About this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to encourage your personal, daily walk with Jesus Christ, by seeing Him through the eyes of Mark Rodriguez. Updates will be made regularly so please subscribe. Most posts are taken from Mark's private journals or written by his mother unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Our Adoption Story

Mark Rodriguez had a huge heart for the orphaned and oppressed.  Since it is National Adoption Awareness Month, we will take a few posts to talk about the many ways one can help address the problem of children who are living without families.  

But first, our adoption story...

It took years for Carlos and I to be on the same page, but when we finally united over wanting to adopt we jumped headfirst into the process.  There is no easy way to adopt, but somehow we picked a really hard way.

We had decided to adopt internationally and wanted to focus on Latin American countries so that the child would feel some connection to us with Carlos’ Hispanic heritage.  We felt very drawn to the country of Nicaragua because of the work some of our close friends had been doing there. The country had been riddled with corrupt leadership and natural disasters, leaving so many in poverty and unable to care for their children.  We felt the real need and wanted to respond.
Tent City where many people lived for years
The only problem was that Nicaragua doesn’t really like to cooperate with America and no agency here would work with them.  We were completely on our own to navigate the process.  Nicaragua required residency as well, but this could be gotten around if one was willing to live there for a fostering period.  So we went for it.  How hard could it be?

After all our paperwork was obsessively, frantically pulled together here in the states, we flew to Nicaragua to visit an orphanage we had some connections with.  We had heard nightmares about how grueling the process could be if you fell in love with a child who was abandoned but not legally “declared abandoned” so we asked the orphanage director to only introduce us to children who were currently approved for adoption.  Surely out of the 43 children there, there would be a child who would fit well in our family.  We had no preference of gender, but simply wanted him/her to be younger than Daniel.

“There is only one.” The Director said.
“One? Only one who is declared abandoned and ready to adopt?”
“Her name is Maria.  And she is perfect.” She declared.
“Okay then.  Well, tell us about her…”

Very little was known about Maria. In fact, she was found in the marketplace abandoned and very, very sick.  She was estimated to be 2 ½ years old and could only say the words “Mama” and “Agua.”  She was unable to walk and was covered in sores that had grown infected.  She was clearly neglected, abandoned, left to fend for herself, feverish and unable to communicate.  All attempts to find any family failed.  She cried for days they said.  Inconsolable.  

Shortly after she came to El Canyon Orphanage
Placed at an orphanage they gave her a name…Maria Ernestina Darce del Mercado…basically Maria “from the market.”  When I heard this I wept before God…”How can she not have a name, Lord? How can a child be so insignificant and unloved as to not have a name?” And He whispered to my heart “Shhh…I have always known her name.”

We would meet her the next day, and I remember walking into the orphanage and being swarmed by children.  Children abandoned because their parents could not afford to take care of them or because they had been removed from their homes because of abuse or extreme neglect.  One sweet girl had the scars on her neck where the dog collar had been. The majority of them would never be adopted and would live out their childhood in this place.  I hated it there. 

Once the children knew who we were looking for they excitedly started shouting her name “Maria! Maria!”and grabbed our hands to lead us to her.  You couldn’t help but join them in the joy and as they brought us to a little rusty swing set they dropped our hands and ran away.   

And there she was.  Nothing at all like the children on the cover of the magazines.  Her hair was unevenly shorn close to her scalp from the recent lice epidemic.  Her skinny little body was disproportionate…all legs and arms  springing out from a round tummy and uncoordinated in their movement.  She took notice of us and then ignored us as she determined to do the slide herself.  But she watched us out of the corner of her eye.  

One of the workers instructed her to go change her clothes and then commanded me to help her.  This was their attempt at facilitating the maternal bond I think.  They made her call me “mama” as I helped her change, but I knew this was empty.  I felt no emotion other than sadness for her.  She did not feel like “mine” or even “someone else’s” she felt like “no one’s” which was worse.  She was awkward, uninterested in us and kept making animal noises (which we realized later was her way of teasing us…but at the time we concerned).  How could this child be the only possible child available? 

We went back to the inn that night and prayed.  God, can you make us feel something for her if she is the one? We felt nothing but her hopelessness.

The next day we were allowed to take her out for ice cream.  She was a different child then…engaged, and interested in the activities I had brought.  Even bossy.  Her smile lit up her face and we saw her personality coming out.   

We maybe felt a little something.  

The orphanage director, who was wholeheartedly invested in these kids, sat us down and demanded to know our intentions.  She wanted to find Maria a family.  Her eyes filled with tears as she told us Maria's future was bleak with no biological family to help her.  She would likely end up on the streets when she left the orphanage at 16 or so.  We couldn’t answer her that night. We could not commit to any intention.

I don’t know exactly how we made the decision, but I can tell you that it wasn’t emotionally driven.  We weren’t “in love” and she didn’t feel like “ours.”  But we knew somehow that God was placing her in our family and the “love” and “ours” would have to come from Him.  It didn’t feel like how I thought an adoption would feel.  It felt like an extraction.  A rescue mission.  All I knew is that I wanted her out of there and that we were supposed to commit ourselves to that end. 

So many obstacles came after that commitment was made:
*Turns out she wasn’t really legally declared abandoned…in fact, technically she didn’t even exist in the eyes of the law…you can’t adopt someone who doesn’t exist.
*14,000 family cases waiting and she wasn’t even one of them
*No birth certificate
*Government shutdowns
*Judges on strike
*Internet and phone not working
*Lost paperwork
*The passport office ran out of paper for printing (yes, it happens)
*Intensely difficult fostering period (read more at lafamiliabloga.blogspot.com)
*Earthquakes, storms, floodings…would she even survive to make it home?
*All endured with no guarantee she would be allowed to go home with us. 

But God.  He found her.  And He used us to do it.  He fought for her.  And He used us to do it.*  And He loved her.  And, in His mercy, over time He has given us more than just a commitment to her.  He has given us a fierce and protective love of her.  And much of that was developed while we waited for her.  

God is Super Good. He places the lonely in families, and He uses us to do it. And by the way, Maria is no longer "from the market" she is Maria Elena Rodriguez...named after her forever mother and grandmother and carrying her forever father's last name.

Will you prayerfully consider how you might play a part in the adoption of orphans here and around the world?

*People have asked us if the authorities asked for bribes. That never happened and there were times when we wished there was a fee to “expedite” the case, but we were never given that option.  The government was really complying to international regulations that were in place to protect against child trafficking.  Even though Nicaragua refused to be a part of the Hague Convention, they were compliant during the time we were adopting with the statutes.  They just were incredibly inefficient and constantly shutting down for one reason or another.  God literally moved the government of Nicaragua to release Maria.