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Why I am adopting 5 children from 2 foreign countries
Recently, after hearing that my wife and I are planning to adopt 5 more children to go along with the 5 children that we already have, a friend asked the inevitable question, “Why are you adopting? Do you just really love children or something?” As simple as it should be to have an answer for such a life-changing decision, I found myself fumbling for the right words to say. So, in response to that friend and anyone else who happens to be wondering the same thing I give the following response. There are actually many reasons. If you want the non-spiritually motivated answer, than I would simply say that we want to give a chance at a better life to more people. For the full answer, read on.
First, I want to use my life up in the service of others. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded that it was to love God. We show our love to God by obeying His commandments. He followed up by stating that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. He then shared the story of the Good Samaritan. Thus, we love our neighbors by serving them. James states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Neither of these scriptures implies a responsibility to adopt; only to serve, visit, and provide aid and comfort. While this is true, I ask myself, “What is the greatest good that I could do for these children who are without a home?” Does food, clothing, medicine, and education adequately set them up for success in life? No, not really. The programs that exist to help orphans transition to adulthood vary quite a bit. The United States’ foster care, while probably not perfect, does provide a home environment for children. Many programs exist to give them the opportunity to gain an education and hopefully become productive members of society. Most East European orphanages accommodate children until they reach the age of 16. Those children who are not adopted by this age often find themselves on the streets. Crime and prostitution are a common lot for them. While programs and funding can help these children achieve better outcomes, I can only conclude that the very best outcomes occur when they are raised in a stable home with a family who loves them unconditionally. I realize that I am only one person and am limited physically, emotionally, and financially. However, I feel like I can and should help as many of these orphan children as I possibly can. I may not put a dent in the world statistics, but I will make a world of difference to the five children that I bring into my family. Because of the more bleak prospects for those orphans in poorer countries, I feel that I can have a greater impact by adopting from those locations. This explains, in part, why we are adopting from foreign countries. There is one final scripture that I always think of when I consider adoption. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In my mind, I have always included orphans into the “one of the least of these” category.
Second, and closely related to point number one, is that I view the whole of humanity as members of a great family, God being the Father of us all. This makes us all brothers and sisters. I think to myself, “What would I be willing to do to help my brothers and sisters who are part of my immediate family? What would I be willing to do to rescue one of my own children if they were to fall into a tragic situation?” I then try to view people through God’s eyes. I ask myself, “How must He feel when He sees His children lacking the fundamental necessities of life, including the security and love of a family? To what extent would He go in order to help their situation?” His great love for mankind was already manifested in the giving of His Son for our spiritual redemption. He now calls on me to be His hands in serving His children. When I view others through this lens of familial relationships, my motivation to reach out and help becomes a more urgent drive. I’m not simply looking to serve others because God has commanded it. I’m doing it because I genuinely have a love for my brothers and sisters who have been dealt a very difficult hand in life.
Third, I feel a divine commission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with mankind. A modern revelation reads, “Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father? And now, if your joy will be great with one should that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” I had always related this scripture to missionary type preaching. Then one day I realized that I will spend years of my life teaching my children about God and the salvation that is available through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The family unit is the best environment for teaching spiritual principles and instilling a belief in God. Therefore, in addition to giving these orphans the opportunity at a better life temporally, I will likewise be giving them an opportunity at a better life spiritually, and hopefully eternally.
Everything that I have said up to this point is admittedly looking at adoption through rose colored glasses. Many people who consider adoption, think that it is going to be rainbows and unicorns: You will open your home to these poor orphans; they will be so grateful that you are giving them a better life; everyone will be happy forever; and you will be sainted for your great charity. The reality of adoption is something else. Instead of rainbows and unicorns, it is more along the lines of a mule with rainbow colored diarrhea: you spend most of your money trying to complete the adoption process; the children come with a lot of emotional baggage; they lie, steal and manipulate to get what they want; they show no gratitude for anything that they are given; they abuse your other children; you are introduced to the Mr. Hyde that you never knew lived inside you; you spend the rest of your money in counselling trying to restore some semblance of normal to your life; and instead of being sainted you just hope not to snap and do something crazy that gets you sent to jail. Those who have adopted before will be both laughing and crying at this point because I speak the truth. Now, I have painted a pretty depressing picture of adoption by lumping all of the bad into one hypothetical scenario. The truth is every adopted child is unique. Some are able to escape their past trauma relatively unscathed. Others suffer from emotional/psychological disorders which require a lot of work and patience. The bottom line is adoption is not easy.
So, do my wife and I love children? Yes. But it takes so much more than that and more than my previously stated reasons to come to this decision in our lives. Four of the five children that we currently have are adopted. We adopted two of them from Ukraine and two from Russia. We love these children and it is rewarding to see them grow and mature, but it has not been rainbows and unicorns. Raising kids is difficult to begin with. Add to that the challenges of special needs (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, legal blindness, open heart surgeries) and the emotional damage of having been institutionalized for years, and you get a glimpse of the steep hill that we have been hiking. I feel like I have aged two years for each one of the past eight years. So why do this again when we already have five children, which is already a lot by today’s standards. The following and final reason is the only one that really matters.
Some time ago, I started to have some strange experiences. When we would sit down at the table for dinner, I looked at our family and felt that we didn’t have everyone there. I would proceed to count heads and come to the conclusion that we were all there. A similar thing would happen when we loaded up in the van to travel somewhere. Every time we gathered as a family, there was the strange sense that we were missing someone. This continued for about four months. Then one day my wife was driving me to the airport. It was just the two of us, which gave us a few hours to talk alone. Somehow the topic of adoption came up. I didn’t want to share the feelings that I had been having, fearing that it would lead to another adoption. Nevertheless, the Spirit stirred inside me and I shared with Jill my experiences. She told me that she had been having similar feelings. Furthermore, she told me that she had had a dream in which she saw a young boy. As she shared the details of this dream, I immediately had tears streaming down my face. Each time we have considered adopting more children, I have been blessed with a vision of the future. I have been able to visualize our family with additional children. What’s more, I am able to feel the emotional bond for those children as if the adoption had already occurred and that they had been part of our family for years. It’s as if they are already a part of our family and we just have to find them and make it legal. While driving down the highway, we prayed aloud to know if it was God’s will that we grow our family through another adoption. The peacefulness of God’s presence attended us in great measure. With that reassurance from God, we determined to once again begin the adoption process. We figured that we would adopt two, maybe three, children this time around. We just needed to determine from which country we would adopt. In the following days, we had narrowed our search to the countries of Bulgaria and Ukraine. There were a number of things that made Bulgaria an attractive option. Our adoption agency shared the profile of a young girl which was available. Jill and I discussed the idea of adopting this girl and generally felt good about it. However, when we decided that Bulgaria was the choice, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone for us in Ukraine. We discussed this and decided that Ukraine would be the choice. Then, we couldn’t forget about the girl. Over the period of about a week, we went back and forth between the two countries several times. Then, one night as I was praying, the thought came to me, “Why not adopt from both countries?” This seemed absolutely absurd to me. There is no discount for adopting from two countries. Each one has its own painful process and outrageous expense. Each adoption would be approximately $35,000. Taking on one is difficult enough. Two at the same time is suicidal. The next morning, Jill said to me, half joking, “Hey, we could always adopt from both countries.” I told her that I had just had that very thought the night before. She said that she had thought the very same thing at the very same time. Neither one of us wanted to present it as a real option since it is so ridiculous. However, once it was thrown out there as a joke, it seemed OK to talk about it. The more we talked about it, the more it felt right. This decision, however, I simply could not accept. It’s too much! Not just financially, but in every way. It’s simply too much! I expressed my reservations to Jill. She has a much stronger and a more simple faith than me. She expressed that God would make a way for us to accomplish whatever He wants us to do. However, she concluded, “You are the patriarch of our family. You need to pray about it and receive an answer for yourself.” Well, I prayed and prayed and did not receive any clear confirmation from the Spirit. I did, however, have one thought come to me that felt inspired. The thought was that I am not getting any younger and now is the time to complete my family. It was a nice thought, but it did not have the kind of spiritual confirmation that you can really hang your hat on. So my quest for heavenly guidance continued. I am willing to do anything that God asks me to do. I just didn’t want to embark on such a mind-numbingly ludicrous adventure with little more than faint impressions ensuring me that I was on the right path. I felt like I was unravelling and on the verge of a total meltdown. The following Saturday I began a 24 hour fast and prayed as intently as I ever have. At the conclusion of my fast on Sunday, I attended church. I pleaded with God to give me a clear answer. During the church service, I joined the congregation in singing the hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” The second verse reads, “Praise to the Lord! Over all things he gloriously reigneth. Borne as on eagle wings, safely his Saints he sustaineth. Hast thou not seen how all thou needest hath been granted in what he ordaineth?” As I sang the last words of this verse, my vision instantly blurred, my breathing constricted, and I struggled to maintain my composure. The power of God’s Spirit which I felt at that moment was as strong as anything I have ever experienced. It ranks among the top three spiritual experiences of my life and gives witness to the truth that God lives and will answer our prayers. So, with that confirmation, the die was cast; we are adopting from Ukraine and Bulgaria. Through various discussions, Jill and I concluded that we will adopt three children from Bulgaria and one, two or three from Ukraine – probably two. [You don’t pre-select children in Ukraine, so you can’t know how many will be available until you travel there.]
I have spoken of the many virtues of adopting. It is not my intention to persuade anyone else to feel that they are obligated to pursue this course. In fact, I think there are many people who definitely should not adopt. They are not cut out for it. You should follow whatever path God has for you.
After reading this, you may think that I am one of those guys that’s super emotional and cries at everything. The opposite is true. I am very rational and logical, and I rarely get emotional. Just saying…
Shortly after making the decision to pursue these adoptions I was notified that I have been selected for a promotion. Based on my calculations, my increased salary should almost exactly offset the added expense that I anticipate with these additional children. I will never be rich, but God will always provide.
Friday, February 26, 2016
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Friday, March 30, 2012
I think the Moscow airport has something that ALL airports should have - if they don't already: a playroom. That's right, parents out there, this airport has a playroom! It's full of toys and the kids loved it. I loved it! We met another family who was bringing home their two kids that they adopted from another region - can't remember which - a sister and brother, ages 4 and 3. It was nice to chat with them about their adoption and we ended up sitting next to each other on the plane, so we had someone to
About a day or two before we fly home, I noticed that Silas never wanted me to hold him when we were out and about. It began to eat at me as he was constantly crying and holding his arms out to Tyler to hold him. Tyler was very sweet and sensitive to me and my emotions. Whether it was the fatigue on the long 10 hour flight to NY or this issue with Silas, alone, I don't know - but at one point I lost it and just bawled like a baby on the plane. I said I wanted to go home to my 3 children who I knew would want for me to hold them. I had been waiting for more children and now the baby (2 years old is the closest that I have) didn't want me. At all. It was heartbreaking. Tyler assured me that with time it would change and that I would be home with Silas all the time during the day, etc, etc, etc, but it didn't help me right there and then. For the record, Calvin DOES want me all the time, so it was a funny thing for me to complain when I had a boy who was constantly vying for my attention. And since we have been home, Silas has certainly given me plenty of loving, so I'm fine now. Below are some pictures that Tyler took the day before we left Russia.
Lenin's grave - they keep a flame burning at all times.
A guard at Lenin's grave - there are always two.
And so, after we landed in NY, we hurried to get through customs and by the time we picked up our checked luggage and went to recheck it for our flight, they said we wouldn't make it in time, so they booked us on the 7pm flight - we were supposed to arrive in Orlando at 7pm - and we arrived at 11pm. The second flight was better because we all slept. In fact, I remember taking off and the next thing I knew, we were descending into Orlando. Thankfully Calvin slept, too, as I wouldn't have been able to watch him. And no throw up either flight. This is significant, as Calvin had thrown up on both car rides prior to our flights. We were just prepared for him to throw up at any moment. And I asked a nice stewardess to explain to Calvin (in Russian) to throw up into the bag that we had for him.
Danielle, Anna, and Maggie arrived at the airport to pick us up. Jana was kind enough to come sit at the house while Iryna and Keith slept. We made it home around 1am and we all crashed. At that point, it had been 28 hours since we woke up in Russia to leave, and I had only slept for 2 hours of that. It was so good to be home and sleep in my own bed. The boys fell right asleep, too, which was great for us.
We woke up about 7am and had breakfast together before Tyler had to run to work. And our first couple of days have been fabulous. I know that you want to read more about it, but honestly, my time is up and since I have more limited time now, as you can well imagine, I won't be able to update both this blog and my main, Jill, THE WARRIOR blog, so from now on out, check onto that blog for updates. Thanks for your support! Calvin and Silas are finally HOME! :)
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
At the window, a nice woman from CA swore us in and went over paperwork with us. She said that Russia will always recognize Calvin and Silas as Russian citizens. And that means after they turn 18. With our Ukrainian twins, if I remember correctly, they are both American and Ukrainian citizens until the age of 18 and then they will have to choose which country to be citizens of - Ukraine or America.
On the walk back to our apartment, we passed a hot dog stand and decided to try it out. I normally don't do too well with foreign foods, and sure enough, I had diarrhea afterwards. I don't understand how Tyler can eat anything and not have any issues and I always do. Sheesh. Now I am reminded yet again why I cook my own meals here in Russia. And the hot dogs were $3 each! Not exactly cheap.
It was like a long hoagie roll with a hole on one end. And the hot dogs were various shapes and flavors.
The boys have adapted fairly well to us. There is still a big language barrier, but basic needs are communicated and more will follow in time. After talking with my friend, Amy, I am convinced that Silas' orphanage caregivers were mad at him every time he soiled his diaper, because of how expensive they are. When we first got Silas, he would cry and suck on his thumb so hard when we were changing his diaper. I was trying to figure out what he was so afraid of! And now after he has seen us not being upset with him, he is downright playful at diaper changing time. It's a welcome change.
We also switched from showers to baths and the boys love it! They still don't like having water poured on their heads, but they like being in the water. They do hate having their teeth brushed. Oh, how they hate that! I remember Keith and Iryna hating it, too. They still don't like it now, but they tolerate it.
This morning I made blini - a Russian crêpe. We put strawberry jam and sweetened condensed milk inside. They boys liked it, naturally.
My brown-eyed boy! Isn't he adorable? Love my Calvin!
A pastry that Tyler bought. It was a cake with some vanilla creme inside with chocolate and coconut on the outside. It was really good.
The boys love their new shoes and ours! Calvin is very tender. If we raise our voices at all or use a tone with him, he breaks down and cries. It is hard because we love him and want for him to be happy, but he is deliberately doing things that we have asked him specifically not to do - and we really do know that he understands what we're asking of him. We have been doing the time outs with him standing at the wall. Each time he wails and wails. I don't know if he just hates to be disciplined or perhaps he assumed that his new parents would just let him do whatever he wants to do...I don't know. I love on him a lot, so I hope that he feels of our love for him. And we always follow up the time out with love and snuggles.
Daddy's first blue-eyed son, Silas! Silas also carries around his jeans. I think he really likes them.
We are packing up today and heading out tomorrow. I have been eager to get home and let the healing begin, but I know it has been good for us to have some one on one time with Calvin and Silas. Before we adopted the boys, I knew that our family was not complete. And now that we have them, I am so happy. And yet, that incomplete feeling is still there. I wonder what the future still holds for adding to Pierce family. I am so grateful for personal revelation. It feels good knowing that I am doing what God would have me do.
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Sunday, March 25, 2012
We had a little difficulty in finding the church building, but I prayed for help and we saw some other people in dress clothes and followed them to the church. It took us a full hour to get from our apartment to the church building. It certainly made me think of how many people have to sacrifice to go to church, whereas it takes us 12 minutes by car back home in FL, certainly not the same as walking with two boys for over half an hour in the snow. Did I mention it snowed nonstop?
We sat next to a sister missionary in the ward - it was a Russian ward - and she translated for me. The second hour we took Silas to nursery and he did great there. Calvin was a whole other story in primary. Tyler went with him and stayed for a while. I thought that Calvin would enjoy being with other children who spoke Russian, but he began to sob and didn't stop until Tyler brought him to me. He was even calling for his mama, poor baby. I can only assume that he thought we were leaving him there, like it was another orphanage or something. I knew that it was important that Calvin understood that he is safe with us and that we will never leave him, so I asked the same sister missionary to translate that for me. He seemed to understand, but I imagine it will take time for him to realize that he is part of the Pierce family now and that we are a forever family.
The second hour is Sunday School and we just kept Calvin with us. The topic was on the atonement of Jesus Christ. We split up into groups and talked about some scriptures and about the life of Christ. One senior missionary made a point that really struck me. In the LDS church, we believe that before we were born, we lived in heaven with Heavenly Father. When we came to earth, a veil was placed over our minds such that we do not remember our lives and events that happened in heaven. On the earth we have scriptures and prophets as well as personal revelation to help us learn about God's plan and develop a personal relationship with Him. Because of the important role that Jesus plays in God's plan, I somehow thought that the veil was not placed over His mind, that to be our Savior He would need to know who He was from the beginning. However, He was born as a baby and had to learn and grow in His knowledge of God's plan and His role in that plan. We know from the Bible that He was aware of His calling to be about His Father's business by the time that He was 12. So what happened between birth and 12 years old? We don't really know, but we can only assume that His mother, Mary, played an important part in teaching Him about God, the scriptures, and the divine calling that He had been given. Surely she taught Him to pray. Through prayer He would communicate with His Father and receive revelations expanding His understanding of His incredible mission. Whereas I am not the mother of the Savior of the world, my children do have amazing potential, and I am humbled by the responsibility to teach them about God's plan and the roles that they may play. Additionally, I need to teach them that through scripture study and prayer they can develop their own relationship with Heavenly Father and learn through revelation the specific roles that He has planned for their lives. And the same applies to me - I can learn God's plan for me through my own personal revelation. What a blessing that is!
After church, we took our hour long trek back to the apartment, followed by a quick lunch and a nap. I have been taking naps when the boys do for the past three days. I need it! I made a nice meal for dinner of chicken strips and macaroni and cheese with peas. It sure does take longer to cook here in Russia, but everyone enjoyed the meal, so it's worth it. Tomorrow we are going to get the visas at the US Embassy and then we are completely done with everything we have to do before we leave in a few days.
A video of the boys. Silas is so adorable when he raises his eyebrows.
Silas crying on the taxi from Nizhny Novgorod. Breaks my heart.
The boys playing together. How cute is this???
The super long escalator by the metro.
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