Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When God takes the little we have and it hurts a lot: a summary of our orphan hosting experience

For five weeks we have loved.  An 11 year old girl who has no memories of her mother who died while she was young and has no father in her life has been a part of our family for this brief time.  Reality is sinking in, especially when she stated what she saw coming a couple nights ago.  During our nightly routine of each child and parent stating what they were thankful for that day, Kris said "I'm thankful for my family today."  On hearing this she drew an imaginary line around all of us but herself and said "August 2, this your family".  Oh my heart.  

 She mentions it all the time...August 2, August 2, August 2.  She points to it with a forlorn face on the calendar and asks "How many days?".  Yet she never cries.  We've never seen a tear this entire hosting.  She has toughened the walls of her heart to not let the vulnerability be exposed. She has
set up just a big enough wall to enjoy us, laugh with us, make memories with us, but not to throw her heart out.  Orphans have learned out of hard lives neither to trust or attach.  Trusting gets you hurt.  Trusting disappoints you.  Trusting means you can't rely on yourself anymore.

"L" is a diamond in the rough.  When she arrived, she was as quiet as a mouse, careful not to say a word except "Yes" or "no" for an entire week.  She didn't even tell us when she had to use the restroom! She was so patient with our noisy, energetic children and tried almost every food and activity we asked her to join us in, didn't protest to routines or outings, and even helped around the house.  By week 2, we started to see her personality.  We discovered that she's goofy, loves to laugh, and enjoys getting out, especially to shop or go to McDonalds!  She feels safe with boundaries and schedules. She loved to dress up, get her nails painted and feel pretty, yet we noticed her self esteem is so low.  She refused to agree that she's beautiful.  She didn't believe anything we complimented her on.  She came lacking confidence to as much as play an iPad game or walk across our shallow pool.  By week 4, however, we could see confidence emerging.  She learned to swim and before long was going down slides, doing handstands, and swimming underwater. She began using short sentences in English, even if some grammar and words weren't used correctly. She sang songs she was hearing on the radio, even if she didn't know what the English words mean, and she even smiled when we say she's beautiful!  We have loved seeing this gradual change in her personality.  The best thing this last week is that she's now hugging us back at bedtime when we hug her goodnight.
Spiritually, she claims she has accepted Jesus as her Savior and has already been baptized.  However, we have not seen evidence of a heart that yearns to fellowship with God and learn about Him more other than the fact that she reads her Bible we gave her in her language when she's bored.  Crossing the language barrier and trying to get in a deep conversation with her about her walk with God is difficult.  We have prayed over her every night that she will truly be a follower of Christ.  The fact that she has a hard time trusting an earthly father figure makes it difficult to trust a Heavenly Father.  I wish I could have a heart to heart with her about this, but it probably won't happen until her English is better.
She tells us she doesn't want to go back.  She has asked us if we are going to have her back this winter (there are 2 hosting periods a year, one in the summer and one over Christmas).  We have been told by our hosting program to answer her "We love you and want to have you back, but it is up to the government of your country to give permission".  That way she knows she is wanted and loved, but the situation is not in our hands.  
We have had several families inquire about adopting "L".  Sadly, we still have no answer to give them as to whether or not she is adoptable.  We will not know that answer unless we inquire personally after she returns.  Another big factor is we don't even know if she wants to be adopted.  To leave everything that you have ever known behind, albeit void of nurture and stability, is still a very frightening thing to do for a child when they are her age.  It is very different for a little preschooler or toddler in an orphanage to want a mommy and daddy than for a tween or teen to pick up their life and move it to an entirely different world.  She doesn't know the statistics for girls like her who are orphaned and have no outside help when they age out of the system.  She doesn't know that at 18 she will be on her own, likely with no job skills, no way to pay to further her education, no housing, and no family nearby for support.  Her dream to be a history teacher may likely never come true if her life continues in its current trajectory.  She doesn't know that 60% of girls like her will find themselves in the sex trafficking industry within 2 years of aging out of the system in her part of the world.  She doesn't know that 15% of orphans where she comes from commit suicide shortly after aging out of the system.  She doesn't know that her life expectancy is 30 since she is an orphan in Eastern Europe.  All she knows is that there is an American family she is leaving behind who loves her to the moon and back and considers her a part of their family.  They don't speak her language, don't eat her food, and while in America all her friends and people she lives with are back in her familiar part of the world.  What would I do if I were in her shoes and didn't know what my future looked like?  What would I do if I was asked at 11 years old "Do you want to be adopted and move to America?" after 5 weeks in America experiencing the love, safety, and security of a family?  I honestly don't know.  And we don't know what she will say either.

And here's where it gets even tougher......

I know what many of you have been thinking, whether you have asked us point blank or not (and many have, not realizing it is against policy to do it in front of her!).  Are we going to pursue adopting this precious girl who is about to carry a piece of our hearts back to Eastern Europe?  We can't give you that answer because we don't have it.  Only God knows.  We are willing to walk through any door He opens for us, whether it be to continue to wait for a baby girl here in the U.S.A. or start the process to adopt "L".  
I have struggled deeply with this, as has Kris.  We committed to hosting with a different purpose in mind, and now we are at a crossroads. There have been days during this hosting period where I couldn't take the torture going on in my heart anymore, and have had to leave the house when Kris came home.  One night, as I was sitting in the car crying, I screamed out to God "LEAVE ME ALONE!".  My heart couldn't take the pain of separating from this girl God has placed in our family, the stress of not knowing her future or ours, the burden I was carrying of trying to love her to pieces in this short time, the expectancy I felt of being the most "perfect" mom I needed to be for her and not blow it (yes, going against my determination to not have this mentality before hosting began).  I wanted God to stop.  I wrestled with tears and pounded my fists, pleading with Him to take the weight off of me.  I couldn't bear it anymore.  His response was simply peace.  Peace in the midst of not knowing, peace that He can be trusted and He will work it all out in His time.  Peace is a wonderful thing.

I feel like I'm dumping out my heart on this computer screen.  Many of you have been through difficult times of waiting on God, getting either answers to questions, direction for big decisions, or for Him to open doors.  We are now entering that time.
If you see us in person, please show us grace and offer a hug, no matter what face we're putting on that day.  I'm good at holding it together in public (except those mornings when I've exploded and haven't put the pieces back together yet!), but deep down we need understanding and grace from our friends and family.  We are hurting, and we don't have any idea how deeply "L" is hurting, which makes it even worse.  Our kids will be hurting.  They are losing a sister they have temporarily gained.  Our family will be feeling a deep void for a long time, and until many of the questions are answered, there will be confusion with especially our younger kids as to what is in store for our family.
I could share story after story of how God has used "L" in our lives this summer.  This has been quite the "missions trip" (whether others acknowledge it as one or not).  It is an inverted, or backwards in location missions venture, but nonetheless we consider it our missions commitment for the summer.  Any other 5 week missions trip ends with tears, hugs, and farewells to people we have gotten to know, bless and invest in. However this trip a child who has become a part of us will be getting on a plane, and we honestly don't know if we will ever see her again.  We don't have a report to share with our local church, photos and an inspirational video to play, items to sit on a table and display about the local culture of her country, but we do have one thing: changed hearts.  We hope and pray hers is changed forever as well, especially in her relationship to Christ.  Whatever the outcome of her life, we have been faithful to obey this call and know that God has and will continue to accomplish His purpose.
Thank you for encouraging.  Thank you for blessing her with your gifts and your time. Thank you for all your prayers, and please don't stop when she's on that plane on Sunday.  Pray God's will is done, pray for peace for all of us, and pray He will receive the glory He's due through it all.

If you or someone you know has heard about our hosting experience and want to know more about hosting a child from Eastern Europe for either Christmas or next summer, go to nhfc.org.  You can then contact a regional coordinator who can answer any further questions and assist you.