Monday, September 30, 2013

Friends and Families

I have been looking forward to writing this post, because it regards an inspiring story belonging to friends, and is also very relevant to my own story.

Introduction

When I was a child, our family attended (and sometimes hosted) reunions of a few housechurches that my parents had been involved in, mostly before I was born. When you are a child, you are often missing a lot of information. And I didn't really know why we were gathering, how these people had met, and what their individual stories were.

Several of the families had adopted at least one child. Here, again, I didn't fully understand certain issues: adoption, abortion, orphanages, foster care, fertility/infertility, etc.

I remember noticing different colors of skin, different eye structures, as well as some physical limitations. Do we need to mention these things out loud? Grown-ups don't always talk about them in plain language. Of one boy, I finally asked what was "wrong" with him. It turned out he had Asperger's.

Meanwhile, one particular family consisted of Hector and Sue Badeau and their children, and they lived in another state, but we saw them once a year or so. They had a lot of kids! They all looked pretty different, so they were probably adopted, but where did they all come from? How did they all live together? I think when you see a family that big and don't know them personally, it just seems like a crowd. Like that family on TV, the Duggars. How do they keep them all straight?

Well, Sue and Hector answer that question in their book that came out recently. The full title is: "Are We There Yet? The Ultimate Road Trip: Adopting and Raising 22 Kids!" Sue had shared some of it with me back when I was trying to help match some Russian kids up with local families here. But the book gives even more backstory, including from the housechurch days that involved my parents and some other friends from growing up.

I was fascinated to read the stories of each individual child, including all the family dynamics.

Here are a few thoughts that stood out to me. I hope the authors will forgive me for not using page number for now as I'm using Cloud Reader!

1) Adoption always starts with a tragedy. This is what I was thinking about when I read the part where another adoptive mom tells Sue, "Never forget, Sue, your joy as a mom to Jose is built on the ashes of another mother's grief." I remember going to a Russian summer camp with a missions team, and the director telling us, "The orphanage groups have several new kids. If they're new to the orphanage, that means they have some fresh trauma." It's something that is a part of someone's past that we can forget because we're so eager to help them start new lives.

2) God's calling. While praying about adoption decisions, Sue and Hector felt led to focus on children who were "most in need of a home and least likely to get one." I find in my own life that the paradox of God's will is that it feels extraordinary and natural at the same time. I think it's incredible that I ended up in Russia, but at the same time it feels just right. When I think of the 20+ children that Sue and Hector have raised, it is difficult to even fathom, and yet when I read their story, I realize that they are just "ordinary" people who wanted to obey God. Am I His vessel too, ready to be used?

3) Siblings! One of the more specific areas of advocacy that touched me was Sue and Hector's insistence on keeping siblings together. I forget exactly how many sibling groups they adopted, but it often took special efforts. I will never forget the story of Adam, a terminally ill child, and his brother Aaron, who was initially kept in a different family. Apparently, Adam was deemed "too disabled" to even know he had a brother.

"Adam almost never smiles. He’s not generally a pleasant child. He doesn’t snuggle or even like to be hugged. He frequently flinches when someone approaches him to wash him up, change him, feed him, or even give him a hug. His body is often stiff, and his movements are sharp and flailing. He makes some sounds, but unlike Wayne and Dylan, who delight us with their peals of laughter and funny noises, Adam’s verbal utterances tend to be cries or moans more often than contented sounds..."

And then, the reunion of the brothers...

"As soon as the bus attendant lowers the lift and Adam’s wheelchair hits the pavement, Aaron runs up to him and gives him a big hug. “Tubby!” Aaron says gleefully. And then the most wonderful thing happens—Adam’s face lights up into the biggest smile we’ve ever seen."

This sibling issue is something I would love to see fought for in Russia, too. Siblings are often split up among orphanages here. I know part of it has to do with them needing to attend certain schools, but it's sad that they can't have unlimited access to their only family members. I even have mixed feelings about this when the siblings are in the same orphanage, yet on different floors, for example. 

I still haven't quite figured out how this whole advocacy thing works in Russia. I feel like American society is more rewarding towards people who are gung-ho enough about their cause to break down every door until they see results. Resilience is a necessary trait in Russia, too. But there is a different set of etiquette, a different social hierarchy, and a different way to challenge unsatisfactory decisions. Most of it is still over my head. 

So for now I have to trust the Holy Spirit, our Advocate on high.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for that incredible review Liz. Love your insights and reflections!

    ReplyDelete

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