Penny and I were sitting outside in the shade. She had cuddled as close as she could, with her body pressed against my side and her head resting on my chest. Marilee and William were on the jungle gym, arguing over who gets to go up the slide next. I was scrolling through email on my phone and came to a friend’s update on his family’s attempt to adopt a little boy from Russia. I scanned it, and then I asked Penny to pray with me.
She had just gotten her hair cut to right above her shoulders, which somehow made her big eyes behind her pink-rimmed glasses seem particularly earnest. She turned her head and said, “Sure, Mom. Why?”
I showed her the picture of Timofei from an article in the LA Times. “Penny, do you know what adoption is?” She shook her head. “It’s like in Annie, where the kids don’t have parents so they all live together until someone comes and gives them a home.” She nodded. “Well, this little boy doesn’t have parents, and there are some parents who are my friends and they want to adopt him. But he lives far away in Russia…”
“It’s kind of near China. We can look at it on the map when we get inside. Anyway, he lives far away in Russia and the people in charge of his country won’t let him come to America to be with his new family. And, Pen, Timofei has Down syndrome like you.”
I didn’t tell her that if Timofei moves to a new institution, as he was supposed to do on his fourth birthday, he will almost certainly die from neglect (as I posted about in January: When Turning Four Means a Death Sentence). I didn’t tell her that Timofei has met his American parents, Bethany and Andy Nagel, and that he had a scrapbook with their pictures and he called them Mama and Dada until the adoption was halted and his caregivers took the scrapbook away. I didn’t tell her that God had begun this adoption process years ago and that they have been waiting and waiting and waiting to bring their son home. I didn’t tell her that it is hard for me to pray and not give up because it has been so long and the bureaucratic channels seem so knotted and unyielding.
This morning, I read in 1Peter 3 about suffering for doing what is good. It’s not something I understand in a personal way very often, and even today I could only understand it as I thought about Bethany and Andy and the ache, the longing, for their son to be given back to them, as they suffer for their good response to God’s call on their lives to adopt a baby who is now a boy with Down syndrome.
Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed… But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
The writer patterns our suffering on Christ’s suffering. He demonstrates the ways in which God’s blessing has come upon us due to Christ’s death, the ultimate example of suffering for doing good. And then he exhorts us to have a visible hope, patterned upon Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the reason for the hope that we have.
And so, as the orphans and their adoptive parents suffer, we hope. We pray. And we long for their reunion.
When Penny and I were sitting on the bench yesterday, she said, “You go ahead and pray, Mom.” And so I did, a simple petition, asking God to change the stance of the Russian government, particularly toward the adoptions that are already in process. I prayed, with Penny bowing her head next to me, with dappled sunlight on our arms and the dogwood in bloom and Marilee’s shrieks as she sped down the slide and the scent of lilac in the air.
(We also petition our earthly rulers to help: Call your Senator or Representative. Tell them that you know a family whose adoption was halted by the Russian adoption ban after they had met and bonded with their child, and ask them to sign on to a letter that is coming from the office of Senator Mary Landrieu. The letter is a formal request from Congress to President Obama, asking him to raise the issue of pipeline families like us with President Putin when he meets with him in June at the G8 Summit. To add their Senator/Reps name to the letter they should contact Whitney Reitz in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu at 202-224-5824 or email@example.com.
(For more information, read The LA Times Article: Orphans, Families, in Agonizing Limbo, which features Timofei.)