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Posted Jun 30, 2010 by 19 Comments

Last year, I had the opportunity to witness the development of a beautiful story… a story of hope and life in the middle of a very dark place.

Peter, an orphan with muscular dystrophy at the terrible Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage, was adopted by none other than the family that hosted me while I was in Ukraine. Even cooler (for me at least), was the fact that the adoption was made possible by financial sponsors from the U.S., many of whom were readers of World Next Door!

The Story Begins

I first wrote about the Romaniv Orphanage back in April of 2009 (click here to read the article). A couple of weeks later I introduced Peter through another article (click here). Then, within two months, I had the pleasure of announcing his adoption by Yuri Levtchenko and his family (click here).

The whole story of Peter’s adoption is recapped in this video we produced for WND’s first anniversary celebration:

It was a beautiful homecoming. A powerful tale. But it turns out that the story was far from over.

So here, as they say, is the rest of the story…

An Incredible Year

The original arrangement for Peter’s adoption by Yuri’s family was a temporary one. Peter would live with them for a year, followed by an evaluation by the state government.

Peter with one of his new sisters. She’s hilarious…

Even though this deadline loomed on the horizon, nothing could hide the beauty and joy of his homecoming. For a year at least, Peter would be safe.

And what a year it was… For the first time in a decade, Peter was living in a home. He had a family. A mother, a father, siblings! Nobody was beating him. Nobody was yelling at him. Peter was being loved.

Peter’s new brothers and sisters accepted him immediately. They included him in their games, watched movies with him and laughed… a lot.

Ira, Peter’s new mother, gladly stepped in to fulfill the maternal duties that Peter had never experienced. She bathed him, dressed him and loved him as if he was her own. All the while, Yuri carried Peter back and forth from his room, drove him around town and taught him things like any good father would.

Peter’s new family!

Of course, Peter still had to deal with many of the psychological ramifications of being discarded and abused, and this was a constant struggle for his parents. The first time his family brought him to MTU for classes, he wept uncontrollably, thinking that he was being abandoned again. For a child as scarred as Peter, recovery would be a long road.

In time, however, his emotional wounds did begin to heal. He began to smile. To laugh. As his family held him and fed him and played with him, Peter’s life finally began to change.

An Unexpected Turn

But things were not idyllic forever. At the end of the year, the state government performed their evaluation. After seeing Yuri’s small house and his seven children running all over the place (eight if you count Peter), they decided that Yuri only wanted to adopt Peter for the pension money he would receive for Peter’s disability. Their hearts were hardened and nothing could convince them of the truth.

Peter and his sisters. They adore him…

As part of the evaluation, these officials visited Romaniv Orphanage to see the living conditions there for themselves. However, because the orphanage staff didn’t want to be embarrassed, they only allowed the state officials to see the inside of one room – a nicely furnished conference room used solely for visiting guests.

After seeing this sugar-coated image of the orphanage (and after stumbling through a lot of bureaucratic inefficiency and lost paperwork), the state officials declared that the living conditions were far better for Peter at Romaniv than at Yuri’s home. Then they made a decision that absolutely baffled anyone who knew the family.

They decided that until further paperwork went through and until all the competing bureaucracies sorted themselves out, Peter would have to go back to Romaniv.

Everyone who knew Peter understood that this would shatter his trust forever. It would be unspeakably devastating. But the decision had been made. One year after leaving Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage, Peter was forced to return.

Numb

I remember hearing this news for the first time. I was shocked. What would this do to Peter’s new foundation of hope? Isn’t being abandoned again the one thing he has always feared? Would Peter ever trust again?

Peter’s youngest sister. Absolutely adorable!

I admit that I began to feel a sense of numb helplessness about the whole situation. I thought this story already had a happy ending… How could this happen?

But for Yuri, Peter’s new father, numb helplessness never entered into the equation. For him, the whole situation boiled down to one simple fact: “My son needs me. I will not abandon him.”

So, in a move that left the jaws of the state officials on the ground, Yuri did the only thing he could think to do. He moved into Romaniv Orphanage with Peter.

He didn’t know how long he would be living there. He didn’t know how it would end. But for a dedicated father whose son was in need, Yuri didn’t even think twice.

In a country where conforming to the norm is often valued above all else, Yuri’s bold move put a lot of pressure on the state officials. Fearing a public spectacle, the officials quickly “found” the lost paperwork, attained the correct signatures and finally allowed Peter to return to his rightful home.

Although his family is far from wealthy, Yuri cannot help but throw a feast any time he has guests!

After three days, Peter was once again taken out of Romaniv. This time, however, something was different. This time, Peter’s adoption was permanent.

On April 30th, 2010, Peter came home… For good.

A Glimpse of the Kingdom

The other day I had the chance to have dinner with Yuri, Ira and the kids. We laughed and played and talked. We ate and ate and ate.

And as I looked across the room at the wide, beautiful smile on Peter’s face, I knew that I was being given a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

In the banquet of the kingdom, the broken of the world are honored guests. The outcast and forgotten are sons. And there sat Peter. A full tummy. A clean body. And eyes that sparkled with joy.

Peter is home now. Though his body is weak and he may not have much longer to live, he will spend the rest of his days wrapped in the arms of a loving family.

And when he does some day leave this broken world, he will be well used to the phrase he hears soon after.

“My beloved son… Welcome home.”

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Ken Ney said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 7:24 am  

    All I can say is Wow! A couple of things come to mind. Yuri showed truly what a real man is-one who accepts responsibility, is not passive, leads courageously, and works for a higher reward. (from Raising a Modern Day Knight). Secondly, what a picture of the God who loves us and who will never abandon us. Good way to start my day Barry. thanks!

  2. Jo Nading said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 8:20 am  

    Wow is right. I fell in love with Peter the very first time I saw his face. This story is so much better than any I can recall hearing anywhere. And the cool part is that, for me, it doesn’t really feel like a “story” – not like something I hear on a feel-good-news-story. No, this is like reading about family – like I KNOW Peter. And Yuri has got to rank as the best father on the planet. I can imagine Jesus with a smile like Peter’s…so pleased with Yuri and enjoying the joy in Peter. Gosh. Party time in Heaven again. Wonder what that’s like.

    Barry, thanks so much for taking the time to share the details. I just love what you are doing….

  3. Jessica Shewan said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 9:21 am  

    I can’t get over Yuri’s example of God’s love…just like Yuri, God moved into our Rominov, he became flesh and moved into our world, just to redeem us and rescue us. He wouldn’t stop at anything, and he didn’t accept our brokenness as the way it has to be. I love Yuri’s perseverance and his peaceful but staunch resistance to the obstacles that stood between him and his son. Love doesn’t stop at anything…and it wins in the end!

  4. Jonathan Pomazon said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 10:16 am  

    Having visited Peter with you last week at Pastor Peter’s house, I had only a limited understanding of all that preceded that evening. There sat Peter in his wheelchair, smiling at everyone and voicing his love of his family, friends (old and new) and God. Yuri stood by quietly, responding to questions as best he could as our small horde of visitors descended on his quiet, small home! Your story provides the “color commentary” to this scene that makes it complete – what a wonderful and hopeful picture you’ve created through your words and pictures. Thank you for reminding us of what that scene in heaven will be like – as people of EVERY “language, tribe and tongue” sit together at our Heavenly Father’s table and enjoy His presence forever!

  5. Kevin said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 10:32 am  

    What an amazing act of courage and determination by Yuri. Very similar to Jesus’ response to our needs. Since you can’t come to me as you are, I’ll come there and make things right. You are mine and I am yours forever.

  6. Beth said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 11:46 am  

    So incredible. This is such a beautiful story. I love love love that Yuri was so persistent, enough to stay in the orphanage with Peter. What a picture of living out God’s love. I can’t get over it. Praise God!

  7. Kris Schneider said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 10:14 pm  

    This story is truly amazing! Thank you for sharing the full story of Peter, his wonderful father, and God’s awesome work in their whole family.

  8. Jim M said... 

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    June 30th, 2010 at 11:04 pm  

    “Their hearts were hardened and nothing could convince them of the truth”.

    Barry, these words have been pressing up against me today, I read this story early this morning and couldn’t shake them.

    They reminded me of Isaiah 6: 9-10.
    “Be ever hearing, but never understanding, be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

    Praise God for Peter’s rescue, and it is to His glory that Peter’s family has stepped up.

    But,… pray without ceasing that the authorities will “turn and be healed”…so that a thousand Peter’s will find sanctuary.

    Barry, thank you for this story, I sense we have only begun to see where God is taking this, and that Peter is playing a much deeper part in advancing the Kingdom in that culture. You my friend have a front row seat very near the “thin space”.

    J.

  9. Dave Rod said... 

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    July 1st, 2010 at 8:44 am  

    Is there a better picture of the incarnation than Yuri’s rescue of Peter? It is so powerful, so metaphoric, so extraordinary to be almost unbelievable. Yet, there he is…Peter…the little boy who represents us all in his brokenness being rescued by a father who entered his world to bring him home.

    Every chapter in this saga of love has led me to tears but this one has drawn me into worship.

  10. David B said... 

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    July 1st, 2010 at 10:46 am  

    Yes… the Father “moved in” to the neighborhood (the Message). Wow! Wow! Wow! Speachless reading this story!

  11. Denise said... 

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    July 1st, 2010 at 10:55 am  

    WOW! is right! Not much more to say…

  12. Rob Yonan said... 

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    July 1st, 2010 at 1:31 pm  

    That is a father of all fathers! Incredible. Simply incredible.

  13. Amy Sorrells said... 

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    July 2nd, 2010 at 10:26 am  

    What Rob said. I don’t even have words. I’m blubbering too hard over my keyboard. Yuri moved into the orphanage WITH Peter?!?!? Oh. My. God. My precious, awesome God!!!

  14. Cynthia Schuerr said... 

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    July 3rd, 2010 at 12:12 pm  

    An amazing, touching story. I’m overwhelmed with a bundle of emotions.

  15. Linda Znachko said... 

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    July 5th, 2010 at 9:47 pm  

    So…as much as I admire Yuri…I wonder what Ira said when he told her he was moving out and leaving her with the other 7 children! They are both heroic and sacrificial examples of parents loving their children at all costs!
    Thanks for this beautiful story of a families unconditional love!

  16. Tanya said... 

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    July 6th, 2010 at 1:38 pm  

    So heavenly beautiful :)

  17. Kyle said... 

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    July 8th, 2010 at 10:44 pm  

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing story. So many layers and depths that it haunts my thoughts and opens my my eyes to view the love of God in new ways.

  18. Tasha Simons said... 

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    February 13th, 2011 at 9:31 am  

    What an amazing story! This story truly pulls my heart strings. The protective love this family demonstrated is inspiring. Beautiful story of God’s fierce love demonstrated through others.

  19. Jim.M said... 

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    February 13th, 2011 at 4:14 pm  

    You know Barry, since this story was first up, I bet I have thought about Peter 100 times, Prayed for him and told others of his story, A little boy I never met…an earthly father and family so different than most.

    Here is God’s image in the eyes of the oppressed, God’s love lived out in the life of a father.

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