By Jeremy Dunn
This weekend, millions of American families will gather to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sons and daughters of all ages will reach out with countless gifts, calls, cards and texts in hopes of showing appreciation and praise for one of the most exhausting, unappreciated and difficult jobs around: motherhood. However, the women who belong to this special profession will only speak of it with the utmost regard, respect and appreciation. They treasure the rare bond and love that comes with carrying, supporting and raising their children.
Tragically, there is an increasing number of orphans globally that are not familiar with this motherly love. With less than a 1 percent chance of orphans over the age of six being adopted, these children are growing up against insurmountable odds of having the opportunity to experience life with a family. These frightening odds were not enough to stop a Franklin Township woman from following her heart and making this Mother’s Day one that truly defines what being a mother is all about.
Called to serve
Angie Christian has always been drawn to helping others. The Center Grove High School and University of Indianapolis graduate worked for the Riley Children’s Foundation for seven years before her and her husband, Phil, had their first son, Elijah, 10. Angie transitioned roles as a stay-at-home mom while Phil, a Franklin Central and IUPUI graduate, continued his work with the Department of Defense and Army National Guard. The couple went on to have two more children, Liam, nine, and Eliana, four. However, the Christian family would soon be introduced to Project 143, and their lives would never be the same.
During the summer of 2015, Tim and Libby Grazian, friends of the family from Cross Church, served as a host family to Kolya, 11, a Ukrainian orphan, through an organization called Project 143. Named for the more than 143 million orphans worldwide that it hopes to serve, Project 143 is a nonprofit that works with American families to “host” older orphans (six through 16 years of age) for four to eight weeks over the summer or winter months. The goal is to expose children to the life-changing power of family and give hope outside of the walls of an orphanage. While Project 143 is not an adoption agency, it allows voices and advocates to be established that could ultimately help these orphans find future homes. Ultimately, as the Christian family was about to learn, the experience of hosting an orphan can also open eyes to the special bond and unconditional love of a mother’s heart.
A divine calling
Angie knew there was something special about Kolya before they even met. “When I saw a picture of him before he arrived for hosting, I felt an instant connection to him. I thought God may be calling us to adopt him, but I didn’t think the time was right.” Even before they were married, the Christians had discussed the possibility of adoption but never planned to adopt when meeting Kolya. The mother of three always envisioned her first face-to-face encounter with the Ukrainian orphan would be at church but recalls the powerful and divine moment when the two finally crossed paths. “My world came crashing down. The thought going through my mind as I looked at him was he would get off a plane in the Ukraine in a few weeks with no parents to greet him. He would go back to an orphanage with no one to tuck him in at night. I had all the reasons … excuses … not to adopt him before I met him, but none of those reasons mattered at that time. All of the sudden there was a real boy, not just a photo, that needed a family, and we could give that to him.”
Listening to the call
After the moving encounter, the Franklin Township mother shared with her husband that they were meant to adopt Kolya. As expected, Phil was shocked but open to the idea and the couple agreed to pray about the opportunity. Angie began volunteering with Project 143 and the family spent the remainder of the summer with Kolya, taking him on outings and inviting him into their home to hang out, trying to determine if this truly was the path that God was guiding them on. To no surprise, Angie continued to feel a special pull toward the young Ukrainian orphan. “He never felt like a stranger and always seemed to fit with our family.”
By the end of the summer, the Christian family agreed that meeting Kolya was more than chance and served a greater purpose. Within days of him returning to the Ukraine, Angie and Phil decided to pursue adoption of the orphan and began filing the necessary paperwork.
Standing firm in faith
Two months later, the family received heartbreaking word that Kolya was not on the adoption registry. Due to missing paperwork in the Ukraine, the Christians could do nothing but wait six months for the young orphan to be placed on the registry. After being placed, there would still be a year before he was available for international adoption. What initially was thought to be a nine – 12-month process was evolving into a two-and-a-half-year challenge. However, Angie held steadfast in her calling to give him a family. “There were many tears and frustrations during the wait, but every adoption journey has struggles.” Thanks to Project 143, the family was not totally separated during this time, as they were able to host Kolya five times during the waiting window.
Finally, in March, the Christian’s faith was rewarded as Kolya came home and was adopted into their family. Looking back, Angie knows this experience was a blessing. “The biggest thing the adoption journey taught me was to trust in God. We simply had to put our faith in Him and trust he would work out all the kinks. Just when I thought our financial needs wouldn’t be met, a friend would show up at our doorstep with a check, saying, ‘God put this on my heart to drop off.’ Or when a barrier with paperwork or adoption status came up, God put the right person in our path to clear it and keep us moving down the path.”
Family from a mother’s love
Angie strongly believes that the hosting process allowed her son to recapture his childhood. “Hosting allows kids to be kids, when so often they are in survival mode at the orphanage. Hosting gives them a chance to relax, let their guard down and experience simple childhood/family moments that we all take for granted.” She recalls feeling moved on a family vacation while hosting their soon-to-be son. “One of my favorite hosting moments was watching Kolya’s face light up meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World. I would not have expected that was a highlight for a child that age, but it was like part of his childhood he missed was lived out at that moment.”
The Franklin Township mother of four still works with Project 143 and is a testament of its life-changing impacts. “My faith has grown and my eyes have been opened to the orphan crisis in this world. I always knew there were orphans and wanted to help them. It was easy to live in denial, but now that I have seen these hurting children, I want to do what I can to help them and shed light to others about how they can help.” Angie understands the financial difficulties that can come with orphan hosting but believes if more corporate and private sponsors come forward, more families could share her moving experiences. “When a generous donor sends funds to provide a grant on a child, a child’s chances of being chosen for hosting increases greatly. More children hosted equals more children receiving hope and possibility of a forever family.” She is currently working to help place a handful of children with host families for this summer.
Watching the Christian family, one cannot be helped but moved by the unconditional love and bond that they share. It has not been an easy road bringing this family together but through their smiles and laughter, a bond of unconditional love proves that it was meant to be. Guided by faith and nurtured by love, Angie Christian gives us a reason to celebrate this Mother’s Day … the chance to listen for our own callings and make an impact in this world.