We initially met our daughter, Stacey, in the summer of 2013 through an orphan hosting program.
She was considered “host only” which means she was not available for adoption, so unlike other times we have parented other children in our home through foster care, there was never even a concurrent adoption plan. We just enjoyed the time we had with her. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to be in contact with her once she returned to her home country, Ukraine.
The next summer, we discovered that Stacey, then called Nastya, and two of her older sisters would be participating in the same hosting program. They would be spending the summer with a wonderful family in Michigan. Just as I had been in contact with Stacey’s first host mom, who advised, prayed, and donated to our hosting, we did the same for the Michigan host mom. One weekend, our family traveled to Michigan to visit. The minute Nastya was in our arms hugging us, it was like she had never been away. I know that sounds cliché and even corny, but it is true! Our family of four piled back into our van after a great visit…and we all cried for the next half hour. During this visit, we had heard that their “host only” status may have changed, so we agreed as a family to check into it when we got home.
It would take over a month and half until we had an answer, “More than likely but no guarantees.” That very day, September 16, 2014, we mailed applications and checks to both our in-state home study agency and our international placement agency. We felt that she was our daughter and certainly her next oldest sister, Nadia, but the “no guarantees” part was because of another older sister, Yulia, who was not interested in adoption or even returning to America for a visit. She wasn’t sure and we weren’t sure…but we prayed and had those closest to us doing the same. We also worked to build a relationship with her through VK.
During our first of three trips to Ukraine, we found out that the girls are actually the youngest of 9! Soon we were building relationships with several of these siblings. Their love and concern for the girls was obvious. We were able to spend several days with them after we were awarded custody of the girls. The hundreds of pictures we captured and the many stories that were shared are priceless. Being invited into their brother’s apartment for a meal was life-changing for me. They literally put us on the train to the airport and waved until we couldn’t see them any longer. Being able to see and feel the love they have for the girls and now us, has been the most beautiful blessing of this entire process.
We walked in our front door as a family of 6 for the very first time on September 20, 2015. Yes, ultimately Yulia decided that she did not want us to be her parents.
We never could have imagined how much we would be stressed, stretched, and blessed that year.
We have remained close with each of the girls’ other host families. In fact, we have made them the girls’ Godparents! Stacey’s first host parents in California, who we will visit this fall, and Michelle’s first host parents in Michigan, who we see several times a year send the girls small packages, cards of encouragement, and Facebook messages. I know they pray not only for the girls but for us too! (Sometimes they send me care packages too!) Their extended and church families still love and pray for the girls too! We call them the “memory keepers” and they are easily the second biggest blessing of this adoption.
We are so thankful for the way all the volunteers and families who donate to Lifesong served us during this adoption.
Thank you for sharing your story, Michael and Laura! What a beautiful story of pursuit and redemption. We are thrilled to see that these girls–once guests–are now daughters. We look forward to hearing how God uses their lives.
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