Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hooray! Hooray! It's Gotcha Day!

Rachel and I will celebrate a very special day tomorrow. Every year on November 18th, we remember the day that God brought my precious girl into my life.

It is now 8:15 pm here in Bali. Seven years ago at this time, I was spending my last night alone. The next day, I would go to a small village in east Bali and meet my daughter for the first time. Rachel and I call this day “Gotcha Day” because, as I say to Rachel, “That was the day I gotcha from your village.”

I had little time to plan for this momentous event. Although I had cherished a hope to one day adopt a little girl for ten long years, when the dream actually came true, it happened with little warning.

Before I tell what happened leading up to that first “Gotcha Day”, I have to tell something else that happened six months earlier.

I was taking classes at Columbia International University in Columbia South Carolina. I was sitting in my study cubicle on the second floor of the library taking a bit of a study break. I used the time to surf adoption websites – something I often did when I got back to the States and decently fast internet connections.

As I surfed, I sensed God saying something to me. No audible voice or anything. Just a sense in my heart that He was talking to me. The message was this. “Julie, you need to stop trying to make adoption happen. If it is going to happen, I’ll make it happen, and you’ll know it when it does.”

With a degree of sadness, I heeded the message, shut down the internet connection, and got back to work. Now, we can fast forward six months.

Rachel's first home
I woke up on Wednesday morning, November 16th 2005, with no idea my life was about to change. I don’t remember what all happened that day. All I remember is that by the time evening rolled around, I was hot and exhausted. All I wanted to do, honestly, was to go home, shut the door, and maybe read something in English.

However, as it was Wednesday, that meant that it was the night for the mid-week prayer fellowship at the International Church. I attended that regularly, but I really wished I could stay home that night. That wasn’t an option. This particular week, we were having a combined fellowship with two other congregations on the island. My church was hosting, and I was on the leadership team for the church. I had to go.

I couldn’t face driving ninety minutes or so each way on my motorbike, so I chose to drive the newly purchased car that God had provided just nine days before.

I went to the church and sat exhausted in the back row hoping no one would talk to me. Any of you who know me will also know that I am not normally like that. It just goes to show you how tired I was.

Rachel and me with her foster family
Well, someone did talk to me. Mignon, a good friend, turned around in her seat and told me about a six-week-old baby in a village who needed a home. I felt sorry for the little one, but it did not immediately click with me that this baby would be my daughter.

Then, Mignon asked me point blank if I would like to adopt her. Fresh energy coursed through my body. It was amazing! Suddenly, I was not tired anymore! It was all I could do to keep from saying yes on the spot.

This was HUGE! It was something I had longed for, but I needed to be sure that this was from God.

You’d better believe that I did a whole lot of praying during that prayer service. And God answered. One by one He brought to mind a number of things He had done in my life over the previous years that put me in a position to say yes.

  • He had done some significant heart work in me several years earlier that made me much healthier emotionally than I had been before.
  • He had moved me from a job that kept me away from home for the majority of each day to a ministry with a children’s home that would be very compatible with mothering a child.
  • Even the fact that he had provided the car just nine days earlier meant that I would have a safe means to travel with an infant. Traveling with her alone on a motorbike would not have been an option.
Finally, He reminded me of that message the previous May. “If it is going to happen, I’ll make it happen, and you’ll know it when it does.” Then in the depths of my heart, I heard Him say, “This is Me. Go ahead.”

I said yes at the end of the service. And so it began. It was arranged that I would pick up the baby on Friday about noon. Mignon asked another friend to drive me to the village so I could attend to the baby on the way back…and so I could find the village to begin with.

In the meantime…I had to get ready. I had absolutely NOTHING for a baby. I stayed in town that night rather than drive back home as I knew I would have shopping to do.

a few weeks later

First, I had to let my parents know. They were, needless to say, excited for me. Mom wanted to know what I was going to name her. There was no question. I would name her Rachel. How old was she? Six weeks old. Mom told me that I had almost not missed anything, meaning developmental stages. All Rachel had done the first six weeks was eat, sleep, and fill her diaper.

After talking to my parents, I called my friend Anne. She and her husband had adopted two Indonesian children who were a year old already. “I’m getting a baby on Friday! HELP!”
Anne told me to come on over, and she would load me up with everything I needed. I was very thankful I had brought the car. I left with a bassinette, infant car seat, newborn clothes, blankets, baby bottles,…all the basics. I just had to buy diapers and formula.

I got home and converted the spare bedroom to a baby’s room. The rest of the day was spent sharing my big news. I am quite certain that seven years ago at this very hour, I was doing exactly what I am doing now…typing away on my computer. It grew later and later, and sleep seemed very far away. But sleep did eventually come.

also a few weeks later
I woke up early in the morning, anxious for the hours to pass. Lancer, the young man who would drive me to the village arrived at about ten o’clock. He drove over the twisty, winding roads leading to my daughter.

A combination of excitement and motion sickness forced me to ask Lancer to pull over at one point. I still can point out the spot. It is a part of her story Rachel never allows me to leave out.

Finally, we got to the village. We had to park out on the road and walk in over a dry river bed to reach the tiny, dark house with the thatched roof. The baby was nowhere to be seen.

First night in her new home
Not wanting to come across as a pushy foreigner, I chose to wait until they brought her to me. Finally, her foster mother asked me, “Do you want to see the baby?”

“Oh yes,” I said. I'm sure the longing in my heart spilled into my voice and my eyes.

I was taken into the house where this tiny bit of a baby lay sleeping on a bed with a  rolled-up towel on either side of her. Tears came to my eyes as I gazed for the first time at my little girl. To me, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She still is.

I put on her first diaper. I fed her for the first time there in front of the thatched roof hut. We got lots of pictures with the foster family. I thanked them profusely for their care of this most precious gift.

Finally, it was time to go home. I was not sure-footed enough to safely carry Rachel over the rocky riverbed, so her foster father carried her to the car. The whole foster family came along to say good-bye. I put her in the car seat, and Lancer drove us home.

I cradled that precious little life in my arms for hours that night, reluctant to lay her down in her bassinette. As I gazed on that sweet sleeping face, I marveled at the treasure that God had entrusted to me.

And so ended our very first Gotcha Day. I look forward to celebrating many more with Rachel in the years to come.


  1. What a great story. That makes your daughter and mine nearly the same age, as my Lily was born July 20, 2005 (but born ten weeks early) we took her home from the hospital Sept. 1st, which is kind of our "Gotcha Day."

    Are you going to share the story behind "why" she needed an adoptive home? Or is that too personal to her birth parents?

    Hope you enjoyed "Gotcha" day.

  2. My birthday is September 1st. Not that that means anything. I am debating how much of her story to share in this context. The "why" is interesting, but it is, in the end, Rachel's story. I might wait until she is older and I am able to share the whole story with her. Then we decide how much she wants to share publicly. She obviously knows she is adopted, but some details will wait until she is older.

    As for Lily...if she hadn't come 10 weeks early, they really would have been born about the same time.


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