We have exciting news to share with you all. Before we do, we’d like to take you back and share more about our journey – where we’ve come from, and how we got here.
— 2004 —
May — Barely acquaintances, but friends of friends, I find myself invited to Nadine’s surprise 18th birthday party. Not knowing her well, but banking on my exceptional taste in music, I knock her gift out of the park. Even though she was surrounded by her closest friends, I find myself in conversation with this beautiful girl for most of the evening. Six months later, I build up the nerve to say “so I guess we’re boyfriend and girlfriend now, right?”
— 2009 —
June — I am standing in a field, waiting for Nadine to exit the log cabin, so she can walk down the aisle alongside her Father. I feel nervous, but mostly for my bride. We did not know that Nadine had been struggling with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder for the past five years. Nadine was so terrified of speaking in public – at her own wedding – that we actually had shared our wedding vows with one another the night before, at our rehearsal dinner. Surrounded by our immediate family, Nadine and I read our vows aloud to one another. The strength Nadine demonstrated, the love and support she had from her parents, allowed her to walk across that field the next day, hold my hands, and say “I do.”
— 2013 —
January — After travelling thousands of miles, with about 400 lbs. of luggage with us, Nadine and I finally land in Burundi, completely unaware of how our lives will be changed forever by our experiences there. We get picked up at the airport by some friendly faces, and we are taken to a slightly unfriendly place to spend the night. While we are sleeping, the mosquito net falls down on me, and I wake up the following day with around fifty bites on my left side. Shortly thereafter, I become acquainted with malaria.
— 2014 —
December — Cozying up next to one another in bed, after the most bizarre Christmas Day of our lives, Nadine and I start talking and sharing… eventually, we begin dreaming together.
We start dreaming about our family.
— 2016 —
July — It has been 18 months of tears and frustration – a cycle of pain that worsens with each failure we experience, as we grow more and more desperate to hold onto hope. It has been a lonely season. Nadine sees each of her friends, one by one, share the incredible news of their pregnancies and expectations. Despite the pain and the loss she suffers every month, she remains a steadfast, loyal, and sincere friend.
I buy a dog.
— 2017 —
January — Our family doctor from Canada emails Nadine about her test results. She’s perfect – nothing wrong (as I tell her every day). We have to call her office for my results, but because of the time change, it’s late for us. Nadine and I are sitting next to one another on the couch when we are told that I will never be able to have biological children. We cry like we’ve never cried before, holding onto one another as if our lives depended on it.
— 2018 —
April — After months – months, of paperwork, we spend the entire day sitting outside on a small patio while we watch family after family get called in to sit before an approval panel of experts in Kampala who will determine whether or not we can adopt in Uganda. We are dreading having to wait until after the lunch break — knowing that our nervous stomachs could not bear to take anything, and all of the locals would judge us for not eating the meal that has been prepared for us. We survive lunch, and we survive until the end of the day. We are the last family to be called in, but the day ends in joy.
We are approved to be adoptive parents in Uganda.
July — We meet this skinny, quiet little boy in an orphanage here in Kampala. We had been told of the match only a few days before. After years of waiting, we are introduced to our boy. The meeting doesn’t go well — the orphanage staff decides to wake him up from his nap, and the little one decides that it is our fault. Thankfully, friends of ours had given us the best parenting advice we’ve ever received (to date, no one has given us a more useful bit of information): “When you go meet your boy, bring cookies.” As advised, this little guy forgives us after he gets to eat a few cookies.
We name him Oliver.
— 2019 —
May — When we realized we would be adopting, and that it would be happening in Uganda, we realized that we would be adopting two children, at the same time. We knew that God’s vision for our family included multiple kids, and we knew that circumstances would dictate us moving quickly to build our family. We also chose not to tell anyone about this! When we get matched with our second boy, we let the cat out of the bag, and tell our families about their surprise addition.
We name him Finn.
— 2020 —
July — Adoption, particularly in a place like Uganda where systems are broken and abused, is traumatic. We have seen it, and experienced it. Our first visit to family court, to have our adoption petition heard, was soul crushing. Our next, was canceled when COVID-19 led Uganda to enact one of the strictest lockdowns on the planet. It was a painful, gut-wrenching experience, waiting for a stranger to literally judge us, and tell us whether or not we would be a family. We had to wait until now for our next hearing, where we presented further evidence to our fitness to be parents, and further evidence that showed it was in our children’s best interest to be adopted.
I am not sure how to communicate what it feels like — to have to plead with someone not to take your children away, or to live with that fear on a daily basis. I don’t have the proper words now, and I’m not sure I ever will.
July 14th — We go to the courthouse to find it packed. Today is the day we will receive our ruling, but it is the last day before courts close for a summer holiday, so there are hundreds of people waiting. Our ruling was scheduled to start at 11:00AM, but we’ve already been waiting almost two hours. The bailiff finally calls us in, and we rush into the courtroom. Due to social distancing protocols inside the courthouse, Nadine and I are not allowed to sit next to one another – we can’t even hold each other’s hands. The judge begins reading her ruling — as she walks us through her legally binding decision, I struggle to hold myself together. I am terrified.
Each page she flips through feels as if it is an eternity. Each legal argument, each definition, every article referenced, none of them give us a clue as to how she will rule.
With maybe five sentences left, on the very last page, she reads “this petition thus succeeds.”
Nadine and I make eye contact across the aisle, and we both begin crying. I struggle to maintain composure long enough to allow the judge to finish reading the ruling. Once she is finished, we are ordered to leave the court room. Nadine and I stumble out into the rest of the building, turn to hug each other, and we burst into tears. In front of hundreds of strangers, we cry.
In that moment, I think to myself, wondering whether or not I am holding Nadine upright, or if she is keeping me standing. I honestly do not know.
We did it.
Today — We now have papers that state what we have known from the beginning: Our sons, are our sons. Oliver and Finn are ours to love, care for, and to raise.
When I say “we,” that definition is as broad as possible. You did it. We did it. Together. Never in our lives have we had to lean on, and depend on others such as we have over the past few years. I think of every person who has ever thought of us, prayed for us, sent a message of encouragement… my colleagues at work, our families and friends both in Uganda, and Canada, people we have met from every corner of the world… we did it.
There’s more of this story left to tell – really, this is the end of one chapter, with the next one having already begun. As we recover, we are learning to celebrate this achievement. I have realized that over these years I have forgotten what it was like to truly hope, to rely on God’s promises. We need to heal, and learn what it is like to be a family without this crushing weight and fear on our shoulders.
Upon reflecting over these years, I realize I’ve only cried that hard twice in my entire life: The first time was when someone told me I couldn’t have any children.
The next time, was when someone told me I could.
We are ready to start a new journey, as a family. Would you like to join us?
Josh, Nadine, Finn & Oliver Guenther