I am writing this post late. Really this story came together Thursday October 13, the day after we got news that we should be expecting our referral within the next couple of weeks. God was really making Himself noticed around here last week! And I am SO grateful for HIs presence. It has given me abundant peace.
On Thursday my youngest and I made the trek to Austin for the third time to get apostilles on a couple of documents. Namely, the documents that needed our age range changed from “9-36 months,” to “9 months – 4 years old.” We got those done and rushed home, barely getting them in the mail for the evening pickup so they could arrive at our international agency by noon on Friday. After getting home from mailing the documents, I checked my computer. What I saw on Facebook was a friend request from a “Eugene” in Russia. Huh. I guess word got out that I like Russia and now people are randomly “friending” me. But even as I said this I was looking suspiciously at his face. He looked like a grown-up version of a boy I had befriended at a summer camp outside of Moscow during the summer of 1996 when I was in high school. The boy’s name was Zhenya. Here is an excerpt from the “Our Story” page on this site that I wrote when we started this website:
I had been to Russia in 1996, though I am still not sure where the camp I helped run was located- it was in the middle of the forest about a four hour drive from Moscow. In 1996 I learned a lot of Russian, fell in love with the language, the culture, the people. I yearned for more. I missed the 12 year-old boy I had befriended in ’96 named Zhenya. The facilitator of the group we traveled with in 1997 made arrangements for me to be driven out to the orphanage where Zhenya was so I could see him again. His orphanage is really, really in the middle of nowhere. The kids there were all assumed to have a disability of some kind, though I couldn’t tell you what Zhenya’s might have been- other than him being insanely short for his age. The Soviet Union had hidden these orphanages as though they were ashamed of the disabled children. I was driven by a man in a small rusty car through forested dirt roads for hours to get to the orphanage. We actually left the road and drove through trees on a couple of occasions when he deemed it necessary. We were going very fast- 130 kilometers per hour at some points- through the woods up and down roller coaster-like hills. I was terrified. But I was hyper with joy at the thought of seeing “My Zhenya” again. (There are many Zhenyas in Russian orphanages, and my teenage friends the year before had a few Zhenyas of their own.) We were reunited during the late afternoon. I had my picture taken with him.
I recognized other kids from the camp the year before. Another Zhenya. And Ceryozha, Maxim and Sasha. All were happy to see The American there. I only could stay for about an hour. Zhenya showed me where he slept. He kept two or three different Russian/English dictionaries in a small drawer there. They were all gifts to him. He had little of anything else, including clothing options and shoes. Most orphanages in Russia have their own vegetable gardens to supplement the government’s meager (and rare) checks. This one was no different. Understaffed, self sufficient. The kids there did seem happy, but then I never saw them when an American wasn’t around. I cried saying goodbye to Zhenya. He had just poured over his dictionary and finally looked up at me and said, “You, adopt, me?” I can’t, I’m a child myself!! “Oh, Zhenya, I can’t. I’m so sorry. I love you. I will miss you.” I still pray for him to this day that he didn’t become a statistic as is so common for the sixteen year-old orphans in Russia. Well over 3/4 of them turn to prostitution and drugs. Suicide is not uncommon for them. There is no hope, no family, no skill sets, no job. No roof, no clothes, no food. Nothing. Not to mention that they are a four hour (plus) drive from Moscow with no car, no bike, no horse, no goat. Finding food and work in the city with no skill sets is a problem but in the country where they hide these orphanages…. hopeless. So I got back to Mystora and cried on Josh’s shoulder. We were dating then- had just graduated high school a month prior and been dating since Christmas. He comforted me, and somewhere in the recesses of his brain he tucked away a little nugget; someday we will adopt together.
That’s what started this whole process. My love for that orphan. My wanting to help him so badly but not being able to. But my husband and I knew that we could help others. Even if it wasn’t Zhenya, there were many fatherless and motherless children who were confined and institutionalized. The need to adopt grew in our hearts until we heard from God that it was time. And that time in our lives is currently unfolding as we watch.
And Thursday afternoon it slowly dawned on me that the picture I was looking at was “my” Zhenya. Zhenya! Eugene; of course! In Russian Eugene would sound like “Oo-zhen.” Zhenya was his nickname! I started thumbing through his information to find out that he still lived near the orphanage in a small city (much bigger than the village I had imagined it to be) and was working at a bakery. I was crying and sobbing and THANKING GOD. I felt like Zhenya was alive again! For in my thoughts he had so little hope that I had actually imagined the worst for him— despite my earnest prayers. After some crying on my keyboard, I noticed I had a message. It was from Zhenya!
…”Hi, Sarah! You might remember me from summer camp in Russia in 1996. I’m so glad to see you again and hope that we’ll be able to correspond. It will be great to hear back from you. Zhenya”
Those few words brought a torrent of emotion upon me. I can’t even tell you how GREAT God is to do this for me. What are the odds??? I would have NEVER imagined this to happen in my wildest dreams! Not to mention that he is now fluent in English and so we can TALK to each other and catch up and I can ask him all kinds of things I have been wondering over the years.
Now I am just hoping that somehow we can go see him while we are in Russia adopting. Though he isn’t really on our path while we’re there, I will be praying that it will work out. And judging by already overwhelming surprises from God, why wouldn’t He help this to happen for us? : )