Friday, December 12, 2008


Renee and I are sitting in the office of a telephone company in Novagrad Valenski, Ukraine; using wireless internet. We are in the middle of adopting three special needs boys from an orphanage here. Two of the boys have Down Syndrome. Roman is high functioning, energetic, and happy; Dimitri has serious mental retardation, failure to thrive, and though he is five years old, he is the size of a 1 yr old. He has sores on his face, a distinct smell of death on him, and yells out if we try to do anything with him other than hold him. Because he has less ability to respond and learn, he naturally gets less attention and care from the orphanage workers in this world of limited resources. The harsh reality of the “survival of the fittest” principle is a life and death struggle that this little boy is losing fast. Our third boy Sasha, is a brilliant six year old who has Spina Bifida (the condition our son Josiah died from in 1996). He is like a learning sponge that can’t get enough! He is happy and alert and thirsty for knowledge and experience. So with two of our boys we get an immediate return on any investment we make. With Dimitri, there’s not much immediate gratification. In fact, it’s unknown when and if there will be a return at all. This is the kind of situation that makes the carnal, fallen, human reasoning think, “Why try? What’s the point? What will this produce? What good will this do? Why not select a boy who has more “potential”? This looks like a lost cause”.

Two days ago we drove for hours into the Ukrainian countryside to the village where Dimitri was born. We met with officials there and signed papers and answered their questions. We also went and saw Dimitri’s house. The day had been long, we were still recovering from jet lag, I was beginning to really miss my six daughters at home and all the familiar things our fragile human hearts entangle themselves with in feeble attempts to feel secure. Sitting in the dark on our very long drive back to Novograd that night, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart, and new understanding about redemption began to take shape.

I was thinking, “Man, adopting this little boy has been so much work. This is exhausting, expensive, uncomfortable ... and it doesn’t feel very rewarding right now.” What am I doing in some little Soviet car in the dark, in the middle of rural Ukraine in frozen December, as the driver dodges cats and potholes? What if Dimitri doesn’t improve at all? What if we get “nothing” out of this? … Ahhh, there it was; that dark, fallen, unreedemed, selfish human love, rooted in the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil”. The love the Greeks called “erao” love. The love where we treat someone as precious and treasured for what we can get out of it. This is unlike “agapeo” love, the God kind of love that treats someone as treasured and precious for their good, not for my good. It’s when I love a person in order to meet their needs, having no expectation of them meeting any of my needs. At a whole new level, God is working His kind of love into my weak heart, and He’s using little Dimitri to do it.

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.


sarahjohnz said...

Thank you for sharing! I see the Lord's hand in all of this. I am brought to tears once again as I think of the process you are going throught to learn these lessons. God is so good. You and so many of us in your extended family (yeah even us cyberstalkers consider ourselves family!) already love these boys so much! I expect Pappa to continue to be faithful! I will continue to pray!
XO in christ~your sister,

grammygwen said...

Beautiful post. I am in tears. Praying for all of you.

Tracie said...

Derek, Thanks so much for sharing the journey of your heart!


mimster said...

My heart is touched,moved,and broken for this precious darlin,my grandson. The world does look at people like him and people like Grandma as throw aways because they don't respond the way we want or hope.The cost is high and hard but the benefits in the kingdom are worth it.These are kingdom people and God deems them just as worth it as he deems us worth it. Praying for you both as you fight the good and worthwhile fight. We will love him no maatter what!!!!
Gobs of Love, Mom & Dad

Meredith said...

What a beautiful post, and so difficult too.

I am about 9 or 10 months ahead of you all, but those same words came from our mouths in regard to Micah (18 months, 11 lbs, throwing up constantly, diarrhea constantly, slept all the time, didn't smile and never had we're told, didn't hold his head up, didn't make eye contact) and Emma (5 years, 17 lbs, major heart issue, didn't hold her head up, didn't smile for the first several days, didn't sit unassisted but did roll to get around, her legs were like a newborn and when I changed her diaper I cried at how there was nothing whatsoever to her bony body).

Wednesday Emma sat in her high chair and FED HERSELF cheerios. Thursday Emma CRAWLED after a ball (in a funny way, but hey, they told us she has CP too and wouldn't do much...). This past 2 weeks she's begun to BEAR WEIGHT on her legs and she'll get custom orthotics in a week or two. Her "unrepairable heart defect- she has 6 months to live" is fixed and yesterday at the cardiologist we were told even her pulmonary pressures ("irreversible damage") are slowly coming down and she doesn't need to be seen for FOUR months.

Micah is STANDING. He laughs constantly, he is cruising, he loves to hug his brother and sisters.

They both started out ill and damaged and forgotten alone in their cribs... and they are now THRIVING, which is a testimony only to how good God is. Sometimes, just as in a person with more baggage is more grateful for redemption, a person with further to mend is more of a testimony of God's hand of healing than one without trials.

God has His plans for Dimitriy and tho we don't know whether they'll be or whether his trials will be long or short, but we know that his life is NOW a testimony of God's goodness because He has brought you to him and now there is one to tell the story.

I'm still amazed that God chose me to be able to tell of his Goodness through Emma and Micah, who by the way are 29 and 24 lbs now and I was told by their doctors to "be careful, we don't want them to get TOO heavy" :)

Blessings to you all, we continue to hold you in our prayers.


Arden said...

I'm sitting here weeping after reading your entry and these comments! God is so BIG in you two, and in little Dimitri as well! REDEEMING GOD, we cry out to you, thanking You for giving us so much! Amen and amen!

Chris and Mary Malone said...

God, You're amazing. We trust these little ones to You. You are worthy of all praise and honor and glory. Thank you for letting us get a glimpse of Your redemptive heart as we make the journey to redeem. Thank you for being my Daddy and adopting me and making me well.

Lisa said...

What a wonderful reminder to us all who have been redeemer by our great Redeemer. Thanks for your transparency through this process. May God continue to protect, guide and uphold you as you redeem your little ones and bring them home to the states. What a testimony of His love you will be to their precious and WORTHY hearts!

Rosalie said...

Hello Derek & Renee:

Thank you for allowing me to follow your adoption journey. Although I cannot offer mature words of Christian wisdom, we will pray for Dimitri's health and that Dimitri will make it to the U.S. without his health getting any worse. It is amazing how good nutrition and lots of input, input, input can make a difference in the lives of these beautiful children with Down syndrome.

My son and I have fallen in love with two little girls with DS from Reece's Rainbow, hence, my finding your blog (through Tracie . . .thank you). We have to wait until our Haitian adoptions are completed before we can look at starting with the two girls from the Ukraine we are following and praying for. The Lord has told me that "there is one of them I cannot neglect" for sure.

Meredith's post to you is so very encouraging too.

Bless you all.


Arden said...

Derek and Renee, as we were meeting tonight with our international Christian fellowship, and worshipping, we were singing the song with the refrain: Savior, He can move the mountains, He is mighty to save, My God is mighty to save! As we sang, an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit hit me as He brought you all and little Dimitri to my heart...I wept as the Lord said, "Have everyone here sing this out and change the word "save" to "heal"! So I shared with the group your story, and we stood and worshipped, declaring that God is mighty to heal! It was a powerful time and I just want you to be encouraged that a group of believers in Szeged, Hungary was worshipping the Lord for you and your little boys!

Amanda said...

Beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

Amanda (RR)

Debi said...

Thank you so much for your 'realness' and your 'vulnerability' -- you have no idea how much that means to us! We so appreciate you sharing your heart and what God is teaching you through all this. As we're just now entering the world of foster care and whatever the Lord has beyond this -- this post really pierced our hearts and challenged us about love...loving unconditionally. Thank you!

Tammy said...

Beautiful. THANK YOU, GOD for Your redemption!
Hope to connect with you guys this week. Wed/ Friday are most probable. After your visits. Scope out a place for coffee/ dinner!