Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ten Days Out - and Some Questions!

Here we are ten days away from Sintija's arrival in America, and my emotions are all over the place.  Of course, I can only imagine how she is feeling!   It is our understanding that the children are told they are coming just a few weeks prior to leaving, and they don't receive our letters and pictures of introduction until they get on the plane.  Can you imagine being that brave at the age of 13?  For all of the difficult life circumstances these children have lived through, they have developed a resiliency that pushes them onward.

The feedback we receive as we share about Sintija coming has been very interesting.  We have heard a wide spectrum of reaction - from admiration to surprise to borderline disapproval.  Some people have had really great questions for us, so I thought I would answer some of the more popular questions here in case you are wondering the same things.

1.  Why are you doing this?
Great question.  Don't really have a great answer.  Like all life changing events, we pretty much stumbled into this.  :)  My sister has three internationally adopted older children, and so Mark and I have always had a vested interest in older/special needs children needing families.While this was something we cared about deeply, we have never been fully convinced we should grow our family through adoption.  Knowing this, my devious sister (OK, perhaps with God guiding her, but every good story needs a villain...) forwarded us an email about New Horizons for Children.   I checked out their website, spent some time on the phone with Michelle V., and we prayed about it.  After a crystal clear go ahead from God, we jumped in. 

One of the things I have always wrestled with is having a heart for children, but not feeling a clear call  to adopt.  The plight of these kids (especially, for us, the older children) has always pulled at our hearts, but before hearing about NHFC we felt like you could either care and adopt or not care and ignore the facts.  Hosting is a wonderful way to get intimately involved in the lives of these children, even if adoption isn't part of "the plan".  If you have a heart for international orphans, but don't feel called to enlarge your family through adoption, you can still change a life through hosting.  It isn't an "either/or".  It's a "Let me do whatever I can right now..." and that makes sense to us.

2.  Speaking of adoption...
This is the question that people either wonder about and don't feel comfortable asking, or wonder about and blurt out immediately.  Either way - I'll try to answer it here.  "Are we planning to adopt Sintija?"  I realize that people want a "yes" or "no" answer, but there is a long and short reply to this very touchy subject.

No, we are not planning on adopting Sintija.  We are not going into hosting with the intention of adoption.  We ARE going into this with every intention of being Sintija's advocates.  It is our hearts desire that she will find a forever family, and we ask that you all join us in praying for that to happen for her.  Having said that, we also have learned through this process that God's intentions generally trump ours.  If we feel like God has laid it on our hearts to adopt, we aren't going to sit down and review our master life plan with God to show Him how it really should go.  One of the things they teach us from day one in our host training is to go into this with no expectations.  Mark and I have been able to do that (with God's help!).  

For those of you who may run into us with Sintija while she is here:  PLEASE, PLEASE don't mention the "a" word ("adoption") in front of her - or near her or behind her - or at all!  The children come here with the expectation that they are on a great vacation/adventure, and we don't want to confuse or upset them by mentioning adoption.  There are a lot of reasons for this rule - all of them very good - so we ask that you please honor us in this request.  Thanks so much!

3.  "Isn't it cruel to bring these kids here, show them everything they are missing, and then send them back home to nothing?"
The first time I heard this one, if sort of shocked me.  The second time I heard it I was perplexed, but not surprised, and in the multiple times since then Mark and I have come to almost expect this question.   After some time to digest it, I guess I can see where people who ask this are coming from.  But let me explain about life for these orphans, and the question will almost answer itself.

In our country, children who aren't growing up in a family are generally viewed with compassion and sympathy.  As a culture, Americans recognize that children in that situation are often living out the consequences of someone else's poor decisions.  (Do we do everything we should for these kids?  Certainly not - but at least we have tender hearts for them.)  In the cultures these orphans come from they are viewed much, much differently.  Children living in orphanages and in foster care are most often regarded as deserving the life they are living.  In a country where life is difficult for most, the lowest rung on the social ladder belongs entirely to the orphaned children.  They are nothing.  If they are lucky, they are ignored.  Otherwise it is communicated to them in a million tiny ways that they are the very least and worst of society.  

The hosting program provides these kids with an opportunity to know they are valuable - not because of the things they are exposed to, but because they were chosen to come to America.  They have the enviable opportunity to come to the US, practice their English skills, and see amazing sights.  But most importantly - they get to experience the love of Jesus through the love of a family.   Who they are is validated by experiencing the love of their Father in little ways each day they are with us.  Yes, they will see new places and be exposed to lots of new and fancy things (Sintija will be wowed by our bathroom!), but their deepest need isn't "stuff", it is LOVE.  Love is life changing - we can't live without it.  Stuff is just...stuff.

4.  "It's so amazing what you are doing."
Great - glad you think so.  Now go do it yourselves!

Seriously though.  We are not Mother Theresa here.  On our best days, this house resembles a sitcom - on our worst days, a train wreck.  There is nothing uber-spiritual about us that makes us more qualified than anyone else (How I wish it were true!).  We have learned a healthy fear of disobeying God when He is clear in His intentions, but we haven't received any calling greater than anyone else's.  There was no burning bush.  There was no bright light or angel songs.  We were presented with an opportunity, God gave us a nudge, and we said "yes".  That's it.  It isn't rocket science.  And, clearly, we aren't rocket scientists.  (Theatre major here, people!)

I'll be honest - it is my heart's desire to see the area where we live take a hold of the vision of New Horizons for Children and become a hot spot for miraculous transformations in the lives of older, Eastern European orphans!  But it all just starts with a "yes", one girl, and five weeks. No, we don't know how this will turn out. Sintija may hate us.  She may cry every day and refuse to eat and never learn to flush the toilet.  But, by dang, we're gonna love her - all of her - the good, the bad, and the ugly because that is how God has loved us.  It's so simple, it scares me that we could screw it up!  

So, these are a few of the questions we get asked about hosting Sintija.  I would be more than happy to answer any other questions - really, ANY!  Ask away.  We are passionate about this opportunity, and we are open to sharing with anyone who may want to know more, so drop me an email or leave me a question as a comment and I will answer you as best I can!

In the meanwhile - keep us in your prayers.  And pray for dear Sintija.  She will be here in ten days!


Sandy said...

I don't know how in heck I ended up here, Ann (somehow I got this blog address on facebook!), but as a survivor of a Fresh Air kid who came to our house from the South Bronx for 10 years every summer starting when she was 7--she is now 24 and has a 4 year old son and we are still in constant contact--great kid, Tanisha.---- And, a survivor of a Thai foreign exchange student who lived with us for a year when Allyson went abroad (Anong).--- And, a survivor of a German foreign exchange student from Berlin who lived with us for 6 months (Philipp), my best advice about hosting foreign and/or disadvantaged kids is the following: realize that they are teaching you way more than you could ever, ever begin to teach them. In the end, the gift flows more from them to you than from you to them---if you can see this, you are on the right path, in my opinion.

As far as that comment about why should you show them all we have and how disadvantaged they are (we got this comment about Tanisha many times--it is a surprising thought and we pondered it for awhile), my answer "it can never be a bad outcome when a child is laughing and enjoying life and family. Never."

sagreen125 said...

I just think you guys are following God. What happens after that time, only God knows. You are playing a part in this girls life. God does not show us the whole plan. He just ask us to do our part.
I thank God you guys prayed and listened and followed through.
Because at this point, it is to pray for her, then welcome her in your home. After that, it is day by day. The way we should all live.