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.