On Flesh and Blood

June 1st, 2012


The following blog post is copied with permission from Grace Knuth, the mommy who is adopting a little seven-year-old girl named Samantha.

Grace said goodbye to Sam about a month ago, and left her waiting on the top floor of the Pleven orphanage, where she has spent years in isolation because of behaviors that were caused by the neglect of her caregivers.

Grace and Samantha on their first day of visits together in April~



On Flesh and Blood


I saw this video yesterday on another adoptive mother’s blog and had to share with you. If you watch from minutes 3:00 to 5:45, you’ll see Pleven, the orphanage where my Samantha still waits.



Please make no mistake about what you’ve seen here. Many of these “babies”, who live on the top floor of the orphanage with Sam, are actually teenagers. They are shown wearing clean clothing and lying on clean bedding only because there were guests in the building that day. And the toys were gifts which were likely captured in these photos and never seen again. Although it may be hard to swallow, this has been the reality for these children (although we expectantly wait and pray that things are changing under new leadership).

I think I’ve seen this video before. Months ago, actually. I remember watching several youtube videos of Pleven, scouring them for my own child’s face. While that little girl who I love so desperately was not to be seen, I continued to watch and cry, attempting to let the reality of it all set in.

Now, as I watch again with new eyes, I see the faces of children who have become very dear to me. These children are no longer just images on a computer screen but real flesh and blood. Today as I watch this video I recognize face after face of children I have met and touched with my own hands. Children I have cried over, smiled at and kissed. Precious, perfect children who react to human touch with a smile. Who reach their arms out to be held and loved. Who longingly looked on as I held and loved Sam. Who walked past our visiting room and watched in awe and wonder as their peer laughed and played.

Today as I think about these children who have been cast aside and who have never known love, I think to myself, these babies do not need my pity. They don’t need the tears that I’m shedding for them all the way across the ocean. They need love. Real flesh and blood, hugging and kissing, playing and nurturing love.

And they have so much to offer! Oh my goodness. Take another look at this video. The little girl who appears at minute 4:00…



Anna and I met her in the hallway outside of our visiting room. She had a baba, and so was strapped into a stroller on her way outside. I stooped down to talk to her for just a moment, stroking her face and telling her how beautiful she was. This little girl responded with a smile that could have melted any heart of stone. She was sheer joy and beauty; life sparkling through her dark eyes. Who could have known that this frail, misfigured (probably from starvation and lack of medical attention), skeletal girl would be so alive. So ready and anxious to receive love.

The same story could have been told of my own daughter when she was still a picture and a video on a computer screen.

When I committed to adopting Sam last August, I knew almost nothing about her. I knew she had Down Syndrome, and that because of the horrific lack of care provided by the staff of her orphanage, that she was “severely lagging behind”. I had only one photo of her for several months. One photo of a little girl who appeared to be lying on her back in a crib, with deep, dark, sad, lifeless eyes.

I was also gifted with one short video, which I watched, without exaggeration, well over 100 times. The video depicted a little girl with abrupt movements and a short attention span, flailing about as if lacking an awareness of her own body. Emotionless. Smile-less.

I was told that this little girl could barely sit up on her own before falling over. That she was completely nonvocal. She could not mimic. She could not walk, even with help. In fact, her condition was so severe, that after I had already submitted dossier paperwork to her country, I was required to send an additional document reiterating that I did indeed understand just how delayed she was. There was some  concern that Sam would not meet my expectations. That I might be disappointed by what I saw when I finally met her in person.

While I never believed I would be disappointed by the child God had chosen for me, my first impression was nevertheless built around the sad portrait that had been painted for me.

This is a more recent picture showing Sam in the room and the crib where she still lives out her days at the orphanage~

When I walked anxiously up the steps of Sam’s orphanage for the first time, I was prepared for the worst. Never in a million years did I expect to be greeted by a little girl SO full of LIFE. So anxious to defy all odds. To try new things.

A hope-filled child just asking for me to give her a reason to laugh.

A child with 7 years worth of smiles to share.

A child who has never known love, but who already knows how to love.

A child who is eager to learn and to play. A child who somehow knew her life was about to change.

Friends and family, you have walked 911 miles for Sam, the distance from Lincoln to San Antonio (how cool is that, Texas relatives!). And you have prayed many more prayers for me and Sam than that! Today, I want to encourage you to turn some of your prayers toward the many children in Pleven who continue to wait. Some who are not yet even adoptable. Let’s continue walking those 5,577 miles, praying for Sam, but also for these real flesh and blood little people, who have every potential to blossom into loving, life-filled, world-changing individuals. Pray that all red tape will be removed, that they will be listed for adoption, and that their families will find them.

Let’s also pray that God turns our broken hearts and our tears into action. Love, covered in real flesh and blood, reflecting the One who came in the flesh to live with us, and die for us, and give us heaven.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, and the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God is changing their world, one child at a time. He’s using us.

Please: Pray. Advocate. Adopt.

Love to all of you.


Note from Susanna:

When Grace went to Pleven to visit her Sam for the first time, she didn’t go alone. A close friend named Anna accompanied her. Anna writes about her experience…

When asked how visiting Pleven affected me the only words that come to mind is that it broke me. When we left the orphanage the last time I felt torn apart. I had gazed into so many eyes who had had their lives stolen from them. We left behind voiceless children whose stories were going untold. I was startled especially by the children I met that seemed to understand that Sam was getting a mom and they were not. I could see the longing in their eyes as they walked past our visiting room. I could feel the need for love as they reached out to be held from their strollers. I am broken inside knowing that they remain there in the orphanage in their cribs.

What am I doing about it? Man, it never feels like enough. I am telling people. I have made some pretty tearful presentations at my church. I hope to have the opportunity to speak at other churches in my area. My husband and I are also moving toward adoption…and when I say moving toward I mean we are talking about boy verses girl while I try to get the home study paper work finished.

How did seeing Pleven affect me? It haunts me. Children’s faces haunt my dreams and my waking hours. And seeing Pleven is changing my family’s life. I am so thankful that Katie’s adoption has brought to light this place and that God has used that light to bring families to the lost children of Bulgaria. May their voices rise to praise His name for His salvation, healing and love. And may our voices never cease to remind those around us that there are more children to be saved.




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6 Responses to “On Flesh and Blood”

  1. Hi Susanna,  I have a few questions.  We are are at the tail end of our adoption and hope to get the call to travel soon.  Our adoption won’t finalize until 6 months after our son is home.  Do you know if we can start another adoption process while in this stage?  I don’t want to scare our agency so I thought I would ask you first.  I need to be very clear that God has not given the go ahead to start another adoption yet.  God made it very clear that I needed to wait on His timing and direction.  I plan to obey but would like to gain knowledge about the Pleven process.  Also, I watched this video again and I want to know if you know anything about the children at 4:13 in yellow and 4:16 this sweet thing with the green blanket.  It breaks my heart beyond expression when I watch these videos.  I don’t have to explain it to you.  All I can say is my heart is broken and I won’t sit around and do nothing about it.  I will wait on the Lord because I know without His covering I would be working on my own and that would be horrible but the desire remains.

  2. Holly F. says:

    My blood boils when I see these videos and know the children have clean sheets and toys simply because there are visitors with cameras.  It just proves that the caretakers know that the status quo is wrong, otherwise they wouldn’t try to hide it.  Even with the clean sheets and toys, the video shows the TRUTH in the skeletal frames of the children.  The far-away sleepy disposition that suggests sedatives and the obvious lack of love and attention.   I cry, get angry, feel sick, and then pray.

    Sam is beautiful and will become even more beautiful as she blossoms, just like Katie.  The will to survive and find love astounds me. 

  3. Susanna says:

    Jamie, the child in green at 4:16 is Anthony and Adeye’s sweet Hasya several years ago at 11 years old: http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/2012/05/her-unfolding-story.html

    The little child wearing yellow is one of the reasons I keep asking everyone to PLEASE KEEP PRAYING that the nameless, voiceless, powerless, hidden children in Pleven will be registered for adoption as they SHOULD have been years ago! There are so many roadblocks in the way that I won’t go into detail about. We MUST NOT give up hope for them and we MUST be persistent in the hard work of prayer! God is able to deliver them!

    Emailing you about your other question…

  4. Susanna says:

    Through tears, I count 20 different children on that video, many of whom I recognize and 6 of whom are being adopted. My heart is so full as I watch this now, and know that there is HOPE. GOD IS MOVING for the children, and I cannot yet tell you all the details. Please keep praying!

  5. Gail K. says:

    Susanna, I thought I had already seen this video…but I haven’t.  I have no words.

  6. Jane says:

    Susanna, Thank you for this. It reminds me that prayer and activism and movement among people acting as God’s hands and feet is what will change all of this.

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