(Please forgive any errors you find here. It is a new mother of twelve children who is trying to fit in capturing our story while still playing my most important role as "Mama." I have no doubt you'll see plenty of mistakes. I'm too tired to proof any longer.)
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of what we would acknowledge as the real beginning of our most recent adoption. In last night's post I shared the story of the unexpected, middle-of-the-night phone call that would change the lives of 14 people. I missed a few details with that post which I'll add first. Then I'll go on to what happened on Day Two of our great adventure.
Once we told Becky, “Yes! We'll come,” she told us she would do her best to get Alexander, the eleven-year-old boy who had initially won our hearts through Becky's posts, added to the list of orphans traveling to Moscow the next day. This would save us the need to return to Moscow in March on the next Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project trip to meet him. Again, she warned us that the plausibility of getting Alexander added to the trip at the last moment was quite remote.
As we hung up from Becky's phone call, we simply stared at one another. We suddenly felt as though we'd been written into a movie screenplay or one of those reality TV shows. We wondered where the hidden camera was.
We were elated but also realistic in our assessment of the chances of all of this working out. Without even having to name them outloud, we knew we faced many more obstacles than merely getting Alexander added to the list of traveling orphans, as bleak as Becky had made that sound. We knew the chances were remote that we could get the visas we needed to enter Russia on such short notice. In addition, we would need to get last-minute seats on the numerous flights necessary to take us all the way from St. Tomas through Sioux City to Moscow. We were uttlerly powereless to make this happen, and we knew it! All of this was in our good God's hands.
We called our nine children back home where it was four hours earlier and shocked them with our news. We told them we’d desperately need their help in two ways if this was to work. First, we would need tremendous prayer cover. Beginning with what looked like impossible logistics, every step would be nothing short of a leap of faith. Their prayers would be vital. Second, we’d be coming through Sioux City but only for 12 hours, and that short stint would be at night. The kids were going to have to run a slew of errands for us. The nine of them were more than willing to do whatever we asked of them. They'd already been busy praying for new siblings so their delight at our news was beyond measure. We finished the quick call and crawled in bed, full of wonder and and overflowing with gratitude to our great God.
Day Two -- Tuesday
|Sunrise from St. Thomas over St. Croix the morning after THE phone call in the middle of the night|
While we were waiting for the visa company to open in Atlanta, we realized that we would need passport photos for our visas. But where does one get a passport photo when staying at a rural resort on a Carribean island? The resort’s events coordinator, Tess, was an instant ally when she heard that we were trying to adopt Russian orphans. She had visited Russia and had a heart for Russia's beautiful children. Tess called a photographer in town 30 minutes away. and immediately he was on his way to help. In no time he was in her office taking our photos. The plan was for him to bring them back to the hotel before we left for the airport. Hurdle Two crossed.
The next step was to figure out if it was even possible to get off St. Thomas and get to Moscow by Sunday. On Sunday evening the children would return to their orphanages, and, of course, we wanted to spend at least a few hours with Oksana and Alexander, if the trip's coordinator's were, indeed, able to add him to the group of children.
Frantically Jim worked the flight schedules from his lap top in our hotel room. The only way this whole adventure could work was if we hand delivered our visa applications to the visa service in Atlanta by Wednesday morning and then picked up our own visas in New York on Friday on our way out of the country.
While Jim tried this and that with flight schedules, I hurriedly threw everything in our suitcases. Just after 1 p.m., Jim announced that he’d found the right combination of flights to make this crazy idea possible. We’d fly that day to Atlanta and stay overnight.
The next morning, Wednesday, we’d drop off our passports at the visa service. That afternoon we’d fly to Omaha and make the two-hour drive home to arrive about 8:30. The next morning, Thursday, we’d leave about 8:30 to fly from Sioux City through Minneapolis to the JFK airport in New York. On Friday morning we’d take an hour-long taxi ride into Manhattan to pick up our visas. Then we'd head to the airport for the flight to Moscow. As Jim wrapped up the planning he was full of praise to the Lord that the flight schedules and visa pick-up time table in New York would actually allow us to arrive in Moscow on Saturday rather than on Sunday--a 24 hour bonus!
We called Tess at the hotel's front desk again and begged her to get us a taxi. Then we grabbed our bags and RAN! The only Delta flight to Atlanta left in less than two hours. With a 45 minute drive to the airport, we were already considered late for an international flight.
Some of our friends were in the resort’s circular drive to see us off; they handed us bronw bag lunches as we jumped in the taxi. We were touched by their thoughtfulness; food had been the last thing on our minds that morning, but hunger would hit soon. Our driver, who had been informed of the urgency of us getting to the airport, pulled away while we were still waving and slamming our doors closed.
|Good-bye tropics--hello Siberia! In January?!?|
Just as the anxiety was rising, our taxi driver asked for the phone. After a couple minutes of conversation, he hung up and let out a deep, jolly laugh. He said we must be praying people. We thought that it was an unusual comment but confirmed that he was right. We asked how he knew. His laughter rolled though the car again, and he said, “God is with you!” in his thick Caribbean accent. Even from behind him we could feel his broad smile.
He told us he always took an alternate route to the airport, but at the last minute today he had diverted to a different road. As it turned out, the photographer was coming toward us on that some road on his way to the hotel. We would be able to intercept him and get those all-important passport photos. Just as our taxi driver finished explaining this, we saw a car parked at the top of the next hill. Standing next to the car was the photographer waving an envelope with the passport photos in as though it were a flag. The photo exchange took only about two minutes.
While the taxi driver had been talking to the photographer and arranging the rendezvous, I got a call from Becky. She had the wonderful news that Alexander was going to be added to the group of children. She said that at every level, starting with her boss, the initial response to the proposal of adding Alexander was, “No, it is too late. The children leave tonight on the train. It is not possible.” Apparently, the most adamant rejection of the idea came from the director of Alexander's orphanage. However, the Lord had provided an advocate for us that we would come to love. Marina, a true Pied Piper of orphans, also has a way with adults and eventually had won the agreement of the director to add Alexander. This did mean extra work for a number of people we later learned. A new document with all the children’s names on it who would be traveling had to be drafted and then taken by a driver to all three of the orphanages, in some cases hours from each other, to be signed by each of directors.
After hours of frantic activity, the rest of the afternoon and our flight into Atlanta seemed blissfully uneventful. We were quite tired by the time we arrived in that city about 9 p.m. As a result, we probably found less humor in the type of rental car we'd been assigned than we normally would have. We walked to the very last space in the enormous lot of Avis Car Rental at the Atlanta Hartfield Airport only to find a bright yellow Volkvswagon Bug waiting for us.