Monday, September 10, 2012

"Keep Smiling, Eddie!"

I know I said I wouldn't be writing this month (and I'm technically not).  It's just that there are two things that I wanted you all to know about and they couldn't wait.

I want to introduce you to an opportunity that I had never heard of before.  When I heard more about it and saw how it impacted a family we know, I had to ask them to share their experience with you.  If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Jane asked if we would share about our month with a special boy named Eddie. Eddie came to us from an orphanage in the Ukraine on June 28 through a ministry called “Love Cradle International”, based in Souderton, PA. This ministry serves orphans in Ukraine, and also runs a hosting program which brings orphans to America to live with host families, with the purpose of placing them in a loving family, to show them the love of God, and to teach them about relationships and the American culture. While adoption is not the goal, several adoptions have come out of this program. In fact, 4 families from our group are now working through the process to adopt the child they had hosted and fallen in love with.

Eddie's orphanage photo

After months of paperwork and clearances, Eddie was placed into our home and we quickly grew to love this 11 year old boy. When we met him he was exhausted from the journey, dirty, silent, and stoic. It was late and we ushered him through a quick house tour and a shower and tucked him into bed in our son's room. When he came downstairs in the morning, we met a boy who was curious, helpful, kind, eager to learn our culture and the English language, and eager to teach us Russian. My husband and I had prepared ourselves with some basic Russian (Pimsleur language courses are a great way to learn a language, by the way) and we had fun trying out each other's language. Eddie knew about 10 words of English, but that didn't keep he and our 3 children from communicating and playing together. He was introduced to basketball, baseball, riding a bike, jumping on a trampoline, helping with chores, playing games with our neighbor kids, bowling, and so much more. Within a short time he was smiling and laughing and that continued throughout the whole month. We became Mama & Papa to him, and eventually Mom & Dad. By day two he had hugs for us frequently and was warm and affectionate. He enjoyed devotional times together with Mama or Papa and laughed when Papa tried reading his Bible in Russian.

 Our family- Eddie is in the striped shirt.

Every day we were teaching him new things that most of us took for granted. We found out that in the orphanages, he only got a shower every 15 days (can you imagine!?) They wash their own socks and underwear in that shower and no one uses towels. The toilets are a hole in the floor and no paper is allowed in it. Tooth brushing was not important (He had 6 cavities at his check-up). So you can imagine some of the “retraining” that had to be done! We had to teach him to use a seatbelt, wear a helmet for riding a bike, to be careful around the stove & vehicles, and to respect privacy of family and neighbors. We were told to expect hoarding of food and begging for “stuff” (neither of which we experienced, thankfully). In fact, at Eddie's first dentist appointment he chose a prize from the treasure box. When we got home, he raced up the stairs and knocked on my daughter's door and gave his treasure to her for her birthday that day. She didn't want to accept it, because she has so much—and he who has nothing, gave her his treasure. But I urged her with a look to please take it. He found more pleasure in being able to give something to someone else. That's not something he was often able to do. Our family learned a lot from Eddie this month!

He participated in events with the other 15 Ukrainian boys and girls about 10 times throughout the month. He enjoyed these times, but it became apparent that he just wanted to stay home with us. He also got carsick, so he didn't look forward to driving a half hour to Souderton and then on to their activities. But he was a good sport about it! He was obviously adjusting well and learning English faster at home than in his class, so we only went to a few activities, even though they were offered daily. Swimming was an absolute favorite-- “Eddie Champion!” Well, that and pierogies and watermelon! He ate almost everything I put in front of him. He loved one-on-one time with Mama or Papa—especially helping in the kitchen. “Eddie surprise” he would say when he presented cupcakes that he made for dessert that night.

Just two nights before he left we surprised Eddie with an “Almost 12” birthday party! He loved his cake, balloons, and presents from his new neighbor friends. Birthdays are just an ordinary day in the orphanage, so this meant a lot to him.

The relationship doesn't stop here. We have committed to staying in touch through letters and packages throughout the year. I wish it could be more than that, but so far, email and phone calls have not been established. It is our hope that next summer he can join our family again if he chooses to. Our greatest hope is that Eddie continues to smile and remember the joy and the love that he experienced here. Saying good-bye was SO hard. There were many tears. We want him to remember that he has a family who loves him, and misses him. But most of all, that he has a heavenly Father who loves him and will NOT fail him.

We came to know this program by the director couple who visited our church and shared about the overwhelming number of orphans in Ukraine. Eddie came from an orphanage/boarding school of almost 400 children. There are about 100,000 orphans in state run orphanages in the Ukraine, and 143 million around the world. At age 16, Ukrainian orphans age-out of the orphanage system and are sent into society alone and unprepared for life. 90% of the orphans enter into the sex trade, become criminals, develop mental disabilities and addictions, or commit suicide. We realized quickly that we couldn't let this opportunity to bring the mission field into our home pass us by. We are called to care for orphans and why not?!--We have so much, and the sacrifice was so little in comparison. I pray that Eddie's visit with us will make a difference in his life. I know that he has made a difference in our lives.

Eddie and Mama

**Hosting is just a small part of what Love Cradle does. They are in the process of building a transition house for children who are no longer eligible to stay in the orphanages. They provide winter coats, shoes, blankets, and clothing to hundreds of children. They assist families with adoption and other legal issues. They seek foster families for aged-out orphans, and they send out mission teams who provide hands on care to the orphan children.  If you would like to find out more about this program, please visit

If you are not in the PA area, there are other organizations similar to Cradle of Love that offer hosting programs as well. If you feel a tug in the corner of your heart—check it out!!
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  1. Such a touching, wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. I am not in the PA area but am inspired to look into similar programs where I can help.
    Also, the correct link is actually, as I discovered. :)

  2. Hi Jane,
    This was such an encouraging story. What a special gift to be able to share a home and family with a boy who maybe never knew such even existed.
    Enjoyed my visit to your blog and am inspired by your live simply in order to give!

  3. Our church currently sponsors a missions group in the Ukraine that provides housing and training for those who are "aged out" of the orphanages! Trying to remember the name right now but as soon as I do will send you any information if you would like.

  4. I haven't been here in awhile,so sound like you are too.This story brought tears to my eyes.

  5. What a speical gift to have been able to give and receive! I can harldy believe the needs that are there and pray for those who are doing their best to help. Thank you for sharing this story. (I'm a friend of Kathy A.)

  6. Thank you so much for re-posting this, Miss Jane! I think this is my first comment on your blog, but I've been reading for quite awhile. I recently returned from a missions trip to Haiti where I had the privilege of working with a few of those 143 million orphans. Reading Eddie's story was very inspiring, and a great reminder that as Christians, we are called to help these children (James 1:27.) There IS hope for these precious children of God!


  7. Imagine my surprise to read this, since my sister helps run the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project, a similar hosting program that brings the families to Russia to spend time at a retreat center one-on-one with older Russian orphans. What a blessing these programs are to older orphans who are rarely given a second look by anyone.

    Thank you for pointing out that there are other similar programs working toward the same goal. My sister is an excellent writer and blogs about her experiences with the children and families in the program here:

  8. A beautiful and touching story. I pray for Eddie. I feel in my heart the time spent with a loving family will have a lasting impact on him.. Blessings.

  9. I work for a similar program, the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project, and I can vouch firsthand for the difference such opportunities make for older orphans who would otherwise just be "thrown away." Kudos to you for getting involved! Working together, we can all make a difference as we pray, give, and open our homes to the fatherless.


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