As I type we are on a very bumpy 6 hour bus ride to Odessa. We will arrive sometime after midnight tonight at the apartment of our friend Laura from the Nasledie Heritage Foundation. We knew it was imperative for us to get word out to family and friends of the day’s events, but contact has been challenging as we rarely have wifi to send out messages. So while I’m more alert I’ll type out this blog and hope to post it at Laura’s apartment.
Jim and I had a good night’s sleep and woke up refreshed with time to pray and spend time reading promises from God’s Word. We felt a peace and were surrendered to whatever God had for us that morning. We were picked up at 9:30 by one of our facilitators, Alex. We then drove to the apartment of Wes and Janet Moore who are also here trying to adopt a Lugansk child. Wes and Janet had an appointment for 10am and ours was set for 11am. Jim and I were actually thankful to be second because we had recently read the story of Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho. We had been hoping that God might give us the opportunity before our appointment to walk around the SDA building and pray and sing praise songs, asking God to work a wonder and tear down this “wall” that stood in our way. God in his goodness gave us 30 minutes to do just that. When Alex came back out with Wes and Janet we thought it was our turn to head in to face the SDA officer. But he told Nastya (our other facilitator who had arrived to help us) and us that the officer had referred him to speak to the Deputy Minister of the SDA (2nd in charge) and we needed to wait for her to get out of a meeting. So we all went across the street to a café to have lunch and wait. About an hour later Alex got a phone call to come back, so we all headed back to the SDA…Wes, Janet and Alex to return upstairs and try to complete their appointment (now with the Deputy Minister) and Nastya, Jim and I into a waiting room. Waiting room is a generous word, as it’s more like a narrow hallway with one couch. For two hours we waited as Alex argued with the Deputy Minister. We were told by Nastya that the argument was quite heated as Alex fought to get a referral for our children. Jim and I sat on that couch and prayed, and read scripture, and prayed scripture…we truly felt a battle raging in the spiritual realm for these children. If granted, these referrals will be the first two for children of the Lugansk region (one was granted about a month ago, but that was for a child of a trade school, so that’s a different scenario), and could break open the gates for these waiting families. I don’t understand exactly what Alex and Nastya are trying to do in setting a new precedent, but we were in awe and overwhelmed with gratitude for these two and how hard they fight for the orphans of Ukraine. I’m having Jim insert a few paragraphs here to try and explain what we are requesting.
During today’s meeting the officials were able to see that Igor’s birth certificate and the court order relinquishing any of his birth parent’s parental rights was recorded in the Ukraine computerized court records. This is a real item of praise and celebration because we do not believe we will be able to recover the original documents. We understand from a Ukrainian judge that these documents are reliable for legal proceedings however this is not usual protocol and creates a Catch-22. If we have a referral we can request a replacement birth certificate. Without the referral we have no authority to request the document. Without the official birth certificate the SDA finds it difficult to grant the referral. So where do we stand? We were not granted our referral for Igor’s adoption today. Instead a request is being sent to Igor’s new orphanage to submit the request for his original documentation. We do not believe there are any of these original documents at his new orphanage but the Deputy Minister thought it necessary to submit a request in writing for these documents. We have been granted another appointment with the Deputy Minister on Monday afternoon and if the DM will be willing to set a new precedent we could be granted a referral on Tuesday. Lastly, we understand the officials considering our cause have to evaluate their own job security and safety. In establishing new policy they do not want to put their position at risk. In granting approval they do not wish to stir up potential personal retaliation from those sympathetic to the separatists in Eastern Ukraine who wish these kids only to remain in Eastern Ukraine. Therefore, we pray God strengthens their courage and allows them to provide a way for Igor and for several other kids in the same position to find their forever families.
When Alex came out of the Moore’s appointment and we all signed a petition requesting another appointment on Monday we had some quick decisions to make about what to do with these 3 days ahead of us. If we are not granted favor on Monday and do not receive a referral we would not have time to head to Pishana to visit Igor before our flight on Wed. Laura and a team from Nasledie are heading to Pishana tomorrow morning to do a program with the children. We called Laura to see what we should do. She said we needed to come tonight to her apartment in Odessa and travel with the team to Pishana tomorrow. Alex assisted us in purchasing bus tickets online and told us we had purchased the last two tickets available. He also told us that we would have to pay extra at the bus station for all 7 bags we were taking. We rushed back to our apartment in Kiev to repack our bags and Alex and Alexsya (Nastya’s husband) drove us to the bus station. God’s goodness to us continues as the check-in clerk did not charge us anything for our bags and there are two women on this bus who speak English and have been able to assist us.
We will leave early tomorrow morning (around 7:30) with the team to head to Pishana. Odessa is about 3 hours from Pishana. We are unsure at this point if we will be able to stay near Pishana for the weekend and continue visiting with Igor after the team leaves or if we will need to head back with Laura and stay at her apartment again on Friday night. Pishana is a very small village and there are no lodging houses there. Balta is the closest town, 20 minutes away, but we will not have anyone with us who could translate for us or drive us back and forth. We are taking one day at a time at this point. For now, we are so thankful that Alex and Alexsya went out of their way to help us arrange this trip to Odessa. Thankful also that Laura has invited us to stay with her tonight and arranged for us to visit Igor tomorrow. We are filled with anticipation and excitement as we think about hugging our sweet boy!
We need an army of prayer warriors to go to battle with us over the next few days. We are asking for many of you to continue to pray fervently that God will move the heart of the Deputy Minister to grant this referral. If we are given a referral on Tuesday, we will then travel back to Odessa on Wednesday to meet with Igor’s director and have Igor sign a paper that he wants to be adopted. That means our flight plans will need to change. Right now we are scheduled to fly home on Wed. morning.
We have seen God’s hand of protection and provision in so many ways on this trip! We continue to look with expectation for a display of His wonders. As we were praying and reading through Psalms at the SDA this afternoon, this passage stood out to us:
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. Let the people praise you, O God; let all the people praise you!” Psalm 67:1-3