Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Our Philippine Signs and Wonders

I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. 
Daniel 4:2-3

Any adoptive parent will tell you, there is always a back-story explaining how God made it clear He wanted you to adopt this child. 
We are no different. 
In actuality, we are rather blessed that each of our children, from our first to our twenty-first, have beautiful back-stories before becoming our children. Each one is wonderful and amazing!
However, with it being their 10 year anniversary, here is Nathan and Elaina's (with Derick) back-story of their coming into our family....


VBS was in full swing in July 2003. I (Katherine) was in charge of the Mission Moment as well as counting the monies given by the children to purchase bikes for the Gospel for Asia missionaries. Several hundred dollars' worth of change was received, but only one foreign coin was found...a 1986 Philippine 50 cent peso!

Since Bob and I had been married in 1986, it seemed kind of cool. But God used the coin to remind me once again of my childhood prayer and to pray it again. This had happened before in 1998 while reading the book 'Twelve-Part Harmony' about a family who adopted. God had used that book to trigger the memory of my childhood prayer to have Filipino children of my very own one day and I prayed it again in faith. My original prayer was made when I was 12 years old after reading the book about an adoptive family called 'The Family Nobody Wanted'. I had asked God to give me a family like them.

Yet, being in the process of adopting four children from Russia, the 'useless' coin went in my pocket and the memory of it out of my head.

Then in September 2003, right after the four Russians returned to their orphanage from their ten-day hosting visit to our home, the seed for another adoption was planted. It came in a rather unusual way...through a ring. 

Four years earlier, four daughters had just been placed in our five member family. The night the last three girls arrived, Cassandra gave me, her new mom, a ring with nine glass 'diamonds' around a large one. She had bought it at a yard sale. It was a gift I held in my heart as a sign from God of their accepting us as their parents and our family being joined as one around Him. 

At this point too, a jeweler was closing its store. So for our 13th wedding anniversary Bob decided to replaced my engagement ring which had lost its solitaire diamond in 1997 before leaving Virginia to move to Illinois. He was able to get a great deal on a nine-diamond marque ring representing each member of our new family. And just like Cassandra's ring, it seemed fitting that this 'real' diamond ring would represent the binding of our sweet little family of nine in Christ forever.
But now, with adopting four more children, we needed to add four diamonds to the ring to represent our four Russian children. Try as they may, the jewelers could not find, or make, an affordable four-stone ring to attach to the nine-diamond ring, so we opted for a five-stone ring giving us fourteen diamonds. And as I am always looking for the Lord’s fingerprints on things, I saw this as a sign for one more adoption of a single child. I immediately shared this impression with Bob in the jewelry store and he could not disagree.
Also at that time, a catalog-bought country plaque hung over our sliding glass door in the kitchen. It said, 'God bless our house and all who enter’. It had a little house and five hills painted on it. The first hill had two sheep, the second hill three, and the third hill four sheep all factory painted. This was the exact progression of our family! Upon arriving home from Russia in November 2003, I painted four more sheep on the fourth hill. An empty fifth hill remained!

However, even with all these signs it was not until October 7, 2003 that we were called to pursue a Philippine adoption.


While paying bills on our now infamous back porch, the Lord spoke to my prayerful heart regarding another adoption, "twin girls three years old, go to the Philippines, and name the boy Nathan." Katherine immediately went to Bob and told him what she had 'heard' in her heart. His response was, we will ask Diane (our social worker with Lifelink) to look into the validity of these girls, but we are going to wait until after the New Year.

We still had not brought our Russian children home yet.

Crazy, we know, but remember the ring!

In November, we went to Russia and brought home our four new children. The day after our arrival home, we broke the news to my parents (who cared for the other seven while we traveled) that the Lord was calling us to go to the Philippines for two girls. Without batting an eye they said, "Great!"
  Learned when we traveled to the Philippines - In October 2002, the Tumlos siblings had received their passports to be adopted. In November, after just one day with them, their American adoptive mom abandoned them once again saying she could not handle their behavior. Their file was labeled 'Disrupted'.
One year later, October 2003, the Lord calls their real parents to begin the process to bring them home!

After spending quite some time with us for a post-placement visit on February 20, 2004, Bob told our social worker that we would like to "request her services again". Diane stood up, put her things in her chattel, and then stated emphatically, "If it was anyone else I would say no, but since it is you, I will look into it."

The first wall down!

On March 4, 2004, I wrote in my journal:
If it is to come to pass that we should adopt from the Philippines it shall be likened unto the Bible story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. For there are thick walls preventing us from reaching our children: family size, money, foster licensing, and local adoption in USA courts. We must be silent and let the Lord fight for us, but keep marching forward doing his work each day.

What a march it was to be...as there were four more walls that needed to come down!!

Family Size -

Lifelink’s Director for their Philippine program ‘did not feel that the Philippines would accept a family with eleven children already in the home.’ However, Diane did not quite agree. She sent us looking for another agency, but told us she would do our home study update.

(Diane was our greatest advocate and supporter through this whole process. She knew our family and knew our calling was true because of having observed our family for years. Without her this adoption would have never happened.)

April 12, 2004 - With my husband's blessing, I called Christian Adoption Services (CAS) in North Carolina. I was connected to the director, Jim Woodward. At first, he told me that by law he could not help us as we needed to find an agency in IL. I responded that our Lifelink social worker told us their Philippine Director would not take our case because of the size of our family and to find another agency. And I shared that we felt the Lord was calling us to adopt two sisters and maybe a brother. He said in the case of ‘waiting children’ he may be able to help us. We needed to send a letter stating who we were, a sort of overview of our home study by email, and he would forward it to the Philippines.

A wall crumbling?

April 21, 2004 - Mr. Woodward informs us he has "sent an inquiry to the Executive Director of the Philippines Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB) regarding our desire to adopt a young sibling group of two children."

June 18, 2004 - The Philippine ICAB approved us to adopt ‘waiting older children’ with Dr. Laraya stating, "We truly commend this couple’s commitment to sharing their home and family with a young sibling group from the Philippines. We would truly love to work with this couple but we are afraid that ... The Sanfords will have to wait for a considerable time to be allocated with children in accordance with their child preference - i.e. a young sibling group of two children. May we know if they are willing to consider an older sibling group?"

We responded we were! Out of a list of 10 sibling groups given to us that afternoon, we prayerfully considered and asked for the Tumlos siblings.

August 13, 2004 - The ICAB sends an email stating "That the above named children (Tumlos siblings) have a possible family who are interested in adopting them. We look forward to receiving the adoption application and dossier of Robert and Katherine Sanford."

Large family wall down!

                            Learned when we traveled to the Philippines: 
                            May 18, 2005 - Beth, at ICAB, shared that in January 2005 she went to the ICAB
                            Matching Committee with the expectation of getting approval for the match that
                            day. They asked her why she had not written up a referral for the match, first to be
                            reviewed by the committee and at some later dated voted on for approval. They
                            also asked the question as to why ICAB should even consider this family since
                            they already have 11 children. Beth told them that because of the Disruption no
                            family anywhere in the world has been willing to accept these children for a referral
                            in two years, this family wants them. And she told them, "I believe they should be
                            matched, so I didn't even bother with writing a referral."

November 23, 2004 - The Manna Group Foundation (now Lifesong for Orphans) had agreed to give us a matching grant to help raise money for the adoption. They had already helped us with bringing our four Russian children home. And Andy Lehman was more than happy to help us again.  So we drafted a letter to send to all our extended family and friends sharing God’s call on our lives to adopt three siblings from the Philippines; inviting them to be a part of bringing them home by matching the TMG grant.

January 20, 2005 - Bob receives an email from CAS stating that the grant had been matched as well as informing him that the contributions had exceeded the expected amount. Bob realized then, that through people’s wonderful and gracious generosity, our airfare was also going to be covered. The Lord is so good and does abundantly more than we could ask or imagine!  

Money wall down!

Foster Licensing-

August 2, 2004 - There is a concern with Lifelink's directors on updating our home study (family size, house size, heart size). Diane our gallant advocate received 'conditional approval' to move forward with the update if the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) would foster license our family.

August 9, 2004 - Diane writes that DCFS gives "the go ahead to license your home even with the number of children."
Another wall down....or so we thought!

February 4, 2005 - The Illinois Inter-Country Adoption Coordinator, Mary Donnelly calls Bob to say there is a problem with our foster license. 

February 7, 2005 - Diane clarifies the problem. "The information I was given from the person I spoke with months ago in licensing was incorrect [for 0 children]. Apparently, he was unfamiliar enough with international adoption....I will try my absolute best to present your case in a convincing light (by letter) with suggestions made by Mary and pray that the director will increase the capacity of  your license to include the three children from the Philippines." So she proceeds to request a waiver for us to be licensed for 14 children.

I had written in my journal that day:
My first reaction should be one of horror, but it is truly nothing more than an "Oh, hum, the Lord is on it." The news, though formidable, was in the Lord's hands. Yesterday the letter was written by Diane approved by Mary Donnelly of Inter-Country Adoptions. A work of art it was! Today it goes to Mr. Samuels, director of DCFS. He does not support or believe in large families. A product of the system himself, he felt neglected in a large foster family. The Lord in his providence did not reveal this as a need until after our home study was done, dossier sent, referral given, and legal documents received and sent, along with I-600's, to BCIS (USCIS today). If the request had been made at the initial time of our home study update it may not have gotten approval. The Lord is faithful. This is his adoption. We are on the other side of the Jordan River where the Lord fights for us. 'The Battle is the Lord's!'"   
February 14, 2005 - Word came, Mr. Samuels will approve the waiver licensing us for 14 children if CAS will write a letter stating that "the agency understands that the Sanford family does not meet Illinois licensing standards for a foster family home and that in light of  this understanding, they continue to endorse and recommend the family for placement of the children." Poor Mr. Woodward! He writes to Bob, "I also received a phone call from the North Carolina Interstate Compact Office which gave the same information that you received from Diane. I will be sending a letter today regarding this matter." He also writes, "I don't know what details were given about this latest matter. I do know that Lifelink is looked favorably upon by 'state workers', as are you." Bob emails back, "Thank you for sending this letter, Jim. We appreciate all you are doing to help us through this process. This is 'above and beyond.' Thanks for believing in us and God's call on our lives."

March 9, 2005 - Diane calls. Now we have to write a letter stating "Upon finalization of the adoption, we agree to surrender our foster license." THEN the waiver would be granted. So we did and they did.

March 16, 2005 - Diane emails, "I received a message from Rita, via Mary Donnelly, that late Friday afternoon (March 11th) she received the waiver she needed from the director's office. She was able to write her approval letter and send it to the Interstate people in NC and BCIS."  

Licensing wall down! 

In the meantime, remember those twin girls the Lord called us to adopt? We saw the girls from the side of the road when they were on display at our bank. We walked over to see one in particular and learned she had a twin. The Humane Society would not separate them, if we wanted the one we had to take the other. It was an easy decision! Betsy and Gertie, three year old beagle litter twins, became ours in July 2004!

Also, remember the name we were to give. That decision, as to which of our two new Philippine sons were to receive the name 'Nathan', had been made easy by the Lord. The oldest boy's birth-name was Jonathan and we could not give him 'Nathan' as an adopted name, so we gave him the name Derick; a shortened version of my Dad's name Frederick. Therefore, the chosen name of the Lord went to 'Nathan Jay-R'.

From my journal:

April 4, 2005 - My heart has been yearning desperately for our Filipinos to come home. It is the ruling thought in my heart. As their mother I want to have them safe with us where we can invest in their lives, learn who they are, as well as teach and train them for the future. I confess I also want to be done! I want to have all our children under our roof, safe under their father's protection, growing in the Lord, and working as an entire family." Our cable was sent on this day telling the Philippines the Tumlos children have visa approval to come to the USA!

May 3, 2005 - As I prayed for my three Filipinos in the middle of the night around 2:00 A.M., the Lord spoke to my heart. "Are you ready for this?" It took me by surprise and I answered truthfully, "No Lord, I am not. But I know by your grace and power I can do it." A peace entered my heart that we were going to get news of traveling that day. The last wall had crumbled. And sure enough, an email came that morning. The visas have been recognized by the American Embassy in the Philippines. The children's visa appointments are being set for Friday or Monday. We are looking to travel May 14th. The wait is nearly over. Our union and family completion is nearly here. It is as if the last 19 months, from the vision (10/7/03) to today never happened. Or the last 14 months of knowing this as truly God's call on our life. February '04 to May '05 was but a shadow of time to the realization of a dream come true.

Local Adoption -
May 24, 2005 - Bob emails our lawyer, Tom Wilson, who is handling our Russian adoption saying, "My wife and I traveled to the Philippines last week to bring home three more children. The purpose of my email is to ask you if you would consider helping us with this adoption as well." Mr. Wilson sends a one sentence response, "Send me the documents."   
Adoption wall down!
I once again write in my journal:
May 25, 2005 - All the walls are down. We have taken the city and our 'Rahabs' are safely home. It was eleven months to the day from when we were given confirmation by the Philippines to pursue the adoption of the Tumlos siblings to when they were officially placed in our care, June 18, 2004 - May 18, 2005. (Though they were placed with us May 17, 2005, it was not made official until the 18th when ICAB gave us their papers.) The children had known we wanted them since July 2004! Yet, this protected their hearts as they lived that year with their new foster parents; the bonding was limited because they knew they had a mommy and daddy coming from America. And just like Rahab of old, in the lineage of Jesus, our children are embracing their new family and our God. The elect of Christ are all home!! Are there more to come? I do not know, but I and my husband are the Lord's servants; it will be as He wills.
We were the proud parents of 14 children: 7 boys and 7 girls! 
And the prayer of a 12 year old girl had fully been answered...or so we thought at the time!  

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it...
Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man: so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.
Psalm 127:1,3-5a

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Philippines Revisited

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east...
bring my sons from far, and my daughter(s) from the ends of the earth;
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory,
I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
Isaiah 43:5-7

It was 10 years ago today when we arrived home from the Philippines with our children Nathan, Elaina, and their older brother, Derick. They have an amazing back story of their coming into our family, which can be read here; however, ‘the vision’ was true...our last three children, giving us 7 sons and 7 daughters, finally were home!

Here is that part of their story...... 

May 2, 2004 - As Bob read My Utmost for His Highest during our couples devotion time, the Lord affirmed loudly in Katherine's heart, "Though it tarry, wait." She later wrote in her journal:

       "This Philippine adoption is going to be all about waiting on the Lord
       and trusting his timing. It is also about obedience. It is insane to take
       on three more children filling bedrooms, the van, and our kitchen table
       to the max! And what will people think. We are crazy and they are right.
       I fancy myself not needing people's approval, but I do not relish their
       disapproval. Yet, as I set my eyes and heart on Jesus and think about
       'His chosen' needing us as parents and family, people's thoughts and
       opinions no longer matter; 'the just shall live by his faith' Habakkuk 2:4b."


Exactly one year later...

May 2, 2005 - We receive an email informing us that the children would be having their visa interviews at the American Embassy either the coming Friday or Monday. Once that was done we were free to travel and 'fetch' the children. Seven days later, on May 9th, we receive word we could go.

And go we did!


May 14, Saturday - Our family delivered us to the Peoria airport. After a two hour wait, the time had come to say 'good-bye' and go through security. It was a heart-wrenching time for Katherine. Though she knew her children would be fine with her parents, and actually have a wonderful time, her mother's heart felt as though she were abandoning them. Bob reminder her that she was going to her children as well and to focus on that.

After a 23 hour plane and airport experience, we arrive in Manila, Philippines!

The flights had been chilly, but when we passed through the threshold of the airplane into the enclosed gangway, it was like hitting a wall of thick wet heat! This thick heat never abated until we were back on the plane Thursday.

Our deepest prayer at this time was that our driver, Israel, would still be waiting for us as we were an hour and 21 minutes late in arriving. It was also 12:30 AM!

What relief washed over us, especially Bob, when we saw a man holding a sign that read, 'Sanford'! The drive to the hotel was quick, the bellmen were extremely nice, and our room was a large two-room suite on the sixth floor overlooking the American Embassy across the street.


May 16, Monday - We awoke early for having gone to bed at 2:00 in the morning, had a nice breakfast at the hotel buffet, and then went to send an e-mail to the USA letting the family know we were safe and secure.

We then took a walk across the street and behind the American Embassy to a park beside the Manila Bay. Going out on the pier, we were able to get a closer look at the ships in the Bay as well as a panoramic view of the city behind us.
That afternoon Israel took us shopping for gifts, taking us on a back city tour of Manila to avoid traffic which is at least three times worse that Chicago traffic!

It was a mind-numbing experience...

The squalor and dilapidation was beyond description. Tin shacks built on old stacks of garbage, rows and rows of them. Thinly clad children everywhere and gaunt adults sitting in doorways. Street children going up to stopped cars tapping on the windows trying to sell things before the light changed and adults walking up the middle of the street selling fruit or water to slowed traffic.

We actually had to harden our hearts to keep from sobbing at the hopelessness, all the while realizing this was how our children lived just five years ago!
Returning back to the hotel, we spent a quiet evening first with a steak dinner costing $1,000 (in pesos that is!) and then a movie back up in our room.

May 17, Tuesday - Another good breakfast and then back to the room to call Beth at Inter-country Adoption Board (ICAB). We were told that we should be there for our appointment at 11:00 AM and we would go from there to the Parenting Foundation (PF) to meet our newest blessings. That meant we needed to leave the hotel at 10:00 AM, as ICAB was at least one hour away.
Bob called our driver letting him know when to pick us up. We had prepared all the gifts the night before so we were off to the business center to send an e-mail to the States. We did not have much news, but it was wonderful to think we were able to be in touch. Then back up to the room to wait.
Time seemed to be in slow motion as we waited for Israel to arrive. We were tremendously anxious about whether or not the children would want to come home with us, and we were unsure how prepared they would be for our arrival. Finally the time came. 
Israel was late. But we quickly loaded his car, merged into the ever present traffic, and headed to Quezon City. The hour passed rapidly as we learned more about the city and islands from Israel. Even the types of vehicles were a topic of conversation.
Jeepneys were everywhere! These are American Army left-behinds from WWII. They look like small troop transport trucks with a roof but no back and the sides are open as well, holding about 20 people. The styles, designs, and names all vary and they became a very familiar sight. There were thousands of them. 
We arrived at ICAB and met the two social workers, Beth and Danny, who had worked most closely with our children over the years.
Danny pointed to a cloth-seated bench where two years ago, he had to break the terrible news to these children that their first adoptive mom from the USA did not want them. The story goes that after having spent a day with them, under full guardianship, she gave them back again to the Philippine authorities, officially disrupting the adoption. This was the second 'mom' to abandon them in their short lifetimes.
However, this was the Lord's plan to make it possible for their real parents to adopt them. (That story in the next blog.)
We peppered Beth with questions:

       How long have the children know we were coming?
           Since July of last year. WOW! 
       Are they excited about being adopted?
          Yes, very much. They show their picture albums to everyone they meet
           and know all of their new siblings' names.

       Do they speak English? Yes.

 After a bit, we packed into the car and rode to the Parenting Foundation. Along the way, we shared our story with Beth and Israel, sang a couple of Worship songs, and learned more about the future of Filipino foster & orphanage children.

Their fate is the same as in the USA and Russia. On your 18th birthday, you are out on the streets to fend for yourself. The only advantage American children have is there are State & Federal programs in place to help them with college or job training. No such programs exists in Russia or the Philippines. And sadder still, this is the case in most countries around the world.

The hour passed quickly and we turned into a gated section of the city off of an access road running along side the highway. A couple of turns on the narrow streets and we pulled up to the little blue building with' Parenting Foundation' written over the doorway.

We excitedly grabbed our gifts from the back of the car and head into the building. The Director met us at the door with a sincere welcome, then ushered us up a narrow staircase to where the children had been waiting. They had arrived over a half hour early with anxious hearts to meet their new mommy and daddy.

Katherine went first. Bob followed carrying the video recorder capturing the first glimpses of our children.

The moment had finally arrived...after years of prayer and waiting....
Jonathan, Jay-R, and Maggie's smiles lite up their whole faces and their hugs were genuine expressions of love and relief.
The joy that filled that room was palatable by all, including Pazie- the director, Beth- ICAB social worker, My-My- PF social worker, Lilia- the foster mom, and three other social workers who joined in the festivities.
My-My shared how Maggie was insistent that morning that if any 'text-messages' arrived she did not want to hear about it!! Seeing our perplexed expressions, My-My then went on to explain that that is how the 'other' adoptive mom communicated her intention to disrupt.
Katherine gave Maggie a tight squeeze telling her that was not going to ever happen again! 
We gave each of the children a backpack with a watch, tape player, and GI Joe for the boys with Maggie getting a baby doll (more treasures awaited at the hotel). 
Maggie proceeded to name her doll Joleen. Then cradling her, she feed the baby her bottle. It was precious, as well as an immediate sign to Bob and Katherine that she has been well nurtured by her foster parents, PF and ICAB staff, though her young life began with abandonment on the streets at 2 years of age!
Jonathan and Jay-R admired the GI Joe rifles after they asked their dad to set their watches.
Jay-R declared, through Beth translating, his new mommy was beautiful and that Daddy had big feet! He also asked a very thoughtful question, which we are sure he had heard discussed by adults at some point in time, "Are you able to parent us with all of those other children you have?" We stated emphatically that we were and that a lot of other people believe that we are capable as well. He seemed satisfied, but we think it was the social workers who really needed to hear our answer.

Pazie returned with a lunch of Mango cake and Paupoui (sp) which was like a pizza with thin rice noodles layered up with mashed potatoes colored orange by a certain seed oil, crunchy fish and pork sprinkled on top, and sliced hard-boiled egg as a garnish. It was absolutely delicious! Jay-R took it upon himself to serve his new parents.
During our time there, we took lots of pictures of memorabilia's sake. Below, the children's social worker, My-My is on the left, the Parenting Foundation director, Pazie, is on the right, and the children's foster mom is sitting beside Maggie.

Towards the later half of our two hour visit, the children began to calm and act very subdued. We began to think they were struggling with the idea of leaving with us.

Yet, when Beth gave the word it was time to go, they jumped up, grabbed their backpacks, and with nary a wave or hug to anyone, headed to the car. So much for that idea of struggling! They were thrilled to finally be on their way with THEIR mommy and daddy!
It was a wonderful hour and a half drive with our children safely in our care, Maggie rode on Daddy's lap in the front seat and the boys rode in the back with Mom. Poor Israel's air-conditioner could not contend with the heat so we were all soon dripping wet (literally) with sweat soaking our clothing and running down our faces.

 Arriving at the hotel, we climbed out of the car bring forth many looks as well as several helping hands from the ever present army of bellhops! (Of course, they are hoping for a nice tip from the big 'rich' American!)

One brave bellhop did ask, "Are these your children?," to which Katherine smiled and answered, "Yes, they are!"

We hurriedly headed to the elevators which was a bug-eyed experience for our three, and down the hall to the room, quickly changing into our swim suits. Then up to the roof we went for a refreshing dip in the pool. Daddy took some pictures and video as each child showed off their swimming abilities. It was a perfect time for bonding and touch as we held the children in the deep end or lead them around by the hand as they floated in the water.

Soon it was time for the pool to close so we headed back to the room for showers and then down to the restaurant for a dinner of hamburgers and spaghetti. The children ate great.

Back in the room we put the roll away mattresses in the bedroom around the bed and by 8:00 we were all tucked in for a good-nights sleep. That evening the children did not talked much, but their constant smiles and ready hugs were all the language any of us needed.

May 18, Wednesday - Jonathan was the first one awake with Maggie popping up behind him. After about 20 minutes Jay-R got up because of the talking, came into the other room, looked around and then went back to his bed for about another 10 minutes. It was cute and a definite sign, he is not a morning person!

When he finally did wake up the first and only word he spoke, looking right at his dad, was "eat"! We got a good laugh out of that. But it was still to early, so we invited him to join us for a game of UNO. Jonathan had already played a few hands with Mom and Dad and had become quite the rival opponent. (It is the perfect game for teaching English, colors, numbers, and for learning children's personalities when communication is limited.)

Jay-R was not that awake so he went to watch TV. Maggie colored and played with her toys. Finally it was time to dress and head to breakfast.

The restaurant was full and we made a bit of a disturbance as we arrived all dressed in our blue and khaki clothing, not to mention the obvious difference of light-skinned, brown and blond haired parents with three dark-skinned ,black haired children which resulted in many looks and stares.

The children acted like themselves, but we, as their parents, walked a little taller and smiled a little broader!
The children eat an amazing amount of food, especially Jay-R, then we headed once again to send an e-mail in the business center of the hotel. This time we had an e-mail waiting from home.

Imaging our surprise when we read....

Well, we have had a flat tire, power outage, dog got lose, oven caught on fire, etc. other than that we are fine! We have had lots of sugar, we have only been outside the house once (plus church)! We are praying for your safe return!
WOW! We were going to have to wait till we got home to discover what that was all about.

There were several hours to spend before Israel would be back to take us to the ICAB once again to get the final paperwork, so we took the children to the park and pier that we had visited on Monday. It was a beautiful day and a tiny bit cooler (probably like 97 degrees instead of 110 degrees).

The children enjoyed seeing the ships and the fish that swam near the pier. The park was in the middle of a horseshoe street so we went down the other way for a longer walk back to the hotel and to see different sights.

This took us past a monument with two Filipino Marines keeping guard. It was fascinating to watch them do their guard walk and rifle salute.

After drinking lots of water and resting in the room, the time came to go take the hour drive to the ICAB. 

Israel picked us up and in an effort to get across town faster took back city roads again. This actually ended up costing us two hours in the car, yet we made the most of it observing the buildings, people, and playing a game of who can find the Jollibee, McDonalds, or ChowKing restaurants' sign first. Needless to say we had a lot of fun especially with the Jay-R's enthusiasm to beat Daddy. We did have one exciting moment when a police traffic guard walked up (remember slow to still traffic, they do not need cars) to Israel's window asking for his driver's license and registration while pulling out his ticket book.

Since this was all done in Tagalog (Filipino language) we had no clue what was going on. He then walked over to talk with two other police officers and Israel went to join them; all happening 20 feet in front of our vehicle stopped in the middle of the road! Quick talking was done by all, and finally Israel comes back with his license and registration stating that it was a traffic-light trap and he told them he never saw the light as he followed closely behind the Jeepney in front of him. The Lord was good, no ticket.


At ICAB, we were greeted by Beth and Danny (on left and right ends respectively) who introduced us to the Director and several other social workers. The children received gifts, and pictures were taken, even a sign had been made and hung to celebrate the occasion. It was a joyous time.

We learned from Beth that the folks at the American Embassy was very excited to hear the Tumlos children were being adopted. It was horrible for them two years ago when the children were abandoned by the American mom and they were thrilled to push through the visas for us.

Also, she shared that in January 2005 she went to an ICAB matching committee with the expectation of getting approval for the match that day. They asked her, why she had not written up a referral for the match, first to be reviewed by the committee, and at some later dated, voted on for approval? They also asked the question, why ICAB should even consider this family since they already have 11 children?

Beth told them that because of the disruption status on their file, no family from any country in the world has been willing to accept these children for a referral in two years, this family wants them. And she told them, " I believe they should be matched so I didn't even bother with writing a referral." A miracle of God!!

That is why what usually takes at least 18-24 months only took us 10!

This also explains an email received last year on August 13, 2004 from the Executive Director of ICAB stating, that it was "good news that the above named children (Tumlos) have a possible family who are interested in adopting them...we look forward to receiving the adoption application and dossier of Robert and Katherine Sanford."

Diane, our social worker, upon reading this wrote us saying, "It has been rare in my experience to get such a definite and concrete response from the Philippines. It surely seems as though this is meant to be."

 All the necessary paperwork was signed and our chosen names for the children presented to Beth. She was very pleased.

Goodbyes and hugs were given and the children disappeared to the car.

Israel took us by a mall on the way to the hotel so that we could get the children socks, telling them that they would get new shoes in America. The Mall was as beautiful and huge as any upscale mall in the USA.

We also got some McDonald's 'to go' which cost $491 pesos equal to less than $10 US for six value meals. We had not eaten since breakfast and it was almost 5:00 so we ate the French fries in the car while they were still hot. (Israel needed to get to choir practice at his church as he was the director). In the room, we all chowed down on the burgers.

Then we got the cameras ready for the most precious gift yet that we had for the children.

We sat them on the couch, gave them each a little box tied with ribbon, and motioned for them to open it. In broken English, we told them that they were now Sanfords and just as we named all of our other children, we had a name for them.

They opened the folded paper to see their new name and new birthdate.

(Their birthdate was the date of placement in social services care, July 30, 1999. We kept the day and year, but gave them new months to correspond with what the Lord had done with our other children born in the same year. All of those children are two months apart so we calcutated with Derick and Peter being both born in 1993, Derick needed to be two months older than Peter. As well as Elaina's was to be two months behind Rebecca. Nathan was one year younger than Zach so his was put in the same month like several of this other siblings who shared the birthday month of their one year older sibling.)


They also tore open the tissue paper at the bottom to discover dog-tags for the boys with their entire name and birthdate. 

Elaina receiving a locket necklace exactly like the one each of her other five adopted sisters received.

Derick and Nathan each practiced writing their new names.

To celebrate, we walk the block to Wendy's for a Frosty.

Unfortunately, their machine was down, so we trekked back to the hotel restaurant ordering strawberry ice cream for four and a chocolate ice cream for Mom.

A remembrance picture of where we stayed.

Before coming to the Philippines, we had been praying that Nathan would have a temper-tantrum in the hotel as that was one of the main reasons for the disruption over two years before. We wanted to give it a different ending so that healing would be complete. Our prayers were answered and the ending was blessed. Daddy held a crying Nathan while we told him we wanted him and wanted him to go to America with us. We even asked him if he wanted to still go to America with us to which he answered, "Yes." It was just as we had hoped. 

The children played while we finished packing. We were all in bed by 7:30 PM as we would be up at 3:00 AM.

May 19, Thursday - The hotel messaging system called at 3:00 AM as expected. We were already awake anxious to go home. The children were still dead asleep, and hardly stirred as we showered and dressed.

At 4:00 we got the children up and dressed then headed to the lobby at 4:30 were Israel was waiting for us. He drove a bit and then pulled off the side of the road. We asked what was up. He said he wanted to pray for us! It was such a blessing. The rest of the drive to the airport was quick, but there were still many cars on the main road. Imagine that!

Once in the airport we moved quickly through check-in, customs, and three security checks. We did stop mid-airport to eat some sandwiches at 5:30 A.M. It was still be a long time till breakfast on the plane.

We finally boarded the 747 aircraft at 7:30 for our 8:05 flight. Four hours later we were in Tokyo, Japan. A 45 minute wait and then we were on another 747 plane for our 12 hour flight to Detroit.

The children did great, sleeping most of the time. After about six hours on the plane, Elaina did have a temper tantrum while over the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

She was beyond exhausted, and she was mad at Mom. But when Dad moved her to sit beside him putting Nathan beside Mom, she almost immediately stopped crying and kept looking at mom as if to say, "Don't you miss me?"  Mom was on to her moves and talked to Daddy, ignoring her eyes the whole time.

Finally, she could not stand it any longer and told Daddy, "Sit by Mommy" motioning that she wanted to move back. Next thing Katherine knew (because she was watching the movie), Nathan was getting up and Elaina was standing beside her saying, "I love you, Mommy." It was awesome! And as exhausted as she was, she was the happiest child for the rest of the trip.

In Detroit, it took some time to get through immigration and naturalization. And then we discovered that one of our suitcases was missing. The attendant assured us that because it was tagged to go to Bloomington that it would probably arrive with us, and if not ,just report it missing; Northwest would track it and deliver it to our home.

During our hour wait to get on the 'puddle jumper' plane, Bob called home and talked with Josh then passed the phone to Katherine. What a mixed blessing it was to know we were close enough to call, but not close enough to touch! That would come after an hour and 15 minute plane ride.

At the Bloomington Airport, this was the scene...

On board the little plane we had to sit in three rows. Mom was in the back alone. It was not until the steward came with drinks that Katherine realized that all three children were asleep and had been soon after take-off. As we approached the Bloomington airport and could see the town sprawling underneath did the children arouse to Katherine's shaking and sitting them up straight in their seats.

Reality set in when the plane touched down and the children perked up knowing that they were finally going to see their brothers and sisters. It had been a 25 hour airplane and airport experience and we never left the May 19th date (leaving Thursday morning Philippines, arriving Thursday evening Bloomington). It was 5:15 P.M. 

Exiting the plane and taking a brief walk on the tarmac, it was such a joy to see our family standing at the large window!


Once inside, we discovered that it was not only our children and Katherine's parents there to greet us, but also several dear friends from our church!

It was a beautiful, overwhelming, blessed sight!

Derick, Nathan, and Elaina were especially overwhelmed by the masses. But they kept their eyes on their new siblings, which they knew by sight and name; watching every move they made.

Our Christ Church, PCA family!

Gramma and Papa with 'all' their IL grandchildren!

Our '14 children from Him' finally all together!

 After hellos, hugs, and pictures, our 'little' family headed to our two vans.

Derick went right away with the big boys in the small van, Nathan climbed in the back of the big van smiling from ear to ear with Zachary. Elaina was holding court with her six sisters in the middle of the van. With Papa driving, the four adults swapped stories in the front seats.

One very happy family!! One short drive home.

The first weeks home were interesting regarding language and names.
Their 'speaking' English was extremely limited but they are adding new words and phrases everyday. They did understand most everything we said to them making communication fairly easy. William commented that it was not fair that they understood English and they didn't understand any when they came from Russia! The first day it was wild to listen to Peter teach Derick and Nathan how to say or pronounce certain English words, when all of Peter's words are spoken with a distinct Russian accent. And even more crazy, he was the one who did not want to learn the language! A gentleman in our church told Bob that it was going to be interesting to hear the Filipino's speak English with a Russian accent. We so agreed. 

One evening we were at church for a Home School Choir Concert. Papa called 'Jonathan' wanting him to do something for him. Derick looked at him and said emphatically, "No, Derick!" We asked Nathan soon after that, "Are you Nathan or Jay-R?" Pointing to himself, he said, "Nathan." One day Elaina was looking longingly at Derick who was just outside the window. Susanna heard Derick tell her, "Elaina, ask mommy, go outside please." Susanna was so excited by this English and use of her new name that she brought Elaina to Mom to tell the whole story.

If ever we wondered about changing their names these examples were the affirmation we needed that it was a blessing to them.


Our lawyer agreed to facilitate the finalization of Derick, Nathan, and Elaina's adoption, including our request to give them their own birthdate. So one year later from the week we arrived home with them, May 23, 2006, these three orphans became our true sons and daughter!

Our family was finished. We had 7 sons and 7 daughters, 14 from Him…
(or at least  so we thought at the time).


And on June 26, 2013, they became American Citizens!

Nathan graduated from High School this spring. And he is now working at Samaritan Ministries in Peoria, where his brother Josh also works.

Elaina turned 18 years old this year. And she is delighted to stay at home to help her mom while waiting for the Lord to bring her husband.

When the Lord told us to "go to the Philippines and name the boy Nathan", we had no real idea what that meant. Yet we chose to 'walk by faith', trusting that we would be blessed and so would these new children. How happy we are that we did!


Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.....
Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man: so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.
Psalm 127:1,3-5a