Many families are interested in hosting but are scared of the unknowns- what will the child be like? Will the language barrier be too challenging? How on earth will we say goodbye at the end? Read one family’s experience with hosting and how it changed all their lives for the better…
As a teenager dreaming of my future family, I wanted children and I wanted a big family. I also remember thinking how neat it would be to adopt a child someday. But for many of us, myself included, life doesn’t play out exactly as planned. As the years began to pass (eight years to be exact), God blessed us with three children, Peter, Emma, and Ashley, and a thriving business.
In the spring of 2006, we received the devastating news that our sister-in-law had died unexpectedly at age 37, leaving four children ages 11, 9, 7, and 2, whom she had been homeschooling. At the time, our children were 6, 5, and 2 and I had chosen to homeschool as well. Even though our hearts were broken, God had a plan.
I knew when we had found our house that it wasn’t a coincidence that God provided us a home within walking distance of where they lived. So I followed God’s lead and reached out to them by inviting them over to homeschool with us twice a week that fall of 2007. On September 13, 2007 our fourth and final child, Aimee, was born. I was happy to help out my niece and nephews, but as the years passed and my children grew, the prospect of adopting seemed less and less of a possibility. It had always been a dream to adopt a younger child, not a child half grown, and my children were no longer babies or even toddlers. Adopting an older child entailed a set of circumstances that I just wasn’t comfortable with.
However, time has a way of changing things, and it wasn’t too many years before some of my kids were high school age and we decided their current needs would be best met in public school. By this time I had dismissed the prospect of adoption entirely. However, my second child, Emma, had not. By the age of five she had begun to express interest in our family adopting and at a young age had a huge heart for orphans. In the summer of 2015, our church began promoting a hosting program. Emma was 14 at the time. She enthusiastically showed me pictures of the host kids and begged for our family to host an orphan. As we would arrive to church on Sunday mornings that spring and early summer, people would comment and giggle about Emma’s enthusiasm that they had seen on Facebook and ask if we were hosting. I would laugh it off and reply no. At some point during those crazy years of building a business I had given up the dream of adopting a child. But God hadn’t given up.
One morning I received a text message from a close friend named Kea who had adopted a boy named Brody from China two years earlier. She said that she knew we had been somewhat interested in hosting the year before (little did she know that I actually hadn’t had any interest in hosting) and was wondering if we would “co-host” with them this summer? After further discussion, talking it over with John, and praying, we agreed to co-host one child, with her son Brody as our helper and translator. The child would be at her house a week, then our house a week, then vice versa until the host period was over. Emma was beyond excited, and promised she would help out with whatever we needed.
Then I got a phone call from Kea. The hosting coordinator did not like our idea of “sharing” a child. She told us respectfully that these children are orphans, who have never experienced family life before. They were coming all the way from China, and even if they were never in their life to receive the gift of a family, at least they got to experience one for four weeks while in the US. She said that she understood our desire to help each other by babysitting for appointments, etc. but that we each needed to host our own child. Reluctantly, we knew in our hearts that she was right, and agreed to host a child on our own.
On the way to the airport, Kea began to describe what our Chinese child would most likely be like from her experience with her own adopted son. I was surprised to hear that our host child would have only experienced inner city life. Kea informed me that he most likely won’t want to play outside. He probably won’t like our big dogs. He will be afraid of bugs. Since we live in the country and spend a lot of time outside, I braced myself for the longest four weeks of my life.
Upon arriving at the airport in Springfield, we met our host child, AiJun. He was small for his age, nine years old, and very, very tired. He did not smile at us or try to speak. Brody tried speaking to him, but could not understand the few words AiJun said. There were many Chinese translators there, helping families speak to their host children. Several came up and tried to speak to AiJun, but he wouldn’t respond. Then one of them began to play with AiJun, to get him to say something. Soon he giggled and spoke. “He speaks Cantonese,” she told us. My hopes and dreams of Brody translating for us for the next four weeks diminished as Brody only knew Mandarin.
The next morning, AiJun quietly walked down the stairs. He saw our youngest child, Aimee, who was then eight. She began to play cars with him. I was relieved to see him smile at her and enjoy the interaction. I began to make breakfast and I set out a can of sweet milk, a Chinese children’s drink, that we had bought at an Asian grocery store in Springfield the evening before. AiJun’s face lit up when he saw it. After eating a hearty breakfast, he and Aimee played more. I was hesitant to let them play outside, assuming he would be scared of the dogs, but he wasn’t. As a matter of fact, AiJun wasn’t scared of anything we assumed he would be scared of, and we were humbled as we realized how wrong we were to label AiJun as the problem child we assumed he would be. AiJun soon proved to us that he was just like any normal kid, and it wasn’t long before he was having the time of his life going on boat rides, catching fireflies, jumping off the dock into our pond, playing with the dogs, hiking, and simply being a kid and enjoying the summertime.
We were also literally amazed to discover that AiJun was super easy going and had a great sense of humor. The only thing we couldn’t get him to do was speak into our phone to try to communicate, but he made up for that with the hilarious things he would communicate with just body language. After just two weeks of hosting AiJun, John mentioned the prospect of adopting him. And I had to admit the thought had crossed my mind as well. He just seemed to fit so perfectly into our family and he was just such an awesome kid. But I was also reluctant and scared wondering how would I teach him English? Where would he go to school? How would we pay for the adoption? Is the paperwork really as bad as everyone says it is? But I had been wrong already in so many ways, that I wondered: could God possibly be was at work in this situation? Maybe we were the family that was to adopt him all along?
To Be Continued…
-Story from MAA family Niki H