Adopted from Petropavlavsk, Kazakhstan at age 15
Rebekah at age 17
Rebekah joined our family in September 2005. She had come to Texas on the 2003 Kazakhstan summer program that we coordinated in our area. She was hosted by some close friends of ours, but they did not feel that she was the right fit for their family. They found another family for her. Rebekah has experienced a lot of loss and trauma in her past. From the moment she stepped off the plane in September 2003, she was crying. Later we learned that her care givers at the orphanage had told her that she was going to America to be used as an organ donor for wealthy American families. Can you imagine how this would scare a child? During her stay with her host family and the family who was trying to adopt her, Rebekah stretched the limits on everything. She challenged those who loved her and tested them in many ways.
Our experience with Rebekah was limited, but we did have two or three times when we tried to talk to her about her behavior. The first time was during her first day of Sunday school. Rebekah had been asked to leave the class because she was being disruptive and disrespectful. I talked to her about how she needed to behave in class, but it didn’t really seem to phase her much.
The next time that comes to mind, was the day the kids were returning to Kazakhstan at the end of the summer program. I had heard what a bright child Rebekah was and how well she did in school during her four weeks here. As the coordinator of the program, I was responsible for seeing to it that each child got on the plane safely. I asked the children to write their names and addresses on their luggage tags. Rebekah looked at me and said (in English), “I don’t know how.” I looked at her and said, “Yes, you do!” We locked eyes and neither of us would look away. Finally, Rebekah looked away and laughed. Then she wrote her name and address down on the tag. When we left the airport that day, I remember telling Jay that whoever adopts Rebekah was going to have their work cut out for them. Little did I know that I was looking into the eyes of our future daughter.
While we were in Kazakhstan to adopt Abigail and Andrew, it just happened that we were there shortly after Rebekah’s adoption fell through. She did not know how to cope with being part of a family and she rejected the family that was trying to adopt her. They tried to work through it, but Rebekah did not give them much of a chance. She was extremely disrespectful and defiant, to the point that the family did not feel that they would be able to handle parenting her and made the decision to return her to the orphanage.
After hearing of this disruption, we asked to meet with Rebekah alone. During our talk, I addressed each of the situations we had experienced with Rebekah and what the other families had experienced. Rebekah began to cry, but she didn’t want us to see. I explained to her that I believe that she was rejecting these families because she had such a fear of being rejected herself. It is not unusual for a child who has lost so much to respond in this way. Rebekah began to tell us a story of seeing her brother adopted and she explained how it hurt that the family would not consider her because she was older. During our talk, I realized that we were falling in love with Rebekah. For some reason, we were actually connecting. She was opening up to us. I told Rebekah that we would do whatever we could to find her a family. She promised me that if she had another chance, she would not blow it. We also promised to write to her when we returned to the United States.
When it was time for her to go, we gave her many hugs. She began to cry again and refused to look at us. I gently grabbed her face and made her look at us. Then I told her that I loved her and that I promised we would do whatever possible to find her a family. She started to cry harder and then turned to go. Once again, I had no idea she was to be our daughter. I think that inside I already loved her, but I felt that she was more than our family could handle. The walls she built up were so high and it seemed almost as if she was lacking a conscience at times, especially when she would laugh during a moment that should have been serious. We talked about this after she left. I also realized that it would be very hard to find her another family being that she was almost 15 years old. When she turned 16, she would no longer be adoptable.
After we returned home, we talked to several families about considering adopting Rebekah. Several families prayed about it, but did not feel they were prepared to adopt her. We wrote to Rebekah and she always wrote back. On Valentine’s Day, we received a letter from her saying how much she loved us and that she wished we could adopt her. In each of my letters to her, I reminded her that if she ever had the opportunity to be adopted again, that she should let the family love her and that she should love them back. Over and over again, she explained that she felt she was a different person and that she knew she could do well if only given another chance. I remember writing to her and explaining to her that, “I had made many mistakes in my past too, and that God had always provided someone to help me through those mistakes.” “It was most important that we focused on how to get her out of the situation she had created for herself than to continue to focus on the mistakes she had made.” I promised her that I would do whatever I could to help her.
In August of 2005, God gave Rebekah yet another chance. Rebekah was adopted a family friend who had approval to adopt two children, of which both children they intended to adopt became unavailable. They decided to adopt the little girl who visited our hotel with Rebekah, and we encouraged them to adopt Rebekah as well. The family prayed about whether or not this was a good decision for their family. They decided to adopt her with the stipulation that we would take her if they felt it was in her best interest or the better option for their family. During their time in Kazakhstan, Rebekah was defiant and disrespectful at times, but pleasant at other times.
They said she was much better than they remembered, but that she still had a lot of issues to work through. We continued to have a relationship with her and she did seem to make some progress, but it was obvious that it was not going to work for her to stay in that family either. Rebekah joined our family shortly after she came to the United States. We completed her adoption through a private attorney and began to takes steps to try and help her change.
During Rebekah’s four years at home, she took violin lessons and performed in a couple of small recitals. She also showed Texas Longhorn cattle through the Texas Longhorn Breeders of Tomorrow. She did very well showing cattle and earned quite a bit of scholarship money. She even did well in showmanship classes. She seemed to really enjoy spending time with her animals, and it was great to see her excel at something. She spent a lot of time working with her calves to get them ready to show. We realized what a blessing it was that we had a place in the country that gave her so many opportunities. Rebekah also enjoyed riding horses through the woods with her brothers and sisters. The ranching lifestyle has definitely been therapeutic for all of our children.
One of our biggest challenges with Rebekah was her education. She was very far behind in school, but definitely not lacking in ability. Rebekah was a very bright child that could have excelled at almost anything she put her mind to, but she lacked initiative. Rebekah originally lived in an orphanage in Kazakhstan for the “gifted and talented” children, but she was kicked out because of her behavior. Then she was se nt to another orphanage where the children received very little education. When we tried to help Rebekah catch up in school, it was obvious that she did not take it serious and that her education was not important to her. When she turned 18, we tried to get her to get her GED with the plan of continuing her schooling until she got a diploma, but that if we were unsuccessful in reaching that goal, that she would at least have her GED.
After only six weeks in her GED class, Rebekah ran away with someone she met at class. She was gone for two days before we found her. Her behavior was heading down hill again and we made the decision to pull her out of the GED school and try to help her finish her education at home. She did not put out any effort in school and her grades plummeted. She was constantly in trouble. This lasted only four months and Rebekah ran away a second time. Rebekah was 19 and we did not have the control we did when she was a minor. When we found her, we explained to her that at 19, we don’t call it “running away,” we call it “moving out.” With the help of some friends, we found some resources for Rebekah where she would have a safe place to stay, receive an education and job skills, receive counseling, and the life skills she would need to make it on her own. When we talked to Rebekah about this, she refused to go and chose to leave.
Looking back, there are really no surprises about the challenges we faced in parenting Rebekah. We know that we made a positive influence in her life and it was obvious that God placed her in a family with a purpose. At times it seemed as if she had such a desire to change, and at other times it seemed like all effort made was futile. We have always known that the children we adopted who had passed through numerous families before settling into ours would be some of our biggest challenges. People who knew Rebekah before, said that they had never seen her so happy and that she had made tremendous progress in our family.
Sometimes when we think of all the challenges we faced in raising Rebekah, we sometimes wonder what God’s purpose was in all this, but we also realize that even if God only used us a vessel for bringing her to the United States, teaching her about Christ, and being part of a loving family, that nothing we have done has been in vain. The life Rebekah was destined for had she stayed in Kazakhstan was so dark and hopeless. Here she has the chance to make a beautiful future for herself if she chooses to pursue that path. That is the hope that we have held on to for the four years we had Rebekah in our home.