Monday, February 20, 2017

Living, not waiting

In my last post, I talked about the waiting process we are in. Since then I've been thinking about how unsatisfying it is to just wait. What if...we lived in the present and put the 'waiting' in the background? What if...we didn't miss out on the every-day moments of our lives that amount to so much more in the end? We didn't expect to find ourselves in Nairobi, but here we are. We've decided to just live. We will hope in the future but revel in the present. We're done with waiting for life to happen to us. We're going to happen to life. 
Mercy on a bungee trampoline
Lemu getting ready to fly
Segways on a Sunday afternoon
Ice cream with our neighbor and friend, Jayden
An ice skating rink in Nairobi? Yep! And we had a great time learning to skate with our friends from Kampala. 
Nairobi has an indoor rock climbing gym too. Mercy is especially good at this with her long arms and legs.
Good old-fashioned softball in the backyard
Never too old for a piggy-back ride

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Many of you know about our recent transitions. It's one reason we haven't posted in months. In early December, we received news from the National Visa Center that we were to have a visa interview in Nairobi on January 23rd. Before that date, we needed to be in Nairobi for our girls to get a medical check-up at an assigned health center (approved by the US embassy). We had been thinking about moving to Nairobi for a number of weeks anyway. Besides it being the location where we needed to get the visa interview, we wanted to be near a Christian counseling center called Tumaini. At Tumaini (a center started by Africa Inland Mission and SIL), we would have access to doctors and counselors who could help us address our issues of anxiety and stress. So, we decided to leave Uganda on Christmas Day. My parents were flying in to Nairobi on December 27th for a visit, and we needed to be set up in a house by then. Our travel to Kenya went well, and we crossed the border uneventfully. We drove through lush tea plantations in the highlands of Kenya before arriving at our destination in the capitol. Some friends from Kampala had located a house for us and got it furnished before we arrived. When we drove up to our new house, we felt the reality of our new beginning in Nairobi. After nine years in Uganda, we had moved away. The reality of the move is still sinking in nearly two months later. We had just spent a significant portion of our adult lives in Uganda. We had both gained and lost something with the move. How were we supposed to feel? We're still not quite sure.

So now you find us living on the northeastern side of Nairobi. We have no vehicle but are relying on Uber taxis. Thank God for Uber! We currently have no water as there is a terrible drought happening in Kenya. Water is being rationed out to people in Nairobi. Our compound is situated between a mall, a brewery, and a hospital. As it was told to us, those places have bigger pipes and get any (and all) water when the city opens the pipes to us. The city started rationing on January 3rd (at least in our neighborhood), and we haven't seen water since. But God provides. A generous and kind neighbor had pumped water into three huge tanks during the time of plenty. She is now sharing that water with us, and we are hiring a water truck to haul in more water and fill up the tanks. The ironic thing is that we thought we were moving up in the world by coming to Nairobi. We have a superhighway on one side and a huge mall on the other....but no water. Our water situation had been better when we lived remotely in Timu. Thankfully, we are used to rationing our water, and the loss has not made us truly suffer. We live on a large compound surrounded by trees and green space. Our kids now have bikes and have found friendship with the neighbor kids. Since the mall is right across the road from our compound, we walk there nearly every day for exercise and groceries. Without a vehicle, our world has gotten smaller. Interestingly enough, we don't seem to mind. We are both adjusting to new medication and need the most stress-free lifestyle possible at the moment. The one time we do go out is for church on Sunday. We've found an international church near-by where we've met some friends, and the kids are enjoying Sunday school. I would ask that you pray for our relationships in Nairobi. Over the years we've learned that we can live with little water, but we need people (relationships). 

Now for our photos...let me backtrack a bit. Before we left Uganda, Terrill made one last trip to Karamoja (Kaabong) to teach the basics of the Ik language to the AIM team who currently live in Timu. It was a bittersweet return to Karamoja for him. Good memories and bad. And for those of you who are wondering, we do plan to return to Uganda one day to visit the relatives of our children. We've become a cross-cultural family with them. The Ik relatives adopted us into their clan (within the Ik tribe), and we adopted their children. You can't sever those kinds of bonds.
Teaching Ik language
At the baptist mission in Kaabong with the AIM team
Terrill & the AIM team who live in Timu with the Ik
This AIM team moved to Timu last October. Sadly, they have already lost one of their members. The Ugandan lady on the left (pictured above) passed away suddenly after having complications of high blood pressure. Her husband and son (also on the left) decided to return home and have had to leave the team. This was a difficult loss. I would ask you to pray for each member of the team as they grieve and adjust to their current situation.  On a brighter note, we are SO glad these people are in Timu ministering among the Ik. We felt as if we could pass on the baton to the next group of runners. The Ik have not been forgotten, and God is at work amongt them.
While in Kaabong, Terrill was able to visit with the girls' mother, Alice, and their half sister, Akello. Alice was nine months pregnant in this photo, and has since delivered a baby brother for our girls. She named him Terrill, and he is doing well. Alice is now married to a man from another ethnic group, and her last two children have him as their father.
December was full of good-byes for our family. It was sad to leave friends in Kampala where we had spent nearly a year. Ibra and Suma (above) were some of our girls' best friends. We had lunch with them every Sunday afternoon. 
It was also difficult to say good-bye to the girls' Uncle Hillary and his family. Above, our girls are seated with their cousins who now live in Kampala. 
Hillary and Lilly have been good friends to us for years. We'll miss the times spent together, but are thankful for social media and a continued connection with them.
Right before leaving Kampala, we celebrated Mercy's 8th birthday on December 23rd. Terrill took her out for a special breakfast at a coffee house where they brought her chocolate cake and sang her a birthday song. 
This girl is growing!
Above is our first glimpse of our new house. It's very cozy, and just the right size for our family. We got moved in on December 26th, then picked up my parents from the airport on December 27th. I know I've said this a dozen times on our blog, but I thank God continually for loving family/friends who come visit us overseas. We needed encouragement, and my parents answered the 'call'. They came to us after Christmas for a two and a half week visit. 
Dad and Mom Gingerich at Karura Forest park in Nairobi
One opportunity we had while my folks were around was to visit an elephant orphanage. These people (The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) rescue young elephants in need of help, and raise them up until they're ready to be returned to the wild. People can 'adopt' the orphans to help the Trust care for their needs while they're at the orphanage. Above, the orphan has picked up a hose and is trying to drink from it. Clever!
This baby is enjoying his daily ration of milk. Yes, he was holding the bottle with his trunk.
The orphans were being led back to their lodging area.
This baby has learned to pick up a shovel and was mimicking a worker who was tossing mud on the backs of the elephants (to cool them down).
Yep, that's me (Amber). I think the baby smelled the water (from a bottle in my bag) I had. He was wrapping his trunk around my purse and trying to pull it from me.
On another day, we ventured into Nairobi National Park. It was a bright day, hence the squinting.

This is a pair of white rhinos in the wild. We've been to game parks in Uganda many times but have never seen rhinos like this. The rhinos in Uganda are few and live at a reserve where they are constantly watched and protected from poachers.
Terrill & my dad traveled farther south to a place called Masai Mara. They spent three days seeing even more of Kenya's splendid wildlife.
Giraffes at dusk
Jackal walking away with fresh meat
Hiking trails at a forested park
Nature's swing
And here we are. We've been quiet, but we're still surviving. We're in search of healing and trying to make sense of our time in Uganda. We're slowing down and allowing ourselves the time to process our lives. Pray that God would speak to us in this quiet place.

We don't know how long we'll remain in Nairobi. We've been told that the high courts in Uganda need to verify that our adoption documents are not fraudulent. It is the last step. Unfortunately, the high court has just moved location, and their file room is apparently in disarray. Nobody can tell us how long we'll be waiting. Fortunately, we're used to the ambiguity. We are unsurprised by it and have even found comfort in it. We know that one day, our waiting will come to an end. One day, many things will be explained and understood. One day, we'll transition on yet again.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Passing time in Kampala

Perhaps because we live in a city now, we don't think our lives are interesting enough to blog about anymore! Life is still eventful and meaningful but in a less exotic way than it used to be. We are still living in Kampala, Uganda's capitol, waiting for immigrant visas for the girls.

Visa update: Our petition to make the children our relatives (to US immigration) was approved on August 22nd. This was a big hurdle in the long process to get the actual visa stamp in the girls' passports. Our paperwork was then sent from Nebraska to New Hampshire, where they are currently processing it at the National Visa Center. From New Hampshire (if all goes well without any glitches), we'll be assigned to a consular office and given an interview date. If we are approved at the interview, we'll get our actual visa stamps within a few days and be able to fly home. We are so eager and ready for that to happen. You can pray that we'll remain content and at peace as we live in Kampala for the time being. Everybody wants to know if we have a timeline as to when we'll actually get home. We don't. Our best guess is that we'll be able to come before the end of the year. By then, we'll have spent nearly four years in Uganda without being able to return home with our kids. 

In the meantime, we've moved houses in Kampala. The first house we moved to last spring was a huge blessing for many months. We decided to move on mostly due to a mold problem that was affecting our health. The house we moved into a few weeks ago is blessedly free of mold. We're SO thankful for friends who are letting us stay in their place while they're on furlough having a baby. 
Our first Kampala home

Our current Kampala home

Right after we made the move, Grandma Schrock (Velma) came to visit. It was a good time for her to come as we needed the encouragement and time with family. We had fun and relaxed days together. The girls enjoyed having an extra person around to chat with, and getting a little more attention than usual. I enjoyed having help with homeschool. Grandmas everywhere make such a difference in the lives of parents!! Thank you for taking the time to love us and invest in our lives, Grandma!
Homeschool on the porch

Grandma was a LOT of fun to have around. 

Boat ride on Lake Victoria

Still leaning on each other after a difficult year

A sunset cruise
Now what? The girls and I are tackling first grade (and each other sometimes). We decided to homeschool for another full year in order to avoid disruption in the middle of the school year and eventually help ease the girls into American life more gently. It's not been an easy task, and ya'll can pray for me (Amber) as I need an extra measure of patience and a little more understanding on how to approach teaching. 

Terrill has been studying classical Greek and a bit of ancient philosophy to prepare to enter his degree program at FSU in the spring. The department there graciously offered to admit him in the spring instead of this past August, and that relieved the huge time pressure we felt. He'll also get the Ik dictionary manuscript back from the editors in a few weeks and will be able to do final editing on it before it gets printed. The AIM (African Inland Mission) team who will be living in Timu arrives this week! We hope to get the dictionaries printed and into their hands in the next few months. 

A big part of our week in this season is an adoptive parenting class we've been attending at some friends' house. It's called Empowered To Connect and is nine weeks long. We have homework assignments, have been reading excellent books, and meet every week for two hours with other adoptive parents. I don't exaggerate when I say that it's changed our lives and our parenting in a few short weeks. The basic principle of the class is that adopted kids (who've experienced past trauma) need to be parented differently than biological kids. There are special issues. Even kids adopted from birth may have been under stress in utero, resulting in special needs. Many adopted kids live with a feeling of loss, with fears, with insecurities and attachment issues. It requires understanding from the parents as they raise these kids, and a commitment to help them heal. We've been taught to connect, then correct. It's not rocket science, but it is life-altering for us. Would you pray with us as God molds us into the parents we need to be for our daughters? We love them, and they are so worth it!

Otherwise, Kampala is beautiful this time of year. The weather is cool and breezy with occasional rain-showers. We're trying to exercise, eat healthy, get rest, and generally recover from the health effects of eight years of chronic stress--it's no joke! You'll hear more from us as we hear more from US immigration. Thanks for keeping up with us!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Celebrating 11 years with some primates

July 30th is our anniversary, and this year we're celebrating 11 years of marital bliss! I mentioned this to a friend, and she kindly offered to keep our girls for a few days. I think I might have shed some tears at the offer. I really miss having family near-by to help us raise these girls. But I'm so thankful God has provided people like Elise who are willing to step in and act like family. Thanks, Elise! You earned an extra jewel in your crown.

Since our girls were in good hands over the weekend, Terrill & I trekked out to a place called Kibale Forest. It was located in west Uganda, about an eight hour drive from our Kampala home. One of the most special moments of the entire trip was when we drove on this canopied road on the way to our lodging. Seeds were falling from the treetops and looked like little parachutes floating to the ground. It was magical, and reminded us of the canopied roads back home in Tallahassee.
 Not knowing how much longer we'd be in Uganda, we sold our vehicle to the girls' Uncle Hillary (new Ik Member of Parliament) back in June. Since then, we've been driving rented and borrowed vehicles. A big thanks to a new friend, Kelly Rompel, who is letting us use her vehicle for our remaining time in Uganda. We love this little truck!
 Our time in Kibale Forest was spent mainly relaxing and taking walks through the rainforest. No responsibilities except avoiding snakes!
 Oh yeah, we avoided the safari ants as well...
 We took several guided walks to locate and view the local primate population. These are red colobus monkeys having a snack. We saw five other types of primates as well.
 And in nearby Bigodi Swamp, we saw this pygmy monitor lizard sunbathing:
 When we weren't walking, we were reading and having tea at a lodge called The Chimp's Nest.
 11 years...we feel older, but are trying to embrace the process of aging, and look at our relationship as a fine wine that is just getting sweeter with time.