For the first time, I was open the possibility of adopting an older special needs child. Both my husband and I still had some soul-searching to do though; lots of late-night talks to discern whether this was something we could do, something we wanted to do. His concerns were different from mine, but it was obvious that we both needed more time to consider this kind of life-changing decision. I felt that adoption may only be in our distant future at that point, but I still wanted to find a way to be involved with orphan care in Eastern Europe. I decided that the best option was to participate in some kind of medical mission trip.
That was last November, and just as I began to seriously plan to participate in a short-term summer trip, my husband came home with news that he would be deployed again. I would not be able to take my trip after all - I would be spending several months as a single parent while he was in Afghanistan. I was very disappointed but there was really nothing I could do about it.
Meanwhile, the military was also shaking up the plans that my friend Lora and her husband Dean had made. They were getting ready to travel to Eastern Europe to adopt a five year old little girl with cerebral palsy named "Vi". Just before their travel date, Dean learned that the military would only allow him to accompany Lora to Vi's country for the first trip, where they would accept their referral and spend several days visiting her. For the second trip - the one in which court, the waiting period, the paper chase, gotcha day, and bringing Vi home occur - Lora would be on her own.
I felt that just as the door closed on the possibility of a summer trip for me, a window opened elsewhere. I had an opportunity to help my friend and be a part of a very special journey. Lora and I talked, and it was decided that I would fly over during her second trip to Vi's country and help her get her daughter home. I was thrilled, and so grateful to Lora for allowing me to be there.
Lora's friend Jane (a tireless advocate for Vi and other children) would also meet her in country for part of the trip. Lora would not be on her own after all! Now anyone who knows this woman understands that she would have been absolutely capable of getting her girl home all by herself, but why should she have to? God orchestrated the details of her adoption perfectly, and in the process He used this experience to break the hearts of Jane and I in ways that I wonder if either of us imagined beforehand.
**By the way, if you don't already follow Jane's blog, please go HERE and check it out. She is doing amazing things for special needs children at one particular orphanage in Eastern Europe**
Beautiful Vi (aka "Francine" on Reece's Rainbow)
Vi meeting her Mama and Papa!
I put our 22 month old little boy to bed first. To him, it surely felt like any other night. The bedtime routine was exactly the same. He was happy - laughing, asking for books, doing his roaring dinosaur imitation. Not me - I was fighting back the tears. Sitting in the dark, holding him in the rocking chair, my voice cracked and I had to pause several times as I sang his nighttime song to him. After I closed his door, I stood in the hallway and let the tears flow. I composed myself, but when it was time to say goodnight to my five year old a little later, the tears started flowing again.
I stuck a small photo album in my carry-on bag, where it stayed untouched for three days. I would get a huge lump in my throat if I even thought about pulling it out to look at those sweet little faces.
My friend Suzy drove me to the airport and as we crossed the island on our way to town we talked about the trip, little Vi, God, and my struggle with leaving my children. Before we said goodbye, she gave me a beautiful card - she'd written some verses from Isaiah 58 in it. I would pull that card out and read it several times during my trip: on the plane, late at night in the apartment, and after going to the orphanages.
Twenty-seven hours and over 7000 miles later, I stepped off the plane in Eastern Europe. There was not a jetway, and as I walked down the plane stairs I remember thinking that it wasn't quite as cold as I'd expected. That was a good thing for me, because after spending the last three years in Hawaii I've become a real wimp! I remember that afternoon very well - standing in the short customs line listening to Russian being spoken in front of me, thinking about how I wish I'd worn a different pair of boots because these were killing my feet. What I wasn't thinking about - what I had no idea about that day as I walked out to greet Lora - was that I would soon be meeting my future daughter as well.