by Jayme Metzgar
Anyone who reads fairy tales know how they typically end: the villain is defeated, and the hero and heroine ride off into the sunset . . . never to be heard from again. The narrative ends where everyday life begins.
At Romania Reborn, our accounts of kids’ lives often follow a similar story arc. A child is born into an impoverished or neglectful family and abandoned at birth. After months (or years) of waiting and suffering, he or she is rescued and finally placed into an adoptive family. And that’s where the story ends: with our own version of “happily ever after.”
So it was a rare treat for me this month to talk via Skype with one of our former Hope House kids, “Stephen” (now 11), and his adoptive dad, Sorin. Despite the inherent awkwardness of a conversation across language barriers, time zones, and internet-quality audio, I nonetheless loved getting a glimpse into the miracle of Stephen’s normal, happy, everyday life.
I had met Stephen on a visit to Romania in 2005, when he was three years old and still living at Hope House. He easily stands out in memory, his curly hair framing his small face, and an expression of shy intelligence shining from his one good eye. The other eye had been lost in the incident of domestic violence that had initially landed him in state care. Finally safe at Hope House, he was at peace, but not entirely happy. Something was missing.
“Families would come and go from the orphanage, and most of his friends started getting adopted,” Hope House director Corina Caba remembers. “He began to pray every night: ‘Please God, send me a mother and a father.’”
When he was nearly four, Stephen had the opportunity to receive a top-quality artificial eye in England. Christopher Calow, a Christian eye doctor visiting Romania from the UK, met Corina and told her that an English surgeon could give him a much better eye than anything available in Romania. Dr. Calow and his wife, Patricia, subsequently arranged for a pro bono surgery, transportion, and housing for Corina and Stephen in England.
But God wasn’t done answering prayers. When Stephen was five, Sorin and his wife, Adriana, visited Hope House for the first time. Initially, they were interested in adopting a baby. “We were unable to have children of our own,” Sorin told me. But as soon as they met Stephen, their plans changed. “We felt a connection with Stephen from the very first visit.”
“Stephen was shy. He wasn’t the kind to run right into someone’s arms,” Corina remembers of that moment. “But I remember Sorin going over to him, getting down on his level, and talking to him quietly. You could just see the connection.”
Happily Ever After
Today, that instant connection has deepened into an obvious fatherly love, joy, and pride in his son. Sorin speaks glowingly of his adoption experience. The obstacles, if any, were minor compared to the blessings Stephen has brought to the family. “The process of adoption is very natural,” Sorin told me, “And the changes in our life have all been positive ones.”
Similarly, the loss of an eye hasn’t proved to be a barrier to a normal and full childhood for Stephen. His many interests include karate, soccer, riding his BMX bike, swimming, and skiing. At school, he just completed the fourth grade, where he has many friends and excels in mathematics and drawing. His current aspiration is to become an architect when he grows up.
Stephen’s family recently moved to a new home on the outskirts of the city, next door to his aunt, uncle, and two cousins. They travel to the mountains every winter for a family skiing trip.
But more than all these material things, Stephen has finally found that “something” he had been missing: love. “We love Stephen, and Stephen loves us. And this is very important,” Sorin emphasized. “We give him a lot of love, and he gives us a lot of love. We can’t imagine life without him now.”