This is a guest blog post by veteran host mom and Western/Central Great Lakes Area Regional Coordinator, Marty Shoup.
When presented with orphan hosting, one of the first questions people ask is:
“Isn’t it cruel to bring an orphan here for a few weeks, give them a taste of paradise and then send them back?”
I’ll admit, when I first heard about New Horizons, it was something I wondered about as well. Because on the surface, it DOES seem cruel. To bring them here, to the “land of plenty”… to let them experience life in a family, where there’s plenty to eat and they don’t have to worry about their safety, where they’re loved and well taken care of, where their opinions matter… only to take it all away 4 or 5 weeks later.
Recently, a gentleman emailed New Horizons founder and director, LeAnn Dakake, with this very concern. A couple he went to church with had announced that they were hosting an orphan through New Horizons and they were asking for donations to help cover hosting costs. As is true with many new (and experienced) hosters, the family was not able to articulate many of the reasons why hosting is so beneficial to the orphaned child. They just knew it was something God was calling them to do and they were being obedient.
Because of his misconceptions, I don’t think this gentleman was inclined to help this family minister to the child they were hosting.
In her reply, LeAnn addresses this concern and visits some of the reasons why we do what we do.
“The kids that we bring are coming on a visit, or exchange type program. Many of their orphanages close during the holidays and over summer so all kids must go somewhere. They go other places like Italy, Spain, Holland, other camps in their own countries (former Soviet training camps for kids) and some go to local foster families as well. We are one of the “options” as far as the kids are told, and they are selected to come on our program after being interviewed and after we talk to their caregivers about behavior, school efforts etc. So, everyone goes out of the orphanage for the summer and in our case, we are a 5 week program, so they come here and usually return to a camp type place in their home country or start out at one and come to us from the camp. In Latvia, children are mostly in foster families as they are trying to close traditional orphanages, but the foster families are not able to care for them beyond the monthly low stipend and in many cases, they don’t have indoor plumbing and are very rural with little access to anything for the children to do outside of school or off the farm (most are on farms).
Our program shows children what it’s like to be fully and unconditionally loved in a Christian family. It is an experience that many would never have in their lives. Even in most of the foster families, the foster parents are “workers” and do not treat orphans as their own children. They do this due to culture, poverty and also to keep up some wall as they know they cannot provide for a permanent situation even if they so desired. In addition to the ministry aspects of the program, the kids come and gain a new language. Most learn as much English in 4-5 weeks here as they would in a good English class in their schools over 4-5 years. Latvia is a part of the European Union as well and in that, residents are able to move and work in other EU countries. But Latvian is a language that no other country speaks or uses, and English is a very common language in all. So, that alone, would be a good “tool” to give kids now to help them later. However, many of the children who come are also eligible for adoption and after being hosted, about 65% of the eligible children are adopted into a forever and unconditional loving Christian family. Besides participating in a program like ours, they have literally 0-1% chance of ever being considered for adoption through a traditional process. Latvia doesn’t place children under about age 9 as available for adoption unless they have medical issues or are part of sibling sets. And, most families who consider adopting would not just send a dossier (family adoption package) to Latvia asking for a preteen or teenager sight unseen. So, this does offer them a lot of possibilities beyond just a visit to a nice family in America. Also, most children who are older and have aged out for adoption who come, are learning enough English they can be considered to return on a student visa, which Latvia allows if we find sponsors.
Surprisingly, most families who host do not intend to adopt the child they bring. Most consider it as helping a poor orphan child and being sacrificial towards that child- a missions trip for their family where they can still live at home. However, in the end, many families do decide they want to adopt or they have friends through church, neighbors etc who meet the child and decide to adopt. Nearly all families say they went into it to bless a child and come out of it feeling like they received the blessing. On the other side, when I talk to children after they have been fully adopted and live in The US, none of them state that on returning to their home country they felt like they were being ripped out of a glorious land and placed into poverty. It was a trip to remember and they returned “home”. When they were offered adoption later, since we don’t speak of it on the host program, they were in most cases, shocked and it took a great deal of thinking to consider it real and accept it.
So, in the end, if a child who comes on the program has even 10% chance of being helped through one of these purposes, where they had 0% if they didn’t come; should we decide not to do this, or to do this for them as much as possible? And, that 10% is in reality, much greater for each child who participates…more like 99% gain something important from the program whether it’s Salvation, family, language or love.
Lastly, it is interesting to consider that the kids don’t have such the expected “trauma” after having to go back as one would assume. In fact, I have traveled with some of the groups all the way back home and each program I travel with them through security to the plane after we depart parents at the airport in Atlanta. The kids look at this as a vacation. Once they separate from their 4-5 week family, they refocus on friends after we get through security and find familiarity in them. “They are going home”. It is told to them and explained as such and being their “homes” are in Latvia and Ukraine, they don’t expect to stay forever. The things that we see as extreme poverty and necessary things we have to have in life to live… just aren’t seen that way when it’s what you know and come to accept as “life and home”. We are “Disney World” and no one expects to live at Disney World. In fact, there are some kids who go back, are offered adoption and say no. For Americans, many things we deem necessary to live comfortably, they see it as waste and extreme, even greed and ugly wealth at times. After traveling myself twice a year, to where they live, I tend to feel their viewpoint at times too. Not having running water in a house doesn’t mean it isn’t a comfortable home that provides attention and a sense of belonging. Safety and security of the “known” is there and that is number one on what humans need in order to consider what things are important. I suppose, considering where they were prior to the orphanages, streets and foster families, which is something none of us has had to see or endure, where they are now is a welcome version of “home”…just not what you and I would think of or ever consider as sufficient to be home. Consider the show Little House on the Prairie? They had little and felt like they had everything. These kids are similar, except they don’t have the “family” and that’s what we aim to offer them.
So, I hope this helps you to see the benefits far outweigh the negatives and also, the “craziness” of a new world is something exciting to experience for all of them. Flying on an airplane is a ride at the amusement park…and in some cases, riding everywhere in a car instead of going by metro or by foot is something they really dislike. So, they perceive it much differently from how we see it.
God bless you and your family for considering joining us as we minister to orphans and coming on this journey with your friends.”
I hope it changed his mind.
And if the same thought has scampered through your head, I hope it changes your mind as well.