This morning we had the distinct pleasure of attending the International Christian Church here in Bishkek. We were invited by a new friend who we carried some items over for, and then went out to lunch with her and her wonderful family. As you can imagine, Christianity isn't exactly a booming religion here, so this is a gathering place for those who wish to practice their place while living in a far away land from their home. I have NEVER been in a room more diverse than this, and our family fit in perfectly. There were literally people attending from every corner of the globe...Portugal, South Africa (Go SA!!), India, Ghana, America, Scotland, the Netherlands, Pakistan...and even more.
We were surprised to learn that today was their children's service signalling the end of their Sunday School year, so many kids were in attendance and it was all geared towards the kids, which was perfect. We had no idea how Toktogul would handle a more typical church service, but figured we could always take him outside if it didn't work out. But this environment was well suited to his current abilities and we felt very comfortable.
They then got to a portion of the service where they asked for any children to volunteer to come up front for a special portion of the service, and there isn't a shy LaJoy child in the world so all 3 walked up front. Then they had a blow up globe and said they were going to have each child hold it as they prayed for children in different circumstances around the world, and they would keep passing it down the line to the next child. How loud does God need to yell at me, I sometimes wonder? In an unplanned event this little globe being passed from the hand of one former orphan to another...and those children are my own. No one could have imagined that part of the service would play out like that, that God would speak in such a clear voice. When they got to the prayers for the children here in Kyrgyzstan who need hope and God's love, I just couldn't help it and the tears began to flow. I can not believe how often I have been so moved lately. So did the friend who invited us, for she knows our story, and she too has spent hours and hours in the orphanages here tending to forgotten children.
Throughout the past several months God has shown Himself over and over again to me in the most amazing ways. I have had my faith reinforced in a way I never thought possible, and it has been such a wonderful time in my life to feel this in tune with God and his desires for us.
Later in the day Toktogul learned that Arrid Extra Dry is NOT air freshener, and we all had a good laugh over that one. He also learned that "Papa" as he is calling Dominick, does not take kindly to being ignored and pulled away from, and was promptly marched up to our room to lay down and think about it for a few minutes. We are working on being firm about politeness with each other, as honestly our family really does treat one another with a lot of respect. We don't allow our sons to be mean or unkind to one another, we insist on them saying please, sorry and thank you even with each other, and generally treating each other as we would treat those outside our family. We have been encouraging Toktogul to say "Please" when asking for something and "Thank you" when he receives it, both to begin training for how we live and to practice a very few first words in English. He seems to enjoy it and when at the restaurant today he told the waitress "Spasiba" at the end of the meal, and then asked me how to say it in "Amerikanski" as he had forgotten, then after being told he chased her down and proudly told her "Thank you"! He also prompted Dominick today when Dominick asked for something looking him straight in the eye and saying "Papa...please..." trying to get him to ask with a "Please"! It was a hoot and showed that this little guy has a real sense of humor.
For all the challenges with behaviors, I think this is all going far better than I had anticipated. Of course, I was really prepared mentally for the worst case scenario, but Tokotgul is a remarkable boy who, although bristling at some requests, will not stay mad for more than a few minutes and doesn't really "blow up" at all. It is just those small control things like refusing to answer when we call because he knows he won't like what we want him to do, or not letting go of items when we ask them. He will test us 7 or 8 times like a toddler, reaching out to touch the "forbidden fruit" over and over, waiting for us to turn our back. But we are on to him and I think that is frustrating him :-) But really, it is small things overall, they can be aggravating but are really very easily handled. And I am sure he is sick and tired of being parented 24/7 since that is new to him. He has never had so much individual attention on him, and we are picking our battles carefully. However, we are trying to curb certain behaviors quickly before we are wandering around international airports and he has the chance to really get hurt or lost. We are also interjecting lots of rough and tumble, belly laughing play to try and defuse things when it gets to be too much. So far, it seems to be working fairly well.
Toktogul also got his first boo boo with us today, falling down hard on the rough, patchy asphalt and skinning his elbow pretty good as well as a knee. It was just me and all three boys out about a block from the hotel so we all helped our crying, crippled little brother home and rushed him upstairs to our room where every one of us fussed over him and cleaned him and bandaged him up as he giggled wildly at all the attention. Dr. Matt and Dr. Josh asserted that sutures were not needed and proceeded to select the proper sized bandaid. Mommy then soundly kissed knees and elbows, and was prompted to kiss them one more time by Tokie as he grinned widely.
It is these little moments that are really the baby steps towards real bonding. The comfort level with each other is already there for all of us, which is such a great gift considering I assumed I would feel like I was babysitting for many months to come. But already, in a mere 36 hours, he feels like he has been with us much, much longer. There was no discomfort the first time he disrobed, no awkward moments with goodnight hugs and kisses, just a settled in feeling which can only be from God as it is not normal with older children being adopted. I am very grateful for that. And there are these precious spontaneous hugs from him where it is as if he is having a hard time finding the words to say what he is feeling. And just before I came down here to write this post, all three were out of the bathtub and we were putting lotion on, cleaning ears, etc. and then as I always have to do with Matthew and Joshua I was putting special cream on their faces and I sing this stupid little song from Bugs Bunny cartoon...it is sort of a tradition and I HAVE to do it every time. Well, already Tokie grabbed the lotion and looked at me expectantly, pantomiming me putting it on him and he hummed the stupid song!! He WANTS to be a part of it and already has come to expect he will get the same thing as Matt and Josh, and I love that.
Tomorrow we go to Sokolok, which is the actual orphanage Toktogul has lived at for over a year. We are going to say good bye, and hopefully I will get some school records or something to assist us in evaluating where we should put him for grade level. I am not sure what else the day will hold for us, but it seems that each and every day here brings more surprises, more tiny gifts to cling on to. Talk to you all again tomorrow...for now, good night, and I miss all of you!