My wife Celia and I decided over 15 years ago to create a family through adoption, and it was about five years ago when we put it all in motion, first with our even-now pending application to China. Adoption made theological sense to me. If we are adopted into the family of God, then I wanted to reflect the kingdom here on earth. In addition, if that kingdom is multinational and multiracial, my wife and I wanted to reflect that in our family as well. In this way, we are trying to live our faith honestly and genuinely. So when a promising new-and-improved international adoption program became available to prospective parents worldwide over a year ago, we applied.
In order for a country to be Hague-compliant, the adoption process needs a clear and transparent protocol that eliminates the potential for child trafficking. Nepal had done adoptions in the past, but now wantedto eliminate any opportunities of fraud and work towards being compliant with international laws and standards. The Nepal program looked good based on our research, so we started the long application process, and, after a year of waiting, Nepal’s Ministry of Women and Child Welfare matched us with our daughter, Karina Kanya.
But we hit a snag. As Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn sings, “Sometimes the best map will not guide you / You can’t see what’s round the bend."
On August 6, 2010, the US Government closed down adoptions in Nepal for fear of fraud (later found to be unsubstantiated), leaving about 80 families, called pipeline families, with matched children but with no opportunity to secure a visa to bring the children home. Complicating the issue was that the Nepal government, at the time, was only allowing a 60-day window of opportunity to officially adopt your matched child. Having seen Karina’s picture, we came to understand that this was where God wanted us, so we made the leap of faith to go to Nepal and, according to Nepali law, adopted her on November 23, 2010, without knowing if we would ever be granted a visa to bring her back to the US.
After months of living in this liminal space with our daughter in Kathmandu, we assembled evidence in order to have our attorney write a rebuttal that addressed the Request for Further Evidence (RFE) memo that we got from US Citizenship and Immigration Services about Karina’s orphan status. This brief, close to 300 pages, thoroughly addressed the issues that the embassy questioned in our daughter’s case. While there is no possible way to find the birth parents and get a signed statement of release, what we tried to establish was a clear and clean (free of fraud) timeline that goes from where she was found at 10 days old, to the policeman who received her at the police station, to the hand-off to the orphanage for her protection.
Kathmandu is a complicated, frenetic city. When you mention Nepal to people, most conjure up images of Mount Everest and idyllic “getting back to nature” treks. This is profoundly deceptive. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Kathmandu has an urban density that constantly challenged our western thinking. We lived by the 10/2 rule: What takes ten minutes to do in the States takes two hours to do in Kathmandu.
When people ask me what Kathmandu was like, I respond by asking them to imagine the most wonderful dream they could conceive contrasted with the worst dream they could ever envision—the kind of dream that, no matter how much effort you give to waking up, you return to into another layer of dream. Then I ask them to wire their left eye and right ear to one of those dreams and the other eye and ear to the other dream, wait a moment, and then switch on the brain. At that moment, when all that cross-wired experience engages and your brain tries, in a flash, to make sense of it all, that is Kathmandu. It is in that craziness that our family met and bonded, the three of us for two months and then Celia and Karina for an additional two months.
What has been the glue? A mantra of Proverbs 3:5-6: trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and leaning not on our own understanding as we humanly and humbly try to acknowledge God as our path unfolds. This unfolding path has brought me to a greater sense of understanding communal relationship. I could have easily played the stereotype of a Swede and kept the struggle to myself, but this experience has forced me to consider the call of community. Oddly enough, the more I opened myself to the North Park family and made myself vulnerable, the more I realized how much community is a blessing. This is one of life’s paradoxes, it seems. The more we let go, the stronger the glue holds. Rejoicing with our North Park community, we received our approval to apply for Karina Kanya’s visa on March 4 and our whole family arrived home on March 20, 2011.
Chad Eric Bergman is a professor of communication arts at North Park University