Sorry there are no pictures this time. We found it to be near impossible to be both engaged relationally with everyone and be behind the lens of a camera. So we chose the engagement and will have to get pictures another time. It is for the best, although I know you would like to see rather than hear about today.
We went first to the regional inspector's office and met with her along with the social worker assigned to our case. They were thrilled to see the family photo album that Amy had prepared and were all smiles as we told them little bits about our family and answered some of their questions. They were very glad that they were here for Alex and Alona, and had personally known of Alex for some time - feeling that he is a very good by with a great deal of potential who will do great in a family. Of course we agreed...and with that we were off to the orphanage.
There we entered the Director's office and were greeted one by one with an array of people. Their Director, the school nurse, their teacher, and secretary. They began to let us know details of medical history from birth and then asked if we had any questions. Then into the educational history and current status, again with opportunity for questions. We didn't really find out anything more than what we already knew concerning their histories - and so with the formality complete - we were shown to the music and art room where we awaited the children's arrival.
Alona was first into the room, since she was in the orphanage school (Alex was in the village school and had to he called home). She came in shyly at first, then saw Amy and ran to her with a big hug! They talked a second and then Alona seemed to awkwardly not know what to do or say next. I'm sure it was uncomfortable with everyone looking at her. The Director and teacher were there, along with us and maybe a few others too.Then she saw Jeff and as he bent down to say hello she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged tightly for a few seconds. Very sweet moment. Amy brought out the family album book and she started looking through it - remembering everyone's name and laughing at different pictures. The ice was broken.
Alex came running in shortly after this, out of breath from running all the way from school. He rushed in and came to Jeff and hugged him with an enthusiastic embrace and smiling face. We talked for just a moment about school and what he had been doing lately. He saw mom next and hugged her too saying hello and talking kind of shyly. The director and the children started talking informally while we were all there in that first few moments together. Our facilitator tells us that the director asked, "so do you both want to go with these people and for them to be your parents?" Alex in response said "da, da, da!" while Alona was eagerly agreeing.
So we took Alona out to play, and Alex went with the school counselor to complete his declaration of wanting to be adopted by us. When finished we saw him again for a few moments and talked a bit before heading out to get papers notarized and the paperwork process ball another push.
After a couple-hour nap for Dahlia we went back to the orphanage at 4pm and were able to stay with the children until almost 8pm. During this time they both really engaged with us more and more. Talking and laughing and playing. We met Alex's friend Andrey. He was not angry that we were there, but was only civil - not friendly. In the boy's room where they stay there is a common area where they take meals, do their homework and have TV, computer, radio and other things to do. Their bedrooms are attached to this common area and is one big room with several bunk beds and storage units. They spend all of their time in these two rooms basically. Alex and Andrey played computer racing games together for a while, but more and more Alex would pull away from that and come talk with me and Amy. As the time went by, he was much more engaged with us, playing with and holding Dahlia - calling her his little sister and wrestling around with Dad, showing him his room and his things and wanting to talk. He was much more like the Alex that left us than when we first arrived. We talked of the reality of how hard leaving will be. It's ok that it is hard. It's ok that he is sad to leave friends. It is ok to be torn in anticipation of what is going to happen. I told him of some of my own stories of moving and loss - we could relate to one another at this level and I think it comforted him to know that we understand and do not think this is bad.
It was a great day for sure, and when it came time to go back to the apartment, we were hugging on both children, telling each other of our love and making plans for what time we would come see them tomorrow. I asked Alex if we could come back tomorrow. His reply "if you want to". I say "well do you want me to?" Reply: "yes (as in DUH)." So we are comforted that he does want to come with us and our efforts to be a family to him are not in vain. Ultimately we desire to show and teach him the ways of God and his love...unconditional and unending.
Tomorrow we continue with a few pieces of paperwork that need to be done and then everything should be delivered and submitted for approvals and appointments. We will have some downtime before court. After discussing plans with the children and setting their expectations, we will be off to Kherson to visit friends while we wait for court. The children will be in school every day and expected to continue following the orphanage's schedule. We can visit them only at 4pm each day for a couple of hours..so we will do this for a couple of days, then head to Kherson to visit friends and see what else the Lord has in store for us, and then return to Lugansk in time for court. Hopefully all of this will happen within 8-12 days - but we will see.
Love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf. Pray for the truth of God's word to penetrate the hearts of those that we have privilege to share it with...amazing doors of opportunity have been opened to us and we are trying to faithfully make the most of every chance. It is with great purpose that we are here, and there may indeed be more than just our adoption in the works! Pray with us that this would be so.