Step Out Onto The Ice

Today our interview team took a risk and walked out onto the ice of a frozen lake. We thought it was risky to step onto that lake. That first step was hard. It took courage, and it forced us to reflect on our host kids and the huge risk they take when they choose to come to America. They will face so many unknowns…our team was unsure if the ice would hold their weight, these kids are unsure if a host family will be able to hold the weight of their heart. They too have the courage to face weeks inundated with a language they don’t understand, courage to try new foods and to leave behind their friends and all that is familiar to them! Will you choose to step out onto the ice and host a child this summer?

 

blog photo

Life or Death

 

Written by Regional Coordinator Marty Shoup…

 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21

 

How true it is.

We’ve all seen-I’m sure countless times in our lives-the power our words have.

 

My oldest son (9 years old) and I were talking about this very thing less than a week ago. Someone (a relative) had said something to him- something unkind- and he was hurt by it.

He was confused.

He didn’t understand.

Why would someone who was supposed to love him, say something so hurtful?

 

Despair

 

So we talked about our words and how the things we say have consequences-sometimes good and sometimes bad.

We talked about how once something is spoken out loud- it can never be taken back- no matter how badly we may want to.

Even if this person were to come back and apologize–the words have been spoken and heard. An “injury” had been inflicted-and though it would heal-a scar would remain.

We talked about how words have the power to heal and the power to wound…the power to build up and the power to tear down.

I love you!

You’re so stupid!

Great job!

Can’t you do anything right??!!

That was a smart decision!

How many times do I have to tell you…..?!

I knew you could do it!

You’ll never amount to anything!

 

We talked too about the power of UNSPOKEN words.

Words that we SHOULD say, but sometimes don’t.

 

power of words

 

I’m sorry.

You’re special to me.

Forgive me.

I love you.

 

 

 

New Horizons recently received word about a suicide attempt at one of the orphanages we serve.

 A young lady threw herself out of a third story window.

 

Why? I don’t know.

But I’ve BEEN to that orphanage.

I’ve walked the halls.

I’ve SPOKEN with many of the children.

I’ve played UNO with them.

 

Did I meet this girl?

I don’t know.

But her present and future must have looked very bleak indeed if she saw taking her own life as the only way out

alone window

no hope.

miserable.

lost.

confused.

desperate.

alone.

 

What words had been spoken-or not spoken to her over the course of her young life that may have brought her to this point?

 

It is with mixed emotions that I’m able to relay that at last report, her attempt was not successful. Her body is broken but she is alive–and I praise God for that! But what of her heart?

 

As advocates and host parents, the power of words-both SPOKEN and UNSPOKEN can have a lasting–maybe eternal impact on “our” orphaned children.

While in the US for summer hosting, some kids will hear for the FIRST TIME–words that encourage and show love. Words of affection, patience, gentleness, kindness, understanding. Words that empower. Words that heal.

 

But the words that are UNSPOKEN are just as powerful.

 

You see, host families often don’t share about hosting, don’t speak about New Horizons, fearing a negative reaction from friends and relatives. (And they often get it.)

You’re doing WHAT???

Why would you want to do something like that?

What’s wrong with AMERICAN orphans?!

Sounds dangerous.

The church has enough on its plate. We can’t help.

no

It’s not like it’s going to make a difference.

Well, don’t look to me for any money. They’re not MY problem.

Are you crazy?!

You can’t afford that!

You don’t know anything ABOUT this kid!

The church does not support you in this!

Sounds like a waste of money to me!

Why don’t you worry about your own kids?!

Trying to save the world?

 

So…..

the desperate need…

the amazing opportunity…

the horrifying statistics…

the countless blessings…

the highest privilege…

 

goes unspoken

 

As you might imagine, we talk a lot about orphaned children and hosting at my house.

Not too long ago, someone asked my 9 year old: “What does your mom do?” (I’m pretty sure they wanted to know what I did for a LIVING.)

He responded with: “She talks about orphans and why it’s important to help them.”

(Yay!!!! I’m thrilled to know that he’s listening…but why doesn’t he listen when I ask him to brush his teeth?!)

 

Whether you are a host parent, the friend or relative of a host parent, a casual onlooker, an advocate or a critic–your words have POWER.

 

Wield that weapon with care.

You never know who’s listening and what your words will—-

inspire

or

stifle.

It could literally be the difference between life and death.

 

girl window butterfly

 

 

 

 

Too Quiet

A post written by one of our Chinese New Year host families…

Usually returning to a quiet, peaceful home is welcoming and rewarding.  Last Friday evening was different.   We had said our goodbyes to our host child, Jason early that morning.  We then drove 4 hours from the Atlanta airport to our home in Lake Wylie, SC.  Jason’s energy and spirit were gone.  Our house felt subdued and calm, but missing a key and essential element.

After almost 5 weeks of “GO”, it feels good to rest.  Yet, at the same time our walking, talking, running, dancing, singing boy with a future is missing.  We look forward with expectant hope to a lasting reunion and all the life and vibrant energy he brought to a quiet home.

We began our NHFC hosting experience with minimal expectations.  After all, Jason was the third child we thought we would host as paperwork difficulties precluded the first boy from getting his visa and another family wanted our second host child, which was a girl.  That last hour switch brought us to Jason.  Twists and turns to be sure, but God had a plan.

 

Jason and family
Jason arrived late at night after almost 24 hours of travel from his China city. Our almost 11 year old boy was sick and exhausted.  We went to a hotel for the night and slept.  After breakfast, we drove home.  Jason slept the entire way.  His body was healing, he would be well soon.
He got well and we saw a bright, energized, helpful and mechanically inclined young spirit slowly open himself to us.  It didn’t happen fast and a few days were setbacks as working to learn English, meet new people and experiencing new and strange things combined to evoke emotions.  However, when the smiles, hugs, laughter, singing and whistling came-it came like Niagara Falls.  We had fallen in love with Jason while feeling the responsibility of caring for and teaching him.  As he lost his cold and gained his strength, we saw the possibilities of us together.
Hosting a child makes you look at your life differently.  That may be “THE” point.  Look at possibilities, at how we can be used through our love and interaction of a child to further a plan much bigger and more important than what we had in mind.  Hosting Jason changed us and placed our agenda next to God’s and made us ask the question…how can we best be used?  Thanks to NHFC, our hope and prayer is that it will be as a positive, supporting, challenging, Godly home.  That those who have no home can see hope in the flesh.
This house is so quiet…

Chapstick and Pancakes

People often underestimate the impact that college kids can make! This blog post, written by a college freshmen proves there’s more to them than people give them credit for!!

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James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Three years ago, I had no idea that there was a place called “Latvia” on the planet Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I loved maps, geography, and history. Even so, I didn’t even know it existed. Wow, how things have changed! After a long process, my family adopted my brother, Vitalijs, a then 14 (now 15) year old boy from Riga, the capital city. He’s been living permanently with us for about a year now, and it’s been quite the experience!

1 Vitalis

I’ve always been one for service, extending a helping hand to help those who are less fortunate. So when my mom said we were going to host a kid (and I noticed how intent she was…) I hopped aboard. I’ll admit I wasn’t totally comfortable with it. But I figured, I’d been loved plenty, so it wouldn’t be that hard to love on a kid for a while, right? It’ll only be a few weeks, right? Yeah…….

Originally I thought that hosting and adoption was all about giving. But what I didn’t anticipate was all the blessings that would come from Vitalijs joining our family. V (creative nickname huh?) has a great ability to make other people happy. It doesn’t take too much for him to get me to smile anymore. Seeing his astounding growth in every aspect of life has been SO rewarding. I’m blown away by something V does almost every day. Equally as mind blowing has been how willing everyone is to welcome him. All of my friends, my family, my high school and my church have made the transition so much easier for him and even for me. Little things like having him as the water boy for our lacrosse team. Amazing… It’s been such an encouragement to see everyone seize the opportunity to love on someone. I’ve seen V bring out the good in others, and grow SO much himself, from a trouble making kiddo who lived in a Latvian orphanage to one of my favorite people to be around. It’s hard to describe the feeling this whole experience has been, but I guess the word is joy. Deep joy.

2 on back

3 silly glasses

Two summers ago, maybe ten days into our family’s first hosting experience with V, something happened that has hung around in my head. Our whole family was prepping to head over to the pool. V was looking for his swim trunks and had a bit of a dilemma. He couldn’t find them anywhere! From the living room, I hear V yell at the top of his lungs “Dad! Where are you!?! Help me! DAD?!” … complete silence. It hit me hard. I went into my room crying, thinking about how many kids cry out that same call every day, with silence on the other end… every single time.

I want others to experience the blessing that comes from hosting and adopting a kid. I also realized the need for these orphans to have love and attention, someone to answer their calls. I guess you could say I developed a heart for orphans. But hey, I’m a teenager, so what can I do? I didn’t have a clue what God would have in store for me, but I figured I’d keep my eyes open for an opportunity.

4 family

I’m a freshman at the University of Maryland, where I was accepted into something called the Scholars program. Within Scholars, there are a number of different areas of focus. I chose to be a part of the Public Leadership (PL) program. For students who are a part of this program, a few things are required: enrolling in certain courses, living in dorms with other PL people and completing a project. When the project was announced, it drew out the typical reaction. Wonderful. A project. Except this one’s for an entire year?!?!??

It was called a Community Based Learning (CBL) project. The intention is for students to work with an organization in the community to help make a difference. I thought that was pretty cool. Much cooler than some of the book reports I’ve stayed up faaaar too late writing. All 90 of us students would get to choose the organization we wanted to work with, and a group of five would be assigned to working with each one. The organizations all sounded great and awesome for the community, but I kept thinking that it would be tough for me to be really passionate about working with them because I didn’t really have a personal connection. But I started to tune in when I heard that people could create their own projects with a partner organization. HELLO, OPPORTUNITY! I called up my mom, wondering if there was a way that I could do a project for orphans. She was so ecstatic, and connected me with LeAnn Dakake and New Horizons for Children. So I went to the professors of my class and asked if I could create this project. To be honest, I thought it was a long shot. A faith-based organization? Working with people on another continent? Well… they accepted it! And when the time came for everyone to choose what CBL they wanted to be a part of, there was some serious interest in working with New Horizons. To be honest, that was all I could’ve wished for: some people to realize there was a need, and work alongside myself and New Horizons to try our best to address it.

A few weeks later, we were put into our groups. I was in a group with Stephen, Sabrina, Joe and Audrey. I was friends with them, but was really unsure how we’d work as a group. One of our first tasks was coming up with a good team name. So of course we went to Google Translate. We found that the word Community in Latvian was KOPIENA. V says he’s never heard the word before, but we overlooked that :P it sounded cool, so we went with it! We had our name, but in the first couple meetings, we struggled with what our PURPOSE was. I tried to keep it simple: we wanted to help Latvian orphans in one way or another. At the time, I’d had very little contact with LeAnn. Looking back, I really can’t imagine what she was thinking! I was a college student with passion, but little to no game plan. She was extremely flexible with us, hearing what our purpose was and helping us brainstorm some ideas of how we could see that through. Together, we determined we wanted to raise money, but also a tangible object. We honed in on something simple, yet practical. Chapstick. We heard it was a real need, and also something so unique that we could distinguish our efforts from all the other ones on campus. So we’d have a drive to collect Chapstick. But how on Earth would we raise money??? We thought up a few ideas, but most of them fell through. Well, we’d heard of a pancake dinner that was pretty successful, and thought it just might work for us. We had no expectations, but we went forward with a name, a purpose, and knowing that we’d be working with Chapstick and Pancakes.

Thanks to the other Public Leadership students and Maryland Cru, the campus ministry I’m a part of, we saw some success with the Chapstick fundraiser. We had about a 100 Chapsticks before Winter Break! We were really happy with it, and decided we should have it be ongoing. So we shifted our focus to the Pancake Dinner. It wasn’t going to be a big fundraiser, but hopefully we’d make a profit and give that money in the form of scholarships to New Horizons.

5 chapstick

Having experienced success with our Chapstick fundraiser, along with having support from LeAnn, Cru, the Public Leadership staff and our families, we decided to go all out. We figured, why not! So we started thinking big for the pancake dinner. Just in time, we heard the Public Leadership had an account of money designated to reimbursing students for their projects. We applied for $250, and got that accepted. We figured $250 would cover us for two pancake nights. By the time it was accepted, we had ONE WEEK until the Pancake Night, March 8th. With one week to go, it was officially crunch time. We had to get everything together. Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing, in the week prior we definitely hit turbulence. I had some communication issues with the University about where our fundraiser would be taking place. We had Sabrina come down with strep throat. My grandmother passed away and I spent the first half of crunch time week devastated. Even worse, I was trying to run the group from Pennsylvania, but we didn’t have really any Internet access.  Stephen and Joe really stepped up and made our orders for the materials. They ordered us 170 dollars’ worth of pancake mix. Read that again! We also ordered 12 bottles of syrup, 8 pounds of chocolate chips and a few pounds of blueberries. When I returned from Pennsylvania, we were in full gear. Our group worked so well under pressure, I was so proud. In the two days before the event we:

  • Rented three griddles
  • Made a Facebook event
  • Created and distributed 500 flyers
  • Actually planned the event
  • Set everything up
  • Got change for the event
  • Picked up utensils, napkins, plates and soda
  • Set up two speaker systems

6 scissors paper

It was surreal. We were having a real event. I looked over to Stephen a few times, smiled, laughed a little then said “This is happening!” a number of times in those last two days. We really had no idea how the turnout would be. We just figured we’d do what we could, and trust that whatever needed to happen would happen. We would be happy with 20 people or up to 75 people. Thanks to that reimbursement money, everything we earned was profit! We had 45 people who were ‘attending’ on Facebook, which gave us a ballpark estimate that we were so happy with!!

7 pancake room

The night came. The whole day was a rush. I don’t think there was a minute of relaxing. The fields were prepared… we waited for the rain. It poured! Thirty minutes into the four hour long event, we had to find more seating. The line was about 35 people thick, and there were around 40 people sitting down. I was running around thanking people for coming, making sure everything was running smoothly and picking up necessities at the inconvenience store. I had to pull myself out of the situation, just stand in awe and have a huge thank you prayer moment! I couldn’t believe it. We worked our butts off for the next three hours, and had a blast doing it. It was hard to find a moment where Kopiena weren’t smiling. It was an all you can eat pancake night, so you better believe our guests were smiling too!

8 silly pancake face

9 chef

We wrapped up the night having raised $605 and 45 more Chapsticks, giving us a total of 200. I still shake my head and have to praise God for that last sentence. Cru had an amazing showing, as did Public Leadership and even a bunch of strangers! The generosity and heart of these college kids….

10 packed room

11 packed room 2

We told LeAnn the good news, and she helped us with how we could place our scholarship. We browsed over the New Horizons page and made our selection. I wanted this to be a team decision. I wanted my teammates to have the experience of changing a kid’s life. My mom gave a few suggestions, and we looked into a number of people. It was a really tough decision! It was made easier as a few of the people on our list ended up getting hosted (yahoo for that!!!). We all were pretty passionate about sponsoring  Aleksejs and Nikita (seen below). My mom had been praying for Nikita for so long, so she was jumping for joy when she heard we’d made our decision. It was a phenomenal experience, getting the blessing of being able to sponsor these kids. Aleksejs (gray sweatshirt) now has $155 in his scholarship fund and Nikita (green collared shirt) now has $700, he’s been offered several time and never chosen, we’re hoping this money helps him stand out to potential families!

Aleksejs L294

Nikita L060

What’s next for Kopiena?! Well… Like I said, we’re going to maintain the Chapstick drive. We’re also planning on doing another Pancake Night in late April. We’re working on getting MORE pancake mix, as we used up three fourths of our original stash. We’re also planning on throwing together a bake sale before the end of the year. We’re hoping to be able to sponsor a few more kiddos! A few of my teammates even said they want to support and sponsor kids post-college. J

Oh, how sweet it is when there’s so much success that you can’t take a bit of credit for it. How sweet it is when you see God open doors. How sweet it is seeing Christians AND non-Christians work together to live out James 1:27.

 

 

 

Ripple Of Hope

One of our summer host families is currently in country to adopt their host son! We were thrilled to learn her family had spent quite a bit of time at the orphanage visiting with kids who’d previously been hosted with NHFC and ecstatic when she agreed to share about her time there!

We are three weeks into our adoption in Eastern Europe. Before I left America, I prayed I would have a chance to mingle with our sons schoolmates. I wanted to make the most of my time in there. In my heart, it was a mission opportunity. It was a chance to show these children love while bringing home the one God placed in my heart.

My son has a friend, Sergiy, who had already graduated to technical school. Sergiy was hosted twice before and has two older brothers. He was host-only due to his age. I put it on my agenda to meet him for personal reasons and so that my son had a chance to say goodbye.

At first sight, he was a little rough around the edges but Sergiy was truly a diamond in the rough and a gentleman from the moment we first met. I see now why my son looked up to him. I am confident Sergiy encouraged my son to make good decisions and helped him stay out of trouble.

Over pizza, he enjoyed practicing his English. When I inquired where he had learned so much English, Sergiy told me that his orphanage didn’t have an English class when he attended, but he became a proficient speaker during his two hostings in America. At times, he paused to gather his words but he had no problem communicating his thoughts – it was really quite remarkable!

He went on to tell me that he was a Christian and that he doesn’t drink alcohol like the other boys in his school. There is nothing that can prepare you for seeing a teenager with such character in a hopeless environment. Truly there was something different about this boy. You could see a love radiating from him.

He spoke fondly of his family in America and said he Skypes with them regularly. You would think he was their American son on a foreign exchange program to Eastern Europe.

I had heard about the tech schools with their grim living environments and very little supervision. The teens frequently drink away their only opportunity to make something of themselves. I personally witnessed a group of kids hanging near the corner of the building, wasting their future. I tried not to stare, but I was deeply saddened for them – these schools are unfortunately where the future of an orphan is often determined.

You can imagine my hesitation when Sergiy invited us back to his school for a birthday party. But I was shocked; this was not the typical dorm birthday party I had imagined. The tables were adorned with bottles of Diet Coke and Strawberry Fanta. Sergiy politely poured drinks for my husband and me.

Standing there in the lobby of the technical school with a cup of Strawberry Fanta, I looked around. These kids really only have two choices. They can seize the opportunity to learn something that will help them overcome their circumstances or they can waste the opportunity and fall prey to the statistics. Sergiy was working hard to learn auto mechanics and welding. He has seen a life beyond his tiny rural orphanage, and I know he will beat the odds because of the hope and confidence he gained through his hosting experience.

Many families approach hosting with hopes of adoption or they are at least are open to the possibility. But there is another category of hosting: host-only children. These children need love poured into them. They need to know someone believes in them. They need confidence to resist temptations when they go back home and enter technical school.

I’ve spent a little over a week with previously hosted kids. It’s amazing the effect hosting has had on them. They call you their mom and dad. Not my host mom or my “American” family. The impact hosting makes on these children is enormous. One boy showed me pictures of his family “this my grandma…this my mother”…et cetera. It was so sweet. When you host, you give these kids a family. They have someone to call mom and dad even if they aren’t adopted. And I can’t tell you how proud most of them are to have a family.

Sergiy is making a difference in his own life as well as the lives of others. When a hosted child returns home, no one can completely trace the impact and influence of their experience. The effects of hosting are like ripples in the water when you toss a stone – they go out in every direction. It’s impossible to estimate how far they will go and who they may reach…if only someone will toss the stone.

ripple_effect_on_water sunset one

 

Update From Our Ukraine Interview Team

Regional coordinator Marty Shoup is part of our interview team in Ukraine, below she shares a little about their trip so far and a few of the kids they have met!

We’re about halfway through the Ukraine interview trip, and well, there’s a bit of frustration with the way things have gone so far. We haven’t gotten to meet many kids, which is unfortunate. Some of it is an issue of timing, some of it is because of lousy weather, and some of it is because we’ve had to spend some time repairing a damaged relationship with an orphanage director. As a result of that damaged relationship, we missed out on an opportunity to visit a new orphanage in that region. So- we’ve spent a lot of time traveling but not a lot of time interviewing.  However, of those we HAVE met, most we really like. And we know The Lord is going to do wonderful things in their lives.

For those who have heard us talk about interview trips, you know that flexibility is the name of the game. Pre-conceived notions really do have to be left on the side of the road in a pile of wet, slushy snow- otherwise you miss so much.

We’re currently in a HUGE apartment in Kiev. We got to take showers (YAY), do laundry (DOUBLE YAY) and eat a meal that was not prepared at a convenience store (TRIPLE YAY!)  We’ll be here until late afternoon and then take an overnight train to Lugansk region where we’ll be interviewing at 4 new orphanages. The team will split up as the 1 orphanage is a ways off and the other three are clustered together a bit.

I’d always thought of train travel as kind of romantic…. think of the old movies with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or even Bing Crosby. It always looked like so much fun! Well dressed people, doing nice things, going nice places, having nice conversations in a nice dining car, with room to spread out, room to relax…. Ummmmm- NO.

Though an overnight train in Ukraine IS a convenient and (somewhat) comfortable way to travel, there is nothing remotely romantic about it. I daresay even my marginally germaphobic friends would have an apoplexy if they traveled on any one of the trains we’ve been on. :-)

As I sit here and think of the kids we’ve met so far, my mind stops on Mikal- a host only boy who did poorly on hosting last summer but has begged for another chance. He’s made some changes in his life and has weathered some tough breaks. He has seen first hand the desperation that can come with post orphanage life as his older (aged out) brother committed suicide just a couple of months ago. It brought Mikal LOW and rocked him to his very core, but I think he’s come out a more mature young man. And one, we hope, more prepared to LEARN from a trip to America. He realizes he’s too old for adoption and that a student visa from Ukraine is not an option; but he is now quite vocal with the younger kids- telling them to really look at their options and see what their future has in store for them. Mikal SEES his future, and he’s trying to help others avoid it.

I think of Anya, a lively and affectionate 14 year old who is described by her caregivers as a “little mother.” She opened up to us about her past and some of the things she had to do to survive before coming to her boarding school. She is a group favorite and I think she’ll bless the socks off the lucky family who gets to host her.

I think of Misha, a talkative 10 year old with a killer smile and a personality to go with it. He was so very comfortable with us and in himself that he sang us a song and said that if he had 100 grivna ($13 US dollars), that he’s buy an airplane and fly far far away for holiday.

I think of brothers Tolya and Ivan… whom we’ve interviewed before but a family has never chosen them. Good brothers, who like each other and get along. Brothers who would very much like to see America- together.

As we’re working on bios today, we’re praying over each child and the family that The Lord already has for them. We pray for open heart, open minds, and open wallets when it comes to fundraising.  We pray for guidance in choosing which children to offer for hosting. We pray for our coordinators back home who are already fielding calls and working off the pre-app with families who want to learn more about New Horizons. We pray for our continued safely as we travel crater filled roads and for the sanity of our dear driver Alex and translators Tonya and Valerie.  We pray for acceptance and excitement for the orphanage directors new to our program and those we can form a positive and mutually beneficial hosting relationship with them.

And most of all, we pray that all we do, we do for God’s glory. Not that we say, “look what we did”…. but “Look what HE did.”

 

 

 

Update From Latvia Interview Trip

An update from Stephanie Norman who is currently in Latvia interviewing children for summer hosting!

Stacey asked me Monday night if I could share about the trip and give her some blog material. I had to tell her that I had nothing. The trip was, well, what an interview trip was. An eight-hour delay in Frankfurt, long drives on snowy icy roads, poor foster homes, good kids, involved social services people, little sleep, meeting new people, solidifying relationships, and more driving. But nothing compelling, nothing I would want to bore others with. No stories that were unique or especially heart wrenching, or moments where I really felt “Wow! This is why I am here”. Until yesterday (Tues. the 15th) that is.

Our first stop of the day was at noon, at Apite. Apite could be considered a transition home for older kids. It is in Riga, and the director, Inga, is a long time supporter of hosting programs. She was also my son’s social worker. She has raised many kids over the years, in orphanages, and loves them the best she can. She tells me, with tears in her eyes, of twin boys she cared deeply about. After spending much of their lives in the Children’s Home, they were hosted and then adopted when they were 14 years old. She had the opportunity to visit with them and their forever family when she traveled to America as a chaperone with the NHFC program. Inga stayed with them, and says there is no better feeling than to see them have hope, a family, and a real chance at success. The boys chauffeured her around Florida, having recently gotten their licenses. When she talks about the boys it’s as if she were a very proud Auntie or Godmother, you can just sense how much she loves them. Inga does an amazing job with her charges. And there in lies the challenge for us.

Apite is home for about 20 young adults, ages 16-21. We met the five children Inga had asked for us to interview, when Inga shared with us that it was so hard to choose who should be considered for the program. She beamed as she told us that all the kids there would be wonderful candidates for hosting. And we believe her. The three kids who came over Christmas all loved and were loved by their families. Past kids from Inga are in the U.S. on Student Visas, or have been adopted. She doesn’t steer us wrong. Though we were out of time, and had to head to our next appointment I told Inga that we could return to meet more students at dinner. Thinking my interview partner, Jaycee and I to pick up something for everyone to eat so that we could visit with more kids. At least that was my plan, knowing full well that we are in Latvia and picking up food might require some thought and planning. Jaycee, whose ministry focuses on young adults, was quick to agree to the newly hatched plan. As I packed up, unbeknownst to me another plan was evolving in the hallway. Inga was telling two of the lovely girls we had met that we would be back. And now Maria and Diana decided they would be cooking for us.

After a few hours in Imanta orphanage, visiting with new kids, and chatting with past kids, Jaycee and I headed back to Apite. A dead battery, snowy roads, impossible left turns, a money changing stop and traffic all combined to slow us down. By the time we arrive it’s 7:15 pm. Precious time has passed.

Maria and Diana, as well as two past host girls, and others wanting to have the opportunity to be interviewed have gathered. The table is set. Photo worthy dishes are presented! The girls have spent three hours preparing for us, trusting that we would return for dinner. I am not sure who paid for the groceries, or who trudged out in the snowy, 15-degree weather in the dark, and prepared for our return, but I was blessed by this sacrifice.

Before we prayed Maria asked me if I like Latvia. Many kids and adults ask this, and I know where they are going. “How can you like Latvia? It is poor. Dirty. The people let you down. Why don’t you stay in America where is it beautiful and people are nice. Why do u want to help us here” are usually their thoughts. I can barely answer. She asks why I care about the children and people of Latvia, as I am presented with this dinner. They are the ones giving me a gift.

Let me tell you about Maria. Maria is talented, poised, and beautiful inside and out. She wants to live a healthy lifestyle. For her, that would include a family. She asked about adoption and we had to break the news to her that at sixteen she is too old to be adopted. You could see how completely devastated she was. She was speechless. By dinner though, she was asking us questions about America. Hoping to be hosted. Her questions about school made me think she might now have a dream to study in America, where earlier her dream was adoption. We explained that a hosting experience might connect her with a family that will love her, even if they live another country. Why she yearns for a functional family is not important; she shares her background is complicated and we don’t ask more. The perfect family for Maria would encourage her many interests. She is a budding textile artist, though she also likes to paint and draw. She loves to sing, and hopes to sing with the choir in the Latvian song festival. Maria also likes traditional Latvian dance. Amazingly, Maria is studying economics, a discipline that one would not often expect an artistic person to excel at. She also takes math classes for extra credit. She speaks English, German, and of course Latvian. Maria is in tenth grade, and had to apply to live in the home she now resides in. Please don’t make me write an essay about why she deserves a host family this summer…. If I had the gift of writing by now you would be picking up the phone to commit to hosting Maria. You would be blessed to have her in your home. Don’t forget, she can cook!

Diana and Maria are friends and closely bonded. It’s clear that Diana needs a family to build her self-esteem. She aims to be a secretary, but fears her memory is too bad. She is a swimmer, and plays the piano. She also loves to act. Diana shared that she likes that “families do things together”. The look in her eyes reveals the hurt she feels at having the past that she does. She struggles a little with her emotions; it’s been a tough day for her -talking with us and meeting the therapist earlier in the day. Yet she is not letting this chance to meet with new people and learn about America pass her by. She is ready to open up to a patient family, one who is ready to meet her where she is. Diana will blossom if given this opportunity. She is 15, but will be 16 by summer hosting.

Please consider what you can offer these girls this summer. You don’t have to be perfect, only willing to love unconditionally and be prepared to have your heart broken. These gentle spirits have to figure out a tough world, and lack guidance and love on a day-to-day basis. Could you host one of these girls? Could you build their self-esteem and teach them about family?

If you are interested in hosting Diana, Maria or any of the other amazing children we’ll meet while here our Summer 2013 Pre-Application is up and running! Look for it towards the top of our website on the right hand side! Or follow this link: http://goo.gl/3oAsa

 

A Father’s Love

The Stonick family in California is hosting Nastya from Ukraine. When I asked host mom Stephanie if she’d blog about Christmas with Nastya she replied that she felt she was being led to write about how her husband’s love had impacted Nastya instead. I’m so glad she listened to what the Lord had laid on her heart to share. I know you will all be blessed by this beautiful post!

When my husband Greg and I felt God’s call to participate in New Horizons Winter Hosting Program it was with the understanding that I, as the stay at home mom and primary caregiver to our two children, would be bearing most of the responsibility of care for our host child, Nastya.  Greg was totally on board, but pretty adamant about the fact that this would be “my thing”. It made sense. He would be working during a lot of her visit and I think the whole prospect of doing this was a little bit foreign to him (pun intended).

Now, at two weeks into our hosting experience I have to sit in wonder at God’s amazing plan for Nastya’s time with our family.  While I have enjoyed caring for her, and have definitely bonded with her in many important motherly ways, it is the extraordinary bond that has formed between Nastya and my husband that I think will leave the most lasting impression on her from her time with us. Who would have thought?

Nastya is only 10 years old. That fact, paired with her limited knowledge of English and our (approximately three word) knowledge of Ukrainian has made deep conversations pretty rare so far. As a result, I am still not sure how much exposure she has had to a strong father figure in her life.  When I asked her about God and church, she has shared that she does attend church regularly and knows about God, but I don’t get the impression that she knows God intimately as a Father and what that means for her as a fatherless child.

In this situation where words fail us, it has been very powerful to see Greg sharing God’s unconditional love with her.  He has been able to introduce many of the characteristics of God the Father to Nastya in a very real and physical way, possibly in a way that she may have never experienced before, and we hope he is planting seeds of understanding that will spring to life at some point in her future.

God is LOVING: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

Greg has been quick to show her appropriate fatherly affection: An arm thrown around her, a gentle squeeze to the shoulder, a hug, holding and carrying her. She has been soaking it up.

God is NURTURING: The LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. Deut. 1:31

Greg has treated her just as he does our other two children (he’s a total spoiler). He’s going to have a whopping chiropractic bill after these four weeks too!

God is GIVING: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Mt. 7:11

 

Greg has taken an active role in giving her the gift of his time. He reads to her, has done paper crafts with her, and the other day I even found them working on friendship bracelets together.

God is our PROTECTOR: Ps 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

 

Greg is always there to catch her when she falls…and not just in the physical sense. He has had to work through some emotional times with her, he has had to verbally discipline and correct her (usually for her safety…the girl is a daredevil). He has even had to ask her for forgiveness when feelings were hurt.

God is FAMILY: God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”. Gal. 4:6

 

Greg has told her he loves her and she has affectionately started calling him “Papi”. A part of his heart will always belong to her and I know that he will always consider her his Ukrainian daughter.

Greg and I are so thankful that God’s plans were bigger than our expectations and that he arranged for her to experience the love of a strong physical father while she was here with us. Our entire family has been blessed by our time with her and we all have gained a better understanding of God and a closer relationship with our heavenly Father through this experience as well.

We don’t know what plans God has for our sweet, smart, fun-loving girl Nastya and we don’t know what role we will continue to have in her life after she steps back on the plane to the Ukraine on January 14th. She is an amazing girl and we hope to stay in touch and continue to help the seeds we have planted in her heart take root as she grows in maturity and understanding of who God truly is in her life. Until then, we will trust in God’s plan and be praying that He will continue the work he has begun in all of us during our incredible winter hosting experience.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. Eph. 1:17

 

Son of the King

One of our winter host families shared a story with us yesterday and we just had to share it here as well! The Bohannon family in Georgia is hosting a teenage boy named Igor from Ukraine. Here’s their story:

Igor is the fourth boy we’ve hosted through New Horizons for Children and I can truthfully say that each hosting experience has brought it’s own element of uniqueness and individuality.  Last Christmas we were blessed with an unexpected Latvian angel at the last minute who became very ill within 24 hours of arriving, then another little Ukrainian angel arrived a week later (which was precisely when my husband was attacked with the same illness that our first boy became sick with… fun fun…) so needless to say, nothing went as planned but I was surely taught a lesson in faith and trust.  Then we hosted again over the summer.  Thankfully there was no physical sickness among the family, just a little boy that arrived extremely guarded, hurt, afraid and shy. After a few days he started to speak to us and we began our adventure in full force!  Fast forward, leaving out a tremendous amount of details brings us to this Christmas. ..

The weeks prior to Igor’s arrival were very busy and brought a few questions and confusion upon my husband and myself.  Without going into to specifics, I found myself questioning why and if we were the best fit for this boy that would soon be joining our family for the holiday season.  Ready or not, he arrived and I quickly realized he was the happiest child I’ve ever seen in my life.  He adjusted with little trouble (albeit he is bit more of a night owl than we are, but after a couple of weeks he has at least learned to retrieve to his room by 10:00). The nighttime rowdiness came to a head a few days after New Years with a refusal to go to bed and then sleeping until after noon the next day. Needless to say we had a long heart to heart about family, family rules and what that means, obedience, and consequences of disobedience. He was very receptive and looking back, I think this was his little way of testing the boundaries, which I will gladly take over tantrums and anger! I told him that he was not allowed a movie in bed the following night, and he must be in bed when Papa says so. No running, being loud, scaring people or animals or anything else once we say so. He wasn’t thrilled, but agreed.

When evening came around the house was actually rather peaceful! No scaring, no wrestling, no racing…. I tucked him into bed and showed Igor a new stuffed animal that was sent to us from the New Horizons office, donated by a hosting family’s church! This animal is called a Wildlife Story Teller (http://wildlifestorytellers.com/) .  It comes with a MP3 player, preloaded with bible stories in their native language.  I cannot explain the look of comfort and relief on his face to hear his language! I left him with the stories and said goodnight.  The next morning I went to wake him and he practically jumped out of bed. I could tell he was a bit troubled and was very serious about what he was trying to tell me.  He was pointing at the storyteller, and then upward saying “Jesus, Jesus!” Then he asked for a pen and paper.  He started writing and writing. Then he would get up and knock on the bedroom door, then knock on his own chest.  I quickly realized he was telling me that Jesus was knocking on the door of his heart! I started to panic a little because there was so much I wanted to say, but I had to make it simple so the translator would get it right! I even started messaging one of my fellow New Horizons Volunteers, needing moral support J  I continued to tell Igor how much Jesus loves him and that he will NEVER leave him.  He was very serious and receptive to everything I was telling him.  We talked for over 2 hours. I told him that Jesus is king, so that makes him a prince. He smiled and said “Yes, and you, Papa, Colby and Dasha my seesters and brothers!”  Wow! This kid gets it. He accepted Jesus by being in a little bit of “trouble” from excessive night time rowdiness, therefore leading to listening to bible stories!  I am amazed, humbled, and in awe of my Jesus. I am reminded that all we have to do is be available. We do not need to know all the details of our future. I was reminded that God does not NEED us. He CHOOSES us!  Thank you Jesus, for the opportunity to be USED by YOU!

Moments to Remember

Our 21st hosting season is now underway and already memories are being made! Even though it’s only been a few days choosing a favorite memory proved challenging for many of our host families, luckily they managed to narrow it down to just one they’d like to share.

The Stonick family in California shares…”Nastya is a joy. I have had so many favorite moments today, it’s hard to know where to start. My favorite moment was when our entire family climbed up on her top bunk at bedtime and we all snuggled together to look at a “seek and find” book. She had kept some space between she and I all day, but at that point she was nearly curled up in my lap. She was even busting out some good English words. I don’t have a picture of that because we were all up there, but below is a picture of her with my kiddos who adore her!”

Nastya (middle) with her host siblings.

“No one has ever shown me family, spent money on me, or loved me”  Igor age 14 shared with his host family the Steendahl’s in Illinois.  Favorite moment – just one?  It had to be when we first met.  He said “hello” (which we expected, they seem to all know how to say that when they arrive.)  But then he spit out “where are my brothers?”  We about fell over in shock.  We had no idea he spoke English and I knew immediately that he was going to fit right in.  Calling my boys (who were at home and he had never even met) his brothers from sentence one – he had my heart with the first words out of his mouth.

Igor with his host sister.

The Cayanne family in New York is hosting Edgars from Latvia. His host mom shares “When Edgars had just come through the gate at the airport the warmth between us was immediate. Right after the hugs and hellos, he seemed a little uneasy I handed him a letter that our sweet friend, Inga, had translated for us and the relief was instant…he just wanted to know what to expect! As he read it, Edgars stood very close to me…I thought it might have been an accident so I moved back a bit. Instantly he was right next to me again with his head almost touching my shoulder, just reading the words I had written to him. I was blown away by his willingness to jump right in and become a part of our family. One of my favorite moments so far was the look of pride on Edgars’ face when HE was the one to chop our Christmas tree down with a rickety dull tree-farm saw!”

A very proud Edgars at the Christmas tree farm!

The Kramer family in Georgia is hosting Miranda. Her host mom shares…”my favorite moment so far was Miranda running with my girls back to the parking garage after The Nutcracker – putting her arms around all of  them to try and keep them warm {the wind was blowing around 30 mph} and laughing  hysterically the whole time.”

Miranda and her host sisters.

The Ringman family in Colorado shares… “Iryna  is from Ukraine. Here is a picture of her sledding in our little bit of snow. I love this picture because she’s smiling and having fun like one of my very own kids. She smiles easily and is very polite and has wonderful table manners. She doesn’t know very much English but we are relying on hand gestures and Google Translator. We’ve had some good moments all ready and she is getting along well with everyone. Love her! Love the program.”

Iryna smiling and sledding.

The Prince family in Alabama shares… “It is so difficult to choose my favorite moment. There have been so many. Renate is such a precious girl and it has been such a joy to watch her experience new things. It is so amazing to see her eyes light up over simple things like having ice in her drink. She had a taco for the first time today and loved it!  If I had to choose just one moment, I would say it was tonight watching her playing with my girls. They were just being silly girls while they baked and decorated cookies. The giggling was the sweetest sound!”

Renate (middle) and her host sisters.

The Graham family in Ohio shares…”Markus has fit into our family so wonderfully since day one!  This particular moment is one of my favorites, as he has a special affection for our littlest and she for him.  He is so kind and loving and gentle with her.  In this moment, we were all working in the living room, setting up the Christmas tree.  I look over and he had climbed himself into the playpen with Sarah, our 1 year-old.  He must have stayed in there with her for 30 minutes, playing with her, tickling her, hugging her…it really was an amazing thing to see such tenderness in this 12 year-old boy who had only met us two days prior.  We absolutely adore Markus and couldn’t be more blessed that God has chosen him to be hosted by our family!”

Markus is such a gentle and loving big brother!

Eight year old Viktorija is being hosted in California by the Izzo family. Her host mom says “My favorite moment was not captured with a camera.  She was sitting on the couch with me and my husband one evening and she was doodling on a sketch pad, and she wrote in English “I love you mama papa!”  Our hearts melted. Since I couldn’t capture that moment on film here is a photo of Vika and Dan, she loved this play park last summer and this of course is here favorite part.  She loves that papa will get her spinning fast.”

Viktorija having a blast at the park!

The Brown family in Tennessee shares their favorite memory with Nataliya. “Her smile overwhelms my heart with joy! She loves science experiments and spending time with her made this a special moment for us all. Today I felt like I was the one receiving the blessings from this experience. She has such a precious, sweet and gentle spirit.”

Our future scientist Nataliya.

The Gardner family in Georgia is hosting 5 year old Gunars. His host mom said “Gunars found these blue goggles and wouldn’t take them off. He keeps us on our toes, but he is such a sweetie.”

Gunars sportin’ his blue googles!

The Lowther family in Colorado is hosting Martins. His host mom shares “One of my favorite moments with my biological children is when they first started calling me “mama”. The same has been true for a 15 year old speaking in a different language!”

Martins arrives in Colorado.

The Sicking family in Texas is hosting 6 year old Sasha. His host mom shares “This was the night he got here from airport. He was so excited about his new Thomas pajamas. Him and my son go to bed in their matching jammies, holding hands and on their matching pillow pets.”

Sasha (right) and his host brother in their matching Thomas jammies.

The Becker family in California is hosting siblings Nataliya and Vitaliy. Their host mom shares, “My biological kids and host kids were having trouble bonding for most of our first day together. Until… some soccer and basketball started happening outside for the boys and some bracelet making, reading English easy readers and practicing Ukrainian happened inside for the girls. I knew some bonding was officially in effect when they all snuggled up together for this pic.”

Nataliya bonding with her host sisters.

The Dawson family in Kentucky is hosting siblings Justine age 9 and Kristaps age 8 from Latvia. Their host mom shares “We took the children to Gatti Town for Pizza and games.  They were very unsure of it all at first, but it didn’t take them long to jump right in with the rest of my children!  The bumper cars were a huge hit!  It was the first time we heard REAL LAUGHS! It was the huge ice breaker we all needed to blend us as a family.”

Justine and Kristaps enjoying some family fun!

The Dack family in Wisconsin is hosting Hanna from Ukraine. Her host mom says “Is it cheesy to say that the picture below represents our favorite moment? From the moment we met her, she has been the most incredible addition to our family. That moment right here, changed our lives. There have been other great moments since then, such as working with her on her English and cuddling on the couch in the morning with her and my son right when we all get up. I don’t have pictures of either of those, but they are both special times when I get to see Hanna’s heart and her need for affection. It’s also a time when I get to hear her sweet voice (she’s not real talkative otherwise).”

Hanna meets her host parents for the first time!

The Brandt family in Indiana is hosting siblings Ervins & Ligija from Latvia. Their host mom’s favorite memory so far was “Watching Ervins and Ligija put on a concert on their first full day here.”

Future rock stars Ervins and Ligija!

All those sweet memories in just the first few days…there will be many more to come! It’s not too early to start thinking about hosting a child this summer! For more information click on the “contact us” tab on our website and contact your regional coordinator!