Days passed and Jerome's condition did not improve. We had completed three rounds of antibiotics, two rounds of antiparasitics, and he was now on a regular regimen of laxatives and antispasm medications. He still screamed after each bottle of formula would empty. He ate any food offered to him, anxiously and fervently. He found his voice, beginning to trust that when he cried out in need, mommy would answer every time. We bonded quickly despite or maybe because of the pain he experienced every day, multiple times a day.
Our orphan investigation process went quickly and smoothly, and after a delay due to errors in medical reports, Jerome did receive his US Visa. Now the only thing keeping him from coming home was an exit letter. The US Embassy staff understood his situation and agreed to help us, but we needed the letters and documents to be worded carefully and we knew we needed the Ambassador's direct engagement. Meanwhile, Kelly Ensslin and the Both Ends Burning Campaign reached out and offered support, advocacy, and words of encouragement. She had been speaking with political leaders in the US about the urgency of not only our situation, but the hundreds of other children that are still waiting to come home. She was pleading for our case by name. This amazing woman whom I had seen taking names and kicking arse on the documentary STUCK was suddenly in our corner and she meant business. A glimmer of real hope! We pleaded for help from not only the governing authorities here one earth, but the heavenly authorities too. My body ached and my soul felt just as drained. At the end of each day, I felt as if I had been at battle. I missed my husband more than I thought was possible. The bed was big and empty. Usually when day was hard, at least I had the comfort of his arms and reassurance of his words that everything would be ok, but not here. Here I laid in a strange bed, in a place far from home and I had never felt so alone. I was so blessed to be here with the other mothers I had met and in a safe and comfortable place, but it felt like I was living someone else's life and I wondered a few times how on earth I ended up here. At the same time, I would stare at this precious child of mine and be so overwhelmed that I wept humble tears of joy and gratitude. Because we were together. No matter what was next, we were together, and he would never, ever, be alone again.
I prayed and wept hard and often. I had lost a daughter and was afraid I would lose a son here too, and I knew that from that tragedy I would never recover. I worried for my kids and husband at home. What shell of a mother would return to them, arms empty, after over a year of talks of faith and patience, of God's will, of brothers and sisters that would never come home? It was all too much. I have to say thank you to those of you that have been following our journey and praying. So many reached out and offered love and support and prayers. You fed my family while I was gone. You loved my children who were hurting. From my neighbor down the street, to the president of the largest Christian orphan alliance in the world, the body of Christ stood with us in real and tangible ways and for that I am forever grateful. We could not have made it through this alone. THANK YOU, a million times.
Finally, we contacted the Ambassador directly. I explained our son's situation, included his scans and reports, photos, and videos of the pain he was experiencing. Within 24 hours, he replied. He would plead our case. He would ask for an exception to be made for Jerome. This was May 26th. On May 28th, the Ambassador met with the DGM. On May 29th the Vice Consulate and I met with the DGM, we got the exit letter, and I boarded a plane home with Jerome. All of this was in a matter of a few hurried hours. I called Richard and told him the good news and asked that he wait until our plane was in the air before he announced it to the world because here, everything can change in a matter of seconds and I would not believe it until then! I then called my in country coordinator and told him the news. I sent a quick email to the agency staff back home. I violently threw some clothes and supplies into our bags, called for a car, and hugged the necks of the little ones and their mommas that I had grown to love like family during our stay. I cried and prayed silently that they would be next. I had a front row seat to their unique suffering and they needed to go home. I would have been truly lost without them during our stay and now I was leaving them. I could not help but feel guilty on some level.
The flights home were long and uncomfortable. I had a migraine from Brussels to Chicago. I was peed on a lot, and wrestling a toddler alone on international flights is challenging, but we were on our way HOME. I could not believe the miracle that I was living. I prayed continually, for Jerome's health. For the children we were leaving behind. For their weary mothers and fathers. For the country that broke our hearts and the beautiful people we came to love there. But mostly, I just whispered, "thank you." And again, the relief that came as the wheels of our plane gripped the tarmac, this time on US soil, is something I will never forget. On May 30th, we were HOME. A family of five. We thank God every day. We stand in awe of His mercies. Jerome is absolutely thriving. He has gained weight and strength and his personality shines. He is loving and affectionate. Smart and funny. He makes us smile a hundred times a day. He is getting top notch medical care and doing very well.
I wish I could say that all the other children came home right after we did, but most of them are still waiting. Three other medical cases and a handful of other families have been able to come home, and we are so thankful for their miracles. Sadly, tragically, many other medical cases were denied and there is no timeline for these children and the hundreds of others that are waiting to come home. One of these precious ones died waiting for an exit letter. Please click the link below to learn more and do your part to help bring justice to the children still STUCK.