|Our daughter (left) and friend at their orphanage|
Friday, we got re-acquainted (briefly) with our 4 new kids (we call them the 'Fab 4'). Our time together that day was brief because there were a number of administrative steps to complete before we could be allowed to see them. But even in those delays, God granted us the opportunity to shine for Him with numerous bureaucrats and local citizens. We had great help from our translator and our facilitator. In the end, He provided us the grace to be patient and content, even though we were so anxious to see our kids.
We got to go back for a bit longer time on Saturday. When we arrived at the orphanage on Saturday, the kids were at school. September 1 is always the first day of school in Russia and is celebrated in a big way, no matter what day of the week. It's a day when parents often walk their kids to school and/or greet them upon their return. But, of course, that makes it another hard day for orphans who have no parents to care about their big day. It was very moving to see all the parent-child groups walking by the roads as we drove to the orphanage... knowing that our kids had no such escort.
While we waited to greet our children when they returned from that shortened school day, we were briefed on their background by the orphanage director, a truly amazing woman with a big heart for 'her' kids. Even though she runs one of the very best orphanages in the country, she is a strong advocate for finding forever homes for her children. She understands that even though she provides a safe, warm, nurturing place, these kids need forever families, with permanent dads and moms. She had many words of wisdom for us as we move to parent older orphans once again.
Eventually, the kids arrived in their very best dress clothes - suits for the boys, Peter, Dima and Maxim, and a cute little jumper for Katya (not their real names). It was a treat to be there to help them celebrate the first day of school. It was particularly touching to be able to share some time with Katya on her very first school day ever!
After warm embraces with the kids, we were treated to quite a show by the boys in their group's community room. They showed us dance steps they'd learned at camp, gymnastics tricks and general silliness. Katya watched from a sofa while the boys did these things, commenting once that she could do them, too, although she never rose from her seat to prove she could make good on her good-natured boast.
We got out coloring books we'd brought to break the ice with these art-loving kids. It's amazing how coloring together can help start the bonding process as you work in tandem to complete a task. From there we proceeded to play with clay, take pictures, and just hang out with these affable children and the other kids in the 'family' group's room (the quarters where sibling groups live with any brother or sister also living in the children's home).
As our time together started coming to a close, we told the kids that we wanted to be their forever mom and dad, to which they all readily agreed. It was touching to see the oldest's response as he was on the verge of tears while wearing a great big smile on his face. We think he may have been told that he had little hope of adoption at his age.
Finally, Maxim and Katya were whisked away to participate in a show celebrating the first day of school that the younger kids put on in the orphanage music room. This was reminiscent of our time here two years ago when we were treated to a musical marking the coming of winter. Even then little Katya had been the 'star' of the show, singing and dancing like a little princess. Now on this Saturday, she was once again the little star, singing a solo and dancing while her new parents beamed while thanking God for allowing us to share this moment with her.
All in all, our time with the kids was as magical as we could have imagined.
But it was also filled with heart-rending moments. You see, our time at the orphanage included all the kids there, not just the ones who were meeting their mom and dad for the first time. We shared as much of ourselves and our care as we could. Their adult care-takers also obviously showed that they care deeply for them. But these kids all long for and need forever moms and dads.
Just to name a few specifics of the many that we found really heart-rending:
- We spent hours with four siblings who live in the same family room in the orphanage as our kids. They also have a baby brother in a separate orphanage (due to age) - these close-knit children, who range in age from eleven to two, are winsome and well-behaved. But they need a family who has enough faith to do something really big - adopt 5 children!
- We met an teenage girl who was friendly and helpful. But after some time with us she turned to the translator and asked, "Can't you bring me a family too?" Oh, how I wish we could...
- Finally, we met a beautiful girl who will turn 17 this fall. Apart from a family stepping in quickly to be part of a miracle, she will age out of the system with no future hope for adoption. Statistics about such cases are horrifying. To think of this precious child who could be living under the loving care of a family being cast into the streets instead is hard to take.
Please pray for the orphans!