This story is not over yet.

August 25th, 2012


“The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is located not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. And this act is not part of his ordinary providence in the world; it is at the heart of the gospel.”

~John Piper, in his article titled Adoption:  The Heart of the Gospel


In March of 2011, we began to pray that God would show us a way to help the rest of the children with special needs in Pleven be adopted.

He answered yes.  He has shown us many ways to help.  And many of you have helped!


In the middle of August, 2011, we prayed that God would open the prison doors of Pleven.  I told the director that we cared about more of the children in the orphanage than just our Veronika.  I asked her what needed to be done to make the rest of the children available for adoption, and what we could to do help.

In spite of the fact that the director coldly told us that all had been done, and that it was impossible to do more, God began to answer yes that very week, in dramatic and unforgettable ways that I still haven’t disclosed here on the blog.


That same week, I began to pray that God would break the hearts of His people wide open and fill them with His kind of love.

We began to see Him answer yes to that prayer as well, drawing families forward to claim seriously damaged children as their own beloved sons and daughters–to us, one more proof of the existence of God.


Once I returned home, we began to pray that every child in the Pleven baby house who has special needs [who we were told would never be adopted by Bulgarians] would be legally registered for adoption.

Before too long, we began to see Him answer yes to this request.  He is still answering yes, as you will see shortly!


God has moved mightily on behalf of the children in Pleven.

But please don’t think the story of Pleven is finished!


My friend Grace Knuth arrived home from Pleven a week ago with her new little daughter Samantha.  Samantha and Katie have many similar issues as a result of years of mistreatment.

Please read what Grace wrote last week,

“[My friend] and I picked Sam up yesterday on the infamous 6th floor of the Pleven baby house, where Sam has been living, and we saw with our own eyes the devastating darkness. Skeletal, nearly dead children. Caretakers handling them as if it’s all in a day’s work. I know that change is happening and the new director is working hard to make sure that it does. But for some of these children, I’m not sure that will be enough.

Again, we must continue to pray.

And we must continue to carry children out of there and into homes.”


Today I am going to show you the faces of fourteen little people.  These little people were cast aside by their parents, by their culture, and by those in the Pleven orphanage who were paid to care for them.

These children used to be invisible to the world.  We prayed for them.  God moved.  They are now available for adoption.

He’s sending the children in Pleven out of invisibility, sending them to us.

When I look at these precious children, I see the sovereign mercy of God.


Please meet…

Gage, age 2.  Still so young!  Lots of love and therapy will help Gage avoid the terrible damage that was done to the older children with cerebral palsy in Pleven.

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 2 year old Gage.



Presley, almost 3.  Nearly everything that’s written in her file could also have been written about Katie when we brought her home.  Most of it is still true to some extent.  Presley’s diagnosis won’t stop her family from bringing her home!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting almost 3 year old Presley.



My heart leapt with joy to see Harvey’s face on this new listing!  He is a child who formerly would have been considered unlovable, but God has a different opinion, doesn’t He?  Here’s Harvey with his sweet smile!

Harvey, age 3, is waiting for his family to claim him from the top floor of Pleven and shower him with love!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 3 year old Harvey.



Please email Nina Thompson at about adopting these tiny, precious 4 year old twins, who must be adopted together!



And Braddock~


6 year old Brandi has spent all her life in a bed on the top floor of Pleven.  People tend to ignore others who don’t readily respond back in the way they expect, so Brandi probably hasn’t had much attention or interaction.  Just lying there, waiting for someone with enough love and time and patience to help her open up and bloom.  I saw this for myself every day when I went to visit Katie.  The children who cannot sit up and move around and reach out for adult attention are among the most neglected.  Who will bring this child home and tenderly lavish on her all the love she’s never had?

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 6 year old Brandi.


Carson, age 6has a super cute smile which he’s not showing us here!  He’s been observed walking outside, holding his baba’s hand.  What a sweet, happy little guy!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 6 year old Carson.


Kramer, age 8was blessed, like many other children in Pleven, to receive care from the Tokuda Hospital.  Some of you helped to pay for this treatment!  Now what Kramer needs more than anything else is a family to love him and bring him home!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 8 year old Kramer.


Thad, age 9, waiting on the top floor.  Thad was placed in Pleven after being removed from an environment where he received severe abuse which caused brain trauma.  Tiny hurt boy, where are your mama and daddy to show you what love is?

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 9 year old Thad.


Chad is 9, and very small for his age.


Here’s another photo of Chad, because you need to see him smiling his cool dude smile for the camera!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 9 year old Chad.



Theodore, age 10, has spent his whole life in Pleven, like so many of the other children.  After spending some time receiving medical treatment at Tokuda, he’s back on the top floor of the orphanage.  He looks spiffy wearing a pair of pj’s donated by a Pleven adoptive family!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 10 year old Theodore.


Garnet, age 10, has a beautiful, sweet spirit just like Penny does.  So full of life in spite of her barren and forsaken circumstances!

Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 10 year old Garnet.



We see these faces.  We have prayed for these children.  They are real people.  Real human lives.

And God has seen to it that we are keenly aware of their need.


He sent them to us!


How will we respond to Him?

Now that they are here before us, and our eyes have been opened to their need for parents, can we say we bear no responsibility for them?

Or will we allow ourselves to be moved?  Moved by God?  So that when He’s finished moving us, we’re in a different place than we were before?


Friends, I have two more little faces to show you.

These two small children may be familiar to you.  They were shown to many, many people, and they were not chosen.

Their little faces traveled back to Bulgaria with the message written in bold lettering across the front, from us to them, “We agree with you about the value of these two.  Payton and Penny?  Not worth it.  Here are their files back, you guys, nobody over here wants them either.”


Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 8 year old Payton.


Please email Andrea Roberts for more information about adopting 12 year old Penny.


Does that message make you feel grieved and ashamed?  Does it cut deeply into you?  Do you long to send a different message back to Bulgaria?

“These children are precious to us.  We would gladly take them into the heart of our family as God did for us with all our special needs!”

Nevertheless, when we send a child’s file back, the message that does get through to the other end is, “It’s too bad about these kids, it’s really a shame, and we’re sorry, but…”

“Us?  Adopt a disabled child?  You aren’t serious, are you?”

“They’re too expensive.”

“We’re afraid of the medical bills.”

“It’s too risky.”

“We’re uncomfortable around people with disabilities.”

“I don’t think I could love them enough.”

“They would make life too difficult.”

“Their needs are too much trouble.”

“We couldn’t keep living the way we’re used to living.”

“It would require too much sacrifice.”

“They’re not really our responsibility.”

“We couldn’t handle being saddled with their needs.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to the children to bring them into our family, because we don’t know everything about how to help them.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to our other kids, either.”

“Our house isn’t big enough.”

“We don’t have everything we would need to take care of kids with special needs.”

“We’re not that crazy about medical stuff.  Or therapy.”

“There are other people who know more about that sort of thing, anyway.”

“We already have enough on our plates.”

“I wouldn’t have the energy I needed.”

“We already feel overwhelmed at times with all we have to do.”

“We would be crazy to even consider it.”

“I just can’t picture it happening.”

“There’s no way!”

“No.  Just…no.  We don’t have to give a reason.”


May I ask a favor of you?

Could you please go back up and read that list again?

See if you can spot the similarities between the excuses made by many modern American Christians who qualify to adopt, and the ones you would get if you asked Payton and Penny’s parents, their culture, and their Pleven neglecters why they don’t want Payton and Penny.

When God put our family’s feet on the adoption path, we could have legitimately made every excuse on that list and more, and most people wouldn’t have blamed us a bit.  We had more reasons than most families to say “No.”

In fact, we’ve discovered that all we would have had to say was these five simple magic-eraser words, “We aren’t called to it.”

But simply saying something doesn’t make it true.

The blunt truth is that there’s nothing innate about our family that makes us more “called” than many other Christians to care for fatherless, outcast kids with problems.

We still don’t believe that every Christian can adopt children with special needs.  That’s obvious!

But it is just as obvious that God didn’t give any of His people the calling to spend their lives ensuring that they stay comfortable and entertained.

It’s obvious that He is active in His world, and is calling His people to be His hands and feet in sacrificial ministry of many kinds.

It’s obvious that this story God is telling requires a response.  It is not on the level of the latest in riveting “inspirational religious fiction.”

It’s obvious that more than a percentage of 11% of 1% of modern American Christians can and should be right on top of this one, adopting children with special needs from countries that imprison them for life.

It’s obvious when we look at waiting children listings that many qualified people are holding their doors closed against the children.  And we grieve when we hear of prospective parents who have been waiting for years, insisting on a “perfect” child who may have been trafficked, and bypassing thousands of innocent children with special needs.  Nobody is trafficking children like Katie and Harvey and Bonnie and Thad.

If we had made excuses for why we weren’t going to walk the special needs adoption path, Katie’s file might still be invisible, hiding in one of the dusty stacks of files lining the dusty hallway in the MOJ.

How much we would have missed by saying “No!”   What a tragic and staggering thought!  

If we had said, “No,” would that mean we hadn’t been called?  Or that we had stopped up our ears to the call?

I understand that it can all look so far away from the ordinary, everyday lives of modern American Christians as to seem unreal.  The words of those of us who have been there seem so pale and insufficient to convey the reality and urgency of the need.


Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we could somehow take these fourteen small children from their Pleven beds and place them in the center of every church sanctuary in America?!

They could stay there in full view of everyone until they were all claimed!  And then we could bring the next group over, and then the next group, and the next group!

Some may say, “But if it were that easy, I would take one home in an instant.”

Listen, friends, what do we really believe about God?

Is our God a great and faithful God or a puny and pathetic God?

He promises to provide all we need in order to do what He gives us to do.

He promises to increase the strength of the weary.

Do you believe that?  Does He keep His promises?

Yes.  Yes, He does.

When it all boils down to qualified Christian parents making a decision between a “yes,” and a “no,” it’s really that simple.

Not easy!  Never easy!  But simple.  Straightforward.  Trustworthy.

God is faithful to those who trust in Him.


Now there are fourteen more children available to be adopted from Pleven.  Children we have grieved and prayed and donated for, all without seeing their faces.  Knowing God, and seeing His work in and through His people, I have so much hope for these fourteen, and for every last treasure waiting in Pleven!


May I challenge you to keep praying for these tiny, outcast human beings until their families step forward to claim them?  I know that many of you will do that!

And friends, we are praying right along with you!

Scripture makes it clear that it’s God’s job to do the convicting, the calling, and the moving.  He’s the only one who can get inside people’s hearts and change them.  Only God has the right to require His people to live a life of sacrificial, no-holds-barred discipleship for His sake.

And He does.

He simply empowers us to speak out and live out the truth of the gospel.

We will never smooth over the difficulties or dilute the message, even when we suspect our honesty might scare away potential adoptive parents.  We will tell you the truth about the hard parts and tell you the truth about the faithfulness of God.

Because if the call to sacrificial ministry is softened and made to sound like nothing but bubbles and fluff, those who respond will not be disciple material.

We don’t know which of you He is calling to parent these fourteen needy children, and all the rest who are still waiting to come out of obscurity into the light.

But we do know this.  Our God is in charge and our hope is in Him!

He is still convicting and calling and moving families to desperately desire to bring these little ones home.  Releasing them from their desolate prison, giving each one a new name, a new life, and a new family.

Just as He did for each of us when He set us free from our shackles, redeemed our lives from destruction, and made us His own beloved sons and daughters.


“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”


“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son,

Born of a woman, born under the law, 

To redeem those who were under the law,

That we might receive the adoption as sons.”


“Once you were not a people,

But now you are the people of God; 

Once you had not received mercy,

But now you have received mercy.”


“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”












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27 Responses to “This story is not over yet.”

  1. Taylor-Tots says:

    All I can say is THANK YOU!  Hubby and I cried reading this.  The more we adopt the more our eyes are opened to the beauty and awesomeness of God adopting us.  Thank you for the encouragement.  God knew we needed it tonight!

  2. Lydia says:

    Thank you, Susanna, for having the courage to speak the hard words.  I have been screaming for Penny and Payton for weeks now, but I have not let myself hear the truth – that when their files went back we were telling the world that we do not think they are worth anything either.  When we as Christians allow special needs orphans to rot and die in their cribs, when we tolerate abortion because we don’t want to infringe on others’ rights, when we allow abused children to be returned to their abusers time after time, we are saying one of two things:  either God doesn’t think that every human life is valuable or that we don’t really love God enough to represent His values to the world.  And aren’t both equally devastating to a world starved of hope?  Wake up, Church!  As we become more like the world, worried about our little lives and a bigger house, we are becoming irrelevant to the world. 

  3. Galit says:

    Do you have any information on the special needs of Bonnie, Brody and Braddock?  Bonnie is so beautiful!   I love those eyes.

  4. Lucille says:

    Oh this is a wonderful post! Will share it! Susanna you are such a wonderful advocate for these children. Thank you so much for all your hard work! We pray for your family regularly. Katie and all the rest of your family are so dear to our hearts!
    If you want, it might make it easier for people to use Andrea’s RR email ( for the kids from RR. So so happy to see them listed and shared here!
    Ok, blessings to you! Thank you so much!

  5. RAchel says:

    Oh Susanna!!  Sweet little Presley, and Garnet, have my heart!!  I have no doubts that we would be given all we need to care for these beautiful precious angels.  I am praying the Lord can melt away all my husbands fears and misconceptions.  Praying for peace in our hearts. I would want nothing more than to add these two sweeties to our family!!

  6. Susanna says:

    Lucille, thank you SO much for letting me know this! I’ll change that right away!

  7. Susanna says:

    Galit, I do, and will email them to you. Thank you so much for asking!

  8. Kristie says:

    We think Gage is adorable!  We would love to adopt him!  However, I am still in PA school, until December.  My husband does have a decent job.  We are renting our current house.  We do own a house but it is in a different town.  I don’t know if we would pass a homestudy.  We are praying for many orphans, and supporting many adopting families the best we can.  Thanks for sharing! -Kristie in NC

  9. Susan says:

    Kristie, it takes quite a while to complete an adoption. Perhaps you could begin to obtain things like passports, birth certificates, marriage license, etc. now, while you’re still in school, and also continue reading about various aspects of special needs adoption and what can be expected once you’re home with your child, so when and if the time comes, you’ll be prepared and several steps ahead.

    As I understand it, renting is not a problem with your home study, as long as it’s safe and has adequate room for the child(ren). Get in touch with Andrea at RR – she can tell you more and advise you better. I would LOVE to see Gage become your son!

    Susanna, again I thank you for all you do and for your passion for the children who wait…   you are a great blessing to so many.

    Susan in Ky
    Cousin to 2 from EE    


  10. laurie says:

    my heart is drawn to Brody and Braddock…would you send me more information on them?   Bless you for the testimony you give to the Fathers love!  Thank you for being bold and walking in daily obedience to the Father!

  11. Susanna says:

    Laurie, emailing it to you now. Thank you for asking!

  12. Laura says:

    Hi Susanna, my parents have been looking into adoption for nearly a year now.  I found your blog months ago and have been following regularly.  I’m so happy that Katie is doing so well!!  I’m 18 and my brother is 21.  My family lives less than 5 minutes away from you guys.  My mom has been wanting to contact you guys for quite some time now and I’m not sure what has been holding her back, so I thought I would get the ball rolling.  My mom has been looking into adoption from Bulgaria for a few months.  Could you email my family some information on your travel experience with Bulgaria?   My dad is terrified to fly and I have read that for some regions of Bulgaria only one parent has to travel, but in other regions both have to…it is all so confusing!

  13. Sarah G says:

    “We still don’t believe that every Christian can adopt children with special needs.  That’s obvious!
    But it is just as obvious that God didn’t give any of His people the calling to spend their lives ensuring that they stay comfortable and entertained.”
    My husband and I have been very encouraged and convicted by all you have shared on this blog. God has definitely led us to special needs adoption, although it remains uncertain what role we will play.
    I want with all my heart to be the mama, but I have some uncertain medical symptoms (and a pending appointment with a neurologist) that will likely either leave that door open or definitively close it. Whether we are able to adopt or just called to financially support others I am so thankful God has opened our eyes to these little ones. Thank you for being part of that! We are a fellow PA family, and I’m sure I will have lots of questions for you if we are able to begin the adoptive parent journey : )

  14. laurie says:

    Hi Susanna…nothing here yet… i checked the spam but didnt see anything?
    This has happened to me once before where God specifically put a child on my heart in a huge way…a way that I cannot explain but I just “knew” in my heart that I was to pray for him and for his forever family…even if it wasn’t us.   That little boy now has a family and they changed his name to the same name as our little guy adopted from Ethiopia. Levi!  means joined together!  I look at these children and just believe that God does have families already picked out for all of them….and we pray that they would answer in obedience and not fear! But again, with Brody and Braddock…there is something definate about them…

    thanks for all you do!    

  15. Susanna says:

    Laura, thank you so much for writing! I’m excited to meet another local family!

    Travel to and from Bulgaria was FABULOUS. I loved every minute of it except for the stomach ICK I had on the way back from the first trip.

    Here’s a post I wrote before I traveled: I was given good advice!

    I will double-check with Shelley Bedford, but as far as I’ve heard, Bulgaria allows only one parent to travel for either trip. Bulgaria is not split up into regions for legal adoption reasons, but Russia is, so perhaps someone was confusing the two countries’ policies?

    I do know that a single mom adopting may waive the first trip, but for a two-parent family, especially for a SN adoption, the MOJ strongly prefers that at least one parent travel for the first trip.

    Another option for your parents that some families choose is to have one parent travel with a friend or young adult child. :)
    I would love to meet your family and/or talk by phone! We have a lot to talk about. :) My travel time is my phone time, so if you’re open to it, please email me at and we can set up a time to chat when I’ll be on the road. Thank you so much for writing! I’m eager to meet you!

  16. Susanna says:

    Kristie, I am emailing you, too, as we have lots to talk about. :) Thank you so much for writing!

  17. Susanna says:

    Thank you so much for your strengthening words, Sarah. I’m praying right now for your health issues!

  18. Susanna says:

    Laura, also, Shelley replied to your question already, and agreed that someone may have been confusing Russia and Bulgaria. She also said this– “…some US agencies require that both parents travel on trip one to Bulgaria to meet the child and accept the referral. So, it could also be an agency thing.”

  19. julie says:

    wow…all I can say is wow…What an important blog post that all Christians should read. Beautifully written – such truth. Thank you!

  20. Jennifer says:

    If there was something I could say about Pleven it is that things are improving, but that does not mean the fight is over BY ANY MEANS.  If Pleven is a cave, there is a lantern in that cave.  As just as when the waters rise, they rise and over the lower (easy) places first, so too are the healthier “easier” children having a “better” time (like my son).  So there is good there.  The new director is so frustrated. I saw this as she went through my son’s file and found paperwork in there for another child.  Her tasks are enormous.  You have her pegged correctly – she is a good person who has been burdened with a tremendous task, and all under the watchful eye of the authorities.  Her resources are very limited.  I was suspicious of her at first, I admit.  But learning about her, I saw that she is a good person.  That is why the babas must work with 2 children and not just one – they cannot afford more babas and they cannot get more, so they must stretch what they have with the resources allotted. 

    If Pleven is a boulder, it is starting to move.  But we must keep pushing so that the momentum that IS there continues and spreads to the neediest children.  I personally met Penny and shared a candid photograph I took of her with the permission of her caregiver (a volunteer from England).  THERE IS A CHILD IN THAT BODY.  She is precious!!  My husband and I prayed about bringing her home too, but our home is not approved for children with mobility issues and our HS agency would not sign off.  But others are.  I beg and pray DAILY that these children are seen.  SEEN! I have seen some of them and others have too.  These little ones are almost like those in a coma and they must be in a family to “wake up”.  I pray that your entry is seen by parents today…I pray that they commit to these children and bring them home…I pray that those considering a child will see and know how relatively easy the process is in Bulgaria and so much less expensive than other countries.  Most of all, I pray for these children…especially Penny who I spoke to, laid hands on, and prayed for.  She is precious.  Thank you for highlighting these children!  

  21. Jan says:

    Jennifer, in your comment you mentioned that Penny’s caregiver is a volunteer from England. Is Pleven open to volunteers?

  22. Susanna says:

    Jan, there were TBACT volunteers there in Pleven when I was in August: They are the UK organization who provided Katie’s baba, and they also organize groups of volunteers to go in a few times a year.

    If you look around on their site and follow the links, you will see many children from Pleven.

    The child featured on this page is in Pleven, and is not yet registered for adoption the last I had heard: The page hasn’t been updated for some time, as A******** is now a teenager.

  23. Kara says:

    Oh, I am so, so happy for you. Such a miracle. 

  24. Beck says:

    Thank you so much for the awareness you bring on behalf of these children.  I volunteered at an orphanage in college for a summer.  The children there were treated much the same as your little Katie and the others.  It breaks my heart and brings that experience back in a way I haven’t felt for years.  We are in the middle of adopting our own little guy with DS now from a country other than Katie’s, but our family is looking at ways to help raise money for forever families to bring these little ones home.  God sees them and He is good.  I continue to pray that He will cut past the fears of the families that are to bring these precious children home.  

  25. Jen says:

    We adopted from Pleven a year and a a half ago, one of the children in T’s files. We moved there to care for him for the 6 mos. before he cold come home so he didn’t get worse. My mother, who did a rotation in Pleven for us, visited the top floor. She remembers a child named Julian. He was older. I can’t stop thinking about him. It seems like you’ve changed the names … do you have any information about him? Btw, we are now adopting again from BG …. two brothers. :) 
    You are my hero! 

  26. Casey says:

    Hi Susanna, I am just now stumbling upon your blog. I was wondering if there was any update about these children? Have any/all of them been adopted? I have always had adoption on my heart and in the back of my mind. We just had our first baby 6 months ago. Just last week my husband came home and said, “We have to adopt. I just read a quote that said, ‘I thought I wasn’t ready to adopt, but then I realized, no child is ever ready to be an orphan.'” And just like that he went from not interested, to adamant that we adopt at some point. Thanks again for sharing your story. Very helpful and inspirational. 

  27. Susanna says:

    Casey, YES!  Every single one is either home or almost home!  Thanks be to GOD!

    Even Harvey is home, although his home is heaven, as he passed away about a year ago.

    See this recent blog post for more about Mikah, the one child in Pleven who is currently available:

    I have heard that an 8 year old and a 10 year old in Pleven are soon to be available as well!

    Thank you so much for asking.  :)  Please feel free to email me at as well!

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