Thursday, July 1, 2010


Today we had our day in court. After months of battling the unknown, completing massive mounds of paperwork, and praying a lot, we became the official, legal parents of Mduduzi Ezekiel Howerton. While it ended very well, our court appearance, like many parts of this process, did not go exactly as planned.

I actually wasn’t anxious about our court date. I was under the impression that it was a rubber stamp sort of formality, that the right paperwork had been submitted and necessary permissions granted. We were excited but sort of felt like Duzi already belonged to us, that we belonged to him, and that he was already a permanent part of our family. The night before court, we tried to explain to him what was going to happen in front of the magistrate. He replied, “But I am already Howerton!”

Before court, the social workers in charge of our case prepared a luncheon for us, as they do for all adoptive families before their court appearances. Usually, the lunch is lighthearted and filled with excited, hopeful conversation. When we arrived, however, the room was filled with tension and uncertainty. Our primary social worker asked to have a word with us outside. Really, that’s never a good sign. There were problems with our case, we were told. There were glitches caused by the passage of new legislation that went into effect THAT DAY. There was a letter we needed that was going to be faxed, and there was a chance that the adoption would not be approved that day. If it wasn’t approved that day, there was no telling when it would be. They didn’t want to scare us; they just thought we should know. You know, in case. We were the first international adoption that this new law would apply to. The social workers had never encountered these obstacles with the courts before.

Michael and I took in the news with a mixture of confusion and disbelief. We had done the paperwork correctly and passed every rigorous screening and test. We had believed that the big hurdles had already been overcome. We weren’t ready for another obstacle. We bravely and empathetically thanked our social workers for keeping us in the loop and then found some privacy to PRAY. Helpless, we cried out to God for answers and intervention. I stepped into the bathroom to wipe the soggy black mascara from my cheeks and then we re-joined our celebration luncheon.

While we ate, the social workers flitted about, taking phone calls outside while nervously pacing back and forth. Shocked, and over-reacting quite a bit (as I have a habit of doing), I tried to imagine telling Duzi that we could not adopt him, that this whole week had been a mistake, that we were going to America without him. I tried to imagine telling Alex and Caleb. In that moment, the Mother Bear came out in me. There was NO WAY I WAS GOING TO HAVE THOSE CONVERSATIONS. AND THERE WAS NO WAY ANYONE WAS TAKING MY SON.

I thought about the hundreds of people praying for us, the miracles we’d already seen, and decided to rest in the knowledge that God had destined Duzi for our family and that He had a plan. I don’t mean for this to sound noble. Seriously, I didn’t have any other choice!

I remained tense but was able to shed maybe 70% of the anxiety, which is exceptionally good for me. With faith, we traveled to the judicial building in Durban for our 2:00 appointment. For an hour and a half, the social workers advocated on our behalf with the magistrate, imploring the court to do what was in the best interest of the child, which clearly was to let us adopt him. After 90 minutes of waiting in a tiny room, all three kids were going a little nuts. OK, a LOT nuts. They were ready to climb the walls and I’m fairly certain were considering a hostile take-over of the building. Finally, finally, finally, we got word that the magistrate was going to sign off on the adoption but wanted to see us first. All five Howertons immediately filed into the magistrate’s office and sat down.

She was very kind. She was a mother. She asked us questions about why we wanted to adopt and why we wanted to adopt from South Africa. She had read our file and knew I had 5 sisters and that Michael’s brother had adopted two boys. She asked Duzi if he knew why he was there. He wasn’t quite sure what to say, believing correctly that he was already a Howerton and all. She asked Alex and Caleb what they were most excited about in getting a new brother, told them to say hello to Mickey Mouse and THEN SHE SIGNED THE ADOPTION DECREE.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God showed up in court today. There is no other explanation, no other way I can explain the miracle we witnessed. God has moved mountains in every stage of this process and has always known that Duzi would be our son. I can see his sovereign plan and yet, am still incredibly surprised by it.

We are rejoicing tonight. Our good friends hosted a celebration dinner for us tonight, complete with champagne. We celebrated big and are now completely exhausted.

We still have some obstacles to overcome. Well, one really. We need a new birth certificate for Duzi with his new last name on it – this is a US immigration requirement and could take a week to get. Or, it could take a month. The sooner we get this, the sooner we can come home. Will you continue to pray for us?

I just tucked all three of my kids in bed and am feeling very, very happy. And exhausted.

(for some reason, I'm having a hard time uploading photos to blogger. to see the latest pics of the Howerton clan, log on to my Facebook profile - )


  1. What an amazing example of God working His plan in your family. What a great example you are setting for your kids by keeping your trust in him. We'll continue to pray that the last barrier gets blown away!

  2. Oh my word, I'm having anxiety just reading this, I don't know how you got through it. Praise God it's over!! Congratulations.

  3. Praise the Lord! What a blessing to see God's sovereign hand at work in the eleventh (or twelfth?) hour. Can't wait to hear more good news!


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