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NC Family Helping Russian Orphans

August 19, 1999

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A family that adopted an ailing Russian boy and watched a spindly, seemingly retarded youngster blossom into an active 7-year-old are now doing that good deed one better: They’ve sold almost all their possessions and are going to Moscow to help other orphans.

Inspired by their adoption of Andrei and their strong religious faith, Tom Sullivan, a hotel manager, and his wife, Roslyn, sold their Charlotte home and plan to spend the next nine months volunteering at a Moscow orphanage.

They and their children, John-David, 15, Sarah, 11, and Andrei, will be starting on their new journey Thursday evening.

``They are willing to sacrifice that which so many people felt was the real goal of life and put that aside and seek something that was far more valuable,″ said Rodger Loving, a family friend from Sarasota, Fla.

The Sullivans will live and work at Moscow Training Center, an orphanage and school run by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a nonprofit group based in Oak Brook, Ill., whose home school curriculum the Sullivans use.

George Mattix, the institute’s international director, said most institute missionaries store their belongings and rent out their home _ but not the Sullivans. They saved only a few possessions for themselves _ baseball cards for John-David, heirloom china for Mrs. Sullivan.

Three years ago, Andrei, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, lived in a big playpen in Baby House No. 10, a Moscow orphanage, scarcely able to crawl or talk. His diet was bread, porridge and buttermilk, and his caretakers thought him hopelessly mentally retarded.

The Sullivans were thinking of adopting, but had in mind a girl, a healthy American girl.

Mrs. Sullivan had told just two people of the family’s decision. By coincidence, one had a friend who worked with Russian orphans and learned that Andrei was about to be transferred from Baby House No. 10 to a place where he would receive less attention and might not survive.

Andrei was not a girl, not healthy and not American. But after some soul-searching, the Sullivans faxed the orphanage, pledging to adopt him. Ten months later, they were in Moscow, holding 5-year-old Andrei in their arms.

``He was not stimulated mentally, physically, spiritually,″ Mrs. Sullivan said.

``You look in these faces and you see the need and the lack of joy.″

Now, Andrei gets around on one crutch and performs schoolwork at grade level. He speaks clearly, answering questions with a quiet, ``Yes, ma’am.″ When his mother remarks that ``he didn’t understand concepts like family, brother, sister, dog,″ he chimes in: ``Or furniture.″

``God knew how hard we had been praying (for a girl), but at the same time, he knew what would be best,″ Mrs. Sullivan said.

It was during the trip to get Andrei that the Sullivans got their first look at the Moscow Training Center. The Sullivans liked what they saw so much that this past June they decided to move there. After nine months, they will return to Charlotte for three months, then decide what to do next.

Andrei is excited to be visiting his old home, but doesn’t intend to overstay his welcome.

``We will go to Baby House No. 10 and after that, we will go back to the apartment,″ he says firmly.

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