When she came to the USA, she didn’t like American food. When she left, she had two favorite restaurants. When our little guest arrived in our home she wouldn’t even look at my husband. Five weeks later she wouldn’t stop telling him how much she loved him, and kissing his cheek over and over again. The first time we visited our neighbor’s pool she was terrified even to place her feet on the first step. Days later she was jumping into the deep end. The first time she saw our family pray together she mocked us and laughed. The night before she left us, she initiated our family prayer time. During Bedtime Bible story time, we saw her behavior change from running around the living room refusing to engage, to reading the stories to us from her own Bible. (Which dear friends had provided). When my daughter took the bicycle out of our garage for her, our sweet visitor couldn’t ride it. A few short weeks later the two girls were cruising their bicycles around the neighborhood, and our family went on a trail ride together. Initially bath time was a fight, and washing her hair was a downright battle. Before she left, she happily washed (and conditioned) her hair with no prompting or help on my part. When we first introduced new things to her and she didn’t want them, she would make a huge scene, shouting “NYET” (No), “BLEH!!!!” or “Behani” (Bad). By the end of her visit, she instead would politely say “No thank you”. Can hosting a child for five weeks change their life? From our personal experience, YES, it most certainly can!
Why we decided to host
It began with a question I posted on Facebook; “We are beginning the process of adopting from Ukraine. Do you know anyone who has adopted children from that country, and if so, would you be willing to connect us with them?” My dear Aunt Rachel responded to my question, and connected us with friends from her community who have wholeheartedly poured their lives into serving, loving and rescuing Ukrainian children. They work tirelessly with an organization called Ukrainian Resource Center, which facilitates a hosting program, and assists families with adoption. After phone conversations and emails with their founders and volunteer staff, we felt much peace, and thought it wise to follow along the trail they have already so courageously blazed for adopting an older child from Ukraine.
Hosting is by no means a guarantee of adopting a specific child. Hosting IS however, an opportunity to deeply connect with an older Ukrainian orphan, making a permanent impression upon not only their life, but yours. During their time with a family, this child has the opportunity to experience things that would most likely never be possible in the institutionalized world in which they live. We decided as a family to be extremely intentional during our hosting experience and to make every single moment count; so that we would have no regrets – whether we would someday have the opportunity to adopt this precious one, or in the incredibly sad event that we would never see their face again. (Click here for more information on hosting).
The pre-hosting process
As we were hosting with the intent to (if at all possible) someday adopt, we were careful to work together as a family on the difficult decision of choosing ONE of the many dear children available to host. Relying on nothing but a tiny photo and an even smaller bit of information, we confirmed the little girl we were interested in hosting would indeed soon be available for adoption. Ukrainian Resource Center has a thorough process of screening their hosting families, to protect the safety of these children. This includes home study, letters of recommendation, background checks, written statements of faith and so on. Once we were officially approved, we got down to the business of preparing for our little visitor’s stay with us!
The 5 weeks that forever changed us
Our five weeks with this beautiful and unforgettable nine-year old girl have wrecked our world as we knew it. When you encounter an orphan in this acutely personal way, you can never be the same again. The reality of this child’s plight is unfathomable. It is acutely sobering to think they have no earthly possessions but a tiny photo of a mother who is no longer there for them. This child doesn’t even have their own toothbrush! And most importantly, they have no one to nurture and care for them in the safe and loving home every child should have. And when you pause to consider the thousands more just like this precious one in your arms… it’s simply heart-wrenching.
Expectations vs. Reality
We were expecting this little girl to be very excited to visit us in America, but quickly discovered in our first moments together that this simply was not the case. She was scared, confused, lonely and (thanks to the protective wall she had built around her heart) not at all ready to receive the massive amount of love we already had built up for her. It took several days for her to completely feel at ease with me and our dear daughter (10 months older than our darling guest), and at least two weeks for her to begin to warm up to my husband -or for that matter, any other male figures. She spoke only a few words in English, and she let us know in no uncertain terms that she did NOT like America.
However, all this changed over the course of our five weeks together, and by the end of her visit, she told us she LOVED America, and she cried at even the thought of going back to the orphanage. Over the course of her time with us, we fell head-over-heels and madly-in-love with this amazing child. She is intense. She is vivacious. She is smart. She is incredibly funny. She loves with extreme passion, and she feels pain with equal depth. We built more memories and bonded with her in five weeks than we ever dreamed possible, and we want nothing less the absolute best for this young lady’s future.
Very soon, I’ll be sharing our most beautiful and unforgettable memories of our time with this girl who no matter the outcome, will forever be a part of our family. I also look forward to sharing those resources which were indispensable to us during this whole process. Words cannot adequately relay our deep gratefulness to all of you who are sharing this journey with us. We simply couldn’t do this without you by our side.
What happens next
We are carrying on with our plans of adopting a daughter from Ukraine. If indeed this amazing child (who brings with her an abundance of energy, joy and boundless emotion) is able and wants to be adopted by our family, our hearts would simply explode with happiness. We cannot however be guaranteed of this intensely longed for reality until more necessary things take place on both sides of the ocean. The tragic truth is that she is still holding on to the false hope that she will soon leave the orphanage and go home to live with the very mother from whom parental rights have been revoked. If this girl we love so dearly is available to be hosted again over Christmas, and would like to visit us, we are planning for that to be our next step in building a relationship with her, and continuing to move ahead with plans of her possible adoption. In the meantime, we will be writing letters to her, and praying she receives them. There is a void in our home, a sadness in our hearts and an emptiness in our arms as a result of her departure.
We will be working with Ukrainian Resource Center to facilitate the next steps of this journey, and will certainly keep you posted.
Would we do this again? Absolutely YES. Was it easy? A huge and definitive NO. To sum it all up; Statistics tell us that 80% of orphans who leave a Ukrainian orphanage between 15 & 16 years of age go on to become victims of human trafficking & prostitution or become involved in crime, alcoholism and drugs. They have no dreams, no hope, no future, nowhere to live, and no one to love them. Up to 10% of them may commit suicide by the age of 18. If we can bring a glimmer of joy, a spark of purpose, a nurturing family experience, an unforgettable trip to America, and above all, demonstrate the exceedingly great, always-faithful, never-failing, 100% genuine, and life-changing love of Jesus to even ONE child, the hosting process has met every single goal we set out to accomplish.