Many of you have by now heard our big news: we are guardians of a three year old orphan named Valerie. She came to live with us last Tuesday evening. She’s doing great as she gets settled in to her new life with us.

We have just entered a brand new phase of our lives, and it will take time for all three of us to adjust and settle into our ‘new normal’. It still feels a little unreal, like we are in a dream, we are having a crash course in parenting. Please, pray for us to go through this transition smoothly.

This update will fill in some of the blanks about Valerie, her mother, and our relationship to them.

First, Valerie is a ‘social orphan’. That is, she has a living mother but her mother is in prison and is losing her parental rights. Her mother used to live with us.

In 2003, we became guardians of a teenage orphan named Oksana (left, in front with Olga, Olga’s sister and mom, and our then-new cat Miki; July 2003). Olga had met Oksana in a summer camp several years before and was like a big sister to her and became like a mother.

Oksana lived with us for about 18 months, until her 18th birthday. She then decided to leave our home and pursue her own direction.

Oksana started living a destructive lifestyle. As the years passed, she was distant from us though we tried several times in many ways to help her. She would contact us once in a while, and then fall out of the radar again. She had several live-in boy friends and got involved in dealing and taking drugs. As a result, she contracted HIV and Hepatitis C.

Three and a half years ago she gave birth to Valerie (before getting HIV and Hep-C, so Valerie is healthy). The picture at right is of a visit we had with them in September 2008. We know who the father is, but there is no father listed on the birth certificate; he’s not been involved in their lives since before the birth. Valerie has been fatherless, just as Oksana had been fatherless most of her childhood.

A year ago, Oskana wanted Valerie to be baptized in the Orthodox church. She asked Olga to be Valerie’s godmother. We attended the baptism and had a good day together. Here they are at left on the day of the baptism, September 2009.

Earlier this year, Oksana was put in prison for dealing drugs; she has almost four years left on her sentence. Valerie was placed in Baby Orphanage #7 in St. Petersburg.

Last Tuesday, we picked up Valerie from the orphanage and brought her home to live with us. Valerie is a smart little girl; she really likes books and likes to draw. It’s fun to hear her padding down the hall, talking and enjoying herself.

Right now she’s on her good behavior, and we’ve read several books and articles that tell us to expect a time with she’ll stop holding back and start ‘being herself’, pushing against boundaries, asserting herself. So, we know we’re in the honeymoon phase right now. Though yesterday we had a glimpse of her, uhmmmm, ‘strong personality’.

At first, she didn’t really know how to interact with Mike. She would point to a picture of him and call him Papa, but she’s been shy in person. She is loosening up as the days pass.

We continue to be in contact with Oksana. Olga visits her in the prison as much as possible, and we send care packages to her (clothing, food, etc; the prison does not provide very much for her).

We decided to get guardianship (foster care) first, since it can be done much more quickly and does not involve going to court. We will probably pursue adoption. The government has applied to remove Oksana’s parental rights. We’re not sure what Oksana’s reaction will be to her losing her parental rights and to us possibly adopting Valerie. We’re praying for, and trust that we’ll have, wisdom about this as time passes.

We are very happy for the things the Lord has done in our lives, and we know that He will lead us further on. Please pray for Oksana, as it looks like she has not really changed her way of thinking about her life-style.

Violeta Pavetic, our sister-in-law in Montenegro recently sent this scripture, which is a good one to meditate on as we all enter a new year and as Valerie enters a new life:

This is what the Lord says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert

and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

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5 Comments to “An Update from Russia — About Valerie”

  1. Andrey says:

    Valerie is so cute!!! :))
    This is big step (or jump). I’ll pray for you.

  2. Mike says:

    Thank you, Andrey. This is indeed a big step for us. Come visit when Liz is back. We’d love to have you over.

  3. Andrey says:

    Great! Wait us soon! 🙂

  4. Monique Costantino says:

    Mike, it’s wonderful to hear that you and your wife have chosen to step up and be there for the child. Your decision to take care of her means she has a chance to grow up to be joyous and free. As for her mother, maybe losing parental rights will be what it takes for her to reach her bottom and become willing to change her life. I’m almost 8 years’ sober in AA, so I’ve been where Oksana is (not in a physical prison, but definitely a prisoner of alcohol). I lost so many things before I became willing to surrender to God and ask for help with my drinking. I had not lost my son yet, but I knew I would. I’ll keep you, Olga, Valerie, and Oksana in my prayers, and please give Valerie a big hug for me.

  5. Mike says:

    Monique, thank you very much for your comment. I hadn’t known that you are adopted. God adopts His children; He has a heart of adoption. I’m learning about it, how to embrace and welcome Valerie and how to create a loving home with good memories. We do appreciate your prayers. They are much needed.

    It’s great to hear that you’ve been sober for 8 years. Many of our friends at church are ex-drug addicts or ex-prostitutes; many have been in jail, many still have HIV or Hep-C; and the love of God is in their hearts. Those who have been forgiven much, love much.

    Let’s keep looking upward and forward. God’s best is always ahead.