POST 1: THOUGHTS ABOUT INDIA, April 30, 2009I am just writing to share some thoughts about our trip to India on the eve of our departure. We are leaving this life and starting a life we can't imagine and also can't wait for. Our daughter is sleeping in India right now and has no idea what lies ahead of her. She doesn't know that her last night as an orphan is upon her. We have no idea what is upon us. But the Lord continues to open the doors and so we walk.
I am not nervous. I don't fear anything about this trip. The Lord has been in all the details. I am so happy that my wife is coming. We were so disappointed a month and a half ago when Siddhi's homecoming was delayed. And now we see why. Laura wanted to be there so badly and the Lord knew the desires of her heart. She would not have been able to go if things had gone our way. The Lord knew his way. He appointed the end and means to the end. He delayed our trip. He picked out the day that we would finally hold this little girl in our arms.
Siddhi probably won't react the way they would script a movie. She probably will wonder who these weird faces are. She will wonder why we are crying because she is supposed to be the one crying. She will probably not want to go with us. We are not saving her. We are loving her. That is all we can do. We can love her and tell her of her heavenly Father's love for her. Hopefully she will not be able to comprehend how it is possible for her heavenly Father to love her more than we love her.
My friend Damon is coming with us to capture everything on film. He is like a brother to me. If it weren't for blood he would be a brother in every sense of the word. He is standing in and capturing everything we want our family at home to see. He is a true friend--really--he is a brother. It is funny how God brings people into your life and helps to fill voids that He also created. I lost my brother years ago and my Lord has always filled that void. I have never stopped missing Mark but the Lord has given me friends--some, like Damon, who are lifelong--and others who are there for just a short amount of time. I am so glad Damon is coming with us--he will make sure you all get to see what we see.
It will be 15 hours there, 110 degrees on the ground, 2 hours to Pune, and then Monday will arrive. This is the day the Lord has made. This is the day that he has appointed. If you had told me a year and a week ago that I would be meeting my daughter in India I would have asked you why my wife would be giving birth in India. It is incredible how the Lord appoints the ends and the means to the end.
Of course this is only one end. This is just the beginning of a whole new life. A whole new life for Siddhi, for me, for my wife, for our children, for our family and for our close friends. We can't wait for you to meet our daughter. Her name is Miriam Siddhi. Miriam means "I wished for a child". Siddhi means "Freedom from hunger and thirst." Siddhi will live in a land of plenty. She will probably never go hungry or thirsty. But we wish for more than physical needs. We desire that she would truly be free from hunger and thirst as she learns about the Bread of Life and the Water that quenches all thirst for eternity.
Well, here we come India. Ready or not!
POST 2: SIDDHI'S FIRST DAY, May 4, 2009
Nothing can prepare you for a moment like this. It was funny...this morning as we were waiting for the Taxi, Damon was playing funny songs on his iPod for us to hear. He played "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson and we all had a good laugh. I hate that song. Laura said earlier that what is most incredible about all of this is that we actually know we are in a moment and that makes everything all the more special. It is amazing when you KNOW that you are being changed from the inside out and you are able to allow the Holy Spirit to change you and you are aware of the change as it is happening. We don't have a lot of moments like this in our lives. A lot of the Holy Spirit's change happens over a long period of time.
Well, yesterday was incredible. We got into the taxi after Damon's serenade of cheezy songs to lighten the moment. We were all dumbfounded on the way to the orphanage. Up unto this point we had not seen much of India. A lot of what we had seen wasn't much different from the big cities in the US. It is amazing to see a developing country right in the midst of development. On our way to the orphanage we saw the India that many think of today. Bulls in the road, people living in trash heaps, beggars, blinded men who were also crippled. We saw three little girls who looked like they could have been cast in Slumdog Millionaire. I thought, "Why can't someone bring them home too?" We passed by quickly as they continued to beg. The poverty hits you hard. But the absence of Christ hits you harder. There are churches along the way. It is encouraging to see these lights, these cities on these hills, shining in the darkness.
We arrived at the orphanage and let me be honest--I was finally nervous. We were in this moment we had waited so long for. They took us into this little room. There was a little bed that we sat down on. There were two little boys waiving to us from the second floor as we came in. The orphanage is strangely quiet. There are no kids running around. In fact we didn't see any other children. I wanted to see some of them because we have become attached through pictures to many of them. We wait in the heat of the small room. Damon called my brother and sister in law because they wanted to listen in. We kept waiting.
Finally, with camera's rolling we see this little shadow coming through the curtain. We can tell it is Siddhi and the tears start rolling. As soon as Siddhi sees us she begins to cry. It's as if she knows that we are here to see her. We don't care. We expected this. We cry for her. She won't realize how much we love her--it'll take time. Laura takes her first. It was very much like a baby being born. The crying, the shock and the wondering eyes. A baby being taken from one safe place and arriving into a crazy world. My emotions were exactly the same as when our children at home were born. I am amazed at how the Lord has brought us to this point. Laura is crying, Damon is crying, I am smiling.
I get to hold her and now she really lets it rip. I just hold her close and tell her how much I love her. I just keep calling her name and allow her to cry. She can cry all she wants and for as long as she wants. I'll just keep telling her how much I love her. No one in the room can comfort her until she is put back into Laura's arms. She doesn't quite rest there but she permits Laura to hold her. She continues to burst into tears as we walk around.
Now the Hindu ceremony begins. This is basically a transfer of the child to us. We agree to be her parents. As they put the dot on my head all I could think about was Jesus--so I thanked our great God for bringing us to this point. We signed a few papers and we were off--just like that. Siddhi will never see an orphanage in that manner again. She will never have to wonder where we are. She may wonder about her biological parents but she will never need to guess at how much we love her. She will always be able to know that she is our daughter.
Siddhi wasn't too happy. It doesn't happen like that. We live in the real world. We arrived back at our hotel room and just traded her back and forth. All of the sudden she began crying, "ma ma ma ma ma ma". I suggested that we feed her. I prepared the food as she watched. Laura fed her. All of the sudden Siddhi began to make eye contact with us without crying. Before all she would do is glance and cry. Now she is holding our gaze. I started to play games with her and I think she actually SMILES at me! For sure! She smiles again and again. Laura gets her to laugh. But the best part is that she is snuggling us, not afraid of us and even wanting us. The fact that she is eating is amazing!
We took her to the doctors. America needs to figure out their healthcare. No insurance, just a walk in and the whole thing cost us 4.00. But the cool thing here is that Siddhi is very upset with the doctor. The only ones who can console her are Laura and me. She doesn't want anyone else!
We take her home and video call our family. Everyone is there! Emma, Caleb, Eva, Jovan, mom, dad, aunts uncles, cousins--it's like Christmas. We wake Siddhi up in the middle of her night and she is just gracious about the whole thing. During the call she smiles at me over and over again, plays games with my hands and allows me to give her kisses and snuggle with her. Laura just keeps holding her tight. She has no idea what to make of all the Betters' and Nequists. Wait until she meets them in real life. Welcome to the family daughter!
We put her back to bed with us and she went right to sleep. She sleeps through the night.
Well there it is. Our first day. We are amazed at our little girl. We are amazed at our Lord. We are also amazed at our family and friends and church family. All of your interest in our story and our journey has helped fuel us along the way. Thank you for praying. We will see you all soon!
POST 3: WE NEED SPOONS, May 6, 2009
On our second day with Siddhi we have so much to do. We need to shop for 16 presents for Siddhi. She will receive one present for each of her birthdays until she is 18. Each present will be from India and will remind her of her heritage. Besides shopping we need to go to court to officially receive guardianship of Siddhi. This is going to be a fun day.
Before the day begins Damon and I decide to have some Indian breakfast. The hotel staff cooks us some fresh Masala Dosi. Basically the spiciest potatoes you can think of wrapped in some sort of baked tortilla type wrap. We love it but my upper lip is sweating. After breakfast we jump into the car. Our driver has been with us the whole time in Pune and now Damon has made a new friend. Damon doesn't speak a lick of Hindi or Mahrati and yet somehow in his Damon-way he is able to communicate with our friend, the driver. Damon is also not afraid to shreik or to tell the driver that there is an oncoming bus that he should watch out for. The driver loves Damon. Everybody loves Damon. I am glad that Damon was able to come with every laugh he gives us. The driver takes us to the most expensive shops in Pune--which aren't all that expensive. But when you have to buy 16 presents it gets to be overwhelming.
We walk into the first shop and I think I hear the register ca-ching. We are swarmed by a few sales associates. Somehow I am talked into looking at antique Indian jewelry. Thank God they have US prices on the jewelry because I am convinced I am looking in the wrong place. We ended up leaving unscathed but also a little poorer. We go to a second shop and before entering Damon asks the driver in English if the driver is receiving a cut from his brother since he is taking us to his brother's shop. It isn't really the driver's brother's shop. But the driver laughs anyway. I think he knows enough English to get the joke. I hold firm in the next shop and just spend a few dollars. Damon is had. He gets some nice things, but spends a little more than he thought he was going to. As we get back into the car Damon tells the driver, "Your brother says hello." Everyone, including the driver begin laughing hysterically.
A little rest and then court. The courthouse is an amazing experience. It is a tall 9 story building and is crowded just like the streets. There is so much going on. The elevators are crammed with people. Siddhi is very nervous and a little restless. We make it to the 8th floor in an rickety elevator. There are so many people around. It is very loud. We meet some other western people who are also adopting. We all stick out in a very conspicuous way. All of the sudden we found ourselves in a conversation with a woman about our past, our reasons for adopting, how many children we have and what I do for a living. Just as quickly as the conversation started it ended and the woman was gone. The next thing I hear is my name called with a Hindi accent.
We are rushed into a courtroom. There are Indian people everywhere. I wonder what rolls they all play. There are no western formalities of standing and rising and sitting when the judge walks in. The judge is already there. Our lawyers are standing in the middle of the room. I can barely understand what is being said. The girl who was speaking with us outside about our personal history is now in the courtroom repeating the details to the judge. I probably would have responded differently to questions if I had known that this girl was also our lawyer.
A conversation begins between the judge and our lawyers. We are asked a few questions. Our religion and my occupation becomes a part of the equation. Not such a great thing when the judge is Hindu and we are in a Hindu country. The judge becomes concerned that the orphanage has allowed such a young baby to go to a non-Indian, Christian couple. Siddhi looks like an infant to many. When the judge finds out that Siddhi is almost two her tone changes a little bit but the concern stays. I am becoming a little nervous. The conversations continue. I start wondering if the judge will grant us custody. Then all of the sudden, just as quickly as we were brought in we are told we have custody.
I didn't realize how hard my heart was beating until I leave the courtroom and I am handed Siddhi Betters' passport. The other adoptive parents congratulate us. One of them looked a little emotional for us and was staring at our passport. As an adoptive parent you wait many months for this moment. Siddhi is smiling, the social workers are smiling and we are on our way out. The social workers cannot believe the difference in Siddhi in just 24 hours. The same girl who conducted the Hindu service is at the court with us representing the orphanage. Siddhi will not go to her. She clings to Laura. This is 180 degrees different than yesterday. The women are emotionally happy about how Siddhi has changed so much. She is a different baby.
Now it is time to say goodbye to our new friend Meenal who has helped us through the entire process in Pune. We have known her less than 24 hours and yet she has shared an incredible life experience with us. It is amazing at how much we are all alike regardless of where we were born or what language we speak.
Flying back to Delhi from Pune became an adventure. The airport felt more like a bus stop than a true airport. It seemed kind of strange to be in such a small place when we were taking such a big ride. Siddhi was leaving her place of birth and a whole other life behind and she didn't even know it. Laura was a little sad as she thought about the implications of our flight from Pune back to Delhi. We could sit there and think about all of the things that could have been but this would be nonsensical. As humans we always like to think in terms of "what if". What if Siddhi didn't find a home? What if Siddhi stayed in Pune and went hungry? What if Siddhi went to a different family? What if Siddhi was alone the rest of her life? These are nonsensical questions! It is as if we are asking whether or not the color yellow is a circle or square. The Lord has plans for Siddhi. He always had plans for her. His plans involved our family. There are no "what if's" with the God we serve. Little Siddhi didn't care at all about the flight from Pune. She just wanted more food.
We didn't have a spoon so that made things difficult. I went to the one tiny little snack shop they had in the whole airport. I bought a few items thinking that the man behind the counter would fulfill my request for a spoon. No such luck. He claimed he didn't have any spoons. I went back dejected. Laura and I tried to make a spoon but Siddhi wasn't tricked. She wanted her spoon to eat her cereal. She started to get agitated. Damon woke up from his sleep and went back to the same guy I spoke with earlier. Damon worked his magic, the kind of magic I have spoken about in my sermons. Somehow, Damon who speaks no Hindi, who didn't even know that the language was called Hindi, was able to secure us a brand new spoon. Just another reason why Damon is here--we need spoons.
We were able to get Siddhi ready for the flight just in time. The flight was booked to the last seat. Everything is different in India. There is no such thing as personal space. I was actually surprised that someone gave up their seat for Laura who was holding Siddhi on the bus to the plane. We are all very close to each other. It was amazing to watch tiny Siddhi watch Pune disappear through the plane window. She was fascinated by everything. I also notice that every time Siddhi sees a small child that she is also fascinated. It probably reminds her of the orphanage and she feels safe. She realizes this bigger world has children too--maybe even a place for her. She falls back into Laura's arms and dozes off a bit as the plane speeds along.
The flight to Pune was eventful. Laura, Damon and I were as tired as you can be. Up unto this point we had not had a real chance to be reminded of how tired we were. We are still jet-lagged. We still sleep like vampires during the day and are restless at night. Now we begin to realize the whirlwind is catching up to us. I nodded off and my head flopped around. We all had a good laugh. I was staying awake for the sake of my wife who needed help with Siddhi. Siddhi is the only one who is not tired. She is throwing toys around. Reaching for me. Snuggling into Laura. Playing with her new favorite toys. Giggling a bit. Giving us kisses. She made it a lot easier to stay awake. Imagine the joy if your newborn was able to instantly communicate with you in a very concrete way. That is how we feel with Siddhi. We just met her and yet she reciprocates our efforts. She rewards US with kisses and squeezes and smiles. It truly is an amazing thing.
As the flight went on, Damon fell asleep and his mouth was wide open with his tongue almost hanging out. I couldn't resist. I took a stuffed elephant toy and put the trunk in Damon's mouth. Funny thing was he didn't wake up until the head was almost in his mouth. We all started to laugh again. We are very much punch drunk at this point. We are re-hashing old Battlestar Galactica jokes, new lines from our trip and the good times we have had as friends. Every joke makes us laugh unto tears. There is about 15 minutes left in our flight when the turbulence starts and the lightining flashes. Laura is freaked out. She is supposed to be my international flying, experienced rock of a wife. I am more like BA Baracus (MR. T from the A-Team) when it comes to flying--though I am mostly under control. Laura squeezes my hand with every rock of the plane. I am not as confident any more either in the skills of the pilot. We approach Delhi and the plane is very quiet. Our landing is probably the worst landing I remember. I wanted to shout to everyone to lean to the left as our plane skidded to the right. No one clapped at the end of this landing.
It was incredible to see a familiar face in the aiport. Gloria Shaw and our new friend Michael (who is studying to be pastor at New Delhi Bible Institute) are there to greet us. Gloria has become an old friend in the span of a few days. Michael greets us as brothers and sisters in Christ with a huge genuine smile and helps us with our bags. On the way back to our rooms we have great laughs about our trip as we share everything. At one point I shared with the group that everything has been so smooth. As the words come out of my mouth I can hear Michael in the back seat praising Jesus and saying a quick prayer. I was very moved by this. I just responded, "Amen." You see, I know that when Gloria and the men at the Institute say they are praying that they are really praying. This was the first thing Gloria did with us as we arrived on our first night. We all sat down and prayed together. She really is an amazing woman and she and her husband are really doing an amazing work in India.
We decided to have a great authentic Indian meal so we stopped at McDonald's before coming home for the night. You don't order beef here so we ordered McChicken sandwiches. Not bad. The fries were also authentic. At this point we are walking zombies. Siddhi is asleep where ever we go. She is such a sweetie. We have noticed that wherever we go we receive all kinds of different looks. I can see why the orphanage paints the faces of orphans with makeup that is supposed to repell the "evil eye". Everyone who sees us knows exactly what we are here to do. Many of the Indian nationals will approach us and talk to Siddhi and congratulate us. But there are many others who look at us as if we have done something wrong. Siddhi could care less. She just wants some sleep and seems confident in Laura in just 1 day.
The sun rises after we do in Delhi. Today is a big day at the Embassy. It is the last mission. We just need Siddhi's visa and then we can relax. Our car arrives on time with our social worker. Madhu takes us to the US Embassy. It is very busy here. Damon notices that there are no American soldiers at the Embassy like in the movies. I feel bad that Damon has come along on this part because there are no camera's allowed. The Embassy reminds us of the DMV. Laura says to Damon, "You are a good friend Damon for coming all the way to the other side of the world with us so we can go to the DMV." Things do not go as planned. We need to have a piece of documentation that only a doctor can provide. So we are told that the visa will have to wait until the next day. The Embassy is very nice and very assuring that we will be able to accomplish the visa the following day.
We take Siddhi to the Doctor to get the paperwork we need. After they examine her medical history it becomes clear that Siddhi is in for it. She has not had six immunization shots that she needs before she can receive her visa. This is where our efficient American government comes into play. The shots she needs are neither required by India or the US (such as chicken pox). Yet our immigration offices do require them. Go figure. So in order to meet some out dated demands Siddhi must receive six shots in two days. Her first three shots were horrible. We have watched all of our children go through pain. It is horrible each time. The good part is that we feel the pain. We are emotionally attached to what she is going through--not as if she is some other child--but a deep parental connection is there for both of us. The shots are over and Siddhi melts into Laura's arms again. She allows me to snuggle and kiss her. She doesn't hold the shots against us.
Tomorrow is a big day--again. We are hoping the Embassy will send us through this time and that there won't be any further delay.
POST 4: 142,999,999 To Go, May 7, 2009
We are once again a little giddy. We made it through the day and the difficulties at the Embassy. We have appointments for the morning with both the Doctor and the Embassy. Our guide has assured us that we will be able to accomplish all that we need to accomplish. We may even leave for home a day early and surprise our kids if all goes well. Laura and I stayed up a little late as we watched the video that Damon has recorded. We watch ourselves from our own kitchen table on the screen when we received our travel call from our adoption agency. It seems like this call happened a year ago. It was only a few days. We continue watching the tape from that day until the present day. We are emotional all over again as we see the transformation of our little Siddhi.
The same little girl who was in a bad way at the orphanage is now sleeping peacefully in the room next to us. She no longer cries or pushes us away. In fact she only cries when we leave her. We are in love. I have something on my mind. In order for Siddhi to be allowed to leave with us she was required to have been offered to Indian families first. There are 1 billion people living in India and no one claimed her. I am sure there are people in India who would have adopted her had they known about her. But the court says that no one claims her so we can have her. I can't explain what kind of emotion this stirs up in me. I am ecstatic at the fact that the Lord saved her for us. But I am also wondering how anyone could pass by her. We finally go to sleep for the night as the next day is a big day.
Once again, I am up before the sun rises. My head is killing me. I haven't had a Diet Mountain Dew in almost a week and my body is finally rebelling. The hard bed and the strange smelling India air doesn't help the situation. I am very nervous for this day and feel that something will go wrong. Laura is a little more optimistic. While I am in the shower the phone rings a little earlier than it should. We are supposed to be picked up at 9:15am and it is only 8:30am. Gloria is on the other line and tells Laura that our guide, Madhu needs us to call her. I am slow about finsihing my shower because my bad feeling is creeping up. All of the sudden I feel trapped and out of control. I really want to get home and have all of my children under one roof and in the same country--the same continent for that matter!
I call Madhu and she has bad news. Delhi is holding their elections today. The taxis are refusing to drive into the city because it is a volatile situation. Madhu has no ride and urges us not to venture out. She believes we are at risk. I tell her that we will make a decision in a few minutes and call her back. I am a little panicked at this point. All of the sudden I feel that we are no longer watching the news but that we are in the midst of the news. You know that kind--the stuff that tickers along the bottom of CNN that "fills you in" and keeps you informed on tragedies around the world. I fired up the computer to find out everything I could about what was happening just outside our window. It becomes apparent to me that we are in the midst of a volatile foreign situation. There are 55,000 police deployed across New Delhi alone--55,000! That is an army of armed men and women! I can't even comprehend that in my Delaware mind.
I call Gloria and she is a little concerned. She believes we will be okay but also says that there is some possibility of danger. She offers to do what she can to bring in a taxi within the boundaries of the police check points. I trust Gloria and begin to feel a little sad that our Embassy appointment will have to wait another day.
I call our friend Lisa back in the states who is very familiar with India. She works with our adoption agency. She feels pretty confident that we will be okay but wants to call a few of her friends from Pune and Delhi to ask them their opinion. In the end her friends are also a little concerned for us. It really is a toss up. Should we venture out or should we stay at home and wait another day.
All of the calls had been made, our taxi was refusing to come anywhere near Delhi, our guide was stranded on the outskirts of the city and all of our friends and advocates were concerned to say the least. I felt like I was starting to pry. Let me explain. When the journey began to bring Siddhi home--even before we knew who she was--Laura and I agreed that we would only walk through doors that the Lord opened. These doors would have to be clearly open for us to continue. We would not pry and we would not fight His will. We wanted to get home as soon as possible to all of our children but it seemed as if the door was shutting. Laura and I reminded ourselves of our promise to the Lord. He had been faithful since the start. Besides, at the appointed time, the end shall be. No sooner and no later.
Just as I was saying this to Laura and just as we were about to call off the efforts to get us to the Embassy and the Doctor, our phone rang--literally as I was walking to the phone it rang. Gloria was on the other line. All she said was, "I have a taxi." I am convinced that the Lord was waiting for us to surrender. This was his way of refining us a bit more. Would we surrender to His will? Our will was to get everything done. The Lord's will was to make us trust him.
My stomach went nuts. The taxi would be here any minute and we were going to venture out into a city which had volatile potential. I didn't know if I was making the right decision but God had opened the door--no pry bar needed. The taxi arrived and everyone was nervous. We ventured out into the street and everything was eerily quiet. We had been on the streets many times in the past few days and I felt as if I was in a different world. Barely anyone could be seen. We passed a few police checkpoints and we were not pulled over. Laura held my hand and prayed that the Father's will would be done.
We arrived at the Dr's office and I was full of adrenaline. They received us, put three shots in Siddhi, and gave us our paperwork. These were the papers we needed to complete our adoption journey in India. Siddhi was so sad again. As soon as the nurse was finished torturing her Laura picked her up. Siddhi began to hug her mommy and immediately stopped crying. Siddhi is a different baby today. She is just as active as our 2 year old Eva at home. Boy do I miss my Evangelini tortellini. I miss them all. I can't wait for all my children to hug and kiss each other at long last. Siddhi is very interactive and happy today. She is peaceful--unlike her daddy at this point. She is laughing. She is problem solving with some toys. She is babbling. She is eating. Life could be so much worse off right now.
We got back into the car. Mission 1 was complete. Onto the Embassy. I felt like I was in a movie. Too bad Damon was sleeping like a bear back at the house at 10am in the morning. He wouldn't have been able to film at the Embassy but the sight of empty Indian streets is something to behold. It is like a ghost town. More police checkpoints and no stops--some one is praying. People are praying. My phone vibrates. My brother Chuck is calling from the states. "Anything happening." I just text back with a shaking hand something like, "Very tense right now I'll let you know". He texted back, "Hang in there you're at the end." I couldn't help but think of my last sermon a week or so ago. I preached that at the appointed time the end shall be. This is a verse from Daniel 8. We were in the midst of the means as our Lord was bringing us to His end.
We arrived at the Embassy. The guards remembered us from the day before. Yesterday we had all kinds of electronic gadgets and batteries. They all had a good laugh at our stockpile. Today I just had my phone. This time, we didn't have our guide. It was just me, Laura and Siddhi. She was still very peaceful. We walked straight in to the Embassy. Everyone there remebered us from the day before. We were sent straight to the correct window this time and the familiar face greeted us with a smile. I could see the finish line.
I had a huge stack of papers. Most of them I did not need. I handed over the papers they asked for, asnwered a few questions, paid for a visa and took my seat in the waiting room. Laura and I had a good time playing with Siddhi and reminding her that we love her. All three of us were called to the window and were sworn in. It was kind of wierd to be sworn in behind a piece of bullet proof glass. Imagine yourself standing in a DMV line and swearing to tell the truth. Very surreal. We answered a few questions about our desire to adopt, our experience in India, and our life at home. It was very difficult to wrap up our answers in a few words but we did our best. The girl behind the counter was nervous herself as she was being trained. She probably didn't realize the significance of this moment for us just as we didn't care so much for the significance of her feelings. At least the feelings were mutual. And then, just like that, we were done. The nice woman asked if we wanted to wait here for the visa or come back later. I said, "We'll wait." And just like that we were done.
We waited about 45 minutes until my name was called. The man who handed me the visa had a clue as to how hard and and long we had worked on this moment. He handed Siddhi's visa and immigration papers to me with pride in his eyes. He could see how excited I was because he just laughed and smiled with me. I said, "thank you" and he responded with "Namasta".
We called our taxi and headed back to Gloria's home. We barely noticed the police checkpoints on the way. Siddhi was as happy as we were. Perhaps she felt our relief. She was smiling, giving kisses, playing with toys and generally behaving. Although, she was starting to get a little hungry.
Back at the Shaw's we ate some lunch and sat around and talked with Gloria for a while. It was good to sit with another pastor's family and just share our hearts. It doesn't matter how far away we live from one another--we are the same. I can't help but think of my mission, purpose and goal in this life. Am I content with doing the same thing every week or will I walk through doors that God opens? Will I obey or will I even listen so that I can obey?
The story doesn't end there. As I mentioned before, our goal was to finish everything so that we could go home a day early. If we had not found a taxi than we would be forced to stay in India another day to finish our work. Another day away from our home and children. Our goal was to finish our work and change our flight plan so that we could surprise our children by coming home a day early. I was excited to get back to the room to change our flight plans. I called our airline and told them of our dilemma. I said we wanted to leave tonight rather than the following night. They were confused because our flight was ALWAYS booked to leave this night. I had forgotten that I had made our plans hoping for a short trip! We will be on the plane tonight and be home well--today. Flying back and forth from India is like time travel!
I burst into Damon's room after the visa victory and he was asleep like a hibernating bear. Damon just gave into the jet lag every day. Asleep during the day and awake at night. I shared with him the whole story, demanded 500 Ruppees from him and left just as quickly as I came in. He didn't know what hit him. Later, after lunch, Damon burst into my room and said, "Dude, I just realized what happened! We came to India and are leaving with a little girl!" We had a great laugh and just began hashing out what we have learned.
We hope we will not forget. We hope we will live in the light of Jesus Christ. Siddhi will be home soon. For now the Lord has brought us to the end of this road as the next turn comes up on the spiritual GPS. Siddhi is our daughter and in the words of the guard at the Embassy, "Little one you are going to America to live." According to some estimates there are 143,000,000 orphans in the world today. So I guess there are 142,999,999 more to go. One at a time.
POST 5, THE END OF THE BEGINNING, May 8, 2009:
All of our business in India was complete. Siddhi was coming home, we were all still suffering under the influence of jet lag, and our taxi would be arriving in a few moments. The whirlwind was beginning to catch up with each of us. We all had our own ways of expressing the creeping feeling of exhaustion. My way is to be quick and curt and business-like. Let's get the job done and then worry about our emotions.
Damon likes to crack jokes under pressure. He is trying to give me some of his food that he cannot pack. He hates wasting food. he has these little cups of packaged fruit that he wants to give away. There are no takers. Damon decides to pack them and eat them on the way and while we wait for 3 hours in the Delhi airport.
Our taxi showed up on time and we said our last goodbyes to Gloria and the men we had met at Bhavan Bible. We are sad to go but also very anxious to get home. We are all really missing our kids, Damon is missing his family and we have a big flight ahead of us. This is the last leg of the journey. Siddhi is especially alert and happy. She is comfortable only in Laura's arms. She puts up a fight in my arms but I am eventually able to get her to calm down. We are pretty sure that the 15 hour flight will be rough for Laura and me and Siddhi.
Our taxis has to take a different route to the airport since many roads are closed due to the elections. We are able to see a part of Delhi that we had yet to see. We watch as a wedding ceremony is in progress. There are live elephants on the streets along with camels. They are dressed and an arms length away. On the other side of the street there are four little girls who are dressed in rags. Two girls are about 6 and 7 years old and they are holding their infant siblings. Their hair is knotted and they look like they have been playing in coal mines. As the first set of girls knocks on the door our car falls silent as the Americans beginning digging in their pockets and bags for money.
All of the sudden Damon's collection of fruit cups become very important. I have a few hundred leftover rupees that I give to the girls. Damon is able to give them food. I am more happy about the food because the money will either go to someone who is exploiting these children or to their parents to be used on Lord knows what. I only see the first set of girls. I quickly give them the money and fruitcup. our light turns green just as the other two girls come running and pound on the window. Obviously, the first set of girls is not going to share with the second set. The car is very silent. Some are crying and some are grieved in silence. The weight of the moment is even greater as we listen to Siddhi feed from her bottle on her mother's lap.
We reach our destination and we are hit with a madhouse. The smells are once again very thick in the air. It is hard to breath if you are not used to the different smells. There are so many people, police, and airport officials going about their business. We find a way in and enter with ease. We sign in for the flight and make it past immigration. Damon's immgration officer tells Damon in broken English that he looks like Keanu Reeves from the Matrix. Damon is now Uncle Neo to Siddhi. Only Damon.
I am beginning to feel the sleeplessness. By flight time I would have been up without sleep for 21 hours. I do not want my wife to carry the load on her own so the pressure is on. Our gate 10 begins to fill up with many, many, many bodies. We are 3 of the 6 white people on board the flight. This probably wouldn't matter so much if it weren't for all of the stares. Only, the people aren't staring at us as much as they are staring at Siddhi. She is tiny--even by Indian standards. She weighs in at 11 lbs and she is 19 months old. Some of the older Indian women seem to be upset with us. Now I wish we had kept Siddhi's black dot on her head which is supposed to ward off the evil eye. I don't think it would help with any superstitions but at least we wouldnt' have to bear the long looks.
We have been waiting for 3 hours and now it is time to board. Every seat is booked. There is a guard with a machine gun checking tickets at the gate. Not a pistol, not a revolver--a machine gun. He is an army or police officer. Just as we are ready to get in line, a 20 something young man approaches me and asks if I am Daniel Betters. He wants to see our tickets. He says that Siddhi's ticket is booked wrong and that he wants to fix it. he comes back and leaves with her passport and Visa. This is the very document we had been fighting to secure for months and months.
One by one each person is led through the gates. Time is ticking away and we are left standing with a squirmy Siddhi and patience running thin. Damon continues to crack a few jokes as steam begins to rise from my veins. The man took our passport through the gate with the guard with the machine gun. The last few people go through the gate. I hurridly approach the the gateman and tell him what is going on. The guy who took our passport seems to be playing a game. He wants to toy with me. He knows I am getting angry. Damon is no longer joking but encouraging me to stand strong and not let this guy get to me.
We were standing right at the boarding ramp at 1:20am in the morning while the staff is rushing to get everyone on board. Finally, the young man returns with my passport and new boarding passes. He was actually a help to us even though his timing was poor. He is able to secure three seats for Laura, myself and Siddhi rather than just two. Now we can spread out a bit on a crowded flight.
The flight is cramped even with the extra seat. Damon is sitting next to a man who smells of wine and digested Masala if you get my point. They are right in front of us. The flight is late in taking off. A woman sat down next to Laura and asked how old Siddhi is. When Laura tells this Hindu woman Siddhi's age the woman begins to weep. She is sorry for the way Siddhi has been treated but happy for the way someone has taken her in. This is actually a blessing for us because we felt as if our help was not wanted by the evil eyes we received. She was not the last Hindu person to encourage us. We were able to share our story with a whole crowd of people when we landed. I have noticed how the people of India are not afraid to speak their mind to anyone and to inquire with questions on their mind. Because of their inquiry we were able to share our story with many of the passengers.
We finally get into the airport and pass right through customs. God bless America! We loved India and the people there but we love our home. What we see is how great we really do have it here. I pray that we will not squander what has been given to us through common grace.
We arrived home. Siddhi had a real tough time in the car seat. She is off her game and jet lagged. She thinks it is night but won't go to sleep. Our family comes over for a quick visit. Siddhi has no idea what to think. I am overwhelmed with emotion for my children. They all look different. All of the sudden Siddhi seems very tiny. i didn't realize how tiny she was until my 2 year old, Eva, came into the room. All I can do is hold back my tears. It is overwhelming to see the responsbility ahead of us.
We will not be able to "deorphanize" Siddhi in a few days. It will take years. It has been an incredible journey. This is only the beginning. This whirlwind is only the start for our family. What an opening chapter to what God has in store for us. For now, this is the end of the beginning.