Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Post -- 23/07/16

Told you.
The momentousness of the decision made in our favour yesterday was somewhat belied by the circumstances. They could hardly have been less dramatic!

In principle, the adoption was confirmed on Monday morning, when we had our final hearing at the judge's office, in the company of the usual representatives from the appropriate agencies around town. As has been the case since we began fostering Sam, there were no objections whatsoever. All that was left was for the judge to prepare the 'sentencing' document, which she said would be ready by Friday. As well as confirming the adoption, this document would officially request the name-change (though known as Sam by all and sundry, he still officially went by his old name).

Yesterday morning, then, Amanda and Sam swung by my office -- where I was in the midst of writing a sermon -- and we drove into town one more time. And things could hardly have been less formal. We sat on the couch in the judge's office and had a natter with her (as well as a fine decision maker, she's a lovely woman!), while she waited for her staff to have the sentencing document printed. Half an hour later, one of her administrators summoned us to his cluttered desk, asked us to put our John Hancocks in the relevant slots, and that was it.

After that, there was really only one thing for it: off to Sam's favourite restaurant Pizza Hut, where we celebrated by playing in the ball-pool and having extra servings of chocolate sauce at the ice cream factory.

I jest. The closest thing Trinidad has to a Pizza Hut is, er, a literal pizza hut! 

We did at least pick up a tub of our favourite ice cream on the way home from the supermarket. But after that, it was back into our routine: me finishing my sermon, Amanda attending an afternoon meeting, and then spending the entire evening with volunteers from Fundación Totaí, preparing for a major-league food sale this lunchtime.

Hollywood it was not. But, then again, our main concern over the past months has not so much been over the probability of an approval , but the pace of the process in general (the extinction of parental rights -- granted to us at the end of March -- is supposed to trigger a final consultation process for the adoption of 30 days; hah!). We're just glad the whole thing is at an end so we can start thinking about things like passports and visas. Things started feeling pretty 'real' some time ago anyway.

As for a celebration, we're off to Bolivia's capital city, Sucre, next Saturday morning, ostensibly for a conference and a meeting with Latin Link (see prayer points for more), but we're spending a week there to get some much-needed family time. Sucre -- really a colonial town, if anything, and a beautiful one at that -- is as child-friendly as Trinidad is not, so we're excited about that.

So we hope the adoption news is enough for regular readers to go on; the blog will likely take a break for a couple of weekends, but we'll surely get things going again with plenty of pictures from Sucre. Maybe we'll go skydiving or something too. At least then we'll have something dramatic to blog about.

  • In Sucre, we are hoping to join Latin Link on the field in Bolivia. If you are a UK financial supporter of our ministry, you know that gifts are given through Latin Link. But our commending organisation is, in fact, LAM Canada, with whom Latin Link have an informal relationship, one which has enabled us to raise support both in the UK and Canada. We have never been formally affiliated with Latin Link. However, as the missionary team here has slowly dwindled (we are now the last ones standing), we have increasingly felt our need for fellowship. While recognising our commendation from LAM Canada, who have no missionaries in Bolivia, Latin Link are offering to welcome us to their team of missionaries in Bolivia, something which will give us greater accountability on the field, and increased fellowship opportunities, with built-in events each year on both those fronts. To that end, we have an interview in Sucre a week on Wednesday. Pray for a positive outcome.
  • Craig is preaching on Titus 3 at church tomorrow morning.
  • Pray for wisdom for Craig and the other elders in dealing with a difficult issue at church.
  • Amanda is doing a lot better; thanks for your prayers.
  • For Sam's adoption. Been looking forward to saying that for a while.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday Post -- 16/07/16

Just a very brief update today. We are just getting ourselves organised, having arrived from Santa Cruz last night after a nine-hour journey. Alas, Amanda is not well this morning, so we have an impromptu doctor's appointment lined up amongst the obligatory post-vacation grocery shopping.

Of course, we enjoyed a special final few days with Mum in the big smoke, taking in some of the local sights, including our first visit with Sam to a favourite wildlife park of ours. Above all, during quieter spells, Mum and Sam squeezed every last ounce of fun out of their remaining days together. And so, his seeming indifference when last they parted (he smiled and chuckled as if she was just going to get something) was all the more trying on the old tear-ducts. Who knew a cheerful fifteen-month-old could inflict such devastating cruelty?

It was as tough a separation as we have experienced, and as ever, there are mixed feelings of frustration (that we have to do this so much), guilt (that we keep doing this to our parents!) and above all, a sense of something not being quite right. And rightly so. We were created for fellowship with God our Father and with each other. The hardest of Goodbyes is still to come, but the sweetest of homecomings awaits.

  • The final adoption hearing is on Monday morning. Pray for a positive outcome.
  • That we can find answers to Amanda's health issue.
  • We have a meeting to attend in two weeks' time Bolivia's beautiful capital city of Sucre, where we are hoping to also get some time for ourselves as a family (more on that in the next couple of weeks). Until then, we have a long list of tasks to attend to. Pray for perseverance and focus.
  • For a tremendous last couple of weeks with Craig's Mum, and for her safe arrival in Scotland earlier today after some industrial-scale flight re-scheduling.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Saturday Post -- 09/07/16

From the get-go, Mum's chief aim in coming here has been to support us in looking after Sam. In spite of the higher costs of flying in mid-summer, she resolved to make the journey now to help us in the event of a visiting team being present, as is often the case at this time of year. As it happens, there has been no such team in 2016. Nevertheless, Mum has been nothing short of rock-like, and it's freed us up to attend to various long-festering matters at work (all too boring to mention here!).

Unfortunately, our neighbourhood is not the greatest for simply getting out the house and going for a walk, something that Mum loves to do (the climate is somewhat non-conducive as well). I (Craig) have been particularly conscious of this over the past week, my enjoyment of her visit a little tempered at times by my anxiety that she's not getting enough fresh air. Mum's view? No qualms. She's just happy to be here and to help. And Sam has more than appreciated it. 

Still, she's not been under total house arrest. On Monday (our day off) we drove out to the local lake and got some lunch while giving Sam some splash-time. Tuesday evening saw us hire a babysitter (one of our youth group stalwarts) so that we could go out for some prime Beni steak with Mum and Taylor, whose volunteer stint here ended on Thursday. On most days we have taken advantage of that window between 16:30 (when Fundación Totaí closes) and 18:00 (when Sam begins to wind down himself) for a gander into town. And, of course, on Sunday, she came to church with us, where she was pleasantly surprised by the number of translated English language hymns in the programme, and where the Bolivians were pleasantly surprised that she had remembered their names -- how typical of her.

We also had the pleasure of hosting the church on Thursday evening for the prayer meeting, which these days rotates around members' homes. We are in the midst of the mid-year school holidays, and rather than rush away at the end, everyone stayed, doubtless buoyed by the cake we bought to celebrate our wedding anniversary that day. Mum is in her element in such company, and is getting plenty of opportunities to practise her increasingly-fluent Spanish. 

Best of all, around the time Sam goes down for his morning nap, play is beginning on Centre Court at 'la catedral de tenis', as the commentators here describe it. We shall probably record tomorrow's men's final and switch off all celular communications during church. Not that we'll be able to hear much of it over Mum's customary nervous director's commentary from her default position of behind-the-couch.

She needn't worry. Murray in three. Easy.

  • We're off to Santa Cruz on Monday morning for a few days there before Mum's flight on Thursday morning. Pray for safety on the roads, productivity (we have a few small jobs to do there for FT), and a special final few days together.
  • We are so thankful for nine years of marriage, and increasingly aware of our inability to have managed it without Jesus at the centre. 
  • Give thanks for Taylor's time here, and the great encouragement and help she was to so many.
  • The adoption hearing date was confirmed this week for the 18th of July, a week on Monday. So we have something to very much look forward to upon our return to Trinidad next week, and we hope that while bringing down the curtain on Sam's adoption, it will also get the ball rolling for our travel plans for next year.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday Post - 02/07/16

Grandma, Sam, Centre Court. That'll do.
A belated Happy Canada Day to everyone. Nobody remembered here, except me, and I sat as the lone Canadian amongst a sea of others (there being two types of people in this world, Canadians and non-Canadians). I sent Craig off to Santa Cruz with Sam on Tuesday with his "It's Cool to be Canadian" t-shirt and it came back with permanent stains. I'm trying hard to not read into this in any way, but it is really hard. I mean, do they not value me for my Canadian awesomeness (mainly I'm frustrated because I can't figure out how to get banana out of clothes once it has set. Does anybody know?)? Actually, the truth is I'm probably a poor excuse of a Canadian these days. I watched a video on YouTube about being Canadian and I kept thinking, "Canadians aren't really like that, are they?" I was so unnerved by how much I didn't recognise that I wanted to run off to Glasgow and be comforted by familiar surroundings. I think I'm Scottish now. I'll have to remember to wish you all a Happy St. Andrew's Day later this year. 

I think a lot of people know that if Craig was writing this blog entry today, there might be at least a passing comment or a joking reference to the political state of the UK right now. I'm not going to do that; instead I am going to focus on the important things, like Wimbledon! We keep saying to Sam, "Sam, yay, it's your first Wimbledon with us!", "No Sam, we can't play with you...we're watching Wimbledon", and "Sam, you might have to find your own lunch, Murray's playing right now." Sadly, with ESPN based in Argentina and with Del Potro putting Wawrinka out, we're probably not going to see another tennis player who's not Del Potro until he goes out. We thought that with my mother-in-law being here to help, Sam might get fed once in a while despite Wimbledon being on (I mean, she said she was here to help), but she's even more Wimbledon mad than the rest of us. So, Sam is on his own. Poor kid. 

Sam's excitement at being on a plane knew no
And yes, Ethel has arrived in Trinidad!!! And she is helping and giving me the free time to do things like write this blog post, go to work more often, and watch Wimbledon; just the important things that you need to get a babysitter for. Ethel arrived in Bolivia on Wednesday, but because of how the internal flights were scheduled, she would have to spend an overnight in Santa Cruz before flying to Trinidad. Craig thought it would be good for someone to go and meet her in Santa Cruz, so he booked a flight for the Tuesday before and decided that Sam was going to go meet his Grandma as well. He came home from the airline's office with the declaration that Sam was going to go to Santa Cruz with him, and I put on the appropriate concerned face and said, "Are you sure you're comfortable flying with Sam, and being with him alone in Santa Cruz until your Mom arrives?". 

Meanwhile, inside my head I thought, "Yassss!!!! Two days alone!!!! Bring it on!!!!" 

In Cochabamba, awaiting their next flight.
I started making plans right away. There was going to be a girl's night and there was going to be a night for pure 'me' time, preferably in bed with a book and a glass of wine. The excitement was building on both sides...apparently Craig found the thought of sharing the joys of air travel with his son just as thrilling as I found the thought of crushing my friends in a game of Ticket To Ride. However, not everyone was as excited as us. A lot of people here thought Craig would be unable to pull it off and Sam would somehow expire on this trip due to Craig's ineptitude. We heard so many comments like this that upon Craig's successful return and his first morning back at work, he walked into the Foundation and declared, "Sam lives!" Apparently, men don't know how to look after their children here and it was a cause for great concern. I wasn't worried. Craig is an awesome Dad, who from the first day of visitation with Sam in the hospital has been completely hands-on. That first day he said, "OK, show me how to change a diaper" (surely 'nappy'? Craig) and has never looked back from that. I don't know how he thought I knew how to change a diaper; I'm not entirely sure if I had changed a diaper before. I knew conceptually, but its not like it's a job you generally volunteer for with your friend's children. 

Girls' Night - sadly, I was unable to crush my friends in a decisive victory 
because there was one too many people, so I graciously sat out and watched. 
Mariana won on her first time playing, narrowly beating Taylor by three points. 
But it's not a real win until Mariana faces me - next time.
So, on Tuesday I drove Craig and Sam to the airport and said goodbye, excited for my free time. Craig immediately started sending photos back of Sam on the plane, Sam in the airport terminal, Sam at the guesthouse and my excitement duly withered. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see Sam on the plane for the first time. From about two hours after they left I just missed them and got really moody about it. It totally put a crimp in my plans. 
Craig: "Getting to board first means more
time for moments like this. I really must
travel more with children/the elderly."

When I went back to the airport on Thursday morning to pick them up, I don't think I have ever been so excited to see a plane land. And I have seen many planes land in my time and met many people getting off of those planes, but this was different. I saw Craig and Ethel walking across the tarmac, but I couldn't see Sam. So I thought that maybe the people who I thought were Craig and Ethel weren't really them, so I kept looking. But Craig and Ethel kept waving at me and finally I had to accept that it was them and they didn't have my child. Craig just shrugged his shoulders at me, and I thought, "Well, he wouldn't be so calm if he had really lost Sam." Someone, somewhere had to have Sam...and sure enough, four or five people behind Craig and Ethel was FT president Miguel Angel, who unbeknown to myself had been on the same flight on his way back from Cochabamba, and Sam was riding high up on his shoulders. And they (you mean, 'I'? Craig)  had done that on purpose to scare the daylights out of me. Classy. 

The two days without Craig and Sam did provide me with an opportunity to get a lot of work done, and I decided to work a full day on Wednesday. I am so caught up on paperwork that I had to ask my fellow FT board member Mariana if there were things I could do to help her yesterday afternoon. I don't know if I recognise this feeling. Is this what work feels like when one is not stressed? Wow. I still have about a third of the staff to get through in regards to the one-on-one interviews, but I figure that they are once a year, so if they are bit more spread out, it's not too much of a problem. 

I am also teaching at Youth Group tonight. Last week was our most recent social event where we had a selfie scavenger hunt. It seemed to go down really well, although we had tech trouble and couldn't see all the photos that were taken. We had given out food to the youth at this point, so I don't think they cared; they were too busy eating. The winning team got 25 mandarins to share amongst themselves. It's mandarin season, so the gran prize was cheap and cheerful and I figure that everyone can do with more vitamin C in their life. Tonight's theme is 'The Sin of Partiality' - James 2:1-9. Craig said last night that he was partial to me (Awww!!!), and therefore obviously failed in this regard and thought he should just stay in tonight so as not to seem like a hypocrite (!). This particular issue is something we see a lot amongst teens in general, but especially here where there can be so much bias between ethnic groups and genders. Please pray that the youth will be challenged to open their eyes to how their partiality and prejudice can hurt others.

New city, new book.
Please stay tuned for Craig's cheeky political comments next week! And we'll let you know how we're loving having an in-house nanny in next week's post. 

  • Apparently the judge overseeing Sam's prospective adoption is on holiday the week we thought we would get a hearing date, so it has been pushed back again. Hopefully, we'll get a date for the week beginning July 18th.
  • Craig and I have started meeting with another young couple in the hopes of providing them with some relationship counselling. So far it seems to have gone well, but please continue to pray for wisdom in this sensitive situation. 
  • For our time with Ethel, and especially for the time that Sam and Ethel have together. 
  • Taylor Burt, our most recent volunteer, leaves us this Thursday; please pray for safe travels for her.
  • For Amanda's youth talk on partiality tonight.
  • For Ethel's safe arrival, and Craig and Sam's time in Santa Cruz. 
  • For Amanda's time with friends while Craig and Sam were gone. She was kept very busy, which helped the time go by quickly.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig, Amanda & Sam