|Our Russian Adoption & Our Sovereign God|
|Written by Rev. Andrew Nagel|
When we set out on the journey of international adoption, we knew we were in for an adventure and a challenge, but little did we know how complicated it would become.
After 14 months filing paperwork in the US, in October of 2012 my wife and I traveled to St Petersburg Russia, where we spent a week filing more paperwork, getting medical evaluations, and most importantly spending time in an orphanage with Timofei, a four-year old boy with Down Syndrome who we were planning to adopt.
I’ll never forget that week,
as I was blessed beyond my ability to describe to visit and get to know little Timofei, how he loved to throw a ball, look at books, to feel his sturdy little back and look into his incredible blue eyes. We came home with wind in our sails, ready to finalize our paperwork that was required for our court hearing when we were to officially become his adoptive parents.
A few weeks later, in retaliation to a US human-rights measure, a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by American citizens worked its way through the Russian parliament and was signed by President Putin. I, who have lived a life blessedly free of suffering, learned the meaning of heartbreak. We wept and worried, and along with a few hundred other parents in our same situation, we worked for six months lobbying and meeting the State Department and Senators, granting interviews with international media, working with Russian human rights activists, filing complaints in international courts, trying to find a way to finalize the adoptions of the children we had met, fallen in love with, and promised to bring home. Nothing worked. The Russians wouldn’t budge and the fear set in that Timofei would be consigned to a short, institutionalized life. I wondered if God was paying attention. Did He read His own Bible which says that caring for widows and orphans is the heart of pure religion (James 1:27) or that God is father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5)? I didn’t doubt that God existed, but I began to doubt if he cared.
At the end of June another surprise came.
The biological parents, who were still living, stepped forward to take “our” little boy back to live with them. It took us some time to wrap our minds around this very unexpected development which, though a loss for us, we trust is a gain for him. In the midst of our sadness, we were comforted by the fact that his parents very likely stepped forward in part as a result of the media attention our situation had received, particularly in the Russian press. In the end, the story we were living in wasn’t the story we thought. As my wife put it: our story is no longer (never was) a story of adoption gone wrong, but instead our job was to stand in the gap for this little boy, a world away, and love him until his family could.
It has been a lesson in God’s sovereignty.
One Sunday after worship, after the ban came into effect, I was chatting with folks and a dear woman came up to me and said, “I just want to tell you something. I’ve been praying for your adoption every day since you announced it. You might think this is crazy, but the other day I was praying for you and I swear I heard a voice that said: ‘Timofei will be united with his family.’ I just wanted to tell you that.” I was so thankful and encouraged by this, and of course we interpreted it in a certain way at the time. It indeed has come true though, in a way more literal than we had thought. His ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts, and in his mercy, God has graciously chosen to expand our family nonetheless: we are expecting a baby in March. We are grateful to receive his gifts as he gives them!
So for us and for hundreds of other families, the “Russian adoption” chapter has closed, but in another sense it continues because it has marked us and changed us in irreversible ways. We’ve come to understand and embrace more fully our own identity of adopted sons and daughters of God that the gospel tells us we are and we’ve felt more deeply the call to love the orphan and the fatherless as the gospel calls us to do–all for the glory of our heavenly Father who has adopted us, his Son Jesus who had redeemed us so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal 4:5), and the Spirit of adoption who enables us to cry “Abba, Father!”
Andrew Nagel is Associate Pastor at Neelsville Presbyterian Church (see article below). Just this week he and his wife Bethany received an email from Tima’s mom, Alena, with nearly 30 pictures of Tima with his birth family. Two of those pictures are included with this article. Andrew and Bethany have three sons: Zack (6), Caleb (3) and the third son 5 months in utero .
Related Articles: Spiritual Lessons of Adoption
Related Sermons: Andrew Nagel at First Presbyterian Church, Oostburg, WI 10-20-13
Andrew Nagel, "Orphans no More" at Neelsville Presbyterian Church, Germantown, MD 11-03-13