The Stonick family in California is hosting Nastya from Ukraine. When I asked host mom Stephanie if she’d blog about Christmas with Nastya she replied that she felt she was being led to write about how her husband’s love had impacted Nastya instead. I’m so glad she listened to what the Lord had laid on her heart to share. I know you will all be blessed by this beautiful post!
When my husband Greg and I felt God’s call to participate in New Horizons Winter Hosting Program it was with the understanding that I, as the stay at home mom and primary caregiver to our two children, would be bearing most of the responsibility of care for our host child, Nastya. Greg was totally on board, but pretty adamant about the fact that this would be “my thing”. It made sense. He would be working during a lot of her visit and I think the whole prospect of doing this was a little bit foreign to him (pun intended).
Now, at two weeks into our hosting experience I have to sit in wonder at God’s amazing plan for Nastya’s time with our family. While I have enjoyed caring for her, and have definitely bonded with her in many important motherly ways, it is the extraordinary bond that has formed between Nastya and my husband that I think will leave the most lasting impression on her from her time with us. Who would have thought?
Nastya is only 10 years old. That fact, paired with her limited knowledge of English and our (approximately three word) knowledge of Ukrainian has made deep conversations pretty rare so far. As a result, I am still not sure how much exposure she has had to a strong father figure in her life. When I asked her about God and church, she has shared that she does attend church regularly and knows about God, but I don’t get the impression that she knows God intimately as a Father and what that means for her as a fatherless child.
In this situation where words fail us, it has been very powerful to see Greg sharing God’s unconditional love with her. He has been able to introduce many of the characteristics of God the Father to Nastya in a very real and physical way, possibly in a way that she may have never experienced before, and we hope he is planting seeds of understanding that will spring to life at some point in her future.
God is LOVING: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1
Greg has been quick to show her appropriate fatherly affection: An arm thrown around her, a gentle squeeze to the shoulder, a hug, holding and carrying her. She has been soaking it up.
God is NURTURING: The LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. Deut. 1:31
Greg has treated her just as he does our other two children (he’s a total spoiler). He’s going to have a whopping chiropractic bill after these four weeks too!
God is GIVING: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Mt. 7:11
Greg has taken an active role in giving her the gift of his time. He reads to her, has done paper crafts with her, and the other day I even found them working on friendship bracelets together.
God is our PROTECTOR: Ps 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Greg is always there to catch her when she falls…and not just in the physical sense. He has had to work through some emotional times with her, he has had to verbally discipline and correct her (usually for her safety…the girl is a daredevil). He has even had to ask her for forgiveness when feelings were hurt.
God is FAMILY: God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”. Gal. 4:6
Greg has told her he loves her and she has affectionately started calling him “Papi”. A part of his heart will always belong to her and I know that he will always consider her his Ukrainian daughter.
Greg and I are so thankful that God’s plans were bigger than our expectations and that he arranged for her to experience the love of a strong physical father while she was here with us. Our entire family has been blessed by our time with her and we all have gained a better understanding of God and a closer relationship with our heavenly Father through this experience as well.
We don’t know what plans God has for our sweet, smart, fun-loving girl Nastya and we don’t know what role we will continue to have in her life after she steps back on the plane to the Ukraine on January 14th. She is an amazing girl and we hope to stay in touch and continue to help the seeds we have planted in her heart take root as she grows in maturity and understanding of who God truly is in her life. Until then, we will trust in God’s plan and be praying that He will continue the work he has begun in all of us during our incredible winter hosting experience.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. Eph. 1:17
Thank you for sharing your story. I am sure Nastya will hold her American father’s love in her hear forever and the prayers you say for her will lead her heart to our Heavenly Father.