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.