Downie went on to fill me in on Jalia and Daniel, explaining that the sale of their handmade goods was the only thing keeping them afloat week by week. "They are committed to using their art to provide for themselves and their kids and eventually, they hope, their extended family and friends," Downie said. "I believe that they are the future of Uganda, but right now they barely get food on the table..."
I listened intently, nodding as the story of this tenacious but struggling couple sparked something deep in my heart. Since my time with Food for the Hungry, I was convinced that a good job was the surest and most dignified way to empower a family to rise out of poverty. These people, Jalia and Daniel, sounded like my people. I tucked that knowledge away, not really believing that I'd ever play a part in their story.
Joe and I arrived home from that trip refreshed, filled with vision and eager to adopt. We weren't sure that Uganda was where we'd find our child, but we still felt confident that international adoption was the path for us. Our small nest egg would provide the means; now it was time to research the way.
What we didn't foresee (but perhaps should have) was that the next month the Austin real estate bubble would pop with the advent of the recession. That adoption nest egg we boasted in? Yeah, it started paying the grocery bill. At its worst, Joe and I owned five houses, one of which we were living in and four of which we needed to sell. Three of them showed no signs of selling—stressful, to say the least. Joe and I began playing chess with our credit cards, and still today, I remember the look on my husband's face each time he came into our bedroom on errand day. In a quiet voice, he'd say, "Use the Mastercard today, not the Visa, okay?"
It was a hard season for us—both financially and otherwise. During sleepless nights, I stayed awake wondering if the four of us were going to have to move in with my parents. However, with the current real estate reality, our house would never sell, so round and round it all went in my head. One day, I received a call from Joe on his way home from what was supposed to have been a closed real estate deal—the only one in months.
"She backed out," he said. "The client was too worried the home was going to depreciate in value."
The despair led me to googling, "What to do when God has led you toward international adoption but you have no money." Nothing helpful popped up.
Okay, so maybe I never googled that exactly, but I did begin to pluck my way through the internet, determined to find direction of some sort. Within a month of beginning that process, two things happened that I could only explain as divine nudges. The first was an email I received from a friend who had just returned from Rwanda after interviewing for a job with International Justice Mission. "I heard through the grapevine that you are exploring adoption," he wrote. He went on to say that he had met a woman on his trip, Jennifer, who lived in Rwanda. She had recently finalized the
adoption of her son and wanted to begin facilitating adoptions for American families.
The second nudge felt even more exacting. I searched online for additional information regarding adopting from Rwanda, and one of the first hits I got was a blog by a fellow Austinite who was months away from adopting a little boy from Rwanda. Intrigued by her story, I reached out to her through her site to see if she could offer us any words of wisdom. "We should meet up," she responded. As I set the date in my calendar, I decided to take a closer look at her
blog, and as I scanned her About Me page, I noticed her maiden name and saw her photo. My jaw dropped. This woman was no stranger; she'd been my college roommate. The nudge became more of a push. "Maybe 'Rwanda' is it," I said to Joe.
By this point I knew that to fund our adoption expenses, Joe and I would need to ask for money from family and friends (a prospect that mortified me) or I would need to start a side hustle of some sort. I reached out to Downie in Uganda via text.
"I'm interested in selling those goods after all," I told her, and soon enough, I was road-tripping to San Antonio to pick up those crates of vibrant, beaded Ugandan goods while reaching out to all the Austin-based friends I knew to invite them to my first trunk show. There I would sell Jalia and Daniel's handmade goods, many clothes from my own closet, and spare sets of my dishes, in hopes of getting one step closer to my adoption fund-raising goal.