I'm going to be copying and pasting excerpts from a presentation I wrote for church about a year ago, after I first came back from Bulgaria. Lazy woman's blogging style. =)
The one little girl who started it all
Sarah. Her full name, if I remember it correctly, is Sashka Nadkova Marinova. It wasn’t even an instant thing – I didn’t see her face and feel the immediate need to do something. She didn’t look as skinny and frail as Katie or Lina or the other kids who came out of the same orphanage. I didn’t look closely enough to see that she was wearing three layers of clothing, layers that hid her emaciated frame and kept her warm in the unheated orphanage during the middle of winter. I’d been following several blogs, and as her face appeared on each of them, I took a second look.
And fell completely in love. I’m not sure why – except for that it is a God-given burden.. It doesn’t make sense. Why this one little face?
One picture – a grim medical diagnosis – in Bulgaria, a country halfway around the world that most people haven’t even heard of, or confuse with Bolivia! (Which is in South America, not Eastern Europe.) I had an aunt and uncle that prayed for my trip to Bolivia the entire time I was gone!
I mean, this face is the most adorable thing ever, right?
Either way, I couldn’t think about much else. I learned about the way Bulgarian adoption works – they send the files over here for a predetermined length of time, generally a few months. They are featured on a photo listing such as Reece’s Rainbow. After the allotted time, it gets sent back, and the information is removed from the photo listing.
Her file could have been requested, but I didn’t know that at the time – I thought her chance was gone, unless she got adopted in her own country, which was very, very unlikely. Either way, her file was scheduled to be sent back in just a few days or so. I stayed up late, prayed, cried over her dinky little picture on my laptop. I’d seen dozens of faces, but this one was different somehow, she was mine.
Then pictures like this started showing up.
AND THIS. I'm pretty sure this one drove me over the edge. My baby? Over on the other side of the world, suffering? That was just too much.
I've loved many, many orphans since Sarah, but I have never fallen so crazy in love with a PHOTOLISTING since!! I hope God is saving it for my own kids, because I don't know if I can handle that emotional rollercoaster again unless I'm mama! Don't get me wrong, I want to spend my life caring for orphans. I just have never been QUITE as emotionally distraught over anyone as my girlie since then. (Almost, just not QUITE.) Oh my word, was it ever hard. And weird. It was weird. Because she was a picture but somehow that picture meant everything to me.
A notification appeared on her listing, just days before it was to be returned, that she had found a family. I was glad, but I pretty much figured that was the end of that. I had no idea who her family was or how to contact them, if I could find their info, and not act like a stalker…
That was April of 2012. Four months later, in August, a blog list of families who were adopting from Sarah's orphanage appeared on the blog of a mom who was adopting from there. I visited their rather neglected blog, found their contact info, and sent them a short email, explaining that I’d prayed for Sarah to have a family and asking if I could make her a little quilt. Stephanie emailed me back, and a friendship was formed. She told me how she had been able to visit Sarah for a brief moment when she was in Bulgaria helping her friend Jenny pick up her children from the orphanage.
I thought my heart was breaking before.
I don't think there was anything salvageable left of it now. Not once I saw the fear and pain on my sweet baby's face.
She also told me about the other little girl they were adopting at the same time, who they would name Anna.
Anna is also blind.
She was in a much better orphanage than Sarah.
Stephanie's 11 year old daughter (blind and adopted out of foster care) wanted "sisters like me."
Such a cute little face. =)
We ended up forming a fast friendship. I offered to help her with a fundraiser, making crafts and selling them, and I made Sarah and Anna “feel” quilts with different textures, as they are both mostly blind. I felt like I knew her, and I guess I did! It was just a rather unconventional way to meet someone, especially for me who typically doesn’t make friends with strangers via the internet!
One of the quilts with its different textures
My heart was with not just Sarah, but all the kids in her orphanage. I longed to walk through the rooms and hold and squish each child. I’d been doing all I could but I wanted MORE. Everyone told me I was already doing what I could, but I just knew there was MORE, somehow, even though I didn’t know what. That “more,” at least the first step, came when Stephanie shocked me by asking me to go to Bulgaria with her to visit! Her husband couldn't go with her, and she didn't want to travel alone in a foreign country.
I didn’t say yes right away. There was a lot to think about. I’d have to buy my own plane ticket. I’d have to take two weeks off my job – if my boss would even let me go. She was expecting to go in six to seven weeks (it ended up being more like ten) and I didn’t have a passport. That was Thursday night. I still hadn’t officially committed to the trip, but I asked my boss the next day. (She said she would talk to her husband about it, but she thought it would be ok. I don’t think I ever did hear back from her on this, or if I did it was like a couple days before our flight was scheduled to leave. Hmm, good thing I had already decided on my own to go…) I applied for my passport bright and early Saturday morning.
Then we waited, and waited, and waited. A lot of adoption is paperwork and WAITING for people in the government (U.S. government and international).
Eventually we got our dates. I quit my job because I felt God leading me to quit for other reasons. Friends from the church, as well as my parents, helped me to pay for the ticket. The moment we’d been waiting for had finally come. Stephanie and I met in the Cincinnati airport and boarded a plane bound for Paris, France and then Sofia, Bulgaria!
After a very LONG trip – 28+ hours with only a one-hour nap – we touched down in Bulgaria, the country I’d dreamed about for over a year!
Stay tuned for part 2! It's late over here, and this would be a far longer blog post than anyone wants to read, if I put it all in one post...