Anya's Story: The Journey Home
By Carla Williams
Anya was seven years old when she was adopted. She’d spent most of her life in two different orphanages in southern Ukraine, and one cold day in December, she met her new parents. A few days later, she was flying across the country with them to jump into a whole new existence.
Before that day, Anya didn’t even know she could be adopted. She had no idea she could have parents or siblings or a new future. She only knew about fear, and loss, and that adults had the power to hurt her.
But then two blonde Americans invited her to come live with them, and she thought she might as well give it a try.
Tim and Cindy Meiners did not set out to adopt internationally. They wanted a big family, but it wasn’t working biologically. After 10 years of marriage, they had their first son, and six years later, their second son was born. At that time, the list for private local adoption was so long that anyone with biological children was excluded from applying. So, they thought their plans for a big family were finished.
One day, a friend asked them if they had ever considered international adoption. They never had. They weren’t sure they wanted to. But as they were praying about it, Tim stumbled across James 1:27—“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
As new believers with simple trust and excitement about following God’s way, the Meiners immediately believed they needed to pursue this call. They began the process, which eventually led them to Ukraine. And even then, they were expecting a baby or toddler. Just a couple weeks before they flew out, they were told no children under four were available for adoption in Ukraine. Would they be willing to take an older child? They prayed and knew God was still asking them to take this leap of faith.
When they arrived at the orphanage, Tim and Cindy were planning to bring home one child. They left two weeks later with Anya, who was 7, and another little boy who was 6. Fourteen months later, they returned for two more kids. And several years later, another Ukrainian teenager was added into the family. They had the big family they’d always dreamed of, and more in their care than they could have ever imagined.
Anya soon found herself at home in Louisville, figuring out a whole new life. She began learning English, America, and how to be in a family—none of which were easy. She had lived in an environment of fear and control, so her hardest adjustment was learning how to trust anyone, especially her new mom and dad. But their patience and gentleness eventually broke down some of the walls she’d built around herself for protection.
She also learned about Jesus. Her first true encounter was at Southeast’s Easter Pageant soon after she joined her new family. Anya didn’t understand the English, but she could follow along with the story pretty well anyway. When Jesus was crucified, she was crushed. How could her parents show her such a terrible story? She wanted to leave. She wanted to run away from all that suffering. Her mom gently encouraged her to keep watching. Reluctantly convinced, she witnessed the reenactment of the resurrection, and her heart filled with joy and hope. Who was this Man? She had to know more! She had to follow Him! Jesus would continue to surprise and delight her in the following years.
Tim and Cindy had no way of knowing what they were agreeing to when they created their blended, messy, beautiful family. They didn’t know about the lasting effects of early trauma or the challenges created by alcohol exposure in utero. They hadn’t considered the emotional ramifications for their biological sons, and had no way of predicting how generational sins would pull at their adopted children. Their blended family was made up of 12 different gene pools!
They had no idea how hard it would be. They only knew that God was asking them to trust Him and obey His call on their lives. It certainly was not easy, but He was faithful and good, and they were thankful for the full house He gave them.
We often hear how God adopted us into His family. We think of our adoption as this idyllic, peaceful picture of rosy-cheeked orphans joyfully jumping into the welcoming arms of our Savior. But Tim and Cindy have a clearer picture. God, in His gracious mercy, welcomed us in while we were His enemies. We bring our baggage, our brokenness, our messy hearts, and our sinful souls into His home, and He loves us fiercely and protectively as we learn how to trust Him and live in His family. It’s not pretty, but it’s beautiful.
Anya has grown into a wise, funny, faithful woman. She learned how to live in the U.S., be in a family, and embrace her identity as a daughter of God. While trust still isn’t a natural response for her, she has learned that there are people who will consistently love and care for her. She thanks God every day that He sent her parents to Ukraine to find her and bring her into their home.
Because her mom and dad trusted that God’s way was perfect, and that He had the strength they would need, Anya now has a home, a family, and a future. When she arrived, she only knew that people could hurt and disappoint her. Now she knows the security of unending love, and the hope of the God who chose her and welcomed her into His family. There’s no other place she’d rather be.