USA (MNN) — Three weeks with an Angel could change a lot. Some U.S. families are in the process of discovering just how much.
Since 2004, Russian orphans have been traveling to the United States every summer as a part of Buckner International's Angels from Abroad program. Host families are chosen from Texas to look after one or more orphans who range in the ages of 7 to 13.
This year's program has 17 orphans visiting the States, getting a feel for American life, but also getting the chance to experience the workings of a Christian household.
"Primarily our hope is that we provide a wonderful vacation experience for these children," says Buckner's Beth Brinkmeyer, this year's Angels from Abroad coordinator. "Our highest expectation is to bring them over and provide a cultural experience for them and for the family that is hosting them."
After three weeks of planned activities and one-on-one time with the orphans, some families have been inclined to adopt the child they're hosting. The Blakely family, for instance, adopted the child that stayed with them the first year they hosted. They've hosted Angels ever since.
With the knowledge that some host families have adopted in the past, though, are orphans expecting adoption when they come? Will they leave disappointed if they aren't perfectly matched with a forever family?
Brinkmeyer says, "We explain to them that our expectations are for them to have a great experience and to have a wonderful vacation. We really try to emphasize that with the children; that way, they don't feel disappointed when they go back if they don't have any other news beyond that."
Even for the children who aren't adopted as a result of this program, it's still life changing. Because most of these orphans are older and have still not been adopted, they statistically have a good chance of ending up on the streets. But as they participate in the Angels program, this could change. Brinkmeyer says host families generally keep in touch with their child, and the orphans finally know that they have loving advocates.
"The greatest thing that has come of this is that an orphan from Russia came into a family, was loved by that family, and went back to Russia knowing that they would be loved for, prayed for. The young person got to see what a Christian family was like," explains Brinkmeyer, "and knows that that family would become an advocate for them in the future is huge."
Brinkmeyer goes on to testify, "We've seen the children go back with so much more confidence than they came with."
Pray for this last week of Angels from Abroad. Pray that families would be shining lights of Christ's love to these children. Pray that these orphans would be forever changed by this experience and would join the forever family of Christ.
If you would like to know more about any part of this program, visit angelsfromabroad.org.