Four and a half years ago, I began this blog, announcing that the Sheltons were adopting, which was a surprise to most of our readers. I wrote pretty regularly for a while there about our decision-making progress, life events, working through a home study, fundraisers, and the like. And then....well, there just wasn't anything to say. We had done all we could do and were waiting for the paperwork to move from one place to another. Today, however, I am very pleased to tell you that the dossier has completed its journey and has at last been formally submitted to the IBESR - meaning we have moved officially into the line of families waiting for a referral! We are no longer waiting to wait in line, we are actually in the line!
Enjoy that bit of good news. Savor it and chew on it a while, because there won't be any other big news for a long time. Currently, it takes eighteen to twenty four months to get a referral. Haiti is making strides to potentially speed up the process on their end, but if things continue the way they're trending now, we still have quite some time to wait. Until then, we do not know who our daughter is, how old she is, where she's residing, or anything about her. We have requested a healthy, female child, no older than three years to preserve our family's natural birth order. And now we wait...
If you know me at all, you know by now that I don't actually love waiting. Despite the number of people who tell me I must be extremely patient to endure this process, I openly confess that I do not have the patience of a saint - whatever that even is - that waiting fills me with frustration and anxiety. In fact, I no longer even consider patience to apply to our journey - more like what the Bible calls patient endurance. We're enduring, because we're stubborn and God hasn't released us from our call to adopt - and we're patient inasmuch as we aren't trying to find rhyme or reason in the chaos or doubt God's faithfulness. Beyond that, we're human, and this waiting isn't something we would wish on anyone - nor is it what we expected when we signed on for this. But it is our journey, and we're going to see it through.Moreover, if you know us at all, you know that we're not sitting still while we wait! The boys are growing up, the seasons keep changing, and God keeps sending us work to do while we wait on His plan.
Thus far, our journey has led us to Chicago, to Nashville, to Haiti, to Kansas City, and right back to our own back yards. We began with an understanding that God had a specific child in mind for us to incorporate into our family somewhere across the ocean. While we wait to meet her, there are a whole bunch more in our own County who need some love, and we have a unique opportunity to share it.
Because of our adoption calling, we went to CAFO's Orphan Summit in 2014. That was where we first encountered Global Orphan Project, and where we became acquainted with GO Exchange. We quickly signed on to advocate for kids and moms in Haiti, by selling jewelry, scarves, apparel, tee-shirts and lots of other fun stuff. We poured our hearts into the mission, even traveling to Haiti to meet some of the amazing kids and young adults we were supporting. That is the closest we have been to our daughter, and we would not trade those days for anything. God did so much work on our hearts, minds, and understanding through GO Exchange - but there are plenty of other long blog posts you can read on that topic! :)
During one of the first conference calls I signed onto in my roll with GOEX, I heard about the American arm of the Global Orphan Project - something new and different, that would bring together the church and the state in an effort to take care of needs for families in crisis in our local counties. The initiative was something known as Care Portal. Through Care Portal, churches who are willing receive an email, drafted by a social worker in Children's Protective Services within their county. The case worker has become aware of a need, often material, sometimes relational, that cannot be met via traditional funding sources, but directly impacts one or more children in a family within the County's care. The need may be for a bed, or payment of a utility bill - which, if left unresolved, could create a safety issue or render a home unsuitable. The need could be something that will impact a child's well being, such as specialized music therapy to help a teen recover from trauma, a bicycle stabilization kit for an autistic child, or a set of dentures for a high schooler whose teeth had been pulled due to years of decay and neglect. Or, the need could help stabilize parents who are adopting, fostering, or reunifying with children. It might be a table and chairs, a gas card to help a dad get to work until his first check, a moving truck when a lease abruptly ends, or even something as simple as a high chair. The case worker sends an email; area churches become aware of the need; local congregations respond by fulfilling the need; and families in crisis experience relief and hope.
When I heard about Care Portal for the first time, I immediately called one of my favorite people on the planet and told her, "If this ever comes to Ohio, we have to do this!" Fast forward about nine months, she and I were in a van on our way to Nashville for another Orphan Summit, and Care Portal was going to be there. I marched straight up to the CEO, told him who I was, that I'd been dying to meet him, I'd been following their progress, and I knew the right people to launch in Ohio if he wanted to expand that direction. I drug along a host of those right people over the next couple of days to meet him, and for some odd reason, he took me at my word, and we launched in my county in December of 2015. Since we began this adventure, we have gotten to know a lot of churches in our county. We have forged relationships with case workers. And amazingly, we have seen the church respond time and time again to care for parents,, kids, grandparents and a variety of kinship providers. We know where to get the best price on a twin mattress and box spring, and we learned that when you deliver a stove, you better know whether the cord fits a three-pronged or four-pronged outlet before you make the trip. We even found out that you can email U-Haul gift certificates! You never know when that bit of information will come in handy! :)
Sometimes I wonder how on earth I became entangled with such an amazing ministry and with such amazing people. I certainly couldn't have foreseen a calling to international adoption to lead to piloting Care Portal in the State of Ohio, but I sure am glad God entrusted it to me. Every story, every need, every life impacted is an opportunity for me to praise the one from whom all blessings flow. Every delivery, every hot meal, every connection reminds me that God cares about the cause of the fatherless and that He is actively moving in people's hearts to do something about it. Every administrative meeting, every statistics report, every orientation session, God shows me that we are not alone on our journey and that the cry of our hearts is not unique to the Sheltons or even to our church. The more we serve, the more we know that God is orchestrating our steps as together we have prayed for case workers and hurting families, seen God knit together miracles and shared Hallelujah moments as needs have been met in unexpected ways!
If you want to learn more about Care Portal, check out this video: https://vimeo.com/156320407
Stay tuned for more Shelton shenanigans, as there are plenty more fun stories to share, and I'm sure there will be more twists and turns in our journey before it comes to an end. For now, we are rejoicing that the dossier is in the right hands, and we're praying for more miracles to help us see this journey through. There's a lot more money to raise, a lot more preparation to do, and yes, a lot more waiting. But today we rejoice that we've gotten this far! I'll say it once more for my own benefit, the dossier has been submitted to the IBESR! At last! We made it! Praise the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again, rejoice!
Give thanks to the Lord. His love endures forever.