Those of you familiar with international adoption know that it is a process.
I am so thrilled so share that the very final step in the very paper-heavy international adoption process is complete!
Joseph received his American Certificate of Citizenship today.
We have so many dates to celebrate with our little guy — his adoption date in Nigeria, the day we came home, and his adoption date in the U.S. We have special documents and items, such as his birth certificates, adoption decrees, and the American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in honor of Joseph’s adoption. But this document is extra-special, because it signifies the finality of everything. We’ve known Joseph as our son for 2 years now, but this document signs and seals that Joseph’s journey home is complete, and marks the last step in our paper trail!
Every day, I’ve checked the mailbox waiting for an envelope that looks like this:
I could barely contain myself in my excitement to open it. Thankfully, my giddy hands didn’t do any damage to the contents.
Waiting inside the envelope was a folder with a very official-looking seal that looked like this:
And…there it was! The piece of paper we had prayed so often for!
I see this document and I’m reminded that God takes the broken and makes it beautiful. I’m so thankful that we are part of Joseph’s story. I am thrilled he is now a U.S. citizen, but I also reflect on all of the people on the ground in Nigeria who loved Joseph so deeply and worked so diligently to ensure he became part a family. They prayed and fought tirelessly for Joseph to join his parents in America, even though the chances of them ever being able to visit us here are very slim. They are selfless, and they are not forgotten.
We met a Nigerian friend at a mall in Des Moines this summer, and the first thing he said to Joseph, as he picked him up and gave him the kind of all-encompassing embrace that we experienced so often in Nigeria, was: PRAISE GOD! YOU’RE IN AMERICA NOW, BOY!
A few things you might notice if you look closely at his citizenship document:
- The adorable photo. The funny story behind this picture: it was taken on the streets of Lagos outside in front of a random building. On the road to the U.S. Consulate, many men and women hawked their goods and services, knowing that one of the main things people need when going to the Consulate are passport photos.Jonny had to hold him up against the wall, and Joseph was dazed and confused. Also note his crazy baby ‘fro.
- The last name. You may have noticed that the document says that Joseph Henry Craig is also known as Joseph Edokpaigbe. There’s a special story behind this: Edokpaigbe was not his last name at birth — it is the last name all children at his orphanage were given. Edokpaigbe is the orphanage founder’s late father’s name. When his father passed away, Eric, the founder of the orphanage, inherited his childhood home, which he turned into a safe place for children who found themselves without parents. Giving the children a last name not only honored his father, but gave the children dignity and identity at school.
- The citizenship date. We were kind of surprised that his citizenship is backdated to December 7, 2011 — his adoption date here in the U.S. We knew it was a possibility, but when it comes to international adoption, we learned quickly not to assume anything. It’s kind of special to have that date on his certificate.
- The missing numbers. I removed his ID numbers through Photoshop for security purposes. The document doesn’t just say ‘No.’ twice – ha!
When we were in Nigeria have issues obtaining a travel visa for Joseph, our friends’ driver saw all of the in’s and out’s of the process. (Mainly because he was stuck driving us everywhere.) His son was close in age to Joseph, and he though he was a very quiet guy and considered “the help” by most of society, we got to know him and he became vested in Joseph’s situation. After a very long, exhausting, and discouraging day full of failures, he stood in the doorway, helping me carry in groceries. (Jonny already had to go back home to work.)
“God is going to do big things through Joseph,” he told me, looking me in the eye. “Joseph is going to be a great man of God. Satan doesn’t want that. But Joseph will be.”
And that’s my biggest prayer and hope for Joseph. No matter what country he’s in, no matter what circumstances or obstacles are thrown his way, that his life will mean something.
It already does.
[Minor disclaimer: I feel like I should share that our happiness and excitement for Joseph’s citizenship doesn’t mean that we think America is somehow overly superior to Nigeria. We are thankful for much in America, while believing all people are equal and that God’s love shines on all nations. We praise God for Joseph’s heritage and hope to honor it while celebrating his new identities as well.]