Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our First Orphanage Visit--Day 8

This was the day we have been waiting for for 9 months! It began by our facilitator going into the government building in this region to turn in our referral from the SDA and obtain our referral from the local authorities so we could be authorized to visit the orphanage.

Upon our arrival in this region, our facilitator helped us understand that there was no way around the fact that Nastia would have to remain on a certain registry for a month before her paperwork can be sent to the SDA so we can obtain a referral to begin the process of adoption for her as well as her brother. I'm glad we had the heads-up earlier that there was a problem because I'd cried all the tears I was going to cry and had to leave it up to the Lord.

Now that we have all the information, I believe the miracle we needed occurred several months ago. I don't feel comfortable sharing all that information in this public of a setting so it will have to be sufficient enough to say that I can see now the Lord's hand in this, even though it's hard to go home. I know He is orchestrating this down to the detail and it is for the best...both what happened in the past (which I can already see the benefit of) and what will yet happen (which I will understand at a future time).

So, we went today to visit the kids knowing we were going home tomorrow and wouldn't see them again for at least a month. That's the update...now back to the day...

When we arrived at the orphanage (which was colorful, clean, organized and displayed children's artwork for Paska and other projects), we were asked to sit on a big, green couch in a front room area. In this room, there were birds in cages, a fountain, life-size tortoise statue...it was quite amazing and interesting!

We sat and waited for some time while one of the directors went to get the children from school. We were nervous and the anticipation was mounting! We were about to meet Nastia for the first time and we just had no idea what that would be like or how she would respond.

While we were waiting, the psychologist came over and had a conversation with our facilitator. I can't tell you how many times I have been SO grateful for the fact that Marsh knows Russian!! This was definitely one of them. She was discussing our children and saying the most positive things about how wonderful and sweet and good they are...even when she didn't know we could understand her. It was then that I felt sure of what I had been feeling impressed about for so long...that these children were to be a blessing to us and that the best ones are the hardest to get. Our challenge in having to come home is part of the opposition that is necessary because of the blessing they will be to our family. You get what you pay for.

Just a few minutes later, I heard a car door and saw through the curtain that people were coming up the walkway. I peeked through at an angle I could see from the couch and saw Nastia. She was so small, I had no idea it was her! We had only seen one picture of her and it looked like her hair was long but pulled back. This little sweetie had very short hair (which we learned later had been cut because of lice) and was so much smaller than we had been told she would be.

Then, there was Ruslan, towering behind her (he had grown a few inches from last summer) with a sweet little grin on his face. We hugged them both and were led into a room where we could visit and do things together. As were standing there before we sat down, one of the women said to Nastia and then to Ruslan in Russian, "So these are your parents now. Are you going to let them adopt you?" They both said yes and they told us to sit down. I was surprised at how soon they were asked something like that considering poor Nastia had just met us two minutes earlier.

We sat down and at first, Marsh just talked to them in Russian (I'm sure he told me what he said but I can't remember now because I was so focused on my thoughts about the kids). Marsh and I kept looking at this sweet little girl in front of us and giving each other the "can you believe her?" look while we all talked. He helped break the ice a bit and then had me bring out the picture album we'd made for Nastia since she had never seen our house. We showed Ruslan his new room, our new car (which in Russian sounds like "auto bus" which is exactly what it is!) and our new dining room table that will accomodate all of us. He was intensely interested and Nastia just kept smiling this peaceful little smile as she studied each picture up and down.

Then I took out my ipod and showed them the videos the kids had made for them. THAT was fun! They loved that and laughed at Lucy's antics!

We then played a couple of rounds of Uno which also was GREAT for laughs, language and smiling at each other. Nastia was still a bit reserved but would smile when I smiled at her. She seemed to be enjoying herself.

I then painted her nails...her first choice of activity! Pink is her favorite color so we did the pink and she chose a glitter to go on top. She obviously likes sparkly things! It seemed to make her very happy. I made sure to talk to her in simple english, repeating phrases so she could catch on. I certainly don't expect her to speak english right away, but I need as much practice teaching it as she needs learning it so I might as well start now! :)

At that point, the head mistress of the orphanage came in and started talking very strongly at the kids...all in Russian, of course. Our facilitator translated for me. She first asked Ruslan who we were. He introduced us by name and she corrected him and said, "Say Momma and Poppa". Then she told them that we are their parents now and they need to respect us and be on their best behavior. She told them it was very hard on us to take TWO of them (yeah, right!) and they needed to be good children. Then she turned to us and told us that Nastia's dad had come to the orphanage and wanted to take her. They had given her a choice between her dad and staying with Ruslan. She said, "I want to stay with my brother." This response speaks volumes into their lives up to the point of their mother's death.

No one forced her or even tried to convince her to change her mind. Then the woman went on to explain that for Nastia, Ruslan has been the man, like a father, to protect and take care of her. She explained that Nastia never wanted to be separated from Ruslan and that she loves her brother very much. (K, so I was tearing up at this point and staring at Marsh with a "I'm sorry, I'm going to lose it...don't be mad at me" look.) A few tears fell while she finished talking and then they all left us alone.

I had to get out a tissue so I felt like I needed to explain myself to the kids. I had Marsh tell them that I it makes me cry to know that Ruslan is such a good brother and that we want them to have a happy life with us. I also had Marsh tell them that Heavenly Father wants them to be happy, too. He was so sweet in his communcations with them.

Marsh then suggested we lighten the mood by doing another project.

Nastia chose to decorate foam book marks. I explained that there was plenty of material for her to make some for her friends. She watched me for how to do it and then started making one. Ruslan, even at 14, was happy to do it. I love teenagers that don't know they are teenagers!

Nastia decorated hers with a heart, as you can see in the picture. Then she started to put a name on it. I just assumed she'd put her own, but she didn't. She spelled "Ruslan". Of all the people in the world she could make something for, including herself, she made it for her brother.

I suddenly realized the necessity of the way this has all played out. The fact is, because of the way things have happened, Nastia was able to stay with Ruslan. If any of the other factors had changed, they would have been separated...especially with how cute, sweet and small she is. This was necessary, even vital, to keeping these two kids together. Having to come back is just part of what we need to do to carry it out. We needed to be here now to ensure Ruslan would be adopted and we needed to have his process started to find out that Nastia wasn't where she was supposed to be in that process. We have now secured both of them because of what we've done here. I also feel like the relationship we now have with her is an important foundation.

The next thing she chose to do was to make flower hair clips with needle and thread. She loved this so much, she asked if we could make more tomorrow. She, of course, chose the sparkliest button to go into the center of her flower. I think I know what I'm bringing back with me in May...!
Here is a picture that shows just how petite Nastia is. She is going to be ten in May and is quite small for her age. I will measure both kids tomorrow to make sure we have everything ready for them in a month.
When we took the picture of Marsh and the kids above, Nastia wouldn't put her arm around Marsh. It made him want to earn her trust and he is determined to do it. We know their father was an alcoholic and the fact that he didn't want Ruslan, but came for Nastia and she refused, proves that these children have not had the privelege of having a loving father. Marsh will fill that role happily!
We only had about an hour together. In the last ten minutes or so, I started to notice Nastia was initiating smiles to me, rather than just responding to mine. She was also looking at me longer and would communicate with her face and eyes. It was like she wanted to say something to me but knew I wouldn't be able to understand...which was sad.
When it was time to go, we all put things away and stood up. She came right over to me and leaned into me so I could put my arm around her. Then, she put both arms around me and looked up at me with these big, beautiful blue eyes and smiled a smile that is indescribable. There was love in that smile! And I stood all amazed that in such a short period of time, she and I could learn to love each other. It was almost incomprehensible the feelings that I felt at that time. I didn't think I could love another person's child like this. This whole journey has taken me places nothing else could have and I thank God for every step of it.
Marsh saw the look on her face at that moment she looked up at me and it amazed and touched him in just the same way. He told me later he was jealous! :)
I handed the kids their backpacks from school and realized that Ruslan's is the one we gave him last summer. I was so glad. Maybe when he looked at that backpack, he thought of us...just like we have thought of him and Nastia...every single day since the day he left.
We said goodbye and left the orphanage to take care of other business. We were in a bit of a stunned and joyous silence for a while and then Marsh asked me what that experience did to me. I stumbled over my words, looking for some way to describe what I felt about all that had just happened and just couldn't do it. We laughed at my complete speechlessness and he said, "I honestly don't think I have seen you this way before!" He's right...and I have the lengthy blogs to prove it. :)
We get another hour with them tomorrow and then we board a train for Kiev. I think I'll cry all the way home like I cried all the way here. It's really not good for a person like me to have my children half way across the world. And until this process is complete, whether I'm in the USA or in Ukraine, my children will be halfway across the world.


  1. We are so glad that you got to see Ruslan and Nastia - thanks for posting so we could be there!

  2. Another amazing, tearful episode in the journey. Thanks for bringing all of us along!

  3. Reading this... I am crying. I have been praying for you, and for your children. May He continue to watch over you in this journey!

  4. What an amazing story. I cried while I read it Alisa. We admire you and all your efforts. Thanks for keeping us posted on your process over there. You'll remain in our prayers.