Thursday, March 29, 2012

We're Going to Ukraine!

The day finally came! We got the call we have been waiting for!
For several days now, every time the phone would ring my heart would skip a beat. Talk about being on the edge of your seat! We have been waiting since last Wednesday, March 21st, which was the 20-business-day mark after the submission of our dossier. We knew that any time after that date, we could hear about our acceptance and appointment...or our rejection (which we didn't have any reason to believe would happen, but one cannot rule out any possibilities).
After a while, I started getting the idea of the pattern of how appointments were being given to other families. We watched two families from North Carolina receive theirs and realized they only had 13 days to get there. Then we knew of a family from our group who had received a request for more paperwork prior to their 20-day mark. Watching these situations, I started to realized that no news was good news. We hadn't heard about a paperwork issue and hadn't received a rejection, so we started to feel pretty secure that things were going to work out. But waiting for the call sure was hard!
The family just ahead of us "in line" (having submitted their dossier a week before we submitted ours), got the call yesterday that they were to be in Ukraine on April 9th...the shortest window of travel time the agency has ever seen! Marsh and I started to realize that this could be our situation, too.
The next day, it was our turn. The call came in and we learned that we are to be in Kiev on the 12th. We now have travel plans and will leave on Monday, the 9th.
We are so excited to know that just two weeks from now we will know Nastia and will be able to hug them and spend time with them. It is the last leg of the journey to bring them home!
I cannot help but think of their mother. I constantly wonder how she feels about it all. I hope she is pleased and desires this for them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

God Could Open the Heavens

When we started this adoption process, we had a giant mountain in front of us.  On paper, there was no way we would be able to raise the amount of money that we needed to adopt Ruslan and Nastya, at least not within a reasonable time frame.  Neither of us had ever raised funds for a cause before.  But, then again, we had never considered adoption before, let alone two orphans from Ukraine.  Not a lot of this made sense on paper.
But we could not deny the experiences that told us clearly God was leading this path, and that our understanding might fail, but His would not.
I remember a conversation early on, before we got too far down this road, where one of us said, if this is what God wants us to do, then He can make it happen, He could literally open the Heavens and drop the entire amount of money we needed on our front step.  So, we proceeded with the incredible help of many, most of whom we already knew and cared about, some who we came to know, and a handful who desired to remain anonymous.
Our first few fund raisers were pretty amazing, with donations and gifts of help that were very humbling.  We didn't expect to feel or experience all that we did.  This whole process has had a transforming effect on us that we hope to be able to articulate at some point.  As we proceeded beyond venues that were closer to our immediate life and circle of friends, the earnings at events started to really drop off.  We began to see that our efforts began to far exceed our fundraising.
We discussed this and determined that the amount didn't matter, but our effort did.  If God could open the Heavens, then we needed to be willing to do the work on our end.  We couldn't control how much our efforts brought in, but we could control our own commitment.  We would continue to fund raise as long as it took and felt justified in at least bringing about more awareness to adoption and the plight of the orphan.
At this point, Alisa had a friend from high school make contact with her, who donated $20, and who lamented that she couldn't do more.  She then connected us with a friend of hers who wrote for the local Utah Valley newspaper, The Daily Herald.  This writer read our blogs and desired to write an article about our experience.  She did a brief phone interview with Alisa and told us the story would likely be in the community section of the paper the following Thursday.  I had the feeling that this might be that blessing we had been praying for.  I did the calculations in my head and figured if only a fraction of the Daily Herald readers felt moved to donate $20 each, we would see a significant jump on our fundraising.  We had raised or collected donations in the neighborhood of $10,000 at this point.  A lot of money, but only a fraction of what we still needed.
A photographer came and took a picture of our family and we waited to see where the article would end up.
Thursday morning, I took my oldest to early morning seminary.  On the way home, we stopped by a gas station to buy a paper.  To our surprise, our family's picture was on the front page, not a little side story, but the main story and photo on the page, with the Payson Temple groundbreaking and news of the knock down drag out debate with Romney and Perry as smaller side stories to ours.  We couldn't believe it.  We found out that the writer had never been on the front page before.  We couldn't help but feel that Alisa's friend was led to introduce us to the writer, that the writer felt led to write the article, and that the newspaper editor felt led to make it the main story of the paper.  Again, we were humbled.  The article was very well written and portrayed our desires and efforts to adopt and raise awareness in the best possible way, and then it encouraged readers to visit our blogs and donate to our cause.  I was sure that this would be the key. 
For a few days, views to our blog spiked, I think the highest was about 50 views.  We did get donations through our blog and our credit union.  In all, though, they totaled about $1,500.  Though any amount was a blessing, I admit I was a bit disappointed.  This was the large platform we felt we needed to make the difference.  After a few days, things settled back to the levels of attention and interest in our efforts as before.
We were back into the mode of, if we show we're willing to do the work, the Lord will make up the difference.
In the mean time, I could sense that Alisa was starting to feel overwhelmed.  There was an event coming up that was going to require more effort than she had been anticipating.  A friend had offered her property along a downtown road where the city was holding a community fair.  It would likely be bustling with people and we needed more people to know of our efforts.  A group of youth near that community, where the property was located, had offered to hold a yard sale, but due to certain circumstances had backed out at the last minute.
We had to take advantage of the location and the timing, but pulling it off in the short period of time would be extremely time consuming and near impossible.  But again, this whole thing, the purpose we were even doing it was impossible on paper, so we put our heads down and kept pushing.
At this point, two individuals made contact with Alisa and told her that they wanted to help with this event.  It was another miracle blessing.  One of these women had also been interested in adopting Ruslan and Nastya.  Her family had hosted Ruslan the second week he was here, before we knew we should take this path.  It had come down to Ruslan being asked where he wanted to be for the final week of his stay and he chose us.  This other family was heartbroken.  Though we had a good relationship with them, we knew this was very hard, and weren't surprised when we hadn't heard from them in several weeks.  She had seen our article and had come to the point that she knew she needed to reconnect with us and decided to look at our blog, where she learned of our yard sale just down the road from their home.  She came and was invaluable to Alisa in setting things up, helping with the sale, and bringing items of her own to donate.  Her young sons even offered their collection of silver coins, which at the time equaling above $100.  Her example of selflessness was profound and humbling.
The other women was a stranger to us.  She had seen our blog and just wanted to help.  She spent both days with Alisa, brought some amazing items that sold immediately for upwards of $500 and just became a great friend to Alisa in that brief time.  They hit it off and Alisa found out that she was interested in homeschooling her children, something that Alisa has done with our children from many years.  They talked in depth about the highs and lows and pros and cons of homeschooling.  At one point, this amazing helper had to leave, so she was saying goodbye to Alisa, and said something to the effect of, "When you're done, let us know what more you need and we'll pay the rest."  It didn't really make sense to Alisa.  Was she meaning, when the sale is over, count up what we made and subtract that from what we had hoped to make?  Alisa asked her to clarify what she meant.  "When you are done with this yard sale, tell me what you still need for the adoption and we want to write a check for the rest.  The Lord wants us to pay for your adoption.  He wants you to know you've done enough."
The tears started to flow.   "Do you realize what you are saying?  We probably still need $40,000."
"Yes, I know," was her reply.  "We can do that."
And then she told her story.
She had been jogging one morning.  She never reads the paper, but that Thursday morning when she got home, she felt a desire to pick it up and take a look.  There, on the front page was our story.  She read it and was moved.  She told her husband to get online and donate to us.  They had been one of the more generous donors during the brief few days after the article circulated.  But, she couldn't stop thinking about our story.  At one point, she went to our blog again and saw that we were holding the yard sale and emailed Alisa to offer her help.
After interacting with Alisa for two days, she felt moved to offer the kind of help we had been praying for.
I used to think that the scripture that talks about obtaining riches after finding hope in Christ meant, once I got my act together completely with regard to my spirituality, the Lord would make me a wealthy man, but this experience taught me that those riches wouldn't necessarily be for me.  We had sought riches "to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."
And we had obtained riches, just as God promised.
The only concern we had with accepting this help, though, was that several others had already set in motion efforts of their own in our behalf.  We had felt at the outset that many people's lives, not just our own, would be blessed by these efforts.  This family felt the same way and didn't want to take away blessings from others.
The remaining events that many others have carried out after that yard sale have brought incredible blessings and miracles of their own.
We feel so grateful for all who have put their time and resources toward our cause.  Only you and God know the breadth of your sacrifice.  We have learned that resources are not only temporal, but also spiritual.
The Lord can truly give and take away as he sees necessary.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

K, Woah.

First of all, we got word that Sasha (who translated and delivered our dossier) was called back into the office to fix a translation issue...a routine thing, nothing to worry about. He then contacted our coordinator, David, and let him know that it didn't appear to him that there was any problem with my little passport issue. He felt it would have been acknowledged at that point and suggests we don't worry about it. Until I hear that we have been approved and have an appointment at the SDA (State Department of Adoptions), I'm not making plans...but this is a very nice thing to hear!

Secondly, we also received the information that the two families who were first to submit their dossiers this year did receive their invitations today! Their appointments are March 26th and 29th. And this, my friends, is the reason I chose to title this post what I did. It was my first reaction when I read about it. K, woah...that is 13 days from now!!

See, it is necessary to arrive at least one full day before your appointment date in case there are travel delays of any kind. You DO NOT want to miss your appointment. So, this means one of these families needs to arrive in Ukraine in LESS than TWO WEEKS! A typical timeframe to wait for this appointment after receiving your approval and invitation is 3 to 4 weeks so this is cutting that time in half...a little hard on the pocketbook, but easy on the heart. For many of us, and as one of my friends who is also adopting said today, there is an ache to have these children with us, to bring them home and start working on the new life we are all anticipating. The waiting can be painful.

Since our 20-day waiting period ends in one week, Marsh and I started talking about the reality that we, too, might have a short time to wait before we are to leave. I emailed our coordinator and asked why there was such a short wait time for these families...was it because of the region they are adopting from? Was it because of how early in the year this is all happening? When he wrote back, he said it was most likely because these families are the first to be adopting in 2012 and that this is probably something that will happen for the next couple of weeks.

K, woah. The next couple of weeks? Don't we fit into that category?? Suddenly, it was like hearing my doctor say he was going to induce me excited to welcome the new baby, but I thought I had a little more time to prepare! You the crib, organize the cabinets, paint the walls...get some sleep!

But Ruslan and Nastia aren't babies and they need as much time here as possible to get their footing in their new culture, country and language. The Lord is steering this ship, so we will go with it...whatever it may be. Clean basement or not.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Little Update...

We have been getting a lot of questions about how things are going, what we know, what our travel plans are and so on so I guess it’s time for a little update!

After our review date of February 22nd, we have a 20 day waiting period before the officials in Ukraine are expected to respond. Unfortunately, it’s a 20 business day waiting period so we would not be able to expect to hear anything before the 21st of March.

We also just found out today that, thanks to the change in ministry over the adoptions which extended our ability to submit our first round of paperwork prior to the winter holidays, there is also a change in policy that will increase this wait time now. Up until that change, the officials that reviewed the paperwork and extended the invitations to the adopting families also signed that official invitation. Now, they delegate the signing of the official invitation to another office, thus extending the wait time a few more days…at least.

After receiving our official invitation, we can make travel plans and have a much better idea of the timeframe of when we will have them home. The expected scenario is that we will travel 3-4 weeks after receiving that invitation.

Unfortunately, we have a little something that could potentially set us back. I found out too late that my passport doesn’t have my maiden name listed, but all the adoption paperwork does. If someone felt like it, they could make that an issue. It could mean we’d have to redo all of our paperwork, a very LONG and EXPENSIVE process. It could set us back several weeks. We are praying that it will be passed over and will not be an issue. The expense of the paperwork is not my concern as much as getting our kids here and progressing in their new life. I have to allow the Lord to steer this ship. I know He will make it all happen the way it is supposed to, the way that is best for all of us. We will and have been praying every day for this issue to be diminished and resolved. I know the Lord expects us to exercise our faith through our works…even if the decision has already been made. I have learned to expect miracles.