My dear family, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a blessed and happy Christmas. I also want to thank you with all of my heart for being part of our family here at CCI and partnering with us in our God given mission to bless Israel and our Jewish brothers and sisters.
I would like to share a very personal journey with you that not only changed my life, but also changed and reshaped the way that I view “giving to others”.
In the early 90’s, my wife and I decided to adopt a child from an orphanage as our way of “giving back” to our world. After reviewing hundreds of videos of available children, we came across one with two sisters, ages eight and ten who were living in an orphanage in Irkutsk, Russia. They looked so thin and helpless as they spoke in Russian about their dreams of wanting a home with pets and two parents who loved them. My heart melted immediately and I knew that they were meant to be my children.
Over the next 6 months, while awaiting the approval of our adoption, I spent much of my time daydreaming about becoming a father to two girls who I knew nothing about. I created story after story about bringing them home to see their new house. Upon entering they would run in to meet their pets and see their rooms filled with toys and new clothing. I dreamt of their smiles and tears of joy as we immediately bonded and became the family of their dreams.
Once we received our approval, we set out on a 16 hour flight to Irkutsk to pick up our daughters. Upon arriving, we were met by our translator who brought us to an old Soviet style building with a sign reading Orphanage #6. We were led into the building where I was met by a swarm of beautiful young children who wrapped their tiny little arms around my legs and looked up to my eyes. “Papa! Papa? Papa?, Is it you?” they said. As the tears flowed freely down my face, I searched my soul for the right words to answer them. How do you tell a child who has lost everything, no…, I am not going to be your Papa. Just at that moment a hand grasped my arm and led me into the orphanage director’s office.
I shook hands with Vlad, the orphanage director as he barked out orders in Russian to his assistants. It was a chaotic scene as they ran around like a swarm of ants bringing us tea, coffee and cookies. Then without any notice the door swung open and there they were. My two daughters standing there before me shaking with fear. They were so much thinner and sickly looking than they were in the videos and pictures. I went to hug them, but they just leaned against me for a second and then pulled away with no emotion.
My mind snapped into reality. What was I thinking in all of those months of waiting, of building this perfect story of meeting for the first time? They were petrified! And why shouldn’t they be? Two strangers who did not speak their language were about to whisk them off to a foreign land to start their new life. How could they be excited when every experience that they ever had with a parent was filled with beatings, extreme abuse and abandonment. What was I thinking? How did I allow myself to become so absorbed in my own needs instead of being focused on theirs.
Adopting severely abused and neglected children was a life defining moment for me. I came into the adoption with my own dreams, yet it was my eight and ten year old daughters who taught me how to “give back selflessly”. After years of intensive psychological services, hospitalizations and a mountain of what seemed like insurmountable challenges, they have blossomed into young professional women, all picking careers that give help to others. And if that is not enough of a blessing, they have also inspired me to create our life saving Children’s Rehabilitation Programs where we now care for over 1700 severely abused and neglected Jewish orphans and underprivileged children.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” – This is what God expects from us.
“Giving is not only a financial transaction” – We must invest on a personal level to be able to save and change the life of one of God’s children in need.
This Christmas, as we together wrap our loving arms around the over 1700 Jewish children who are under our care, let us remember that each and every one of them has a heart that has been broken and a loving sole that has been very badly damaged.
I am asking you to give in prayer, give selflessly and make a spiritual investment to save the life of one of God’s children.
My family, this Christmas I wish you love, peace and happiness and I thank you again for being part of our family and mission to find and save the lost children of Israel.