Our friends the Pattons hosted Jamie* this summer. They had never done anything like this, but each time we saw them, we saw them living their regular lives, but with a girl who fit in so well, and felt so loved by them. Here is their story:
We initially signed up to host a girl in the spring of 2014. We had heard recent sermons about shaking up our lives and us American Christians being too comfortable and complacent. We felt called, especially after hearing about some of the experiences of others, to just take a chance and for one summer help one orphan. Life was going well for us, we had finally started to have some breakthroughs in our marriage, and felt like we were at a pretty healthy point, which took us a few years. And we had twin boys who were at a very independent age and who were very easy. So life was good, maybe too good. Something was missing, maybe we were just bored.
The girl we initially picked out through New Horizons For Children was unable to come for the summer 2014 because of the Russian invasion. We met another mom who was hosting a girl through Guglielmo’s Hope at a NHFC training. Her girl was also unable to come for unrelated reasons but she still had time to find another child. So she scrambled and was able to host Jamie that summer and we got to meet them when they visited San Diego for a few days. She was shy and reserved and focused on getting her bike out of her mom’s SUV instead of making eye contact with me. But she smiled a little and connected with me over the next couple days by pointing out things around our property that I hadn’t noticed, like a bug collection my dad left, or a butterfly that she caught, or the numerous squirrels that she trapped and begged to keep as pets.
This summer, we had to chance to host Jamie ourselves. We had the opportunity to take her to a white water rafting camp as I am a leader for the junior high youth group at our church, a once in a life time opportunity for any child, especially a child who lives in an orphanage. She went straight from the airport and drove with us for six hours until we got there. She knew no one that well but trooped along and participated in everything and never complained. It was humbling, how her life could be so hard back home and to come out here and not be able to speak the language (especially when we were at camp because I had no Google translate due to no cell reception), and it was like she didn’t want to be a burden. It was numbing…how easy she was. My favorite moments of her were when she was lost in unbridled joy.
She was fearless. She jumped off the highest rocks, and went over the biggest rapids completely unfazed. She came home and attempted surfing every time we went to the beach, snorkeled with the sharks, went on the fastest rides at Disneyland, got everything she could out of this experience. We had moments when we just laid in bed, her, Jeremy, and me, and watched YouTube videos and laughed hysterically together. We were warned not to have too much planned, and it really was in those quiet moments at home, that we bonded so much, like you wouldn’t expect.
I feel like we’re in this holding pattern. As if life should have gone back to normal but it didn’t. How this girl became part of our family, fit in eerily well, and left and now life is boring again. I am answering these questions in her room. It reminds me that one night she was missing for a while and came and got me. She asked me to come to her room and had a suspicious smirk on her face. I walked in and she had taken a few glow sticks, broken them open, and splattered them all over her room. My initial response was shock and annoyance that it was covering the silk duvet I just had dry cleaned, along with her cute vintage couch and everything else, but I hid my reaction when I saw the excitement on her face. I just walked in and stopped thinking about all the things that didn’t matter, and instead marveled at how beautiful it really was. The floor, the ceiling, the walls… everywhere you looked was glowing as if I was back in a NY summer with infinite fireflies or…or in some crazy magical fairy garden. It was incredible. Thinking about that moment makes me cry for the first time since she left. These orphans are the perfect reminder of what is really important in life, and she left such an impact on us, I really don’t see how we gave her anywhere near what she gave us, especially me. It was the best summer of my life.