I think this story begins in the shower. Really, it begins earlier, but we’ll pick it up in the shower. I was taking a shower. In the middle of my shower, Sam yelled that I had a phone call, and came in and handed me the phone. Must be important. She later said, she had a strange feeling about that call. So I turn off the shower and took the phone to speak to this person who tells me that they have just mailed us a check for $20,000 to help us in our desire to adopt a baby.
I almost dropped the phone.
The journey began. That was in June of 2002, and it would be another year and a half of paperwork and red tape. And waiting. Always waiting. Waiting so difficult, it’s impossible to know unless you’ve been there. It was June 2003 when we saw the picture. A swaddled, chubby-cheeked, 1 month old Kazakh, described as being very healthy and very happy. We could meet him, they said, in September, no October, no, November.
It didn’t seem that possible in November. One thing after another seemed to cause a delay. Everything seemed so uncertain. I said over and over again, that I won’t believe we’re going until I step on a plane. Even there in Memphis, when we got on the plane, we knew weather was closing Airport after airport, and when our plane stopped on the taxiway to wait for clearance to take-off, I was holding my breath.
It took off. On a Sunday afternoon, just before Thanksgiving in 2003, we took off to Detroit, then to Amsterdam, and finally, in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, we arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Just stepping off the plane, we knew we’d left it all behind. Nothing was the same. It all seemed like something out of a 1960’s spy movie. I remember the surreal feeling we had as an early 90’s model Vulga sped us through the streets of Almaty and to the hotel.
The next day was spent sightseeing, and the day after it was time for another flight. This time it was on Air Kazakhstan to the frozen north. Pavlodar. We landed on a sheet of ice, and getting off of that plane, I learned what cold is. The winds of Siberia cut right through me. We could hardly breathe. Then came another crazy ride to a hotel, but on the way, our lawyer (Svetlana…she met us at the airport), pointed to a building and said, “your baby is there.” What?!? After a year and a half. After all the prayers and tears and all the “I won’t believe it until…” After this surreal journey around the world, you’re telling me that we just casually drove by the building where he lives?
The next day was Thanksgiving, but there were more important things. There were interviews with government officials. We had to be approved by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Orphan Care and Guardianship. The next day would be one to remember forever.
On the day after Thanksgiving, we met Danat Kalievavich Rhakhmatov. They took us to the music room of the orphanage, and brought this nine month old, baby boy to us. He smiled at Sam immediately. My low voice (he had probably never heard a man speak before) startled him, but he just looked at me in his curious way and opened his eyes really wide…and poked me in the nose with his finger. I think we got to see him for five minutes. I don’t mind admitting that we both cried. Once back to the hotel, I made my way down the street to the internet cafe where I crashed the server trying to email pictures. I didn’t care. There were waiting family and friends who HAD to see these pictures. Yes, its true, we wanted to say, see, we’re actually holding him!
This began the two weeks of orphanage visits. Sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. Always interesting. He was usually in good spirits, except for the one day when he was a little sick, but I’ll spare you the details of how we learned that. We even got to see him pull himself up to stand for the first time during one of those visits. We lived for those visits. We spent the rest of the day talking about them, or trying to pass the time by exploring.
And exploring was fun. With two wonderful couples, the Zimmermans from Iowa and the Stewarts from North Carolina, we found cafes, shops, parks, the ice village, etc. We tried out the American food place. We tried Horse Milk. We learned that it was more than ok to eat the chicken sold on the street corner…it was great! We learned that Kazakh police do not give directions. We learned that people were always making fun of us, but what did we care? We bought leather coats at ridiculously low prices…and we talked non-stop about the children we’d be taking home
On December 12, 2003, we had our day in court. We were ushered into a small room. The cast of characters was Sam and I, Svetlana, Lena (her interpreter), a representative from the orphanage, the prosecutor, and the judge. We each had to stand and be questioned by our lawyer and the prosecutor. He was a little tougher on Sam, but it all turned out to be a cultural misunderstanding. Then we sat down and listened as people spoke Russian all around the room. If you’ve ever listened to people speaking Russian, you know it sounds angry. Lena could hardly keep up to tell us everything, so we waited nervously, then the judge looked at us and said something in Russian which Lena translated, “Congratulations, you are parents.” At that moment, little Danat’s name changed to Caleb Ray Davis, and all legal documents were changed to list us as his parents. It was official. As we tell Caleb, its gotcha day because that’s when we got-cha!
Yes, there was more waiting. Another week to actually take him out of the orphanage, and due to a mix up with the good ‘ol US of A, it would be another month before we returned home.
And it’s all remembered as the best trip we ever took. Probably the happiest time of our lives. Among the vivid memories, I remember walking down the concourse of the Memphis airport on January 13. We were tired, but beside ourselves. My wife, who although she had been traveling for 24 hours and had just spent 3 hours in immigration, looked radiant as she proudly carried Caleb. Way down at the end, I could see our families anxiously waiting. I choked back tears and jumped up and down to wave at them. We were home…and we are a family.
So today is our own little holiday…Gotcha Day. We’ll tell this story to Caleb (again). We’ll get out the pictures…which we would show you if you want. We’ll watch the videos…again, we’d love to show you too! We’ll share our favorite memories of Kazakhstan. We’ll make it a day to tell Caleb how happy we were to adopt him.
People always say that he must be so fortunate to come from such a bleak world of the Kazakhstan orphanage into our family. I always think, are you kidding? Sam and I are the fortunate ones!
So, celebrate with us….Happy Gotcha Day!!!
I am glad it is November. From October 2015 to October 2016, I had the hardest year of my life. It started with closing the church I had worked to plant and moving back to my hometown. Since then, I have had two jobs that taught me exactly what my skill set does not include. I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of type 2 diabetes. I have lost friends. I have been angry at God. In October 2016, I spent 5 days in a psychiatric hospital. I am glad it is November.
And here is what I have learned this: Total health must encompass the body, the mind, the soul, and the tribe.
A Healthy Body
I served in the ministry of Southern Baptist churches for 15 years. Southern Baptists frown on drunkenness, but we would rather not have to talk about gluttony. It is an acceptable vice. We eat. We eat fried chicken and we love desserts too. In that aspect of Southern Baptist life, I had no problem fitting in. I can eat a lot. I also enjoy sitting at a desk, writing, or visiting with someone. I do not get a lot of exercise. At my last annual physical, my cholesterol was somewhere over 210. My blood sugar was 132. I have even managed a blood pressure reading this year of 186/120. Needless to say, I have to make some changes.
I am happy to report that I have lost 13 lbs. I have cut out sugar almost completely. I eat vegetables and I cook more and eat fast food less. Exercise is tough, but even if it just means walking a couple of miles on the college campus near my home, I try to do a half hour a day. I am getting physically healthy.
Perhaps because we fixate too much on Heaven, we Christians tend to ignore this gift of a physical body that God has given us. It is a gift. Life is a gift. To be able to live long and live well is crucial to having good relationships and a good legacy. For total health, one must look to what they put in to their body, and how they train their body.
A Healthy Mind
I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. I come by it naturally. It runs in my family and I have a rare endocrine system disorder that does not help. Thus, I have a mind that does not feel happiness they way a mind ought. My mind can acknowledge all the good in my life and still tell my body to feel miserable. Mine is not a healthy mind. However, it does not have to be that way. Medication helps, but so does exercise. Learning to notice unhealthy (and errant) thinking and consciously retrain myself to think in truthful, helpful ways is crucial. At the same time it is important to note what I allow my mind to take in. I have to get rid of the junk food of thoughts, so to speak. If I want to be healthy, I have to take care of my mind.
A Healthy Soul
I have spent most of the last year being angry at God and angry at many of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I neglected the spiritual aspect of my health. Now, as I strive to be healthy, I realize that spiritual disciplines are crucial. Spending time in scripture, prayer, being honest with my church, serving others, etc. are all building blocks to a healthy soul. I am fortunate to have a church that is incredibly welcoming of people no matter where they are in life, but I cannot just join the crowd. It takes effort to feed and protect the soul. Effort that is well worth it in the long run.
A Healthy Tribe
Everyone lives within certain social circles. For me, those circles start with my family, my extended family, my friends, my church, my neighbors, etc. These circles are the tribe in which I live. A tribe is only as healthy as the relationships that exist within it. Thus, for a healthy tribe, I have to be intentional about my relationships. I must work to be a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, church member, and neighbor. I have to be aware of the relationships that exist in my life and work daily to strengthen them.
Putting it All Together
Now here is something that is often goes unnoticed: Each of these areas of health impacts the others. If I were to sit around all day in front of the TV, gorging on junk food, it would become very hard to avoid depression. Depression and anxiety would then get the best of me and I would begin to neglect spiritual matters. In this state, my family would surely suffer and I would become isolated from any healthy relationship. All of these work together.
For this reason, it is important to address total health. To move forward intentionally building up the body, mind, soul, and tribe. It is a lot of work, for sure, but well worth the journey!
When we signed up to be foster parents there were a lot of things we did not know. We did not who would be placed in our home. We did not know how long he or she might live with us. We did not know when. We only knew that one day a call may come.
So life went along with little thought to this call that may or may not come. In fact, on one June afternoon, it was the furthest things from our minds. What was on our minds was that the next day, eight people were coming from Missouri to help us with our work in Hawaii.
With a group on its way, we were busy making last minute preparations. I was finalizing where they would stay and Samantha and I were running errands buying food and supplies for the week of working with this group. We were in the parking lot of the Ewa Beach Safeway when the call came.
“Can you take a young boy?”
“Can you pick him up at 3pm today?” (it was already one o’clock)
We had very little information. There was confusion about his name and his age, but he was in a shelter that was unsuitable for a child his age and needed placement immediately. Of course we agreed.
We called the group and told them of the changes. We began searching for a bed and a carseat.
At 3pm we went to a local urgent care clinic. We were told that it was routine procedure for the child to undergo a physical when changing placements. There was no social worker. Kerry was brought by a courier who had him tucked under his arm like a package. Samantha immediately took him and hugged him. Kerry was understandably scared, so while Samantha argued with someone from child services on the telephone (they had none of the right paperwork for his physical), Caleb found a toy and began to play with him. Slowly, Kerry warmed up, but he clung to Samantha as much as he could.
I once heard a comedian say that having a two year old is like inviting a raccoon on speed into your home. We always said that Kerry came in to our family like the Tasmanian Devil. We had a lot we all had to learn about each other, but this is what we know of Kerry:
Eventually we received one of the greatest gifts anyone could bestow. His biological family asked if we would adopt him. That is a humbling honor, and one we cherish daily.
Social services drug their feet but on October 5, 2015, the day came. We swore in court to be his parents. The judge invited all of us for a picture behind the bench. One day Kerry saw the picture and exclaimed, “I know what that is!”
“What is it?” I asked.
“That’s when I turned Davis!”
Indeed it is. We love you, Kerry. Happy Gotcha Day!
Author, Parent, Husband, Christ-follower