One visit changes everything

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Almost five years ago, I visited a house that would change my life.

At the time, my wife and I were living in Almaty, Kazakhstan. While we had both visited before, we were relatively new residents of the city, which is home to more than two million people.

To say it was an overwhelming experience at first would be a tremendous understatement.

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It was fantastically exciting and just slightly terrifying all at once. We had to learn a new city and a new culture all while trying to learn a new language and a new alphabet.

When we got lost, we couldn’t even read the signs telling us where we were.

But what we would see in this house would be the most overwhelming experience we would have during our two years in Almaty.

The house was an orphanage, and it was home to 300 children.

It was just one of many in the city.

According to the Dara Foundation, a non-profit charity that serves unprivileged children, 46,000 orphans live in Kazakhstan. Nearly 35,000 of them are children whose parents are alive.

The organization estimates that in Almaty there are 1,500 orphans.

I can still vividly remember my first trip to the orphanage, which during our stay in Almaty we had the chance to visit numerous times.

The living conditions at the orphanage weren’t great. It was an old Soviet-era building that was damp and cold in the winter when temperatures could dip well below zero degrees. It was overcrowded. Many of the children were malnourished.

But the thing I remember most if the way the kids would light up when they had visitors, and how quickly they established bonds.

There was one child in particular that I bonded with during our visits to the orphanage. His name was Roma. He was a curly headed, blue-eyed Russian.

He knew almost no English, and my Russian left much to be desired, but despite that we struck up a friendship.

I taught him how a horse eats corn — which is funny in any language — and he taught me a game involving dominos where the loser gets thumped in the forehead. I lost a lot, and to be honest I was never quite sure why. Like I said, my Russian left much to be desired.

Despite the language and cultural barriers, the thing I learned about Roma, and his friends, was that they just wanted to be loved — to be a part of a family.

Not long after we got married, my wife and I had talked about the possibility of one day adopting a child.

After visiting the orphanage and meeting Roma and the other children, the possibility became a certainty.

We are currently in the process of adopting. We are what is called a “waiting family.”

We have completed the mounds and mounds of paperwork. We’ve been cleared by social workers, doctors and even the FBI. We’ve put our entire life story into a book for perspective birth mothers to read. And now, as the name suggests, we are waiting.

We are waiting for God to bless us with a child that he has set apart for our family long before we knew that we would adopt.

There are many families like ours out there, and there are many children like Roma that live right here in the United States.

November is National Adoption Month. It’s a time to raise awareness of the need for families for the more than 100,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.

To learn more about adoption visit or