thousands of miles away for much longer and with much less access to wifi than we have. It must be nearly unbearable.
We feel like there is no right answer. Do we return our son to the orphanage, go home and continue to wait? We’ve spent the last three weeks bonding with him, gaining his trust, assuring him that we’ll feed him when he’s hungry, hold him when he’s tired, kiss his hangnails when they sting. I can no more fathom leaving him than I could imagine leaving one of my daughters.
Earlier this week we decided that our best strategy would be to divide and conquer. Brad would return home to be with the girls and I would stay here with Jecoah. Several other women are here without their husbands and I know that I can do it. But, oh my goodness, I don’t want to be here without my guy.
Apparently, God has purposed that we stay here together and continue to trust that the girls are best cared for by my parents for now. There are no available flights on our airline until December 24th. Brad and I made the decision to change both of our tickets to this date and to book a ticket for Jecoah as well. We have no idea if we’ll all head home on that flight or not, but are praying earnestly that we will. The thought of missing Christmas with our entire family grieves us deeply. But, we are reminded that it is because of Jesus’ birth that Romans 8:18 (Thanks, Dad. 😘) is truth. “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
We accept that we may never know, on this side of eternity or the other, God’s purpose for all of the suffering here in DRC. But, He promises that it is for our good and His glory and we are clinging to that truth.
Until He reveals to us what will happen next, we continue to covet your prayers for our situation – that He would give us wisdom to make more hard decisions that we may be faced with, that He would work a miracle in the DGM and see all of us home with our children, that He would shower my parents and the girls with His peace as they wait.
If you’re willing and able, we’d love for you to continue to reach out to your Senators, Congressman and State Representatives and ask them to use their position to request that the Ambassador at the US Embassy here in Kinshasa appear personally at the DGM offices to advocate on our behalf. It is widely believed that the Ambassador is our best chance of leaving with our kids.
And, just as you thought we were done begging for money, here we are again. Contrary to popular belief, it is astronomically expensive to live here in DRC. Our guesthouse is nearly $200 per day. Groceries are fairly reasonable until you figure the almost 17% tax rate. If you’re interested in helping us financially, please contact us at
Thank you for your love and encouragement, your prayers and support. We’re more grateful now for wifi and Facebook than ever before. 😊


3 thoughts on “For Our Good and His Glory

  1. I have written to my Congressman, Marlin Stutzman (IN). I have requested that Ambassador Swan speak personally with Mr. Albert Luyinu, Administrative Secretary, Direction Generale d’Immigration in order to life the exit permit suspension for US parents with Congolese children. I will ask others to do the same. More info here:

  2. Shellie, what a beautifully written post that shares your heart so well. I cried as I read it. I can’t imagine what you’re going through and having to make these impossible decisions. The one comfort I had while reading was knowing your baby boy has hardly left your arms. I am praying for your swift return, of course, but I am also praying that you won’t have to ever leave your sweet baby boy again. I hope with all my heart it won’t come down to that.

    Thank you for being so vulnerable with us and allowing us to walk this journey with you, even from afar. We love you. ❤

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