Paula’s Bracelet–Advocating for the Teen Girls in Eastern Europe

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Prayers have been covering the NHFC Facebook page this week.  Many for our long list of orphans who are still waiting for host families and many for my partner volunteer Paula.  She’s been in the hospital for the past 7 days with serious medical problems.  It has been incredible to see all the overwhelming support and prayers coming from all over the US and the world on her behalf.

PhotoGrid_1351359019208Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit her in the hospital.  She was in a lot of pain still.  It seems like the doctors are doing what they can to help bring her back to health and fix the ailments. 

While I was there, the nurse came in to check her vitals.  As she asked Paula to raise her arm to check her blood pressure, I noticed a little beaded bracelet. 

She has been wearing this bracelet ever since she returned from this fall’s NHFC interview trip.  While she was in Ukraine, one of the girls she met gave it to her.  Paula told me that she was committed to keeping it on and praying for her to find a host family. 

When she returned from the trip, she told me about the orphanage this girl lived.  She said she loved all the children there, they were great kids, very talented, and beautiful.  She said she had never seen so many beautiful children in one orphanage before.  But at the same time, she was concerned.

Those beautiful girls live in a part of the world where human trafficking is a huge industry, especially sex trafficking.  Knowing the statistics and the stories, Paula just knew that that these beautiful girls at this orphanage would be prime targets for traffickers when they would age out of the orphanage in a few years… if they were not already targeted. 

Paula met these girls, and couldn’t help but dwell on the future that lay before them.  Leaving the orphanage with no family connections, little education, no skills to help them make a living.  If a person was to approach them with great ‘opportunities’ to give them a job as a nanny or working in a restaurant, who would provide great pay and a place for them to live… how could they resist?  (Click here for a horrific report on this reality for so many older orphan girls in this part of the world.)

And that is why we are advocating and praying for these girls.  That is why Paula has kept wearing this bracelet for all these weeks.  To give these girls a chance, a hope at a safe and secure future. 

There are still 5 older girls from this specific orphanage that Paula felt so drawn to advocate for who need to be hosted for this Christmas.  Older Girls Waiting For Host FamiliesThe opportunity to spend the winter with a loving host family could change their lives, and surely their futures.  They could be encouraged and build self-confidence with the love of a family.  Host parents could guide her in safe ways to pursue an education or a trade after graduating from the orphanage.  A family could help connect her with local ministries to help her to live for Christ and trust in Him to provide for her future.  She could find a forever family in the US that will love her and raise her to live in Biblical truth and hold on to God’s promises for her.

Please join us in continuing to advocate for these girls and find them host families.  The last day to sign up to host for most children will be November 1st, only 5 days away.  And please continue to pray for Paula, she is still in the hospital and battling a lot of pain. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Not the Summer I Had Planned

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Eight weeks ago, I drove to Ohio with some very specific plans…

For 2 weeks, I was going to take care of my 18 year old brother and wrap up some adoption fundraising while my parents were taking care of adoption proceedings in Ukraine. We would get to pick my parents up from the airport, spend about a week hearing all about Sasha and Ukraine, and getting the house ready for Sasha’s arrival. Then, my dad and I were going to leave for the second adoption trip to Ukraine, check Sasha out of the orphanage for the last time, do some final appointments there, enjoy Kiev with Sasha for a few days, then fly home for a glorious reunion of the entire family in Ohio.  Then spend the last week or 2 in Ohio helping Sasha get acclimated before I had to leave to go back and start work again in Missouri.

That all changed when Sasha said “nyet” on June 13th.

Mom & Dad's Welcome Home All the plans came to a screeching halt. My parents came home and there were tears at the airport… but much more bittersweet than we imagined. It was as if we had a death in the family, or a miscarriage… but there seemed to be an extra sting to the loss because Sasha specifically chose other things over us.  But if we were to do it all over again, we would still choose him. I know whenever I return home, it will always feel like there is someone missing. Sasha, there will always be a spot for you in our home. ❤

I wanted to spend the summer with my family, especially in this hard season, but I still wanted to do something at the same time. There were orphans who came up needing a summer host family, but our family was not ready for that again.  Then there ended up being an adult chaperone who needed a place to stay for the summer and God just made it all come together from there!

Evita works in an orphanage in Latvia. Her orphanage is actually a small private orphanage that is run by an American Christian. They have such a great opportunity to touch the lives of orphans there! She is one of the caregivers there who got to travel with 6 of the Latvian host children from their homecountry to their host families in America. I say she ‘got’ to come, but it’s a big job when you’re 1 of a handful of adults escorting 90+ orphans across borders, customs, and multiple airports!

First Day in OH at an Indian's GameEvita stayed with us for 1 month and she was so great! We got to do so many things together… starting off with a fun trip to the lake with some great NHFC friends.  We went to an Indian’s game, the zoo with many fun host kids, Ukrainian Festival, hiking, a family reunion, Niagara Falls, dressed up like cows to get free food from Chic-fil-a, a drive-in movie, helped Brad take his senior pictures, shared a taste of exquisite American fare – a corn dog and battered & fried cheese on a stick, got a little crazy at a graduation party, learned how to make Latvian cold soup, watched an entire season of Boy Meets World, did lots of shopping, learned about Cheese-on-a-Stick at Geneva-on-the-Lake!geocaching, had fun at a waterpark, explored a good old fashioned midwest flea market with Paula, helped Kayla move into her new house, got many laughs from Brad’s silly sense of humor,  spent many many many hours together in the car, listen to lots of good songs, shared laughs about some hosting stories, we both helped many host families and orphans who were in the US for the summer, and got to share lots and learn lots about each other’s love for God & orphans!

It definitely was not the summer I had planned, but it ended up being one that I will never forget!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Summer 2012 Hosting Resources

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Here’s some information that I send out to all the New Horizons hosting families in our region.  I hope you find some of these resources to be helpful!

English Teaching Resources
Remember to incorporate some sort of English lesson everyday.

  • Live Mocha
    Popular with other host families and free!
  • Oxford Picture Dictionary
    Monolingual – Just English, so it can be used for someone speaking any language.
    Russian – To teach Russian to English speakers or English to Russian speakers.

Translation/Interpretation Suggestions

  • Quick Sheet
    Here’s a link to the quick reference sheet I handed out at the training.  A few basic words in both Latvian and Russian.
  • Google Translate
    Remember to use these substitutions when writing to your host child in English:
    you = thou
    your = thine

    For example, write: “How did thou sleep? Here are thine pajamas.”
    By far, my favorite translation site.  There’s new features everyday! In the entry box, you may type what you want and it will speak it back to you. If you click the little microphone button, you can even speak what you want to say in English into your computer’s microphone! If your child wants to type something to you, just switch the "From" language to Russian/Ukrainian/Latvian and it will give you a small keyboard button in the corner, and their alphabet will appear on the keys.  In the translation results, you can also listen to the translation in Russian and Latvian, but not Ukrainian… as of right now.

Fun Stuff

  • Find a Bible
    Find Bibles and Christian materials in any language.
  • The Jesus Film
    This is the website where you can stream “The Jesus Film” in nearly any language.
  • The Italian
    Great movie about life in E European orphanages, based on a true story!  This could be a good way for your family to prepare for hosting, NOT to watch with the host kids.
  • YouTube Playlist
    Click the link above to see the playlist of some of the videos from training.  Includes Taylor’s story and clips from The Italian.

Media Contact

Now’s the time to start contacting your local papers/news stations to see if they’d be interested in sharing your hosting story with the media!

A simple email like this could work well –

Looking for a special human interest story for the holidays?
My family Your Name of City, State will be having a Latvian/Ukrainian orphan spend the summer with us, for 5 weeks – June##th to August##th. This is a part of a group called New Horizons for Children which will be bringing 183 school aged Eastern European Orphans to spend the summer with families across the country, ### of these children will arrive at the Name of Airport airport on June##th. Please contact us if you would like more info!

Recommended Reads

Here are a few books I would personally highly recommend reading before hosting!

  • Parenting the Hurt Child – From the national leader in attachment & bonding in adoption
  • Adopted for Life – Great book on the meaning of adoption for us as Christians
  • Priceless – Eye-opening novel about the reality of human trafficking in Eastern Europe
  • Infinitely More – Amazing first hand account of an orphan’s life in Russia and how God pursued him and is using him today. A must read!

Hosting Calendars
Here are the downloadable calendars that I mentioned.  You can feel free to save it and edit as you like. Copy and paste from Google Translate to put some planned events in your host child’s native language.
***Please take note that I used the most common arrival and departure dates on the calendars, be sure to confirm your arrival and departure dates and change as needed.

  • Ukraine Calendar – link
  • Latvia Calendar – link

And remember… “Yellow Blue Bus!” (“I love you!”)

 

Guest Post–“Vacation?” The story behind orphanage visits

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It’s been a couple weeks since the NHFC missions team has returned from their trip to Latvia and Ukraine to interview orphans for the Summer 2012 host program.  I want to thank you for praying for them, their trip was very cold but safe and successful!

One of my regional volunteer partners was a part of the missions trip for the first time.  She wrote very eloquently and candidly about the trip and I am sharing her words in a guest post for this week:

Vacation?
Since returning home from my trip, I’ve had a lot of people ask me how it went.
I’ve found some of their phrasing a little strange.

It may not really be indicative of anything, but I’ve found it interesting nonetheless.
“Did you have fun?” and “Did you have a good time?” are the ones I find the most thought provoking.

Maybe that’s just what people ask when they know you’ve been away…. maybe that’s just what they think they’re supposed to say…. or what they ask when they think they’re expected to comment, but don’t really care about the answer.
Maybe I’m being completely unreasonable and  reading WAY too much into the words people use and need to instead, be glad they asked and thankful for the opportunity to share about New Horizons. (Yeah, that’s probably it.)

For the record, I DID have fun, and I DID have a good time…. but this wasn’t a vacation.
This wasn’t a trip to the Bahamas.

On this trip I visited orphanages that smelled like 3 week old boiled cabbage and unwashed bodies.
I slept in a hotel that smelled like dead, decaying rats complete with faded leopard print sheets and bed bugs.
I met children who, upon turning 16, will “graduate” from their orphanage with little chance of living past their next birthday.
I spent a week in a van that didn’t have any heat in the 2nd and 3rd rows, in a country that was experiencing record breaking cold.
I met children under the age of 12, who had already started smoking.
I wore the same jeans for 6 days in a row and washed my socks and underwear in the sink.
I met girls, who upon “graduating”, will turn to prostitution as a way to stay alive.
I tried squid flavored potato chips. And yes, they are as NASTY as they sound.
I played UNO with kids who have NEVER known the love of a mother.
I met an orphanage director who didn’t want anything to do with our program because there was a chance “her” kids might be adopted.
I showered in bathrooms that smelled like a sewer.
I met children who had been abandoned by a parent because they were seen as an inconvenience.

But I also met a boy in Latvia who had such a great sense of humor, I nearly wet my pants from laughing.
I met orphanage directors who loved their kids and were eager to hear about New Horizons.
I met kids who practically begged to come to America.
I got to surprise Mareks with my visit to Riga. (It took nearly 10 minutes on the phone to convince him that I was actually there.)
I met an orphanage director who is actively pursuing educational/job training opportunities for his “graduates.”
I visited orphanages that had medical and nutritional personnel on staff…. a speech therapist… an area for physical therapy… laptops… exercise equipment.
I met a brother/sister duo who were so personable and quite frankly, blew me away…. I wanted to hide them in my suitcase and smuggle them home.
I saw AMAZING artwork, needlework, paper crafting, beadwork, woodwork, sewing projects– all done by the kids we were interviewing.
I got to see parts of the world that I never would have seen otherwise.
I met a boy with spina bifida and other medical issues, who’s very life may depend on him being adopted.
I tried Borsch… and I liked it!
I spoke with kids who wanted to know about me, and my life, and life in America.
I met a girl who intervened for another who was being picked on, standing up to a “popular girl” at her orphanage.
I met a boy who wanted to “friend me” on Facebook.
I met children who wanted to be teachers…. an engineer…. an architect…. a doctor…. a dancer….
I met kids who were proud of their accomplishments.
I drank enough tea in which I could sink the Titanic.
I played games with kids who wanted to hold my hand– even though they didn’t know me.
I spoke with 16 year olds who are too old to be adopted- and they know it— and it breaks my heart.
I met kids who when hypothetically given 3 wishes… time and time again, their 1st wish was to have a family.

No, this wasn’t a vacation.

But it beats Disney any day.

 

You may visit the original post on her blog here! http://backyard-blessings.blogspot.com/2012/02/vacation.html

About Orphan Hosting–Video

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Reflections from Ukraine–Awesome Kids, Divine Appointments, & A New Brother!

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12,000 miles flying roundtrip
14 days
3,000 kilometers driving
12 orphanages
TONS of unforgettable kids
154 orphans in need of host families!

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That’s the trip by the numbers… now let me tell you about it in words!  The trip was incredible and I am so blessed to have been a part of the team.  One week prior to our arrival, half of the team spent a week in Latvia; there they did the same crazy amount of travel and found 116 kids for hosting – that makes 270 total! 

Awesome Kids
For us, pretty much everyday was a new city, a new orphanage, a new apartment or hotel room, and another long day of driving.  At each orphanage we would first meet with the directors or other administrators and tell them about the program, often get a tour of the orphanage campus, be treated to some tea and snacks or a meal, and then spend time interviewing the kids that the orphanage thought we should consider for Christmas hosting.  The children or siblings talked with 3 team members – an interviewer, a writer, and an interpreter, and before or after their interview, they would spend time with the other team members in some kind of group activity. 

I got to be there for 9 of the orphanage visits, and I must say that every visit was different.  They ranged from a small, poor orphanage in the country where the kids seemed to be lacking the care they needed all the way to an orphanage that doubled as a college-prep institution that all of the team wanted to send their own kids to!  It was so fun to meet the kids and learn about their stories. 

There were many children that I fell in love with after spending some time with them or learning about their stories – you can see their faces down the right side of this page.  Something special about each of them struck a chord with me and I am going to do all that I can to advocate for them to find host homes for this Christmas.  From today until the deadline to sign-up (November 1st) I will feature a post about each of them, with extra pictures and stories and updates on when they do find host families! Please begin praying for these kids now!

Divine Appointments
On the very last day of interviews, we met with a pastor and his wife who work in orphanages in a new region that NHFC has not hosted from before.  It seemed great to make a connection to some new places, but little did we know, that God was about to grow it into something much bigger.

One of our team members, Nicole, and her husband have recently been led to wanting to start long-term ministry in Ukraine to orphans, specifically in summer camps and transition homes for those who age-out of the orphanage.  Over lunch, we learned that Pastor Viktor and his wife recently had to make cutbacks in their ministry due to the financial hardship they have endured since his wife Tanya is being treated for an inoperable brain tumor.  God has given them big dreams to reach orphans in their region, but they seemed to be facing even bigger obstacles.  He shared that if they were unable to give their bank the money they owed in 2 days, their church and home were going to be taken from them. 

He took us to see the property and it was beautiful!  It gave me goosebumps to see how seamlessly it fit with Nicole’s vision for her own ministry.  The land was a little less than 2 acres with a small church building and a separate building for living quarters.  There was still lots of space to keep building – along with the blueprints and permits already in place for a new building!  To top it all of, the land borders a beautiful little lake.  Honestly, we could not have dreamed up a more perfect fit. 

By the time we left for the airport the following day, lots of faith and obedience to follow through some open doors, Pastor’s Viktor and Tanya’s burdens have been lifted.  Contributions from some great saints has allowed them to keep their land and church from being taken by the bank.  And we are now praying that Nicole and her husband along with some other couples will be able to partner with this Ukrainian couple in continuing to grow their ministry to orphans. 

Please pray for this precious couple!  …for Tanya’s healing, financial provision, direction in working with local orphanages, and God’s incredible providence to continue in their lives!

 Pastor Viktor & Tanya (2nd & 3rd from left) with 4 of us from the team

I’m Gonna Have A New Brother!!!
Ok, I know the title totally gives this one away, but I gotta share the details!

The still small voice of the Holy Spirit started to speak to my family after Sasha, the then 14 year old boy our family hosted for Christmas, was hosted by a different family this summer.  After some long talks, written letters, and prayers… my parents started to consider adopting him.  The final step of confirmation they needed to go ahead with it was to make sure that Sasha wanted it… and that just so happens to be something that the New Horizons team covers on the interview trip!  Who would have guessed a year ago that I would be headed to Ukraine on this awesome mission and get to be there in person ask Sasha if he would like to be a part of my family???

I tried to call Sasha once before the trip to let him know that I would be coming, but I couldn’t get ahold of him.  I was kind of happy to leave it that way… so then I would really get to experience his honest reaction when he first sees me!

We visited his boarding school on Monday Sept 5th … I was filled with a mix of emotions. I was excited, nervous, and almost felt like I was in the middle of a dream.  We pulled up to 2 huge, plain, old brick buildings that were surrounded by gardens and enclosed with a small gate.  As we pulled in, I saw someone in one of the gardens who was wearing the hoodie that our grandma gave Sasha for Christmas.  I knew right away that it wasn’t him, but it was a big hint that I was getting closer to him!!!

They ended up taking us to ‘set up shop’ in one of the classrooms and when the door was opened, I saw a very familiar face!  Sasha saw me in the doorway and had a look of shock and confusion on his face – we were both surprised!  They were in the middle of a lesson and none of us budged for a while.  LeAnn said, “You’re the big sister! Go over there and embarrass your brother!” so I went over to him with a big smile and we hugged.

  His inital reaction! ...after the confusion and surprise! 

It was so great to be reunited with him!  He was all smiles and asked where my family was and if they were working.  (Funny that he remembered that one of the reasons we couldn’t rehost him this summer was because everyone had to work.)   We hung out in the yard of the orphanage for a while with some of his friends.  He asked me if he could come back with our family for this winter. Oh my I could hardly contain myself!!!! Smile I told him that we would get to talk about it with the interpreter a little later.  He said this is to teach their dogs tricks... I thought it would be fun to climb on anyways.

Interviews with new kids finally wrapped up and the team met with some of the kids who had just been hosted this summer.  Now it was my turn to talk to Sasha.  I expected our facilitator to do most of the talking, but when we sat down with her, she had me do the talking. I had no idea what to say!!  It was short and sweet and when he was asked if he would like to be a part of our family, he said “Yes!” (more like a speechless nod) with a huge smile across his face.  It was such a great moment and I am so blessed to have been a part of it!He said Yes!

Our goodbye came very quickly, I was not ready to leave.  I would have much rather stayed with Sasha or snuck him in the van with me… but that wasn’t really an option.  He walked me to the van, and as we walked, I told him in Russian “The next time I see you will be in America… and it will be forever!” 

Our goodbye walking to the van

… and now I can’t wait for that day.

Consider Hosting!
You, yes you.  I can totally see you having your own story of hosting very soon.  There are over 200 kids waiting to be matched with loving host families for this Christmas.  Could it be you that they are waiting for?

You do not need to be considering adoption in order to host an orphan.  Actually, you’re in luck, because New Horizons isn’t an adoption agency it’s a HOST only organization… adoption is just an added outside benefit. Winking smile 

It takes all kinds of families to make a host program successful. Here’s the wide variety of host families we are looking for:

  • Interest to adopt – many host kids are available for adoption
  • Last chance – these kids need families who are ‘paper ready’ if the adoption process does not get started before hosting, the kids will lose their chance at getting adopted because of their age
  • Sibling groups – for those brave parents who are willing to invite 2, 3, 4, or even 5 siblings into their home!
  • Host only – kids who are not available for adoption because of their age or other circumstance but could still greatly benefit from the experience
  • Special needs – this time around we have several kids who need special families to individually care for them in a way that orphanage workers cannot
  • Medical mission – there are several kids who are in great need of medical attention for their teeth or eyes, hosting could make a lifelong difference for them
  • Scholarship sponsors – you may not be able to host, but you could help sponsor a child, this is a great help to encourage families who would love to host but may need some help raising the funds

Please check out the NHFC photolisting to see these available children and begin praying that their host family finds them.  There are many “Sashas” out there waiting!

Sign up to see photolisting!

Thank you so much for your prayers!
I don’t know where we would have been without them!

Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Luke 9:48

Orphan Hosting–Summer 2011

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We take a break in our regularly scheduled blogs to bring you an infomercial.  Not Summer2011one of those painfully boring infomercials, one of those that mysteriously draws you in and you can’t look away no matter how hard you try.  Winking smile

This post is devoted to telling you, my readers, about New Horizon for Children’s upcoming hosting program.  Just like our family hosted over the Christmas season, there is also an opportunity to host orphan children for the summer.

Would you be willing to welcome one child into your home for five weeks?  To give a child the experience of summer fun with a family?  It can be a life-changing opportunity for a child who has never known the love of a family AND for your family to minister to a child in need in such a unique way. 

You do not need to be considering adoption to host a child.  Just open arms and an open heart to a child in need. 

New Horizons currently has a photolisting of over 100 Ukrainian and Latvian orphans who are available and in need of host families for this summer, and a team is in Latvia as we speak, visiting more children who will soon be added.  You may view the photos with short biographies of the children who have been invited at this link

Our Sasha, is also on this list, since we will be unable to re-host him this summer.  We are looking and praying for another family to welcome him in this summer.  Please join us in praying and spreading the word if you or someone you know may be interested in having him.  Also, let us know if you would be interested in sponsoring part of a scholarship for him along with us – helping a family cover the hosting costs can be another great way to help a kid find a home. 

Since the first time we met Sasha at the airport and all the way to the times I have talked to him recently, he has mentioned his excitement about coming back in the summer time… I pray that we can help it happen!

Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Luke 9:48

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