nwhannas

A Peek Into Our Family…

So, What the Heck, Hannas?

I should probably have this blog sent someplace to be bound into a book, because it sure has been the best of times and the worst of times in trying to add to our family through adoption. What the heck?

On Monday (has it only been since Monday?), we received notice that our appeal to the United States Customs and Immigration Services Administrative Appeals Office (USCIS AAO) had been denied. I can’t adequately explain our shock and sadness at the thought that this decision would mean that our girls would remain in Ghana after nearly two years of loving, caring for, and fighting for them. Was this the end? Sure seemed so. And, to be entirely honest, it could be.

But.

Doug and I and our team have a BIG PROBLEM with the fact that two U.S. citizens cannot bring home their LEGALLY ADOPTED children to live with them in the United States. Our attorneys feel that the AAO has failed to correctly interpret and apply the immigration laws to our case, and as such, feel confident that we have several legal arguments for a reconsideration of our case. Further, they have unanimously agreed that we have every right to see these laws interpreted correctly and applied justly to our case. Our team is in a tricky spot, because they’re impassioned about what they’re ready to do on our behalf and yet, don’t want to offer false hope. However, we trust them. So, we are moving forward with asking them to file a motion for a reconsideration of our case.  

A long time ago, Doug and I decided to treat Mary and Comfort as if they were living here, and fight for them as hard as we’d fight for David and Jenny in any sort of crisis. We decided to fight, with everything in us, until we were literally told that we must stop as nothing, NOTHING else could be done. According to Ghanaian law they’ve been our children for 18 months. We won’t give up on our children. Any of them.

Thank you for your prayers and support. As I’ve said before, this has been our oxygen during this terribly emotional week.

As always, I’ll keep you posted. Much love to you. SDG!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.  ~Micah 6:8, NIV

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It’s Not Polite To Shout

Unless, of course, you’re shouting for joy!

Which I am.

Because…I received this from Senator Cantwell’s office this morning:

Regarding the status of the case from the (Administrative Appeals Office) AAO:  The expedite request has been approved by Management and the file is currently in the process for adjudications.  A decision will be made within the next few weeks.

They heard our letters, our emails, and our pleas over the TV to #bringthemhome.

It’s not a “yes”, yet; so I ask you to join with me and continue to fervently pray for a YES!!! But we are SO grateful to know we can count on a decision very soon.

Many thanks to all, with specific shout outs to Senator Maria Cantwell and Staff, and to Eric Wilkinson, King 5 News. This is the first good news we’ve had in regards to our girls’ case in over a year. We still have hurdles and hoops ahead, but for today, I’m just going to be thankful.

xxxooo Gretchen

Soli Deo Gloria!

P.S.  I also would be remiss if I didn’t thank my friends Rick and Robin C for helping get our story personally to some of Cantwell’s immediate staff.

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An Update and Overwhelming Gratitude

Dear Framily (Friends and Family),

I have to say that Doug and I are overwhelmed at your rally cry on behalf of us as we try to bring Mary and Comfort home, where they belong.  I’ve been flat-out brought to tears as I’ve seen every signature and read your comments on our petition to #bringthemhome.  Thank you isn’t enough, but it’s all we have, so thank you.

We have heard from several of your senators, as well as our own, and we’ve been happy to give them information and sign away our privacy rights.  But here’s what we now know from our senator’s staffer, based on some of her legwork:

  • The Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS will likely take the entire 6 months allotted to them to read and respond to our appeal.  Why we have a 30 day deadline on submitting our appeal and they get 6 months to evaluate is beyond me, but that’s the way it is.  Doug and I knew that the 6 months was a possibility, but couldn’t imagine why it would take that long, because our case shouldn’t have even needed to go there.  But oh, well.
  • We’ve been advised that we can now submit a case for and expedited response.  However, knowing that these folks are people, first and professionals, second, if we do this, we’ll have to tread carefully to avoid angering/pestering them.  We want our appeal read with openness and fairness, not resentment and overly critical/biased-against-us eyes.
  • She advised us that our “case is not unusual.”  This horrifies me beyond belief, but alas, “you will really have to document your case for expedite with facts…”
  • So, the long and the short of it is, unless someone big advocates for us at an extremely high level, or we find someone compassionate to expedite our case, we won’t hear until around 10 March 2015.

At this point, we feel like the petition has run its course of effectiveness, so we are taking it down.  From what we’ve heard from our senator’s office (so far) and some others, it seems like the USCIS AAO is fairly untouchable, and their offices can make the same inquiry as our own senator, but can’t seem to get any further.  Thus, continuing to urge other senators to bark up the same tree seems burdensome and a waste of their time, since they are getting the same result as Senator Cantwell’s office.

We’re not giving up hope, and are definitely considering an argument for expedition; however, we’re also prepared to wait some more.  Sigh.  Was sure hoping to have them home this fall.  Comfort turns 8 next month.  But I guess it’s not to be.

We love you and are grateful for each of you.  Also, to end on a happy note:  Mary and Comfort are starting school on Monday.  They are so excited, and we are excited for them.  Seems like their new foster home is a good environment for them, which is so important to us.  Hopefully, we’ll be talking to them each Sunday evening before they go to bed.

Thanks again.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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#BringThemHome

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have asked us what you can do to help us bring home Mary and Comfort.  We think our case is dire enough to beseech our senators on behalf of the girls.  If you are interested in supporting this cause via our Senators Murray and Cantwell, please click here, and you will be directed to our petition. We ask that you sign and share with as many people as you would like, who might be interested in supporting our family.  Let’s #bringthemhome.

When you are directed to the site, you will see our letter to the Senators.  Please feel free to add the following to the beginning of the letter if you like.

“Please see below for a letter from our friends, Doug and Gretchen Hanna, concerning their daughters, Mary and Comfort, who are stuck in Ghana. We would appreciate your support in bringing their daughters home.”

We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Moving Day Draws Nigh

Hi,

If they come to mind, our girls could sure use prayers late today and through tomorrow. M and C will be moving to a new foster home, as the one where they have been living needs to close.  Though saddened by a) another transition for them, and b) the fact that it drives me c.r.a.z.y. that they are moving to a home which IS NOT OURS, I am grateful. The new home is safe, and has a lovely foster mom (from reports of folks whose children have stayed there).  And, the same wonderful people at Feeding the Orphans and GMI are being so helpful in moving and settling the girls into their new digs.  This is especially important to us, because obviously we can’t be there to help them transition.

So much grief for two little girls who have asked for none of it. Ugh.

But…as always, there’s a lesson here, if we choose to see it:  Though things might not be going as I would plan, God is always near, and He cares for His children. Beyond blessed and thankful for the love He has for my family.

SDG!

p.s. and by the way…our appeal has been in since 8 September. waiting.

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Be Anxious for Nothing…

I don’t know about you, but when I get anxious, I’ve often been told something along the lines of, “Just picture the worst possible scenario.  Now.  How likely is that to happen?  How would you deal with that?  OK.  Now, what is more likely to happen?”

Well, it happened.  Our friends at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have revoked approval to classify our daughters as immigrants.  Worst.case.scenario.  We are, of course, shocked, saddened, angered, and in despair about this news, which means they’ve been denied visa approval.

We said before that we weren’t stopping until we had no further recourse. With bruised, broken hearts, and hopeful, determination, we’re appealing this decision.  We’re moving forward, as far as we can, knowing that this could very well end up with a devastating decision for all of us.  But that’s okay.

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They’re worth the fight.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Love you all.  SDG!

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Lessons From the Waiting Room

Hey there…I’m over here at my friend Jean’s place today:  Jean P. Sullivan:  Wisdom – One Crisis at a Time.  Jean is one of my favorite people in the world, and she humbled and honored me by asking me to post about what God is teaching me as I wait upon our girls’ homecoming.  Her story can be found here, and do subscribe to her blog.  She’s an incredibly wise, practical wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, and she’s less wordy than me. Holla!

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

P.S.  The latest news is no news.  I spoke to our very busy customs officer last week, and she said she might have an answer for us within a month.  So…there’s that.  Blessings, and thanks again for your love and support.  God truly sustains through our family and friends. xxxooo

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JUST FYI…

Hi,

We submitted our response to the NOIR to USCIS on June 9th.  Yesterday, I called and left a message for our officer, asking status re: our cases.  Received an email today from her, simply stating that our cases were “in queue for review” and that I should try calling back in a couple of weeks.

Okay, then.  Guess they won’t be home for Independence Day.  How about first day of school, anyone? 

Blessings to all.  Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  Feeling like the process is never-ending at this point, and re-adjusting our sails with each delay is tiresome.  But we remain so thankful for our girls’ new foster home and “auntie”.  

 

SDG!

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So, Doug Was In Ghana Last Week…

I won’t go into all of the factors re: why we sent him on this stealth and quickly planned/executed trip to Ghana, because there are internet trolls who don’t need to know every detail of our business.  But, that said, I also really wanted to give an update, because there is news (and more importantly, pictures) to be shared with you – our beloved #TeamHanna

Suffice to say, we had reason to believe that our girls’ living situation was not good, and was degrading rapidly.  As you can imagine, this literally pained us both and put our stomachs in knots.  Since the US hasn’t granted their permission to bring Mary and Comfort home (yet), we’re helpless to change as much of their situation as we would like.  Simply put:  We want to bring them home, but we can’t, so we sent Doug over to do the next best thing.   

Facebook and social media gets a lot of flack these days because of the artificial relationships and blah, blah, blah.  While I think this can be true, I also believe that God used these avenues to connect us to people who could help us with extricating the girls from their unsavory situation and worked with us to place them into an incredibly loving and positive foster home.  I will always be so grateful for the people who stepped up, and said, “Yes, I will be happy to help,” and “We are walking with you and Doug through this journey.”  

The girls are now in a foster home which is a couple of hours from central Accra, and which is in no way, shape, or form a convenient location.  However, they are now:

  • In a home with a young woman who is running a street ministry for young women, especially those who are pregnant/abused, in dire situations.  She is also caring for a beautiful babe who is severely impacted by some cranio-facial issues, and is in the midst of being adopted.  She has opened her heart and mindset to caring for these girls until we can.
  • In a home with a Ghanaian Auntie working with the foster mom to provide love and support.
  • In a home with beds and regular meals.  
  • Near a school to which we have enrolled them. Doug was even able to talk to the headmaster re: the girls, and they will be happy to receive M and C.
  • Near a clinic/hospital.
  • In a home with a wifi hotspot so that we can communicate not only with their care-taker, but with them!
  • In a home where, in less than 24 hours, their foster mom noted a rash, and started medicating them.  Additionally, she also began de-worming meds.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could actually get nutrients from their food and grow?
  • In a home where they are already making paper chains, doing other crafts, and learning about being part of a family – this includes a chore chart.  If they make their beds and sweep their room each day, they get a Pepsi at the end of the week.  Could you die at the simplicity and wonderfulness of that?
  • In a home where Jesus’ name and His love for them is spoken into their lives.  
  • In a home where they are known.

The upshot of all of this is that the girls are in a fantastic place, for now, and we are grateful.  But the trip, while it had its highlights, was not always sunshine and roses for Doug. It was hard, hard, emotionally and physically exhausting work, and it included another brutal good-bye with Mary and Comfort.  However, there were some fun times in addition to being with the girls.  During the week, he was in communication with the director of the local orphanage.  This gentleman was intrinsic to the entire mission of moving the girls, and the foster home is an offshoot of this orphanage.  So, Doug had opportunity to hang out a bit with the children and staff at the orphanage, and made good friends with one of the older boys who works there.  The reason I mention this is that one of the pictures is from this orphanage.  One day, he brought ice cream to all of the kids.  Looking at his face as he handed it out, I just see such gentleness and love.  I get to be married to this guy – 24 years next week! – and our kids get to call him dad(dy).  Oh, and one more thing.  Mary called him, using her foster mom’s phone (he had gone back to Accra, but was visiting the next day), and said, “Daddy, do you think you could buy me some socks and shoes?”.  So…he did.  Because daddies buy shoes for their little girls. 

OK.  As promised here are your pictures. 

Thank you for your unending support, encouragement and prayers.  May the US grant us Visas very soon!

SDG!

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We’ve Made A Decision

After months of agony we’re no closer to bringing home our daughters than we were on October 1st, the day of their visa interview.

We have been going back and forth with our case and whether or not we think we can win it, and spoke to #LegalTeamHanna yesterday to discuss and decide upon a course of action.  What’s nice about our team is that one of them is an adoptive mom, so she was willing to have an “offline” chat with us re: our big feelings and fears and what to do if we lose our case, etc.  What a gift to have someone who not only sees the legal picture, but sees our heart’s desires and can empathize with them.  She understands perfectly the fact that our lives have been in suspended animation in many respects in the last year.  She gets it.

The legal team is agreed that there are many cases which were “worse” than ours, and those kids are now home with their families.  They do not see this as hopeless, based on the cases they’ve worked with; however, they’re not blowing sunshine, either.  We are mos’ def’ in between a rock and a hard place.   They have laid out their thoughts re: a best course of action for Doug and me to bring Mary and Comfort home.  However, it’s nice because we all feel like we can shake hands and walk away from each other with our heads held high, whether we choose to move forward or not.

It’s a lot to think about.  But here’s the thing.  Under Ghanaian law, M and C are our daughters.  Period.  That means we’re responsible for their care unless we relinquish them.  So, if we choose to relinquish them, we’ll need to find a suitable placement for them to live and to go to school.  In Ghana.  We’re not ready to send our daughters to another orphanage or to a foster family right now, when they have a family who loves them in WA.

So, we’ve decided to fight until we’re clearly told that we MUST relinquish them.  Because that’s what we do for our kids.  We fight for them.  We know that we couldn’t live with ourselves if we gave up before we were absolutely told we must – we’d always be asking “what if”?  We have until June 9th to put our response together.  This may or may not mean another trip to Ghana for Doug.  And it all may end with our girls not coming home.  But we’re gonna try.  To my local framily:  The beginning of May is the first anniversary of when we met the girls, and the 16th is our first anniversary of the adoption.  I apologize in advance for my fragility and distractibility during this whole time.  I have not been the best friend in the world. Doing my best to compartmentalize and be in the moment with those who are home, but part of my heart truly beats in Ghana.

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Love you all.  SDG!

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