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The connection is being built gradually.
Masha and Slava Osgood have slowly started to fall into a routine in their Eclectic home with their adoptive parents Mark and Beth Osgood. The siblings arrived from an orphanage in the Ukraine last fall and are starting a new life from scratch - learning how to say the word "bread" in English and completing daily chores such as making their beds and setting the table.
Masha, 15, and Slava, 13, were adopted after being brought to Alabama for a visit by the Millbrook-based Bridges of Faith International in December 2010. Over the past year, the ministry has flown in 38 children from the Ukraine. Ten adoptions have been finalized.
The Osgoods met Masha and Slava at the BridgeStone Prayer and Retreat Center just north of Autauga County last year. They didn't visit the center with the intention of adopting a child, but over time, Beth Osgood said the couple "felt God was preparing us to take care of a child or two."
"I knew enough to not say no," Mark Osgood said, "because it might be God's plan."
The couple has an older son, 21-year-old Nate, and went from being empty nesters to parents with two teenagers who speak a different language.
A teacher by trade, Beth Osgood homeschools Masha and Silva, and said the children have developed an even better grasp of English in the past three months. But for more in-depth questions, the family refers to a translating program through Google, which allows them to go back and forth with the English and Ukrainian languages.
"It was hard to leave everything behind in the Ukraine," Masha said through translation.
Asked what she likes about living in the U.S., the translation came through as: "I like the fact that rich friends fun. I think that I will learn English and train."
Beth Osgood laughs softly, and says, "I don't know if that means rich friendships, or ... I'm not quite sure. Compared to where they came from, I'm sure we're rich."
It initially took three years of planning and fundraising for the first group of Ukrainian children to be flown to Alabama. Bridges of Faith, which has done mission work in the Ukraine since 1995, sponsors the trips for the orphans at a total cost of $65,000. That pays for travel, legal costs and all documentation. The money is raised door-to-door and from church to church.
Adoptions must take place in the land of the child's citizenship. Before arriving in America, the Ukrainian children understand that they must return to their country as part of the adoption process. It takes about nine months for an adoption to be finalized.
Bridges of Faith brings international orphans to Bridgestone for periods up to three weeks. It brought four groups of children last year.
The Rev. Tom Benz of Bridges of Faith credits the central Alabama community for opening their homes and hosting the children at baseball games, farms, churches and businesses.
Hosting each group, he said, takes hundreds of volunteers, who help with laundry, meals, trips and coordinating other logistical functions. The groups currently are transported around the River Region and surrounding areas in an old van, a 15-year-old van Benz said the camp desperately needs to replace.
Benz said he has met and ministered to a lot of people through various mission work, but Bridges of Faith's orphan ministries holds a special place in his heart.
"I have never been part of something that strikes me as more profound, more noble, more sacred as bringing these incredible Ukrainian orphans to BridgeStone to share faith and life, and to help them find adoptive homes," he said.
Bringing the children to the River Region has doubled the need for funds at BridgeStone. That primarily comes from individuals, as well as churches and businesses.
"I will spend the next chapter in my life doing this," Benz said. "I don't have an exit strategy."
Masha and Slava are adapting. Their father died a couple of years ago, and their mother gave up parental rights. They lived in a children's home in the Ukraine for more than two years before being adopted.
The Osgoods understand that learning the English language won't happen overnight, nor will becoming accustomed to an American way of living. Mark Osgood, pastor at Eclectic United Methodist Church, said the children understand a lot when spoken to, but communicating is hard.
It is easier for the children to speak their native language, but it somewhat hinders their progression when it comes to being fluent in English. Still, their parents understand that falling back on what they know makes them feel more comfortable.
"There's a hump there that is sometimes hard to get over," Mark Osgood said. "I think it's so new, and they want to hold on to what is familiar."
The two are immersed in the English language when they attend activities; Masha takes dance lessons and attends youth group at Eclectic UMC, and Slava plays organized basketball.
Beth Osgood, who went from working full-time to part-time as an environmental specialist with the ITT department at Maxwell Air Force Base, teaches the children in English most of the time.
"They won't get much out of anything else if they don't know English," she said. "We don't want them to forget the Ukraine, but we want them to use the language."
Mark and Beth Osgood said the children have responded well to the transition: they follow a chore chart on the refrigerator - picture association is important - play board and card games, and although they may not understand what they are reading, they are able to read to their adoptive parents.
As they settle in, their needs and wants differ. Masha, for instance, wants more children from her orphanage to come here, specifically friends Leila and Maxim; Slava wants a dog.
"This is one of the hardest things they'll do in their lives, making the transition from one culture to another," Mark Osgood said. "We've had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun, even though it is hard at times."
Beth Osgood describes the experience as a balancing act.
"They need some of the things that are familiar," she said. "It certainly has enlarged our hearts and families. Our horizons have been expanded."
Mark Osgood said it is good to have the children in the home, to "see them blossom. There have been big changes. That has been exciting. We have to have wisdom to know where to push, if they need to be pushed.
"The adoption was a choice," Mark Osgood said. "But once you choose, there's no turning back."
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