Monday, August 22, 2011

A Long overdue Post: Almost a Year!

I wanted to thank each and everyone of you for your continual prayers, encouraging words, emails, messages, and patience. It is surreal to think that we are coming up on being home for almost a year. I will try my hardest to update you with as much information as I can without making this a post that will take you an hour to read.

We have been overwhelmingly blessed by our daughter and find ourselves learning each day how to become a better family to both of our girls. The transition into our home was for the most part smooth and we have seen her grow so much since her homecoming last October. Some of the hurdles that we have had to help Ayla get through has primarily been her understanding of the English language (which she is fluent in now), her natural instinct to manipulate a situation to obtain attention (which is natural to any 9 y/o), her struggle with jealousy, her understanding our unconditional love for her, her gratefulness for what she has and distinguishing between what she wants and what she needs, and her acknowledgment of what is considered to be disrespectful.  She is not perfect and there have been many battles that we have fought with her but that wasn't a surprise to us and is just part of becoming a family. She is and has been a trooper through this whole process and is an amazing little girl who has completely taken on her place in our family. Ayla is tremendously funny and quite sarcastic, sometimes getting her in trouble, and it is amazing to see how a little girl born halfway across the world could fit so perfectly into our family. Someone responded to her sarcastic comment the other day with, "Whoa, your a funny girl huh? Where did you learn how to be sarcastic?" Without hesitation she pointed at me and said, "Daddy!" There is no doubt that she is not a Williams girl and has adapted to wholly to Kate's and My personalities. We call back to Ukraine every once and a while to talk with the director and her friends via skype.

She has officially started 4th grade this week and is extremely excited about her new school. She is extremely compassionate and is aware of those who are not as blessed as many and prays that they will be okay, constantly. Ayla has a servants heart and loves to help out in anyway whether it be at the house, at church, at school, or with her baby sister. She has commented several times how thankful she is that she has a big family now, and loves her grandparents, cousins, and friends.

We have been very patient and protective over her personal decision of faith. Ayla for the longest time just wanted to be baptized, I think she just wanted to swim at the church. She is starting to understand more and more about the Christian faith but still understands that she doesn't believe in Jesus fully but hopes to one day. We are walking her through "The Jesus Storybook Bible" and she has truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about God. We will ask her questions and she always responds with very pointed answers. We pray constantly for the salvation of both Ayla and Chandler, and that they to will understand that they are adopted into God's family.

All in all this year has flown by and our hearts are overwhelmed by the blessing it has been to be a family. We pray constantly for those who are thinking, processing, or pursuing adoptions and have seen the joy it has brought us and the lives it has changed and wish that upon all those in the trench. If anyone ever says adoption is easy have no idea on the warring it has on your soul. But the joy that comes through it and the Glory that God receives is worth every paper signed, dollar spent, miles traveled, sleepless nights, negative skeptic, hurtful words, condescending comments, malicious attitudes, and the battle for that child's future. One of the reasons I know this to be true is when I hear my daughter sing these words in our living room after church yesterday.

"Oh, my God, He will not delay, My refuge and strength always, I will not fear, His promise is true, My God will come through always, I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord"

A year ago to date she had no idea of many things: who we were, the hope that Christ has for her, the feeling of belonging to a family, a mother and fathers love for her, and what it felt like to have a home. 10 months later, none of those things are questions anymore, Praise God! 

For those of you who are in the process, Keep it up! Know that it's not easy but it's worth it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


We are officially home! It was an amazing feeling to have our family and friends anxiously awaiting Ayla's arrival, we are truly blessed by an amazing support group here.

What a great feeling to have our daughter under the same roof with us, and to spend time with her apart from an orphanage. We are all doing great, Ayla is starting to acclimate to her new US lifestyle and is still fighting against the Ukrainian to US time change. We make her go to bed around 8:30 and tends to awake about 4 or 5 am, so yesterday as I was watching Sportscenter at 5 she walks in and informs me, "Papa, this no good!" So she curled up on the couch with me as we watched Tinkerbell instead. Oh the joys of having a daughter. Yesterday, Samantha Boatman reporter KNOE came by to do a follow up to our adoption story, I am posting it below so you can enjoy it for yourself. I will post more later about the homecoming but for now I wanted you to know we are all doing good.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A surreal reality

It is hard to believe that in 10 hours we will be flying out of Ukraine, and three stops away from having our house become a home for 4. I am so excited to be back home and am so thankful for all the prayers and support we have gotten throughout this whole process. We have met some truly incredible people along the way and made some lifelong partners in the fight for the fatherless. Everything is packed up and our clothes for tomorrow are already laid out. Ayla is taking a bath, as I sit here and reminisce on how huge our God is and how he calls us and carries us through situations that none of us ever thought possible. Soli Deo Gloria has been my mantra for this whole adoption, because truth be told we deserve no credit at all, and to be honest neither does anyone else, because God alone is the one who orchestrated this adoption and we will forever direct all glory to him and him alone.

It has been a fun journey for our family, and though Ayla is adopted, no one should ever question the pure and holy love that we have for this child. We will look at her the same way we look at our Chandler. Speaking of, I can't wait to hold my daughter who will be 7 months old tomorrow, 7 has been my number for years and it is just an added bonus, plus Kate and I have been together for 7 years, wow I am not one for superstition but you have to admit that it is kinda cool, or providential for you reformers.

I am going to sum up our Kievan experience in one paragraph, or at least try. We left for Kiev late tuesday night after getting Ayla's new passport and riding an express train ride from Dnipropetrovsk and immediately engaged in a craving I have had since I arrived in Nikopol: McDonalds! We went to our apartment then passed out, to quickly awaken for our 10 a.m. Embassy appointment. For the most part it was uneventful to just turn in all of our papers and pay $400 for her visa. We were able to meet a beautiful 4 year old boy Ivan who was being adopted by a couple from California through Reece's Rainbow. We then went to the Immigration Office of Medicine and received the clearing on Ayla's health and a packet to turn into the Embassy the next day. We came back to the house then went to Solo pizza with a fellow youth minister from Illinois who was here to adopt a little boy who was blind, Mark, Joni and their son Jimmie. Great talks about the ministry, the opposition to adoption, but most of all the glory God gets through the Gospel fight. Next day we went back to the Embassy, swore that all my information was accurate, signed some papers, then waited to pick up the passport with her new US Visa printed in it. Today we went to Hillsong and picked three CD's of kids music in Russian, which she loves, ate some pizza for the third time, then bought some memorabilia then came back to watch a couple movies we bought also in russian. Done!

Tomorrow we fly and face the amazing group of people who have supported us in prayer and encouragement at the airport along with the local news and the students who I love ministering too. I plan on kissing my wife in front of everyone, holding my daughter for a good while, then taking my family home for good. I get the awesome opportunity to join with our faith family Sunday morning and worship then it is off to lunch at the park with my entire family. So "Do Svidaniya Ukraine." It's been a joyous ride but it's back to living my faith at home with my family and faith community.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Facing the Nikopol finale!

As I am getting ready this morning, I am extremely excited in knowing that this is our last full day in Nikopol, because tomorrow we will be leaving here for Kiev. It is surreal and yet very refreshing to know that after tonight I will no longer have to walk away from my daughter knowing she is falling asleep in an orphanage. Personally, I am ecstatic to leave Nikopol because I have fallen into a routine that is drab and mundane due to my limitations. Truly the only exciting things I have going for me is I get to go see my sweet Ayla Marina everyday and I get to skype back home to my lovely wife Kate and beautiful baby girl Chandler. For the most part I walk about 30 minutes in the cold, and rain sometimes, stopping off at the supermarket Billa to pick up 3 pork meatballs, a Fanta, and some candy for her groupa. I hang out with all of the kids, spending a good bit of my time with my daughter and picking her up to hold her, then head back to the apartment around 5, stopping off at one of two resturants, Palermo's for pizza or Cafe Penguin for palmeni. Yesterday I made my own Ukrainian salad at home from crab, corn, salt, pepper and mayonnaise just to break the cycle.

Yesterday was a fun filled day, I got to the orphanage around 10:30 and at 11 they held a orphanage wide Fiesta, singing, dancing, acting, then afterward they all went upstairs to the indoor play area and had tons of food that the kids were able to buy with the paper money they earned from working and participating. They had music, everyone was dancing, some of the food was really good, some not so much, they sold second hand clothes/purses/dresses/shoes for really cheap to the kids.  You know it is not a true Ukrainian party until a group of all boys end up wearing the heels and dresses they bought over their clothes. Akward, yet very funny.

Tomorrow we will say goodbye to all of the caregivers that have taken great care of Ayla for the last 2 and a half years, to all the kids who have become her family, to the instructors who have cultivated her gifts in singing and dance, to all the people who run the orphanage and make it a great place for a child that has no family feel like they belong. I pray for all the kids in Ayla Marina's group that they will experience love and the hope of the Gospel very soon, that they will family will be restored or renewed through adoption. I pray for Marianna, Olya, Anastia, Amalia, Katya, Dasha, Leina, Julia, Dianna, Zenya, Dennis, Sasha, and Angelo. They are truly great kids and a couple of them will be adopted soon by Spanish families but the others are left wondering if the next 8 years will entail them being raised by caregivers in the only home they have ever known.

Praying for safe travels to Dnipropetrovsk tomorrow, praying our Embassy and medical visits go through without delay, praying that our travels to Amsterdam/Memphis/Monroe will all pass by quickly, and praying that when I tuck my children into bed on Oct 16 that the peace of God and the hope of the gospel will begin to live through our family. I love you Lord, I love you Kate, and I love my precious daughters Ayla and Chandler. After 9 years and now three weeks apart, we will soon be a family of four, 5 days! All praise, honor, and glory to the one who deserves it, thank you Abba Father.

Click the picture below to see it Full Size.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

3 steps away

We are getting closer and closer to having our girl home for good. These past two days have been tiring but extremely productive and getting us that much closer to taking her away from the orphanage forever. Luba had a fever and was feeling immensely sick so she sent her sister Lena who has worked with adoptions for the past 10 years. Lena arrived Tuesday morning and went to get our Court decree declaring that we were officially the legal parents of Ayla Marina, then went onto the the Certificate office to get her new name on her birth certificate. After that Lena called and came to pick me up at the orphanage and we chased the adoption rabbit all across Nikopol. We were able to get her Passport packet ready for Dnipropetrovsk, her birth certificate that has Ayla Marina Williams on it, her tax id number changed over, then signed off all the papers needed for the orphanage to release her.

Wednesday we woke up early and went to pick up Ayla Marina at the orphanage. They evidently did not inform her caregivers that we were coming early because she was sound asleep. So we went up to her room and woke her and every other girl in her groupa, she has the same "wide eyed/where am I" look that her mother has in the morning time. It should result in some fun mornings in the Williams house for years to come. She literally skipped around for a little while getting all of her things then we jumped in the taxi and headed to Dnipropetrovsk, about an hour and a half drive. When we arrived Lena went into the Regional certificate to get her Birth Certificate legalized, then went to the Passport office to submit all of her paperwork. After all the papers were submitted we went to grab something to eat at a Ukrainian Restaurant and had some conversations about Ayla's school, church, how her dad will beat up any boys that tries to talk to her. You know, normal father daughter lunch conversations. We are so ready to get her home and now that all these papers are done all we have left is pick up her Passport, Medical conclusion in Kiev, then interview for her visa.  Our Oct 16 flight looks like it will meet us at the perfect time to leave Ukraine and bring her home for the first and last time.

Thank you so much for the Prayers and Support we have received through the blog and in person. It is extremely refreshing to hear all of the comments and to know that God is using this journey for his glory, even when we are half a world away right now.  Ayla and I are ready to step off of that plane at 8:30 pm in the Monroe "Airport," and hug and kiss Kate and Chandler. This journey has truly drained us emotionally but we know that once we are home and starting to live life as a family, we will look back and just rejoice at how God carried us all through it. We pray for safe travel and that God will use the story of this little girl to share the gospel, to soften the hearts of the hardened, and to bring light to the darkness of the orphan epidemic in the world.

167 million orphans, minus one!
Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cold days, warm hearts!

Though the weather in Ukraine has taken a turn for the cold, our heart for our daughter is warm with love. It is crazy to think that though this beautiful child has been fatherless for her whole life and living without a loving and nurturing mother, she is completely grafted into the heart of our family. It is so amazing to watch first hand how she longs and desires to be apart of our family, yesterday she looked at me and said, "Papa! Telephone Mama, Now!" All she wanted to do was hear her mama's voice, she just laughed cause she couldn't understand anything Kate was saying and mumbled like she was speaking english back to her, but once she heard that voice she knew it was Mama.

I have literally spent each day walking half way across this city to spend time with a little girl who just love to be around family. She said yesterday that she is ready to hold Chan Chan and is going to be a great big sister. When all the kids were going crazy with energy all she wanted to do was sit and watch TV on the couch and hold Papa's hand. During they're orphanage wide dance program when she sang the song that proclaims the desire for a mother, her eyes were warm with joy cause she knew she had one. It is such a blessing to see a beautiful picture of the gospel embrace through the life of this 9 year old girl. She has no idea of where she is going but can't wait to be there, she knows there are going to be barriers but she's ready to tackle them, and she is proclaiming with joy that she is apart of the family.

We are so close to bringing her home so that she can wake up and see her Mama and Papa and Chan Chan everyday. Tomorrow will be the last day of our 10 day waiting period, and starting Tuesday we will begin to change her new name on her birth certificate, her tax code number, her passport, and after that's done we will ride to Kiev to the US Embassy and get her visa and final medical conclusion. Then... we come home! Prayerfully we can get all this done by OCT 16 so we can fly on the tickets we already have bought and arrive in Monroe at 8:30 pm. I want you to all hear this though, I spent some time this weekend listening in on the live stream from the Together For Adoption Conference in Austin, TX and heard Dr. Karyn Purvis say something so true, "Taking care of orphans does not end when you bring them home, it only begins." Yes we will have our daughter home, and she no longer has to fall asleep at night wondering if she has a Mom and Dad who love her, but it is then that we, the church, have to engage her with the Gospel through family, the Gospel through hope, and the Gospel of Christ.

I pray that we will all cling to the hope that we have been grafted into the kingdom of God, and that though the road is hard there is no other option. If you do not know this to be true in your own life, I pray that you will cry out to God, beg him to forgive you for ignoring His presence and living your life away for him, plead with him to forgive you of all the wrong and selfish things that you have done, ask him to create in you a new heart one that focuses on His desire, surrender your life to the Lord and pray that he will guide you for the rest of your life. If you have done that now or years ago you need to know that you have been grafted into the family of God, you were once apart from God and now you are heirs with Christ. Embrace this calling, allow it to move you away from ritualistic church attendance and dive into the relational walk the scripture calls faith. May it move you to a passion for God and a compassion to those whom were created in His own image. The poor, the sick, the orphaned, the widowed, the oppressed, the hurting, and the lost.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Clarification on Ukrainian Stats

I have found that most stats online were probably true at one point but have been drastically changed so I am posting a link to a post that better clarifies what the orphan status is in Ukraine by someone who serves and lives here. Please check it out!

Karen, thank you for all the work you do in Ukraine and keep fighting for the fatherless!