Here is an update our our situation and our trip to Ukraine last week. We went knowing the adoption was over..but needed answers.
We got back from Ukraine yesterday evening, January 1st. It was a beautiful, painful, happy, sad trip. I can’t possibly go into every detail or you would not want to read this post. For the last two months our hearts have been hurting. We have been scared our adoption would be over and worse..Alina and Kostya
(yes, their beautiful names) would be stuck in a home where they are unloved and would have a bleak future..and we would be unable to do anything about it.
When orphans in Ukraine are placed into a foster home, the chance of adoption is pretty much non existent. In some rare cases kids can be removed if the family willingly releases them or if the family is willing to speak in court to a judge about how they want the kids to be in your/the adoptive family’s home. We knew this but prayed for a miracle. As time went on we continued to Skype and chat on VK daily with them both and the family…which we felt was really odd. We couldn’t understand why this family, who had the kids we wanted to adopt would be so willing to allow them to keep a relationship with us. I don’t want to go into all the details of how we got this information, because I don’t want to hurt any certain business/agency/person but we were told our kids were being mistreated. The day we first heard this, was such an awful feeling. There was nothing we could do. We couldn’t speak to our kids about anything important because the family was always right there…we got our SDA appointment for December 7th but were told we shouldn’t go unless we “planned to pick new kids out”…we were told it would be a wasted trip since they weren’t in an orphanage. As time went on we decided we weren’t getting the answers we needed and started asking other adoptive parents we have built relationships with if they knew of drivers and translators we could use to help us. We new we needed to make the trip to Ukraine to see our kids…and find out if the family would be willing to release our kids back into the orphanage so we could proceed with the adoption. We’ve been told SO many times how much corruption and manipulation runs wild in Ukraine (but if you ask me..theres plenty of that here in America) so there was thought the foster family may want money in exchange to release the kids. Seeing as they do get paid to have the kids in their home, we knew they wouldn’t just hand them over for nothing. We were prepared to pay. We got the name of a Pastor in Odessa who was so incredibly kind and said he wanted to help anyway he could. I won’t give out his name because he does run his ministry a bit in the shadows, but if he ever reads this, he knows who he is and we are forever grateful to him. He called the family for us and then called us back to let us know this: “The family will not release your kids. They say they love them and want them to stay in their family..BUT, they have offered for you to come visit with them anytime you’d like and you can even stay in their home. They want you to see how much they love the kids and how happy they all are…” He seemed convinced this family was being honest with him and with that information we mentioned us visiting them the next time we skyped..they all were excited and we agreed on dates. This Pastor in Odessa couldn’t be our driver or translator as he lived over 4 hours from the family…we were given names of an American missionary family who would know some people who could help and also a gentlemen who had a ministry that was suffering financially. Maya, the missionary, got in touch with me and was very kind and knew someone to drive and someone to translate. I also got an email from Andriy and we decided to use the people Maya had lined up because I had spoken with her on the phone. On Christmas day I had a weird feeling and told Jonathon I really felt we should use the guy Andriy instead. A few things stood out to me that seemed like we should make the switch. I felt awful telling Maya because I hated to change our plans so last minute, but truly felt it was the right choice for us. We had a very generous man in our town kindly purchase our plane tickets..which saved us over $3,000! That is a huge blessing to us! We left the day after Christmas and it was hard. I never let myself really think about what it would be like to leave my three little kids because I was afraid I wouldn’t go. Its one thing when we were going to go for our SDA appointment..that was for a real purpose and it was for the actual adoption. Now, we were going and had no idea what to expect. Thankfully we knew our kids would be happy and safe with my parents and my sister so we really didn’t worry. Our plane took off at 625pm from Atlanta and we flew 8 hours to paris, had a 2 hour layover and then landed in Kiev Ukraine at 235pm on the 27th. It was a total of 11 hours of flying. Andriy was waiting for us at the airport and took us to where he runs his ministry, Free Way. Its in a school in a village outside of Kiev and he runs after school programs for kids who otherwise would have nothing to do but fight, drink, get pregnant and spend their time on the internet…he gives them fun projects and sporting events to do in place of all the bad things they could be doing. Because its after school, he is allowed to have Bible classes and witness to the kids! There was actually a volley ball tournament going on while we were there. Immediately we loved what he was doing. You could tell he has a heart for Ukrainian teens and wants to give them all a chance at a better life. We then drove two hours towards the remote village our kids live in. By 430 its dark. There are NO street lights on in the few villages we drive through. We finally get close to where their home is and we ended up needing to call them because GPS would bring us to their actual home. We wondered what seeing Alina and Kostya would be like..would they hug us? Would they be shy in front of this family?…well, they flew out of that bright yellow van and Kostya flew to Jonathon and Alina to me and we got the best hugs you could imagine! We even got tears from Kostya (: We got into their car and Andriy drove behind us and within two minutes we pulled into their home. They had a huge meal set up for us on the table and the food was as delicious as it looked. Andriy and the foster dad discussed what day would work best for our “sit down talk” we wanted to have. It was decided that wednesday would be the day. Within the first hour of being there it was so easy to see how loved Alina and Kostya are by the family. They acted just as silly, funny and loving with the family as they did with us this past summer. Having conversations was, uhh…well, fun and there was lots of laughing! Alina and Kostya have been learning English in their new school and didn’t forget any they had learned while with us, so they were able to translate some. And we used our translation apps on our phones too. (the service was super slow there…so we had to wait a good 30 seconds or more to actually get the translation done..) The mom was more quiet and reserved, but very kind. The dad was hilarious and liked to yell Ukrainian words at us as if we could understand him better. Through our stay they all asked us so many questions about our day to day life, our home, our families, etc. It was a lot of fun getting to know them better. There home really was nice and super clean! Bigger than I imagined and the food was plentiful!! What we ate for supper was served for breakfast the next day..and they have community bowls for which you just use your fork or spoon to get more food..instead of using serving utensils. In my world..I would never do such a thing. But being in their world, it was actually easy. We just did it. The home was very warm! Even when the temps were in the teens..we never felt cold inside. The bathroom was small and you could only urinate inside…they have an outhouse within a short walking distance. Alina and Kostya helped cook, prepare and serve food and helped with their pigs, dogs, pigeons, ducks and chickens. On our first full day there, Monday, the kids skipped school to be with us(: we walked around the village a bit then played games like twister (this is REALLY fun when everyone doesn’t understand each other and your balancing body parts on a mat:) , checkers and dominos. We looked at videos and pictures from their stay with us and played with the gifts we brought them. Like their nerf guns! We were offered tea and coffee all day long and I was in heaven with that! They drink their coffee black, and with two cubes of sugar it was so good! Monday night after dinner we walked about two miles to their school! It was completely freezing and dark. The had flashlights to light the way as there are no street lights. Kostya was excited to show us his classroom and then we sat down to watch a Ukrainian Christmas play. I have NO idea what was going on, but it was really cute and fun. On Tuesday the kids went to school and we walked after breakfast to see Alina perform in her school play! It was so exciting to be her mom and take lots of videos and pictures of her. She looked gorgeous in her blue dress. She really is so beautiful and she recited her lines flawlessly. After the play we went into her class with her foster mom and Kostya, and her foster sister (she is 21, married with a beautiful baby!) and listed to the teacher say a bunch of stuff to the students and then he handed our report cards. Alina has very, very good grades. She loves school and prefers this school over her previous school. Kostya struggles with his grades and didn’t seem to have as many friends as Alina did. She was giggly and chatty and he just stuck with us. We were able to talk about how important it was for him to work harder in school so he could have a good job and support himself and possibly a family one day. We made sure to really emphasize this talk with the foster parents because this was one of the reasons we pursued them in adoption. we worried for their future. For all of his life, he hasn’t had a parent to ask him how his day went to to look over homework and offer to help. We tried our best to tell him how proud we are and how we know he can try harder. We are also looking into getting him a tutor. Wednesday. This was a big day. (I wrote all the events down in my notes app on my phone so I wouldn’t forget each day) Alina woke up grouchy. She didn’t eat breakfast. Andryi showed up around 10 and he and the foster dad talked and ate and Kostya told Andryi Alina was upset we were having. I went into the room she and Kostya share and she was completely under her blanket. Here is where things felt painful all over again. I stood by her bed (its a bunkbed and she sleeps on top) and I pulled the covers down so I could see her face and she looked awful. Really pale and struggling not to allow herself to cry. This was something we deal with while they were here. She had told me she wished she could cry but tears never come. Her face was swollen and she wouldn’t talk..I just rubbed her head and her hair and told her how much I love her. I also started praying that God will please send comfort to us both. We had seen lots of horsing around, and laughing and playing among the family. But there wasn’t any hugging or kissing goodnight or tucking into bed at night…and I felt so much pain standing there wondering if her new parents would comfort her. Maybe they are very comforting but the mom was at work at that time and the dad was in the other room…he ended up walking by and looked at my with sympathy…and nodded his head as if what I was doing was good. Maybe he didn’t want to intrude…I don’t know. I just pray that they do know how to hug and comfort these two. Every child deserves to feel comforted. After 15 minutes I walked out and she came out 5 minutes later and still looked puffy and pale but was smiling and chatting with Andriy now. We had decided to go to the orphanage that day, the one where Alina and Kostya lived previously. We had bought gifts months ago and wanted to deliver them and meet the director, Svetlana. We had been told so many time how wonderful she is and were excited to thank her for all she did for our two when they lived with her. Somehow we need up starting the big talk before we left. Maybe it was better to get it over with. There was a lot of crying on my part as I shared with them all what this journey has been like for us. And what Alina and Kostya mean to us. And how we have been committed to parents them so we made the decision to adopt them. They shared their side of not knowing about us/the adoption as there was no paperwork in country yet and how quickly they grew to love our two kids. The poor foster dad didn’t know what to do with a crying woman…he just kept patting me and rubbing my knee and giving me tissue…its obviously its not cultural to express deep emotions with them…but the talk went great thanks to our amazing translator andryi. Everyone said what they needed to say and we were able to express our concerns and they really seemed to be listening. They told us they could not let them go BUT they they wanted us to stay in their lives. They said “our home is your home” and welcomed us to visit anytime and said they really hoped we could find a way to let the kids come and stay with us when they have breaks from school. We aren’t sure how or if this will work as getting visas can be easier said than done, but we will do what we can to make it work! Alina and Kostya called us Momma/Mommy and Daddy the whole time…calling the foster parents Mom and Papa. We left soon after to take a 25 minute drive to pick up Svetlana who would ride with us to the orphanage. But before we went on we toured the brand new, really nice orphanage she has been renovating. It was so clean and had a lot of nice things in it. Still very heartbreaking to see 4 and 6 beds in one room…knowing it was created for tiny kids with no living parents OR no parents able to or willing to, care for them. It took about 45 minutes to get the the next orphanage and it was a little reunion for A&K. They hugged teachers and kids/friends and within minutes we could tell the teachers there..LOVE THESE KIDS. What a huge blessing that was to see if for ourselves. We brought in our 49lb bag of clothes and toys for the kids and all craziness broke out! The little ones…ages 3 to 10 loves touching the toys and figuring them out. I really enjoyed playing with them and just being close to them. When we got in the van I started looking at the pictures we took and I saw something I didn’t really notice in person…there were pre-teens and teens sitting on the couch…when I looked at their faces I saw nothing. Just blank stares. I’m glad I didn’t notice until I was in the van because it made me feel sick inside. When we got back to the house, we had a HUGE meal waiting on us and we sat around laughing, talking and just enjoying everyones company. We told them family we needed to leave that night with Andriy since the airport was over a two hour drive…our flight was leaving early in the morning on Friday..and we didn’t want the family having to leave their new years celebration to bring us to the airport…they begged us to stay but we felt we needed to do what was more convenient. PLUS, a&k were in REALLY happy moods at that moment and it seemed like a good time to say goodbye instead of letting sadness come up again. Hugging them goodbye was very painful. And this time, the foster mom cried while we hugged. I thanked her for loving them and she said something to me that I didn’t understand..but I know it was something good. Masha, the sister is a sweet, good person who adores Alina and Kostya….she gave me some Ukrainian tea because she knows how much I enjoyed it (: Alina hugged me and said “no be sad momma..please. Be happy” and I told her I truly was happy and that we would always be their momma and daddy and they will always be ours. And we told each other we couldn’t wait to see one another again. We had two hours to discuss things with Andriy and he even took us to McDonalds!!! Yes, I ate it because it has real ingredients in the food unlike American McDonalds (: We got to his apartment around 130am…his wife and son were asleep. Each night there, I couldn’t never really get on Ukrainian time and didn’t fall asleep until after 3am each night. Thursday morning we woke up and had a breakfast and Andriy had to go meet another American who was hoping to volunteer his time to Andryi’s ministry the following week at camp. We got to take showers and then catch up on emails/facebook as Kiev has awesome service compared to NO service in the small village we just left. The apartment was up high and we could watch people driving and walking and the snow coming down. We played with Andryi and Alla’s adorable son who is 10 months old. he made me really miss our kids. When Andriy came back we met the American guy named Todd and talked in the kitchen over more food and coffee/tea. And then went to Andriy and Alla’s church for their New Years celebration service. It was a really neat experience! Everyone was kind and there was a lot of music and laughter and lots of yummy food!! We got back to their apartment around 9 and Andryi had invited two of their friends over to come eat and hang out. Sasha and Yana are engaged and will be getting married this summer. They were so nice and their english is excellent! We made a salad and Andryi made steaks and mashed potatoes and everything tasted so delicious. At midnight we all took turns praying some in Ukrainian and other in english…I had thought I was going to be missing my family and feeling sad when we knew we would be celebrating the new year in a Ukraine….but God surprised us by allowing us to meet new friends. It was such a wonderful evening. We sat there and talked and ate and drank more and more coffee for nearly 7 hours…until it was time for us to make our way to the airport. Well….thats it. That was our trip to Ukraine. Our hearts have been hurting and grieving for two months now, when we first found out our kids were put into the foster home. I had felt so much sadness and so much anger during those weeks. Why had we felt called to adopt if that wasn’t what God wanted us to do?? Why were able to raise so much money so quickly with so much support from our family and friends and community? Why was God allowing our kids to be put into a “bad” home where we could do nothing to help them? …….we don’t have all the answers to these questions. Adoption is only available because of loss. And that makes adoption sad no matter how happy it can be. No one is guaranteed anything thing in life…so I beg of you to to ever be afraid to host a child, to adopt a child if you feel you are being called to do so. Yes, its hard. But it is so rewarding! Even in our case. This time last year..we didn’t even know Alina and Kostya existed. They lived in an orphanage…and although it was nice..it was still an orphanage. With no mom and no dad. They met us and they learned about God while they were with us. they learned what is like to be loved and to be part of a family. This time last year they had no family and now..they have two! How beautiful is that? Meeting Andriy and learning about his ministry may very well be the whole purpose for this adoption. His ministry is an amazing thing and it is suffering financially. To the point of him having to stop all together. Well, we now know that a big portion of the money we raised is not going to bring two kids home to us….which is heartbreaking for us..but now it will help a godly man reach dozens and dozens of kids in Ukraine. And this is happy!! We don’t regret anything we went through no matter how difficult it was towards the end on our hearts. Alina and Kostya will always be ours in our hearts. We still Skype nearly everyday and text/chat online and through our open relationship we have with them and their foster family we hope we can continue to witness to them and parent them from across the ocean. They have given us an open invitation to their home and we have already talked about what we would do when we go back (: We are thankful for everyones support and prayers. Our sadness isn’t completely gone but I can happily say a lot of the sadness has been replaced with happiness in knowing they are loved and safe and all of my anger has been replaced with peace. Peace in knowing God always knows best. Its true now as it was months ago, Hope is never wasted. And neither is love.