I've been aware of Down syndrome for years. Even in elementary school, there was a red-haired girl in the special ed classroom that I knew looked different and spoke differently, but was always very, very nice. Later on, I would learn about Down syndrome and the physical attributes, and remember her.
To be perfectly honest, though, I didn't think much more about it until I met Mandy...who I have blogged about before, and told the story of how I discovered Reece's Rainbow (and a whole new community of amazing people) through her. Since then, I've had the privilege of meeting Mandy's two new sons and seeing for myself how sweet and clever they are, and now they are going back for the little girl who was Samuel's best friend in his orphanage. I've met another friend who had not only adopted two children with Down syndrome from Ukraine, but recently brought home two more. My friend Chandres leaves this weekend to go and meet her two new children for the first time. And there are so many more who hope to adopt, and who throw their hearts into advocating for orphans and helping those in the process of adopting.
I have seen God at work in so many ways.
And yet, there's one little girl still waiting in a Russian institution - too old for the baby house now, she'll be seven and a half this month, so she's been moved to an adult mental institution, what kind of life is that for a child? But still, she waits. "My" Anastasia.
(No, I don't have any real claim to her. She's captured my heart, but that's as far as we've gotten. I call her mine, but if another family would swoop into that institution and free her tonight, I would rejoice. I want her for myself, but more than that, I want her out.)
Quite often, friends who know how I feel about Anastasia will ask me for an update...meaning, has Gene given the go-ahead, have we started our home study, do we have a time frame, etc. I am grateful that they remember and ask. And I hate that I have to keep telling them that we're still waiting...
So for those that wonder, I'm going to give you an update. And I have a request for you. But first, I have to tell you about something else.
Sometimes my church will do themed series of sermons that last for a month or so, maybe six weeks, with breaks in between, etc. Yesterday, we began a new series called Awaken. (Rather than explain it in detail here, please click on the link and read the detail page. And read Romans 13:11-14. In a nutshell, it's time for the church to WAKE UP!!) We are specifically focusing on prayer during the month of October - people signed up for half-hour time slots, and there will be someone from my church praying round the clock, for the entire month of October, for spiritual awakening. (I LOVE that.)
So yesterday was the first day of Awakening. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Steve reminded us that we are to pray with bold confidence in Jesus Christ. The curtain is torn and we are able to boldly approach the throne of grace, a Father who loves us and is worthy of our trust, with our requests. BOLDLY, he said - I believe his exact words were, "Jesus didn't die on that cross so we can pray for a front row parking spot at Walmart!" We can pray for huge, outlandish things that can't and won't happen and wouldn't make sense without God - and we SHOULD pray for these things, because how else are we going to make this world a better place?!
Then he listed some examples of big things we should pray for, should we be in any of the situations. Healing of marriage, for instance. He listed a few more that I can't recall. And then he said it - "those of you who want to adopt a child."
Now, Pastor Steve doesn't know about Anastasia. There's (thank God!) a great adoption ministry at my church, and lots of people that have adopted...so he could safely assume that were people in the congregation that want to adopt and, for whatever, haven't yet. But naturally, that comment hit me right in the stomach.
Because the whole time, the whole time he talked about praying BIG prayers, about how God could and would move the mountains...all I could think about were how very many mountains lie between us and Russia.
Without divulging every single detail...there are two mountains that we need moved before anything can even happen.
The first mountain is my husband. Now, he actually reads my blog, and probably won't be impressed to hear himself being called a mountain or, in fact, even referred to at all. (Sorry, honey!) But the truth is, Anastasia speaks to my heart. I feel the call to adopt. The children are all for it too, of course. But Gene would have been happy with just one child, and is certainly done after two. As the sole breadwinner in our family (my meager and unpredictable photography earnings not withstanding), he feels that it is his financial responsibility first and foremost to care for the family he already has, rather than seeking to add another mouth to feed. I understand this, of course, and I am grateful for a husband that works hard to care for his family. He is ambivalent, and this is not uncommon - it is nearly always the mother who first feels that nudge toward adoption. There's even a term for men like him in the adoption community - RH, for "reluctant husband." Gene is an RH, although with good reason.
However, having been praying for and about her for so long, having talked about her so much, Anastasia has become a part of our family, in theory if not in practice. At first, it was just us girls that talked about her. But lately, Gene has begun to acknowledge her existence. He doesn't cringe when we talk about her. I don't hear his defenses immediately click into place when the topic of adoption rises. I've caught him donating to a friend's adoption fund. He even asked me a few days ago if I would call her "Annie" for short. (Hard to say, not knowing her real name. But scroll back up to her picture and tell me, doesn't she look like an Annie to you?!)
That mountain is trembling. :)
The second mountain...well, that one is holding fast. If anything, it's actually growing. This is where I'll be a little more vague, because the second mountain is financial in nature. There's a need that must be addressed before we can start planning for our home study. The only way for it to be rectified is a boost in income - which is certainly possible for Gene, whenever overtime is available. That part is good news!
The bad news? The plant where he works laid off fifty-five employees today. Isn't that a nasty little irony? On the very day that I'm challenged to start praying BIG, and for one of my prayers to be lots and lots of overtime...business is slow to the point of layoffs. Gene was not one of them, and for that, I am so, so thankful. That he is at work right now is no small mercy.
And that is how the mountain GREW to what feels like an unsurmountable height. That is the prayer that can be handled by God alone - to not only undo the decrease in business that led to the layoffs to start with, but to increase it SO MUCH that there's plenty of overtime available for Gene.
Now, I'll tell you...I believe, completely, that there is nothing that God cannot do. But standing at the foot of this mountain and looking up, and willing my mouth to open and shout the word "MOVE!!!" It's hard. It's so hard.
This is where my request comes in. Not a lot of people read this blog, I'm pretty sure of that. Just my closest friends, and Gene sometimes, and maybe my dad (although he pretty much skulks around online and sees all, but you never know he's there...he's kind of a Facebook ninja that way.) So my request to you is: pray with me. I know, you already do, because you're awesome that way. But bump it up a notch this month? Because I'm doing some heavy duty praying over here, but back me up, please, because it's hard. I have faith that the mountain can move. I'm not sure if I have faith that it will move.
Pray for me.
And pray for Anastasia. Because no matter how I feel about the situation, what it all boils down to is that there is a little girl in an institution that has never had a family to love her. She needs a family. As I stated before...I would love to make her part of ours ---BUT--- if that is not God's plan for our family, if He does not clear the path for us, then there is another family out there for her, and they need to go and get her. Russia is not, from what I've learned, an easy place from which to adopt. The fees and the travel requirements are daunting, to put it nicely. There are countries that are much easier, cheaper, faster. Had I set out with the intent to adopt and no particular child in mind, Russia would have been the least logical place for me to look, and I'm sure it's the same for many other prospective families. If we are not her family, if her family is out there somewhere else...pray for them to be undeterred by the mountains that stand in their way.
Pray her out of the institution, and into a family that will love her. Pray her out of a country that devalues people with Down syndrome so much that parents are encouraged to hand these infants over to an orphanage at birth.
So there's our update. It's not pretty, it's much too long, and it still amounts to, "we're still waiting." But there's hope at the end. And I'm so grateful for all of you who are hoping along with me.
"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." -Matthew 17:20 NIV