Travel Day 4 (Nov.29th)

We woke up to a rooster welcoming in the morning…at like 5am.  Nice.  First thought: we hadn’t heard from Steven!  Oh no, is he ok!?  Roger calls him, he says he is on his way now to the hotel and that Godfrey and the mechanic had got the car running but it still needed more work, so they took that one back to Kampala and gave Steven the other car so we could get to court.  Poor Steven, he had no sleep that night at all.  He arrived at the hotel with the rest of our luggage, so we took showers and started to get ready for court.  Oh my gosh…court!  The day we had been waiting for and anticipating for months is here!!!  Today!!!  We brought two different outfits for Lucas since we didn’t know what size he would be, and thankfully the cuter outfit fit him perfect!  🙂  He had a little suit minus the jacket, little black pants, a powder blue button up shirt, with a grey striped vest and a tie, with matching shoes and socks we happen to have, such a cutie!  It’s the first time we had seen him all dressed up like this, oh he is such a handsome boy.

He loved playing with my ugandan bead neckalace, every time I wear them he always plays with it.  🙂

So here we go!  Off to court! We’re all dressed and ready to go!  It’s 8:30am…court begins at 9:30am.  We’re only about 5 min. away, Ok, this is it!!

I’m nervous.  I don’t know why.  Isaac, our lawyer, said he is confident things will go in our favor.  We get in this line that is entering the courthouse with two security guards going through purses, and bags.  We walk to the back of the line, like everyone else.  All of a sudden a woman comes and says “Oh, come with me, you go to the front of the line”, we are confused and start following her.  We get to the front, without saying a word, everyone steps aside and allows us to cut to the front of the line.  We look at each other like, huh?!  The only thing we figure is that since we are “Mzungu’s” they were trying us to show us respect by allowing us to cut, I was embarrassed and felt bad, but if we deny their offer for us to cut, we are being disrespectful ourselves, so in we go.  We get inside and go upstairs where we are supposed to meet Isaac.  He is there, and with a woman.  The same woman who told us to cut in line.  He introduces her as Jane, the police officer who found Lucas when he was abandoned and hidden.  Wow!  I had no idea she would be here!  I started to get teary eyed.  This is such a rare opportunity to meet her!  Incredible.  She began telling us more about Lucas, and what little she knew about him, his parents, the scars on his body, but it was more information than we knew before, so we were in awe of meeting her.  She said he had been tortured before, that’s where the scars came from.  The scars on his back is from his bones sticking out of his back and rubbing against the basin he was left in all day, every day, and eventually abandoned in.  The bones from his spine rubbed up against the basin and that ripped his flesh from constantly rubbing against the hard plastic and created lines of scars on his back.  The scars on his belly (which were new, fresh, and open wounds when she found him) are intentionally done by burning him with a red hot stick, poking holes in his abdomen.  The scars are horrific.  It literally sickens me when I think about all that this little boy has gone through.  There are little lines of scars above those burn marks that she didn’t know how exactly they were caused, either by a razor blade or teeth marks.  We will never know.  We will never know a lot about his past.  I know he will have questions when he is older.  We did our best to find out for him, but a lot of it, we will never know.  We are learning to accept that, and one day, he will have to to. This is a picture Jane took of him when she found him.   It’s hard to believe this is him.  It breaks our hearts, and still have a hard time looking at this picture.

After talking with Jane, and a good cry, we had to walk into the court room.  There are a lot of people there.  There are some American families adopting too!!  We go introduce ourselves.  Sweet families!  We were happy to meet them.  One of the couples we sort of knew already, they had a little girl from the orphanage Lucas is from too, they had originally had a court date a week before our original court date (back in early October) and were already in country when they found out that their court date would be pushed back a month and a half (to today) and I had brought them a little care package of things they wanted and had asked for, so we knew them a little bit.  Nice people, cute little girl!

This is the courtroom:

So we sit down in court, and wait.  Jane and Isaac sit next to me, and Sister Edvin from the orphanage Lucas is from walks in!  We meet her, and Lucas recognized her, but didn’t quite know who she was exactly but he goes right to her (which isn’t something he normally does)!  He seems confused, but ok.  I had a hard time letting anyone else hold my boy.

After a few min. the judge walks in with a white wig on, oh, wow, THIS is different.  We all stand.  The cases proceed, and after about 2 cases, the judge asks court if they will permit him to see families with children first-in chambers-so the children don’t have to wait.  My heart leaped with joy!  The court says yes.  They dismiss court and we are told to go to his chambers where he will see us.  That was so nice of the judge!   I’ve heard of families having to wait all day, I’m talking 7 plus hours, just for the judge to hear their case.  So this was fantastic!  Everyone told us we are lucky to be having court in Mbarara, and to have the judge we have, I see why this is true!

We wait outside chambers, and wait…and wait…and the more time that goes by the more nervous I get.  We stare through this open air window in the hallway, it’s really quite beautiful.

We are waiting, and finally Isaac comes up the stairs with Jane, and the probation officer who goes over and approves our case as well, basically proving even further for the judge that Lucas is indeed an abandoned orphan, with no relatives found at all.  So we have a good case, and we know that, but still, we’re nervous.  This is a big day!  We’re excited, nervous, a lot of emotions.

Almost our turn!

And here we go!  We enter the Chambers and the judge begins to hear our case!

We’re in there, my cousin Wendy is taking the picture for us, although you can’t see us we are sitting on the couch between Isaac and Jane.  🙂

Judge asks Isaac to begin, and he starts reviewing all of our paperwork and reading it all to the judge (which he has already reviewed) and the judge is taking his own notes.  Isaac reviews what he knows about Lucas history, and the judge asks Jane and the probation officer to speak.  Once the judge is done asking them questions, he asks Isaac about Roger, and what he does for work.  I think he was just interested more than anything.  He didn’t ask anything about me.  Then he asks us the one question he asked us the whole time, “What religion do you plan to raise him?”  Ugandans are very religious people, so this is important to them.  It is to us as well.  We told him we will raise him in the Christian faith.  The judge asked Isaac what religion the child is, and Isaac said that the orphanage is Catholic.  The judge said the basis of the two faiths are the same, so that is permissible.  Thank you Jesus!  🙂   Then the judge goes into this spiel about how in order to grant an “adoption ruling” we would have to live in Uganda for three years, and foster the child for 6 months, and my heart stops….I’m thinking, oh my gosh! what are you saying?!  We know this but we are wanting to have legal guardianship and then finalize in the U.S. since we are U.S. citizens………..uh….and then he says, “but, there is a way around that since you are wanting to adopt him with the United States, and that is legal guardianship here in Uganda, and finalize in the U.S., which is why you are here today”….oooooh ok, here we go, we’re on the same page after all…lol.  Then the judge says, “Congratulations, I grant you legal guardianship of this child”  AHHH!!!!   My heart fluttered with joy.  Roger squeezed my hand in excitement.  We smiled at our boy.  Joy.  He had no idea what was happening.  🙂  We told the judge Thank you! and he said that we will now go to the US Embassy in Kampala and apply for a Visa to the leave the country with Lucas and come back to America and finalize the adoption in the courts here in the U.S. after 6 months, and to provide a report once a year on Lucas from a social worker, and send to him until the child is 18 years of age.  Done.  So happy!  We walk out in bliss, with our new child who is legally ours now!  We thank Isaac, and are just so happy and excited! We celebrate with the other adoptive couples who also were granted legal guardianship!

We decide that since our court case was heard so early in the day, that we have enough time to go to the orphanage.  We will see the orphanage for the first time.  As we are walking out, Lucas keeps looking at Sister Edvin.  He recognizes her but clings to us.  She then starts talking to him, in his language, and something “snaps/changes” in him and he lets go of us and runs to her.  He remembers her.  He wouldn’t come back to us.  We were trying to leave to go to the hotel to change, and he wouldn’t come to us.  He starts crying when we hold him, screaming.  My heart is breaking.  All the bonding we just did, all the celebration we just had, is all over in this moment…I don’t know what to do, what he is feeling, how to help him cope, how to cope myself with my child not wanting to touch me.  I’m frustrated, saddened, but keep trying, and eventually he calms down and lets me sit next to him in the car.  We go back to the hotel, and go in our room, and the best way to describe this is “snapping in and out of it” cause we walk in the room, and he remembers us again and the room, and he snaps “out of it” and is smiling, playing, running to us, like normal.  I just cry.  I lose it.  I just lost it.  I was so overwhelmed with so many emotions that entire day, with meeting Jane, hearing his painful past, and only a part of it, not all of it.  We’ll never know all that he has been through.  I just cried a big ole ugly cry, with Roger holding me, emotional too, and Lucas crawls up on our laps, and we just hold each other.  What a good, hard day.  He has been through so much, and those “snapping in and out of it” moments were the first of many to come.

We start the drive to the orphanage, about an hour from Mbarara, and we pull in.  Wow.  We’re here.  This is where our son had lived for most of his life.  This is an orphanage.  It’s a bit better than I expected.  It’s cleaner than I expected.  It’s protected.  There is a gate with barbed wire at the top, and a gate surrounding the whole place.

I can’t believe we are here.  I’m nervous to think how Lucas is going to feel.  I’m not sure how he is going to handle this, will he think we’re dropping him off?  Will he be happy to be here again?  Will he remember everyone?  Will he come to us again after seeing Sister Edvin?  We didn’t know how he would feel.  We got out, and a woman who seemed like she worked there came up and yelled “Rogers” (his given name in the orphanage)!!!!   Oh, good they know him, and remember him at least.  There aren’t any kids anywhere.  I am told they are napping.  We sit down in the room you first walk into the building.  The women who work there are doting all over Lucas, holding him, hugging him, rocking him, singing to him.  I’m quite surprised, he seems so loved.  We are told that this isn’t something they normally do with the kids, they don’t get hugs or loved on like this at all but that they are happy he is being adopted and this is their way of saying goodbye.  Oh, ok.  So this is why Lucas seems so uncomfortable.  He goes into this robotic like state almost, no smiles, just letting whoever touch him and hold him.  This older boy keeps wanting to hold him.  He seems so sweet.  He is about 10 I think.  He is an orphan, living there, he is the oldest boy in the orphanage.  I’m told that they “age out” of the orphanage about his age and have to fend for themselves, many of them become street children.  I can’t stop thinking about this boy.

Here he is with Lucas:

Sister Edvin walks in the room, and she gives us a tour of the orphanage.  There is a sweet little boy following us around, he is about 5 years old, and he is holding Lucas hand everywhere we go.  Lucas likes him and is comfortable with him.  We go on the tour and she shows us the babies area, there are about 8 babies, all lined up on the mattress.  One of the girls is holding one of the babies.  They’re crying.  One of them is so small, I’ve never seen such a tiny baby in person.  She is malnourished.  She looks like a 6 week premature baby, I am told she is 2 months old.  Oh my gosh.  Oh my gosh.  I’m holding back my emotions.  Roger is in shock too.  We start to see some kids, I guess they’re waking up.  They’re not wearing any pants, or underwear, just a shirt, and there are about 10 of them right next to Lucas.  They remember him, he remembers them I can tell, he isn’t in the robotic like state he was in, but he wasn’t excited about being there either, he was unsure why he was back and what was happening, but he seemed a little happy to see his old friends.  He stayed close to the little boy holding his hand, and us the whole time.  We saw where they sleep, and she showed us where Lucas slept.  I was actually surprised they have one or two children to a crib, I thought it was more than that per crib.  Heck, I was surprised they even had cribs!  And to see Lucas’s crib in the back of the room, empty, I can’t even tell you how we felt seeing that.  Amazing.

They run a tight ship there.  There are so many kids and very little care workers.  These kids are very institutionalized,  meaning there are so many children per care worker that they are expected to do what they are told or else.  For example, when you tell Lucas “Weybac” which means “sleep” in his language, he will very quickly lay down and close his eyes and not move a muscle.  It’s very sad to see actually.  It’s just driven out of fear.  From fear of what happening, I don’t know.  He also doesn’t like to spill things or get anything on his clothes.  He spilled his drink the other day and he looked at me with terror in his eyes as to what I would do, and was absolutely terrified.  I had never seen that look from him before.  The second I smiled and told him it was ok, it took him a second to process that I was ok and he smiled so big and started clapping!!  lol.  It’s like he was so happy that he didn’t have to be scared he was celebrating!  poor sweet boy.  He will also hand me his plate when he is finished eating, and will hold it high up in the air until I come get it.  There are more things like that, where he has been institutionalized, those are some examples.  It’s very sad.  But, these kids are so resilient and  he is doing really great adjusting.  We have our moments, but he is really overall doing really well so far.

Seeing the orphanage was very hard.  It’s hard seeing all those faces, all those children without homes, without parents, without someone to love them.  I wanted to take them all home with us.  There was something very special we got the privilege of doing while we were there.  There is a group that I am a part of on facebook where other families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Uganda are all a part of, I’ve met some wonderful people through that group and we have become friends.  One family in particular, who sent us a package to take to their little boy, are adopting from the same orphanage Lucas is from, so while we were there we got to deliver the package to this little boy and he got to see his parents and sisters faces for the first time!  It was an honor to get to do that for them.  I didn’t know which little boy he was so I asked Sister Edvin who he was, and she said, well, he is the little boy holding Lucas hand the whole time you’ve been here!  Oh my goodness, I had no idea!  I had seen his picture before that his adoptive mom had sent me, but I was so overwhelmed looking at all the faces, taking it all in, I didn’t look close enough to see that this was the same little guy following us around, and was buddies with our little man.  Oh I’m so thankful for this special connection!  So I sat down next to him on the couch in the main part of the orphanage and handed him his package from his adoptive parents, one thing at a time.  I gave him the photo album first, and he opened it to see his family for the very first time.  He smiled so big and pointed to them.  Love.  I loved this moment.  How incredible.  The older girl next to him knew English too and translated to him what I was telling her.  I told him that those were his parents, his mom and dad, and his two sisters, and they are coming to get him soon, he has a family.  This was a picture of his home, of his grandparents, etc.  He was absolutely in awe looking at the pictures.  I took videos and pictures of this moment and sent them to his family when we got home.  They are a great family, and already love this little boy so much, they are more than anxious for him to come home, if you could pray for this little boy and his family, I know they would appreciate it!  Waiting is very hard, especially when he knows they are coming.  🙂   I am so blessed God allowed our families to become connected in the small chance we could have, so that our boys will be able to grow up knowing each other, sharing their special connection all the way back from the orphanage in Uganda.  We already have plans to get together with them sometime this year so the boys can reunite, in America!!   How cool is that!?

After visiting some time there, giving them our donations we had brought, which they were so thankful for and made such a big deal out of, almost like a presentation in front of everyone who had gathered to see, and they especially loved the camera one of my friends had donated, and the candy we had brought and passed out to the kids and even the adults loved the candy, it was time to go.  I feared Lucas would not come with us, and cry after Sister Edvin the way he had at the court house.  But once we started to say goodbye to everyone, to our surprise Lucas was the first one out of the door!  He ran to the car as if he was saying, “No way, you’re not leaving me here, I’m coming with you!”   We said our goodbyes, gave our last hugs, and walked out to the car.  Sister Edvin said goodbye to Lucas, he didn’t want her to hold him, he leaned in to give her a hug but still holding on to me.  My heart was happy, he knew who his momma was.  He knew he was going to a better life, and began to understand the meaning of having a family.  He wanted to leave.  He was ready.  We took one last picture with Sister Edvin and we waved goodbye to the place that would never again be Lucas’s home.

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