Will He not make it good? Two years in Pleven

August 15th, 2013

“God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”


Today marks two years since I first held Katie in my arms.

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Two years since the shock of the reality set in.



Profound, long-term criminal neglect of the most vulnerable of little human beings, hidden away on the top floor of the orphanage.



Two years after writing this post, where does the Pleven orphanage stand?

~Many of you prayed back in the spring for a certain court hearing regarding the former director of the Pleven baby house.  God did answer our prayers with a yes!  The decision was made NOT to automatically re-instate the former director of the Pleven baby house.  Her legal process will most likely drag on for some time, but for now, the children are protected.  Please pray that justice is brought to victory in this case and that God will grant the former director the mercy of repentance.

~There are only a very few older children with special needs left in Pleven.  Several have already aged out of all hope of adoption.  There is a small handful of children who have not yet aged out who need to be made publicly available for adoption.  Their photos will stay on my computer desktop until I hear that they are safe.  Pray that their files will be obtained and families will choose them!

~In the United States, we have a law that prevents us from internationally adopting children over age sixteen.  In several other countries, such as Canada and the UK, this is not the case.  Approved families can adopt children up to the age of eighteen.  I know one UK family who has been working hard for many months to become approved to adopt an older child in Pleven who cannot be adopted by Americans.   They have already seen God intervene to get them this far.  Pray that God will use them and other faithful families to bring these vulnerable children home before their time runs out!

~Plans are being carried out to transform one section of the huge building that is the Pleven baby house into a day center.  Staff would care for the children with special needs during the day, and at night, the children would go home with their own families.  This is a wonderful first step to providing families with the support they need to prevent them from signing their special children over to the state to begin with.  Pray that God will keep doing this work until it is complete!

~More plans are being discussed to convert another floor of the baby house into a family-type setting and bring in house parents for the few older children who are no longer able to be adopted.  These are children I know and could name for you.  They are real people with precious souls who should not be sent to the torture of adult mental institutions!   Pray that God will bring this plan to fruition!

~Rooms full of useful items have been donated by the community—developmental toys, therapy equipment, adaptive equipment—but no one has been trained in how to use it, so it sits neglected.  Plans are being discussed to bring therapists, education specialists, and others who work in related fields to train the Pleven staff in the correct use of these valuable items that are sitting unused.  Please pray that God will bring this work about as well!

There is talk of building a much-needed playground to suit the needs of the children.  Right now there are still just a few swings for over a hundred children.



Does all this mean the story is basically over?


Two years after I first met Katie, two years of watching God bring home more than fifty children with special needs from her old orphanage, a certain little girl still waits in Pleven.

Brandi, 16 lbs. at 7 years old~



A year ago, I first posted Brandi’s photo on this blog.

Half a year ago, I kissed her face with my tears falling and a terrible ache in my heart.  Oh God, send her a family to love her!  You are able!

And now?

Brandi is still available for adoption.  Why is Brandi still waiting?

Could it be that we have judged that she is not a valuable enough human being to justify the cost of loving her?  If so, then to our shame we agree with the Pleven doctor who summed up Brandi’s life with these words, “She is inadequate.” 

My friend Amy writes about Brandi,

“Inadequate to bring joy to a family? I know from personal experience that is wrong – I just kept thinking what an amazing blessing she would be to a family. Like a surprise gift beyond imagining wrapped in dirty rags – she will bring God’s blessings pouring out on the family willing to follow God’s call to redeem her.

Inadequate? Even now, the word sticks in my mouth, only to be spit out with great sorrow and washed away with tears. Can you imagine your very existence being summed up in the word “inadequate?” I quake to think of all the things we will see clearly in Heaven that we disdained here. How our hearts will break.”

If you think you might be the family to shower love on this precious tiny girl, please email Shelley Bedford at shele337@gmail.com!



So what if Brandi receives a family?  Is the story over then?

Decide for yourself–

Not long ago, I received an email from someone who will have to remain anonymous, someone who has been living in Bulgaria and working in the orphanages for many years and recently discovered Katie’s story.

The problem is that authorities DID know what was happening in this orphanage, AND, this orphanage is better than many that we work in! The home in Pleven was NOT exceptionally bad – more or less, it is the norm. We work in other baby homes where the staff is more caring. But still, the conditions are not what they need to be. First, medical personnel simply do not view a handicapped child, even a baby with a cleft lip, [as]…capable of ever learning. The thought is, “If the body is not perfect, the mind is incapable of learning.” They still pretty much demand that a mother give her child into the care of an institution where its needs can be met. If it is found that a mother will give birth to a handicapped child and she refuses an abortion, she is denied any state aid in caring for the needs of that child!!!! In the orphanages they separate the “handicapped” infants from the “normal” ones even at birth. They lack any stimulation. The society in general view them as something animal like – without souls, even.

This is the judgment of Brandi’s society.

Do we agree with them?


Are you sure of that answer?

Why is Brandi still waiting?

Is it fear of the implications of adopting a very damaged older child like Tommy?  Takes lots of time, energy and money, has many medical needs, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t feed himself, is on diapers, lives life on the level of a little baby, engages in socially-inappropriate behavior?

And took his first IV treatment for his osteoporosis like a champ~



There is a long list of reasons qualified people give for why they wouldn’t adopt a child like Brandi.  Too often, the problem isn’t that they can’t, the problem is that they don’t want to, plain and simple.  They wouldn’t want to take care of a Brandi like her society doesn’t want to take care of a Brandi.

“She’d be way more trouble than she’s worth.  Isn’t there a place for people like that?”

And my heart cries out, “Where, O God, are Your people to prove this evil judgment wrong?  Why are we satisfying ourselves with flimsy excuses while unwanted adoptable children are being treated as we ourselves would not want to be treated?”


Look at this child again.  This is Katie two years ago, three months away from coming home.



She was nine years old, wearing size one diapers.  A size twelve month sleeper was big and baggy on her.



One year later at age ten she was growing into a size three.

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Here she is this morning at the breakfast table, wearing a size five at age eleven.  She cheerfully held her own cup to drink her morning juice and chewed up her scrambled egg.



It’s fun to see Katie’s progress, and we praise God for it, but that’s not what makes Katie a blessing.

Katie is a blessing, progress or no progress.

Tommy is a blessing, progress or no progress.

Children are a blessing from the hand of God, period.  If we don’t have eyes to see it, then we need new eyes.  We shouldn’t be able to bear it that people are throwing people away!


O LORD God, I plead with you, make good on Your word.  Finish the good work You have begun for the cast-out ones in Pleven and all throughout Bulgaria.  Break up our cynical, lethargic, self-centered hearts, give us new eyes that see as You see, and stir us to active obedience.  Please show who You are through us.  I am asking and trusting You for this grace in Jesus’ name!  Amen.










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30 Responses to “Will He not make it good? Two years in Pleven”

  1. sabrina says:

    Wow! The pictures of Katie two years ago are still a shock to see. The contrast between now and then is amazing. Such a beautiful, precious girl. Brandi is too…praying that a family claims her as their own and that the rest of the available children are listed soon.

  2. Kim says:

    Adding my sincere “Amen” to your prayers.  He is faithful!  Look at what He’s done so far…amazing!!!!

  3. Colleen says:

    Beautiful post Susanna! I was lucky enough to meet Brandi in June, she is a beautiful little girl and desperately needs the love of a family!!

  4. lizzie says:

    http://www.jesuslovesorphans.blogspot.ca        Did a post on miss sweetness too.    Thank you Susanna for being so faithful to all of the waiting children.   xoxoxo

  5. Ashlee says:

    My children are from Pleven. Home one month. Here is our blog. http://continuingourjourney.blogspot.com/ 
    our one son is not doing well at all. :( 
    be blessed

  6. Amy says:

    Praying with you for Brandi’s family.  Our God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. Eph 3:20.  Waiting in breathless anticipation to SEE His plan unfold.  Love you, my friend.

  7. Amber says:

    I’ve been following your blog since before you brought Katy home, and I truly wish that I COULD bring one (or more) of these precious children home. It is beyond criminal the way they are thrown away and left in laying rooms to die. I’ve raised several children, one of which has special needs of his own. The concept that he would have simply been “discarded” if his father and I had for some reason been unable to care for him, well, it horrifies me. He may have issues, but he’s smart, loving, curious, and a handful of handfuls.
    A lot of people simply aren’t in a position to bring orphans home, no matter how much we may want to. We don’t have the financial means to do so. And to be honest, I’m tired. I don’t think I could handle raising more children at this point. My son is only 19, and still requires a lot of support. That may sound like an excuse, but, it is what it is. Between his health issues and mine, there’s just not much left to go around. I’m drained. But I pray. For every child you post about at Pleven, and all the other orphanages. It’s not enough. But it’s all I have to offer.

  8. MamaV says:

    Susanna, this is awesome. God is awesome. Thanks for the update! I can’t wait to have Garnet home in my arms…

  9. Shannon says:

    Yes! Thanks so much for this update. Praying for Brandi and the hearts of His people everywhere.

  10. Susanna says:

    Amber, we don’t qualify to adopt right now, either. Our beds are full. :) But there are MANY people who qualify and know they qualify who will never act on it and that is a tragedy to those of us who have been there and seen the need of the children and know how little they have compared with how much we have to give.

  11. Jen says:

    To those considering, we didn’t – either time – have the obvious financial means either. That’s what it means to step out in faith. WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT RISK, THERE IS NO OPPORTUNITY TO EXERCISE SIGNIFICANT FAITH. Abraham putting Isaac on the altar, David with five pebbles … these were the junctures in their lives that made them spiritual giants. As long as we keep playing it safe and relying on the resources we can see and count, we will remain spiritually dwarfed.

  12. Melissa says:

    Those two Katies…they’re not the same girls, and yet they are. I can see the healthy girl hovering over the thin one. How did she survive NINE YEARS like that? Was God whispering to her, “Hold on, little one, your mama and daddy are coming.” He gave her strength to survive. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.
    O Lord, give us boldness. Give us courage. Give us peace to lean on You as we walk this road.

  13. Jen says:

    People hold a funeral for a nameless, faceless boy who died in an orphanage in EE. Just so that his life mattered to someone. http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/2013/08/weeping-oer-grave.html

  14. Laura says:

    Amen, Susannah!

  15. Susanna says:

    Thank you so much for letting me know, Ashlee! I read back through your blog updates a bit and want to say that you are doing a wonderful job even if you can’t see much in the way of results up close. Judah is doing much better than I expected him to during this demanding transition time considering his institutional autism. MUCH better! I hope this encourages you in your very hard job of loving a child who doesn’t seem to be responding. Not only was Judah in Pleven longer than Misha, he was not an orphanage favorite like Misha was. Misha got SO much more interaction and affection and many more experiences in his life, just by being able to walk and interact. But Judah is a smart boy and he knows you love him, and even if it’s a long haul for him, living in the midst of your unconditional love and complete acceptance WILL make a difference. Hang in there, friend, it looks messy up close but beautiful from here. I am putting Judah and you on our family prayer list. Email me anytime: susanna@theblessingofverity.com xoxoxoxox

  16. Tricia says:

    Hi Susanna, I can’t remember if it was you or someone else I heard is from. But I got an email not long ago about donating used sure steps for orphans. I have 2 pairs of Kamdyn’s old ones, and her orthotics guy wants to help in collecting other used ones if there is somewhere to donate them. Was that you I heard that from? I loved seeing an update on your famiLy. You are very blessed : ) 

  17. Katie says:

    I work as a preschool special educator, and would love to hear about opportunities to work with the Pleven staff to teach them how to use the toys and developmental equipment. I work with a wide range of special needs children, from profound global delays, DS, speech delays, to FAS/ drug effected kiddos and many others. I would enjoy the opportunity to make a difference in more lives, if possible.

  18. Jennifer says:

    I so love seeing the pictures of Katie.  The “playground” I found so terribly haunting because it wasn’t used much and so small.  We deeply value our Pleven treasure, who interestingly had the same “inadequate” word used in his paperwork; I believe it was in relation to his brain development…I can’t remember now.  I am now the proud mother of THE happiest, most adorable child in the world.  The fact that he’s not able to speak well is immaterial.  He charms EVERYONE he meets.  It amazes me that so many families passed his file by, but then I know that he was meant to be ours.  Praying for Brandi…it is WORTH THE RISK!

  19. Tami says:

    Thank you for the update, Susannah.  I’ve followed Katie’s story since the beginning, but it is still unbelievable and shocking to see her before and after pictures together like that.  It is SOOO good to see her so happy and chunky.   And I’m so very grateful to hear a little more news about the situation over there; we’ve been longing for more news.  My children asked me just yesterday morning what was happening with the old director.  Many prayers for your family & Brandi and many others…

  20. Jen says:

    The difference still shocks me!  Such amazing progress and I love Katie’s pigtails! 

    I hope Brandi’s family finds her soon!

  21. Still amazing to see how Katie has bloomed and grown, it is just amazing…..  praying for you all and for the ones still needing a forever family.   Thanks for your update.  It always good to know how we can pray and how things are going.  Praying that Brandi is found soon by a family.  I know God is working!!!!

  22. Missy says:

    I remember looking at the pictures of you and Katie as you traveled and being upset that you looked so upset. You didn’t look happy to see her, more horrified. Then as I read more, I realized you were shocked and scared for her. I am sorry that you had to face that place, but oh my goodness, I am so thankful that you did. 

  23. LisaL says:

    I often think and pray for the children still in Pleven.  I wish that we were in a position to adopt one of these angels.  I worked many years with children that had profound physical, mental and medical issues.  I know that our family would be able to accept one of these beautiful children into our lives.  Unfortunately we are not at a stable place right now financially.  We are currently living with my inlaws as we lost our house due to mounting medical bills.  I pray that we will be able to get on our feet again so that we too can answer what I believe is a calling that God has placed on my heart.  I have felt for awhile that I have a daughter out there somewhere that has not yet found us.  Hoping others will add us to their prayers so that we can answer what God is calling us to do.  Much love to your family!!  I have been following your story since before Katy came home.  She is so beautiful (as are all your kids)!  It has been amazing watching her grow and change!  It’s amazing what love and nutrition does for a child!!

  24. Susanna says:

    Lisa, thank you so much for sharing this. If you don’t mind emailing me with your last name I will add you to our family prayer list. We have a list of families we pray for who have an open heart to adopt and are facing some obstacle(s). Thank you again for writing! susanna@theblessingofverity.com

  25. Susanna says:

    Katie, thank you so much for reaching out with this offer! I’m going to email you with what I know so far…

  26. Susanna says:

    Tricia, thanks for writing! A friend of mine was collecting used orthotics for children in an orphanage in India before she went over there herself recently. I know there are other places that could use old ones for non-ambulatory kids, just to help their feet stay in better alignment, but I’m sorry I’m not aware of anything more specific. If anyone else reads this and can jump in with more info, please do!

  27. Beck says:

    Susanna, I think you are the Susanna that commented on my blog you found through Patti Rice’s blog.  I just wanted you to know that I have been following your blog for quite some time and have been praying for you and your family.  I am so grateful that you followed God’s leading, have made such a difference in the lives of Katie and Tommy and have helped to make changes for the children of Pleven.  I look at the pictures of the little ones I held in college and it breaks my heart that they most likely never saw their situations improve.  I pray that the changes in Pleven will continue and it will spread to other orphanages in Bulgaria and beyond.  The children are priceless and seeing their condition cannot leave a person unchanged.  
    I had little Chad’s picture in my bible, praying for a family for him.  Praise God he has a family.  I am now putting Brandi’s picture in my bible to pray for her family to step forward.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking up for these children!

  28. Lauren S. says:

    I wanted you to know I’m praying you find answers to Tommy’s stomach and bowel issues.  We were blessed to find a solution to my son’s skin issues, and I’m praying the same for you.  Though the solution for my son takes much sacrifice and diligent hard work, it is worth it to have something that works so clearly for him.  (And this is not meant to be read as pressure to give us an update!!  I just wanted you to know I’m praying.) 

  29. Anna T says:

    Thanks for the update, thankful for the improvement and continuing to pray for a positive change in this country (and others).  Praying for you and yours,  Anna  

  30. Katie says:

    Wow, I’m more behind on your blog than you are ;) just kidding – you keep focusing on those kids!  I just read this tonight and cried a little bit, just seeing Katie the way she was, versus how she is now… she is and has always been beautiful and perfect, but seeing the signs of neglect on her that so should not have been there is something I will never get used to.  My heart truly breaks that Brandi has not been chosen yet… that every single child does not yet have a family lined up.  But on the plus side… I remember when I first read Katie’s story nearly two years ago, I vowed that if there were still children in Pleven in need of adoption when I was in a position to adopt them, I would go.  I will be 25 in April.  We are so very close to having all those precious souls in families.  But I will still go… to the next ‘Pleven’.  To wherever the children are who need families.  …just as soon as I move out of my mother’s basement… I don’t know, I guess I’m rambling, but the dichotomy of now vs. then is really moving in both good ways and bad.  So much work has been done, and so much is left to do.  We won’t rest until every child has a family who loves and wants them and whose lives wouldn’t be the same without them – just as yours is for Katie and Tommy.

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