After the Thai Adoption Board received all of the extra necessary paperwork (including the death certificates, which were miraculously provided by God!), they reviewed our dossier. Because I continued calling daily, I knew exactly when they were going to review it and I called directly afterwards and heard the good news from the social worker assigned to our case. I hung up the phone, ran from the house, through the Harbor, and up to Mark's office where I hugged him and cried over the good news. We had been approved!!! Our friends the Rathmells brought over a cake and we had an approval party.
After approval, the adoptive parents must travel within one month to appear in person before the Thai Adoption Board along with their adoptive child. We began planning our trip right away, in order to be at the Adoption Board meeting the following month. While we had great joy over our approval, one dark cloud continued to hang over the situation: Rebekah still did not have a passport and was, for some reason, unable to secure one. It was becoming increasingly clear that while we were going to be able to adopt her, we were not going to be able to bring her home. We did not know on the day of our approval that we would be in for another yearlong battle to get our girl out of Thailand.
In April 2009, Mark and I flew to Thailand for the third time without Zoe, Abby Grace, and Hannah. The Rathmells were now pros at Oshman childcare. The Thai Adoption Board meets in Bangkok, so we only had to fly there. We purchased plane tickets for Deer and a social worker from Im Jai to fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok for the board meeting. We all stayed in a large hotel room together and enjoyed a little bit of free time before and after the big meeting.
At the meeting we received the usual comments from the board members:
"You have three children, why do you want another one?"
"You are young. You remind us of Brad and Angelina."
"Do you know she does not have a passport?"
"Why do you want four children?"
"You are very kind. She is very blessed to have you."
Our replies tended to be, "We love her. We want to give her a mom and a dad. Yes, we know we are young, that she does not have a passport and that we already have three kids--but we love her and want to be her parents. And WE are the blessed ones."
Our appearance was brief and ended with congratulations and best wishes from the board. We watched about a dozen other families depart the meetings WITH their children, bound for the embassy and then their new home country. It stung deeply to know that we and Deer would board different planes and she wouldn't be coming home yet, even though she was rightfully our child now.
Just after hearing our approval. Joy!
Afterwards we did a little sight-seeing with Rebekah in Bangkok. Later that day she had to fly back to Chiang Mai. These were her first two plane trips, by the way--and she really liked them (except for a bit of motion sickness).
Our joy and grief were mingled as we said goodbye. Over the course of this brief trip and the one the month prior, we realized we needed another lawyer to help us get her a passport. We weren't thrilled about our prior lawyer, so we hired a woman who was recommended to us by the orphanage staff. We hoped and prayed she would help us get the job done quickly.
We returned to our family and community in Okinawa with the good news: we had one more daughter! And also with the prayer request that she would be granted a passport soon, so that she could join her forever family in her new home.
Hannah (2), Abby Grace (almost 4), and Zoe (almost 6) wearing new Thai outfits and rejoicing over their new sister.