Sometime in late 2008 or so, I found a photo of Katya on a photo-listing site for orphans. It was a baby photo that showed a child with a serious case of cranial facial deformity. I stared at the photo, and was drawn back to it again and again. The diagnosis given was "birth traum and Crouzon's Syndrome". I began to research Crouzon's Syndrome.
Long story short, as I spent hours and hours of research on Crouzon's Syndrome, I began to realize that Katya's issues didn't precisely line up with that. After I put out an appeal for a more recent photo of her, and received the now "famous" photo of her in a red dress at age 4, it was clear to me that she didn't fit the profile for Crouzon's.
|Katya Age 4|
As I showed her photos to several Doctors, they all agreed with me--they were not seeing the changes that Crouzon's would cause.
By this point, I felt such a strong pull towards Katya and felt after a lot of prayer that God was speaking to me that she was meant to be part of our family. I went to Paul with my impressions, and he agreed to pray with me about it.
After a few days, he said that we should go ahead and start the process to adopt her. However, after a few weeks I quickly realized that he felt uncertain about it in his own spirit, and after a long talk, it became apparent that Paul was basing his decision on the strong leading that he saw I was having--not that he felt it himself. I quickly told him I was not comfortable attempting to adopt Katya unless God was clearly leading him as well, and I began to advocate for her to find a family.
As a part of that advocacy, we donated $2,000 to Katya's adoption grant fund that we had fundraised for a previous adoption attempt that fell through. Soon after that, a family stepped forward and tried to adopt Miss Katya. Their story is not my story to share here, but in a nutshell, the door to adopt Katya was firmly closed in their face, leaving them heart-broken and wondering. It left me wondering too. What was God's plan for Katya?!
Soon after that, God planted a clear vision in my heart of a medical trip to her orphanage. At the time, I had NO clue how instrumental and important that trip would be in Katya's story--I only knew I had to do what God was clearly leading me to do. With the help and support of many people, funds were raised for a Doctor friend of mine and a friend of hers, and yours truly to go and spend a week in Ukraine working in Katya's orphanage. This was in September of 2009. As I met and loved on Katya and the other kids there, my heart yearned even more to find a family for Katya. I could not understand *why* God was impressing on me just as clearly as He had about Kristina that she was to be my daughter, when all the doors seemed closed for that.
|Photo taken Sept 2009|
In faith and trust, I whispered again and again in Katya's ear something I did not whisper in any of the other kid's ears . . . "Mama loves you! Mama loves you!" In English and in Russian those words were spoken in her little ears that week.
|September 2009 Missions Trip|
The Dr. who was with me did not feel that Katya had Crouzon's Syndrome either after personally evaluating her. However, we did find out something that we would never have known without that trip . . . Katya was completely non-verbal and always had been. According to the information on the group that was advocating for her, she "talked and was just like any of the other kids except for her head deformity". As it turned out, there was much in that sentence that was patently untrue. Thankfully, God had orchestrated the visit to the orphanage so that I could meet Katya and discover the truth. He knew that it would be critical for us in the following months to have a more accurate picture of Katya and her level of needs.
After I returned home, I advocated with increasing fervor for Katya to find a family. I had been told by the translator that the plans were to send her to a mental institution if she was not adopted soon. Having looked into her bright blue eyes, and seen how active she was, I knew she would never agree to sit placidly on a chair for hours at a time. And because she was non-verbal, she communicated by screeching and crying. Neither the activity nor the noise would endear her to the hearts of over-worked and under paid mental institution caregivers, and having read books such as "The Boy from Baby House Number 10" I knew what horrible fate awaited her.
As family after family who was interested in adopting dropped out after learning about the severity of Katya's needs, many nights I stared at the computer screen as I studied her sweet little face and wept and cried and prayed. I could not make sense out of the burden God was laying on my heart for her when it seemed every door of opportunity was being slammed for her, and the clock was about to run out for her.
Logically, it didn't make sense to try to adopt Katya ourselves. From a human perspective, it made NO SENSE AT ALL. But I could not shake that was what God was telling me. But why was He telling me that, and not my husband as well? I truly believe that adoption is so important that it should only happen if both husband and wife are completely on the same page and are sure that God is leading them to commit to this child.
In the summer of 2010, a new photo of Katya was put up on the advocacy site.
|Katya about age 5|
I went back to my husband and said the words that changed our life--"Honey, I still can't shake that God is asking me to adopt Katya. Will you agree to pray with me about it, one more time? I don't want to adopt her if you aren't feeling that from God, but I can't understand why God keeps telling me about it if she isn't meant to be ours."
Long story short, Paul wrestled and struggled and prayed . . . and finally after a number of weeks he came back to me and said, "Yes, God is telling me it's OK. We are to do this."
Only after we were in Ukraine completing Katya's adoption in the Summer of 2011 did we find out exactly why God had put up all those road blocks. Katya had been listed as available for adoption by this advocacy group when she was not legally available for adoption. Her birth mother had not signed over her rights even though Katya was given to the orphanage at birth. There really was no way she could have been adopted much sooner than she was.
And yet, God in His kindness and mercy impressed Katya and her needs on our family's heart long before so that our family would pray for her, love her, and obtain the information we needed to make a wise decision about our ability to care for Katya. What if I had not met her, and we had arrived in Ukraine thinking that she was verbally and developmentally on target, just as she had been portrayed by this advocacy group? [Sadly, they chose to not update their information even after presented with accurate information, and continued to show her as "normal except for her cranial facial deformity".] Even if we had gone ahead and committed to her with that surprise thrown into our laps, I am sure it would have been much more stressful for us!
God is faithful. He kept gently directing us towards Katya, even when she was not legally availble yet, because HE KNEW what was best for her and for us. We thank and praise Him for that! And what if we had pushed ahead with Katya's adoption process even when Paul did not feel clearly led by God himself to adopt her? Well, it's hard to say for sure, but it's almost certain that we would likely have invested much time and money and effort, only to have been stopped in our tracks by the lack of correct paper work being done to make Katya legally available for adoption. Thus, God kindly protected us by not giving Paul peace at that point, and yet God drew us towards Katya by speaking to me about her.
|Arrival at our home airport! June 2011|
As we look back, Paul and I are both extremely grateful for God's leading and protection to our family during this whole journey. What a journey it was to get Katya into our home--and what a journey we are on now with His help!
What changes food, good medical care, love and a family have brought to Katya already!
|School Photo 2012|
We so deeply appreciate all the love and prayers and support in various ways that many people have poured into Katya's journey to us, and even now as she is home. Thank you, Thank you!