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A Year of Thanksgiving

In mist of a tumultuous period in history, it is with great thanksgiving that I reflect upon the past year. One year ago today Olivia and I picked up her U.S. visa as the final piece needed for us to come home and be reunited as a family. Oh what a joyous day it was!

These past few weeks have been filled with many memories and some final year milestones: from our second quick trip to Rwanda, getting the notification we could finally go in for her visa interview, her visa approval, saying our good byes, and finally boarding the plane a year ago today to come home.

As happy and joyful as this day was (and believe me, it was very happy), it brings with it some very bittersweet memories. My heart longs to visit Lagos again. I miss the culture, the food, the people. The memories that Olivia once had have started to slip away, and as time wears on I know mine will too. As Olivia and I took off for the U.S. one year ago the tears burned in my eyes. We were going home, but Olivia was leaving her first home.

As I reflected upon coming home I am reminded that as Christians, we are to long for and look forward to the day when Christ returns to bring us to our forever home. Bringing Olivia to her earthly “forever home” is a small picture of this greater truth. This is a little convicting— am I longing for the day we go to our forever home with Christ with as great anticipation as I did when Olivia and I finally came home? I pray that I will – for that day will be far greater for those who are in Christ than the celebration we had the day we stepped off the escalator and were reunited with all of our family and friends.

As we look back and reflect on God’s goodness and his providence during the whole process we want to celebrate the work that God has done. He protected us and watched over our every step. He granted us good health while we were gone. He allowed us to visit friend in Rwanda twice to experience some sweet fellowship and respite. He provided drivers, friends, a church, and so much more. He worked in the hearts of leaders and officials to get our paperwork done and bring Olivia home. He made possible what seemed impossible. To God alone be the glory!

We have a whole list of people who we are have incredibly thankful for. To start our families, and our church family, Vice President Pence and his staff, especially Sarah Makin-Acciani, for Senator Tom Emmer and his staff, especially Alejandra Henriquez. We are thankful for our friends and church in Nigeria, Olivia’s staff at her orphanage, and all the staff at Morgan Hill Children’s Foundation. We also have so many people around the globe that prayed for and supported us during this time we can’t even begin to list them all.

While our story had a happy ending, we want to acknowledge that there are many waiting children and families around the globe waiting to be united. It’s quite fitting that we came home in the month of November, which just happens to coincide with National Adoption Month. So as we close out the month of November we ask that you take some time and thank God with us for the many blessings he has shown our family over this past year and half. We also ask you to prayer for a special family to us who has been waiting over a year to get their sons visa appointment and approval in Nigeria. We love this family dearly and became good friends with them in Nigeria. We long for the day when they will be able to travel back to the US and tell of God’s faithfulness in their adoption journey.

We also ask that you continue to pray for reform and progress in the adoption visa process in Nigeria. We know of other families who are stuck in the process and have been blessed to talk with many families who are just starting the process. We pray that God would work to speed along the process so that families can be united and that these children may not suffer more trauma and loss.

In closing I would like to share the lyrics to a song that speaks of the power of our God and the thankfulness we have this Thanksgiving season.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Sarah, Markus, & Olivia

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.

Keith Getty

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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