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.