Brittany Black and Analiz Schremmer
DALLAS — Every orphan longs for a mom and dad. So when 17 Russian orphans said goodbye to their Texas host families on Aug. 16, there were a lot of tears.
“It’s a very difficult day for everyone, but there is a lot of hope, too,” said Beth Brinkmeyer, coordinator for Angels from Abroad, an orphan hosting program that helps raise awareness of the adoption of older children and gives orphans an experience of living with a family.
“This may not be the last time they see each other,” she said.
This year, 17 Russian orphans stayed with North Texas host families July 30 – Aug. 16 and experienced American summer activities like swimming, Vacation Bible School, even a rodeo. It is estimated that 750,000 children in Russia are orphans, many between the ages of 6-16 years old.
“We try and find experiences these kids wouldn’t normally get at the orphanage,” Brinkmeyer said. Many former orphans who are now adopted participate as translators or just came along to reconnect with their Russian friends.
Since its start in 2004, Angels from Abroad has inspired 30 families to adopt from Russia. And although adoption is not the goal of the program, “it always makes us happy to see our children find forever homes,” Brinkmeyer said.
The Angels from Abroad program depends on donors, families and ministry partners to give these orphans an experience of a lifetime. Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas and First Baptist Church in Athens, Texas played a big role in this year’s events, Brinkmeyer said.
Lake Pointe provided donated suitcases and new toiletry items for the orphans when they first arrived. They also held a two-day Vacation Bible School Aug. 4 and 5, where the children sang songs, played games and heard Bible stories.
“What a great opportunity Buckner gives us,” said Mary Jo Marvin, VBS leader and member of Lake Pointe. “If I can get people to see these children, we can get more families from here [Lake Pointe] to host and we can spread awareness of the needs of these children.”
First Baptist Church in Athens provided food, drinks, snacks, snow-cones, bounce houses, fish fry and tent setup for Lake Day held in Athens, Texas on Aug. 7.
“FBC Athens and Buckner have worked together over the years,” said Toni Clay, member of FBC Athens. “Lake Day was just another way in which we are able to help.”
Tracey and James Blakely from Garland have been host parents for five years and have been involved with the Angels program since day one. They even adopted their son Dima from Russia after hosting him in the program. The family also keeps in contact with many of the other children they have hosted who are now adopted into other families.
“Angels from Abroad is a life-changing experience,” James Blakely said. “You can’t even put it into words.”
Several of this year’s host parents hope to permanently bring one or two orphans back home. The adoption process typically lasts anywhere from nine months to a year, although individual cases vary.
To learn more about the Angels from Abroad program, visit www.angelsfromabroad.org. To learn more about Russian adoption through Buckner, visit www.beafamily.org.
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