Westmont Magazine The Christmas Children
They went as part of a church delegation to help a humanitarian organization check out Russian orphanages. But by the end of the year, Bruceand Patti Nygren ’74 Bunje had adopted two orphans and brought them home to Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It’s a dream come true,” Patti told the local newspaper when they returned just two days before Christmas 1997.
Yulya, their daughter, is 9, and Sergei, her brother, is 13. How they found their new parents and came to a new country is a story of awakening, intrigue, and hope.
Bruce and Patti left for Russia in June 1997 with a group from their church, Woodmen Valley Chapel, led by Executive Pastor Roger Simmons. They went on behalf of Children’s Hope Chest, an international humanitarian group working with orphanages in Russia. The group wants to start a “halfway house” program for children who have reached age 16 and are no longer eligible under Russian law for state support.
The delegation’s job was to run a vacation Bible school at one of the orphanages in Mstyora, about 125 miles from Moscow. What they discovered, unexpectedly, were new members of their families.
Patti and Bruce, who previously had no children, found Yulya, now Kaitlin Yulya Elizabeth, and Sergei, now Kevin Sergei Matthew. The couple says the kids stole their hearts on that first trip.
“I remember watching Sergei walk out the door with a Frisbee in his hand,” Bruce told the newspaper, “And I remember thinking almost spontaneously, ’I better get to know that boy better, he might be my son someday.’ ”
The Bunjes were not the only ones to fall in love.
The pastor and his wife adopted 11-year-old Jenya. Three other couples adopted children they met there.
Once they decided to adopt, though, all had to race the clock to finish the reams of paperwork that would allow them to bring the children to the United States. Russian lawmakers, reacting to two widely publicized stories of Americans abusing adopted Russian children, were threatening to severely curtail adoptions after Jan. 1 of this year.
Patti and Bruce adopted Kevin and Kaitlin just days before.
It was a Christmas to remember for them all.