Tuesday, May 8, 2012

With Heavy Hearts

We have some unexpected and discouraging news to share this week.  On Friday we received the following email from the director of our adoption agency:

Jessica & Daniel:

I’m told the foster family who applied to adopt Masha was considered today by a commission of 10 people.  6 voted for the foster parents.  4 voted against them.  So . . . The foster family has been approved.  Masha is to be moved to their home on May 12. 

Unless the family changes their mind or the placement should fail, you will not be able to pursue adopting Masha.  The representative who advocates for these children says she has several other girls who need families but we haven’t yet been told what their needs are.  I want to give you time to absorb this news and we’ll move on when you feel the time is right.

I’m extremely disappointed with this decision.  I can only imagine how you must feel about this news.

This was not what we were hoping to hear, but we know that God’s plans are bigger than ours.  Based on the email above and other adoption accounts, there is still a chance that things may not work out with the foster family.  Jessica and I are still pushing to finalize our paperwork in case something falls through.  Timing-wise we are still expecting to finish up sometime later in May.

Although the news is discouraging, Jess and I have been encouraged by three different things: 
First, we know that God is in control of every element of the process.   He put Maria on our hearts.  He directed us to pursue her and gave us a number of really cool confirmations along the way.  The same God also controlled the commission of 10 people who voted on Friday.  We know that He is still in control.
Second, our continuing pursuit of Maria even when the outcome seems unlikely has reminded Jess and I about how God has pursued us throughout our lives, even when we have at times rejected or run away from Him.  We are so glad that He never stops chasing us!  He is faithful, even when we have not been.  God didn’t give up on us, and we’re not giving up on Maria until she is home with us or the door is completely closed.
Finally, the thought that a little girl who has lived with no family for the first five years of her life is now wanted by two different families is very exciting for her.  Certainly we want Maria here with us, but the fact that she will soon leave the orphanage one way or the other is a very good thing for her.

Please keep us in your prayers this week.  I think more importantly, please keep Maria in your prayers this week.  We are praying that God would do what is best for her…whether it’s a Russian foster family or a permanent American home!   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I-600A Submitted!

In our last post, we told you that we were finished with our homestudy. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at the time. We can now say with certainty that we have finished the homestudy and sent it off to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services)! What this means for us is that our first major step is complete. The way we look at it, prior to our first trip to Russia, there are three major steps to go through:
1.       Homestudy
2.       Approval by the USCIS. The form (I-600A) states that it could take between 60 and 90 days, but we have heard that they’re being processed in about 30 days.
3.       Sending dossier to Russia. This is a huge packet of information, including our homestudy and lots of personal documents.
The same day we finished our homestudy, we found out that one of the two Russian families that expressed interest in Maria back in February contacted the orphanage again and let them know they expect to have their paperwork ready in May. We think the family was planning to visit Maria sometime last week, so we are hoping to hear more about that this week.  It sounds like this family is a foster family, so the orphanage director may be more interested in placing Maria in a permanent home.  We are continuing to pray that God will work all of this out for his glory and for Maria’s best.
As far as our timing goes, we hope to have our paperwork ready mid to late May. That would be contingent upon getting our approval from the USCIS within 30 – 45 days.  Another consideration is Moscow Region’s current moratorium on US adoptions.  There are indications that the moratorium will be lifted within the next month or so, and there is also the chance that even with the moratorium in place, they may make exceptions for special needs children like Maria.
Please pray with us that God would work through all of these circumstances to give Maria a permanent loving home as soon as possible. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A slow few weeks

We finally have a bit of news to tell! We finished our homestudy!  Okay, well the final edits are being made now. We were expecting to have it finished about four weeks ago, but due to circumstances that have been out of our hands, things have taken longer than we expected. Once we get the final version we can send it in to the USCIS (U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services) along with our I-600A form. The purpose of this form is to process us as adoptive parents in addition to setting up Maria to become a U.S. citizen.
The past few weeks have been fairly slow. We have gathered some things for HAPS, the adoption agency that we’re using. I think we’ve had at least 6 different kinds of background checks. We’ve gathered references, wrote our personal biographies in multiple forms, filled out various documents, and lots more. We have also been in touch with various doctors and educational institutions in our area. Like we said earlier, God seems to have settled us in a perfect area for Maria to get the care she needs.
We spoke with an audiologist at UNC a couple of weeks ago. Just another way God is watching out for this little girl: the audiologist identified from the pictures of Maria that she already has a state of the art hearing device! She was surprised to see that Maria had access to it since many children here in the U.S. don’t have this high quality of a device. Of course we don’t know how she obtained it, but we’re so thankful that she has such good care. The device she has now (which you can see in the picture on our blog) is attached to a headband and sits directly against her skull bones. It amplifies the noise and sends it into her skull. The audiologist informed us that children with Treacher Collins often have perfectly normal middle and inner ear; it’s just that the outer part of their ear didn’t form properly. That means that if we can get noise inside her head, she should be able to hear fine. It appears this is already happening – praise the Lord! We also learned that instead of Maria likely being a cochlear implant prospect, she will probably benefit more from a bone-anchored hearing aid (“BAHA”). This is a hearing device similar to the one she already wears, except this one is a permanent hearing aid that would be implanted in the skull behind her ear. It would basically consist of a metal piece being implanted into her bone and a hearing device that would be attached. This would help the noise “get inside her head” much better than the device she has now which is only in contact with her skin. She likely wouldn’t be a candidate for the BAHAs for a couple more years, though.
Daniel and I also met with a craniofacial specialist at Duke last week about procedures that might be in Maria’s future – primarily cosmetic surgeries. Although we took in a lot of pictures of her, he said they really wouldn’t be able to tell us anything concrete until she is here. He also informed us that like all other children, her features will change as she continues to grow and develop. This should give us plenty of time before we have to make any decisions about possible procedures.
Another way in which God has placed us in such a great spot is the educational resources that we have here. CASTLE -  the Center for the Acquisition of Spoken language through Listening Enrichment – is a part of UNC and provides therapy and even preschool for hearing impaired children. We have learned that families drive from hours away to visit, and it’s only 45 minutes from where we live! Additionally, the public school system that we’re in seems to have wonderful services for special needs children. We’ve been in touch with some people at the county office that are directing special needs education. Once Maria is here, we can have her evaluated, set up a learning plan for her, and pick a school based on location and her needs. It sounds like it’s very interactive and very focused on the children.
The last bit of news we have, which really isn’t much news at all since we don’t have much to say, but as of a couple of weeks ago, our contact in Russia had not heard from the other two families that had expressed interest in Maria in early February. While they could still be moving forward and gathering their documentation, we’re obviously hoping that no news is good news for us. Regardless, our prayer has always been and will continue to be that God would watch over and protect Maria and that He would place her exactly where and when He wills.
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Monday January 23 – Friday January 27, 2012

On Monday we sent in our homestudy application and autobiographies. We also met with the elders at our church.  A couple of them already knew about the adoption, but we told them the whole story and asked if we could make an announcement the following Sunday during the main service.

The following day we heard back from the social worker about the homestudy. Originally she had told us that we would probably have to wait a couple of weeks for an interview, but it just so happened that we were able to meet with her two days later. She was only available during the work day. Since this is a very busy time at work for me, I felt compelled to tell my co-workers a little earlier than originally intended as I wanted them to know the reason I would need to leave early that Thursday.

First thing Wednesday morning, I told my boss about Maria, and he was so supportive. Perhaps I should have mentioned sooner that it’s a common theme in our lives that so many people around us have either had babies in the past year or are currently pregnant – lots of couples at each of our jobs as well as lots of couple within our little church. At my work, we’re constantly trying to guess who the next couple will be to get pregnant. I had been itching for the past week to tell my co-workers about Maria. Not only were we having a “baby,” we were getting a 6-year-old. Once Maria is here, I will be the parent with the oldest child in my office. Daniel and I liked to say, “We’re having a baby, a BIG baby! A 40-pounder!” After talking with my boss, I sent an email to the rest of my office, and it was so good to get to chat with everyone about it. I seriously have some of the best co-workers!

We spent our evenings that week calling close friends and family members to tell them about Maria. We also filled out and sent applications for the various documents we would need for a dossier (packet of info that we will send to Russia). The dossier includes items such as background checks, copies of our passports, marriage license, and so much more…

Before our homestudy interview we looked into what we should expect. From comments people made on the internet, it sounded like a lot of people really stressed about their homestudy. Fortunately, Daniel and I did not, and praise the Lord the first interview went well. It was very informative and conversational. I guess that makes sense as we will be spending a lot of time with the social worker. Even after Maria gets here, the social worker will still have to meet with us several times over about a three year period.

As Daniel and I were sitting in the living room one night, he pulled up the song “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real. That song has been powerful in my life, but now it is even more powerful as we pray that the Lord will lead us and help us to lead as well!

One more exciting thing that happened that week – shortly after we told Mike and Martha about Maria, they told us how Mike’s mom, Kathy, had been telling them to adopt Maria. Like others, she too had fallen in love with Maria before we even knew about her. I had prayed that the Lord would provide an opportunity for me to tell Kathy in person instead of having her find out at the church-wide announcement. On Friday of that week, Kathy sent me a quick email asking if I could host a Ladies’ Social at my house this summer. Instead of requesting that I simply email her back, she specifically included her phone number and asked me to call. I took that as a sign – so exciting! I called and we chatted about the Ladies' Social, then I told her that Daniel and I were going to be adopting “Dana” (this was the only name that Kathy knew her by as this was her Reece’s Rainbow alias). I could tell she was at work because she started shouting in a whispering voice, “Are you serious?! Are you serious?!” She proceeded to tell me how she had specifically prayed that the Lord would place Maria in a family nearby just so that she could meet her. Well didn’t He answer that prayer in a big way?! J

Sunday January 22, 2012

After church on Sunday, we had lunch at Daniel’s mom’s house with his grandma, siblings, and our niece. They were all very eager to find out what was going on. So finally after lunch, Daniel told them the whole story and we gave them some pictures we had printed out. Aubrey, our niece, was very excited, and continued to ask over the next few days when “her friend” was going to be here. We tried to explain to her that it would probably be during summer, when it will be warm outside. That was especially hard for her to understand considering it has been in the 70’s around here lately. I think it was pretty relieving for Daniel’s family to find out that we were not going on the mission field; although, we both know they would be very supportive if we did. Remember how Daniel asked them to pray for us a week earlier because we felt that God was calling us to go somewhere and do something. So not only did they find out that we were not moving away (at least not now), but they are getting an additional family member! J

Saturday January 21, 2012

This was one of the big days we had been waiting for! We left the house around 10:30 and drove to South Carolina to tell my family in person what the Lord had laid on our hearts. We were able to tell my parents, siblings, grandparents, and close cousin. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen my parents so excited! They were so interested and had lots of questions. It was also so, so reassuring to hear their perspectives about adopted vs. biological relatives. We definitely caught them off guard when we told them we were going to adopt a six year old, but they are so excited to meet her! Since my little brother and sister, Kyle and Keslea, weren’t able to meet with everyone else, Daniel and I went with my parents to take them to dinner. They are in college at a school about an hour from my parents’ home. We passed out pictures of Maria to everyone before leaving. We also asked them not to tell anyone else yet since we were planning to send out an email to all of our friends and relatives after making an announcement at church on Sunday.

Immediately after we told my parents about Maria, they informed me that my cousins, Billy and Diane, had just adopted a little boy. I had no idea that they were even planning to adopt! I had been trying to get in touch with Diane for a while, since she is the one mentioned in the Prior to Wednesday January 11, 2012 Post, as I wanted to get involved with helping victims of human trafficking. Now I had even more reasons to talk to her! On top of that, Billy has spent some time in Russia and really has a heart for the people there.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Moving Forward - February 5, 2012

A lot a people have been asking, so I just wanted to give you a quick update that we are pushing forward with the adoption process. We are going until we have her or until God closes the door. We found out that just because there are other families getting their paperwork together for Maria, this does not prevent us from submitting our paperwork as well! We were already eager and in a hurry to gather everything needed for our submission – now it truly is a mad dash!

Another confirmation for us has been that yesterday we did a Walk Thru the Old Testament with our church. We have certainly had doubts over the past couple of weeks – from feeling unqualified for this to finding out that someone else wants our little girl. During the Walk Thru the Old Testament event, we learned that even Abraham doubted God’s plan for his life. God told him that he would father a son when he was 100 years old (and his wife 90 years old), and Genesis 17:17 says he fell down on his face laughing. This is a man whom Paul writes about hundreds of years later in the New Testament as being a man of huge faith!

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”   Romans 4:19 -21

You see, even though Abraham fell on his face laughing, the Bible says that when he was finished talking with God, he got up and did what the Lord had just commanded of him. Even though it didn’t make sense to him and he wasn’t sure of the outcome, he was obedient to the Lord. This is exactly where we are right now. We don’t know what’s going to come of this, but we are pursuing this little girl that the Lord had laid so heavily on our hearts.

Thank you all for your prayers!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fastforward - Tuesday January 31, 2012

I’ll have to go back and catch you up on the last two weeks, but for now, we are requesting that you pray for us and Maria.

It’s no coincidence that the day after we send out email informing all of our family and friends that we’re going to be adopting Maria we find out that two other Russian families are interested in her. Apparently they take priority over foreigners. At least one of the families has begun the process of getting together their paperwork. When we heard the news earlier this afternoon, our hearts sank! However, since then we have been reminded constantly of God’s faithfulness.

We each received the news separately by email at work. I read it in disbelief. For those of you ladies who have had miscarriages, I don’t mean to minimize the severity and heartbreak of that, but I think I felt a little bit of how it must be. The difference is obviously that Maria is still here. And while it is a blessing that Maria is so wanted (think of it – from orphan to 3 families wanting her in a matter of days!), it’s hard to picture her with another family when I’ve been affectionately thinking of her as “my little girl.”

On my drive home from work, I was trying to listen to K-Love, a Christian radio station, but the reception was very poor. In the first 1½ minutes I was listening, I was only able to make out one phrase, and it was, “You are Father to the fatherless.” Wow!! What a blessing from the Lord! It’s amazing how he uses everyday things around us to let us know that He knows our hearts, that He’s listening to us and comforting us. Of course that one phrase that I heard spoke of orphans, of even a little girl named Maria who doesn’t know the love of an earthly father but still has a Heavenly Father.

Another thing I was reminded of on my way home was that when Daniel and I shared our big news with our families, we talked to them about the possibility that other families could step in and adopt her before us. We also told of how we know that no child will ever truly be ours – we are merely stewards of what God gives us. Remember, each child was His before she born, and each child will be His after. Our time here on Earth is just a vapor.

I was also reminded of all the times we have prayed for Maria over the last three weeks that the Lord would do what would bring Him the most glory. Secondly, we prayed that He would do what is best for Maria. We know that God is sovereign and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Finally, right before I got home, God brought to mind the Sunday School lesson that I had helped with a couple of weeks ago (the one I wrote about in the January 14th post). My topic that morning was “Jehovah Shalom” – the God of Peace! God knew I would use what I had learned about Him two weeks ago to bring me peace today. He IS peace, and He gives us His peace. His peace is giving me comfort tonight.

We learned a little more about what was going on… Apparently Maria had only been on Reece’s Rainbow for two days when we expressed interest in her. Supposedly there was no interest in her in Russia at the time; although, the volunteers there had been working hard to find a family for her for the past two years. One of the biggest issues is the expense of all the medical care Maria currently needs. We found out that this could prevent the Russian families from being permitted to care for Maria. Unfortunately, we may not know the outcome of their proceedings for months.

Nonetheless, we are pushing forward and remaining obedient to God’s revelation that she is our daughter. We are not slowing down. We’re going to keep getting our paperwork ready so that when something falls through with the other families, we will be ready to bring her home. We will do this until we have her or until the Lord closes the door. For now, we see this as just a roadblock, not a dead end.

Tonight we spent quite a bit of time in the Word and in prayer. While the following two verses are both Daniel’s and my favorites, he sort of stumbled upon them tonight and they were a true gift from the Lord, offering newfound meaning:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

I returned to Hebrews tonight. In the Bible that I was using, I noticed a note that I had written probably a few years back. It simply said “faith = confident assurance.” Faith isn’t just wishful thinking. It is CONFIDENCE, it is ASSURANCE in a God who loves us and knows best. And better yet, it goes perfectly with the title of our blog “A Leap of Faith” as here we are yet again, taking a leap of faith and trusting in the Lord. I’ll end with the following verses, which were a huge encouragement to me:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood… and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful… Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 10:19-23, 11:1

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Today we looked into the various benefits our employers offered for adoption – including assistance programs and paternity leaves. Just another confirmation that the Lord has been paving the way all along for us!!

Although we had received many confirmations so far, today was actually the first day that I experienced some doubt. Up until that point, it was pretty much pure excitement. I think I just began to process the reality of it and how much our lives would be changing. It seemed almost overwhelming, so I determined to act “BY FAITH” and not get bogged down in what it would look like 1 year, 5 years, or even 10 years down the road…

We received some more information from the adoption agency about the whole process. They told us that a homestudy typically lasts anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 months and that we have to work with an organization within North Carolina. Once the homestudy is finalized, we send all of the information to HAPS (adoption agency) in New Jersey. They perform some additional procedures before sending our dossier (packet of info) to Russia. Then everything has to be translated and re-notarized prior to registration with the Russian Department of Education. Once registered, we can finally get our visitation date, which will likely be about two weeks after the DOE registration is complete! If things go well, we could expect to travel to Moscow for the first time sometime between the end of April/early June. The second trip would be for a court date, which would be set about 6-8 weeks after the first trip. Then we would make a final trip after a 30-day waiting period to bring our little girl home!

Since Martha had been getting information about Dana for a week or two, she forwarded us some additional info she had received. We got a kick out of this description apparently from a volunteer at the orphanage: “Dana is very accurately neat. When she eats, she does it as a real duchess J …putting a little finger aside and a napkin on knees. Dana likes to dress up and carefully selects a wardrobe to make sure that color of a hairpin is in harmony with color of a dress.”

When we read the part about how she is “accurately neat” and eats “as a real duchess,” we laughed and thought, “man, she’s probably going to come here and think that we’re real slobs!”

There was also a link to some additional pictures. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how to download them since everything was in Russian. So who do we know that can read Russian? Only Daniel’s cousin who lives in Russia! Daniel changed the wording in the forwarded email to make it sound like Mike and Martha were requesting a translation. That night, Daniel’s cousin called Martha from half-way around the world! Since she hadn’t noticed Daniel’s edited email, she was surprised when he said, “So I hear you guys are thinking of adopting again?” Thankfully, Martha didn’t spill the beans, but she certainly had some explaining to do! From Daniel’s cousin, we also learned that her name was “Masha.”

That night as Daniel and I sat on the couch, we talked and prayed a lot. Daniel shared how he felt like he was just standing on the edge of a cliff and knew he needed to jump. Finally, he said, “I’m ready to jump!” And that was it! We cried a lot that night out of pure joy! Daniel even danced around singing this song, “We’re gonna have a daughter! We’re gonna have a Dana….”

As we sat down to write an email to the adoption agency, Daniel encouraged me to call Martha. It was nearly 11 PM, and I told him I thought it was too late. Within seconds, though, I received an email from Martha. Since she was still awake, I grabbed my phone and called her. When she answered the phone, we told her that we were officially going to be adopting Dana! She was so excited, and told us how Mike had just said, “I’ve just got a feeling – someone’s going to commit to adopt her before the morning.” Just a feeling?? Yeah right! That was the Holy Spirit!

Within minutes, we received an email from a Russian advocate who we had been in contact with, and she expressed her excitement. She also informed us that our little girl’s real name is “Maria.” (We later found out that Masha is kind of a shortened version of Maria in Russian).

So here we come, Maria!!!

Monday January 16, 2012

Today was a very exciting day as we finally shared for the first time what God had been doing in our hearts! Mike and Martha came over after dinner and we basically picked their brains for 2 hours. It was so crazy to hear how God had laid Dana on all of our hearts. This was the first time that we started to piece together our separate stories. We also got to hear more details about their experience with adopting their little girl from Ukraine two years ago. As their daughter is hearing impaired, Martha and Mike were huge resources for helping us understand what treatment would be like for Dana. We already knew that Dana would need therapy for hearing and speech as well as possible cochlear implants (permanent hearing aids) and facial reconstructive surgery. Martha informed us that UNC Chapel Hill had some of the best auditory doctors/surgeons/therapy in the country and that Duke had one of the best programs for craniofacial issues. We were pumped to hear this and considered it just another confirmation that the Lord chose for us to adopt this little girl for a reason. We are situated in perhaps the best place in the entire country for her to get the type of medical attention she needs! So amazing!!!

While the entire evening chatting with Mike and Martha was encouraging and informative, one of the biggest things I took away from the evening was when Martha talked about Hebrews 11. She told us that there was a particular time in their adoption process that some doubt had set in. That night, her Bible study was divinely appointed to be Hebrews 11, which many people refer to as the “Faith Hall of Fame.” The layout of the chapter is basically, “BY FAITH someone did _____.” Paul just goes on and on about various people who acted out their faith! They didn’t know what was ahead but they had faith in a God who does. That’s exactly where we were. We don’t currently have any kids yet, we’re sort of still like newlyweds, we’re pretty selfish in a lot of ways, and God wants us to adopt a 5 year old little girl? The only way that anyone could really do something like this is BY FAITH! We have no idea what we’ve got coming for us, but we are resting in the assurance that God knows best and we are following his lead.

Sunday January 15, 2012

After church, we ate lunch with the ministry team. Mike and Martha were both out of town, and therefore, not at church. That afternoon we were dying to talk to them. We wanted to get their advice about adoption, to hear their story, and to share with them what God had been doing in our lives…

That afternoon I called Martha, but she didn’t answer. Daniel called Mike a couple of time and finally got in touch with him after dinner. As soon as Daniel said, “Hey man, I was just wondering if we could get together to talk sometime soon.” Mike immediately responded, “It’s about that little girl, isn’t it?” We later learned that as Martha drove home from an hour away, she couldn’t get Dana out of her mind. She had been praying for her all weekend. She knew that circumstances weren’t right for her and Mike to adopt Dana. She still prayed for a sovereign move. Little did she know…

That night, we visited our relatives in NC and asked them to pray for us. We simply stated that we felt God was telling us to “go somewhere and do something.” They immediately thought we were going to go onto the mission field.

To end the day, Daniel responded to the adoption agency’s personal questions about us. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

Probably the most important question above is why we feel we would be the right parents for Dana. This is a pretty hard answer to put into objective terms, and I don't think we've come to the point yet where we are really ready to say that we're the right ones for her.

When our friends unexpectedly forwarded us the email with Dana's pictures attached, my heart broke for her in a way that I can't explain. I just cried and cried. I have seen countless pictures of orphaned/handicapped/abused children, and nothing has ever affected me this way. Maybe it was love at first sight...maybe it was something else. But the thought that she might spend her childhood in an institution without the love of a family because she looks different than other people really grabbed me.

My wife and I have been very blessed with wonderful families, great childhoods, lots of friends, good educations, great jobs, a large house in a great neighborhood (plenty of kids running around!)...why shouldn't Dana have this too? Because she looks different? We her to know that God loves her no matter what she looks like. We want her to be loved as God intended for her to be loved.

This is a significant departure from the "plans" that my wife and I had envisioned for ourselves. Since before we married, we have talked seriously about eventually adding to our family through adoption. We believe it is a wonderful picture of how God has added us into his family. But I don't think either of us had considered adopting a child before we had one of our own, let alone a 5 year old girl with special needs.

But the fact that she has special needs is actually another reason we are interested in her. We understand that adoption is a costly process. It is also likely that Dana will need a number of expensive surgeries to address her Treacher Collins conditions. The truth is, we are having a hard time thinking of a better way to use our money than to improve someone else's quality of life like we might be able to do with Dana. God has blessed us financially, and we are starting to wonder if He did it specifically so we could bring Dana into our lives.

Saturday January 14, 2012

We spent Saturday working and finishing up our Sunday school lessons that we were helping teach the next day. As for Dana, we spent some time discussing who we might like to tell and how we would tell them. We listed our closest family members as well as the couple from our church that originally told us about her.

Friday January 13, 2012

The following day I added a couple of positive items to the list. My favorite was, “Daniel fell in love with her quicker than he fell in love with Jessica.” Daniel has always told me that he knew there was something special about me the first time he saw me. I teased him that she already had him wrapped around her little finger. ;)

Thursday January 12, 2012

The next morning I got up before Daniel and I couldn’t get that little girl out of my head. I began thinking what it would be like to be her mother, to have her as our child, how much our lives would change, so many thoughts… When Daniel got up, we talked a little bit about the night before.

Later that morning we received a response from the contact at Reece’s Rainbow, who put us in contact with an adoption agency called HAPS. The contact at HAPS told us Dana’s real name was “Daria” but that she went by the nickname “Dasha.” She explained that orphans are generally transferred to an institution at age 5, and since Dana is already 5½, there’s an imminent risk that she will be transferred at any time. The woman from HAPS also asked us a bunch of questions about ourselves. Daniel forwarded her email to me, and after reading all the questions she asked about us, I thought, “This is crazy – we’re so not qualified for this. How would they ever let us adopt this girl?” With those thoughts, I responded to Daniel’s email with, “If we actually do this and get this little girl, it’ll only be by the grace of God.”

That night Daniel and I sat down together and made a list of positive thoughts, questions/concerns we had, and even doubtful thoughts. We concluded that the doubtful thoughts were nothing compared to the privilege of getting to become parents to this little girl.

Wednesday January 11, 2012

On Wednesday 1/11/12, we hosted our Fellowship Group at our house. One of the men in the group, Mike, and his wife, Martha, adopted a little girl with a hearing disability from Ukraine about two years ago. Mike has been organizing a trip for our church to go to the orphanage and help out. He and Daniel have talked about it a lot, especially over the past year. We talked about it that night.

Well, when Mike got home that night (we found out Mike and Martha’s side of the story a few days later), Martha showed him a picture of a little girl on Reece’s Rainbow who she had already been praying for and getting information about. Reece’s Rainbow is a website that advocates for special needs orphans. Martha has looked at thousands of children on this website over the years, and she told us something just stood out about this little girl (Maria). Even Mike said that he knew there was something different about her, so he decided to send an email to Daniel about her. We later learned that he never sends these types of emails to his guy friends, but thought that maybe we would know someone who could help her.

As Daniel and I crawled into bed that night, he was playing with his iPad. He opened an email from Mike that read,


These are pictures of a little girl from Russia that needs a home, she has Treacher-Collins syndrome, it does not affect intellect it is only physical. Get the word out if you can, she is really close to being transferred to an institution, then adoption is off the table for her and having this kind of physical defect in Russia will not be good for her once she is older and out of the system. There is more info on ReeceRainbow.org or Martha's blog.

Daniel then scrolled down to the pictures in the forwarded email. The instant he saw at Maria, God told him, “That’s your daughter.” He describes it as seeing a quarter and thinking, “Hey! There’s my quarter!” when you didn’t even realize you were missing it in the first place. He then showed me the pictures. I told him that was really sad. As he took the iPad back into his hands, he just kept staring down at it, and his eyes welled up with tears. I knew something was up, so I prayed, “Okay Lord. Something is obviously going on. Please make your will known to at least one of us.” I laid there and prayed for a while and after a few minutes rolled over. I typically fall asleep within a matter of seconds, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened. I continued to pray as we lay in the dark for some time. Daniel’s face was pressed against mine, and I could tell that he was still crying. Finally, I turned over and asked, “Is everything okay? Do you need to talk?”Daniel immediately broke out in tears, and when he was able, he said, “I just prayed that... I said, Lord, if this is real, I really need Jessica to roll over so that we can talk about this. And you IMMEDIATELY rolled over!” He told me that he thought we were supposed to adopt the little girl in that email. We chatted for a few minutes, and then Daniel went into the living room. We both prayed for a while separately. I finally fell asleep, but Daniel stayed up most of the night talking to God, researching Treacher Collins Syndrome, finding out more about adoption, sending an email to the Reece’s Rainbow contact, and searching the Word. I think he finally went to sleep around 4 AM. In the email that he sent that night to the Reece’s Rainbow contact, he told the lady that we were interested in “Dana.” He also requested any other information they could provide and asked why Dana would be transferred to an institution. He also asked the contact not to tell our friend Martha. She had been dropping hints that we should consider adoption, and he didn’t want her to be disappointed if she found out about our interest and decided not to adopt.

To see what we saw that first night, check out “Dana” on the Reece’s Rainbow My Family Found Me page (http://reecesrainbow.org/category/rescued).

Prior to Wednesday January 11, 2012:

As far as I can tell, this all started for me (Jessica) a couple of years ago when my cousin’s wife, Diane, told me about human trafficking – particularly sex trafficking. She’s involved in a ministry in North Carolina that helps victims of human trafficking. I couldn’t believe that this type of thing went on here in the U.S. Over the next couple of years, God just kept bringing this topic to my attention: through books, movies, news articles, random forwarded emails, and much more. A few months ago, He spoke to me so clearly saying, “Jessica, you need to help these victims.” This has been confirmed tremendously over the last few weeks, especially as I listened to the Passion conference online, which took place the first week of January. The whole conference centered around human trafficking and how we can help. While I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I can get more involved (I’ve been praying, asking earnestly, researching), it certainly plays a role in adopting Maria. Roughly 80% of girls in her situation will enter prostitution upon being released from the government’s care at age 16 (with $500, no education, and no people skills) unless she’s adopted.

Back to before we knew about her though… While the Lord was working in my heart about human trafficking, He was similarly working in Daniel’s heart concerning the poor. God repeatedly brought to his (and our) attention how blessed we are and that someday we will have to give an account for how we used our time, talents, money – even our house. Over Christmas break, we listened to a lot of sermons, and it just so happened that there was always a focus on the poor. A verse from James kept coming up – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” – James 1:27. Daniel couldn’t seem to get this out of his head. He kept asking the Lord, “Ok – what do you want us to do?” The upstairs of our house has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a bonus room. About a week before we found out about Maria, Daniel asked me, “What do you think about letting someone live upstairs?” At that time, we had some people in mind, but little did we know God was planning for a little girl half way around the world.