Friday, July 17, 2009

"He Just Won Our Hearts"

Eyes brimming with tears, Egor waited alone at the St. Louis airport. Each of the other orphans in his group had a family. Where was his? The translator tried consoling him, reminding him the plane had arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule and his family was driving from far away.

On time but for the plane’s early arrival, Egor’s family had fears of their own. They’d felt God’s Spirit moving when they first saw Egor’s photo on this humble blog. (Unmasked, 4/22/09) Everything pointed exactly to him, yet questions of their adequacy gnawed. They weren’t sure they could afford Russian adoption. Maybe people would stare.

Mutually allaying their concerns, the van continued toward the airport, and Egor tried to believe that someone who’d treasure him was coming. The moment they finally saw each other, hope, trust, and love replaced the fear. Egor had wished for a mama and papa in his orphanage interview a few months before, and he’d soon find they’d been worth the wait. The family would make their own discovery: a son and brother whom, until recently, they’d not known they were missing. (Eager, 5/28/09)

Egor’s family calls Michigan home. With only a few weeks’ notice, their hearts adopted Egor and they planned their trek to Missouri. They expected to love Egor, to make him their son.

The depth of that love surprised them.

From the first meeting on, Egor conquered his fears. Day two, getting into a go-cart, he shook visibly. The car rocketed off when he was too aggressive with the accelerator; chastened, he drove the first lap Buick-tentatively. Emboldened once around, he then drove as maniacally as the rest of the kids. It made an impression: asked at the evening program what his favorite activities had been, he gave the go-carts a serious “thumbs up.”

His family reveled in the special relationship he developed with each of them. He watched baseball nightly with his soon-to-be older brother. While he didn’t really understand the game, he knew enough to cheer whenever Chandler did. Not seeing a reason to wait until his adoption is finalized, he playfully teased his future sisters, demonstrating a sense of humor and personality in spades. He started pillow fights with Arianna. Older brother Riley took seriously his self-appointed role as Egor’s protector, and sang a song in his honor at the evening program. Egor had a kind and generous spirit, too. Gum is a prized possession amongst all Russian orphans. When the baby of the family asked Egor for his penultimate piece of gum, he didn’t hesitate. Two other sisters saw his largesse and asked for the last piece. Egor eyed the two of them, then tore the remaining stick in half and gave each a piece, leaving none for himself. He proved a quick study in chivalry. Seeing his new dad opening doors for his new mom, and not wanting to be outdone, Egor started opening and closing the car door for her. When Egor gallantly tried to open the doors at all the stores they went to, it hardly mattered to his mom that he frequently wasn’t strong enough, and that she had to help him anyway.

In the ten days they spent together before Egor’s return to Russia, he smiled perpetually. Nobody stared, except a few small children. Almost all the comments were positive, focusing on how cute Egor’s smile and enthusiasm were. He flexibly went along with whatever they planned. He had fun and instigated it. He sought help from his family; that they might let him down rightfully never occurred to him. Miracles happened.

Two dear and saintly ladies adopted the family during the week. At a sweetly informal ice cream sundae party Egor’s family hosted for them in the hotel lobby, the ladies ate up the family’s story, encouraging them to follow God’s direction. At the end, each pressed a check into a Michigan hand to help them do so. Their message was a clarion call: you are sufficient for this!

On the way to Missouri, Egor’s family had expected to be obedient to God no matter what. Having met him, their act of obedience was transformed into an act of love when Egor won their hearts. The day after they arrived home in Michigan, his mom was feverishly filling out adoption paperwork, explaining, “We love this kid. We want him, and we want him now!”

Their last full day together, Egor’s family visited a cave. The floor was slippery, and he was afraid. As he grasped his long-awaited mama’s hand and clutched it until they were back in the light, she imagined the times in the future when Egor will face frightening situations. He’ll have to trustingly hold their hands. He’ll find they’ll be there for him, helping him along, when he wonders if he can make it. Likewise, they will hold their Father’s hand. Their Father will be there, too, guiding them along, when they’re not sure they can make it. He’s already led them this far, to a little orphaned Russian boy whose most wondrous wish at last is coming true.