For the last few years my family has taken to hosting exchange students. It is exciting and fun – Lots of challenges too. But for the most part the years have always been a joy for us (sometimes more joy after; hindsight is 20/20) and what an experience for the kids too. All of them.
This year has been a lot more challenging than most. Its been harder to find that joy; more difficult to feel its a “good” year. We have a boy from China with us; this was not part of the plan. After last year (quite the fiasco when our daughter got baptised and filled with the Holy Ghost) it was determined that we were not going to take anyone in. Then we were presented with this young man who needed a welcome family. Welcome = short term. We determined that we could do that. But we did not pick this boy and truthfully we would not have chosen him if we had a choice. But they needed something quick. And we had space however small.
Praying over the application they sent us on him I gave God all my reasons that this could not be done. Hi s English score was very, very low. He has no experience with kids; he comes from a very wealthy family and attends a boarding school so the chances of him really getting how to be part of a family and assimilate into life here….Its going to be hard. We have lots of critters here; he says nothing about liking animals. And to date this has all been pretty accurate. I know the culture there is so very different; lifestyles and personalities are polar opposites here too. I gave this all to Him; I talked with my husband. We would take him. For a few weeks.
He is still here. A few weeks turned into some months; he leaves in May after the school year ends. Once he got here though – it was confirmed that is going to be year in need of a lot of grace. And forgiveness. And other fruits that I am just not good at manifesting in large quantities. As we expected his English is awful, I have to say it, there are very few conversations that take place in our home. He cannot, without a translator handy, interact with our kids even. He isolates himself; he leaves the house to go to school and wherever we go. But not once has he gone with a friend to hang out; never once has he wanted to join a team sport or club. He is an amazing artist and does a lot of painting and drawing at home in his room (Our futon shows lots of signs of all his materials ~ sigh) Not a lot of common sense. It’s hard to build a relationship, hard to really love and care, for a stranger and its hard to move beyond being strangers when both parties are not eager and willing.
And yet, he chose to sit in a Bible study with a couple we know from our old church; they could teach God’s word to him, in his native tongue. He wanted to do this. He wanted to come to church ~ I guess, if God is working on him and with him, I cannot ask them to move this kid. And it got me thinking. In the past, all of the kiddos we have not really chosen any of them. Our first “daughter” is now in Jordan (how many years ago that was….) and oh the challenges that came with that year. It was a year that really changed things, a year that God really moved in my family in lots of crazy and amazing ways (lots of struggles, marriage and family issues oh my! ~ all for His glory in the end). Needless to say it was a rocky road if ever there was one. And then there was our “daughter” from Brazil last year, God brought her here, to us. He made it very clear. And now this boy – this awkward 16 year old boy who is really more like a 7 or 8 year old, but taller…A boy who doesn’t seem to belong here or there; who does not really fit in and doesn’t really try. A stranger child I have not met (not like this anyway). We never really chose any of them. All three of them were sent from God; all three of them made amazing life changing decisions; they heard His word, they felt His touch and they responded. Perhaps that is enough?
And yet this is all so very awkward And for us, we look forward to enduring to the end. Is that wrong? How I love to see God working in the lives of these kids who are here from so very far away. And yet being a socially awkward, nerdy, Jesus freak…I can continue on the list of “Imperfections” this is so very tiring for me. For my family. Most times thee kids come full of excitement, eager to be a part of school life and family life. To explore and live and experience every second of their time here. This year its nothing like that. A few sledding trips; a visit to family in Michigan and a weekend at our church’s youth winter camp … Nothing more. Am I not seeing the big picture? I am looking for the next one already; I am contemplating and praying that He will send one that is exciting and fun and outgoing, exhuberant and gracious – everything this boy is not. I know I ma not seeing the big picture. Its all the little things that make such a difference.
My husband says that no matter how the year goes, no matter what they do or see or play or study during their year with us, when they come out of that water, baptised in Jesus name; when they are heard speaking in tongues, the evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost-What more do they need to experience? What else could they do that would not pale in comparison with salvation itself? I must remember. I must hold tightly to this. And I must remember that HE calls and He chooses His children. Not I.