The End Has Come: Love Wins

Part 6 of the Featured Families Series

The children on the regular program have returned back to their home countries, and their host families look around to realize how quickly these children became family.  Saying goodbye is hard, and they will be missed.  But no one has been unchanged from this experience.  One host mom recounts the changes she has encountered since kissing her dear host children goodbye.


By Callie Pray
Hosting two preteen siblings

Pray2Our first hosting experience is over.  Five weeks of typical American summer family activities—with two very special guests—passed in a blur, yet somehow changed my life forever. It has transformed the way I see and think about everything, even the ordinary day-to-day things.

When I make a meal at home for my family now, I hope our host kids are getting plenty of nutritious food.  When we go school shopping for my young kids at home, I think about how our host kids get whatever is issued to them and don’t get to go shopping for new clothes and shoes and school supplies.  When I proceed with the nightly prayers, bedtime stories, and tucking in our kids at home, I ache thinking about how our host kids don’t get that in their orphanage.  I have these thoughts with every single activity of my day. Since they returned to their country, our host kids are always on my mind.  I would like to think that they’re doing just fine, but statistics tell us that all too often the outcomes for orphans are dismal. Suddenly, the overwhelming orphan statistics hit very close to home since I have cared for two of them in our own home.

Hosting certainly had its ups and downs with challenges, breakthroughs, and rewarding experiences, but undeniably the hardest part of hosting was telling our host Pray3children goodbye. We knew the day they would leave before they even arrived, so we all knew it was coming. But it still came too soon.  For two whole days before departure, any mention or thought of returning would bring on tears from them (and usually me, too). The night before departure, they were both inconsolable.  They cried for hours with me hugging them and trying my best to comfort them. The moment they woke up, they started crying again. It was heart-wrenching.  Before we knew it, we were at the airport and they were taken through airport security to their departure gate by their airline chaperone. And just like that, they were quickly beyond my physical reach and gone. After caring for their every need for the past five weeks, I suddenly had to say goodbye to two vulnerable children we had come to know and love and try to somehow function as a normal human being.

I have heard some people talk about how they hope that during the short time of hosting they are able to plant a seed of hope in Pray1their host kids, a seed that they may never see come to fruition with their own eyes. But something unexpected has happened since I last waved goodbye to our guests. While I certainly hope and pray that we were able to plant seeds of hope and love and faith in our own host children, what I didn’t expect was for a seed to be planted in me. Somehow a seed of compassion for orphans has found its way into a place in my heart that I didn’t know existed. It has taken root and is wreaking havoc on my “normal” life. It’s not just those two sweet orphans we hosted that I think about; I now think about the millions of kids around the world as very real individuals that find themselves alone through no fault of their own.  My heart now constantly aches for the countless innocent children who are longing for the love of a family, hoping for a place to belong where they are safe and loved. This aching compels me to action; I can no longer be just a spectator when there is so much to be done and so much is at stake.  Hosting is an excellent way to give orphans some of those things they long for, but above all, it gives them something even more important than things or experiences – hope.

Not everyone understands or agrees with the unconventional arrangement of orphan hosting. Some people have said it is cruel to bring orphans here, give them a taste of life in a loving American family, and then send them back to their former life. Some also do not understand why our family would take in two Pray5more children we know very little about when we already have three young children – after all, don’t we already have our hands full? Don’t we have enough children already? Don’t we want to relax over the summer break and spend time focusing on our biological children?

Well, frankly – yes. Yes, my hands are already quite full. Yes, we do have “enough” children. Yes, taking some down time over the summer and relaxing with just our bio kids would be great. And yes, it can be hard sending host kids back after they have tasted American family life and built relationships here. These observations are what the world and my own human nature tell me.

Pray4But I also hear another voice, the still small voice of the One who loved me enough to choose me when I was undeserving and took me into His family when it was, perhaps, not convenient. Because of this voice, I felt an undeniable call to step out beyond the confines of typical human nature; to do something that is rather inconvenient and doesn’t make sense to this world; a call that was relentless and allowed me no peace until I stepped out in faith and said yes. I was convinced that the One calling me to do something as crazy as to invite orphans I did not know into my home and show them unconditional love would be faithful to see me through it. And He did. I have seen firsthand how just a few weeks of love and nurture can change a child’s life. I have personally witnessed a huge improvement in two children’s self-esteem, confidence, and English fluency in just a matter of weeks. I have seen two orphans’ facial expressions transform right before my eyes because of the love they felt in those few weeks and the hope they now have. I also now know there is not much I can say or do to change the hearts and minds of people who doubt the effectiveness or value of orphan hosting.   Thankfully, it is not my job to change their hearts; only God can do that. I can only do what I know is right for me to do, and try to love as He has loved me. And if I have to choose between the voice of this world and the voice of Love, I want to choose Love. Because in the end, Love always wins.

Pray6

Comfort for the Hurting Heart

Part 5 of the Featured Families Series

Throughout hosting, the children slowly reveal their lives and personalities, their hopes and fears.  Sometimes these reveals comes in exclamations; sometimes they come in long talks around the kitchen table; sometimes they come in angry shouts; sometimes they come in tears.  Being a host parent often means comforting children through emotions they are brave enough to speak.


By Callie Pray
Hosting two preteen siblings

Pray 2nd“Mom, you stay here?” our host son asked, pointing to a spot beside him in his room as I was getting ready to tuck him in for the night.

“No,” I said with a smile. “This is YOUR room; my room is there,” I said, pointing in the direction of my bedroom.

He slowly turned around, put his head down, and dug through his dresser drawers for his pajamas. When he turned around, I could see tears rolling down his cheeks. He tried to wipe them off so I wouldn’t see, but I did.

“Mom… please stay here… me,” he pleaded in his broken English. He and his younger sister both came to our home knowing very little English. They were both quick learners, though, and were eagerly trying to put their new vocabulary to use. I had never seen this boy be anything but happy before now. For the first few nights they had stayed in our home, the siblings had opted to sleep in separate beds in our host son’s bedroom, even though we had a separate room prepared for each of them.  Tonight, however, our host daughter had happily skipped to her own room, excited and eager to have a bedroom to herself, perhaps for the first time in her life.  Just a few minutes earlier, I had tucked her into her bed, kissed her goodnight, and left her smiling with eyes already closed, ready to drift off to sleep. But now I was so confused. What in the world could have happened to cause this sweet boy to be so miserable? My heart was breaking to see him like this, and I had no idea what had brought it on.

I quickly hugged him and typed into the translating app we used, “What’s wrong?”

No answer.

I tried again, “Are you scared?”

He nodded yes.

“What are you afraid of?” I asked.

He paused for a moment, and then with wide eyes he quietly said one word: “Chucky.”

I tried to reassure him, stating that he was completely safe in our home, that Chucky is a fictional character in horror films, and that he was welcome to wake me or my husband at any time of the night if he needed us.

“Mom, please stay until I sleep,” he typed into the app.

Honestly, at first I didn’t want to. I had been up late the night before. Then our one year-old had been up during the night. And then our other two young children had me awake by 6 AM. All day I had cooked, cleaned up, done laundry, chauffeured, and cared for a total of five children. Our host son and daughter were amazing kids, but they demanded my attention almost every second of the day. Our three younger children also needed me and my attention.  I had tried my best to meet the needs of everyone in our family all day, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. There was always more to be done. I was left feeling physically and emotionally spent, and my bed was calling my name. This boy was surely worn out from the running, playing, swimming, and adventures of the day. It was preposterous to think that this nearly teenaged boy, the oldest of all five children under our roof, was the one who needed me now to help him go to sleep, and all because of a fictional doll. How could this boy be brave enough to come across the ocean to stay for five weeks with a family he knew nothing about and yet be scared to go to sleep in a room by himself? Yet here he was in front of me in obvious need of compassion and comfort.

“Is that the only thing you are afraid of?” I asked via the app.

“No,” he replied.

He proceeded to tell me some of the other movies he had seen.  Not just Chucky movies, but scores of horror films. On and on he went, naming many popular series of horror films. With one series in particular of gruesome films he counted on his hands to six, meaning he had seen all six of them. Others he named were very explicit films that in America are deemed suitable only for mature adults. When he was finally done, I asked him who had let him see all these movies.  He replied, “Kids in my orphanage.”

And then suddenly something clicked inside of me. What once before was a fuzzy notion was now crystal clear. I was one outraged momma.  It wasn’t just about the movies; rather it was the fact that perhaps there was no one in his home country paying close attention to what garbage was fed into his young mind. Not only that, but there was little time to comfort him or any of the other children in his home after watching these films; no one with hours to sit and tell them these things were not real, no one to reassure them that this would not happen to them. And if there was less time to comfort him about something as simple as what movies he watched, what about his other needs? In that instant, I fully realized for the first time that it was very likely that my husband and I just might have more of an opportunity to personally invest in this boy and his sister more than any other person on earth did. And soon they would be going back to their orphanage in their home country where we would be powerless to do much to help them, bystanders from afar, unable to comfort them and meet their daily needs. I knew what my answer had to be that night.

Yes.

Yes, sweet boy, I will sit with you until you go to sleep. I will sit with you as long as you need me here, as many nights as you need me to. I will sit with you just as I did with my own toddlers when they were learning to sleep in their own “big kid” beds in their own rooms, because I don’t know if anyone has ever cared enough to do that for you. Sadly, I don’t know if you will ever have anyone in your life willing to do this for you again. And I don’t know what other unspeakable experiences you might have had in the past at night to make you so fearful of being alone. I know very little about your past and even less about your uncertain future. But I can promise you that while you are here with me, I will do all that I can to make up for lost time, lost comfort, and lost experiences. I will do what I can to fill your mind with love and light and good while you are here, because in a few short weeks you will be going back across the ocean to your orphanage. You need to know that you are worthy of being loved and cared for, and to know that if no one else in this world is willing to fight for you, I will.

As I sat with him, waiting for him to enter into a deep and restful sleep, I was infuriated at the unfairness of it all. None of these innocent children chose to be orphans. None of them deserve to feel unworthy of love. But I also felt thankful to have these orphans in our home for a few precious weeks and to get to know them.  I was so glad that this boy had trusted me enough to tell me about his fears and his needs. It made me realize how much I, as a child of God, need to run to Him and to trust Him whenever I am afraid or in need of comfort. I am so grateful for the immeasurable compassion of my God, who is always ready and willing to listen to all of our fears and needs, and who is always willing to help meet those needs if only we will trust Him.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Stay tuned for more updates from our Featured Families!

Unexpected Love

Part 4 of the Featured Families Series

Families are in the thick of hosting now.  Some days are hard.  Some days are full of joy.  And some days reveal the depth of change that hosting brings…both in these children, and in the hearts of the host families.

Here is an update on what some of our Featured Families are learning about what love looks like through hosting.


By Virginia Davidson
Hosting two preteen siblings

Davidson 2nd It was time to submit health information for our weekly report.  I nervously approached our teens and asked them to step onto the scale so I could note their weight.  Our host son hopped on and off the scale and skipped away.  Our host daughter’s reaction was quite different.  She did not want to get on the scale.  We had been talking about how God has made her beautiful and I knew she would struggle with the idea of sharing this information.

Beautiful K is not alone in this personal inner battle.  I grew up basing some of my worth on my weight.  I still struggle with this today.  I weigh myself in private and my husband doesn’t even know the numbers I battle with.  As I tried to make K feel loved, valued, and comfortable to fill out the report, I found myself stepping on the scale first, right in front of her and everyone.  Eyes widened and there were some teenage gasps and giggles.  I felt embarrassed. I wanted to run away, but more than that, I wanted her to know that I won’t ask her to be vulnerable and not be vulnerable myself.  She smiled and then got on the scale herself, staring at the number and noting it.  The siblings ran off and threw all of the numbers into the computer to find out what the ratio is from pounds to kilograms, and included mine in their study.  Suddenly it wasn’t a moment of shame or negative significance.  It was a moment of connection and clarity.

I pray that she does not find her significance in the number on the scale or the Nike shoes on her feet, but rather that she finds her significance in Christ.  I pray that God continues to soften my heart to be willing to be vulnerable to help.  And maybe, just maybe, God is redeeming my lifelong struggle with breaking free from my own struggle with weight by using this in her life:  speaking words of love, truth, and value in places where shame and judgment may sit.

As we continue to wake to our host teens’ smiling faces over the next few weeks, we know that God wants us to continue to seek Him, allow Him into the seemingly little moments, to demonstrate His love and truths to them, and the rest of our family.


By Jennifer Williams
Hosting a tween girl and a teen boy

“Expect this to be hard. Expect to love them unconditionally…” This is what my husband and I both thought going into hosting. Williams 2ndWe told ourselves it wouldn’t be the easiest thing we have ever done, but we knew this is what God wanted us to do.

Well, I have to be honest ya’ll…we are several weeks in, and we have had so much fun! But here’s the biggest surprise:  We aren’t just loving them unconditionally; we are being loved back!!!  This brother and sister duo slid right into our family so beautifully.

Of course, it didn’t feel this comfortable the night we picked them up from the airport.  As we left the other host families and made that long walk to our car and then our two hour drive home, I could already see how difficult the language barrier was going to be. I had so many things to tell them and to ask them. But even the simplest things like “Did you enjoy the plane ride?” or “Are you cold?” wasn’t so simple.

Our first full day home was great: they seemed to get along with our kids, and especially adored our 17 month old boy.  But somehow even though we had an amazing first day, I felt exhausted with so many emotions.  As I rocked our baby to bed that night, I was thinking, “Is this how it will be for 5 weeks? Will I be entertaining two strangers in our home? Will my kids feel out of place or left behind?”

But over the next couple of days these two *strangers* quickly have become two beautiful souls that we never expected to show us so much love and kindness. K is the oldest and he is hilarious!!! I didn’t expect that at all. He has brought so much laughter to our family. And little A is a huge help to me! She loves helping to clean up and taking care of our three little kids. They are so good to one another. They help with our chickens and rabbits. They love swimming and being outside. And their English is getting better every day. They have gotten super, super goofy several times…where I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. How can we have so much fun and laugh so hard about things when we can hardly understand one another?! I didn’t expect that.

I also didn’t expect for things from our garden to disappear so quickly. Or our pantry. Or our fridge. These two EAT. They haven’t been picky at all.  I’m so thankful they love all the fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and tomatoes we pick from our garden, much of which they can’t get easily in their country.  I need to find a way to get chips growing in the yard and maybe a river made of juice and we will be set! Our chickens have always laid enough eggs for us, but I am afraid we will have to stop by our neighbors house to “borrow” lots more because K loves frying a few every couple hours.

We certainly have had some struggles and issues as everyone learns to fit together in our home, but man, are they worth it.   In our house, there are infants, toddlers, small kids, pre-teens and teens…and I have learned that no stage is easy.  It’s hard giving our own three the focus they usually get with our two host kids needing so much of our attention. A few times we have had to sit down and go over again why A & K get a snack just before supper when they can’t have one…or why they can’t drink as much juice as the big kids can.  Our host children need lots of our time and attention even for simple things like explaining where we are going and why.  Sometimes, it’s a struggle getting out of the door or even getting them to put the appropriate clothes on for where we are going. I have to take the time to type out explanations on my phone so that it can be translated into their language. But they need our attention for more important things too.  They shout, “Momma watch!!” Momma!!!!” a hundred times a day because they aren’t used to having someone caring about what they are doing.

Overall, these have been some of the longest days of my life! I am sooooo tired and I miss cuddling on the couch watching a show while eating snacks with my husband. We haven’t watched much TV since they got here, and even that has changed.  As I write this, the big kids are watching Frozen…in their language…and they love it.  I do miss our “old” normal at times…but I love this adventure and couldn’t be happier with how things are going. God really had His hand in having these two coming here for the summer.

Stay tuned for more updates from our families!

Pleasant Surprises

By Josh Pray

Part 3 of the Featured Families Series

Week 2 of hosting is coming to a close.  Lives are changing and bonds are being built.  Josh Pray reflects today on what the first few days of hosting have been like for him as a first-time host dad.

When my wife was pregnant with our first baby, I wondered how I could love a child as much as I loved my wife. I was comfortable with my role as Addie 2a husband, but I had no idea what the role of fatherhood would require of me. Would I be able to love someone that demanded so much time and energy from my wife and me?  Yet I was pleasantly surprised. When I looked at the face of our sweet little 4-pound angel, I couldn’t help but cry the happiest tears. Holding her in my arms for the first time was undeniably the scariest, yet one of the most rewarding, experiences I’ve ever had.

Addie and EllieWhen we had our second, I began to wonder again.  Could I love her as much as my first, or would there be only so much love to go around? Would I have to divide up what love I had to give between my children?  Again, I was pleasantly surprised. There was indeed enough love; even more than I thought.  Seeing her for the first time made my tough, strong, manly heart melt in a way that I didn’t think possible.

When our third (very much unplanned) little blessing came along, I thought for sure this was it. She just wouldn’t be loved as much. It just wasn’t possible. Once again, as you may have guessed, I was pleasantly surprised.Claire

Now we have begun this crazy, impossible, amazing journey with orphan hosting. Instead of welcoming a new child into this world, we have welcomed two children into our country, into our home, into our family, and, most importantly, into our hearts. Just like I did when my wife was pregnant, I wondered what I might feel for these two children.

So how did I feel about these kids? Have I once again been just as pleasantly surprised?

The answer is…no….

I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised; I was astounded.

God has not only opened up my heart for yet two more beautiful souls, he has opened it up in a capacity that I didn’t believe humanly possible. I see my wife, and she is more beautiful to me than I could have ever imagined. I see my own children. I look at their sweet, innocent faces, and find that I love them so much more than ever.

Airport ArrivalAnd I see these sweet little orphans…strangers in a strange place. To go from merely seeing your future host children as a single picture and a descriptive paragraph to experiencing the tremendous nervousness, tension, and subsequent joy of meeting them in person for the first time is something that, quite frankly, can never be described in mere words. Even the heart may have trouble capturing fully these new feelings for another soul. Receiving a hug (and maybe kisses) from a child you’ve never met before and knowing that they will fully trust you to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is a truly remarkable experience and one that I can now recommend to anyone wanting to experience the same.

Amazingly, I find I am able to love them so much more than I ever believed I would be able to. I love them just as much as the rest of my family. It’s a different kind of love, though, as love tends to have a funny way of molding itself to fill the heart as best as it can in each situation.  But to look over and catch a glimpse of your host child quietly watching you with a sweet, comfortable, warm smile and knowing they are truly happy where they are in that very instant…that is a feeling that I have never experienced and that my heart was absolutely not prepared for. Or to see that they have a need that has never been met and you, as a host parent, can fulfill it for the first time in their life is an experience that is, without a doubt, not for the faint of heart. Or to share special bonding time such as laughing together or story time as a complete family unit is priceless. Watching your own children interacting with your host children and having so much fun playing together without using words or even understanding what the other is saying is incredibly beautiful in itself.

And all of this within the first 72 hours! How is this possible?

Sometimes in life, you receive exactly what you give. Often times, you receive even less than what you have given. On those special, rare occasions, though, you just might receive a multitude of blessings compared to what you have personally given out. I believe orphan hosting to be one of those times. After all, when, as American families, can we have such a profound impact on the life of a sweet, innocent, forgotten child as when we invite them into our own homes to live with us and be loved by us?

Anyone who has ever hosted would agree that orphan hosting is never supposed to be easy, comfortable, or calm, but in the end it is absolutely worth every smile, every laugh, every kiss, every hug, and every fulfilled child’s heart. It is a beautiful thing to see a child who may have never experienced real recognition in life be accepted into a family that will love them unconditionally and will let them know that, no matter what life throws at them or how they may have been hurt in the past, God will love them and will always be there to hold them in His loving embrace.

I don’t know much, but I can say with absolute certainty that God delights in our being pleasantly surprised, and that is a beautiful thing!

Ready to Host: More Introductions

Part 2 of the Featured Families Series

Summer hosting is in full swing!  Today, the second set of host children are arriving to spend the summer with their host families.  The hosting experience is exciting, exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting.  This year, the NHFC blog will be following four families as they experience hosting for the first time.  Each week, one of the Featured Families will write an update about what their time has been like.  For all of these writers, the hope is that hosting can be represented realistically: all the hard and all the joy, as well as all the reasons why this is one of the most transformative experiences a family can have.
 
Today, we would like to introduce you to the second two of our Featured Families as they start this journey.
 
 

Elliott & Danelle Blackwell

 

What they do:Blackwell Family

Regional Merchandiser & Branch Administrator

Their family:

Two boys, ages 15 & 10

Who they are hosting:

A teenage girl, “T”

How they found out about hosting:

My wife, Danelle, and I are creatures of habit and like our daily routines. Two years ago, we found those routines upended and ourselves leaving our home outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and traveling half-way round the world to go to a foreign country that was outside of our comfort zones and our language. Yet it would be one of the happiest times in our family’s lives. It was there we met the boy who would become our son. Cava was not born to us, but he was born for us. And God had him picked out for our family. We are an ordinary family following an extraordinary God. A God who is a Father to the Fatherless.

It was while we were at Cava’s boarding school that we met “T,” the girl we are hosting. And it all started with a simple act: I opened the door for her. It was something my mother had raised me to do, so it came natural to me to open the door for a female. What was familiar and common-place to me was anything but for “T.” This small act of kindness showed her that someone saw her, that someone cared enough to open the door for her and let her pass through first. The boarding school was in a very rural village and we had nowhere else to stay but in the boarding school itself. We got to spend time not only with Cava, but with other orphans, including “T,” who sought us out every chance she got. It did not take long for us to grow attached to her and she to us. We were left wondering why God had brought this girl across our family’s path. For over two years, “T” has been in our daily thoughts and prayers. We wondered what had happened to her. Then, one morning, I got on Facebook and there she was. A photo of her posted by New Horizons. Two years of prayers were answered in our being able to host her this summer. There are no accidents. There is no chance. It is all God, all His plan.

How they are feeling about hosting:

What kind of an impact will it have on a child to know that she was not forgotten? To know that she is loved, of value and of worth? What an awesome gift for all of us! And it had all been part of God’s amazing plan all along. To say that we are excited about hosting “T” is an understatement. We are over-the-moon thrilled to finally be seeing “T” again.


Josh & Callie Pray

 

Pray FamilyWhat they do:

Pharmacist & Work-at-home Pharmacist Review Editor

Their family:

Three girls, ages 7, 5, & 1

 

Who they are hosting:

A “tween” brother & sister set (“K” & “R”)

How they found out about hosting:

Recently, we have felt called to defend the cause of the fatherless. We’ve heard the overwhelming and disheartening statistics of orphans worldwide. What could we, this family in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with seemingly already full lives, do to make a difference? And then we heard about orphan hosting…how inviting an orphan into your home for just a few weeks can make a HUGE impact in an orphan’s life. Could we really do this? As we prayed and thought about this incredible opportunity, the question turned more from “Could we do this?” to “How could we NOT do this?” God has blessed our family with so much that we take for granted; how could we NOT take in one child for just a few days to give him or her love and hope when we feel God calling us to do so?

We had no idea how to choose a child from the photolisting of hundreds of orphans wanting to come to America this summer. The regional coordinator from NHFC, who had been wonderfully gracious with all my questions and concerns, suggested some that she felt would do well in our family—one was a particular set of siblings. On the inside I couldn’t help but laugh. TWO orphans? No way! I was just getting used to the idea of ONE…seriously, God? But I was curious. So I looked them up, and immediately my heart skipped a beat or two or a hundred. The truth is that I had seen their pictures earlier that day and stared at them for much longer than any of the others. I began to entertain the idea of hosting these siblings, deliberating over how we could arrange bedrooms, make it work financially, and generally take care of FIVE kids in our home. Yep, with a little creativity and work we could do it. But SHOULD we do it? More prayers ensued. I couldn’t get them off my mind. I thought about it nonstop. I asked Josh what he felt we should do. He said, “I think we should do the RIGHT thing. Let’s go for it.” Bless him. And so we are hosting two pre-teens from Eastern Europe, a brother and sister, who have no idea how much they are already loved and prayed for by this American family who has never met them. After much praying, talking, and speculating as to whether or not we had lost our minds, we decided to step out in faith and say yes! And now on the brink of this new adventure with so many unknowns, we have peace.

How they are feeling about hosting:

I absolutely cannot believe this is really happening. We are SO EXCITED!! We can’t wait to show these kids some love, get to know them, and hopefully learn a lot about their culture and language (I know zero of their language. ZERO! I’ve gotta get on that…). And we want to share our family summer experiences with them – going to the zoo, amusement parks, swimming, etc. Also, we want this wonderful community we live in to be exposed to orphans and the need for loving, Christian families to open their homes and hearts to these kids who are SO brave to come over here alone. Most importantly, we want to share the love of our Heavenly Father with these kids so they know that they are treasured, priceless to Him, and never truly alone.

 

Stay tuned for updates from them all four Featured Families throughout the hosting season!

Ready to Host: Introductions

Part 1 of the Featured Families Series

Summer hosting is about to begin!  Today, several hundred children will be arriving to spend the summer with their host families.  The hosting experience is exciting, exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting.  This year, the NHFC blog will be following four families as they experience hosting for the first time.  Each week, one of the Featured Families will write an update about what their time has been like.  For all of these writers, the hope is that hosting can be represented realistically: all the hard and all the joy, as well as all the reasons why this is one of the most transformative experiences a family can have.
 
Today, we would like to introduce you to the first two of our Featured Families as they start this journey.

 


Jonathon & Jennifer Williams

 

Williams FamilyWhat they do:

Pharmacist and Work-from-home Photographer

Their family:

Two girls, ages 5 & 3 ½ , and one 16 month old boy.

Who they are hosting:

A “tween” brother & sister set (“K” & “A”)

How they found out about hosting:

One day I got an email about hosting an orphan from Eastern Europe so I took the time to learn all I could about why one would want to host, about the benefits of hosting (benefits to the child AND the host family), and it didn’t take us long to realize this was what God wanted us to do. We contacted New Horizons for Children and started pouring over the photo listings of each child available for hosting. Somehow we ended up with two instead of one, so now we are twice as excited!  We are welcoming a brother and a sister into our home for 5 weeks. We are excited to show them about God and His love for them AND that our family/church family/community has a love for them. We want to teach them English and have been working on learning their language as well. Our girls are doing a great job at memorizing words and short sentences…we are just hopeful we are pronouncing them correctly!

How they are feeling about hosting:

Some days I wake up feeling nervous… hopeful and anxious that we will be the best we can be for these two precious kids. Then I stop and remember that God has His hands in this journey. It was His idea for us to do this and God doesn’t make mistakes. Overall we are super excited to meet them and welcome them into our home. We already have pictures of them hanging up on our walls and we talk about them every day–the girls are loving counting down the days until they get here AND until they can introduce K and A to their cousins, who live within 20 minutes of us. We have a few fun things planned such as go see waterfalls, visit the Aquarium, and maybe go tubing. But our main desire is to just do what we normally do: enjoy our home, play outside, care for our garden, feed our chickens/rabbits. We can’t wait to eat on our deck and enjoy the sunset (we love this part of our day!).  We will swim at my parent’s house with cousins/aunts/uncles/grandparents and enjoy our Sunday lunch at Nanny’s after Church. Keeping things simple and flexible. We are praying not only for our summer and our host kids, but all the other families and kids involved with this beautiful ministry.


Paul & Virginia Davidson
What they do: Davidson Family

Outdoor Gear Store Owner & elementary Spanish teacher

Their family:

Two girls, ages 6 & 18 months , and one 4 year old boy

Who they are hosting:

A teen brother & sister set (“D” & “K”)

How they found out about hosting:

We heard of NHFC through a few Facebook shares of a friend in Texas (who has never hosted herself yet, but would like to).  One thing God continues to speak to our family is how He is going to change all of us, and we are going to make mistakes.  We are not perfect; only He is.  We are to love, guide, and pray for them while they are here and continue to do so for a lifetime.  The NHFC families we have connected with have been an encouragement and informative as well.

How they are feeling about hosting:

Just a little time before their arrival my stomach is in knots and I wonder what they will think of our family, our home.  As we pick up our toys and shift bedrooms around, I glance at the clock again and add 7 hours.  My mind wanders for a moment, “It’s 5 o’clock, I wonder what they are doing right now.”  My wonders turn into prayers as my children call my name from across the house.  Another prayer is uttered, “Oh Lord, give us wisdom with our 3 children at home, and our 2 host children coming soon.  Give us Your Peace, Joy, and Patience.”

With three young ones at home, we are looking forward to the weeks ahead.  We thank God for the opportunity to be able to open our home this summer.  Our children are excited to share their home and lives with our host children, and they tell every friend they know how excited they are.

We are a family of five that likes to be busy swimming and playing in the backyard pool, as well as taking in the views and activities along our Lake Michigan beaches.  We are looking forward to sharing our outdoor movie nights and silly dance parties with our two host siblings from Eastern Europe this summer.  D and K will join us at a local water park, campfires, soccer games, and evening reading and giggles.  Before hosting, we spent a bit of extra special time with our kids individually to fill them up and prepare their little hearts to share.  In addition, we are moving a bit of furniture and getting our summer to-do list done a bit early to leave open the month of July for birthdays and fun.  So, as the chalkboard countdown in our kitchen reaches closer to their arrival, our excitement grows.

 
 
 Stay tuned to read about our other two Featured Families and get ready for updates from them all throughout the hosting season!

I Found Love: Stories from Host Children

11194770_10153748711787656_1930340443_oThe days are dwindling for summer matching, and 160 children are still waiting to be chosen by a summer host family.

Chosen. It’s a word we hear often, but do we really understand what it means? Several children who have been hosted through New Horizons stepped up and agreed to share what it really means to be chosen.

Being chosen helps kids heal

“I waited four hosting periods [for a family],” said M, a 14-year-old boy who was first hosted in 2013. “When I found out I had been chosen, I was really happy to come to America. I was a really angry person when I left [my country], but I left it in America when I traveled back to [my country]. I felt loved and that someone really cared about me.”

Being chosen helps kids have hope for the future

“Before I was hosted, I thought my future was going to be bad. I thought I could not get a job or go to college. I planned to do whatever I had to do to get money. During hosting, I saw how my host family worked and knew I could do that, too. I knew I wanted to try to get out of [my country] for something better. I would try harder in school so I could get out. [After hosting] I knew my life could be better,” said Y, a 14-year-old girl who was first hosted in 2014.

Being chosen helps kids accept and receive love

“My heart opened up to people. I became more confident in myself,” said R, an 18-year-old young lady who was hosted by an NHFC family for the first time in 2010. “I learned a lot about love and care. I felt needed and important. After hosting my world opened up, and I could see things in a different way from what they were before. My hosting experience left a piece of happiness in my heart which has never left me. I still remember those days!”

Being chosen helps kids understand what family looks like

“There are lots of of orphans all around the world and lots that need a home and a family — a good family, not a bad one which I happened to be in before, “ said S, an 11-year-old girl who was hosted for the first time with her younger brother and sister.

Her 10-year-old sister chimed in and agreed, “It changed my life because I got to live with a family.”

The youngest of the trio, 7-year-old L, said he now knows a little better what to expect of being in a family: “And the mom will give kisses to them.”

Being chosen helps kids feel valuable

“I always had a low self-esteem about myself and thought no one could ever love me and choose me! I also had my hopes lost because I was a teenager, and I always thought that everyone just wants a little kid and no one will want me [because] I was too old to love. The news that someone wants me just changed the whole perspective about myself and gave me the feeling that I’m not forgotten,” said R, an 18-year-old young lady.

Being chosen helps kids make better decisions

“Hosting helps the kids who do bad things try to do better in school and in life. The kids will get to have experiences that they will not get in [my country]. When I went back to [my country] I was so happy that my host family would call me and send me messages. I always checked the computer to see if I had a message. At night I cried because I missed my family so much and I loved them, but I knew they loved me too so it was OK. I really wanted them to host me again!” said 14-year-old Y.

Being chosen changes life trajectories

When we asked M, a 14-year-old boy, what he would tell potential host families about the importance of hosting, he shared his heart openly.

“You are saving their life. My host family and now my forever family saved my life. Every child in [my country] should have the chance to be loved. I found love, and I hope other people can give children a chance.”

Being chosen changes hearts and changes lives forever

“I am staying in touch with my host families just because they have given me and shown me the first taste of the experience being hosted,” said R, an 18-year-old young lady. “I met one of my host families two summers ago and had an amazing time together. We still plan to meet each other [again] one day soon! I thanked my host families for the opportunity they have given me and for making my world brighter. They gave me the taste of love and care I needed, and they have changed my life in a way. They have really made an impact in my life, and I want them to know that it wasn’t just a waste of time; it really made a change, and they have a place in my heart.”

Your turn: Choose to change a child’s life

The days are dwindling for summer matching, and 160 children are still waiting to be chosen by a summer host family. To have a coordinator call you or see the waiting children please click here.

Interviewed and compiled by Hyacynth Worth

The Joy of Uncomfortable Love

By Hyacynth Worth

11171709_10100473422913795_1952546963_o

If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t completely comfortable with the thought of hosting an orphan in our home for a month.

And if I’m continuing in honesty, I’m still not completely comfortable.

Hosting asks a lot of us.

It asks us to trust in God’s tug on our hearts and in his leading.

It asks us to set aside our fears.

It asks us to rely heavily on God for all kinds of provision — financial, emotional, spiritual and physical.

Essentially hosting asks us to love someone else, someone we don’t know and who might not be able to love us in return in the way we desire, more than we love ourselves.

And all of that? Well, all of that’s uncomfortable.

Hosting aside for a moment, let’s get comfortable with the idea that the deep kind of love Jesus lavishes and asks us to lavish on others rarely makes us comfortable.

“You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced.” Ann Voskamp

Think about it. Jesus’ love for us, the kind of love that went to death and back, the kind of healing and sustaining and life-giving love he offers, was not easy coming for him.

It required great inconvenience, great humility and great discomfort.

I ponder my deeply vested relationships, the kind where this inconvenient love has been brought to the table and I realize that my greatest healing and my greatest growth has occurred in its envelopment.

The people who have loved me well have given of their time and themselves, sacrificed one thing or another to invest their energy into me.

Real love, the kind of love that heals us, requires of us more than just lip service, more than casual interactions of help and more than good intentions.

It takes a willingness to show up and invest our own personal resources — our time, our money, our undivided attention, our listening ears, our willing embraces.

And all of this has cost. It costs us big to really love someone.

But it’s how we have been loved by a God who never had to love us but instead chose to love us. It’s how we have been asked to love others.

So back to hosting.

While we’re being honest, our last hosting was a hard hosting. We didn’t spend a lot of time in our comfort zones. Each of us spent time battling fear, nursing vulnerability hangovers and fighting to continue connecting even through the hardships and the conflicts.

There’s nothing comfortable about this kind of love.

But there’s so much right, so much good, so much beauty born of it.

Our love was never a perfect kind of love. It didn’t come without mistakes or tears or even apologies, but it came with one thing: a willingness.

“The only thing God asks of me every day is to show up and bring my little bit of willingness.” Lysa TerKeurst

We are so much richer for having loved this way; we are so much more bonded to our host daughter for having done the hard love with each other. We can now talk about the things in life that really matter. A trust has been built and healing has begun and God is making new things from the old.

This love, it’s a hard, uncomfortable kind of love, yes.

But it’s a right kind of love. A true kind of love. A greatest kind of love.

 ”There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:13

We lay down our lives for others in the truest sense when we are willing to risk vulnerability, discomfort, inconvenience and even rejection to love someone.

If God’s been breaking your heart for the orphans who break His, let’s be willing to do three things this summer:

1. Let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable because Love once was uncomfortable for each of us.

2. Let’s show up and allow God to use our little bit of willingness and watch Him supply us with the rest.

3. Let’s live like heirs of God.

“The most important thing we can understand about God is that he wants us and he loves us … And while we were still orphans, God came for us. Romans 8:17 says, ‘Now if we are His children then we are heirs.’ It just gets better and better! …

Does this all mean we just go to bed with a smile on our faces? Not if we understand what it means to be an heir. All that God’s given you, all God is to you, we have to carry on as His heir. To be God’s heir means we carry on the legacy of being wanted.

We go into the margins, the fringes, and we want the people He wants.” Pastor Josh Petersen, Selfie: Wanted

Hyacynth Worth is a three-time host mom. She lives with her husband and two boys in the suburbs of Chicago. She also writes about life and love at www.undercovermother.com

Unexpected Blessings

By Marty Shoup

Hosting experiences come in all shapes and sizes.  We plan and pray, but the reality is the Lord’s…and it is always far better than what we could have imagined.

Our first hosting was in the summer of 2011.  And it was… ok.  Not great, not bad. Just ok. But overall, it went well enough that we knew we wanted to host another child the following summer.

When the winter photo-listing was released, we of course poured over it.  We would look at photos, read bios, and pray for the kids on the list. We would check back every so often to see who went on hold and whether any new kids were added—but never with the intention of looking for someone to host.

IMGP3279However, as He usually does, the Lord had other plans.  We “stumbled” across a photo of “M”, a teenage boy. Well, a man, really. I wish I could say I embraced the idea of hosting a teenager right away. But I didn’t. Our children at home (both boys) were at the time, 7 and 5, which is a FAR CRY from teenagerdom. But the Lord kept nudging. I ignored it for a while.

“I don’t know anything about teenage boys other than that they eat and sleep!”
“We don’t even have any friends with teenagers!”
“We don’t have teenage stuff! We have Legos and Matchbox and play Memory and Chutes and Ladders!”
“He’ll be so BORED! We live in the middle of nowhere!”
“We’re driving halfway across the country for Christmas. He’s SO not going to want to do that!”
“He’s practically a grown man, what if he’s impatient or aggressive with my kids?”
“What if… you know… well, you hear all these horror stories about kids who grow up in orphanages. What if he’s been abused… and what does that mean for MY kids?”

Oh, I had LOTS of excuses.  But they amounted to very little. We kept feeling the pull, and chose to host “M” that winter, and it was fantastic!

He was great with my kids! He played soccer with them, made cup towers and domino courses, and took a 2,500-mile road trip like a champ. Yes, he slept a lot, and he ate a lot (though nothing green), IMGP3173and he was AMAZED that you could get free refills and all the ketchup you wanted at Wendy’s. He brought us a Christmas present from his country and we were able to bless him with gifts as well.  We walked through Google maps together and “M” showed me where he lived, as well as pictures of famous landmarks in his city. I learned about Christmas and New Year’s practices from the other side of the world, and he experienced some of our quirky family holiday traditions. “M” was nearly fluent in English, but we learned (and butchered) bits and pieces of his national language as well.

It was an AMAZING 4 weeks, and it went by way too quickly.

We’ve kept in touch since then, messaging back and forth on social media, keeping track of what was going on in each other’s lives, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, etc. It’s been a joy to be able to maintain that relationship, even though he’s 5,000 miles away.

“M” was set to “graduate” the summer of 2014.  And that spring, over Facebook, he asked if we could come to watch him graduate.

We couldn’t all go, but I could.  And so I did. At the heartfelt request of my host son from 3 ½ years before, I flew to Eastern Europe to watch him graduate.  I couldn’t understand a word of the ceremony, but that didn’t matter.  I didn’t know any of the traditions or customs (by the way they don’t play Pomp and Circumstance), but that didn’t matter either.

I was there. Supporting him. Encouraging him. Cheering his accomplishment. Doing what family does.

It was an experience I’ll never forget.

People are often hesitant to host teenagers- especially teenage boys.  I get it. I was there, too. They’re like a different species, sometimes. And if you don’t have experience with teens, well… the very idea of having one in your home can be intimidating.

But oh, what I would have missed if I’d let my fear and worries guide my decision.

You’ll often hear host parents say that they went into hosting to be a blessing to a child in need, but that they came out of the experience as the ones who were blessed.  Truer words were never spoken, and I have an extra stamp in my passport to prove it.

Don’t discount those older kids on the photo-listing. They are blessings just waiting to happen.

Interested in hosting a teen boy or another child this summer? If you have not already signed up for the photolistings you can do so here and your regional coordinator will contact you to answer any questions you may have.

 

 Marty and her husband have two children and are three-time host parents. Marty began volunteering for NHFC in 2012 and currently serves as Board chair.

Finding Faith to Love

By Guest Blogger Natalie Meeks

Meeks013web“But what if I can’t love him enough?”

The October morning is balmy, the grass is soft and dewy, and I pace, bare footed. I’m flushed with fear and anxiety.  I dial her number, and when our hosting coordinator answers, the question tumbles out before I can order my tongue to cease and desist.  Our coordinator breathes reassurance and Gospel-words into my ear.

“Natalie, you can do what God calls you to do.  You are not called to heal him. You are called to provide a safe place for him to heal.”

Exhale.

Knowing the truth of His calling doesn’t eliminate my fear of the unknown. Not for this weak-minded woman. We have five young children at home. My husband works relentless hours. My plate is full and my heart, ever so much more so. Where will I find room for an orphan who needs me to love him?

I agonize and I pray. I pray on bare knees in the early dark, while chauffeuring kids to and fro, while bouncing a baby girl on my hip. I pray.

And, as He ever will, God answers.  We love because he first loved us.  We commit to hosting.

November storms past in a fury and December marks herself boldly onto my calendar squares. And finally it is the day our host child arrives.  The children are excited, nervous. We kiss the three youngest goodbye, and hurry to the airport to greet a child who has agreed to come to spend Christmas in America with an unknown family. A child whom we have chosen, but who has not chosen us; a child who has not been chosen by the very parents ordained to bear and raise him.

I am afraid. I pray.

The airport arrivals lounge is large and bright. White shines everywhere, the ceiling and floor scored geometrically by cheerful colored patterns. We have rushed all day, all month. Now, we wait.

The children begin to stream in and the excitement builds. Posters are raised, brightly proclaiming Eastern European names that I cannot pronounce and pasted with photos of beautiful children. We lift our poster high, with our gift of a soccer ball and snack at the ready, and we hold our breaths.

He arrives. I watch as he cautiously approaches. His hair is shorter than in his picture, he is taller than I imagined, and he is broken. Exhausted from 20 hours of travel, overwhelmed by the sight of this new family in a new country, speaking a foreign language. He buckles. His tears flow and my heart aches to comfort him. This little-big boy has walls that I don’t know how to climb and I pray. Lord, show me how to reach him. He bravely and obediently follows us out of the airport, into the big wide world of America, and we walk to the car to begin our two-hour drive home. I worry and I pray.

My oldest two children’s eyes watch wide as he climbs into the backseat. A new world has opened up to them and they are unsure how to respond. We cruise in the dark under the city lights and I relax as I see his eyes close, head leant against the window. Sleep. Yes, sleep child. You must be so tired. Then I hear the sound. Do all mothers know the sound? The peculiar cough… Oh please, Lord, please let it not be vomit…

God’s ways are not our own.

We pull to the side of the road and I dash into the back to assess and tend. He looks full at me for the first time. Helpless, his beautiful eyes are wide and desperate. My hands reach for his soiled fingers, and I plead unspoken if I may? He nods. I cradle his hands while I clean them, his face, his shirt. He relaxes into me. Walls crumble, and he accepts this meager mama-nursing effort as one that he can trust. And I pray.  Lord, thank you for the vomit.

The irony does not escape me.

A month flies and this child-without-family becomes an integral part of our family in the most miraculous and mysterious of ways. Each smile, each laugh, each hug extend roots which lengthen and strengthen.  Shy grins and giggles between children give way to trust and camaraderie and Gospel-brotherhood. We fall head over heals and he soaks it in. Daily, his smile grows wider and his chuckle comes more easily. He hugs and he loves and he joins in their silly pranks. He makes mistakes and he apologizes and he basks in childhood with all of the grace it offers. He melds into us, and we into him. And then, all too soon, he leaves. And we grieve. But most of all, we pray.

Is it possible to love a child too much? Of course the answer is a resounding no. Love multiplies and the Father who first loved us has filled our hearts so overflowing for one of His own: for an orphan who is fatherless, but never Fatherless. He, and we, all are loved by a God who is enough and who loves enough.

We don’t know what God’s plan is for our beloved host child. But we know that His plan is Love and it is Enough.

Interested in taking a leap of faith to host this summer? If you have not already signed up for the photolistings you can do so here and your regional coordinator will contact you to answer any questions you may have.

 

Natalie resides in South Carolina with her husband and five children.  They are eagerly awaiting the return of their host child this summer.