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.