Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Next Big Step: Over the Ocean

I can't even make this stuff up, folks. God continues to impress us with His creativity in revealing our part in orphan care. Just when I was feeling hopeless because of the roadblock in Ghana, God stepped in and said, "Trust me! I got this, just wait and watch." Something tells me, His plan is much greater than my wildest hopes and dreams (and you'll soon see, I'm a pretty big dreamer).

Even before I published our "Unexpected, Sad Twist" post, Tim focused on trying to fix our predicament. He plunged in with determined level-headedness (which I obviously lacked!) and began making phone calls in efforts to find our footing in the turbulent world of international adoption.

One phone call landed a stranger named Mike on the line. I use the term "stranger" loosely, because although we hadn't talked to or met Mike, he is a father/father-in-law to our dear "small groupies" with whom we have done a lot of life (laughter and tears) over the past seven years. In fact, when we began this process last summer, they willingly offered his name as an adoption resource.

Well, Tim remembered their suggestion and Mike's name and number made the short list. Awe, who am I kidding, we only had one list...and it was pretty short. We felt paralyzed in our adoption process. After losing a seemingly perfect match, we didn't know who to trust or where to turn. We thought maybe Mike would know.

So, Tim conversed with Mike for about 45 minutes (that's always good, right?) and when he hung up, I looked at him with eyes that pleaded, "Tell me how he's going to fix this!" and Tim just scratched his head.

"Well," he began with something like, "Mike is a good listener, has a heart for African orphans, and it sounds like he knows African adoptions can be tricky."

"And..." I leaned in, waiting to hear what was next in our "Shoaf Family Adoption Story" and ultimately revealing my attitude of ridiculous optimism that leads me into all sorts of interesting predicaments.

"That's it." Tim ended and turned away with his own mantra of hard-core realism that keeps him out of my said predicaments.

Of course, I considered his response anti-climactic. Optimists hit walls harder than realists and it appeared I just ran into yet another. Our reality in adoption settled in deeper. We were stuck.

A few days later, we told our family the bad news and a few days after that, I posted here. Tim's sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner the following week and asked if Tim made any progress in his phone efforts. He told them about his conversation with Mike and then butchered Mike's organization name enough to warrant retrieving Mike's contact info. When he did, he mentioned a website with the agency's name that prompted me to bring out the laptop and explore.

The agency's impressive website lead me to a blog entry (and y'all can imagine I'm a sucker for blogs!), written by Mike about a recent trip he had taken to Uganda. Yes, Mike has a passion for Ugandan orphans. I could feel it in his post and saw photos of the dark faces he had touched.

Then, my face lit up when I read the description of Mike's endeavor's in Africa. Along with affirmations of his passion and vision, the website stated clear plans for Mike to make another trip to Africa in March of 2014.

March of 2014 was just around the corner (at that point), and my wheels began to turn. Didn't Tim want to learn more about the credibility of the African adoption systems? Wasn't Tim the one who began this whole journey, passionate to participate in orphan care? Didn't Tim run a business offering a flexible schedule during March of 2014?!?!?

Are you connecting the dots? So I totally blurted out what would only come from the mouth of a ridiculous optimist, unafraid to dream big and tell the whole world about it, "Tim, HE IS GOING TO UGANDA IN MARCH!"

"Yeah?" Tim tried to curb my enthusiasm. He already knew what I was going to say and wanted to soften the blow of hitting yet another wall.


Tim halted my exclamation with a realists view that this man, Mike, probably didn't want to lug a globetrotting stranger around Africa and besides, flying over the ocean seemed too risky for a person who doesn't even love to fly over land. (I could launch into a whole different post about this, but I'll save it.)

In the end, all at the table agreed, it was perfect timing and witnessing African orphanages first hand may curb our newfound distrust of orphanage directors. Then there were sad, wishful sighs, and we changed the subject.

I didn't forget about my idea, but Tim's reaction convinced me the plan was a little ridiculous.

So, you can imagine my surprise a few days later when Tim told me after work that he had indeed called Mike to inquire about his trip to Africa as mentioned on his agency's webpage. The news took me by surprise! It wasn't like Tim to go out on a limb with a dreamy, unrealistic idea.

"...and?" I questioned with confusion.

"Well, first I just asked him if he was going. He confirmed his plans to head to Uganda in March, so I asked him what he would be doing there." Tim explained.

"He seems very organized and ran through a whole list of places and people to visit on his agenda. He is pretty much going to set up contacts for their agency's international adoption program that will be Hague accredited in a few months."

This seemed too perfect, "...and!" I urged with a little too much anticipation.

"Then I told him that my crazy-dreamer wife thought I should ask him to ride along on his trip. I threw in some comments about knowing he may well have a team in place and didn't want to be a burden and that I thought it seemed like a far-fetched idea but it didn't hurt to ask," Tim hurried. Were we really  having this conversation? Ridiculousness is so out of character for Tim.

"What'd he say? What'd he say?!?!" the suspense was killing me!

Tim continued, "Well, he is going on this trip alone. He's traveled to Uganda twice in the last year and is quite comfortable with the contacts he's made there and confident to go by himself on this trip."

My expression faded. "Well, that was anticlimactic," I thought to myself. Maybe Tim made the call to prove realism trumps ridiculous optimism. But then, Tim continued....smiling.

"But...he said as much as he is comfortable going alone, his wife is really struggling with sending him all by himself. He wondered if God told us to ask about going on the trip and communicated that he would appreciate a companion, even if it was a stranger."

"And then he flat out asked if I would like to travel to Africa."

"What!?!?!?" did he just say what I thought he said?

"I can, well, I've been invited to go."

And so a short discussion over whether or not we could actually plunge into this dream began. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for our adoption woes, but did Tim really want to go to Africa?

You can imagine my adventurous and dream-filled ideas require a grounded man to maintain balance in our home. He is grounded in the sense that he is practical, realistic, and likes to stay on the ground. He doesn't have a lot of flying experience, and doesn't seek out adventures involving airplane rides. He is not against flying, he just doesn't promote it. Even when originally choosing to adopt from Africa, the plane trip made his "cons" list.

Tim's wariness to fly doesn't even touch the impractical disadvantage of spending so much money on an exploratory trip while we work diligently to save money for adoption fees. We didn't have a lot of time to talk that night, but this was certainly a concern. Mike asked Tim to give him a yes or no within a week so they could get plans and plane tickets together if needed.

Laying in bed that night, I remember thinking the trip would require a lot of discussion over the next week. It seemed as if God Himself invited Tim to go to Africa because of the way it all played out! How could he NOT go? Did God have something specific there for him? Something so special as to require a personal invitation? But how could Tim go, when leaving his family to fly to Africa "just to see what he could see" seemed extreme?

Well, THE very next day, after our five minute chat between just the two of us about a whirlwind trip to Africa the night before, Tim took me out for lunch. We wanted to seriously discuss this trip and a lunch date without the kids' curious ears around seemed like the only opportunity.

When he picked me up at work, he was on the phone in his truck and had a curious look on his face. Before he could even say hello, he pointed to the phone indicating he was taking a call. I closed the door and he turned the conversation on through his speakers so I could hear and immediately, I recognized the voice of a friend on the other end.

A call from this friend was unordinary because he wasn't the "let's chat on the phone in the middle of the day" kind of friend and acknowledged this very thing as I settled into my seat. Then he went on to say that not only was it weird to be calling Tim in the middle of the day, but something bizarre had happened during the week prior that he and his wife could not ignore.

He said they had money to donate and were just going to throw it in the plate at church on Sunday when they both felt God saying they should hold onto it...that someone would need it. He kept reiterating how strange it all was, that they both felt that way. Then he said they felt the money belonged to us as a gift and he would have it waiting for us if we wanted to accept it.

Oh, and did I mention the amount was the approximate price of a plane ticket to Uganda?!?!?!

I looked at Tim through tears.


We hadn't even told our family (our kids even) that a trip to Uganda could be an option. We weren't sure if we had enough purpose or money to make that kind of trip happen. But this phone call, from this friend, on this day was almost as if God reached down and pushed Tim forward, saying, "Go."

And so he is.

My tears fell as a realization that God does have something for us. We still do not know what that something is. All we know is that Mr. "There's No Need to Travel the World" is feeling like he really needs to go to Uganda. And that Mrs. "Adventure Seeking, World Travel Loving, Dreamer" is totally fine letting her husband go without her on this one. In fact, I feel like Tim doing something uncomfortable swings the door wide open for God to speak into Him.

That is my prayer.

We have a feeling that on this trip to Africa, God will show Tim what kind of orphan care he has set aside for the Shoaf family. We don't know if that means adopting an orphan, helping in a different way there, or raising awareness here. We really aren't anticipating possible outcomes (Although when Tim was asking what souvenirs he should bring back for each of us, Josie asked for a bracelet and Jackson asked for a boy!), because we have a hunch God's going to inform us of our part in His timing. And we are totally okay with that.

Please pray for Tim. Pray that he will hear God in Uganda. Pray that he will be protected physically. Pray that God would help Tim to see what He sees, to touch with the power and love of Christ, and to listen with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Pray for safety and sleep and for healing over Tim's nagging knee pain. Pray for orphans (keep Edmond and Edina on the list!) in Africa. I expect great things.

I'm already more proud of my husband than I have ever been. This very grounded man is clearly learning that God's way is so much bigger than his way and his own preferences. He is excited to experience God's work in the lives of orphans. Even if that means he has to fly over an ocean to see it.

Go, God!

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