It was just a few days before Christmas. In a matter of minutes, I would board the plane and be on my way to Russia to adopt a six-month-old baby girl.
How it had all happened was amazing in itself. I remember sitting in the living room with friends and quietly sharing my desire for a child. “Well, there’s no reason why you can’t still be a mother,” my friend assured me. “Singles are now adopting.”
I remember how I had smiled at the idea, reminding him that I wasn’t young anymore.
“Oh, I don’t think it will take that long,” he responded, “and anyway, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”
With that, a seed of hope was planted that I could be a mother. In just six months, I was on my way to Russia to adopt a baby girl named Oksana. Questions flooded my mind. Would she be there when I arrived at the orphanage? Would she be healthy?
I continued to pray as I stuffed my baggage in the overhead compartment. I glanced again at the little picture I had of Oksana. “Lord, please lead me to other people going to Russia to adopt.”
How I feared traveling alone, but there was no one to go with me.
Before long, in little snippets of conversation, I overheard the words “Russia,” “babies” and “orphanage.”
“Are you going to Moscow?” I asked the woman to my right.
“Yes, my husband and I are going to adopt two children.”
“So am I!” I squealed. “I mean, I’m going to adopt a baby girl.”
From then on, we both talked incessantly. I discovered that they were heading to the same orphanage to be met by the same coordinator. We became fast friends. I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for answering my earlier prayer.
When the plane landed in Moscow, it was cold and dreary. I immediately sensed the strangeness of the different culture and my language barrier. But then I met our coordinator, who turned out to be a very friendly Russian woman who spoke no English. Her big, warm hugs were so reassuring.
“Is Oksana there?” I asked, having heard stories of people getting to the orphanage, only to discover that the child was no longer there.
“Da,” she answered with a twinkle in her eyes.
“When can we go to the orphanage?” I inquired, ready to go on the overnight train immediately.
“Soon,” the translator said.
“By Christmas? Will I see her by Christmas?”
“Da. Da,” she answered with a big grin.
I stayed in a simple apartment of a young couple and their three-month-old daughter, Anastasia. Their generosity was overwhelming. Although their living conditions were simple, they willingly shared what they had.
In just a few days, I left with two other couples to travel eight hours north. When we arrived at Borovitchy, we were tired but so excited. After only a few hours of sleep, we went to the orphanage. Walking inside the large brick building that was home to about 400 children, I whispered another prayer. “Just let her be healthy, Lord.”
As I walked the long hall, I met staff members who were warm and friendly. I saw that the facilities were neat and clean. A tall Russian doctor joined us and smiled when he asked if I was ready to see Oksana.
Was I? I thought my heart was going to burst with such a strange combination of excitement, fear, longing, hope.
Together, we walked down the cement steps, through the long, narrow hall to the infants’ room. They led me to a small room while they went to get the baby. In only a few moments, they were back.
Oh, I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live! They placed her warm little body in my arms and discreetly stepped out to leave us alone.
“Oh, my,” I whispered in awe. “You are beautiful, darling.”
I gazed at her big brown eyes and flawless skin. I held her hand in mine, counting each finger. I held her close and sang to her softly, “Jesus loves me.” Time stood still.
It was a holy moment, a Christmas moment, a time when the Greatest Giver filled the arms of a hurting single woman with a priceless gift—a baby.
We left the orphanage on Christmas Eve at midnight. My tiny daughter, Noelle Joy Oksana Brani, was wrapped in a soft pink blanket. As I walked out into the night to catch the train back to Moscow, the snow was gently falling. And I thought I could hear the angels singing.