Thursday, September 30, 2010

Perry Mason, Part Three (In which the tide of the battle begins to turn)

Written Sunday, 12 September 2010

When we first arrived in Aaron’s country back in July, we didn’t plan on leaving him again. We fully expected to bring him home on that first trip. We had already had our share of trouble getting our dossier together, but we knew that we would have more help now that we were in country. Most of the adoptive couples we’d read about looked at court as a formality, the result a foregone conclusion. We believed that the hardest part was behind us.

But our adoption was different from that of a lot of those other couples. Our Aaron was no longer in a baby house, from which children under 5 come and go frequently. He had already been transferred to a mental institute for older boys, from which adoptions are rare. No one had ever been adopted from his internat. In fact, no American had ever spent a night in his village before. In this village without hotels, our facilitator Luda scrambled to find us lodging. After she placed us in the home of a lovely retired woman, a friend of the internat director’s, she rushed from building to building trying to get a head start on all of the paperwork. We rumbled over rutted roads with her, trying to get everything signed and notarized as quickly as possible. She rushed off to the capital in the dead of night, then returned. She was working as quickly and efficiently as anyone could.

When the time came to apply for a court date, however, even Luda was stopped in her tracks. The village judge was sick, unavailable; and there was no approved jury list. The judge’s office and the town council feuded over who was at fault. Luda carried communication back and forth between them, trying to resolve the matter so that we could get a court date. Two weeks after we arrived in the country, she approached us in the evening. She had been in contact with the head of her legal team, and their advice was to go home. There was no way to know how long it might take to get a court date. We were forced to leave Aaron behind, go home and wait.

While we were gone, Luda and the facilitation team worked hard for us. As soon as the judge returned from sick leave, Luda raced back down here to meet him in his chambers. His mind was on his upcoming two-month vacation, which was starting the next day. He wanted to hear the case after his vacation, but Luda finally convinced him to pass our case off to a judge in the closest district. At first, we thought this was a victory because it moved our court date up by two months. That was before we met this judge.


(Rob writing)

We now present the third installment of our exciting series...

When our heroes arrive back at court in the nick of time, Luda and the legal team are in high gear. Supposedly, the judge sent to Aaron’s home town two weeks ago for a document certifying that he had no other siblings available for adoption. Luda has called around in our heroes’ absence, and no one knows anything about the judge’s request. Luda has formulated a plan to race down to Aaron’s home town, beg someone to produce the document immediately, then return with it to court the next day to satisfy the judge’s request.

The legal team has another idea. The attorney wants our heroes to go to the judge in her chambers and beg. Luda gets involved, and coaches our heroes in what they must say: “Your honor, for the sake of our boys back home, and because time is of the essence in Aaron’s medical care, please do not delay your decision. We request that you rule in our favor as soon as possible.”

Begging sounds just fine to our heroes. Groveling sounds fine, too. They would even consider kissing the judge’s shoes-- but only after carefully washing off the vomit from Perry Mason, part 2.

They repair with Luda to the judge’s chambers. Luda spits out the entire request without our heroes ever uttering a word. The judge seems a bit more kindly in chambers than in the courtroom. She takes a close look at Julia, then at Perry.

Judge: You do not feed your wife enough.

Perry and Julia: (!!??)

Julia: My mother was small, all of the women in my family are small-boned. My lummox of a husband makes me look small because he’s the size of a billboard…

Perry: She won’t eat! She gets all of the food she wants. In America, all of the women want to be thin, it is a mark of beauty. And she produced two beautiful children.

Judge: How much do you weigh?

Julia: About 110...(in truth she might be down to 98 by now due to stress caused by this very judge)

Perry: (calculating with lightning speed) About 50 kilograms.

Judge: (in disbelief) Humph.

The judge waves everyone out of the room.

Back in the courtroom, Luda tells our heroes that the next session will be the “debates.” She tells them to expect most of the same questions to be asked again. She’s expecting trouble, and she’s almost hoping the judge will reject the adoption outright so that she can appeal to another court and get away from this judge forever. This judge has never yet done things the easy way; she has always had one more monkey wrench to throw into the works and jam the gears. No one believes that the judge has been swayed by our heroes’ heartfelt pleas.  Perry and Julia brace themselves for more hours of questioning.

The judge reenters. More legal drudgery. Then she speaks to Perry.

Judge: What is your petition for the court?

Perry: We ask to adopt the child as our son, to change his name on his birth certificate to Aaron Vanya Nalle, and to place our names on his birth certificate as his parents. (Perry sighs with relief that he was able to remember all of this with just a bit of prodding from Luda.)

The judge repeats the name, struggling with the pronunciation of “Aaron.”

Both Perry and Julia repeat the name helpfully, and she tries again, still with difficulty. These folks don’t really do long “a” sounds.

Judge to Julia: Do you agree with the petition?

Julia: I do agree (gratefully, because she’s not sure she could spit it all out as smoothly as Perry just did).

Judge: What will you call him?

Julia: Aaron VANYA Nalle (stress on the native name).

Our heroes quietly congratulate themselves for retaining one of his native names, certain that it will score at least a few points with this patriotic judge.

Judge: Does the prosecuting attorney have anything to say?

Prosecutor: The prosecution has no objection to the petition.

Perry and Julia: (!!??)

Apparently, the legal team has done some effective wrangling. Two weeks ago, this prosecutor was very skeptical about this whole proceeding and supported the judge when she insisted that Aaron must come to court. Today, she has announced her full support without raising a single objection.

Perry and Julia steel themselves for the next round of questioning.

Judge (rising): I will now retire to my chambers for deliberation.

Perry, Julia and Luda: (!!??)

Perry and Julia have learned to expect the unexpected from this judge. Luda is stunned. Perry and Julia tentatively believe that this turn of events can only be good.

A looong time passes. Perry and Julia pace the courtroom, examining the unoccupied steel cage reserved for criminal defendants. It has two vertical-backed, short-seated benches specifically designed for maximum discomfort. It’s as shabby as everything else in the building.

The judge calls for Luda, who returns and calls for Julia. The judge has dug through her toolbox and found another monkey wrench. On our heroes’ marriage license, Julia’s name is listed as “Julia E. Arnold.” What on earth could the “E” stand for, the judge wants to know? What dark secrets about her identity could Julia be concealing? Might she have concealed an earlier marriage?

Julia dutifully reports to the judge’s chambers.

Judge: Please explain the “E” on your marriage license. Why is there a discrepancy between your two names?

Julia: The “E” stands for Ellen. I had two given names, Julia and Ellen. The second was in honor of my grandmother. When I married my husband, I took his last name and made my old family name my middle name.

Judge: So “Arnold” is your last name?

Julia: No, it was my maiden name. Before I was married, my name was Julia Ellen Arnold. It is common practice in our country to retain the maiden name as the middle name in honor of our father’s family.

The judge finds this confusing. So does everyone else in the room: the judge’s assistant, one of the jurors, the prosecutor. They don’t understand the absence of the patronymic, and they find this American name-juggling suspicious (they have a natural tendency toward suspicion already).

Judge: So what is your name?

Julia: It is Julia Arnold Nalle.

Judge: (continued confusion)

Judge’s assistant: What happened to “Ellen?”

Julia: My name legally changed when I married. I dropped “Ellen” and made “Arnold” my new middle name, so my married name is Julia Arnold Nalle.

Judge: Humph.

Judge (after a long awkward pause): Do you really understand what you are doing in taking on such a child? You will have to care for him for the rest of your life. You can never leave him.

Julia: I will be a Mom to Aaron forever, in the same way that I am a Mom to my other two sons. I would never consider leaving them, and I would never consider leaving Aaron either.

The judge and everyone else interrupt. Un-translated comments fly rapidly around the room.

Julia (fighting to be heard): I understand that we are taking on a big responsibility. We have spent a lot of time in prayer and discussion about this discussion. We know that there will be issues in caring for Aaron. We have read books, sought counsel and done as much research as we can to help us know how best to care for Aaron. We have a loving and supportive family behind us, and we have quite a number of friends who have encouraged us in this adoption.

Julia considers telling the judge about the thousands of bowed heads behind her, but refrains. More un-translated comments float around the room. Julia waits and wonders what is being said, wonders if her words have any meaning to anyone here.

Then the judge drops her bombshell:

Judge: I adopted two children.

Julia: (Surprised, but not entirely; she has suspected that this judge has a story of her own) Really?

Judge: It did not go well. They have never been grateful, and it has torn our family apart. My older children have never gotten along with my adopted girls. They have been nothing but trouble since I brought them home.

Julia (slack-jawed): Aaah…

Judge: How are you going to benefit from this adoption? Are you going to get paid for him through your government? (expressions of interest from around the room)

Julia (still reeling from the bombshell): We will receive no financial benefits for our adoption of Aaron. Our state does not provide any payments for a child who is adopted internationally.

Judge: Do you have medical benefits?

Julia: We have medical insurance and Aaron will be covered by our medical insurance, which we purchase privately. And although we won’t receive payments from the government, we have been promised medical benefits for Aaron through Shriners Hospital. We will be taking Aaron to one of these hospitals, and they will cover all medical expenses related to his arthrogryposis. This includes treatments, therapies, transportation and lodging for him and his family. (nods of approval and un-translated comments from around the room)

Judge: Where does this hospital get the money to do all of this?

Julia: The Shriners are a group of men who care about children who are born with problems like Aaron’s. They are a private charity organization, and they raise money privately. They have a large endowment. They have several hospitals across the United States. The one in Philadelphia, which is closest to our home, also happens to be the best one for Aaron’s arthrogryposis. (more nods and un-translated comments)

Judge: Humph.

Julia: (fearfully) I admire you for adopting two girls.

Luda to Julia: What?

Julia: Tell her I admire her greatly for adopting.

Luda: (suggests with her eyes that Julia is insane)

Julia: Please tell her. (Luda translates)

Judge: Humph.

Julia: How old are your girls?

Judge: 17 and 18. Do you want to meet them? (She picks up the phone to call them. The room explodes in conversation and laughing.)

Julia: I would love to meet them.

Judge on the phone: (un-translated)

Julia and Luda are waved out of the judge’s chambers. They return to Perry and the legal team, who have been left to wonder what was happening. Luda is feeling more hopeful after the exchange in chambers. Julia is swallowing bile. Exhaustion and hunger are apparent in everyone.

A half hour later, the door in the back of the courtroom opens. Perry, Julia and Luda are beckoned. Standing in the hall are the judge and her two adopted daughters. Perry and Julia get 20 seconds to say hello and compliment the judge on their beauty. Nothing else of substance is exchanged. Perry is virtually excluded from the meeting; he has hardly reached the hall when the girls move on. Perry is reminded of a thought that has occurred to him often since this whole affair began: adoption is a woman’s business. The men sit on the sidelines while the women carry the ball. In the end, all of Perry’s planned courtroom fireworks will come to nothing. The heart of the matter, all day, has been to show this judge the true and good heart of his wife.

But has Julia succeeded in proving her good intentions? Find out in our exciting conclusion, next episode. Don’t forget to tune in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Perry Mason, Part Two (in which the women do glorious battle upon the field of valor)

Original Post Date: Saturday, 11 September 2010

Adopting Aaron was an insane decision. We were both working every waking hour, our building business was on life support due to the downturn in the economy, and both of our teenage children had a lot going on. We had discussed adoption in a “someday” sense and considered it a worthy calling, but it wasn’t on our front burner. We didn’t have the money or the time. Traveling for 3-6 weeks was out of the question. Spending down our pathetic savings was also out of the question. Where on earth would we find twenty-six to thirty thousand dollars for a venture like that?

All of that changed when I found Reece’s Rainbow. Those pictures are completely unfair. I can’t look at all of those poor kids without longing to help them. After we saw Aaron’s picture and read Molly’s pleas, we couldn’t say “no” anymore. We tried. We prayed, cried, prayed some more, talked to our boys and wrestled mightily against the call of God. But He would not ease the burden on our hearts for this one little boy so far away. And so, against all of our better judgments, we decided to jump together off of the biggest cliff we’d ever faced.

After we got used to the idea and began to make a few vague plans, one of our desires was for people to see God at work in saving Aaron’s life. This idea came from a scripture in John 9. Lots of Reece’s Rainbow families have quoted this passage, because it’s so appropriate to the special needs adoption ministry. On the day we e-mailed Andrea at Reece’s Rainbow to make our formal commitment to Aaron, Rob wrote the following for our family sponsor page:

John 9 tells the story of a blind man: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”

Jesus restored the man’s sight, and the man’s story challenged the religious establishment that didn’t believe in Jesus. Rob and Julia hope that Aaron’s new life away from the institution will also display the work of God. They hope to see God at work in the hearts of everyone whom Aaron’s life touches, just as He has worked in their own hearts.”

We hoped that all of the good things happening for Aaron after we adopted him would demonstrate God’s goodness to the world. We had no idea when Rob wrote those words that the blessings would begin in our own hearts and in the hearts of everyone who helped to bring Aaron home, long before we ever met Aaron in person. In the hours before we left for court, when we were going over some scriptures people had shared with us, we were reminded of our family sponsor page. We opened up it up and reread those words from January. We expected good things from God, but He provided far more than we envisioned.

(Rob writing)

Our saga continues…

The judge turns her attention from Perry to Julia, and starts to bully her instead.

Judge: I was not satisfied with your husband’s answer. I do not see how you will manage this child when you do not speak his language.

Luda (translator/facilitator) to Julia: There was no question in there. Respond. RESPOND (harsh whisper).

Julia: I admit that I have not been able to learn much of your language. I’m just plain lousy at learning languages. My husband has worked as hard as he can to learn the language. When we point out objects to Aaron, Perry gives the native name and I give the English name. We have been trying our best. We are living with a wonderful woman from your country and she has taught Perry many more words than he has said here.

Judge: Humph.

With this response, Julia feels that she has at least defended poor battered Perry, and may have even scored a small victory.

Judge: What is your religion?

Julia: I am a Christian.

Judge (harsh bark): Then where is your cross?

Julia: (?!)

Luda to Julia (stunned whisper): You may say that your tradition does not…

Julia: My faith tradition does not require me to wear a cross.

Judge: Are you Roman Catholic?

Julia: No, I am a Protestant.

Judge: Humph. (Stream of commentary, un-translated, unintelligible)

Julia: (interrupting) We are committed Christians. We are very involved in our church and our boys worship alongside us every week. We will take Aaron to church with us just as our other boys go to church with us. We love the Lord…

Judge: (interrupting) Humph. (more un-translated comments, followed by a long pause)

Judge: How is your health?

Luda: (look of astonishment)

If Julia were to be entirely honest here, she would have to admit that at the moment she feels like her head is caught in a wood splitter and she would like to vomit on the judge’s shoes. Instead, she decides to answer the question in a more general way:

Julia: I am in excellent health.

Judge: Does your husband beat you?

A low laugh rises from the crowd. Julia is obviously not a battered woman.

Julia: No, of course not.

Judge: Don’t you realize this is a very sick child? Don’t you realize you will have to care for him for the rest of his life?

Julia: I fully understand that Aaron will be a part of our family for the rest of his life, just like our other sons. We will treat him just as we treat them. Neither of my other sons is perfect. Each of them has his strengths and weaknesses, but nothing can change the fact that they are our sons. Aaron is just the same-- he has some weaknesses, but he also has some strengths.

Judge: (various un-translated interruptions)

Julia: I don’t consider Aaron to be “sick.” He has a disability that affects his body, and we will do whatever we can to get that treated. But his mind is good. He is extremely bright and creative. He knows how to play. He is learning English. He understands much of what I tell him. He is also very tough. He does not whine or cry, and he handles disappointment well. I will love him as much as I love my two other boys.

Luda: You may sit down (Julia’s grilling is over for the moment).

Judge to Aaron: Do you need to go to the bathroom?


(Caretaker repeats the question to Aaron, and he shakes his head “no.”)

Judge: Perry. (Perry transfers Aaron to Julia and stands)

Judge: Where will Aaron sleep?

Perry: He will have his own room, a freshly painted room with two beds, his own closet, his own dresser, his own bookcase for his toys and books. We have a picture if you would like to see it.

Judge: Who will care for this child at home?

Perry: We will both care for him, but my wife will be his primary caretaker.

Judge to Julia: Humph. (She looks at Aaron sitting in Julia’s lap.) How will you care for this child when he is so heavy and you are so small? The child is too big for her.

Julia: He is NOT too big.

Perry: The child can walk. This is not an issue. (The crowd murmurs.)

Judge: Humph.

Judge: What is your occupation?

Perry: I am a homebuilder and a carpenter.

Luda: (harsh whisper) Tell her that you own your own business.

Perry: I am the owner of our building company, Covenant Builders. (Editor’s note: This is obviously a side business, because we already know that Perry is a heroic criminal defense attorney.)

Judge: Does this company have a license?

Perry: Yes, it has a Class A license from the Board of Contractors for the State of Virginia.

Perry feels it would be unwise to mention here that Covenant Builders presently stands with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, that if our new house doesn’t sell soon we may exhaust our credit line, that even if it does sell we will continue to fall further and further into debt unless house prices rise again. It’s one day at a time, trusting the Lord every day, these days.

Judge: I think it’s wrong for the boy to lose his culture.

The judge holds a general discussion with the other women in the court: the SDA (government adoption agency) representative, another attorney hired by the legal team, the internat “inspector,” the prosecutor, the jurors. Very little of it is translated for our heroes, but it all centers around the native culture and what a shame it would be if Aaron lost it. Our heroes find it a bit silly: What “culture” does Aaron experience in his mental institute? They do feed him borsch, and on the weekends, they play fast polka music non-stop on the radio. Culture, indeed.

Next comes some brief testimony from the SDA representative. Little of it is translated for our heroes, but she probably testifies that the SDA has reviewed the file and approved all of the documents. The SDA recommends approval of our heroes’ petition.

This is followed by more approvals from the internat inspector.

Then comes the attorney hired by the legal team. Our heroes get a bit of this: she has visited the chief prosecutor down south, and he has reviewed the case file. All concerned think that adoption is the best choice for Aaron, especially as compared to a restricted life in the boys’ mental institute, followed by permanent committal to the adult mental institute. In light of the fact that Aaron will have better opportunities for education, for medical care and for family life if he is adopted, all believe that adoption is in his best interest.

There is also testimony from the internat’s senior caretaker. The judge wants to know if Aaron thinks of our heroes as his parents. She testifies that he calls our heroes “Mama” and “Papa” whenever they are away. The judge wants to hear this. The caretaker tries to get a rise out of Aaron, who continues to play with his trucks and ignores her. Luckily, the judge doesn’t insist.

The hearing to this point has lasted for nearly two hours. The judge announces a recess (which shocks Luda, as this has already been the longest adoption hearing she’s ever had). The judge allows Aaron to return to the internat. She also requires Luda to call Aaron’s home town and find out if he has any siblings who are available for adoption. She wants an official document saying that there are none. The hearings will resume at 1:30.

Outside the courtroom, Luda’s anger at the judge burns. To avoid being singed by its flames, Julia and Perry ride along with Aaron and his two caretakers back to the internat. The round trip takes 1½ of the 1¾ hours they’ve been given. They wisely and appropriately use the time together on the ride back to roundly curse bless this country, its language and everyone who has ever lived in it back to the third generation. They’re getting a bit sick of used to all of this suspicion.

So ends this second round of our battle royale. Our heroes’ prospects look bleak indeed. But this is the Perry Mason show. Will a surprise witness burst into the courtroom at the last possible second with crucial testimony to turn the tide? Hang on to your seats. Don’t forget to tune in for our next episode.


Some of our readers will be wondering what Aaron was doing through all of this. He was behaving himself beautifully all through the proceedings. His nurse tried to get him to keep his mouth closed, as he has a tendency to let it hang open (he currently has a cold). He tried for a while, but then he forgot.

Early in the hearing, the judge asked Rob to bring Aaron to the front so that she could see him with us. He sat with us until the recess, looking at his little cars. The judge smiled at him and tried to get him to speak, which of course he wouldn’t do. He’s not included much in the dialogue above because we missed what the judge said to him. We think she asked him if we were his Mama and Papa, and perhaps whether or not he wanted to go with us. He stuck his little tongue in his cheek to show that he wasn’t going to talk. He nodded a time or two, but not in the appropriate places. Thankfully, the judge didn’t insist on a proper response from him. She just wanted to see him and to see for herself that he was comfortable with us.

In the end, the fact that he had to go to court was no big deal and not worth the wrangling it would have taken to prevent it. Aaron loved his car rides, during which he got to see more cars, trucks and animals than he ever sees peering through the gaps in the internat’s fence. The judge didn’t seem to scare him. He doesn’t talk to any strangers, so we weren’t surprised when he didn’t talk to her. He got tired, but not overly so. It actually gave us a decent view into what we can expect from him when we burst open the gates and lead him out of that place. He is unfailingly curious and interested in the world around him. He has a long attention span and is not easily bored. He does or tries to do what he’s told, at least with his nurses. He’s a little rule keeper. He’s just plain good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perry Mason, Part One (In which Sir Perry takes the field and victory is in doubt)

Original Post Date:  Friday, 10 September 2010

Aaron Vanya Nalle won a victory yesterday. He is an orphan no more.

Aaron’s victory was a direct result of the many prayers lifted up to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A lot of these prayers went up on Wednesday before court, and even on Thursday during court, when most of the people who knew of this need should have been sleeping. But there were also many other prayers, prayers from a year ago or two years ago. The prayers may have even begun at Aaron’s birth, when his birth parents looked down at his poor bent body in the hospital bassinet. I can imagine their despair as they wondered how they would care for such a child without financial support. With everyone advising them to give him up, I can imagine that they wept bitterly, cried out to God and made the most heart-wrenching decision two parents could ever make. They walked away from their child, grieving and wondering what would become of him. They signed away their parental rights and tried to put the whole thing behind them. I pray that somehow they may be comforted. We don’t know if they will ever hear that Aaron found a family, and it’s not our place to pursue the matter.

The prayers that began at his birth continued when he landed in a baby house orphanage. The caretakers there obviously came to love our little guy, or he would never have learned to laugh and smile. They provided surgery to try to correct his crooked little feet. They taught him to walk and to talk. They tended him when he fell and fed and clothed him. And they grieved and worried as his fifth birthday approached, which would mean the end of his time with them and a transfer to a home for mentally disabled older boys. Almost no one escapes from these homes.

Although Aaron was available for adoption all through his time at the baby house, his file went to the bottom of the stack as other children came and went. But through God’s grace, the director at his baby house learned about Reece’s Rainbow. After more prayers, along with phone calls and emails, a certain dusty file rose to the top of the stack, and dear Aaron became the first in his baby house to be listed for adoption on Reece’s Rainbow. But no one stepped forward. Despite everyone’s best efforts to keep him from being transferred, time ran out on him. Aaron went to a mental institute for older boys. Even then, the prayers of his caretakers covered him as they said goodbye.

There are many institutes in this country, and a lot of them are closed to adoptions. By God’s grace, Aaron went to one with a director who was willing to allow adoptions, although no one had ever wanted any of the boys under her care. Aaron’s adoption was unlikely, but still not impossible. Because of the urgency of his situation, Reece’s Rainbow did all it could to raise awareness for this one little boy. Hundreds of people saw his picture, prayed for him and even considered opening their homes for him. In December, a big-hearted college girl in New York fell in love with him and made him her battle cry. And God in His mercy heard.

All of this was through the prayers of the saints. And even though he was abandoned at birth, we marvel that he has never been without love. Two of Aaron’s caretakers rode to court with us yesterday, one to testify and one to look after him during the hearing. The looks of tenderness and love on both of their faces speak volumes to this Mama’s heart. Even through this last year, when hope seemed lost, he was never unloved. God has been at work in his life from the beginning.

To God be the glory.

(Rob writing)

We now begin a multi-part drama that will relate some of the gory details of our tribulations in court. DON'T TAKE THIS TOO SERIOUSLY, because most adoptive families won’t go through this. We only ended up in this particular court because of bureaucratic problems in our little village, and we’re pretty sure the legal team will assiduously avoid this court in the future.

Our drama begins...

Criminal attorney Perry Mason (aka Rob) and his attorney wife Julia are taking a break from their successful and celebrated law practice (!) in order to adopt a disabled orphan child from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, they have encountered a hostile judge who doesn’t trust their motives. On the appointed day, Perry and Julia step purposefully into the courtroom with justice on their side and the prayers of thousands at their backs.

After 15 minutes of the usual skull-crushing drudgery (names and addresses of those present, applicable law codes and so on), the judge begins to grill Perry.

Judge: Please explain your reasons for wanting to adopt a sick child.

Perry: All of my life I have cared for disabled and orphan children. I volunteered to help disabled children in college. Since before I met my wife, and continuing to today, I have sent money every month to sponsor poor children. It is in my nature to want to help them.

Three years ago my wife traveled to India to help her dear friend adopt a disabled orphan child. It was a beautiful experience. Before the adoption, this little girl had nothing: no parents, no opportunities, no future. After the adoption, she had love, a home of her own, opportunities for education, and the hope of a bright future. We began to think about opening our own home to another such orphan.

Judge: How will you communicate with the child when you don’t know his language?

Perry: We have several options for translation. We have two friends at home who speak his language and are available to translate by telephone if necessary. Through the internet, we have computer translation programs that we can use. At the hospital where he will receive medical care, the staff will provide free translation services if necessary. Finally, we have made an effort to learn some phrases in his language to help us deal with his immediate needs.

Judge (pouncing): I want to hear this.

Perry (in broken language): Greetings, Vanya. How are you doing? Do you want a drink? Do you want food? Do you want sleep? Do you want salt, pepper, butter, milk? Potatoes?

The courtroom fills with quiet laughter. Perry assumes that the spectators are laughing indulgently at the touching appearance of the child on his lap. Later, to his horror, he discovers that they are laughing at his clumsy use of the language. Never again will he trust those ham-handed computer translation programs.

Judge: It seems to me that if you loved the child, you would learn his language.

Perry: Your honor, we learned as much as we could in the brief time we had…

Judge: You had a year.

(Perry wants to say that the study of this language usually takes college students four years, and even then most would not be sufficiently conversant to manage a hearing in a foreign court. Sensing that this is pointless, he tries another tactic.)

Perry: We know of many Americans who have successfully adopted from this country. Those children have all learned English. It takes time and some trouble, but they do learn.

Judge: How will he play with other children when he does not know their language?

Perry: He will learn English from his brothers even more than from us as they play together.

Judge: Don’t you think he will be traumatized by this move to a country where no one knows his language?

Perry: He has bonded with us. He will not feel traumatized as long as we are there to comfort him. The boy’s needs are simple. His mother knows his needs before he even asks. His primary language will be English, and he will learn.

After the translation, Perry adds: And it would be far more traumatic for him to spend the rest of his life in an institution, with no parents and no opportunities, than to live for a short time among people who do not understand his language.

With this last, Perry feels that he has struck a blow for the first time today. But the adoption still stands on a knife’s edge, and can fall either way. Will Perry and Julia win the day with the Lord’s help? Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to find out.

Home At Last

We finally made it. We had a nice brief welcome party at Dulles with several kind family members. Special thanks to Carl Schwaner, a special friend who drove all the way up from Charlottesville just to see our boy. Aaron was worth the trip. He put on a great show.

Going to bed now.

Well, the danger on the rocks has surely passed
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

--Home at Last from Steely Dan, Aja, 1978

Monday, September 27, 2010

In which Perry announces his return

We had the pleasure this morning to receive a visit from our wonderful facilitator, Luda, who helped us navigate the deep waters of our adoption process.  She brought Aaron some gifts.  It touched us deeply.  He was most pleased with the Matryoshka doll she gave him.

Yesterday was a day of firsts for Aaron: he saw his first live soccer game, he ate his first ice cream cone, he got to pet a sweet kitty and a puppy in a baby carriage, he watched a street dancer and he had dinner at TGIF with a whole host of Reece's Rainbow families. Of course our camera battery died, so we were unable to capture any of those sweet moments!


For those eager readers who have been awaiting the return of Perry Mason, that celebrated and heroic defense attorney and rescuer of foreign orphans, we have good news! While we’re traveling over the next few days, we will be re-introducing the four-part Perry series, one episode at a time. This will give us a few days to rest and recuperate without disappointing Perry’s numerous news-starved fans.

We’ll roll Perry out just as soon as our plane takes to the air and we’re sure the goons can’t drag us back here. Until then, our readers will have to be satisfied with the drivel that follows, a rather rambling and preachy post from Rob.


(Rob writing)

The Church of Ananiev

Our little village of Ananiev doesn’t have much, but one thing it does have is a two-domed church with a shiny golden roof. This church boasts the village’s finest architecture, its highest and smoothest walls, and its most elegant interior. Nothing else comes close. We visited a school, a museum, a courthouse and several administrative offices, but in none of these did the level of craftsmanship even approach that of the church. Like most of the churches we’ve seen here, this church is undergoing extensive and expensive renovations after decades of neglect under communism.

Our hostess Miss Valla took us inside the church one Sunday morning. We weren’t sure if we were welcome there, but Valla calmly issued Julia a head covering and led us down the wide, smooth walkway and up the stairs. We walked through an entry hall and into the front room, which is roofed by one of the domes. We were completely unprepared for what we saw there: Every single surface of its large interior was lavishly and impeccably decorated with icons, dozens of icons. Painted portraits and scenes of every size lined the walls and the arched ceilings. There were icons on stands, enclosed in glass cases for worshippers to kiss. There were icons surrounded by burning candles lit by worshippers. There were no chairs or benches, no liturgy and no sermon during the time we were there; there were only silent prayers, candles and incense before the icons. We knew that the Eastern Orthodox Church loves its icons, but we had never witnessed just how central to their worship the icons had become.

This church is not a museum, and its icons are not labeled. Some are Biblical figures, but many more are famous missionaries and saints of the early church. A curious worshipper could spend years learning the lore behind each icon: what figure it represents, what story it tells. I suppose that the collected stories of so many icons might fill a book as long as the Bible, if they were all collected. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the icons, but I can think of worse ways to learn church history.

All of those icons made me think about the many missionaries and church founders who’ve spread the gospel around the world over the twenty centuries since Jesus came. Based on the icons, I would guess that the average Orthodox believer knows more about his historical missionaries than the average Protestant does. I am not suggesting that we Protestants should hang our missionaries’ pictures in our sanctuaries and homes and reverence them, but I do think that we could be edified and inspired by their stories.

This trip has given me a small insight into just how difficult a foreign missionary’s life could be, especially before the telecommunication age. The welcome one receives in a foreign land is sometimes far from warm. The differences in language and culture, which are linked in confusing ways, can seem insurmountable. It can be hard to feed, shelter and support oneself comfortably in unfamiliar surroundings. Against all of this, the missionary can set only his or her faith and reliance on the Holy Spirit. How easy it would be to simply give up, to find a reason why the mission had become impossible and pack everything in. I’m sure plenty of them did. The ones who never gave up have great stories to tell about the work and ways of the Lord, and I know that I could learn from them.

Fortunately, modern missionaries aren’t quite as cut off from the people they know and love. Our own small mission has been much easier because of our ability to communicate with home. It’s made a tremendous difference. For our first few days here back in July, we were without telephone and internet. When we finally got a chance to complain to our facilitation team about it, they accused us of being too worried about the “social” end of things. They didn’t understand how cut off we felt-- from our children, from our home, from anyone who could understand a single word we uttered. In the weeks since then, we’ve spent more hours trying to communicate effectively than in any other thing, except maybe visiting Aaron. I can honor those foreign missionaries of old better now, because I know how quickly we would have dried up over here without the many encouraging words from home.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Changed Forever


     As our time here drags to a close, we are recognizing that this experience has changed us forever. This change was inevitable. No one can walk into a disabled boys' institute in a remote village in Eastern Europe and remain unchanged.  No one can see what we saw, hear what we heard, and sense what we sensed without being changed.

     Our understanding of the institutes has changed. When we left A*ani*v, we left the Lost Boys of A*ani*v behind. We left two Reece's Rainbow boys, Heath and Brady (47), behind. These two still have a chance, but they will never know the love of a Mama and Papa unless someone rescues them soon. We left over 100 other boys who, barring some miracle, will never leave the institute until they are 18. Then they will move on to a place of far worse horrors, the adult mental institute. There they will die.

     Our understanding of the word "transferred" has changed. We now understand the shock and horror these children experience when they age out of the baby houses and are transferred to the institutes. In many cases, "transferred" means that they are no longer available for adoption. They have lost their last chance. The few that still have chances don't retain them for long. The weak and the bedridden do not survive long. By God's grace, Aaron survived his transfer, and he's free. How many other transferred children will ever be free?

     It will take time for us to process what we have seen and to determine how we should respond. We want to be a voice for the Lost Boys and Girls, but we don't know how that might work, what it might mean or where it might take us. For now, we plan to enjoy our little fugitive, re-unite with our precious treasures at home and pursue Aaron's medical treatment. But with God's grace, we will not forget.  We have been changed.


And now, a few more FASCINATING FACTS from Aaron...

  • Did you know that when you are in that really cool bathtub, which is filled with water and bubbles, that if you ignore Mama's warnings and pull that black stopper out with your foot, all of the water will disappear?  Did you know that Mama will NOT fill that tub with water again?
  • Did you know that apple juice, which has been my daily favorite for at least a year, is no good when it's been in the refrigerator?
  • Did you know that Mama will take my jacket off when I am hot?  Do you know how wonderful it feels to run around in short sleeved shirts when it's hot?

  • Did you know that if you put batteries in this little toy dog that it will bark and bark and bark and bark and bark?  Or that you have to put the batteries in just right to make it go? Did you know that Mama and Papa forgot to bring ear plugs?

  • Did you know that I do not have to wear my socks in the house?  Do you know that it took me a long to time believe that this was true, and I kept telling that crazy Mama and Papa that I needed my socks on?  Do you know that I like having my feet free?
  • Did you know that Mama does not stuff my food into my mouth until I choke?  Did you know that for the last six years I choked at every meal, but now I can chew as slowly as I want?
  • Did you know that my Mama and Papa are a little on the dumb side?  Did you know that they don't understand most of what I say to them?
  • Did you know that in this country you can't take pictures inside the shopping malls, even if the subject is only a cute little boy sitting beside a fountain?  Did you know Mama got in trouble with her camera AGAIN?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Did You Know?

We write history curriculum.  Julia does the research and initial writing, and Rob does the editing and adds his own flavor and research to the work.  As part of our writing, we insert FASCINATING FACTS to highlight interesting and fun parts of the history we are studying.

Bringing a child out of an institutional setting and into the wide world is an amazing experience, both for him and for us. In these last few days, we have been seeing the world through his eyes, and it is clearly a marvelous place. So today, in honor of one little boy's delight in all things new, we present Aaron's FASCINATING FACTS for your reading pleasure. 

  • Did you know that if you push the switch on the wall, the lights go on and off? Did you know that in our apartment, these switches are set at a perfect height for the elbow of a six year old? Did you know that the bathroom light switch is outside the door, so you can cast the room into utter darkness when someone's inside with the door closed? That's a barrel of laughs!
  • Did you know that fans go around and around when you push their buttons?  Did you know that when their blades turn, you get wind in your face? Did you know that you can turn them on and off, on and off as many times as you like?
  • Did you know that there is a store where you can walk through the aisles and add FOOD to your basket, any kind of food you want?  Did you know that Mama won't put one of every single item into her basket, even when you point at it and give her your cutest smile?

  • Did you know that the zippered pouch on the big suitcase has a whole bunch of candy inside it?  The packages are hard to open, though. Mama says they're for gifts, but she let me have a few anyway.
  • Did you know that car horns go "beep beep"?
  • Did you know that when you are scared, worried or tired that Papa will carry you in his arms if you stand in front of him and give him 'the look?'
  • Did you know that the bathroom has a playpen that you can fill with hot water?  Did you know that it isn't as scary as it seems at first?  Did you know that you can splash that water?  Did you know that Mama has an annoying habit of washing you while you are trying to play in that water?

  • Did you know that McDonald's is nowhere near as good as Mama and Papa said it would be?  French fries taste funny, ketchup is weird and chicken nuggets simply inedible. 
  • Did you know how fun it is to walk the streets with Mama and Papa holding onto your arms?
  • Did you know that trolleys are for riding? Or that when the traffic's heavy, you can walk faster than the trolley can carry you?
  • Did you know that you can't go to bed without Winnie the Pooh beside you?
  • Did you know that standing on an upside down washtub will let you see out of the windows?  Did you know how exciting it is to watch the cars and trucks driving by?
  • Did you know that there are places that have HUNDREDS OF TOYS that would be just right for little boys?  Did you know that these places are so much fun but also a little bit scary?
  • Did you know that sleeping with your head against Mama is the best feeling in the world?  Did you know that Mama thinks so too?
  • Did you know that Mama and Papa have this annoying habit of finding other people at these eating places and talking for hours to them and completely ignoring the center of their universe?  (Last night and today we met Kim Dean adopting Leeza, Wendy Harper adopting Charlie and Levi, the Clarks and Sandra and Marshall adopting Masha and Autumn.)
  • Did you know that the little girl in this picture shares the same "Gotcha Day" as me?  Did you know her name is Alina and she is another Reese's Rainbow girl being adopted by the Clarks and Mama cried when she saw her?  Her brother was also adopted a few years ago.  They are from Ireland.

  • Did you know that Mama can find Americans on the street just  by the look of their clothes and that glazed look in their eyes?  Did you know that these two beautiful kids are also being adopted like me?  Did you know that Mama cried again when we discovered that this family has been following my story?

  • Did you know that crazy animals sometimes approach you when you are quietly enjoying the sights?  Did you know that I did NOT want to have my picture taken with that strange mouse?

  • Did you know that today was a marvelous day?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everest Moves

We don't know how it happened.  We don't know who pulled what string.  We don't know if it was the tons of calls to our congressman's office by our friends in Charlottesville. We don't know if it was our tearful pleas to every possible USCIS e-mail address we could find. We don't know if it was the embassy here working to resolve the issue.  All we know is that we just got an e-mail from the US Embassy here in Ki*v, which is supposed to be closed, saying that our approval has arrived.  Our appointment is on Monday afternoon and our plane lands at Dulles Airport near Sterling, Virginia on Tuesday at 12:50 in the afternoon.  Mount Everest just collapsed!

Thank you, Thank you for praying.  Thank you for your words of comfort.  Thank you for the e-mails.  Thank you for standing beside us in all of this. As we sat here last night firing off emails, depressed and struggling, we took some time to read all of the encouraging words, verses,songs and prayers you folks sent our way. We wondered how in the world we would ever have survived these last 3 months without all of you watching our backs.  We are so incredibly relieved.  Thank you, Lord!  Thank you dear friends.

And now, here is some comic relief from Aaron...





Someone keeps adding more track to the end of our adoption roller coaster. Here‘s the deal: when we received our adoption approval back in May, our “golden ticket” 171H was held in the Virginia office and never forwarded to US Immigration. The US Embassy in Ki*v never received permission to issue Aaron a visa. One official offered the theory that our form was lost in the shuffle when the Virginia office was switching all of its files over to the new (and improved??) immigration system. When we arrived at the embassy yesterday, they had never heard of us. We carried our original 171H with us and gave it to the embassy worker, and she agreed that we were approved and that the paper was legitimate. But she could not, or would not, use it to open up a file for us. The approval had to come from the US. We begged. We pleaded. One of us cried. None of it moved her. Procedure had to be followed.

Anyone who has dealt with immigration and adoption officers (USCIS) knows that getting them to do what you want is equivalent to moving Mount Everest. Yesterday, the embassy here sent an urgent email to the US immigration office about our case. Their response was typical: your “emergency” will be reviewed within 48 hours and any action will require several business days after that. We’ll have to wait a few days to receive your file, “review” it, and “re-create” your 171H. This is the sort of bureaucratic nonsense we got back. There is absolutely no need to review anything. All they need to do is wire our approval, which they have already issued.

We’re not commenting on politics here, but it is a bit ironic: Any number of illegal immigrants enter the country over the southern border every day, unchecked, but for some reason one little disabled boy flying in from the this country is a major potential threat that cannot receive a visa without a week-long review.

Last night we worked non-stop trying to contact everyone we thought might help us. Back in March we used our local congressman to get our process moving. When we finally received our approval in May, the congressman’s office heard the news before we did. They got a copy of our 171H and emailed it to us before our own copy arrived in the mail. So yesterday, when we bumped into Everest, we re-contacted our congressman’s office (and apparently, so did a whole host of our Charlottesville-area friends). Because we already had a relationship with them, we asked them to forward another copy of our 171H to US immigration. The US Embassy here had already sent the one we gave them yesterday, but apparently they couldn’t open the attachment back in the US. What a time for technology to fail us.

Does this mean Mount Everest has moved? No. As it now stands, the bureaucrats are going to wait for our file and send our approval in their own sweet time. The congressman’s office is trying to help, but they too have been told that whoever they have contacted has to “wait for our file.” No one is willing to do anything out of the ordinary to help us.

We’ve already lost our chance to get home this week. The US Embassy here is closed today, Friday, so even if the bureaucrats in the US moved for us today, we still couldn’t leave before Tuesday. The other problem is the time difference. The 7-8 hour time difference (depending on the time zone back home) means that the embassy here closes just as offices in the US open. This means that if we don’t hear from the US today, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get our visa on Monday. We could be here through the coming week or even beyond if no one has mercy on us. Right now, this seems the most likely course of events.

So please storm heaven for us.  We know that we will eventually get home but sooner is much better than later. We are still counting our blessings. Being stuck in Ki*v is at least better than being stuck in Ananiev. Our little fugitive is a pure delight. This child radiates joy.  He marvels at the simplest of things and is quite content as long as we are by his side and his trusty truck is along for the ride.  Having a TV helps but right now all we can find for him to watch is Animal Planet.  (Anyone know the channel for the cartoons??)  He was a bit frightened when we went to the embassy and medical offices yesterday, wanting Rob to carry him.  We enjoyed dinner last night with Joel Fick who was on his way home after they received court approval.  His family added sweet Darya to their family.  We do plan on exploring the city over the weekend.

We know there are quite a number of families who will be here in Ki*v within the next day or so. PLEASE CONTACT US! We would love to meet up! Call us at 099 470 6792.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Again we need prayer...

We thought we were home free. We are not. US immigration never sent our approval to adopt to the embassy here. It has never happened before. We have the original but IT DOESN'T COUNT. They need the approval through an e-mail or fax from immigration. We are sick on our stomachs. The embassy is closed tomorrow so the only hope is if they can resolve this today and it is highly doubtful. We are stuck. Scared. Frustrated. Deeply tired.
Aaron is doing well. We finished his medical. We are left to pray once more...

Jailbreak at Anani*v

ANANIEV, September 22, 2010-- A six-year-old boy escaped from a local disabled boys’ home around 5 p.m. this evening.

Authorities were unable to explain the lapse in security, but believe that he must have had outside help.

Multiple witnesses saw the escapee in the company of two foreigners.

There is no information on their present whereabouts, but they were last seen heading north, in the direction of the capital.

One witness heard the escapee say clearly in his native language, “It’s time to go!”

Another witness believed that he saw the two foreigners shaking the dust of Ananiev from their feet as they left.

P.S. Our fugitive is doing fine. His joy is boundless and we are absolutely loving every single minute of these first moments with him in the free world. Everything amazes and delights him. At bedtime he weighed his options: sofa couch or Mama and Papa’s bed. Guess what he chose? Guess where Papa slept? Guess how happy Mama was to nestle down next to her little son with Pooh tucked safely between?

Today we will work on getting his medical and will do two embassy runs. The embassy process to obtain his visa is a two day process. By Friday night we should be finished. Early Saturday morning, we fly out and will arrive at Dulles Airport at 3:45 pm. Anyone who wants to meet our fugitive is welcome to brave the airport traffic and cheer him onto US soil! We will be glad to see some friendly faces after so long.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Other Valla

What should I tell you about yesterday, our first day of the whirlwind post-court decree paper chase?

I could tell you about the car that Luda hired to get us to Aaron’s birthplace. She couldn’t get Slava, our usual driver, so we hired a local man from our little village. We spent several alarming hours bumping along in a tinpot rattle trap Russian jeep that was just barely up for the journey. Our driver almost killed a man, then almost killed us, and both incidents were within a hundred yards of one another. This also happened TWICE:

I could tell you about the seatbelts. A fairly new law requires front seat passengers to wear seatbelts. The tinpot crap can had belts, but no CLASPS for the belts. Oh, but where’s the problem? Just hurriedly sling the seatbelt over your shoulder and PRETEND they are hooked in order to fool passing policemen.

I could tell you about the room the locals in Aaron’s birthplace provided so that Luda could do her paperwork: it was the wedding chapel in which the justice of the peace officiates at weddings. This is it:

We renewed our vows.

I could tell you the rules that apply when you’re trying to break the national record for completing paperwork in three widely separated towns in one day: Don’t ask what you’re doing now. Don’t ask what comes next. If you should come in contact with any local official, say nothing-- you might make him suspicious, which could take up precious time. Don’t drink any liquids-- there’s no time to indulge your bodily functions. Carry food with you, because you’re not stopping. Don’t walk, trot. Sign where you are told to sign, pay whatever and whenever you are told to pay. Keep your eyes on the ground and your mouth shut.

I could tell you about our 2nd driver, the one we hired after we sent the first one packing (we did rather want to both complete and survive the trip). This new driver was a fast professional with a modern car, but we thought we were in deep trouble when he was stopped for speeding. For some reason he didn’t appear nervous. When the officer came to the window, our driver pulled out his ID, and suddenly the pair were the best of friends. It turned out that our driver was a retired police officer. We told him (through Luda) that the police protect each other in America as well. He responded (through Luda) that “this little corruption is everywhere.” He proved that when he pulled the same stunt again a little farther down the road.

I could tell you about returning to civilization, to towns in which one may actually choose from more than one restaurant, more than one type of food. Towns that actually have hotel beds with private bathrooms and HOT SHOWERS AND BATHS! Towns that have McDonald’s restaurants and Baskin Robbins ice cream shops.

But what I really want to tell you about is one of the sweetest moments of our trip. Today we got to visit the baby house where Aaron lived for his first five years, and there we met the Other Valla.

This Valla is a dear, precious old lady who took special care of Aaron from birth. She held him, rocked him, washed him, prayed with him and loved him from his infancy. When Aaron was christened, she became his godmother. When he was baptized, she was the one who held him in her arms. There simply are no words to express how I felt when I saw in her eyes how much she cherished our precious son.

She cried when we walked in the room. She clapped her hands together, covered her face with a handkerchief and cried. When we found out who she was, we cried too. I was so overcome with emotion that I almost collapsed into a mound of jello on the floor. I was so blessed to have a chance to meet the Other Valla.

It was a beautiful meeting. The director welcomed us with open arms and let us take pictures freely. She told us that she had followed our journey and that everyone there rejoiced when they read that the judge ruled in our favor (We’re not quite sure how she knew all of that!). We toured the place and asked plenty of questions. We saw the bright and colorful rooms that were his home for five years. We saw Aaron’s playground, his toys, and his crib. We saw the rugs that we knew from his pictures. We met some of the other loving caretakers and saw some of the children who shared his life there. There was so much to learn there that we hardly had time to take it all in.

When our time there was over, it began to sink in just how much Aaron lost when he was transferred: He lost his godmother. He lost his friends and playmates. He lost the only family he’d ever known. He lost everything. Even though he spent his first five years in an orphanage, it was a safe and loving orphanage. His caretakers truly and deeply loved their bossy, particular little Vanya. When he arrived at the internat where he lives now, he must have felt like he was being punished for some terrible crime. I cannot imagine what went through his mind when his godmother dressed him for the last time. I can’t imagine his grief, or hers, as she placed him in the car, promising him as she did that he WOULD find a family. She had prayed too hard to believe that her prayers would not be heard. I can’t imagine Aaron’s shock when the car pulled into the internat grounds. The contrast is so striking that it takes your breath away. Through the eyes of a five year old boy, it must have been beyond comprehension. I can’t imagine how he felt when he spent his first nights in a place as scary and overwhelming as that internat, with its frightening noises and smells. I can’t imagine the feelings of numbness and betrayal that must have swept over him when, day after day, the whispered promises of his godmother failed to come true. I can hardly believe that after a year in a place like that, he still has the capacity to laugh. I just cannot believe that he has survived. It can only be by God’s grace and the prayers that began when he was just a broken little baby, abandoned by his parents, but not by His God.

We are still trying to process what we saw at the baby house. I’m crying even as I write. I am utterly blown away by God’s tender mercies, lavished freely on our precious son. I am still reeling from the testimony of his first caretakers and their fervent desire for him to have a Mama and Papa of his own. I am completely humbled by the simple faith of the precious Other Valla, who steadfastly believed against all evidence to the contrary that Aaron would find a family. Our time with her was too short. We were only there for about 30 minutes, but they were the most precious 30 minutes of our trip. I will carry the words spoken, the hugs shared, the tears shed and the great faith and love exhibited in my heart for the rest of my life.

Today made all the agony of the last few months melt away. What a precious gift we received when God laid Aaron on our hearts in January. I am on my knees in grateful thanksgiving that we chose to jump. If we had missed the joy of meeting the Other Valla, missed seeing the faith in her eyes and listening to her humble voice, it would have been a great loss indeed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our Best Good Deed

This little boy,
Aaron Vanya Nalle,
by order of a court decree,
is an orphan no more.


     This morning my husband presented to me the following blog post that he wrote during the sleeping hours.  It made me cry.  It did not do justice to what he has sacrificed to come here and bring home our little boy.  It does not speak of his faith and his persistence.  It does not recall how many times he has carried me in my weakness and questioning.  I could write my own book. His post is worth reading and sharing.  It is worth posting to every single blog, for every other husband who is dragging his feet.  The Lost Boys and Girls in orphanages and institutes across the world need to come home.

(Rob writing)

A Woman's World

I have said it before: the world of special needs adoption is a woman’s world. If you don’t believe me, try reading some adoption blogs. Take just one cautious step into this marshy bog of sentiment, and suddenly you’ll find yourself thigh-deep in a muck of chatter about breast pumps, toddler fashions and the contents of dirty diapers. There isn’t a man alive who wouldn’t rather hang himself to death with his prison bedsheets than read these womanish adoption blogs.

On the other hand, these children need families, and that usually means two parents. How do we men come on board? I only know how I came on board: My wife talked me into it. I carefully weighed the options, then firmly and decisively led my family down the road toward adoption.

To explain, I have to relate a bit about how I feel about women: I love women. In my opinion, there isn’t a single woman on earth who doesn’t have at least some God-given beauty-- although a few hide theirs most effectively. And I especially love my wife. I find her endlessly fascinating. Every good thing I have in my life, I have because of her. Everything that matters to me matters more because of her. I love life only because of my love for her and my love for my children. No other earthly thing signifies-- no accomplishment, no amount of wealth, no pleasure or diversion. I knew God before I was married, but I understood God’s father heart (a little) only after I became a husband and a father.

When my wife became interested in special needs adoption around last Christmas, I resisted. The pictures and the stories on the many blogs she followed didn’t move me in the same way they moved her. I’ve always given liberally to church and charity, but I was very reluctant to bring a stranger into our home, our only refuge from work and the world. When I’m home, which is little enough, I want to rest. And I already had bookkeeping, editing and business chores chewing away my home time, plus my home schooling duties. Besides all of that, we both knew that we were in no financial shape to undertake a hideously expensive international adoption.

Yet only a few weeks after all of this came up, I found myself agreeing to pursue Aaron’s adoption. I told Julia that I would “follow her heart.” I said that after I realized that every good thing we’ve ever done has come from following her heart, her good woman’s heart. I couldn’t let myself be the fool who stood in her way and prevented her from doing what I was sure the Lord was leading her to do.

If the path of our lives together was left to me, I would do nothing but work. I would work for twelve hours every day, six days a week, thinking about little but work all the while, and go home exhausted. I would come to view my time off as unproductive, wasted time, and I would begin to work half days on Sundays, too. I’m already a long way down that path. My work is tiring, but satisfying. I don’t have the energy for much else.

My wife is different. Her heart is more like God’s heart. She is more in tune with the Holy Spirit. She naturally cares about the things God cares about. She loves what God loves, and hates what God hates. Where I overlook people and their needs, she cares for them and frets over them. Where I assume that people are beyond help, she finds ways to help. Our family leads a much more fruitful life when we follow her heart than when we follow mine. We lead a more Godly life, a life more pleasing to God, when we follow her heart. And we experience more of the love that God has to offer when we follow her heart.

I picture it in this way (I may be borrowing this illustration, I don’t remember): imagine that all of God’s people are swimmers in a broad, swift stream. The stream is God’s will, and it flows toward the accomplishment of God’s purposes. People like me tend to stay close to the banks, where the water doesn’t move too fast. We hang on to the edge to keep the raging will of God from pulling us faster than we have the courage to go. Sometimes we even try to swim upstream, against God’s will. People like my wife, on the other hand, are always pushing away from the banks, out into the center of the stream. They want to be where the action is, to see God moving in the world and move with Him. We’re all going downstream to the same place, because God’s will cannot be denied. But if we want to experience more of God, we have to move out into the center of the stream.

That’s how I see this adoption: we’ve pushed out nearer to the center of the stream of God’s will. With God’s help I followed my wife’s heart, I took a step in faith, because I wanted to experience more of what God has to offer. I was curious to see what God would do. And God has not disappointed me: He has aroused compassion in the hearts of hundreds of people who have helped to bring Aaron home. Through them, He has raised all of the money that we needed. He has saved a precious little boy from being Lost forever. He has moved the heart of our skeptical judge.

And before any of that, he chose the perfect little boy for us. This was the thing that worried me the most before we got here: who was this little boy? We committed to adopt Aaron based on one smiling photograph and a short description that turned out to be about 75% right. All of our efforts to learn more about him before we got here came to nearly nothing. I even doubted that we’d be able to find him when we got here, because there seemed to be so little information available on him. When we finally found him, though, it took us only a few minutes to discover that God had not steered us wrong. On the second day we knew him, we were already making plans for his care, plotting his life with us as if he were one of our own. Now that we’ve been with him for several weeks, we smile fondly at him and admire his features, just as we do with our own sons. We take pride in his little eccentricities. We couldn’t have wanted any other child this much. God made the perfect choice for us.

Yes, our adoption has been hard, harder than it had to be. Maybe that makes it even better in the end. No matter what happens from here on, I think I shall always consider Aaron’s adoption the best good deed of our lives.