My Story: Hosting
My life is made up of many things, and they find themselves making their way into this blog. When I started this, I wanted share my journey into hosting, but in the process I discovered that I had been traveling quite a bit further to get to this place. And so this blog has become about more than just my adventures in hosting, but about the way I am trying to find my place in this world.
And what a joy that has been.
However, many of my posts relate to hosting and how it has changed me and my perspective on the world. It’s an opportunity that many people have not heard of, so I want to explain what it is as well as the path I have taken.
Orphan hosting is a program that brings orphans from other countries and brings them to the United States to experience the love of a family at Christmas and during the summer. These children often have never seen a functional family or had the opportunity to be loved specifically for who they are.
The organization that I host through is called New Horizons for Children (NHFC), and it is the largest faith-based hosting program in the US. They primarily serve orphans in Eastern Europe. I chose this group because, for me, a big part of hosting is telling these children not only about how I love them, but about how God loves them as well.
I wanted to reach children who were at risk for human trafficking and abuses. In Eastern Europe, 60% of orphaned girls are trafficked or involved in the sex trade when they age out, and 70% of the boys turn to crime to survive. About 15% commit suicide within two years of aging out. Hosting can change that—having a family in America who cares for them and serves as a connection has been proven to reduce these statistics. Additionally, some of the children are adoptable; without hosting, these children would languish in the orphanages and age out without a family, having only a 1% chance of adoption. But of the adoptable children who come on hosting, 80% find a forever family.
After my first hosting experience, I joined the organization as a volunteer. I have had the opportunity to write, create, and fundraise as part of their vision for loving orphans. I have also been thrilled to train new families and to travel to Latvia on three separate interview trips (where we meet and select the children for the program).
I first heard about NHFC in January of 2013 and thought a friend of mine should host. She encouraged me to pursue it myself. And so, in July 2013, we hosted Soccerboy. He was nine, as was Little Man, my biological son. Soccerboy was full of energy and spirit. He spoke almost no English, but we quickly found out that what he couldn’t say, he made up for in charades and dancing and jumping and climbing. He loved bananas and biking and swimming, and the boys quickly fell into a rhythm of energy—there were alternating bouts of laughter and tears, but all of it was lively. We learned so much about loving across cultures. Over the hosting, we felt like perhaps we were not this boy’s permanent family. After hosting, Soccerboy was returned to his biological family. This was an unexpected shock, but he is very happy to be with his parents and younger brother. His family has Skype, so we keep in touch. Part of my heart now lives in a little home by the Baltic Sea.
And so, I became a volunteer and worked on advocating for children for the Winter 2013 hosting. One 17-year-old girl grabbed my heart. I just had to help her get hosted. I began to tell people about this amazing girl…and I kept being asked why I wasn’t hosting her myself. But that wasn’t my plan. A teen? A girl? No thanks. But her face just wouldn’t leave me, so I asked friends to pray with me for direction. It seemed this girl was supposed to come to my home. And that is how we found Sunshine.
Sunshine truly is the daughter of my heart. She is smart and spunky and all things wonderful and weird. She is tough and brave and so much like me it’s shocking. Once again, I found myself changed in a way I did not think was possible. This girl was mine; she was family. So I spent Christmas learning how to parent a teenager. Little Man fell in love with her and learned that being the annoying little brother was a great position to have in a family. She speaks English well, and is honest and open with her thoughts and opinions. When she went home at the end of her month with us, she was more than just an orphan from Latvia. She came the following summer, and we saw New York City, fulfilling her lifelong dream. We talked and bickered and laughed and loved. We are truly a family, and I have written her on my soul as mine forever.
She is beyond the age of adoption, but I have decided to commit to her. I choose to love her as my own, in whatever capacity I can. I choose to be her American mother, and have been able to share our story through Listen to Your Mother.
Sunshine decided to stay in her country because of connections she has there, and I agreed that this was the very best thing for her. But I am no less of a mother to her. I am her first call for all things terrible and exciting. Little Man and I were able to travel to see her in September 2015, and we met her half-sisters and her grandmother, who showered us with love. She told us the greatest gift she ever could have received was to meet her American grandson in person.
We spent a year and a half in our new normal, and I went back again for another interview trip in the fall of 2015. Sunshine told me it was time—I should pick another child to bring for hosting since she wouldn’t be able to visit in the near future. Little did she know that on the first day of the trip I had met Peter Pan. This sweet, quirky boy whispered his truths straight to my heart, and I knew that he needed to come for Christmas. We hosted him Christmas 2015, and he turned out to be a nerd who spoke the same sarcasm as the rest of us. He was about to age out, so I offered him a student visa, but he changed his mind and we mourned the loss and his choices, even as we understood why he made them. He chose to visit us one additional time, and we invested without expectations. Love is love, and that is what we offer. He has since chosen to go his own way, but I know that he will always carry this truth with him: he was wanted, he was valued, and he was loved. Perhaps someday we will see how that has changed him; perhaps we never will. It doesn’t matter, because this isn’t about results or happy endings or our own comfort.
And I know that our family and our definition of it will continue to expand. In October 2016, Sunshine and her fiance had my first little grandbaby–Pumpkin! I travel to Latvia to snuggle and love on this new dear baby.
I never thought that this journey into hosting would bring me to a new home, a home that spans an ocean. I never thought that in loving orphans I would find myself in a family. I never thought that by opening my heart to this, I would feel so much pain, so much joy, so much love.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
If you are interested in hosting, please contact me or go to New Horizons for Children’s website.