Have you ever felt like you were living inside a movie script? I recall a winter night in Romania, January 1999, waiting… hiding in the cemetery next to the orphanage.
At some point midweek, during our stay at the orphanage, Dale had asked Virginia about four particular children, siblings. She said, “Oh no, that mother would never give up those children”. She went on to say how their mother loves them, that she lives out of the country, and that they have an Aunt who visits them and so they were not “adoptable” children.
Based upon Dale’s strong sense that these were the children we should adopt, he continued to pursue gathering information about them; he asked the nurse for further information. Sensing our sincerity, and with her heart of love for all of the children, she gave Dale the information he requested in order to contact a relative in a nearby town. Working as the orphanage nurse, and coming from a large Christian family herself, she knew how desperately children needed a home rather than a large institution to call home. Dale asked her if there was a way for us to meet with the relative who was involved with them. She said that she would arrange for us to meet the children’s Aunt, Maria, in a neighboring town some 40 miles away. She knew of Aunt Maria because of her many visits to see the children on Saturdays. This began an adventurous journey for us.
We arranged to meet “Ileana” on Friday night in the cemetery at 9:00 p.m., once she finished her shift. This was not easy to do as we were being monitored for our safety while in the country by our host. Fortunately, Gene – our friend and Virginia, had plans that evening to go and visit someone so they would be gone late into the night.
Ileana had arranged for a taxi driver, who she trusted and could confide in, to meet us at the appointed time. We all quickly jumped into the Dacia Taxi and headed to Suceava. Ileana took us to her sister’s small apartment to explain our situation. We needed help from her since she was a teacher, bilingual, and could interpret for us. From there we went to the train station to use the phone to call Aunt Maria. Sure enough, Maria was home and willing to have late night visitors; Ileana’s sister briefly explained on the phone the intention of our visit.
It was about 10:30 p.m. when we entered the third-floor apartment, a big smile crossed Maria’s face; we soon learned that she recognized us! The previous Sunday we had been in her church in Burdigeni and Dale had spoken there, briefly mentioning to the congregation our desire to adopt children. Now, here we were, standing in her apartment inquiring about her nephew and nieces. We had a very good introductory visit. Maria said she would contact her sister, Rodica, the children’s biological mother and explain the situation. Maria also informed us that she had brothers living in Michigan that we could contact as well upon our return to the U.S. I remember feeling like our mission had gone well, and realized that something was unfolding that would dramatically change our lives forever.
Making contact with Maria was important and now we had to get back into the orphanage at midnight without being detected or our whereabouts questioned. Our plan was to be dropped back off at the cemetery. Just as we were exiting the taxi, Virginia’s driver pulled onto the main road in front of us and raced over to us (for some reason I think of a scene in 101 Dalmatians whenever I think of this). Ileana narrowly escaped in the taxi, missing the confrontation that ensued. After a heated exchange, Dale assured Virginia that all was well and we were safely back for the evening. When we rounded the fence of the orphanage many children were hanging out of the windows and yelling something about finding us! So apparently our MIA episode had been buzzing about the orphanage that night.
We were due to leave for the U.S. on Monday, so we had the whole weekend to observe the children. On Sunday we attended the church connected with the orphanage and spotted the youngest of the four, Betinia, sitting in the choir area playing with a hole in the front of her dress. She was in the children’s choir and loved to sing! She was almost 5 years old and so cute. After church I went up to her and picked her up and hugged her. I knew this was, perhaps, my last opportunity to meet her and I didn’t want to miss it. The older siblings were hanging around us continuously and so we knew we’d get to spend more time with them.
Upon our departure, we left with the sense that these were the children we were hoping to adopt; so we felt certain our paths would cross again.
Once we return to the US, Dale contacted the children’s uncles in the Detroit area and explained the situation to them. They had already been contacted by Aunt Maria and also had spoken to Rodica, who lived in Italy. We learned that George, their biological father, had been living in Israel for sometime and that little or no contact had been made with him for about 5 years. So having made these initial contacts we continued to pray and wait to see what lay ahead.
Please don’t abort your baby; I’ll adopt your child… REALLY? As I talked to these young women facing so much turmoil with their choice to abort their baby, I would often repeat the line that I had heard so many other pro-lifers say. On this particular day, as I stood outside the doors of the abortion clinic, those words hit me and I thought, Wow, would I really adopt her child? That is quite a commitment.
That’s how the journey, for me, into the world of adoption began.
I was raised in Central Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children in a hard-working farm family. We were not given to sophisticated speech; as a matter-of-fact, my vocabulary was quite plain until I met and married my husband, Dale. My family actually practiced a simple biblical principle, even though at the time we could not have quoted the verse. Jesus said, Let your yes, be yes and your no, no (Mt. 5:37). It simply means that if you say something, then mean it; do it or don’t say it. Growing up, it really bothered me if people would say things they were going to do and then never do it. I prided myself on being a woman of her word. Well, as I found out, pride can get you into trouble.
Standing there that day on the sidewalk outside the downtown Milwaukee abortion clinic I began thinking about what I had just said to this young woman being so rapidly escorted into the clinic. The nice sounding name for this particular abortion clinic was, “Women’s Health Center,” even though the baby’s health was in grave danger in this Center. The reality was each mother’s soul would be forever marked by the decision to destroy the life God had placed in her womb (Psalm 139:13-16), and the child that God created would never fulfill the destiny He intended for him or her.
As a young person in high school my first encounter with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision came through my friend at school. She never told me directly, but through another friend, I found out that she had an abortion. I didn’t know much about prenatal development, or abortion for that matter, but I sensed a dark foreboding when this informant told me. I felt sad for my friend. At that time I knew the church my family attended would have taken a strong stance against abortion and, therefore, I would have known it to be a major sin and very wrong. Because our family was devoted in our faith, I supposed this was the reason my friend never told me about it.
Now, here I stood some 17 years later, well informed about abortion and so convinced of the destruction upon the soul that I was willing to intervene and speak to the women headed for the clinic doors. I know that many women suffer the after-effects from abortion and walk through life with self contempt for having chosen this “medical option” to solve their immediate problem. The sad reality is that the medical establishment isn’t able to truly minister to the soul; only God can do that. And He is looking for Christians to extend His love and forgiveness to those needing it. This was my goal as a sidewalk counselor. The problem was, by the time they were on the sidewalk, with green-vested escorts around them, little could be said to stop the rapid push toward the clinic door.
The summer of 1992 in Milwaukee was a major Pro-Life summer. Being the largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee had eight abortion clinics in operation. That summer, with the help of the local Christian Radio & TV station, a group called “Missionaries to the Preborn” became well known in our county. Organized in 1990, they were committed to abolishing abortion. The mission was launched with such enthusiasm and zeal and it brought a broadly based coalition of people from various churches and diverse individuals to the cause. While motives in the hearts of people in any movement vary, for the most part, the focused goal and mission was to protect the lives of pre-born children in their mother’s womb; and to share viable options with the women involved. Like any new movement, with the variety of people involved, it became at times a mish-mash of experience, theology, and practice that at times clashed on the front lines. How to carry out this daunting task with unity was a constant struggle in the midst of our single objective and purpose to rescue of pre-born infants from death, and minister to their mother’s needs spiritually and physically. This needed to be a movement of God’s love expressed — yet misunderstanding and fear manifested itself in our actions at times. Gaining the mind of Christ (II Tim. 4:5) was a daily challenge in the midst of the brutal reality of abortion.
Many would liken our battle to that of Dr. Martin Luther King’s in the arena of civil rights; working toward liberty for all regardless of skin color. He faced many challenges trying to convey God’s way of non-resistance in a world of violence and prejudice, often by civil authorities. So, like Dr. King, we too had to teach what Christ taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount; to love our enemies. This theology when put into practice proved to be a wonderful testimony of God’s grace, but it was not easily understood or played out in this raw and ugly environment. Emotions flared and it was difficult to portray righteous anger and loving grace in the many heated battles on these front lines.
It took months, even years, for this group to coalesce into an effective “ministry” out on the streets. Through it all, God taught us many lessons and after a few years a synergy developed that made for effective ministry. Our goal to minister was realized for the babies who were saved from death, the women who were in need of immediate help and later soul-healing after abortion. It was rewarding to hear the stories from the Mom’s who gave birth and the adoptive parents who were thankful to welcome these babies into their homes. In the end, six of the eight clinics closed. Focusing on the remaining clinics became a more manageable task, allowing for more focused ministry to those in need.
Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Lifers
We came to meet many wonderful people through this difficult battle for life. At the height of this localized war, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, along with the two other remaining clinics, filed a federal lawsuit naming 51 people as conspirators/defendants in the complaint. Some involved were people who had an effective ministry speaking to women; they faithfully stood on the sidewalks through very extreme weather conditions to offer their assistance. Some were preachers who would preach as people passed on the way to the clinic doors. The group of pastors was called, “ Pastor’s Emergency League” (PEL), following the name, example and efforts of German pastor, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who spoke out against the atrocities of the Nazi’s during World War II. Our friend, David Liebherr, founder of the Milwaukee area PEL and my husband were part of this group. So when the lawsuit was filed, their names were included as defendants. Through this legal action we became acquainted with Attorney Patti Lyman and her associates.
The lawsuit allowed PEL to put on paper and verbalize what their mission actually was. At the time, the lawsuit seemed threatening, but it turned out to be beneficial in that it helped to clarify and establish the mission and purpose for our actions. With God nothing is wasted; as Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, we saw that happen.
Patti Lyman, and her husband Frank, became good friends to us. With the many proceedings involving this lawsuit, Patti often needed to travel from their home in Fairfax, VA to Milwaukee to handle legal matters for Dale and David and others. Dave and his wife, Karla, had eight children at this time, and the Lymans loved being a part of their family. Like Dale and me, they were unable to conceive children and while they did not pursue adoption as we did, they have been “parents” to many along the way. Patti has long been a defender of legal rights for those without a voice. In the end, the clinics lost their lawsuit and we gained legal standing with guidelines for being on the public sidewalks. Additionally, the proceedings provided a good avenue for the voice of the unborn to be heard.
Other Front Lines
During this time period Dale and I also became involved in attempting to deal with an adult porn outlet that had suddenly cropped up in a residential area near our home. It seemed we were always involved in some type of battle… they seemed to be everywhere! Because of this, we were also pulled into the public media outlets and especially the aforementioned Christian Radio station, WVCY in Milwaukee. This station was very active in informing the public, especially the Christian base of listeners about what was happening locally and nationally concerning moral issues in our country.
The mid-nineties were a busy time for us. We were attempting to be a part of healing and hope in three areas of need. First, was our involvement in the prolife movement, second, we pioneered a new church in our suburb of West Allis and third, we were engaged in a battle against a porn store that had opened in a residential area of our community. Back then, even though pornography was available on the internet, the average person did not access porn on-line as is common now. This particular store not only sold “adult” material, but they also installed private viewing booths allowing patrons to view the videos while masturbating. This became a public health issue that we used to attempt to close the store down. With all of this on our plate, the adoption focus took a back seat for some months.
Then in October of 1997, my friend at the radio station, who was an advocate for adoption, mentioned to me twin girls with special needs that needed adopting. I had told her that if I am going to become a stay-at-home Mom, I would prefer to adopt several children at once. This prompted Dale and me to seriously consider beginning the adoption process — and we did. As it turned out the twin girls were adopted by another family, but the circumstance were used by God to get our paperwork going to begin our adoption process.
 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Soon after experiencing God’s love and forgiveness to me, I decided I would really like to share this wonderful gift and experience. I felt so free and happy to know Jesus in this way. I figured since God had so changed my life and filled me with His purpose and love, that I was interested in learning more of the Bible and how to effectively share the Gospel with others. So I began to meet with fellow Jesus followers at church on Thursday evenings to learn how to do this.
The group I joined went out to visit those who had come to visit the church – we wanted to see if we could pray for them or help out in some way. That part was relatively easy, but talking to complete strangers about my new found love for Jesus, how do I do that? I wondered. I would later realize that this became a very important stepping-stone for me to hear God’s call to full-time ministry, but at the time it was a scary proposition.
Life is a series of journeys, some important and others not so. The journey I was about to begin, just 2 weeks short of my 22nd birthday, would change my life forever. I would come to love someone who had loved me for a long time, yet I didn’t realize it.
I was raised in a devoutly religious home — we attended church each weekend and kept the holy days faithfully. Like many, my thinking concerning God was typical; “God exists, and you should do what’s good and right and hopefully you will go to heaven when you die.” Although my understanding of God was limited, as I look back upon it now, I am thankful that I was given a foundation to believe in God. I can see the many ways that people invested in my life. I was unaware of their efforts, and God’s working through various situations, that would bring me to the place of my life-changing encounter with the Cross.
There is an experience that I can recall from my grade school years that I would say was my closest brush with the Holy Spirit. It was eighth grade and for religion class, prior to our Confirmation, we were invited on a “Retreat Weekend.” Father Hagman was going to conduct the weekend and I attended. All I really remember about it is that something spiritual happened that I had never experienced before, but I didn’t know what it was. So, it was forgotten. . . until much later in my life.
The next time that I can recall anyone talking seriously to me about God, a personal relationship with Him, or the Bible, was after high school. I met a young woman, my age, named Janice from a small nearby town. We had each enrolled at the local technical college immediately after our graduation. As I got to know Jan more, I really liked her. We became fast friends and ended up going together on a trip to Florida as a graduation gift to ourselves. During one of our outings Jan brought up the subject of the end of the world, Jesus Christ’s return, and something called the Tribulation. I didn’t know what she was talking about. The most I knew was that in church each weekend we said in our creed that “Christ shall return to judge the living and the dead.” But what that looked like, I didn’t have a clue. When my new friend started talking about it as though it was really going to happen, I didn’t know what to make of that. But I liked Jan and so I listened.
My life went on after finishing school at MATC, obtaining a certificate as a Ward Clerk, and beginning work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin, my hometown. My heart was unsettled though, and I wanted to find some adventure or meaning in life beyond what I knew. In the fall of 1980, I moved to Milwaukee to begin working at a brand-new hospital that was going to be on the cutting edge of technology and the future trend for hospitals. This interested me, and my ambition to move and begin life in a big city with new opportunities thrilled me. So I packed up all my belongings into a 15 foot rented trailer, my Dad helped get it hooked on to my 1976 Maroon Buick Regal, and away I went into a new and exciting future!
SMALL TOWN GIRL—Be careful in the Big City!
There really were several reasons I wanted to move to Milwaukee. My cousin, Tina, would always make Milwaukee sound so, well, exciting! She wanted me to move there so we could get an apartment together. But the bigger reason I wanted to move was that I had been dating someone in the radio industry, who worked for several years in my hometown and his job had taken him to Milwaukee, and I wanted to be closer to him. Well, it turned out that within a month of my moving there he got a better job in Rockford, Illinois, and moved there. I was still glad to have moved south, as then I was only one-and-a-half-hour drive from him, instead of three. I was excited to embrace life in the big city and all the adventures that it held for me.
I had always been an achiever-type of person so in my work at the hospital I was quickly moved into a supervisory position on the p.m. shift. There was a problem in that I did not have the degree this position required. My supervisor, Jean, who was a great encouragement to me, said the hospital would pay my way through school to get the degree. So I enrolled the next semester at UW-Milwaukee in Business Administration.
It was while attending the university that my life took a dramatic turn. I had moved to Milwaukee in 1980, following my interest in the young man I was dating. Because he was a disc-jockey, he was always on the move climbing the success ladder to somewhere else. We became engaged and planned our wedding for September 1981. Jeff had big plans for our wedding! Because of his job he had access to bands that most people couldn’t afford to hire. The Booze Brothers (a take-off of the Blues Brothers who were popular, especially on Saturday Night Live) were big in Milwaukee at the time, so they said they would “play” at our wedding. We secured the Rozellville dance hall near my hometown. But during the months leading up to this grand event, we both realized something was wrong. I wasn’t sure this was really the right path for me. Questions began to arise. Did I really want to be a tag-along on his career life? How faithful would he be as a husband? I also began seeing things happen “backstage” that troubled me. Jeff would promote through the radio station upcoming concerts and then bring select friends backstage after the concert. I began to seriously consider if this was really the kind of life I wanted.
Thankfully, an event occurred in June, three months before the wedding that sealed it and made me realize this relationship was not a good move. I returned the beautiful diamond ring, shoved my wedding dress into my cedar chest, and with disgrace faced my family and told them the wedding was off. Anyone, especially when you are 21 years old and think you have it all figured out, who breaks off an engagement goes through terrible turmoil. I was wondering, Now what will people think? What should I do? What is the purpose of my life anyway?
That summer of 1981 is the time God caused me to stop and think about life, it’s real meaning, relationships, God Himself, and how it all works together. It was a confusing time for me. I kept busy working at the hospital and going to school. I decided to pour myself into a career and really climb the ladder myself. To escape the feelings I was going through, I would go to movies — they allowed me to forget about my life for two hours while living out someone else’s problems: a thwarted love story, love regained, whatever. But this too left me as empty as I was before. I wanted a relationship, a deeply fulfilling one, but now I really wondered if that was even possible. I had invested three years into my relationship with Jeff and how wasted that time seemed to me now.
It was Labor Day weekend, 1981, the month of my planned wedding, that friends from work noticed my indifferent attitude toward life and asked me to join them for a gathering on Monday, the holiday. I was hesitant, thinking they might be trying to line me up with someone. I wasn’t interested in having a knife put into my heart again, but I reluctantly agreed to go along.
Monday arrived and I met them at the Milwaukee Lakefront for our gathering. It was there that I met Dale. Determined not to enter another relationship, I did not appear very interested in him; however, he was nice, funny, and seemed quite interested in me. And there was something about him that attracted me besides his fun and outgoing personality, nice physical build (he was there training for the fall speed-skating season), and overall friendly way. Within a short period of time, he told me that church was an important part of his life — but not the kind of church I was accustomed to. This interested me. He said he had recently moved from Texas to Milwaukee and mentioned a church he was attending. He started telling me things that came directly from the Bible, which seemed unusual to me, for I had not met anyone (other than my friend Jan from technical school) who could speak with real knowledge about the Bible. I was interested in finding out more of what Dale had to say about God, especially after my summer of searching. Discovering this about Dale, piqued my interest in him more than the thought of beginning another relationship did.
I learned that Dale was originally from Plattsburgh, New York and that he was a speed-skater desiring to earn a spot on the US National Speed Skating Team. The year before we met, the Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York, near his home. He had gone to Texas to work for his brother-in-law, George, for the summer and had come now to West Allis, Wisconsin, to begin fall training for the winter season.
In 1980, Eric Heiden had won five gold medals in speed skating in Lake Placid and Dale would say, “I may never make the Olympic team, but I am one of the guys who makes Eric look so fast.” Dale enjoyed skating and his mother supported him through his later high school years taking him to competitions around the state. Now he was in Wisconsin, training, and working to survive. The making of an Olympic athlete takes much commitment and dedication. Having the funds, and having wealthy parents, certainly helps. Dale had a lot of drive and dedication, but wealthy parents to fund his dream was not his lot. However, he actually did very well in spite of all the obstacles he faced.
After seeing Dale on a few occasions, he invited me to come to his church so I could hear first-hand about God, the Bible, and get further explanation of the things he had been telling me. This was a bit scary for someone raised in the Catholic Church. I had been instructed by my parents, from childhood, that we were not to become involved with Protestants and their religion — it was not an option. Based upon my perceptions, I was hesitant to go, yet Dale seemed to possess some kind of relationship with God that I did not have and I wanted to know more about it. “Questioning minds want to know,” and I simply could not accept that being born into a Catholic home should keep me from finding out what he possessed, that I did not when it came to knowing God. I had been on a search all summer for real meaning in my life after breaking up with my fiancée; now I had met someone who seemed to be able to tell me how he had found what I was looking for, and I decided I needed to check into it.
I agreed to go with Dale to his church. I told him, “I’ll go to Mass first, so it counts, and then with you to your church.” So it was sometime in mid-September that I entered the doors of Bethel Tabernacle Assembly of God in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. I was warmly welcomed by the folks in the foyer and sat attentively listening to what the pastor said. After the service, many people came to greet me and introduce themselves. Being 21 years old, I noticed quite a few young people my age there and Dale introduced me to some of them. I remember telling him I wanted to leave, likely sooner than he or his friends wanted me to. I was feeling uncomfortable; they all seemed to be so connected! And I began to wonder, “Why are these people being so friendly to me?” I remembered hearing things in the past about cults and how people need to be careful when meeting someone they don’t know well and going to some kind of meeting with them. “They will lure you in by being friendly… so be careful!” Next, I thought, “Well, I really don’t know Dale very well, only have talked with him a few weeks, how do I know what I could be getting into here?”
I did talk to Dale about my thoughts and he said, “Well, I can understand what you’re feeling, so you should read the Bible for yourself, then you will know what is right.” I told him I wasn’t sure about this, and whether I could go back again or not. By the end of the next work week, all I kept thinking about was this church and what was being said about God. I was torn — I didn’t want to go back, I was afraid, yet I wanted to! Dale suggested we go on Sunday night; it would be more laid back and we could just leave right away if I wanted to. I agreed. Again I sat, giving attention to every word Pastor Johnson said. I was nervous though. I had thought I was a very good person, but he was saying some things that made it seem like I really didn’t know God in a real and personal way. That bothered me.
Feeling loyal to my parents and our faith, I felt it needful to go and talk with the parish priest at St. Rita’s where I had been attending for some time. I’d ask him about some of the things I was hearing and wanted to see what he would have to say. In the end, he had little to say. I felt detached, let down. My perception was that I should continue to conform and obey the Holy Roman Catholic Church and its teachings and not worry about all these questions.
I continued to go with Dale to church and some young women my age befriended me, along with the music pastor, Darryl, and his wife, Linda. They were very nice and fun! They invited us over to their house for a meal. Linda was a great cook. It was nice getting to know them and I started to feel like they were genuine and I could trust them. This caused me to want to come back to the church, and so for two months I listened and questioned. I did get a Bible and started to try and read it on my own. There were a few popular verses that Dale or someone wrote down for me, John 3:16 being one of them. I also remember that John 10:10 was important — telling me about Jesus’ plan for my life versus Satan’s. Satan wanted to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus wanted to give me life and that abundantly! That’s what I was looking for! I knew it now.
On a Sunday evening in mid-November 1981, I came to the place where I knew I needed to make a decision. I had to reckon with what Christ did on the cross, not for others, but for me personally. I knew intellectually He was the Savior of the “world” who I had heard about all my life, but He was not yet my Lord and Savior. I was a sinner in need of His forgiveness for my sin. Once I began to grasp my position before God as utterly lost apart from Christ’s sacrifice, I knew the only way to gain right standing with God was by humbling myself and accepting salvation His way. Jesus was to become my King! He was to be given control of my life and I was to surrender all of myself to Him. I was ready.
It was difficult for me to step out of the pew and walk down to the front where someone was going to pray with me to accept Christ and begin this new journey. I was fighting so many things inside — my past, my pride, my religion, my sin — but oh how I wanted to be free. They told me that who the Son sets free is free indeed and I wanted that! My apprehension was soon replaced with newfound freedom from sin, confirmed by acceptance and love from God.
This was a complete turning point in my life! I truly was made into a new person that night. I became born again! Even though some of my old ways took time to change, in my heart I knew that I belonged to Jesus. This was thrilling to me — I had finally found the relationship I had been searching for.
SPIRITUAL REALITY – Light vs. Dark
The Saturday night following this change in me, I had a riveting experience that has remained clear in my mind even now, over three decades later. I mentioned earlier that my ex-fiancée, whom I still was keeping in contact with, would get special concert tickets because of his work. Weeks before my meeting at the Cross, my friends at the hospital had asked if I could get all of us tickets to the Jethro Tull concert coming to Milwaukee the weekend before Thanksgiving — so I did. Since I had gotten the tickets, I was the one who had coordinated the evening. We all rode together downtown for the concert. After what had happened in my life on the previous Sunday night, I really did not want to go; besides, I didn’t like Jethro Tull! The band was too hard-rock for me, I preferred “ top 40” songs — romantic stuff about lovers breaking up and then getting together again, James Taylor, Carley Simon, those types of songs. But, I figured I had promised them, so we went.
My friends were all excited as we entered the auditorium, but I was feeling very out of place — almost sick inside. Soon the pre-concert music started and I felt even sicker. Then the main act, the rock group “Jethro Tull,” performed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But I did learn something very valuable that night that has been a help and guide to me ever since.
Music is spiritual; songs are born in the soul. Singers who move their listeners toward God in worship are able to do so because their soul is connected to Christ. Conversely, those who sing simply from the human level demonstrate their soul as well — it may feel good, but it is empty in the end. Today I understand that more than ever.
At one point during the concert, a drum solo occurred and as I looked around me at the chanting crowd, arms lifted in “praise,” I saw into the spirit realm. I now knew for certain, in my heart, that there truly is a spirit realm and what happened to me on that Sunday night was a very real event. There was a spiritual transaction that had taken place when I was in Dale’s church, inside my heart! While the concert all seemed like a slow-motion movie playing out before me, I knew deep inside that I had been changed forever — that I could never go back or be comfortable in this kind of environment again. And I was glad!
I endured the remainder of the concert, and oh how I wished I had driven alone so I could have left, but I couldn’t. In the end, everyone but me was excited and pumped up. Now it was time to “go out” somewhere, have a few drinks and enjoy the rest of the evening. I was again feeling like a “party-pooper” in my heart. Yeah! I thought — this is real! What happened to me last Sunday is not a figment of my imagination… I have been changed!” I told my friends I wasn’t feeling well and really wanted to just go home. So they complied and we drove back to the suburbs and headed our separate ways.
Early during the week, Virginia, the director of the orphanage, took us to a government orphanage to meet the director and some of the children. She brought donations of clothing, baby formula, and other items as gifts. This was a sad and stirring occasion; in several rooms, there were children of various ages from birth to about age 5 that were in the custody of the state.
This was an odd situation for us; we felt grief as we were looking at the babies and children much like the way you would select a puppy from a litter. It didn’t feel right, and yet all of these children needed a home. The worker would hand us a child to hold and then through an interpreter tell the name and explain the situation. It was heartbreaking to think this was someone’s child and I was holding him or her as though they were mine to keep, or not! We had so many mixed emotions and could see later why the “system” has boundaries to avoid this type of interaction.
Some of the children were held in legal limbo, in a sense. The law allowed that if the biological mother came to see the child within a 6 month period, they could not legally label the child abandoned and place them for adoption. Such was the case with Loredana. Dale fell in love with her immediately but was soon informed that she was unavailable. Her eyes, her face, epitomized a beautiful little girl who so needed a Mom and Dad. We wept as we left.
You cannot adopt these
We made the most of our mornings spending time with the children or staff at Hand of Help. There were a few around, however, that could manage enough English to converse. We especially liked the staff nurse, Florica, who tended to matters with the children. Florica was a beaming, beautiful single woman who loved the Lord and the children — it was obvious in her manner with them and us. She would become an important person to us before our time was finished there.
As our week further progressed, four children began to emerge as special to us, three actually, two sisters and their brother. The youngest child, a girl, was kept with the preschool children and so we did not see her until some time later. Dale began to take interest in this sibling group and soon wanted to know their story. Upon inquiry, he was reminded by the director that we were not to look at any of these children as candidates for adoption as they were off limits and not available for adoption.
She went on to explain that none of the children at Hand of Help were available for adoption. The system only allowed for those children in public/government institutions to be adopted. She mentioned that many of the children at HOH were not true orphans, meaning without parents; but rather the parents were in unfortunate situations where they were unable to provide for their children, and had left them with her for care until they were able to take them back again.
In spite of their cautionary warning, Dale felt something special toward this sibling group. Anca, the eldest, was very thin and small, yet assumed a very confident and somewhat bold manner for her size. She was hanging around Dale a lot and acting a bit like she had done this before with visitors. Her sister, Carmen, was a bit more reserved, even shy, yet she did not want to be left out of any fun. And then there was Andre, the boy. I say “the boy” because Dale knew that when we located the children we were hoping to adopt, there had to be a boy.
Dale and I had been married 17 years at this point and once we decided to adopt children, we agreed that we wanted to have at least two children join our family immediately; therefore, a group of siblings seemed perfect. My prayer was to raise whomever we adopted to be servants in God’s Kingdom.
We had fun days with the children. Soon many “personalities” emerged out of the bunch and we began learning who they were, why they were here, and their story. This was with the help of some of the older teen workers who knew English, as well as Florica, the nurse. When Gene observed us asking questions about the children, he would throw in a quick reminder that Virginia said we could not adopt any of the children at her orphanage.
Our Meeting at Buffy’s
After our state-run orphanage visit, we were becoming anxious about Virginia actually helping us meet someone who could possibly help us understand the whole adoption process. Our first question was, could we adopt children directly without the whole US agency system involved, and number two, would it be possible to locate two children while we were there that were available for adoption.
At the beginning of the following week Virginia said we could meet an attorney she knew who was involved with adoptions. It took two days of trying to meet at a specified time, to actually secure an appointment with Virginia to do this. We would go to her restaurant, Buffy’s Pizza, sit there an hour or so waiting for her to show up and after a while, we would finally leave. The second day she showed up. We ate pizza and spoke with her attorney friend, Mr. Brinza. He did not sound optimistic but suggested we go see an agency that could possibly do something for us. So, after we finished eating, we left to meet someone else in an office some distance away. The people at the agency gave us a snapshot version of the adoption procedures within the country. After receiving the information they gave us, the possibilities looked slim in attempting to move forward in the unconventional way we had hoped we could.
We could tell by the end of the visit in that distant office, that a rift had come between us and those who had invited us to Hand of Help because of Dale’s persistence concerning the Filip children. Dale, however, was determined not to leave there without asking them specifically about the adoption procedure concerning these particular children. The day before our scheduled meeting, Dale had said to me that he thought God was leading us to adopt this sibling group. When Virginia heard Dale mentioning the Filip children again she did not want to discuss it at all, but rather moved the discussion back to the adoption of one of the abandoned children that were in the Romanian Adoption Committees (RAC’s) system. During Dale’s persistent discussion with the person at this office, he asked what the costs would be for four children. They said it would be about $40,000 to cover the fees. That figure alone made it seem impossible! We left their office feeling very discouraged; however, that was nothing in comparison to the feelings we were about to experience.
After much discussion in Romanian, someone from that office agreed to take us to another village about an hour or so away. As we traveled on we continued to converse with the person we had collected at the office we were leaving. Since that person also served as an interpreter we were able to ask more questions. As we traveled we were informed about the place we were headed to in Siret. It had become an infamous institution through the undercover work of a news agency from America.