Joe Woods, HOPE for Children / Erica Hernandez - Monday, March 31, 2003
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows -- this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.... Psalm 68:5,6a (NLT)
December of 2002 brought more than holiday joy to the lives of Mark and Bobbi Higuera. After a month of below-zero temperatures and unfamiliar surroundings, they were able to bring home their new son, Andrei, from Russia.
During their stay in Kurgan, Russia, the Higueras had a wonderful time getting to know their son and enjoying each relational milestone as Andrei grew more familiar with his new mom and dad, accepting and reciprocating their love. "He's certainly a cutie, very busy. He likes to try to figure out how everything works...Already he's acting like a different kid. He's laughing and smiling a lot more and you can tell that, in spite of the physical surroundings being different, he's now where he belongs," commented Mark during their first weeks with Andrei while still in Russia.
Bobbi shared that, for her, one of the most difficult aspects of the adoption was during the court hearing when the present officials, the representative from the Ministry of Education, the representative from the Kurgan City Council, and the Orphanage Representative repeatedly stated, "From the day Andrei was born, no one visited him or showed any concern for his destiny." Bobbi desperately wanted to cry out, "Yes! God did! God has always cared, and we care!" Although she could not blurt out those heart-felt words in court, God knew the love in the Higueras' hearts for Andrei and, through the representatives and the judge, granted them the privilege to be his parents.
The Higuera family of three has been back home in California for three months now. Bobbi excitedly related about their 1 ½-year-old son, "He's awesome! He's a little trooper...He's adjusting really well, hitting some new milestones and recognizing us as family. When he hears Mark's key in the door [coming home from work] he gets excited and says, 'Papa!' He's learning how to love." Grateful to have the child of their prayers, Mark and Bobbi's hearts are filled with joy -- and Andrei's life is filled with hope.
Solomon wrote long ago, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (Proverbs 16:9, NLT). Just as Mark and Bobbi never expected to spend nearly three years trying to adopt a child, things have not gone according to their plan since they came home. When Mark & Bobbi returned to San Francisco, they discovered that not only had some good friends moved, but they would need to "hit the ground running" without an adjustment period because they were asked to lead their friends' former zone. On February 17, after much pain, many doctor's appointments, and some MRI's, with less than 48 hours' notice, Bobbi had urgent surgery on her spine. When the surgeon saw the MRI of her neck, he realized that two of her disks were crushing her spinal cord 85%. He had never seen someone in her condition who could still walk and talk and, frankly, thought she was lying when she told him over the phone that yes, she could still walk, dress herself and write. "Miracle" is not a word I use often, but it is the only word to describe how God protected Bobbi. If she had lifted Andrei, been in a fender-bender or simply stumbled and fallen or sneezed too hard, she would have become paralyzed. Surgery was not optional.
While Bobbi was in surgery, Mark was still arranging weekday childcare for Andrei. The day after Bobbi came home from the hospital, the childcare they had arranged fell through. That same day, Mark learned that he would likely be laid off by April 15th. None of this was part of their plan. Since then, life has been a mixed bag of challenges and encouragement. A student comes to help Bobbi and Andrei three days a week from 8:00 -- 6:00, doing all the things Bobbi can't do like lifting Andrei, driving them to appointments, watching Andrei when Bobbi needs to rest, etc. The other two days, Andrei attends a family day care run by disciples in the Higueras' zone, which he loves. Being with several children all day has helped with his language development, and he's so excited when he comes home that he can't be still. Bobbi has frequently been ill, which is made more difficult by having to wear the cervical collar 24/7. Through all this, yesterday Bobbi was able to help baptize Angie, a woman she has studied with off and on for the past two years.
Has being new parents of a toddler been what Mark and Bobbi expected? No. Bobbi hasn't been able to be the kind of mom she envisioned -- playing with Andrei, taking walks to the park and joining a moms' club to reach out to other mothers. Like most new dads, Mark has learned that there's a lot more to parenthood than he thought. Have they had frustrated thoughts of hating the way their life is? Sure; any honest person in their shoes would admit as much. Passages like Psalm 69:1-3 (Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can't find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.) have become more vivid and real.
As I consider the trials Mark and Bobbi are undergoing, I am reminded of a sermon years ago where the speaker, preaching about Ephesians 6:13, said that sometimes the goal is to advance, but when times are hard, sometimes the goal is merely, when the dust settles, to remain standing. When all is said and done, will Mark & Bobbi remain standing? I believe they will, and more. I look forward to the lessons they will be able to teach -- from experience -- about perseverance, hope during trials, and understanding that nothing can separate you from God's love.