Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Through Our Valley

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

In mid-July 2010, Rob, Elijah and I flew across the ocean to bring Aaron home.

From reading about everyone else's adoption experiences in Aaron's country, we thought we knew what to expect.  Our plan was to find Aaron, sign some papers, go to court, and then send Rob and Elijah home. After a court-required waiting period, Ben would fly over to help me bring Aaron home.  The whole affair was supposed to last about 4-6 weeks.  

By the end of August, Aaron would be stepping off the plane into his new life in America.

We had everything planned.  We were good to go.

Unfortunately, nothing about our adoption process happened according to conventional wisdom.  Within the first hour after we got off the plane, our finely-tuned plans went out the window, and we were forced to go into survival mode.  

When we arrived, the country was suffering under a record heat wave.  The driver who picked us up knew absolutely no English, and couldn't answer any of our questions.  He didn't provide us with a cell phone, as he was supposed to.  I can't tell you how vulnerable I felt without a phone.

Instead of taking us into the local grocery store and helping us with our purchases, he dropped us off at the market door and drove away.  We had to figure out the market all on our own, knowing nothing of the language, then find our own way back to our apartment in a strange city-- all with no way to contact anyone if we got into trouble or got lost.

Our first apartment was a blistering 109 degrees, but at least it had a fan and internet service.  The next day,  without any explanation, another non-English speaking driver arrived to transfer us to another apartment. Someone must have thought that this new apartment would be a big improvement over the old one, but instead it was worse: It was just as hot, but it had neither a fan nor internet service.

It was a rough beginning.  We were jet-lagged, alone and a bit stunned.

But God had not brought us that far to leave us alone and lonely in that country.  He knew exactly what we would need to survive.

On our second afternoon in the city, after we had finally figured out our phone situation, we met up with another disoriented and jet-lagged American family.  They had arrived a day behind us, and had their own crazy mishap stories to share.  We were standing on the sidewalk with them, trying to figure out which way we should go to find food.  We were all hungry, hot and tired.  We wanted to get out of the heat and into a restaurant that had cooler temperatures.  We were not naive enough to think that there would be cold drinks, but we were prepared to settle for anything wet.  

There we were: Five confused Americans standing on a busy street in an utterly foreign capital city, trying to find our way around without knowing how to read the simplest street sign. Not lost, but not headed in any particular direction.

Just standing there.

When out of the blue, this boisterous man comes crashing into our disoriented party and asks if we are Americans.

I wish I had a video of our reactions.  We all just stood there and looked at him.  Who was this guy? What did he want?  Was this a trick question, the beginning of some huckster story designed to pry money from our wallets?  

Whoever he was, he seemed to guess from our reactions that we were a bit uncomfortable. So he tried another question: Are you adopting?  Reece's Rainbow? 

Light bulbs.

 I don't know how I figured out who he was, but all of a sudden I did.  

He was Scott Heim.

I had been following the Heims' blog.  I knew their story. Their tragedy.

I was stunned.

In all of that vast city, we happened to be in the right place at the right time to run into just about the only American I would have recognized, Scott Heim.

Only by God's grace.

Scott was neither jet-lagged nor disoriented, and he had been living in that city long enough to know just about everything.  He led the five of us to the nearest pizza restaurant, talking a mile a minute. He settled us into chairs, helped us order and then took off running down the street.  Thirty minutes later, he came blazing back into the restaurant with his dear sweet wife Traci and one of their precious daughters in tow.

To meet them in that way seemed almost surreal.

I knew their story; I had been praying for them for weeks. I knew that tragedy had struck their adoption process.

They had crossed the ocean to adopt the sweetest little girl. They had met her and loved her. They wanted her, and she wanted them.  All was going according to plan.  But when they went before the judge, their adoption suddenly hit an immovable wall.  For no good reason, their judge turned them down cold, and they had to walk away from the little girl who had captured their hearts.

I was in Virginia packing for our own trip when I heard the news that the Heims had lost Nastia.  I wept.  I sent them messages of support.  I stormed heaven for them and for Nastia.

I also marveled at their faith.  Their submissive spirit. Their ability to entrust their beloved Nastia to God's care.  Their willingness to remain in country and pursue another child, when most people would have felt completely justified to go home in bitterness and defeat.

I knew they were still in country.  I knew they were pursuing another child, but it had not even crossed my mind that our paths would cross. At that time, there were no Reece's Rainbow Facebook groups to keep families tied together while in country.  I had no idea where they were, and hadn't even considered that I would ever meet them.

But God had not brought us all the way to that country to leave us alone and lonely.  And He knew that I needed to meet Traci Heim.

Like us, the Heims had been through their SDA appointment, and were waiting to pick up their referral papers so that they could meet their little girl.  We were with them that night and again the next day as we waited to pick up our papers together.  In those short meetings, the Lord knitted our hearts together as we shared our stories.

They had just gone through their dark valley.

We were just getting ready to enter ours.

Our next week would be one of the roughest of our lives. Our encounter with Aaron's former world shook us to the core.  The shock of being introduced to the way he and the other boys in his institution lived was a life-changing experience, one that I will never forget.

I'll be honest: I didn't handle that shock with amazing fortitude.  I wasn't a tower of strength.  Even though I kept it together on the outside, on the inside I was a blubbering mess.  And it was Traci Heim who bore the brunt of my terror.

They were far away in another part of the country, falling in love with the sweetest little girl in the world.

Yet Traci was willing to spend hours on the phone with me that week, talking me down from the ledge.  I sobbed my heart out to her more than once.  Through scripture, prayer and just listening to my woes, Traci helped me get through one of the very hardest weeks of my life.  When we were sent home empty-handed and terrified that we would lose Aaron, she was the one I called.  Her experience helped us walk through our valley.

Because of the kindness and generosity they showed us, the Heim family is very near and dear to our hearts.

They love the Lord deeply and seek to follow Him in everything they do.

All six of their beautiful children are adopted.


So why am I sharing all of this, during the week when I am supposed to be talking about our Mulligan Stew Giveaway?

For the past several years, Traci has been part of Project Hopeful, a ministry that advocates for the adoption of children with HIV/AIDS.  

Last year, Tracey crossed the waters once again as a Project Hopeful representative.  She traveled throughout that country visiting orphanages and speaking on behalf of the orphan, especially orphans with HIV/AIDS.

She was able to see their precious Nastia whom they were denied and discovered that she was again available for adoption.

(But before they could file papers to adopt Nastia, another wonderful family stepped forward.  
Nastia is now happily living on this side of the ocean, and Traci and Scott are blessed to be in contact with her family.) 

And while she was there, she met these four orphans.

Four children: Three sisters and a brother.

And God broke Traci's heart.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

...... to be continued .....


  1. Nastia has been adopted? That is wonderful! Can't wait to read more. Thank you!

  2. Well, I'm on the edge of my seat for the rest of the story. That's like when 'Little House on the Prairie' use to be continued and you didn't think you could wait till the next episode to know the end. lol

  3. What an amazing story so far!


  4. Julia,
    You leave us with quite the cliffhangers!
    Will be checking back. =)


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!