Thoughts on Hosting…Afterwards

Having Sweet Tea in our home was a powerful experience. It was amazing, emotional and exhausting.

The first few weeks after she went back home were hard. We all cried a lot. We slept a lot from the adrenaline crash. In many ways, it was a loss that felt quite similar to Carmen’s death. Intense purpose and then boom, done. I’ve heard the end of orphan hosting compared to how people feel when they get home from a missions trip. Everything feels out of sorts and flipped upside down. You are changed forever but you have to get back to the business of regular old life that seems so mundane after experiencing sky-high purpose.

We went into hosting not really having any idea what we were doing. And honestly, not really understanding the program. Like all programs involving orphans, agencies, governments and money, there are good parts and bad parts. We believe the good outweighs the bad.

We pray that the time Sweet Tea spent in our home will have a lasting, positive impact on her and that we will stay in touch. She friended me on social media and we’ve sent a lot of messages back and forth across the miles. We mailed a package to Sweet Tea with flip flops for her and two friends, a Monster Energy beanie, lollipops, a necklace with her name on it and stationary. The orphanage director emailed pictures of Sweet Tea opening the package, a big smile on her face.

Will we host again? We were hoping we could host Sweet Tea again. Due to rules and regulations beyond our control, it’s not likely Sweet Tea will be able to come back. Maybe in the future we will host again but it’s hard to imagine hosting anyone other than Sweet Tea.

Sweet Tea graduates next month. She will be on her own. Will you pray for this sweet girl as she will face so many decisions? Thank you.

I don’t think Sweet Tea can even fathom how much she meant and will always mean to us…

***

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

By |April 16th, 2016|Lana's Journal|2 Comments

And Then We Said Goodbye

Somehow the month Sweet Tea stayed with us flew by. A few days before her flight home, I helped her pack her bags. The hosting agency told us to pack ahead of time for two reasons: 1) to make sure every single thing fit and 2) to give the kids a chance to process the reality that they are leaving.

The first was easy. Everything fit into her large rolling duffle bag. She wasn’t so sure about the large bag but after two phone calls to the translator/chaperone we were able to communicate that the bag would be checked in; she wouldn’t have to carry/roll it through multiple airports and layovers. Sweet Tea put a few things into her new backpack for the flight: a book, markers, a drawing pad, candy, nuts and granola bars, etc.

The second was not so easy. Sweet Tea hid in her room with her head under the covers.

I sat on the floor next to her bed until she peeked out. I translated how are you feeling, are you ok and she just shrugged. I asked a few different ways and still the same shrug. So, I translated, “Just tell me one word. Just one. How are you feeling?”

She reached for the phone and translated, “Sad to say goodbye.”

With just a few days left, Sweet Tea finally told us how she was feeling. And there really wasn’t a thing we could do to make her feel better. Maybe we would see each other again, maybe not. Orphan hosting is full of uncertainty including whether or not the kids get to come back.

***

We had to be at the airport at 5am. I don’t remember what time we set our alarms…3 something. It was early, whatever time it was!

We waited with the other hosting families. Some of the kids were already crying, dreading saying goodbye. Sweet Tea wasn’t.

We walked to the security gate, the spot where we had to stop and Sweet Tea had to go on. Dave translated, “The time is soon to say goodbye. We hope that you fly safely. We love you and will miss you greatly. We hope to see you again.”

And that’s when all of Sweet Tea’s resolve went out the window and she wept. Dave held her for a long time. She turned to give me a big hug. She reached down to say goodbye to Hope.

She looked at Lauren and they both burst into tears.

After more tears and more hugs, Sweet Tea walked through the security gate.

We waited, watching as Sweet Tea made her way slowly through the long line to the X-ray machines. Each time she moved forward she turned around to smile at us, watching us.

One of the other host families sent us this picture.

We stood by the gate until we couldn’t see her anymore and then we turned and left. And felt like a truck had run over us.

By |April 15th, 2016|Lana's Journal|2 Comments

Happy Birthday Sweet Tea!

Sweet Tea had a birthday while she was with us.

A few days before her birthday we told Sweet Tea that we knew her birthday was coming up so we would bake her favorite cake. But, what was her favorite cake? After many half-smiles and shrugs, she said yes to vanilla cake so we baked a vanilla cake just for Sweet Tea.

She reached for the phone and translated “Thank you.”

By |April 12th, 2016|Lana's Journal|0 Comments

Sweet Tea and the Beach

We live 4 miles from the beach so Sweet Tea got to see the Pacific Ocean a number of times. She laughed out loud the first time she saw a guy body boarding. I asked if she wanted to learn to surf, that we would sign her up for surf lessons. She so adamantly said no that Dave thought she might not know how to swim. We later found out through an interpreter that she is a swimmer. We would have never guessed!

Out for a hike in Torrey Pines

Beach Badminton at Fletcher Cove

(Picture credit: Kristen D.)

La Jolla Beach

On a Duck Boat Tour in San Diego

They are cute but man do they stink!

Several times Sweet Tea and I stopped to look for shells at Moonlight Beach when we had a few minutes between appointments.

We don’t know what she thought about leaving the freezing cold and coming to balmy Southern California for Christmas but she seemed to enjoy the ocean.

By |April 8th, 2016|Lana's Journal|0 Comments

Giving and Receiving

I’ve got a few more Sweet Tea posts and then I’ll end this series. It has taken me so long to share each post because there is so much emotion surrounding Sweet Tea’s visit.

After Sweet Tea arrived, Dave went through our movies and found ones with Russian subtitles, including the Narnia movies.

Sweet Tea enjoyed the movies so much that I asked her if she would like to read the books. She said yes so I went on an internet hunt to find Narnia in Russian. I found the whole series in one big book. Amazing what you can find with a few mouse clicks.

The package arrived. We opened it and handed Sweet Tea the book. She smiled big and sat right down to read.

***

Throughout Sweet Tea’s visit, she had a very hard time choosing for herself, whether it was food at a restaurant or clothes at the store. The hosting agency told us that these kids often have a tough time with decisions — even very small decisions — because they don’t get to make their own decisions in their orphanages. They eat what they are given; they take what they are given.

We take that for granted, right? From very early on our kids learn to choose what they would like. It’s a life skill. Unfortunately, without this life skill these kids are prime targets for sex traffickers and criminals who know they can coerce these kids into anything. It’s heartbreaking.

Interestingly, Sweet Tea had a very easy time buying gifts for others. One of Lauren’s friends gave us a gift card so Sweet Tea and I went to the store with the goal of buying gifts for her to take back to the orphanage. She found a ring and matching earrings for her friend, a shampoo and conditioner set for the orphanage director and a big bag of candy for everyone.

I asked her, “Is it much easier for you to buy gifts for others rather than yourself?” She laughed and nodded.

She wanted to buy a gift for one more friend but couldn’t figure out how to explain what she was looking for. Google images helped us find a Monster Energy baseball cap. Turns out those are hard to find in stores but quite popular on eBay. I bought one off eBay but didn’t tell Sweet Tea, wanting to surprise her.

The day the package arrived, I opened it and told Sweet Tea we had something for her. I held up the cap. She literally leaped across the room to give me a hug. Honestly, I was shocked because she had been with us for weeks and not initiated touch at all. That Monster Energy baseball cap must have been very important to her.

The best part is that it was for someone else.

By |March 31st, 2016|Lana's Journal|0 Comments