Russian adoption ban hits home

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

NEW ALBANY – For most of us, the Russian government’s recent ban on adoptions by Americans raised at most some “Oh, that’s too bad” sentiments.
For Whit and Leanne Lewis, it has triggered an agonizing wait for a miracle.
Last August the New Albany couple went to Vladivostok, Russia, to meet the 2- and 4-year-old full-blood brothers for whom they’d made a place in their home and in their hearts.
The Lewises struggled for years with infertility before deciding God had in mind for them to adopt. They picked Russian adoption for several reasons – the chance to adopt siblings, the likelihood of looking like a family (including kids who might be tall, like Whit) and, actually, because Russia is so far away.
“We’ve all heard the horror stories of domestic adoptions where the birth parents come back and want ‘their’ children,” said Whit Lewis, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. “Leanne said she didn’t want to live her life looking over her shoulder.”
Folks at Hillcrest and beyond quickly embraced the effort.
“Our church here has such a network of adoptive families,” Leanne Lewis said. “They’ve supported us, sheltered us and loved on us.”
The Lewises came to see adoption not as a “Plan B” but as a spiritual truth.
“It’s a New Testament teaching: Jesus brings us to adoption by God the Father,” Whit Lewis said.
The ban in late December abruptly halted that hope. To some, it was a reaction to the negligent death of a Russian-born child adopted by a Virginia family. To others, it was an excuse for Russian officials to play politics at the expense of orphans.
Beyond the Lewises’ faith and the ties they established with the boys in their first trip, they’re embracing any tangible reasons for hope.
The adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia required a 12-month notice on the part of either side to cancel it.
“Russia says, ‘OK, we’ll honor that bilateral agreement,’ but there’s always a ‘but,” Leanne Lewis said. “The ‘but’ right now is, they’ll only honor those that have already had court.”
“We’re encouraged that there’s a little bit of leeway,” Whit Lewis said. “The State Department is continuing to push to allow those who are ‘in process.’”
Tangible reason for hope is scant, though. The Lewises were scheduled for court in Vladivostok on Jan. 11 but were told around Christmas not to come.
“You suppress it in your mind that you may never see these boys again,” Whit Lewis said. “We’ve been with those boys; we call them our boys; and to be close – within reaching distance – to see the goal line, the light at the end of the tunnel, and then be sideswiped … .”
“Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it,” Leanne Lewis said.
FRIENDS’ SUPPORT
If there are any silver linings visible in the couple’s pain, they are the support of friends and the frankness that the ongoing emotional evisceration has added to Whit’s preaching.
On Dec. 30, three times he tried to start his prepared sermon but set it aside and agonized instead through a confession of his own pains and doubts.
“I told them, ‘Let’s talk about what we do when we’ve been told in our head that God is good and sovereign, and you don’t know if your heart really believes that,’” he said. “I think it’s made me much more transparent. I have not tried to pretend that everything’s OK. Sometimes life stinks.”
Leanne Lewis wrote in her blog – www.lewis-isms.blogspot.com – after that sermon, “Anyone who has ever questioned God’s sovereignty, goodness, or love could relate.”
The Lewises are determined to exhaust every possibility to complete their adoption.
“We have to CHOOSE to believe that God knows what He is doing and that His plan is perfect. I DON’T understand this,” she wrote in her blog. “I can only hope and pray that God will perform a miracle, that only He can do, and allow us to continue our adoption. Our boys need us. We need our boys.”
Whit Lewis said, “Until they say, ‘It’s over,’ we’re not throwing in the towel.”
Looking out at the play equipment in the back yard, he added, “We expect someday to have those two boys here. That’s the reason we bought this house.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com