The story Captain My Captain was written when Paola was five-years-old. I wrote it when we were struggling with trying to get her adopted. At the time, it really looked as though we were going to have to take her back to Haiti and start the adoption process from there.
What happened over the two years since I wrote “Captain My Captain” was nothing short of a miracle. We applied for her adoption and were told that the we had a 98% percent chance of being turned down because her medical visa had expired and, even though she still needed medical care, her new visa was denied.
We went ahead and got a lawyer and proceeded with the adoption anyway. I wrote letters to my representatives and sought out individuals who were familiar with foreign adoptions, but they all said the same thing; “You’ll have to go to Haiti with her and get the original papers from there. Then, bring her back here.” They told me that it could take up to two years to get the necessary paperwork.
I was not about to take her back to Haiti even for one day let alone two years! I prayed and prayed that God would find a way to intervene. However, I lost my faith as the days of frustration and heartache turned into months and then years. I felt completely alone and abandoned by God. I yelled at Him. I pleaded with Him. I even cursed Him.
Then, one day, my friend Amanda, who is not one to mince words, had a "come to Jesus" talk with me.
“Girl!” She said into the phone, “You haven’t let go! You keep worrying and worrying this thing to death. You are praying all wrong! When are you going to wake up and tell God to take over? You know He is an ‘on time’ God!”
After our conversation, I went to the barn (where I feel closest to God), got down on my knees and made a promise to God that I would give up fighting and would turn it all over to Him. I told Him that I would trust Him - and, this time, I really meant it. I walked out of the barn feeling like a bolder had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt free and at peace with whatever was to come our way.
Shortly after I turned this mess over to God, out of the blue, a letter from the court arrived in the mail. I opened the letter with great trepidation expecting the worst. I assumed that it was going to be the letter giving us a date for our final hearing when they would tell us to get on the next plane to Haiti. I opened the letter with a heavy heart and began reading.
This is what it said: “This cause coming before the court for final hearing and after reviewing the petition for adoption and evidence presented it is adjudged that the court finds that petitioners are fit and proper persons to adopt Paola D’Haiti. Adjudged that Paola Henderson is declared to be the legal child of Alfred W. Henderson and Elizabeth B. Henderson and is given the name of Paola Henderson, by which name she shall hereafter be known.”
Surprisingly, I didn’t faint. I stood by my mailbox and read it over and over again. Then, I got down on my knees and wept like a blubbering idiot. I don’t know what my neighbors must have thought! The emotions were completely overwhelming. I praised God over and over again for His faithfulness in answering my prayers.
After I calmed down, I called my lawyer and asked him how this happened. He was as shocked as me. He said in his 20+ years as a lawyer he never saw something like this happen. In his own words he said it had to be a miracle because we were assigned a judge who was a stickler for following the letter of the law and our chances of him allowing the medical evidence as a reason to keep her here were slim. It just so happened, however, that our assigned judge was away on vacation.
While he was gone, Paola’s case showed up on the desk of Judge Elizabeth Bower who was filling in for our judge. Judge Bower reviewed our petition and signed it - just like that.
I will never again doubt God. Never! He is an on time God!
Captain My Captain
“Captain Mommy, I see fresh poop!” Paola exclaimed pulling on my shirt and excitedly pointing to the cow pie blocking our path.
“This is Captain Mommy.” I said into my invisible walkie-talkie in my hand, “Come in Captain Daughter.”
Paola balled her fist and spoke into her hand, “I’m looking at fresh poop, Captain Mommy, and the cows are close by!”
We silently tiptoed around the pile and surveyed the orange grove for any signs of cows. In front of us was a hodgepodge of cow tracks mixed with wild boar tracks and hoof prints from the horses that frequented the orange grove.
“Which way did they go, Private First Class Daughter?” I asked as we puzzled over the tracks.
“We need a snack.” Paola responded, “So that we can be strong enough to track the cows.”
We found a perfect orange tree with lots of juicy ripe oranges at the top. I climbed to the top of the tree and shook off the ripest oranges. Paola gathered them from the ground and we perched ourselves on a fallen limb. I peeled oranges while Paola scoured our surroundings for signs of the cows.
“Captain Mommy? When I’m adopted will I be white?” The question took me completely off guard.
“God made you black.” I replied. “You are a beautiful black child and even though you are a different color than me, I’m still your mommy.”
She pondered this for a minute. “How can you be my mommy?”
“Because God gave you to me so I can take care of you and love you. He knew you needed a mommy.”
Paola reached out her sticky, orange stained hands and gave me a big sloppy hug. “I love you, Captain Mommy!”
“I love you, Private First Class Daughter.” I replied as I wrapped her in my sticky arms.
Captain Mommy, Captain Mommy, Captain Mommy...Her words played over and over in my head as I held her close.
Captain Mommy is supposed to be in control of the ship and keep the passengers safe, right? Captains don't abandon ship when it's sinking, do they? Captains know what to do when the ship is being tossed to a fro in a storm. They reassure and they calm the people entrusted in their care. They keep the boat afloat.
Right now, Captain Mommy is trying very hard to keep the boat afloat, but I am worried because we are in a category 5 storm. This storm threatens to take my little girl away from me. This storm could shipwreck our family in one fail swoop. This storm scares me because I know that, if Paola doesn’t get the medical care she needs, she could get a life-threatening infection. I know that if she doesn’t get adopted, the medical care will be put on hold indefinitely. I know that if we can’t adopt her, she could be sent back to Haiti. I know that I need all the help I can get and the help doesn’t seem to be out there.
Captains have shipmates to assist them in storms. Where are my deck hands? Where are the people lining up to help us through this storm? I listened to a song today: Just Give Me Jesus. You know what I wish? I wish I had the faith to believe that Jesus is going to see me through this. But, I've got to tell you that my faith is waning. I'm scared. I'm scared for Paola and for our family.
I love her. I love her as much as if I gave birth to her. If she goes to Haiti or to see doctors in Seattle, I'll be with her. Wherever she goes, I’ll go with her. Every night Paola says to me, "I love you this much" and she holds her arms as wide as she can. Every night I tell her the same and I hold my arms as wide as I can. However, my arms don't stretch far enough to express how much I love her. Only a mother knows the depth of a mother's love. Sometimes that love can wrench our hearts. Sometimes even mothers need an ear and shoulder to cry on. This mother needs God to open doors for us and I need the faith to believe He will. And, what Captain Mommy really needs right now is all hands on deck.