Thursday, February 4, 2010

At Any Cost

Some days I could shorten my Lighthouse Project phone time by tackling the thorny subject of adoption cost first. International adoption is pricey, and Russia shows the way. While some callers confound me with claims they cannot afford adoption as they bankroll $250,000 annually, others inspire me with adoption plans despite not earning in a year what their process will cost. I’m not unsympathetic: as mom to four children adopted overseas, I still write a check monthly for my adoption loan, though my kids have been home four years.

One friend, mom of three plucked from my trips, believes adoption of older children is very affordable, for all the years before their arrival that she spent nothing on them. Another friend, mom of three Chinese daughters, sells cars, and grits her teeth when her customers lament their inability to afford adoption as they sign for their new wheels.

It’s a matter of priorities.

Struggling with adoption fees hardly makes a family unique; through my eleven Lighthouse trips, four fingers count those who had money in reserve. Eking out existence on a Michigan realtor’s income, I live the difficulties, but grieve at the masses who, hearing a still, small voice, extinguish it, clutching their money when children wait alone, when siblings are separated, and when girls age out and are forced to prostitute themselves. I weary of cost objections as excuses for those who should adopt, but won’t.

Our program works in two regions of Russia, one expensive, the other more. The majority of our work is within our less expensive region; the more expensive region generally requires a third trip and an extra week in-country. Though I have been promoting kids from this region on my last four trips, I have failed to find hosts for any of them. While compiling my list at the outset of each trip, I dutifully include these children, worrying it is hopeless, but believing they deserve a shot. After weeks of failure, when I cull the kids sans families at the end, experience never eases my regret.

I’ve erased eleven-year-old Alena’s name four times.

Seeing her photo once, I asked Randy, “Is this girl cute or funny looking?”

“She’s cute,” he answered, adding, “She looks like you.”

I was unconvinced this was a compliment until I saw her interview. Out of hundreds, Alena’s shines as the second most charming, ever. Calling herself optimistic, her demeanor rendered the comment superfluous, as the longer her translator spoke English, the more smiley Alena became. Playfully confessing laziness when she doesn’t do her homework, she hopes to improve in school, and aspires to college and teaching kindergarten. She loves playing with young children, and dreams of a family with horses; she adores them, though she’s never seen one.

Darling Dmitry, 7, likes green because of the grass. Gone fishing, he was afraid of pike that “bite hands off.” He labels himself brave, while owning his fear of snakes. He likes picking mushrooms and berries, playing with cars and trucks, and having fun. Outdoors, he skis, plays soccer, and skates. When the little soul said he cooks soup, macaroni, pelmini, and fried potatoes, I wondered why he needed to.

Vladimir, 8, Zoya, 7, and Anastasia, 6, are more challenging as a sibling trio. The girls had a difficult start in life; Zoya is more delayed than a typical orphan, though she’d like to be a doctor. Anastasia is curious, wants to read, and hopes to teach. Vladimir likes building snowmen and throwing snowballs. While his mother never visits, he remembered his father washing the floor.

Situations these precious children couldn’t control landed them in orphanages; stumbling blocks dropped in their paths by their country could keep them there. After countless rejections, my promotion of them has become one of apologetic resignation, fretting my efforts will be unrequited, amidst titanic obstacles.

I falter so easily, forgetting God Himself cares for the orphans and hears their cries. All my money is His, and I know firsthand He is in the business of adoption, since He adopted me. When confronted with a caller who fights the high cost of adoption, it’s a reminder of how thankful I should be Jesus didn’t grouse about the higher cost of my adoption, then turn His back and walk away.