If you've been following our adoption journey from the beginning, you've probably noticed lots of ebbs and flows on this blog. Adoption tends to be a series of excrutiating wait time followed by periods of frantic activity followed by more waiting followed by more waiting...and on and on it goes. So somewhere in the waiting/frantic cycle, I totally forgot to chronicle the rest of our trip to meet Kirill back in August. I'm only 5 months late. In adoption time, that translates to roughly a week and a half. Good thing I'm functioning on adoption time.
To pick up where I left off in this post, we left Moscow at 6 p.m. on an overnight train bound for the Eastern European city where K lives. Moscow is the closest airport to this city, which isn't saying much since we had to take LONG train ride to get there after we left Moscow. We were picked up the next day by our facilitator, Marina, and our interpreter, Elena. They were both LOVELY women that we really grew to love over the next few days.
As they drove us to our hotel, Marina began to explain our itenerary for the next few days. I have to insert here that I was SO NERVOUS at this point. It's just so surreal to be in a car with complete strangers (at the time), trusting them to navigate your life for the next few days. It was a HUGE test of my faith and my reluctance to give up control. We were completely at the mercy of stangers and were 100% reliant on them to tell us what to do, where to go, what to eat, etc. The only thing I could remotely relate it to is being blind. I'm not trying to compare what we experienced to something as profound as blindness, but I'm just trying to somehow convey how we were so dependent on God at this point because we had absolutely no way to communicate or understand the culture without these women. We just had to let go completely and trust that God was working through them.
As Marina was explaining what we would be doing for the rest of the day, she inserted that our train was late and we would need to go straight to the Minister of Science and Education's office without cleaning up at the hotel. So we literally dropped our bags at the hotel and headed to a very formal government building. To say we were disgusting is an understatement. We had been riding on a smoky (people smoke everywhere in EE...inside, outside, on trains, in hotels...there's no such thing as a "no smoking" section...plus the forrest fires had covered all of Moscow and the outlying areas in a thick blanket of smoke) train all night after spending a day walking around Moscow the day before. We had not showered since the morning before and by the time we got to the orphanage it was late afternoon. Talk about greasy...it took me back to the semester I spend in Europe in college. We backpacked and wouldn't shower for like 6 days at a time...but we weren't trying to prove that we were fit parents back then either.
We met with the Minister of Science and Education to sign a form stating our intent to visit with K and review his referral. She was such a pleasant lady. She asked us some tough questions about why we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. But I could tell that she was in our corner and wanted to see K go to a family. She even had his picture on a bulletin board in her office. She explained to us that she keeps photos of all the children in the process of adoption on that board and is happy when they are placed with their families. I thought that spoke volumes about her heart. As we left, she said, "I think you will be wonderful parents to K and I wish you the best." We left from her office and went straight to the orphanage to meet K.
Driving to the orphanage took about an hour and a half by car from the city. We drove on paved roads most of the time but about ten miles from the orphanage we turned onto a dirt road which took us to a very secluded area in the woods. Literally...in. the. woods. That was where the orphanage was located, deep in the woods...very secluded. So we pull up to the orphanage. I'm going to probably just tell you the facts here and leave out emotion since this blog is public. The orphanage was a group of three buildings. One building was where the children lived. The other building looked like some sort of storage facility or something like that. One building looked abandoned.
When we pulled up there were about twenty children playing outside. One of them, a little girl, ran up to Greg and put her arms up for him to hold her. He picked her up and she squealed with delight. She was so thin and frail. I also took a turn holding her. The orphanage workers came and took her as they shooed the children inside. It's not acceptable to see or photograph the other children, so the workers were following the rules and trying to keep us from seeing the other children. Still, we were so haunted by those faces that we did see. I can't really put it into words. I kept telling Greg they looked like ghost children. Their skin was almost transparent and they were all very small and frail with hollow eyes. I could go into more detail, but quite frankly it's painful and I just can't do it because my son is still there and will continue to be one of those children until we go back to adopt him.
We were ushered into the orphanage director's office. He was a very gentle and kind man. We were allowed to ask questions and he also was allowed to ask us a few questions. We were told that K had just been transferred to this orphanage from a baby orphanage. This orphanage was for 4-18 year-old children with special needs. That is how much we DIDN'T know coming into this trip. We didn't even know the name of the orphanage or where it was located. We had no idea that K had been transferred to an older child orphanage. We thought he was still at the baby house. So this was kind of shocking to us. Still, we just took it in stride and continued our visit with the staff. After a few minutes, the social worker came in and we were allowed to ask her questions. She knew more about K than the director because she had more contact with the children on a day-to-day basis. Then the medical director came in and she answered medical questions. As a part of her questioning, she read us the document that K's parents had to fill out to relinquish custody and declare him an orphan. There are no words for what that did to my heart. I truly felt for his parents; to them there was no other choice but to give up their son. I also felt an overwhelming gratitude to them for giving us such a precious gift. It's a very strange and emotional experience to hear their words read aloud.
As we met with these people, I could tell they were somewhat leery of us. However, by the end of our time together, I really felt comfortable with them and I think we were able to explain to them why we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. We left the director's office and the social worker took us to a room where we would be visiting with K. She left us there while she went to get K. We could hear the social worker and K's caregiver coming up the stairs with him and the first time I laid eyes on him...oh my word. I'm in tears just typing this. I cannot tell you what it was like watching this tiny boy walk up the stairs toward us. The boy I'd seen for months in pictures and imagined in my mind was now in front of me in person. It was surreal.
As he toddled toward us, he head-planted into a corner of the wall. He started screaming immediately and my heart broke. I was thinking, "great, his first meeting with us and he's traumatized!" But his caregiver consoled him and he recovered pretty quickly. I tried not to snatch him up because I didn't want to startle him. It took all the restraint I had, but Greg and I both let him just explore the room and stayed very close to him until he got used to us. We would touch him gently or pick him up for short moments, but we didn't want to smother him because we knew we were strangers to him. At one point, I was taking pictures and Greg was videoing. This is the moment that I will cherish forever. I'm so glad Greg captured it on video. I'll let the video speak for itself.
That's where I'll close for now. I'm sure you're tired of reading and I'm certainly tired of typing. Plus, putting this all out of my head onto paper is really emotionally draining. It forces me to think about K and about the fact that it's been five long months since I saw his precious face, stroked his buzzed little head, and kissed his sweet little cheeks. At times it feels like my heart will literally crack into pieces so I avoid thinking about it a lot in order to cope. When I'm dying inside, I have to remember Christ and the pain he endured to adopt me. Getting up every morning is only possible through my Lord. Thank God he paved the way for me on this journey.