We are so excited to announce that we have our official court date! We will soon be traveling to Kyrgyzstan to have our pre-hearing on September 17th and court on September 20th. For those of you who have been following our adoption story, you know that we have been waiting a long time for this day! In June of 2016, we agreed as a family to host a 10-year-old boy from Kyrgyzstan for the summer. In the 6 weeks that Dima lived with us, it was immediately obvious that Dima bonded very well with our family and we all fell in love with him. In September of 2016, we officially started in on the paperwork to begin our adoption process. We stepped out in faith when we felt God calling us to adopt an orphan, but little did we know it would take three years to complete our adoption.
During these past three years, we have worked, prayed, fundraised and saved, waited, cried, and pleaded for this boy to be ours. We filled out countless hours of paperwork only to have it expire and redo it. Despite this long journey, we did our best to cling to the promise that God’s timing is perfect. There were many discouraging days when we felt that maybe the adoption wouldn’t happen. There were uncomfortable moments when people would keep asking us “why is your adoption taking so long?” and “Are you ever going to be able to adopt him?” We never had an answer for why it was taking so long, as we can’t fully comprehend the issues in third world countries as Americans. We just continually felt like we had to keep fighting to bring our boy home. During our wait, we hosted Dima twice more. He was with us for 5 weeks over Christmas in 2016 and again for 5 weeks in the summer of 2017. However, after Dima’s visits here in the US, we had very little contact with him, but sent him packages with pictures and letters, trying to give him hope that we had not forgotten about him.
We bonded with Dima during the three times he lived with us, but we were required by the Kyrgyzstan government to spend 10 consecutive days “bonding” with him at the orphanage on our first trip. We were so grateful for this time to spend with Dima immersed in his world. It was the happiest of reunions, the moment we had been praying and waiting for and I think that the three of us could barely believe that we were finally reunited again! It was a huge relief and feelings of joy washed over us as Dima jumped into our arms calling us Dad and Mom. Dima had thought we had forgotten about him and the reality is that we never did, not even for a day.
The country of Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country. There are 81 different people groups living in Kyrgyzstan, a melting pot of both culture and religion. The city of Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and this is where we flew into and stayed during our bonding trip. The city of Bishkek is very clean and a beautiful place to spend time in. During our bonding trip, we left the city each day and drove to Tokmok to Dima’s orphanage, which was about a ninety-minute drive out into the country. The roads are dry, dusty and very rough to travel on. It is a strange feeling as you drive from the wealth of the city, to the poverty you see in the country. The kids at this orphanage have so very little that it is nearly unimaginable for our American way of thinking. This was my first time to witness poverty on this level. The kids at this orphanage are in very poor living conditions, and there are many needs at this orphanage. The buildings are crumbling, and many are in disrepair. There is no plumbing, toilets, or even toilet paper. There is no gate around the orphanage, so the nearby farm animals wander through the orphanage grounds going to the bathroom wherever they choose. There are also many stray dogs and cats. It makes the lawn and areas where the kids play very dirty. They are lacking so many basic necessities that we take for granted every day. In Dima’s orphanage, there are normally about 135 kids during the school year. In the summer, there are 80 kids living there ranging in age from 5-15 years old. Shortly before we arrived in Kyrgyzstan, the sixteen-year-old children had just aged out and had to leave the orphanage. Essentially, this means they have no choice but to the leave the orphanage, and the reality is that most of these kids have no place to go. As a mom to a 16-year-old boy it is hard for me to even imagine this! It is heartbreaking to think about the reality of what the future holds for these children. It is our privilege to be able to save even one child from this kind of future.
We were thankful to be able to shower all the kids at Dima’s orphanage with our attention and love. Most of these kids are desperate for attention and wanted to interact and play with us. We brought a picnic blanket that we could lay down on the lawn and the kids just naturally gathered around us and sat down on the blanket to see what we had brought for the day. One of the highlights for me, was that we were able to stop at the open-air markets on the way to the orphanage and bring the kids fresh fruit and vegetables each day. A few of the days, we brought the kids cheese and sausage. The kids don’t get a lot of food with protein, so you could see that this was a real treat for them. Our driver would bring us directly to the kitchen each day to unload the food and then he would park the car. The kids would be waiting for us as we drove in and then they would run to get their friends. There was a large group of kids that would follow us to the lawn so that we could lay down our blanket and they were eager to sit down and join us. A few of the older kids would distance themselves, but by the end most all kids had joined us. Some of the children’s favorites things to play were Uno, Spot it, and Jenga. We also brought watercolors and many art supplies for the kids. We brought crayons, stickers, coloring books, stencils, balloons, loom bands from making bracelets, and Maine Scene souvenirs. Dima is an active boy that loves playing sports, and we brought soccer balls, basketballs, frisbees, jump ropes and water guns and organized games and played with them. Dima was excited to be able to play games together with us and his friends. It is both interesting and heart breaking to observe the other kids watch us with Dima. They are all thinking the same thing: Dima has found a family, a mom and dad and will be going to America.
We are so happy we had the chance to spend time interacting with so many kids at Dima’s orphanage. It helped us understand more about Dima and the life that he has been living up to this point. We were able to play with other kids and we now know their names and interests. We can see the athletes, the artists, the quiet children, the mischievous ones. We loved seeing all their different personalities. Many of the children asked us “to please bring them to America too”. On our last day at the orphanage, we were able to surprise the kids with a pizza party! This was so much fun to do because a lot of these kids had never had a piece of pizza before. We brought 27 pizzas, soda and chips. At one point all the kids yelled in unison “spa-si-ba”, “spa-si-ba”, “spa-si-ba”, which means “Thank you” in Russian. What a blessing for us and a privilege for us to be able to do this for these kids. We were able to make some small improvements to their dining hall while they were there by a purchase of 75 new chairs and curtains for the large windows. We now have names and faces for the orphans we spent time with, when before our trip to Kyrgyzstan they were just a statistic. The kids that will remain behind are not easy to forget. Once your eyes have been opened to this, it cannot be unseen. Statistics mavy vary, but according to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) there are roughly 153 million orphans worldwide. Everyday, an estimated 5,700 more children become orphans. For every one orphan adopted, 56 age out of the system. There are many ways to help with the worldwide orphan crisis, and not everyone feels called to adopt. However, there are still many ways to help.
Thank you to each of you that have supported us on our adoption journey through prayer, encouraging words and financially in these past three years. Please continue to pray for us as we prepare to travel to Kyrgyzstan on the 14th of September. Our faithful mountain moving God has brought us to the point where we will have finally be able to sit in front of a judge and ask for the privilege of being Dima’s mother and father. We both feel that every child deserves the right to be part of a loving family and we are so happy that we have to chance to be able to do that for another child.
We are excited about this next step in our adoption journey. We are still working on funding our adoption. No amount is too small, and we love having as many people as possible partner with us to help us give Dima a new life and a family to call his own. If you are on Facebook, but not part of our closed adoption group called “Travels to Kyrgyzstan” , please let us know and we will add you into our group if you want to see our pictures and videos from our trip.
Aaron, Emily, Zach, Will, Luke and Anna
To make a tax deductible donation, you can visit our link online at http://mystory.lifesongfororphans.org/stories/cheesman-family-adoption/
And follow the prompts or you can mail a check to:
Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40
Gridley IL 61744
Make checks payable to “Lifesong for Orphans” and its important to write in the memo so they know where to direct the donation: “Cheesman Family account #6619”
Lifesong is blessed to have partners that underwrite their operating costs so 100% of the donations go towards our adoption. (there is a small standard fee of 2.2% +.30 per transaction for online credit card processing which is handled by a third party) It is a very reputable site that has helped other families we know. A tax- deductible receipt is sent automatically for donations of $50 or more, and they are happy to send one for any amount upon request.