Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Part 2


February 1, 2013–I typed the words “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” as a blog entry. We had just learned that our expected 6-9 month wait to bring Gabriel Bilo home was now estimated to take 3-6 months more. For the sake of our fragile perspectives, God is kind to keep the future a secret. On February 1, 2013, it might have crushed me to know that 26 months later we would still be waiting for our son.

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The Costly Call to Care for the Orphan


(Reprinted with permission from

Like many American Christians, Morgan and Grace Dillow of Lexington, Kentucky, believed God was calling them to adopt. That was four years ago. Today, after a journey that has often been devastating, they don’t doubt His calling; they just see far more clearly a world that’s under the influence of rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12) that stand firmly opposed to God’s command to “look after orphans.”

The Dillows are left with questions and anger — and the promise that God uses even senseless events for a good they cannot see.

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Kobanga Te

When we began the journey to adopt, we estimated that we would travel to pick up our son sometime this past summer. That was before a lot of things happened (head over to our private FB group to learn more).

As every month passes, we have eagerly looked forward to photo updates of our boy, who turned two in September. The weekend of Thanksgiving, we received an enormous treat when we got to Skype with Gabriel for the first time! Although the connection was poor, he was able to see and hear us clearly, and we were able to communicate to him how much we love him. That same day, he received two little buttons with photos of our faces and recorded messages from us to him. We learned later that he kept pressing the buttons over and over. He particularly liked the recording of Michael’s voice saying “Bilo, nazali Tata. Tata alingi yo. (Bilo, I am Daddy. Daddy loves you).

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Bilo Erler


First of all, we apologize that it has been all quiet on the Gabriel front for the past month and a half. While we have been silent on the blog, there has been anything but silence in regards to the adoption process. On July 5th–just two days after my last post–we received notice that our case had successfully passed through the Congolese court system!

We celebrated with quesadillas, fish tacos, and adult beverages.

Over the next month, we waited as various other court documents trickled in–documents such as Gabriel’s birth certificate, which we would need in order to submit our petition to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). During these weeks, we often grumbled to ourselves–“What’s taking so long?”–but we were often reminded that things work more slowly in the Congo. Sometimes the guy you need to sign a document doesn’t show up for work that day. Or maybe someone’s lawyer had to wait four hours just to meet with someone pertinent to the case. Regardless, it was another month submitted to God’s workshop in patience.

Finally, we had a half-inch worth of documentation to mail to Texas. A $30 Fedex fee later, and . . . we were in line for another wait–this time to receive approval from the government that we can move forward in adopting Gabriel. (Yes, I’ve stopped counting the steps in this waiting game).

But to make the waiting more palatable–or perhaps, more unbearable–we recently received updated photos of our little guy, smiling, wearing different sandals, and holding a sign that read “Bilo Erler.” Bilo: his Congolese name. Erler: the name that makes this whole crazy adoption business finally feel real!

At this point, we’re anticipating another 4-7 month wait, as the US Embassy in Kinshasa initiates a final investigation into our case. Please pray for rapidity in this process.

We like the number 4 better than 7.

Frayed Flip Flops

It’s July 3rd, and still no news on the Gabriel front. We’re trying to wait patiently, knowing that there are many circumstances outside of our control. If you’re praying for us, would you please pray that we’d have news soon that we’ve passed the court, so we can move on to the next step in the process of becoming Gabriel’s parents? In the meantime, I wrote this little poem after seeing the most recent photos of our little guy.


Baggy blue overalls,
A physical cord that vanishes the miles,
Chosen by us, worn by him.

A toy yellow motorcycle,
Clutched in one-year-old paws,
A secret delight to the mind of a miniature adventurer.

Flip flops,
Frayed in the Congolese dirt,
Early steps of a future world traveler.

Eyes that smile,
Once worn in tears,
And a hundred sadnesses only he may ever know.

Arms outstretched,
Beckoning us,
A preview of a thousand embraces yet to be ours.

Little Do We Know

So, it’s been a little while since our last blog post when we announced our referral for Gabriel. The silence has largely been due to the fact that there hasn’t been much to report, except that–thanks to a brief update on his height, weight, and location and a few new pictures–we know that Gabriel is alive, well, and living in a foster home in Kinshasa (Congo’s capital city). We haven’t heard where our case is in the court system, and we don’t know when we will hear.

It seems that with every slight piece of information we receive, there are countless other pieces of information we don’t receive. We are quickly learning that international adoptions are not for those who must have all the facts.

At this point in time, we know Gabriel’s given name (Bilo), but we don’t know–and might never know–the names of his biological parents, grandparents, let alone siblings. We know the name of the street where he now lives, but we don’t know the name of the street on which he was born. We know how much he weighs now, but we don’t know how much he weighed at birth. We know he can walk, but we don’t know who helped him with his first steps.

We are hopeful that we will get to be privy to his future, but only the Father knows his past . . . and, for that matter, much of his present. And that might be the hardest part.

Every day that goes by, we can picture the face of a little boy more than 7,000 miles away who desperately needs parents. And we desperately want to be those parents. But there is little we can do about it. We can send 100 emails a day, but that won’t make our case move any faster. We can send him care packages filled with clothes and toys and parents’ love, but we can’t guarantee that it will get to him. We can get all of our documents in order, get all of our immunizations scheduled, and arrange all of our flights, but that won’t secure us the right to be Gabriel’s parents.

At the end of the day, we are in the hands of those we have contracted with to care for our future son and to pursue our case on our behalf (thankfully, we have reason to believe that these hands are trustworthy). But even the kindest of foster mothers and the most dependable of lawyers don’t have the power to make Gabriel ours anymore than we do. That’s a matter for the One we know as Lord.

And so we do the only thing that is truly in our power: we pray. Every night, as we lay our heads upon the pillows, we ask God to care for our future son, as he begins his day while we are closing ours. We pray for our case and everything that we don’t know about it. And we pray for His perfect timing in bringing Gabriel to us.

And so, when you ask us what you can do to help, please pray. For patience in the waiting. For grace in the unknowing. And for the speedy coming of a day when we will no longer see our son through a few sparse photographs, but face to face.

Patchwork Sisterhood

Photo courtesy of Katherine Brandt

Photo courtesy of Katherine Brandt

Five blocks from the National Zoo, a banner outside a brick storefront on Mt. Pleasant Street announces the grand opening of Amani Ya Juu’s first U.S. boutique. Amani, an organization started in 1996 to offer hope and trade skills to struggling women in East Africa, since its summer opening has added an artsy, fair-trade feel to the tony establishments in northwest Washington.

(Read full story here at World Magazine)

As We Forgive

Me, John, and Catherine(Published in Furman Magazine)

In 1994, the word “genocide” might have lured storytellers Laura Waters Hinson and Catherine Claire Larson to the small African country of Rwanda.

More than 10 years later, another word — “forgiveness” — sent them both there, and wound up leading Hinson to craft an award-winning film and Larson to write a book.

It all started on a church mission trip.

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Look Back, Walk Forward

Photo courtesy of Brian Tropiano

Photo courtesy of Brian Tropiano

In 2006 Gladys Achieng of Kenya had an illness that left her temporarily paralyzed. It took her two months to learn to walk again. This fall the 28-year-old and nine other women from Amani ya Juu—an African organization that offers help and healing—traveled around the United States. They walked fashion runways to unveil Amani’s new clothing line and tell their stories of suffering and hope.

(Read full article at World Magazine)