Thursday, May 31, 2007

Deep sea fishing

Memorial Day weekend my brother came to visit. We haven't been together in two years and it was wonderful to see his face. Friends who share our daily lives refresh and encourage us. Old friends who evolve into family members are few and precious. Then there are the actual members of your family who share your memories, your parents, your history, and in the case of my brother, we also share our faith.

My brother has a deep, contagious laugh that sets everything right. He's silly and fun, but he's also caring and sensitive and generous. I so admire him and look up to him, even though he is the little brother I used to push in a stroller and pat to sleep in his crib.

We went to church together Sunday morning. The evening before we talked a little of our faith journey--where God has us now and what we are learning, each of us embarking on a new level of trust and anticipation of what God desires for our lives. The passage we studied in church was from Luke 5.

When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Vs. 4-6.

The fisherman realizes he's had an encounter with the living God. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Simon will never be the same. Scripture says he was astonished at the catch of fish. Another version says he was seized with amazement. Our summer venture has taken on the same quality--surreal amazement that we are in this place as we consider what the future holds.

When Jesus saw Simon Peter's reaction he says, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." And Jesus responds to me the same way when he sees my fear, my doubts, and my insecurities over my own ability to do what he's called me to do. "Don't be afraid; from now on you will..." Do what, Lord? I don't yet know, but that's okay.

Jesus says to us all, "Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch." Without fully understanding, even if it might seem foolish at the time, we obey. Can we trust him for the catch of a lifetime? Can we trust him even if he leads us out to deep water where we've never gone before? What might fill our net that will change the course of our lives?

We sang a song that morning:

"Go to deep waters, deep waters, where only faith will let you go,
Go out to deep waters, deep waters,
Harvests of faith will overflow."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A whirlwind of emotions

We have been swiftly moving along so Diana can get her visa and plane ticket. We had to request criminal record checks and child abuse clearances for Fred and me, a social worker came to prepare a homestudy, and we had to get notarized signatures and fill out forms and more forms. And money. We were told by the coordinator of our program not to let our finances prevent us from hosting a child. Our church would help, she said. We were counting on it. The families have to pay for the homestudy, a part of the plane fare, and buy clothing for the child. Then we had a most humbling experience.

Originally when I first had this vision of our small group working together to care for an orphan child, I thought we would each do our part. Some would help financially, some would provide for the physical care of the child, others would network to find a home for the child. When our friends committed to host a boy, I thought we could all chip in cover the expenses. (I haven't yet explained the breakup of our small group, but it is not there to support us or them anymore.) Then, this same family hosting Sergei gave us a very large check along with a card with these beautiful words: "We would be honored to put this in the hand that's reaching out to Russia." Their own hands are also reaching out to Russia! But they insisted on helping us. I have never known such generosity. Fred and I did not how to respond to this. It is still amazing to me and such a testimony to their faith and their character that acts on that faith.

My friend and I have been keeping each other excited by talking about "our" kids who are coming and all the fun activities we have planned and maybe even the remote possibility of these children becoming part of our families. Then one day last week I asked our coordinator about obtaining some additional information on Diana. We'd seen her video and had one picture, but that was it. Could we find out her background? Because another family had originally chosen Diana, our coordinator had forgotten she hadn't passed on the information to us. So she e-mailed me with the documents--the family circumstances that brought her to the orphanage and her medical report. I was stunned and crushed and heartbroken for this precious child when I read it. She was born into neglect and poverty and tragedy. Her medical report is so awful I feared to bring her into my home around my little girls. We cannot adopt her! Her problems are too big! I was devastated and so sad for this child.

Now that was a week ago. Since then I've been reading about Russian adoption. I've heard many horror stories and I've also learned Russia sometimes embellishes the medical reports. I'm well aware of attachment disorders and medical issues that come from alcoholism. Fred, my dear wonderful husband, is not worried. He says, "We'll just wait and see." My heart has changed too in that I just have this intense desire to wrap my arms around Diana and hug her tight. I explained some of her history to my girls so they would be compassionate and patient with Diana if they witness disturbing habits or behavior. This has brought out some discussion about their own pasts which has been good. We need to confront it from time to time and also it gave me a chance to explain vast differences in the reasons children in China and in Russia come into the orphanages.

I was cleaning clutter off our dining room table and came across a little note written in Liana's handwriting. It said simply, "I love Diana." My tender-hearted little girl, after knowing the realities of this Russian girl's life, is more than willing to give her a chance. Both of my daughters are ready to embrace her. Fred and I are too.

Friday, May 11, 2007


With the Russian children coming, the main thrust these past few weeks was to find host families for them. They cannot come unless matched with a family about two months prior to their arrival. Plane tickets must be bought; visas must be obtained. We set up an information table in our church lobby but because tables are often set up for all kinds of events and ministries, people tend to just walk by. We had to use stronger tactics to get attention. When someone passed that I knew even casually, I grabbed them by the arm and drew them to our table. It was amazing to see the response. It's one thing to ask people to take some unnamed orphan into their homes and quite another for them to flip through a photo album with the faces of real children. Many people volunteered to help with humanitarian aid that will be sent back, to participate in the Vacation Bible School we have planned, or to talk to friends who might be considering adoption. We also found some host families.

As for our family personally, Fred and I also looked at the pictures. The coordinator of the program wanted families with a serious interest in adoption. We don't have the means for that. And our ages! We wanted to step aside and let other couples with more resources and more years left to volunteer. Two sisters caught my eye though. They were the same ages as our girls. But they disappeared from the album. This project is going on simultaneously in other states and pictures are shared. Children's photos would come and go and be replaced with other faces. There were many boys, several sibling groups, and only older girls. We waited, memorized their faces, prayed for them, and pondered where God was leading us.

One day our coordinator e-mailed me with a picture of an 11-year-old boy named Misha. Would we host him? She hadn't asked us about any other child. Why him? He was an impish boy with a cute smile. We can't take a boy--no room in our small house. On a whim, I sent his picture to a good friend of mine. She never mentioned adopting again, but somehow this boy seemed right for her family. To our delight and surprise, this family decided to host him. Through their example, we considered the children who were left as time was running out.

Finally I asked the coordinator if any single girls (not in sibling groups) were left. Only one, she said. An almost 13-year-old named Oksana. I remembered her from the photos. A plain, blonde girl with glasses. She reminded me of me at that age. Fred and I said yes, we will take her. We met at our friend's house one evening to see videos of the children and to sign paperwork. It turned out Misha was taken! But our friends were interested in another adorable boy named Sergei. The coordinator showed us Oksana's video and I was very drawn to this child and her unfortunate circumstances that brought her to the orphanage. We were also shown another girl's video. I thought only one girl was left. But supposedly this girl had been chosen by another couple who later changed their minds. However, we were committed to Oksana.

The next morning the coordinator called me. Oksana was gone! She was going to Texas to stay with a family that wanted to adopt her. We bond so quickly with a photo. Ask anyone who has adopted from China about how we cling to those tiny photos. I couldn't believe how this news about Oksana struck me. "Our" girl was gone. I was thrilled she would have a home but I thought it might be with us. There was still the other girl. Time was running out for these kids. We said yes again. Is this the child God intended for us all along? Her name is Diana. She is 10-years old and has big blue, sad eyes.

Please pray for her and for all these children. Negotiating over children, choosing children. The whole process makes me uneasy. But these are real kids with real lives, children without homes or families. Children loved by the same God who loves and cares for us. They will be turned out of the orphanages around age 15 when their government ceases to provide for them any longer. There are statistics on what happens to these orphans as they grow to be adults. It is horrifying.
Friends and family--we need your urgent prayers. Pray that we can discern where God is leading. Pray for Diana and for this program and all the other children.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


We've had major upheavals in our lives the past month, some good and some bad. So many things are swirling around in my head I can't think straight and despite these events, daily life goes on. It's time I organized my thoughts and what better forum than this blog? Besides, I want to let all you friends and family members know so you can pray for us!

As I've written about previously, these past few months I've been impressed to "prepare with prayer" for whatever God wants to do with our lives. Fred and I want to be "useful to the Master, prepared to do any good work." We want our life work to be permanent. "Give permanence to the work of our hands." I was in awe of the North Carolina woman who opened her home and her life to two boys from Liberia. Our church was offered an opportunity to host orphan children from Columbia and we saw that as a way to get our whole Bible study involved, to work together toward a common goal, some contributing financially, some with time, one with the physical care of the child. That program fizzled out. So we have been waiting. Then along came the Lighthouse Project.

When it didn't look like the Columbian program would work out, our church was given the opportunity to work with an organization that brings Russian orphans to stay with host families for 10 days. The hope is that the host family will adopt the child or else be an advocate for that child and try to find him or her permanent home. We decided we would take a girl between the ages of our girls, or younger, if one was available. With excitement we waited for the children who were selected to come. Finally we saw their pictures. Disappointment. No boys, only older girls. The only young children were in a sibling group. We decided we would not host but I offered to help promote the program and to coordinate a Vacation Bible School for the children when they are here. So how did it come about that we are now hosting an older child and considering adopting again? That can only be explained by the work of the Holy Spirit.

My window of writing time is gone, so this will have to wait. But I have much more to tell you!
Russia was not anywhere on our radar screen and yet now we are reading and preparing and submersing our lives in a new culture and a new people group, just like we did preparing for our Chinese children. Interestingly, our "theme" in our Bible study this year was the verse in Isaiah 54, "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back..." God is surely enlarging our tent!