Sunday, December 21, 2008

Meet Anton, Ekaterina, Lima, Denis, Dmitry, Eduard, Ivan, Vladislav, Larisa, Nikolai, Alexei, Anton, Vladimir, and Sergei! (Whew...)

January trip progress was boosted yesterday afternoon when the last child traveling to Tulsa found a host family. It’s a delight to introduce the children who take on Tulsa in under three weeks:

Anton M. is eleven and staying with my sister- and brother-in-law. He would have travelled in November but for the quarantine of his orphanage. My nephew, also eleven, anticipates Anton sharing a day with him at school. What a thrill it will be for me to see these kids meet!

Ekaterina, fourteen, visited Grand Rapids in July. I loved her sweet smile and determination to make her trip count despite her mild cerebral palsy. While I’m not much of a crier, I had to blink back tears when she mentioned in a recently updated DVD that her favorite book to read was the Bible I’d given her in July.

Cheery Lima, eleven, dreams of seeing her biological sister Lisa who has already been adopted in America. Lisa lives in Michigan and is the daughter of a dear friend of mine; her mom told me she has been asking everyone she meets if they would adopt her sister. Because Lima loves to help people, she hopes to be a doctor. People at her orphanage call Lima “the sunshine girl”.

Denis, thirteen, makes shoes at his orphanage and enjoys taking care of a turtle which lives there.

Dmitry, thirteen, names shoemaking Denis as his best friend. In what must be a reflection on both boys, Dmitry says he likes Denis because he’s a good student. Dmitry would like to be a “worker” when he grows up.

Violinist Eduard, thirteen, calls Paganini his favorite composer and famous Russian writer Alexander Pushkin his favorite poet. He is a good student who likes to build things with Legos with his friends.

Ivan, twelve, is hearing impaired. Holding his hearing aid in his hand, he read lips during his interview. Describing himself as peaceful, industrious, and flexible, Ivan told his interviewer that while many teachers like to bring him home for the holidays, he worries he will hurt someone’s feelings if he gets more than one invitation. When poetry is needed for a special orphanage occasion, Ivan writes it.

Vladislav, twelve, and Larisa, ten, are siblings. While I know Larisa is devoted to her brother, it has saddened me that I have no further information with which to promote them.

Nikolai, thirteen, had his dream of seeing what America was like interrupted by the orphanage quarantine of November. In January the Lighthouse Project fulfills that wish when Nikolai visits a family whose oldest son shares his passion for drawing and his dream of becoming a builder.

The teacher of Alexei, ten, says he tries hard in everything. Alexei helps fix broken things at his orphanage, though he was quick to add he does not break things himself! He dreams of either becoming an architect or a toy repairman. He recently won first place in an art competition with his drawing of a man building a house.

Thoughtful Anton B., thirteen, might be the next Baryshnikov according to the Lighthouse Project’s Russian coordinator. He is sensitive and enjoys writing poetry. Anton told his interviewer that because God tells us to forgive and be kind, he tries hard to do so.

Vladimir, eight, loves homework, and calls English one of his favorite subjects. Vladimir will celebrate a birthday the day after his arrival in Tulsa; I hope he will receive the remote-controlled car he wishes to have. In my favorite interview moment, Vladimir sang his best-loved song, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in English. Will we hear a live rendition at our evening program?

Second grader Sergei, eight, would like a lion for a pet. When asked a day before the most recent Russian elections what he would like to be, he exclaimed, “Vladimir Putin!”

While these fourteen children have a history of loss and challenge, they have not been robbed of the dreams and aspirations of youth. And with their upcoming chance to find a forever family, they have hope on their side in Tulsa. The host families have various goals in opening their homes to these kids; some aspire to adopt, some await God’s leading, and some plan to be a bridge for another family to meet their host child. Regardless of their intent, I applaud the faith and love that leads each to step forward and risk their heart to make the world a better place for children who would otherwise have little realistic hope of a happy life.

Welcome Home! Welcome Home!

This past week two children from my July Grand Rapids trip arrived home. Sergei, fifteen, whose Monday night arrival neither snow nor time could make me miss, was overwhelmed when he saw all the people waiting for him in the airport. Standing next to me and waving a tiny Russian flag was Lidia, thirteen, a veteran of my March trip. She arrived home less than a month prior and was already making a charming attempt at explaining the proceedings to me in English. On Friday, Maria, fourteen, got home hours after schedule when the Michigan snow caused the cancellation of her flight from Detroit to Grand Rapids. Stranded 150 miles from home at the end of a 5000-mile journey, some determined friends and family braved the weather and a mild fender bender to rescue the new family and deliver them home. There are myriad reminders why I work with the Lighthouse Project, but seeing newly-hopeful kids coming home and standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the welcoming committee with a girl not yet home a month must be among the best.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's a Boy!

Having coordinated several Lighthouse Project trips, there is no thrill for me like receiving e-mail updates from Russia, sent by families who are completing adoptions for kids I’ve had here. My favorite correspondences are the ones sent by new parents that start something like, “It’s a boy!” or, “It’s a girl!” immediately after they complete their court process in front of a Russian judge who approves the adoption and declares them a legal family. I experience a cacophony of emotion as I read those lines: nostalgia for our own moment a few years ago, when nothing but hope stretched before us; melancholy while considering what the child will leave behind; pride at having been a part of bringing a family together; joy at a new beginning for a previously hopeless child; pensivity at the prospect of challenges I know lie before my friends; and even a twinge of envy at the excitement and expectation that accompany adoption. It is not outside the scope of this blog about the Lighthouse Project to look at the end of the road, or at least the end of the beginning, when a new family is finally rewarded with a son or daughter birthed physically years ago and half a world away, but born to an American family through a dream of the heart.

A good parent would never admit to having a favorite child; a good Lighthouse Project coordinator is bound by no such decorum. In July of 2008 a boy a few days shy of his fifteenth birthday traveled on my Grand Rapids trip. He was added to the trip at the last moment; the project director flattered me when she told me she’d added him to the trip without consulting me, hoping she had not acted out of turn! As director it was not out of turn; having met him, I would have forgiven her if it was. Sergei brought an unusual expectation in his eyes, a smile that owned his face, and an attitude so winning it defied you not to like him. It was hopeless: I crumbled at this defiance and Sergei ensconced himself as my favorite child ever to travel on a Lighthouse trip.

For finding an adoptive family, though, age and gender were not on his side, and it worried me. With two days remaining before the kids' return to Russia, I had high hopes but no leads. That night at the evening program that is historically my best avenue in finding adoptive families, one family was cajoled into attending “for support” by a hosting friend. After the kids performed in their typically touching manner, the supportive family rather tentatively approached me with questions about a list of three kids that had piqued their interest. My heart leaped when Sergei’s name was mentioned. While it is tempting to claim I knew then I was speaking to Sergei’s parents, honesty requires disclosure that it was more circuitous than that. But in the end, both the supported and the supporters decided to adopt children from the July trip. Friends before but with a deeper bond forged now, both families are in Russia together as I write, proud new parents of teenagers.

So it was with a more acute sense of pride, joy, and envy than usual that last Friday I received my latest “It’s a boy!” alert. Sergei’s family posted a few photos of their trip; the best was a thousand-words shot that showed his “Poppy” helping him with his tie before their court appearance. For many boys, this lesson by their father would be a rite of passage into proper attire; for Sergei, this was a passage into his family. The expression of admiration on Sergei’s face exemplified the emerging connection between Sergei and his dad; the tie was demonstrative of the importance of the court moment when they would become family in fact; and the lesson from Poppy “Exhibit A” that parenthood is a series of seemingly mundane lessons on the path to responsible adulthood that all children require. The photo said Sergei has parents who care how he grows up. Somebody has come alongside him. He is not rudderless. He is not an orphan.

Congratulations, Kevin and Kelly!

Welcome to your family, Sergei!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Reflecting on the November Tulsa Lighthouse Project trip, I recognize we were blessed with an unusual wealth of good media coverage. This would be nice anywhere, but was most helpful in a new area for the project like Tulsa. November 10, the day after the kids left, the Tulsa World ran a follow-up story about the kids who I thought at the time were likely to be adopted. They highlighted a boy who had also travelled on my July Grand Rapids trip, and I was delighted to have the story be from the perspective of his family-to-be from the Tulsa area. (Tulsa World article, 11/10/08)

November 13, Channel 6 in Tulsa ran a piece on the family who both hosted fourteen-year-old Tatyana (above) and plan to adopt her and her two siblings. As I watched the story, I wondered if Tatyana had any idea about the emotions she has stirred in her new family, and what she has told her younger brother and sister about their new parents and little brother working for them in America.

The scariest part of Halloween for me was a call I received at 1:25 p.m. October 31 asking me to be at the KFAQ office at 2:15 p.m. to appear on The Chris Medlock Show to talk about the Lighthouse Project. This being my first foray into radio, the benefit of the short notice was a lack of time to worry. My husband scrambled for directions while I threw myself together. Thankfully, we didn't get lost, actually arriving in enough time for me to hear Chris on the radio a few minutes before taking my turn. Without my very supportive husband I could never do all the work it takes to coordinate a Lighthouse Project trip, and he sat in a waiting area listening and praying while I was interviewed. At the end, he encouraged me by saying he thought I'd done a very good job. I can only hope he was right, as I have not yet worked up the courage to listen for myself. While I didn't get a lot of time to speak, that made it practically a can't-fail proposition. I hope to have a chance to improve my performance next trip; Chris told me to call him again before the January edition of the Tulsa Lighthouse Project.

When we return to Tulsa for our January 2009 trip, I trust the abundant media opportunities we had for November 2008 will pave the way to finding more host families, and ultimately, more adoptive families for the kids who occupy so much of my heart and thought. Thank you, Lord, for these chances to let Tulsans know about the kids and the right words given to so many of us when opportunities arose.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time to Say Goodbye

Early Sunday morning the Lighthouse host families met at the airport in Tulsa for a tearful goodbye with the Russian children who’d helped them put faces on the world’s orphan problem. Depending on the source, estimates of the orphan population worldwide range from 30-143 million. While no one person could save them all, I believe I speak for the entire group of host families when I say it was a privilege to help the six children (nine, counting their siblings) whose visit kept us busy the preceding week. Awaiting departure, backpacks were checked and rechecked to ascertain the presence of mementos acquired during the previous week, and notes were compared as the children passed around their photo albums, chronicling just how they had found their way into their own family’s hearts. Lingering hugs and tears, a group photo where the smile words were “Russia” and “Oklahoma” instead of “cheese”, and a somber walk to the security lines to share the last precious seconds of togetherness marked the end of our time with the November Lighthouse children.

After the children were out of sight, Dima’s host mom, who also just happens to be his future adoptive mom, passed out copies of the November 5 Tulsa World. Her sister teaches school and her class receives the paper. They’d taken the section with the election results and left the important part for us: an article written by a reporter so touched by the children and their stories that he wept as left the two-hour interview time on the last day of Vacation Bible School. As he walked out the door of the church, he justified his tears by telling us he’d adopted an older child years before and was “deeply moved”. Having adopted older children myself, I embraced the sentiment.

Anatoly’s host dad offered a prayer for travel safety of the children on their journey back to Russia; safekeeping while they waited in their orphanages; and their prompt return to the families who, with love and anticipation in their hearts, would be working here to adopt them. Any eye dry after the last wave to the children as they disappeared from view was no longer dry at the end of the prayer, and we stood there at “Amen” unknowing what to do. A farewell seemed appropriate so I reminded them I’d be back in January with the seven children left “home” in their orphanage due to illness, along with others also awaiting their chance at a family.

Three children, along with their three siblings unable to travel, had definite adoptive families. The other three had families prayerfully considering them, though that number decreased to two later that afternoon when a mom told me she and her husband had decided to make one of these kids part of their family. While these two more children wait, I pray that the decision is quick and in the affirmative.

After all the work, prayers, e-mails, miles, phone calls, and late nights pondering what else might be done to find families, the kids were gone and the time for doing was past. The kids had entered their families’ hearts and, for them, there would be no going back to life as it was before. Leaving the airport that morning, the paradoxical sensations of emptiness and fullness dueled. These dear ones were gone, yes, but with hope for the future. On the road heading back to Michigan, a plane soared overhead and I thought it must be our kids, off to tell their siblings and friends the hope they’d found in America. As they’d been blessed, I’d been blessed, too, blessed enough to think I’d do it again, and soon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


One of my favorite parts of coordinating Lighthouse trips is getting to see the transformation children undergo during their stays in the United States with their host families. It doesn't matter what state the child goes to; what matters is the compassion and special attention they receive on their trip. On the Tulsa November trip, that transformation was best exemplified by Andrei, a child initially at risk of not even being able to make the journey.

Andrei, age twelve, is doing well in fifth grade, where his favorite subject is math. He knows the English alphabet, which he learned at one of the orphanages he's lived in. He likes cats. His favorite food is milk soup, and he also likes barley. He would like to have a career as a driver, and he wishes for a cell phone. He knows some prayers taught to him by believers who came to his orphanage.

This sweet boy had two prior opportunities to visit America on Lighthouse trips but was unable to actually come either time because no host family could be found. Thankfully, we found a host family in Tulsa so at long last Andrei had the chance to at least be seen in America. While here, he visited a pediatric ophthamologist and was diagnosed with ptosis, or a droppy eyelid. The doctor said a minor outpatient cosmetic surgery easily available in Tulsa would correct this. Andrei's vision was corrected to 20/20 with the cute glasses he got. His host mom told me that on his ride home after getting his glasses, for the first time he didn't want to watch a movie in the car since he was so excited to be SEEING outside!
Andrei has a family currently praying about adopting him. They were able to spend time with him while he was in Tulsa, and if the sweet pictures I saw were any indication, it appeared they hit it off together. While I am happy that Andrei is now able to see the world clearly with his glasses, I'd be over the moon thinking about the life he'd see through the lenses of a family's love. I was deeply touched by this boy and I can't stop thinking about him or praying for him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


During trip week, I love hearing from proud host families about how their child is blossoming with the individual attention they’re being given. I received the first such report Saturday night at a bonfire hosted by the family who initially planned to host Anatoly. The host mom of Losha hurried up to me immediately after I arrived and enthused about how he had spent the day. The family was at a soccer game when Losha looked at her and said in English, “I want to play soccer.” When she replied, “You can play later,” he persisted, “I want to play soccer now!” She decided to get him a uniform, after which he proceeded to score his team’s only goal. I exulted when I saw she was as proud as any mother could be in relating the story. Last night at the cultural program the kids put on for the host families and the community, Losha was asked during the question and answer session about how he felt about scoring his team’s one goal. His answer was that he scores goals all the time in Russia so this was just an ordinary goal!

Sunday, Anatoly achieved a childhood milestone when he learned to ride a bike. Most American children would take parental assistance for granted, but Anatoly had an unusual helper for an orphan: his host dad. So smitten was he with this new experience that he ran outside to his bike while still in his pajamas Monday morning. He’s still a bit wobbly, but with more help and guidance from his host family, Anatoly can learn to be steady and sure.

At last night’s program, the children performed so sweetly. I wondered if they knew how their love of their music touched, or how their bravery in reciting a poem surprised, or how the honesty in their answers charmed. While I could not understand the songs’ words, the children sang like they meant them. Ten-year-old Dima recited two poems but stumbled slightly on a third. I hoped he knew it didn’t matter; the audience loved him anyway. Fourteen-year-old Tatyana said that when she returned to her orphanage, she would tell her brother and sister of how well her host family took care of her. I hoped she would be able to tell them that she’d met a family, and they’d have to be patient just a little while longer while they waited for Mom and Dad to come.

The host families shared their love of their children with the audience pictorially. An immensely poignant montage of photos from the week’s events was compiled by a young adult Korean adoptee. She’d flown all the way from Rhode Island because she wanted to speak to the audience about how her own adoption had blessed her. From all the sniffling I heard, I imagined there was not a dry eye in the house, except among the children who found humor in our Cyrillic renderings of their names.

At the end of the evening, a 600-cookie reception was the backdrop for my Guatemalan daughter to play “Heart and Soul” with a lady who fell in love that night. While she played the duet with my daughter, a photo taken of the moment showed that her heart had really been given to a young orphan boy, at whom she looked with smiling eyes and loving face. I’d like to think it was the smile of a mother, and I wondered if that was something he’d seen before. Time will tell the story, but for now, I have hope. Maybe he does, too.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to Tulsa!

I have been following a blog myself recently. It is being written by a family who is traveling in Russia currently; they are completing the adoption of a thirteen-year-old girl they hosted and fell in love with on my March Grand Rapids trip. (They are being reunited with their daughter in the photo on the right.) In it, they talked about the pleasure they derived on the train trip from their daughter’s region back to Moscow when they saw two Tulsa Lighthouse Project children board the train with them, and the remaining four boarding at various stops along the twelve-hour journey. It was easy for them to imagine that what they were seeing now was what their daughter had experienced shortly before she came into their lives.

I loved reading this before I met the Tulsa children this evening. It gave me a parent’s eye glimpse of the journey these children make toward our homes and, ultimately, our hearts. For these newly adoptive parents, it allowed them to envision a time in their daughter’s life prior to them. That’s a challenge adoptive parents must master: recognizing their son or daughter had an existence before them, outside of them. For parents of children adopted at older ages, there is a lot of history before we come into the picture. I hope this experience of my friends seeing the Lighthouse kids on their way to America gave them a few extra days of history with their daughter before they could be there for her.

As coordinator of the trip these children were traveling on, it thrilled me to know someone who cared had seen these precious children start their trip. Tonight a crowd who cared saw the end of the long journey to Tulsa when they arrived at Tulsa International Airport. Future parents of these kids will appreciate that people who cared saw the beginning and end of the journey. There were balloons everywhere, welcome signs, a stuffed dog as large as Anatoly who received it, and tears in most eyes as we saw the nervous expectance of kids who wondered who in this crowd might be there for them. Several families not hosting came to experience the event, as did a television camera from Tulsa’s CBS station, Channel 6. (Channel 6 story, 10/31/08) Tatyana, age 14 and trying to put her best foot forward for her two siblings who didn’t travel but are counting on her to make a good impression, seemed so sweet as she went immediately to her host family. When I saw her leave the airport, she was hand in hand with her host parents’ son. Alexei S., a seasoned veteran of my July Grand Rapids trip, was all smiles as he patiently waited through all the introductions to find out who would have the pleasure of hosting him this time. Anatoly was tired from the 36 hours he’d spent getting here and crying over the loss of his backpack. His host family had gotten word only an hour before the arrival that they would be hosting him. The original host family, aware of the devastation the other family felt when Alexei P. was unable to travel due to the dysentery outbreak, selflessly stepped aside to allow them the opportunity to host Anatoly, in a move they hoped would increase his chances of being adopted this trip. How could one not hope this gesture would be rewarded by Anatoly’s adoption?

Every time kids arrive, I am struck by the way they leave with people they don’t know, who speak a language they haven’t learned, into the dark without any idea where they are going or how long it will take to get there. I marvel at their bravery, but can’t help but wonder if they risk so willingly because, remembering the life they’ve left behind, they know they have nothing to lose.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Remembering the Kids Who Wait

This is a difficult entry to write, as the end of our Tulsa November Lighthouse Project has come sooner for seven of the children scheduled to arrive this evening. One orphanage on the trip, represented by seven children, is under a medical quarantine due to an outbreak of dysentery. The head of the Ministry of Health of the specific region of Russia is not allowing any of the children from that orphanage scheduled to travel to come; thus, there will be only six children on the trip. The children affected are Anton, Alexei P., Lima, Denis, Ekaterina, Nikolai, and Dima P. It would be hard to overstate how sad this makes me, as the children are terribly disappointed. Additionally, the families have thrown themselves into preparing for this trip so enthusiastically that it was devastating to have to deliver this news to them. These families are still true host families, as they’ve been hosting these children in their hearts. Please keep these disappointed and sick children, as well as their Tulsa families, in your prayers.

As these children have passports, plane tickets, and visas good for six months, my plan is to return to Tulsa in January for another trip, hopefully with additional children. These seven should be able to visit Tulsa at that time. Each host family who planned to host one of these kids will, of course, have first priority to host the same child in January, assuming the child is in condition to make the trip. Exact dates will be announced, though it appears the trip will be the early part of the month.

I am experiencing much emotional dissonance: on the one hand, great sadness for the children and families who will not meet each other in November, and hope for the children God has allowed to actually come. I am cognizant that the six remaining children deserve to have a wonderful trip where they find their families, but behind my necessary enthusiasm for the trip as it now is, I remember with great emptiness and sorrow the seven children I thought would be here. I will smile and work vigorously for the trip, but please know I have not forgotten the kids who wait. That said, I am obligated to switch gears and work toward finding families for the kids we’ll meet tonight.

But I have not forgotten…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ready to Go!

Today brought news that our trip is complete: Denis has his host family! I am praising God that this final piece of the puzzle has been put into place. While the prayers for host families for all children were graciously answered, there is much prayer needed for each child’s forever family to be found. Here are two more of the children I’m praying for tonight:

Andrei (left) is a twelve-year-old who was proud to recite the English alphabet on video. His favorite food is milk soup. Like many boys in Russia, Andrei wants to drive for a career. He was on the master list for two previous Lighthouse Project trips, but as a host family never chose him, he had been unable to travel prior to Tulsa. This time, a host family picked Andrei, so this sweet boy finally has his turn to seek his place in a family. A generous pediatric ophthalmologist in Tulsa has offered to do a complete ocular evaluation on him, so any family considering making Andrei their son would have a realistic picture of challenges he might face. After the struggle to find Andrei’s host family, I am praying that his adoptive family senses God’s call on this first trip so his wait can end without further delay.

My first six Lighthouse Project trips have run in my home state of Michigan. Since the Lighthouse Project has been such an important part of my family’s life for the past few years, it’s not surprising that some of the people I speak with most have wanted to participate. My sister-in-law lives in the Tulsa area; her desire to host a child led to my decision to run a trip in Oklahoma. Her family is eagerly awaiting the arrival of eleven-year-old Anton (right). Anton’s teacher says he is one of the best students in his grade. He knows many poems and has visited the art museum in his orphanage town. When asked what he wanted in the future, he said just a brother, sister, mom, and dad. I’m praying that my sister-in-law and her family will know the same joy that has so thoroughly motivated me: being part of a child’s life in a way that leads him to a future filled with hope and promise.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seven Days and Counting

There is always an extra air of excitement once we hear the final trip dates for the Lighthouse Project children. All the phone conversations, e-mails, mailings, and prayers for the trip culminate in the kids’ arrival, and when we have airline tickets, arrival cannot be long away. Good news came in threes yesterday: Nikolai’s host family was found, dates were finalized, and Denis was put on the trip even though we have not yet found his host family. The kids will fly into Tulsa on American Airlines flight 485 at 10:20 p.m. on Friday, October 31. Families interested in meeting the children when they arrive at the airport are welcome to do so.

An edge of nervous anticipation hangs over our group as the host families wait the last few moments before meeting the child with whom they will share their hearts and their homes for the next ten days. With balloons, teddy bears, and welcome signs written in Russian, a group photo is a must. Some families expect to be a bridge for another family to meet and adopt the child they host, while others see this as the first day of forever with a child they believe is their son or daughter. I’ve not tired of this moment after six trips; this moment rewards the previous months’ efforts.

The Russian children are always the last ones to the arrival hall. Finally, I recognize the kids I’ve grown fond of and known just in orphanage photos and short video clips. Most kids are smaller than I expect, and all are thinner. What strikes me most, though, is not how little they are or how lightly they travel, but that they have no one. My children don’t cross the street without me, but these children cross the world alone, looking for that someone who will protect them, cherish them, nurture them, love them. Is this too unreasonable a request? After a trip filled with family and fun, I know they return to their orphanages, their “homes”, and no mom or dad will greet them at the door with a hug and “I missed you! How was your trip?” I understand again when I see the children at the airport for the first time: my task is urgent. I will attack it with all the gusto and creativity I can muster. Someone is counting on me and I will do my best not to fail them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lighthouse Project, Take Two

I’ve coordinated seven Lighthouse Project trips to date. What keeps me coming back, again and again, to do the hundreds of hours of work it takes to make one trip happen? As an adoptive mother of two Russian children, I have been to the orphanage some of the children come from. I’ve seen orphans at the train stations who aged out of the system, never having found that forever family of their own. My friend’s son, adopted at age 10, tells of how whenever he saw a stranger drive up to his orphanage, he wondered if they were coming to be his mom or dad. I’ve seen the difference between kids arriving at the airport nervous and unsure for their Lighthouse trip, and the same kids a few months later, arriving home holding hands with their adoptive parents, confident in the knowledge that they are not orphans anymore. Seeing the joy these kids have received when they found love has blessed me immeasurably.

On my previous Lighthouse Project trips, about 70% of the children who traveled have found adoptive families. One of the most frequently asked questions in conversations with potential host families is what happens to children who are not adopted? With the Lighthouse Project, kids who don’t find the family God intended for them on a first trip are generally be able to come again on a second, or even third, trip. Several children on past trips I’ve coordinated have found their family on their second trip to America. Three children traveling to Tulsa are on their second trip; I am prayerful that their third trip here will be hand in hand with their new family.

Katya (top left) is a bubbly 14. She has lived in an orphanage since about three months of age. On her first trip to the States, she enjoyed horseback riding, visiting the zoo, and picking out her own flavor of ice cream at the ice cream shop. This sweet girl loves to read the Russian Bible she received in America, and she told the Lighthouse Project translator that she most likes to read about Adam and Eve. I am seeking a special family for Katya; she has mobility challenges most likely stemming from a mild case of cerebral palsy. Her future in Russia is even bleaker than for the typical orphan.

Anatoly (right) is seven; he is a smiley boy who likes to help and was very kind and generous to the children of his previous host family. He loves pie, going barefoot, and the color red.

Losha (bottom left) is 12. He had a fantastic trip in July to Michigan, and especially liked going to the amusement park there. He likes sports and would like to be a professional skier; his school group won every cross country skiing event they entered last year. Like many boys in Russian orphanages, Losha can knit and crochet. He also dreams of a family in America choosing him for their own.

None of these children have been forgotten just because they did not meet their family last trip. While my goal has always been 100% of the children being adopted, attaining that figure has been elusive to date. One of my favorite things about the Lighthouse Project is knowing that the kids who don’t find families can come again if they want to. Until I reach my goal of every child being adopted, I know we always have the hope of next time. That’s one of the great treasures bestowed by the Lighthouse Project: giving hope to those children who still wait at the windows, wondering if each car that pulls up might be the mom and dad they’ve dreamed of.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tulsa, Here We Come!

The Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project is delighted to announce our Tulsa, Oklahoma, trip kids will be arriving at the end of next week! Several Russian orphans will be staying with Tulsa-area families for ten days before they return to their orphanages, hopefully having met a family who wants to adopt them.

Nikolai (left) wants to go to America. He likes drawing, physical education, and dreams of being a builder when he grows up. Denis (right), a shy boy with a sweet smile, promised his interviewer to look at her, and kept his end of the bargain. He enjoys physical education and making crafts, even making shoes at his orphanage. Both boys, aged 13, still need host families or they will be unable to travel.

In their mid- to late teens children in Russian orphanages age out of the system, frequently turning to lives of crime or prostitution to support themselves. Most adoptive families desire children as young as possible. Children ages two or three are already considered “older” by adoption standards and, therefore, hard to place. Children the age of Denis or Nikolai have little hope that a family will ever travel to Russia to find and adopt them. Recognizing this, the Lighthouse Project brings Russian orphans ages 7-15 to the United States for ten-day hosting trips, partnering this time with Grace Baptist Church of Owasso. While here, children stay with host families, participate in a Russian-language Vacation Bible School, receive a Russian Bible, and enjoy family activities and attention not available in an orphanage. When families spend time with a child, they are much more open to considering adoption of that child. The program has been successful in its mission: since 1998, the forty Lighthouse Project trips to several states have helped more than 300 Russian orphans find families. The vast majority of these children would not have been adopted had they remained in their orphanages waiting for a family to come looking for them.

There are eleven other children on the trip, each with their own compelling story. In the coming days, you’ll hear about each of the kids coming and have a chance to follow them on the journey we are praying leads them to a forever family. The children will present a program for the community during the stay, and they would love to meet you there! For more information on the Tulsa trip, Russian adoption, or to host Denis or Nikolai, please call Tulsa Lighthouse Project Coordinator Becky De Nooy at (616) 245-3216 or visit .

Get ready, Tulsa! Here we come!