Saturday, August 3, 2013

Part 3 of.... many!

Well, I have been procrastinating on this next part as it is one of the most frustrating parts of our journey... one still affecting us today! (<-- Ok, I actually wrote this over a week ago but with the great news of getting CONA I didn't want to put a damper on the week so waited to post until now!)

I left off saying that I had just met up with a new girl (now a dear friend, Jaimie) who had someone ready to fly down from mainland Japan (way cheaper than flying from the states) to do our home study. Woo Hoo!!!! This social worker was from an agency called "Adopt Abroad." I debated for a long time (part of my procrastination in writing this) whether to use agency names... but decided yes! (because I don't want anyone to get stuck with a bad agency). Anyway, she agreed to come down the following month, February, and do both of our home studies. Jaimie was already set to go with an agency and we had decided to do what is called an independent adoption.

Let me back up and explain that for a minute. After we heard that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was open for adoption we began looking around for agencies that we could use being overseas. My husband went to a conference in the fall of that year (2011) in the states and ran into an old dear friend who had been on faculty at our college, Master's College, Kent Dresdow. They got around to talking about adoption (this awesome family already had 2 bio kids and 2 adopted ones!) and Kent said they had just started the process to do an independent adoption through a church in... yep you guessed... DRC! What a crazy small world! So we connected with the stateside pastor and church who were helping facilitate the independent adoptions (what they are called when you don't use a placing agency) and we began the application process. This was a very new thing that DRC was letting happen and the stateside church was not acting as an organization, only as a connector for Christian families to be able to connect with a national pastor and his church in southern DRC (himself having been an orphan) who took in street children and little ones left at his house/church and help them go through the legal process of adopting. We were thrilled to work with such a neat ministry and to know that these kids were NOT being trafficked or ill treated while they waited for families.

Back to the home study... we told the agency that we just needed a home study done by a licensed agency and that we would not use them for the adoption, only for an independent adoption home study. All the other families (and there had been about a dozen by then) going through the church ministry had done this without problem. Adopt Abroad said that they would do the home study as an independent one. What this means is that I turn in all necessary paperwork (ie background checks, financial review, birth certs, marriage certs, etc) to them for a home study ONLY and pay the home study fee. Then after the interview and house inspection (done by the social worker) the home study is written, reviewed and signed by the agency (Adopt Abroad/ AAI) and original signed copy given to us. Then we are DONE with the agency, nothing else is needed or required of them. Ok, you can maybe see where I am going with this...

So my friend and I split the cost of the social worker to fly here from mainland. We did all our paperwork and had our interviews. Then wrote her a nice fat check for $2400. Several weeks later she emails and says the home study is done! Great! But it needs to be reviewed by her boss, the head of AAI. I start getting emails from the director wanting to make sure I am doing a legitimate adoption. Ok, I send her the contact info for the church in the states who expressly say they are just facilitators, not an agency. Through a series of escalating events the pastor calls me and tells me that this women has over the phone verbally threatened to shut down his churches program and said things about AAI needing to take over their program. What? Then the director emails me (not telling me most of what the pastor told me she said) and said they need another $1500 from us to complete our home study and that they will have to track our child once we bring him or her home for at least a year. WHAT?! The pastor and other leaders of the orphan ministry decided that they could not continue with our family in the adoption process if we continued to use AAI for our home study agency. They said they were threatening the ministry and it could get shut down. They had a lawyer who had been working with them from the start of the ministry and he had been making sure they were not crossing any boundaries or doing anything illegal. He said what AAI was saying was untrue and unnecessary, but that to continue with them causing problems through the contact with us would be detrimental to the program!

I remember how heartbroken I was! I received an email saying all that and called John, but he was at work and could only talk for a few minutes. I then called a dear friend and future ministry partner, Beth Steward, who was in the states (I don't even know what time it was her time when I called! Not the middle of the night, but really close) and just burst into tears. When we were pregnant with our daughter, Esther, early on in the pregnancy we thought I was having a miscarriage. Those same feelings of fear and pain and helplessness were flooding in over me as I thought about the setback of being at level zero again in our adoption. After over a year of trying to get a home study done and finally having it completed, yet withheld from us, it seemed like there was no moving forward!

Now, many of you out there have gone much farther in your adoptions than this only to have it shattered. A dear friend here had home study and dossier (and tons of money) poured into an adoption from Russia early this year only to have the country completely shut down and her agency go bankrupt! Other friends have done all this and received that beautiful referral picture of their future child only to have that child pass away from illness or stolen from their orphanage or lost the referral in other ways. I am by no means down playing any of these loses! I just am also showing and expressing the loss we felt after feeling like we were following God and being obedient and finally moving forward. I want people to know that obedience is not easy and does NOT mean things are going to happen like they should. Especially in adoption.

We have said many times (and people much greater than us have said it even more eloquently and more times) that adoption is warfare! God calls us to care for orphans and the devil wants to keep us from obedience at any cost! I'm sorry to end this post on a heavy note, but this is a reality of the process: hard, heart breaking, and awful setbacks. But praise be to God that this wasn't the end!

Friday, July 26, 2013


I am so excited to announce that we are now officially (according to the DRC government)  the parents of our twins! Isaiah and Phoebe Freiberg! Well, their names aren't changed yet but that is who they are to us. I had a HUGE post all ready to publish on here about the next installment of our adoption story but this was too exciting that I had to post it instead! I'll post the other one soon.

CONA (which stands for "Certificate of Non Appeal") means that we have passed the court system in DRC and that after a 30 day wait period no one has come to reclaim the twins or stop the adoption so our adoption is legal, final, and irrevocable! So exciting! We have a skype meeting with our agency early tomorrow and I will find out if we can post pics of our little ones on here. 

But for now, here is a video of Es and I singing our special song with have for her "brother and sister" that we have been singing together almost daily since our referral. Enjoy!

Friday, July 5, 2013

T-Shirts are HERE!!!

Our T-shirt fundraiser is in full swing! Please consider supporting our adoption and raising awareness by purchasing one of our t-shirts. You only have until the end of July to order so please do it now. The more we sell the more we raise PER SHIRT so if you like them please share the link with friends and family on facebook, your blogs, your church, anywhere.

A few notes about ordering to make it clearer. When ordering it will ask if you want "unisex" which is the one pictured on a male and the sizes fit like a regular T-shirt. The "ladies" is option is the nice fitted type (and is really soft!) and the sizes run small. Also note that the "unisex" shirts are the darker blue and the "ladies" is the nice teal (like pictured). I made friends with the lady running our shirt campaign and she ended up giving us a good deal on shipping. No matter how many shirts you order per household shipping is only $3.50. So order lots and only pay a little shipping! They will all be shipped 1 August and will arrive no later than 15 August.

Here is the shirt link: (
 (ladies style)

(this is the unisex style, also available in youth sizes)

**Please note, we were originally also selling brown shirts with a different design but are not longer selling these**

Thank you all in advance for your purchases! For those of you in the Okinawa area we are hosting an "Orphan Advocacy Night" at the Harbor church next Saturday, 13 July, from 6-8pm to talk more about our adoption and how the church can be involved with orphan care. Dessert and free childcare provided. Please come and bring a friend as well!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Part 2: The next installment of our story

I guess I left off my last part of the story with us not even knowing where we were going to adopt from! The next series of events is quite a muddle of things that happened quickly... I can't even really put my finger on how we came to be where we are now... but here I go to try to chronicle the events.

For many reasons we had always been really drawn to Africa and felt like if there was a country in Africa that was open for adoptions we would adopt from there. Statistically every country had really low numbers of visas issued from them the last few years (see the link I posted in the first part of the story). I mean, I literally clicked through all 55 countries in that continent! We had remembered that our dear friends, the Hares (who's adoption blog is here but they are now updating their awesome journey here since they are on their way back to Africa as missionaries), had recently adopted from Ethiopia so we wrote them. They sent back with the name of their adoption agency and said that they heard the Ethiopia program was slowing down... but that they thought their agency was opening a new program in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC).

NO WAY! We thought. This country had been near and dear to our hearts for quite sometime. Before getting married we both knew we wanted to be missionaries: John felt for sure that he was supposed to go to Africa and at the time of our wedding was pretty set on DRC; myself- I didn't know where, but knew somewhere overseas.  John even said to me during our (very short) engagement period "girl, you better start praying about Africa (specifically DRC) because if you don't have a love and desire to go to Africa, we can't get married." That's the true way to make sure each spouse is on the same page... but now I'm getting away from the point :) Shortly after getting married a group of refugees from DRC moved into a nearby neighborhood and out of ALL the churches in Los Angeles they asked the church we were working at if they could meet there on Sunday afternoons. We were able to spend time with that congregation and the pastor and just hear and learn more about this country. Now, those of you who know us know that about a year after getting married we increasingly felt like God was leading us into inner city ministry and now are pursuing missions in one of the largest cities in the world... but again, that's another story! The point is we had always felt a deep connection and longing to know and help DRC. Could this be why? Did we have all these providential connections and feelings for DRC because we were to adopt from there?

I contacted the agency that our friends had used and was able to talk about their DRC program (which was apparently not supposed to be public yet... just word of mouth!) and hear more about what would have to happen for us, as US citizens living overseas, to adopt.

The main thing was that we needed to found an agency with a social worker willing to come out and do our home study. The agency I had contacted said they were willing to work with us overseas but could not provide a home study for us so we could just contact them after we had figured out how to get a home study done. This lead to the next 7 months of me emailing and calling agency after agency trying to find someone willing to come to beautiful Okinawa and conduct our home study (during which time I gave birth to our little girl, Essie, and had to take a little break from pursuing this as motherhood consumes all your time and energy for a few months!)

Finally, in December of 2011, I returned from the states and my first night back a church a close friend and adoptive mama asked if I had found someone to do the home study yet. After telling her no she brought me over to a new couple who had started attending our church when I was gone and said they were also trying to adopt from the DRC and needed to get their home study done. But one thing was different from us: they had found someone to do the home study!

And the saga will continue soon! That is not the end to our home study drama, barely the beginning, and the home study is just the very littlest first tiny piece in the puzzle of adoption so we have a long way to go! Hang in there with us, really, it was more painful to live it all then to read it all :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

story side note: ethics and adoption agencies

Just wanted to write a short post that fits in the gap where I left off in our adoption story. If you are interested in adopting or are pursuing an adoption agency right now, PLEASE do your research! There is so much corruption out there, even in "Christian" or "well intentioned" agencies. I'll be sharing soon about the corruption of the first agency we started working with, but in the meantime I want to direct your attention to a recent blog post by Jen Hatmaker. It is a 3 part series (must read all THREE parts!) that talks about adoption ethics in a clear, honest, and hopeful way. You can start with part 1 here or link to it from my side-links on this blog.

Of note is an excellent list of questions in part 2 towards the bottom of the post to ask/ look for in an adoption agency. These things are not suggestions of a nice agency, they are MANDATORY you need to know about things.

The reason I am bringing all this up right now is that I have been really convicted lately about blindly going into adoption. Of course, as you will see throughout our narrative, this has already been a looooong process and we still have a lifetime of learning ahead of us! But I do think it is easy to just think "we need to rescue all the poor cute kids around the world out of their bad situations" instead of really making sure what we are doing isn't feeding into the cycle of poverty and corruption that caused them to be adoptable in the first place. I think adoption is obedience and I am not wanting to stop domestic or international adoptions at all! I just want to encourage us as believers to look at the whole process, the whole cycle, and think before we just react! Jen H says it all much better... just read the blog :)

More personal narrative coming soon....

Friday, May 31, 2013

Our adoption journey so far (part 1): Let's start at the beginning

Many of you are just now tuning in to our adventure in adoption ("just now" meaning because I am just now posting and you don't live near me and hear me talk about things all the time!) so I thought I should back up and tell parts of our story and timeline from the beginning. As I write these posts I am definitely open to questions and comments, but I think for any personal/negative questions or comments please just send me a private email and I will happily respond. Let's try to keep things on here positive! We also would really rather keep a lot of our kids' personal information private. If I am cryptic with this info it's not because I am ashamed or being rude, I just want to protect their privacy and their story until they are able to share it themselves! Other Mamas and Papas reading this, please give me your insight in how you go about protecting your kids (bio or adopted!) info online. I definitely welcome all the insight and wisdom you all can give me!

I will also reference a few agencies and I am debating whether to write their names or not... if I choose not to reveal their true identity then feel free to email me and I will gladly tell you exactly who I am referring to :)

So, where should I begin? I guess I'll just start by saying adoption and orphan care has personally been on my (Sarah's) heart since childhood. I am so incredibly thankful that this is also something that John felt strongly about even before we talked about marriage so that when the subject of having kids came up in our relationship the conversation went "ya, of course we are going to adopt." John is going to write a well thought out and well written section about adoption and the church and the theological reasons for adopting so I won't pretend to sound good talking about it. Read his post. Basically, we knew we wanted to directly be involved in orphan care and we felt that obedience to us always was: ADOPT!

So, how did we choose when to start pursuing adoption... we got married in 2006 and John was in seminary and I was pursuing medical school to become a Physician Assistant. We knew we wanted to wait a little bit for having children. When we finished school and eventually decided to have John join the military (about 4 years into our marriage) we decided to start pursuing both biological and adoptive kids and just see where the Lord guided. We had Esther about a year later!

About 6 months into my pregnancy we started seriously researching adoption. What countries are open to adoption? What are the age requirements? The marriage requirements? The wait times? There is a lot to look at! For instance, China requires both parents to be over 30. Other countries require that you are married at least 5 years. Others won't let you adopt if you already have kids in the home. We were mostly reading from this government website which also shows the number of visas issued to Americans to adopt from there each year. It's a good place to start looking... but really discouraging too!  Some countries have had ZERO international adoptions in the last few years. Mostly because they are closed to having westerners adopt or are closed to Americans because our government is pushing that country to clean up their process (which is good... but is a cycle because they are too poor or too corrupt to be able to meet the US standards, then no adoptions happen, then more children suffer, but if they continue with unethical adoptions they suffer too...). We also started learning about Hague vs. non-Hague countries and what it means to adopt through each. If you are interested in adopting, I would encourage you to read up on these terms (the above linked website can help) and read up on the info about the country you are interested in before pursuing adopting through them.

At this point I started systematically clicking on the information for each country in Africa on the above mentioned website. Just reading about them and praying...
Since this is already too long of a post I'll stop here until next time!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shirt Previews!

The designs are finally done! Here are the pictures of the shirts we will be selling in a few weeks. We will link to a shirt campaign site and you can order directly from them and have the shirts sent to you. There will be a sizing chart on the shirt site as well. Sales will be open from 20 June - 31 July. I will post again when they are available for sale, but I wanted people to see them and start thinking about ordering... The male version of each shirt also comes in kid/youth sizes. They are $20 each and $3.50 for shipping.

Know someone adopting? Or who has adopted? Does your community group want to support our adoption in this way? Need Christmas present ideas? Consider helping us bring our twins home with these shirts!