A Love Story, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about our adoption story.  It’s a miraculous story and I pray God uses it to speak to other families who are considering adoption.  So many boys and girls like our Vladik wait and wait for their lives to begin.  Every child deserves the love of a family.  Would you read with an open heart and ask God how He would have you respond? 

This is a love story.  For God so loved Vladik, that He preserved his life until the day his mommy and daddy would find him.  For God so loved our family, that He picked us up out of our lives and dropped us across the world so that we could find our baby.

One night, in August 2010, with newborn Seth, our foster baby asleep at my side, I was browsing online.  I have no idea what I was looking for, but somehow I came across the blog of a woman who had just returned from Ukraine, having adopted two little girls with Down Syndrome.  Her story caught my attention and I ended up reading her whole adoption story in one evening.  One blog led to another, which led to another, and pretty soon I found myself immersed in a world I had had no idea existed, the world of special needs adoption.  My heart was broken in two, never to be the same.

  
Jed and I always knew we would adopt someday.  We believed in orphan care and it was important to us.  Since before we were married we had dreamed of moving overseas to care for orphans.  That’s why I became a nurse!  While we waited for God to send us overseas we fostered medically fragile babies.  So yeah, adoption was on our radar, but not orphans with disabilities, or kids with disabilities in general.  We just hadn’t thought of it.  Well, maybe that’s not all true.  We had thought of it, and then rejected it.  “Yes, we’ll adopt- but only healthy kids.  We could never raise a child that would require our hands-on care forever.”  We fostered babies with special needs, but that wasn’t permanent.

 

Jed with baby Seth, during our fostering days 🙂

 
A while later I came upon Julia’s blog.  Julia was advocating, and still does advocate, for orphans with disabilities.  Fun Fact: We have since met each other twice here in Ukraine, and Julia even got to come to Romaniv to meet our Boys!  Isn’t God fun?   Julia was advocating for a little guy in Ukraine with Apert Syndrome.  Did you know our new son Vladik has this same syndrome? Like I said, God is fun 🙂  I had never heard of that syndrome, didn’t know anything about it, but that boy struck me.  I read her post and learned that he was 4 years old and about to be transferred to a bad place- an institution.  He needed to be adopted quickly.  I’m telling you what, I fell for that baby hard.  Jed came home one night to a red-faced, sobbing wife and was a little confused.  Ha!  I started rambling to him about Ukraine and orphans with disabilities and mental institutions and teenagers in cribs and “aging out” and he stood there shocked.  I told him “We have to DO SOMETHING.  We can’t just sit by and let this happen.  We have to do something!!!”  He was a little shell shocked, but agreed to pray about it and see if God laid it on his heart as well.  What a guy.  🙂

In the meantime “Jonah”, the little Apert guy was constantly on my mind.  His face was in my dreams.  I would weep over him and all the little ones in cribs as I did the dishes. My heart ached and the ache wouldn’t stop.  The Holy Spirit was at work.  God was working in Jed’s heart too, and soon we were both praying about how to respond to Jonah, specifically.  We prayed for many months.  We sought council from our parents and our pastor.  We prayed some more.  Then in early 2011, after much prayer, many miracles and confirmations (SO MANY), it became abundantly clear that God was asking us to move forward to adopt Jonah.

 

The first photo we saw of Jonah

 
We were so excited!!!  This sweet one who had captured our hearts would be our son!  Gone were the worries about raising a child who would need our care forever.  We could have cared less.  All of our old worries and hesitations seemed so selfish.  In the light of what these babies suffer without a mommy and daddy to fight for them, in the light of what Jesus did for us…how could I be worried about losing our “empty nester” years???  Our baby needed us.

So, we sent in the initial committment paperwork and money to say to the adoption world “You don’t need to advocate for this one anymore, we’re coming for him!”  In Ukraine there is no referral given to adoptive families before they travel.  You can pursue the adoption of a certain child, but until you actually get to Kyiv and request their file there is no guarantee that you will actually get that child.  Another family could go there first and adopt them, not knowing your intentions.  You could get there and that child may not even be adoptable.  There are many unknowns.  We were aware of that, but when we got the email a few weeks after we had sent in our initial paperwork, letting us know that another American family who was already in Ukraine was adding our boy to their adoption, we were utterly devastated.

Shocked.  Heartbroken.  Confused.  Happy for our Jonah, that he could have a mommy and daddy so soon, but heartsick that they were not us.

We had loved Jonah from afar for many months and now we would never even get to meet him.  God had spoken so clearly.  We had researched the heck out of Apert Syndrome and felt so well-equipped.  Miracles had paved the way for us to begin the adoption process.  God, what was that all about?  What were you doing?  Why?

Then God spoke again.  Jed was out mowing the lawn, praying, asking God what He was up to and he felt God speak to Him so clearly,

“Jed, I am so much more interested in the process than in the end result.  You have one end result in mind, but I’m taking you on a journey.  I needed you to love Jonah like a father.  I needed you to love him with abandon.  I needed you to have that father’s heart for Jonah because I need you to love lots of little boys and girls like Jonah.”

And so it happened that a little boy with Apert Syndrome caught our hearts and led us to Ukraine.  A little boy with Apert Syndrome broke our hearts for Ukrainian orphans.  He helped us to fall in love with children with disabilities- so in love that we would give up everything and cross the world to touch them and smile at them and hold them in our arms.  God used Jonah to start us on the best journey of our lives- the journey to our Boys and our own little treasure, our Vladik.

To be continued 🙂

Wide Awake + Humedica = AWESOME 

A couple weeks ago we had the amazing privildge of hosting a volunteer team of medical professionals from Germany.  They were sent by Humedica, a German relief organization, and they were absolutely the biggest blessing to us.  

Jed’s parents volunteered for Humedica in Kosovo for 15 years and hosted many medical teams over those years.  It’s through them that we came to know the director of that wonderful organization.  

Humedica’s primary aim is to provide disaster relief.  They are often some of the first on the ground in earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disaster situations.  Their huge volunteer base of medical personnel is standing ready and waiting for their chance to serve.  Throughout the year Humedica also sends small medical teams to do short-term work in non-disaster areas.  That’s where Wide Awake came in!  

When Jed went to Switzerland last year he hopped over to Germany and met with Humedica’s long-term projects director to see what it would look like to get a team to Ukraine to help us at Romaniv.  Boy, are we so very glad they agreed to the idea!

  

Humedica sent us a general practitioner doctor, an ENT doctor, a physiotherapist, and a nurse.  They worked so hard for our Boys.  They literally saved our little Ben’s life.  They came to game night and helped out our graduates.  They held a medical clinic at a conference in Kyiv for the parents of kids with disabilities.  They did home visits to several of our graduates with disabilities.  They did a physical for every single boy in the Isolation hall at Romaniv.  They took boys for x-rays and looked at MRI results, bought special formula and made feeding plans, met with the Romaniv medical staff and helped them to troubleshoot their most urgent issues. 

They rocked.

Even now we are getting emails from the team checking on the boys and giving us advice.  We are so thankful!!

Thank you Humedica for sending us your best.  Thank you Sabina, Julia, Dominik and Hildegard for loving our boys and serving them so well.  Thank you for blessing our lives and bringing us so much hope.  It was our honor and our joy to work alongside you.  

Come again!  We’re waiting for you!  

   

                 

   

                 

   

   

About a Boy, and His Love

Do you remember back in January when I came to you with a desperate plea for one of our darling boys who was absolutely wasting away?  I wrote about him here.  We, and the orphanage staff feared for his life.  He was dying before our eyes.  At that time I asked for a family to please step up and adopt him, but then shortly after that post, issues with his documents made him unavailable for adoption.  We mourned that loss of opportunity, but still, God had his way with that post and hundreds of people contacted us, letting us know they were faithfully praying for our sweet Danya.  

Today I want to encourage you and let you know that your prayers have not been in vain!

 

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

-Unknown

Meet Mira.

 

Mira first came into our lives when our local Ukrainian church’s discipleship school began to volunteer for Wide Awake.  Wide Awake was the “outreach” portion of their discipleship training, so we instantly had 12 volunteers every week at Romaniv!  Mira was on the team.

Romaniv is a pretty extreme place.  The whole team faithfully served there for this whole past school year whether they liked it, loved it, or…didn’t really enjoy it at all.  We could never thank them enough.  They have been the hugest blessing to our lives!!  Most of the team members had no idea places like Romaniv, and people like our Boys even existed in their country, so hidden is Romaniv from society.  Serving at a mental institution isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay!  But for a few of the team members it was completely life-altering.  Mira was one of those people.

The discipleship school ended a few weeks ago, and still many (most!) of the team members come to Romaniv every chance they get.  In between university exams they’ll squeeze a visit in, filling up our boys’ love cups, and getting their own filled in return.  They are pretty much the best group of teens I have ever known.  I wish I could have been half as cool at that age.  😉

Mira never EVER misses a trip to Romaniv.  During every day of Romaniv day camp, she was there.  Every day of the German medical team’s visit, she was there.  She is just always there.   And she is making a difference.

 

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 You see, our sweet Danya loooooooves Mira.  And the feeling is quite mutual.  Over the past month or so Mira has been at Romaniv almost every single day, and the changes we have seen in Danya over that time have been nothing short of miraculous!

Mira is not a therapist.  She’s not a medical professional.   She’s just an 18 year old college student with a fierce love for one small boy.

 

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When she is at Romaniv Danya gets her whole self.  He gets her hugs, her tickles, her eye contact.  They walk together, they run together, they smell flowers together and feel the grass together.  They sit together and rock together.  Mira truly SEES Danya, and Danya comes alive.  His heart is so ready to accept her love, and her heart is being changed in the process.  It is a miracle for them both, and all glory goes to God.

Danya in January, and Danya last week 🙂

I think that sometimes we humans operate under the thought that unless we can do something “big” that is noticeable by a lot of people, and impacts large populations that it’s not important.  I think we miss so many opportunities for love while searching for the next “big thing”.  Me too!

What about the people right in front of us?  What if there is one person out there that is desperate for someone to truly SEE them and your eyes are just the ones equal to the task?  They don’t necessarily need someone more qualified or smarter or more important.  Maybe they just need you- to walk together, smell flowers together, sit together…just BE together.  Maybe.

I know one boys whose life is literally being saved by that kind of love.

Praise God for His never-stopping love for our Danya.  Praise God that He knew just what Danya needed, and praise God that Mira said, and keeps saying YES.

One foot in front of the other, Friends.  One YES at a time, with eyes wide open, with hearts Wide Awake

“I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  -Edward Everett Hale

Mira and Danya from Wide Awake International on Vimeo.

*Please keep praying for Danya.  He still has far to go, but as you can see, he’s on the right track!   THANK YOU!

Ask, and Keep on Asking

We have been so privileged and honored to have an amazing medical team here from Germany the past couple of weeks.  I tear up every time I think of them.  They are with our Boys right now and I feel so incredibly humbled that they would take time off work and spend their own money to serve our boys with their whole selves.

Having them here beside us, fighting for our Boys right along with us, has been absolutely humbling and awe-inspiring.  I am changed because of it. You see, I know, and Jed knows that our Boys have tremendous value.  No one needs to prove that to us.  They are our babies.  Jed and I were talking about it the other night,  and I can honestly say that we have to come to the point where we love them as much as we love our own four children here at home.  I’m a mother of 90.  🙂  We would go to the ends of the earth for our Addy, Ezra, Havalah, and Seth.  And so we would for our 86 other children that languish in isolation, hidden, thrown away by society.

Having the German team here has made my mama heart swell.  Watching their tenderness with our babies, their tenacity in not settling for second best, the way they have risen up and made this fight for dignity their own, well, it has shown me even more how valuable our boys are.  You see, during the past months as we were planning this trip for the German team we were a bit nervous (mostly I was…haha).  I kept wondering if the team members would think this cause was of value.  I wondered if they would really be able to help and if they would feel that coming to our Boys was a good use of their time.  In that worrying I was devaluing our babies.  I was assuming that no one would love them like we do, that no foreigners with prestigious medical degrees and full patient loads at home would want to “feet on the ground” fight for them.  What was I thinking?????  The team immediately valued our Boys and have fought tooth and nail for them over the past couple of weeks. The team members have grown to love the boys immensely, and through their love I have been inspired to press on for even further for our boys.

They deserve it.

We are their voices.  If we stay silent about their potential and their need and their reality, then who will speak for them? So, I will ask and keep on asking.

Do you have room for one of our loves at your table? 

They have no future here.  We are fighting to give them one, but still, no future we can provide could adequately replace a family.

Yes, they are broken.  Yes, they have been traumatized.  Yes, they have medical needs.  Yes, they will require hard work and endless hours of sacrifice on the part of the adoptive family.  Yes, adoption is expensive- in every way.  Yes, they have experienced things no human being should ever have to experience and yes, they are scarred from those experiences.

BUT

Did you know that they are absolutely beautiful?  Did you know that Ben smiled for the first time in his life last week?  Did you know it was a moment of rejoicing and the whole room exploded with cheers?  Did you know Isaiah’s face lights up when a familiar voice calls his name? He’s really ticklish too 🙂 Did you know Micah has an amazing personality??  He has us all in stitches so much of the time.  Did you know Stephan laughs a deep-down belly laugh when you spin him around and around?  In those moments he is so handsome.  Did you know that Alex loves Jed?  Did you know he is so helpful and his face absolutely beams when he knows he has been a good helper?  Did you know Jonathan might just have the most beautiful smile in the whole institution?  He comes running over when he sees us and his smile melts my heart every time.  Did you know Aaron sat calmly on my lap the other day and took my arm to wrap it around himself?  Did you know he is happiest outside and loves the feel of the sun on his face?

These are our babies.  We went to the end of the world for them and we’ll keep right on going.  This week is the third week in a row that our team has been at the institution every single day.  Great gains have been made, yet with more time spent,  more ugliness has been exposed.  These boys are not just a sad or romantic idea.  They are precious creations of God and they should not have to live the way they live.  It is injustice heaped upon injustice.

Their very lives are being stolen from them, but we are not helpless to change that!  There are seven who are adoptable, who have a chance at a different life and we will not stop fighting until that chance is realized.

If you know you can not adopt, would you pray?  Would you donate to their adoption funds and help ease the financial burden for the families who step up for them?  Would you share their faces with all of your friends and family?  Would you be a voice for them?

But maybe you could adopt?  Why not you?  If you have never considered it would you please consider it now?  Our two littles, Ben and Isaiah, are truly living on borrowed time.  They simply can not wait forever.  Our Alex and Micah must have committed adoptive families by the end of this year or they will lose their chance forever.

I’m just gonna ask and keep on asking.  They’re our babies and we will not stop fighting for them. It’s my mama duty.

*Click on the names to donate to their adoption grant fund. 

*To find out more information about the Ukrainian adoption process please contact the awesome team at Hand of Help in Adoption.

*Please feel free to contact me for more information about the individual boys.  I would be happy to answer your questions!

IMG_2184Ben

IMG_2183Isaiah

IMG_2193Micah

IMG_2157Alex

IMG_1052Stephan

IMG_2163Jonathan

IMG_2192Aaron

Romaniv Through Addy’s Eyes

  
Addy, our 11 year old daughter, has gone with us to Romaniv the past couple of days for day camp. She is an awesome helper, and today we gave her the camera so we see her view of the Boys. I absolutely loved looking through her photos. I’m always the one taking pictures, so for me there’s just something kind of special about seeing the boys through someone else’s eyes, especially someone as special as our Addy. 🙂 

Enjoy!