The Invitation
The Invitation
An Adoptive Family's Memoir
Perfect Bound Softcover
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We were not pursuing adoption when we came across a picture on my sister's bulletin board. In the picture were two little girls sitting in a toy car. The picture, though cute, did not initially pull me in, but as the day wore on, there was a pressing in of one simple question. "What about you?" Six months later, we were on a plane heading for Uganda with $12,000 sewn in on the insides of our shirts!
Chapter 2 Face Full of Sunshine My sister, Elizabeth, served as the messenger for our divine invitation. Elizabeth and her husband Scott have two adopted African-American children. Since they were an adoptive family living in a small town, they had become part of an informal adoption network in their community. This connection resulted in Elizabeth placing a picture of a certain little girl on her bulletin board. On July 11, 2005, we traveled to Elizabeth’s home in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, to celebrate her son Joshua’s 6th birthday. During our visit, I happened to look at her bulletin board and noticed two 8x10 pictures of three small Ugandan orphan girls. When I asked who they were she replied, “This one is Yvonne. She is a girl who was recently adopted by a family we know.” The second picture was of two children playing in a toy car. The first child had a face full of sunshine, and right behind her was a second more quiet-looking child. My sister pointed to the first little girl in the car photo and said, “This is Rhoda. She has a brace on her leg, and they are hoping to find an adoptive home for her too.” Elizabeth explained that, in Uganda, Rhoda would not receive the medical care she needed and would likely live a shunned life because of her leg. As the birthday party and activities continued, I gave little thought to the pictures or conversation, other than feeling sorry that a lack of access to medical care would leave this child with a limited future. To my surprise, later that day I experienced a ping that seemed to whisper, “What about you?” I didn't pay any attention to it at first, but as the day wore on in my mind and heart I kept hearing that whisper, “What about you?” After the third or fourth ping I thought to myself, “I’m fine. I’m good. I have three children ages five, three, and one. I’m good!” Another two or three pings later, I hesitantly decided to mention the whisper to Mark. When I told Mark what I was feeling and sensing, he responded with a relaxed, “Why don't we e-mail the director of the orphanage and just ask a few questions?” This caused a surge of adrenaline to rush through my body. I had been married to Mark almost nine years, and things seemed to happen when we “just asked a few questions.” I knew how this worked. The next day Mark e-mailed Welcome Home Ministries - Africa to inquire about Rhoda. A reply came back saying that Rhoda was already in the process of being adopted by a different family. Though curious about Rhoda, I quietly breathed a sigh of relief. I had done my part. I’d heard the ping, followed it up with questions, and found the answer was no. End of story, right? Wrong. About one month later, Mark and I were in the process of selling our 1992 Toyota Previa van and getting a newer Previa. While we were scouting out a newer van, I suggested, “Maybe we should consider selling our five passenger car and just have two vans.” Mark blurted out, “That's it!” “What's it?” I replied. “I don't know why, but I don't think this thing with Rhoda is done.” “What makes you think that?” “I don't have any idea, but I think we should sell the car and buy a second van because this thing with Rhoda isn’t done.” At that point I thought to myself, “I’m the one with stronger intuition. I haven’t heard this message.” The next day, Mark e-mailed Welcome Home Africa Ministries again, “I just wanted to see how Rhoda's adoption is coming along. I am not sure why, but wanted to check with you about her.” A short time later, we received an e-mail message from the director, Mandy Sydo, “Then we should talk.” What did that mean? My mind was reeling with both excitement and anxiety. Did that mean the other family was not going to adopt Rhoda? Was Mark right, and the possibility of adopting Rhoda wasn’t over? Later, Mandy called Mark and told him that the other family was having trouble deciding about Rhoda, so she was still in need of a home and family. Mandy’s experiences with adoption had led her to believe that a family was either ready to adopt or not. Doubts and uncertainty were just too difficult to manage for everyone involved. As the character Yoda from Star Wars would say, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Mandy said she would call the next day to talk further. While Mark had been handling all the correspondence with Mandy thus far, he was away when she called again. With eager anticipation and butterflies in my stomach, I answered the phone and began to talk with Mandy. I had chills running up and down my spine as she described this little girl named Rhoda. I remember looking around the room wondering whether I was in the presence of angels, as the conversation seemed so natural. I was very calm. At that moment, discussing Rhoda with Mandy was the same as talking about Jack, A.J. or Megan. I wasn’t filled with the anxiety, doubt, or fear that I had expected, given that we were talking about the possibility of adopting a young girl with medical needs from the other side of the world. The Seed Grows Mandy lives in California when she is not in Uganda. But it happened that she was making a visit to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, to celebrate the final adoption of Yvonne, the other little girl whose picture had been on my sister’s bulletin board. Two days after our phone conversation with Mandy, we were able to meet face to face to discuss the possibility of adopting Rhoda. I wanted Mandy to meet all of us, including Jack, A.J., and Megan. It was important for her to understand what we were already managing. We also needed her to be candid about Rhoda and her health needs and to help us realistically assess our circumstances to see if Rhoda, with her challenges, would be appropriately served in our family. We felt that we had plenty of love to share, but we didn’t want to take on more than we could handle. In addition, A.J. was three at the time, and I couldn’t imagine sending him to Africa by himself. With these thoughts in mind, we asked if Rhoda had a healthy “friend” that we could also adopt. Mandy thought it was a very good idea for Rhoda to have a friend join her, but that piece would take some work because the current board policy for Welcome Home prohibited out-of-country adoptions for healthy children. She was hopeful, though, because she was still transitioning into her role as the new orphanage director and there were some expected changes that might be ensuing. After leaving our face-to-face meeting with Mandy, we were not struck by lightning to confirm that, yes, we should proceed. The best way I can describe our reaction was that we were thinking about what to do next. We wanted to figure out how to get more involved. It was like experiencing a slow gravitational pull toward adopting “Rhoda and friend.” On August, 16, 2005, I could see that my attachment with Rhoda was really beginning to take hold in my heart. Though she was not even with us yet, we decided to have a birthday party for Rhoda. She was turning three years old, so we baked a birthday cake, blew up balloons, and celebrated. We sang happy birthday and took pictures of Jack, A.J., and Megan holding her birthday cake. Even though Rhoda was still on another continent, we felt compelled to celebrate my soon-to-be daughter’s birthday, as she was really becoming a part of the family. Today, that is one of her favorite stories to hear when we celebrate her birthday each year.
Author Biography Kate is an educator in profession and perspective. Over the past 17 years she has served as an educator in a variety of capacities, ranging from experiential/adventure/outdoor education to higher education. She has worked with at-risk youth, families, corporate employees, teachers, and counselors, as well as secondary and postsecondary administrators. Whether in the home, the workplace, or the community, Kate’s passion is to help others access their talents, gifts, and abilities in order to more fully live out God’s purposes for their lives. The writing of The Invitation is a natural extension of this calling. Kate earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation, leadership, and management from Ferris State University and a master’s in counseling from Northern Illinois University. Kate lives in East Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Mark, and their six children, Jack, A.J., Rhoda, Maria, Megan, and Luke. When not tending the home fires, you can find Kate being active and enjoying the outdoor world. Mark is currently a professor of economics at Michigan State University. He has published numerous articles on topics such as the economics of natural disasters, development, and public finance policy. His work has been cited in media outlets such as the Boston Globe, Europe Intelligence Wire, Forbes, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Business Journal, PBS News Hour, Times of India, and the Washington Post, among others. Mark earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington and master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of Colorado. When not working, you might find Mark at home playing with his six children—basketball, bicycling, baseball, and the “big wrestle” are some popular activities.

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