Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Adoption Day, Aleksa! (And... her background story!)

On January 23, 2008 we met a tiny 5 yr old little girl called Sasha, who we planned to name Aleksa Faith, in a mental institution in Ukraine.  That day she truly became the daughter of our hearts, the one we had dreamed of for 5 months prior as we planned for her adoption.

On January 27, 2008, we said goodbye through unshed tears, as our hopes to bring her in to our family were shattered.  We felt buried in the deepest pit we have ever faced. Though she was alive, the loss felt like a death, or worse, a lifetime sentence for her.  There was nothing we could do to change it.  The institution director said that he didn't want to have an adoption from his institution, that she faced no discrimination in her sheltered environment, and that he didn't trust that anyone would truly DESIRE to parent a child with significant special needs.  He thought our motives impure.


On September 17, 2010, while I sat in the Orlando airport waiting to fly to Ukraine on a week long mission trip, I received an email from a stranger named Alla: (edited excerpts follow)
Hello Meredith!
You do not know me, I do not know you.  But Jesus knows us both! My name is Alla.  I`m a Christian and live in Ukraine, in the city of Zhitomir, close to Kiev.  I have a ministry for orphans, they are about 1000.  We have 9 orphanages in Zhitomirskaya oblast where we tell kids and workers about Jesus.  In 2 orphanages we have Sunday School, and we are able to come each week.  If it's God`s will we want to start Sunday School in the next orphanage this year.  There are girls with mental problems there.  

Two of the orphanages there are children with Down syndrome.  We go there regularly, as the Lord provides the money for it.  We sing songs for the kids, do a puppet show, and our brothers preach the Gospel to workers and say to kids very simple things about God.  We have some saved workers there.  Praise the Lord!
At orphanages there are 2 workers for 35-40 kids.  It is very hard for them to care for these kids.  Many of the kids live like animals, eat, sleep and watch TV.  Nobody teaches them, plays with them, etc.They just sit on bench all day long.  Many of the kids can not speak, and they eat candy with the paper still on it.They wear dirty and worn out clothes.  They do not have any toys.

Many of these kids die having never seen their mom with nobody to hug them or kiss them like a child.  Many of them are very skinny because they can not eat.
I found Joy McClain on FaceBook. (**MEREDITH'S NOTE, from Nov 2013: please visit and share the info as the McClains try to locate their missing daughter! Back to the email:)   I liked her profile and what she said about her family. I sent her an invitation to be friends.  At this time I did not know she adopted kids with Down syndrome.  When I found it, I was in shock! I was interested in it.  How does she teach them and etc.  Need to be a Hero to do it!  Joy recommended I talk to you and said you also adopted kids with Down syndrome.  It is great!  Praise the Lord!  Joy gave me address your blog, and there I found your e-mail.

God bless you in your ministry, and give you the power, wisdom, love and everything you need to take care of these kids!
You are Hero! May God bless you!


In the hour that followed that initial email, we exchanged several more emails... and her sentiment of Hero... quickly became MINE, to her.

(after an initial "hello" and some info about the ministry we were doing in Ukraine...)
Alla, It is surprising to me that you say Zhytomir region, because I have been there.  My husband and I tried to adopt a girl from the orphanage for older special needs children, she has Down syndrome.  Her name is Sasha and she lives in Pugachovka in Zhytomir.  We loved her and played with her 3 times but the director of the facility said people cannot want disabled children or love them or give them a home.  He said there must be other reasons we want her.  

You can see from our blog that the reason we wanted her is because she is loved by Jesus and He called us to love the orphans.  My daughter Brianna was born to me when I was 23 and she has Down syndrome.  After her birth we knew we were to take care of other disabled children also.
Do you know this orphanage for disabled girls in Pugachovka?  I would love to know if the child we had tried to adopt is still there and if she is ok, and would be interested to know if the director is still the same person or if it is different. 


She returned my email with an excerpt that said this:
Yes, I know the orphanage in Pugachovka. It is one of the orphanages where we minister. It is surprising for me that you know this orphanage.  We have saying in Ukraine.  The earth is round.  It means, you can meet any person at any place of the world.
  Yes, I can tell you about the girl Sasha if you send me her picture.  We visited this orphanage some weeks ago.  I can tell you if she is there.  Maybe i saw her, but I do not know the names of all of the kids.  If you will send a picture, I can tell you.

I sent her a photo that I pulled off of my blog, saved to my phone, and forwarded to her.  Here is her reply:
I`m sorry but we did not see her this time.  All the children were outside.  I think this girl is in one building all time where most of the hard children are kept, or those that are sick.  We call this place isolation.  We could not come inside of this building.  Maybe she was there, but I can not tell you.  I attached a picture.  I`m not sure she is Sasha, but maybe you can recognize her.  You can see her from one side, she is in a green sweater.  We took this picture a year ago.  

YES, that is Sasha!

Alla met up with me at the Down Syndrome Conference in Kiev that week and I gave her the one small photo I'd brought with me and told her the story of Sasha, the story of Emma and Micah (who we adopted when we were denied Sasha's adoption), Lynae, who was just 1 year old, and James, whose adoption had been finalized just 2 weeks before the trip.  I shared with her God's transformation of our family, especially Emma's miracle of life saving surgery and complete HEALING after she was in such bad shape.


Shortly after arriving home from that trip to Ukraine, on September 30th, Alla and her team had gone back to the institution, talked to the director, and he said to them "Tell them to come and we will talk."  She also sent us a photo of Aleksa taken that day.

At that point we hadn't even considered the idea that we would adopt her as well as Wesley (a 5 yr old boy with CP whose paperwork for adoption accompanied me on the mission trip and had already been submitted).  An 8 yr old from an institution was a much different 'game plan' than any we'd come up with on our own.  We had a whole lot of praying to do...


Building on faith and little else, we looked at our paperwork and found that our homestudy, written in a way so that if James' adoption had not been finalized, there would be no question that our Ukraine adoption was still able to be finalized... approved us for two children.   Our application for immigration approval, though we were just at the borderline income for adopting one child internationally and our petition was for just one child... approved us for two children.  We called our social worker to ask for his guidance and his input and he told us to go and see what God had planned.

We also began fundraising because if we were to adopt Aleksa, it would cost an additional $15,000... money we didn't have.


On October 15, 2010, our second dossier was finished being put together, the paperwork chase complete.  Our petition for Sasha-Aleksa began its flight overseas and arrived just one month after we first heard from Alla.


Over $3,000 was raised so that IF we could adopt Aleksa, we would have the finances to do it. We secured a loan for the additional $12,000 that we would need and made plans to have it available on our return trip when we would pick up the children if we were able to have a successful court decision for Aleksa.

November 9th, less than a month later, we held Aleksa in our arms again, this time with the assurance from the director that he stood with us and would agree to her adoption!

God is the perfecter of our faith, and brings all things together for the good of those who are called by His purpose!


On November 29th, Michael and I stood before the judge, 3 years ago today, and Sasha was named an orphan-no-more.  Aleksa Faith Cornish, DAUGHTER of Michael and Meredith Cornish, SISTER to 6 little ones waiting at home (and Wesley's adoption would be held 3 days later at a different Ukrainian court, making 8 children).


Today is the 3rd anniversary of Aleksa's adoption day!

There was a waiting time before we could take her home with us, and in that time we completed Wesley's court, then we flew home for one week.  Chris Harm flew back to Ukraine with me to brave the snow and culture gap and help me bring two orphans-no-more in to our family, through a 24 hour day of air travel over the ocean.


And finally... on December 17, 2010, exactly 3 months to the day after Alla's first email to me and our conversation while I sat in the Orlando airport, Chris and I took Aleksa by the hands and climbed in to the taxi with our adoption facilitator, Yana, and we drove down the dirt road from the mental institution.

We then spent Christmas 'stranded' in Ukraine because of one last signature we couldn't receive, and finally... on December 29, 2010, we brought our family of 10 together for the very first time.

Alla, Oksana, Aleksa, and Misha  Also known as "Bible Orphan Ministry" visiting with us on Christmas Day 2010


Sometimes God spells out His promises to us and His plans for us so we can walk by them and know them ahead of time.  Sometimes He reveals His plans and purposes in such a way that there can be NO MISTAKING HIS HAND on our lives.

God's work did not end there, and in a financial sense, God met and provided for our every need, bringing together gifts, grants, and money that we scrimped and saved to be PAID IN FULL on our loan just 3 months after our return home.


The last 3 years have brought trials of all kinds and many we never would have imagined "walking ourselves in to."  However, through Faith we know that God's plans are being worked out.  It won't always be easy, but being at the center of His will is ALWAYS where we want to be.

Happy Adoption Day, Aleksa.  You are our loved and cherished DAUGHTER, and we are thankful for God's work in our lives through you and your testimony, and God's work in your life through the transformation you have made in to the beautiful and sweet young lady you are becoming!


Alla, Misha, and Oksana continue to minister to those we cannot reach from here.  Their ministry "Bible Orphan Ministry" reaches hundreds of orphans each month including many with special needs, as well as children about to age-out of the orphanage and begin life on their own.  They continue to minister in the institution that Aleksa lived in for over 3 years.  Please visit their blog and FaceBook page and follow along prayerfully with them as they faithfully bring God's Love to those with special needs and many more in Ukrainian orphanages and institutions.  If God leads you to donate, they do special projects throughout the year.  Currently they are raising funds to bring more helping hands in to a boys' institution (similar to Aleksa's institution for girls with mental disabilities).  The intent of my post is to share Aleksa's story and to celebrate her, however I would also like to highlight the priceless work of the Kingdom that this faithful group is doing. 


  1. God's Handprints are all over it this incredible story! Happy Adoption Day, Aleksa Faith!! (Just a day Happy Adoption WEEKEND!! I can see by your pictures what a sweet & happy girl you are.
    Meredith, I will check out the FB & blog posts for these dear ministers of the Gospel "to the least of these" in the Ukraine. Thanks for following the Jones' blog (how do you EVER make the time??); I am Carrie's mother, the quints' grandmother. Blessings to your precious family today & always!!

  2. Wow wow wow!!! That is such an amazing story. We just moved our family to Zhitomir 2 weeks ago to serve orphans with disabilities. So, of course I loved this story even more!! :) Happy Adoption Day!!!

  3. Oh, how very wonderful in every way! :) To God be the glory that His plan was accomplished for Aleksa, which also includes and blesses many others along the way, (as He usually does.) I also am acquainted with Bible Orphan Ministry and for that I am very, very thankful, (I think I found them on YouTube) and can vouch for their love, care, sacrifice and integrity to minister to orphans in Ukraine, not only in the 10 orphanages mentioned but also to those who have graduated from the orphanages (basically kicked out around 16 y/o) with no life skills whatsoever and several who now have babies to raise. This tiny group with an endless, Almighty God trust Him for their own needs as well as the orphans and are able to testify of amazing miracles of God's help, provision and mercy for the orphans and themselves in His time as He is always faithful.The BOM team members were orphans themselves but now are adopted into the kingdom of their Father, so they understand what these children feel, lack and suffer. How amazing that you, Meredith were connected with Alla at just the most perfect time!!! Bless the Lord! Thank you, Cornish family for your love, open arms and obedience to bless and be blessed of your children by our God and Savior, Jesus Christ . Thank you for sharing this with us. I hear more and more of how the Lord is moving His body to adopt, support and love the orphans and widows and I pray I will be able to go to Ukraine myself if it is His will. If not, I will continue to support the work of spreading the Good News to the children through Bible Orphan Ministry. If anyone is reading this, please pray about supporting BOM or what the Lord would have you to do to obey His word ... to visit the widows and orphans in their distress... James 1:27.
    Peace and grace to you all though Jesus our Lord