If you’re at all familiar with adoption stories, you’ve heard of “Gotcha Day.” Many families mark the day the parents brought their adopted child home and continue to celebrate it every year. In some cases like ours, the “Gotcha Day” comes after a visiting trip so the parents add the “Meet You Day” to their list of celebrations. For us, that day was today, October 6.
I started off the morning with my Daily Bible reading. I like to use the Bible set up in chronological order with 365 daily readings. For today, the reading was from—get this—Ezra 7-8. Today…of all days… When I got to the part in Ezra 8:21-23 where Ezra says, “I proclaim a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children,” I was floored. I’m trying not to read too much in this passage about Ezra, the great teacher, leading the Jews out of Babylon…but come on. Brothers and sisters, can I get a witness?
A driver from our hotel and a social worker rode with us to the orphanage. If you haven’t had a chance to ride in a car on the streets of Kinshasa during rush hour, you should really look into it. It will make you pray like a saint and poop in your pants like a toddler. There’s lots of honking and careless pedestrians and driving on the sidewalk and many, many near misses. (Last night, we also saw a robot traffic light.) Our soundtrack for today’s adventure was tape mix with five or six Michael Jackson songs played on a loop. Seeing that it’s an hour-long ride, we got to hear the profoundly relevant lyric, “it don’t matter if you’re black or white” several times.
As soon as we got to the orphanage, I started scanning the yard for Ezra. I didn’t see him but I saw several adorable kiddos, younger than our fellow. We were shown into an office for a chat with the director. We stepped outside for a few minutes and when we returned to the office, he was there. I recognized him immediately. I scooped him up and held him in my lap. He snuggled in like it was something he does every day. He smiled and let me kiss his cheek. I had brought a teddy bear and a toy car, so I got those out of my bag to play with him while the adults around us chatted. Because I’m good at sharing, I let Brent take a turn holding him, too. He responded to both of us with warmth and affection. When it was time to leave, we buckled him in between us in the back seat and he fell asleep in about fifteen minutes. As he rested his head on Brent’s arm, I stared at him like I used to do with my other babies while they slept. In just the same way, I was amazed by his existence and my good fortune.
When we got to the hotel, reality set in for our little buddy. I was looking at a book with him when I suddenly saw a giant tear tumbling down his cheek. He started to whimper a bit and then, a few minutes later, he began to come undone. He struggled to be free from my arms. He cried “Mama!” and stamped his feet. His wailing and my failed attempts at consoling went on for about an hour (or a month, I can’t be sure). Not wanting him to cry alone, I joined in. I wondered: What have we done? Who are we to turn his life upside-down? Eventually, Brent held him and Ezra allowed it. His crying stopped.
We spent the rest of the evening tiptoeing around him like we had a deer in our hotel room. No sudden movements. Everybody stay calm. We took him outside and he kicked the soccer ball like a pro. (Knox’s prayers are apparently getting through.) We played cars on the floor and watched Finding Nemo. He ate the rice and a little of the fried plantains I made for supper. We gave him a shower and slathered him up with the crème my friend Lavy told us to use. We put his jammies on him and brushed his teeth. Then, I held him again. This time, he didn’t fight me. He fell sleep in my arms while I rubbed his head.
As I type this, both of my roommates are asleep. I can hear them breathing the steady, even exhales of deep sleep. Tires are crunching the gravel in the parking lot outside our hotel room and the mini refrigerator is humming. I hear low voices speaking Lingala and French. This is a good moment, but like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, Ezra’s behavior has caused me to have doubts. I have gone back and forth about the prudence of this trip. It’s as if I’m plucking the petals from a daisy: He likes us. He likes us not… I don’t know what I’ll be thinking tomorrow morning or the next day. I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be thinking Friday when we pull out and head home. What I can say is that this moment is magic. This child is loved. This prayer is answered. This moment is a gift.
Thank you, Lord. Amen.