I wish I had better words to describe to you all the amazing changes happening in this country! When we came here 3 years ago to adopt Zoya, never did I even THINK I'd be able to witness and be a part of such an amazing change. Attitudes here are changing, slowly, but surely. Having had the opportunity to come here once a year for 3 years has been such an amazing blessing. It's as if I can see these changes right before my own eyes. It kind of reminds me of when you put one of those capsules in water and it slowly turns into a fun-shaped sponge (bear with me, I'm going on little sleep here!)
One of my favorite parts about returning is being able to show the tangible changes in our girls through pictures. To watch mouths hang open wide not even believing they are the same children who left this country....that is such a reward. Not because we should be glorified, but when people from this country see pictures of our girls and the AMAZING changes they've been through since coming home....they simply can't believe it. They can't help but see the potential of our children once in families. They say things like "they don't even look like they have Down Syndrome anymore." And you know why they think that? It is because they are not looking at an orphan with special needs that the world has written off, they are looking at children who have been CHOSEN, who have been LOVED, who have been taken into families, and who have been invested in! They see love, they see a child first when they look at those pictures, and honestly, I think THAT is what really shocks them! It is a truly beautiful thing.
On our first trip here for Zoya's adoption (in 2010) we encountered lots of negativity and skepticism about adopting a child with Down Syndrome. We were told repeatedly by folks from this country, "Why are you here to adopt a 'broken' 'sick' child?" "You are so young and beautiful, why do you want a sick child when you could have your own biological babies?" "This will ruin your life," "Are you here for their organs to sell on the black market?" (seriously, because they could NOT understand why Americans would spend money to adopt such unwanted children). We saw sparks of light toward the end of Zoya's adoption and one mind changed. One of the witnesses for Zoya's case said "I cannot think this is a good idea or understand why they would petition the court to take such a child, and then after hearing their words and seeing their pictures, I still can't understand it in my mind, but in my heart I know this is the best opportunity for this child." She said that with tears in her eyes. One little, seemingly inconsequential change of mind. One little tiny seed planted. That seed may scatter and plant other little seedlings and that is how change begins. One tiny baby step at a time....one tiny interaction, sharing of testimony, that makes such a huge difference. Change, slow, a catalyst for bigger changes that we can't even fathom today. That one little tiny footprint remains embedded in my mind. I had no idea something so little could be a catalyst for such big change.
When we came for Mila's adoption, there seemed to be a better understanding of why we were here, why we wanted to adopt another child with Down Syndrome. The facilitation team and the orphanage staff SAW the value in our children and there were no such questions as listed above. Only gratitude to us for doing what they couldn't do....giving a WORTHY child a family. I had a heart to heart with our in region translator about helping just one child at a time and reminded her of the huge difference she is making, even though it may seem small to her. She is part of that catalyst for change, too.
And this time, so far, my mind has just been blown away with the overall attitude. It's still mostly on a professional level at this point (meaning orphanage staff, facilitators, social workers, etc.) are really starting to understand and see with their own eyes, the value of these children. They are starting to understand that children with special needs are WORTHY of love and life and family. This is the first step in the huge change that is needed with the orphan crisis here. The next step is to transfer this change in attitude to society in general....a lofty goal you might say....but God is capable. He is using each and every family that comes through, using their stories of love and redemption, to help make this change happen. I am left tonight feeling so hopeful for the future of the orphan crisis in this country. Don't get me wrong, in a couple of days we will be back at the orphanage and my heart will shatter into a million pieces all over again when I'm confronted face to face with these very children I am speaking of.
Along with all of these changes I've observed, of course, my own heart has changed greatly. After Zoya's adoption, I left this country feeling ANGRY! How could these people do this to these children? How could a mother just walk away from her baby forever? How can they allow them to lay in cribs day after day after day with such minimal interaction and stimulation. I was angry at this country. Soon I realized that was ignorant. This happened in our very own country as late as the 70s. We are no better. I was forced to ask myself if I were raised in this country and this culture, what would my decision be? Would I walk away from my own flesh and blood because of stigmas and lack of medical care and lack of services? I can't answer that because I have been blessed to live in a country where that would never have to be a choice for me. We have better services, and better rights for people with disabilities, but do we value their life any more? With a near 90% abortion rate for mother's carrying babies with DS, are we really any better to just not even ever give them the chance? I struggle with this greatly.
After Mila's adoption, I left feeling a place in my heart for this country....a soft spot you could say. I saw many people doing what they thought was best to care for Mila and they cared about her and for her as well as they knew how. Was it perfect? Of course not. Were they trying? Yes. They don't have the tools (medical, therapy, knowledge, expectations....on how to help these kids). For the majority of what we saw, intentions were good, attitude was positive, and a couple of the caretakers went above and beyond to care for Mila. She was extremely malnourished, extremely sick, really in very bad condition when we adopted her....but somehow I found God asking me to have grace with these people....as many of them are doing the best they know how. Again, change...happening slowly, but surely. Tangible examples of change right before my very own eyes.
This time, I have such high hopes of acting intentionally with each footprint that I leave....with each interaction I have...with each child I get to love on. I have such a profound sense of hope today. Change is on it's way...but it won't happen overnight!