We’ve got a story to tell you…

For several months now, we have had a little something going on in our lives. Mostly, we’ve kept it to ourselves because we didn’t know how it would work out. But all along, God has been blazing a path ahead of us. On those nights when I could not understand why we were waiting so long to be matched with our daughter, when I couldn’t see past the end of my own desires, He could see the path in front of us. He knew big, beautiful, wonderful, blessings were on their way. It has been a crazy path, one we sincerely never could have imagined for ourselves. We will be forever grateful that God has bigger, better plans for our lives.
Like so often in God’s plans, this story starts with a series of my plans falling through. In June, we had been waiting 7 months to be matched with our daughter, and things in Ethiopia were slooooooowing down. I was tired of talking about adoption and orphan care, I wanted to DO something. Late one night, remembering that my dear friend, Wynne, and her husband, Stephen, were going on a Visiting Orphans trip to Ethiopia and Uganda, I checked my schedule and then checked the trip times. They matched! I was free at the same time that they were going! I was so excited I could hardly wait for Chris to wake up the next morning to ask him if we could go. Being the amazing husband that he is, Chris said yes right away. Immediately, I called Visiting Orphans. That is when my first plan screeched to a halt. They filled the last spot the day before. I immediately thought, Seriously God! We missed the trip by one day! What could be good about us not going on this trip?! I called my friend Cristie, who is on the board of Visiting Orphans, hoping desperately that she could pull some strings. She tried, but the trip was full. But, she said there was another trip leaving a couple of days later that would be going to Rwanda and Ethiopia.
I’d love to say that I jumped on it immediately, but I wanted to go with my friend. I soon realized that more than I wanted to go on a trip with my friend, I longed to be in Africa. To touch my feet to the ground in Ethiopia, where our daughter would be born. We signed up for the Rwanda/Ethiopia trip, deciding that God had some reason for us to go to Rwanda. I had no idea what it would be or if we would ever understand why our plan fell through. Looking back on it now, I know if I had called just a day sooner, we would have missed the bigger plans God was writing. When I looked up to the heavens like a rebellious teenager, saying, What do you think you are doing? You knew this would happen. Why didn’t I call sooner? He must have been laughing. Thinking, When will this girl ever learn?
Fast forward to our trip. We were so excited to go to Ethiopia, but we didn’t know what to expect from Rwanda. I don’t know if it is because it was the first place in Africa that we spent time or just because God was knitting our hearts to this beautiful place for the future, but we fell in love with Rwanda. The beautiful people, the lush landscapes. It is a piece of paradise. Before leaving for our trip, we raised funds to help one orphanage in particular. Noel Orphanage is home to over 600 children. My heart broke just imaging it, but being there, holding them, looking into the eyes of a child whose name I now know, was overwhelming.
If you have ever visited an orphanage, you know that the moment you step off the bus, you are surrounded by children. Hello, how are you? What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Bombarded by basic English questions in beautifully small voices, with African accents. Their hands slip into yours before your answers escape from your mouth. They choose you. You don’t choose them. Within in 30 minutes of arriving at Noel, our team was taken on a tour of the orphanage. One of my most vivid memories is walking through the path beaten in the grass between buildings, in front of me and behind me, were our team members following each other, each of us with a child attached to each of our hands. Many of us had one child under each arm and one holding on to our hand on the end. Each child, longing just to be touched. I have never felt such a sense of joy and sadness simultaneously. I had 2 sweet girls with me and Chris soon had two of the older boys attached to him.
If you have seen the photos from our trip, you may remember this sweet face. This is Alain (pronounced Allen). We love him. He picked Chris. I’m pretty sure that the moment I clicked this photo was the moment that I fell in love with him. That beautiful smile, the brightly colored hat and scarf. The boy’s got style :)

The second day when we returned to Noel, Chris went to the market to buy food and supplies for the children. My two sweet girls had found me immediately. I was walking with them, talking and singing, when I turned around and there was Alain. He knew that I was Chris’ wife and since Chris wasn’t there, he wanted to be with me. He didn’t intrude, just followed close by. In the afternoons, our team spent time with the babies and toddlers. Many of the older children would go on to do other things during that time, but Alain was right by our side. He was quiet and calm, never demanding, he just wanted to be near us.
Alain desperately needed new shoes. He was wearing girl’s jelly sandals, 3 sizes too small. Our team had brought shoes with us, but handing out shoes to 600 children, deciding who needs them the most, is quite a large task. The oldest boys got to go in first to get fitted for shoes. By the time that it was Alain’s turn, the only shoes available were some croc-like sandals we had purchased at the market. Chris brought a pair to him, he accepted them, but you could tell he was disappointed. He didn’t say anything, but Chris asked him what was wrong.  When prodded, he revealed that what he really wanted were “church shoes,” real shoes, not sandals. But there were none left. Chris decided that he would give him his shoes. They would be big, but they were more what he needed. Here he is right after trying on the shoes.
When we returned home, neither one of us could get this sweet boy out of our minds and hearts and we didn’t want to. Alain has been living in an orphanage with 600 other children for years. We wanted to do something about that. Each time we were asked about our trip, Chris’ immediate response was, We met the coolest boy in Rwanda. We would bring him home tomorrow if we could.  After hearing that a few times, I told him that he had to stop saying that unless we were going to do something about it. But we didn’t know what do to. Rwanda is currently closed to adoptions and won’t be open again until after Alain has aged out. Suddenly a couple of days after we were home, I remembered the Rwandan boy who sat next to me on our flight to Ethiopia from Rwanda. He an several others were flying to India to study computers for 5 years. I thought, How are they doing that? A student visa? Could Alain get a student visa?
On August 20th, my Facebook status said, “Does anyone know anything about getting a student visa for someone from Rwanda? What do we need to do? What schools would accept them, etc.?” Very quickly there were responses, encouragement, and a phone call with a friend who thought it was a great plan. I had also sent a message to Tara, a sweet woman from Oklahoma, who after spending time at Noel with Visiting Orphans, left her life in the US to live at Noel for a year. I told her that we couldn’t get Alain out of our minds, what did she think about a student visa? She wrote back immediately saying she thought it was a great idea. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we decided that we would continue to pursue the student visa until there was nothing more we could do.
There have been many challenges along the way and many miracles as well. It has been a roller coaster of emotions. There were many days when it seemed impossible. We have been researching, collecting, preparing, praying, paying, emailing, and hoping since August just for Alain to get an interview at the Embassy. Last night was the biggest night of our lives so far. Alain’s interview was early this morning. Chris and I have been awake most of the night praying, hoping and waiting. We just got word that he was approved! There is much, much more to the story. How we went from waiting for a infant girl (we are still waiting), to bringing a teenage boy into our home is all God (He has quite a sense of humor). There was no me in this plan, but I love it.
We know that this is only the beginning of what God has planned for our family and for Alain. All we know is that God has opened a door and we are walking through it. There is a beautiful, sweet, smart boy waiting for us in Rwanda. God has great big plans for him, he has not been forgotten and somehow, we have been chosen to be a part of his story. I feel overwhelming blessed and inadequate to be a part of something so big. We have much to do to prepare our home and our lives for him. I’m sure we have no idea what we have gotten ourselves into. Keep us and Alain in your prayers. Our lives are about to be changed. Wrecked for Jesus. It is the best place to be.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Amy - I came across your blog today looking to hear about other people’s stories of adopting from Ethiopia as my husband and I are looking further into adoption from Africa as Rwanda is still closed. I decided to click on this particular link and was brought to your story about Noel orphanage and Alain,. Tears came to my eyes because I too have been to that same orphanage in Rwanda back in 2010. God bless you and your family!

The past and the future. » Pure & Lasting - […] to document our life together and, more specifically, our journey of adoption. Our son, Alain, from Rwanda, has been with us for over a year and is THE coolest kid you will ever meet. Maya, adopted from […]

Samantha - BEAUTIFUL!
I have been reading through your blog and am amazed at what you have been doing.
This last year, I have followed God to both Thailand and Mexico.
In Mexico, I spent one month living at an Orphanage. I developed a very special relationship with one of the girls. Whether I was helping the younger children or playing ball with the older ones, this special little girl would be attached to my side.
I know that no 2 stories can ever compare when it involves emotions like this but I was so blessed to hear a story that involves something so familiar.
God is so great. When we walk in His light, we can expect great things.
Thank you SO much for sharing your story!

Zumra Maner - Hi Jen,
I ‘ve been reading your blog and I am more encouraged than ever to follow through with our plans to adopt. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Brooke - WOW. I would like to talk to you more about this. We are adopting from Ethiopia, but we are very interested in doing this. The guy who runs our transition home just bought a school in Nazret, Ethiopia full of orphaned children that are UNADOPTABLE for various reasons. But I would love to bring some home for at least a couple years….would love to talk to you about this!!! You are awesome. I would also love to talk to you about tshirts. You have several I would like to steal :)

McCall - Your story is beautiful. I LOVE when God surprises us; no doubt his surprises are one of the best things in life.

Paige - So very very excited for you two! Happy NEW YEAR, it will be a great one!

Abi - Ohhhh I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!

Jessica Mumford - This is just so exciting! God is so so amazing, isn’t He?!? To Him be all the glory.

Jeannie - thank you for sharing – I don’t even know you and you had me in tears. love this story. love it. God is so so good.

Brittany Polk - Ok I have to hear more details!! We, too have fallen in love with a boy from Rwanda and I have been asking and asking about a student visa! Our whole family traveled to Kigali last Christmas and met a group of street kids that have been place into a home by our missionaries and they are just extraordinary boys! Then I got to go back in August (went to Noel for the first have of my trip and met Alain!)and spent the rest of the time with these boys again. I cannot get them out of my mind (one boy in particular) and asked the missionaries about a student visa but they didn’t know a lot about it, although they thought it was a great idea! My kids beg to go back to Rwanda daily (that is all they asked for for Christmas!:) Anyway, our whole family is wrapped up in those boys and would LOVE to make them officially part of our family!! Thank you for just doing it, here I am just thinking how great that would be but not pursuing it and you’ve just done it!! That is awesome! Any info you can give me would be so appreciated!!!

Joanna - Hello, we haven’t met, but i spent some time at Noel this year and was with Alain when he went to the immigration office, helped him in english. words cannot explain how happy i am for you. For Alain. This is wonderful. I know when he arrives you will give him a huge hug, but when you remember, please give him one from his friend in New Zealand who will never forget his beautiful character, his laugh, his smile, his determination and his dancing!! Best wishes to you all

Los Johnsons - I remember him so vividly from your trip. This is so exciting!!!

Faith - Wow! My mind is just reeling with excitement! So happy for you and Alain! Amazing!

Beth Cupitt - oh, yay! i figured that might not be the last we heard of him! congratulations!!!

Cindy - Hallelujah!!! Cngratulations!!!! God has his hand on Allain! Wow! So excited for you guys and him!

Jessica - This is so wonderful – I don’t know you, but I know Tara. I spent 5 weeks at Noel in 2010 and another 2 in October 2011. I know Alain, and I’m so so excited for him and have no doubt that he has been blessed with the perfect people to take care of him. It’s wonderful what you’re doing – thank you, and thank you for listening to God and following His plan. God bless you both with this. Those kids at Noel are my family and they deserve so much.

Debb - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! I love how God carries out His plans for our lives even amidst our whining and complaining! The. very. same. thing. happened to my husband and I! We got caught in the ET Court Closures with our baby boy adoption…..only to find out that God was orchestrating the beautiful family tapestry to include a precious 10 yr old boy we met during our Court Date visit to Addis! SO HAPPY for you! Just as God has ordained the addition to your adoption story, He will continue to finish what He has started! So exciting! Blessings to you AND your son and daughter!!!!! :D

Allison - WOW!! I had a feeling something was coming with more news about this boy :) So happy for you both!

erin - So incredibly cool!!

Jessica Honegger - I remember sitting with Norbert at lunch- the day we passed court!!! and wynne shared about you all and if norbert could help. i would LOVE for us all to put norbert to work around the clock for stuff like this!! so awesome!!!!

Amy DeYoung - Thank you so much for sharing this! I will be keeping you three in my prayers. So excited to see this journey unfold! And so happy for you :)

Stefanie - I can’t even begin to tell you how emotionally overwhelming this post was, much less what it must mean to you and Chris. I am so enthusiastically, insanely, exuberantly happy for you too…. I have a feeling you two will only feel more complete once he joins your household. You’re right…. He does have a plan!

John Deas - Jenn,
What a great story. I am touched deeply by it, and have always known that God does indeed have a plan for us. It may not be what we think or want or on our shcedule, but he always knows what is best for us. God Bless both you and Chris.
Merry Christmas.

eloranicole - OHMIGOSH. big fat tears. love this, sweet friend. so happy for you – for what God is doing in you guys and through you.

Lauren - Just bawling tears of joy over this!!! What an incredible GOD story!!! I can’t wait to watch the story unfold!! Praying for Alain and for YOU!

Wynne Elder - yep big blurry tears right now.
it’s been worth it my friend.
love you!

Michele - Praise the Lord! I am so excited for you all. We will continue to pray over Alain.

Veronica Ibarra - I always read your blog, I came over from your Bend the Light blog and have followed your story hoping to see when you get this little girl (I am so invested already), but this story is amazing! It truly is God’s plan in action. I wish your family and Alain all the best.

Jenni - Awww Jenn… this is just so wonderful and I am just so happy to read it. :)

Chantel - What a story God is writing for you Jenn! What a good reminder to be open to anything. Thanks for sharing!

Teri Kamphuis - Thanks for sharing your story Jenn. We will be praying for you as you continue to walk through the doors God is opening. Also, in our prayers is Alain as he joins your family.

Leanne - What an amazing story!!! Loved every word!! Brought goosebumps and tears!! Congrats!!

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