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.