After an arduous process, track coaches bring home their adopted daughter.
by Lexi Friesen
Giggles are followed by fighting screams. Tina Rock sprints across Bethel University’s indoor track in her neon pink sweat suit, dodging the high jumpers and long distance runners. Her younger brother Isaiah is trailing behind with hands in the air, yelling.
Missy Rock, assistant cross-country coach at Bethel, only shakes her head and chuckles to herself. “They laugh like siblings and fight like siblings already and it’s barely been two weeks!”
Athulya snuggles in Missy’s lap while Josiah squeals, needing help getting off the bench he is standing on. Once down, he promptly wraps his short arms around Missy’s neck. Tina, half laughing and half screaming, sits herself on top of Athulya.
“This is the best part, though,” Missy explains. “It’s having all four of my kids under the same roof. For the past three years I’ve felt like I’ve been living in two different worlds,” she said. “But now I get to watch them play and laugh and fight and be together.”
Andrew, head track coach and Missy have been trying to adopt their second daughter, Tina, for almost three years now. The former collegiate and professional runners are no strangers to perseverance, but knowing they were missing out on time with their daughter was a different kind of race. Though she was offcially adopted in Oct. 2015, the Rocks had no idea when Tina would be given an exit letter to leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
On Feb. 19, Andrew and Missy were at the University of Minnesota’s Snowshoe Open Indoor Track Meet. through other friends who were also adopting from the DRC, Missy heard a rumor that 150 exit letters were being given to children. Shortly after, the Rock’s got an email confirming this rumor. At 6 p.m. that night, they learned Tina was one of the children who was able to come home.
“The best part is having all four of my kids under the same roof.”
“We were ecstatic because there have definitely been different points when we didn’t know if we would ever actually get her home,” Andrew said. “But then, there was also this fear because what if we get our hopes up and it doesn’t actually happen.”
Due to the short notice, there was a lot of work that needed to get done immediately. One of the first things that needed to be taken care of was getting a letter of invitation– paperwork required to enter the DRC, along with the required information for what Missy needed to apply for a visa. Getting the letter of invitation took almost five days – then Missy’s visa got lost in the mail. The post office found and delivered her visa the day before leaving for the DRC. Missy and her mother traveled to the DRC for a week to pick up Tina and complete paperwork, while Andrew stayed back to coach and be with their other three children.
In the DRC, the orphanage was preparing Tina to go to America. Tina was told she was going to be leaving the only life she knew to go home with people she only knew through video chat. Missy recalls driving slowly down dirt roads to get to the orphanage. People stood outside stores and visited with each other, young children ran around unsupervised.
“As we drove up to the orphanage gate we could hear the children singing. It was like we were in a movie,” Missy said. “I walked through that gate and Tina came running to me. She knew exactly who I was and she jumped in my arms.”
Missy, her mother and Tina spent a week in the DRC. They stayed in a hotel as paperwork finished up. The week in the DRC also allowed time for Missy and Tina to get to know one another in a familiar setting before coming home. Before leaving, Missy and Tina said one final goodbye to her friends at the orphanage. At first, Missy was worried it would be hard for Tina to see them again after being gone for a week, but they left after being back for an hour. When Missy told Tina it was time to go, she was the first one at the gate to leave. Waiting at the Minneapolis airport were Andrew, Athulya, Isaiah, Josiah and numerous close friends.
“All these pictures, videos and three years later,” Andrew said, shaking his head. “I’m telling you there is nothing like meeting your child for the first time, whether it’s through adoption or it’s your birth child.”
Tina Rock has been in America for over two weeks now. Andrew and Missy give a lot of credit to the orphanage for preparing Tina to leave. Tina speaks French, which causes a language barrier, but basic needs and feelings can be shared. She’s already six years old, which can present challenges, but there have been many “firsts” shared together, like Tina’s first snow and her first time at the zoo. Trips in the car and to the store present excitement and newness each day. Simple things that many people in America take for granted such as a bed with blankets and a variety of food bring a smile to Tina’s face.
“I’m telling you there is nothing like meeting your child for the first time, whether it’s through adoption or it’s your birth child.”
“When we stop to think about all that she has been through, we can’t help but be amazed at how well she has adapted,” Missy said. “Through it all, we just want to love Tina and show her that we are her forever family – we aren’t going anywhere.”