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
“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?”
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, 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.
Stay tuned for more updates from our Featured Families!
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