In Moscow at least, the children leave the orphanage “homes” when they are 17 or 18 years old and the government provides an apartment (to own, not just rent) and tuition for a college education. Mostly, she said, these young adults are encouraged to learn a trade.
When we heard this, our initial reaction was something like that’s actually not too bad, but then our facilitator went on: the young men and women who have spent their whole lives in an orphanage are often unable to cope with the world once they leave. They’ve had meals prepared, clothes and school supplies bought, they’ve lived in community their entire lives, and they just don’t have the skills to live alone. They become terribly lonely. The worst, she said, are holidays. When every other college student returns to Mom and Dad for New Years or summer holidays, these orphaned students have no one. Just think for a minute when you were in college or just starting out in the world. Think about how many times you called home, emailed, or visited your parents to ask for advice or just for a hot meal and come company. These young adults have no one.
Many of the young children in baby homes right now are the offspring of young men and women who grew up as orphans themselves. Having grown up without an example to follow, they simply do not know how to parent.
There are organizations that exist to help these young people not just survive but thrive. They provide mentorship, classes for life skills, and invaluable direction for those who don’t know where to turn. We should remember to pray for them, especially now.
God who guides our every step,
Today we pray for the young men and women who have just left or are about to leave their orphanage homes. They are in deep need of your love and guidance. We pray you will provide for them in very practical ways.
Give them a safe place to live, food to eat, an education, and a way to be fulfilled in their work. We thank you that the government provides many of these things in Russia.
However, we know that it is not enough. We also pray that you will bring older and wiser people into their lives to provide wisdom and direction. We pray you will give them a community in which they experience real love. Give them a place to go for the holidays, someone to call for advice, and a loving hand to hold as they figure out how to make their way in the world.
Provide them with spiritual direction through your church. Bring them missionaries, clergy members, and believers to share your gospel truth. May they find unwavering peace and lifelong direction in your precious word.
As adoptions in Russia close, we pray that you will bless the people and organizations who help these older orphans with all that they need. Make them a blessing in their country.
We thank you for every good and perfect gift; we know they all come for you.
Be with these oldest orphans today, we pray in Jesus’ name.
Jillian Burden and her husband John welcomed their son home from
Russia in November 2012. Follow their journey to adoption and
parenting joy at www.addingaburden.com.
Two years ago you came into this world!
There is a story there, one I have bits and pieces of. All babies get here through labors and tryings and struggles. I am sure there was giving up of hope, some anguish and dispare, but then eventual sweet deliverance. I know there was an almighty Hand of grace and provision over your somewhat amazing entrance to the world. You came into this very scary world and lived. You amaze me!
It is day’s like today when all I feel is fight from you that I remember that little fact about you… you have fought fights I will never know.
Tonight when I laid you down for bed I asked you gently, “What is your problem today, huh? Why are you having such a hard time?” Then I am transported to what I think that day might have been like and I remember a baby with amazingly soft hair and rosebud lips was fighting to be born, fighting to live and fighting to not be left on her own. Oh what a trivial life I live, sweet one!
Sometimes I ache to just have been a fly on the wall of the room you came into being in.
I have this one almost sacred photo of the day you were born. It is beyond special to me. It conveys feelings and thoughts that are real and raw. Everyone looking someplace other that at you, the star of the day. Most birth photos don’t look like this and I know that it wasn’t any one’s fault, they just didn’t know what to do with a situation that was as cloudy as the photo.
Your birth was planned very specifically to grant you life! Simply amazing! You also had so many things take place to bring you to our family. Sometimes it boggles my mind. Sometimes it makes me mad. Sometimes I don’t understand why others wouldn’t have cared for you like they should have. It still amazes me because those events were something utterly out of my control and brought into action through visibly unalterable events by the One who did have a plan for you.
Even when we met, I wasn’t sure about you. This is a fact that I have only uttered to a few people. When I met you I thought… “God? What am I suppose to do here?” and His fairly clear prompting was, “Marci, do the next thing and do it rightly.” We did that, and it brought you home eventually. His plan has been perfectly wrought in the annals of time! His will could not be thwarted, over and over again this proved true. I am thankful I had the where-with-all to listen and obey.
Today I held you and your fought me.
Then you’d kiss me.
Then you’d fight me.
Then you’d say “Hey Mom??? Sorry…”
Then you’d fight me.
Then you’d lay your head on my chest and seep in.
This isn’t normal, but it was today. It is ok Thea. You don’t have to be sorry, never never, for struggling. You are a survivor, but you don’t have to fight anymore. You are home.
Know that your birth was a joyous event! It made me a mom for the fifth time! You joined our family that day. Your birth mom became mother that day! She learned to love in real ways. You have made me a far better person. You have brought joy to grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. On the day of your birth I know God was unfolding a plan for you… all the way to the end, for His glory and for your benefit. I am excited, baby girl, to see where it goes!
You were named Thea Agnes Katsiime because we know God is Holy and in that we Give Thanks!
I know this is sort of a serious birthday letter, but you are two and won’t read it for a long time.
I hope it brings you perspective… because perspective is priceless.
Happy 2nd Birthday my sweet baby!
Marci Miller and her husband Tim live and work at a camp for socially and economically disadvantaged youth, many of whom are foster or former foster children. This is their 8th summer at CBX and their 11th summer in camp ministry.They currently have 5 children, ages 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2 years old. The 6 and 2 year olds came home through the miracle of adoption late in 2011. Marci blogs about their adventures in parenting, ministry, homeschooling and adoption at She Can Laugh…
I’ll never forget the day that one of our staff called the office. He was out visiting orphanages and monitoring our Formula Project with another colleague, and had just arrived at a newer orphanage we had only recently begun working with. He called because there was a baby who needed help.
This is always how the story begins. There’s a baby who needs our help. And sometimes, sometimes we can’t say “yes” because we don’t have a bed available. Often we have to slowly set down the phone, saying a desperate prayer for the little one that may not make it. The decisions that directors, have to make every sing day can be gut-wrenching and painful. The need is too great, and we are only a small community of Chinese and foreigners working together to save them one at a time.
In each of the hearts of the staff at New Day Foster Home, there is a deep burden for the orphan. We’ve seen their faces, cradled them in our arms and cried tears of sadness and tears of joy as they’ve been through and overcome trial after trial.
We are doing something very special, and something very big. Here’s the goal: Raise $12,000 in 12 days for New Day’s Acute Care Fund. The Acute Care fund is what’s used when Lydia needs to be admitted into the hospital with pneumonia, for when Ella’s in PICU in respiratory distress and for while Alea was waiting for months in the hospital for a liver transplant. This fund is so critical for an optimum-functioning NDFH, and it’s getting a little bit too low.
Each day, starting on the 31st and ending on the 10th, we have been featuring a child who has benefited from the Acute Care Fund, or will benefit at some point, or just has a pretty amazing story that we want to share with you. We will have giveaways, sponsored by some very special supporters to NDFH, and we will tell the stories of children who’s lives were changed by New Day. We’ve gotten to hear from the adoptive mama of Cora, a little one who’s miracle made us gasp.
… and later we’re going to hear from the mama of Levi, who was adopted recently and brightened our lives with his fighter’s spirit.
We’ve had a lot of fun over the last 11 days of our efforts. At the end of the day tomorrow, we hope to announce that we raised even more money than we had thought, money that will help save a lot of lives.
Want to join in at the last minute here? Head on over to the NDFH blog and see the glory of miracles for yourself!
When Hannah traveled to China in 2002 with her parents to adopt her sister Elisabeth, she fell in love with the country and people. In 2004, when her other sister Naomi was adopted, she started dreaming of going back. It took 5 years for that dream to come true. She now serves in a foster home for special needs orphans in China. Hannah spends her days studying, writing for the foster home and on her personal blog, Loving Dangerously, and most importantly, holding babies. Hannah loves the adventure of living overseas with her family. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
Paul has been delving deeper into his life story as of late. Partly because I finally got it together enough to transfer his story from “out of my mouth” (his phrase for the paperless storytelling that sometimes happens in those dark and dreamy moments before sleep) and onto the printed page. And while I love “out of my mouth” stories, there is something solid and substantial about holding a story, with its heft and crackle and smells of ink, firmly in one’s hand.
We are a people of story. We need stories to learn, to grow, to make sense of the world around us. Stories connect us to our past, give us roots, a sense of place and permanency, fill us with resolve to spread our wings and seek new adventure. Stories give us hope.
No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place. – Maya Angelou
Children from hard places especially need story, need to tell and retell story in part to answer the big questions that comprise their past: Who am I? What happened to me? Is what happened to me my fault? What will happen to me now?
These life stories can be difficult because they contain such sadness and tragedy and loss. There are unanswered questions – unanswerable questions. Paul’s story, which is his own private story and only his to tell when he is ready, contains many such questions. There are huge gaps about which we know nothing. It’s a many-piece puzzle with no picture reference and no way of knowing how many pieces might be missing. It’s easy to want to fill in the gaps with wishful, loving platitudes “Your first mother and father loved you so much that…” or with what-might-have-beens or with outright untruths. But this is something we cannot do. We cannot lie or platitude or wish away those hard gaps.
I naturally use story in my counseling work (where it is sometimes called narrative therapy or metaphor therapy, which you really only need to know if you’re preparing for the board exam). My office is stuffed with folktales and fables and “Tell a Story” games and personal narratives littered on scraps of paper, complete with childish illustrations.
Sometimes I get calls or emails from teachers whose students have written such a story with a bit more…darkness…than they are used to seeing. One student with a hard, hard past, after months of games and metaphors and play both in my office and in family therapy, finally penned his story to paper. Penned it for a class essay project, which after reading the teacher quickly escorted to me.
The student entered my office warily, and when he saw the story on the table his eyes blazed and his arms crossed.
“You’re not in trouble,” I said. (They never are in trouble with the “upstairs Mrs. Thompson.” That role is completely out of my giftedness. They may have to engage in some natural consequences or “energy renewers” when they are with me, and I have been known to encourage students whose poor choices left havoc in their wake to get busy cleaning up said havoc, but never “in trouble”.)
He didn’t look convinced. “This is Powerful.” I looked him in the eye, placed my hand on the story. “Powerful.”
“It is?” He seemed to consider this. He knew full well that the story he’d written wasn’t “good” or “neat” or “lovely”, knew it wasn’t written with the only goal an A at the end, knew the language contained therein wasn’t much tolerated at this private Christian school. But powerful? Yes.
We sat at the table and read the story and acknowledged its pain and considered it in the objective sunlight streaming from my brilliant window and both knew something had changed, something had healed.
“It isn’t finished,” he said finally, with that twinkle in his eye I’d learned to recognize.
“No,” I agreed. “It isn’t finished.”
And he went on to write more of his story, and he is still writing, and now the stories reach beyond himself to others, to my own little guy, from healing his own hurt to understanding and empathizing with the hurt of those who’ve walked a similar path.
And so we help Paul tell his story with those same goals of understanding, healing, growing, with those same goals of hope. Patty Cogen, in Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, recommends using the wording Big Change in the child’s life story to note those life altering losses and transitions surrounding first family, caregivers, orphanages, adoption, moves. So much out of their control. So many Big Changes.
Paul has questions. “But how did you know to find me MIS?” he asked one evening after pouring over the pictures of one such Big Change, the day we met, May 7, 2012.
So many thoughts whirled through my head. How had we known how to find him? How had our little family connected with this one particular little boy half a world away? International adoption laws and adoption agencies and missionaries and matching meetings that seem on the surface so random yet are anything but. “We prayed for a little boy and God used our adoption agency to help us find you,” I finally answered.
He considered this. “But how did God even talk?” he wondered. Then, brightening. “I know! In you’s heart.”
In my heart. Absolutely in my heart. That is where his story and my story connect, where his part one ends and part two begins, the day his name flashed across my email, the day I saw his pictures, the day I read what little I know of the first part of his story – joyfully and fiercely in my heart.
Kristi and her husband of 19 years stay busy loving, laughing and chauffeuring their teenage daughter (biological) and kindergarten son (home six months from Lesotho) around their Kentucky home. Kristi works part-time as an elementary school counselor (and as such knows parenting advice is easier said than done and that all of parenting is an on-your-knees-with-God proposition) and part-time as a writing instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature (as an excuse to read really great books before anyone else) and any-other-spare-minute (none) writing children’s books. Since she “thinks through her fingers” she shares their adoption journey as a coping mechanism on her personal blog.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”
The sun is shining through my window this morning as I wake. The faithfulness of God is more evident to me this morning than I have noticed in past mornings. I get up and breathe… “Lord, help me finish well…”
Today is the day before I leave to visit my son in Haiti. Today is the day that ends the “Week before I leave”. Tomorrow will be my ninth trip to visit my son. The “week before we leave” has been faithfully painful in different ways since we began our journey between these two countries 2 years ago. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to see my son who I long for daily, but also to leave him again. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to bring my son a part of his future, but also to speak of the future that is not fully clear yet. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to leave my worries here alone, but also to leave my 3 other children behind. Tomorrow I will walk ahead into this journey that has been both glorious and devastating all at the same time.
The “week before I leave” has always given me a fight. I am one that will make lists and plan…take notice of what is ahead and anticipate all of my needs! What I can not do is anticipate everything that will interrupt those plans to sabotage my entire goals of finishing the way I wanted to. I have many things lined out in my mind that that tell me, “Once this happens, you will be okay to go…okay to leave.”
Leaving is never something my mind, heart or body can fully embrace without concerns. Fears and anxiety come from the underlying knowledge that it’s impossible for everything to be ‘okay’ when it comes to leaving. I have a list: for the grocery store, for the packing bag, for the time with kids before we leave, for the things to do before we leave, for the bills to pay and the mail to send off. I think if these lists get done, then I will be okay.
But every day of that “week before we leave”, I am shaken. Every list, every need within my family, every road to accomplishment meets an obstacle that shakes my trust that things will “be okay”. I am like a soda can that is shaken causing bubbles to erupt and give pressure…leaving me to spew everything that has risen up in me due to the shaking of these obstacles.
Almost always I yield to arrogance and attempt to control my week. The irony is that this attempt almost kills me every time. I go into distress because I can’t get to the store because someone gets sick or our car breaks down. I don’t account for the normal emotional drama and parenting that has to continue despite my stress or to do lists. My attempt to control only yields fruit of anger, bitterness and blaming everyone.
As I am shaken by this “week before leaving”, I am reminded that I am not all knowing. I do not hold all things together. I do not rule time and providences. I do not know what I need. I cannot live on my own. I am broken, meant to be shaken, so that I can see that I need my faithful and loving Father who is God of all of these things.
My God is at work. And I have been adopted into His kingdom that cannot be shaken to destruction. He says that He will work all things for my good, to His glory even when I don’t know what that practically looks like.
I begin this last day of this “week before leaving”, that has been one of the hardest weeks out of the 9 times leaving, taking a new breath. I see Him. Despite all of the darkness that the week has seemed to give, the sun still comes up. My God is faithful and is my help. Nothing will be okay if I act as god and seek to help myself. But I know that everything will be okay because my God is indeed my help and it is my prayer that I will finish in this truth today.
So as we walk in this month of thanksgiving, I am thankful for the shaking that happens to me in my adoption journey. It testifies that I am not God, but that I need Him desperately. It testifies that I am a part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken and for that I am thankful and in awe of my LORD who has once again shown himself faithful. I will leave tomorrow and everything will be okay.
I am married to Michael Stewart. We live in Austin, TX with our 3 children, Wesley-Grant (7 yrs), Sally (6 yrs) and Karis (4 yrs) while waiting on our son, Kelly who is 5 yrs old, to come home from Haiti. We have been in the process of adoption for almost 2 years. We are imperfect people but loved perfectly by a gracious and loving God. Follow our journey on our family blog.