Greetings from Latvia!

IMG_0410Whew! The last few days have been quite the whirlwind, but I am thankful to have a minute to put my thoughts down. After the typical travel delays that put me hours behind and running through airports, I was a day late and two groups of missed children behind schedule. We’re lucky to have such amazing staff in our Latvia program who was still able to meet with these children to give them the opportunity that hosting brings.

This is my first trip with our Latvia hosting program, and what I’m learning is that traveling to Latvia is different than traveling to China. While there is less culture shock for me, I’m still meeting just as many kids as a single day in an orphanage in China…the biggest difference is that we’re driving all over the country to do it! From a meeting with a foster family to an orphan court and even to a dentist’s office to catch a foster family on the road – whatever it took to get just a few minutes with each kid, that’s what we did! Traveling is a small effort to make when it means a child has a chance to be involved in this hosting process.

For me, the experiences of the children in our China program and Latvia program are so different, but it all comes back to the same need. I’m more accustomed to seeing an immediate need in our China children, medical needs, physical needs, and the immediate lack of a family to care for the child. In Latvia, the needs aren’t so transparent. On the outside, many of these kids are doing so well, if a little small, but it is in their responses and their eyes that I can see the fear, pain, and hurt so many of these children have experienced. Many of these kids have tough hearts that have experienced heartbreak – too many adults have let them down too many times. I know it takes the right family to break down these walls, the right family not to give up, the right family to go through and understand some of the pain these kids have been through in order to give these kids the love they need.

IMG_0467Today I met two incredible boys who were thirteen and fifteen years old. They’re fantastic! We work so hard, especially for our boys, to find families. Older children and boys can be the toughest to find families for, but they are often the most amazing kids. Their caregivers say they are the best boys, and both of them know English. The oldest is an awesome student and the youngest is quite the athlete. They answered all of my questions the best they could in English, and when one was asked what he wanted to do when visiting America, do you know what he said? “Stay forever!”

Imagine being able to welcome a child into your life and give them the gift of a family, future, and a warm bed to sleep in at night. These two boys want to come back to America, and since they have been hosted before, they already know how wonderful it is to be with a family in the U.S. Sadly, most teenage boys are difficult to place, not because of anything they have or haven’t done, but because of their age. The year they were born is not a reason for them to be without a family or a chance at having a brighter future. Without host families, these kids are likely to end up living as part of the system, without a family, education, or anything that you or I have been blessed with.

I have been so privileged to meet these wonderful kiddos. We have the opportunity to do something great, and change the lives of these children in the best ways possible. But you have to ask yourself, will you be a part of something more this summer? Will you open your heart and love a child?

– S

From the home office: contact us about getting involved in the orphan hosting program by emailing us at info@orphanhosting.com or calling 512-323-9595. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of each child we meet!

Resources

Read More

 

 

Orphan Warrior, Episode 1: Michelle C.

In this episode of Orphan Warrior, we are featuring one of our truly dedicated advocates for these little ones who has hosted with us a few times, and advocated for so many kiddos! Michelle C. has a big heart, and we could not be more grateful for her service in helping these children find forever homes. Read below to find out about what being an Orphan Warrior means, and Michelle’s experiences in hosting and advocating. Way to go, Michelle! We appreciate you!

  1. Michelle and JoyWhat inspired you to take the first step towards hosting?

Before we signed up to host a child last summer, we had never really even considered the option. But the night before the summer hosting deadline, an urgent email appeared in our box with the picture of a 10-year-old boy with similar needs to the son we had adopted two years before. He was about to lose his opportunity to spend a month in the United States, where he could both experience the real, raw love of FAMILY for possibly the first time in his life and have a family advocate for him and tell his story! We had just completed our last surgery on the hand of our son, and we knew what a manageable need this 10-year-old boy had. We also knew that, without a family to tell his story and SHARE his superpower, he was at risk of being another “older boy with special needs” medical file and aging out of the international adoption system. We researched hosting and decided that, although we weren’t in a season where we could ADOPT because of our soldier’s very busy military travel schedule, we could absolutely serve this deserving superhero in this season by hosting and sharing his story. We emailed Great Wall that night and completed the paperwork the next day!

  1. What drew you to advocating for this cause, specifically?

Our son and the children we left behind when we visited his orphanage in China.

After peering into the eyes of all of these children, most of them boys with special needs, all sleeping two to a bed and cared for by nannies who CLEARLY loved them but couldn’t provide the kind of one-on-one care and unconditional love of a FAMILY that every superhero deserves, our eyes are open. Our hearts are breaking. And we can no longer just ignore the fact that thousands of little superheroes-in-waiting, PRECIOUS angels as amazing and deserving as the one we are honored to call ours, are growing up without PARENTS, mostly because of their ages and their medical needs.

EVERY child deserves a family. And after getting the honor and privilege of being Superman’s, we’ve learned that THESE children, the ones deemed “special” with needs that might look scary on paper, are really the most super of all. And it doesn’t take perfect families to give them homes. It takes the PERFECT LOVE of a PERFECT GOD poured into the lives of IMPERFECT people with available hearts and hands. Our family’s mission is to CHANGE THEIR STORY by TELLING it, SHARING it, and by calling out others who can be part of God’s redemption story in these deserving angels’ lives.

  1. What do you enjoy most about advocacy?

Selfishly, I love the month I get to physically spend with each of these superheroes as we host. All of them are so special and so amazing, and throughout our month together, it is so much fun to just unwrap this little gift that is their personalities and their hearts. Both hosting sessions, our family walked into the experience praying we might be able to provide our host children with the gift of a forever family. And both times we bawled at farewell, knowing that THESE children gave US a gift far greater than we could have EVER offered them. This month we have loving on them and LEARNING from them is truly the highlight of our family’s entire year. Documenting their personalities and telling their stories is just a side benefit of being in their presence.

  1. How has advocacy helped you grow in your personal life?

Advocating for these superheroes, especially for the ones with special and medical needs, has changed our family’s life. These incredible children have just turned our family’s world upside down, and they have taught us more about LIFE and LOVE and how to LIVE WITH ABANDON than any adult in our arenas! They’ve taught us that special needs aren’t scary and that accessories like sparkly extra chromosomes are actually superpowers in disguise. They’ve taught our children how to not run FROM the broken and abandoned and ignored and neglected, but how to run TO them. Our 7-year-old boy now calls his “best friend” a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome living in an orphanage in China. Our 10-year-old boy announced last month that when he gets old enough, he wants to be the first to adopt. These children have opened our eyes to a life far beyond ourselves and given us a glimpse of GOD’S HEART. They’ve given us FAR MORE than we could have EVER offered to them.

  1. What makes you continue to advocate for orphans in need?

There are countless orphaned and abandoned children filling the orphanages of China, all of them having varying degrees of needs, from very minor needs to extensive needs that require more care. After looking into the eyes of these beautiful children and getting the HONOR of loving them up close, we know the secret — these “special needs” are just “super” needs in disguise. THESE superheroes are truly the forgotten treasures of the world. They just need FAMILIES to hand them their capes and teach them to fly. We advocate because on paper, the needs of these special superheroes look scary. But when you fall in love with the HEART of a child, you realize that SPECIAL is just SUPER in disguise. <3 Our heart is to CHANGE THE ORPHAN STORY for as many of these mostly special needs superheroes that we can. To open eyes and hearts and homes to these angels who are some of the most super of all. One of the best ways we’ve found to do this is by bringing them into our home, loving on them with everything we have, taking them into our communities and TELLING THEIR STORIES. Because when orphan statistics become real, parent-less faces, you can no longer just ignore the crisis happening on someone else’s watch.

  1. What would you tell someone who is afraid to take a chance on a child, by hosting or advocating on their behalf?

Loving a child you don’t get to make yours is HARD. Saying goodbye is just BRUTAL. But OUR tears are a small sacrifice for these children who will NEVER AGAIN have to shed tears wishing and waiting for a forever family.

Anyone worth loving is worth crying over.

It’s WORTH these tears.

It’s WORTH these first difficult moments.

And it’s WORTH this heartache for one child to KNOW for the first in his life that he is absolutely, unconditionally, LOVED.

  1. If you could tell all of the children that need advocates one thing to hold on to, what would it be?

Jesus. When earthly parents seem hard to come by, the Father of the fatherless is always there. And He has sent an entire army of orphan warriors to FIGHT on your behalf.

  1. What are your favorite ways to advocate?

We love advocating through hosting. Hosting gives us an opportunity to love these children in real and tangible ways while we simultaneously share their personalities and their stories. These sweet superheroes — they make it so very easy to just share their BEAUTY. All we have to do is document it as we get the privilege of witnessing it and enjoying it.

  1. What creative activities, campaigns, or outreach efforts have you made or come across that have helped you in advocating?

There are SO many resources, Facebook groups, fellow advocates, etc. The adoption and advocacy community is such a wonderful, encouraging, close and tight-knit group of people. They have given us our best ideas! Some of our favorite ways to advocate are just by writing about our own experiences — with our host children, with our Chinese-born son. We recently launched a campaign we call Operation Orphan Warrior — a call to RUN TO the 600,000 mostly special needs and older children who still fill the orphanages and foster homes of China. To FIGHT FOR THEM. To tell their stories. And to partner with families to provide for them HOMES.

  1. What is the hardest part of being an advocate, to you?

The hardest part of advocating is grieving over the size of the problem. When there are 600,000 superheroes waiting for forever families in just one country, you feel so small, and as much as you fight for these kiddos one at a time, you sometimes wonder whether you can make a difference for these children you just cannot imagine growing up without parents. But when we keep our eyes on the size of our God instead of the size of the giant before us, we’ve found God equips us — with energy, with ideas, with resources, with passion. And that, one by one, He gives us the honor and privilege of partnering with HIM to play a small role in HIS redemption story of these children. We are not the Saviors, and these are not salvation stories. We are just imperfect, open hands and hearts who get the honor and privilege of playing a role in GOD’S redemption story. Knowing that it’s not our job or ROLE to “save the day” takes the pressure off and allows us to keep our eyes not on the size of the crisis, but on the size of our God, who can use us when we make ourselves available.

  1. What are some easy ways that people can step up to help in advocating for these children?

Host these children. Love these children. Share these children. Tell their stories. Not everyone can adopt, but everyone can do something.

We can still go to THEM.

We can still take mission trips and long-term trips to VISIT them. To LOVE on them. To offer MEDICAL CARE for them. And to financially partner with well-established organizations like Love Without Boundaries to CARE for them.

We can be the ones who set up Orphan Warrior Camp One in the place that STOPS this crisis before it begins — IN COUNTRY, where we desperately need people to partner with birth mothers and offer resources and provide medical care so that families feel that abandonment isn’t their only option after birthing a child with medical needs.

We can be the one to set up the camp that changes the tide. That removes the stigma and starts transforming the way this country VIEWS and ACCEPTS children with special and medical needs. We can fight the decades-long war to change the CULTURE so that WE ELIMINATE the need for orphanages in a country where 90 to 98 percent of the 600,000 children who reside in them have special needs.

And, from our place at our computers, we can simply SHARE THESE CHILDREN’S STORIES.

We can share the NEED.

We can share the CHILDREN.

We can share the FACES.

Our winter host child’s family found her because one of our family friends shared her picture on her professional Facebook page. That family contacted us, met Joy, fell in love, and today, they are completing the paperwork to bring her home.

Changing the orphan story is sometimes as simple as just SHARING it.

  1. Are there any bits of advice you would like to pass on to other advocates or people wanting to help?

Do what you can with what you have where you are at. The first two years after we returned with our son from China, advocating for superheroes-in-waiting looked like serving ours. The best way we could love orphans in that season was focusing on bonding, attaching with and getting the medical care we needed for ours. In that season, loving our boy and telling his adoption story were the best ways we could invest in changing the orphan story. Now, 14 casts and 10 surgeries later, we’re again in a season where advocating looks more intentional. It looks like hosting. It looks like blogging. It looks like sharing the stories of the 600,000 children still waiting to experience the love of forever families. No matter what season you are in, you can SHARE the orphan story. Sharing it really does change it.

  1. Have you ever seen a story shared via social media or any form of advocacy that led to a bigger more beautiful outcome?

Joy found her family through a shared post on social media. J.J. found his family through a member of our blog community who wanted to SERVE these superheroes … and in the process, fell in love with her SON. Most of our friends who have hosted children have seen them find their forever families through the power of shared posts on social media. After sharing Joy’s story for a month on our Facebook account, 23 different families, only two who I knew directly, contacted us to inquire about making this girl theirs. Sharing REALLY DOES change the orphan story.

To find out more about Michelle’s journey in advocacy, visit her blog here.

Read More

 

 

Uber Helps GWCA Host Family

UberWhen a family is adopting, they will go above and beyond to make sure their little one gets home to them as soon as possible, and safe and sound! The Rhodes Family is the perfect example of a family that is working hard in super creative ways to bring their family together. Doug Rhodes started driving for Uber so that he could earn extra income for his family’s adoption of their 10 year old boy from China. Uber has agreed to help these orphan warriors by matching donations made to the Rhodes Family for up to $5,000! Great Wall would like to thank Uber for supporting these orphan warriors and congratulate the Rhodes family on their hard work to get their little guy home! Keep it up! Read their story here!

The Rhodes Family hosted in the Summer of 2016 – we can’t wait to see them bring their little boy home forever!

Read More

 

 

Summer Hosting, Coming Soon!

FEATCan you believe it?! It’s already that time! We just sent our winter hosting kids back to Latvia and China, and now we are excitedly preparing to learn about more kiddos for our next summer hosting program! During our winter program, many of our host kids found their forever families through hosting – we are so excited for those kiddos and their families!

Some of our winter host kids are still waiting for a family to welcome them into their home. Click here to find out more about our advocate kids! Who wouldn’t want the life-changing experience of showing a child who has never known love what that feels like?

You may be considering hosting for the first time or have hosted with us before, but one thing is for sure: everyone always wants to know about the awesome kids that will be a part of this next program! Our staff will be traveling to the countries soon to get to know these amazing children, so keep an eye out for some new blog posts from all the way across the world!

Read More

 

 

Host Kids Need You

Happy New Year, from us to you!

This winter, we have had so many children travel from across the world to the United States to have a hosting experience with a loving family. Many of these kiddos have had the joy of new experiences that they have never had before, and will have not only lots of exciting memories to take home with them, but also will know: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” as it was said in the movie, Moulin Rouge. These are children that have likely never had time with a family of their own during the holiday season.

This holiday season, many kids were able to have that experience! They received gifts for the first time ever, with their names on them! This isn’t something they get to experience in the orphanage they came from, since most of the things they have access to in the orphanages are shared. Think of never having your own clothes or fun toys to play with, and then imagine the first time you receive something meant just for you. How special is making a memory like that?

16

Imagine going to a new place and being welcomed by a family of people who want to see you succeed, grow, laugh, and live in the happiest ways possible! Children are already seeing so many things for the first time, but to get to see a new culture is amazing. This may even be the first real hug they’ve gotten from someone who loves them. What a great opportunity.
hug

The children you see pictured below have been hosted this winter and are still waiting to find their forever homes. It is such a blessing to see them flourish over the past few weeks, but some, like the kids in these pictures, are still waiting to have a family that will last longer than a few weeks. YOU can help! Visit our Advocate Page to learn more about these kiddos and their friends, who are also awaiting forever homes! You can be a part of changing these kids’ lives forever. One day, a child could look into your eyes and be your son or daughter.

resizedcollage

 

 

You still have time to make a difference in the life of one of these young people. All children deserve care and nurturing as they grow, and you can be a part of that.  Visit our Advocate Page to learn more about the amazing children you can help! There is so much to give to these children, and what you will get in return is priceless: love.

 

 

 

Read More

 

 

Happy Holidays

feat1While the holidays are an exciting time for all of us, they’re especially thrilling for the little ones who are celebrating with a family for the very first time. This holiday season, all of the incredible kids in our Orphan Hosting program will have the chance to experience life outside of the orphanage, to experience the love of a family and to experience the joy of waking up on Christmas morning to find gifts under the tree.

Our hope is that through this program these kids will never have to experience the holidays without this love again. While many families have already begun submitting their paperwork to adopt their host kids, other families have stepped forward as advocates to help their host child find their Forever Family. These advocate families are able to provide prospective adoptive families with SO much information about their host child, from updates on their medical needs to their personality traits that may not have been included in their medical file.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about one of our advocate host kids, visit our Orphan Hosting Advocate page or contact our hosting coordinators today!

Read More

 

 

They Have Arrived!

featA Warm Welcome in Austin!

We are happy to announce that all of the kids in our China Orphan Hosting program have arrived safely!

After a long day of traveling, our last group of host kids made it to Austin, TX late Thursday night, where they received a warm welcome from both their host families and GWCA staff members! This is the very first time that a hosting group has flown into our hometown, and it was such an amazing opportunity for us to meet the children and families who are participating in our Orphan Hosting program.

Throughout this hosting program there will be children living with host families all across the United States. This program will give each child the opportunity to know the love of a family with the hope that they will soon have one of their very own. While some of the families in our Orphan Hosting program have already decided to begin submitting their adoption paperwork, others have joined the program with the intention of advocating on behalf of their host child with the hope that another family will step forward to bring them home forever.

Advocate Families

Every year our advocate families blow us away with their dedication to helping their host child find a Forever Family. They create advocacy Facebook pages, they engage with their communities and they spread the word about their host kiddos, providing potential adoptive families with a wealth of information that is generally not available when adopting a child who hasn’t been hosted.

If you’re interested in adopting one of that host kids that’s currently being advocated for, visit our advocacy page to see their profiles, or contact our hosting coordinators today!

Follow Their Journeys

Over the course of the next four weeks there will be host kiddos living with families all across the United States! Every family’s journey is unique, and we absolutely love following them through photos, videos and blog posts! We will be sharing updates throughout the hosting process, so be sure to check back at our blog regularly!

Read More

 

 

Chaperone Host Families Needed NOW

18

The kids in our Orphan Hosting program will be arriving THIS WEEK! Each group of kids is accompanied by a chaperone, one of the social workers from their orphanage. These incredible ladies all need a place to stay while the kids are here. We search for volunteer families to open their home to these hardworking incredible women for at least 2 weeks out of their stay.  This comes at no cost to the family other than accommodating a guest in their home.

The only area we are still seeking a chaperone host family for is SEATTLE! If you or someone you know is living in or around Seattle, WA and would be interested in hosting one of our Orphan Hosting chaperones this winter, please contact our hosting coordinator, Shannon, at shannon@gwca.org today!

Please contact our Hosting Coordinator Immediately, if you or someone you know might be interested. We must find these volunteers right now!

512-323-9595 EXT. 3101

shannon@gwca.org

Read More

 

 

Orphan Hosting Has a New Look!

oh-new-lookIn the midst of National Adoption Month, we are so excited to announce the launch of our NEW website design! This change has been underway for the past few months, and we are so happy to share that each site (GWCA, CAN, Orphan Hosting and Student Ambassador Exchange) has now made the transition.

What’s new?

The Appearance

The site has a new clean cut appearance, but don’t worry, the content is all still there! So whether you’re looking for information on one of our programs, reading our latest blog posts, or visiting our photo listing to request a child’s file, love the speed and convenience of the new layout!

Browse On-The-Go!

It’s now easier than ever to browse our websites on your cell phone or tablet! The new layout adjusts to the size of your screen so you don’t have to worry about zooming in or out to find the right tab.

Sign up for our newsletter! 

If you’re interested in receiving emails from GWCA, CAN, Orphan Hosting and SAE, you can now sign up by simply scrolling to the bottom of one of our home pages and entering your email address!

While our newsletters are a great way to stay in the loop with our adoption programs, we encourage any families that are ready to begin their journey to contact our matching specialists directly. You can do this by filling out a contact form, emailing info@childrenofallnations.com, or calling us at (512)323-9595.

Take a look around:

Read More

 

 

Preparing to Host a Superhero!

introducingjoy

Each year we have so many incredible families that advocate for the children in our Orphan Hosting programs. We like to think of these families as #OrphanWarriors, as many of them dedicate weeks, months or even years their lives to helping Waiting Children find loving families. This host family, however, considers the children the superheros in their story, as each child they welcome into their family changes their lives forever.

Below is the latest blog post from this family. They have just signed up for our winter hosting program, and are preparing to welcome Joy –a superhero with an extra special chromosome– into their family for the holidays!

When a family stepped forward to not only adopt but also HOST Lin, the winter superhero we had thought we would be hosting in just two short months, our family rejoiced.

With Lin’s beautiful forever family submitting the initial paperwork to bring him home, that made 132 million orphans in the world … minus one.

But it left our family with a void. There is nothing we wanted to do this Christmas more than love on and host a superhero who needed a VOICE. Without Lin as our winter superhero, we didn’t know who we should become advocates for.

We had tried to host the two oldest girls on the hosting list.

One girl already had a host family.

We had tried to host an older girl and a 3-year-old boy.

There were issues with the sweet girl’s file, and she became unavailable for hosting.

We had tried to host the 3-year-old boy, who we had nicknamed “Lin” after part of his Chinese name.

My sweet childhood friend stepped forward to both host AND ADOPT HIM!

Supersoldier, the man I admire and respect so much, requested that OUR BOYS, not we, look through the files of the children still available for hosting and pray about who needed an advocate most. Because frankly, after watching God perform miracle after miracle throughout Superman’s adoption and DJ’s hosting experience, both Supersoldier and I have somewhat of a reckless (if that’s possible) trust in God to provide WHATEVER it is we need to support a superhero-in-waiting. Diagnoses and delays on paper don’t scare us. And with Supersoldier’s training as a physician assistant, no medical needs on the list concerned us very much. So he wanted our boys to be the ones to pray and choose and decide. As host brothers. As fellow children. As valuable members of the orphan advocate team.

After looking over and praying about the remaining children on the hosting list, the boys selected four children they thought most needed a voice and who would fit best among the personalities of our home.

One of them was under review by another family.

One of them was the top choice of an incredible woman and now friend who ATTENDS OUR CHURCH (AND WHO, in a crazy move only God could orchestrate, IS NOW HOSTING this superhero this winter! WHICH MEANS WE’LL GET THE PRIVILEGE OF PLAYING WITH HIM ANYWAY!).

Two 7-year-old children, both with Down syndrome, remained on our superheroes’ carefully selected and highly debated Top Four.

One was a boy, one was a girl. Both were absolutely precious.

And, because the boys were at school and the husband was unavailable when I received the full information for each, I confess that I watched this little girl’s video in the parking lot of Superman’s occupational therapy appointment, fell in love with her, sent the video to my mama, who also immediately fell in love with her, and emailed back the hosting coordinator that we had decided on the girl.

Yup, me, myself and I. Totally plural.

Clearly, I told them later, Jesus wanted to gift me with estrogen this Christmas. Even my dog is male. This was my unapologetic, I-absolutely-rigged-the-system, this-sweetheart-is-more-precious-than-a-million-dollars-and-I-want-to-take-her-to-the-Nutcracker confession.

And I don’t even feel bad about it. 🙂

So this winter, we are not hosting two 11-year-old girls.

We are not hosting an older girl and a younger boy.

We are not hosting a 3-year-old boy.

We are actually now hosting a 7-year-old girl who we are all totally smitten with who just ROCKS OUT her extra chromosome and SPARKLES in all our eyes. (And yes, my mama is already planning a hand-sewn Christmas dress.)

Meet Joy, our NEW winter superhero, coming to a Cuthrell home near you from December 16-ish through January 15-ish this year!

Warning: This video may cause a SERIOUS desire to adopt. Watch with care. And watch your heart melt before your eyes. <3

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzYp7sIuxmvfQkg5Y0J6RHR0Q3c/view?usp=sharing

JOY — what we see in her eyes and what we KNOW ALREADY she will be. A perfect advocate name for a perfect girl whose Chinese name also has three letters and starts with a “J.”

And what a SEASON for JOY!

JOY TO THE WORLD! <3

#changejoysstory #changetheorphanstory

Resources:

Read More