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DL couple to bring home three Russian siblings

When Kris and Jess Buller, Detroit Lakes, decided to expand their family, they knew they wanted to adopt and they knew they wanted a sibling group.

July 7-13, they made their first visit to see their children -- Ivan, 7, Anna, 5, and Micah, 3 -- in Russia.

They are hoping to return in September to bring the children home with them.

"For us, it's been a process," Kris said of adoption. "We've talked about it since before we were married."

He said he's always been open to adoption because he and his sister are adopted.

Jess agreed that even if they had their own children, they still wanted to adopt.

"I've always wanted to (adopt), ever since I can remember," Jess said.

"Scripture says to look after the orphans and widows and take care of them," Kris said. "So, it's biblical too, but it's more than that. It's what we wanted to do."

The Bullers looked into different countries to adopt from, but found siblings in Haiti they wanted to pursue. (They were adopted soon after being posted on the Internet.)

To keep their options open, the Bullers also went to a meeting with European Children Adoption Services of Plymouth. Friends Connie and Boyd Johnson, Detroit Lakes, had adopted a son from Russia, and mentioned the option to the Bullers.

Earlier this month, the two flew from Minneapolis to Chicago, to Frankfurt, Germany to Perm, Russia. They were then driven two and a half to three hours to Kudymkar, where they stayed in a hotel. Their children were in an orphanage 15 minutes from Kudymkar.

Kris and Jess said they chose international adoption because of the children they have seen around the world. Kris, a youth pastor at Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes, and Jess have traveled to several countries, and although there are children needing to be adopted in the United States, there is a greater need in other countries, they said.

"There's something special about kids from other countries," Jess said.

Bullers got to meet their children the first day they were there. By the second day, the children were calling them momma and poppa and giving them hugs.

The orphanage housed 70 children, but was broken into smaller sections. There were 10-11 children in Ivan, Anna and Micah's area.

Each child was assigned a number, which identified everything from their toothbrush to their bed.

"The kids seemed very well taken care of," Kris said.

"They don't get love and affection, but their needs were definitely met," Jess added.

Kris and Jess got to see the children a total of seven times, and each time, the two noticed more and more characteristics of their new family.

"It was neat. We would see a bit more of the kids' personalities," Jess said.

Ivan was talkative -- although they couldn't understand him at all -- and was the adventurer of the group.

Anna was a bit of a ham, crossing her legs and licking her long, slender fingers each time she turned the page in a book.

Micah "could be a stinker" and liked attention. He wanted "Poppa" to hold him constantly.

While at the orphanage, the Bullers got to visit with a caregiver, doctor, social worker and psychologist.

The caregiver took the time to describe each child, traits the Bullers were learning already.

The caregiver described Anna as "friendly and kindhearted," Ivan as "doesn't like conflict and needs praise," and Micah as "can be naughty sometimes, but still a good kid."

Jess said she and her husband laughed at the description of Micah.

"We had already picked up on that," Kris said.

Also in Russia, Kris and Jess went to the Board of Education to sign papers that they intended to adopt the three children. They received paperwork that included court transcripts of when the children were taken from their birth parents, psychological exams and medical records.

Before going, the Bullers were told there was another sibling, but he was younger and located in a different orphanage because he had never bonded with the other three siblings.

"It's hard because they don't tell you details, so you have assumptions," Jess said.

Their assumption was Alex, the fourth sibling, was a baby. In truth, he is only a year younger than Micah and had lived with the other siblings as a family until they were all taken from their parents.

They have been living in the orphanage for one year.

The Bullers are now looking into the location of Alex to see about possibly adopting him as well.

In the paperwork, they had to complete information for changing the kids' birth certificates. The Bullers decided how they would spell each child's name -- Ivan and Anna translated into English, but Micah they renamed from Ruslan, which has no English translation.

Kris said his favorite part of being with the kids was tickling and chasing the kids because they laughed so hard.

"You can't communicate (through words), but you communicate through other things," Jess said.

Jess taught Anna the meaning of kissing someone goodbye on the cheek, possibly the first affection the children have been shown in their lives.

She said her favorite part of the whole trip was in the morning of when they were to leave, the translator asked the children if they liked Kris and Jess, if they wanted them to become their new family, and if the children wanted to move to the United States with their new momma and poppa. The kids said yes.

When Kris and Jess came back that afternoon to visit their children one last time, they were told how proud Ivan was of his new home and new family. He showed everyone photos of his new house, dog and bedroom, and talked non-stop about his new family.

Hearing of his pride, Jess said she had to cry.

"As teenagers, I hope they'll still be proud to have us as a family," she said.

The translator that traveled with the Bullers in Russia is coming to Minnesota in August, and plans to take back photos and letters from Kris and Jess to their children.

"At least they'll know we're still thinking about them," Kris said.

Until then, the Bullers are preparing for their new, expanded family.

"Everything has gone so fast, we're not completely prepared yet," Kris said.

They are still getting bedrooms arranged in their house, picking up clothes and changing health and life insurance.

They have found an outpouring of support though -- from prayers to money, bunk beds to a van.

"Once you're going to adopt, all the people just come out of the woodwork and want to help," Jess said. "We're blessed and thankful to all the people we know and don't know and how supportive they've been."