This is the second blog post of a three-part series. If you did not get a chance to read the first entry, please go back and read "A Photo"
When Eric went to Uganda last May, he found a photo of Layla’s biological mother—something I’d been longing to find for four years! When Eric began his search for Layla’s family, our primary goal was this photo. But, like with most things God places on our hearts, there was a much bigger story to unfold.After visiting Layla’s maternal family, Eric traveled to another rural village to find Layla’s biological father. He loves Layla so much, so was very excited to see Eric and hear how well Layla was doing. While there, Eric asked to see Layla’s half siblings. During Layla’s adoption several years before, we were told that their mother was still alive and well. So, we assumed that she, along with the children, lived with Layla’s biological father. He explained to Eric that they did not live with him, but that each lived with a different aunt. Eric then asked a question that would forever change our lives: where is their mother?That was the moment we found out that Farida and Ismael (Isma) are not Layla’s half siblings and that they were not being well taken care of. Farida and Isma are Layla’s full siblings—her big sister and big brother. All these years we assumed they were being cared for by their mother when, in reality, they had no mother and their father could not properly care for them. They had each been living in horrible conditions for years with different aunts. Eric immediately asked to visit them, so the father took him to a remote village to meet Layla’s sister, Farida.
Eric called me that night to explain everything. His voice cracked as he asked me “how did Layla get out, but Farida and Isma didn’t?” We felt like we had messed up—like we had failed. By adopting our sweet Layla, we’d split up three siblings. I was sick to my stomach. Eric didn’t have a chance to visit Isma during his trip, but a friend later found him for us. Both siblings were living in similar conditions. They were 8 and 9 years old but had never been to a day of school in their lives. They both slept on dirt floors in one room houses shared with 6-8 other people. They spent their mornings and evenings walking several miles to work on a farm—without shoes.
This dress was the only clothing she owned, and Eric had just bought her those shoes.Earlier that day, Eric had taken Farida to get a good meal, and his eyes welled up with tears as he watched her eat. She was eating like she hadn’t eaten in days. She wasn’t aware of what was going on around her, all she could focus on was the food in front of her. She was timid and never spoke—likely unsure what to think of this white man who showed up in her life and bought her a meal. Through a translator, Eric later told her that he would take care of her and that she had a family in America who loved her and would pray for her every day. Farida broke down and cried as Eric told her that he loved her.
Layla hears “I love you” at least ten times a day, I’m not sure Farida had ever heard those words.
The first thing most people ask when they hear this story is: “Well, are you going to adopt them too?” I know they mean well. It makes sense, but it also breaks my heart because the answer is no. Farida and Isma were never up for adoption. It was never an option for us to adopt them. At the time we adopted Layla, their father felt like he could take care of the two older siblings. Since then, Uganda has shut down international adoptions to anyone not willing to live in Uganda for at least three years, which is not an option for us right now. So, the answer is no, we will not be legally
adopting them. They will not be living in our home, but they do, and forever will, live in our hearts. The night Eric called me from Uganda, he told me very matter-of-factly: “Kimberly, they may not all live with us, but we are now the parents of four children.”So, we did the only thing we could and moved them to a great boarding school. It still breaks my heart that they don’t have a mommy and daddy to tuck them in at night, but they now have shoes, a bed, three meals a day, and most importantly, each other. I know it doesn’t sound like much but living without worry of basic necessities and getting an education is everything in Uganda.
We still don’t have it all figured out, but I serve a God who has gone before me and has it all planned. Every time I start to question this situation and wonder if we are doing the right thing, I hear God say “Kimberly, there is so much more to this story. Trust me.” I do trust him, and I love his stories.
"RJ, I know this is a little weird, but I actually have another brother!" --Layla