A brave boy, a willing family, and a whole lot of Jesus!

by Sherri McClurg with permission of Jessica, James, and Janis

It started in the fall of 2014 when on the interview trip, we met a young man named Janis. He was fun and spunky but he had gotten himself into a little trouble. He was 16 years old, and soon he would be aging out of the orphanage. His director really wanted him to have a chance at a family.

Not long after that interview, Jessica, a mom of two little ones, was scrolling through her Facebook posts. She saw a family playing with their host child and read about how they were involved in a short term mission trip from home. They were hosting an orphaned child from Eastern Europe. Jessica was moved with compassion, and while she thought it would be a great experience for her kids, she never thought her husband would be on board with such a crazy idea as orphan hosting.

But when Jessica told her husband James about orphans needing a family experience, he agreed to look at the photo listing with her. They both found their hearts drawn to one spunky teenage boy who would soon be aging out of the orphanage and facing the world alone.  It was Janis, and after much prayer, they knew this was the boy God was calling them to bring into their home for Christmas.

Jessica remembers, “We were nervous about everything! What would our family think? Would he like us? Are we too boring? Can we communicate? What if we just invited a teenage Eastern European gangster into our home with two little kids?”

On the other side of the ocean, Janis had his own fears. He never thought he would be chosen, certainly not after the bad choices he had made about school and smoking. Hurt and betrayed by his own family, he hadn’t allowed himself to believe that anyone would choose him. He will never forget the surprise he felt when his director told him, “A family has chosen you.”

When he first arrived, Janis remembers, “It was hard to be in a family because I wasn’t used to it.” He said, “It was a fighting within me as an orphan to be part of a family. It was hard to be finally loved after 17 years.” Despite the awkwardness of those first few days, Jessica and James kept on loving him. Soon this artistic, reserved mom found herself playing tackle soccer in the street with her teenage host son.

Janis began to weave himself into their hearts. So much so, at times, the little one’s needed to be pried off him, to give him a break and let him be a teenager. Janis shared, “It was everything that I didn’t know before. Love, real brothers and sisters, patience (insert laughter).” He liked that he was chosen. He liked that he had a family. He liked everything about hosting.

Jessica and James brought Janis back for a second hosting, and between hostings they parented and mentored him as much as they could from across the ocean. They made it clear to Janis that even though he had made some more bad choices, their love for him wasn’t going to change. It was in those hard moments that they saw Janis reach a turning point. Since then, he has accepted Jesus as his savior, gained a mentor in his country, and has continued to make better choices. Janis shared, “I know there is people who still be with me even when I cause so many bad things in my life. Even when I made bad choices they still want me. Hosting helped me to realize how good is the real family model.”

The changes have taken place slowly over the years with continual affirmations and connection. Hosting laid the groundwork and has helped this sweet, spunky young man who never had a healthy family feel like he has a home. It gave Janis a glimpse of Jesus. He shared that hosting “Showed me who He is and what He can do and how He can change lives. Not with teaching, but with being in the family and how we all interact with each other.”

Janis is now 22 years old. Jessica shares that from that first hosting until now, “The change is dramatic! He has initiated conversations about God! He is much more open and it is obvious he wants to build a connection. In the past, he has had goals, but no idea how to reach his goals and no real drive. Now, he has a plan and is excited to get started. He is thinking and planning for his future and wants us to be a part of it.”

Some say, “It seems cruel to bring children over and show them America and send them home.” But when hosting is done right, with families that are trained in the mission of NHFC and given an understanding of children with trauma, lives are changed. Seeds of hope are planted, and hearts begin to soften. It’s not cruel to love an orphan well and share the hope of Jesus. It’s cruel to pretend they don’t exist. To forget about their lot in life, to leave them unloved, without family, and without hope, that is the true injustice.

A Host Dad’s Perspective

by a host father responding to God’s call

What does ‘orphan’ mean to you? Is it more than a cliche in a sermon? It is a word that is easy to ignore if you have no face or name to go with it. It is easy for orphans to be something distant and irrelevant in your life if you’ve never met them or materially loved them.

A few years ago the Lord used an orphan hosting program called New Horizons For Children http://nhfc.org/ to bring to our attention the plight of orphans in Eastern Europe and especially in Ukraine. We hosted several kids over a few year period and the word ‘orphan’ took on a new meaning for us.

When you’ve wept with a child as she tells you of the death of her mother to cancer after losing her father to a fire only a few years earlier, the word ‘orphan’ takes on a new meaning. You’ll weep with her as you realize the bleak future she faces in a country where the average family already struggles to survive. You pray with these kids and you have a face you can’t forget.

When you read a report from NHFC that a 17 year old girl whom you remember very well from the program was just found murdered in a parking lot, it will get your attention.

When you are told that very little statistical information exists about an orphan’s chance of assimilating into society because “they just die” after leaving the orphanage, your heart begins to break. When you say goodbye at the airport to a child who begs to be allowed to stay with you where she feels loved, and you know you are sending them to an unloved and lonely future, you will stop and ask “Is what I am doing with my life really important, and will it really matter in eternity?”

Here are some shocking statistics about Ukrainian orphans taken from orphanoutreach.com

There are approximately 95,000 children in Ukrainian orphanages for various reasons and these children must leave the orphanage by the time they are 16 or 17. The statistics for what happens to these young adults after graduating from the orphanage are heartbreaking. Within the first year of leaving the orphanage, over 50% are involved in prostitution or crime, another 30% are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and another 10% commit suicide.

An orphan’s average life expectancy in Ukraine is less than 30 years.

These kids “age out” and are forced to leave the orphanages with very limited life skills. Many of them have no one to turn to for assistance and they become top targets for sex traffickers.

A few years ago, we hosted two orphan sisters from Ukraine for six weeks. The Lord began to stir in our hearts months before they came and we prayed earnestly for them. We sensed the Lord was up to something. What a blessed six weeks we spent with them! God stirred our hearts with an overwhelming love for them and said “These girls need a family, and I am asking you to be that family.”

Yes, it’s a step of faith and we don’t know how it’ll all play out yet for us, BUT GOD knows!  God has said “Where I call you to go, I will lead the way and provide the means.”

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21

Yes Lord we believe in Your leading and we are thrilled to follow You in this venture!

When Good Intentions Fall Short

by Sherri McClurg, PsyD
You’ve seen and heard the stories. According to the https://globalinitiative.net/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons-2018/, at least 30% of lives trafficked internationally are children with those from the Caribbean, Central America, and Eastern Europe at the top of the list. These children are being exploited for slavery and/or sex. According to UNICEF, 1 billion children live in poverty with little access to food and education.
Precious, young lives, suffering worldwide.

Poverty and lack of education are huge contributing factors to the risk of exploitation, but at the core of such destitution is a  lack of respect and value for all humanity. If we saw everyone through the eyes of Jesus, there would be no place for such things.

As Christians, we hear these stories of poverty, abuse, and the hardship these children go through and our hearts are moved, and we want to respond.

But before you give another dime, stop. Please use caution and be wise with your gift.

Don’t just give your money, resources, or time to a cause because you were moved by the story… Yes, let your heart be moved, but then pray and do a little bit of digging to make sure you help that cause by giving to an organization you can trust. Give to a non-profit that will not only maintain the highest in financial integrity stateside (ECFA accredited), but also one that distributes money and resources with integrity internationally.

I’ll never forget the sadness that engulfed me when I saw street-side vendors in Africa making money off the supplies sent over by mission groups that were meant for children in poverty. Megan Boudreaux’s wonderful book “Miracle on Voodoo Mountain,” shares about a director who called himself a pastor and doctor and used the money sent by numerous churches in America to buy and sell children, but because she was there and visited regularly she was able to detect the scam. There are too many stories of those who exploit the situation of the children for their own personal gain.

It’s easy to get lulled into giving directly to an orphanage, but sadly, some have little to no accountability to make sure it actually benefits the children. Donor’s often fear that participating in a program with a staff or overhead somehow limits the gift, but in reality, it not only protects the gift, it protects the children.

When there is no accountability, no process for monitoring use of funds, and no oversight by a staff held accountable by policies and oversight you risk:

  • Programs and churches giving cash to orphanages with good intentions, but no accountability for how that money is spent. Many non-profits flood 3rd world missions or international orphanages with cash that never makes it past those in charge, and it doesn’t improve the quality of life for the children.
  • Children becoming a commodity versus a person of value and worth loved by God. Excellent mission trips and hosting programs realize it’s not about “saving” or “trying to make them like us.” It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus and coming alongside children, their caregivers, and their community to build into their lives, based on their circumstances, not ours.
  • Shortcuts to save on expenses that erode child safety. Being ignorant of or trying to bypass government permissions or laws or slacking off on safeguards might make the red tape easier, but it risks the lives and safety of the children.

Be angry about the victimization of innocent children. Let your heart be broken for children that are being starved, beaten, and enslaved daily …. and realize that well meaning non-profits and ministries inadvertently contribute to that every day.

Be angry and choose a way to help that ensures your gift, your contribution, your time, your sacrifice is really going towards helping a hurting child. Don’t give blindly just because it pulls at your heart. Make sure the organization is trustworthy and holds to the highest standards for how it manages your gift.

New Horizons for Children is one you can trust.


  • Maintains the highest level of financial integrity. Our staff and volunteers work around the clock to care for children, families, and orphanages and maintain the highest levels of integrity and accountability in everything we do. Every dollar is accounted for and not only detailed for taxes but also put through an independent financial audit each year, and held to the standards of ECFA and Guidestar.
  • NHFC never gives money to orphanages without explicit guidelines and tracking accountability that the money has been used accordingly. There is too much at risk when money is just handed over. Follow up and accountability ensure the children are being cared for as desired with the gifts.
  • NHFC doesn’t give to every orphanage or orphan cause we encounter. We vet our orphanages, visit repeatedly, and build relationships with caregivers before we begin to help meet needs through specific gifts.
  • NHFC never bribes. No donor money is ever handed over to a politician, a director, or anyone involved in the system to gain access to the children. We work to build relationships and partnerships that are based on mutual trust and integrity.
  • NHFC doesn’t take short cuts that compromise child safety – we won’t fly children unaccompanied on an airplane, we don’t skip background checks on all adults involved with the kids, and we never forego training with our parents/caregivers or mission teams about how to carry out this mission.

We give you our word, and we can back that up. Our team is here to ensure that we are working how to serve best interests of the child and continue to seek out how to do it better. Our goal is to share Jesus and improve the lives of children. Together, we can all make a difference.

Please let your heart be distressed by the plight of vulnerable children. See like Jesus. But also make sure you ask hard questions and hold everyone to the highest standards so that your gift is actually used to care for the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the children. Their lives may very well depend on it.


Child Trafficking

by Sherri McClurg, NHFC CEO/Clinical Psychologist

“Where families and positive relationships are nonexistent is where traffickers prey.” An Unholy Alliance published an excellent article about the connection between kids in care and human trafficking. CSEC is the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and it is a real threat to children around the globe.

Research shows that in the United Sates alone, more than half of the children rescued from these situations are kids who were in state care who have run away, aged out, or been lured away from care. Traffickers use the “boyfriend technique” to entice, the “gorilla technique” to grab them off the street and beat them into submission, or the traffickers lure them through internet sites or another teen already being exploited.

If the odds for the CSEC are so high for our children in the United States, imagine growing up in a less developed country where systems of care and legislative policy are not well established or police protection is limited or corrupt. According to the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, “human trafficking is a global phenomenon to which no country is immune. “Traffickers exploit the political, social, economic, and cultural contours of local communities.” The sad reality is that children are being trafficked daily, everywhere, and lives are being ravaged and destroyed.

Awareness, prevention, and intervention are the key elements in any plan for resolving social issues. While you and I alone might not be able to eradicate child trafficking, we can certainly make a difference for some of its potential victims. Hosting changes lives. Short-term hosting and ongoing healthy relationship with a caring family can bring hope and healing to children who have been tossed aside, left behind, or disregarded. But a word of caution is needed.

When NHFC first began hosting orphaned children a decade ago, it was a new idea. Now there are dozens of programs offering you the opportunity to host a vulnerable child. There is certainly a need for good programs and willing families. However, be aware what is meant for good can also be a breeding ground for people who exploit children. There is limited oversight of hosting programs.

Please step out in faith and host a child, but do your due diligence and make sure you are selecting a program that does it well and that the program as a whole does not inadvertently place children at risk. Here are just a few basic things to consider when looking for a hosting program or any program that works with vulnerable children:

  • You cannot host a child from trauma without understanding how that trauma impacts them and how it could impact your family. Does the program have a robust training program helping families understand the culture of the child’s country, as well as, the culture of being orphaned and having experienced trauma? Do they provide immediately available support from experienced mentors or mental health professionals throughout hosting? Are doctors and nurses available for consultation?
  • Children in care are especially vulnerable to traffickers, and even more so when involved in a hosting program. Does the program have the highest standards of care for protecting the identity of the children from trolls and child perps looking to exploit them on-line? Is the identity of the child and their home country hard to determine on social media sites? Do they fly children with chaperones or escorts all the way to their destination vs. flying them unaccompanied minor on some flights and susceptible to anyone on the flight? Are host families background checked and parents interviewed and assessed for readiness for hosting? Are personal and pastoral references obtained and homes assessed for safety before a child is placed with the family?

Hosting is a great thing when done well, but many programs take shortcuts eliminating some of the essential steps listed above. They cut corners to make application easy or suggest that having no paid staff regularly monitoring the program is somehow a good thing. But these are things that place kids and the families who care for them at risk. The reality is that hosting is more than just one family taking in a child. It’s about a community of people coming together to support one another, protect and nurture the children, and partner with the families involved in the child’s care.

Don’t settle or support a program that does not do its best to ensure the safety of these most vulnerable children. Orphaned children are vulnerable. Trafficking is real. Let’s not increase that risk by participating in programs that are “less than excellent” when it comes to protection and safety. Please host a child this summer or scholarship a child to help another family host, but make sure you do it with a program that you have thoroughly vetted and doesn’t compromise on issues of safety. To learn more about our hosting program go to www.nhfc.org


Sources linked in text

An Unholy Alliance http://humantraffickingsearch.org/resource/an-unholy-alliance-the-connection-between-foster-care-and-human-trafficking/

Trafficking in Persons Report  2018 https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2018/index.htm



A Rough Morning

by Sherri McClurg, CEO, New Horizons for Children

It’s been a rough morning. For the third time this hosting season I have worked with our in country team to talk to a morgue about paying for “extra days” to hold a body there. Sadly, it’s the third death this season back home for our host kids. I’m trying to delay things until these host children can get home to attend the funerals.

Sometimes people wonder why we host children from a foster home or from a guardian’s home who will never be clear for adoption and is already in a safer place. This is an excellent example to help us all understand the why.

We have a teen girl from a good foster home with a foster mom who cares about fostering. On New Year’s Day, the child’s biological mom died in an alcohol related death. Two weeks later her biological sister died. Her foster mom was thankful she was in the USA because she would be distracted from the hardship. I, on the other hand, was glad she was here because she was surrounded by people who love her and care for her, who also love Jesus and will walk through this hardship with her. There are very limited counseling resources in country, and even sadder, there are few, if any, who will point her to God for comfort and healing. But, she is here with New Horizons, with a family who is sharing the love of God with her and helping her through her grief.

We also have a teen boy whose grandma, his caregiver since he was three, passed away last week. He, as well, might not have looked like a “true orphan” who needed hosting but I’m so glad he is here with a family who will love him through this week. They will walk through the days ahead with him as he returns to a transitional home without his grandma. He is not alone.

Yes, these kids are living with people who care for them – but their lives were still marked by trauma and they have deep wounds that just got tore apart yet again. But, right now, they are with wonderful Christian families loving on them, sharing Jesus with them, and helping them begin to grieve in the healthiest way possible. They will go home later this week to face a difficult, complicated time of grieving. Thankfully, they will not do it alone. They will go home knowing there is a family that loves them, is grieving alongside them, and most of all that they are being prayed for daily to our Father in Heaven, who cares tremendously for them and is with them through this pain.

God chose NHFC and these families to walk alongside these kids through hosting and to be His hands, His feet, and His heart as they go through this painful time. These children are going home to hardship and loss, but by the grace of God – hosting has given them family – someone to love them, pray for them, and walk forward with them. Please keep these children and their host families in your prayers.

There is a child out there who needs you to be their person. They need you to show them the love of family, and the love of God. This is why we do what we do. Please answer the call to care for an orphan and host a vulnerable or orphaned child this summer. Matching families with children will start the beginning of February. Learn more at www.nhfc.org

Serving God in Kenya

by Dee Blank – Mission Trip Team Member

Water.  When I think of the continent of Africa, I think of water. Or rather the lack of it. On our way to Kenya in early December, we prayed for rain. Upon the team’s arrival, it rained.  Praise God!

Water sustains life here on earth. Christ, our living water, sustains us for eternity.  While the orphanage at Zion may be in perpetual need of drinking and washing water, evidence of Christ’s living water flooded in upon our arrival.

The ground was red and dusty; the clothes were torn and dirty.  Yet the smiles were large and genuine; the joy was palpable. Worship was thunderous, spontaneous, and spirit-filled. Never have I seen people, children, so rawly dependent upon every provision from God and genuinely thankful as He continues to “rain down” their needs. Truthfully, we ALL are dependent upon God for provision, but I think what we miss in our western world is the profound recognition and gratitude that we saw at Zion.

Food, shelter, medical care, education are all being provided, though each month is a struggle.  More children are coming in January.  “How will you handle more children?” we asked Pastor Harrison.  “We are praying and trusting in the Lord’s provision,” was his response.  Amen, sir!

Doors have been opened for NHFC to become involved with the ministry at Zion.  Doors were opened for each team member to be able to travel to Kenya.  There is zero doubt in my mind that God wants us to bless this special place and through us help provide for this ministry.

My prayer upon leaving Kenya is this: Lord, please continue to open my eyes and help me to recognize every detail that you have provided and to thank you for it. Let me support our brothers and sisters at Zion to the best of my ability.  All glory is to you, God, as I remain in awe of your amazing work in weaving the streams of our lives together.

Learn more about our mission trips by clicking here: NHFC Mission Trips

A First Step Towards Healing

by Dr. Sherri McClurg

As you can imagine, interview trips are one of the most amazing experiences… you not only get to see the countries our kids come from, but you see their culture, their life, and their experiences…. that is the glamour of an interview trip. It is beautiful. But with all that also comes the reality of what you don’t see… you don’t see loving mom’s and dad’s. You don’t see plenty of food and nurturing caregivers. You don’t see a community surrounding these children. You don’t see brightness, laughter, or innocence emanating off these children.

While most of our orphanages are decent places and a few are even good – the reality is they are the place where unwanted children reside. A place for those left behind. A place for those who have no one building into them, loving them, telling them it’s going to be okay, wrapping their arms around them saying we will get through this together. These trips are really, really hard.

This morning as we prepare to go to yet another place, our hearts are heavy. So many hard stories. We had a little extra time this morning before heading out… and in that moment we reflect and the flood of pain comes rushing through. We feel the heart ache and hurt. It’s been a morning of tears as we grieve over these children.

Yesterday, we saw 3 amazing teen siblings — who we’ve interviewed three times and still they have never been chosen. They asked if we thought maybe this time…

We spent time with twin sisters who had a really rough time… who age out in just a few shorts months…say… “we just want a new family.”

We played with little one’s who were desperate for hugs and attention. We hugged on everyone and cried with a sibling group when the oldest teen boy who cares for all his younger sibs told us how the littlest was taken away and his hope is to become educated and make enough money to bring them all back together again as family.

We met the little boy who has lost the ability to walk – no one knows why – and they live in such a rural area they have little medical support. To us it looks like a neurological disorder…. he can’t walk, he doesn’t even have a wheelchair… he is totally dependent on someone to carry him from one place to another… yet he is smart and caring and he tells us he hopes he can come to America and see a doctor who can fix his legs.

These trips are raw. They are painful. They hurt like you cannot begin to imagine…. but we trust and we hope… and we pray that for some of these children an amazing story of redemption is just beginning to unfold. Some of these children are going to meet Jesus. They are going to be wrapped in the arms of a mom and dad who are going to fill a need in their heart they didn’t even know they had. They are going to find laughter and joy and they are going to begin to dream. Families are going to be challenged to see the world like Jesus does and they too will never be the same.


Interview trips are brutal but they are the first step toward healing. Please keep us in your prayers. Pray for more families to come forward to meet these broken little lives and love like Jesus. Pray God’s healing rains down as we move across the country and that our touches and hugs bring a little bit of hope to these lonely places.


The Ones We Almost Left Behind

by Hyacynth Worth – Host mom

When I look at our family pictures I see the (mostly) smiling faces of our five children, and I am keenly aware that we almost missed out on some of those smiles.

Three of our children (I’ll let you try to guess which ones and tell you at the end who is who) came into our family after we hosted one of them three Christmases ago and then permanently through adoption, unexpectedly beautiful surprises. 

But admittedly, we almost missed the blessing of these precious souls being part of our family.

I remember the first time I saw one of our children’s pictures before hosting.

I remember the life in this child’s eyes shining through the picture, this child’s cautious, gentle smile unfolding across this beautiful one’s face.

And in this moment I saw a story begin to unfold behind the smile. I saw in this sweet child’s eyes hopes and dreams this child surely had. I realized the injustice of this child’s circumstances. I began to see the person beyond the snapshot coming to life before my very eyes.

I’d like to tell you I stayed in this place of awareness, a place I felt very near to the heart of God as I remembered the way Jesus really, truly saw the people he encountered, but soon after seeing this picture my mind began filling with questions:

How could we afford it?

How would bringing other children into our family effect our biological children?

How could I say goodbye to a child after hosting?

How could we parent children we just met?

How could we parent children who had suffered so much loss when we struggled with parenting our biological children?

How would our extended families respond?

As my questions mounted, so did the fear. Fears of not enough and too much all at once.

As the fear washed over me, it blinded me from remembering the preciousness of the children in the photographs.

The fear loudly drowned out their stories, their hopes, their humanity.

Through conversations with several close friends and with guidance from the Holy Spirit and word of God, the veil of fear slowly began to lift when exposed to the truth and love of God.

And the truth and love of God is that each of us is fully seen and fully known by Him.

God is not blinded by fear when he looks at us, and He’s not bound by fear in loving us.

God doesn’t worry that we may be too much or that He may not have enough strength courage or resources to love and care for us.

He saw us in our great need, and He came to us in the flesh of Jesus.

He saw our great need and our vulnerability and our desires, and He came close.

He came close, and He saw us.

Just as He sees the children beyond the photograph. Just as He saw me in my fears. Just as He sees each of us now daily and meets our needs as they come. And our needs come often. He always is faithfully close by.

There is nothing to fear when we are seen, loved and known so we are free to see, know and love.

There is great freedom in being seen because it ensures us that our Heavenly Father doesn’t turn away from us in our need, but draws close instead. This is good news. Really good news. And it frees us to bring good news into other people’s lives, truly seeing them and their need.

How grateful am I that God has reminded me that each of us are precious to Him, that He sees me in my need and frees me to go and meet the needs of those He puts in my path bringing them this same good news.

Like the tween girl in the photograph whose life became real to me when I finally really saw her as a person who also is seen and known by our Heavenly Father.

As a host mom and adoptive mom, I can’t stress enough about how when we start seeing people in all of their needs, their hopes, their dreams and their fears that we will be overwhelmed.

But we will also be seen. Our cries for help will be heard. We have Immanuel– God with us- and He sees and hears us as we call.

There is a danger in living in the blindness of fear — in the fear we dwell in the untruth of bad news that we are not seen, our needs will not be met and we will be forsaken.

When we live in the bad news of fear, it’s then that we forget the children in these pictures are actual living breathing people with names and lives and stories and hopes and dreams; it’s then, too, when we abandon part of our purpose as Christians – to be like the One who sees, to be like the One who never leaves the one behind.

A few months ago I heard a song that broke my heart yet again as I thought of our daughters … the ones who we could have left behind in the shadows of fear.

And it changed me.

I pray it reveals to you your preciousness to God and how we can freely live in the good news of “so will I.”

Because He did it all first.

If you left the grave behind you so will I. // If you gladly chose surrender so will I. // I can see your heart eight billion ways// every precious one a child you died to save// if you gave your life to love them so will I.// Like you would again a hundred billion times.// No measure could amount to your design.// You’re the one who Never leaves the one behind.

(Hillsong: 100 billion ways)

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.


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, 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

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