(DALLAS)—The Denson family is riding on a tandem bike for seven.
God is the leader while Alyson, Wayne, Chase and Brett are peddling along with two other new pairs of feet. The additions are Russian orphans who are joining the Densons for almost three weeks as part of the Angels from Abroad hosting program.
“We were already starting to look into adoption, and about a month ago, Dillon International called us asking if we would like to host,” said Wayne Denson. “We were interested in giving this experience to the kids because we know that these older children have often been written off.”
Angels from Abroad began in 2004 to raise awareness about the needs of older orphan children in Russia. Each summer, a group of orphans comes to America for two weeks and lives with a family from the North Texas area. These children get the chance to experience American life and, more importantly, they experience the love of a family and feel a sense of hope for their future.
"In this program, we focus on the needs of older orphans,” said Beth Brinkmeyer, Angels from Abroad coordinator. “We also know that if they aren't adopted by the age 16, they will most likely face a very difficult future."
This year, 17 children flew from Russia July 30 and were greeted by their host families, volunteers from Lake Pointe Church and Buckner staff.
Each child received a suitcase filled with toiletries and goodies and a gift card for each host family, which was donated by Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas.
“These items were all gifts from members of our Adoption Ministry,” said Mary Jo Marvin, a volunteer from Lake Pointe.
Tracey Blakely and her family have hosted a child each year since the program began. She said this is the second year suitcases have been donated and that it’s "awesome" the church has been able to provide.
“You can’t even put this whole experience into words,” Blakely said.
This year, the Blakelys will host two boys: Alexander and Kiril.
“For most of these kids, it’s the first time for them to experience a family,” Blakely said. “You can see such a change in two weeks. First, they are reluctant to know you and by the end of the time they feel like they are your own kids.”
James and Tracey Blakely ' s daughter, Jessica, says she tries not to get attached each year, but that one way or another she still does.
The first year The Blakelys hosted a child, they adopted him. Dima has been with the family for six years.
All but one of the children the Blakely family has hosted have been adopted by different families, and once the children are adopted, the Blakelys continue to be part of their lives.
“The child we hosted last year asked us to be there for his American adoption,” said Tracey Blakely. “We like to keep a continued bond with each of them.”
Whether it’s a family’s first time to host, or if they are veterans, each family said they were excited and nervous about the experience.
Tamara, from the St. Petersburg, Russia orphanage, said she could feel the warmth and happiness from everyone.
“I am able to spend time with a family and get to know a new city and have a good rest,” she said about her trip to Dallas.
Before leaving with their host family, the children got a chance to sit down with their hosts and a translator to go over plans, rules, and to ask and answer any questions that came about.
The Denson’s told their two new additions that they must follow one big rule: “We have to have lots of fun,” Wayne said.
Elena,12, smiled and said, “That’s easy.”
To learn more about Angels from Abroad, visit www.angelsfromabroad.org.
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