Last fall our family unexpectedly heard about orphan hosting. We never imagined ourselves hosting children from overseas. We were planning to adopt out of foster care. But we agreed to take a look at the photolisting and then we saw them: A group of 4 siblings who my husband and I both instantly knew were ours.
I know many of you prayed so hard for us in the weeks leading up to and throughout hosting. I am so grateful! God worked miracle after miracle for these children and for us! Those weeks were so emotionally draining. Now I am finally ready to share them with you. This post contains affiliate links.
How Fundraising for Orphan Hosting Went
We had heard about orphan hosting late in the year and there were only 12 days left until airline tickets needed to be purchased. In our world, that's a year's worth of mortgage payments! We prayed that God would send the money if the children were supposed to come and actively prevent the money from being raised if they weren't supposed to come. And then we got busy fundraising.
We signed up on a Friday. “The deposit is $250 per child,” the lady on the phone told me. “That's $1,000 due on Monday.”
Whoa! We had no idea how $1,000 was going to materialize over the weekend. The previous Thursday somebody had hired me to do $275 of work for them, so that would be a start. Then on Sunday, I remembered about a paypal glitch that had created a second account. Some of my blog sponsors had paid me in that other account. I logged in expecting to find about $200 and instead there was $700! $975! The extra $25 was easy to find! Miraculously, we had met the $1,000 payment by Monday!
The rest of fundraising was similar. Our feeble efforts were overshadowed by events that were clearly miracles from God. My 8 year old son had an idea to have a Lemonade Stand. So on Halloween, there we were, standing out in the pouring rain, trying to sell Lemonade. We sold 2 cups of Lemonade. (I later found out that my son bought 1 cup!) But our incredible community poured out their hearts and donated $1,700 to these sweet children.
By the 10th day of fund raising we were still so incredibly far from the amount we needed to bring the children here. We just kept praying, “Lord, if you want them here, you'll have to send the money. If you don't want them here, please prevent the money from being provided.”
The 11th day of fundraising happened to be my birthday. My friend texted me at 5 am. “Go look at the fundraising page!” A stranger had heard our story and donated $2,000! Our host children's travel expenses were fully funded! God had given me 4 more children for my birthday! (That doesn't happen every year!)
When We Started Asking the Hard Questions
Someone gifted us with tickets to an Empowered to Connect conference. We got to hear the renowned Dr. Karen Purvis (author of The Connected Child) speak about her work with traumatized children. What a blessing! Dr. Purvis was full of hope, but also presented a very realistic view of what children from foster care and orphanages struggle with. After the conference, we also met with a couple who run an adoption ministry. They heard our story and started asking the really hard questions.
Are you prepared to deal with fetal alcohol syndrome?
Are you willing to hire someone to care for your biological children while you meet the needs of your adopted children?
Sometimes children are molested in orphanages. What will you do when one of these children molest your biological children?
The answers were, “No,” “No,” and “Oh. My. Word!”
We didn't go home right away. We sat in the car and said, “What are we going to do? What have we gotten into?” But we didn't have any answers, just an awful feeling in the pits of our stomachs.
Answers To Prayer
I checked my email that night after putting the children to bed and I had an email from a blog reader. (Hi, Jackie!) It was a beautiful prayer for our family and for the host children. I wrote back to say “thank you” and this is what she replied with:
I read your email and I thought that's a wonderful thing they are doing. Then I went to another email. But God would not let me go. I went back so I could click the links and go to the whole article. Then God told me to write you. I thought to myself what can I say about adoption. I have 3 adult children but none are adopted and I asked what will I say. God told me that I would not say anything. I would say what he would say. Oh boy believe me when I say that I did not write that letter Hashem [God] wrote that letter. He wanted you to know that He is the one who is organizing this and that it is totally in His Hands.
“He wanted you to know that He is the one who is organizing this and that it is totally in His Hands.”
Those words jumped off the page at me and have stayed with me ever since.
The next morning I emailed Jackie to thank her for her encouragement. The email was returned with the error message “Domain Name Not Found.” So strange, since that email address was working the day before.
I felt so much better, but there were still some nagging worries that I had to be intentional about squashing The idea of any of these children being molested (whether host children or biological children) was particularly alarming to me. I began praying that someway, somehow the Lord would have protected them, even though they were in an orphanage. It's probably not great theology to ask God to change things that happened in the past, but it was all I had. God knew then that I would be praying this now and so I prayed.
And then I got a Facebook Message from another stranger.
Hi! I meant to do this sooner but completely forgot until now. I really hope you enjoy this photos!! These kiddos are absolutely precious and I am so glad they are being given a chance at a loving home!
And then she sent me 12 beautiful, incredible pictures of our host children laughing and having fun! They were good, close-up shots of the children's faces. It was clear that there were no obvious signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. (Lack of obvious physical indicators is not a guarantee, it was just a hopeful indication). It turned out this woman had been on the interview team. She had met my host children and had such glowing reports of what these children were like. (And now I realize, “Well of course she did! They're fabulous children!”)
This lady had also been inside their orphanage. She sent me 8 pictures of the building, the dining hall, their bedrooms and the bathroom. I was so relieved to see that it was a clean, well-kept facility! Obviously, children can still be molested in a clean, pretty space, but the timing of her messages coupled with the email I had received the night before made it clear that God was sending me a hug and saying, “Don't worry. I am protecting them.”
What I didn't realize at the time that I was struggling with all these fears is that New Horizons for Children screens the host children very carefully. Children with poor behaviour don't qualify for hosting and New Horizons shares any pertinent information that they have with us.
The Dreaded Home Inspection
The next step was to have our home safety inspection done. This is not the same as a home study for adoption. It's just a simple check to make sure that we have a safe home:
- Do we have a smoke detector on each floor? (Yes, we have one in each room! And it's a carbon monoxide detector, too! Overkill?)
- Do we have a fire extinguisher? (Yep! 2. One at each end of the house.)
- Do we have a fire escape plan? (We do, but one of my children told the inspector he forgot it. He needed to be prompted.)
- Was the dog up to date on his rabies shot? (Letter from the Vet in hand!)
- Can we commit to not exposing our host children to alcohol? (This last question ended up being a lot harder than I had expected. We don't have alcohol in our home, but it sure is everywhere else! Our host children saw it a few times at the grocery store and even at the local Dollar Store. We did our best to avoid and turned it into teachable moments when we couldn't avoid it.)
It was hard to know what we could do to get ready, but there were some practical considerations that needed our attention! Where would all these children sleep? There are rules about who can sleep in what room, but we knew we could make it work! We went on Freecycle and got one set of bunkbeds and some friends of friends gave us really nice mattresses. We had beds and mattresses for everyone, we just needed a loft bed for my two biological sons. As I was driving down to the vet one day, what did I see on the side of the road being given away? A full-size loft bed! It was exactly what we needed! The boys loved it and we made a private bedroom down below by hanging curtains off the loft bed. Not ideal, but it would be ok for a month.
We got their bedroom set up for the host children. Each of them had a large basket with their picture on it filled with socks, underwear, pajamas and more. I took mason jars and put hairbrushes, combs, washclothes, toothbrushes and more in them to make a little hygiene kit. They also had a shelf with snack bins on it. I cringed at the idea of having food in the bedrooms (Please stay away, mice!) but our concern was that they might be too shy to ask for food and they might go hungry instead of saying anything. I taped their photograph to their snack bins so they would know “This is mine.” (Doing this turned out to be a GREAT idea!)
We also decorated their beds with Christmas rope lights. This had been a last minute impulsive thing to do, but it turned out to be so helpful! The children were a bit nervous about sleeping in the dark at a new place and the Christmas lights helped tremendously!
We also made them a welcome sign so that they would be able to easily recognize us as their host family at the airport.
The handprints are all of us waving “Hello!”
We didn't buy too many clothes in advance. We got them pajamas, socks and underwear so that they would come home from the airport and have something clean and new and comfortable to wear. I was glad that we didn't buy more clothes than that. I was surprised at how small the children were. If I had bought their clothes in advance I would have purchased the wrong size, for sure.
The only remaining detail was that our vehicle only holds 7 and we were about to have 10 people in our family! The Lord took care of even that detail! We live in a small town with 800 people and we have a small grocery store. The clerk at the grocery store goes to a small church with a big, big heart. Even though they didn't know us, they lent us their van so that we could take the children places all together. What a blessing that van was to us!
Arrival Day…. Finally!
We aren't sure exactly how long the trip to Texas was for our host children. They had to take a train from their orphanage to the airport. From what we've heard, that train ride is anywhere from 4 to 17 hours long. Our host children just said, “It was really, really long!” About 24 hours before they arrived here, they arrived at the airport in Europe and we started getting updates. “They're at the airport!” “They're on the plane.” “They've changed planes in the next country.” It was so exciting! All night long I kept checking the flight tracker to see “Where are they now?” “Where are they now?” “Where are they now?” I did get some sleep in the wee hours of the morning and when I woke up the children and I watched their plane inch its way along the computer screen.
We watched them enter North American airspace.
We watched them enter American airspace.
And then we watched them enter Texas and fly directly over our house! At least, that's what it looked like on the flight tracker. At that point one of my children ran outside waving, calling “Hello!” and looked up to see if we could see them…. but no, we can't see quite that high up.
And Finally, The Moment Is Here!
The children had to fly over us and go through customs at Houston and then fly back to Dallas. That might not make sense until you consider that there were about 100 children traveling to America that day. This was the easiest way to get all the children to the correct host family.
We drove to the airport that evening and it was so exciting. We arrived early and we waited and waited. We saw on the screen that their flight had arrived. The airport coordinator went to the gate to meet them. And we waited some more. Suddenly I got an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. “FOUR KIDS!? WHAT HAVE WE SIGNED UP FOR? FOUR OF THEM.” And then they came into view. We could still see them through a glass wall. They were so tiny. Such tiny children who had been on such a big journey.
Then they stepped through the glass doors and they saw all 6 of us for the first time:
(This is a screenshot from a video someone else took. I'm sorry it's blurry but you can kind of measure on their faces what they might have been thinking at the moment they first saw us.)
There was a pause, and then our little host daughter came running up to me and leaped into my arms for a big hug. The boys were a little more reserved. Looking back at the pictures, I can see the oldest was checking us out. Relieved to be here, but still not quite sure.
And then the tables turned. When it was time to go home, our little host daughter started crying. Sobbing. Clinging to her travelling chaperon, not ready to let go. I turned and saw that the boys each had one tear sliding down their cheek, too.
What exhausted, overwhelmed, tired children.
In a new country, meeting new people and surrounded by a new language. I would have been overwhelmed too.
We've all watched the movie Annie and other TV shows that show orphanages as cold awful places to be. Some orphanages may be awful, but this social worker was no Miss Hannigan. This woman pours her heart and life into these children. She comforted and encouraged our little host daughter. After what felt like forever, it became clear that we were just dealing with exhaustion. “Your husband needs to just come and carry her out to the car,” she told me. And that's what we did.
How awkward. But she stopped crying when Papa the Farmer picked her up and just stoically resigned herself. The boys followed quietly.
We reached the van and I started trying to break the ice a little bit. The children and I got in but Papa the Farmer's door was still locked. I made the children vote about whether or not we should let him in the van to drive us home. They giggled and voted “yes.” Then I showed them the throw up bucket I had prepared. (It was just a dishpan with a bowl to vomit in, water, wipes and extra clothes just in case.) I had heard that European children may not be used to long car rides. I wanted to make sure they undersood that if they feel sick, they did not need to vomit on themselves. We practiced getting my attention by clapping (remember, they didn't speak English!) and then we pretended to throw up in the bucket. For me, this was no laughing matter, but the children thought I was hilarious and they started to giggle. And giggle. And giggle.
I didn't know it at the time, but those giggles were a foreshadowing of things to come. They didn't know it, but they were going to have a wonderful 5 weeks with us.
But the adventures of those 5 weeks are the topic of another blog post. Stay tuned! I'll continue this story soon!
Let's Bring Them Back This Summer
We miss our host children so much! We have until this Thursday to raise the $3,000 more and then we need to raise another $5,000 a few weeks after that. So, this week I am offering my newest ebook Battle of the Laundry Pile: How to Win Without Making the Kids Go Naked absolutely free as a “Thank You” gift to anyone who donates to our host children's fund!
This ebook contains behind the scenes tours of different moms' laundry systems. It also contains tips and tools to help you successfully manage your laundry. My favorite feature is that in the back of this book there are valueable coupons from some really neat laundry companies! The value of those coupons is worth more than the cost of the ebook! Win-Win! Click here to find out more!
Would You Like to Host an Orphan?
If you have prayed about it and think God is calling your family to host an orphan, it's an experience I highly recommend! Challenging, yes. But so worthwhile! Feel free to email me at GoodOldDaysFarm@gmail.com and ask anything! Or contact New Horizons for Children and be sure to tell them you heard about Hosting from me!
You can follow our hosting and adoption adventures in our Facebook Prayer Warriors Group!