I've spent a lot of time talking about Nasko's cognitive, speech, physical and emotional development on this blog, but I'd like to share about the most important developmental domain of all: Nasko's spiritual development!
The Reverend and I work to keep God first in everything. We attempt to weave Him and His attributes throughout our day.
The day we were given Nasko's original file and his referral photo, we began praying for him and his salvation. We prayed that even if we were not the parents God chose for him, that he would still have a relationship with his Heavenly Father.
Now that he lives under our roof, we're doing everything we can to expose him to Jesus and the forgiveness and freedom found in a relationship with Him.
And here's how we are doing it:
1. Through Song
Nasko loves music and responds very, very well to it. Shortly after he came home, we made reading the bible [or as he calls it, the "Jesus book"] part of our daily bedtime routine. Especially when he first came home, Nasko didn't understand the stories, so I would try to pull out important points or words that he understood [example: Jesus choosing the disciples turned into "Jesus. Friends. 12." or Jesus healing the bleeding woman became "Sick. Ouch. Touch Jesus. All-better! Happy!"]
I felt as though the stories needed something else to help Nasko remember what he was learning, so when possible, I began singing a song while pointing at the pictures.
For example, when we read the story of Jesus chosing his diciples, I would sing "There Were Twelve Disciples."
Here's a cheesy youtube version, in case you're unfamiliar [as the Reverend was]:
Also, anytime Jesus healed a sick person, we'd sing "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise Ye The Lord!"
Here's a video of us singing that one. Nasko can now sing and sign the whole song on his own:
We sometimes even have to make up song; like the one about the ten lepers that Jesus healed.
[To the tune of One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians]
One little, two little, three little lepers
Four little, five little, six little lepers,
Seven little, eight little, nine little lepers
Ten lepers Jesus healed!
2. Through Church Attendance
Before Nasko came home, my mom and I were obsessively stalking every blogsite of families who had recently adopted children from Bulgaria. One of them mentioned not taking their child to church for six months after the adoption was finalized. The well-meaning parent did not want to overwhelm the child and wanted proper attachment to take place without hindrances.
While I understand the idea of not overwhelming a newly adopted child, I also know that children need a variety of experiences and exposures. They need stimulation from many different sources [Especially the Nask-inator. He desperately seeks stimulation.] And in our family, church is not optional.
Now, when Nasko first came home, I spent the first two months with him in Children's Church and Sunday School. I wanted to continually work on our attachment bond, and I wanted to be his voice, as most of his communication was difficult to understand at that point.
Our church is developing an AWESOME special needs ministry (of which Nasko is a pioneer) and I am now blessed with the freedom of leaving him with his one-on-one buddy during our Sunday morning services, but had we not been in such an accommodating church family, I would still be accompanying him to church every week.
Nasko knows where our church building is; he regularly asks us to take him there, and tells us where to turn along the way. He also recognizes our friends that go to our church. He knows many members of his Christian family, and he has demonstrated that he trusts most of these people.
The Reverend and I host a homegroup meeting in our home twice monthly. We met in other people's houses for a few months, but have recently started hosting again. We want Nasko to know that our church family is always welcome in our home, and that they are part of our extended family.
3. Through Prayer
Since Nasko's first full day in our home, we have been teaching him to pray. We always pray before meals, before nap, and before bedtime. We began by teaching him a very simple repetitive prayer that was signed and spoken:
Thank you God, for food, Mama, and Taty. Amen.
After Nasko began to understand a little about Jesus, we also added Him to the prayer!
Thank you God, for food, Mama, Taty, and Jesus. Amen.
Within the past month, Nasko has begun to understand that we should thank God for things we like. He regularly adds to our basic prayer and includes whatever is currently on his mind. Here are some of the things that Nasko has thanked God for:
Allen, Taty's truck, toys, Polly [babysitter], motorcycles [we don't own one - so just motorcycles in general!], hot dogs, bananas, trampoline, cows, chocolate, the park, Amy's house [it has a pool], the teeth doctor, Baba, Diado, Joel, Leylah Libby, the stuffed chicken, etc.
It's been very neat to have a glimpse into the things that matter the most to Nasko. It's also cool to watch him express his thankfulness to the One who provides for our basic needs and our unnecessary wants. Of course Nasko does not fully grasp the giving nature of God, but let's be honest, I don't either. We can all be thankful though, despite our inability to fully understand!
4. Through Apologies
When Nasko does something wrong, we require him to apologize to the person [or animal] which he has wronged. If he kicks the dog, he must tell Allen that he is sorry. If he does not listen to his grandmother, he must apologize to Baba.
In the same way, when this mama loses her patience [no, never...] I have to tell Nasko that I am sorry. Chance and I regularly ask Nasko for forgiveness when we have failed him.
In the bible, it is clear that we should forgive one another's wrongs and confess our sins to each other. We want Nasko to learn how to admit wrongdoing, and accept apologies from others. We also know that it is easier to confess and forgive when the other person is concrete and within close proximity. Soon we hope to teach Nasko to be able to confess his wrongdoings to his Heavenly Father - someone who is more abstract and not physically present to assure Nasko of his forgiveness.
5. Through Memory Work
We have not yet started this, and I am not sure how it will look in our lives, but we plan to soon begin teaching Nasko to memorize scripture.
I have located a list (or two) of some important scriptures to memorize. They cover a variety of topics and attributes. I plan to simplify these verses and incorporate them into our daily lives somehow. Right now I'm thinking something that can be done in the car. I haven't figured this out yet, but that goes to show that we must always be seeking Christ and working on our relationship with Him. Right now we have five categories of spiritual development for Nasko, but in a year, I hope to have fifteen!
Chance and I adopted Nasko. We've given him a wonderful and loving home. We are meeting his basic needs and then some [can you say "daily servings of hot dogs"?]. We would lay down our lives for him, but if we cannot assist him in knowing the Lord, everything we have done has been in vain. Yes, Nasko has made tremendous progress cognitively and verbally, but if he is not growing spiritually while in our home, we've accomplished nothing.
We continue to daily pray that he will seek God with everything in him.