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
Our 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 children 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 their 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 more 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.
But 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.