Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Adopted Son's Perspective: Sergei (Part II)

We wanted to share some of the stories of adoption from the point of view of the children, both biological and adopted. It has been fascinating and faith-building to hear them tell their own stories of life from their perspective. The second in this series is from our son Sergei, who is now an amazing 16 year old young man.

Sergei's Story, Part II
Andrei, Pasha, and Sergei in Red Square, Moscow, after Sergei's adoption.
 I didn't really know what it meant                                                       
 One day someone told me that I was going to get adopted. I was 7 years old. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew that it was a good thing. As the adoption time came closer, I noticed that everyone was much nicer to me. I didn’t know why. Eventually after what seemed like years, the adoption day came. I spent the whole day waiting, sitting in the same chair for hours. Andrei had to go to court with my parents. I was left at the orphanage because I was too young.                                                                                    

I was so happy
Finally they came. I remember getting in the car with my new family and leaving the orphanage. I was so happy. I knew that I would never be treated the way that I was there. I was given toys and things what would never be taken away from me. I was so happy.
A beautiful Welcome Home party at the Atlanta Airport
Sergei--front and center!
 I loved having parents who loved me
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what my home was going to be like. I didn’t know what it was going to be like living in a new country. I remember coming home and seeing the biggest house I had ever seen. I was so amazed by the amount of room. I had to adjust to this new place. I had all the food I could eat. I was never hungry again. I loved having parents who loved me, and took care of me.

Sergei (front right) with all 21 cousins and 
their grandparents = FAMILY!
Going to school was a challenge. I didn’t know any English. I learned how to ask to go to the bathroom, and spent most of the day in first grade asking to go to the bathroom. By the time I was in second grade I could understand everything. Math is still hard though!
Sergei (left) doing a presentation at school
with his friend, Alosha
I didn't know who God was
Going to church was new too. I didn’t know what it was. I had never been to church. I remember people coming up to me and loving on me. I made friends with this guy named Alex Hillis. From then on, I would always want to go to church because Alex always played with me at church. I liked going to church to play. I didn’t know who God was.
Sergei's baptism--with his daddy and our
pastor, Greg Haswell
How can I not love this God?
I gave my life to the Lord, and was baptized. I didn’t really know what it meant to be a Christian. Through the years, I have developed my relationship with the Lord. My love for him has grown so much. It was all because of Him that I was adopted. He worked everything together for my good. How can I not love this God? Even now I learn new things about Him. Looking back, I see all the times God has changed things so that His plan could work. I wonder how different my life would be if I stayed with that foster family. I thank God for putting my grandmother in my life.
Spring Break in Orlando--Sergei in center back
Feel free to leave a comment for Sergei. He will be happy to respond to any questions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Adopted Son's Perspective on Adoption: Sergei (Part 1)

We wanted to share some of the stories of adoption from the point of view of the children, both biological and adopted. It has been fascinating and faith-building to hear them tell their own stories of life from their perspective. The second in this series is from our son Sergei, who is now an amazing 16 year old young man.

Sergei's Story, Part I

We were left to "fend for ourselves"
I don’t remember a lot from my life in Russia, mainly because I have blocked those memories out of my mind. My brother Andrei and I were left to “fend for ourselves” from a young age. Many times Andrei and I would steal our dinner from stores, or steal people’s money. Andrei was basically my parent, always cleaning me up if I got hurt.

Eventually, the government came to our little apartment and talked to my parents. I don’t know what they said, but I got a good idea of what it was when they took Andrei and me away. Andrei was put in an orphanage and I was taken to an orphanage for younger children. I remember being happy in this place. I was given food, without having to go out and steal it. The workers were nice too.

As I look back I can see God's hand
I was later put in a foster family. These people were nice and caring for a while, and I thought that I could be happy here. As time went on, they became meaner, and stopped caring about me. That’s when my grandmother came and talked to me. She told me that I had two choices. I could either stay with the foster family, or go to the orphanage so that Andrei and I could be together. As I look back on this, I can see God’s hand in this. He knew what was best for me. Even though the orphanage was terrible, God was working everything together for my good.

I was happy to be with my brother
When I arrived at the orphanage, I was happy to be with my big brother. He always looked out for me. The workers at the orphanage were not nice at all. They didn’t care about anyone there. I often got in fights, or was left hungry from the small portions at meals. I was just happy to be with my brother.

I would lie awake the whole night
My grandmother was the main source of happiness in my life at this point. She rode the bus down to the orphanage, picked Andrei and me up, and took us to her apartment. She would bathe us and feed us. I was never hungry at her house. We would spend a day or two with her, then we had to go back to the orphanage. She would always give us bags of candy and food to take with us. Going to sleep at the orphanage was always hard. I had no idea what wouldhappen to me. The older kids were always playing horrible jokes on the younger kids. I was always afraid at night. I would lay awake the whole night. I hated it here. One day someone told me that I was going to get adopted. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew that it was a good thing
Stay tuned for part II of Sergei's story! Feel free to leave him a comment--he'd be happy to respond.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What is my child's identity in Christ? An Adoptive Father's Perspective

From: Stephen Templeton

Who is your child in Christ?

What is your child’s identity in Christ?

Who has God called your child to be?

What is the call of God on your child’s life?

When God looks at your sons and daughters, who does he see?

What potential is there in them?

What has the Lord revealed to you about their hearts, their gifts, their destiny in Christ?

Wow! These are pretty big and heady questions that can be quite intimidating for us dads (and moms). Can I really know the answers to some of these foundational questions about my child? Would God really reveal to me who my child is, how He sees my child, what His plan, destiny and desire is for my child?

The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The Lord has placed the mantle of “father” and “mother” on each of us parents. When He called us to have children, through adoption or birth, he placed that awesome authority on our lives to guide, inspire, love and instruct our children. One of the foundational aspects of this calling is seeking Him for our child’s identity in Christ and then using this understanding and revelation from the Father to guide our parenting of each individual child.

Ephesians 1:18-19
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

In view of this mantle of authority God has placed on us for our children, it is clear that He is so eager to have our eyes opened and enlightened, to know our children and the hope to which He has called each one. This identity and inheritance is something that the Lord wants to share with us so that we can help our children grasp, understand and renew their minds according to their identity in Him.

How do we know our child’s identity in Christ?-- First and foremost- go to Him, seek Him, spend time in prayer actively asking the Lord to show you how He sees your child. He will be faithful to share His heart for your child with you. If you have Christian friends, a youth pastor, Sunday School teacher, or a pastor that you trust, ask them what they see in your child. Share with them that you are asking the Lord to reveal to you a greater understanding of your child’s identity in Christ. And then ask for their input. Write all these things down, especially any specific words of knowledge, or reliable prophetic words received from trustworthy people. Keep a record of these- they are invaluable and can act as spiritual weapons for you and your child as they grow. But remember, God Himself has given you the spiritual authority to parent your child, so test any input you receive from others according to the scriptures and what the Lord is saying to you.

Go to Him- I can’t wait to hear what He will tell you about each of your children!

Next time we’ll talk about how this knowledge of your child’s identity in Christ helps guide your parenting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From Susan Hillis: "FAITHFUL IN LITTLE"

"One who is faithful in little is also faithful in much." Luke 16:10

"In everything... let your requests be made known to God." Phil 4:6

It was 14 years ago when we adopted our first two beautiful Russian children, Alex and Anya, then 7 and 8. Back then when asked, 'how many children do you want to have?' I always jokingly replied '12 disciples.' Well, I came close, as Brian and I were eventually entrusted with 'the Eleven.'
Little by little over these posts the story will emerge, but for now let me pass along a beautiful encouragement....the Lord has been so minutely and infinitely faithful in caring for 'the Eleven,' and He has freed me by revealing that my job is to be a vessel of His love and to pray. I have journaled over the years; here is a recent excerpt...

We so want to be those who carry Your Name, Lord Jesus, on our lips. More than any other names. More than Chick Filet or MacDonalds or church or American Idol or Gucci or Bill Hybles or Beth Moore or Carrie Underwood or Chris Tomlin or Japan or Libya or Egypt or our husbands or our children or our fears or our grief or our brokenness or our plans. To carry Your Name I must experience Your help in those daily little things that seem impossible. Like some days, even, getting out of bed or having any joy. "You have not because you ask not." James 4:2. Thank you for the little lessons this week in asking for little things and seeing Your great faithfulness in the little. Like the signature I had needed for 2 months and only asked You for 2 days ago; you provided it. Or the insurance long sought and only asked for 3 days ago; You provided it. Like the softening of my daughter's heart towards me and You needed for months, which began to surface 2 days ago. Teach me once again to be faithful in asking your help for the little and to stand in awe of Your great faithfulness in supplying. "In the abundance of Your steadfast love, answer Me in Your saving faithfulness (Ps 69:13)."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Biological Child's Perspetcive on Adoption: Julia (Part 2)

Julia's Story, Part 2
Here is the second part of Julia's Story. Read Part 1 HERE. So beautiful to hear what God does in the hearts of those involved in adoption!

Little did we know....
Andrei and Sergei reunited in the
When we were in that room, the director also brought in two brothers who had just been reunited in the orphanage. They were so happy to see each other and were hugging and holding each other. She introduced them as Andrei and Sergei. Little did we know at that time that they too would join our family just 18 months later! After our visit to the orphanage we had to go to court to legally adopt. I was too young to actually attend so my sisters and I waited in the car while my mom and dad and Kristina and Pasha went in. I remember sitting there playing on a game boy and talking to my sisters and grandparents, totally oblivious of the significant event going on inside that court building. After we went to court and had legally adopted, we flew to Moscow. I remember that first night we went to the pool in the hotel and had a wonderful time; everything was so new and exciting at that point. Finally it was time to go home. After the long flights and layovers and countless hours of being awake we finally reached home. We showed Kristina and Pasha their rooms, all made up with toys and signs and pictures from people that already loved them, even though they had never met.   

Things were pretty good, however...
The new siblings in the hotel pool in
Moscow after the first adoption.
The first couple weeks after we adopted were full of emotions for me. Kristina and I had already become best friends, playing with dolls and speaking in a combination of broken Russian and broken English. We really hit it off and I finally had someone who enjoyed dolls as much as I did. We all took family outings and did things together. I learned to communicate in some form of Russian, and they were steadily learning more and more English. Things were pretty good, however not all the time. I remember some times crying and thinking that my life wouldn’t be the same. I remember thinking that my parents wouldn’t love me as much now that they were giving all of their attention to my new siblings. There were times when I was completely happy with my situation, having more people to play with and new family, but there were also times that I was sad and felt like I wasn’t important. Those first couple of months were full of wonderful and tough times and emotions, but eventually all of those emotions steadied into happiness and acceptance.
I can't imagine my family any different way
Julia and Kristina became best buddies.
Now, looking back, I can’t really remember what it was like without my adopted siblings. I don’t think I would want to go back to that time because I can’t imagine my family any different way. To me, my sister and brothers from Russia are my siblings, sure they were adopted and weren’t always a part of our family, but now they are. I sometimes forget that they were adopted and that my life used to be so different. I think that I was at a perfect age to accept and move into my new family. Today I see my siblings as truly part of the family and I can’t imagine my life without them. We truly are one big family, no division and no differences, just one family.     
Arriving home in Atlanta--exhausted but happy!

I grew to know God as a wonderful, loving Father
My family life was not the only thing changed by the adoption, but my spiritual life and relationship with Christ evolved too. I was only eight when we first adopted, so at that point I had already accepted the Lord as my Savior and had given him my life. But I didn’t have a relationship with him, or at least not like I do now. While the adoption didn’t magically change my relationship with God or make God closer, it did give me a better understanding of him and his love for us. I grew to know God as a wonderful loving father who not only gives us his love but he adopts us into his family and gives us his inheritance, just as my family adopted our earthly family members. The adoption definitely helped me nurture and develop a lasting relationship with God that would continue to grow in understanding and love as I got older. My growth and closeness to my heavenly father has definitely been affected by our adoption and the impact it had on my family and those around us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Biological Child's Perspective on Adoption: Julia (part 1)

Julia's Story, part 1 We wanted to share some of the stories of adoption from the point of view of the children, both biological and adopted. It has been fascinating and faith-building to hear them tell their own stories of life from their perspective. The first in this series is from our daughter Julia, who is now a lovely 18 year old senior in high school. 

I remember how it felt to be the youngest....                                                                                             I was 8 years old when my family decided to adopt. I was 8 and my world was about to change. I don’t really remember the moment my parents sat my 2 sisters and me down to tell us that we were going to adopt; I don’t remember what I first thought of the idea, and I don’t remember the process of adoption. What I do remember is my life before hand and my life afterward. I remember how it felt to be the youngest, the baby. I wasn’t spoiled but it was nice to be the baby of the family. I got attention and love. It was just my 2 sisters and my mom and dad-- that was my family. Then all of a sudden my family, my world as I knew it, was significantly altered. 

I remember embracing and accepting my new family
Julia with her 2nd grade teacher
I don't think I fully understood what we were doing until my parents showed me a picture of my future brother and sister. I brought it to school and showed my 2nd grade teacher and class. I was so proud. We ended up not adopting them because their grandmother took them, but that was the first moment I remember embracing and accepting my new family. I remember when my mom went to Russia to visit orphanages. She called us and said that she had found two kids, a brother and a sister, that she thought were the ones. From that moment on all the talk was about Kristina and Pasha.
A life-changing event
After months of paperwork and waiting, which I do not remember at all (I do remember moving from our old house to a bigger house in preparation for our bigger family), we finally prepared a trip for our whole family to take so that we could adopt our future family. I remember the trip so well it was a life-changing event. I was half excited and half nervous. I remember the plane ride there, everything being so foreign and weird to me. I remember when we got there it was like a whole other world. I could barely keep my eyes open because I was so tired, yet I couldn’t close them for fear that I would miss all the different sights and atmosphere.

A shocking place
The children of Kalinina Orphanage playing with
the balloons we brought.
The outside of the orphanage.
 The whole trip consisted of staying at different houses and apartments, and some sight seeing, but the most impactful was the visit to see my new brother and sister. I remember driving up in front of the orphanage, and seeing that it was dirty and falling apart. I remember being a little scared to enter into such a different and shocking place. The director came out and welcomed us and brought us inside. All the kids were running around and looking at us. I could see that they weren’t very well dressed and that they looked different from me, yet they also looked similar to me, after all they were kids just like me.  

In the orphanage
Julia embraces her new brother, Pasha. Stickers
were the language of the moment!
We played with the kids for a while, taking Polaroid pictures of them, which they absolutely loved, and gave them gifts that we had brought. Then the director brought us into a room where we were to wait to meet Kristina and Pasha. They served us tea and cookies and brought in our new family. I remember putting Pasha on my lap and playing with him. I remember we had a lot of stickers that we put all over our faces and played with some toys and looked at some books with pictures that told a story. We were a family; we were playing together and communicating in the broken language that we had fashioned together and we were smiling and laughing and getting to know each other.   
Julia,  front left, with her new family of 7.

Stay tuned for the rest of Julia's story. If you would like to ask her questions about her experience, leave a comment and she will be happy to respond.                                                             

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I remember a season in the not so distant past when I would have to confess that I was not full of Hope for my Home. With 7 children all in their teenage years, issues that needed our direct parental attention seemed to pop up like popcorn. Even at the time, though, I really did see that it is God’s mercy that brings into the light that which is hidden in darkness. (We’ll talk more about that in another post.) But I began to feel the weight that fear brings—the drag of the “what ifs.”

What I was lacking during that time was an ABIDING HOPE. This kind of HOPE is not a wishful desire, like “I sure hope I can finish this on time,” or “I hope it all works out in the end.” Biblical Hope is something completely other than this hope that the world knows. It is a confident expectation that something good will happen Do you have a confident and sure expectation for good with your child?

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of hope as
“a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it--a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil,” Hebrews 6:19 Amplified

What’s Popping?
What’s popping at your house these days? Issues with learning and school, tantrums or anger that seem way out of proportion to the immediate circumstance, fears that are keeping your child from enjoying life……..?
Let’s anchor our thoughts, our actions, and reactions to HOPE, which “cannot break down” no matter how weighty or numerous the issues.

Listen to this song from Bethel Live. As you do allow the Father to connect you to that anchor of Hope! "HOPE'S ANTHEM."

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Where the Rubber Meets the Road
One of the things I love about being a parent, and about talking about parenting, is that it is the most fertile ground I know of to work out the truth of the Gospel. It’s the real “rubber meets the road” stuff of life, don’t you think? And talk about daily! Never a day goes by where Stephen and I don’t need direct access to God’s power and His life-giving words to us or to our children. For me, there is little more exciting and challenging in this life than the realities of working out my faith in the life of our family. If the good news doesn’t “work” in our homes, if it is reserved for church services, Sunday school, and the occasional outreach event or mission trip, then we are missing something--big time. What a joy it has been for us to see God’s miracle working power in the lives of our children, right in front of our eyes!

Hugging a Board

One of the first experiences we had with our son Pasha, who came home to us 10 years ago at age 5, was the awkward experience of trying to pick him up and hug him. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was much like embracing a 2x4 with appendages. I remember grabbing his little legs and wrapping them around my waist, realizing that he had no idea how to be held like that. It was simply not a part of his experience in the orphanage, nor in his Russian home. In the end I think that was just an outworking of the fact that he did not yet know how to receive that kind of love, the loving, safe embrace of a parent. As time went by he learned to be held and to hug back; and as time went by, he learned how to give and receive love.

Home, God’s Response to Desolation 
“God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell…” Psalm 68:6
What a continuous privilege and honor it has been for Stephen and me to partner with the Holy Spirit in replacing desolation with a home! Interesting that the scripture says that a home is God’s answer to the desolation that so many of our precious adopted children have experienced. The Thesaurus defines desolation as despair, unhappiness, gloom and misery. We parents have the God-given opportunity to replace this desolation with its antonyms: favor, comfort, happiness and joy. This is ours to do.

Help us Lord to create homes where the desolation wrought by being an orphan has no place in our children. May our homes be full of Your favor, comfort, happiness and joy!