Sunday, May 6, 2012

my little bargain with God (bearing witness to a miracle)

I've been wondering what to title this post.  I've been mulling words over in my head, like "the most special story" or "a very very special little boy" or "a family together" or "miracles in DRC".  All those titles would be true to the story I want to write, but then I remembered.  In a dark night of the soul, on a black night in DRC, in the middle of Africa, I went down on my knees and uttered a plea, a bargain, to God.

"If you would just let this little boy live long enough to get to his new family, I will believe in you again."

small scared words
afraid to confess
to acknowledge the state of my soul
my desperation
my vulnerability
my frailty

all coming together, and wrapped up in one very special little boy and his life

(the below story is shared with permission from the adoptive family)

Three years ago I visited my first orphanage.  It was an old catholic orphanage that is situated in a gorgeous village setting in eastern DRC.  It is lovely.  I was going to the orphanage to meet a little boy we were hoping to adopt to be our son.  I spent that day holding this baby boy, while my hand was being held by another little boy at the same time.  This little boy was named Patric.  He was 5 years old at the time.  He had come up early on and just stood by me.  Quietly talking, singing along with the other kids.  I knew he had a medical problem, I also knew there was something very special about him.  Patric's head was bigger than what it should be; I thought he had hydrocephalus.

Every time I went back up to the orphanage, I immediately looked for him.  One time he was sick in the hospital, this had happened a lot over his lifetime I was told.  I kept visiting.  Then our adoption fell through and I stopped visiting.  But before I did, I asked the nuns, "can I find a family for Patric (I had learned he was a true orphan (both parents had died) and I knew he had big medical needs, even though I didn't know what they were)?"  They said "no".  I decided to do what I could medically for him in DRC.  I left them with $300 to take him to the big hospital in town where I knew there was a CT machine and a neurosurgeon.  I never heard from them again.  I figured they had used the money for something else and forgotten about Patric getting the scan.   Despite this, I didn't forget Patric.

About a year later, the head mother of the catholic church in that area drove into my driveway.  She wanted to talk to me.  She said, "Patric is very sick.  We used your money, we took him to Kigali (and here are the receipts and the medical reports), we did the CT, but it is not his head, it is his heart!  They put him on heart medicines.  He is doing better.  But he will die here in Congo.  We don't want him to die.  Please find him a family."

I was astounded.  I wrote this about Patric and posted about him on an adoption board.  I didn't know if anyone would be willing to adopt a child that might die before the adoption is finalized, that has an unknown heart condition and that could die as soon as they got him home.  But I knew that Patric was very special.  He had never left my heart, I knew this was something I was supposed to do and God would figure out the rest.

There was a lot of silence (as you might imagine).  Then, I heard from a couple families.  I wasn't experienced with this.  Both eventually said no.  I heard a lot of opinions.  I was told to let him die peacefully in DRC.  I was told that there wasn't much of a chance for him, that no one would adopt a child with a likely death sentence.  It was a dark time.  I really felt like I wasn't supposed to give up on him, despite how crazy it sounded and everyone telling me to let it go.  Yet, doors weren't opening.  And how long could a (now 7 year old) child live in DRC in an orphanage with a heart condition that required 3 cardiac medicines to keep him semi-stable?

Whispered desperate words in the secret night.  A plea.  A bargain.  If only, then I will believe again.  

Then I heard from one more family in February of 2011.  The Simpsons in the northeast of the U.S.  They had done previous adoptions.  They wanted to adopt a little boy b/w the ages of 6-8 with special needs.  They wanted to do an independent adoption.  And, Johanne was willing to fly to DRC to meet him beforehand.   AND they were excited!

So, Johanne flew to Congo.  She had never been to Africa.  She went up to the orphanage and stayed overnight (by herself).  Patric, well he called her mama.  I remember Johanne telling me about her first meeting with him.  That he was sicker than she realized, but then he asked her "will I have a cell phone in America and my own room?".   And she realized, it was going to be okay, he's just a little boy, a sick little boy, but still a little boy.

Johanne and Patric in DRC in my home, one year ago

The adoption took longer than I thought.  I was worried and stressed about Patric's health and about his handling the changes, what the stress would do to his body.  Johanne would reassure me, "Holly, he's not going to die".

Me with Patric in DRC last year

And, you know what?  He didn't die.  He made it to Kinshasa and met his new dad, who he called, "Papa America".  When he said goodbye to the nun who had traveled with him across the country, he gave her his blanket, "since he wouldn't need it anymore and she could give it to the kids at the orphanage".

And you know what else?  Howard Patrick Simpson is in the U.S. with his new family.  And he is in school (and is described as a little rascal :).  He is well loved and he has his own family, for the rest of his days, however long those maybe.

Howard Patrick has sickle cell disease (SCD).  He doesn't have a heart problem.  And yes, he would have died in the DRC.  And it is a miracle he has lived so long, in an orphanage with SCD.  He has already been hospitalized twice here in the U.S. and his family will need a lot of strength, courage, and love for the years ahead, as this is a hard diagnosis.

Do I believe in God again?  Well, the thing is, I realized I never stopped.  Through the good and the bad, He has always been there beside me.  I have been on my knees before, begging for others to live.  They have not.  Did this mean He didn't listen?  No.  He listened and He was with me.  This is the promise, the hope, that He is with us and there is life everlasting.  In the end, it is far beyond me to know the ways of God.

God is good.

Today, I will bear witness to this special miracle of the life of Howard Patrick.   Through the faith, the courage, and the strength of his new family, I was humbled, awed and filled with hope.

And I am thankful beyond words for the family that opened their hearts and home to Howard Patrick, who took a chance that not many would have taken for a little boy that now has a chance at life.

This is what Johanne wrote me recently,

"He is such a special little boy, I am so happy that I happened to see your post looking for a family for him -  I just can't believe that I am the lucky Mama that gets to raise him!  He is truly a gift."

Johanne and Harvey Simpson with three of their children,
Casey, Camden and Howard Patrick


coleen said...

h, that's beautiful. i didn't know the details, but thank you for reaching out, for believing even when it felt futile, for prayers in honesty and desperation. thank you--and thank johanne and harvey. thank you, thank you, thank you.

Megan said...

What a beautiful story, a beautiful child of God and an awesome reminder that sometimes when we say "yes"- miracles can happen.

Johanne Simpson said...

We are truly the lucky ones, he adds so much to our lives each and every day. Thank you again Holly! You're an amazing person, I am thankful every day that you advocated for this special little boy!

Vicki said...

I talked to you about Patric a few times when you were looking for a family for him. I had just signed on with an agency that places children in Kinshasa, but was hoping for a little boy about Patric's age. After giving it a lot of prayer and consideration, I felt that it was not meant to be for us, as I am a single mom and felt that having to focus on his health or hospital stays without a back-up at home would just not be wise. I was referred my Frankie shortly after that and a few months later found he had a sister, so quickly accepted her also. We have all been home now for about 6 weeks and it is going so well. I have often thought about Patric and was so glad to see is is also "home". Praise God!