Call to Adopt Leads One Family on Incredible Journey

Post a Comment » Written on January 7th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

OMAHA, NE (January 7, 2008) – Larry and Cathy Hanson never imagined they would adopt two teenagers from a Ukrainian orphanage, let alone be the first of five families at First Covenant Church and another at Celebration Covenant Church to do the same.

But that is what happened when the Hansons traveled to Ukraine in 2004 to adopt Lienna, then 13, and Julia, then 9, from the orphanage Internot in the city of Odessa. The accompanying photo shows (from left) David, Larry, Paul, Julia (in front), Lienna, Cathy, Kyle, and Kersten.

The Hanson’s unlikely journey began in 2003 when Michelle Maly, a college student who had taken off a semester to do mission work while teaching dance in Ukraine, returned to her hometown and spoke about the orphanage.

HansonsBecause orphans receive little education and lack support when released from the orphanage’s care, the children often face bleak futures. In an effort to support them, many of the boys turn to selling drugs and other crimes while the girls often become prostitutes.

The Hansons already had two twin teenage boys as well as another daughter and son. However, upon hearing Maly speak, they say they felt God calling them to adopt. They prayed for two months to be sure.

There were the typical questions as to how would adoption affect the rest of their family. Could they afford to adopt? The process could cost as much as $20,000.

The path would prove “grueling” with numerous obstacles springing from nowhere. They included sudden rule changes, more than a month waiting in Ukraine, paperwork nightmares, multiple court appearances, and a bureaucracy that rivals almost any Department of Motor Vehicles office in the United States.

In 2003, the Hansons began filling out the appropriate paperwork, only to have rules change, forcing them to start from the beginning. Finally, they were able to leave for Odessa in August 2004. Once they arrived in Ukraine, the process was supposed to take three weeks. The unforeseen events extended that stay to five weeks before the Hansons returned with Lienna and Julia.

The events surrounding what were supposed to be the final events in the adoption typified the Hanson’s ordeal. After what the Hansons thought would be their last court appearance before a judge who approved the adoption, the couple set off to get new birth certificates for the girls because the original is destroyed once a child is adopted. But when they went to register the new certificates, the clerk at the registration office discovered Julia’s original certificate had been forged. So the judge rescinded his approval until proper documents could be provided.

The Hansons had to scramble across the city, having medical tests performed to verify the girl’s age and then trying to find records of her birth at any of a number of possible medical centers. In The Odessa Files, a book detailing the family’s experience, Hanson writes of his struggles with God. “I just could not understand why he was allowing this problem to interrupt his work,” Hanson writes. “It seemed that every piece of paper we touched had a problem attached to it that equated to either running around town or waiting somewhere.”

The process took days and was lengthened further when the Hansons went to have the documents approved at the registration office where they first learned of the forgery. The woman at the office had taken the day off for her birthday and said she was not about to come in to help the family.

Before the court would give its final approval, the couple had to answer a string of questions about the validity of paperwork. When the judge did approve the adoption, the Hansons could barely believe their trip in Ukraine was nearly over.

As the process stretched weeks past what the Hansons initially thought was needed, Larry feared that he might have to return home without the girls. He also was afraid he might lose his job because he had to be gone longer than the amount of time he had initially negotiated with his boss.

The supervisor proved to be wholly supportive, however. “This is why I hired you,” the supervisor told Hanson. “The qualities that kept you there are why I hired you,” Larry recalls.

Being in a situation where he could control little of what was happening proved humbling, he says. “It’s all about following God’s call.” The sales representative also has learned something about God’s economy. “Don’t ever decide for yourself that you can’t do something, and limit God because you don’t think God can afford something,” he says.

The Hansons, like other families at First Covenant, praise the rest of the congregation for the support they received while going through the process. Larry’s new book, To Odessa with Love, includes emails that were exchanged between he and church members and other friends.

Larry is not surprised by the church’s reaction. “First Covenant has always been mission-oriented,” he explains. “The question has always been, ‘What’s next?’ ”

The church continued to help the Hansons after they arrived home. In turn, the couple has advised and encouraged other families in the church who have felt called to adopt children as well.

Families interested in adopting should be careful not to adopt out of a sense of wanting to rescue children, Larry says. “We have stressed to all the families that ‘you’re not buying a puppy.’ That reason will backfire.”

Lienna, 16, and Julia, 12, have done well in adjusting to their life in the United States. With other families adopting from the same orphanage, they also have been reunited with friends from a country thousands of miles away.

Editor’s note: a second related story tomorrow takes a closer look at the six families who have become involved in the adoption process. The series concludes Wednesday with a focus on how relationships among the young adoptees have continued since their arrival in the United States.

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