I should start by saying, for those who don't know, that we moved to Florida! That's a whole other story in itself that I'll save for another day. For now, I want to start journaling about our time with the sweet Eastern European boy we are hosting. (For privacy sake, I am not going to name him or his country online. If you are curious about any of these details, feel free to ask me by email.)
I first read about New Horizons for Children late one night when I couldn't sleep. I came across the website while reading through different international adoption sites. (Adoption is one of my favorite interests to read and learn about. Whether we ever adopt or not, I just find every story - the good and the bad - so compelling.)
I immediately loved the idea of hosting an orphan for (approximately) 5 weeks. Soon after Ryan and I were married, I started talking to him about hosting a foreign student one day. He was pretty much like, "Are you crazy? Um, no." And it was probably even more adamant and definite than that even sounds. But I wasn't deterred ("It'll be fine. You'll see. You'll love it.") and even sent off for an informational video - VHS at the time; that's how long ago that was. And since I've always (and Ryan is interested, too) wanted to adopt internationally, orphan hosting seemed to be the perfect combination.
I filled out the informational registration to view the photolisting for hosting, and as I looked through the pictures of such precious little faces, I wanted to start hosting the next day. I think, at the time, winter hosting was about to begin so I put it into the back of my mind. Plus, I needed time to get Ryan used to the idea.
Fast forward a few months when it was time for the summer photolisting to become available and registration to begin. I stalked the list as new pictures were added by the minute. I realized what an impossible task it would be to choose between all of these precious, smiling, hopeful faces.
But then I saw S's photo. I looked into his sweet brown eyes, maybe saw a little bit of myself, and was hooked. (It was an interesting discussion within the NHFC summer hosting group on facebook about how you notice that most of the host kids actually do look like their host families - even the ones of different ethnicities! That is clear when you see the family group photos.)
The kids really enjoyed looking through the kids' photos and reading their bios. They were like me and also wanted to bring many of them home forever. Reading through the bios and looking at the photos became a daily activity of ours. We prayed over them all.
My husband wasn't immediately on board. Ryan has a heart for having a big family. He has a heart for international adoption. He has a heart for overseas missions. But he works really, really hard and is really, really tired. It's understandable that he doesn't want to take on another thing obviously. But he saw the excitement in the kids and me, hopefully it rubbed off on him, and he joined in on the planning. There wasn't really any discussion on who we were going to pick. It was S all along, and even though we wished we could bring more than one to our home, there is a rule about not hosting more unrelated child. This was a surprising move for us, really, because it was decided long ago that if we ever adopted (and so it would seem the same for hosting), we would choose a girl to help round out the family. We can only say that we believe it must be God's hands, for whatever reason, leading us to this particular child at this particular moment. I certainly wouldn't sign up, all on my own, for more testosterone, noise, and smelliness, etc. in my house. :) (I love my boys!!! I really would take 10 more just like 'em.)
Therefore, in February we were signed up with our deposit made (host families are responsible for paying for the child's airfare, passport, visa, and other costs related to chaperones, translators, etc.). June seemed a long way off, but we weren't necessarily in a hurry because we had a lot to do between then and now, including selling our house and moving to Florida. (If that sounds very non-chalant, there has been nothing non-chalant about the past few months. Not considering any time in my life that included the death or poor health of any loved one which obviously majorly trumps any of this, this has been one of the most difficult times in our lives. There was A LOT to do.) None of this was the best of timing. It's hard to explain when you feel God's nudging toward, "Yes, THIS." So THIS is what we did.
Finally, after our applications had been typed up, our references verified, security clearances checked off, home safety visit made, a day of hosting training completed, the guest bedroom and bathroom filled with all of the necessities, and a plethora of prayers had been sent up, it was time to meet our little guy at the airport. The problem with condensing many months of work into one blog post is underestimation. There was more to do than I can even summarize. This included lots of fun and healthy anticipation, as well.
I do not want to leave out the huge amount of support and encouragement we received from our friends and family. My friend Kourtney unexpectedly handed me $80 toward our hosting fees; she also donated so many great items for me to sell at our 2-day garage sale (where we made $560). I didn't ask her for money; she just has a heart for the program and felt led to do so. When we moved, I handed our leftover garage sale items to a couple of my friends in Arkansas who were having a sale. They went to so much more work dealing with my stuff and mailing me a check, which we are using for hosting, too. I am so grateful for all of this.
I enjoyed "meeting" other host families on facebook and sharing my concerns, questions, and excitement. Many of them had traveled this road before, and there were plenty of stories (some good, some not good) to help us prepare. I would definitely say that the overwhelming theme to those who have hosted before is a positive one. Even those who had a hard time with their host child could tell that a difference had been made, and there are few regrets.
To Be Continued!