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South Korea Adoption Update

One More Makes Four

Nearly three years have passed since we initially submitted our application to the Nigerian ministry to start Olivia’s adoption. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, especially since Olivia didn’t come home to Minnesota until November 2019.

We would like to thank you all for your love and support through the whole adoption process, and we would love to invite you to once again journey along with our family as we travel—this time to South Korea – to grow our family.

Below is a summary of our news and then much more detail for those who want it.

Short Version:

We are in the “paperwork stage” of adopting from South Korea! While it will be a few months before we have information on the particular child, it will likely be a boy between one and three years old. We are probably between 12 and 18 months before we make the first of two trips to South Korea. We are all so excited!

Why South Korea?

In a previous post we explained that the state of international adoption is not good, and unfortunately this has only gotten worse over the last few years. Since we first started Olivia’s process back in 2017, we have heard and seen first hand multiple agencies cutting back or even eliminating their international adoption programs. One of the major agencies we were looking into when we adopted Olivia no longer is licensed in international adoptions, and the home study agency we used when we adopted Olivia dropped their international accredidation as well.

As we wrote when we were adopting Olivia, there are a lot of rules and regulations each country has for adopting parents. We both are now over age 30, and that opens up some more options of counties to consider. However, changing policies, political unrest, and lengthening wait times in various programs pointed us towards the South Korea program.

Why Not Nigeria?

This decision comes with a mixture of excitement and sadness for us. While we are extremely excited to adopt from South Korea, we are sad that Nigeria is not a viable option for our family at this time. We love Nigeria, and in many ways see it as a second home. We think of the people and the country daily and pray that our governments would work our a way for U.S. families to bring kids home to more forever families. We are saddened by the state of adoptions in Nigeria, and quite frankly all of Africa. When Olivia’s case started moving along with a few others, we were hopeful this would be part of a systemic change in how adoption cases were handled and prioritized. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, and COVID-19 has made things even worse. We currently know families who are still stuck in Africa or separated from their legally adopted child by the U.S. visa process. The main difficulty is the uncertainty – it would be almost impossible for our family to face the high likelihood of months of separation again, particularly now that we have Olivia.

While Nigeria or another country is not a viable
option right now, we are praying that this will not always be the case. We will continue to pray for and advocate for these families, and hope that the process does improve. There are countless children in Nigeria and throughout Africa that are almost certain to grow up in an orphanage unless they are adopted internationally, so it is our hope and prayer that the U.S. can work with these countries to create a clear, predictable process that enables children to safely and confidently be adopted into forever families.

Let the Paperwork Begin!

While we have been told Korea is a simpler process and doesn’t require as much paperwork as Nigeria, we will hold our judgment till the end. Just last weekend Markus and I were finally able to stomach going through and clearing out the two expansion files of old paperwork we had for Olivia and her adoption. Even now we are still waiting for a final document for Olivia.

Here is the current stage we are at in the South Korea process: We have submitted our first application to the agency and are just getting finished with our second. After this comes the home study process. Unfortunately for us, as I previously mentioned our prior agency we worked with is no longer licensed to do international adoptions. That means we much completely start again, pay all new fees, and be assigned another social worker. We have completed the paperwork necessary for the required background check, and now that things are moving we hope that will be processed soon. We do expect quite a back up, since these crucial background check haven’t been processed for months due to not being deemed an essential service during the pandemic.

COVID-19 – The Big Unknown

We have no idea the full implications or the impact that COVID-19 will have on our adoption. One thing we do know is that God has been continually faithful and gracious to our family. We expect the process to be a little slow, at least to start. We have been made aware that just this week Minnesota is finally declaring the processing of adoption-related fingerprints/background checks as an essential service. This is an extremely crucial and necessary component for all foster care and adoptions within the state of Minnesota, and the failure by our governor to consider it essential has resulted in delays for many families. We have completed the paperwork necessary for the required background check, and now that things are moving we hope that will be processed soon.

A Little About South Korea

We have been made aware that families are starting to travel again to South Korea for adoption related trips, and have been told that at the moment they will have to quarantine for two weeks before they can meet their child. We hope and pray that COVID-19 is an unhappy memory and that this restriction will be lifted long before we travel.

Korea and Nigeria are quite different geographically and culturally, so it makes sense that the adoption processes are different too. Unlike Nigeria, which was a relatively new international adoption program for U.S. families, Korea is a long standing program that goes back to the 1980s. Because of this, overall the program and process is quite smooth and predictable. Did you read that closely? PREDICTABLE. This word rings quite sweet in my cautiously optimistic ear. As always, we are reminded that the only thing to expect in international adoption is the unexpected, but it at least appears the overall process and timeline will follow an established pattern.

With Nigeria we waited almost a year and a half for a referral and a picture of Olivia. In contrast, with South Korea, once our paperwork is in country it will only be between one and four months before we have a name and a picture to love. This makes things quite exciting at first, but it will also make the the waiting time until travel quite difficult. With Olivia, we saw her picture and were on the ground in country within two months. For this child, we will likely have to wait eight to twelve months to travel after we get the child’s information.

Unlike the one long trip we took to adopt Olivia, Korea is a two-trip process. These trips are usually between a month and three months apart. Both trips are quite short, but do require both parents for both trips.

Details on the Child

Just like with Olivia, are open to bringing home either a boy or girl and one or two children. As we entered the program, we were quite shocked to find out that it is 99% certain we will be getting a referral for one boy.

As for age, the children that are being referred to adoptive families are quite young. So, more than likely Olivia will soon have a younger brother. Even with this information, we are holding everything loosely. We wouldn’t be completely surprised to be that 1%, especially since all five of Olivia’s cousins are girls 😉.

Prayer Requests

As always, we are asking for prayer during these next steps. We are veterans at filling out adoption paperwork, but it takes a bit longer with a four year old in the house! Please pray that the process would go quickly and smoothly as we continue working on our checklist.

Pray that the Lord would grant us peace as we wait. There are a lot of factors that go into this process, and it can be emotionally and financially stressful. We know that our Father is good and will provide what we need each step of the way. We know both from Scripture and experience that God gives his people what they need no matter the circumstance, and we will confidently rest on that truth throughout the process.

We love you all, and cannot express enough how much we appreciate your prayers and support.

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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A Long Overdo Update

We have now been back in Minnesota for about a week and a half! Sarah and Olivia’s flight back home went really well. Their first flight left Lagos around 11 PM and was overnight, and they actually got about 5 hours of sleep! The homecoming and greeting of family and friends at the airport was full of deep joy – lots of happy tears!

It has been a busy time adjusting to our new life and finding our new normal as a family of three finally all together. Overall Olivia has been adjusting really well to her new life in Minnesota, even to the cold. The true test will be this next week when the high temperature is -5F. Olivia loves sledding and playing in the snow! She still enjoys going to coffee but she has replaced her vanilla cake with hot chocolate.

We all have enjoyed spending time with family and celebrating birthdays we have missed since we left in May. Enjoy some pictures of the fun we’ve been having – can’t wait to meet all our family and friends!

Thanks again for all your prayers! We cannot say enough how overwhelmed we are with your love and support. The Lord has shown his grace through you, and for this we are and will be eternally grateful.

Markus, Sarah, and Olivia

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Coming HOME!

It is with great joy that we can finally say that Sarah and Olivia are coming home! They will pick up the visa early next week and head to the airport.

We are overwhelmed with thankfulness to the Lord as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving! We are so thankful to all our family, church family, and friends for their love, prayers, and support. It may be cliche to say, “we couldn’t have done this without you,” but that does not make it untrue. Thank you, with all that we have.

We ask for continued prayer as Sarah and Olivia travel. It is a long flight, especially for a three year old. Pray for smooth, peaceful, and safe travels, from leaving for the airport until they finally get home. Pray for a smooth transition into our lives back home as a family of three.

We have shared this with various people over the course of this process, but our “theme song” for this whole adventure has become “The Lord is My Salvation” by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  As you read the lyrics and listen to it, I think you will understand why. Based on Psalm 27, we sing it today with joy knowing that these words testify to the loving faithfulness of our God. To God alone be all glory, honor, and praise!

The Lord is My Salvation, Keith and Kristyn Getty.

The grace of God has reached for me
And pulled me from the raging sea
And I am safe on this solid ground
The Lord is my salvation

I will not fear when darkness falls
His strength will help me scale these walls
I’ll see the dawn of the rising sun
The Lord is my salvation

Who is like the Lord our God?
Strong to save, faithful in love
My debt is paid and the victory won
The Lord is my salvation

My hope is hidden in the Lord
He flowers each promise of His Word
When winter fades I know spring will come
The Lord is my salvation

In times of waiting, times of need
When I know loss, when I am weak
I know His grace will renew these days
The Lord is my salvation

And when I reach my final day
He will not leave me in the grave
But I will rise,
He will call me home
The Lord is my salvation

Glory be to God the Father
Glory be to God the Son
Glory be to God the Spirit
The Lord is our salvation

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VISA APPROVED!

We are so happy to be able to let you know that Olivia’s U.S. visa is approved! They are hoping it will be printed by Monday. Please pray for a quick printing, as it can take up to two weeks. We will update you all with travel information as we get closer.

We will have a group to welcome Olivia and Sarah home at the airport when they get in. We will plan on coordinating this through the Facebook group, but if you are not in the group and want to be kept informed about this please let us know.

Thanks so much for praying! We are praising the Lord for his grace to our family, and we will be extra thankful this Thanksgiving!

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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Visa Appointment Tomorrow

I wanted to reach out on behalf of Sarah and Olivia for prayer tonight as they head to the visa appointment tomorrow (in the very early morning to us in the states). This is the final step in the process – as soon as the visa is approved and printed, Sarah and Olivia can come home.

Please pray for peace for both Sarah and Olivia as they head to the consulate. Pray for favor with the consulate and that all the paperwork is clear and for the quick approval of Olivia’s visa. Please pray also that they are able to print the visa tomorrow as well so they can come home on the next available flight. We are resting in the truth that the Lord is good and he works everything for the good of his people.

We are so thankful for your prayers and support. The Lord has been gracious beyond measure to us to give us such loving family and friends, and we have never realized that more that in the last seven months. Praying that the next post is the news we’ve been waiting to post since we first traveled to Nigeria!

Markus

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Visa Appointment is Scheduled!

We are so happy to be able to let you all know that Olivia’s visa appointment is scheduled for Wednesday, November 20! If all goes well, we should be able to get her visa printed within a few days following the appointment, so Sarah and Olivia will be able to be home for Thanksgiving!

We are praying prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord for his faithfulness throughout the process. We are also praying for a smooth appointment on Wednesday and for no last minute problems or hiccups. We have rescheduled Sarah & Olivia’s flight back to Lagos from Kigali, Rwanda for Monday so they can get in and have an extra day in case there are any flight issues. We would appreciate continued prayer for all the details to work out smoothly over the next couple weeks. We cannot wait for Olivia’s visa to finally be in hand and for Sarah and Olivia to be on a plane home!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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6 Months and Counting

Today marks six months since Markus and I first arrived in Nigeria to start the greatest adventure of our lives. When we left, we only had a little bit of an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Although this has been an extremely difficult time in our lives, we can both say beyond any doubt that it is worth it. It is worth every heartache, every missed special event (and there have been many), the financial stress, the lack of sleep etc. Olivia Angel Yager is worth all of that and so much more. The time that we have spent in country has allowed us to better understand her culture and to make many special memories with her. Though it has certainly come with its challenges and frustrations, it is a time that we will forever treasure.

During a season of hardship, it would be easy to become angry and bitter towards God. Though there are many times that we have questioned his timing of things, we praise God that we have never questioned his goodness. One simple song we sing every night before bed is “God is So Good.” We believe that with our whole hearts. While pain obviously does not feel good at the time, we know that God is still good. He is faithful, and he will bring about to completion that which he has already begun. We praise the Lord in all of this, and we pray that through our crazy process of adoption our lives and story would be a testament of God’s faithfulness, what he has done, and how much he loves his children.

I would love to share a few things we love and Olivia and how we have seen her grow. Olivia has a very spunky and sweet personality. She can be shy around people that she first meets, but once you get to know her she is far from quiet. She loves to talk and laugh like crazy. Though speech does not come easy for her yet, she has gained so many new words and surprises us daily with what she can say. Olivia also has a really good sense of humor. She loves to joke around with us and has one of the best belly laughs I have ever heard.

Olivia has come so far in her eating as well. When we first brought her home we were a little worried we would need to buy stock in peanut butter and ramen noodles, as that is all she would eat. Thankfully, this no longer seems necessary, as her palate has dramatically expanded. She LOVES tacos, chicken, spicy Jollaf rice, and pizza. However, someone needs to teach her how to eat pizza, as she insists that she is to eat it crust first and upside down. 🙂 This works here in Nigeria, because by the time it is delivered to our door it is at best lukewarm, so the pizza toppings do not fall off.

A question I get frequently is what we do here all day long as we wait. To start, we do very little sitting around! Every Sunday I try my best to plan the week and get our outings all set up. We have a few different restaurants and coffee shops we like to visit for croissants and to use their play place. These are cheap ways to stay entertained and have a delicious snack. I have also gotten over my hatred of grocery shopping that I had back in the U.S. We quite enjoy wandering the aisle of the grocery stores wondering if they will have new or exciting things, or if we will be disappointed and find out that our favorite milk is not in stock. We spend lots of time in the swimming pool, which is always a fun time filler. Besides that we do typical stuff any three year old would love to do, such color, blow bubbles, play babies, do crafts, and read stories. Oh yeah, she also still naps! Finally, we spend a good amount of time on FaceTime with daddy and other family members.

A few things that made me realize I have lived here for a “long” time…

  • We have become regulars at the coffee shop on Saturday mornings. We walk in, they smile and say “the usual?”
  • I literally jump for joy when our supper delivery is actually delivered to my door in under an hour!
  • I have completely tuned out the noise of traffic in the big city and laugh when my family members mimic the cars though FaceTime.
  • I have learned to tell what time it is by listening to the “Call to Prayer” coming from the mosque nearby.
  • The loss of power multiple times a day does not even phase us anymore.
  • I’ve learned that If you find something you like at the grocery store it’s best to buy as much as you can, especially if it’s imported, because you never know if or when you will see it again.
  • Cockroaches, while still unpleasant, are not the horror they once were.
  • I cheer when the stoplight is working because we can actually cross the street! Still, we know that in Lagos, one must never trust that cars or motor bikes with indeed stop. Crossing with a Nigerian is always a good idea!

We are so thankful to the Lord for our family, church family, and friends. Your continued prayers and support mean the world to us – we could not do this without you. Most of all, we are thankful to the Lord for his grace, as his mercies are indeed new every morning. It is grace beyond measure to know that Christ has secured for us an unfading inheritance, and that the suffering in this life is nothing compared to the joys he has in store for his people. It is this hope that enables us to endure day after day, even as we pray that our family is reunited back home before we reach seven months.

We love you all!

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Brief Update

We wanted to give you another update as to where we are at in the process of getting Sarah & Olivia home. We still have received no new answers from the U.S. Consulate in Lagos – they do not have any sort of time frame for when Olivia’s case will be processed. We continue to pursue various contacts to help speed up the process and have had some encouraging conversations, but nothing concrete yet.

Please pray for our leaders and those in power. Pray that they see the urgency for the families that are trapped in the bureaucracy and pray that they would move swiftly so all the families waiting, including ours, can be reunited back in the United States. This has been our prayer – not only that Olivia’s visa will be approved, but the Lord will use it to clean up the process so that other families can be reunited and more children can have forever families.

We also wanted everyone to know that Markus will be leaving for Lagos this Friday, October 4 for a roughly 10-day visit. We are extremely thankful to His Kids Adoption Ministry for providing a grant that made this possible. Pray that the family time would be a blessing to everyone and pray for peace for Olivia as she gets to see her daddy for a short time. Pray that we can enjoy this time as a family and not worry about what the future may hold. We would love if we get some encouraging news before Markus has to head back – this would make the goodbye a lot easier! We would be fine with all coming home together too. 🙂

Thank you all for your prayers, kind words, and encouragements. Know that no matter how small they may seem to you, they mean the world to us and make a huge difference. The Lord has richly blessed us with our family, friends, and our loving church – grace beyond measure. We are extremely grateful for you all!

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia

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Closer Than Ever; Still Waiting

It’s been quite awhile since we updated the blog, and a lot has happened since we last posted an update in June. Here is the brief version of what has happened in the last two months and and outline of what comes next.

In June we wrote about completing the Nigerian adoption process and just having the U.S. visa and immigration process remaining. Unfortunately, we were unable to get an appointment closer than two months out, and so we waited to see if there would be an earlier opening. By mid July, I (Markus) was running out of time off and we had not had any success in scheduling an appointment. As a result, we decided to take our paperwork and start the process back in the United States. I left Sarah and Olivia in Lagos and returned home to work and to submit the completed paperwork by mail.

Since then, USCIS has approved Olivia’s I-600 petition, which is a huge step towards bringing her home. Her case is now in route back to the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and we are awaiting them to invite her in for the visa interview. We do not know how long this process will take – some cases have gone quickly and others have waited several months. We are praying for favor with the Consulate so that Sarah and Olivia can come home and we can be reunited as a family.

Please join us in prayer. Pray for our government leaders, for the Consulate staff, and for everyone else involved in our case. We are grateful for all the people along the process that make adoption possible, and it is our prayer that these officials are able to continue to streamline the process so that our family and future adoptive families have a few less hurdles to bringing these kids into a loving home.

We are so thankful to you all for your love, your encouragement, and especially your prayers. We are truly blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by such love and care. Please know that every kind word and prayer is felt and greatly appreciated. We are so excited to bring Olivia home to such love and support.

This time of separation for us as a family is difficult, so we appreciate continued prayers that we might be reunited very soon. We are trusting in our Lord who has shown his love, care, and providential hand throughout the process, and we are confident that everything he has brought us through and will bring us through is for our ultimate good and his glory. As difficult as it has been, we see our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness day after day, and the three of us could not be in better hands.

For His Glory,

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia Yager

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Nigerian Process Complete, Prayers for U.S. Process

We wanted to write a brief post and let all of you following the blog know that we have completed all the paperwork, meetings, court dates, and received the necessary documents to move on the the U.S. Consulate!

We are so grateful for the staff at Morgan Hill Children’s Foundation for the hard work and dedication they put in to make sure adoptions in Nigeria are safe, quick, efficient, and above board. They have tirelessly checked and rechecked to make sure we have the documentation needed to bring Olivia home.

Now it’s time to take all that hard work to the U.S. Consulate and (hopefully quickly) get Olivia’s immigrant visa approved. We hit our first snag in the U.S. process – for some reason the online appointment scheduling website is not accepting her case number, so we have not been able to set up the first appointment yet. Please pray that this gets resolved quickly and we can set up the appointment as soon as possible.

After the initial appointment, we will need to have a medical exam done and get some photographs taken for the visa. We then wait to hear if our case is approved and we can go in for the interview or if we will need to wait longer. We are praying that these several steps we have left go quickly. Pray that the glitch with her case number is resolved quickly and that her case is reviewed and approved in record time.

We continue to trust the Sovereign One who is faithful even when we are not. It is our prayer that we all can come home together before Markus has to return to work – please join us in praying for this.

For His Glory,

Markus, Sarah, & Olivia