Mormon family nearly doubles in size: 5 adopted sisters from Ukraine

Published: Thursday, June 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"The faith that these girls had to have was incredible," Luke said. "They had to trust these complete strangers who don't even speak their language, who come from a different country — and they're supposed to get on a plane and go away from everything they knew, and trust us. They had a belief in God, even though they didn't go to church; they knew Heavenly Father was preparing them for this."

The change was very drastic for the sisters, who never had access to toilets that flush or showers.

Luke was quick to learn that her ideas were not always what the girls were most comfortable with. When the girls finally came to the Lukes' home, Lee-Ann Luke had made arrangements for only two girls to be in each bedroom.

"I thought they would be thrilled just to have two of them sharing a room, to have these new beds and new stuff," Luke said. "But the first night I went in and they were all in one bed together and wanted to sleep together. They were more comfortable being with each other."

As far as adapting to the English language, Luke said it was only about two months before they were speaking fluently. While American food was not their favorite, their eyes lit up after seeing the produce section of a grocery store.

But it was after tucking her new daughters into bed for the first few nights that Luke realized how amazed her daughters were at fresh food.

"I would go tuck them in at night, and kiss them good night, and their pillowcases would be packed with food," Luke said. "They brought food from downstairs and put it in their pillowcases because they just didn't believe that it would be there the next day."

Although the adoption — and continual financial demands — tightened the Lukes' budget, it has never been something they have regretted.

"The financial hardship was really rough — there's no question about it. We weren't millionaires. We ended up having to sell our house to pay for the adoption," Luke said. "But when Heavenly Father asks you to do something, it's easier to do it than to not do it, and have to explain to him why you didn't."

The love the Lukes have felt for their adopted children has never deviated from their feelings for the rest of their kids.

"Dave and I personally have never felt difference between, 'These are my adopted kids and these are our birth kids.' They are all our kids," Luke said.

"I always tell the ones that are adopted that they are just as much a part of our family as the ones that I gave birth to. They were all meant to be with us, just some of them were delivered in a different way. They were always meant to be my children. I don't know why somebody else had to give birth to them."

Sealed to five new daughters

Before returning to the United States, the Lukes introduced Ana, Ellen and Katherine to the LDS Church through the sister missionaries in Ukraine. The girls learned the basic principles of the church in their native language before leaving to America, where they finished their gospel-oriented lessons.

"We wanted them to know that the religion wasn't just an American religion, but international," Luke said.

Once arriving in America, the girls attended church with the Lukes and were welcomed by the ward.

Lee-Ann Luke's father flew down to visit with his new granddaughters. His parents were originally from Ukraine and he could speak with the sisters fluently.

Ana, Ellen and Katherine were preparing for baptism and the baptismal interview. Although Luke's father is not a member of the LDS Church, he attended each interview in order to help interpret for them.

"It was a huge help to have him be a part of it, and to be able to have him tell me what they were thinking," Luke said.

In February 2006, the three eldest sisters were baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just a few days later, the Lukes joined with their five birth children and five adopted children to be sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple.

"They're part of our forever family," Luke said. "They know they are adopted. We talk about their adoption all the time, but how we feel that they're a part of our family — it's all the same. It's how our birth kids feel, too. They are their brothers and sisters."

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