However, with the craziness of adding three new children to the family and the planning of Tessa's March wedding, we didn't make it far into that narrative. We're ready to try the serialization of our story again. (To see the previous two posts visit Our Newest Adoption: A Phone Call that Would Change Our and Our Newest Adoption: How It Began--Day 2)
While we were on a business trip to St. Thomas, we received an unexpected, middle-of-the-night call from Becky, the travel coordinator of our adoption service provider.
Becky asked if we would leave our tropical paradise and travel to Moscow immediately (in January!) to join a group of adults who would be there visiting Russian orphans. After hesitating only long enough to pray, we enthusiastically agreed! This meant we would get to meet Alexander and Oksana (see our former posts)!
We spent the morning throwing our swim suits and shorts into our suitcases, lining up tickets to get off the island on the only Delta flight of the day, getting passport photos taken for our visa application and rushing over the mountainous center of the island to the airport at the last minute. Needless to say, when we arrived late that night in Atlanta, we collapsed as soon as we reached the hotel.
The next morning we loaded our rental car, which was subtle in color and...
... then navigated our way through downtown Atlanta to the office of the Russian visa service.
While still on St. Thomas, we had called ahead to get help in getting the visas that would allow us to enter Russia. We turned to GoToRussia, the visa service that our adoption agency routinely used. In order to make it to Moscow while the orphans were still there, we needed GoToRussia to arrange for visas on an incredibly short 48-hour time frame. GoToRussia was willing to help us with our tight requirement. However, the short timetable would only work if we were able to play a role in acquiring the visas. We would have to hand-deliver our passports to their office in Atlanta. Then we would have to stop on our way to Moscow two days later to pick up our visas and passports in New York City.
GoToRussia's office was just a few blocks from the golden dome of Georgia's capitol building. Getting to see that landmark reconfirmed for us that we were on quite an adventure.
When we pulled up to the address we'd been given, we weren't sure we were in the right place. We were outside a series of old brownstone buildings that looked as though they were private residencies on the edge of Atlanta's business district.
After looking up and down the street several times for a solution to our confusion, we prayed and then went ahead and knocked. Sure enough, we were greeted by a man with a thick Russian accent, whose name we learned was Alexander. Mr. Beaver had already had quite a bit of internet contact with Alexander, filling out on-line forms ahead of time. Now Alexander placed a phone call to confirm what we would need to do in Manhattan.
While he talked on the phone, I roamed the small office, thoroughly enjoying hearing Russian spoken again. Living in a small town in the upper midwest, we have little contact with Russian immigrants. After having traveled to Russia multiple times for previous adoptions, the sound of the language was music to my ears.
I was also busy admiring a floor-to-ceiling display case filled with Russian memorabilia. Even as I stood there I was getting butterflies at the thought that by the end of the week, Lord willing, we would be returning to the land where six of my children had been born.
While I was reveling in the sensory experience that the office afforded, Mr. Beaver was happily stroking a large orange cat perched on top of a sofa in the room. Those of you who know Mr. Beaver personally know that he is not a cat person. As I turned to catch him in the act of petting the feline, I just figured that this was yet another sign that anything could happen on this trip.
When Alexander was finished with his phone call, Mr. Beaver asked him the cat's name. We chuckled when he told us kitty's name was, "Koshka," the Russian word for "cat".
We knew we would arrive home too late to run errands, so we recruited the help of our children back in Sioux City, phoning ahead a list of requests from Atlanta. They were a ready and willing army of recruits! They felt as though they were being pulled into the biblical call to "visit orphans in their distress" (James 1:27). Joe even coined the term "Operation Liberate the Fatherless," for our family's united effort.
Our nine children divided up the list we'd given them and sped all over town to meet their parents' travel and adoption needs. They withdrew money from the bank in a quantity they'd never touched before. At Target they delighted in gathering gifts of clothing and toys for Alexander, the ten-year-old, whom they hoped would become their brother. They purchased toys and candy for the other children in Alexander's orphanage. They also bought snacks for the two of us for those times when jet lag makes you feel hungry even though a meal is hours away.
While they were shopping, we spent the afternoon and evening traveling. First we flew from Atlanta to Omaha, Nebraska. We then made the two-hour drive to our home town. We were greeted by nine eager embraces at about 8:30 p.m. We had just twelve hours before we had to leave home again for the next leg of this crazy journey.
When we arrived home, our kids had the many purchases they'd made on our behalf spread out on our bedroom floor and our bed (it was obvious we would not get to bed any time soon!).
We were grateful for our children's clear thinking in helping us make decisions about what to pack where, and what to leave behind as suitcases filled up. The two of us were already tired enough that our thought process was foggy and slow. It took a real team effort to efficiently switch swimsuits for sweaters and flip flops for snow boots.
As the night wore on and our young helpers grew tired also, they still hung on to help in any way they could. We were a family with a mission!
Even the youngest hung on...
...though as time passed, the two of them became more of a team of encouragers than real help.
They were tired, too!
Meanwhile, the oldest of our children continued to aid us in making decisions
about what to take and what to leave behind.
Finally, about midnight, the packing was over. We all folded ourselves into bed, looking forward to breakfast together the next morning before we needed to leave for the airport again.
God had faithfully provided the grace all eleven of us had needed to get through a demanding day. We closed our tired eyes thanking Him for His abundant lovingkindness in our lives.