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.