If you know our family or have been following our story or have read the few number of blog posts that I have posted over the last several years (I am clearly NOT a prolific blogger), then you know that we have been connected to Uganda for the last 4-5 years. Through our dear friends, Scott and Sarah, who live and work in Kampala, UG, we have become very connected to the multiple NGOs there and established life-long friendships with many Ugandan people. Never in a million years would I have believed you if you told me 5 years ago that those friendships and connections would bring us to where we find ourselves now.
Pastor Wilson Bugembe, me, and Celestine Katongole (my 20-something friend who calls me “Mama Stephanie”)
Some of the kids we’ve helped to sponsor through Mercy Child Care Ministry
Mark with a group of kids at Amazima Ministries
Words cannot begin to describe the love we have for the people of Uganda. We have been so blessed to travel there multiple times over the years in order to develop ministry partnerships and personal relationships. At one point in our transition from Austin, TX to Denver, CO, I looked at Mark and said, “I think it might have been easier in some ways if we would have moved to Kampala instead of Denver.” Of course he rolled his eyes at me, because, well, that was just crazy talk coming out of my mouth. I said that though, because we didn’t have the kind of strong relational connections in Denver prior to moving that we already had in Kampala.
In November of 2012, I was able to travel to UG to join Mark there for Worship Night. Mark has been traveling to UG every November since 2010 to be a part of this amazing night where 40,000-60,000 people gather to worship the Lord in a soccer stadium from 6pm-6am on the last Friday night of November. It is an indescribable experience.
Mark rehearsing before the Worship Night concert.
Several days after Worship Night Mark returned to Denver to our anxiously awaiting children while I remained in Uganda for a few more days. We had traveled separately in order for our trips to overlap so that our children didn’t have to be without both of us for longer than 4 days, so he traveled first and returned home first.
One day after Mark had already returned home, I spoke with my friend, Pastor Wilfred Blair Rugumba, the Executive Director of Mercy Child Care Ministry. It was then that I told Wilfred that Mark and I had been considering adoption for many years. Knowing that although the majority of the kids at MCCM are children that are not adoptable, I told him that if he ever had a child that he could not find their family to reunite them with that we would consider adopting the child or find another family who could. I told Wilfred that it would be ideal for our family for us to adopt a boy between Toby’s and Kindsey’s ages but that we would consider any child that he could not find family for in UG. Immediately, Wilfred said to me, “I have a boy now that is 8 years old, and we cannot find any history on him. We have not been able to find anyone who can identify him previous to the police finding him on the streets and bringing him to us.”
YOU GUYS! That was it. That was the moment that has changed my life, Mark’s life, and our kids’ lives. I knew then that this boy Wilfred told me about would be the one that we would pursue to be a part of our family. I knew it, and it scared me to death. He asked me if I wanted to go back to visit the Mercy home the next day to meet Enoch. Of course, I said yes.
The next day I accompanied Wilfred to the Mercy home. I had just been there a a few days before with our group of friends that were visiting Uganda with us. We had played games, painted faces and held babies. This time I would act no differently than I had before. I didn’t want to make Enoch uncomfortable in any way by singling him out. I wasn’t there to interview him. Wilfred just wanted to subtly point him out to me so that I could see him interact with the other kids and get a feel for his personality. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I FELL IN LOVE with this boy. He has the sweetest smile and demeanor. He and a group of about 4 other boys about his age were playing together in the yard, and he kept making sure that everyone included a younger boy with special needs. I could see his compassion and protectiveness for the younger boy, and it melted my heart. I was also privileged to be there on the day that the children would be presenting their end-of-year school reports to Wilfred. Enoch had just completed year 2, and his scores were at the top of his class. I left the Mercy home that day convinced this boy would be my son and trying to strategize in my mind how I would convince Mark of this.
Pictures from Mercy Child Care Home on the day we painted faces:
Some of the kids with Julius, Wilfred’s Assistant
I arrived back in Denver on December 10, 2012 with a lot of emotions swirling around inside me. I’m pretty sure Mark thought I had lost my mind somewhere between UG and the US. During the day I was angry at our American culture because I was disgusted at all the materialism and the commerialism of the Christmas Holiday Season. At night, I would lie in bed and cry, because I wanted to fly back to Uganda and bring Enoch home with me. The stark contrast between America and any third world country is shocking to the intellect and psyche. I found myself paralyzed unable to even justify purchasing one Christmas present, because really….what on earth does anyone in my family (myself included) really NEED? NOTHING. We have so much. One of my children possess more clothing and toys than all the 96 children at MCCM combined. Seriously. It’s a good thing that my hubby is the shopper in our family and loves to buy gifts otherwise our kids wouldn’t have gotten a single present for Christmas that year, and I’m sure they would have been talking to there therapists about it well into their 30s.
It really didn’t take any convincing on my part to get Mark on board with pursuing adopting Enoch. Mark says that selfishly he really didn’t want to adopt a child. We have family members and dear friends who have all adopted and we’ve walked alongside them as they have lived their adoption journeys. We’ve seen that it’s not an easy road and selfishly Mark and I were (and still are sometimes) afraid of how adopting would alter our lives and future. The big BUT here is this: we started praying and asking God what He wanted for us and for our family. God quickly made it clear to us that we were to pursue adopting Enoch into our family.
So, here we are in February of 2014 very close to submitting our dossier and praying that we can get a Ugandan court date assigned to us before the Ugandan government shuts down international adoptions. It’s been quite a journey so far! God has been so faithful, and we are learning so much along the way. I’m here to tell you something I’ve learned so far: It only takes one. It only takes one step of faith, one conversation, one moment in one day to change a life forever. Our lives are changed and continue to change through this process, and hopefully one day soon Enoch’s life will be changing too. We are convinced that this story and journey is not about us. It’s about Enoch and about what the Lord is doing in all of us in order to make us a family that reflects His love, grace, faith, and hope.
Thank you for supporting us through friendship, prayer, encouragement, and even finances as we work towards bringing Enoch home.
If you would like more information on Enoch’s story, click here to go to our Rally page. There you can click the “I’m in” button to follow the developments of the story. I am also going to try to blog here more often than I have in the past in order to keep you updated.