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12 orphans from Kharkiv, Ukraine, are living with host families around Knoxville for the next three weeks

December 28, 2009, 10:00 4088 Author: Sean Dreher www.wbir.com This holiday season, one East Tennessee family is working to help orphans who live thousands of miles away. Their efforts have brought a dozen children to host families around Knoxville

Stephen Eimers helps orphans from Ukraine as they visited the First Baptist Church of Concord Sunday

Stephen Eimers organized the trip. Two years ago his family adopted three boys from the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

"This trip, it's a cultural exchange. It's about giving these 12 kids from where my sons are from; Kharkiv, the trip of a lifetime, raising awareness about them, getting people to ask that next question, 'What should I be doing?'," Eimers said.

The children speak only Russian, but language is proving to be little obstacle with their host families.

"The communication barrier was a concern for us, but the second they walked through the door of our house it was gone and we were able to communicate very well. To see our children interact with these children and then see these children interact with our children, just has been an incredible experience, far more than that what I would have ever envisioned before we started this adventure," Thomas Bennett of Knoxville said.

"God has really put a desire in our heart to minister to Russian people, this was a great opportunity to have her come and stay with us," Angelia Blalock of Knoxville said.

The visit is not a trial run for adoption, rather a chance to recognize the needs of others through the eyes of children.

"This is the trip of a lifetime, but it changes the abstract of a child that's in peril out there, to a child that is right here and concrete. It forces you to say 'What should I be doing?'. Whether that's advocacy or foster care here in the U.S., it forces you to ask that question," Eimers said.

Saturday marked the two year anniversary of the Eimers' adoption of their three sons, Max, Misha and Vitali. They have a blog documenting their experiences in the adoption process.

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