By Analiz G. Schremmer
Before coming to stay with host families in Dallas, some of the Russian orphans in the Angels from Abroad program had no idea what it was like to be part of a family. So saying goodbye was a difficult thing.
[caption id="attachment_1348" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Michael gets a hug from his host dad Greg Lee. Greg told Michael and his sister, Sarah, to consider going through the adoption process with them."][/caption]
Debbie Wynne, director of Buckner adoption and maternity services, prayed before their departure.
“God help these children go home with glad hearts knowing that they have had lifelong memories that they will never forget. Please continue to watch over them when we can’t be there physically.”
The host families displayed Russian dictionaries with bent pages from much use during the three weeks of the children’s visit. The children held photo albums and sported new clothes when they hugged their host families one last time and got on the van that would take them to the airport.
“We had a lot of really memorable moments,” said Lori Henrich, who hosted two children. “One time Andrea got her feelings hurt and she crawled in my lap and fell asleep.
“I took her to get her nails done and we got them in matching colors.”
Some children and host families cried when they said goodbye. But others held their tears after host parents asked them to take some time to consider whether they want to go through the adoption process with them.
“There are lots of complications with adoption,” said a host father who wants to adopt the children who stayed with him. “Also, things can get complicated with the paperwork.”
He stopped his host son before he left to get in the bus. “Can we go too?” The child waved him into the bus with a smile. Then he stopped and hugged him goodbye.
Angels Make a Splash at Lake Day
By Ryan Brown
(ATHENS, Texas) – Inflatables, boat rides, and catfish filled the day Aug. 8 as adoptive families and Angels from Abroad host families joined together to celebrate at Athens Lake. Lake Day is hosted by First Baptist Church in Athens at the residence of Lee and Susan Bush.
Carol Stone, office manager and pastor’s assistant at First Baptist, said this was one event that made it worthwhile to all who participated.
“We care about these children and we want every child to have a great experience,” she said. “We don’t have to understand their language but seeing the smiles on their faces, we know they just had a great time. It makes us feel good knowing we helped with that.”
According to Natasha Potts, a former Angel who was adopted seven years ago, this event has come along way and gives these kids opportunities to do things that they had never done before.
“I’m happy for them,” she said. “I never got to experience this so I’m glad that they get this new type of experience. It lets them know that people care about them.”
Albert Reyes, president of Buckner Children and Family Services, and Jerry and Deniese Dillon, founders of Dillon International, attended the event and were each presented with a token of appreciation on behalf of the current Angels from Abroad.
The catfish dinner was provided by Fry Daddy’s, a local group that grew from a small group of guys cooking during Easter to a full-fledged organization. They have been a part of Lake Day since the Angels from Abroad program first began and consider cooking as part of their ministry.
“In life, people are also pretty battered up for one reason or another,” said Robert Hoover, Fry Daddy and member of First Baptist. “As for us, we feel you can always reach someone’s heart through their stomach.”
Host Lee Bush, who adopted two girls from Russia when his sons became older, continues to spread the message of adoption to others even though his daughters are now grown.
“There are a lot of people who care a lot about this process of adoption,” he said. “I hope people will see how big of a blessing it is as a family to have fun together. We do everything we can to make sure that this is a fun day, as one of the things families should surround themselves with is fun.”
To learn more about Angels from Abroad program, visit www.angelsfromabroad.com. To learn more about Russian adoption through Buckner, visit www.beafamily.org.
Lake Pointe Hosts Angels for Vacation Bible School
By Jenny Pope
A rodeo. Swimming. Riding scooters. These are all new experiences for a group of Russian orphans, but the learning curve hasn’t fazed them a bit.
[caption id="attachment_1321" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Kim Johnson sits with daughters Emily, 5, and Abby, 3. Kim and her husband David direct Lake Pointe's adoption ministry in Rockwall, Texas. "][/caption]
“I think they adjusted immediately,” Yulia Malenko said with a laugh. Malenko is one of the social workers at Orphanage No. 2 in St. Petersburg, Russia, who traveled with the children across the world for the Angels from Abroad program.
“It’s good for them to get into a new environment. They live in such a closed world. They see the model of a family environment, and they can feel the good attitudes of the families. This is great for them.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the Angels experienced another new American tradition – Vacation Bible School, hosted by Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas.
Lake Pointe’s adoption ministry began five years ago and they have already grown to more than 200 families. They provide support groups for families, host an annual adoption conference and help to raise awareness about orphan care and adoption issues in their church and surrounding community.
“We support families who are thinking about adoption, who are going through adoption and all the way to post-adoption support,” said Kim Johnson, who directs the ministry with her husband David. She added that many of their adoption activities are in partnership with Buckner International.
[caption id="attachment_1322" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Margot's family is hosting Max during his two-week stay."][/caption]
The Johnsons also have a personal adoption connection. They adopted their youngest daughter Abby, 3, from Russia.
“We see that there is an increasing need for older adoptions,” Johnson said, “so we wanted to help with the Angels program to get them the exposure they deserve.
“There is a ministry behind all of this. Biblically, we’re called to care of orphans. It’s relating physical adoption to our adoption into the family of Christ.”
Natasha Votyakova, Buckner International’s director in Russia, said this year’s Angels program has been the smoothest to date.
“This is our fourth year, and every year we get the hang of it more and more,” she said. “We have so many orphanages in Russia who want to participate. We could easily do this two or three times a year.”
Votyakova said the program has built a lot of trust between Buckner and the Russian authorities. “It’s done a lot of good for the kids, too” she said.
Nearly 90 percent of all children who participate in the program are adopted, she said. The host families help to advocate for the children in their homes and most of them will eventually be placed with a family.
[caption id="attachment_1323" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Past and present Angels gather at Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall for Vacation Bible School."][/caption]
“And for those who aren’t adopted, it’s still a great opportunity for them to experience living with a family and to visit the United States,” she added. “It gives them hope.”
Former Russian Angels who have been adopted in the North Texas area come back to participate with the program. Many of them are helping to translate for the children.
“It’s a blessing to see them here,” Votyakova added. “They are all doing so well.”
Angels Touch Down at Mesquite Rodeo
Current and former Angels from Abroad gathered Saturday, Aug. 1 at the Mesquite Rodeo for an evening of Texas fun.
Angels Land in Dallas
By Analiz G. Schremmer
(DALLAS, Texas) — Ten Russian orphans landed in Dallas on July 31 for what may be some of the most exciting days of their lives.
The children are participating in Angels from Abroad, a three-week orphan host program of Dillon International and Buckner.
[caption id="attachment_1275" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Children participating in the Angels from Abroad program unload the bus that brought them to the Buckner Children's Home. The children will spend three weeks with host families in Dallas."][/caption]
After a long journey, they climbed off the bus carrying only the bags under their eyes, since they will each get a suitcase full of new clothes during their visit. When the children walked into the Buckner children’s home, they revived at the sight of balloons, snacks and pictures of themselves and their host families all over the walls.
Meanwhile, host parents waited for their turn to meet the children. Greg and Lisa Lee, who hope to adopt Sarah, 9 and Michael, 12, were getting a little anxious.
Russian orphans who are not adopted by the time they turn 16 are put out into the streets with little to no hope for a happy future. So a permanent home would be the best thing that could happen to this sibling pair.
The Lees have an adult son who is now married. Now, they said they feel ready to start over again.
“We looked at our house and thought, ‘We’ve got enough room. We’ve got a heart for the children. Why not?’”
When it was their turn, the Lees were escorted into a room to meet the children with the help of a translator. They pull out pictures of Sarah and Michael and told them about their home.
[caption id="attachment_1276" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Danny and Daniel, who are both participating in the Angels from Abroad program, enjoy snacks at the Buckner Children's Home in Dallas."][/caption]
Sarah told the translator that she would like them to know that she is a dancer. Then she stood up and did a quick routine. The Lees clapped out loud.
“You will have your own rooms with clothes in the closets,” Greg said through the translator. “And we heard you like animals. We have a dog and three cats.”
The kids giggled and look at each other. Then the whole group took their first picture and then waved goodbye as they headed out to the car.
The children will participate in a number of activities over the three-week period, including Vacation Bible School, swim parties, makeovers, an evening at the Mesquite Rodeo and more.
Follow the Angels stories at www.angelsfromabroad.com. And check in regularly with Tiffany Wilkins, host parent and program coordinator, at http://blog.angelsfromabroad.com.