Monday, March 19, 2012

Chronicles of THE Ghana Trip!

We are BACK!!  We've had requests to post these, so, here are the daily emails we sent out chronicling our trip to meet Zoey Love!  Enjoy!

February 21, 2012

Today...I feel like I'm getting ready to go to the hospital and have a baby. All those emotions I felt with my boys I feel for my girl. BUT there is one difference and that is my relationship with Christ. Today it is so much sweeter!! When I had my boys, I didn't rely on God...I just had them. I prayed I would have healthy boys but I didn't allow our heavenly father to penetrate my soul. I didn't let Him take me on a journey. I decided everything-- except their sex...I was pretty much in charge. When they were born I loved them to pieces ... I thought I could never love another child as much as them. Today, I tell you- I do love someone more than them...and it's not their little sister who is miles away in Africa but it is the God who died on the cross for me. It is the God who adopted me into His family. It is the God who has stolen my heart. Because of Him... I am!!! Because of Him I am a BETTER parent to those two precious boys!! Because of Him I will be a GREAT mom to my little girl!! Because of Him I want to LOVE with all I have...with every breath I take!!
I do not take this journey has changed me...I am His forever!!

Here are some specific prayers you can pray for us in the next few days:

*pray for our sweet boys...that they will have peace and comfort while we are gone.
*pray for my mom and dad who will be watching over Winston and Wyatt
*pray for safe travel...peaceful travel.
*pray for Zoey...can't imagine what is going through her mind. Pray that the next few days are not filled with anxiety but a peace like she has never felt before.
*pray for her family...they love her so.
*pray for Peter...he will be our guide while in Ghana and has also been our liaison for the adoption. Ty and I know that God has planned for us to be with him during this trip...we don't know why but we can feel something.  Pray that whatever God wants to happen will and that we will see it clearly!!
*pray for Ty and I....that we will use the fruits of the spirit with each other...that our love will grow deeper...that we will see God everywhere!

Love you all!!!

February 22, 2012

Ok...its midnight and I should be sleeping but I'm wide awake!! We are here...thank you Jesus!!
I wanted to give a little update...we arrived in Accra yesterday about 2 something.  We found Peter...or more like he found us and we walked to another part of the airport (outside...over grass...across traffic) to catch our flight from Accra to Kumasi. Thank you Lord for Peter...if Ty and I would have had to do that by ourselves we would still be sitting, in the airport. It was crazy but Peter had it under control. We made our flight and arrived at the Kumasi airport around 5...luggage too :). Our hearts were so happy to finally be on African soil. When Peter met us at the airport He asked us what we wanted to do first and without letting us reply he said, "I know, meet your daughter!" So with that being said...he had her waiting at the airport, in Kumasi, for us. We both picked her out of the crowd. She is stunning and more beautiful in person. She hugged us right away and hasn't let go of us since.

From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel...oh my word. Traffic is crazy's like nothing I've ever seen. It is mass chaos at every turn. During our card ride Zoey sat between us eating cookies and juice (we had received them on our domestic African flight) and at one point she said "Mama" to get my attention. It was the sweetest sound. After about a 30 min car ride we made it to our hotel. Zoey did not want to leave us so she stayed...our bonding has started.

We have had many moments of laughter. She splashed toilet water, from the tank, all over her face. She has carried her sippy cup and this flower arrangement that's in our room on her head (cause that's what women do here) She took a bath and loved every second of it...splashing and playing. We had to make her get out and then she tried many times to get back in. She smells and licks everything.  She loved brushing her teeth and brushed them a couple of times. Oh, and this Girl can Spit...some real distance and power in her spitting. She has danced for us...let me just say she can shake it!!

She doesn’t speak English and understands very little but will repeat words we say. She loves to hug and kiss and she is smitten by her daddy. Right now, she is asleep between the two of us...after tossing and turning for an hour she took off her pj's and fell asleep. We had a moment before bed where she was nervous and tested us...but we remained strong said No a lot (it's universal) and made it through.

It has been an amazing two days...we are right where God wants us. Please keep praying...we could feel the power. Some prayer specifics:
*That our bonding with Zoey will continue.  That she will feel our love for her...that she will feel safe with us...that when those testing times arise we will know how to handle them.
*Pray for travel...that every time we get in a car God sends angels to ride along.
*Today we go to her home and meet her family...pray for a sweet meeting.  Also, that Ty and I soak up every bit of her culture... so we can always remember where her life began.
*Lastly, praise Jesus ...that He thought enough of Ty and I to be this precious girl's parents.

We love you all and are blessed because of your goodness. Thank you for your prayers...keep sending them up...they are reaching Africa!!

From Africa with Love,

PS...if you see my boys..kiss their face for us...tell them how proud we are of them...xoxo

February 23, 2012

Christy tells me it's my night for the jetlag email and right on time here it is at 2am. We'll see if I can get through this before the Tylenol PM kicks in.

I won't elaborate on her beauty even though I want to very much. Okay, maybe a little...she's gorgeous! Okay done.

Yesterday met with the attorney and prepped for possible court questions. Met social welfare officer as a courtesy. We had to wait so we walked around the way to have our first round of authentic Ghanaian food. Christy and I had what's known as "red red". Fried plantains, beans and a whole fish (eyes teeth and all). Good stuff!  As for Akosua, joloff rice, chicken and coca-cola. You know in the old tall glass coke bottles! 

She has been fascinated by the balloons I've brought for tying into animals. She had one in the canteen so I thought I'd tie it into a dog while we waited for food but I popped it. So I got my first Ghanaian scolding. Don't need to know the language to understand that. 

The trip to her village. I've been on rattle snake hunts, police patrols and roller coster rides...but there is no rush that compares to traveling in a vehicle in this country. It's like LA freeway at rush hour....but crammed into downtown Roff and there is no left and right hand's just road. Now add the population of NYC selling stuff on the street next to you and in between you.  Now image all these people are your best friends and have had 3 Red Bulls chased with a pot of coffee. 

So we made it to the village. 15 miles took 1 1/2 hour just like they said. Our time here will go down as one of the most humbling and joyful experiences of my life. Grandmother met us at the car. She hugged and thanked and hugged and thanked. Her step grandpa, also in very poor health, was there as well.  The African welcome is very lengthy so there were multiple rounds of hand shaking. Almost at every welcomed phrase. 

After greetings they wanted to know the "messages from the road".  This is where you give them a blow by blow account of your trip starting with when you left your house. 

They shared with us how thankful they were that we listened to God when he asked us to adopt a child. Next is when the tears flowed. They said that though Akosua was born into their family that it was like God sent her there to be cared for by them only for a little while. She was always meant to be in our home and they were just given the task to watch over her until we came. 

Wow!  How lucky she has been to be loved like she has. They loved her enough to give her to us. I can't describe for you how happy they are for Akosua and thankful they were to us. A beautiful loving welcoming family. They were also very appreciative when told them how many people in America were praying for them. They asked for more prayers. Before we left we all held hands and we prayed one last time together as a family. I really feel now they are our family too. We share a child together. 

A few things we learned: she gets up at 5:30am for school and chores include sweeping the home and washing clothes by hand. Now here's the scary one for the American parent; she goes to the market and shops for them, BY HERSELF!

The trip home brought a short visit to an orphanage where we handed out some candy and balloons but we were cut short by a rainstorm. So now picture 6 of us in a rundown Ford Fiesta no back shocks, no a/c or defrost using a shared window crank handle in a rainstorm in Roff with 1.2 million of our closest caffeine hopped friends driving running and walking in random direction.  God is good because I'm alive to type this message right now!!

On this ride Akosua talked nonstop. I believe she thought she was going to have to stay. On the way Peter got all choked up as he translated a prayer the he overheard her saying. He said she was thanking God for both families and that his graces covered us here and over the sea. Wow! 

Back to the hotel safe and exhausted. We went to the restaurant here and ordered a rice dish that came with the shito (Ghanaian side dish) that Christy feared. Akosua was adding the shito to her rice by the spoonful so Christy tried a bite....HOT! As in spice hot.  Mark the box next to cast iron stomach for this girl! Good laugh. 

Closed out the night with more testing. Typical child. We were pretending to play school doing numbers a letters then she broke out into some phrase over and over and over. Finally I put a dress on her and took her to the front desk of the hotel so they could translate. They laughed and said she wants to know what church you go to. I answered then she looked at all of them and asked in the native tongue, "what church do you got to?" 

Oh what a night!  I think the car ride flashback has caused me to fight through the Tylenol PM, dang!  I know there is more I'm missing because there is so much. Please friends and fam continue to pray. Your prayers and Gods handiwork are in every step we take here. 

We love you all, 

February 24, 2012 (early morning)

I have to start today by saying God perfectly designed Zoey to be in our family. She is spunky, outgoing, independent and funny. She knows what she wants and is very persistent.

Some things we have learned about her already: She loves coke and will finish the whole the last drop...leaving nothing to waste.  She will also finish ours if we have any left. She knows the coke bottles can't be taken with us. Zoey loves plain rice and chicken with this HOT sauce called shito. Vegetables make her throw up...yes, she has already thrown up. She loves to sleep right next to to skin, nose to nose, lips to lips. I have given Ty that job since he likes to cuddle. She can count to eleven in English and now says I love you. She likes to be called Pokuaa, which is her middle name. It is her unique name and Akosua is the name for the day she was born. She is a she carried all our water bottles from the box to the fridge. She carried them on her head...they start learning to carry items on their head, at age three. Also, the frig fascinates her because it is cold.

Today we started off with another traditional Ghana lunch. I played it safe and had fried rice and chicken. Tyson ate dakashara...which is big beans and rice mixed with goat. After lunch we went and visited four siblings who are being adopted. We took them gifts and they were so happy. They are staying with a minister and his wife. We met in their church and he gave us a beautiful blessing. Two of the boys being adopted play the drums--so they gave us a show. They were such sweet kids and I'm so happy that this sibling group will have a home soon. While we were visiting, Zoey helped us pass out suckers and gum to all the kids that came to the church. She loves giving but she was quick to tell them "she was queen".  From there we drove around Kumasi and saw different parts of the city. Today, I had to fight back tears as I saw the worst poverty my eyes have ever seen. I had such a helpless feeling overcome me. I know this is something that will take time for me to process.  It was such a humbling day and I will forever have those images burned into my brain. During our drive, we also saw the area where all the Ghanaian Muslims have migrated to. It was crammed packed! Very interesting!! We had a super day and  we are ready for bed.(or at least Ty and I are ready)

Please keep praying...Peter said we have had the smoothest trip so far and we know it's because of your prayers. We love you all!!

Love From Kumasi,

PS  When you pray for us, could you also remember some dear friends of mine who are in Haiti till Monday visiting an orphanage there. Xoxo

February 24, 2012 (late morning)

Dear Friends and Family,
We need your prayers...Zoey woke up sick today. She has been running fever and threw up. I think she has a sinus infection and the mucus draining to her tummy made her sick. We gave her some children’s Tylenol and a little Benadryl. She is asleep right now. Please pray for a quick healing. She is not herself...very quiet and sleepy. We are going to just stay at the hotel today and rest. She is so precious and her daddy can't stand for her to not feel well. He was feeding her in bed...telling her, "I don't like crumbs in my bed but you are the queen and queens eat in bed." So sweet!!
Love you all,

February 24, 2012 (midday)

We are on our way to take Zoey to a pharmacy...they think she has malaria. We have to go through major traffic to get there...we need prayers please. I am feeling very overwhelmed and worried. Please pray!!


February 25, 2012

Okay, my turn to email again, where do we start today. How about a little bout of malaria? After a good night of sleeping in her swimsuit (she has no clue what it is but she likes the ruffles) we awoke to fever, diarrhea and vomiting all within a couple of hours.  Even saw a tear or two that she tried to hide. 

Peter and Anna arrived and said the word MALARIA and these American parents freaked!  We are in such good hands. Peter contacted the manager of the hotel, a former student of his, who contacted a doctor who agreed to meet us as the pharmacy or a “chemistry” as they call them here. He told them what to give her for the malaria, stomach and diarrhea and didn't charge us for his time.

Thank you Jesus for all your prayers! By the afternoon she was perking up and the smiles came back. Peter told us the hand of God was here in our timing. He believes she would have been sick at this same time regardless but God sent us here to be with her so we could get her quick attention. 

The plan for the day had been for us to attend a funeral but obviously we did not. When he told us that I kinda wigged.  Then he explained it’s more like a celebration where everyone is openly invited to eat, drink and dance. Then at the end everyone gives a donation and that is how all the funeral and burial is paid for. That is what happens here on EVERY Saturday. Everyone is dressed in their traditional clothes and they go to funerals all over the place.

This culture is so good about helping each other. They all raise each other, literally, especially when it comes to kids. The waiters, front desk people, taxi drivers, people on the street will straighten her out if she is giving us problems. Something we would never ever allow in America! They say they all must help because they don't know how long they will be here and they want the same for their kids if they die. Kids are taught to call everyone in their extended family momma or pappa that way if your parents die when you are young then you have another mom and dad waiting on you. The stories of orphan adults are endless here! Peter, Anna, the morning door man named Godsway who we have befriended, all raised orphans raised by aunts and uncles. This is why everyone we have met has been so grateful and openly thanks us. A lady sitting on the street outside the chemistry asked, "is she sick, where's her momma?" Anna told her Christy was her momma and explained why we were in their country and she thanked us. 

Akosua aka Pokuaa aka Zoey is so tiny for a 5 year old. The 4T stuff we brought her fits perfect.  She had never worn anything with legs in it before so she likes the skorts. Seriously, not because she is my daughter, but she is very intelligent. She told Peter she is ready to come to America, there is nothing for her here.  That makes a Dad tearful.

We had kinda rough night tonight. The honeymoon is wearing off some. When Peter and Anna are away she really tests us and the language barrier makes it hard. But she understands more English than she leads us to believe and I'm learning more and more of the essentials of her language. Strong willed and energetic were very good descriptions but crazy affectionate. The bumps in the road usually come when we can’t understand a phrase she starts to repeat over and over and over. Tonight I had to call Pappa Peter because she continued to spit out her medicine. Once he talked to her he said it had nothing to do with taste. She told him, she didn’t feel sick anymore so there was no need for medicine. Makes sense I guess if you are 5. But after a good phone scolding and telling her the sickness would come back she took it all fine. Even through all that is a genuine sweetness. Oh so sweet and loving tons of hugs and kisses. 

We finally figured out we could get a wifi signal in the lobby so we let her Skype Winston and Wyatt tonight. She knows their names and knows them by sights from their picture. Oh man did she love that. She counted for them as Nanna did the numbers on her hand in the background. Then told each of them "medo" which means I love you in Ashanti. But she was ticked when we turned it off!!

Now I'm watching her sleep next to me again. This I can't get enough of! 

Tomorrow we take it easy and won't travel about. We might try to use the swim suit to swim in rather the pajamas! 

Okay I have to go now. I've rambled way to long. I'm still suffering from jetlag. I know this is no surprise, but Christy found her sleeping rhythm last night while I was up pacing with a migraine drinking coffee and texting. Sorry this email is so long. 

Please continue to pray. We have not been here long but we got homesick tonight after talking to the boys.  We just wish she was coming home with us at the end of the 18 days and we worry about her while we are gone. 

Thank you friends and family we love you all!

From the heart of the Ashanti nation,

February 26, 2012

Today has been a rest day for us. We decided to stay in and not venture out. Zoey woke up and ate three boiled eggs. She can peel a boiled egg faster than Ty or I.   She then went into meltdown mode. When she wants to do something like play with the hotel phone or open the room door we tell her no. She understands no but doesn't like it much. She starts screaming and it is loud. So loud that the hotel staff comes and checks on us or her. Today, when this happened, we called Peter to find out what to do. He talked to her and then explained to us that she is not used to the structure. In her village they keep her from harm but there isn't much parental supervision. We knew this would happen its just hard to deal with when you are in a foreign place. If we were home, we would just ignore her till her fit was over. Here we are trying's just so loud in the tile floored rooms.  All the Ghanaian people we have met  help us in dealing with her. If they see her acting out they are quick to scold her and she listens. I love that they will help us. They are such  friendly people and look at us adopting Zoey as a blessing. They thank us for listening to God and for following His direction.
Zoey went swimming for the first time today. She loved it...laughing and smiling the whole time.
Ty took this picture of her carrying the water on her head. She does this everyday...we just laugh and enjoy.
Continue praying...this is a big week for us. We go to court Tuesday...if we pass...Zoey Love Akosua Pokuaa will officially be a Brown.

Much love,

PS...Ty forgot to mention this last night but we met the former Vice-President of Ghana yesterday...he was staying in our hotel. 

February 27th, 2012

Ah, another day in Kumasi. Today it brought a little shopping but even a day planned to relax before the big day tomorrow is so long and tiring. It's such a chore to travel anywhere, but you are assured of excitement! There are no stop signs or street signs or anything in this crazy city. Just these huge turn of the century traffic circles where 5 roads all meet. Then out of nowhere today theres a stop light. And it actually worked, SERIOUSLY!!  Who was the brainchild that invested in this? Im thinking step 1 is paved roads.  Anyway, this may have been the longest traffic light ever...or maybe it just seemed like it because we were next to a third world logging truck! Oh yeah,  like the beginning scene of Christmas was just like that!! (insert apology to my mother here for freaking her out)

On to our girl.  We are learning she is VERY organized. Uh oh, welcome to the Brown home.  Every thing is in its place and she pays great attention to detail. It's hard to sneak anything by her.  Like we introduced her to Pringles tonight. She liked the regular with the red top and Momma Christy snuck her a sour cream and onion she didn't like from the green top. She was very quick to point out how to tell the difference. She loves to brush her teeth (insert Weem's shout out here) and the tooth brush always goes back into the pouch and into her bag where she has a treasure trove of goods she has stolen from us. If you can't find it, search her bag. 

Yesterday morning I was extremely impressed when we went to breakfast and she snatched a boiled egg i was going to peel for her and had it peeled and started to eat before I even said a word. That didn't hold a candle to tonight. She wanted fish with her boiled yam which worried me because they come whole here.  Don't get me wrong I'm okay with this, but it has all the bones in it, and she is 5 right? As a responsible Dad who has eaten whole fish growing up, but minus the heads, I see this as a major problem. Uh, wrong again Daddy Tyson get your hands off my fish! She completely deboned a tilapia and showed me meat that was up around the head I didn't even know existed. Remember those Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom would put a whole fish in his mouth and when he pulled it out it was just the skeleton?  That's what ran through my immature brain. Christy said she just needs a mom and dad to love her, this girl can raise herself! 

Our newest and funniest finding is when we need to wind her down a bit in the room just find a good action flick!  We found a station that plays nonstop American action movies but bleeps the bad words out. When she sees this station she says, "Mepe, mepe!" which means "I like. I like." We figured out her love for this yesterday when the new version of King Kong with Jack Black was about to start. We were very tired and had never seen it so we thought we'd give it s try. She didn't move for 2 1/2 hours. I thought it was pretty scary for her but in the scariest parts she just laughed. I don't think she knew to be scared or she thought, "I've seen worse than that." Scares me to think. Today when Peter came you should have seen her telling him the story of King Kong in her Ashanti language. It was hilarious! With airplanes being thrown by the big monkey and girls getting scooped up; funny stuff. 

She finished the malaria meds and all appears to be fine. Now if we can keep from getting it. We're on preventive meds till a week after we return which is good since there are mosquito's in our room every night. You can't escape them in this country. 

Akosua loves to Skype her brothers which has been very limited with spotty wifi. She also loves to mimic them in English from a video message they recorded on our phones before we left. She tells everyone we meet how we are taking her to America. And I'm still blown away about how grateful these people are for us giving her a mother and father. These people are the friendliest people as a whole that I have ever seen, so they all want to talk. Especially with the "obruni's", aka white people, but not meant to be derogatory.  Out of everyone we have met we have yet to talk to one who was or is not an orphan. Not one. Not one.  I think that the 1,000,000 orphans they claim are in Ghana is very conservative considering how the families are brought up to call uncles and aunts mama and pappa when your parents die. 

Tomorrow friends is a day for some bold prayer!! At 8am our time or 2am yours' we will be in court hopefully with the Kumasi Ghana court granting Akosua aka Pokuaa aka Zoey legally ours! Peter says she is already ours he can tell we were meant to be together. He has known her since 2008 and has never seen her so happy; God placed us together. 

Thank you friends and family we love you all!

From the heart of the Ashanti nation,

February 28, 2012
Today was the day! One of the days we have longed for. We got up way
early this morning to ensure we were on time for our 8am court
appearance.  1 year 2 months and 7,000 miles so we could go back to a
WWII era court house and judges chambers for him to say "How long have
you known this girl?" Then signed his name slammed the folder shut and
said "Go" as he leaned back in his chair. It took every bit of 2
minutes and Christy and I were scared to death. We thought we'd done
something wrong and he was sending us away. Once we got outside Peter
and the attorney were smiling and giving congratulations. It was then
the panic subsided. Oh, okay, so she's really our daughter? Yes!!

For the court proceedings we must have the closest living relatives
that are available in case the judge wants to ask questions. Present
were both her grandmothers, her aunt who was 9 months old (maternal
grandmothers daughter) and her father.  Her father is a kind, handsome
man who just had no means of taking care of a child on his own.  She
does not know him as father. That's about all I'll say of her family
history. The rest we will keep private because that's really her
story to tell someday when and if she wants.

We got a ton of great pictures and even all ate brunch together afterwards. We thanked her father for loving her enough to give her up for
adoption. He said she and us will be a light to the rest of the world
through this. Me as her forever father felt a deep connection to this
man. I'm not sure what the feeling is yet, it's something I'm still
trying to process emotionally.

Went for a celebration swim to finish off the evening. You couldn't
tell from her daredevil acts that her culture hates swimming and it's
only the second time for her! The first was 2 days ago.  It's not at
all a recreational thing here and most Ghanaians cannot swim.  Z had
about 45 minutes of swim lessons and she was ready to do cannonballs!
She will learn to swim quickly.

She likes the bling. Wearing no less than 7 bracelets per day. These
include pony tail holders, rubber bands, glow sticks and elastic hair

Oh what a day! God is good and He heard all of your prayers. Peter and
Anna have said none of the other adoptions have gone this smooth.
Peter has gone on ahead of us to Accra to get some final stamps from
their Supreme Court and he'll wait for us to arrive on Saturday. We
are in the good hands of his wife Anna for the next few days.

Our next prayers should be for a good meeting with the U.S. Embassy
next week. We are going to use her malaria illness, though she's
feeling fine, as a point to plead for them to expedite the visa
process. A tall tale of sorts. I think I can stretch a story, it’s in
my blood. Also in your prayers remember the departure for us to leave
for the U.S. because she’s not going to understand why she can't go.

Love you all friends and family from Kumasi,

February 29, 2012

Good evening or good morning friends and fam depending on which side
of the world you are on.

Something interesting we found out today was that both Akosua's
grandmothers who ate with us yesterday had never been to a restaurant
ever in their life.  As an American that shocked me. As an American
that humbles me.  That just makes our celebration together even more
special yesterday!

Peter took our court papers from here and travelled by bus all night
on the rough dusty road to Accra to file the papers with the Supreme
Court when they opened today. He gets their stamps at 9am tomorrow
morning. Oh, the passion this man has for these kids. We will meet him
there on Saturday.

Took a trip to the Kumasi Zoo today. Uh, wow! Let's see. Again
picture early 1900 to WWII era zoo enclosures. So we are talking about
chain link fencing, concrete and being able to give chimpanzee bananas
by hand as they reach through the  bars about 4 feet away. How about
an African pit viper in a rabbit hunch that you can stand right up
next to!  If I'm lying I'm dying!!  Z loved it! Mom and dad were
terrified of an animal escape at any second. Z had never seen anything
like this before, not one of these animal not even in school books.
Like she didn't know what an ostrich was.

While we were there so was a bus full of 30 or 40 little school kids
in uniform. They got a special treat. They came to zoo and saw animals
and white people. They were fascinated. "Helloooo obruni!" (white guy)
as they would wave over and over.

Then off for another eating adventure. Because Z is not used to
getting meat she has ordered a different meat every time. We just
caught on to this today. We've had chicken, fish, goat and
today....grass cutter!  This as Peter describes is a bonafide rat.
Anna scolds him for talking about it this way because she likes it!
Fact is, it is a rodent. No different than eating squirrel I guess. I
tried it, tastes like duck or dove.

This girl we have is special! There will be no issues with abandonment
and attachment issues with her. Most kids need about 6 weeks of
isolation to make sure they know who their parents are and bond only
with them.  We will be able to take her into public life immediately
it appears. She is extremely social and tells everyone we are her
parents. Daddy Tyson and Momma Christy. She already has a boyfriend,
his name is Kwame, he's a waiter at the restaurant we frequent just
down the road from our hotel. She tells him he's short and bosses him
around a lot. Today she told him to get her a bag so she could gather
up some mangos that we falling off a tree next to where we were
eating. Needless to say my 5 year old showed me how to eat a mango
tonight as well.

The thing I'm most proud of is she's an amazing giver. She brings her
leftovers back to hotel every day and usually eats on them right up
until bedtime. But today we went and visited the home Peter and Anna
have been trying to build for 20 years to house these kids like Z who
have been placed with parents but waiting to go home. They have a guy
who stays at the unfinished house. Little bossy ordered our driver to
go back to the car and bring this man her left overs. Our taxi driver
and Z have a bonded he's been our driver everyday since we arrived.
Then on the way home she asked if we could stop and buy her an apple.
We bought 2, cause all she does is eat. When the driver got ready to
leave us she gave him her other apple and told him to take it to his
son for his lunch tomorrow. She literally refused to take it back from

A child that has nothing gives it all way when she has it. I know
right now she is giving us way more than we are giving her in this

Love you all.

From Kumasi, Ghana,

March 2, 2012

Catch up day though there's not much to catch up. Yesterday Christy
was sick and life was rough in the hotel room. I ran out of
entertainment tricks pretty fast.  I used all my old school Play-doh
skills and about 30 minutes later we were bored. Thanks for all your
prayers though and the meds we had prescribed for such a time as this
before we left.  Christy was up and going today!!

We still took it easy.  Anna brought a home cooked meal to our room
and we visited a while. She also brought over her niece who has been
"dying to meet the Americans!" Very similar to a couple days ago when
we stopped by a roadside stand of a lady who is a friend of Annas'.
She asked if we would get out and shake her hand so Christy and I did
and exchanged some African greetings. When we left Anna said she was
so happy. She was going to tell everyone in the village that a white
man came to her store and shook her hand. Quite an advertisement over
here I guess. Maybe we'll do some trading for guest appearances.

Very funny. While we were all cooped up yesterday Z was forced to
speak the English she knows. She holds out on us when Peter and Anna
are around but they make her speak the things she knows.  When it's
just us she only speaks Ashanti. But yesterday she tried a lot. I was
very proud of her. Then when Anna came over to visit today they were
laughing at how her Ashanti was turning into goofy gibberish the way
she was mixing it up. Anna said that's a good sign that she'll learn
English quickly.

Z said goodbye to her boyfriend Kwame tonight. (the waiter at the
local restaurant) He gave us his address before we left and wants to
be penpals along with the other waitress, Noella, that we bonded with
on the trip. Something special about her. 19 year old orphaned HS
graduate that has aspirations of being a nurse but doesn't have the
means to pay. I think we've convinced Peter to at least interview her
to add some more female influence to his organization. Kids always do
better with some momma's!

It’s off to Accra tomorrow. We'll leave at 6am our time to catch an
early domestic flight. This will be Z's first flight ever. Should be
exciting. Peter is waiting for us there and has big plans for us he
says. A lot of history in Accra. It was the main port for shipping out
slaves by the British. We could use the change in scenery to help us
through this final week.

Keeping coming with the prayers and kind words.  We can't express to you enough what an encouragement they are. Seriously we have reread them when we need a boost.

From Kumasi, Ghana,

March 3, 2012

Okay another catch up day. We were crazy exhausted from another day of
travel yesterday so I didn't write. It's just so hard to go anywhere
in Kumasi. In Accra we've found better roads (i.e. paved) and a little
more room to breath between cars yet the drivers are still crazier
than an outhouse rat.

Z loved her first plane ride. She told Peter when we got off the plane
she thought it was going to fall out of the sky. She didn't show it
much though.

Made it to hotel and sat outside to get a cold drink, which is hard to
come by outside hotels and restaurants.   At least ones you feel safe
to drink. Peter ordered her a snack of some fish and  chips. She was
about half way through when she told him in her native language,"I'm
just warning you this isn't going to fill me up. I'm going to need
some food soon!". For her if the meal does not include one of the
local staples of fufu, banku or rice ball then it's not a meal. The
hotel serves a free standard breakfast that we eat every morning of
egg, toast, beans, sausage and beans. She told Peter the other morning
we weren't feeding her breakfast, just some little stuff!

Oh, man can this girl eat. She looked somewhat malnourished when we
met her. I understand why if this is her normal appetite. She would
never get this much food in a normal day and rarely gets meat. Peter
said where lives meat is only for special occasions except maybe an

Today we went to church and what an experience that was. Calvary
Baptist, a pretty progressive church but still contained a lot of the
African traditional flare. Was an open aired church of course and they
packed us in on old school wooden pews like sardines. Had to since
close to 1,000 people showed!  They were standing all the way to
street to worship FOR 3 HOURS IN THE HEAT!  Singing and praising for a
solid hour alone. LONG,  but beautiful is all I can say! A full band
yet the voices overpowered them. It was amazing!! When I get to heaven
I want to be close to wherever they are singing. If the church would
have had windows their voiced would have rattled the out. I'm telling
you it was beautiful! And did I mention the dancing. It took Z about 2
1/2 minutes to get out and dance with them. Couldn't be just in a pew
or next to the aisle. Nope, she went to the front of the church,
grabbed one of the ladies by the hand and around they went!  One of
the worship leaders pulled Christy out and she did a little praise
dancing as well; until she gave out from the heat that is. This obruni
just hung out and enjoyed, they watched me clap for a couple songs and
figures it was useless to try to get me to actually takes a
little bit of rhythm.

Then on to eat and afterwards Peter wanted to take her to the beach so
she could see it for the first time. Here's where things got a little
hairy and I actually disobeyed the last thing my Dad told me when he
dropped us at the airport, "Stay on the beaten path son.". Well it
seemed innocent enough at first going to an Accra historical landmark,
an old British lighthouse and former slave fort used to hold them
until the British ships arrived. Problem is the fishing slums have
literally built up around them actually onto the beach. We arrived to
find an unofficial local guide, who was overly eager to walk us,
claiming to work for the light house and saying he was the  kings
brother. Clearly by the his attire or lack thereof, his undersized
stained Boy Scouts of America hat and drunken odor we figured out
pretty quick we wasn't an "official" tour guide, but we allowed him to
walk with us and talk. Then it got little scary as the path down to
the beach took us through the edge of the shanty village. All I could
think of is, "this isn't the beaten path, this isn't the beaten path!"
 But we made it without incident.  We watched the fishermen anchor
their homemade wooden fishing boats 400-500 yards out and swim in the
rough Atlantic to and from shore to access them.  I don't know how
they do it and I'm sure many have to not make it every year. Z loved
the ocean. She was trying to compare it to the swimming pool on the
way there before she saw it and quickly realized the difference.

We managed our way back through the fishing slums and dodged an few
naked teenagers bathing in the road with nothing more than long stares
from the locals. But when we got closer to the car I pulled Peter
aside, while Christy got in the waiting taxi. I told Peter I knew the
guy would want some money, though we didn't invite him, so what should
we give him to just be nice. We decided enough that he could get a
meal equates to a few Ghana cedis. Well...apparently that wants enough
for the fictional "keeper of the light house and king’s brother." He
wanted twice that, Peter denied and told me to get in the car. I'm
hold Z and my camera, he's begging me not to get in and starts to hold
my door closed! I manage to give him enough stiff arm that I can get
her in and so he gives up on me, clearly seeing a rear naked choke
hold from a janky white guy is in his future, so he commences to
stand directly in front of the car threatening to bust out the
windshield. Wrong thing to say to our driver who's pretty buff and now
angry! He gets out!!  Here’s the point where Christy bursts into tears
as they are shouting and shoving.  Z's looking on unphased like it’s
just another day in the village. We finally manage to convince our
driver to just leave. Actually we shouted, "Just leave!" no less than
437 times in 3 minutes. Whoa! Okay so here's where I say, Mom quit
freaking out that won't happen again! I promise! It just kinda
Came back to the hotel, had an uneventful supper listening to Z work
so hard on her table manners in English and then on to the room to do
some laundry in the bathtub. Christy was about half done when Z came
in to inspect. She looked at a sock that was supposed to be clean but
it was totally unacceptable. She commenced to take ALL the laundry
from Christy and show her how to hand wash, scrub, rinse and wring it!
She literally did all our laundry while giving Christy some kind of
instructions as she went!

Good stuff! But I have to be honest and say it hasn't been all fun and
games and joy as of late. We've had a rough last few days. This hotel
environment in a foreign country has made it somewhat difficult with
structure. We've had many a crying, screaming standoff that has
required all the patients that God has instilled in us. And let me
tell you, her shrill cry and these tile floors are a piercing
combination. We just need her home, in our home.  She’s so eager to

Tomorrow we'll get some medicals done on her then I think we're
traveling down the coast to historical Cape Coast on Wednesday which
is Ghana's Independence Day. The Embassy on Thursday and arrive home
on Friday.

Thank you friends again for your kind words and most of all prayers.
This process couldn't have possibly gone as well as it has without ALL
the prayers. We love you all and miss you dearly.

From the coasts of Accra,

March 5, 2012

When I was a kid my Grandma Georgia fixed fried chicken about once a week.
Whenever I thought I was done with my chicken bones she would always accuse
me of not eating it all then would take it off my plate and pick what
seemed like another half pound of meat off. Z does the same to us whether
it's chicken, goat or fish! Doesn't matter, she watches you like a hawk
waiting for you to be "aye”, meaning "done” in Ashanti, with your bone.
My grandmother lived through the depression.  Z's first 5 years of life have
been very similar I believe. She humbles us more and more every day we are
with her.

Tonight we had to move rooms to just across the hall. So as we were moving
Z convinced me that she could help if I would help her get an entire case
of water on her head so she could carry it. I don't know why it surprises me anymore...she did it!

Today was long and tiring. We spent a long time at the US Embassy waiting
in line to get a document notarized that we had missed. Can't imagine why?
We've only notarized about 75 documents in the last 2 months don't know how
we could have forgot one! Then we waited in line some more to get her
medicals done to find out they couldn't do all of them today. We'd
have to return on Wednesday. But they did have time to do the tuberculosis
test, which requires a needle stick, which means we had a screaming girl on
our hands. Fun!

We didn't have any violence today. Good thing because when we got back for
the hotel after yesterday exciting I worked on some of my moves; submitted
Christy with an arm bar inside of 5 minutes.  Just sayin'.

The thought of Zoey going back home is starting to draw closer and the
sadness is starting to set in. For those of you who didn't know, though she
is legally ours, she doesn't get to come home with us on this trip. Our own
US government can't find a away to do her visa paperwork allowing her to
enter the US for at least 60 days.  We'll file our final papers on Thursday. Shortly after Peter will start the journey back to Kumasi with our girl where she will reside with her grandmother until the Embassy contacts us telling us she’s ready to come to America.

One final story to end on a high note. While we were eating at the
hotel tonight a group of people from the Great Britain came in and a
couple of the guys sat near us. Z pointed at them and said "Heeeey,
obruni!" She hasn't said that our whole stay so it made us laugh. So I
asked her, "Is Daddy Tyson an obruni?" She looked at me real strange and
said, "No." I'm not sure why he's a white guy and I'm not, but it was funny
none the less.

Tomorrow is the Ghana Independence Day. We've opted to stay at the hotel
rather than travel up the coast to sight see in Cape Coast as originally
planned. The trip is starting to wear on us physically as well as mentally
now. We miss our boys deeply and have had little luck with Skype. Continue
to pray our friends and family you are our rocks!  Psalm 91 remains our
battle cry and has been what we've leaned on many times during this trip.

From the coast of Accra,

March 6, 2012

Last night after I sent out the nightly email we were paid a visit by John Nyavor from GMI, an orphanage here in Accra. We have no affiliation with him other than Christy started following him on Facebook. He's a young man doing a great work finding forever families for some of the 50 orphans they care for. So right before we left on the trip he had posted the need he had for an iPhone to help them communicate better while he traveled between Accra and the other orphanage they run. Just so happened we had our old phone and were heading to Accra, so last night we met and delivered the gift. For all the useless time there is spent on Facebook here was an opportunity for God to work through it! Helping a 30 year old man and his young family carry out the calling of James 1:27!! Please remember John in your prayers. 

I guess it was my turn to be sick last night. I fought off and fought off the evil upchuck and stomach churning at about 3 am  that’s when the blessing of the Phenergan we had prescribed before we left kicked in. Then I was out of it. Me and Z both woke up around 7 for a trip to the thing I remember it was 2 in the afternoon and we were all still in bed. Whoa! I'm good for now as we are starting wind down for bed as we speak. 

Because of flight arrangements we found out this will be our last night together with Zoey. We'll go finish up medicals tomorrow morning then Embassy appointment at 2pm that afternoon. In the evening Peter will take her to catch the early flight back to Kumasi on Thursday morning. We'll leave out Thursday night

It's really starting to set in now and we are trying to cherish every moment right down to the last "medwonso" (I need to pee) break.  This afternoon she was playing by herself with Play-doh as we all got ready and we caught her just sitting there, thinking I guess. She knows something is going on. We've tried to talk to her some but not sure she fully comprehends with the age and the language barrier. 

She's done so well the last couple of days with her manners, understanding our English, working on hers, starting to realize we don't give in to temper tantrums. I'm really proud of her. 

That's about it friends and family. This trip is winding down now. We are so torn between our yearning to be home with our boys and leaving the newest part of our family behind. Christy said tonight, "Here is where Mommy and Daddy's faith will have to grow even stronger."

Goodnight from Accra,

March 7, 2012

Okay, friends and family this will be our last email. This chapter of our journey has come to a close. 

Today we went to try to finish up the medicals but she required a chest X-ray so that delayed things and didn't get them completed today. Peter will pick them up on Monday. It doesn't hold our process up at all. 

The afternoon brought more waiting at the US Embassy with no less than 100 people, one of which was another American family getting their baby boy's visa and heading home!  They were still waiting when we left. We filed the I-600 as planned, went through a short interview and we were done, mission accomplished! 

Then this evening brought the hard part; saying goodbye to Zoey. Peter did a good job explaining the best you can to a 5 year old orphan that after 16 days of heaven you must go back to what you came from, but only for a while. The best words I could come up with where those of Jesus, I had him tell her, "…we are going to prepare a place for you."  She understood but didn't like it of course, neither did we.  We had the hotel put her some ice cream in a plastic cup and we put her in the taxi with Peter. That's when it set in and her tears started to flow, not long after so did ours. It's miserable to hear your baby's cry fading down the road and knowing there's nothing you can do to comfort her at this point you can't even hold her. Our hope lies in this is the beginning of the end. For every sad farewell it means the start of the wait for the joyous reunion. 

We are already sitting in our room watching the videos we have of her, missing that raspy laugh and reflecting on the trip. We both realized tonight that this is the first time we have had together to just sit and talk about things. She was waiting for us at the airport and it's been nonstop ever since. What a life changer this has been. We leave here with no regrets and a feeling that we know a piece about her life that we can share when she is older. We will never be the same. 

I want to close with a huge thank you for all your prayers and email replies. I know we've said this often but you have no idea what a support you have been to us. There were literally times when we pulled up your responses when we needed a pick me up. And the uncountable prayers have covered us since we left Ada. It is no chance that our trip has been their smoothest, it because of your prayers!  We love you all and the next time you hear from us will hopefully be from the states. Please continue to pray for Z and the transition back to the old life and hope that she will find comfort in knowing we will be back. Again, THANK YOU!

From Accra, Ghana,

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