Pleasant Surprises

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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!

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