Finding the Hidden Treasures

March 7th, 2012


We knew that God had arranged for the Tokuda team and two adoptive mothers to be at the Pleven orphanage at the same time.

We knew that thousands of His people would be covering this time in prayer.

We knew that the Pleven orphanage staff has a well-established history of putting on a big fake show of caring about the children for important visitors.

But we didn’t dream of how God would weave these elements together together this week.


Read on, my friends, and marvel at how God has been answering our prayers!


From Shelly~

We cannot even begin to express the emotions we have felt these past few days.  With the darkness that has come before us we were a bit uncertain as to the events laying before us, but each morning before we go into the orphanage we stand outside those doors and ask God to lead us, protect the children, and to open doors.  

Little did Jenny and I realize that as we prayed in front of the orphanage for God to use us for His work that He already had it all planned out and that we were going to really be His hands.  Whether the people were being genuine or just putting on a show was not important to us nor is it the point.  The point was that God did not just open doors He flung them off the hinges!! Almost every staff member we have met has allowed us to visit with, play with, and take pictures of the children.  Many precious angels heard that Jesus Loves Them and received a bit of warm loving attention.

Each visit we leave emotionally drained, yet charged at the same time.  Drained because to see what we see is something that crushes us mommies with a force that is unmentionable.  Charged because we have seen children, loved on them, held them, changed them, and given them kisses.  With the help of my fourteen-year-old daughter Madelaine the three of us have managed to see every floor, love on many, many children, whisper into their ears just how much they are loved, photograph as many precious faces as my camera can hold each day, and even see some of your precious babies [of other adopting moms].  We have been there for seven hours each day.

We met with Dr. Lilova and her staff.  While it was only a brief visit it was full of results.  In my suitcase there were 56 cans of highly specialized formula, 106 packets of another specialized formula to be sent where Dr. Lilova determined.  Dr. Lilova said that the formula is to be left at the orphanage and she will instruct the staff how to administer it to certain children.  The total cost of this formula is approximtely $4,500.  We have contacts to deliver more of this formula if Dr. Lilova felt that was a good idea and she did!! Praise God these children will be receiving nutrition!!

[Note to those who can help supply formula to this orphanage, email Shelly directly at]

Between the two of us over 50 pairs of pjs have been delivered, 300 diapers were brought from home for the children, diaper cream of about 15 large tubes, other clothes, and tights. For those of you who sent us items we delivered them as best we could.  

Jenny and I have both changed diapers of many children.  We always come in and change diapers right away as they are in the same diaper since 4:00 p.m. the day before and it is past 10:00 a.m. at that point.  I know our little ones are only changed when we do it. 

This afternoon we were able to talk with several babas.  We will get to meet Baba Donka [Katie’s baba] and another baba.  We want to show pictures of Katie and how much she has grown.

[Note:  They did visit Baba Donka, and had a surprise for me afterward, which you will learn about in a future post!]

Teeth hygiene does not exist in the orphanage and many of the children have awful breath and eroded away teeth.  The older the child the worse the teeth.

Today was emotionally one of the hardest days I have had. The conditions are not anything what they should be for children who are so young and in need of love, attention, and guidance.  Instead they are “hidden” away and merely given minimal attention.  God knew we were struggling but we had His hand to guide us and we had each other.  Somehow Jenny, Madelaine, and I just flowed with the events of what was happening at that moment and improvised as needed.  Cameras were clicking, smiles were shared, kisses were given, diapers were changed, and love was shared.  For a few minutes we tried to love on the children individually and let them know they are a star.  Oh the attention they craved was so painful to see but we still pressed on knowing that God wanted us there and put us there for His reason.  We had the chance to see so many of the children who have families coming for them and to take pictures to share with their families. 


From Jenny~

“I believe that there are many families who would love to adopt these children if they became available or even known to the adopting community.  I feel without a doubt that we need to help these orphanages but I also especially now feel stronger that these children cannot live in these places.  It is a prison and these children deserve the basic right to a family.  I will explain more later.”


From Susanna~

God has also opened up another possible avenue to help other special-needs children in Pleven become available for adoption.  This will require lots of hard work for a few people.  Please keep praying tenaciously for every child with special needs in this place to be listed for adoption, found, and chosen!  

[NOTE:  If you think God may be calling you to adopt a child from Pleven, please email me directly for more information about the current status of this possibility:]

From other things Shelly and Jenny have written privately to the Pleven moms group, we have learned that some of the children being adopted are not doing well and need to come home quickly.  It has been a week of conflicting emotions for the parents who know that these godly women are there, loving their children, but that after everyone leaves, they will go back to being neglected.  Please keep praying tenaciously that the children can get home quickly!

[NOTE:  Please visit Julia’s blog, Micah Six Eight, this Friday for the opening of her gigantic giveaway, which will help many of the families who are adopting from Pleven, as well as other orphans.]

Finally, friends, I want you to praise God for two miracles that humanly speaking would have died in lonely obscurity.  Now found, chosen, and loved as daughters.

[If you have given to the Pleven Orphans Medical Care Fund, please know that your gift will be part of more miracles for many little lives.  We praise God for every one of you who opened your hearts and gave.  The fund only lacks $319 to reach the phenomenal sum of $20,000!  In contrast with the United States, this money will go a very long way in Bulgaria!]  

Sophia, before treatment at Tokuda Hospital~


Sophia, 15 years old, after treatment at Tokuda Hospital, finally meeting her new mama!


Liliana (her new name will be Amelia) before treatment at Tokuda Hospital~


Liliana (Amelia), eleven years old, after treatment at Tokuda Hospital, looking into the face of her new mama for the first time.  [She is still receiving IV treatment and needs our continued prayers!]


“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.  

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” 



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23 Responses to “Finding the Hidden Treasures”

  1. Sarah says:

    Praise be to God!

  2. Kendra says:

    Wow, thank you GOD! :)

  3. Laura F. says:

    I had tears in my eyes reading this and then they started rolling at the sight of these precious little girls seeing their mom for the first time.  After all these years, they have a family!  Praying fiercely for God to protect and care for all the children until they are safe with their families!  Thank you for the diligent updates, Susanna!  Hugs!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Susanna, you continue to proclaim the truth of this terrible place and shine light in the darkness of all of the children.  God is good and faithful, and I am rejoicing in praise singing today to know that so many (but not enough!) are leaving this place…children with urgent needs, and little ones like our “Ian”.  The doors to this darkness need to be flung wide open as more people step forward to take these loves into their lives.  Thank you for continuing to be a voice to the childen of Pleven!!  (hugs)

  5. Missy says:

    I can’t believe that is Sophia! In fact when I saw her new picture on Jen’s blog I was trying to figure out who she was. Praise God! My prayers are constant for these little ones.

  6. Holly F. says:

    Oh how wonderful the pictures at the end are!  Beautiful daughters that are on their way to family bliss!  Just like Katie!  Susanna, please don’t make us wait too long for the update about Baba Donka.   I want to know what she thought of Katie’s pictures!

    God must truly be with these women because I don’t know how they could give each child undivided attention and then move on to another child without completely falling apart.  HE is their strength!!  Thank you God for giving them strength!!!  It is more than any mother’s heart should bear.  I pray the children are soaking it up and storing it until all their mama’s can get to them.  Oh how I wish my husband would just say yes! 

  7. CHRISTINE says:

    What a transformation of Sophia! I didn’t recognize her at all!

    I will continue to pray for all the loves, especially Amelia.

    I check all the blogs multiple times a day hoping for an update. I can’t wait to hear more about all the good work God is doing.

  8. Amber says:

    Praise GOD for he does great things. I am so excited that GOD is working we knew he would. We are contiueing to surround them in prayer and the kids.

  9. Dawn Wright says:


  10. Jill says:

    I understand that families come for one week, go home and come back in several months.  Is it possible to completely move your family there for 4-6 months to wait for the court to finalize things?  Just wondering if that is an option since these children are starving for food, love, affection, caring, etc….  It would break my heart to leave, as I seem to remember it did yours.  I was reading about Keith’s dad coming for the week and then going home.  I am not sure I could bear that.  I think I would be considering moving there temporarily if that was an option. 
    Thank you for your hard work in bringing this to light.  My husband and I are not ready to adopt, but talking about how we might be suited to help out.

  11. Susanna says:

    That is an interesting question, Jill. I’ll ask our attorney and get back to you on this. Thanks for writing!

  12. Carol says:

    I’m no expert, so you should wait to hear from Susanna’s attorney. I did find this page that talks about visa requirements:
    No visa is required if your stay is 90 days or less. After that it seems to get a bit trickier. There is a clause about being able to apply for a visa based on doing volunteer work. So maybe you could volunteer at the orphanage and qualify? That’s speculation though, and the attorney will know. It’s just interesting to me that others have thought of the same thing. My husband’s work can pretty much be done anywhere there is an Internet connection, so I would have looked into it more but things felt busy/stressful enough with the adoption process and normal life. I think it would be a very cool way to get to know your child’s birth country better and bond to your child in a much more gradual way rather than suddenly whisking them away after meeting them for a week months earlier. Can you let me know what you find out too, Susanna? Maybe with the next adoption… First we’ll have to see whether God actually leads us to another adoption, of course. Oh, and complete this one might be good. :)

  13. Heather says:

    We will continue to pray with burdened (yet not overwhelmed) hearts.  We will continue to cry out his name, to pray for these children each and every day, and to believe beyond the shadow of any doubt that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can and will rescue each and every one of them from the claws of the evil one.  We will pray for strength, protection and guidance for all of those involved in caring for, fighting for and rescueing these precious children.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Wow is right!  Thank you so much for these recent posts–allowing us to read and see for ourselves the mighty work God is doing!  I love the photo of Liliana (Amelia) with her new mamma.  The pure love and joy expressed in seeing her baby girl for the first time is perfectly captured, and so very precious.  Susanna, is there a way to somehow connect with the next traveling group of families adopting from Pleven?  I would love to help contribute toward the collection of orphanage donations that will be going with them, whatever the need may be.

  15. Missy says:

    I read this post several times. Every time I see more and understand more. I’ll be praying. I wish there was more..

  16. Rita from Spain says:

    OH Susanna!! THANK YOU for this update…its warms my heart to know the children are being loved, if even for a bit….
    What a change in Sophia! MY GOODNESS! I look forward to reading more of Jenny´s blog and the rest and seeing these children grow and blossom! I continue to pray for sweet LIlanna and all of them…
    PLease continue to update us when you can…on this and on your own sweeties…: ).

  17. Susanna says:

    Jill, our attorney responded to your question–

    “It is theoretically possible but very difficult. The child has to be in an immediate danger of passing away and there is a long and tedious, almost impossible procedure with the Child Protection Agency to allow that.”

  18. Kara says:

    I just caught up on your story. Beautiful… Your family is amazing and I am so glad that so many of those children are going to get out of there. God is good.

  19. P. Gardiner says:

    I don’t remember how I found your blog, but for the last 3 days I’ve been reading it every spare moment. I started with last summer, and was sad to just catch up. Have you considered writing a book? With your blog posts it wouldn’t take much to polish them into a different format, and I think it would be a great story. Already your daughter is so improved!
    I became involved with a foster home in Xi’an, China when I was teaching nearby last May. This angel of a woman Amanda rescues children from orphanages, gets them the surgeries they need from doctors all over the world, and cares for them until they are adopted. Unfortunately Amanda was recently diagnosed with a uterine cancer that has spread to her lungs and skin. She is in treatment in Tennessee right now, but this whole situation could greatly use some prayers. The non-profit that supports her children is continuing in her absence, but she needs to get well and return to save more babies! Amanda’s website for the foster home is and also
    Amanda and the babies could really use prayers. I wanted to return this May and volunteer again, just loving on the babies full-time is my dream vacation. Because of her absence and illness the board asked me to delay my trip and all I can do is think about some of the babies I met last year. I wish I could be Amanda, but I do what I can. I’ll be continuing to follow your story too, and will keep the Pleven babies in my thoughts.

  20. Crystal says:

    I emailed you a couple days ago asking about maybe helping out. I also sent a message to your MOMYS account. There’s more details about what I wanted to do on the MOMYS private messages.

  21. Susanna says:

    Thanks for writing, Crystal! I’m slowly getting there! It’s been an intense week on several fronts. But I hope to be caught up by tonight. Katie’s going to help me out by doin’ a little blogging for me. ;)

  22. Lea says:

    My daughter was very impacted by this entry of your blog and has asked to use it in class  instead of a standard article.

  23. Becki Little says:

    I am wondering if we could find a nursing/medical school that would arrange practicum placements for their students at Pleven?? Or can we organize a volunteer program? Are there already volunteer programs that I can advertise? I would love to know that they children are being touched with loving hands!

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