USA (MNN) — One of the last American families to adopt a child from Russia was a couple from Michigan. The story goes back 16 months ago, but was completed in God's perfect timing. It's a story of a couple of short-term mission teams, a commitment to pray, and listening to God's call.
In 2010, Mission Network News and WayFM in West Michigan went on a short-term mission trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia. The team of 21 volunteers and leaders traveled there to hold vacation Bible school for about a half-dozen orphanages.
Executive Director of Mission Network News Greg Yoder was on the trip. "We tried to post as many pictures and videos as we could so the listener to 'join' the trip vicariously. We wanted them to see the sights and hear the sounds of being on the trip with us. So, I posted pictures and video of the whole trip, including a picture of a young 14-year-old girl named Elya," Yoder said.
After he had arrived home, Yoder's neighbor, John Nauta, told him that he had seen the picture of Elya that moved him. "At that moment, the Holy Spirit told me that I needed to pray for her. I told my wife, Sheryl, and we started praying for her specifically."
One year later, Mission Network News and 91.3 WCSG went back to Saint Petersburg to do the same work. This time Elya–now 15 years old–asked Yoder if his family would adopt her. That's when Yoder picked up the phone to call his friend. "It was 8:30 in the morning on August 15," Nauta recalls. "I remember it well. Sheryl had just left for work, and I picked up the phone and it's [Greg Yoder]. [He] said, 'John, this girl that you've been praying for: she wants to be adopted. She wants a family.'"
That started the ball rolling. The only group that could facilitate the adoption was Buckner International, and they were cautious. Nauta says the process was full of ups and downs. Paperwork on top of more paperwork had to be collected. Then, an adoption treaty had to be signed between the United States and Russia — which created a long wait. But, the final blow was a new law in Russia prohibiting adoptions to American families beginning January 1, 2013.
Nauta says, "Miracle of miracles! It came down to one day for us." Any further delays, and they wouldn't have been able to take her home. There were some families who couldn't. "We were in a group of 10. We heard the case of one family whose court date was the previous Monday. The judge approved the adoption. But, then there's the 10-day waiting period. So they are not going to be allowed to take this child home. It's just heartbreaking."
Providentially, however, the Nauta family was finally able to bring Elya home to Michigan, landing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 29–three days before the law went into effect.
While adoptions are now banned for American families, there are still 750,000 orphans left behind. Will Buckner International continue their work there? Jenny Pope, spokesperson for Buckner, says they do more than adoption services. "Our NGO there does tremendous work with the orphanages, in the churches, and in the communities. We have really strong relationships with them. So, we're very committed that we are going to continue working in Russia."
Pope says this is a call for the church around the world to pray. "Pure religion is to care for the orphans and the widows, and orphans there really do need the Christian community to be caring for them right now — now more than even."
You can help Buckner financially to provide humanitarian aid. You can also join Buckner on a Shoes for Orphans Souls trip, to deliver shoes and the hope of the Gospel.