The first day of orphan hosting was…. a bit awkward. After spending weeks fundraising and preparing for their arrival, the children were finally here! It was hard to believe that they were real and that they were really here in our home!
Their trip had been a long one. Anywhere from 4-17 hours on a train (we're still not sure!), followed by 4 plane rides. Technically, their tickets showed that they had been on 3 planes, but the children insisted that they had changed planes in Greenland. I guess they stopped to refuel and perhaps had a chance to get off the plane and stretch their legs? The fact that these very small children were discussing their time in Greenland was amazing to me. What a big journey for such little people!
“Just a Little Bit” of Food
It's no surprise that the children slept in that first day. They probably slept until about 11. I could finally hear that they were up, they were giggling, but they were too shy to come out of their room. I went in to invite them to come eat. They had eaten on their layover, but they hadn't eaten since meeting us the night before. (I had brought subs to the airport, but they weren't hungry.) “Just come to the kitchen and try eating a little bit,” I gestured. So we all trooped off into the kitchen together.
I set a bowl of oatmeal in front of each child and put a plate of fruit on the table. We prayed for the food. They looked at their food and started giggling. And giggling. And giggling. “Choop-choop!” they said. They pointed to their food, poked each other, repeated “Choop-choop” and giggled some more.
I had no idea what was wrong with these children!
Later I discovered that “choop-choop” means “a litle bit.” They had understood that I was giving them just a little bit of food. In my mind, one bowl of oatmeal and some fruit was just “a little bit” but to them it was a lot. They thought I was so funny to call it “a little bit.” But they ate it all.
We Find A Common Language
After breakfast, they went back to bed! This was so disappointing for my children who had been waiting for weeks for them to come and play together, but the host children were exhausted! They were also shy. A little while later, my daughter sat down at the piano (just out of habit) and began to play. I went racing into the living to say, “Stop Playing! The host children need to sleep!” But the host children had beaten me to it. With big smiles on their faces, they had come out of their rooms and were asking, “Musica?” I suddenly remembered these were musical children! Several weeks earlier we had seen a video of the girls singing together. The boys were making it clear that they love music, too. I brought them over to the piano and invited them to play with it.
They looked at me and weren't quite sure if they were understanding correctly. So I got my children to come show them. First I played several white keys going down the piano. My biological children repeated what I had done. Then the host children understood and they tried it too! Then I played several black keys and we all repeated that. Then I played a funny pattern and everyone repeated it. Before I knew it, I had 7 children playing the piano at the same time. (Oh, you have not lived until you've heard 7 children playing one piano at the same time!) With music, we had found a common language and the ice had been officially and forever broken.
We also had given the children bubble solution as a “welcome” gift. Like music, bubbles are also the universal language of children. Our oldest host son was exhausted and went back to sleep, but the other children enjoyed blowing bubbles together (in my kitchen. It was cold outside and I didn't have the heart to tell them bubbles is not really an indoor activity.) What fun they had!
What We Wouldn't Have Known Without A Translator
Later that day, my neighbor who speaks the same language as the host children dropped by to say “hello” and see if the host children had any questions they would like answered. She was so helpful! One thing she was able to do was help the boys sort through some clothes I had and figure out which clothes they liked and which they didn't. She also was able to ask them what some of their favorite foods are and that was also very good information to have.
When she met the children she said, “I know it's just your first day, but how do you like America so far?” I was so surprised at our little host daughter's answer.
Before I tell you what she said I want you to understand, hosting is not an adoption program. However, my host children have seen other children from their orphanage be hosted and end up being adopted. We don't ever talk about adoption with them, but they know it's a possibility.
So, when my little host daughter was asked “How do you like America?” her reply was heartbreaking.
“Oh, I think I like America just fine,” she said, “But one of the big boys at the orphanage said they are going to ask me if I want to stay here and I should say YES because America is better. But my sister at the orphanage said to make sure I say NO so that I can go back and we can be together.” (Remember, her younger sister had to stay behind because of the chicken pox.)
It's not actually true. Nobody was going to ask the children if they wanted to stay in America. In fact, Papa the Farmer and I both signed notarized papers promising to return them to their orphanage. Staying in America was not an option for them! (If we had kept the children we would have been charged with kidnapping!) But children talk and children get things mixed up and this sweet little girl thought she was going to have to choose between her future and her sister.
We cleared that up immediately! Our neighbor was wonderful! “Oh, no, no, no, no NO!” She assured them. “You are not staying here. This is just a vacation. After 5 weeks you are going home.”
The mood in our home visibly lightened. A huge weight had been lifted off that little girl's shoulders. She was free to enjoy herself without having to worry about this looming decision. I put a calendar up on the fridge. My stick-drawings are dreadful, but I drew an airplane and a happy face on the day they had arrived. I drew in an airplane and a sad, crying face on the day they would leave. (They thought that was so funny!) I drew in which days we would go to church, which days we would go to the eye doctor and the dentist. I drew in Christmas. Anything that would be significant to the children I was sure to mark it on the calendar. What a very useful tool this turned out to be! The children checked that calendar every day and every day they crossed the day off so that they knew exactly when things would be happening. Nothing was a surprise to them.
The First Supper
By the time all this had happened it was supper time. I can remember traveling to another country before I was married and really just wanting to eat something familiar so I had made Borscht (Beet Soup) for dinner. I was really hoping this would go well. We are not picky eaters, but beets are one thing I'm not fond of. This particular soup not only had beets, but it was flavored with ketchup. I was a little unsure about this combination, but my neighbor assured me it tasted like genuine borscht! Everyone liked it (including me). The host children ate it sweetly, but when my neighbor asked them, they did admit that they were disappointed that I had served a European dish. “We really want to eat American food” they said. “We want to try a cheeseburger!”
The all-organic-vegan-gluten-free Mama in me cringed at the thought of meeting her first “Happy Meal.” But for us to successfully blend two families together for a month, we were all going to have to show patience and grace and be accomodating to each other.
Our oldest host son was still so exhausted. While Papa the Farmer ate out in the kitchen with most of the children, my neighbor and I ate on the bedroom floor while our oldest host son ate in bed. He was too tired to get out of bed, but I wanted him to eat something! So we picnicked on the floor.
We had survived the first day. It was going to be a very good month.
Let's Bring Them Back!
We have been working really hard over the past month or so, fundraising to bring the children back. Ultimately, the funds come from God and we have been amazed to see how God uses people – sometimes people we don't even know – to bless these children. If you feel led to donate to help the children come back this summer, our fundraising page is here. All 4 children are almost fully funded to return this summer, but we're not quite there yet! We are so excited! Thank you so much for your prayers and support! This couldn't happen without you.