The first time Mike Rosser saw the orphanage in Spassk-Dilny, Russia, it changed his life. He saw a forgotten bicycle in the yard. It was old and rusty; the chain was broken; the handlebars were crooked; it had no tires, only metal rims. But the children played with it anyway.
Realizing most of the children would never get adopted, Rosser wanted to help.
“I want to take them all home, but I obviously can’t,” Mike Rosser said. “So what can I do? These orphanages work on shoestring budgets. They are given very little money, plus the system is so corrupt.”
Mike and Michelle Rosser were married for nine years when they decided to adopt. The journey to find their family was an emotional ride through miles of red tape, but they say it was worth it.
Mike Rosser, a favorite among the neighborhood kids, bakes cookies to deliver to his primary class almost every week. A dedicated football fan, Mike rarely misses a Utes game. His wife, Michelle, works from home for a local software company as she balances her new job as a full-time mom. Their life has become all about the kids.
The journey to find their children took them to Russia, where David and Katya waited to meet them.
For the Rossers, it was love at first sight.
“Once you see (the children) you get to say if you accept them,” Mike Rosser said. “Some people see them and say they don’t want them. There was no way in the world we were going to do that. We instantly fell in love with both of them.”
Mike Rosser laughs as he remembers seeing five-year-old David for the first time and thinking, “Look, there he is! Look! Look at that big Russian head.”
Almost a year went by before they discovered David is moderately deaf.
The four-hour drive to Spassk to meet Katya “was like driving in an ice cube,” Mike Rosser said. It was so cold the windows were frozen except for a small defrosted space on the windshield where the driver could see.
When they were introduced to Katya, she wouldn’t look at them, but at the floor. The three-year-old girl was absolutely terrified. Later, they would sit at a distance, watching her, while she played games with her teacher.
The final step in the approval process would come from the Russian court. However, an adoption debacle with woman named Torry Hansen delayed them several months.
Adoption Ark coordinator Ally Griffith handled the Rossers’ adoption. She said that every adoption has its bumps and paperwork snafus, but despite the Rossers’ abundant delays, they never gave up.
“They handled it without complaint,” Griffith said. “So many parents get angry and frustrated. They were so peaceful and handled the news so gracefully.”
Adoption Ark manager Elinia Filippova said she was impressed with Mike Rosser’s fortitude.
“It was very nice to see someone so devoted to making an adoption such a success,” Filippova said.
When Russia began allowing American adoptions again, Mike and Michelle were granted a court date. To get there on time they took three red-eye flights and chased the sun for 39 hours. Upon arrival, the couple was exhausted but excited to see the children they would finally get to take home.
Both Mike and Michelle cringe when they think about their day in Russian court. While waiting outside the courtroom, they discovered their case would be heard by the same judge that handled the Torry Hansen case.
“They told us, ‘Beware, she is gonna go after you,'” Mike Rosser said.
After a grilling by the judge, the Rossers were approved and after more than seven months, David and Katya were coming home.
“They just lit up when they saw us,” Mike Rosser said. “We were so afraid they were going to forget, but they both remembered us.”
After more than a year of trying to find each other, the new family finally arrived home on Aug. 13, 2010 to begin a new journey –- this time together.
Today, Mike Rosser helps the orphans he left behind through his non-profit organization Helping Orphans Around the World. Working with Adoption Ark to find those most in need, he collects clothing and cash donations, then delivers the goods to the designated orphanage. He made his first delivery in November of 2011.
“The director in Vladivostock, I actually saw tears when she saw the shoes,” Mike Rosser said. “She was so grateful for those.”
Currently, Mike is raising money for new furniture for the orphanage is Spassk-Dilny.