{finally} an UPDATE! BRI!

The embassy received our file and have screened it!! They have given us a BRI (Birth Relative Interview – in Ethiopia; we don’t travel for this) for February 28.  We were bummed it is so far out (we requested the 11th and the birth relative was ready to travel that date), but Embassy is booked solid through the end of the month.  However, we’ve been stalled for so long we’re trying to just rejoice that things are moving again!  Our agency did request that they consider us if there is a cancellation, as we’ve been waiting in the process for so long at this point.  It’s not very likely that will happen, but it would be quite a pleasant surprise!

So, here’s the timeline of what we still need to happen:

  • the US embassy in ET to receive and begin processing our file
  • they will most likely schedule a BRI (Birth Relative Interview) *they also requested MORE documents.
  • they will approve our case and issue our PAIR letter
  • ET will receive our PAIR approval and and can issue our MOWCYA approval letter
  • {we will get the PAIR letter and get it state certified & mailed to Ethiopia, along with a few other updated dossier documents we have sitting here waiting}
  • WE WILL BE GIVEN A COURT DATE
  • Jeff & I will travel to Ethiopia to meet our daughter & pass court!!! We can officially share her name & PHOTOS then!
  • We will leave her there and come home to wait for her visa to be processed. I can’t even think about this.
  • All four of us will head back to ET/we will officially clear Embassy & get her visa, we’ll spend a little while there, and bring her HOME!!

We’ve heard rumors that ET court is closing until Feb 24th, which would be a big bummer as they’d be pretty backed up when they re-open (and hopefully we’ll be requesting a court date not too long after that!).  We’ll see.

Our emotions have been all over the place – we are fighting, but it’s getting harder and harder not to let ourselves get down.  Last weekend I went to a great women’s retreat where I heard Jen Hatmaker (love. her.), and it spoke right to me (and in the middle of her session, she showed a video of them picking up their two Ethiopian adopted children – from our same agency – so the video was at the SAME transition home our T is in right now! Oh, tears).  I have never felt my faith being tested this much.  I’ve decided that the enemy SERIOUSLY must not want this girl in our family, which just gives me more motivation to fight those feelings.  I’m more convinced than ever she’s supposed to be ours and that God must have a ridiculously amazing story for her life.

We got a ton of new pictures & videos from a sweet friend today (who’s visiting her daughter, one of T’s best friends) – if you’re local just ask if you want to see them, you know we love to share! 😉

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful

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snOMG 2014

Charlotte got its “shut down the city for an inch or two” snow day last week!  Rare and fun.  I love the south.  We had a great day with Jeff at home, and Aunt Ash, Grandma, & PopPops off work too – we all got to play in the snow, do some sledding, and enjoy a relaxed day.  Why school was out for 2 days, we’ll never know… but hey, it was fun while it lasted.  I love snow days with the boys – they were SO excited.  And it was so nice to be able to send them outside in the backyard together some while I sat next to my space heater & drank coffee too. 🙂

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update: still no update.

Also known as: we need your prayers.

Well, since I last updated we have just been waiting. USCIS had supposedly sent our file to the US Embassy in ET, and we were waiting for them to start processing our case. We still hadn’t heard anything from them as of last week, so we and our agency called & emailed demanding an update since things were stuck.
We finally heard back yesterday, but it was just more bad news. USCIS had indeed sent our file, but due to a computer glitch, the Embassy never received it. So it feels like the last few weeks were just wasted time. I know God’s timing is perfect and all, and I do trust that, but I won’t lie – it was incredibly discouraging and frustrating. It felt like getting kicked while we were down. We have been waiting since October for this PAIR process and we still aren’t near the finish line. They did re-send the file, and we’re waiting for confirmation that the Embassy has actually received it. We requested they put a high priority on it, but we will see. We’re hoping to hear that they’ve screened it by the end of the week – but friends, we need your prayers. We need things to get moving again.

If we can’t get things going by next week, we’ve been encouraged to start contacting congressmen/senators to help. Yep. That’s where we’re at. Craziness. Never would have imagined we’d get to that point. But we’ll do it. Whatever it takes to get our girl home. Pray for her too – she’s known she has a family since September but still no one has come – you can imagine what she’s thinking & feeling. We were able to send a care package & some letters/pictures with two traveling families who are going next week, so we’re hoping that will cheer her up and let her know we’re coming (and that means we’ll also get new pictures – which always lifts our spirits!).

We do have one (pretty big) positive update:  Ethiopia is NOT shutting down!  Whew!  The prime minister announced today that they have no intention of shutting down international adoption.  They want to continue to work to reform the system & eliminate bad practices (which it certainly needs, and we obviously support). Praise the Lord. We are very thankful that things will not shut down and are praying they can put in place positive changes for reform. The only hard part for us is that because everyone was so worried about it shutting down, tons of cases were submitted for PAIR at once to make sure they were in the system – which overwhelmed the staff with cases and has contributed to slowing things down in processing. We’re hoping they are able to process all the cases quickly and get these kids home with their families… especially our sweet T! 🙂

So yes, things have been hard lately – bad news after bad news. In all honesty we are struggling and sad – but holding on and leaning on the Lord and each other. We all know we learn & grow the most during hard times–and it’s true right now. God is stripping us down & revealing himself to us – and I really believe he’s preparing us for what’s in store. I can only imagine that the day we finally see her in person (which neither of us can really think about without getting emotional!) will be that much sweeter. She is worth the wait.
Hopefully our next update will finally be a good one! Thanks so much for your prayers, encouragement, & support! Can’t say that enough.

4 months {really} waiting.

Yesterday marked 4 months since our referral for sweet T. We also celebrated Ethiopian Christmas (January 7th-Melkam Gena!) with a feast and activities. Miss Sara came over-she had chosen to teach about Ethiopia for her kindergarten’s Christmas Around the World and was sweet enough to come do it with the boys, too. We enjoyed it! Cannot wait to celebrate with our girl next year!

We are feeling encouraged – so many priceless friends & family have given us words of wisdom & encouragement and it’s really helped us stay positive after the disappointing update. This week we should hear what Ethiopia’s decision is regarding the future of international adoption there. We are praying hard!

We love you, T-you are more than worth the wait.

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another day on the adoption roller coaster

Hey friends – I’m sorry we haven’t updated in a while.  We were waiting because we thought we’d have some good news yesterday (we thought we were very close to receiving our PAIR letter and could celebrate!), but unfortunately we found out that instead of being close to traveling, we’re looking at probably another 6-8 weeks at least before getting a court date.  Not the turn of events we were hoping for!

Basically, we thought the US had already done their investigations in ET, but they hadn’t even started.  It isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, we just misunderstood how the new process worked (there is a lot of confusion about it with everyone!) So now USCIS will send our (completed, approved) file electronically to the US embassy in Ethiopia and their staff will do their investigations.  The ET gov’t has already done theirs and interviewed the birth relative–in NOVEMBER.  So you can see why we’re a little frustrated it’s taking so long on the US side. 😉  But, such is life with all the paperwork and red tape involved with international adoption.  We are just really sad we won’t get to see our girl soon, and that she has to keep waiting for us when she doesn’t really understand why.  This weekend will be four months since our referral, and we just ache to be with our girl.  We’d love your prayers – we still need the following things to happen:

  • the US embassy in ET to receive and begin processing our file
  • they will most likely schedule a BRI (Birth Relative Interview)
  • they will approve our case and issue our PAIR letter
  • ET will receive our PAIR approval and and can issue our MOWCYA approval letter
  • {we will get the PAIR letter and get it state certified & mailed to Ethiopia, along with a few other updated dossier documents we have sitting here waiting}
  • WE WILL BE GIVEN A COURT DATE

Theoretically, after we pass court, we should be able to clear embassy fairly “quickly” (I use that term VERY loosely!) since the US has already done their work and pre-approved us.  We shall see.

To add to the craziness, last week it was confirmed that there was a meeting of parliament in Ethiopia where various leaders met to discuss international adoption–it seems many wanted to shut it down or at least reform it.  They wrote up a 44-page “research paper” with their findings, and will meet late this week or early next week to make a decision.  At first many thought it was going to shut down… now the feeling seems to be leading toward more reform, which may slow it down even more, or who knows.  Anything could happen.  Our agency thinks we will be OK even if it does close since we are in the system – typically they would grandfather you in – but there are really never any guarantees when it comes to international adoption, as we’ve seen time and again.  We are praying hard for Ethiopian government this week!  Our agency is doing a few days of prayer and fasting, so we will join in that.

Yesterday was Christmas in Ethiopia – Melkam Gena!  We are looking forward to celebrating (a little late) tomorrow.  We have a special guest coming to teach the boys about it and we’re planning a feast.  Oh how I love Ethiopian food!

As sad as we were yesterday (believe me, tears were shed), we know God is still faithful and he hasn’t left us.  This song is still speaking to us as it has every step of the way.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14

A sweet friend reminded us that God can redeem the time we’ve lost with her and these extra weeks/months we continue to wait.  That was really comforting. We don’t know why it’s taking so long, but He does…he is still in control, and is accomplishing his purpose even now – preparing all of us for the huge changes that are to come.  We are coming, sweet girl – just as soon as we can!!

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Pray for our fellow adoptive friends too – many of them received referrals around the same time as us and are still waiting on paperwork to be submitted/processed because of the new process.  We are praying hard for all of these kids to be with their families as soon as possible!

3 months (really) waiting.

Wednesday marked three months since our official referral for T.  Several people have requested an update, so I’m going to try to keep y’all in the loop the best I can.

LOGISTICALLY:

  • A few weeks ago, after our initial PAIR (Pre-Adoptive Immigration Review, or the pre-embassy screening), we received an RFE (Request For Evidence).  Basically, with this new process they are being much stricter about paperwork and they asked for a few new documents for her case.  One was as simple as there was a spelling error on her birth certificate, so we had to get it remade.  All minor technicalities like that, but it has delayed us three weeks so far (these are all documents they have to get in Ethiopia). We did hear this week that the docs have all been obtained, now we are waiting for them to be translated and we should have them next week to mail to USCIS (US Customs & Immigrations Services/Homeland Security, who does the PAIR review).
  • We mailed in a request for an extension for our I-171H (approval form) as it will expire in March, that should come back fairly quickly.  Our current is still valid, but we need to make sure it stays valid until she comes home.
  • Once we receive the PAIR letter, we can receive a court date in Ethiopia!! That is the US side.  On the ET side, we are waiting for a MOWCYA (Ministry of Women’s, Children’s, & Youth Affairs – sorry for all the adoption acronyms!!) letter date.  This is the pre-court date where a birth relative interviews and the ET gov’t writes us an approval letter (we do not go for this).  This can be given before we get our PAIR letter, but they cannot issue us a court date until they have the letter there.
  • So – once we have a positive MOWCYA letter (ET side) and PAIR letter (US side), we can get a court date and go be with our girl!!! This is when you’ll see me dancing in the streets.
  • I’ll explain more after the court date, but after that we have to be submitted to embassy and get her visa before we can bring her home – it’s another process.  It should be quicker since the US is now doing their investigations before court (they used to do it after), but we’ll be one of the first, so who knows.

Hope that makes a little sense, sorry – I know it’s involved.

EMOTIONALLY:

  • Both Jeff and I have struggled this month.  Just being real. 🙂  The first two months went by fairly fast – but now with the delays and it being the holidays, it’s been a hard month.  We just really miss her and ache to be with her.  I can tell the Lord is knitting our hearts together with hers, because when we first accepted her referral, for me she still felt a little “surreal” and mysterious.  I knew she was supposed to be ours but it didn’t feel totally real yet.  I think I wouldn’t let myself go there.  God has truly used the wait to bind my heart to hers–I can’t avoid the feelings now.  She really feels like my DAUGHTER, and it is heartwrenching that she’s on the other side of the world.  We’ve definitely had some tears, but I’m grateful because I feel so much more attached to her and I KNOW she is mine.  So that’s where we are – learning to rely on the Lord and intercede/stand up/fight for her, because it is a totally helpless feeling knowing what she’s going through over there and not being able to do anything but mail paperwork, wait, and pray.
  • She has had a hard time lately too – just keep praying for her.  We’re thankful for her sweet spirit and that the Lord is working in her life even now.  Her health is still pretty good, we praise the Lord for that.
  • Thank goodness for pictures and video – we watch them all the time!!

“PHYSICALLY” – ?

  • We started buying clothes for her!  So fun!! It took a while to find out her sizes but we have them now, and this girl is gonna need a wardrobe!
  • We got the boys’ passports back (that was fast!) – we still aren’t 100% sure of our travel plans – we may still be doing two trips, but extending one of them and taking the boys with us for that one.  We’ll see!

So that’s where we’re at!  Thank you all so much for supporting, encouraging, and praying for us.  It means more than you’ll ever know.  Praying for lots of exciting news this fourth month of (really) waiting!!

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T’s November Update

Thought I’d post some of the highlights from our monthly update about T.

-From another traveling family: “Loved getting to spend some time with your sweet girl!  She really is so special.  She was really shy at first, but after I told her that I was friends with her Mama, she warmed right up.  She is really good with the other kids. Often if one of the toddlers was crying, she’d run right over and pick them up to soothe them. I also saw her signing with “F.”  And she really likes to sing 🙂 She asked about you guys every day.”

From the update, we learned her favorite color is actually green (even though she’s been asking for all things pink)!  And her favorite food?  BURGERS.  That’s my girl right there.

They said she is doing well but asking about us a lot and can’t wait for us to get there.  She also can’t wait to “play a game” with us.  Game night anyone?

She also said she knows Jesus loves her and protects her, that she has been in good health this month (praise the Lord!) and she asked for a new American name.  We don’t want her to lose her Ethiopian name though, so we will definitely keep it as either her first or middle and give her a new American middle or first.  We plan to meet her first and let her be part of that decision/process, so we’ll keep you posted on the name 😉

And here is where I’d share the new pictures if I could… oh well.  Keep praying hard and hopefully we will be able to sooner rather than later!

Happy thanksgiving 2013

So grateful today, even as we miss her…

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Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say

Yes our hearts can say…

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did you leave us on our own

You are faithful, God, you are faithful

You are faithful, God, you are faithful

Happy Thanksgiving from the Pyles’ crew in snowy Ohio!

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and just like that…

Well, after our super exciting day on Monday, no sooner than the next day did we get some disappointing news.  We heard from our USCIS officer that they had done the initial review for our PAIR application and were sending us an RFE (Request For Evidence).  Basically, they want 3 additional documents/addendums (from Ethiopia) so things will be on hold until they can get those. 😦  It’s not anything big – they’re pretty nitpicky issues, but this is a new process so it’s not entirely unexpected until the ET staff learns what USCIS needs.  Still a bummer though.

We are hoping it won’t delay us too much as the ET process is still moving in the meantime – so we could still get their (MOWCYA) letter date while we wait for this one.  I know it’s confusing, I’m sorry – please feel free to ask us to explain it further if needed!

So after that little roller coaster of a Monday & Tuesday, I got a sweet surprise in the mail today–a drawing from my girl.  She asked another family to give it to her mom, so they mailed it to us when they got home. 🙂  I threw that baby right up on the fridge next to her picture – love it!  It’s really surreal to think that her little hands all the way in Ethiopia held and drew that picture, and now I’m holding it in mine.  She is so sweet – love her.

Thanks for your prayers – keep them up!  God continues to reassure us that he is in EVERY step, that he goes before us and he is in control.  We are so thankful for that.

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