Saturday, April 25, 2009

Orphanage Shower!

Outside of Hope's orphanage

Hope's bed
What a precious child!

The judge in Chisinau signed the order and dated it 4/17/09 instead of 4/21/09 which places us four days closer to getting Hope home!!! We hope to return around May 21st for our second trip. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who prayed for us and continues to pray. We also appreciate that so many of you offered to give us a regular shower for Hope. However, after seeing the orphanage, we felt led to request items for the children. Thanks to some sweet friends, we came up with the idea of an “ORPHANAGE SHOWER.” We are very excited about this, and you will find a list of items below if you would like to participate. We will be taking these items with us when we return. Shipping these items directly to the orphanage is not recommended due to some corrupt customs officers.

The “ORPHANAGE SHOWER” will be held at First Baptist Church, Montgomery on Sunday, May 17th at 4:00 pm. More details will follow regarding the exact location within the church.


Towels and washcloths

Basic school supplies

Desitin or Retinol (Adams Drugs)

Small plastic stacking or developmental toys

Soft durable children’s clothes sizes 6 mos. to 6 years (somewhat plain)

White flat crib sheets

Boys and girls underwear

Boys and girls socks

Blankets for small beds

Boys and girls shoes

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Hair brushes, bows, barrettes

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Last Day!

Communist era apt. building - everywhere in Chisinau
Christian school choir

Cristina Hope's friends
With some very sweet caregivers

I mentioned earlier this week that we visited a Christian school sponsored by the Baptist and/or Pentecostal church (still not quite clear). This organization also provides a home for many of the children at the school. The home is just outside Chisinau and is set up in about 10 homes. House parents in each home take care of about 10 children. We also visited there. It is a very good environment for the children. Many of the children were removed from the street and placed with this organization. It is a light shining brightly in what can be a very hopeless place.

As we were touring one home, I spotted a beautiful painting of an older Modovan woman in one of the bedrooms. This really got my attention, because I love art. We were told that one of the boys at the home was the artist. He is 16 yrs. old. I surprised even myself (and especially Andy) when I blurted out if we could buy it! We were allowed to and it has already become a treasured piece to me.

Back to the school. We attended an Easter celebration service there this morning and we were so blessed. The children had worked long and hard in preparation for this and it showed (see pic above). The vice president of the school translated for us. She explained that many of the children whose parents were unbelievers were present for the program. The school provides a very good education along with extracurricular activities such as music. We spent a lot of time with the vice president, Doru. She said the center (school and children’s home) was under constant attack by the “authorities,” because they accused them of putting things in the minds of the children that weren’t very good! This is heavy burden on the center’s administration. We plan to bring back basic school supplies to them on our return trip. They were so grateful for this.

Then it was time to see Hope. She felt better this morning and enjoyed some more cheese and juice. Yes, we really must do something about her wardrobe!!! I can’t wait to put some cute clothes on her and some that actually fit. You will see her with her caregivers in one of the pics. They are so kind and it seemed to mean so much to them just to have their picture made. The children in the picture are in Hope’s group.

We left around noon and returned to the apt. However, on the way we were only with our driver who speaks some English. We stopped along the way. Andy and I both understood that we were stopping to get a sandwich. You can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that we were at the apt. manager’s office to pay for our apt. It was not that we were not planning to pay, but we were hungry! We are not sure how we both missed the translation!

We had our last visit with Hope this afternoon. We enjoyed our time outside. It was very warm, but you can’t tell it by the way they insisted on bundling Hope up! We actually could have been in shorts, but most everyone we saw today had on sweaters and/or coats. At the hearing, I wore sandals. After the hearing we were standing outside along with some of the women from the court room. They were all so concerned about my feet being cold. They told me I needed some warm winter shoes! Hope will have to get acclimated to wearing less clothes in the south. Hope was very partial to Andy today. It is such a joy to see them together. Andy has another little girl who has him wrapped around her finger! Yes, Beth, you are the other one! By the way, congratulations to TPS for defeating MA in boy’s tennis! We both handled saying goodbye to Hope very well. We do hope the time is no longer than 30 days. We plan to return when the kids get out of school around May 19th.

Afterwards, we did a little more souvenir shopping and then headed back to the apt. We are getting packed up and ready for the long trip back home. On our return trip, we leave at 8:00 am Saturday and travel to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, we fly to Cincinnati then to Atlanta where we will drive home. We hope to be at church Sunday morning.

I included the picture of an apt. building (ours did not look like this, fortunately). There are dozens and dozens of these sad, forlorn buildings all over Chisinau. They are left over from the Communist era. They are all in major disrepair, but this is where most residents live. They are just so sad to me. There is some newly constructed apartments, but these are too expensive for the average citizen to afford. Being in Chisnau is like going back in time about 40 to 50 years ago. It is strange. Most everything is old but not in a good way as in “antique old.” There are some nice areas downtown. On our second trip, we plan to travel to a village and experience the rural life of Modovans. I am anxious to see this.

Once again, I can not adequately express our thanks to all of you who have taken this journey with us. We appreciate all of your prayers and emails so much. You all mean the world to us!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hearing Day!

She loves juice - wish we had a sippy cup
Looking over a petal

Cristina Hope with nurse

Hope did not feel very well this morning. We think she may be teething. She didn’t smile very much. I can’t tell you how much I just wanted to rock her to sleep and hold her! Of course, I couldn’t do this, because of the orphanage schedule. The care givers have all been so gracious and kind to us as it is. Every time we get Hope out of her room and return her, the other children begin to cry and try to come with us. It takes awhile to settle them down. I keep telling myself that they all have parents who love them and will be re-united with them soon. I truly hope this is the case.

They are all so precious!

Let me clarify something. We were previously told that the government and officials would be on spring break from April 16 -27. We were also told that all the parties involved with the hearing were willing to come in just for it. However, we learned just last night that the spring break is only for the schools and universities. We were glad to hear this, but it just goes to show how difficult communication is between two languages and a translator. Moldova celebrates Easter this weekend with Monday being a holiday. This is the most important holiday in Moldova. They attend church late Saturday night/early Sunday and bring special cakes/breads to be blessed. Then they gather with families for a special meal in which the blessed cakes/breads are eaten.

This afternoon we were picked up from our apt. about 1:20 for the hearing that we thought was scheduled for 2:00 pm. We traveled to pick up the translator, Aurelia (she is our favorite). We waited and waited. Then we got a call from Albina to come and meet her and that Aurelia had been detained at work. By this time, it is really close to 2 pm. Andy is getting worried and mentions the time to our driver, Yon (he speaks English fairly well). Yon then informed us the hearing was changed to 2:30. Ok, so we leave to meet Albina. We switch cars and now Albina is driving which is very scary! We faced four challenges: 1) we are running late, 2) Albina is not the best driver, 3) traffic in Chisinau is very chaotic (Andy says it is very mild compared to India) and Albina has to get gas for crying out loud!!! After getting gas, she points out that we have seven minutes before the hearing so not to worry. I really haven’t figured out the traffic patterns in Chisinau. There are no lines marking the lanes and I rarely can tell if a street is one way or not. Albina would pass a long line of cars parked at a light and get in front of them and the whole time she would be saying sorry, sorry. Obviously, I was a little rattled by the time we reached the hearing. Aurelia walked in just as it started! I immediately felt comforted by her presence.

Most adoption hearings in Moldova last about 30 minutes; ours lasted two hours! We really liked the judge. She was personable and very thorough and deeply cares about the children in Chisinau. Andy, of course, spoke for our family. He did an excellent job. The Holy Spirit was at work within him guiding him in his words and mannerisms. On the other hand, I couldn’t even remember how old Dow was when asked by the judge. I am usually very calm about situations, but I was a nervous wreck at the hearing. The hearing was fairly orderly, but much different from hearings in the US. For example, when one party was giving a report, the other parties were talking and Albina’s cell phone kept ringing. Also, the clerk took notes by hand. At the end of the hearing, the judge indicated that she would make her ruling on Tuesday when all of the written reports were due. While she did not say for sure, she implied that the ruling would be in our favor. She had very kind things to say about us at the end of the hearing.

So many times on this trip, I have asked myself what in the world are we doing in a tiny country in eastern Europe working so hard to bring a little girl to the US? Also, out of all the orphans in the world, why Hope? I am sweetly and gently reminded that God has specifically (and I do mean specifically!) guided us here and to her. This reminds me of God’s awesome love for each one of us. Hope is part of God’s plan for us and we are part of His plan for Hope. He is weaving our lives together in a beautiful way.

We appreciate all of your prayers and emails more than you will ever know! When we returned from the court hearing, I began reading the recent messages, and I just became overwhelmed by your love and excitement. Please know that each email/message is treasured. I am saving them for Hope to read one day when the time is right.

I have to say one more thing about Andy. His strength is truly amazing. While my emotions have been up and down, he has remained steadfast and focused. He has not wavered despite the challenges and recognizes the hand of God in every step of this process.

We have to say goodbye to Hope tomorrow. This is going to be difficult, but at the same time I can’t wait to see Dow and Beth. Leaving here will be bitter sweet. There will be a 30 - 45 day waiting period from Tuesday of next week until we can make our next trip to bring Hope home!

By the way, the top left picture of Hope was taken with the nurse at the orphanage. I included this picture, because Hope gives this little look often and it just melts our hearts!

We love you all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Sunny Day in Chisinau!!!

Playground at orphanage
Cristina Hope loves to be outside
Not sure what to do with a ball - she will learn!
Sad playground equipment

Where to begin? Well, first I have to say praise the Lord for sunshine! We had a full day of it and along with a good night rest made Chisinau more appealing. Yesterday was a very hard day both physically and emotionally.

For some strange reason I can publish the blog and at least get some emails , but I can’t send any. This is really hard for an email junkie like myself. I feel so cut off from the rest of the world. Okay, enough about me. I know you want to hear more about Hope.

We visited with her again this morning but not until almost 11:00. Since they awake at 6 am, she was sleepy and a little lethargic. However, she perked right up when we brought out the sweet cheese and juice. Moldova has excellent juice in all kinds of flavors. We have to make her take a break from drinking. There was a new child in her group today who cried the entire time of our visit. This seemed to unsettle Hope a little.

We met the orphanage director today. We had been warned that she was very gruff and matter of fact person. I had this picture in my mind of this really large Russian lady who would speak very sharply with us. I was pleasantly surprised. She was kind and not “scary” at all. We have been told that she has done a lot for the orphanage since she has been there. We were told she was pleasant to us because she had been sick and did not feel well. By the way Dow, she thought you were very handsome in your picture and Beth, she loved your hair. In fact, when we show Beth’s picture to people, they always ask if it is natural! We asked the director what we could bring on our next trip and she said Desitin ointment! I can think of a few other things as well. In the visitors bathroom, there were strips of newspaper for toilet paper!

After lunch, we went to the “art square” where we bought some souviniers. Then we went back to the orphanage. There was a mother visiting the new child in the small room where we visit Hope. We were told that a number of the children have parents, but the parents just aren’t able to support them. We think this mom was visiting the new child who had been crying. It is really heart breaking. Hope’s group was going outside, so we tagged along. The children seem to always wear at least two layers of clothing inside. To go outside, they were dressed in coats and hats. Going outside with the children was an eye opening experience. You can see their playground in the pictures - not much to look at! Other than the “playground equipment,” there is nothing else. We brought a few toys for Hope and shared with the others outside. You would have thought it was Christmas! They loved them. Even an older group of children enjoyed playing with them. Toys will definitely be on our list to bring back on the second trip. They have very few toys in their room as well. There are no developmental toys. Hope really came to life more outside. We were so glad to see this. However, she kept coming back to me or Andy!!!

Our last stop for the day was dinner to discuss the court hearing. Albina has worked so hard for this adoption. There are some extenuating circumstances that have brought some challenges, but Albina thinks everything will work out well. Albina is still working on getting all of the extended family (to the 4th generation!) to sign off on the adoption. We will have our best and favorite translator at the hearing which is a blessing. The hearing is at 2:00 pm which will be 6:00 am your time. We would appreciate all your prayers!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meet Cristina Hope Birchfield

First let me say that I published yesterday’s update on this blog but under “First Trip,” so just click on those words at the top of the page.

We had a full day. We visited Hope twice. She is warming up to us little by little. We brought her something that is called sweet cheese. This puts a smile on her face. She loves it. She also loves juice and drinks straight out of a regular cup. We also met with the doctor at the orphanage. She was extremely nice, but we really didn’t learn anything new about Hope. For lunch, we enjoyed pizza at Andy’s Pizzeria . We also traveled around the city with Albina delivering what we think are notices similar to a subpoena. We went with her just in case we needed to speak with any of the people who will be in court. The employees at the orphanage all seem to be nice and caring. The children seem to be taken care of as best as the resources will allow.

We had two other translators today. One was Natalia and the other was Boris, who is a Christian.

We also saw the Parliament Building and President’s house that had been vandalized. The translators have been very open about the corruption and political situation in Moldova. Chisinau is so gloomy and drab. There are many old apartment buildings built from the Communist era. It is all very depressing to me Parts of it look like a war zone. I am reminded even more of the blessings we enjoy. I am already home sick and can’t wait to see Dow and Beth. It would help if the sun would shine!

Our court date has been moved from Friday to Thursday. There are a few challenges that we will face, so we would appreciate everyone’s prayers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pushing On!

Our four will soon be five!

Wow, a lot has happened! As most of you know, Moldova had elections last Sunday and then the streets were full of 10,000 protesters Monday and Tuesday. Most of the protesters were students who feel strongly that the elections were fraudulent since the communist party won control of parliament again. This seemed to have calmed down by Thursday. We then learned that the government and officials take a spring break from April 16 - 27! At this point, we became concerned that we wouldn’t be able to make the first trip until April 25th.

However, with Andy, you should never count anything out of the question until the door is completely closed and nailed shut!!! As of Friday morning, I never expected to leave this weekend (which explains why I had done nothing to prepare)! We had a long conference call with our adoption worker (who by the way, is absolutely wonderful) in NC. She made lots of contact with Albina (the contract adoption worker in Moldova). Albina said she could get the judge and other officials needed to be available (remember their spring break) if we traveled. Andy was on the phone with US Immigration, a travel agent, and a contact in Romania. It wasn’t until around 3 pm (after the all important premier showing of the new Hannah Montana movie - which is very good) that everything began to come together for us to leave Sunday. I have to say a big thank you to some employees at Sterling Bank, We are required to take the adoption fee in new bills. Moldova is basically a cash only society, so we needed new bills for lodging, meals, etc. We had ordered new cash (which is quite a process) which was supposed to be in Thursday, but there was a delay. Those sweet employees worked so hard gathering up enough new bills for us so we could leave Sunday! Angela Cummins at Sterling told me that it was quite unusual to have that amount in new bills at any given time at the bank. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Angela said God’s hand was certainly in this aspect. Also, thanks to our travel agent who worked diligently to make travel arrangements for us. Thanks to all of you who are helping with Dow and Beth and our dogs. We are also thankful to our neighbor and accountant (Larry Capilouto) who brought our taxes to us Saturday night to sign. He is mailing them for us as well! He even had good news for us on our returns!

I also have to thank Jay (FBC pastor) for his Easter sermon and for using our Hope as an example to illustrate the HOPE we have in Christ. What a wonderful gift this was for our family. We look forward to showing the DVD of the sermon to Hope when she is older. She will be delighted to know that she shared Jesus with others even before she knew Him herself. Thanks also to our SS class who have joined in our excitement and for Tim Riley who prayed such a sweet prayer over us this morning.

I had a hard time leaving Dow and Beth. Please pray that they will stay safe and filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit this week. I was so sad to leave them but so excited about meeting Hope. Andy and I were talking about how we can’t wait to meet her, but she will be absolutely clueless about who we are and why we are there. We are really hoping that she likes us!

Just one last funny thing. I am on the plane right now. It is 6:10 pm CST. I am being entertained by this fella who has not stopped eating and drinking since we took off. He has gone through I don’t know how many bags of peanuts, dinner, snacks, and drinks. He is keeping the airline attendants very busy. I am not kidding, I don’t think he has stopped chewing except to ask for something else to eat or drink!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Info!

We have learned a little more about Hope recently. She now weighs a whopping 15.4 pounds! The doctor at the International Adoption Clinic reviewed her medical info. and says that all her measurements for her size are in within normal range. According to her birth weight, she was born prematurely. We are hoping that the combination of low birth weight and living in an orphanage is the reason for her small body size. She will also more than likely have some developmental delays due to being in an orphanage. We will just work through all of this. The doctor at IAC also believes she is about the size of an average one year old. We have been so encouraged by others that she will catch up quickly and that we will see a huge difference in her appearance (hair, skin, weight, etc) within just a few months.

The contract employee that our adoption agency has in Moldova says she is very active and resourceful. She says Hope is very bright and knows how to get attention. It sounds to us that she is a normal almost 2 year old. Also, Hope has latched onto a little boy in her group and doesn’t like for any one else to give him attention. This could be trouble!

Last week, I spent hours working on one little glitch in our home study. It was really one sentence that was causing a problem. Actually, it took me, two adoption agencies, and one government agency to work out this issue (well, I hope it is worked out)!

This caused me to think back over this last year. We have spent countless hours praying, planning, completing forms, answering questions, making phone calls, sending emails, gathering information, and waiting expectantly. This reminded me of how God planned and created a place for me. He created a world where I would have beautiful things to enjoy such as a sunset, the green of spring, and DOGS! I love dogs! He also created a planet not too close to the sun and not too far away from it either so that earth would have just the right temperature. He created oxygen so I can take that next breath and a tiny seed that can produce life sustaining nourishment. It is humbling to think that God planned for me! Then He knit me in my mother’s womb to be different from everyone else. He gave me a certain personality, unique tendencies and my very own DNA and fingerprints. He planned for me! I am just in awe.

He didn’t stop there! He knew I would be sinful, so He provided me with a Savior. I am so thankful to be a child of God. He has blessed me to overflowing. I am His forever and joy and peace flow from the Spirit within me. He has proven faithful over and over again. We look forward to teaching Hope all about Jesus and how much He loves her.