USA (MNN) — Put yourself in this scenario: you live in a town between Russia and Ukraine. Tensions boiled over in August 2014, and nothing has been the same since.
You’re on the run. You’ve been separated from your family, and you are alone in an orphanage. The holidays are no more holy than other days. What used to have warm and meaning has been pushed aside in favor of survival.
Chad LaForce and his wife founded Force for Christ Orphan Outreach (FFC) last year to help make a difference for kids like these. He says, “Many of them have suffered loss; they’ve been moved around. They would love nothing more than to come to an atmosphere of love and really celebrate over the holidays.” This is the reality facing kids who’ve lost their “normal” to the war in Ukraine.
Here’s how FFC works: “Our organization pairs orphans with [host] families and brings them over to the United States for either four weeks in the summer, or four weeks around Christmas time, so that they can experience the love and joy of a family during those times.”
With orphan ministry, however, sometimes stigma leads to fear of exploitation or predation. Aside from transparency, La Force says the way they overcome suspicion is by meeting with the orphanage directors face-to-face, meeting physical needs and more. “We show them by our character and by our virtue that we’re invested in these children. Then of course, when we had the 12 youth come over for hosting and then they went back, they became our testimony because we heard from every director, through whom we had hosted children: every one of them said, ‘These children that went with you had the time of their lives. They came back better than they went.’”
Not only are there emotional needs being met, but hosting also serves a practical purpose. “If you‘re an orphan or if you’re an under-privileged person in Eastern Europe, and you gain some English-language skills, that alone drastically enhances your prospects for employment and future viability.”
Now, back to our scenario with a question: who wants to be alone during the holidays? Since Christmas is about the Christ, what better time to do Kingdom building? “Oftentimes, they have not been exposed to the Scripture, they have not been exposed to any witnessing about Christ,” says LaForce. “By and large, these are young people who are very uncertain about their own future. It’s a desperate need for them to be put in an atmosphere where God can speak to them, touch them and show them His love through families.”
In this group of kids being considered for hosting, “There were three or four people who are refugees, specifically from the Eastern war-torn areas, and now they’ve been moved over into orphanages in the central part of Ukraine. There’s not a lot of information that comes with these young people. You can really tell that they‘ve gone through some difficult times.”
In case you were wondering, orphan hosting IS a different approach to missions. For families who can’t travel to the field, FFC brings the field to them. 12 orphans came over from Ukraine and stayed with families in response to MNN’s first story. LaForce explains, ”Once families have done the pre-application, we show them an online video gallery of all of the orphans that we’ve personally gone over and interviewed–approximately 50 orphans that are available for winter hosting.”
The idea is both gaining ground and permanence. In April, MNN published a story about FFC and the summer hosting opportunity. Out of that, explains LaForce, “There was a family that brought over four. They raised the money to host four orphans. They brought them over after they heard about us on Mission Network News. They’re now pursuing adoption for those four kids.” LaForce is quick to note that they’re not an adoption agency, but because they work with orphans, the kids are adoptable.
It’s a force for change in the lives of the orphans, but also for their host families. “Every family felt that their life was enriched. They felt that the orphan’s life was enriched. It was extraordinarily positive, and we really felt the hand of God in all of that,” says LaForce. “It’s building those relationships, hosting session by hosting session, and then reinforcing it by our personal presence on the ground and showing the love of Christ there to the children and to the directors and to the staff. I think it’s making good inroads for the Kingdom.”
If you want to explore options on winter hosting, click here.