Thursday, July 28, 2011

Taken By Surprise

This picture says it all. The smallest among us, our baby, knew right away. Though usually a bit shy and wary at first meeting others, our little one-year-old Lucy took right to Ruslan as if she recognized him. After all, they do share the same eye and hair color, unlike the rest of our light blonde and mostly blue eyed crew. We had wondered where those unusual (to our family) physical features came from :).

He had only come with two sets of clothing and one pair of shoes, his bags empty enough to carry donated clothing back to the orphans waiting half a world away.

We had no idea our hearts could be open to anyone else's children, let alone those from another country. It's only been a week...maybe a week and a half...since the first email came. When we read the subject line, it was suddenly one of those moments when your heart skips a beat and you realize everything has just taken a turn...and life will never be the same.

We knew after receiving the email request to host Ukrainian orphans who were coming here to find families that there was no way we could NOT do it. I was up in the middle of the night thinking about the sibiling pairs from Ukraine and my own children. What if my own were left to the mercy of others?

We did our duty and planned ways for them to meet as many other people as possible. When Rob, the man in charge of placing these children, met with us in our home he asked which of the children we thought we could host. My husband immediately said Ruslan was the one who caught his attention off the page of pictures we had been sent. Rob had already decided Ruslan was the one we would have and he felt that it was actually significant that we have him. Little did we know, it was not only significant it was life changing.

After one or two days with Ruslan, we had a new family member. He fit right in and quickly felt at home even though he spoke another language. I marveled at my own son talking and laughing with Ruslan all day long...and not a word of common language was spoken.

It wasn't long before Ruslan told us that he had a sister back in the orphanage. We alerted the leaders of the group and they were able to obtain a picture of her thanks to email. His story was quickly unfolding...orphaned by his mother's death almost two years ago, he and his half sister ended up in the orphanage. No family to take them.

At 16 years of age, the children graduate from the orphange. We know the statistics for these children are bleak. Approximately 70% of the girls end up in unspeakable slave trades and 60% of the boys end up in prison or forced labor situations. Some are taken by the Russian army for use in combat. Few Ukrainians adopt these children. Most don't have the means to take them on, let alone a teenager. Without extended family willing to support them in a schooling situation, they are left to their own devices...which are truly insufficient.

And here was this boy quietly waiting at the table for everyone else to sit down before he ate. Fourteen years old, intelligent, studious, meticulous and obedient. He is full of dreams. He wants to be a builder or a farmer, he says. He said he is his sister's protector and they spend as much time as they can together. He said she loves to read and draw...and skipped 2nd grade because she is so smart. How could we let them go back?

But it was more than that.

It took me a long time to decide what I was feeling. Watching him be introduced to other families made me cry. But why was I crying? Why did I feel so much in my heart for a child I hadn't known but four days? Was it pity? Was it compassion? Was it love? Could I love another person's child the way I love my own? I had never been able to imagine being able to...until now.

It wasn't until he left our home to stay with another family interested in adopting him that I began to realize just what all these feelings were meaning to me. The bed he had slept in was painfully empty...the quilt carefully smoothed by his own hand, the book we had lent him left on the side table. And now there was a void. A tangible absence in our home, at our table and in our lives.

It was only today that we knew he and his sister were ours. We decided to document this process as best we can, feeling that there would be a need for the record...for whatever purpose it may serve in the future or the present.

I understand now why they say adoption is a matter of heart. These children somehow miraculously belong to us. Our children even feel it...they knew it before I did.

After a week of sleepless nights and knees calloused by prayer, I feel the page in the book of our lives turning.


  1. Alisa I am so glad you are writing your feelings down. You are an excellent writer. You know that Ruslon has felt the spirit when he is with you, because it emanates from your family like the air you breath! We are so excited that you are adopting these children and we will do all that is in our power to help you!

  2. What a wonderful, inspirational story! Thank you for sharing. I was able to spend 8 months in orphanages in Ecuador when I was 18 and I know the feeling of loving someone else's children like your own. Stanton and I also hope to adopt someday. I really hope every thing turns out well with your family~you are such a wonderful family and good example to us all. We're excited to meet these two kiddos someday :)

  3. This is so beautiful - I have a lump in my throat after reading this. I love adoption :)