In order to tell you the story of today, I must begin with last night. Around 5:00 pm, our translator and lawyer, here in Volgograd, came to our hotel room to begin preparing us for court. When they arrived, they told us that we would both be expected to give a speech during the court hearing. One of our speeches would be long, and one not so long. One would have lots of important information, and one would come from the heart. Leah and I had to make the decision as to who was going to do which speech. We decided that I should do the long, information filled speech, and she would do the short, more emotional one. The best part of Leah's speech was the part where she had to talk to the judge about how I would be a "great father" and that I am "a great husband". She killed those two parts! haha. Anyway, we were talked to about what should be included in our speeches, and what questions we would be asked by the judge. After that, they left us to prepare. Leah and I stayed up fairly late last night planning and preparing what we would say to the judge. How would we express to him why we felt we were the right set of parents for Jonah Nikolay? You see, over the last day or so, so much attention has shifted to "will Jonah get to come home on this trip?", that we both forgot that we were also petitioning to be granted custody of the child! We had totally placed cart before horse! You would think that after two trips across the world, mounds of paperwork, and thousands of dollars, that custody would be a formailty, but it's not. The judge has to review paperwork, listen to your case, and award custody as he sees fit. It was a sobering reality, but one we needed to take note us. We did, and prepared as though everything was riding on our speeches, because it was.
We woke this morning, met our translator and headed to court. Everything in this town is public transportation. No individual cars, just underground trains and above ground busses. The train system is quite nice, the only draw back is the fact that it is quite far to the nearest train depot. We trudged through snow in our formal court attire until we reached the train. 10 rubles a piece and we were on the train to the Central District Court of Volgograd. When we arrived at the court, we were greeted by our lawyer and then shown into a nice formal court room. Just before we were to begin, the electricity went out. Fear swallowed me up. I felt they would cancel the hearing and we would be delayed even further in this process. I feared that the building would burn down due to faulty Russian wiring! I was freaking out! I was relieved when they just took us upstairs, to a court room with windows and we started to have court by the sunlight! The judge started by asking us our names, birthdates, addresses, city of birth, and nationality. He then moved on and asked us to give our speeches. I delivered mine as good as I possibly could. I asked the judge for custody of Stadnikov Nickolay. I asked him to change his name to Jonah Nikolay Elder. I asked him to waive the thrity day waiting period so our family could finally be whole. Explained our financial situation. I explained our medical insurance situstion. I talked about our house, pets, his room and toys. Everything you could imagine, I explained to the judge, until he was satisfied and asked me to sit down. Leah was up next. She did wonderful. Leah is not too fond of speaking formally in front of people, (even though she teaches high school....), so as you can imagine, she was really nervous. I was really proud of her today. She spoke of her love for Nikokay, of her love for me, and how much we longed to bring him home to the life he deserved. She talked about how much she desired to give him the family he didn't have in Russia, and how we planned to do that. She began to cry during her speech, which caused the orphanage social worker to cry also. It was very moving. Once she finished, the judge asked her to sit down and we were through with our part. Next the social worker from the orphanage spoke of how much Nikolay meant to her. She talked about how much she will miss him, but how she knew that Leah and I were the right family for him to go with. She choked up when speaking about how special he is. He really is an extrodinary child. Maybe everyone feels that way about their kids, but this guy makes me really proud. He has overcome many obstacles in his short 15 months of life. We are proud to come along side him in his journey and help him continue to grow. After all of that happened, our lawyer and the judge went through our paperwork and the judge retired to his chambers to level his decision.
He came back after about 15 minutes and gave us some good and some not so good news. The first was that he was going to approve the adoption and that custody was ours. The not so good news was the custody didn't start until March 1. He denied our request to bring Jonah home with us now. Reason being is that he can only waive it if medical conditions show that the baby needs to get to the US for treatment asap. Our situation does not dictate that so he had to follow the law. We were a little disappointed by that news, but were overjoyed at the other news! We decided to celebrate rather than be sad. We are so thankful to God for this blessing he has given us. It has really been quite the journey. From just a thought in a late nigth conversation, to sitting in a courtroom in Volgograd, Russia hearing a judge say, through a translator, that he thought we would be great parents to a Russian child! It has been a ride! It's not over yet, but the end is within sight. We will return to Russia in early March to get Jonah and bring him home! What a day that will be. We would like to thank all of you that prayed with us last night for the waiting period to be waived. Be encouraged. There is purpose in Jonah's extra 30 days in Russia. Not sure what it is yet, but I am sure it exists. One of the most interesting things about God is how he answers or doesn't answer our prayers. How we respond to that says a lot about how we truly feel about him. Are we in this relatioship for our personal gain, or are we in it for his glory? If God answered all prayers there would be no one that was hungry, no one that was poor, no one that was widowed, and certainly no orphans. These prayers remain unanswered, and these conditions still exist. Question is, how will the believers respond to the needs? Maybe we are the answered prayers.
Tomorrow we will get to take Jonah to take his passport pictures. This will be the first time since he was an infant that he has left the orphanage walls. We will update again around this same time tomorrow. Love you all!