This is a guest post written by my husband for Father's Day. He wanted to share his experiences and he hopes he can encourage other papas to step forward and adopt as well.
Two years ago my wife and I began the process that culminated in my Bizarro version of a European vacation. Cincinnati to Washington DC to Frankfurt Germany and on to Eastern Europe........check. Cincinnati to Washington DC to Munich Germany to Eastern Europe.............check. Cincinnati to Washington DC to Berlin Germany to Eastern Europe ........check. Cincinnati to Newark NJ to Vienna Austria to Eastern Europe.........check. It was almost like a Cyrillic version of the movie Groundhog Day. In my four months in Eastern Europe I learned many things. Some expected. Some unexpected. Expected things like always carry toilet paper with you, never drink the water and sleep whenever you can. Unexpected things like foreign service agents travel by bus and malls have pay-to-use squattie potties. The one truly unexpected thing that I learned took almost two years for me to truly understand.
I had four wonderful biological children before my trip. I was a very good dad and in some instances (like when I brought home popsicles) I was labeled the best dad in the world by some small children. However, it took the herculean effort of bringing home Orion, Evan, Theo and Barton to realize what it means to be a papa.
Now dad and papa mean two different things. Anybody who has traveled to Eastern Europe knows that. But for me the true meaning took some time to reveal itself. These boys never heard the terms dad or father but they were always told that a papa might come along some day and take them away to live in a home and have a family. But what was a papa? What would he look like? When would he come? The answer to all three questions comes in one word..........Hope. A papa brings hope. No matter what shape or size. No matter if he came tomorrow or next week. A papa comes with shirts and shoes and lots of hope. He brings ice cream cones and bananas and hope.
When I first met Barton I never even knew that he could speak. I almost had a heart attack when he began answering questions that he was asked. He was asked if he wanted to have a family. He said yes. He was asked if he wanted to go live with a family and have a mama and a papa. He answered yes. But could I be that papa for him? I wasn't sure until I was sitting in a courtroom five months later. The judge asked Barton who was sitting next to him. He calmly said "My papa".
The day I first met Evan he screamed like a horror movie queen the moment I touched him. I knew that his special needs were fairly extreme and I was frightened. Frightened of the long term needs of this frail little boy. Frightened every time I touched him and he screamed. Frightened that I could never be the papa that he needs. In time he screamed less and I discovered his tickle spots. (He loves to be tickled behind his jaw!) Mainly I was frightened that I was adopting a child that I felt would never be able to reciprocate affection or make his needs known. What a fool I was wasting so much time being afraid. What a fool I was for not seeing the glow of God's love in this child. Most of all I was being selfish. What would a child who may need a lifetime of care do to my marriage and my family? I will tell you what this child did. He completed our family and showed me that extraordinary things come from the most unexpected places. Evan filled a hole in my heart that I never even knew existed and holding that little boy today brings me closer to God than I ever thought I could reach.
When I first met Orion and Theo, Theo played it cool while Orion prostrated himself on the ground and proclaimed that he had always known that a papa would come for him some day. But what did papa mean to each of these boys? For Theo, papa meant somebody who would stay with him and his wheelchair while the other children ran ahead and played. For Orion, papa meant somebody who would spoil him with treats and let him be mischievous. In time I came to learn that what Theo really wanted in a papa was somebody who would help him achieve his dream of walking (halfway there Buddy!) Somebody who would watch Paw Patrol with him, scan the streets for fire trucks with him and make pancakes for him. Astonishingly I came to learn that what Orion truly wanted in a papa was the requisite mama that came along with me. It certainly hasn't been an easy road with Orion, but seeing him and my wife meet for the first time was truly incredible. A boy on the verge of becoming a man, fully knowing that his birth mother had abandoned him at the hospital when he was three days old, meeting a strange woman who flew one third of the way around the world to show him that he would no longer be alone. My wife has always inspired me and that was one of those moments that left me speechless (Very rare occasion.). How I could I possibly be four different papas to four different boys at four very different developmental stages? Would I lose my mind trying?
The answer was both complicated and simple. I simply had to be myself. Each boy needed a papa and I was available. Knowing the future (or lack thereof) that each of these boys faced has made the decision to adopt them the most rewarding and fulfilling yet challenging scenario that I could have faced. Children in orphanages do not need perfect parents. They need real mamas and real papas. They need somebody who will help them realize that life no longer has any limits. They need somebody who will tell them that they can do anything or be anything they want. They need somebody to tell them that no matter what happens, they will always be loved. They will never be alone. The world will no longer be dark for them. The world will no longer be a wheelchair sitting in a grassy field. Or a crib with bars.
As I look forward to adding to our family this year and with Father's Day fast approaching, I am reaching out to all the potential and future "papas" out there. For all of you I have one thing to say......You can do this. I have always believed that if somebody can do a good deed, they should. If somebody has the capacity for good they should act on it. As I approach middle age I have had a true moment of insight. At 39 years old I will probably never change the world. I will never cure cancer. I will never win an Academy Award or a Pulitzer Prize. But for four young boys I changed their world. I cured them of hopelessness and loneliness. They are the prize that I won. And for that I will be forever grateful.
We are home with Amos, Daisy, Lee and Violet! Meanwhile we have jumped in again for one last very special girl. If you would like to help with that, you can make a non-tax-deductible donation HERE that we can access immediately. You can also make a tax-deductible donation HERE that we can use once we receive travel dates. Or by donating HERE you can help provide her and other children at her orphanage the care and nutrition they desperately need. See all of our current fundraisers HERE. We are thankful for any support you can offer!