Friday, January 30, 2009

Praise and Prayer

I want to begin by Praising God for each of you! The sacrifice and love you have all shown to Misha and our family is truly inspiring. Raising close to $30,000 in just a little over three months is nothing short of a miracle, and when one considers that 70% of that money was raised during a three week span from January 1st -Jan 25th, they must see that this miracle required divine intervention. What a beautiful picture of how the church is suppose to cooperate together to bring about God's Will in fulfilling the needs of those who are hurting. God has truly been glorified!!! Thank you all, it has been a wonderful testimony to our family and the world!

It has become evident to us that the enemy doesn't like for miracles to be performed. Over the last two months we have been under heavy spiritual warfare, which hopefully explains the lack of sufficient communication. We greatly desired to honestly portray all that was going on here in order to have warriors helping pray us through our battles, but the nature of some of our struggles has kept up from knowing how to communicate.

All along there have been struggles, but it seems that everything has intensified as the deadline approaches. We've been hesitant to share our struggles because as everyone knows, we are embarking on a difficult journey. It only takes a little research to see that adopting an older child is not an easy task. We would prefer to only share the things we have overcome along the way to prevent others from being afraid of taking a similar journey. Yet, we've been realizing that this isn't completely honest. There might be other families out there who are watching our journey and if we only share our victories they will only see one side of the story. This might cause them to make hasty decisions that could harm their families, only because they were not properly informed. After much prayer, we feel that the only thing we can do is make everyone completely aware of how to pray for us. Just because a task is challenging hasn't kept missionaries from going into dangerous situations, but knowing what they may have to sacrifice and face has helped prepare them for their journey.

Just days after discovering that our goal had been met, Philip talked with another father who has just returned from Russia to adopt a four year old boy. This father told Philip that the expected $30,000 adoption ended up costing them $45,000 and that they are now close to $20,000 in debt. We were devastated! After months of fund-raising and caring for a handicapped child who has undergone extensive surgeries, we just didn't have the energy to press forward. I began crying out to God over why He has helped us reach our goals only to discover that there might be an increase in expenses and that we won't really know how much the adoption will cost until all the papers have been signed and we are back on American soil.

From the beginning of the fund-raiser, Philip and I purposed not to spend the money entrusted to us, until we could be sure that we could follow through with the adoption. We have felt that as ambassadors of Christ we need to carefully reflect the integrity of the God we represent. It has been our desire to return the money should things not work together as planned. We had thought that it would be easy to tell when we should move forward and began using the money on all the necessary paperwork. Up until now we have spent close to $5,000 of our own personal money as well as the money collected at IGAO to help move us forward.

Philip and I have worked very hard to live a debt free life and we unanimously agreed not to do anything that would place us back under financial bondage. Instead we have been pursuing and have found several ways that might help cut adoption expenses.

Another problem that we have incurred is determining if Misha will submit himself to our family rules. During Misha's first week with us he freely shared how in Russia he smoke, drank, watched any movie he desired, listened to heavy rock music, stayed up as late as he wanted and only went to school when he chose. Immediately Philip and I sat him down with the Google translator and told him that our family was very different and that he would have to follow our rules if he stayed here. We asked him if he desired for us to find him another host family. He insisted that he liked it here and would give all those things up.

During the four months he has been with us (one of those months he spent in the hospital),we have seen evidences that would cause us to question if Misha is really ready to submit himself to those rules. A week ago he broke down and told the kids and I that he hated our rules and wanted to be in control of his own life. Philip was at work, so I talked with Misha about how every family has different goals but that these are the decisions that dad and I have made for ours. I told him that if he wanted to be a part of our family he must decide if he could obey our family rules. He again told me that he wanted to be his own boss. I told him that time had run out in finding him a new family and that the only way he could be free to do what all he wanted to do would be to go back to Russia. And once again he told me that he wanted to be in control of his own life.

That night when Philip got home, he privately pulled Misha aside and began telling him that when our family first heard about the orphanage in Russia we felt that we could help a child there by giving them a loving home and opportunity for a happy life. "During your time here you have told several of us that you were unhappy in Russia because you wanted a family, but that you are also unhappy here because you miss your freedom. We understand that the change is hard for you, but you must decide which is worse." Philip proceeded to tell him that if it is the same, then we don't really desire to make all the sacrifices we are going to have to make. After this conversation Misha began to tell us that it is better here, but confusion has come in observing how his behavior doesn't always align with his words.

The next day, a former Russian had a long conversation with him so that he would clearly realize what all was at stake. Misha said he would try to obey our rules and told this person that he did want to stay in our family. Yet after the conversation he showed no remorse for his behavior and didn't apologize to us for the heartache he has caused over the last few days.

Philip and I realize that Misha is an injured boy and we can understand his resistance towards change and authority. We also know that he had to develop an independent spirit in order to survive in the orphanage those fifteen years. Our hearts break for him and we greatly desire to help him. The problem is that we have other children to consider and repeatable challenging of family harmony and rules will most definitely not be profitable on a long term basis.

Philip and I are not inexperienced when it comes to handling teenagers since we have raised and continue to be raising six biological children who are in or through that phase of life. We have always tried to help our children see that feelings of independence are normal during this period of life but that they must continue to exercise submission to our authority while they are still under our roof. Teenage rebellion has thus far never been a problem because we pursued to hold our children's hearts. They have always known that we had their best interest in mind and therefore they have trusted in our decisions. Philip and I will be the first to admit that we make parental mistakes, but it has been beautiful to see how our children can overlook a multitude of sins because of the love that they know we have for them.

We realize that Misha is at a disadvantage to our biological children. He hasn't benefited from years of observing us operate. Instead, his life has been filled with rejection and struggling to survive. This has created an individualist mentality that seeks to preserve itself at all cost.

Some have encouraged us to plunge ahead and began spending the money that God has provided, yet without a peace from God we do not feel this is the direction we should take. At present, we are carefully observing Misha and moving ahead as far as we can go without violating our conscience. We are praying that God will either close the door or give us a peace to move forward. Until that peace comes we do not feel free to dip into the money that has personally come to us.

Please pray that God will make His will known to us.

I'm strengthened when I consider that God loves Misha even more than we do. He has demonstrated this by taking a handicapped boy out of 132,000,000 orphans in the world and bringing him to our home. Philip and I have never doubted that it was God's will that we host Misha. Adopting him has yet to be made clear. Our desire is to glorify God by obediently following His will......whenever He clearly makes that will known.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22nd Totals

Total Amount Needed for Adoption:


Donations sent to IGAO:

- $3,976.00

Donations sent to Johnsons:

- $4,650.50

Other Donations:

- $6,992.50

Total Needed via ChipIn:

= $11,211.00

Donations via ChipIn (as of Jan. 22):

- $11,325.98

Leaving us with this remainder to collect:

= ($114.98)

Praise God!!!

Philip and I have never been comfortable with asking for money. We struggled when friends suggested that we try to raise the money to adopt Misha. These precious friends began reminding us that this adoption was not about us, but about Misha. We decided to lay out the fleece of provision for the necessary funds (without us taking out a loan), and also God allowing enough time to complete all the paperwork.

We began this fund-raiser in October and in just a little over three months, God has used each of you to raise over $26,000. I can't began to convey to you, how deeply moved our family has been through this entire process.

Originally, I started the blog as a diary for Misha. When we began this, Philip and I weren't sure what to expect. Would God bring people who had never met us, and give them a desire to unite with us in adopting a handicapped child? My faith in our abilities to raise $27,000 in less than six months, was very small.

Some of you have shared your discouragement over the lack of interest your friends or church family have shown, as you have tried to help collect money for Misha. These are economically troubling times. Please have grace on others who might not share our zeal.

Instead, I want to encourage you with a bigger picture that our family has been blessed to observe. We have seen the generous outpouring and love of fellow believers. We have received sacrificial gifts from loved ones as well as total strangers. Young children have emptied their piggybanks and asked their parents to give all their Christmas money to Misha. Many families cut way back and made this Christmas a time of joining in Misha's adoption.

We do not begin to know all the sacrifices each of you have personally made. When we began receiving money, we decided to keep a record of all the names, addresses and donations given so that we would be able to personally contact everyone who has joined with us in adopting Misha. This book is filled with all the information that I have on everyone who has given, so that I can update them of Misha's progress through the years. This book reminds me of a book that God is keeping. In His book, He is recording every detail concerning circumstances, motives, thoughts and actions over every daily deed of each of us. My only responsibility is to make sure that the entries under my name are worthy of praise.

Let us rejoice in what God has done and is doing!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Frances works in "Child Life" at the hospital. One of her jobs is to mentally prepare all the patients for surgery. She explains the procedures "step by step" so that they will not be so frightened by all the unfamiliar tubes and equipment.

The hospital works extremely hard to make every child's stay as comfortable as possible. Fear can be tremendously reduced when a person knows what to expect. Frances is absolutely perfect for the job! Her sweet and gentle demeanor gives the children feelings of peace and trust.

Another of her jobs is to plan all sorts of activities for the children while they are going through recovery. She schedules various games, crafts, and parties to keep the children from becoming bored.

Frances is also one of the precious people who stood by Misha during his first Wound Vac change. Her compassion and love for these children is heart-warming.

No wonder Misha has grown to love her so much!


Shortly after Misha's first surgeries, we discovered that there was a man in prosthetics who had moved here from Russia. Through the weeks that followed Misha met this young man, whose name is Alex, and they have become good friends.

Alex has been so kind to Misha; understanding how misplaced this young boy must feel. Alex himself came to America to receive surgeries from a sports injury he incurred in Russia. Not only has he been someone for Misha to talk with, but he has helped me understand some of the cultural differences and struggles that Misha is going through.

We have been so blessed by the many people God has brought into our lives during this time who have each helped strengthen our bonds with Misha.

Shannon and Stephanie

Shannon and Stephanie

What fun these two girls have been!

Their fun loving humors have brought joy into our lives; making the difficult times tolerable, and the long days at the hospital memorable.

In an earlier post, I mentioned how Shannon shaved Misha's legs to keep the bandages from pulling out all his hairs. Somehow he got the idea that this was all Shannon did at Shriner's; shave patients legs. After a good laugh, Shannon, Stephanie and I explained to Misha that Shannon's job was much more than that. Not only is she the rehab aid for Physical and Occupational therapies, but she orders all the wound supplies, walkers, crutches etc... Her time on and off the job is spent serving others. Many singles spend their free time wrapped up in themselves, but not Shannon! She devotes her time to caring for the elderly or going on medical mission trips to primative tribes in Africa. Her life is truly one of sacrifice and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to know her.

Friendships are truly treasures that we must not take for granted. Both of these girls have become friends that we never want to lose.

Stephanie has won this mother's heart! A few days ago, I told her that she has been adopted into our family. I haven't decided how to cut down the confusion that having two Stephanies will cause, but the joy of adding this girl to our family will certainly be worth the challenge. I don't think I've ever seen her without a smile on her face and she pleasantly handles Misha's harsh comments without taking them personally. Misha requires a tough skin sometimes and Stephanie and Shannon have patiently embraced him even when his bluntness would have pushed many people away. It is their persistance that has won his respect and love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Wonderful Christmas!

We rejoice that Misha was allowed to come home for five days, during the Christmas holiday.

On Christmas Eve, he awoke with such delight and excitment over the fact that he was finally going home. We left the hospital around 10:00AM on Christmas Eve and he returned on December 29th for a few more days of treatment.

Our time at home was absolutely wonderful! Our oldest daughter, Christie , her husband Isaac, and their three adorable children spent Christmas day and most of the weekend with us. It was a joyous time with family and friends, and observing Misha experience his first American Christmas.

Front left to right: Christie, Isaac and their three children Davina, Jeanna and William; Heather, Josh and their two children Noah and Mercy; Misha, Stephanie, Matthew, Josiah(beside Misha), Esther, Philip, Melissa, Hannah (behind Philip) and David.

As Monday slowly approached, I worried that Misha would refuse to return to the hospital. He grumbled some, but to Philip's and my amazement he began wheeling his wheelchair through the hospital in search of all the people he had missed over the last five days.

This surprised us because when he was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 1st, he had no interest in making friends and meeting others. All he wanted to do was go home. At the time, when I told him that friends were wonderful and that he needed to be nicer to people so that he could experience this, he would pout and tell me that he only needed his family.

This coldness poured over to all the nurses, as he refused to let them take care of him, requiring me to be there most of the time. Philip began intervening and told Misha that Stephanie and I would have to rotate staying the night and that he would have to let the nurses help him when mom wasn't there. Philip and others felt that gradually weaning Misha from his dependence on our family would be the best way to help him learn to rely on others. After several weeks, Stephanie and I began leaving him alone at night.

This is why it was such a delight to watch him eagerly search for Shannon, Stephanie, Alex, Francis and all the Doctors and nurses that he has grown so fond of these last few weeks. All these people at Shriner's have become an extension of his family.

This is a wonderful group of people, and we have all come to love them dearly!

As I reflect on my most joyous blessing this Christmas, I would have to say that observing Misha learning to trust and open his heart to others has truly been a highlight.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

International Guardian Angels Outreach (IGAO)

UNICEF estimates that there are somewhere around 132,000,000 orphans in the world. These figures are staggering. What hope is there for a problem this gigantic?

International Guardian Angels Outreach is a ministry that is dedicated to finding ways of helping as many orphans as it possibly can. This is the organization that brought Misha to America. It was started by George and Alexandra Goode.

The following story of Alexandra's life is mostly quoted and taken from a book written by her granddaughter, Caroline Hornok.

Alexandra and her twin brother Valoydsa were born in Russia on September 13, 1929. Three years later their mother Katherine died of tuberculosis. They had a brother, Igor who was ten years older. Their father George Maderash was a wealthy man who provided his family with the luxury of living on a large estate and in a beautiful mansion. He was connected to King Alexander and was an officer in the calvary unit and eventually advanced to being a general.

Alexandra was schooled by governesses for the early portion of her life. At the age of nine she attended a Russian boarding school for girls supported by the Yugoslav government in Belacverka. Her brother Valoydsa attended a Russian military academy; Egor had previously graduated from one. In 1940 when returning to school, her father took her to the train station in Sarajevo to kiss her goodbye; this was the last time Alexandra saw her father. It was the eve of WWII. Alexandra's father and brothers were killed leaving her orphaned and alone.

Alexandra and ten other girls were sent to a Russian orphanage in Belgrade sometime between May 1941 and early 1942. Life was bleak and uncertain. Germany sought to suppress increasing Yugoslav resistance and launched several surges into Yugoslavia. The orphanage where Alexandra dwelled was seiged and the smaller children were sent to a death camp, the older ones, who were strong enough to work, went to Germany. April of 1944, at the age of fourteen, Alexandra and many others were carted on a train to the heart of Germany.

Many died during the 600 torturous miles of riding in cattle cars. Sporatically, the Germans would throw in a few rotten potatoes and watch the people scramble for them. They arrived in Dachau, a concentration camp with a long and evil history. After spending four months at Dachau digging graves, Alexandra was chosen to go to a labor camp in northern Germany on the Island of Rugen.

The labor at Rugen consisted of unloading coal in the ship docks, making bricks for the adobe houses for the German Army families, laying an airstrip, and gathering potatoes and cabbages from the fields. The rations were minimal--a cup of thin soup with peas, potatoes, and weevils, and maybe a piece of bread. The adverage temperature during the winter on Rugen stood around 32 degrees--quite cold when one is wearing rags. Also, on Rugen they carried out the imfamous medical experiments. Alexandra was given a series of injections, some resulting in boils all over her body, severe stomach pains, terrrible colds, sore throats, and vomiting. Her tonsils were ripped out of her mouth without any kind of anesthesia; several inmates, after having their tonsils removed, bled to death.

One night Alexandra, barely fifteen, wept quietly on her metal triple-bunk. She was questioning everything she knew or had been taught, using her young brain to ponder even the deepest metaphysical and epistemological questions: Who is God? What is man? Who am I? Why am I here? What is real? What seemed most real were the guns of the Germans and their harrowing medical injections. The pain was real. Sin was real. Was God real and did He care? Her mind was troubled and afraid. She wept to God saying, "If You are real and if You love me, take my life." He took her life--every inch and cell. Alexandra asked for physical death, and instead she was given spiritual life. Her soul pierced the veil separating herself from God. She felt unmitigated hope and joy, and her hate-filled heart was satiated with love.

Alexandra started telling all the girls of her hope, encouraging them--they thought she was mad. Her mind turned toward thoughts of escape. She had spent thirteen months in these German prisons. One night, with a round and brillant moon, she and nine other girls crawled out of their hellish infirmary. As they passed the gate, a German soldier stood with a beastly German shepherd. Unbelievably, the guard turned his face from the escapees, and the dog remained mute.

They rushed to the train station--trains were the only method of leaving this island. They hid on a train car during the black night. They had no idea where the train was going, but it was going away from Rugen, which is what mattered. After approximately twelve hours, the train stopped. One of the girls, swept by curiosity, swung open the wide door to count the cars. Hundreds of German soldiers were spilling out to the other cars, and one motioned anxiously for the girl to follow. Alexandra was struck with terror--there was no escape from these Germans. The German soldier's face pleaded with them to leave the train and flee swiftly. By some strange logic, all the girls ran along with the soldiers into the wooded area. Very shortly after, the train exploded. The Germans were scuttling their abandoned train.

Alexandra and the girls were sprinting into a battle zone. The Royal Air Force was dropping bombs overhead, and many were injured or killed. Alexandra herself received a wound to her back from the shrapnel, but none of the ten were killed. These ten frail orphans spent the night hiding and fleeing, trusting no uniform. When morning rose, the British soldiers flushed out the forest toward the town of Lubeck. Alexandra and her fellow escapees walked out of the woods with their arms raised in surrender to the Brits. The British separated the former prisoners from the hundreds of German Soldiers. Lubeck had fallen, and the day was May 3, 1945.

Alexandra was declared stateless and placed in an Allied-run DP camp. Friends she met in this camp had immigrated to United States and had asked their Russian Orthodox Church in New Jersey to sponsor their immigration. At nineteen she boarded a ship that lead her to Ellis Island on September 19, 1948 and she eventually became a United States citizen. She graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical Technician School. After graduation she worked at a doctor's office and met George Goode, a handsome, young Navy officer, in January 1951. They were married that November.

George and Alexandra now live in Keller, Texas. She has three children and nineteen grandchildren, who fondly call her Babushka--the Russian name for "grandmother." She and George founded IGAO in 1999, mainly facilitating the adoption by Christian families of children from orphanages in Penza, Russia. Their first adoption was two of their own grandchildren. Another part of their ministry is to bring handicapped children to the United States and having prosthesis or surgery conducted on special needs Russian orphans. Over two hundred children have been adopted through their agency so far.

You can find out more about their organization by visiting

Like Corrie Ten Boom or Joseph in the Bible, Alexandra can say, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."Genesis 50:20.

Alexandra, I'm sorry for all that you have suffered in your life! Yet, I'm thankful that God used your pain to prompt a sacrifice and love for the orphans of Russia and the world.

Thank you for bringing Misha into our lives.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dog Therapy

One of Misha's favorite times in the hospital was something they call "Dog Therapy".

Several dogs are brought in a couple times a week for the kids to pet and love on.

Misha loves animals!

And apparently they like him too!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Steps

When Misha was first admitted to the hospital on December 1, 2008, he was very unhappy. He became very withdrawn and moody. I tried to encourage him to make friends and participate in the wonderful daily activities that Shriners has for all the patients, but he would tell me that he didn't need friends, he just wanted his family.

He constantly withdrew himself into video games or movies and shunned the other patients and staff. I spent hours trying to help him see why we all need friends, but he would roughly reply that he only needed his family.

Because of his long hospital stay and the drain it was taking on the family, Philip and many other highly respected people, began encouraging me to go home at night so that he would be forced to rely on others. At the time he was completely dependent on me and refused to let anyone else bathe or help care for him.

Breaking away was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Abandoned all his life, I worried that leaving him would take away trust that I've worked so hard to build. Yet, Stephanie and I were exhausted! After three long weeks of staying at the hospital around the clock, we began going home at night.

Even though the month of December was very long, some amazing things began to take place at the hospital. The staff at Shriners work very hard to keep the children from becoming bored during their stay and also utilize the time in equipping them for handling the outside world.

Every day Misha would spend thirty minutes in occupational therapy and then another thirty minutes in physical therapy. His physical therapist name is Stephanie and she is also responsible for caring for his wounds by changing his bandages three times a week and making sure his wound vac is working properly.

Misha has such hairy legs that months earlier when they had to pull off his first bandages after surgery, the tape pulling at the hair and wounds completely traumatized him. He became very fearful of anyone who would get near his wounds and began screaming if he thought they were going to change his bandages. This was completely unnerving for everyone involved! Quite honestly, I worked in a hospital for years and was very use to working with children who had fear of pain, but Misha's fear and behavior over these procedures even traumatized me.

Hopefully, this paints a clearer picture of what Stephanie, Shannon, Francis and all the other staff who became involved with wound care for Misha had to go through. The first wound vac change he was given strong pain medication, but even this didn't seem to calm him enough. Once the procedure was started it had to be finished, so you couldn't wait around for more medication to be given. The next procedure they decided to slightly sedate him and things went much better. This group of ladies have worked very hard to make wound vac changes as easy as possible.

Misha and his Wound Vac

Shannon was elected to shave his legs since she cares for her grandfather and has become an expert shaver. Once Misha trusts someone, he latches onto them and really makes a fuss if someone else tries to step in and take their place. Once Stephanie grabbed the razor and was going to quickly shave his legs. Misha cried out, "No! Shannon shaves legs!" You would have thought that it required a degree in leg shaving.

Stephanie prepares Misha for his first steps

It was the same with Stephanie and his wound care. She was tremendously careful with Misha. She patiently took a lot of extra time to gently remove the tape without pain. He grew to trust her completely and when she had to be gone a couple of times he really took the girls, who replaced her, through the ringer. I've been told that some of these girls actually had trained Stephanie, but he would tell them they didn't know what they were doing because they didn't do it like Stephanie. They had done a wonderful job, yet, they took his bluntness beautifully and we all had a good laugh. Everyone came to know that in his eyes, Stephanie "rules".

He has really grown to love these precious ladies. Likewise, they appear to look forward to his jokes and playful sense of humor. I've been so blessed as I've watched how lovingly they dote over him during physical therapy and wound care.

During Misha's first days at the hospital, I would constantly tell him that I didn't know why we were here, but that I knew that God had us here for a purpose. That purpose has been revealed in so many ways, but the friendships he has formed with these wonderful people has truly been a highlight. He has discovered that mom was right. Friends are a WONDERFUL thing!

As Misha took those first steps for Stephanie and Shannon, I began realizing the tremendous way God has used these ladies in bringing about many first steps in Misha's young life. Thank you ladies! We all truly love you!!!

Stephanie, Shannon and Misha

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why February 9 Deadline?

Many people have asked why we chose Feb. 9th as the deadline for raising money on our "chip in", so we felt that some explaination might be helpful. There's really nothing magical about that specific date but I will do my best to explain how we chose it.

On May 9, 2009, Misha will turn 16 and according to International Adoption Laws he will be to old for adopting.

As part of the adoption: Philip, Misha and I must travel to Russia for everthing to be processed; At the beginning of our pursuit in adopting Misha, we were told that we must appear before the Russian Judge (who is handling Misha's case), before the month of April, because, the Judge will be out of town, that entire month.

The trip to Russia requires a two-week stay. This means that we must leave for Russia, sometime before March 15. Knowing that there are always unknown circumstances to surface we felt that it would be ideal to leave for Russia sometime during the first of March.

To get the best air-fare prices we would need to order the plane tickets several weeks in advance, so this is how we came to the Feb. 9th deadline.

As I write this we are just a little over 6 weeks away from this deadline. Hopefully, in the next few days, I will be receiving notification on all the donations that have been sent to IGAO for Misha and will then proceed to post a bullet under the "Chip In" so that both accounts can be added.

You have all been a tremendous support and encouragement! We are so grateful for your patience and sweet spirit during this entire process. Many of you have energetically taken Misha's cause upon your shoulders and have planned several exciting events to help us raise the remaining balance. We anxiously await to see how God is going to answer our fleece.

Happy New Year to you all!!!