Tomorrow our host daughter turns sixteen.
This is the age whereby a kid can "graduate" or "age out" of the orphanage system. The statistics on kids who age out of the system are bleak. 60% of the boys end up in crime. 50% of the girls end up in prostitution or sex trafficking. 10 - 15% of them commit suicide within the first year. We were very aware of this reality when we hosted her and it weighed heavily on us when it became painfully clear that we weren't going to pursue adopting her.
I'll admit, I began to ask God, "Why? Why would you bring this girl back into our lives if it wasn't to adopt her? When she left after the five weeks of hosting last year, I broke down in the parking garage of the airport. Partly out of exhaustion and partly because I was afraid of what her future would be like. Certainly she has no real concept of what could happen, as she told us that she would marry her boyfriend, have a baby, and they would all move to America.
My heart broke for this broken child. Whenever you adopt of host, you find yourself holding their pain within yourself. Their wounds are deep and their hurts come out in all manner of behavior.
So it is with deep sadness that I reflect on her upcoming birthday.
Unlike when she was with us, this year like so many before it, she will not have a cake. No balloons. No presents. And nobody will sing or celebrate her life.
In a letter she wrote to us, she wrote that she was not wanted by anybody. These are difficult and painful words to read. That a child knows she is not wanted. That such a view is how she looks at herself and her life. Unwanted. Unloved. Unlovable.
Tears streamed down my face when I read them.
We do love her, even though we cannot make her our daughter. Out of love, we pray for her every day.
Out of love, we contacted missionaries in Ukraine. They visit the boarding school once a month and, specifically check on her, speak with her, spend time with her, to let her know that she matters, that she is loved (not only by us, but, more importantly by Christ). We send her packages with items that we know she will love. We send her letters that are translated into Ukrainian. I draw pictures for her.
In her letter, she wrote that she loved us. She called us her "family." It's sad to think that those five weeks may have been the only time in her life that she was with people who loved and cared about her. It's hard to imagine those as the only happy moments of her life. I pray that they aren't.
Loving someone, truly loving them, is never easy. There is often pain that comes along with opening up yourself to someone. We experienced this when we opened up our family to allow a girl from Ukraine to be a part of us for five weeks last summer. Those were some of the most hard and trying weeks of my life.
It's hard to see someone in so much need and desperation.
It was like spotting someone drowning, but as one attempted to rescue them, they are so afraid and are thrashing about so desperately that they are going to cause you to drown with them. That's the best analogy I can think of to explain that time. Yet, despite the hurts and the hardships, we love this child. We continue to pray for this child and to reach out in the only way that we can to remind her that we do love and care for her.
Maybe that is why God put her in our lives again for so brief a time. Through our reaching out, we found missionaries to witness to her and attempt to guide her as best they can. We send packages to say, "You aren't forgotten. We do love you." This also gives her a connection to the outside world, which she needs because those who deal in human trafficking are less likely to take a kid who has people who care about her.
We are praying she makes the right decisions for her life. That she makes good choices. We are praying that she realizes that there is a loving God. We pray for her salvation. We pray that she finds healing. We pray that she experiences joy and happiness in her life. We pray that she can break free from so many things that plague teenagers in the orphanage system. We pray that she doesn't create another orphan. I pray that, one day, in heaven, we will see her again.
Our hearts are heavy as we approach her birthday and as we come closer to the time she was here last year.
Our family asks only that you remember our host daughter tomorrow and that you offer a prayer for her life because we do believe that we serve a God who hears the prayers of His children and whose heart is for the orphan.