Russia (MNN) — With all the changes they go through, sometimes it’s hard for teenagers to figure out who they really are — their true identity. It can be even more difficult for adopted kids.
The process got whole a lot easier for U.S. teenagers Nicole and Neil Halteman when they visited Russia this summer.
You see, 16-year-old Nicole and 13-year-old Neil were adopted from Russia as toddlers through Buckner International. Adoptive mom Joanne Halteman says the trip opened the teenagers’ eyes to “if they would’ve stayed there, what their life would’ve been like, and that God knew what He was doing by giving them this life.”
The trip helped reveal this truth: “There is a purpose to them being where they are right now,” she adds.
In July, Buckner took the Halteman teenagers on a two-week tour of their country of origin during the group’s first “Russia Birthland Tour.” From visiting their original orphanages to tasting native foods, touring mausoleums and palaces, and even attending a circus production in Moscow, Nicole and Neil were exposed to a part of themselves they had only ever wondered about.
“They dove into it head-first; in other words, they wanted to experience as much as they could,” shares Joanne. The teens shared trip highlights with a local paper.
“Every time we were on a train or a bus, they were just constantly looking out the windows, [trying] to soak as much of it in as they possibly could.”
The trip was something Joanne and her husband kept secret until just the right time: Neil’s 13th birthday in March.
“For his birthday, we gave him a suitcase,” shares Joanne, explaining that the teenagers were planning to go on a summer missions trip to the Dominican Republic with their church.
“In the card, I wrote, ‘You will need this this summer for your trip to Russia and the Dominican [Republic].’ He read that out loud, and he got a puzzled look on his face and said, ‘Is this a misspelling?’ My daughter understood right away what was going on, and she ran outside and just started screaming and crying.”
Where it all began
Joanne and husband, Gary Halteman, were introduced to Buckner volunteers in 1998 during a trip to Russia. The following year they adopted Nicole from an orphanage near Ulyanovsk. Neil came from St. Petersburg and joined their family in 2002.
Although Russia closed foreign adoptions in 2012, Buckner continues to support orphans and vulnerable children in the country through spiritual enrichment and mentoring.
“God’s timing is perfect, and it has nothing to do with our timing. God will place the children in your family that belong there; He did it for us,” shares Joanne. She shares more advice in the full interview.
Know any teenagers? Pray that they’ll discover who God created them to be, and that they’ll seek His guidance for their life.