God is writing another story

God is writing another story. It starts with 3 Johnsons, a ministry to unwed mothers in Taiwan, 2 passionate God-loving ladies, an 18 year old girl and 1 tiny baby. Let's see where the story goes...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Our first moments together

(Having problems uploading the gotcha day video...will try again later)

(check out facebook to see a few gotcha day pics)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We are IN TAIWAN!!!

our trip thus far (the very short version...)
left thursday morning, travel was a-ok, we arrived friday night in taipei
took high speed train to kaohsiung saturday morning
the his hands crew was waiting for us at the train station...with SELAH!!! (she is AWESOME!)
today (sunday) went to church with the his hands crew and had a fun visit over lunch,,,and then prepared the house of hope for the coming typhoon
this evening checked into a hotel near the house of hope and visited the shopping mall in the hotel complex; we will spend tomorrow in our room waiting out the storm and having family time :)

coming up...
tuesday we register Selah's adoption at the household registry office to make it all legal and official
then we will have lunch with selah's birthfamily (super coolness!)
tuesday evening we head back to taipei
wednesday morning AIT appointment to get selah's visa
hang out in taipei a couple days until we leave saturday morning, heading back home to the USA!

pictures will be forthcoming....including gotcha day pics....since that's what folks are actually interested in ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Travel Confirmed :)

(updated 8/23)
On Wednesday, Eric and I contacted a travel agent that specializes in helping adoptive parents plan their trip overseas.  Todd Gallinek came highly recommended and has been a tremendous help to us.  It is such a relief to let someone else do all the legwork, finding the good flight itineraries, booking the best hotels, finding great prices, etc.  And, we love that we'll be able to call on him for assistance should there be any problems during our trip.  Holly from His Hands is taking care of booking our hotels in Kaohsiung and part of our time in Taipei.  The last night our travel agent booked us at one of the airport hotels, approximately 45 minutes from AIT.

ITINERARY (August 25 - September 3):
We fly out from Chattanooga Thursday morning and arrive in Taipei Friday night.  We'll stay at a hotel next to the airport since we will be a smidge tiiiiiired.

Saturday morning we take the high speed train to Kaohsiung...Selah will be waiting for us at the train station along with various members of the His Hands ministry team!!!  We will also get to stay this night at the House of Hope (yay!) because our Kaohsiung hotel is fully booked that night.

Sunday we'll attend church with our HH friends.

Monday is a free day in Kaohsiung.

Tuesday we register the adoption at the Household Registry Office in Kaohsiung.  That evening we will take a train to Taipei and check into our hotel to stay for 3 nights.
     His Hands processes the adoption paperwork so that parents meet their newly adopted child before the adoption is officially registered in the new parent's names.  This is very, very cool.  It means Selah will be able to come home on an IR3 Visa, which makes her a U.S. citizen as soon as we touch down on American soil.  The other option would have been an IR4 Visa, which means she would have received a green card after entering the U.S. and we would later apply for American citizenship.

Wednesday we have an early visa appointment at AIT.  Some of the His Hands folks will accompany us to the meeting.  Assuming all goes well, Selah's visa will be ready that afternoon.

Thursday and Friday are free days in Taipei.  Friday night we will head out of the city center and check into our airport hotel.

Saturday morning we board a plane and head back home.  We arrive home in Chattanooga that Saturday night (yeah, it seems weird...it's the whole time zone thing).  Our whole family of four will be united!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We have our AIT APPOINTMENT!!!!!!

Last night we received the long awaited email from the American Institute in Taiwan.  We have a visa appointment scheduled for Wednesday August 31

We are leaving for Taiwan next week!!!

Selah PingChen Johnson...Here We Come!!!

We don't have exact dates as of yet.  I've been on the phone today with Trena at His Hands to hash out some of the details.  We are also emailing back and forth with our travel agent regarding flights. 

Because I just really had this feeling inside me that we would be traveling soon, I've been making lists on post-it-notes like a mad woman.  I'm continuing the pre-packing (yes, I started that last month, the day we found out we had Final Decree! lol).  Spending time on the phone to various entities.  Making trips to Walmart.  Perusing local shops for thank you gifts and something special for Selah's birthmother.  Making a hair appointment.  etc. etc. etc.

SO MUCH has happened behind the scenes this past week+.  God has been amazing.  He has gone completely above and beyond all we could think or ask.  When I'm not so tired and brain-fried, I will write an explanatory post.  It is a story worth telling. :)

wowowowowowowow this is surreal..... ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

God Did It!!!!!!!!!

He paved the way and granted us favor with the immigration officers in Atlanta to get our fingerprints taken 3 weeks early!!  Alleluia!!!

We arrived at 10:30am, left our cellphones in the car, entered the building and was greeted by a friendly guard / immigration officer.  He was actually the same fellow that checked us in, March of 2010 when we first started our adoption journey.  We didn't get far because I had my purse and a tote bag with reading materials.  I got to keep the books, but the purse and bag had to go back to the car.  While Eric ran back to our vehicle, the officer and I chatted and I told him I remembered him from last year.  He asked about our adoption and it was all very relaxed and friendly.  The chatting was good, I thought.  Get on good terms with the immigration officer so he likes us and will want to help us. ;)

When Eric returned, we each filled out a form with all our pertinent information and returned it to the same officer, along with our IDs and our fingerprint appointment letters.  The whole time he checked us in and stamped our paperwork and reviewed our materials, I kept thinking, "Is he going to notice the date?  Is he going to notice that we showed up 3 weeks early??  Is he going to care???"

Well he did notice the date.  Without looking up from his desk, he said, "You guys aren't even supposed to be here today..."  With barely a pause, he continued processing us and sent us to the waiting area to be fingerprinted.  Woohoo and Praise God!!!

The rest was easy peasy breezy.  We waited about 20-30 minutes, and the lady who printed us was super nice and asked about our adoption.  She gave our appointment letter back to us, never having looked at the date, and sent us on our way!  Wow.  What a huge burden lifted.  We have been singing God's praises all day long!

Next Step???
Tomorrow I call our immigration officer and give her the great news that we have new fingerprints and ask her if there is some way to expedite the processing of our approval.  I will also call the National Visa Center to let them know they should be receiving our updated fingerprint approval soon.  I will also very nicely ask them to expedite the process and please quickly cable our approval to AIT. 

THEN we will be back on track.  Yeah, baby!!!

When you're up against a struggle
That shatters all your dreams
And your hope's been cruelly crushed
By Satan's manifested scheme
And you feel the urge within you
To submit to earthly fears
Don't let the faith your standing in
seem to disappear

Praise the Lord!
He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord!
For our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord!
For the chains that seem to bind you
Serve only to remind you
That they drop powerless behind you
When you praise Him...

(Russ Taff - "Praise the Lord")

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ok God, Do Your Thing!

We are traveling to Atlanta USCIS tomorrow.  Dropping Noelle off at the grandparents and hitting the road with a stack of legal documents...and a fingerprint appointment letter for August 25.  Tomorrow is August 8.  This "risky business"---all for our daughter Selah. 

God started this whole gig.  He always finishes what he starts.

Ok God, do your thing!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update: Fingerprint Saga

Great News!!  We have a fingerprint appointment!!  Granted, it's not until August 25th, but we may have a way to speed that up.  Let me explain.

At 7:33am my cellphone rang with an unfamiliar number.  I didn't actually hear it ring.  I didn't even listen to the message until a couple hours later.  It was our Immigration Officer.  From USCIS.  She called before most folks are in their offices...and actually she's on Central Time which would have been 6:33am. ???   A government employee calling me at 6:30 in the morning??  Weird. 

Now here's the goofy part.  When I listened to the message, I was initially excited until I realized it sounded just like a voicemail she left me back in May.  I thought, "Oh yay.  Verizon has once again resent me an old voicemail."  So I ignored the message.

Until after lunch when I had this nagging sense that I should listen to it again.  And listen to the voicemail from May to compare.  Turns out, the message from this morning was new.  And the officer was apparently responding to the email I sent USCIS detailing our problem.  A good sign...

I called USCIS, got transferred to the our officer's direct line and...voicemail.  A voicemail message that said something like, "...Due to my heavy workload and the number of calls received each day, I am only returning calls between the hours of 8am and 10:30am..."  Awww man!  I missed it!  I called too late!  I left a message anyway.  Guess I'd hear something tomorrow.

Well lo and behold, less than an hour later my phone rang when Noelle and I were driving to meet my parents for an outing.  I recognized the number this time...USCIS!!!  It was our officer calling, "Ms. Johnson, I have a fingerprint appointment for you.  If you give me a fax number, I'll send a copy of the letter right through!"  She also said that our appointment was not until August 25th but we could show up on an earlier day and see if the immigration officers in Atlanta would let us in and fingerprint us anyway.  And that, my friends, is exactly what we will do.  Monday, in fact. :)

So I stopped by a copy center and with great relief, received my fax.  My day, my week (no, month) had taken a big turn for the better.  I called Eric and we praised God together!!

And to top off the day-- When I got home and checked the mail, guess what was in the box?  Fingerprint appointment letters from USCIS.  Seriously???  And for an August 23rd appointment. 

Yeah.  Go figure.  Don't think I will never understand our government. ;)

Big Problem Could Delay Our Travel

We have run into quite a snag with our adoption the past 48 hours.  Our case is on hold with AIT.  That means no travel dates.  They will not finish processing our case until they receive new fingerprints from us.  Ours expired July 13 and the following week we mailed the application to get them renewed.  When I spoke on Monday to our caseworker at USCIS, she said our paperwork had indeed arrived but had not been "transferred" to her yet.  When I pressed for a time frame of when we would receive our appointment letter in the mail, and how soon our appointment would be, I got a, "Ma'am, you need to just wait until you get the paper in the mail."  Ugh!  In hindsight, I should have applied for our renewals a couple months prior, but had it in my head that all we needed was current fingerprints at the time of travel.  Wrong I was.

So at this moment, no travel dates are in sight--which could cause even bigger problems as our immigration approval to bring Selah home to the U.S. expires October 14th.  And we all know how slowly bureaucratic wheels tend to turn.

Eric and I emailed His Hands right away to update them.  I also got online and emailed several Taiwan adoption groups to learn their experiences and advice.  Ain't the Internet great?!  I have also been in contact with USCIS, NVC and AIT via email and or phone.  We will make more contacts today.

Depending on what we learn this afternoon when we call our caseworker, again, at USCIS, we just might drive to the Atlanta USCIS office on Monday morning and beg them to let us in.  Even if we don't have an appointment.  But we are praying that either,
1) Our appointment letter does arrive in the mail this week,,,and we still drive to USCIS Monday and wait in line until they can squeeze us in for fingerprints, or
2) USCIS will be super agreeable and fax us the letter even before they mail it. 
Now of course, this is all contingent on whether or not our caseworker has reviewed our file yet.  We are praying she has!!  If none of the above works...we will call our congressional office (per the recommendations of many adoptive parents) to try to move this along.

Just another bump in the road of adoption!  Granted, it seems like a super HUGE bump, but God is used to moving mountains!!  Thank you, family and friends, for your ongoing prayers for this whole adoption process.  Someday soon, that sweet little Selah WILL be in our arms!!! :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waiting for THE APPOINTMENT from THIS place

The American Institute in Taiwan, also known as the American consulate in Taipei. 

This government office is in Taipei, and is where we will go to have an interview for Selah's visa to the United States.  If all goes well (and we are completely expecting it to), they will issue the visa, and we'll head home to Chattanooga!!

Eric and I are prayerfully waiting to hear when AIT wants us to come to Taiwan.  We would sure love to travel this month, yet we know that all is in God's time...