Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Of Adoption and Christians and Money

We’ve been back from Bulgaria for six days now. I’ve wanted to write a “blog post summary” of our trip but it’s been hectic traveling, staying at my parents’ house, seeing our kids again, getting ready for Christmas in two days, etc. But now it’s December 26th, everyone is still asleep at 9:30 AM and I finally have time to post again about our trip and some final thoughts about the time we had with our three sweet boys.

In a sense it’s nice to be back home where things are normal and comfortable, but we have this feeling of guilt that we had to leave our boys behind, and we really miss them and wish they were here celebrating Christmas with us. It’s amazing how we were able to bond with each of them, only spending three days with each one. Vesta, our partner agency in Bulgaria, planned the trip perfectly. We thought 12 days would not be enough time to really get to know all three boys, but they worked it out for us to spend so many hours with them that it really felt sufficient. In fact, I think if we would have spent more days with them, they might have started to get too attached and parting would have been more difficult. Now that we are home we are praying for all three boys many times throughout the day, as well as working hard to get the final $19,000 together in agency fees so that we can get our USCIS approval (immigration approval for the boys). Praise God…someone made a $5,000 donation towards our adoption fund on Christmas Day so now we only need $14,000 more!! Then we will receive a court date in Bulgaria where a judge will declare us as the boys’ legal parents…. And then we get to travel back to bring them home! We are praying for supernatural favor that the time would go by quicker than the expected 3-5 months. (If you can help us with the necessary funds to finish this adoption, tax-deductible donations can be made HERE)

Not only do we feel sad about leaving our three boys behind…..we feel so much grief for the children who are still in orphanages waiting for a family. It gets more intense for them the older they get. The little ones don’t leave the orphanage…they don’t realize that life is different for children in families. But the older children go to public school….most of their friends have families….and many of their friends who live in the orphanage go home to their parents on the weekends. (These are families who feel they cannot support their children full time due to finances or other issues and so they send their children to live in the orphanage all week but they have them on weekends). The ones with no families really feel it. It’s not melodrama when you hear someone say, “These children have been waiting for families all their lives……all they want is to have a mother and a father.” I used to wonder, “Do they REALLY long for parents THAT much?” But the moment we met 12-year-old “Max” we were faced with the reality that this in fact IS the truth. Max was smiling from ear to ear as he was lead in to meet us. He flat out told us, “I’ve always wanted a mother and a father…..I told my friends, ‘You see….miracles happen at Christmastime!’” And then his director told us that she has 22 children in her orphanage between the ages of 11 and 16 who are all available for adoption and ALL desperately longing to be “chosen.” We could see it in the way they longingly looked at us whenever they would pass us by at the orphanage.

I’m so glad that we got to travel all over Bulgaria to three completely different orphanages. First we went to a very nice baby orphanage, where our 6-year-old son is still kept, due to the fact that he has a serious congenital heart defect and a serious cleft palate that makes speaking and eating more difficult for him. This orphanage was very well run. They have an excellent program for children with special needs…..even outside families bring their children to the center for therapy. Our little “Tyler” is well fed, well clothed, well cared for. But it was so clear that even in the best of orphanage experiences, it is nothing like having a family. There are 11 children in his group…they have different caregivers at different times of the day. They don’t have the same loving mom and dad tuck them into bed every night. They can’t climb into bed and cozy up with their parents when they have a bad dream. They have no one kissing their faces all over saying, “I love you soooooo much!” They have no one carrying them around, making them feel like they’re on top of the world. Yes, their caregivers are caring women, but these are not THEIR OWN children. They don’t love the children as their own…they love them more like a teacher loves a student. And I can hear someone saying right now, “This is not right….the caregivers should be more affectionate…they should carry the children, and kiss and hug them and love on them more.” But friends…this is not THEIR responsibility!! It is the CHURCH’s responsibility to love on and nurture these little ones! How can we expect those who do not know the love of Christ in a deep way….who have not experienced the new birth of adoption into God’s family, to be the ones who provide these precious children with the love and nurture that God wants them to have??? Being in this orphanage actually made me ashamed. Ashamed of the body of Christ. There is absolutely NO reason why any child should be fatherless. God calls us to be a father to the fatherless. You know, we hear overwhelming statistics of there being somewhere around 143 million orphans around the world and we think, “How can we possibly provide homes for all of them? We’d better just send money to the orphanages so the children are taken better care of.” But the fact is that most of the orphans in those statistics have a living parent or family member who is involved in their lives, and so they are not even available to be adopted. The actual number of orphans who are registered for International Adoption is estimated to be only around 20,000. That’s a pretty low number when you consider how many “Bible believing Christians” there are in the world.

Our sweet, 9-year-old “Chase” lives in one of the poorest orphanages in the country. Most likely the children won’t have heat for part of the day or night in their brutally cold winters. Right now, the children need clothes and blankets and more meat to include in their diet. But all the clothes and blankets and meat in the world would not change the fact that these children (the ones who don’t get to go home to parents on the weekends) have nobody to hug and kiss them all over their sweet faces and say, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” No one to pray over them at night and help them with their homework and take them to the doctor to get to the bottom of why they aren’t gaining weight and why the eyeglasses are not helping their precious child to see better. No one to teach them about Christ and his sacrifice for us. No one to comfort them when they are afraid. Again, I can hear it being said, “This is awful! How can those orphanage workers not hug and kiss on the children? How can they not take the children back to the eye doctor over and over again when obviously the eyeglass prescription is not working? How can they just let him go on day after day being soooo skinny and not get to the bottom of why he isn’t gaining weight?!!” And again, I will say, “It is NOT THEIR responsibility to love and nurture and provide for these children!” It is OURS, CHURCH! OUR RESPONSIBILITY! How can we be so blind? We are sons and daughters of the most high God! His love for his children is immense. When we really know the heart of God then we know how much he wants to love those children through us. We must give God the opportunity to LOVE those children. We are the instruments through which he can love and save them. We need to be awoken to the need and heed the call of Christ to love the “least.” “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress …..” James 1:27

The last orphanage we got to visit was that of 12-year-old “Max.” Max has the most wonderful teacher you have ever met. She herself has a physical disability and walks with a limp. She has been in the same orphanage for many, many years and she truly loves the children. We are so happy that Max will spend the next few months being cared for by her rather than feeling all alone. But she is not there all the time. She comes in for her shift….either night or day….and then goes home to her own family. She has twenty-something kids to look after and she can’t give them all direction on her own. A lot of teasing and name calling goes on….some of the kids skip school….some stand outside smoking cigarettes . She tells us how sweet all of the children really are….but they feel abandoned. Some, like Max, have lived here all their lives. Others have been abandoned by their parents at a later point in life. Some have been taken from their families for one reason or another. Most are embarrassed and ashamed to be living there. All long for a family to call their own. So, you see—even with the best, most loving and nurturing teacher….it still isn’t enough. It’s not like having a home. And we, the adopted children of God have a mandate to take them in. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matt. 25: 34-40

If you go back a couple of months and read through my blog posts you can find one in which I say something like, “Adopting orphans isn’t the only worthy ministry….some are called to prison ministry….some are called to preach the gospel……some to give money to the poor so they can raise their children on their own, etc. etc.” But being in those three orphanages over the last two weeks has changed my perspective. I no longer believe what I wrote. Instead I believe this: It is a travesty and a shame and a mockery of Christ for Christians to allow there to be children living all over the world without any parents or family to love them. It is fully our responsibility to adopt them. Imagine if every Christian family would take in just one child who is available for adoption….there would be no more fatherless children. And this wouldn’t affect your ability to do any other ministry you felt called to…..prison ministry, medical help ministry, preaching the gospel…..all of it could be done while caring for a fatherless child as your own.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t keep sending money to improve the standard of living for children living in orphanages. Many of those children aren’t available to be adopted, and they need meat and blankets and clothing just the same. But the ones who are available for adoption simply should NOT be living there. And we the CHURCH are failing them and the Lord by not taking them in. I know that not everyone can qualify to adopt….some are too young or too old, some have health issues, some don’t make enough money, etc. Many who fall in these categories do what they can….they donate financially to families who ARE able to adopt…they advocate for the waiting children, they pray, etc. ....and they will take part in the blessing of God for providing for these little ones.

In the past I’ve also blogged in a way that made the adoption crisis an issue of money. Sort of to the tune of….”If you have a lot of money and are enjoying fancy cars and fancy homes, while children are starving and homeless, etc. you will have to give an account to God.” I mean, this IS true….Jesus himself warned us that it’s a scary thing to be rich (you know….impossible to get into Heaven…..except with God’s help) But after our visits these last couple of weeks, I want to make a different plea. I’m not asking you to sell everything and give it to the poor (though Jesus himself has been known to ask for this). I’m asking the Church to make a different type of sacrifice. You know the line in the Keith Green song, “I don’t need your money, I want your life”? I’m asking my fellow believers in Christ….my adopted brothers and sisters who read this post… please consider giving a new life, new hope, the gospel of salvation, a loving, secure family….to a waiting child. You have a big home? Great! Share it with a fatherless child. You have new car? Cool—let your newly adopted child feel the thrill of driving around in it with you. OR….you have a small home? Great! Fill it with one more child who will just be grateful to have a mom and dad and siblings to love. You don’t even have a car? No problem, GOD will provide transportation for you and this precious little one….he does not leave us on our own when we step out in faith and love on his children. It doesn’t really matter whether you have a lot or a little…..those who are new creations in Christ are the most qualified to adopt a waiting child. As Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philipians 4:11-13

As we pray and await our reunion with Max, Chase, and Tyler, our hearts’ desire is that God will use our family to encourage other believers to do the “scary thing” of opening their home to a “stranger.” Is not this what God calls “pure religion”? Is not this what it means “to know God”? Let God soften your heart for these fatherless ones. Is it hard? Yes!  Does it disrupt your family for a while? Usually yes. Is it exhausting and scary at times? Yes, yes, yes!   But does God call us to a comfy, cushy life of mainly caring for “our own”? We already know the answer to that.

Much love from the Garcia Family.  Thanks for following along with our adoption journey!

Isaiah 58:10 And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
Jeremiah 22:16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? said the LORD.
Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he that considers the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teary Goodbyes and An Uncomfortable Confession

Well, today was another teary goodbye as we spent our last few hours with “Max” before heading back to Sofia to sign some paperwork and prepare for our journey back home. The emotions in leaving each of the three boys are all so different. With six-year-old “Tyler”, we felt he was well loved and cared for but we feel an urgency to bring him to the States so we can get him the corrective surgery he desperately needs on his cleft palate, and also find out if there is anything we can do for his serious heart defect.  With “Chase” our hearts were broken because he lives in the poorest of the three orphanages….out in a remote village with very few resources. He seems so lonely and we didn’t see that he had a meaningful relationship with any of the staff.  But today with Max, it was different. He has been longing for a family for years. He fully understands the difference between growing up in an orphanage and having a mom and dad and he has been waiting hopefully for someone to come get him. He’s such a sweet, affectionate, loving boy….and today, as he knew we would be leaving, he was really feeling the pain of the separation and he cried silent tears, trying to hide his face in my jacket so no one would see that he was crying. Of course I was teary too but I wanted to show him that things would be ok, because if he had seen me crying he would have felt even worse….and he would have started crying for me…..he has such a sensitive spot in his heart for others.

I feel that I must confess something here….something that’s not easy for me to admit….something I’m ashamed of. I share it only because there may be others like me, and hearing this may touch their hearts. Though I had a sweet spot in my heart the moment I met Max, I was a little bit worried about some of the awkward things he does at times. Like, when he gets excited he will jump up and down laughing so hard and shaking his forearms up and down. Or he laughs and laughs and buries his face in his director’s chest and wrings his hands together over and over because he’s overcome with excitement and emotion and he just can’t contain it (Like when they brought him in to meet us the first day and were telling us how long he’s been waiting to have a family and how excited he is.) Or when he’s overcome with happiness that he has a Mama and he starts stroking my face and hands, saying, “Mama, Mama, Mama.” These little things made me a bit nervous…not that I ever considered at any point NOT adopting him….but I would think in my mind, “Well, he probably makes many of those facial expressions because he doesn’t see well and he doesn’t even know that he’s doing it…..once his vision improves he will start noticing those things and will stop doing them.” I thought, “He’s such a smart boy and a fast learner….I’m sure we can explain to him that jumping up and down like that with such loud excited laughter in public, isn’t the best thing to do and it will make people stare at him.” Or I started reasoning, “He does these things just because he’s grown up in an orphanage and he has been so babied by his teacher. Once he’s living with us for a while he’ll probably act a bit ‘cooler’ and learn how to tone down his excitement.”

Perhaps some of my reasoning is true….maybe he will mature and grow out of these things….but I could tell in my heart that there was a little bit of rejection there for him. Once I realized it, I felt so sad for him and so horrible with myself. I wondered if it was something that he had sensed (although I had really tried to be affectionate and caring with him the whole time we were together). I started to think about his gentle, loving, eager to please personality, and my heart started breaking thinking that for the last two days I had been thinking so much on how I could help “improve” his personality rather than appreciating him for exactly who he is right now. I asked God to please redeem the time I’d wasted with thoughts on how I could “help” him act more “normal”, and to spend every drop of time I had with him today just cherishing and taking in his sweet personality, and pouring love and acceptance into him. And I was so happy with how God worked. It was like He did a miracle in my heart overnight. I woke with a renewed  excitement to see Max and affirm every ounce of his sweet natured personality. And we had a wonderful day together as I soaked in his sweetness.  
This morning when we arrived at the orphanage his director was there to greet us and told us that she had already set up all of the English lessons Max will take while he waits for us to return. She is a wonderful director—really has the children’s best interests at heart. We paid in advance for the lessons and she told us also that we could Skype with him, with his English teacher’s help, on Fridays. We are so excited about keeping up the connection with him. I know he is highly motivated to learn English—he already knows so many words in just three short days.

We took Max and his teacher out to the little town shopping square. It was absolutely take-your-breath-away freezing, with snow falling everywhere and I was really suffering walking outside. Max could tell how cold I was so he wrapped his arms around my waist and said that he would help keep me warm. We walked like this until we got to the café. We all ordered a hot drink (Max and I LOVE the hot chocolate….it is NOTHING like the watery chocolate drink you get here in the U.S….this drink is rich and thick and creamy, yum!) and a pastry. Max is such a careful, polite eater. Even though he has to tilt his head to the side in order to see, he tries to take careful bites and eat like a gentleman (unlike poor little Chase, lol)

One thing I’ve missed with Max is being able to look him straight in the eyes while talking to him. Because of his extremely poor vision he doesn’t really hold the gaze of the person he’s talking to…instead his eyes just go wherever. So today in the café when I would speak to him I would ask him to look right into my eyes and hold his gaze there. I knew that he couldn’t see me well (He has to get extremely close in order to see) but I wanted to just look into his eyes while talking to him rather than just having his eyes dart back and forth. I think he understood exactly why I was asking this of him and he was very obliging. One thing that made me sad was when I asked him what color my eyes were. First I had asked him what color my hair was and he said dark brown. But when I asked him what color my eyes were, he looked carefully and said “blue.” We told him that, no, my eyes are not blue and to look more closely (because he can always tell the color of objects). So then he just said, “brown…they have to be brown because her hair is brown.” Lol

Some tears were shed in the café. I looked Max straight in the eyes and told him, “Listen….I feel very sad right now because it’s almost time to say goodbye to you and I’m really going to miss you. But we will see each other over Skype and I’ll mail you some pictures of us together. Work hard at learning English and we will work hard at getting all of the documents completed so that we can come get you as quickly as possible.” He hugged me hard and then buried his head into my shirt. When I looked down at his face his eyes were all teary, and of course mine were too.

We left the café and walked to the toy store. Norman had given Max some money throughout the week and we told him he could spend it before we left. One advantage to his vision problem is that he cannot see the hundreds of items lined up all over the store We knew he liked cars so we asked him if he’d like to buy one. He chose a battery operated one that lights up and makes noise and drives on its own. He was soooooo excited with this car that he started jumping up and down and laughing loudly in the middle of the store. I didn’t mind one bit but looked around out of curiosity to see people’s reactions. Several people were watching him but everyone had on a pleasant expression…like they could tell he had special needs and they were happy for him. I was just happy that he was so happy. Norman and I kind of looked at each other and chuckled, because we are usually the ones telling our kids, “Do not make a scene here in public….we don’t want everyone staring at us.” (of course, that was always in regard to sketchy behavior and never because a child had a special need) Now, I suppose we will get many stares in public, but we will always be ready to share the redemption story…both of Christ and of special needs adoption.

We drove the snow covered roads back to the orphanage and his teacher said it would be best to say goodbye on the street around the corner, because many of the children were at the orphanage and it was difficult for them to keep seeing a child who was getting new parents while they were not. So we got out of the car and there we held Max and prayed for him. We prayed specifically that God would heal his eyes and restore his vision so that he could see all of the beauty that God created. His teacher and our facilitator were both very touched by this and watched with tear filled eyes. Max started to tear up and I did as well as we hugged as hard as we could for the last time for a few months and walked our separate ways. I’m teary now just thinking about it. I thank God so much that he has his teacher there with him. She is absolutely in love with him and will comfort him while he waits to go home with his Mama and Daddy. We watched as she held him and they walked towards the orphanage. At one point he turned around to wave at us and we could see that he was really crying now and it just broke our hearts. (Really crying now!)

People just don’t realize how much these children suffer with longing for a mother and father. You just have no idea. They ache inside. They go to regular school….their friends have families and parents to go home to. But these children have caretakers… on one night, one on another….one who quits after a time… who is brand new… who is very loving……one who is just there because it’s a job and she needs the money. They are all so eager, so friendly….they want to be “picked” too. They see that every once in a while a child gets “chosen” and they hope that next time will be their turn. If our story of Max has touched your heart, then please consider opening your home to an older waiting child. Most of them don’t have special needs, but they are humble, loving, caring children. This is what growing up in a hard life makes of them. But they still need parents before it’s too late because they are not prepared to go out into the real world, and most orphans, once out on their own, can’t make it. They have no family, no support system, they are behind in their education, can’t get a job….they turn to drugs and indiscriminate sex…..a very high incidence of suicide, crime, etc. Oh it’s just so sad to think that these lives could have been saved….and there are so many families in the U.S. who have the means of taking in just one child….just one. We cannot leave them there….they must be redeemed….please pray……and act….on behalf of the least of these.

(As soon as we get back to the States we have a HUGE payment due and we will be forced to borrow the money. If you can help us with raising the costs we need to adopt these three boys, please make your tax deductible donation HERE Thank you so much!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 2 Visit with "Max"

Today we spent the entire day with “Max” again. It turns out that now that the other children know he has a family adopting him, there is a little bit of jealousy and some arguments took place last night after we left him in the orphanage. Including him, there are three children in the process of being adopted, out of 22 total children in the group. The director says that almost all of them are registered for International Adoption but that it’s just so hard to find families for older children….even though most of them have no serious special needs. She said she is encouraged though, because she has never had three children all being adopted at once, and she’s hopeful that this will be a trend she continues seeing. Max is probably the weakest and most needy in the group. Some of the others are used to picking on him, and I guess now they aren’t happy that he’s leaving and they aren’t. It probably doesn’t help him that he’s the teacher’s pet. Norman and I noticed today that his teacher babies him a LOT. Puts his gloves, hat, and jacket on for him; went to the sink with him to help him wash his hands, fastened his shoes for him, etc. He is perfectly capable of doing these things on his own…his near blindness does make things more challenging but he can be independent if forced. I found myself doing the same as his teacher—fastening his seatbelt, putting on his hat, etc. and then I had to stop myself and tell him to do the things on his own.

Norman and I can’t even tell which eye he sees out of because it never looks like he’s looking directly at you. We asked him some questions about his vision and it was clear he did not want to speak about it. He gets teased at school and at the orphanage, being called the Bulgarian equivalent of “blindy” so it seems he wants this disability to go away and not be noticed. His eye doctor says he may be able to get a surgery to help the vision but he isn’t sure. And he doesn’t have the equipment necessary for assessing Max’s full visual needs. The director said we could get him a new pair of glasses but that the old ones are easily fixable and that it appears he cannot see well out of them—he would always take them off when he needed to write or read. Perhaps they only help with seeing far away objects. She thinks the eye doctor here isn’t capable of giving him an accurate prescription. So I guess we wait until we bring him home to get him fully assessed. Of course we will be praying for him. We had meant to pray over him today but the time flew by and we dropped him back at the orphanage forgetting to do so. Tomorrow we will pray over his eyes and will let him know that we will continue praying for God to restore his vision.

We had a nice talk with Max over lunch about showing mercy and forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. Apparently he was very possessive over the few items we had left with him yesterday and he wouldn’t take them out of his bag to show the other children. This of course made them angry and they started calling him names. He says he was afraid they would try to steal his things, and his teacher concurred that that could possibly happen, and she seemed to be siding with him, which probably wasn’t a good thing. We explained how they must feel not having a family and how curious they must be to see his new car and the game, etc. We also told him that it might be nice to leave some of the stuff behind when he comes to the U.S. because he can always get those things again and it would be a blessing to his orphanage mates. But he answered, “Why should I leave them my things when they’ve insulted me so much? They don’t deserve to have them.” So we asked him, “Do you know the story of Jesus?” And he said yes, he knew a little. We told him, “Jesus was beaten and killed for no reason at all, yet he forgave the ones who abused him even though none of them deserved his forgiveness. This is what God calls showing mercy. And God is the one who allowed you to find a family. This is a big blessing from him. He wants you to show mercy and forgive the same way Jesus did.” This seemed to convince him (at least for the time being :) and he said that he could leave many of his toys behind but that he wouldn’t leave his stuffed cat or his stuffed dog because he sleeps with those every night, which of course we told him was just fine.

Today was freeeeezing cold outside and snowy. We had to walk a long distance to get Max’s visa photo taken and he was very cold—walking in absolute silence—we could tell he was really suffering (though he did not complain). When we got in the photo place and were helping him take off his jacket (yes, I know he can do it by himself, lol) we noticed the zipper was completely falling apart, and the jacket was very thin. So after the photo we walked around the shops looking for a new winter coat. He was soooo happy with the thick navy blue coat we bought for him. For a typical American child, getting a new coat wouldn’t be a big deal, but for Max it was so exciting. He hugged us both so hard and said, “Thank you Daddy! Thank you Mama!” all the while smiling from ear to ear! Oh, back to the photo….can you believe that the woman taking his picture was complaining that he couldn’t get his eyes straight? She kept trying to get him to “straighten his eyes” but our facilitator told her that he couldn’t and to just take the photo as he was. She didn’t seem pleased.

During lunch, Max kept singing along to all of the Bulgarian songs that were being played over the radio. We were glad to see that he really has great pitch (If you’re musical then you know how painful it is to listen to someone singing off pitch—even if it’s your own child….sorry, but it’s true!).

Max is going to learn English very quickly. He was repeating everything we said today, trying to learn as many new words as possible. And he loves his new English name….we will be calling him Steven, a name that sounds very close to his Bulgarian name. (I guess I should have just called him that in my blogs but everyone is now used to “Max” and it might get confusing with an extra name thrown in there!) Today when I called him by his given name, he corrected me and told me to call him Steven. I explained to him, completely in English, and with the help of some hand gestures, that we were moving to a new hotel room because last night the music was too noisy and we had trouble sleeping, and I was surprised to see that a few minutes later he told our facilitator how stupid it was for them to be playing the music so loud last night and that now we had to go through the trouble of changing rooms. So we are definitely communicating. His director said she is going to have an English tutor work with him twice a week to prepare him for coming to the U.S. It only costs about $8 per hour so she will arrange for us to pay up front and the teacher will start coming after Christmas. She is a wonderful director and does this with all the children who are being adopted. If you know of anyone who might be interested in an older child…around 12 to 16, this would be a wonderful orphanage to adopt from.

Before lunch we took Max to an indoor playground with some fun things to do like jump on the trampoline, slide into a plastic ball pit, play basketball, bowl with plastic pins, etc. It was the first time he was ever there and he was pretty excited. I went under and started throwing some plastic balls at him just to have a little fun and he started throwing them back at me but very hard (all the while laughing and having a blast). I had to tell him to do it softer but at first he just couldn’t regulate how hard he was throwing them at me. One ball got me in the mouth at point blank range, leaving me with a slightly fat lip. But then he realized how much it hurt and he started throwing much more gently. Same thing happened when a younger girl entered the playground. At first he was a bit too rough with her but after a while of getting to know her and having us explain that she is a lady and he must be careful with her, etc. he was more gentle. I don’t believe he has any experience playing with younger children. He’s one of the smaller ones in his orphanage so I don’t think he ever really has to show physical restraint. And for someone soooo skinny, he sure is strong! We were amazed at all he could do with his visual impairment. He throws a ball accurately, catches, runs around, etc. He seems to have much more trouble with focusing on little things like letters, and this is why his reading is a good deal below grade level.

Tomorrow we will spend only a couple of hours with him in the morning because we need to travel back to Sofia to sign all of the official documents in front of a notary. Then we try to go to bed early because we must be at the airport on Thursday morning at 6AM—flight leaves at 8AM and we get in to JFK around 2PM (short flight, huh? Lol) We are very excited to see our children who we left behind, but at the same time sad to be leaving these three little boys behind now. We’ve had a whirlwind of a trip….traveled all over the place, and spent as much quality time as possible with our boys. Now it’s time to get back to normal life and prepare ourselves and our children for the new additions to our family. Praying God will prepare all of us and teach us the things we need to learn before we bring them home.

Once again, if you are willing to help us financially with these adoptions, we have a tax-deductible page set up HERE. Any amount gets us closer to what we still owe to redeem these three lives. (Please also pray for us that we will be approved for some of the grants we applied for.) Adoption is redemption. It’s no different from how Christ redeemed us. He gave up a lot to bring us into his family….left his heavenly throne to take on the form of a man, allowed men to brutally beat and kill him, and went through a separation with God himself…..all to pay the price for our salvation. Now we are adopted into his family….sons and daughters of God. We were not perfect or that “lovely” but God wanted us anyway. We didn’t deserve God’s grace but he gave it to us anyway. When we really recognize the awesomeness of this fact….how we are seated together with Christ and joint heirs with him….how can we not in turn do the same for another life….a precious child whose dream is to have a family. Whatever we do unto the least of all, we do it unto him! God bless you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

First Visit with 12 Year Old "Max"

“We don’t want to overburden our stomachs.” LOL This is what “Max” said to me at the restaurant when I kept offering him things to eat and drink! Who would have known…..after being with “Chase” for three days and seeing him devour food like he didn’t know where his next meal would be coming from…that Max would be so delicate and careful about how much he ate. And, I thought Chase was the sweetest boy I ever met, but now… I’d have to say it’s a tie.

We got to Max’s orphanage around 11AM and thought we’d do the regular routine, asking the director questions about him, etc. but they brought him right out to us and he was soooooooooo excited!! He is a very overly emotional boy, and couldn’t contain his happiness. He was smiling from ear to ear and laughing of happiness at having a family. He told me I was very beautiful and that he always wanted to have a mother and a father (yes, you can cry now). He told us that when he found out we were coming to meet him he told all his friends, “See, I told you miracles happen at Christmas time.” (It must have been God that moved us to cancel some important appointments and drop everything to come here and meet the boys before Christmas in three days’ time.)

I do not even know how to begin describing this boy to you. He is 12-years-old and tinier than we had expected, even though we had seen many videos of him. Very, very skinny, but he had on nice clothes that fit him well. It is clear how much his teacher absolutely loves him. She told us she’s been with him since he was transferred there from the baby orphanage at 4-years-old. And she loves him like a son. She said she always told him that he would be adopted by a family from the U.S.—it was just a feeling she had, even though no other child from this orphanage has been adopted by an American family, but instead from France, Germany, Spain, etc. So he feels very lucky to be going to America, because apparently that’s “the place to be.” It made us sad to see some of the older children standing outside the orphanage, some smoking. They were all staring at us and knew that we were there to adopt Max, and they all were saying hello to us very eagerly—kind of like “notice me too, please.” It was heartbreaking….13 and 14 year old girls smiling at you and locking their gaze on you, wanting something from you. I just wanted to tell them all, “I’m going to go back and find families for you right away. You’ll all be coming to America soon!” (Lord, please let it be so!)

Max’s vision is very, very bad. He is practically blind in one eye and has extremely poor vision in the other. He puts his face extremely close to whatever it is he wants to see—writing, a video game, etc. He seems to manage ok but it is very sad to watch. His teacher told us that he has had glasses but they always end up breaking, so we asked if we could purchase him the unbreakable kind and she said she thought we could but that she’s not even sure if he has the correct prescription. But we’re going to do our best to get something for him to help him until we bring him home and get him thoroughly checked. We hope we can get him surgery to help correct his vision. The problem he has with his vision causes him to look awkward at times....I guess because he can't see himself or others well so he doesn't realize how his facial expressions may look to others...sort of how a blind person may make unusual expressions if he is never taught to be aware of them. He also touches and hugs us a lot and takes/feels our hands.  He's extreeeeeeeemely affectionate.  At first I thought it seemed strange for a boy his age, but Norman thinks he does this because he cannot see us well and it's his way of "seeing" us.  Makes sense.  Plus, being adopted is his dream come true--he's been hoping to have parents for many years....sweet child.

Max thinks, in many ways, like an adult. He is very concerned for others. For instance, after lunch at the restaurant his teacher said she was leaving and he asked her, “Are you sure you are going to be able to get enough rest now before having to work the night shift?” He also told me, “This coffee (espresso) is made for sipping slowly” when the waiter brought me a tiny little coffee cup.” When Norman offered him a chicken wing from his plate (he loves all types of meat) he reached for a carrot garnish instead of the meat because he didn’t want to be impolite and take Norman’s chicken from him. His teacher told him to go ahead and take the chicken and had to really urge him before he happily took one. Norman was driving our facilitator’s stick shift car because it was snowing and she was not comfortable, so Max was so excited to sit up front with “Daddy” A couple of times Norman would grind the gears trying to get a feel for how her car worked, and his teacher asked him, “Isn’t your daddy a good driver?” and he answered, “Yes! And I’m sure he’s even a better driver in his own car.” Lol. We asked his teacher how he gets along with the other children at school and she said that he tries to be friends with everyone but that some of the boys are cruel and tease him because of his disability (not sure if she meant his severe vision problems or that he sometimes cannot contain his emotions). But he told us, “That’s ok. They are only insulting themselves. When a person insults someone else he is really insulting himself.” These were the types of things he said to us throughout the visit.

When we had first introduced ourselves, we called ourselves Norman and Lisa, but he immediately called us Mama and Tatko and it seemed like he wanted to say it over and over. For instance if I told him something, like “Be careful” he would say, “Yes, Mama”…trying to say our names as much as he could. He was pleased to show us some of the English words he had learned in school and he actually has a very good accent. He is highly motivated to learn English and was repeating and remembering many words throughout the day. After about 5 hours together, we had to bring him back to the orphanage. We were so pleased with the freedom we were given by this director. Tomorrow we will get him at 9 in the morning and keep him with us all day long—wherever we want to go. One similarity he had with Chase was that he kept asking for reassurance all through the visit, that we were indeed coming back tomorrow morning. He’d be working on building a car, for instance, with Norman and would say, “So you are coming back tomorrow at 9 in the morning and then I will spend the whole day with you, right?” And we kept assuring him that yes, that’s how it would happen. He was so pleased with the photo book we brought him with pictures of our home and the family. When he saw Gracie and Sara he said, “Awww, they’re so sweet.” And when he saw “Tyler” he said, “Aww, poor thing.” He told us that he is going to help us with all the children. When we told him he would be the oldest brother and could boss everyone around he just laughed and said, “Nooo, nooo.”

This orphanage is completely different from the last one we went to (our facilitator told us the last one is similar to the one in Pleven). I believe his teacher is Christian…I saw Christian coloring books teaching of the miracles of Jesus, and she told us that he goes to Sunday school every week and knows about the Bible. The culture is still very different from ours though and he spends his evenings watching soap operas with the caretakers and the other children. He told us that tonight was the season finale and about how this guy married this woman but this other guy was going to blow up this place and this one lady was such a gossip and a bad woman and that this is why her husband doesn’t want to be married to her anymore, etc. etc….typical soap opera stuff! LOL. I’m so happy, though, that, unlike Chase, Max knows love. His teacher absolutely loves him. All of the workers do, and throughout the visit, different people kept calling his teacher on the phone to ask her how it was going, because they wanted so badly for things to go well and for his family to like him. They all say that he is such a good, charming, kind boy and were so happy when they found out he had a family coming for him. His teacher will miss him, though, and he told her that he will write to her and send her e-mails and pictures when he moves away.

Tomorrow morning we pick him up again and will spend the whole day together. He really enjoys doing things with Norman, such as building cars, playing games, sitting in the front seat of the car, etc. And he’s a very pleasant little boy to be around…in some ways, much younger than 12-years-old, but in other ways, much older. I can’t stop thinking about all of the other children in his orphanage waiting for families. Most of them have no serious special needs….their special need is that they are too old and families don’t want to take a chance on them. Our facilitator tells us that when these children age out of the orphanage they will have no chance at a decent life. They will turn to drugs, the girls will get pregnant at a very young age, it will be very hard to get a job, etc. I pray that God will move hearts in this country and that the body of Christ will work together to take in all of these precious waiting children. This is a mission field just waiting to be harvested. These children have waited their entire lives to have a real family. And God’s chosen people, his very own adopted sons and daughters, can have the honor and privilege of becoming parents to these precious souls. Pray that hearts will be touched in this matter. God bless you and thank you so much for helping us raise the funds to bring these three sweet boys home. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation towards our adoption please click HERE.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Goodbye Visit with Sweet "Chase"

I’m leaving "Chase's" orphanage now with tears streaming down my face. As we said goodbye today we didn't act sad in front of him. We told him that we love him and that we’re going back to America to do the documents.....that this takes a long time but that we will return for him after winter when the documents are done. He was not showing sadness at our parting but when he would hug us he kept lifting up his legs for us to pick him up, and then he would laugh in an awkward way, like he wasn't used to being picked up but he liked it. He got the idea of being picked up earlier in the visit when after hugging him I lifted him up for the first time. This had made him laugh and laugh and he was a little stiff with his body because it was strange for him but you could tell he enjoyed being carried.

Today when we first arrived the director told us that she had taken him for his Visa photo earlier and that we could pick the picture up when we leave. She said that after the photo, Chase asked her if he looked good in his picture.  I think he looks great:)

When we first saw him we brought him in the room to show him all the stuff we brought for him. First, of course, he was interested in the food. He saw that we had peach juice and asked for some. I poured it in a glass and he gulped it all down in one breath. Then he asked for more and did the same thing. Next he took the banana and started ripping off the peel every which way. I took it from him and showed him how to properly peel it and hold it with the peel but he just snatched the banana off the peel and took a huge bite. For each thing he ate I had to calm him down and tell him to eat slowly and take small bites. Also, all throughout the visits, whenever he can get food into the subject he will, such as.....when we looked at the family photo album he asked if they sold food at the park, he asked what type of food I make when he saw the picture of the kitchen, he asked what the kids were drinking in one of the photos, he asked if the gingerbread cookies were to eat, etc. Today when he was making his plaster hand print he asked if it was something to eat, lol. All of our visits ended either right before his lunch or right before his dinner, so parting was never that difficult for him because he was very anxious to eat—even though he had eaten many snacks already with us. I cannot post the pictures of how skinny he is because I think it’s a little too personal and embarrassing, but while he was changing Norman took a picture of his frail little body with his chest bones sticking out and his bony little legs. I’ve seen the orphanage give the children nice food—oatmeal or croissants for snacks, meat and vegetables for dinner, etc. But it just seems like for him it isn’t enough—the portions are nutritious but not large. Most of the other children do not look as skinny as he does. There may be some other issue we need to find out about besides just having a fast metabolism.

After eating some food, we showed him the clothes and socks and shoes we had bought and he was very pleased with it all. It was difficult to find pants that were both long enough and skinny enough for him, so none of the pants fit that well--they are either too baggy or too short. (My mom may need to sew some pants for the boys until they fill out a bit!) But he really loved everything and wasn't picky. In fact, half way through the visit he changed into a new outfit:). When we gave him the new clothes he told us he wanted to change into them so he took off his shirt and we saw that the poor little guy's chest bones are all deformed because of rickets when he was younger (maybe now too...I don't know). Little Tyler has the exact same condition. A lack of vitamin D (I believe) causes this, and I guess it's a common problem in the orphanages. So sad.

While he was doing a table puzzle we had bought for him, he had a napkin full of popcorn that he was eating. Then all at once he got up and took a handful of popcorn and gave it to Deliana, then he gave a handful to Norman, and then he gave a handful to me, leaving only five or six kernels on the napkin. Deliana asked him, "And for you?" And he answered, "There's a little bit for me." (Like, don't worry, I'm ok). We found out too that last night he was sharing his puzzle with the other children and they were all doing it together. He has the most generous heart I have ever seen in my life.

We spent the morning doing the new puzzles we brought for him. I asked the director if he is always this obsessed with puzzles or if the puzzles are new to him and that’s why he wants to keep doing them over and over again. She said that they do have puzzles at the orphanage but they are the larger, more difficult type and so he cannot do them but always wants to. After the puzzles he finished signing the Christmas cards he wanted to make for everyone. I was surprised that he remembered everyone he had made cards for the day before. Deliana had to check the cards from yesterday a couple of times to make sure he wasn't making duplicates today....but he wasn't....he knew what he was doing, lol. It is very clear that he has terrible depth perception (due to the strabismus?). When he reaches to take something from your hand he doesn't go directly to it, but must feel around a little until he touches it. This was the same when playing the Connect Four game. It was difficult for him to see exactly where to drop the checkers into. And he often looks at you with his head turned and hesitates a minute before speaking. I don't know if this is a factor in why he cannot read and write at all. Sometimes he slips because of missteps when going down the steps as well.

After the cards, we took an imprint of his hand, just like we had done with Tyler. He found it all very interesting. Then we did some Christmas crafts and told him about the special baby Jesus who was born on Christmas and how kings came and brought him really nice presents because he was so special. He asked me where I found all these interesting crafts and I told him that we have a lot of them in America and that he will do many more when he comes to his new home.

Deliana told me she is trying to raise some money to buy the children blankets for the winter because its very cold at night—sometimes -25 degrees C ( -13 degrees F) and sometimes they don't have money to run the heating. I told her that I would like to try to raise money from the US to send to her for this purpose, but I asked her if there was an evangelical church nearby who could bring the supplies to the orphanage and tell the children the story of Christmas, etc. She spoke to the director and she is going to get us the number of a nearby evangelical church and then Deliana will speak to them to see if they will take the gifts on our behalf and share about the love of God with the children. If you would be interested in donating to this cause please message me on Facebook or leave a comment here with your email address.

The entire time during today's visit we were telling Chase "Obicham te" which means "I love you." At the end of the visit we said it again and he turned to Deliana and asked her what does this mean. You don't know how this broke my heart that he never heard "I love you" in a way that was meaningful to him. It wasn't that he didn't understand our Bulgarian. We were saying many more difficult phrases to him, with a very strong accent, yet he still knew what we were saying. I'm pretty darn sure that I say "Obicham te" intelligibly. And it isn’t due to any lack of vocabulary—he speaks almost as well as any other 9 yr old boy in his village. He just didn’t know exactly what we are trying to tell him, and he wanted to understand. How do you describe “I love you” to a person who hasn’t experienced it? But thank God he will one day.

Saying goodbye to Chase was extremely difficult because we want to bring him home with us now instead of leaving him there all winter. He needs sunshine and more calories and love and affection. We are thankful to the workers in his orphanage for being kind to him and doing their best with what they have. We will be praying for Chase and the other children and the workers that they are touched by the love of Christ this winter in a life changing way. If you are interested in adopting from here Deliana knows two twin girls aged nine who are available, as well as one eight year old boy. There are others as well that she doesn't know. (And thousands throughout the country). She estimates that about half of the children in this orphanage have families that they go home to on the weekends....who can't provide for them regularly for one reason or another. I can put you in touch with our agency if you're interested in finding out more.

This evening we return to our apartment in Sofia to rest and sight-see for the weekend. Then early Monday morning we leave for a short drive to the third city where we will meet the 12 year old boy, "Max" who we are adopting with Tyler and Chase. We will catch up on some much needed sleep this weekend so it's likely I won't blog again until aft we've had our visit with Max. We are very excited to meet him and can't wait to discover his personality.

Again, let me say...these children suffer only because Christians are not doing the work of Jesus. We are caught up with the worldly education, entertainment, nice homes and cars, fashion, sports, arts, etc. I'm not saying that any of those things are bad. But they have collectively taken away the urgency for the Lord's followers to be his hands and feet on this earth. When will we wake up and realize that all of the above will perish with fire, and that only what we do unto The Lord will last forever. How much treasure do we have stored up in Heaven? I thank The Lord God with all my heart that he has given me the eternal blessing and privilege of bringing all of these precious souls with me to Heaven. Lord God, keep our eyes set on you and towards your high calling. We and all whom you have given us belong to you forever. Amen

Please, if you can be a part in helping us bring our boys home, consider making a tax deductible donation HERE. God bless you and your family!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day Two with "Chase"

Today was our Day 2 visit with "Chase" and all I can say is, "Dear Lord God....." Just some highlights of our day:
*Chase was very happy to see us and asked right away about the puzzle...of course we brought them...three in fact because we didn't know his level....but he ended up doing fine with the large 30 piece floor puzzle. He needed some help and tried to fit pieces where they could obviously never go but he also got a lot of them right. His main way of doing things is "try first and think later."

*He was wearing the same shirt he had on yesterday--the one that is way too short on him. And he was also wearing the same socks as well as pants that were way too small. The button was so tight that he could not open and close it to use the bathroom and I almost couldn't either. When I saw that he had to suck in his stomach to get the button closed, we told him to just leave the button open and that we would bring him new pants tomorrow. When we looked further we saw that the pants had left a big red mark all around his waist. We hadn't brought clothes with us because first of all, we had to get our trip together in three days, and secondly our agency had told us not to bring him anything because all of the kids share and we could find out what the orphanage needed once we arrived. Well, it turns out that the children do get to keep their own clothes and it seems his are too small for him.

*We had planned on telling Chase that we were going to come back for him and bring him to America with us, but before we got the chance he asked, "When will you take me home with you?" Then we explained everything as best we could to a boy who knows nothing but orphanage life, and we showed him the family photo album we had made for him. We told him all of our kids' names and showed him the other two boys we are adopting as well. He seemed to like seeing them and naming them on each page. Whenever he saw them doing something like making gingerbread cookies or playing at the park, he would ask, "Will I be able to do this too?" And we assured him that he would. When we asked if he would like to make gingerbread cookies he told us he didn't know how, so we told him we'd teach him. Same thing for riding a bike and swimming in the pool, etc.

*It is sweet how concerned Chase is for others. When we had just arrived he asked me if I had slept well. Then when we gave him a bag of cheese puffs he immediately asked us if he could go to share them with the other children--before taking even one. We told him his group was in school but he told us he wanted to give them to the younger children. When we walked into the younger children's room we were shocked to see that what they were watching on the television was some extremely provocative, sexy women dancing. I told our facilitator that I could not even wrap my head around this but what she explained made sense. This is an extremely poor, remote village, so it is very difficult to get teachers with higher level training. The workers here are women from the village who need a job. They don't understand everything professional people do about child development, etc. All of the caretakers are very nice and I think they do their best, but the orphanage just doesn't have the resources to provide the children with everything they need. It made me so sad though that the children grow up watching this.
*Chase is extremely skinny, though our facilitator said that the children do eat well. But they are all given the same portions and aren't given seconds, so he must just have a need for more calories in his diet. We brought him an orange and a banana, some cheese puffs and a few small candies. He had just told us that he had a sandwich with tomato and cheese and ham for breakfast. But when we gave him the snacks, he hurriedly ripped off the banana peel and scarfed down the banana.  Then he asked me to peel the orange and he scarfed that down as well. When he got the puffs, first he shared a lot with the children, then he came back upstairs and ate them while building a puzzle. The way he ate the hard candy was to put it in his mouth, chew it up and swallow. Even though he was desperate for the food he always made sure to offer some to us and when we would say no thank you, he would insist and say, "yes, take it" and keep insisting until we did. We had an hour away from him while he ate lunch so we went to a restaurant and came back to the visit with a large piece of delicious cake for his dessert. He was fascinated with it and sat right down to eat it. At first he dug right into it taking a huge spoonful but I stopped him and showed him how to take little bites and eat it slowly, and he did a great job with that. Norman asked him for a bite and he happily pushed the cake over to him along with a new fork. After Norman took one bite he gave it back but Chase said, "Take more." He offered some to me and Deliana as well. While still eating, he motioned up to Norman and said, "Take some." We were really struck with his humility and generosity.
*While looking through my bag he stumbled upon some blank Christmas cards and asked me what they were. I told him and he asked if he could give some to his teachers and friends and I told him yes but that he would need to sign them first. So we sat down and I gave him markers and had him choose a card one by one for each person. When I told him to write his name he could only write the first letter. So Deliana sat beside him showing him how to make each letter of his name and he would copy her.  Some came out ok and some not so great but he had a pretty good idea of copying shapes. Writing his name was laborious for him but he kept writing card after card after card so that he could make sure everyone had one. We were shocked at how long he kept up this activity, each time struggling just to write his name. Deliana and I were tired of doing it! And so was he but he kept going anyway. At one point he asked if he could take off his glasses because they were hurting his ears and we checked and saw that indeed they were too short for his ears and were rubbing hard against the backs, so Norman tried to straighten them out a bit. New they don't hurt but they'll probably fall off easier.

*Chase was very curious and into everything and not really keen on having serious conversations but when we had sat down to go over the family album and talk about being his Mama and Tatko he patiently listened and asked lots of questions. Deliana asked him if he knew what a Mama And Tatko do with children and he said, "Play". Then she asked, "What else?" But he said he didn't know.
*At one point I took out a nativity sticker set and asked him if he knew about Jesus being born on Christmas, etc. I showed him the pictures and he said he never heard of it. Then I asked him if he knew who God was and he said no.
*Chase clearly has some type of learning disability but we don't know to what extent. We do know that his vocabulary has greatly blossomed in the last six months since being given a neurological type of drug for a short time which is used to stimulate brain activity in people with various neurological issues. His director says he does not have dyslexia but that may or may not be correct. We notice that he doesn't know how to think for himself and doesn't even try, so we kept asking him to think about things before he did, he was doing some simple mazes and at first he'd just go with the marker until he got to a dead end and then turn around, but we took the pen away and told him he had to figure out exactly how to go before he did the marking and he did do better this way. We can't tell at this point if he will be independent as an adult or not. I think communication wise he is fine for a child his age who grew up in a orphanage. But academically he is clearly behind even his orphanage peers.
*Someone had told Chase that when the documents are all done we will come back to the orphanage and get him, so all throughout the visit he would ask us something about the documents, such as "When will the documents be finished?" "Will the documents be done before Christmas?" etc. We explained to him that it would take a long time and that we would come after winter, but he really has no concept of how long the seasons last, etc.
*When asked what he wanted to be when he grows up Chase told us he wants to be a motorist, lol
*Chase's hair was so long he could barely see through it.  So i asked him if he wanted me to cut it and he emphatically answered, "DAH!"  I found an old pair of scissors that barely cut and started sawing away at his hair front and back.  It's not great but it's a big improvement!  He was very happy with it:)

*We brought Chase a new shirt today and he put it on but he was very concerned about his other shirt (which is way too small) and asked us if we would keep it for him in America.
*Chase was so pleased with all the food that we brought him today that he gave us a list of things he wants us to bring tomorrow, such as a mandarin orange, a banana, popcorn, a lollipop, chocolate, and pretzels. He also wants us to bring him another easy puzzle and a pair of pants and socks. After the visit we went clothes shopping for him and got him three outfits, some socks, and some shoes and tomorrow we will stop on the way for his grocery list, lol.
*During the visit we had a serious conversation with him about wearing his glasses. We asked him why he doesn't like to wear them and he told us he does like to. So we asked him why he always wants to take them off and at first he told us he was worried that the other children would break them when he played with them but when pressed he said he was afraid the other children would tease him. We explained how important it is to wear the glasses and told him that many children in America wear them and that he will not be teased when he comes here. And we told him that when the other children tease him to just say, "That's ok....many children in America wear glasses and they like them." Don't know if this will help but it's worth a try!

I will finish by just saying this....I don't blame the orphanage staff for the sad conditions in Chase's orphanage. These are mainly people who grew up under Communism with no faith in God. Chase and the other children suffer not because Bulgaria is a poor country or because it is a largely Godless society. They suffer with not having enough to eat, not having enough money to turn the heat on sometimes in the winter, not having clothes and shoes that fit them properly, being considered outcasts in the public schools, being teased for not having any parents, not knowing what "I love you" means, not having the warmth and security of a family because .......CHRISTIANS do not take these children into their homes and make them a part of their families. Yes I know it's expensive. Yes, I know most of us don't have an extra $25,000 lying around. But ask yourself this....what if if were your own child that was lost and living in an orphanage and the only way you could get them back was to come up with $25,000. Do you think you could do it then? For sure you doubt. If you've never adopted please think about this..........these children are just as precious and loved by God as your own. And we cannot abandon them. To do so is to do it to Jesus himself. Lord Jesus I thank you for breaking our hearts for what breaks yours. I thank you profusely for giving us this honor of bringing three of these precious ones home. And I pray that through the work you're doing in our lives many many many more children will find homes with your own adopted sons and daughters. Amen.

If you would like to help us bring these boys home, you can make a tax deductible donation HERE

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our First Visit with "Chase"

I have to write this quickly so forgive me if my thoughts are a little scattered—I’ll write more details another day when there is time. This morning we said goodbye to “Tyler.” It wasn’t an extremely sad time though because we got to go out on a little shopping excursion with his teacher and our facilitator, Deliana. First we got his passport picture taken, then bought him some shoes, then some treats and toys for him and the other children in his group. He was so excited with the things that we left him that the parting wasn’t sad for him. We left him with a book showing all about our home and family, and our facilitator translated it into Bulgarian so his teacher will read it to him and keep reminding him that we will be back to get him after winter.

After our visit, we drove three hours to meet nine-year-old “Chase.” To say that I’ve felt like crying for him all night is an understatement. First the good…..He was waiting for us all day today and was very excited to be getting visitors. When they brought him in, he locked his eyes with mine and didn’t move his gaze. He politely greeted us in his language and then asked me where I was from (all this through a translator of course). I told him I was from America and his eyes got bigger and he exclaimed, “I never met anyone from America!” Then he asked my name, how old I was, etc. etc. Needless to say, he was not shy. From the videos we have of him we expected him to be extremely shy and limited in vocabulary. But he spoke very fluently and confidently. We explained that we are just learning Bulgarian and that Deliana will help us understand each other, but we also tried out phrases we were practicing, such as “What do you like to play?” “What do you like to eat?” etc.  At first he did not understand us at all but then i think he understood that we were speaking with an accent and he was able to answer our questions.

So all of this sounds great, but underneath it all there is pain for us. First of all, sounding so smart, he didn’t even know how old he is. We thought this was very unusual but Deliana said the children have no concept of time and they do not get a personal birthday celebration—just once a month for all the children who have a birthday that month. This is not because the staff does not care—it’s because he is in an extremely poor village out in the middle of nowhere—it had been built there under communist USSR because living in an orphanage was considered a shame. He is in the third grade but cannot read—does not even know his letters and can only count in a limited way. So we are either dealing with an extreme lack of experience and teaching, or a learning disability, because from his personality you can tell that he has average or below average intelligence, but nothing so serious as to make him that far behind in school.  His clothes were way too small on him and his hair is way too long—covering his eyes—I had to keep brushing it away from his face. Deliana said we can ask tomorrow if I can cut his hair—we will see. Again, this is not from lack of concern, but because of extreme poverty. The worst part is that he has serious vision issues and needs corrective glasses but hates to wear them because he gets teased by the other children. He was wearing them for our visit, but when he left to use the restroom he took his glasses off and left them on the table. And at the end of the visit when he left with his teacher he asked her if he could take them off.  I'm sure it doesn't help that his glasses are huge.

His teacher told us that Chase prefers playing with younger children or children his own age who share his interests. We brought him a bunch of Hot Wheels cars with a case and he was so pleased with it and told us exactly where he was going to keep it by his bed. We also brought some skinny balloons for making animals, along with a pump, and he had fun doing that the whole time. We also brought a Connect Four game and were teaching him how to play. This was very sad to watch, because he had extreme difficulty understanding the logic of blocking the other person from winning or getting his four in a row. It was like there were no logic skills whatsoever, although when talking with him you would not have that impression. So it may just be extreme lack of experience, but I think there is something deeper—we will see. He did begin to grasp the concept a little bit with time, so that may have been a good sign. When we asked him what he liked to do he told us he loves to do puzzles. He asked us if we would please bring him a puzzle tomorrow and we said we would try to buy one. He told us he likes Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore and Tigger. And he must have asked us about ten times throughout the visit if we were going to bring him a puzzle tomorrow. He also asked us to bring a coloring book and markers….several times, lol.

When I took out a book that teaches how to make balloon animals, he thought it was a story book and asked me to read him a story. There were a bunch of books up on a shelf so I went to try to find one but there were none for young children—with nice pictures, etc. Chase was very inquisitive—asked us a lot of questions and especially wanted to know if we were coming back tomorrow. “Yes, we are” we told him. “At what time?” he asked. Then he asked if we would spend the whole day with him. We told him that we would (we plan to be there from 9 in the morning until 6PM). Several times he made sure that we were indeed coming tomorrow at 9AM. We played cars for a while, made balloon animals, he sang us a cute song—knows every single word, no problem, and he answered many questions about himself. Told us he likes oranges and apples and bananas, likes to do puzzles—in fact when we showed him a video of us doing a 550 piece puzzle he asked us if we could bring that puzzle to him from America and told us that he could put it together very quickly!

We just fell in love with this little boy and it just broke our hearts the way his face beamed at us and how absolutely thrilled he was that we were there to visit him. He even gets to miss school tomorrow and Friday, so of course he is happy about that as well! Tomorrow we will be able to tell him that we want to take him home with us to America and adopt him. We will be able to show him the photo album we brought for him with all the pictures of our home and our family. And of course we will leave it with him so that he can look at it and remind himself that we are coming for him, even though those 3 or 4 months will seem like an eternity. We are also going to try to talk with him about the situation with his glasses and see if we can encourage him to be strong even though the children tease him….to explain to him that he can lose the sight in his one eye if he does not wear them and that in America many children wear glasses and that he will not be teased for this. We'll also see if there's a way we can buy him some better glasses. We hope that we can give him the encouragement that he needs and that he will feel secure in our love even though we will only be visiting him for three short days.

Well, it’s getting late and I’ve not been getting good sleep lately so I will have to leave it here. Hopefully you are getting some insight into sweet Chase’s personality and if anyone has experience with children similar to what I’m describing please leave comments. Once again, we need to get the immigration paperwork rolling so we can bring these boys HOME, so please, if you feel led in your heart to make a tax deductible contribution towards our adoption, you can do so by clicking HERE. God bless your for helping to give these children a life. Much love, Lis

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 2 with "Tyler"

Today was day 2 with little “Tyler”. Remember yesterday that I said he’s a reserved little guy, pretty independent, curious, etc.? Well, today he seemed so happy to see us again and I put out my arms to pick him up and he went to me right away. Then, almost the whole three hours we were there he just wanted me to carry him. This was a big difference from the little boy who was more interested in playing with the toys than getting to know us. We were amazed at how still he sat with me holding him—not caring to do anything but just stay in my arms. He was so calm and peaceful and his little smile is just adorable. Sometime towards the end, the social worker came in and asked him to perform a poem and a couple of songs for us. He must be used to this because he stood right up and proceeded to say the entire poem and then sing two pretty long songs, all the while rocking to the beat. And at the end, he took a little bow—it was so cute! See the poem by clicking HERE (for now it's just my husband's Facebook page because we're having trouble downloading it to YouTube)! He has good pitch and rhythm, but, of course, you cannot understand what he is saying because he mainly can only pronounce vowel sounds because of his severe cleft palate. It’s incredibly sad that he was never able to get corrective surgery, because he has so much he knows to communicate, but must daily be faced with people not understanding him. We will get him home as soon as possible and try to schedule the surgery he needs. After speech therapy, his life will change….finally being able to relate the way he wants to with the rest of the world. I cannot wait to see the change.

When the social worker came to get him at the end of the visit, he did not want me to put him down. When I did, I had to kind of pry him off of me. He did not cry or whine—he was absolutely quiet and had a pleasant look on his face the whole time. It was just like he was saying, “No, thank you I will just stay here with you.” It made us so sad to convince him that he had to leave. But the social worker explained to him that he would eat lunch and take a nap and that then we would come back.

When we came for the second visit, we decided it was best for me not to be carrying him around the whole time, because it would make it harder for him when he had to leave. So we just brought a whole bunch of toys—cars, trains, markers, etc. and engaged him in play. Norman played ball with him for a long time and he just cracked up laughing (still a reserved laugh but it was cracking up for him!) whenever Norman would bounce the ball off of his head We also brought a plaster set and made an imprint of his hand and wrote his name next to it. See the video of making the hand print HERE! (for now it's just posted on my husband's Facebook page because we're having trouble posting the videos to YouTube)  When it dries we will put a ribbon through the hole that we made and hang it up with the hand imprints of our other children. When the three hour visit was over, we gave him several toy cars stuffed in his pockets and some animal balloons. The social worker told him that we would come back one more time tomorrow and that after that we had to leave to go home to prepare his bedroom for him and that one day later we will come back to the orphanage and bring him home with us. We showed him some pictures from the photo book we made—showed him where his bed was, where he will sit at the dinner table, where he will sit on the couch, etc. We also gave him a picture of the three of us (that we had printed mid-day) for the social worker to tape to the wall next to his bed. All the workers there are soooo happy that “Tyler” finally has a family. They hate that he is stuck without such a necessary surgery and say that he has so much potential.

Throughout our three visits, “Tyler” carried around a little stuffed cat that he found in the visiting room. You could tell he really cared for the cat—trying to feed it snack, laying it in a wagon, etc. But the animal isn’t really his—it’s for the visiting room, so we decided to buy him a stuffed animal of his own (the staff said he could keep it for himself). So, we got back to the hotel around 6:30 and started walking around the shopping areas looking for a stuffed animal to give him tomorrow. We knew most of the shops close at 7 so we tried to rush. Right at 7PM we saw a stuffed teddy bear in a shop window and went in to buy it quickly before they closed. When we picked up the bear we saw that he had on a little t-shirt with a photo of a child printed on it. We said, “We have to get this bear with a picture of the three of us and give it to him tomorrow!” When we asked the shop owner what time they closed, he said 7PM. Well, Norman, for the first time probably in his life, didn’t have his phone on him—it was back at the hotel! We asked what time they opened in the morning. 10 AM. We had to leave at 8:45 for our last visit with “Tyler”. So we explained the situation to him and he asked, “ How long will it take you to get to the hotel and Obicham te tolkova mnogo....!back?” (Thankfully most people here speak enough English to communicate on a basic level!!) We told him 20 minutes and he told us that he would wait for us. We rushed back to the hotel with strong wind and pouring rain, got the phone, came back to the shop and got the shirt made for the teddy bear. While waiting for the shirt, I pressed his belly and heard the recording in Bulgarian, “Obicham te tolkova mnogo.... Obicham te tolkova mnogo.... Obicham te tolkova mnogo....!!” (I love you soooo much!) There could not have been a better gift to give him on our last visit.

Tomorrow we get to see him in his Christmas play practice (was supposed to be today but they moved it). Then we take him to get his visa picture, and then we give him some gifts and say goodbye. I don’t know if he will understand that we are coming back to get him, but I know the orphanage staff will keep reminding him of us, and I pray that God will give us favor and expedite both the finances and the government paperwork necessary to bring him home. When we leave his orphanage, we head three hours west to the second boy’s orphanage—9-yr-old “Chase”. While we are soooo sad to say goodbye to Tyler, we are also really excited to meet Chase. If I have internet connection tomorrow I will write all about our first visit. Every day is so busy and we are having a really blessed time being here. We love the country—love the food (also love the prices of the food!) and love so many of the people.

If you would consider making a tax-deductible donation towards our adoptions through Reece’s Rainbow, please visit HERE. Thank you so much—especially for your prayers. Off to bed now (it’s seven hours later here) Goodnight!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our First Visit with "Tyler"

Well, we finally made it here after several months of paperwork, prayer, and waiting! We flew from Newark to Frankfurt on Saturday evening, and then onto Sofia Sunday morning. Our driver picked us up at the airport around 4 and brought us to a nice apartment, where we freshened up and then headed to a little grocery store to buy some dinner. We were up early Monday morning (today) to meet our facilitators, Petco and Deliana, who are so nice and helpful. Together we took a seven hour drive to visit the first orphanage where "Tyler" lives (Tyler is his agency name and not the name he will have once he's adopted).      

We had no idea what to expect—how he would take to us, if we would be able to communicate with him, how helpful the director would be, etc. But from the moment we met the director, all went very smoothly. She is a very warm, friendly woman and really speaks highly of Tyler. She went over his medical condition and told us pretty much what we already knew. That he has a serious heart defect and that when he was much younger he could have had surgery to correct the problem but now it is too late. She said that he is managing his condition well with the help of medication, but that there are no guarantees for the future. She also said that his severe cleft palate was never corrected because no doctor wanted to take the risk of putting him under general anesthesia to do the surgery. Therefore he tries so hard to speak, but most of what he says is intelligible because he can’t pronounce most consonants. She said that she knows the U.S. has the very best medical care and that having the cleft palate surgery should be no problem. He also has a missing ear canal, which will need to be surgically corrected when he gets here.

After speaking with the director, they brought Tyler in. He was tinier than he looked to me in the pictures. When he first entered, the director asked him to share a poem with us and he obliged. You could tell he was trying so hard to make the words sound right, but all you could hear were the vowels. And he seems to know that he can’t say words correctly—I think that’s why he doesn't talk much, unless someone asks him a question. He was very inquisitive, wanting to explore the room and picking up toys to play with. He studies the toys and figures out what the buttons and switches for. He seemed very independent and comfortable, just going from toy to toy, doing his own thing. A couple of times he found a candy and then showed it to us and smiled a sly smile while looking at the director to see if she would notice. Kind of like, “look what I found—do you think she’ll let me eat it?” But he quickly gave it back when the director told him he had to wait. The director told us that Tyler is very smart and understands everything and knows how to say everything—only that his physical condition prevents him from excelling in speech. She also says he is a very good boy and plays well with all the children.

Next they brought us to a visiting room filled with toys, and again, he went from toy to toy, figuring out how to use them. We brought him a little Thomas train set and tracks to play with and he liked sticking all the pieces to the back of the self propelling engine. He also drew a little bit, did a sticker page, and built an "airplane" with some blocks. The way we communicated with him was....whatever we wanted to say to him we asked Deliana how to say it, and she would tell us, and then we would say it to him. We tried not to ask him a lot of questions that would require an answer that wasn’t already obvious because we didn’t want him to feel frustrated that we didn’t understand him. So we acted like we understood everything he said. At first he wasn’t that interested in us and took more of an interest in the toys, but as the visit continued he slowly became more friendly.

The last place we went together was a very large play room with some cars and swings and a slide, etc. He really liked being in there—especially driving the car around. I was surprised that he didn’t get tired sooner, with his low oxygen level, but he just kept going and going. After a while I sat him on my lap and was playing with a little stuffed cat that he was carrying around, and he laughed and laughed--a little reserved laugh but it was sweet. He’s a very reserved little guy, pretty independent, emotionally stable, calm, determined, and unfortunately locked in a world in which he can’t communicate but so easily could if just given the chance. I literally cannot wait to get him to the cardiologist so he can look him over and then refer us for his necessary surgeries. That is going to be life changing for him!!!

Towards the end of our visit, Tyler willingly smiled for some pictures with us and was fine with us holding him and giving him hugs and kisses. His caregiver came to get him and she told him to say goodbye to us and he did, then she told him to blow kisses and he did. We told him (with the help of our facilitator) that we will see him tomorrow and he said it back to us. Tomorrow we are in for a treat as we get to watch him in a Christmas play practice with the rest of his group. Then we’ll spend more time visiting with him alone, leave for lunch, and come back after nap time (his, not ours, lol!) for another visit. I was surprised how long the visits are—about three hours each time. When we visit with the older two boys in a few days they will even miss school so that they can spend the time with us. I was not expecting so much accommodation to our schedule—but we’re really thankful for it.

Please join with us in prayer for Tyler that the Lord will make his heart strong and increase his oxygen level to 100%. Pray that we can bring him home quickly to get him the surgeries he needs and pray that the Lord would provide the rest of the funds we need to complete this adoption. Because we requested Tyler after the other two boys, we didn’t get the normal discounted rate for an additional child. So this adoption is costing us about $13,000 more than what we had originally expected. If you would like to help be a part of bringing Tyler into our family, you can make a tax deductible donation HERE   We promise to continue keeping you updated with how he's doing long after we bring him and our other boys home. Thank you so much for being a part of this journey with us!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

We're On Our Way!

Well, here we Newark airport, ready to board for a 7 1/2 hr flight to Germany and then onto the big B to meet our three boys!!  Can you believe that we only found out four days ago that our agency even had all of our paperwork ready to travel?  I think that's pretty good--to get everything handled and ready to go out of the country in only four days....and during the Christmas season to boot!  The day before we left I was running around the house putting the finishing touches on my Christmas decorating....because I'm anal that way and had to have the house done before I left even though I won't get to enjoy it!  LOL.  Well, my family who is staying back at my house will enjoy it at least!   I LOVE this time of year.  Christmas is such a sacred holiday to me.  Many Christians say that for them Easter is the BIG holiday and Christmas the "smaller" holiday because Easter is when Jesus died for our redemption.  But to me, Christmas is all about him COMING to die for our redemption.  He humbled himself so low as to take on the form of a man--left his Kingly crown...for the purpose of taking upon himself our sins.  Christmas is the beginning of the Easter story.  It's not just a heavenly baby born in a's God incarnate, here to rescue us from this depraved world and take our punishment as his own so that we can be adopted as children of God and made joint heirs with Jesus Christ!  That is such AMAZING news!  As I was listening to my favorite Christmas music yesterday on the way to PA from GA ( Michael W. Smith's Christmas albums) I was just overwhelmed with the sanctity and holiness of this holiday and overwhelmed especially with love and desperation for all of the family that I love so much who are not walking after the Lord.  It confounds me how I can love God so much and want so much to please him and to know him, but yet how I can have so many in my close family who do not walk after the Lord in this same way.  My heart's cry to the Lord is salvation for all of my family----our adult children, our nieces and nephews, our siblings.  I love these people so much--and they know EXACTLY who they are.  I pray they will read this and know how much I love each and every one of them and how much I pray for them....for their hearts to break for the things that break God's heart.....for them to desire Christ and his anointing above all else in this world....for them to desire holiness and a life worthy of the calling and sacrifice of our Savior.  People....Christianity is not just about "believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for our sins."  Even the demons believe that.  Christianity is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ....and we know what that looks like by reading the Bible--especially the gospels.  I pray that his sacrifice would not be in vain for so many of the people who I'm crazy in love with.  I pray Lord that you will bring wholeness to my family and bring the lost sheep into your flock.  Thank you for your hand upon our lives and upon our family.  Amen!

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