I was not expecting my first trip with The Boaz Project in 2004 to set the course for my life!
I had worked with orphans on mission trips before, and my decision to travel with Boaz on a Taylor University team in 2004 came from a desire to spend time caring for them again. My ultimate goal was to “make a difference” and hopefully be challenged to live my life differently in the process.
A sophomore in college, I began to unpack how much God loved the orphaned and the orphan in me. I realized that my story was one of adoption into God’s family and that God was calling me to eventually adopt a child. During college, I traveled with Boaz to Russia four times and even dedicated a summer to writing VBS curriculum to be used in the orphanages they visited.
Despite graduating with a degree in Elementary Education, my heart was forever tied to Russia and its culture and orphans.
I moved to Greenwood, IN after graduation so I could find a job and volunteer with Boaz in my free time. I knew I eventually wanted to live my life serving orphans, but I also had loans to pay. I volunteered in various ways: curriculum development, packing for trips, airport runs, stuffing envelopes, running errands, etc. Two trips to India with Boaz during those years helped me realize that writing curriculum and training nationals to use it would utilize my God-given gifts and passions, as well as my degree. So, I began pursuing financial support to work full time with Boaz.
One of my roles included visiting churches on occasion to raise awareness for Boaz if Jim or April couldn’t attend the event (or if they just thought I should go to meet one of the pastors). This was the assignment I received during October of 2008. I met Barry for the first time, and just over a year later we were married. I stopped raising support, and instead moved to Greensburg, IN. My heart was heavy to leave the community at Boaz, but I knew I’d make the drive to help whenever I could.
In December of 2009 Barry and I decided to travel to Russia together for the first time. He desired to see first-hand the ministry that the church was supporting, and I was excited to share such a meaningful place with him.
December 13, 2009 will always be etched in our memories as the day we met our daughter for the first time. We had always talked about adopting after trying to conceive biological children, but God had other plans.
It was our last day visiting orphanages, and we were supposed to visit the orphanage our home church supported monthly – but as happens often in Russia, we were unable to do so. Thankfully, we were able to get in a last-minute visit to a baby house in Gus Khrustalny.
A tiny girl with dark curly hair plopped herself in Barry’s lap and recited a poem in Russian, complete with hand motions. Then she giggled and kissed him on the side of his mouth.
Though we had to leave the orphanage, Barry spent the next several hours crying and lamenting what would become of this perfect little girl if left in the system.
Without ever deciding to adopt Sveta, we both began researching and starting the work required. We knew this was what God had for us.
During the 13 months of waiting for her to come home, our prayers became even more desperate as we realized that we were only bringing one child home…and so many more were still going to be in the Stalin-created orphanage system. Knowing that The Boaz Project was visiting orphans, caring for them, and doing all they could to support the children and those who care for them was a huge blessing.
Upon returning home with Sveta, we obviously weren’t able to help as much as we’d like with projects at the Boaz office. Yet, our involvement hasn’t waned. Our little girl is a picture of what Boaz does to the lives around us. We advocate for the organization and orphans as often as possible and are seeking to raise our children to understand God’s heart for the orphan. It’s so important to us that when we were blessed with a biological son in 2013, we gave him the middle name “Boaz.”
Avid Orphan Advocate
Beautifully written, Jessi!
A wonderful story! Thank you for sharing.