So. He’s coming in three days, our Project 143 Latvian host child. Unreal to fathom. And it may not surprise you to learn that the adrenaline has begun setting in… At least for good old “host Mom”-me.
Part of this is just: there are many details. Clearing space and organizing rooming. Figuring out prepaid international calling cards for our weekly call to Latvia for check-in. Pulling together an initial stash of clothes for him, since he’ll arrive with nothing but the clothes on his back. Making the airport welcome sign. All that kind of stuff.
It’s a little like nesting in the final days of pregnancy. The drumbeat in your mind is: Make room, make room! Get The Things Ready! For indeed, room must be made – in our home, our attention span, our hearts. This is epic. This child deserves all this… and more. He is one of God’s own, his beloved.
Behind the adrenaline and the details, though, I catch the scent of a lying anxiety rising within me amidst the preparations. I wonder: is it enough? Are we enough? Because there are as many tend-tos and decorative flourishes one could undertake as there are families who host… And surveying the wonderful, inspiring, intentional actions I see other host families in our (fabulous) online community undertaking, I find myself thinking: are ours enough?
Like: Will W. be sad to be greeted by only me, when other families are there with all the members? Will he be satisfied, at the airport, with out transformer toy and silly putty-ish gifts when others may receive some small ditigal gadget? Should we have made a formal presentation at our church instead of coffee-hour chatting about our undertakings and the quiet emailed request to the prayer team for intermission? Could I have found time to learn more Latvian? Such questions nag.
When I see it – the Are We Enough? – question laid out plainly, I can face it square in the eye for the lie it is. Because I know – God has taught me know – that enoughness is found in HIM, never in ourselves. He Himself is enough – for me, for this situation, for our precious W. And He – this One who multiplies the loaves and fishes- there is more than enough in Him. And because of that, because of who Jesus is…. Tas ir pietiekami: it is enough. He’s enough, so who we are is enough. The love God gives us to spread in this world is enough. The rest is up to Him to handle.
So be gone, enough-ness questions. I’ll have none of you. Nervousness, yes. How could we not be? Wonderings – of course. That’s what this journey’s made of. But worthless anxiety – done with it. There’s no time for such things. We have a boy to welcome, to enjoy, and to love.
And here are two things we’ve done lately to get ourselves ready to meet our distinguished and one-of-a-kind boy, things that I’ve loved.
VISIT TO THE LATVIAN LUTHERAN CHURCH OF DC. We wanted to get a taste for Latvian culture in advance of welcoming W. And we wanted to find someone who might point us to Latvian-speakers in our part of Virginia. Finally we wanted a bookstore that sold books – and a Bible – in Latvian. The Latvian Lutheran Church of Washington DC fit the bill on all counts. It’s a hub of Latvians– they have a school there, a Latvian retirement community, a small Latvian museum, and even the American-Latvian Association. All small, but all vibrant and focused– and all right there on the same campus.
So I called ahead. And on Sunday, we trekked the 1 hr 40 mins north and attended. Their full congregation is several hundred, but only about fifty were there on Sunday morning. We were kindly welcomed and given an English Bible (it was clearly very apparent to all that we were not Latvian-speakers) and some coloring/sticker materials for the kids to occupy themselves with during the hour-long Latvian service. The kids did pretty well, and I loved that I could follow along with hymns, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer – even whisper the latter two in English in the same tempo, while the other congregants said them in Latvian. Unifying and beautiful. One daughter later commented that it all sounded like “blah blah blah” to her. True, I said, but that’s what W. will feel like while he’s with us… except for five weeks, not one hour. Solid experiential lesson delivered: check.
Afterwards there was a lovely coffee hour full of Latvian specialities like currants, a particular cheese reserved for midsummer (Jani), and a special Latvian birthday cake (Klingeris). Our children cared for virtually none of these, opting for the crackers and grapes instead — which was kind of perfect, because it helped us illustrate the point that different cultures eat different things, and W. will encounter many things that are normal for us that he dislikes. They greatly enjoyed the attentions of all the kind congregants and the other family (there was one) with kids. And they enjoyed browsing in the bookstore with me afterwards, where there were several hundred Latvian titles available – many, many more options that anywhere else, and much cheaper prices than Amazon (though still not cheap). Tapes, CD’s, and DVDs too. Jackpot! I bought a Bible, a book of Bible stories, and about four other books between $7 and $15 dollars, plus two cassette tapes for $1 each.
Daira, the attentive elderly Latvian woman who runs the bookstore, was like a personal Latvian book consultant for me, and she gave me her number, told me to call her when we come back up to DC with W, and said she’d come in and open the bookstore for us (it’s usually only open on Sundays, but she lives across the street). Now is that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?
WELCOMING BOOK FOR THE AIRPORT. One idea mentioned during our host training was – when one person's doing a solo airport run – to make a little photo book for the child to look at between airport arrival and home. Get them visually acquainted with the family; ease the awkwardness of the language barrier. The scrapbooker (moderate-level) in me liked this idea, so we made up a little photo-in-the-pockets style book for W.: two photos of each kid holding the welcome sign, one serious and one silly. Some other photos like the house exterior and his room. And then customized and lightly decorated notes from each kid, translated into Latvian for him to read. The kids ask questions they’ve been wondering – does W. like Star Wars? What’s his favorite color? What does he like to do? So hopefully those can serve as a kind of jumping off point in the first couple days.
It came together well- basic but cute. And it’s a fun memento that may bring W. a smile and be something he’ll keep and look back on one day with fondness.
(Part of a blogging series on orphan-hosting with Project 143)
Originally published in June, 2014