Hosting Reflection #31–You must lose your life to find it

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‘Honey, you’re changing that boy’s life.’ ‘No.  He’s changing mine.’ ”  This line from “The Blind Side” stands out to those with a heart for kids in need as well as those who have never given these kinds of kids kids a second thought. 

It’s pretty common for those from the outside looking in, see people like me as someone who is in this to make a positive impact on a child’s life… a do-gooder on a mission to change the world one child at a time.  And perhaps it does begin this way, but it doesn’t end there. 

So many times I meet families who give of themselves to host an orphan for the good of the child.  And within a matter of a few short weeks, somehow the tables are turned.  By the end of the short hosting program, families often say “I never expected to be so blessed by hosting.  I feel like what I have given to this child is only a fraction of what they have given to me.” 

I was no exception to this trend.  When I first heard of hosting, I wanted to give up whatever I could if it meant it could change the life of an orphan.  And I can say, without a doubt, that Sasha’s life has changed since 2010.  What I did not expect, and have found to be exceptionally true, is that I feel like he did even more to change my life.

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As I am approaching our 3 year anniversary of hosting Sasha, I’ve been reflecting on our whole journey.  As I look back over the things that I wrote during that time, my prayers, challenges, fears, and miracles, I have come to be reminded of some big sacrifices I made just to have him here for Christmas. 

The first challenge I faced was finding a way to have an entire month off of work.  I was working part-time in an office where I had virtually no benefits or paid vacation.  I knew it would be a risk to take that much time off.  I pretty much told them, either I get the time off or I will quit.  What, quit?? Did I just say that??  I had no idea what kind of job I would find if I did quit, but faith reassured me that God was all over this and not about to let me down.  Within a week, my boss said they would find a temp to cover while I was gone and I would get my job back whenever I returned.  Amazing!

Next, I was in my 3rd semester of graduate school.  I was scheduled to take an exam the same day that I was supposed to pick Sasha up at the airport in Chicago.  With 8 hours between the university and airport, I knew it would not be possible.  I told the professor what I was doing and asked if there was any way I could take the final earlier.  Her first response is that dates and times of final exams are non-negotiable and there are no exceptions.  Hearing that, I resolved to pray and if she did not reconsider, I would just have to withdraw from the class and start all over again in another term.  Within a week, the professor sent me an email saying that I could take the final exam early and if any other students complained, they could take it early as well if they are also hosting an orphan for Christmas. ; )

Finally came the finances.  While I had gotten an unexpected check that covered nearly the whole cost of hosting, there were still many other expenses that went along with it.  There were costs of flying my dad to St. Louis to attend host parent training, getting an unexpected hotel room on my way to pick Sasha up at the airport, lost income from not working for 4 weeks, as well as all the other items and outings that I got for Sasha while he was here.  I honestly don’t know how I got through, but God provided. 

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Now, I don’t share all this to gloat about all the things I have done, but to share how much had to be given up in order to bring Sasha here.  For a 33 day stay, I put my financial stability, job, and education on the line.  I risked some very important parts of my life in order to make a difference in Sasha’s. 

And his life was changed.  He experienced a loving family for the first time.  He experienced safety.  He heard the truth of God’s Word.  He was accepted unconditionally.  He was forgiven.  He was given the opportunity to have a family forever.  He has been changed knowing that he has a family who will always love him. 

And yet, in all of this, I feel like he has changed my life even more.  He has changed my life by showing me what it means to move beyond a painful past, to trust, to be vulnerable, to be open to love, to be hopeful.  He has changed my life by letting me live out this love that I had only heard about. 

Before Sasha, I thought I had life.  It wasn’t until I actually put all the important things in my life on the line for him, that I really found out what life is all about. 

And, my dear friend, what about you?  Have you really discovered what life is all about?  If you continue holding tightly to the trivial things you have, it’s going to be hard to see what life really is.  Take a good look and see what it is you can start putting on the line.  It’s when you do that, that you will actually find what your life is for.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
Matthew 16:25 (NIV)

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Hosting Reflection #22–Two Faces of Bravery–video

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The idea of hosting an orphan can fill your mind with many questions.  Why host an orphan? What is it like? How do these orphans get along in host families?

I must say, that is one of the biggest questions and concerns from people, wondering how a school-aged orphan can temporarily fit into a family.  And honestly, it is a risk. 

It takes a brave family to welcome an unknown orphan child into their home for a month or more.  Usually, the information that a family is given to choose the child that fits them best consists of the child’s age, favorite activities, food preferences, small idea of Our brave faces on arrival daytheir personality or demeanor the interview team feels after spending about 10 minutes with the child, and occasionally some background info on the child’s history.  That’s all. 

From that information it can be hard to tell how they will really fit into your family.  You do not know what they are sensitive to or what triggers their anger.  You do not know how they handle confusion and a variety of emotions.  You do not know about their weaknesses.  You do not know what abuses they have endured or injustices they have been a victim to. 

And still, hundreds of brave families each year choose to host an orphaned child or sibling set with NHFC.  They commit to loving a child unconditionally, show them what it means to have people who care about you, be gracious to them when behaviors are challenging, pray for them fervently, and show them who Christ is.

The risk is still there.  There’s still a possibility that the child will act out, lie to your face, steal behind your back, make threats, or even act on them.  And that’s what makes these families brave, to take in an orphan, even with these possibilities, and love them anyways.   

And yet, when it comes to hosting, there’s another face of bravery.  That face is found in the reflection of the orphaned child. Our first moments together, what a brave kid

Only these children know what they have endured, seen, or been a victim of.   They have been deceived, hurt, neglected, and abandoned… often times by those who are meant to care for them.  Many have survived unspeakable things and have been miraculously resilient. 

…along comes the opportunity to visit with a real family in America.  Some people think that any orphan would do anything for a chance at that.  But it’s not really that simple.  Visiting a family in the US means many things to an orphan.  An opportunity for fun and a family, but they have their own risks as well.  They have to leave behind their friends (which are the only family many of them have), their orphanage (their home), their familiar foods, routines, culture, and language.  They may ask themselves – Will this family like me?  What will they do if I make a mistake?  Do they mean what they tell me?  Will they hurt me like the other adults in my life did? 

These kids who agree to this opportunity are brave.  They take the huge risk of agreeing to live with strangers in another country.  They could stay in the lives where they are comfortable with their friends and caregivers in the orphanage or foster home.  It is a risk to open yourself and allow others to love you.  It takes bravery, and that’s exactly what these kids have.

The moments when 2 brave faces, filled with questions and wonder, meet.

And all this reminds me of the way this is reflected in our lives, as followers of Christ. 

First, it takes bravery to commit your life to an invisible, unknown God.  You may  not know much about Him or what His love means, but you feel led to commit your life to him anyways.  It’s a risk to surrender to Him.  But once you do, it turns out to be the best decision you ever make.

And then there’s God.  He’s one big, brave, loving Father.  I can’t help but wonder sometimes what a sense of humor he has.  To give us fickle, selfish, undeserving people more than we could ever dream by giving us a second chance.  He chooses to take the risk on us and entrusts us with uncountable blessings, riches, and responsibilities.  What an awesome God we serve!

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C. S. Lewis

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