I kept a journal for each day we were in the Ukraine. December 1st was Day 1 and so on. It was fortunate that we arrived on the 1st of December as it made it really easy to know how many days we spent there using my method of recording.
Days 1-3. We had lots of paperwork to do before we had our appointment at the SDA (State Department of Adoptions) office. On the Saturday we travelled on a bus across town with Inna, to the notary to sign our Power of Attorney over to Yana, who we hadn’t met as yet. By doing this, we gave Yana legal authority to act in all our affairs. There is a great deal of trust involved in international adoption but we trusted our agency in Canada and so it was relatively easy to trust these girls because of this. The bus ride was an interesting experience to say the least. We stood for the complete journey, probably about 20 minutes, so close together with other people that there was barely room to turn. All the seats were already full and they just kept adding more people. I thought this would be a haven for pickpockets! To pay for the fare, Inna took some notes from her bag and passed them to the person standing next to her and then the money passed hand to hand until we assume it reached the bus driver. We hope it did! We couldn’t actually see the driver.
Signing over our Power of Attorney to Yana, who was as yet a stranger
While we had enjoyed exploring Kyiv with our new friend Dimi or meeting with Wes and Kim Janzen, our newly discovered cousins, now it was time to focus on the real reason we were here: To bring our family home!
Walking around the city at night.
Day 4. We got a text early Sunday morning from Wes Janzen asking us to join himself and Kim at a church service held at 50-52 Tvorchykh Kolektyviv Tarasa Shevchenko Boulevard at 2:00 pm. We set off walking but quickly realized we were not sure how to find this address and it was very cold to be out walking around. We finally gave up and hailed a taxi and for 150 Ukrainian Hryvnia (pronounced Greevna) about 7 Dollars and 50 cents Canadian, the driver took us there. Now we were too early but we sat and waited for people to come. What beautiful singing!
Kim and Wes greeted us with hugs and told us they were expecting an important official from Canada to speak at the service this morning. This person was a mayor and would be meeting with the Mayor of Kyiv and other mayors in the region throughout the incoming week. Imagine our total surprise when in walks our friend and Mayor of our own town, Mayor Chris Goertzen. He greeted Rob with a hug and I’m sure all the people there thought we had something to do with the mayoral meetings too! Later Rob and I joined Wes and Kim for lunch. We spent the remainder of the evening with them and they walked part way home with us when it was time for us to leave. Wes took us into St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral on the way back to meet his good friend and head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Patriarchate Filaret. The congregants singing, all acapella, was just so beautiful and incredibly moving. It was impossible not to feel a deep sense of worship and praise for our God and Savior Jesus as we stood and listened.
Mayor Chris Goertzen, of Steinbach with Rob. Wes & Kim Janzen, our much-loved Cousins!
Day 5. Our SDA appointment was set for December 5th, 2016 at 1100 am. Rob and I made the decision to fast from food and media devices in anticipation of our appointment so we could be more in prayer, and hopefully more in tune with which file we should choose when the time came. We also prayed that the Lord would take the choice out of our hands. We had been told that we would probably be given up to 5 or 6 files to look through and then be expected to make our selection. I know that is the way it is usually done but the thought of this just seemed strange and incredibly difficult for both Rob and myself. How could we look at pictures of children in need of a ‘forever family’ and not want to bring them home? Thus the reason for fasting and praying: That God would take the choice from us.
December 5th 2016 In my journal I wrote the following:
Praying, The words from the song, ‘Glory to the King of Kings, even now’ comes into my head. I believe this is from the Holy Spirit. I believe that today we need to be joyful as I recount the way and steps Jesus has brought us to get to this point. Jesus thank You that You will continue to be faithful!
We were met at our apartment quite early that morning by both our translators. Inna and Yana accompanied us on the walk across town to the SDA office. I wondered if they thought we were about to make a run for it:). It was quite a distance on that cold December morning but walking is how many people get around the city and we had time. So much time in fact that they both suggested to us that we join them at a coffee shop for something to eat before our appointment. Neither of them seemed to think it strange when Rob and I just had a glass of water and no food. I’m sure they thought we were just nervous. I bet they see lots of nervous prospective parents!
Finally only fifteen minutes before our appointment time, we went back and through the door of the SDA office. The reception was not set up to be visitor friendly. The foyer was draughty and cold and more corridor like than waiting-room like, with old worn brown leather sofas that were not at all comfortable to sit on. Yana explained to the receptionist why we were there, filled out our names on a ledger and we sat there and waited…. and waited….and waited.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity at around 1:00 pm it was our turn and we were shown into an office-like room. It was very small but warmer and much more comfortable than the waiting area. There was a sofa, a couple of chairs and a small table and even some plants. The female SDA official started to ask us some questions through Yana, our translator. ‘Why did we want to adopt from Ukraine?’ ‘What sort of things can we offer a child/children?’ I can’t remember much of what I answered but I told her that we lived about 2 miles from a Ukrainian town (I didn’t say it maybe had 5 houses, 2 churches and a liquor store). I also told her that over 16 % of Manitoba’s population have Ukrainian roots. Then I showed her a book I had made on Shutterfly with pictures of our other children over the years, our home where our new children would be living and pictures from around our yard. This really seemed to impress her as she took her time and looked through it.
Finally she said she had a group of three siblings for us to look at. She opened a brown file folder that was sitting on the table and passed us some papers with the pictures of the children. I looked and immediately saw the picture of the little girl. She was 12 years old, looked about 9 years old and was a thin as a rail! And more amazingly, she was the same little girl who the Lord shown me in a vision almost 10 months earlier! I kept telling Rob to look at her, ‘Look at her hair, look at her dress’. The official must have thought I was losing it as she looked at me with a puzzled frown and asked me ‘What do you mean?’. The only thing I could think to say on the spur of the moment was that she reminded me of my daughter. Which was true! (The daughter God had shown me) but she also looked very like Tracey, our next youngest daughter and I mentioned that too.
There were pictures of the 2 boys in there also. The oldest boy was 10 and the youngest one was only 5 years old! The 5-year-old was not officially released for international adoption as yet but if we adopted the others, she said, then he would be as they will not separate siblings. They were adorable! Rob and I asked questions and looked at the file and then the official said something to Yana to translate to us. She said ‘she wasn’t going to waste any more of her time showing us more files’. Then she stood up and left us alone for a few minutes with the pictures of the children and our translator Yana. Rob and I looked at each other. ‘You know something’ Rob said leaning over and taking my hand. ‘He just answered our prayer, He took the choice away from us!’
A ‘five year old’ I thought, Wow! ‘This was going to be like having one of our grandkids at home all the time’. Was I up for this? We looked at their pictures again. They were all very small and thin for their ages and their faces looked scared and pinched but I couldn’t wait to meet them!. We learned from the SDA official that they had just become available for international adoption on November 18th 2016, just over 2 weeks earlier. They had been available for domestic adoption for over a year already but no one had shown any interest in adopting them.
When we eventually came back to the reception area, Inna was still there waiting for us. She said something very strange when she heard we had accepted the referral for these 3 children. She said when she was translating our paperwork from English into Ukrainian and Russian, she noticed we had initially said we wanted 2 children and then we upped it to 3. I really don’t remember doing that, nor do I have any written record of doing that but it doesn’t matter even if I did. I just ‘felt’ it would be 3 children. ‘Lord You have an amazing plan for the lives of these children!’ We already knew the stats: Over 60% of girls are trafficked into prostitution on leaving the orphanage, over 70% of boys end up in organized crime and 10% of all orphans will commit suicide before their 18th birthday. How utterly heartbreaking!
Day 6. Tuesday 6th December 2016 -We are getting ready to travel to Odessa by train. If there are no issues, we leave tomorrow night. Today we need to pick up the referral letter from the SDA office at 4:00 pm. Without it we will not be allowed to visit the orphanage or meet the children.
We, accompanied by Yana, arrived early as usual for our coveted appointment, only to find out the male official who would issue the referral letter was out of the office and would not return until much later in the evening. We stayed in the office as long as we could and then we were put out of the office onto the street as they were closing up for the evening. We had to wait in the cold entrance way. Another couple were there also. We got into conversation with them as we waited as we heard them talking in English with their translator. They were from the USA. They were also there to pick up a referral letter and this was their third adoption. This time they were adopting a 7-year-old female with HIV. They said we will adopt again…words of prophesy perhaps?
The man and the all important referral letter finally appeared. We leave Kyiv tomorrow evening on the train for Odessa. It truly amazes me the way things work here. No urgency about appointment times unless it’s from our side. Inna referred to this as ‘Hurry up and wait!’
Just a sign I thought was interesting that we saw in a restaurant bathroom when we were exploring Kyiv. The toilets also are very different to what we have here in Canada. I couldn’t resist putting a picture of it in our blog!
We had all day to spend just waiting for the taxi to come and take us to the train station later that evening, so we walked around and tried to see as much of Kyiv as we could by ourselves to pass the time. Kyiv is such a beautiful city and under other circumstances I would have loved to have spent more time here but now I just wanted to get on that train and go meet the children. Our bags were all packed and waiting at the door of our apartment. I had cleaned the apartment while Rob made breakfast that morning. I even recorded the ‘menu’ in my journal! Fried buttered bread (we didn’t have a toaster), fried garlic sausage, fried eggs, local cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, Kefir (for me as Rob doesn’t like this fermented milk drink) apple/carrot juice and green tea! If we had a cardiologist he or she would have a fit! Quite a feast but in reality just to use up all the leftover food in our small fridge so we didn’t end up throwing it away. Can you spot the plates of food on that busy tablecloth?
We explored St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral again and spent ages looking around the shops in the Metrograd, Kyiv’s underground shopping mall. When we had enough of that, we headed back to our apartment. We had supper at Boulanger, a little French themed coffee shop just around the corner from where we had been staying. We hadn’t needed lunch due to the wonderful breakfast. Back at the apartment just in time for our driver to come and get us. Rob will tell you what happened next.
My ‘Healthy’ Supper 🙂