As I mentioned previously, Debbie and I had decided to adopt a child. We had two biological children (Becky and Joey), but had also lost two other children during pregnancy. We had always considered adoption as an option, but after moving to Estonia had put it on the backburner. Circumstances caused us to reopen that discussion and in January of 2005, I got the phone call we had been waiting on. There was a little boy, 17 months old, named Margus Vlashenko who had recently become eligible for adoption and they had matched us up.
We were actually given three chances to adopt. If we met a child and didn’t want to continue, they would put us back on the list and await another match. Debbie and I couldn’t imagine rejecting any child and we agreed that no matter what the situation, unless it was just something that we couldn’t even imagine, we were taking the first one offered. I mean, we didn’t get the choice to send Becky or Joey back….
We met Margus, fell in love with him, were able to bring him home a few weeks later as a “loaner” and in April 2005 went before the judge where he was declared to be our son and all of the stuff that goes along with it. We had to wait for 30 days for legal reasons, but in early May, Margus became 100% officially, Thomas Hale. Of course, to match the other two kids, we call him Tommy. It didn’t take him long to carve out his niche in our family.
Debbie and newly-adopted Tommy
At the same time as all of this was going on, Urmas and I had finally given up trying to disprove Orthodoxy and had decided to embrace it. I hinted last time that we thought we would just tell our reluctant wives how things were. Honestly, I don’t mean that as a “macho” thing. It was more along the idea of “if we show them how right this is, they will instantly agree with us.” Of course, we weren’t taking into account that we had taken several months (or years, depending how you want to count) to agree with Orthodoxy.
Urmas and I got babysitters for the kids. We took Kadri and Debbie out to a Chinese Restaurant and over dinner begin to explain to them what we thought. Urmas made the excellent point (in my opinion) that we had spent our whole lives trying to find and be the early New Testament Church and that we could stop looking, because we had found it. After a few other like-mannered comments, we smiled and waited for our wives to submit to our opinions and start attending the Divine Liturgy with us.
It didn’t quite happen like that, though. The first thing that happened was that they looked at each other with that “our husbands have gone out of their ever-loving minds” look. They told us that they had no intention of going to the Orthodox Church with all of those “idols” and smoke and candles. They also insinuated that we were crazy if we thought we were taking the kids to that kind of church, either. So basically, the home front was not looking so good, at least church-wise.
Of course, we also had the dilemma of being Church of Christ missionaries who had converted in heart to Orthodoxy. There was a slight moral issue at stake. Granted, we had never taught or introduced anything into our mission work that would not have been approved by the churches back home. However, we knew we were walking a tightrope and something had to give. So we asked His Eminence, Met. Stefanos, if we could have a meeting with him. We wanted to ask a few final questions that gave us pause, as well as get advice from him. He agreed to meet with us and so we made an appointment for a few days in the future.
Before I close out this installment, I will also mention that I had begun communicating with Orthodox clergy back in the USA, because I knew we would be headed back before too long, one way or the other. While I had email contact with several clergy and lay persons, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt really opened himself up to us. We not only spoke via email, but even on the phone at one point. He was a great encouragement to us and really helped us to navigate the path we were on.
The Blessed Father Joseph Huneycutt (an honorary Texan)
So things were starting to come together in some ways, but seemed quite distant in others. Sometimes things are actually just like they appear…