Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I have a secret to tell you: I like haiku. Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. It is distinguished by its minimalist structure. You can read all you want to know about it and more at Wikipedia. In English, one form of the poem has 17 syllables in three lines arranged 5-7-5. The impact of haiku is not only in what is said, but in what is left unsaid. Because there are so many gaps, the reader is able to take them and personalize them to his reality. He is left pondering in his mind all of the possibilities. It is wonderful.

I've been thinking about Sergei Adveev since I posted yesterday and I wanted to do something to honor his memory. So, I composed 5 haiku as a memorial to him. Each poem stands on its own, and tells a story. But they are also coherent as a whole, and tell a larger story. I will post them tomorrow without commentary. I wept as I wrote them. I hope they touch you, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Precious One

Life on the streets is not easy for an orphan. The street is where many orphans end up when they age out of the orphanage and are not able to earn a living. The future is bleak for those who can't escape. But there are wonderful missionaries in some places doing what they can to help orphans. Even though they can't adopt them, they are being Jesus' physical presence on Earth to those who otherwise would be very literally loveless. Children's Hopechest is one of these organizations.

Tom Davis tells the sad story of a Russian orphan named Sergei Adveev, from the town of Sobinka. He was a young man who was doing his best to make it in this world, but was murdered by skinheads. Only six people, SIX, came to his funeral. Five if you don't count the priest. And there wouldn't have been any but for the missionaries. Thank you, God, for them.

I love Tom's heart and his writing. I wish I could have 1% of the compassion that he has, and the will to act on it.

Tom is an author. You can read a chapter from his book, Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds here, and watch the video.

Monday, April 28, 2008


This is Jastin, he is from Tanzania. We have been sponsoring him for the last couple of years through Compassion International. For $32.00 a month we have been making a difference in his life. We send letters back and forth, and when he writes to us, he always draws us a picture. I'll post one in the future.

Now, this is your conscience speaking. Click through the link here and sponsor a kid. I will be a rock in your shoe until you do. You've seen the picture cards and videos, now quit putting it off.

Update: After posting, by coincidence I note that Compassion reached an Historic Milestone in Tanzania. The article also gives a good overview of how the ministry works.

Please - I don't mean the tone of this post to be pushy or insulting. It is just my weird humor. It is a big step to take to commit to sponsoring one of these children. BUT - If it is within your means to do so, I strongly encourage you to consider it. Involve your kids in the selection... They love helping other kids, and they will enjoy corresponding with them. Many of you reading this blog want to help orphans by adopting. Others cannot, but would if they could. Here is a very easy way to make a difference. (Stepping down off the soapbox now)

I am interested to hear from you if you already sponsor a child, or if this post nudged you in that direction. Comments are always welcome.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

One of the nice things about living in rural South Dakota is the nearness of nature. Thursday, before work, I happened to look out our bedroom window and saw this hawk in the Ponderosa pinetree we have. We see all kinds of birds in there, but this is the first time I've seen a hawk in it. So I went and grabbed the camera and snapped a quick picture (sorry it's not very clear, it doesn't zoom the greatest).

But then - after I got the picture on the computer, I noticed a blackbird laying on its back, with a wound on his breast. He was surely dead. I would have noticed him had he moved. Apparently, he was to be breakfast. I felt kind of sorry for him, though I generally don't think too highly of blackbirds.

There is so much bad news coming out of Ukraine lately, this vignette helps me keep things in perspective.

"for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."

Phil. 4:11-13 NLT

Have a nice weekend everyone. It's been fun seeing the hit map where all of our visitors are coming from.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Adoption Law, er, Adopted

Yesterday, President Yushchenko signed into law new restrictions on adoptive families. The new law now disallows single parents, and the age difference between the older of the two parents and the adopted child cannot exceed 45 years.

The law went into effect immediately upon signing and Oleg tells us that the SDA will enforce it vigorously. Of course. Wow even if prospective adoptive parents are in-country at this time, they are out of luck*.

Frankly, I'm not all that surprised. A few years back when we were briefly considering Holt to do an international adoption, we were made aware of more restrictions in many countries than even this new Ukrainian law. See, for example, South Korea.

There is a loophole, though, if you are a married couple affected by the new age provision, and the younger of the two parents is within the 45 year limit. The younger parent can do all of the paperwork, with the older parent merely consenting to the adoption. That has always been possible, but now would be required if you're in this situation.

I don't have any doubts that a two-parent family structure is best for kids. The breakdown of families is an American tragedy. However, I don't agree that it would be better for an orphan to be denied a family for this reason. I myself never knew my father and it was not the end of the world.

I do hope that there is one good positive side effect of the age thing, though, and that is that maybe more older kids will get adopted.

See also Kelly Baehr's post.

You can go to the U.S. State Dept. website here to see adoption requirements for many countries.

*Update: Oleg informs us that this is indeed happening. He has personally witnessed tears at the SDA from single women who had already visited their children, and now cannot adopt them. Such pathos.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Kingdom for a Referral

There is an official process for picking a child to adopt in Ukraine and that is to visit the SDA offices in Kiev and view portfolios of kids that they provide to you, and then choose one.

That is, unless you already have a referral for one. It is a little mysterious to me how that works officially, since it is illegal for a third party to act as an agent or broker in the adoption process. How do you find out about a child other than the SDA? Word of mouth. Hosting. Prior visits to orphanages. Siblings. Providence. Good luck. We found out about Sergei and Valya in those ways.

This is on my mind today, because I was reading some of the adoption blogs that we have links to from ours, and found some cases of failed Ukrainian adoptions. Several families recently went to Kiev to adopt, and the only kids that the SDA would show the families had serious medical problems. They had gone to Ukraine without a specific child in mind beforehand. I will let you read about them if you wish, but it is just too sad.

Shirley and Steve
Dave and Gina
Drew and Rita
Jason and Erica

If you are looking to adopt from Ukraine, it's a good idea to have a child in mind before you go. I say all this as someone who hasn't actually completed an adoption yet. Take it for what it's worth.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't Just Sit There... DO Something

OK well it's been several days since I've checked in... Life has a way of getting busy now and then.

In the earlier post I mentioned that our Ukrainian facilitator thought it would be a good idea to contact anyone that we thought would have any persuasion over the SDA to allow our dossier to be processed as soon as possible. Following the advice of Drs. David and Cindie, I composed a letter to our Senator Thune to see if he can provide any help to us. According to this, he's "strong, he's smart, and he knows how to get things done." Hehe. He's also a family man. Don't be surprised if he's Vice-President some day. Better rush this letter out before he gets too busy...

God guide that letter to anyone that can help.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxation With Representation

Happy Tax Day everyone!

We've been getting advice to contact our US Senators to try to get some intervention for our dossier in Kiev. Out on the forum, one party said it wouldn't do any good, but others said it would be helpful. So I think we'll give it a try. Thanks especially to Dr. David for his helpful blog post. I'll post later with more detail. Gotta run now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Golden Eagle Chick

Charlie Buhler, a recent graduate from Mark's school, Mitchell Christian, is Miss South Dakota USA and is competing in the Miss USA Pageant tonight in Las Vegas. Charlie's family are big supporters of our school. Someday we want to have Sergei and Valya attend there, too.

So this just goes to show you can go anywhere from here. Even Odessa. I hope. Go Charlie!

Alan adds: Charlie didn't win, but it was fun to hear "Mitchell, South Dakota" on national TV. Don't hear that every day. And I realized that beauty pageants really aren't my thing. Once Charlie was eliminated I got totally bored with it and did something else. Nancy hung in there, though!

Mitchell, Siberia, 57301

I think we should adopt from Russia instead of Ukraine. They would feel right at home here, today. Blizzard warnings for half of South Dakota these last couple of days. One of our poor Maple trees lost a big limb.

Thankfully, Spring snow doesn't last long and will probably be gone in a couple of days. The 7-day weather forecast is calling for temps in the 70's next week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm Giving It Up

Came across this video that Sara Groves put together. She's one of my favorite musical artists.
Your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
what I'm made of

Sara Groves Lyrics I Saw What I Saw [LyricsYouLove]

So... Did you find it moving?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Screw Loose and Fancy Free

What is wrong with this world?!!

The state of international adoptions is in the mainstream news again today. The Associated Press reported today on the sluggish pace of adoptions from China in their story, Waits Lengthen for Adoptions From China. It is unfathomable to me that they would force thousands or millions of abortions with their one-child-per-family law, but are taking multiple years to approve a few thousand adoptions.

In a related story, the Associated Press reported on some other countries, as well, in their article, Adoption Problems in Other Countries.

Alan adds: Found another article, Road to foreign adoption grows longer.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hello Kitty

This is Valya, the young lady that we would like to adopt. She is at the Andreyevo-Ivanovka orphanage. We believe that she is 11 or 12 years old. She was a friend of the Tolly girls.

There doesn't seem to be much out on the blogs about Andreyevo. We've been told not many adoptions happen there. That's too bad, because it looks like there are some great kids there.

Andreyevo is about two hours away from Odessa. We know it would be simpler to find a girl in Odessa, because we will already be there to get Sergei, but how could we say no to her?

We are currently looking for people who have had contact with Valya.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Green Room

I want to introduce you to the young man that we are hoping to adopt. This is Sergei, who is in Orphanage #4 in Odessa. We believe that he is 12 years old. Some of you reading this blog already know him, or know of him, I think. We've received several pictures of Sergei from our friend, and have also noticed some pictures of him in other blogs.

Sergei was almost adopted last year, but the adoption fell through for some reason after the family arrived in Ukraine.

If we could be in Odessa tomorrow to get him, we would do it. As it is, though, we are playing the waiting game.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fingers Crossed

Heard from our facilitator, Oleg, yesterday. Says he got the money I wired, plus the dossier is in good shape. So that's good news, I guess.

Also says that he and his team are keeping their "fingers crossed" that the situation with the SDA will improve soon.

He said that we should be keeping in touch with the other 7 families he is holding dossiers for right now. Guess it's time to hit the forum again soon, since we don't know who they all are.

We are 8 families, then, that have completed dossiers that haven't even been submitted to the Ukrainian government, and there is NO indication that they ever will be. It is very disappointing.

Ps. 121 says,
I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You, Maker of Heaven,
Creator of the earth.
O how I need You Lord, You are my only hope;
You are my only prayer.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I have UNICEF on my mind. It makes by brain hurt.

Wikipedia describes the Law of Unintended Consequences,
This maxim is not a scientific law; it is more in line with Murphy's law as a warning against the false belief that we can control the world around us. In other words, each cause has more than one effect, which will invariably include at least one side effect that is more significant than any of the intended effects.
I think of this when I think of UNICEF. You see, UNICEF, which is a program of the United Nations, is trying to convince the world that it is in orphans' best interest to remain in their own culture, if possible. Intercountry adoptions are discouraged if there are viable domestic alternatives. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. The problem comes when there are insufficient options in the childrens' home country.

In Ukraine's case, I have seen estimates that there are about 100,000 children in orphanages. So I can understand UNICEF going into Ukraine and encouraging them to develop programs to increase domestic adoptions, and possibly to develop a foster care system. But while these are good ideas, is it really necessary to almost completely cut off international adoptions? Those kinds of initiatives take time to create. Why not do all that in addition to maintaining the past levels of international adoptions? The unintended consequence of what seems like UNICEF's good intentions is that 98,000 kids will remain in orphanages this year with 0 chance of being adopted.

Newsweek has an interesting article called When There's No Place Like Home that kind of explains the two sides of the issue. Also, take a look at the reader comments at the end.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Western Union Newbie

Have you ever tried to send money using Western Union? Until yesterday I hadn't. Actually, the day before yesterday. Let me tell you how fun it is.

By agreement, our facilitator, Oleg, required $2,000 to be wired to him when they received our dossier for submission and its subsequent translation to Russian and notarizing. This is reasonable, since we have been working with him and Dima since about last July and they had received nothing from us for all of their efforts.

So, a couple of days ago I needed to wire the money. Since Western Union has a website, you would think you could do this with a couple of clicks of the mouse. So I went to the website, navigated the various screens, and got to the place where you send money. Can't do it, have to register with WU first. OK, did that, went to the screens again, now it lets me send. But wait, there's an error message of some kind, the request is rejected. Please see an agent. Hmmm. I'll try again later.

A couple hours later, I try again. Same message. OK so I'll see an agent. Where? There is a handy link on their website to find an agent. Gave it a try, but I get some other obscure error message. Guess I'll try later.

Gave it a try later from work, was able to find that there are four places here in Mitchell. The closest one is the grocery store, Coborn's. So I leave work for an "errand" and head down there, about 2 min. from where I work, to try it that way. Uh oh. Did you know that Western Union does not accept checks or credit cards? Guess I need to go to the bank tomorrow. The lady says I'll need enough to cover the WU fee as well.

Tomorrow comes and I withdraw $2,124. "Will 100's be OK?" the teller asks me. I head home so I can take a picture of it, then down to Coborn's again. So they have this dedicated phone there with a hotline to WU where this person with a heavy accent asks you about the transaction, etc., and gives you a number. The conversation goes something like this: "No, PRE - TRE. Papa Romeo Echo Tango Romeo Echo." You get the idea. Then you hang up and give the number to the person at the counter, who asks you for all the same information again. Whatever. Anyway it was fun to see her expression when I handed her $2,124 in cash. If you're doing the math, it turns out WU's cut is about 6%. Once you give the info to the lady, she sticks a receipt slip in a machine* and enters a bunch of numbers. Guess what, it won't accept the numbers. After several attempts, she mentions that she's never done this before. She's the manager. So she hands me the money again and runs off to get another employee that knows how to do it. And I'm standing there with a wad of cash with all these other people waiting in line. How fun. Well anyway, the other gal gets it to go through, but in all it took about ½ hr. just at the WU counter.

Dr. David has a humorous post about his experience with WU.

*Alan adds: I forgot to mention, you know, there are 4 ways you can feed the slip of paper into the machine, only one of which is correct, and, well, let's just say one was wasted. Hehe

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why, Oh Why, WHY Ukraine!!??

I want to take a minute and tell you about how we decided to adopt from Ukraine. I suppose I should also answer, why did we even decide to adopt?

Nancy and I have been married since 1990. I was 28, she was 34. I don't know if we ever really said, we want x children, we just kind of let things happen naturally. In 1994, our son Mark was born. Now, almost 14 years have gone by and we have no other children.

A few years back, Nancy and I attended an adoption seminar, or orientation, or whatever you call it, at Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls. But afterwards, neither of us felt a burning passion to go with their program. We just let it go.

Then, last year, our niece Sabrina and her husband went on a mission trip to Chile, where they did construction work on an orphanage. She sent us some info on a little boy that they wanted to see get adopted. When Mark saw that, he was all for it. He has always wanted siblings.

But about that same time, we learned that another family in our city, the Tolly's, had gone over to Ukraine to adopt two girls. That got us interested in Ukrainian adoptions. The Tolly's have become our friends and an invaluable resource as we pursue our own Ukrainian adoptions. Take a look at their adoption blog if you're interested.

Now, the unfortunate part. Ukraine is a relatively new country. Until the 1990's, it was part of the Soviet Union. They sometimes halt adoptions as they change the adoption procedures or whatever. We appear to be in one of these times. Our facilitator, Oleg, has told us that the government is not allowing adoptions right now. Dr. David has a great post on the situation. So we can only wait, and hope that some day, some way, things will change. The real bummer is that if we have to wait too long, the documents in our dossier will expire and we will have to start over. Pray with us for a miracle that the situation will improve. Not for us, really, but for the kids caught in the middle who desperately would like a family.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cereal with the Presidents

I couldn't sleep last night, I think because I was hungry. So I finally decided enough was enough and at about 1:30 a.m. schlepped into the kitchen to have some cereal. I love Raisin Bran (Kellogg's, not Post!). Anyway, I turned on the TV and happened across live coverage of a press conference in Kiev with President Bush and President Yushchenko. A few minutes of that made me sleepy. But it seems like I'm a lot more sensitive to significant news from Ukraine these days.

First Post

Well, here we are. Yesterday, I created this blog to allow us the opportunity to share with you what's going on with our Ukrainian adoptions. I say adoptions, but the arrival of kids seems so far off that it barely seems like that's the point. Since about July of last year, our focus has been on paperwork. Finally, yesterday, our dossier arrived in Kiev to our facilitators, Oleg and Dima. So, we think, completing the first phase of the process. The fate of our adoptions now lies with Oleg and the Ukrainian government. As time goes on, Nancy and I will be sharing what has taken place to get us to this point.