I have to laugh as I sat down to compose this post and realized that we are now on Day 41 of our trip. In the Bible, the number 40 is usually significant to a time of testing... 40 years of wandering in the desert... Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days... So it's funny that we've just completed 40 days of our own testing... And now the score....
We passed court!!!! Shawna and Lindsay are our newest daughters!!!
We still have to wait for the 10-day appeal period to expire. On the 11th day we will begin the next set of paperwork that will begin our steps to come home.
As we were arriving to the court building, there was a large group of people on a small pier over a large pond, just across the road. Many of those folks were in speedo and bikini swim suits! Mind you, it's -4C/24F today and the pond is frozen over and there's snow still on the ground! They told us that this is some holiday in the Orthodox church that is called Baptism Day or something. So it seems these folks are celebrating Jesus' baptism and dunking themselves in ice-cold water! All I can say is it's just too darn cold for me to even think about doing that nonsense! I was shivering in my coat just watching them. Of course, this is the day we don't have the good camera! Lee got a few pictures from his phone, but they're not as clear, but you get the point. (I'll post a picture after I can get it off his phone.)
We went on into the court building and waited for our hearing. Our attorney gave a short briefing of the court procedures and the general questions we would be asked.
In the court room there were two citizen representatives (or jurors) that sat on the bench on each side of the judge. There was a Prosecutor who was there to represent the rights of the children. There was a representative from the orphanage, and the Director for Children's Services from the local government. These ladies sat at a table just in front of the Judge's bench. We sat at a desk and bench off to the right. A court reporter or clerk was off to the right of the judge's bench who was minding the computer that was recording the proceeding.
When the Judge entered the courtroom, I have to admit that I was surprised at how young he was. I would venture to guess that he wasn't any older than 35. I guess in my mind, I was picturing an older, grandfatherly-looking, gray-haired man. So much for preconceived ideas! Blew that duck out of the water!
We went through the procedures of stating our names, information and what we were asking from the court. We had to stand up each and every time we had to make a statement or answer. We sat down after each answer, too. So it was up, down, up, down, up, down..... Once we answered the questions, the judge went through all of our dossier paperwork and all the other documents that were submitted by the other authorities that had to give their recommendations concerning our petition to adopt. All parties there gave their recommendations to approve our adoption.
After all the formalities, the judge and two jurors left the courtroom together to deliberate the court's decision. They were gone about 10-15 minutes before they returned. The Judge had a printed document in-hand that he read as the preliminary decision. The court would grant our petition to adopt both Shawna (Svetlana) and Lindsay (Olena)!
Afterward the Judge came by and shook our hands and congratulated us. Then the two jurors did the same. We had to laugh when the one juror was smiling and rattled on in Russian and we had no clue what he was telling us. Tatyana came over and told us that he said we should have requested to change their birthdates so we could make them "twins" since their birthdays are already so close together! We all had a good laugh at that! Their birthdates are only 2 months and 3 weeks apart, so they are about as close as it can get.
Our driver brought us back to our apartment and we decided to have a celebratory lunch at one of our favorite little local restaurants. Afterward we went to church to celebrate and fellowship with our friends.
We are over-the-moon happy and excited! It was hard to hold back the tears of joy we felt when the judge read his decision. Two little girls are orphans no more! They have a family! They have a Mama, a Papa, and brothers and a sister that will love them to the moon and back!
And thank you to all of you are praying for us and encouraging and helping us throughout this journey! We truly appreciate everything you do! God is hearing and answering our prayers. I can't spell the details out here, but know that He IS!
Good night, all!
Lee and Carrie