A glimpse into what hosting an orphan looks like, but in this case, a family who hosted a sibling set of THREE!!! Enjoy!
My husband and I have 6 children, with most of them still at home. Life is crazy-good and crazy-busy. We are very, very blessed. Ours is a blended family, with bio, step, and adopted children. You’d never know which is which. From sad circumstances, it’s a remarkable blessing to demonstrate that family is made from love and care, not from birth. It’s an even bigger blessing to enjoy those relationships.
My husband and I thought that when our older ones could drive and had some independence, and we had more time available for the schedule and demands of fostering, that we’d like to foster-adopt. We met with a great agency, started reading, and thought “in a year or so.” And just when we settled on that as *our* plan, I came across a hosting organization. I had never heard of such a thing. It was an organization that placed children from overseas orphanages into families for the summer or Christmas. Some children are adoptable, some not. All were removed from (or lost) their parents, and had little to look forward to. We were not prepared to start fostering yet, but we had the summer free, and wanted the opportunity to serve, love, and to see if our family could possibly add siblings to the existing 6.
The organizations make it very clear that hosting-for-the-summer is ONLY hosting-for-the-summer. The hosted kids cannot stay, under any circumstances, no matter what. Period. They even make you sign a one-pager where that is the only statement on the page. I laughed.
We started looking for siblings – hoping to support some family bonds – that could somehow fit into our boys/girls/ages/personalities. Hah! We inquired about a few groups, and somehow the right kids turned out to be host-only (not adoptable) siblings of two sisters and a younger brother (13, 10 & 7). A few weeks later, we learned that there is a fourth sibling, but too young to travel for hosting.
They came at the end of June and changed our lives. They are our kids. They are our kids’ sisters and brother. We are their family. In a few weeks, we did our best to demonstrate to them that love from Mom, Dad, and God is unconditional. Behavior, background, clothing, food, manners, attitudes – is NOT who they are, or what we love (or not). We demonstrated that we love them because they are our kids, and that they are precious, and valuable, and worthy of love and care and attention.
We ask these very hurt and betrayed children to trust us. We ask them to travel overseas, open themselves up and to accept love from a complete stranger. We ask them to trust that we really do love them for who they are. And remarkably, they do. It’s not logical, and I don’t know how or why they do it. They are the bravest people I’ve ever met, and they’re children.
I learned that you can’t demonstrate and offer love like this without opening your own heart. So, we poured out love on them, with a lot of grace – more grace than we give our own children. We bridge the language gap with humor and patience. We bridge the gap between our kids and our new kids – when they quarrel, or when the new kids break every family rule that we’ve taught, and our kids are struggling with finding their own grace and patience.
Within days, we are “Mom” and “Dad” and this brand new place is called “home.” And the hugs come, and smiles, and new family routines, and trust. All the time knowing that in a few weeks, they have to go back. The boy who wouldn’t talk or make eye contact – or even flinch with an injury that would devastate my kids – now breaks into tears and runs to mom, seeking hugs, comfort and a bandaid. The little girl feeds her favorite cherished snack (any kind of fruit) to mom or dad, one for her, one for me. The reserved, serious big sister, who has the weight of the world on her 13-year-old-girl shoulders, asks me to stay up all night making photo albums, and then to sleep next to her on her last night here.
All the while, I’m watching our kids, wondering if this is fair to them. How hard is it to have a new sibling breaking all the rules, and only being corrected for the worst offenses? I would find times to separate them occasionally – giving all of them a little time and space, but invariably, they’re back together in a few minutes. Between the two boys most often fighting, at one point I heard the latest commotion, headed to the back door to referee, but when I get there, the two were shaking hands and making plans for the next game. No common language, and both are sweet-hearted but strong-willed, hot-tempered boys of 7 & 8. No doubt each was provoked and things escalated in seconds. But – shaking hands and back to being brothers. And the daughter who I knew had the hardest time with the imposed chaos and shared room, told me at the end that she didn’t want to come to the airport to say goodbye. Because it was too sad. She wanted them to stay.
I’ve learned how easy it really is to genuinely and freely give love, with no expectations, once you make the decision. My husband taught me this, and I am still learning. He is a remarkable man, husband and dad. I could not have done this without him, but together, I think we can do anything.
I’ve seen how powerful the healing is to somebody who hasn’t been loved for just who they are. I also wondered if I could share our faith with these kids. How angry and bitter they must be. And I wondered – with their life experience, how could they even believe in God? But, it was easy to love unconditionally, and to confidently tell them that God has a great plan for them. And even though there is evil and hurt in the world, it is not from God. But they know this better than we do – they have felt the hurt, and seen evil influencing the people who should have cared for them. They get it. And I think the key is for them to believe that their background is NOT who they are. That they are lovable and valuable, that God can create good out of any situation, and to have hope, and patience, and faith.
There were no great conversions, and with the language gap, I felt incapable of communicating most of this in words. But to kids with such a hard background, I’m sure words are often empty of meaning. In hindsight, I’m glad I wasn’t able to use them. Love and patience and grace was the best language.
We took them back to the airport on Sunday afternoon. We said our goodbyes. We are hoping to see them at Christmas, hopefully all 4, although their future is with the family courts in their country. We pray for whatever is best for them. We cried. We’re sad. We wouldn’t change it for anything.
Amazingly, even with 5 kids here, our home seems quiet. The few mispronounced words we picked up in their language still make us smile, but are bittersweet. The dual-language sticky notes are gone. Our newly-broken English is laughable, and we joke about what the kids’ teachers are going to say when school starts. My husband and I have 10 kids now, but 4 of them live in another country, and that part is hard. But, they know they’re loved, and that could make all the difference in the world for them.