2009 – Novosibirsk, Siberia – Group camp photo with Anastasia, my oldest son Brooks, and Anastasia’s future father, Wayne

“So many orphans are forced to be tough, but shockingly somehow Anastasia has kept a sweet and tender heart.”  As we watched a group of children play, these words were spoken to me by my co-leader, Daniel, while we were serving orphans at a summer camp in Novosibirsk, Siberia in 2009.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Anastasia(standing right above the O in the photo above).

I met Anastasia for the first time on the other side of the world in Novosibirsk, Siberia in the summer 2009. She was attending a camp for orphans and at-risk children, and she was in the same small group as my oldest son. Unbeknownst to any of us at that time, one of her group leaders that had also traveled there from America would eventually become her adopted Dad!

This trip to Siberia was our second one with an outreach organization called World Wide Youth Camps.  We had asked our friends, Wayne and Vickie (new empty nesters at that time) if they wanted to join us on this trip.  While many people Wayne and Vickie’s age were relaxing and taking luxury trips, they were volunteering to travel across the world and serve at this camp alongside us, never dreaming how it would forever change their lives.

At that summer camp Wayne and Vickie fell in love with Anastasia, and Anastasia fell in love with Wayne and Vickie.  It took some time and patience but in 2011, when Anastasia was 14, she left Russia and was able to come to her forever home.

Imagine being 14 and coming to a brand new country, culture, home, and family.  Anastasia did not speak much English.  Her courage, flexibility and calmness at 14 amazed and inspired me.  

Anastasia quickly started going to school, joined her church youth group, played sports, danced, and traveled with her new, big family.  

In 2014, my family was going back to the other side of the world to work at another summer camp, this time in Belarus.  We asked Wayne, Vickie, and Anastasia if they wanted to join us and Wayne and Anastasia said “yes!” (I think Vickie was helping to care for some of their many grandchildren).

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