Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still Chugging Along

Reece's Rainbow Dads and Moms at Tequila House in Kiev. These people represent the adoption of 9 children--all with Down syndrome, I believe--saved from ?life? in an institution. Above: Ruben, Kevin (not my Kevin), Bill and Adam. Below: Me (Joy), Amy, Gillian, JoAnn, Lyndi and Paula

No, God did not do things today the way that I thought He might. Yet I still know that He is God and He is in control and He does all things right. He gets to do it HIS way because He is the boss. I like the way the Three Hebrew Children responded when faced with the very real threat of the fiery furnace: "Our God is ABLE to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But IF NOT . . . we still aren't gonna bow to your image."

I got up fairly early this morning anticipating a call from our facilitator: I showered, blogged, hung up laundry, cooked breakfast, worked some puzzles. Finally, I think it was around 11:00 am Nastya called and said she'd been worried about me because she'd been calling and calling and I hadn't picked up the phone. I have no idea what happened. Teresa and I were both right here, the volume was turned all the way up on the phone and yet we had 8 missed calls. Anyway, Alexey had gotten Steven and worker over to the Dr. to get his blood drawn prior to the actual physical exam necessary prior to leaving the country. They'd wanted us to go, too, but seemed to get it done in our unintended absence. A little after noon Nastya asked us to just hang tight because she was to get immediate word when the passport was ready and we needed to be on hand. I think it was around 3:40 when she called asking if we could proceed immediately to the passport office at the University metro stop. There was a chance Alexey would be getting the passport at 4:00 pm and wouldn't have time to then come back to our apt and get us prior to heading for that infamous 'unregistration' office.

So off we headed. The apt where we are now staying is on the green line so we got on there, rode one stop, transferred to the blue line, rode one stop, transferred to the red line and rode 2 stops. Boy, we got our metro coin's worth on that little trip! I've never had such a complicated ride but we did make it to the right spot--just weren't sure exactly WHICH building was the passport office so got further directions by phone and waited outside the passport office and waited and waited and waited and sweated and sweated and sweated but when Alexey came out--it must have been around 5:30 or 5:40--he had bad news: we can't get the passport until the morning. Bless his heart!! he felt so, so, so bad about it. He said something about they have helped with 300 adoptions and have never dealt with one as difficult as ours.

He dropped us off at the Kreschatik Metro stop since it was now 6:05 and we were supposed to meet Lyndi and Bill, JoAnn and Ruben there at 6:30 and head over to the Tequila House again. When this dinner was planned everyone had said-- half-jokingly, half-seriously--they hoped they wouldn't see Teresa and I there because that would mean we had gotten Steven. This particular get-together had been planned as a way for all of us to meet Boston--another Reeces Rainbow friend--who arrived today---unfortunately that didn't work out but the rest of us--also including Gillian and daughter, Amy and Adam, and Paula and Kevin plus 2 facilitators--enjoyed her party anyway.

So I'm hoping that tomorrow will be a really full day with getting the passport, getting Steven's medical exam, possibly even getting the visa applied for (but maybe that can only be done in the mornings)--these are pretty routine things at the very tail of the adoption process. Though a visa CAN be applied for and received on the same day, the usual and embassy-preferred way is to have you pick it up the 2nd day. But I'm guessing the wild card is going to be getting Steven un-registered from the orphanage address AND actually getting him outside of the orphanage gate in our custody. Who can guess how long those 2 little items may take. (Gulp) So I'm planning for a Friday or Saturday flight instead.

Thanks for your prayers. I know God is answering because though I am homesick and honestly tired of being here I am not totally falling apart with all the delays. Please keep praying for my husband as well. He had a serious strep throat infection and then we thought the antibiotics were causing his gout to act up making it very difficult for him to get around. However, when he went to the Dr. he found out it was not gout after all. The strep had not completely gone away but had attached itself to other parts of his body--his ankes, I guess. (Later found out it was strep in one foot and gout in the other) Kevin said the Dr. just about put him in the hospital but opted for a big shot of antibiotics to be followed up by oral medication. And please remember him at the funeral of his grandmother tomorrow. Your prayers are hugely, vitally important and desired for our whole family.

When God Steps In

Tuesday evening Teresa and I got together with two other RR couples at the Ukrainian buffet right around the corner from the Kreschatik Metro station in honor of Teresa's upcoming birthday on July 1. Teresa is pictured here with the bracelets (including a 'Touched by Adoption' one), gum,and chocolate ice cream she was given.
I have thought of other titles for this post--like Calling in the Calvary (NOT a typo)--but they all center around the idea that this is a wonderful opportunity for God to ride into town--like the hero on an Old West movie. The bad guys have done their dastardly deeds, the town is in a mess with evil in control and the good people either dead or in hiding and then you hear the music changing and you know the big, strong guy on the horse is going to gallop down main street with both guns smoking and save the day. . . (and the girl. Smile.)

So my response? Go Get 'Em, God!!!

There is so much to be accomplished in the next two days for Teresa and Steven and I to be able to fly on Thursday.

But I also know that God is very capable of doing all of that . . . and more!

Yesterday I was re-reading some great stories from the life of Elisha from II Kings chapters 6 (esp see verses 14-17--part of which says "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.") and 7 (I especially like the phrase 'tomorrow about this time' in verse 1 where God promised an absolutely impossible turn of events in just 24 hours time--and then made it happen!)

Today I'm reading from II Chronicles 20 about Jehoshaphat, a godly king who was faced with a huge enemy army. He was honestly and rightly afraid and called his people to prayer and fasting. They remembered Who God was and what He had done for them in the past; they remembered what He had promised to do and exactly what they needed in the present. I love Jehoshaphat's prayer in verse 12"O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee." God's reply through the man of God was: "Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. . . Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you . . . fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekend in Kiev

On weekends this part of Kreschatik is closed to traffic
At the Hydropark Metro we found these two areas (above and below) that look like they might be set up for paint ball.

Teresa wading right at the edge of the Dnipro River

We saw these costumed folks out on the sidewalk outside the theological building on Sunday morning.

Scenes from our apartment that we moved into on Sunday afternoon

Well, we are moved into our 3rd apartment. The funny thing is that it is exactly straight across the boulevard from our last one! This place does NOT have an air conditioner but does indeed have a working computer connected to the internet--and as of 5:00 pm even has a mouse. On the one hand, it has 2 TV's but so far nothing in English :( -------- and on the other hand, Teresa's DVD's work on THIS player so she is surviving.

Yesterday we rode the Metro across the Dniepro River to the Hydropark stop. I wanted to see what this was. When I saw the sign on a previous trip I'd thought maybe it was a water park of some kind. No, it seemed mostly to be a bunch of beach-side, tent-type restaurants and bars-- quite a few places were grilling meat (though one guy seemed to be melting a plastic bottle on the grill right next to the meat) One area looked like it was set up for paint ball. There were quite a few carnival rides out there, too but very few seemed to be operational. The main activity appeared to by laying on the beach and we saw all ages sunning in their bikinis--not necessarily a pretty sight, believe me :) Teresa did put her piggies in the edge of the river and picked up some snail shells from the sand but we have been discouraged from swimming in it--the very brown color of the water helped reinforce the plan NOT to dive in. Good grief! it was so hot out there that the back of my shirt and pants were amazingly damp. Afterwards, we stopped off at the mall for McDonalds--but the LARGE pop was definitely the best part. On the way home we decided to try to find the metro stop nearer our apartment knowing we'd need it for getting to church in the morning. Thankfully, I could read the Cyrillic signs well enough to figure out which street it was on. And we got to church and back this AM using the new Metro stop where we actually had to transfer from the green line to the blue line--it's funny how scary something so simple seemed--AND we made it home about 1:45 to meet the moving guy at 2:00 pm.

Tomorrow is a holiday here--Constitution Day--so no official business will be conducted. Thank you so much for all the prayers. There is SO MUCH that needs to be accomplished on Tuesday and Wednesday so we can fly home on Thursday. We are getting pretty homesick here--having been gone 4 wks and a day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't stop praying, please!

Our suitcases, bags and sacks stacked by the door in anticipation of our move.
Teresa trying to drink as much of her Fanta as possible so we won't have to move it, too.

Fancy-schmancy bathroom in our new apartment

Absolutely gorgeous view out the balcony window--makes me feel like I'm in the woods

Our fancy shower stall with sliding, rounded see-through doors

Closet in the bedroom

The chair can also pull out into a bed--though we didn't give it a try

Views of the living room--the wonderful air-conditioner was right above Teresa's head

Views of kitchen and dining area

Teresa was delighted with the TV

The fridge/freezer were out on the balcony

The view on Kreschatik--people out walking, sitting on benches chatting

Many of the buildings are marked like this with name of street and building number posted somewhere on the front. Our apartment was on Lesi Ukrainky, building no. 10

We got moved to a very nice apartment with lovely chestnut trees out the balcony window. It kind of makes me forget I am still in a huge city. No computer though. We got our bags set down, spied out all the conveniences and then headed out the door to figure out where we are. We made it down to Kreschatik, ate lunch and got a call from Nastya. Things are still not smooth with the DD. I was asking Nastya if we could go pick up Steven Friday or Saturday and she said we could but it wouldn't likely go too well. DD has hung up on the prosecutor's office, the State Dept of Adoption, and Ukr version of Dept of Health and Welfare. It sounded like if we tried to get him we might have to resort to police action! Seriously. I think that would be just too frightening for Steven so we are opting to wait for Tuesday when we can get the passport and fix the address registration problem and then hopefully get him. Of course then we have to do medical and visa before flying out on Thursday.

Then we headed on Metro to see the Chernobyl Museum. Oh my :( I so wish I could have read the exhibits or that their books-for-sale were in English. We found out that a person can arrange ahead of time for an English-speaking tour of the place. We did get to hear a bit of the English explanation that some other people were getting. But just looking at the pictures was quite sobering. I will have to do more research on that disaster.

The last tenants of the apartment left cherries and strawberries in the fridge, some cheese spread and some sliced ham. We also found two fresh loaves of bread and some eggs. Cool!

The apartment we move to tomorrow is supposed to have a computer. Obviously we are not unpacking much!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Passport Application submitted

These pictures are from 6/25/09 afternoon and evening

The fountains at Independence Square felt so refreshing. Teresa and I waded sandals and all.

I don't know what this building is. It was near our eating-spot and just looked interesting

Thank you for your prayers. Yesterday we got a call to head for the Metro and meet Dima at the University station at 2:30. Dima, Steven, the blond care-giver and the other representative from the orphanage were waiting across the street. Steven looked so adorable in a yellow T-shirt with sports shoes pictured on it and wearing tennis shoes as well. Usually at the orphanage he is wearing slippers. But bless his little heart, he also looked quite scared and was definitely not running off. When he got his picture taken, they actually sat him up on top of two really thick files of paper to make him tall enough for the camera and he looked like he was about to cry. I got to choose which pose to use for the passport and then had to practice writing my name in a certain sized box without touching the borders. My name is pretty long all written out and my hands were so sweaty--it was HOTTTTTT!!--that my fingers wouldn't slide properly across the page so I ended up just doing first name, middle initial and last name. Then I had to do the same on the actual form from which the signature is transposed to the passport itself. Dima says there is a tiny chance the passport will be done today (Friday) but MUCH more likely to be ready on Tuesday since offices are closed on Monday for Constitution Day. But he feels quite sure we should be ready to fly by Thursday June 2.

Teresa and I went to Papa John's for late lunch (about 4 pm) and then returned to our apartment where I brushed teeth, put on more deodorant, used the potty and then headed back on the Metro to meet other RR families for dinner. I had a plate of potato wedges and 2 Cola Lights--not bottles, just small glasses. One thing that surprises me is that as hot as it is the drinks are very often not kept refrigerated. Teresa did not accompany me--she had a hot date with a TV show. I left her with the room phone and Nastya's number to call if she needed to get in touch with me. I couldn't leave the cell phone with her since it has come in handy before when I couldn't find the people I was meeting.

Teresa and I had already packed most of our clothes but spent quite awhile collecting all of our stuff around the apartment. My heart had sunk when I realized we also need to move all the stuff out of the fridge and cupboards. Since I don't have a box, the cupboard stuff is in sacks. Fridge stuff is still in the fridge of course. And since 2 of our carry-ons are still in Nastya's car with Steven's clothes--should we ever get to pick him up--quite a bit of our other stuff is in sacks, too. I hope everything will fit in the car. I've got to get off of here--supposed to be moving at 11:30 (2 hours from now)

I'm not sure about our internet status--the place we move to on Sunday is supposed to have a computer . . . we'll see.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oh my word!!

It's a little after 11 AM here and Nastya just called to tell me what is going on with the passport process. Oh my word!!! Believe me, just because you don't hear from your facilitator earlier in the day certainly does NOT mean they are not working earnestly on your behalf. Often it is just the opposite--they are so busy working on the case that they can't stop to chat.

As you might easily imagine, the request to the DD about getting Steven taken to the passport office for a picture--just a picture, mind you, and transported by orphanage staff, NOT us--was not met with a "sure, what time do you need him?" No sirree, Bob! Instead we needed some kind of a decree and this paper and that form. So phone calls were made to the inspector and the prosecutor and some 'higher authority' I think Nastya mentioned about 5 different offices. Even the director himself who is on vacation was contacted. The director then called the DD and afterwards the DD 'thinks' she is convinced. Maybe she can get him to the passport office 'tomorrow' Nastya said no way, we have dealt with 'tomorrow' since November. So as of Nastya's phone call, Dima is at the passport office right now getting a start on the passport paperwork and the orphanage is supposed to be taking Steven over for picture. At some point Dima will call us and we'll board the metro and head there ourselves.

We are to change apartments tomorrow around noon and then to yet another apartment on Sunday.

It looks like every . . . . single . . . . step is a struggle but this is our son and GOD is going to win!! But please don't stop praying--THAT is the power source.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The bad news and the good news.

One of the cute little guys from Steven's orphanage--he has the most gorgeous, melt-your-heart brown eyes

Natasha, Paula, Kevin, Bill, Lyndi, Adam, Amy at Tequila House

Back of Natasha and Paula's heads, Bill, Lyndi, Amy and Adam

Natasha, Paula, Kevin and Bill

My time sense is still totally off even though I've been here 3 1/2 weeks. This morning we didn't have a particular schedule. I woke up and figured it must be something like 10 am--nope, more like only 7:30. It has been very hot and we keep the window wide open for air and so of course get lots of traffic noise from the very busy street outside. Though I did lay back down I'm really glad I went ahead and showered at a reasonable hour because I heard that birdie-cheeping sound--the doorbell. A man was standing there, apparently from the power company, to install a new meter. Then it dawned on me what the note left on the apartment door yesterday was telling me. I could read the date and the times but had no idea what it was pertaining to--I thought it had something to do with checkout times for departure or something. Being illiterate stinks :)

We were originally scheduled to fly out tomorrow but are guessing at about another week. That's THE BAD NEWS. We'll have to move out of this apartment on Friday as it will no longer be available. Our apt company is providing this service free of charge. They'd already offered us another apartment but now I've had to ask whether it's available for so many more days--I don't want to have to move more than once.

I was so bummed to mess up my Mom's special plan to have an anniversary dinner cruise on the Snake River on the 26th. Seriously it broke my heart because my Mom has been looking forward to this event with just Mom and Dad (50th anniv), my brother and his wife (25th anniv), Kevin and I (15th anniv) for several months. But tonight I found out that the trip had been cancelled by the cruise company itself. I'm relieved I wasn't the one to mess it up but hope we can reschedule after I'm home.

We went across town to visit Steven. Wow, was it ever hot outside!! The weather didn't slow that young man down a bit--still kept running off wanting to be chased over and over and over. The deputy director came outside--I think really to observe our visit. I tried to show her we were hugging, kissing, playing, laughing. She had us move to a shadier, more comfortable area--not that Steven had any interest whatsoever in staying sedately in that shady gazebo-like shelter. Teresa found the cherry trees all around with several fairly-ripe cherries within reach. I hope the kids get the benefit of the fresh fruit on the property.

On the way home I got a call from Nastya with THE GOOD NEWS: after one entire week, we have that lovely tax number!!!!! I guess Alexey and Nastya were called to pick up the paper at the tax office in Irpin. It's a good 30-45 minute drive. They got there and found that the paper did indeed show his name as Steven Mikhyal McClain but still also had the patronymic name--something like Mikilovich--AND it listed him as female. This was a problem. Smile. So A and N just glued themselves there until the errors were fixed.

The current plan is to try to get people from the orphanage to take Steven to the passport office to get his picture taken tomorrow. Then we can apply for the passport. Since A and N must be out of town tomorrow, Dima is scheduled to help us out.

Also A or N called some 'higher authorities' who said the DD has no right to keep us from picking up our son. They plan to give this phone number to the DD tomorrow so she herself can call said 'higher authorities' to discuss the situation. Hopefully we won't have to continue the seemingly futile efforts to unregister Steven from the orphanage address.

Lyndi called saying several of us Reece's Rainbow people were meeting at a place called the Tequila House around 7 pm and her husband Bill explained which Metro station we needed to get off at. We got there but unfortunately had no idea of which direction to exit the station. I was so hot I just chose the nearest one so I could get out to fresher air. I called Lyndi and spoke to Paula's translator but she couldn't figure out where Teresa and I were from my description of the surrounding buildings. Teresa and I kept walking, I kept trying to pronounce street names, describe what I was seeing but to no avail. Finally she came up with a good idea: go back to the metro platform and meet there. That worked great.

The Tequila House has a Mexican theme. We had Amy and Adam, Lyndi and Bill, Paula and Kevin (who are adopting a 4 year old from an orphanage here in Kiev) and Paula's translator, Natasha (?) We had such a fun, crazy, laughing time. Yes, we did get pictures!! I had a chicken chimichanga and Cola Light. Teresa had a cheese enchilada and Pepsi. Pretty yummy. Lyndi and Bill rode the Metro home with us as far as their stop and we came on home.

Thanks for all of your prayers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Grief!!!

Scenes from inside the huge train station

The above picture shows the outside of the train station; the picture below shows the metro station next door

These 2 pictures are taken in the botanical gardens at the University (Universitet) Metro station

First off, I wanted to better explain this 'registration' thing with Steven since I asked more questions today. Nastya told me that every person--but especially every child--in Ukraine is registered to a certain address. If a family with children sells their home they can't actually sell the portion that belongs to the child unless there is proof that the child has a new address. I think it is actually for the child's welfare--to make sure he/she always has a home. So right now Steven is registered at the orphanage address and the deputy director (DD) wants us to get him unregistered there before she releases him. Nastya asked us to be ready at 8 am this morning so we could go get this done.

So off we drove across the city to the Svyatoshin district to the orphanage to pick up a representative from the orphanage (I don't know her title but she is not the deputy director or the doctor or a caregiver) So we waited quite awhile in the car, then Alexey went in, then Alexey and Nastya went in and asked us to please stay there and not leave the car (remember the time we left the car unattended to go find something to eat? That must have been a no-no) Well, after awhile here came Alexey, saying I needed to come in and sign a paper. I said "OK" and he said "No, it's not OK" Poor guy, he is so disgusted with this situation. So up we traipsed to the director's office (I tore the sleeve of my shirt on a tiny nail sticking out in the entry doorway) where Nastya was writing out a legal paper, getting advice from the other ladies present including the DD and the lady we were supposed to pick up on the appropriate wording for the document. They got it to their satisfaction and I signed it--as I recall it was a request for Steven's registration to be changed.

The 5 of us got into the car and headed to an office building where we squeezed through the narrow, crowded hallway until we got to such and such a room. Of course, I have no clue what was said but the person in there actually, physically pushed and shooed us out of there and shut the door behind me. So we all stood in the hallway, (I'm sure providing a welcome diversion to all the other people standing in the passport line and by other doorways awaiting their turns) while Nastya made some phone calls. Then Teresa and I were told to stay there while Nastya and Alexey went off in search of another door, I guess. It's so weird being surrounded by people with whom you cannot communicate, feeling like they are going to eat you. Finally A and N motioned to us and we squeezed back down that hall with people lining both sides and into another office and then another office and finally back to the first office. I did get to show my passport. I heard Nastya talking about 'momma' and 'papa' but was otherwise pretty clueless about what was going on. When Nastya had an appropriate time to explain she said each office was just basically saying that we needed to go to some other office first before coming to their office. The final word was that we cannot unregister Steven from the orphanage until he has a passport with our US address, proving he has a home to go to. AND that the passport needs to be done through that particular office (Nastya remarked later that Steven could be an adult before THAT office got the passport done --smile--so it's not the one they use) Anyway, that takes us back to the elusive tax number (which still has not come through) that we must have before we can get Steven or the passport both of which we must have prior to getting an exit visa, of course. So there was nothing else to do but drop the orphanage representative off back at the orphanage. Teresa and I asked to be dropped off at McDonald's at the train station (which is gorgeous by the way) from which we proceeded by Metro to the botanical gardens for a nice shady walk on this extremely hot day. (I got my other arm mildly pinched in the metro door when it opened--I guess that's why they say to step away from the door but it was so crowded in there)

Apparently in most cases the orphanages just take care of this whole registration issue themselves when a child is adopted. That is why it is so irritating to our facilitators, I think, to be spending all this time on something that is so needless.

So it is certain we will not be able to fly home on Thursday as hoped. We will be moving to another apartment at some point since this one will only be available one more day after we'd originally scheduled it. And tomorrow sometime I need to be able to tell Eldon from Golden Rule WHEN we can fly--please pray that we'll know by then.

Thanks everyone for your prayers. God has not answered them the way I hoped he would but He is sovereign and He is walking through the tough times with us. I do know you are praying because I am feeling like I am being upheld.

Please keep praying for us and our family at home.