If you are like most people, when you look at old family pictures, your eyes are drawn to the children. Wedding pictures are always cuter with a scowling flowergirl sitting on a bride’s train; a vacation shot of a tiny boy staring in wide-eyed wonder at the vast ocean is the one that is framed and hung on the wall.
No one frames pictures of the 15-year-old with the bad perm. No one gets the warm fuzzies when a pimply teenager scowls in a family photo.
Teens aren’t cute. They are awkward and pointy in all the wrong places. They have a sense of style that is foreign to adults, and the music they like, well, it’s just…strange. They are struggling with that land halfway between child and adult. One moment they are sweet and engaged, and the next they are looking at you like you have three heads because how can you possibly understand their world?
No one willingly desires to go back to their teen years. They are hard, and confusing, and seem so overwhelming. Parenting children through those years isn’t a whole lot easier.
And this is the struggle that orphan teens face. Many people are looking at the New Horizons for Children photolisting right now. Who would want the girl with the bad perm? Who would want the lanky boy who is all elbows?
But hosting isn’t about picking the cutest or the youngest or the one who looks the happiest. It’s about loving a hurting child. It’s about showing a child who doesn’t know what a functional family is that they are not alone. It’s about being Christ to them…being a servant who helps set the lonely into families.
Unfortunately, teens often go overlooked. They don’t look vulnerable the way a six year old does. They don’t show their fear, or appear to need a family. They look confident and brave and maybe even defiant.
That’s because they have to. They spent years learning that no one wanted them, that they can only trust themselves. Of course they are going to look brave. If they made it this far, they had to be.
And that should break our hearts.
One host mom of a teen boy had this to say, “As we looked through the 300 pictures of available orphans and read all their bios (all deserving to come and be loved by a family), one thing really struck us. One of the teen boys interviewed said, ‘I am still looking for my family.’ The reality is that once an orphan reaches the age of 5, their chances of ever being adopted are slim. The chances of an unadoptable teen boy being invited into someone’s home are astronomically slim. There is a huge group of hurting kids who need love that are being dismissed because they have ‘aged out.’ Our hearts broke for these boys who cannot be adopted but still want the love of a family.”
Five reasons you should consider hosting a teen:
1) They are at a critical point where they can make really good or really devastating decisions. Think back to your own childhood. Think of the most important conversation you had with your dad. Think of the time your mom spoke her heart and you realized the depth of your actions. Think of that time your trusted mentor had a true heart-to-heart with you. Those moments likely happened in your teens. These children don’t have those people around them. But they could—you could be that person for them. You can have a huge impact on them!
2) They tend to understand and appreciate hosting. While they might not express it verbally to you, they know the losses they have suffered. They know what they have missed out on. And they are eager to experience it, even if they pretend that they aren’t. They understand the amazing opportunity they are being given. They just might not tell you about it. But it doesn’t matter. You didn’t get into this for the accolades anyway.
3) They have the ability to create lasting relationships. They might not be adoptable, but adoption is not the only way to bond with a child. Sometimes student visas are possible. Sometimes they can come for hosting again. Regardless, most teens have greater access to social media and other communication methods, like Skype. With today’s possibilities for international connections, an ongoing relationship IS possible. Imagine someone choosing YOU to walk alongside as you transition to young adulthood – after you believe your opportunity has passed!
4) They need affection. There is no age limit on loneliness. There is no magical year when you suddenly don’t need your mom to say, “I’m so proud of you!” or your dad to say, “You really are talented!” They need to hear it. You can say it.
5) God calls us to love the ones the world sees as “unlovable.” Jesus ate with sinners. His best friends were lowly fishermen. His inner circle was constantly bickering and posturing. These people weren’t cute and cuddly. They were prickly and awkward, constantly challenging and questioning. They said a lot of mean things and made choices foolishly. They were sort of like a group of hurting teens. And he more than loved them…he invited them into his inner circle. They became his family. He never “adopted” them with legal paperwork. He just loved them with everything he had. And in return, they betrayed him and denied him and made all kinds of drama around him. But he was faithful in loving them. And what did they become? His children. And they took his love and spread it to the nations.
Don’t miss the opportunity to plant in the fertile soil of teenage hearts. Host a teen. Show God’s love in a tangible way. Change a life.