Posted by: fatherof11 | September 5, 2006

Five Short Years Later…

Five year anniversary stories will be abounding this month, but nonetheless I would like to share ours. It is a testimony to God’s grace in our own lives and the lives of three orphans, formerly from Russia.

About a year and a half after our first Russian adoptions we were asked to pray for another sibling group who desperately needed a loving family to adopt them. They were in Blagoveschensk, the same city we had adopted Vanya and Irina from in 1999, and their chances of being adopted were extremely slim due to their ages and the fact that there were three of them. We joined others in praying for these three and were soon excited to hear that a young couple in our own home town had decided to adopt them.

There were questions regarding this adoption from the beginning, however. The couple was quite young and would need to raise the money for the adoption as they went along. Since we lived close to them, we got to know them and we helped them learn about the Russian culture and how to prepare adoption paperwork.

Part of the way through the adoption it was discovered that the wife was pregnant. Her delivery date was likely to be close to the time they would need to travel for the adoption, so they decided to stop the adoption process. Once again, these three children were left without any prospects for a family.

They were 12, 13 and 14 years old and without parents. They were also halfway around the world from us. Our hearts were torn as we looked at the few photos we had, day after day. They were so small for their ages, so thin, so sad looking.

Gently, slowly, God began to nudge our hearts. Oh no! Not US! Certainly God did not mean that WE were to adopt these children. We already had five children at home and felt that our plates were full. But the burden remained, growing heavier day by day. Finally, we agreed to take our vacation time to talk and pray about the possibility of adopting these children. Our family of seven was taking a long road trip from Tulsa, OK to Washington DC, so we would have plenty of time for that.

The more we prayed, the more God convicted. The burden was finally rolled away when we joyfully made the decision to go forward with the adoption. Many thought we were crazy, many just shook their heads in disbelief. God’s people stood beside us, though, as we began this long and arduous journey, to bring three more children home.

International adoptions are known for the tons of required paperwork, delays, and uncertainty and this one was no exception. We hoped to travel in springtime, but summer came with no court date.

Then, we hit more of a snag than either government could throw at us. Bob was informed that the company he worked for was closing their Tulsa office. A pink slip, a lost job with none others in sight. An economy spiraling downward, with no apparent hope of recovery. Depression set in as newspapers were searched, phone calls were made, internet resumes were posted. Why would God bring us this far, this close to these children, and then pull us apart? Our agency director was informed of the situation and asked to not remind our Russian facilitator that we were waiting on a court date.

One Friday morning in early September she called, though. Somehow, despite all odds and obstacles, a court date had been assigned to us in a Russian court. Within the week we were to be on Russian soil, meeting our new children! What joy! What pain! No Russian judge in his right mind would award us custody of three teenage children, with no visible means of supporting them.

A phone call to our church to report this situation was greeted by the booming and cheerful voice of a good friend. “Oh, I can’t WAIT to see how God is going to work THIS one out!” he gushed. Had this not been a phone call, it is regretful to think what sinful actions might have transpired.

Faith faltered for a moment, but the hope of our Lord never dimmed. Humanly impossible tasks are where He shines and this was no exception to that rule. A phone call made to a friend and previous work connection in Alabama provided a new job within an hour of receiving the phone call with the news of a court date! No interview required, no trips necessary to work out details – just a job offer with an open start date. Oh yes, and a generous salary adjustment to go along with the new job. Only thing was, the job was in a different state. Well, one thing at a time…

We joyfully and frantically began to prepare for a trip around the world, leaving in less than a week. Plans were made to leave our current children with family and friends. Travel arrangements were made. We were to leave Tulsa early on a Thursday morning that September.

Grandma came to help with the kids, so that preparations would go smoother. Dad was able to be home to help, too, since there was no job to report to each morning. So, on that Tuesday morning, the entire family was at home when another phone call came. This one was not at all joyful, however. It was filled with pain and foreboding.

A friend knew that we did not watch television in our home, so he called us with the news. The date was September 11, 2001. We were to leave for Russia in two days, but the world was falling apart instead. Our eyes were suddenly transfixed to the television that we seldom watched. Children looked from face to face, trying to understand. There were no answers, though, only questions.

As we sat numb and frozen, a Federal Express truck drove up to our house. The delivery man was quick to tell us how “lucky” we were to receive these packages, as he was on the way back to the office and no more deliveries were to be made that day. Inside these envelopes were the last of our travel papers (visas, employment letter, etc), everything we needed for our adoption process. God was still in control.

Since airports all over the world were being closed for the first time in history, I became one of the millions of passengers who clogged the phone lines trying to reschedule our flights. I never could figure out how anyone got through, but the lines were continually busy over the next few days.

In the midst of mourning along with the rest of the country, I began to feel guilty as I wondered how this horrendous act of terrorism was going to affect our own lives. After seeing God miraculously provide a job for Bob only an hour after getting our court date, we could not doubt His ability to provide a way for us to get to Russia, though.

The airports began to schedule reopenings and I was finally able to get through to our airline. They booked us on one of the very first planes out of Tulsa on the Friday after 9-11. Family members were incredulous when they discovered we were indeed going to board a plane and fly to Russia so close on the heels of the terrorist acts. It must have appeared a terribly unwise step for us to take, but we knew we had to get our children home and that God would prepare the way for us.

Our flight took us to Chicago, where we were to board an Aeroflot flight to Moscow. However, we soon learned that no international flights were leaving Chicago at all. In fact, Aeroflot had diverted their plane to Canada when they heard about the attacks and then they flew it back to Moscow empty. That is absolutely unheard of in the airline industry (flying a plane overseas with no passengers). No one could tell us when we could expect to board a plane for Moscow so I once again became one of the callers who hounded the airline company phones.

As we wandered around the Chicago airport we found ourselves looking warily around us. Who among the others might be the next terrorist? It was
difficult to not fall into unnecessary suspicions of those around us. One man of apparent Middle Eastern descent caused me to be uncomfortable, as he was traveling through the airport alone and with no luggage. The tram ride we took with him was very stressful for me, and I had to confess my sinful thoughts to the Lord who had carried us safely around the world only two short years before.

It became apparent that we were not to leave that day, so we began to consider what we should do as we waited for our flight out of Chicago. Finances were tight due to the adoption costs and the loss of a job, so we prepared to stay at the airport along with many of the other passengers. We stayed in continual contact with our church family and at that point someone stepped forward and asked if they could pay for our lodging while we were in Chicago. Our thankfulness was heartfelt as we accepted this offer and proceeded to find a hotel with a room available. A nearby mall provided meals and distractions for us as time ticked by ever so slowly and my ear stayed glued to the phone in our room.

Finally I was able once more to contact the airline company and our flight to Moscow was rescheduled. Doubts and fears were rampant, but we quickly gathered our belongings and returned to the airport. The lines were excruciatingly long and tedious and we were forced to rearrange much of our luggage due to new regulations.

In the back of our minds, we wondered how the Russian judge would react to us arriving in Russia much later than originally planned. He had insisted that we arrive ten days before our court date so that we could get to know the kids before we committed to being their parents. Five of those days had just been spent in a Chicago hotel, though, and we left the US not knowing if the judge would have mercy on us or not.

Our flight to Moscow was fully booked, with not one seat empty. Many of the passengers had spent the last five days in the airport and their faces told the stories of discomfort, frustration and fear. Once we left the United States, however, things seemed to go much more smoothly. We arrived safely in Moscow, spent the night in a hotel and left the next day for Blagoveschensk – a city in the far southeastern corner of Siberian Russia.

Upon our 3:00 am arrival in Blago, we were informed that the judge had indeed waived the ten day rule for us. We slept for a few hours and were then taken to the orphanage, to meet our children. Many of the orphanage staff had gathered to witness the meeting, along with the director of the Ministry of Education. In our state of extreme fatigue, we were asked question after question regarding our living conditions and parenting principles. They then asked us if we wanted to take the children to stay with us in the flat until our court date arrived. It was an unexpected question, but one we dared not say “no” to. How would it look for us to refuse to allow the kids to stay with us at that point in the adoption?! So, we agreed to take them with us and began the process of packing up their few belongings (most of which were previous gifts from us).

To our delight, we discovered that the children were extremely cooperative, kind, helpful and quiet. They cleaned up after themselves and whispered when they talked among themselves. We welcomed these traits, knowing in our hearts that they would be gone soon enough.

Our time was spent shopping and getting to know our soon-to-be children. Their generosity struck at my heart. Out of the first spending money we gave them, they bought gifts for us and continually shared everything they purchased with each other and us. They laughed when I discovered the camera I was using had no film in it and then again when I ran into the low hanging light fixture in the kitchen where we were staying over and over again. This memory brings a smile to their faces, even today.

Everywhere we went, the Russian people were compassionate towards us. In the open air market, vendors gave us discounts we did not ask for, simply because we were Americans and they felt badly for what had just happened in our country. The adoption process could not have gone any smoother than it did, much to our relief, and the children were soon declared to be ours according to a Russian court.

After what seemed like years, we left Siberia and began the return trip to the US. Our stay in Moscow was delightful, as we were able to show our new children parts of their country they had only dreamed of seeing. We continued to be fascinated by the compassion pouring out of the hearts of the Russian people. While we were riding on the subway with our translator, a Russian woman began talking to her and asking questions about us. When she reached her stop she gave a package she had been carrying to our translator and hurried on to her destination. Tatia would not talk about what the package held until we subsequently reached our own stop. At that point she told us that the woman had been so touched by the story of our adoption that she had given us a loaf of bread that she had been given for her own birthday. Anyone who knows even a little about the Russian culture knows how much they love their breads! And this one was an exceptional example of their fancy, sweet breads. It was made all the more sweet as we thanked God for this generous woman and prayed that He would bless her in return for the gift she shared with us.

We arrived in Tulsa safely, but physically and emotionally exhausted. Bob left three days later for Alabama, where he was to start his new job and look for housing for his newly expanded family. I was left at home with 7 children (one went to AL with him), three of whom did not speak English. We soon began the process of packing and trying to sell our house and I was delighted to discover what hard workers our new children were. (A number of years later, Zhenya told us that he had not known what was going on as we prepared to move. He did not realize we were moving to a different place until all of our household goods were loaded into a truck and we all got into our van and began the long drive to Alabama.)

Five years later….

The year now is 2006. It has been five years since we adopted those three teenagers in the shadow of the greatest terrorist acts our country has ever seen. They are now 17, 18 and 19 years old. Jennifer, the oldest, has come to know the Lord as her personal Savior and she is engaged to be married to a wonderful Christian young man. Sergei is an accomplished photographer, hoping to someday make a career out of this line of work. Zhenya is planning on attending college and becoming an architect. Both of them are working part time at a restaurant and searching for a used car to buy with the money they have earned.

Testimonies to God’s goodness and grace have risen from the terrorist ashes of September 11, 2001. Although many lost their lives that day, God blessed three young children from Russia by giving them new lives in a far away country and loving Christian home. The blessings have been many as we have watched these three grow over the last five years. Their time with us will be short, by design, but we would not have changed a moment of it.

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Responses

  1. what a wonderful story!
    I love to read about adoption stories, your own is very encouraging, thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story. Knowing your precious family makes every detail enjoyable. I praise God that he included me and our church in this wonderful story of His grace and redemption!

    Tim

  3. I am also so very thankful for the church family God has blessed us with at GCC. They are truly our family.

  4. Ramona, thanks for the great story. I always enjoy your writing, and it is a true blessing to be a part of your lives. Gean


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