High Point, NC
Birth Country: Georgia
Decade of adoption: 1990s
It was December 1995, and my husband and I found ourselves halfway across the world in a little known country by the name of Republic of Georgia. We traveled there in great faith that we would become a family through adopting an orphaned child. Upon our arrival, we were surprised to find that this jewel of a country indeed had its own language, culture and beautifully distinct ethnic appearance. Like most Americans, we knew little about the vast diversity of the many former Soviet socialist republics. Clumsily, we ventured to use what little Russian language we had learned in the weeks prior to our travel. Quickly, we were immersed in the unique, ancient language of Georgia and welcomed as guests of great honor by virtually every person we encountered. The architecture, food, medieval churches, landscape and of course, the people we met embedded themselves in our hearts forever. These were the happy feelings we came away with and the good memories that will forever tie us to this gracious and generous country.
We also returned from Georgia with a different set of feelings. Feelings that were carried with us for some time and still evoke pain, deep within our very beings. Feelings of helplessness, gluttony, despair and the haunting memories of children, much like what Americans saw in Romania a few years ago.
Just two years ago, Georgia was in the midst of recovering from separation from Russia, as well as internal conflict as democracy took its rightful place. All of this left Georgia with virtually no infrastructure, translating into no heat, no light, little commerce or availability of everyday necessities making life unbearable for these beautiful people, especially in the midst of harsh winters. Moreover, unrest or broken economies often result in children and the elderly suffering a great deal. With no means to provide shelter or food for children, families were (and are) often forced to place their children in institutions. Much like our society did a number of years ago.
Upon returning home with our beautiful baby girl, just weighing in at four pounds, my husband and I tried diligently to get on with our lives, only to lay in bed each night thinking, wondering, praying for those children we had left behind.
The haunting images just never went away. Eventually, after much discussion, planning and obediently listening to God's word and will, my husband supported me in the decision to leave my position with a local CBS affiliate station. I formed my own business that enabled me to stay at home with my daughter and do the work that we felt called to do. I secured a contract with Carolina Adoption Services, Inc. and was charged with marketing and relief effort responsibilities. While providing services for many programs in different countries, my heart was still aching for Georgia's children.
Initially, I was able to raise dollars to send for kerosene heaters for Kutasei Orphanage and sent many other donations of clothes and medicine. My friendships grew with the people that had helped us bring Karina home. Through friends of friends, I soon found myself in contact with representatives of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The basic philosophy behind this organization is affirming the Christian faith as one of action, expressing God's grace and love where hurts are healed, the lost are found, the homeless are homed and economically struggling people encounter caring. The many projects of UMCOR including, economic independence, medical assistance and conflict resolution, are all embodied in this Biblical verse, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40. Each UMCOR mission office is charged with serving vulnerable and at risk populations regardless of faith, ethic background or social standing.
My now good friend, Carol VanGorp, Director of Special Mission Projects for UMCOR, contacted me in the winter of 1997. She inquired about my work and asked if I would be interested in leading a mission team into Georgia. My immediate response was, "Of, course!" This was it! This was the direction I was preparing for through prayer and support for my work with Georgia! God truly was intervening and using me as I had prayed He would. I would see Georgia's children once more and have an opportunity to minister and care for them.
Now the real work began. I heard God's call, but would others? Would He bring to me passion in my recruiting efforts? Would He give me strength in adversity? Would He give me peace of mind to know that what becomes of this trip and these efforts is all meant to be? This required a tremendous amount of self restrain. Letting Him do His work and use me in His efforts. Not easy for a "take charge kind of girl!"
Eventually, I was blessed with nine team members, including myself. Each team member brought their own gifts and strengths.
Giving back to our child's country of origin was the most rewarding thing we could ever do for her or ourselves. We are maintaining friendships, keeping in touch with her cultural history and customs. We feel honored to have this child and hope that our appreciation is expressed through our ministry to the remaining children of Georgia. It is our dream and prayer that Karina will too, some day, return to her country to serve in some greater capacity. "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40.